Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic spices1 so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
Who will roll away the stone for us?
They must have been chatting since this time they rose- well before dawn- to gather their cloaks and the spices they needed. Not the excited chatter they had known on other mornings, the mornings after Jesus had healed lepers or that poor woman who had been bleeding for years. Not the snappy sort of chatter that comes when the resources and hands are too few to care for the many who have gathered. No, they would have been talking somberly, perhaps between silent tears about the work of the day. Of course, this detail would have come up in conversation: Who will roll away the stone for us?
That big heavy stone was meant to keep away any mischief makers. Those among Jesus’ followers who might try to convince others that the prophecy was true- that Jesus would rise from the dead- by removing and hiding his body away somewhere. Or a naysayer who might do the same, but to mock the believers who would be gullible enough to think… well…
Peter hadn’t shown up last night. Nor had Judas. The rest of the men just didn’t seem to be themselves. Even Mary’s James and John, the sons of thunder, seemed to be at a loss for what to do next. Perhaps the Roman soldiers who had been assigned guard duty would have pity on them. All they wanted to do was give Jesus a proper burial, the service they were unable to offer him because of the Sabbath observance. I wonder if they noticed the irony. So often, the work Jesus did to restore people to life in the community, he did on the Sabbath.
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
Of all the things these women expected, this was not among them. Where was the stone? More importantly, where was Jesus? They had come steeled for the pain of grief, sorrow, and loss. They would not have been strangers to death, these women; they knew what it smelled and felt like. But death was gone. Jesus was gone. In their place, a man in white.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[a]
Sorrow, grief and resignation gives way to fear. Did they shake their heads, closing their eyes, only to open them once again to this unexpected new reality? How long did it take for fear to settle into confusion then cautious optimism, then hope that became joy.
The stone was gone. Death was gone. Jesus was on the loose.
And isn’t that just like Jesus.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the Easter story. But for some reason, this was the part that jumped out at me. I guess it’s one of those little throwaway details that disappears in the hallehujahs, “indeeds” and anthems on the day.
But this time I heard it, and seriously – isn’t that just like Jesus? Doing just what he promised. And isn’t that just like humanity? Not really hearing what Jesus said. Not really understanding what Jesus is doing.
It makes me wonder what stones I am worried about that God’s already moved. What deaths do we mourn that are simply precursors to new life? What aspects of our hearts, our lives, our world are ready for us to engage them with joy and energy… while we continue mourning our loss, denying our connection to the mess or just looking for someone smart enough and strong enough to move a stone that’s already gone.
He is risen. He has redeemed all those things we have buried. The stone is moved. Jesus has a head start, and if we’re going to catch up we need to drop our burial spices, hike up our robes and get moving!
* passages from the NIV on BibleGateway