Primary Scripture Mark 16:1-8
I don’t know how high he was…
The arena we sat in was way bigger than any of the circus tents I’d seen in movies or photos. We were halfway up to the nosebleed section, and I still had to look up to see the top of the ladder the man had climbed. And there he stood on a tiny little platform suspended high above the net… the one that caught the trapeze artists as they had dropped through the air at the close of their act.
Except that, even as he took those first steps out onto the wire, long balancing pole in his hands, the net fell to the ground. He would be walking without the net.
My eight-year-old heart was beating so hard, I wondered how it didn’t shake the high wire. I don’t remember breathing while he walked all the way across and then back out to the middle, this time with a chair.
The music played to match his movement, slowing down and speeding up as he wobbled and straightened then finally sat down. On the chair. On the wire. All to applause and cymbals crashing.
Then he stood up, placed one hand on the back of the chair and one on the front edge of the seat, and then slowly, slowly raised himself into the most unbelievable handstand in the history of handstands. He held himself up there long enough for another round of applause, lowered himself, picked up the chair and walked over the the platform again.
It was at this point that he took a bow and raised his arms in exultation over his heads. The band knew this was the signal to let loose with a loud and brassy… Ta-daah!
That is the sound that goes off in my head every time I mark off one of the To-Dos on my list… Ta-dah! And when I get to the end of a big project or a milestone in an event-planning process, I have been known to engage in a little Ta-Dah! Pantomime near my desk.
That’s why it made complete sense to me when my mom told me a story recently about a little girl in the Presbyterian church she attended back in Texas. The pastor had called the children up for the Easter Sunday children’s sermon. He talked a bit about Easter Sunday then asked, “What do you think Jesus did first that day?”
Everyone was quiet. Then a little girl stood up, put her two hands up in the air and said in a sweet little voice, “Ta-daah!!”
To be honest, that’s pretty close to what I’ve always imagined happening sometime in the wee hours of the night. It had to be before dawn, given what we’re told in scriptures.
A breeze kicks up and ruffles the grass near the tomb. And as wind is wont to do, it finds the cracks between the tomb’s opening and its stone covering. The breeze grows stronger once inside, illogically and inexplicably stronger, strong enough to loosen and play with the cloth that bound the body of Jesus in his death.
This wind, this spirit of God that breathed life into dust in those very first days and into dry bones…
This pneuma fills the tomb with a force that overcomes darkness, overcomes hate, and overcomes death.
Once again, the Spirit heals
Once again, it brings wholeness
The Spirit reunites God the Creator with God the Son in the divine dance that had been interrupted for three days, three long days.
Then he stands. He stretches and looks at his hands… scratches his head…stretches again, and then he smiles.
Christ is Risen (He is risen indeed)
And don’t you even try and tell me this is not a perfect Ta Dahh!!! moment. In fact, up to this point, by my count, there had been three perfect Ta-Dahh! Moments…
When God spoke the universe into existence in that time before time and space before space.
The day God created humans to be the divine image bearers in the world, pronouncing them very good.
And the night that angelic songs echoed off the mountains to announce the arrival of the Christ child, Emmanuel.
The moment at the tomb? It cranked those perfect 10’s right on up to 11 on the Ta-dah! scale. Angels and archangels whooped with joy as God pointed proudly to the tomb, saying, “That’s my boy… Ta-dahh!”
Ok… maybe that isn’t exactly how it went down.
In fact, what we read in Mark leads me to believe that the resurrection itself was a quiet event, mysterious and beyond anything most of us will experience this side of our own graves.
That said, we ought not equate quiet with uneventful. The resurrection event really was a God-sized Ta-Dah! It marked off the biggest cosmic to-Do on the list.
It sealed the deal on our re-connection, the reconciliation of God and humankind. It revealed, in no uncertain terms, the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, the Son of David, the Son of Man.
In the resurrection, the one-man invasion force representing the Kingdom of God has declared once and for all, the power to which we cling in this realm cannot and will not stand against the power of God.
The teachings and rising popularity of Jesus led to what looked like a political uprising on Palm Sunday. When he didn’t back down during his week in the temple, the leaders there were as fearful as Pilate. His was a political death – Nailed to the cross as the King of the Jews.
But those who were alert, awake, open to the work of God around them, for them, God’s earthshaking,veil-tearing, sun-hiding power was revealed. All that Jesus had taught about these final days of his ministry came to pass, and the truth of his identity was made clear, even to the Roman centurion.
You see, as Steve Garnaas-Holmes wrote, “The cross is not God’s justice: it’s our injustice, and God’s grace anyway. The cross is not Jesus’ sacrifice to God to pay for our sins. They’re not paid for: they’re forgiven. No payment is needed. Jesus’ sacrifice is not to God: God demands nothing. Jesus’ sacrifice is to us, to show us God’s forgiveness: that even in our evil God loves us and calls us to love. The cross is what it looks like when love meets fear. And it is love that saves us.“
By the time Mary, and Mary, and Salome get to the tomb early on Easter morning, Jesus is already gone. They’ve been worried along the way that the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb may be too much for them, that they might not be able to get in and anoint Jesus.
It turns out that their problem is exactly the opposite: they cannot anoint Jesus because his body is no longer lifeless, nor is it locked away behind a barrier; the stone is removed and he is alive and gone!
As reality sinks in, the empty tomb is both exhilarating and terrifying. And they enter completely foreign territory.
If he is really risen, they can’t – they don’t need to – anoint or mourn him. Instead they need to go, to tell the others. And then they need to go and meet him. Because he’s already on the way to Galilee.
This is SO not the way they expected the morning to go.
And yet, this is SO Jesus, turning expectations inside out and lives upside down.
The way Mark recalls and describes this morning, the emptiness of the tomb is not just evidence for the resurrection. Mark’s Jesus has work to do. Pressing work, the sort of work that means leaving someone else behind to remind his sleepy, forgetful, and frightened disciples that they have work to do as well. Jesus had already told them that after he was raised up, he would go ahead of them to Galilee.
The young man in white reminds the women of this scheduled rendezvous. He reminds them of Jesus’ promise to meet them on the way. On the way back to where this whole story started– Galilee.
Even as they attempt to process the end of the story, which isn’t an end at all, the women are to tell the others it’s time to go back to the beginning. Or at least to the place where it all began, all the healing and teaching, all the confusion and frustration.
But with one difference – this time, they have the advantage we have after reading the story year after year. They know now how it ends…
Not with death, but with life
Not with the cry of the forsaken, but with a Ta-dah! that will reverberate across the ages, reminding us that God’s love is more powerful than death,
that God’s Kingdom is indeed here, and
that God is not finished with our story, any more than God was finished with the women and men who followed Jesus.
They would no longer be spectators or witnesses to the work of someone they loved and trusted. They would now bear witness to that work, and they would do the work, bringing the Kingdom of God near by serving and loving others, just as Christ had loved and served.
And so they shout Christ is Risen! (He is risen, indeed)
Our story didn’t end at the cross. Imperfect justice is not the last word on humanity’s capacity for torture and violence.
Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed)
Our story didn’t end at the tomb. Perfect love has written a story of grace that fills a grave to overflowing, so that that darkness, hate and fear cannot overcome the light and life of the world.
Christ is Risen!! He is risen, indeed!
And all God’s children raise their hands and dance and shout Ta-Dahh!!