Today there was a choice – a choice of gospel readings that is. There often is on the big days and, for us at least there is no bigger day than this one. So, we could have heard John’s gospel account of the women at the tomb, but I chose Mark. Mark the brief. Mark the sometimes hasty; Mark who gets to the point and gets there quickly. And the point is HE HAS BEEN RAISED.
That is it: HE HAS BEEN RAISED. The words of the young man in the tomb to three confused and distraught women. HE HAS BEEN RAISED.
And really – that is all they needed, and it should be all that we need as well as these four words make the Easter story a reality: HE HAS BEEN RAISED. Four words on which to build our faith and our life.
Four was sufficient
Other writers would say a lot more and goodness only knows how many words have been written, spoken and spouted since Mark decided four was sufficient. Obviously, I am adding my own 5 pennorth today as well.
But for Mark who knew both his craft and his saviour four words were enough to deliver a message of life, hope and possibility. The possibility of a new day – the first day. Because today was and is the first day; it really is the first day of the rest of our lives. This is the day when we get a choice – a choice about how we use those four words to make a difference.
Putting it like that makes it all sound simple and we know that it is not, at least for us ordinary Christians. For us there are still so many questions, just as there were for the little group in the upper room when the women burst in. On Friday Jesus was crucified. His body laid in the tomb. On Sunday, the tomb is empty – the body is gone. How can that be? This was beyond the life experience both of disciples then and disciples now.
Believe it or not
In his account, Luke writes that the men declare the women’s words as “an idle tale.” They think it is a ridiculous story, they think it nonsense. They probably think the women are crazy and tell them so as well. That I think we can understand. Someone tells us something that sounds so unbelievable that even if we desperately want it to be true, we dismiss it…
And so, for a time, four words or 4000 words even 40,000 would have made no difference; the Easter message hung in the balance while that group of men decide whether they can believe or not. We can also understand this because we know that for many the Easter story still hangs in the balance and, maybe, there have been times when it has done so for us?
In the times when we have experienced sorrow or loss even death in our own lives. The times when we tried to get our heads round what has happened in the world since we last gathered to share Easter together.
Or, when we accepted, reluctantly or otherwise, the apparent madness of the world as being unchangeable. At such times it really is all too easy to conclude that the Easter story is indeed an idle tale. It is all too easy to think so what if he has been raised? So what?
However, in spite of those very real challenges we are here today. Perhaps we come because we want to re-assure ourselves of the story one more time. Perhaps we come because we really do want to be reminded, HE HAS BEEN RAISED. And perhaps we come because we want to be told that despite our life experiences – despite what we think we know of death – and – despite what we see in the world – this story is true.
Or maybe it is simply what we do today? Whatever the reason I hope that when we hear the words “Alleluia. Christ is risen!” they will make a difference. Because as we announce those four words, we are saying there is hope. We are saying there is love. We are saying we can be better. And we are saying that we will do better.
Now – none of this is new, this is what we say every Easter in one way or another. We say the words, we rejoice, we celebrate, we tell ourselves this is a new start. And then? Well and then many of us forget; we forget the possibilities of the first day. But perhaps this year we can do better? You see this year, as we are slowly released from restrictions and lockdowns, we have so many experiences and reminders of the real possibility of a new day: The day when we can look forward; the day when/ what we thought was lost forever is with us again; the day when we can see and actually touch those whom we love.
Of course, we have had other kinds of first day. The days of loss and heartbreak. The days that seemed like the last day. We cannot and must not forget them. Because hidden in those days was a new life in them was a new beginning, just as there was in that last day in the shadow of the cross. That was the day when God’s grace grew into the life that has brought us here. Our first day.
And now it is up to us to prove that what hung in the balance in a crowded room filled with uncertainty and fear was no idle tale. It is up to us to show that it was and is – life, hope and possibility.
So, what is your first day going to be like? How are you going to realise and release the possibility of Easter? I do not know how it will be for you. I cannot tell you how you go about it. This is your resurrection. However, I can tell you that it does not matter now that last Easter and the Easter before that and every other Easter we wanted to be better but did not quite make it. You see, today we can start again. This is the first day of our resurrection life and everything is possible because HE HAS BEEN RAISED.
‘He has been raised’ was delivered by Elizabeth Binns to St John with St Mark’s Church on Easter Day, 4 April 2021. It’s based on Mark 16:1-8. Beryl Cook’s picture of Madonna and Child is Elizabeth’s favourite picture and is shown here with grateful thanks. Copyright © John Cook 2021. www.ourberylcook.com.