As not everyone will be able to gather with us on Easter Sunday, Fr Mike with the help of Archdeacon Mark and members of our church family, have produced this short service. In addition, the reflection is below.
‘very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.’ Mark 16:2-6
Brothers and sisters, eighteen months ago I was standing with a group of pilgrims from the diocese inside one of the most ancient churches in the world. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – or to eastern orthodox Christians the Church of the Resurrection. When we were there it was rammed solid – sadly now with Covid there will be almost no pilgrims in Jerusalem. After we had stood like sardines doing synchronised breathing we escaped from there and went to the Garden Tomb nearby – almost certainly not the place, but a much more authentic atmosphere.
When the two Marys and Salome got to the tomb, worrying about who they could get to roll away the stone for them, it will have been a shock to see the huge stone already rolled away and a young man sitting there. As orthodox first century Jews they would have known all about resurrection – the hope of a post-mortem experience when all faithful Jews would be raised to life and re-embodied when Messiah came, so that they could share in the joyful victory of God’s people. What would have been a real shock to them would be to discover that Jesus had been raised but no one else had, that life was still going on as usual. The resurrection of Jesus meant that God’s future was breaking into the present right now. Paul, of course, talks about the resurrection of Jesus being the first fruits of the final resurrection on the last day, when Christ returns in glory, a foretaste of God’s new creation, when heaven and earth are brought together as one, under the rule of Christ.
The women are commanded by the angel to do three things, to look, to go, and to tell. They look, they certainly go, in fact they flee, but they don’t tell, because they are Church of England! How do we know that the women were Anglicans? Because they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. The women may have been afraid, but don’t forget there were eleven greater scaredy cats who didn’t even come to the tomb. St Mark’s Gospel is the earliest of the four gospels, and it ends suddenly and dramatically. The last bit of the papyrus scroll may have been lost – it’s a bit of a puzzle as it ends almost mid-sentence. What happened next? We don’t know – they must have told someone eventually, and Jesus went on to appear to his disciples in person. There are two early attempts to provide a longer ending to Mark, which begin to explain how the good news of Jesus gets to spread across the world.
We too as baptised Christians are also commissioned to go and tell. But what is the good news we have to tell about the resurrection? What does it prove? First, that Jesus is who he said he is. Others have promised to come back from the grave, Harry Houdini for one, but Jesus is the only one in history to keep his promise. Second, that death and sin can no longer hold us in their grip. Jesus has paid the penalty or the ransom for our sin, so that we can be set free from sin and live for righteousness. Third, the physical resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that matter matters to God. This planet is not something disposable, which can be left to burn when humans no longer need it – Jesus’s redemption extends not only to human beings but to all creation, as the longer ending of Mark makes clear in 16:15. Fourth, that the resurrection is God’s kingdom breaking into the present, and we have work to do, to implement Christ’s resurrection and prepare the world for the return of its rightful king – and no good deed that we ever do will be wasted, no act of love or sacrifice, no act of forgiveness or reconciliation, but God will redeem and bring everything to completion on that great and final Day.
Christ is risen – let’s celebrate the feast!
Christ is coming back – let’s get busy!
Amen.(from Archdeacon Mark).