Sunday, April 5, 2015
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
If it hasn’t already happened to most of us, somewhere along in our lives it does happen. A friend or a family member who has just seen a movie or read a book or watched a play would say in his or her excitement, “You won’t believe how it ended!” and then proceed to tell us about the crucial elements to the conclusion of the movie, book or play.
No spoiler alert.
No opportunity to say, “No, no, no! Don’t tell me. I want to see the movie myself.” Or, “I want to read the book myself.” Or, “I want to watch the play myself.”
Over the course of two thousand years the story of Easter has been told over and over again. While it is true that the story must to be told to each succeeding generation, it is also true that most of us are here this morning know how the story ends. [The photo is from this morning's Easter sunrise service, taken by Ellen Caringer, as the doves were released.]
But what if we didn’t know – the ending? What if we had been there when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss? What if we had been there when the disciples deserted him and fled?
What if we were at the trial in Jerusalem when Jesus was brought before the high priest, chief priests, elders and scribes of the Council and charged with blasphemy and condemned to death? What if we were sitting with Peter in the courtyard when he denied ever knowing Jesus and wept? What if we were there when they spat on him and twisted some thorns into a crown and placed it upon his head?
What if we were there when led him out to the hill where he was to be executed? What if we were there at the cross watching from a distance with Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome and the other women who had come with Jesus to Jerusalem? What if we were there?
Who among us who condemn Peter for his denial? Who among us would condemn the women for saying nothing after they had returned from the empty tomb filled with terror and fear?
If you are an avid student of the Bible you know scholars point out most ancient authorities bring our reading from The Gospel According to Mark to a short ending at verse 8. But others continue with the addition of verses 9-20.
I have sometimes imagined what it would have been like if Mark had the technology to interview and record those who were at the trial, in the street, at the cross or at the empty tomb. I imagine Mark would have elicited the following response from Mary Magdalene had he been able to ask her, “Did you know Jesus?”
“I loved Jesus. I would always love him. None of the lies they said about him could ever detract from what I saw in him.
Just looking in his eyes, you knew that you were loved, that you were blessed by God, that you were someone. Jesus brought such hope to so many. Surely that could not have died with the broken body on the cross.” “ʻThey cannot hurt Jesus anymore,’” I thought. “The pain is gone.”
“We watched Joseph of Arimathea tell the soldiers to be careful as they took Jesus’ body down from the cross. They made some sarcastic comment, but Joseph scolded them. And Joseph himself took a linen cloth, and wrapped Jesus’ body in it, so gently. Joseph as caring for Jesus as if Jesus were his own child.”
“We knew that we would go home and gather spices and perfumed oils, then come back to anoint the body. It would give me a chance to care for the one I loved one last time and to say goodbye. But we would have to wait – the Sabbath was coming. And in that long, lifeless day I waited and wondered . . . what if?
What if Jesus had done things differently? What if things had ended differently? Why did it have to end this way?”
Later Mary Magdalene would remember what the others would remember about what Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, [destroy my body] and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22). Although terrified and afraid, she went out and told those who were weeping and mourning, “I have seen him and he is alive!”
There is no spoiler alert this Easter Sunday morning. We know the ending of the story.
But we also know it is more important to remember the entire story - from beginning to end. In many ways if we were there in the beginning of the week, we would have felt the anguish and terror of the disciples, the fear and anger of the religious leaders, the despair and sorrow of the women, and Jesus’ own pain and suffering.
Amid all of the turmoil that was to come Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:18-19)
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’” (John 14:27-28) “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 14:11)
We know the ending of the story. But for Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome, Peter, the other disciples, the other women, for you and for me – the ending of the Easter story is the beginning of story of Pentecost.
“Go into all the world,” Jesus said, “and proclaim the good news to the whole creation . . . that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Mark16:15; John 14:11). So it is that we go to proclaim that good news for he is our joy.
He is not here. He has risen! He has risen, indeed.