Sunday 31 March 2024 Easter Day
Go, tell …
Context: a small predominantly elderly congregation in a Hampshire market town
Aim: to encourage the congregation to respond to the challenge to ‘go, tell’
At this point, if I say nothing – nothing happens. Until you get fed up and go home!
The Gospel today ends with the women saying nothing. The earliest copies of Mark’s Gospel end at that point and we’re left with uncertainty, fear and silence.
But that can’t be the end of the story, or we wouldn’t be here.
Three women – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome – were there when Jesus died, saw where he was buried and were the first to hear that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They heard from a complete stranger – and someone who looked strange!
What they found and what they heard was not what they expected. Two major surprises before it was even properly light.
‘And they were alarmed’ is one of those biblical understatements. Terrified, more like.
It’s not surprising that they don’t take in everything they’re told and obey to the letter.
The news that Jesus has risen, from a complete stranger, under 48 hours after he so publicly and horribly died, is not easy to take in. The whole situation is alarming to say the least. I think we could probably identify with that.
Fortunately, we are sufficiently removed from that moment in that garden outside that tomb that we are not filled with fear at the news that Jesus is risen. But fear does creep in for many of us when we hear two words from those instructions: ‘go, tell’. Suddenly we can identify with those who went away after hearing that instruction and said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.
But we’re a bit removed from the alarming situation of a garden in the half light of morning with a young man in white who shines brighter than the day in place of the body of their friend.
We can stop and hear the rest of what they were told.
‘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. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’
So, don’t be alarmed, this is not something to be afraid of.
If we’re looking for Jesus – as people do who come to churches – we’re in the right place. He was crucified, he was dead; but now he is risen, he is alive.
The young man pointed to the best evidence he had – an empty stone shelf in the tomb where Jesus’ body had been. There is evidence. They haven’t got to go with nothing to report and neither have we. We have other accounts. We can read not only of the emptiness of the tomb but also the report that it was not empty – the body was missing but the grave clothes were left behind. And we have the evidence of his appearance to one, two, a few and many people.
Do not be alarmed when he says ‘go, tell’.
But also, don’t be alarmed because of where he tells you to go.
‘He is going ahead of you into – Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’
Where’s your Galilee?
Galilee for them was home, familiar territory, where their work was based, where their family lived, where they knew everyone. Galilee was where people would hear the news from friends and relatives.
Your Galilee is where you get to share this news of a risen Jesus, which points to life and hope for all because even death could not hold him.
But your Galilee – home, family, friends, workplace, community – is also where you will see him.
‘Galilee’ is where you are sent to tell, and where you will find he has already been; where he will meet you, and where you will see him already at work.
So come looking for him here. And I hope in some way you find him. But also go – go back to your Galilee and you’ll find he’s been there ahead of you and meets you there. Do not be alarmed, but join with those women (eventually), the angels, apostles, and countless generations since, in saying with conviction: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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