“On Ahead of You” let’s Pray… Rev. Stuart C. Buisch
Let my lips overflow with praise. Words of the Psalmist after the longest Psalm in Scripture. But that is not exactly where the women were as they walked to the tomb. It is light out, the dawn has begun. An earthquake starts. Matthew writes like the women are watching this unfold. It could also be that Matthew is recounting a sequence of events known by inference after the event by those who looked at the stone removed from the mouth of the tomb and the guards are in such shock as to be non-responsive. It could also be that the women saw and experienced all of this and they recounted the details.
The angel apparently doesn’t speak to the guards but to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ But again, is that because the women were willing to listen to this strange voice like the sound of rushing water overlaid with language. Were the guards mesmerized and silenced by the sound of these voices of glory.
The women discover that the words they are hearing narrate what they can see. Jesus’ body is indeed not to be seen. He could be raised but do they or we have a working understanding of ‘being raised’. Theologians argue this point with no end in sight. What is in the sight of the women is no body. What does this being raised mean to Jesus, what does it mean to and for us?
Vs seven is so interesting. ‘Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. I’ve given the message to you. End of message. Remember those telegrams or the movies that used telegrams. You can almost here the ‘stop’ at the end of each sentence or the whole message. We essentially need to stop to take all that was just said by the angels on board or make sense of it.
The angel tells the women to hurry and tell his disciples. It seems to me that the angel was speaking to the new disciples. The ones there who cared for the body of Christ, at least. Or were they relegated to undertaker status, caring only for a dead body. The women heard the message from the angel. They became the messengers. By the way, what are disciples anyway? Are there any today? Would any of us have gone to the tomb? Would we dare to call that women’s work? What is most clear is that women, heard the message and were present to receive the message. Moreover, they didn’t hog the message and go off to their corner of humanity and form a cluster of people who all agreed on the nature of the message, the reception of the message and who would be receiving the message, like a cult or a church.
These women take the words of the angel back to the disciples, who were hidden fearing for their lives behind closed doors. If the Jewish leaders could get the Romans to kill the rabbi, weren’t they next in line? Yet hidden in this message is the clarity of get out of Jerusalem, go north to Galilee – a region not a specific place. Could Jesus now be preparing them for the post resurrection reality. They the disciples, men and women, were the new next step in this faith community that Jesus was forming. The piece that we must see clearly is that Jesus is going on ahead of us, each of us and those who will come after us.
First, Jesus goes ahead of us through death. This doorway to an unknown but not an unbelieved. By Christ’s life and all his teaching, he was preparing the disciples and now us for the reality that lies beyond our last breath. Unlike anyone else Jesus goes into death and comes out of it back to us to guide us on ahead of where we are now. Today we fear death, we fear the process of dying, the pain, the separation, the isolation and the unfinished words. Death is real, but it is also mysterious in its details. You may choose to find strength in the near-death accounts but Jesus didn’t get near death. In his words he has power to lay down his life and he has power to take it up. Here again Jesus goes on ahead of us. Jesus maybe didn’t do everything that was possible in life but I believe, based on his words from the cross, that he finished what he set out to do. I wonder if we need to look at our life expectations and curb them into a more faith filled list. So that we too can be finished when our life draws to a close. Has 21st century humanity told us the lie that we can do everything, see everything and experience everything. It is now time to do what we do with grace and humility and wait for God’s pronouncement, ‘well done.’
But before the going on ahead to death, the disciples need to go on to Galilee for the next step in their following of Christ. They need the courage and boldness that only the Spirit of Christ Jesus can give. I believe that Jesus planted that hunger in them and then challenged them to wait and receive it. The difference between the fear-filled disciples and women before Jesus’ death and the confidence after the resurrection is the presence of Jesus’ Spirit in each of them.
Its time for us to go on. In the name of the Maker and Mover of mountains, the bearer of sin who burst its power and the breath of the Spirit who animates each of us, amen.
Source of the Universe, open our smallness to your abundance…
Destroyer of Death, prod us through the narrowness of dying into the joy of life…
Wind of the Spirit, above, below, in front of and behind us, set us on fire for God…