Easter Vigil, Year B, 2012

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are grieving.  They are expecting their Jesus, the one they loved, to be in a tomb.  They are going to anoint his body and prepare him for a proper burial.  They are coming because they love him.  They are coming to do right by him.

But Jesus is not there.

The Gospel of Mark does not give us the resurrection we expect.  Jesus is just. . .gone.  There is no celebration.  There are no alleluias.

Jesus is on the loose.

This is, and this should be, terrifying to the women who have come to anoint him.

When a person is nailed to a cross, and pierced with a spear, when his blood flows out of his body, he ought to die.  The rules of physics and biology and logic demand death.

The women who loved Jesus expect death.

And Jesus experienced death.

But not for long.

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark, God has been rewriting the rules.  At Jesus’ baptism, the very heavens tear open, the Holy Spirit descends, and the Father’s voice booms over the crowd, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased.”

God the Father announces to the crowd, and to us, that everything about life as a human being is about to change.  God breaks into human history in a new way and reclaims us for his own.

Now, we tried to control that in-breaking.  We followed Jesus and listened to his stories, but as soon as Jesus got a little out of hand, as soon as Jesus began sharing his identity as the Son of God, we turned him over the authorities.

Those authorities helped us control the situation even further by killing Jesus.

But when God decides to reclaim his people, not even death can stop him.

So, Jesus is resurrected.  Jesus is on the loose.

The Gospel of Mark ends right there.

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The author leaves us in tension with this ending in which nothing is resolved.  Jesus is on the loose.  Mary and Mary and Salome are uncomfortable and so are we..

If you remember your Gospel of Mark, you’ll remember there is a long section that comes after this ending.  It’s marked in parentheses because scribes, uncomfortable with the original ending felt the need to tell the rest of the story.  They could not handle Jesus not wrapping up loose ends.  They wanted to pin Jesus down.  They wanted closure.

But there is no closure.

Jesus is on the loose.

We still try to pin Jesus down.  We set aside one day a week to worship him.  We celebrate his birthday in December.  We give him a week in the spring to remember his death and resurrection.  We say that his presence is kept in that tiny bronze box back there with the reserved sacrament.

But Jesus isn’t just in that box.  And Jesus doesn’t wait here in this church for you to come and worship him.

Jesus is on the loose.

Jesus is on the loose in your life.

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, we were owned by sin and death.  They were our masters and we were forced to do their bidding.  But God defeated sin and death through Jesus’ resurrection and now we belong to God.

You may think you can control Jesus by setting aside Sunday to think about him and going back to your real life the rest of the week, but good luck with that.  The God who created the Universe is reclaiming you.  The God who saved Isaac is reclaiming you.  The God who parted the Red Sea is reclaiming you.  The God who enfleshed the dry bones is reclaiming you.  The God who broke through the heavens, and became a human being is reclaiming you. The God who defeated sin and death is reclaiming you.

Jesus is at loose in your life when you brush your teeth in the morning.  Jesus is at loose in your life when you write your Facebook status or balance your checkbook.  Jesus is at loose in your life when you commute to work, when your boss gives you a dressing down, when you turn on your television at night.  There is no moment in your life that is apart from Jesus and his Father who raised him from the dead.

Think about that for a moment and now tell me that the ending of the Gospel of Mark doesn’t just about sum up your reaction.

Terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The author of the Gospel of Mark gives us a little clue about this mysterious resurrected Jesus to calm our anxiety.  The heavenly messenger at the empty tomb tells the women,

. . .Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Why Galilee?

If you turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, you’ll see that Jesus first arrives on the scene in Galilee.  Mark is pointing us back to the beginning of his Gospel.  The resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus that taught and healed and exorcised demons.  The Jesus that is on the loose in your lives is not some zombie, not some spiritual Santa Claus, spying on you in judgment. He is the Jesus who loved men, women, and children; brought wholeness out of brokenness; and spoke truth to power.  He is the Jesus who loved Peter, even through Peter’s betrayal.  He is the Jesus who loved us so much that he wanted to identify fully with our human experience and was willing to die so we no longer have to.

This is the Jesus who is on the loose, loving us, healing us and bringing us eternal life.

And for that we can heartily say,

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

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