The Gospel you just heard is scary.
It begins with Mary Magdalene going to the tomb to find the stone removed. She runs to the disciples, and Peter and John run to the tomb. They see only the burial cloths, and we are told that John believes. They return home. Outside the tomb Jesus stands not far from Mary, and he reveals himself to her. She returns to the disciples and makes her proclamation, “I have seen the Lord.” Fear melts into belief that itself develops into a proclamation.
Even though you and I are used to the news that Jesus rose from the dead, what that means for us and for our future is just as scary as the formerly-dead. It may be even more scary. That fear in you may become something different. Let it become belief, and let that belief become proclamation.
For since Christ is raised, and since he promises that resurrected life to you and to me, it means something very scary. It means that your life is, well, not yours. It means that my life is not mine. The life we have is his. It flows from him. We are freed from sin and death, but that freedom comes to us in his hands. And in his hands, we are his, and his alone. Fear, belief, and proclamation–where will our feet stand?
As we heard in the Epistle to the Colossians, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Your life hasn’t disappeared. It hasn’t vanished any more than the body of Jesus vanished. Your life is sealed with Christ. You are made Christ’s and Christ’s own forever. You are his.
For people just beginning to know that relationship, it can be very scary, in fact some flee. But there’s no need. There’s no need. Your true home is with him. There’s no need to flee. Let your fear become belief, and let your belief become your proclamation.
Old hands at living the Christian life will make their proclamation to you. Old hands. Sometimes they know best. One I know had cancer: the surprising symptoms, the ghastly treatment, the fear, and some good news, life changed not ended. For another, an early retirement, that not-too-polite euphemism for “don’t let the door hit you as you leave” when there’s a corporate take-over or for the move of headquarters to another place. Life changed not ended. These old hands have peered into the tomb and found it empty. Their fear gave way to Christ’s confidence and to belief. Emptiness gave way to seeing their life hid with Christ in God. Their life hid with Christ in God, a relationship unbreakable, a loving-kindness indissoluble which continually give birth to hope and to the satisfaction of knowing that God is the God of the living, not the dead. These old hands have made it through life’s dark shadow; they’ve passed over to the other side, the side of stark reality where their life hidden with Christ becomes their confidence and their strength, their belief and conviction about him who has the last word.
Many years ago, I visited a lady who lay in her deathbed. She was fighting a cancer, and to certain eyes, the cancer was winning. But her life was hidden with Christ in God, and she knew it. Her fears had become her belief, and to me she made her proclamation. She had passed over to the other side, the side where Christ’s empty tomb was the whole of her life. And she said to me, “If this is dying, I’m happy to do it.” For some of us, that’s more scary than the empty tomb. But that’s the resurrected life. That’s the life Christ came to give. When she died, I knew that I would miss her. But I know today also she is fine and has always been fine. She glimpsed her life, her life hid with Christ in God, and she made it to the other side even in this life. She made it into God’s own hands, where the lame walk, the blind receive their sight, and the tomb is empty, empty because God is God of the living, and empty because God wins, God’s life wins the day, today, and every day.