April 1, 2018
A telling of a story from the Gospel of Mark
My name is Salome, and I have been with him since the beginning of the movement, nearly three years now. I am the wife of Zebedee, the mother of James and John. I’ll never forget the day he came and beckoned my sons to follow him, and they immediately dropped their fishing nets and went after him. You may not know this, but so did I.
At first, I was only concerned for my sons, and just wanted to make sure they were safe, and not following some fool. My concern is recorded in your scriptures where it quotes me saying to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit with you in your kingdom, one on your right and one on your left.” In his way, his gentle way, Jesus told me I had no idea what I was asking. But a mother, of course, always wants the best for her children, yes?
Like so many others, I too was soon taken by Jesus and his message. I became one of his disciples, and, as a woman of means, I was able to help support him, and all of us, as we moved from village to village.
Eventually, we ended up in Jerusalem.
And then . . . it was Friday.
Worst Friday ever. They killed him. They didn’t just kill him. They mocked him, they tortured him, and then they crucified him. Worst Friday ever!
And he hung there on the cross for hours. By the time he died, the sun was setting. It was Sabbath, and so too late to anoint the body and perform the proper burial rituals. They just laid him in a tomb. There was nothing we could do. Nothing anybody could do.
Longest Sabbath ever. I thought it would never end. We were awash in grief the entire time. And we fretted over the burial rituals that had to be done.
So, the moment Sabbath ended, I rushed out to the market and bought spices so that we could go and anoint him.
Early the next morning, just as the sun crested over the horizon, on the first day of the week, what you call Sunday, the three of us—Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James (son of Alphaeus), and me, Salome—hurried to the tomb.
As we approached, we realized we had a problem, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb?” Amidst our grief, anxiety, and hurry we failed to consider this important detail.
But when we arrived we saw that the large stone had been rolled back. What? Tentatively, we entered the tomb.
Inside was a man—no, not Jesus—a different man was sitting there in a white robe . . . and we were utterly amazed!
Then he said to us, “Don’t be afraid. You seek Jesus, but as you can see, he is not here. He has been raised.” We could hardly believe our eyes and ears. But it’s true! He was not there!
The man in the white robe also said, “Go tell all the disciples, and Peter, that he will see you in Galilee just as he had told you.”
Well, that’s my story; the short version, anyway. But let me tell you how it’s coming to make sense to me. That Sabbath day, longest Sabbath ever, I had plenty of time to think about these months and years of following Jesus. Some things have come clear to me through this experience. And I want to share them with you.
Consider the readings you heard this evening from our Scriptures; what you call the Old Testament.
Because Jesus is risen, the miracle of creation takes on new splendor.
Indeed, God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good. Even in the darkest hour of our lives, the goodness of God and all of God’s creation rises up and sheds light on the darkness. In God’s own words, “Let there be light!” The risen Jesus is that light!
Because Jesus is risen, the great exodus story takes on new meaning. As our Scriptures say:
The Israelites had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day.
The covenant of love between God and God’s people was restored on the shore of the sea that day. And I realize now that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus tells me that nothing will ever break that covenant of love. That even when I fail in my love for God, God’s love for me will never fail.
Because Jesus is risen, the words of Isaiah now make perfect sense.
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Jesus’ life and death was pure gift. No cost. Nothing we need do, or could do, to earn his great gift. But just as important, Jesus showed me (us?) how we must be gift to one another, with our very lives.
Because Jesus is risen, the prophesy of Ezekiel has come true:
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you moist hearts.
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
During that long Sabbath, I could feel my heart turning to stone. I was in such despair. Anger was welling up, and I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. But then that Sunday morning, when I heard the words and saw it with my own eyes, “he is not here” I could immediately feel my heart begin to soften and moisten. Ezekiel’s prophecy came true for me in that moment.
Because Jesus is risen, I can say to you today . . . There is hope. There is redemption. There is life after death.
Thank you for listening to my story.