A strange opening sentence you might say in response. Okay, but please read on…
It is not quite the Easter we were all expecting a few weeks ago! Many people in the Netherlands were looking forward to a holiday weekend coming up. Or just beyond Easter had plans for time away during the ‘meivakantie’. There are concerns now, that at the start of the year had not crossed people’s minds. It is understandable if for some there might be a sense of alarm.
When Christ was killed, the lives of His followers must have been turned totally upside down. Aspirations dashed, confusion, uncertainty and worry about what next all at the forefront of their minds.
In the Gospel of Mark, we can read in chapter 16 of three women going early in the morning to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. On the way, the account comments that it struck them about how they were going to get by the stone in front of the tomb. A reasonable and valid thing to ask!
With this in mind, imagine the shock to arrive there, find this large stone removed and what seemed like a young man dressed in white, sat down.
Mark tells us ‘they were alarmed’. I am not surprised. But then the young man (an angel according to other Gospel accounts) speaks right into that fright –
‘Don’t be alarmed…’
He was speaking on behalf of Christ who was risen (though the women didn’t know it quite yet).
Christ is the same today in April 2020 as he was back then. Perhaps for some of us it is good to allow the same words to sink into our hearts and minds,
‘Don’t be alarmed’
Elsewhere in the New Testament, it is written,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God…” (words of Jesus recorded in John 14:1) and also
“Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
Verses like this are not advocating an ignoring of things which cause concern or worry. Christian faith is not some kind of weird denial of reality. Yet there is a call to be real with God about how we are doing and find grace, hope, wisdom and strength as we trust in Him.
Such trust does not mean we ignore the need for social distancing and other measures. It is also probably good that if for any reason we feel overwhelmed or need to off-load, that we talk with others. I don’t think that contradicts the call to trust God. On the contrary, talking with trusted others can help us to be able to pray for instance, if we are struggling to do so on our own.
This all said, we do not have to live from a place of alarm.
In Mark’s account, the young man goes on to say,
“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” (Mark 16:6-7)
These must have been mind boggling words for these women – their circumstances turned upside down again. Though in a wonderful way this time. I love that in a very male dominated society, women were chosen as the first ones to hear that Christ was alive. Fantastic! That seems just like God to do something counter-cultural such as that.
They are told to pass on the message to go to Galilee. This is where they were all first called to follow Christ, amid their everyday lives there. “He is going ahead of you…”
The risen Christ still goes ahead of His church, calling us to follow Him amid our everyday lives here. To follow Him whatever circumstances that may include. May we know afresh the hope that there is in Christ and pray that this also overflow to others:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)
Let’s keep mindful of others in these weeks, praying and giving support where we are able to.
Though we cannot gather physically, it is great we can still connect online and worship together this Easter weekend. All are welcome.
Christ is risen!