Homily on the Empty Tomb
April 29, 2007
I had to write a homily recently for my Spanish class… It took me a lot longer to translate it than it did to write it!
Mark gives us a picture of some wonderful women in this passage, who come to the tomb despite concerns about being able to get in to do their job of anointing the body of Jesus. “How will we get past the stone?” they ask. Does it keep them home? No. They come anyway. They are so bound and destined to see their beloved friend and teacher that they set out on the journey to take care of his body anyway. They just do it. Call it faith. Call it stubborn. Call it ignorance. But they do it.
They come anyway and they find something quite unexpected. The Gospel of Mark is so interesting because the people around Jesus never quite fully understand what is going on. The women arrive at the tomb, despite their reservations, and they find a surprise. They get scared. They aren’t quite sure what to do with the news they get- this ‘Jesus’ friend of theirs whom they loved yet never quite understood is gone missing. They flee in awe – the Greek translated as ‘fear’ is better translated as ‘reverence’ or ‘awe’ here- and tell nobody.
But perhaps the most wonderful thing about Mark’s account of this gospel is that we, the audience, are invited into the story. There is no prescribed ending; we must finish it ourselves. Jesus is alive- he is in Galilee, and we may bump into him when we turn the next corner if we only have enough faith to believe it may be so.
Could this ending still be possible for us today? Might we still be able to run into Jesus as we turn any corner today? Is it possible? It is so easy to get into our daily routines, run our daily lives, that we leave Jesus for worship, or for prayer, or for somebody else, that we do not change our actions to reflect this possibility.
But what if we had the determination of the women, who in the face of the sealed tomb, set out to try to get in to see their dear friend anyway? What if we set out with the same determination to look for Jesus around the next corner too, heeding Mark’s open ended story? What if we determined that it was so critical to develop our faith that we follow such a calling: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mat 25:35-36). Do we walk out into the street, turn the corner and say, “I did not see Jesus today. I did not see him hungry and give him food, or thirsty and give him something to drink, or see him as a stranger and welcome him, or naked and give him clothing, or see him sick or in prison and visit him.” For we all know the answer: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mat 25:39).
Jesus is alive! He is on every street corner. He is lying on the war-torn streets of Iraq, wounded. He is a starving woman in Africa. He is being deported to Mexico, with little chance of finding economic stability to support his family in the future. He is being beaten as a child in a wealthy Austin home as we speak.
Dare we look for Jesus? What might we find if we see him?
The good news is that there is hope. Jesus is that hope. For in the cross, Jesus died as a result of human brokenness and suffering. But in the resurrection, God did what God always does: God created life from death. God just conquers the darkness of our lives, that is what God does. The empty tomb is a sign of that hope. It is our mission, then, to live in that hope, going out into the world and looking for Jesus, seeing him, and making him to be visible as we are the active eyes, arms, hands, and hearts of the body of Christ; looking to bring ‘thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. We look expectantly to the future for God to keep doing what God does: to bring about that peaceable kingdom when all will be right and the human race will become the human family.