Mark 16:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version)
16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But 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.” 8 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.
Matthew 28:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version)
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Luke 24:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
John 20:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version)
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Why did we read all four accounts of Jesus’ resurrection this morning? Perhaps to stress the importance of hearing, and listening, to competing or differing perspectives. To stress the importance of hearing voices and experiences that are different than our own. To acknowledge the importance of believing other voices; other truths; other stories.
The narratives are not all the same. Some are more detailed accounts than others. Some have overlapping details. There are contrasts and even contradictions. And yet, I tell you, I believe all four of them to be true.
In Mark’s version, the women told no one. The terror and amazement were too much for them. Who knows why? grief. shame. confusion. We can’t know. We do know that eventually they told the other disciples what they witnessed and heard.
Matthew adds two details not in Mark’s account. First, an earthquake. That would explain the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance for those that were skeptical. And possibly, offer a metaphorical description of the earth shifting violently and unexpectedly beneath their feet upon Jesus death, AND resurrection. And second, as the women leave the angel, with fear and great joy, they do run to tell the others. They do not keep silent.
Luke’s gospel has two angels in dazzling white, and some key reminders as to how this had been foretold by Jesus during his time among them teaching and healing. In Luke’s gospel, the women are not believed by the apostles. They are thought to be telling an idle tale, perhaps crazed with grief. Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself, and only then believes.
John’s gospel has Mary arriving at the tomb early, alone, and then running to tell Simon Peter, and the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved that the tomb was empty. The gospel says that at least one of them saw, and believed. Then they (the men) both went home. Mary stayed. Weeping. Grieving. And Mary meets the risen Christ. She does not recognize him – maybe he has been not only inwardly but also outwardly transformed.
Our four gospels all tell us that when the women went to the tomb in the wee hours between darkness and light, they found the stone moved away from the entrance to the tomb.
In John’s Gospel, the others meet Jesus in Galilee, but Mary alone sees the Lord at the tomb, thinking at first that he is the gardener. John’s gospel is the most poignant. Mary, in her grief, weeping; wanting to be near Jesus, even if only his dead body, but even that has been taken from her.
All four of our gospel writers tell of visitations by angelic beings; men dressed in dazzling white, all bearing messages. Mark, Matthew, and Luke (our synoptic gospels) all similarly say, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell the others that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
In the Gospel of Luke, the angels say to the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Why do we look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not in the tomb. Jesus is out in the world, walking among us.
We do not always recognize the risen Christ in our midst. We let our biases and prejudices keep us from seeing the face of Jesus in all those around us, just as Mary didn’t recognize him in the person she thought to be the gardener.
Here is the Good News. The tomb is empty. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
Are our ears, our hearts, our minds, open to hearing unexpected messages? From unexpected sources? Look around. He lives in you. He lives in me. He lives whether we recognize him or not. He lives in the transgendered among us. He lives in differently-abled individuals that we may be prone to overlook. He lives in every body of every skin tone on this diverse home we call earth.
Do we, like the women in Mark’s gospel, say nothing?
Or, do we, like the women in Matthew, Luke and John’s gospels, go and tell, saying to all who will listen, Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! I have seen the Lord!
Rev. TJ Mack – April 17, 2022