Mark 15:42-16:8 42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 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 ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 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.”’ 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
The ending of Mark 15 is abrupt and as sharp as the circumstances it describes. It is Friday, the Day of Preparation; a day in which all things are set for the human observance of the cosmic significance of the Sabbath. When the last rays of sunlight leave on Friday, the Sabbath starts; no work can be done on the Sabbath, not even the necessary work of burial of the dead. After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea hastily goes to Pilate requesting the body. Joseph works as quickly as he can without the disrespect of hurry. He gathers a linen cloth, takes the Savior’s body down from the cross, wraps him in the cloth, places him in a tomb, and rolls a stone against the entrance. Nearby, two women mark the location of the tomb as the Sabbath begins.
The white space in our bibles between where Mark 15 ends and Mark 16 begins measures a time of about 36 hours. The Sabbath lasts from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday; there is an additional night before the dawn of discovery on Sunday. At some point in that 36-hour span, more than likely after Saturday’s sunset, Easter happens. In Jesus’ tomb, in that space hidden from human eyes, Light pierces the darkness and the spark of the divine ignites hope and promise. In the awful and supposedly permanent silence of the tomb, the sound of a deep breath punctures the quiet. There is movement. Jesus lives!
There is no timestamp on the miracle; it happens while some bask in the satisfaction that a troublemaker has been removed from the scene. It happens while the followers of Jesus grieve and console one another behind locked doors. It happens while the world moves onto the next news cycle.
Resurrection happens before Mary and the women arrive on that Sunday morning. They marvel at the rolled away stone, the angelic messenger, the empty tomb, and they flee in terror and amazement. The first followers of the Lord do not yet understand Easter. As sunlight races across the morning sky, death and brokenness no longer hold eternal power. This is Creation’s eighth day; it is the day that Christ Jesus arose.
Resurrection and new life happen in places we do not see and at times we do not know. We do not always grasp the timing or the location in geographic terms or in our common spiritual lives; yet, Easter happens. Even as we are distracted by current events and the rush and crush of our calendars, Easter happens. The grace of God is not blocked by our limitations of mind, body, or soul. Grace comes when we do not deserve it and in ways we fail to understand except in hindsight. Grace comes in the in between places of life, in the blank spaces of our life’s narrative. Easter still happens, thanks be to God.
Prayer – God of Resurrection, thank you for offering us new life even when it happens in unexpected places and unknown ways that we fail to understand. In the name of thee Risen Christ, Amen.
Rev. Joseph James, Jr.
Trinity UMC Senior Pastor