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. (Mark 16:1—8)
The bare possibility of resurrection is a scary thing to contemplate. Resurrection means life as we know it will never be the same again.
The women who had seen Jesus die on a cross could not have been prepared for what they would find in the form of an empty tomb that first Easter morning. 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.
To tell the truth, resurrection can be scarier than death itself sometimes. I know this because these days I’m a hospice chaplain. I sit at deathbeds and hold the hands of dying people who tell me about their hopes and fears and everything in between. And, for every time I affirm the truth of the resurrection some day for those to whom I minister, I am also aware that just about every time I do so, the person before me will die.
Death is all around us. We all die. It’s the reality of this world. In some cases death is easier to become accustomed to than resurrection. And grief? Grief can so often settle into complacent ennui with the way things are. The way things will always be.
But resurrection is a disruption in everything we’ve come to know and accept. It’s a disruption in living life on our own terms, even if those terms are less than ideal, less than whole, less than what’s better and more breathtakingly real for us. For this reason, maybe, we, too, are afraid and go running from the empty tomb.
This Easter morning, what are we most afraid of about a God who raises Jesus from the dead? Are we afraid this God might invite us to ditch old patterns of relating to ourselves and to our neighbors? Are we afraid that a God who rises from the dead might take these weary souls of ours and breathe new life into them? Are we afraid that a God who rises from the dead might ask us to do something heroic or out-of-the-ordinary, because the Resurrection actually means this God is invested in us and in how we live?
It’s Easter! Christ is risen! Don’t be afraid.