First Lesson: Isaiah 25: 6-9
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Gospel: Mark 16: 1-8
Grace and peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you a story about my Great Grandpa Arvid. Arvid was in his nineties. Arvid’s eyesight was at the point that he probably shouldn’t have been driving, yet he was. One day, Arvid is backing out of his driveway when he backs all the way across the street hitting Duane Arnold’s apple tree. Arvid hit this apple tree hard. The back end of Arvid’s car was not going to be easily fixed. Apples and branches were scattered all over the car’s roof. Arvid felt nothing, so he drove uptown. Arvid stopped in at Russ Johnson’s local service station. Russ Johnson’s was the last service station in Lindstrom where they still had attendants fill up your car. Arvid asks for a fill up because he was going to drive to Wisconsin. The attendant had no idea what to say at this point as he looked at the banged up car with the old man oblivious to it all. Arvid would never drive a car again after this incident. Life was never going to be the same again. Why was Arvid going to drive to Wisconsin? We can merely speculate in the years after he left us. Back to Arvid and the apple tree in a bit.
Today’s Easter lesson comes from the Gospel of Mark. The story begins with three women Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome wishing to get up early on a Sunday morning to see Jesus. These women probably hadn’t been able to sleep really well as they dealt with all the emotions of the past few days witnessing one of the closest people in their life to die in such a fashion as crucifixion. They get up early that Sunday morning so that they may anoint his body. Give Jesus as proper a send off as they could before moving onto the next chapter in their life. Their concern going to the tomb that day was the stone guarding it was so large that they would be unable to move it.
When they arrive at the tomb, they see the stone rolled away, and an angelic messenger sitting in the place where Jesus body previously lay. The messenger proclaims “The Jesus that you are looking for, he is not here; he is on his way to Galilee”.
The trip back to Galilee seems like an odd move for Jesus. Here Jesus was in the cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem, the religious capital of the world. Jesus could have returned to stand before his captors and crucifiers with the taunts of “na, na, na, boo, boo, you can’t kill me”. Jesus instead decides that he wants to go back to Galilee.
The one thing that many people don’t know about Jesus after the resurrection is that he wasn’t all that visible. He appeared to the disciples twice in Jerseleum, he encountered a couple travelers on the Road to Emmaus, he appeared before the Disciples at the Lake of Tiberias for the miraculous catch of fish, and he appeared to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee to give them the Great Commission. Jesus made five appearances in forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. What was Jesus doing the rest of that time? Nobody knows? The thing worth noting about all these appearances is that none of them had much fanfare. Jesus throughout the Gospels seems to be not one to revel in his fifteen minutes of fame. Jesus doesn’t go back to the Temple in Jerusalem so that all the eyes of the world may be upon him. Instead, Jesus goes somewhere where his motives are less evident in a post- Resurrection world.
So why go back to Galilee? Why primarily spend his extra days on Earth off the grid? To understand this question, you need to know the whole story of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is returning to the place where he spends the majority of his life and ministry. Jesus is returning to the sites of his teaching and miracles.
There are many things about Jesus’ life within in Mark’s Gospel that shall always be a mystery. Like when Jesus would perform healing miracles, why would he want people to keep his mighty deeds a secret? Why when Peter recognizes Jesus as “the Christ” does Jesus want Peter to keep his mouth shut.
The reason for this is because the only way that we know anything about Jesus is through the Resurrection. We can only understand every story within the Christian Gospels in light of the story’s ending. The history of Galilee is perhaps why Jesus wanted to return to the site of his ministry. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying to those who think they know his story, to go read it again.
One of the most common encounters that I have in the ministry is dealing with people in the midst of their grief. People often wonder why so and so had to leave them. For many people, there are no right words to say.
I had a Great Uncle named Sunny. Sunny was a nice guy. Sunny was a Unitarian, who held no belief in eternal life. My Dad went to Sunny’s funeral where all they talked about was Sunny and things he loved such as nature. Sunny’s funeral served as an example of depressing ways that people can often think about death. There was not one word said that gave any hope for those that mourn beyond their memories of Sunny. We’re here today, but gone tomorrow. Non-religious funerals are the most empty events in the world. To believe that there is nothing out there seems to crush the soul.
Our Resurrection story tells us something different.
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead.”-1st Corinthians 15:12
Today, we see a Jesus, who has risen from the dead, yet is still hiding out there in the world. What we also see is a Jesus, who refuses to stay exactly where he is supposed to stay. What Easter reminds us is that God doesn’t sit still or even play dead, Our Lord does what he pleases. Our Lord will even save “sinners”. The secret behind God’s motives is why even those closest to Jesus would misunderstand him throughout the course of his life.
Tom Long says it best “The saving action of God in the world is always hidden, ambiguous, sealed off from obvious explanation”.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb that day expecting God to act one way only to be proven wrong. The women flee the tomb in terror because this story was going to play out so differently than they could have previously envisioned.
We often expect God in our lives to zig one way, only to be surprised when he zags the other way. Jesus came into this world all-powerful, yet he was going to suffer and die still. Where God most ultimately surprises us is when he stands alongside us when we are at our weakest, the very moment of our death.
Jesus goes back to Galilee to return to the beginning. Bring us back to Eden. Today, we return to the promises given to us in our Baptism.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.-Romans 6:3-5
My hope is that you see you every event that you are having to move forward from this day in the context of the resurrection that you reappraise the whole story of your life through its ending. That as we leave this place you head back into the world, we remember that our Lord has promised to go ahead of us. We encounter on this day a God that we cannot capture or catch. We encounter a God whose whereabouts are often so nonsensical that he ends up on the Cross only to end up walking back to Galilee three days later.
Let me close with the conclusion of my Great Grandpa and the apple tree. The car gets cleaned up. No one is quite sure what to do with the apples. The Arnolds from across the street didn’t want them. Many of the apples were smashed and appeared to be inedible. While my Grandma Buena May, who was my Great Grandpa’s caretaker, takes all the smashed apples and makes a pie. I remember this pie like no other apple pie that I’ve ever eaten because the story behind it was so unique. The apple story ties into the story of Easter because this is what Our Lord does on this day. Our God takes on our weakness (our smashed apples), our imperfections in the form of death, only to use it to usher in forgiveness and eternal life. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
 Mark 16:3
 This is a slight paraphrase of Mark 16:5-7.
 John 20:19-29, Luke 24:36-49
 Luke 24:13-35,
 John 21:1-10
 Matthew 28:16-20.
 Mark 1:43-45, Mark 5:43-44, Mark 7:36, Mark 8:26
 Mark 8:30
 1st Corinthians 15:12
 This was inspired by Duke Professor Will Willemon’s explanation for the Resurrection.
 Long, Thomas G. “Dangling Gospel: Mark 16:1-8”. The Christian Century. 4.Apr.2006. Web. Mar.30.2015 taken from Religion Online prepared by Ted and Winnie Brock.
 Romans 6:3-5