Mark 16: 1 – 8
One of the programmes that I have been watching on TV is Master Chef. No doubt you’ve seen it or parts of it. Contestants have to cook a two or three course meal in a given amount of time and then submit it to be judged by the presenters, Greg and John, and one or more judges, – generally top star chefs including Beaminster’s own Matt Folas. Just occasionally one of the elegantly laid out food on the plate gets a complete thumbs down from one of the presenters or one of the judges. I’ve seen a couple of programmes where what looked like a good, well presented dish is sampled and pronounced by at least one judge as horrible. Just what is not hoped for or expected by the contestant.
The unexpected is what confronted the woman who’d gone to the place where Jesus had been buried two days earlier. They had gone to finish the burial rituals, embalming the body with aromatic spices. But there was no body. Nothing to embalm, Nothing to anoint. Jesus had gone. Imagine for a moment what must have gone through the minds of the woman. Had Jesus been taken by body snatchers or grave robbers? Had his body been taken by the religious authorities to prevent it becoming a place of veneration? Had it been taken by Jesus’ followers for reburial somewhere else? If so why? And if so how was it that someone didn’t let on where they had buried him. It is one of the pillars supporting the resurrection – there is no place known where the body may be. After all it would soon have become a place to go and put flowers and remember Jesus. Just as people do today at the grave of a loved one. But in the case of Jesus there is nowhere to be close to his body. There is nowhere because there is no body. Jesus died – no doubt about that but Jesus came alive – he had risen from the dead.
After a few hours Jesus began to be seen by various groups of people. Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning. The disciples in the upper room. The disciples out fishing. The disciples walking to the nearby village of Emmaus. All those were as unexpected as was the empty tomb when the woman went there. Gradually it began to sink in that in some way or other Jesus had come alive again, and he was risen from the dead. The resurrection is one of those unexpected events events that happen from time to time. In John’s Gospel account it was Simon Peter who ran to the tomb, went in and believed. I would love to know more about what he believed; believed that Jesus had risen from the dead; believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be – the son of God. We don’t know.
But probably by the end of what is sometimes called Easter Week many of those who had been followers came to accept that Jesus has come alive again. Thomas was one who had a problem with the idea and it was totally unexpected – just like the unexpected comments on a dish in Master Chef which look so elegant and promising but just do not taste very good.
Some find it difficult today to accept that Jesus rose from the dead. That sort of thing does not happen. But then when God is involved all sorts of amazing things do happen. When the angel visited Mary to announce her to be the Mother of God’s son Jesus he reminded her that nothing is impossible with God. (Lk 1:37). We need to be careful in our understanding. God does do unexpected things. It is one of the exciting aspects of Christianity. God surprises us with some of the things he does. And that is the true significance of the resurrection. It is above all the chance to begin to see the power of God at work.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an insight into God’s power. And that is no different today as it was 2000 years ago. The problem it seems to me is that we are not prepared for the unexpected and not for unusual things to happen. When we really learn to trust God unexpected things happen. We are invited to put our trust and faith in Jesus, believing him to be God’s Son. It all starts with our learning to trust God. Really trust him. It is something we have to work at. It does not come easily. But if we do God is faithful to his promise.
It might be worth taking a little time today to ask yourself – how committed am I to Jesus and what are the unexpected things that have happened to you because you are a Christian. It is worth taking a little time today to review your lives and ask where and how had God done unexpected things in your life and give thanks to him for them.
I suspect that everyone can find something; well give thanks for it. And the greatest gift of all and the most unexpected one is that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, spent time with us learning about human life and then died so that our sins can be forgiven.
And for that I say Alleluia. Amen