Resurrection is harder than we expected
Have you ever had the feeling that there was a day in school that you missed somewhere along the way, where everyone else learned to do a thing but you?
Maybe it was dating
Maybe it was dancing without instructions
Maybe it was pretending in a job interview to be more confident than you feel
Maybe it was admitting to a friend that you aren’t as confident as you look
All of these are conversations I’ve had with people in my pastoral ministry. Let’s be real, they’re all conversations I’ve had with myself as well. But I pay better attention when the conversation is with someone else, and the common thread I’ve found running throughout those conversations is the impulse to run away when things are starting to get good: to break up preemptively, to stop dancing when somebody notices, to just not apply for the stretch position, to freeze out the friend who is starting to know you too well.
So if dating and dancing and job interviews and friendship all so commonly lead to running away, is it any wonder that this resurrection story ends the same way?
The women came to the tomb steeled for grief, and instead encountered joy, and it was more than they could imagine what to do with, and they were terrified. At the end of all this loss, all this death, all this horror, I suspect it was overwhelming *enough*, simply to make themselves believe that Jesus was really gone from them. These are the same three women Mark named as having stayed with Jesus as he was crucified. They watched him die. They more than most have faced the reality of Jesus’ death, Jesus’ absence, Jesus’ apparent failure.
These are the women who, despite all that they have been through in the last few days, have made their way to the tomb early the very first morning after the Sabbath. These are brave, strong women. These are women who *show up*. Who do what needs doing, not because they are never afraid, but regardless of whether they are afraid or not.
*These* are the women who ran from the tomb, terrified. This is the truth we do not often tell about resurrection: that resurrection can be terrifying.
We tell about Noah and his family going onto the ark with all the animals, and finally getting the sign from the dove that the earth was dry, and God putting the bow in the sky, and saying “Never again.” We don’t tell about what it was like for Noah’s family to step off that ark, to make it through 40 days of rain in a tiny space full of animals and their feed and waste, and then step onto an empty land and have to start from scratch.
We tell about God bringing the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, and leading them through the Red Sea on dry land; about Miriam and all the women dancing with tambourines and singing God’s praise. We don’t often ask for the next chapter, where the people enter the wilderness, and complain about the strange water and the strange food and these strange rules that this strange God of Moses wants them to follow.
We read of the near-sacrifice of Isaac and of Lazarus raised, but rarely do we ask what life was like after that for Isaac as he walked home with the father who had just tied him up, for Lazarus who had thought he was finished.
Resurrection is harder than we expected; harder than we wish it were.
By rights, it seems like this should be the easy part, right? But resurrection is good, not necessarily easy. It’s not the restoration of past comfort; it is an entirely new thing. It doesn’t come bearing what’s known. It comes offering more than we can ask or imagine.
And more than we can ask or imagine is, well, a lot. But the good news is, of course, that while resurrection is a lot, it is not *only* terrifying. It is also liberating, and joyful, and full of hope. Where it is terrifying, it is in a very different way from how the powers of death and destruction are terrifying. Where it is terrifying, it is because it is positively shimmering with a hope we have not previously known.
The unknown is frightening, even if it is also freeing. Ultimately, no matter how often we have been freed or done freedom work, further liberation is scary. Sometimes because we are afraid of what we will lose if others are more free than they have been, sometimes because we are afraid that we are not equal to our own freedom, sometimes just because it is new and we don’t know what to do with it yet. There is no guarantee of what exact consequence the resurrection will have for us, how it will upset which apple cart, or even what our place in it is supposed to be. We don’t know what’s waiting for us in Galilee.
Except - and this is a big except - that what is waiting for us in Galilee is Jesus of Nazareth. And that makes a big difference, because if *Jesus* is waiting in Galilee, if *Jesus* has been raised, just as he said, then Jesus is eminently trustworthy. And if Jesus is just as trustworthy as we had initially hoped he was, then what waits for us with Jesus in Galilee is life in the Reign of God. Life marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What waits for us with Jesus in Galilee is the living water, the bread of life, and the cup of salvation. What waits for us with Jesus in Galilee is the promise of the Holy Spirit as guide and advocate. Resurrection may not be easy, but it is worth it - and it does not depend on your confidence, or mine, on your dancing or dating skills or mine, on you or me at all. God is doing a new thing in Galilee, perhaps a scary thing, but a good and joyful thing. This is why eventually the women left their hiding places and did go to find Jesus in Galilee, which is how we come to tell this story at all. This is why even at the grave we make our song ‘alleluia, alleluia, alleluia’. Because Christ is risen, and we are invited to join him. Alleluia indeed.