The biblical passage: Mk 16, 1-8
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back – it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.
Three women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome set off. The distance they wanted to cover was short: to the cave in Golgotha. They knew the way to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea well, for that was the place where the body of the crucified Jesus had been laid and they had all participated in the burial. The women set off with a specific purpose, to take care of the corpse of their late Master and Friend, they wanted to anoint the Body, offering thus to Him a symbolic proof of their respect and remembrance. They worshipped, respected and loved Him. The anointment was to be the one and last service they could do for Him. We can only speculate about the feelings of these women, travelling together: their journey was to be a journey of defeat, lost hopes, and disappointment. It was to be a journey of reconciliation with one’s fate, a sad journey because of the inevitable defeat in fight against death. Like the disciples of Jesus, the women had seen in Him a Messiah. His arrest and death had come as an unexpected drama, whose consequences seemed tragic beyond measure. They felt as if the world had collapsed around them! Everything was lost!
On arrival they found the situation quite unlike what they had expected. First of all, the heavy stone which had closed the entry to the tomb, which worried them so much on the way, was rolled back, the tomb was open. Secondly, when they entered the tomb, they found there a young man dressed in white (colour symbolizing hope and salvation). Thirdly and most importantly, the young man addressed the women with the astonishing message, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.” The women got frightened at what they had seen and heard. It is interesting that they had not been afraid of the dead Jesus, they had not been afraid of the condition in which they might find Him, but they got frightened at the Annunciation: He is risen from the Dead! They had been prepared for the normal routine, following any death: the tomb, inside the tomb the corpse to be anointed, as prescribed by the ritual. But the body had one missing! There was nobody to anoint. The tomb was empty. To this unique Event the women reacted with astonishment, terror, and silence; they had just been announced the Good and Joyful Tidings and they ran away! The Gospel telling that Jesus is not to be found among the dead created utter confusion in their hearts and minds. All of a sudden they were confronted with the news that Jesus “has risen, he is not here”! He is! He lives! Death has proved powerless. He has triumphed! He is the winner! He does no longer need to be anointed with spices. His name cannot be added to the list of those who are definitively gone.
It cannot, for He is risen from the dead, He lives! All attempts to close him in the tomb of the past are therefore bound to be unsuccessful.
At this moment a certain doubt may arise in our hearts, for one should have expected that the women will find all this most pleasing. We might think that should they weep, that would be out of joy at the news that Jesus is alive! We hear something different: the women ran away! We struggle to understand and excuse the fear of the disciples, almost all of whom deserted the place of the torment of their Teacher, they did not want to or could not witness the passion and death of the Messiah. But the opposite situation, where the women, having entered the empty tomb and heard that He was risen from the dead, seem to be running away from Life – this attitude is very difficult to conceive of! Could not they guess that if Christ is truly risen from the dead that means that those who have trusted Him, who have been close to Him, need no longer fear the power of death? For they belong to life? I am convinced that the women understood it perfectly well and that this was the very reason why they were afraid. Because at that moment they realized how little faith they had had in this new life! Faced with the empty tomb, they felt ashamed of having expected death. They realized that death had kept their life on a tight rein. And that separated them all the time from the resurrected Jesus.
Because the Crucified Jesus has turned out to be the Resurrected Lord, He is not there, where we would expect to see death, disintegration and nothingness. His place is on the side of life. What is more, it is He who has changed death into life! If beginning with Easter the world of death becomes the world of life, then we can already now speak of the living Body of Christ, in which we too participate. In this way He brings life into this world, and we can give it away, share it with others. Easter means that the living Christ can act in us and through us. What we need is only trustful faith that the crucified Christ is truly risen from the dead and that He lives on! Amen.
Rev. Dr Dariusz Chwastek, translated by Dr Joanna Teske