“Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth … He has risen. He is not here.” Mk 16:6
“He is not here.” Was there ever an Easter service in which these words might have been spoken about your heart, or about a sermon, or about your congregation?
I’m no psychic, but I’m sure that, during a very dull sermon one Easter about 15 years ago, I heard these very words spoken inside my head while in church: “He is not here.”
In fact, I confess to whole years of faithful attendance at weekly services in which I purposely missed Easter (and Christmas) – because I honestly feel that the beauty of the Incarnation and Resurrection get muddled by the church’s forms of celebration. On its highest feast days it seems that the church (instead of the risen Son) is just too much in control of the message.
I think the Gospels present a perfect figure of the church where we read that early on the third day some sincerely devoted women show up at the wrong place (the tomb) with the wrong worship (embalming spices). The church is still bringing its members every Easter to the same wrong place (the tomb) and with the same wrong intention – that of spicing up a doctrine about physical, bodily resurrection.
I don’t deny the resurrection. But we do have scripture accounts which give us the right to make a choice as to the issue of physical or spiritual resurrection. And I think these other accounts, rightly interpreted, say “It was never about tombs or material bodies.” Do we think Paul beheld a material body on the road to Damascus?
To me the words “He is risen – He is not here” have to mean something infinitely more than “He got up and walked out of the grave.”
In more than one Gospel we read something to the effect that the women at the tomb were ordered to tell Peter and the apostles: “He is going to Galilee before you. There you will see him, as he told you.” Basically this amounts to “Get out of town. You can’t see me if you are living in fear.” Can’t see me?
If we read (in John) that Peter and John go out to check on the tomb for themselves, is this better or worse than taking the women at their word? Would Christ have failed to appear to them otherwise?
If from Luke it appears that they tarried in Jerusalem against his will, did he not finally shine a mysterious light on them from Emmaus just before he came to them in spite of themselves, and from behind closed doors?
Was it really necessary that the women or anybody actually saw the empty tomb for themselves? What if the women had remained in hiding with the apostles until the authorities had maintained control of the spin by securing the tomb from inspection? Do we think this would have mattered to – the risen Lord?
“He’s not here!” Maybe the words were spoken today about you – when family and friends noticed your absence from the mandatory church service. For you I have this advice: Seek the truth again. It may be obscured by all the outward stuff which the church is focusing on. Don’t allow your negative feelings about any specific church to compromise your independent right to truth and your right to worship where and how you want – even to wait upon the Spirit in that inner place of meeting with “my Father and your Father.” (Jn 20:17)