What happened next (Easter Vigil Sarita)

So at 2 this afternoon my sermon was finished. I’d started writing it at about noon,  I’d been thinking about it over the course of a couple of days.

and I finished it and I wrote it , edited it and then I recorded it as I always do so I can send it to my mum and I was listening to it and I went this isn’t the sermon.

There’s nothing that strikes terror in the heart of a Preacher more then knowing that you just got finished working on a nice little essay that isn’t the sermon that God wants you to preach.

I’m supposed to be talking about the time of waiting between the time they took Jesus poor broken body down off the cross and hurriedly wrapped it and laid it in a borrowed tomb, donated by a wealthy follower of Jesus and his resurrection. After they take down Jesus body, they went home, nobody slept.Theyre so traumatised they can barely breathe. They may have gone back to the Upper Room where they first gathered for that last supper, where Jesus washed their feet.  They’re sitting around the table and they are going over everything , every detail, every moment. Why didn’t Jesus listen to them, why did he go to Jerusalem, why did he put himself in danger , WHAT In the world is the matter with Judas Iscariot?? They also are terrified. The leader of their little company has been made an example of and the message is clear from the Roman government, (and the Pharisees) don’t mess with us, because we will kill you. They are sitting there knowing that they have a choice between continuing to follow Jesus and spread his message of love and forgiveness, or go back to fishing. Most of them are gonna go back to fishing.

The dream has been murdered in front of their eyes.

They have various levels of guilt and shame and repercussions about not defending him, although he told them not to. Peter tried. Jesus just  put the high priest’s slave’s ear back on his head and looked at Peter and said if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.

Every single thing that Jesus did, from the moment he wrapped the towel around his waist, no the moment he got on that donkey and rode into Jerusalem and allowed the crowd to call him the Messiah,  when he wrapped the towel around his waist and served his disciples by washing their feet, to the garden in Gethsemane where he literally prayed blood asking God if there is any other way,  to the moment that he kissed Judas,  on his way to  certain death; every step of that, Jesus knew, he planned, he followed.

When we were talking yesterday about people’s reaction to the cross, we left out an important group of people.

And that was the women. There were so many beautiful women in the disciple’s community,  Women that travelled with Jesus and took care of him, women who ministered to other women that came to him, women who travelled together, having cut their ties with a community that was so repressed and oppressive to women that a woman was basically a slave in her father’s house until she was transferred to her betrothed house at the age of 12 or 13, and kept indoors. She was only allowed to leave to go get water take care the shopping with a very limited time, and only in the company of other women. This is why when the woman is drawing water at the well by herself it’s because she’s an outcast,she’s seen as unclean by the community of women and she has to go by herself and that’s where Jesus find her and changes her life. There was no freedom in women’s existence in the entire greco-roman world for sure, but for Jewish woman in first century Palestine, you had no rights, you had no identity aside from whatever identity was given to you by your father or your husband and your job was the bear children and it take care of the family and to be obedient and you certainly were not allowed to go galavanting around the countryside in the company of men, following an itinerant preacher!

Every woman who followed Jesus branded herself a social outcast in the community. This group of women were often referred to as prostitutes and I’m not saying that there were no prostitutes in Jesus’s company, because Jesus wasn’t fussy that way, but I am saying that any woman who did not have herself under the authority of the men in her world was considered a loose woman, unclean and could be put to death quite frankly by their father or husband or elder brother if they so chose.  They had no control over their person.

But nonetheless, it was the women who did not run away when Jesus was being killed.  They probably weren’t in the garden, it was after Passover, they were probably putting things to rights at home.  The guys are going out to pray with Jesus.  They were troubled in their hearts, for  something was brewing, they didn’t know what it was, but women know these things.  Suddenly someone comed back to tell them thst Jesus has been arrested and is standing in front of Pilate at this minute. And the women did not hesitate. Mary Magdalene,  Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary, Jesus’s Mother and there may have been others , ran.  They were  going  to where the powers that be were going to kill their Lord, and nothing that was going to happen to them personally was worse than the thought of him dying alone. They were there for him. His mother and  John – the disciple Jesus loved -are so close to Jesus that they can hear him speak and the last thing that Jesus did for his mother to protect her (because you want to talk about someone who had been chatted about all her life,  Jesus was known in his village is an illegitimate son, that  Mary just got under the wire, when Mary and Joseph got married, Everyone knew. But because Joseph family  was respected, it wasn’t talked about in public.

But it was known. When the chief priests and the pharisees wanted to try to get under Jesus’ skin when Jesus was calling them out as not being the true sons of Abraham, they said to him ‘well least we know who our father is’. That was a direct slap in Jesus face (and Mary’s,) intended to shut him up. It didn’t work. And His last act was to make sure that his mother was protected because she had no children she had no husband at this point and he was going to be a convicted,executed criminal and she was vulnerable.

The scripture says from that day forward John took her into his own household as his mother.

Women have always known.

Mary of Bethany Lazarus sister, sat at Jesus feet drinking in every word, and she never questioned what he said and she heard what he said beneath the words,  in the small amount of time before this holy week drama occurred, she  went into her room one evening while they were at dinner and brought out a box of the most expensive perfume imaginable, probably her dowry and seeing as she was not only past marrying age,but who would marry her now, now she hung out with tax collectors Slaves, prostitutes and Jesus.. she broke that box,  and poured it all over those same beautiful feet, those feet that were going to be marred by nails,tortured mangled.. and she let down her hair, something that was absolutely forbidden in mixed company,  she let down her hair and she used it to wipe his anointed feet.. the scripture says that the aroma fills the room and people were aghast. They were aghast!! It was an act of unbelievable intimacy.

Judas says she could have sold that, given the money to the poor.. you know later  John writes,yeah he just wanted the money for himself.

But Jesus shuts them up. He says don’t you rebuke her, leave her alone, she’s anointing me for my burial.

Even then!  The disciples still didn’t get it.!!!

The women knew.

And so it’s so appropriate that the first people Jesus appeared to after his resurrection were the women; because the women were not sitting around traumatised by the grief, working it over and over around the table, immobilised.  The women realise they needed to embalm Jesus body so he can be buried properly, because they just put him in that donated grave, that cold stone place hurriedly, there is no time to properly bury him when they took him from the cross, because of the Passover.

There are several different versions of the story, because different gospel writers work from different perspectives.

John wrote from the furthest distance but that doesn’t mean he was the least accurate. John Mark is always very technical and his is the briefest account. It’s interesting that a couple of the gospel authors say the women were terrified and they ran away and didn’t tell anybody, but we know that’s not true because obviously everybody found out. The version of the scenario I am the most comfortable with is a fusion of the four versions where two of the Mary’s ran back to tell his mother and the disciples that his body is missing and Magdalene just stands there in shock.

Whether she recognises that the man speaking to them was an angel, who knows.  Later additions had bright shining clothing and there were two of them and it’s heavily embroidered in a post- Easter narrative, but was it that obvious the angel? I don’t think it was that obvious, because there is a person there and she doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know where they’ve taken Jesus body and she’s trying to just you know, comprehend all of this information and then, Jesus appears.

For reasons we are not completely sure about, he’s unrecognisable to her.  There are biblical scholars who say the fact that Jesus could tell Thomas to put his fingers in the holes in his hands and his hand in the hole in his side means that Jesus was not transformed into a glorious body immediately on Resurrection, he was raised from the dead as he went down into Hades, scarred…and Mary doesn’t recognise him, until he does the one thing that identifies him to her. She hears him say her name.

He says Mary.

he simply speaks her name and she knows it to be him, for she knows his voice. She has heard him call her name so many times in the course of the years that they have spent together and unlike the way other men have said her name- if they even called her by name normally they would just call her ‘woman’, the word men used to address a woman they were not related to, ‘woman’ –

Out of no one else’s mouth was her name said with such love.

And she says ‘Rabbi!’. John’s text says that Jesus said don’t touch me because I haven’t gone to the father I think this is again another account of women being protected because resurrected or not if it’s single woman touching a man,it’s a stoneable offence. he obviously didn’t have problems with Thomas touching him before he’s gone back to the Father.

I can’t imagine that they didn’t hug.

 

By this time the other two have reached the disciples and they tell them that Jesus has been raised from the dead according to the angels and two of the accounts say the disciples did not believe them and one account says believing it to be idle talk,  they did not believe them.

So the boys haven’t learnt much from Jesus about how you regard women, unfortunately.

John and  Peter finally run to the tomb. I love the way John,who’s the author of this gospel, makes himself to be faster and stronger than Peter. 🙂 and he gets there first.  but he doesn’t go in first, he lets Peter go in first. Because John knows that Peter is torturing himself over his denial.

What happens next?

The scripture says they went back to their friends, they went to their homes. Can you imagine?  you go to the tomb there’s nobody there and where do you go? you just go home because what do you supposed to do next? What does this mean? They were so overwhelmed.

They had spent the Sabbath having just watch their beloved friend and teacher die, going to the trauma of watching him tortured and humiliated beaten and battered and they just got through the Sabbath day barely.

When we lose someone we love, it is inexplicable. The grief and death is not a friend,  death ends  life as we know it and robs us of time and plans and possibilities.

Jesus didn’t conquer death because it was pretty, he conquered death because it was horrible.

And they had just lived all of that.

But now to be told that he did what he said he would do and that he was who he said that he was and everything they thought they had lost was returned 1000 fold in an instant …????

Because this is the beginning of a new age.

This is the beginning of the age of freedom.

In the years to follow, in the early church, women were teachers and deacons and leaders and Preachers, because Jesus said they were equal to men in every respect and in some respects maybe more gifted in their faith because they believed him first and they didn’t abandon him and they went to take care of him regardless of their own personal Cost or  trauma.

This is the beginning of the story and while it didn’t take human beings long to excise women from scriptures, throw their  gospels from the cannon in order to relegate them to handmaidens once again?

God’s spirit is strong and Jesus is here.

I have one more piece of unfinished business. I need to talk about this one and it’s hard.

All of my life I have been troubled by the story of Judas, all my life.

People taught me that Judas didn’t make it because he betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times.

People taught me that Judas didn’t make it because he premeditated his betrayal of Jesus. If premeditated sin  is an obstacle to getting into heaven, nobody is going.

People said that Judas didn’t make it because he committed suicide.  As a survivor of a family member  suicide, I reject that  out of hand.

In this world, there are people who have done unnameable unbelievable, horrible, unforgivable things, and if Jesus just died for those little sins that we can sweep under the carpet, that’s not very powerful is it?

People said Judas didn’t  make it because he didn’t repent,  but he did, he went to the chief priest who is acting as chief priests in charge of forgiving sin,  and he confessed it  to the chief priest and he threw the money back.

I don’t know the answer to this,  I’m only asking a question.

So I’m want  to read something today when I was thinking about this… this is to Jesus :

after 3 days dead

when you came out of

The dark earth, were you blinded by the sunlight?

After dragging all the souls

out of Hades

with your bare hands,

did your arms ache ?

and when you came back, did you bring Judas with you, (patron saint of all angry doubters, rabble-rousers, betrayers, political malcontents?)

I like to think so,

to imagine here in my darkness,

him holding your hand as you gently, silently lead him

out of hell,

having forgiven him for what

he simply could not see,

no matter how tightly

he squinted.

‘Hey Judas’, says you, gently smiling,

torn arm around his broken neck,

‘Open your eyes.’

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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