“But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look there is the place they laid him.” Mark 16:6 (NRSV)
My parents’ home in Thomasville, North Carolina, is located about a mile from two different cemeteries. The largest is Holly Hill Memorial Park and the other one is Fair Grove United Methodist Church’s cemetery. Each was within easy walking distance and so the trip to and from the cemetery was always exercise, but I invariably found myself spending time roaming through the cemetery reading epitaphs and noting the final resting places of people I have known. Whether walking early in the morning or late in the afternoon, I have found the cemeteries to be very peaceful places.
As I put myself in these women’s place, first I would be very alarmed to discover the large stone sealing the tomb had been rolled away. Second, I would be alarmed to be greeted by a young man seated in the tomb. Third, I would be alarmed to see that the young man was dressed as we might expect an angel to be. And then this man greets me saying, “Do not be alarmed!” That greeting would definitely disrupt any sense of peace I had in that place.
If I could bridle my fear and could listen to his words, I might discover a peace that this world can never give us … a peace that God alone can give. The angel knew whom I was seeking. The angel told me that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth had been raised. He was not there, but I could see the place where his body had been laid. Yes, that scenario would indeed be an unusual visit to a private cemetery!
Yet because such a visit did occur on that first Easter, we have been blessed with the Good News that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead … and is alive … and is not where His body had been laid. Though it is a Christmas carol and not an Easter anthem, Good Christian Friends, Rejoice proclaims the Easter message in verse 3. Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!
O Lord, we could not bear visiting cemeteries if we knew that was where our loved ones were. We thank You for the Good News of Easter … that Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead … is not where His body had laid … and is alive. What You did that glorious Easter Day has made it possible for us to be gifted with eternal life. All glory, praise and thanksgiving be to You, O God both now and evermore. Amen.