So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement
had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
On the day following the Sabbath which followed the crucifixion, the first day they could truly venture out, a group of the followers of Christ traveled to the gravesite.
Mary was the first one to arrive and she quickly made a U-turn traveling back to the tell the male disciples that the body of Christ was gone. It was not at the grave, there was no real evidence of malicious foul play, the body was just…gone.
The male disciples ran to the grave and discovered Mary was correct, the body was gone. They stood in consternation with wrinkled brows and then they left, the males went back home, they headed back to their safe place. They didn’t say much on their way home, or even when they arrived, for they were terrified and afraid. They didn’t talk about it at all, they were uncharacteristically silent.
Why they were afraid is a matter of speculation. It would have been a valid human emotion to be afraid for their own safety, afterall, they were now the hunted. Another possibility may have been an assumption that the body had been removed via a plan cooked up by the religious leadership, or government. I think, however, they left because they had seen what they came to see. They went to the grave to verify, as Mary had said, that the body was missing, so, when they did not see the body, they went home.
They went straight home, they didn’t stop for breakfast or even for a early morning cup of coffee. They went home afraid and amazed. They couldn’t explain the bodiless grave. They felt the rush of excitement mixed with an equal amount of fear. They were terrified, yet there was a sudden inexplicable hint of hope. Hope had been a scarce commodity over the previous week and here it was teasing them.
This human emotive response of the fear and hope combination has been the unofficial tagline for the leadership of Grace Fellowship recently. We have just come through a couple of years of bad news — times when hope was in scarce supply. We haven’t understood all which has taken place but we have hung on, sometimes hopeless and sometimes just plain concerned and terrified.
Now, we have begun to see that God was working when we thought we were just looking at a bodiless grave. Alongside the blessing of sight and understanding, we are now seeing the way God is inviting us into his plan. It is a blessing that usually seems overwhelming and often presents as very risky. It is a blessing that places us in a vulnerable position. It is a blessing that none of us want to miss.
This past April we paid off our building and property mortgage. Before we were even able to celebrate this milestone, God led us to lease the building to a wonderful church in our community. Now there are two churches taking an amazing and yet terrifying and hugely vulnerable step. God then led us to lease a downtown meeting hall for Sunday worship gatherings as well as to rent a small office space. On August 7, we will begin meeting in this new space where, each week, we will set up and tear down every Sunday.
There are a multitude of details which I never imagined would be a factor when we first began this phase of our journey. I have received an education about portable sound systems, worked with our children’s teachers to adjust to small and fewer spaces, discussed and decided on a logo and web page, and found myself immersed in contracts, insurance, as well as possibilities and hope.
Along the way, I have seen God’s miraculous provisions and directions. I have witnessed my family dig in and do all they could think to do, a team of church leaders who have gone above and beyond in every way imaginable, a church who has willingly adapted to the idea of relinquishing the comforts of a building and place and, instead, walked into the amusement park and onto the roller coaster knowing that the ride is going to be incredible. I now have new people in my life who I did not know three months ago but have already proven themselves valuable beyond measure.
Back at the empty grave, following the exit of the male followers of Christ, Mary stood there. She did not come to the grave to see a missing body — she came to see Jesus. She was not leaving until she saw him. So, she stood there…..and stayed there. That was her purpose, that was her mission. While Mary stood there, she met some angels who told her that Jesus was not there – a fact she had already ascertained. She talked to the gardener, whom she did not recognize, but who soon made it clear that he knew Mary.
She saw Jesus.
Times of terror and amazement are the exact perfect times to stick around and look for Jesus. He may be hidden in the insurmountable and overwhelming pile of details and tasks. He may even be invisible due to the sea of grief and disappointment which has us panicked paddling just to keep our head above water. It is at those times, however, that Jesus is standing right next to us wearing a gardener’s hat, ready to reveal himself, and his plan, to his followers who are ready to listen.
Amazed and Terrified yet still paying attention,