The Rev. George Detweiler
We just read about “a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side” of Jesus’ tomb, who announced to the women that “he has been raised…go, tell his disciples and Peter…he is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, it is “an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven,” who “came and rolled back the stone and sat on it,” and who announced that “he is going ahead of you to Galilee”
In Luke’s Gospel, “suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.” (The women)
And in John’s Gospel, there are “two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying”
But in Mark it is just a young man, who is not described as an angel. Why this adjective? What does it mean?
Earlier in Mark’s gospel, in chapter 5, Jesus healed a man who lived in the tombs and was possessed by demons and unable to be restrained. Jesus sent the demons into a herd of swine, and then the man was seen sitting clothed and in his right mind. When Jesus left that town, the man wanted to accompany Jesus, but Jesus told him to go to his own friends and proclaim how much the Lord had done for him. This is the only time in the first half of Mark’s gospel that Jesus gives someone permission to announce what he has done for them.
Then, in the story of Jesus’ Passion, (14:51 & 52) at the time of Jesus’ arrest, all his disciples desert him and flee. Mark tells us there was a certain young man following Jesus, “wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”
Gordon Lathrop, in his book The Four Gospels on Sunday, suggests that there is an intentional parallel here. The man who was healed–the first person Jesus gave permission to tell about him–reappears as the one announcing the resurrection to the women, and telling them to go to Galilee, the center of Jesus’ ministry.
Mark is pulling the thread of the story of Jesus together using someone seemingly insignificant. If the young man, the former possessed man, or the one who ran off naked, can be the one announcing that the crucified one is now risen, so can we.
And we are to do that in Galilee. For Mark Galilee is more symbol than geography. Galilee is where Jesus taught his disciples that he must suffer and die and after three days be raised. It is where he taught them to welcome the stranger, the weak and powerless, the child. It is where they were to gather after his resurrection.
So the young man’s message was that the crucified one would be experienced as the risen one in the church’s gathering for a meal to remember his suffering, death and resurrection, a meal that was to include the ones to whom he ministered: those at the fringes of society.
Holy Trinity hosts a women’s shelter three nights a week and a food program on Saturdays. The other thing we do in addition to worship is present fine music. A few years ago, one of our members started a group–Music Kitchen–that brings classical music to shelters and food programs in the city. Last Wednesday evening we organized a potluck meal for the guests of the shelter and HUG and Music Kitchen players performed Brahms and Dvorak. Kelly, the leader, invited audience reactions to the music after each piece was played. A woman I’ll call Martha, a shelter guest, volunteered how much the music had lifted her out of her dark mood, reminding her of when she had studied the violin in school, and that there is hope still for her. All that from hospitality around music and a simple meal!
We are gathered in Galilee today. This is where we heard Jesus teach his disciples–us–that he must suffer and die and after three days be raised. It is where he has taught us to welcome the stranger, the weak and powerless, the child. It is where we gather every Sunday to celebrate his death and resurrection in a meal that is barely a meal, but is open to all.
This is the way he told us to remember him, and in doing what he told us, the crucified risen Christ is present among us, giving us new life, hope, the promise of eternal life with him. That’s the promise we celebrate today.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!