Easter Season Guest Author Series: the Rev. Brian Tarver on Mark 16:6by The Rev. BrianTarver on May 3, 2018
“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.”
Cannons blast with pastel colored confetti. Trumpets sound in victorious cheer. Lilies erupt into bloom. The heavenly chorus sings Alleluia in resounding joy. Finally, the Easter declaration resolves the melody. “He has been raised; he is not here.” The long expected finale to what seemed a bummer of a story. But is it?
Don’t be mad, but…
Whether a friend begins with this phrase instead of a greeting or these words come from a toddler with paint covered hands, you brace yourself for what is to follow. Often what comes next will most likely cause anger, or they would not have started their sentence in that way. This phrase serves as a precursor for something unpleasant. We know to brace ourselves when someone begins by telling us not to be mad.
Do not be alarmed…
What follows will definitely cause alarm. Throughout scripture, heavenly beings begin with a greeting encouraging humans not to be afraid. This greeting is typically followed by something that definitely causes alarm or fear. This phrase serves a precursor for God upending the norm. Earlier, in chapter six of Mark, a synagogue leader begs Jesus to heal his daughter. Others distract Jesus on his way to accomplish this task. Some people approach the synagogue leader, informing him of the terrible news that his daughter has died. Jesus overhears this conversation and interrupts, saying, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus finds the leader’s daughter and raises her to life again.
These words do more than indicate something difficult lies ahead; they signify that God is at work. This phrase voices the offer of comfort for what will come. We know that God is doing something incredible and that God asks for trust when we hear “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid” or “Do not be alarmed” in Scripture.
Do not be alarmed, for God is with you.
The young man in the white robe announces the Easter proclamation. This is not the resolution but a beginning. This greeting indicates that God will upend in the norm. The Easter proclamation leaves us more in suspense than in resolution. He has been raised. This will cause alarm, but trust that God is at work. Do not fear, only believe.
The celebration of Christ’s resurrection unfolds so quickly in the church. We spend an entire week contemplating the events leading up to Christ’s death, but the emotions of the empty tomb are a blur. There is little time to reflect on the uncertainty and suspense in seeing the place where they laid him empty. It is like the slow expectation of a roller coaster clicking its way up the first incline and the whirlwind of the downslope. At the turning point, the heavenly call away from fear turns us toward renewed hope. It is a gift for those places in our lives that feel unresolved.
Do not be alarmed. He has been raised.
A boy watched as the older kids celebrated. It was his older brother’s birthday party. The younger brother watched as all the invited guests gathered around the cake. As everyone prepared to sing an off key rendition of the birthday song, the father slid over to the small boy. He knew something that the rest of the party did not. While everyone had been in the other room, the father had exchanged the candles on the chocolate cake with trick candles. No one else knew that the magnesium flakes in the wick would reignite the flame. Making a wish, the older brother filled his lungs with as much air as possible. Just as he released his deep breath, the father leaned over to the younger brother, and said, “Watch this…”
Brian is the rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and School in Beeville, TX.