By: Matt Gordon
Mark 16 opens with some friends of Jesus going to visit his dead body, to anoint it per their custom. The question on their lips was: “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
We’ve all been there. Okay, not there precisely—going to put spices on the dead body of a man we believed to be the prophesied Messiah. (Side note: if you have been there, please reach out. I’d love to hear that story!) But we’ve all worried about stones that don’t actually stand in our way. Just this week I had an intense moment of this. I was slated to speak at a camp at the same time that I was to do an in-person interview with a semi-celebrity. Same day, same time, no Hyperloop—big, heavy stone. What happened? Well, what tends to—I worried about nothing. Both events ended up getting canceled.
Most of what we worry about is nothing. We fret over this hypothetical situation that will never happen or that hypothetical circumstance that will never happen. We buy pretend properties to worry about made-up renters. Consistently we construct obstacles in the future that rob from the present and kill our faith.
Oh, and that is another part of this—the women in question here didn’t even have faith to move a stone. I think about Jesus’ teaching about the faith of a mustard seed being able to move a mountain. These women—faithful enough to make the trip, mind you—don’t even have the confidence to move a stone because they can’t fathom a faith that conquers death. They only worry with the stone or bring the spices because Jesus, in their minds, is very much dead. So not only a hypothetical about the stone, but one based on hopeless premise.
We do this too! Our hypotheticals rarely have us with more money or a job promotion or better relationships. Part of that is being a realist, and it has its merits. But also part of being a realist is realizing that life is dour enough without me adding more pain, hopelessness, and death to the mix.
These precious women surely were having a terrible morning. The emotions of losing a friend—their very hope crucified along with him. They were living like Jesus is dead. Of course many of us live that way—like Jesus is dead or made-up altogether. And this is fine—one would expect the unbeliever, you know, not to believe. It is a logical conclusion.
But for the believer?
For the believer in Jesus the logic does not permit the heaviness of stones to weigh one down. A Christian cannot continue living like Jesus is dead. The way a Christian deals with suffering, watches the news, interacts with the world around her has to look different. It has to look like one who knows something others might not; it looks like someone unhindered by the worldly weight foisted upon them. It looks like a peace that surpasses understanding.
If the tomb is empty, I suffer well.
If the tomb is empty, I choose love over fear.
If the tomb is empty, my hope isn’t dependent upon some election.
If the tomb is empty, I am free from material things—my joy is not tied to them.
If the tomb is empty, death loses its sting.
If the tomb is empty, everything will work together for good—somehow, someway.
If the tomb is empty, the stone doesn’t matter.
If the tomb is empty.
The women reached the tomb, and The Book of Mark reports, “They saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.” Their worries went with it. These women came to pay witness to death; they left in search of Life.
If the tomb is empty, I can do the same.
This is the final post on a series that highlighted a moment in each chapter of The Book of Mark. Here are the other posts in the series if you want to check them out. Click to navigate to a post. Thanks for reading.