When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’
When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 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.
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – the Resurrection.
Do not be alarmed.
Why do angels have to keep telling us not to be alarmed?
It might be that whenever the Scriptures show us interacting with these messengers of God, it is a direct communication from the Creator of the Universe.
That is a good reason to be alarmed, for such a message usually means that the world as we know it has been turned completely around and instead of adjusting our television sets, we are being invited to adjust ourselves. And that is never easy, seldom comforting, and usually transformative.
It might be because we saw someone dead, we saw him die, and this messenger of the Creator of the Universe is sitting on the coffin and says, “Oh, him? Yeah, he was here. You missed him. He wants y’all to meet him in Galilee, like he said.”
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Terror and amazement had seized them. To seize something is to take possession of it. It’s a legal term that dates at least to the Anglo-Saxons and possibly the French before that. When something seizes us, it inhabits us, by force if necessary. It dwells in all of us, in our essence, our very selves. And terror and amazement have seized the women, and why should they not.
One of my favorite writers of mysteries, the late Dick Francis, was first a steeplechase jockey in England in the 1950s before turning to sportswriting and then to novels in retirement. In a novel called Proof, he writes a great deal about fear and about courage. Courage is also a word that comes from the language for the body. Its root is the French word Coeur, meaning heart. Just as something that seizes us takes possession of who we are, courage takes possession of us from our very heart and inhabits our whole being.
“Fear in a fearful situation is normal,” Mr. Francis tells us; “absence of fear is not.”
Then what is courage? Courage is when terror and amazement seizes us together all at once, when our worst nightmare collides with our wildest hopes – and when, possessed of great fear and great joy, we nevertheless do what we must. Not for power. Not for money. Not for any earthly treasure. But for love. Only and ever and always for love.
And Mr. Francis has something to say about love as well. The only weapon I had was knowledge. He says that; and he says: Love is taking a risk. You set your mind on it and refuse to be afraid, and in no time you feel terrifically exhilarated and all your inhibitions fly out of the window.
When our only weapon is knowledge and our only motive is love, then courage finds us.
We don’t find courage. We don’t buy it or rent it or bargain for it, just as God does not sell it or lease it or dicker with us over it. Courage finds us.
And then what happens?
Terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
That is to say: They said nothing to anyone, because:
- They were afraid – they were afeared. They were filled with fear.
- And then what happens?
Nothing. The end. Everything from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark, the sixteenth chapter, verse nine and following, is a later addition and really doesn’t add much to Mark’s narrative portrait of Jesus of Nazareth.
And then what happens?
Nothing – or, everything.
The women who said nothing to anyone because they were afraid are not cowards. They are not lacking in courage. They are, in fact, possessed of the very best and strongest kind of courage:
Courage fueled by hope that is born of love.