Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:5-6, The Common English Bible)
In the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, we do not encounter the Risen Christ. Later versions add the resurrection appearances of Jesus, but I cannot help but wonder what the folks who heard/read the initial version must have thought. What kind of story is it that leaves you hanging at the very climax of the story? (I typically find books and movies that “end” this way, very frustrating!) Mark would have flunked creative writing! Everyone knows a happy ending is the way to engage the reader (and sell more books).
But you know, this is closer to the experience of most Christians. We go looking for Jesus, hoping for an experience of holy transformation, only to find where Jesus used to be, where we last saw him, or where others have told us he can be found. We poke our heads into some strange place, expecting something wonderful, only to be disappointed. He is not there. We can see where he was because of some grand building or grotto or inscription, but the experience of transformation eludes us.
Sometimes our faith journey seems like a cosmic game of Where’s Waldo. We keep searching and searching, hoping that we will lay eyes on this Jesus character before it’s too late. Or maybe it’s closer to Cosmic Whack-a-Mole, where we franticly try to hit this Jesus experience on the head before the time runs out. Where ever we think Jesus might crop up, he shows up somewhere else and we find ourselves berating ourselves for missing it…again! Are we so bad at these games that we keep failing? Or are we playing the wrong game to begin with?
The only person who found Jesus at the tomb was Mary Magdalene. And she only found him when she stopped looking. What does this tell us? And when do others encounter Jesus? When they go fishing, or walk to Jericho, or gather as a community of faith. It seems that the encounter with Jesus happens when we are doing the ordinary things that life brings into our lives.
This Easter Season, as we go back to eating chocolate or watching Netflix or trolling Facebook, let’s try NOT looking for Jesus. I say this not because I don’t think it’s important to experience Christ’s presence, but because I have come to believe that the searching we do is usually misguided. We look for Jesus in all the wrong places.
What if we simply opened our spirits to let Jesus find us? What if we let go of all the “shoulds” that drive us nuts and make us anxious? Could we be better off if we remained mindful of the possibility that we might encounter the Risen Christ in the ordinary miracles of our daily lives? That seemed to be at least part of the power of Jesus’ ministry in first century Palestine – that on a regular basis Jesus spoke with, ate with, walked with and shared with folks who were doing very ordinary things. He gave them the dignity of being treated as if they mattered. He gave them the gift of his compassion. He gave them access to the grace of God in a way that they did not think was possible. I think if we could manage to do the same, we might find Jesus in the process – and I think he would approve.
Think over the last few days. Where do think Jesus might have been? What kept you from finding him? How can you find ways to be open to where he will show up next? May we all be ready for the encounter with the Risen Christ! Amen!