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…
Philip Ruge-Jones makes a couple of interesting suggestions:
He reminds us of the funny little story in the Garden of Gethsemane of the young man following Jesus just dressed in a linen cloth, who runs off naked when those who arrested Jesus try to cease him.
Philip Ruge-Jones says,
I’m inclined to think this odd little detail [the young man dressed in a white robe] is the author’s signature and confession. He tells us that as Jesus goes through death and resurrection, he too is reborn. The young man is like a baptismal candidate who enters the rite naked and afraid, but comes out of the waters rising with Jesus, robed in a fresh gown, to proclaim Jesus’ story of promise.
Ruge-Jones then asks the question: What does resurrection newness look like?
He takes us back into the Gospel.
Sown throughout Mark’s gospel, are stories that explain what baptismal resurrection looks like in daily life. Peter’s mother-in-law is raised out of a fever and freed to serve (1:31). A man who is paralyzed is restored to movement (2:9-12).* Levi rises up to follow Jesus leaving his tax booth behind (2:14, different verb this time, anastas ἀνάστασις).* A man marginalized by a withered hand is raised to the center of his community’s attention and is healed (3:3).* God brings about growth as people go about the rhythms of sleeping and rising (4:27).* Jesus rises in a storm to still the clattering chaos (4:38). A young girl is awakened from a deadly slumber to new life (5:41). A boy threatened with fire and water by a demon is raised into freedom from torment (9:27).* A blind beggar rises up to have Jesus restore his sight and follows Jesus on the way (10:49).
In a few moments we will renew our baptismal vows. You will be pleased to know that you will not be asked to literally strip off naked and plunge into our font. But our renewal of our baptismal life includes stripping ourselves of every hindrance that gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus and the resurrection life. And the new baptismal gown we are clothed in, again, in a metaphorical sense rather than literally, is Christ himself. That is why baptism can be called Christening because we are made one with Christ in Baptism.
So my invitation to all of you when we renew our baptismal vows is that we plunge our hand into the water and make the sign of the cross, remembering the first great commandment. I love God with my mind, my soul, my strength and my heart. My whole life, in other words, is in Christ and the risen Christ is in me.
But how then do I live out the resurrection life in my day to day life. Let’s pause for a moment and imagine the resurrection life. It is easy for me to imagine a feast with such an abundance that it doesn’t matter if someone turns up unannounced. We don’t have to say, sorry we only catered for 20 people. All are welcome, there is plenty.
It is easy to imagine singing with beautiful harmony, speaking without stuttering, reading in front of the whole congregation without anxiety.
Remember Peter’s mother in law, (Mark 1:31) she was raised from a fever to be able to serve. What are the things that inhibit our ability to serve? Often it is fear and anxiety that cripple our capacity to serve. Living into the resurrection life includes handing over to God our fears and anxieties and stepping forward with joy. May be some of our fears or the tone deafness or the stutter won’t vanish but as we live into the resurrection life we won’t let them block our ability to serve.
It is easy for me to imagine in the resurrection life we see all new people coming as our brothers and sisters. Their colour, their noisiness or shyness, their cultural background and all the other things that make them different to us will be seen as their gift to the community of the resurrection. When we think and act like that it flows out into our everyday life.
And so when we live into the resurrection life the roster for welcoming at Church will have nearly everyone wanting to do it. And people will be keen to go and visit the new comers in their homes to be able to get to know them. New family groups will spring up as we want to share meals with people and to deepen our friendships.
Tied into that feeling of being brothers and sisters is the sense of belonging. Hopefully we can all imagine the resurrection life as one where we feel at home. Home is where we belong, home is where we can fully relax and be ourselves.
Remember the man who was marginalised because he had a withered hand (Mark 3:3). Jesus brought healing which meant that he was brought into the centre of his community. Again there will be hurts we have experienced, memories from childhood or other things that effectively marginalise us from feeling we belong, we are at home, we can relax and be ourselves.
So for us to live into the resurrection life we will bit by bit hand over to God the hurts and unhelpful memories and anything else that is a hindrance. In the resurrection life we are at home. That sense of being at home not just in our worshiping community but in our own skin.
Just this week I was listening to Kamal the singer saying how he still feels ill-at-ease when in a crowd of white people. His initial experience in Australia as a child was that he was isolated because of his colour. Even though he is still loved by many because of his amazing voice the old memories don’t easily evaporate. In the mini-series Anne of Green Gables she is mercilessly rejected because she is an orphan. When you talk to people who have spent time in a home for orphans or in similar institutions you realise the depth of their pain. Living into the resurrection life we are set free to be at home in Christ here and now. The colour of your skin won’t change and your past won’t change but you will be at home with Jesus. That experience of being at home with Jesus will permeate our whole life bit by bit.
There are a multitude of other things that will change as we fully live into the resurrection life. We will be set free from the pain of past or present abuse. We will be liberated from curses like addictions or overwhelming debt and even the awful legacies from traumatic experiences. On the whole the healing and liberation of the resurrection life is a journey. Jesus very gently and very graciously walks that journey with us inviting us. He invites us to let go of all our baggage but we sometimes choose to hold onto some of our fear or some of our pain. We know ourselves clothed in that pain. The nakedness of the baptism into the resurrection life can be a bit scary.
So today let’s remember the young man dressed in white in the empty tomb. He has entered into resurrection through baptism and he joyfully proclaims the promise of the risen Christ. We too are invited to enter more deeply into the resurrection life through the renewal of our baptismal vows. Let’s go out from here rejoicing in the freedom and healing of the resurrection.