Introduction to the Easter Sunday service, St. Andrew’s Ealing given by Revd Sue McCoan 21st April 2019
Today is a day of excitement and wonder. For us, it’s a happy day, because we know how the story unfolds, and how it’s now our story. But before we get into the celebrations, I’d like to pause, to trace back the events as they unfolded at the time. And to do that looking, not so much at Jesus himself, but at the people who were with him.
Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples – to learn from his teaching and his life, so that one day they would be able to be teachers themselves. We hear about their learning, and their mistakes, throughout the gospels. In the background, though, of Jesus and these twelve men, was the unknown number of women who kept the show on the road: Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Susanna and others. Luke tells us in chapter 8 that they provided for the disciples out of their own resources, but otherwise we never hear about them.
Until, that is, we come to the cross. Because these women, who had homes in Galilee, who were, we assume, reasonably well off and established there, followed Jesus to Jerusalem. And when the men had to run and hide, after the arrest of Jesus, because it was too dangerous for them to hang around, it was the women who stayed; the women who were there, bearing witness to the crucifixion.
It matters that we know that. It matters that we know how much they cared, how devoted they were. And it matters that, as Luke tells us in the verses just before our bible reading, ‘they took note of the tomb and saw his body laid in it’.
It matters that they did take note, because they knew they would have to come back. It was the end of the day when Jesus was buried; almost sunset and the start of the Sabbath. There was no time to prepare the body properly for burial. After the horror of the day, there was nothing they could do but wait.
That Sabbath must have seemed a long day: the numbness, the shock, the grief. The end, of all their hopes. And all they had to look forward to was the task of anointing the body and paying their last respects, and then, probably, the long slow journey back to Galilee.
It’s worth pausing on that emptiness of Holy Saturday, not least because I feel sure most of us have known that emptiness ourselves – perhaps in bereavement, perhaps in other loss or bleakness.