Day 93 – Why Faith Has to Die

Mark 16:1–3 NRSV

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?”

Consider This

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

What a question! Let that roll around in your mind a little bit and then off your tongue. Speak it aloud so your ears can hear yourself ask it.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

Given our vantage point in history and hindsight, it is next to impossible for us to imagine just how unimaginably unexpected the resurrection of Jesus would have been to these three women.

These women were tired and grief-stricken and yet they were doing what women do—which is the next good thing. Don’t you ever wonder where Peter, James, and John were and why they weren’t there with the women that morning? I suppose if they had been there, the women wouldn’t have been asking this question.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

This is the essential question. It’s a most practical question. At the same time, it holds profound theological meaning. They knew somehow they would figure it out, they just didn’t yet know how. That’s kind of how faith works. We know and we don’t know. We don’t know who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb. We know we can’t do it. But we go anyway. Pardon the cheap rhyme, but I can’t resist. Faith means going without knowing. I mean, they knew it had to be done and they knew what they had to do, and they didn’t have it all figured out, but they got up early and they went to the tomb.

This is how faith works. Here’s what hits me the hardest about this text. Yesterday afternoon, the faith of these women had been utterly crushed. The ashes of their hopes were already cold. This story had ended badly, worse than anyone could have ever conceived of. They didn’t have any faith left, and yet they did. It was the faith to get up early and do the next good thing that had to be done. It was not the supernatural faith that Jesus would be raised from the dead. It was the humble faith of love that goes to the tomb to anoint the dead body.

This is where God meets us. He meets us on the day after our faith dies (or whatever we conceived of as our faith before). As we are on our way to the tomb to do what has to be done—because life goes on—having no idea of “who will roll away the stone.” That’s where it happens. This is the place where the first light of resurrection dawns. It happens in a place of death, unexpectedly and unannounced, and it upends everything we thought faith was before. It exposes that our faith was actually only faith in what we hoped would happen and how we most wanted things to turn out. This is the beginning—or perhaps the deep renewal—of faith in God, in the resurrection of Jesus, in the open ended and limitless possibilities of the kingdom of God now unfolding before your very eyes.

Not how you thought it would happen—yet immeasurably above and beyond all you could ever ask or think.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

The Prayer

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

The Questions

  • How closely is your faith tied to your hoped-for outcomes in life? What if those outcomes are actually in the way of your faith?