Undercover

Many people in America were caught completely by surprise by the outcome of the 2016 election. Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race certainly stunned the political establishment and the pollsters. His campaign manager credited the phenomenon of “undercover Trump voters” as a key factor Wednesday morning for their win. The election was won by people who never shared publicly their support or voting intentions. Kellyanne Conway, speaking with “Fox & Friends,” said there was a “small but potent” force all along who didn’t reveal they planned to vote for the Republican nominee. The “undercover” voters followed a similar pattern displayed by the so-called “shy voters” who backed the “Brexit” vote in the U.K. over the summer. Those people who concern themselves with these kinds of things will certainly wonder for years why people chose to keep their intentions a secret. In the same way theologians and Bible scholars have speculated why Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus chose to keep quiet about their belief in Jesus Christ. There is nothing mentioned about them during Jesus’ trial; were they even present, or did they sit quietly. While we can only theorize what their reasons may have been, we do know that they stepped up at a very critical time. They chose to come out of the darkness, to abandon their secrecy in the background and move to action. Jesus a Jew was dead. Jewish law required that the body be taken down from the cross by sunset. Especially this sunset, this Sabbath was special and it was only hours away. All of Jesus’ disciples had scattered like sheep and gone “undercover”, into hiding.. None of Jesus’ relatives were in any position to claim His body, their home was in Nazareth more than a hundred kilometers away and certainly none of them had any reason to possess a tomb in Jerusalem. What were they going to do with the body of Jesus? Who would have ever guessed that the wealthy Joseph from Arimathaea would step in. Joseph went to Pilate and asked that the body of Jesus should be given to him; Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes. Together they took the body, wrapped it in linen cloths with spices. Placed it in Joseph’s new tomb, and rolled a huge stone across the entrance. Now we come to the early predawn hours of the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph have come to the tomb. They had been with Jesus all along, they had been there to support Jesus, they had witnessed the brutal beating, the crucifixion and the burial of Jesus in the tomb, they had seen the stone rolled across the entry. The stillness of the early morning hour is interrupted by the shockwaves of a mighty earthquake. It was the Angel of the Lord rolling the stone away so that they could see into the tomb, that they could see into the darkness, where death had been. Death was no longer there because Jesus was no longer there, He has been raised from the dead and was now alive. The angel gives the good news to these two women. Then sends the women away with instructions to share the good news of Jesus resurrection with the rest of the disciples, it was time to come out from undercover, leave their place of hiding. To go to Galilee, and that they could see Jesus. They should go back, to the place where Jesus’ ministry began, they would find him there. Joseph and Nicodemus chose to risk everything by coming out of hiding when they made their belief in Jesus public. Nothing would ever be the same for them again, their powerful positions with the Sanhedrin were probably a thing of the past. Jesus’ own disciples, the ones he had spent all his time with had scattered; they had gone into hiding because of their fear for their own lives at the hands of the Jews. Here we have 3 groups of people, those who had come to Jesus in the darkness of night, thereby keeping their belief a secret, now they have made it public; we have those who had been public with their belief and now have gone into hiding; and finally, the faithful, those who have always been there, ever present, those who had been witnesses to it all. Even though the timing of their individual responses does vary, Jesus called them all. He chose the most unlikely to be the first to witness his resurrection, he chose 2 women to be the first, to bring the most amazing and unbelievable news to the disciples and to the world. Jesus had told those around him all along, that on the third day he would walk out of the grave; He had done just that! Come and make that news public, come be part of the revolution, the new creation. The world will never be the same! Jesus calls each of us out of our undercover hiding places as well, to make our faith public, by our actions, we are to make our faith known to those around us. That is people in our workplaces, our neighborhoods our families, and even those we call our friends. My question for each of us tonight, are we going to live our lives as secret disciples? Or, are we going to live out our lives as an example of the faith that is within each of us? There is a life that is different than that of your secular world. It is life in the truth of the resurrection! A few minutes ago, we participated in the Baptism of Kylee Ferguson and Alyssa Danley; one an infant and the other a teenager. In our tradition, we are typically baptized as infants, just as Kylee. We watched the parents carry the baby forward, with the Godparents, they spoke on the baby’s behalf. She is adopted into our family, the body of Christ, we are now all responsible for her as spiritual parents. Tonight, we also had the very special blessing of witnessing a teenager coming forward on her own. We were all teenager once, we remember what it was like, most of us tried to remain out of the public light. Tonight, we were witnesses to Alyssa making her trust and belief in Jesus public. We had the opportunity to share in, and to be moved by her witness as she is also adopted into our family. Tonight, we are called to consider seriously what our response to God will be. How will we live in the resurrection world? Will we fall to the pressures of this secular world and hide our faith? Or, do we have the courage of Mary and Mary? The tomb of Jesus Christ is empty., the stone has been rolled away and the angel has proclaimed: He is not here! He is risen just as He said! Go and tell all the others! Tonight, allow yourselves to be filled with the same hope and the same strength that the early eyewitnesses to the resurrection were filled. Amen.