Death, Taxes and Holiness


We are reminded at this time of the year, the only two things certain in life are death and taxes. Great. I paid my taxes. Now what? I’m still alive even though the sand is moving faster than ever through the proverbial hourglass. Taxes are behind me, so now what? Death?

Thank God for Easter and the Gospel of Mark. The Bible spoke to me this Easter without saying a word. Rather than record post resurrection narratives, Mark abruptly brings the story of Jesus to an end. After the grisly crucifixion and the sabbath was over, the women go to the tomb. They find the tomb empty except for an angelic figure who communicates to the women, “he has been raised; he is not here” (Mark16:6)

The women, Mary Magdelene, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome were holding spices in their baskets to anoint the body.  They came to anoint and give a horrible death, dignity. Yet the angelic messenger told the women Jesus is in Galilee.

Reflect on Mark’s closing words: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).  Catch that? They said nothing.

Taxes and death are the two certainties in life…until we witness the certainty of Easter. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. Death does not have the last word. Pilate appears uncertain. So is Caesar. Go ahead, render to Caesar your shekels but guess who is Lord of life.  The Son of God is not Ceasar but Jesus. You want certainty? Mark leaves us not with an ending to his story but the empty tomb celebrates a new beginning.

Focus on the women. “They said nothing.” Not one word. Sheer silence. OK, perhaps they heard the sound of their footsteps, their breathing, and yes, there was the sound of their heart pounding like a drum. What in the world was going on? As they left the empty tomb reflect on how Mark describes their disposition, “Terror and amazement seized them” (Mark 16:8).  

Mark is describing something beyond words. At times like this it is important to be quiet. Listen. Initially, feelings momentarily grab our attention. Then there gone. And we are left with time. Time stands still. We need to be still. Twentieth century theologian Rudolph Otto describes holiness as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans (Latin), a mystery that terrifies and fascinates.

The women at the tomb encountered holiness. A holy experience is beyond words. Holiness stops us in our tracks. Holy Communion and the breaking of bread is sometimes beyond words. Try Holy Matrimony. Witness Holy Baptism. Beyond words there is holiness.              

Easter changes the paradigm, breaks the barrier, opens the tomb for us to look inside and enter holiness with God whose presence is made manifest in the Risen Lord. We are invited to follow him beyond death and taxes and now live into the certainty of holiness.

Picture of Robin Jennings

Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

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