The Resurrection of our Lord April 5, 2015
(Acts 10:34-43 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Mark 16:1-8)
“To no one anything they said, afraid they were for…”
Alleluia. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
On Friday we heard the story of Jesus dying. If we have died with Christ we shall also live with him. So today we hear the rest of that story.
There are many ways of telling the story of Jesus’ Resurrection. The one we just heard today from Mark’s Gospel is an absolutely most remarkable one! Unfortunately, in English, we’ve made it sound really polite, tucked in all the corners, clipped off all the fringes, made it grammatically correct, no dangling participles in this version. But I guarantee, Mark’s computer would have been having a heyday with the red lines showing up whenever there is a sentence fragment.
This is a really good day for you to take out your pew bibles. It’s Easter, let’s all do it! [Pew Bibles, p.66] Chapter 16 tells the story of the Resurrection of Jesus. I want you to pay special attention to verse 8: “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.” That sounds like really good writing! And that is the end of Mark’s Gospel. But then there is that tiny footnote, telling us that at some later time, two other endings were added. That is what you see on page 67.
I can sympathize with the monks, or whomever, felt that they needed to add these other endings, because the way the original Gospel ended is absolutely bizarre. Too bad we don’t all read fluent Greek. That original ending in Greek is not so neatly crafted as it sounds in English. The original Greek [vs. 8], would read something like this: “They fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them…to no one anything they said, afraid they were for….” The end! Mark’s Gospel ends right in the middle of a sentence, “To no one anything they said, afraid they were for….” Go figure! No AP Greek award for this Gospel writer, that’s for sure! So what’s that all about, and who cares?
Good questions to ask on Easter morning! I can’t pretend to get inside the head of the person who wrote Mark’s Gospel, yet knowing that each Gospel writer was writing to a difference audience, had a difference reason for what they wrote, what they included, and what they omitted, I want to go to the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel [p. 42]. Since the very first sentence of Mark’s Gospel is, “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” I will suggest there is more than simply poor Greek grammar to the very last sentence of this same Gospel.
Let’s go back to the resurrection story we heard a few minutes ago. In the aftermath of Good Friday, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bring spices and arrive at the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. When they arrive, they get a news alert from a young man in a white robe: “He has been raised! He’s not here. Go tell his disciples and Peter that he goes ahead of you!” And so they take off running, “…to no one anything they said, afraid they were for….”
The story makes clear that the women are coming to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. But when you go to a graveyard you expect to find bodies safely dead. When Jesus’ body has gone missing it will not bode well for anyone caught in close proximity to the tomb because the Romans were superstitious enough to not be lenient on grave robbers. Grave robbing was a capital offence. Especially the body of the man who literally stuck his thumb in the eyes of the Jerusalem elite and Roman leaders. The women took off running, “…to no one anything they said, afraid they were for….”
Or maybe the women did remember some of what Jesus had talked about these past three years, Maybe there was more to this missing body of Jesus, but that would have been no less scary! Perhaps God’s justice was to be enacted through the power of this man! Even so, they took off running, “…to no one anything they said, afraid they were for….”
In our world today there is plenty to fear. Oppression still exists. Persecution still exists. Students are still being killed in a Kenyan school because of religious beliefs. Violence still exists in our communities.
Let’s get back to the Gospel. If this entire Gospel story of Mark is “The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” then Mark does an absolutely terrific job in holding us on the edge of our seats until the very last two verses of his story. Surely, the entire Gospel is important and terrific, all the miracles stories, the parable, his dying and his rising. O my goodness, it is all absolutely important! But what I think is the culmination of the entire gospel story comes in the promise of the final two verses (I ½ verses really!) , when the man in the white robe tells the women, “He has been raised…..and he is going ahead of you.”
Yes, yes, the joy of Easter is that Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed, but the power, the authority, the last word of what we celebrate today is that Jesus goes ahead of us as he told us, that the risen Christ is alive and with us today!
So this Good News of Jesus concludes with the women running away …”to no one anything they said, afraid they were for….”
Can you hear in these final two verses the magnificent, marvelous, amazing Good News? That even in the most fear-filled times, the promise of Jesus never wavers—that the Risen Christ goes ahead of us every day.
He comes with the promise of justice in the face of oppression. He comes without malice or judgment. He comes in mercy and forgiveness and love. He comes to share his life with us. He comes to bring life in the face of death.
The Good News of Easter is that the Risen One comes to the hopeless, the frightened—always to claim us, to feed us and to nourish us.
Mark begins his Gospel: “this is the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God….” [vs. 1:1] And if he ends it in the middle of a sentence then maybe, just maybe the real ending is for us to write the Good News with our lives. Amen.
The Resurrection of our Lord April 5, 2015