We’ve walked 40 days of Lent...the agony of the cross, the humiliation of denial and betrayal, in order to finally get to Easter
And here it is: the Easter Payoff!
Mark 16, verse 8...the ending to the Gospel of Mark.
Are you ready???
“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.”
"...and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Are you kidding me???
How can this be the Easter message??? This is what we journeyed through outer darkness to get too? What in the world was Mark thinking? This is the triumphal conclusion to the Gospel?
Well, it appears that the early church didn’t care for this ending much. After awhile, a new ending appeared for the Gospel of Mark.
“And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterwards Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”
This is referred to as “The Shorter ending of Mark.” If you open your New Revised Standard Bible, you will see these exact words (and you'll find it in most other Bibles as well).
But there’s even more text in the Gospel of Mark...referred to as “The Longer Ending of Mark.” I’m not making this up. It includes three post-Easter appearances, a commission to the disciples to go out in the world and proclaim the good news...and finally these words:
"So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to the eleven, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it." (Mark 16:19-20)
No one knows for sure where and when these endings all come from, or whether or not one was intended to be “the right” ending, but this last ending appears to be a nice recovery by the early church. This makes the disciples look a lot better, and it’s an ending we can feel good about. We can all now go home from Easter happy and content.
But, humor me for a minute, and let us reconsider Mark’s original odd, abrupt ending.
Here it is again: “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.”
This was the text I chose for All Saints' Celebration of New Ministry back in February, the official start of our ministry together with me as the rector here in Littleton.
I chose it then because it is, without a doubt, my favorite moment in any of the Gospel’s of Jesus.
It may sound strange, but this ending speaks to me in the most powerful way. Jesus has done everything that he promised: he has showed us a different way...one of love and honesty. One filled with hope not for some people, but for everyone.
God has come through as well...subverting the shame and sadness of dishonorable execution and death to something truly miraculous: The stone is rolled back, and the young man in a white robe says
"‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’"
God has turned darkness and defeat into something else: new life.
But the story does not end here...it continues with you and me.
The next chapter of the story is up to us, just as it was up to the women at the tomb, and the eleven disciples. We have been told to share this news...to live as Jesus would have us, loving and caring for one another.
The enemy is embedded deep into our human psyche: fear...a force that has real power, enough to initially cause the women to flee in terror and say nothing to anyone...
It remains to be seen as to what happens next
Mark has it right...the Easter story, even today, remains unfinished.
It’s now up to us: how we live our lives now, really does matters.
Thanks be to God, and Happy Easter.