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  • Writer's picturePastor Janet Blair

Beyond Belief

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the three-year lectionary, we are now in the year of Mark. Some interesting things about Mark’s gospel: it has no Christmas story! You know all that stuff we love in the nativity scenes, with Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds and wise men? Well, they’re not there in Mark. When we first see Jesus, he is a grown man, coming to the wilderness to be baptized by John. Curious!

Another odd thing about Mark is that everything happens “immediately.” It seems that Jesus is in a hurry everywhere he goes. But then, when we get to the Passion of Jesus – his suffering, arrest, and death – it all slows down to a crawl. Fully half of Mark deals only with the last three days of Jesus’ earthly life. Why? It seems the Passion is the center of the story of who Jesus is.

And furthermore, as we gather on Easter Sunday, what might we expect from our gospel reading? How about a resurrection? Well, we don’t have one of those either! The gospel ends with this verse: “So [the women] 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’s it! Jesus is dead, the tomb is empty, and the women run away, scared out of their wits.

Now some of the ancient editors apparently felt that a gospel wasn’t really complete without a resurrection – like maybe it was just an oversight? But in the original manuscripts, this gospel ended with the empty tomb, and I think we should assume that was intended.

It’s not that the gospel writer just made a mistake and forgot to stick the resurrection in. Even though Mark is written simply and in some ways with less sophistication, Mark understood very clearly what message he wanted to get across – in short, that this Jesus was the Son of God, and that’s good news!

But who did NOT understand who Jesus was and what he was about? The crowds, the religious authorities, the disciples – no one grasps that Jesus is something more than a miracle worker, teacher, and preacher. And even the women who come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, then find him gone, then hear a young man in white tell them he is raised, don’t get it. They are just completely freaked out. They run away, terrified, and don’t tell anyone. Why?

People have been asking that question for ages. But how could the women and disciples understand that the Son of God died and rose from the dead? How could they possibly understand what that would mean for them and for all of humanity, into eternity? That was a place that their human minds simply couldn’t go.

And it's a little hard for us to wrap our heads around too! So what message do WE take from this surprising non-ending to the gospel of Mark? Frankly, I think Mark’s is my favorite Easter story – or non-story – because it challenges us to think about what Easter really means.

Perhaps for us, as for the women fleeing the tomb and the devastated, confused disciples, Easter is our journey of discovery. Discovering what it means to live a Christian life; that Jesus walks with us, in this life and in eternity; that Christ is risen indeed! It’s a lifelong quest to absorb that, for you and me and all of humanity, Jesus came to earth to free us, so that we are no longer separated from God.

In leaving us with this scene of the women running away in fear, perhaps Mark was creating an opening for our own faith to grow and blossom. If you or I had been those women, we also might have run away in terror. But now we know the rest of the story! We can begin to perceive this death that led to freedom, the suffering that led to life, the love and grace that can change us and renew us.

As scared and clueless as we are sometimes, Easter rises like the morning sun before us, amazing us and lighting up humanity with joy. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!

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