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Easter Sunday B Sermon
Mark 16: 1-8
April
1, 2018

 

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Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘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.’ 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.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Yes, this is the final punchline of God’s joke on sin, death and the devil! But it is not the only humor that we see in Jesus’ story; nor is it the only humor that we experience in the struggle for our lives. I think that this mysterious gospel writer named Mark found a little bit of dark humor even during Jesus’ darkest hour, which brought him to the joy and laughter of the joke on the devil on Easter Day.
Most people have postulated that this, “young man” in the story who tells the women at the tomb about Jesus is actually an angel. That very well may be - he is a mysterious, unnamed person who seems to know information that the women don’t. But I want you to consider with me that it might just have been someone else! Consider that the original Greek word translated as young man, neaniskos, was last seen in this story back in Mark 14 when, after Jesus was betrayed and arrested, everyone deserted him and fled. Then, Mark makes a point of telling about one specific unnamed, “neanoskis”. You’ve probably never paid attention to verses 51 and 52 before or it would stick with you: “A certain young man was following Jesus, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” I have to admit, I have always laughed at those two verses – they are kind of out of place, since the story continues with Jesus being taken away and put on trial. Seeming to have nothing to do with the story, they just add a little bit of humor to an otherwise terrible situation.

But now we have another young man. Is it an angel? I think Mark probably would have used the Greek word angelos if that was true. This is a neanoskis. Is it another young man … or … is it the same one. Could this be the young man so wanting to get away from Jesus’ betrayers that he left what little clothes he had behind to flee? And who is it? He has no name, but there must be a reason for him to be included in this story. Story tellers really don’t mention people who don’t have anything to do with the plot of the action taking place! Well … I want you to consider with me that this young man is the very person who is writing this gospel story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; yes, consider with me that it is Mark himself.
Mark wasn’t one of the disciples and yet he wrote the first of the four gospels in the early 60s AD. The book of Acts tells us that he travelled with Paul and Barnabas on various missionary journeys, and scholars believe that he probably wrote this Gospel for the Christian community in Rome while he was there. As the ultimate joke is pulled by God on death, this one who hung around on the fringes and left all to get away is one of the first at the empty tomb to witness it first-hand. He is the first to tell about it. He is no longer in a linen cloth but in a white robe, calm while all those around him are alarmed. This one who once fled with terror and fear is watching as others respond to his news with terror and amazement! I just imagine him sitting there, laughing his head off!
Mark’s story is also our story because of what Jesus tells these women through him. He tells them to return to Galilee and they will see him. Now, I do believe that he meant this literally, because even though the earliest copies of Mark’s gospel ends pretty abruptly right with verse eight, other Gospel accounts tell of him appearing to his disciples and others in Galilee. But I also want you to consider this instruction in the figurative sense as well. Much like a story-teller will say, “Return with me to Galilee, the site where many were raised just as Jesus has been raised here.” We are instructed to return to Galilee where Peter’s mother-in-law was raised from her fever to serve others; return to Galilee where Levi was raised from his tax booth to follow Jesus; return to where the man with the withered hand was raised to the center of his community’s attention, to where Jesus was raised from sleep to calm a storm on the lake, to where a young girl was raised from a deadly slumber and a blind beggar rises up to have Jesus restore his sight and follow Jesus on the way. The young man is reminding all who have read or heard this fantastic gospel story (including us) that Jesus’ resurrection is not just for us when we die; it is also for us while we are alive. When all seems lost, when evil and death seem to be winning the battle, return to those places and times where Jesus was there to play jokes on the one who only seeks our lives and ultimately our deaths, and he will meet you there again, to once more bring joy and life to you and to all you love.

I am pretty certain that we have all experienced loss this past year. Maybe it was the death of a parent or a child, or another close family member. Maybe it was the ending of a chapter on work or relationships; maybe you are just tired of seeing the headlines of conflict within our nation and world, shootings, protests, counter protests, police shootings and police brutality. Maybe the moral temperature of our leaders leaves you wondering if there is a future for our children and grandchildren.

The promise of Easter is YES! There is a future. Jesus has promised new life and we are going to be part of it. As a sign of that new life, we are to travel with him to Galilee, to where we have already experienced new life within the setting of this life: Where music has lifted us to new appreciation of God’s presence; Where we have seen our children and other young people achieve incredible things with passion and hard work; where we have witnessed acts of kindness and love freely even in the face of threats and danger. Being the body of Christ on this earth, we are the living example of how people find hope in the middle of hopeless situations!
I want you to laugh today – laugh and smile and rejoice in the Lord, as the new banner on the front of the church building says. Because we are the young (yes young) men AND women who had once fled for our lives, not believing that any good could come to us; but now we are dressed in new garments – white robes, if you will – and we are ready to tell the world in our words and actions that there is hope in Jesus. And that hope is to be experienced not only in our futures, but every single day. For Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia, Amen.