Home

Announcements

Weekly Sermon

Worship

Christian Education

Outreach Ministries

Fellowship

Staff

Music Ministries

WELCA

Calendar

Contact Us

Related Links

 

 

 

 

 


Easter Sunday B Sermon
Mark 16:1-8

April 4, 2021


Sermon Archives
 

 

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. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But 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. 7But 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.’ 8So 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.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

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

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 … According to the oldest manuscripts, this is the way that Mark’s Gospel ends. Well, I added the dot, dot, dot, but this evangelist includes no appearances of the raised Jesus to the disciples, Paul or anyone else. He includes no account of an ascension. To be sure, it appears that some centuries later some scribes must have wondered who in their right mind would conclude this story with fearful silence, and they added an amalgam of Easter stories featuring the risen Jesus, but those do not seem to be part of the original Gospel. It is very open-ended. We are uncomfortable with anything that is “open-ended.”

We would rather answer yes/no survey questions like, “Are you satisfied with “blank”? Did “blank” act as expected? Do you think you would use “blank”? than ones like, “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with “blank”? What did you expect to happen when “blank” occurred? How do you think “blank” will change the way you do things?” They demand that we reflect upon the impact that a person, product or event has on our life. They require us to invest personal time in the process.

I joked before that the “dot, dot, dot” was my addition, but I really do think that if the ancient Greek language in which the New Testament was written had access to punctuation, which it didn’t, Mark would have ended his story this way. I often use the three dots at the ends of my sentences in text or email messages to invite response from the person to whom I am writing, or to convey that whatever I have said is not finished yet, to leave it open-ended. Mark’s Gospel ending functions as an invitation: not merely an ending to a “once upon a time” tale, but an opening through which the audience, including us, are invited to step. We are asked to invest our time and energies to participate in the story as it continues along; the disciples in the narrative - from the women coming in faith to the tomb even without knowing who would roll away the stone, to the hidden men who betrayed, denied and finally abandoned Jesus - they all failed to finish the story themselves. As much as we admire them and their witness, the story goes on past the empty tomb, past the appearances of the resurrected Jesus that are reported in the other three Gospel accounts, past the Ascension, past the giving of the Holy Spirit and past the earthly lives of these men and women who the love of the crucified and risen Lord personally. The open-ended nature of this account is an invitation for us to participate in Easter ministry, to share the risen Christ with anyone who fears that all there is is death, or at least immovable barriers preventing us from experiencing the life that we desire.

And Mark’s ending is more than an invitation to Easter ministry - it is a promise that (like the disciples) we are incapable of faithful living in Jesus apart from Jesus’ faithfulness toward us. When the disciples fall short, Jesus is there to pick them up and empower them again and again. When they struggle to understand a parable, Jesus explains it. When they are slow to anticipate their role in feeding a hungry crowd, Jesus walks them through it. When they show self-aggrandizing priorities contrary to the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus shows them the way. And when the way of Jesus leads to betrayal, denial and abandonment, Jesus emerges from death and summons them to Galilee for reconciliation and for a mission.

That is just as important for us today as it was for those original disciples. Jesus’ resurrection saves the fellowship of believers, binds them together instead of allowing it to disintegrate. This risen Jesus is faithful and promises to always be a step ahead of his church - a step ahead of our abandonments or fearful flights, waiting for us in Galilee - always holding us together, always guiding us back to himself, to where he first called us to, “Follow Me!” When the messenger reminds the women that Jesus has gone ahead of them to Galilee, he is also proclaiming to us that Jesus travels with us and ahead of us to whatever place we are going. Our Galilee is that place of living out the discipleship as we continue in the same style of Peter and the rest, not denying who we are as sinful human beings prone to greed and violence and racism and all sorts of sinful tendencies that end in death. We acknowledge this so that the risen and living Christ can resurrect us out of that death to be part of God’s ongoing presence and power in the world.
The greatest gift of Mark’s open-ended resurrection account is that the “dot, dot, dot” does not depend on us. We are invited to proclaim the living Jesus with our words and our whole lives, and we are to redirect our flight instinct from avoiding death to accepting it so that we can join in the ministry of healing together with Jesus Christ.

Finally, as we identify with how terrified, amazed and afraid those first disciples were, we know that without the sustaining and empowering presence of the risen Lord Jesus himself, we will never make it back to our own personal Galilee. After all, it has never been our story to finish in the first place. This has been God’s story. It is Jesus’ story. Mark composed a Gospel with a surprisingly open ending, and Jesus is the steadfast one who pulls us through that opening, into the dot, dot, dot of what is to come. For Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Amen!