Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Did you notice that today’s gospel reading has both a shorter and a longer ending? All of the oldest manuscripts have the shorter ending. Check your Bibles when you get home and you will find lots of footnotes about this.
Verse eight isn’t a very satisfying ending to the story, is it? The women were filled with terror and amazement and said nothing to anyone! They said nothing? They ran away? It is understandable that scribes would have wanted to fix that.
Verses 9-19 seem to be drawn from the other three gospels. They tell of the appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples, of the commissioning of the disciples, and the ascension.
But, what if Mark intended the shorter ending? After all, Mark titled his book, “The Beginning of the Good News”. Maybe he meant to leave off at verse eight after all. Maybe this was just supposed to be his “volume one?”
There is further evidence. As we read through his gospel this year we have heard stories about two kinds of people who hear the good news of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.
The first kind of people who hear the good news are the disciples. They are with Jesus all the time. They hear the message over and over. They just don’t seem to get it. Jesus has to keep showing them signs and telling them stories.
They get private explanations of the parables. They witness the healing miracles. They collect the baskets of leftovers after Jesus feeds the multitudes. The see him walk on the water. Peter, James, and John are there for the Transfiguration. At the end, though, they are all still pretty thick headed. They just don’t get it.
The women at the tomb are in this first category. They have been faithful followers. They have been with Jesus all through Galilee and provided for him on his journeys. They are the ones who stayed with him through the agony of the crucifixion. They heard him say he would be raised on the third day. Yet, when they are confronted with the empty tomb, they are terrified and amazed. They run away.
The second group of people who hear the good news get the message. They know Jesus is the Messiah. However, there is a problem. They are completely unreliable witnesses.
Remember when Jesus healed the people who were possessed by demons? The demons cry out that Jesus is the Messiah. Who is going to believe someone with a demon?
And there was the centurion who stood at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus breathe his last. He proclaimed, “Truly, this man was God’s Son”. Who is going to believe a Roman centurion?
But there is a third group of people who have followed Jesus. They know of his acts of mercy and the message he preached. They have walked with him through their lives. They know he died for their sins and rose on the third day. They have heard Jesus and they love God.
They get the message. They believe it and they can share it. They are reliable witnesses.
Who are these people, this third group?
They are the readers of Mark’s gospel. They are the ones he wrote the book for.
But wait, we have been reading Mark’s gospel.
We have heard the message of salvation, the good news that Christ is Risen. We are part of this third group of people. We get the message.
We believe it and we can share it. We are reliable witnesses.
The angel at the tomb tells Mary Magdalene not to be afraid. In the scriptures, when an angel tells you not to be afraid, it means two things.
The first thing it means is that the angel has very good news for you. Remember the Christmas angels said, “Do not fear, I bring you good news of great joy?”
The second thing it means when an angel says, “do not be afraid,” is “you have a mission”. That mission is to share the good news.
Like the scribes who may have added to Mark’s gospel, we want to fix things that end badly, things that seem broken. But it is at the broken places, the bad endings, that God meets us. God is always found at the broken places of our lives. God walks with us through the things that end badly.
But God doesn’t just walk with us in our brokenness. God does something amazing. God transforms our brokenness into health and goodness and peace. God redeems our suffering and our pain. God destroys the power it has over us.
Sin, death, and the devil have no power when confronted with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the cross and resurrection of Christ, God transforms and redeems us.
Today’s gospel reading from Mark isn’t a story that ends badly. Because it doesn’t end at all. It continues in us. We are drawn into the story when we dare to live by faith alone through the grace and mercy of God. We dare to come back each week and hear the Word and share in the Meal.
Mark’s story of the empty tomb isn’t what we expected or perhaps what we wanted, but it is what we need. God strengthens us as we join together today in this community of faith.
Our crucified God is with us in the broken places, the places that seem like bad endings. God transforms our brokenness. God redeems our bad endings and gives us new life.
The angel at the tomb tells us to “Fear Not”.
This angel has good news indeed!
And the angel gives us a mission: Go! Tell! Share the Good News.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!