Easter Day, Year B, RCL
The ladies fled from the tomb and said nothing... The End.
Where are the resurrection stories of Jesus appearing in a locked room with the disciples? Where is Jesus cooking fish on the beach; or the two disciples unknowingly walking with him to Emmaus? Mark’s Gospel account ends right here with no ending at all. It’s like one of these artsy non-genera movies that start in the middle of a conversation as if we should know more about what is going on and they end in the same way, leaving us hanging.
I know our bulletin has two more sentences, but this is a mistake by the printer. These two sentences are the second ending, seemingly added two hundred years after the gospel was written. Even this second ending didn’t satisfy the early Christians because if we look in our Bible we will find a third ending of an additional 12 verses. We could get into debate wondering if Mark was going to write a longer ending but for some reason didn’t or if this is where he intended the Gospel to end. But regardless this is where most scholars believe the ending is; with the two.
An unfinished ending is how our life is. We meet people who are interesting and never see them again. People move away and sometimes it is difficult to stay in touch. And of course people die, and we may be left with unanswered questions, or wishing we said “I love you” just one more time. Possibly this is where we find these three ladies. They came to anoint Jesus’ body with spices; a loving act of physically touching your loved one and saying goodbye for one last time.
Even with this abrupt ending, the Gospel isn’t changed; the tomb was empty and the angel pronounces “He has been raised; he is not here.” This is all the good news we need. Christ has been raised from the dead and even if we do not see him again, as Mark’s account demonstrates, his promise of new and unending life is fulfilled.
Seeing Christ’s risen body is not what is important. In John’s Gospel account, Jesus tells doubting Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”[i] We believe in Christ not because we have seen him and are able to put our hands in his wounds. Our belief comes from faith; a faith in which each of us have met Christ in some way. I would think that each of us has a different story as to how we came to know Christ and what our faith means to us, deep down inside. Our stories are each different but ultimately they have the same message. Through Christ, we know and love the one who loves us even more. In return, we have hope of eternal life. In Christ's life, he fulfilled the law; teaching us who he is and how to follow in his path. In his death, Christ experiences pain and suffering; more than most of us can imagine. And in his resurrection, we are offered a resurrected life as well. Since each of us has our story of faith, our testimony if you will, we don’t need to see the risen Christ, or even touch his wounds. We like the ladies in the gospel, find the tomb empty, yet we see him in our lives.
One Sunday morning, at church, when I was a teen, there was a young mother with a child maybe a year old or so. The baby began to fuss, and I noticed that her husband wasn’t with her. The mom was trying to keep the baby calm by swaying and bouncing the child, but the fussing rampped up to a crying.
Now, this parish was a proper parish with reserved people. We had a nursery for infants and a nursery for toddlers. Fussing just wasn’t done in the pews. At the peace, people shook hands with the person sitting directly next to them and possibly with the person directly behind them. But that was it. You don’t want to take these things too far you know.
Three pews behind the fussing baby was Mrs. Roseman. From my teenage perspective, she was a very old lady, and now looking back, I still think my perspective was correct. She was also one of the people at church who scared me to death. When I was little, she would scold me for running in the parish hall. When I was a bit older she would scowl at me for putting too much cream and sugar in my coffee. If I was going to the bathroom during Sunday school; she seemed to always be in the hall looking at me with pointed eyes to make sure no mischief was going on. Now I’m not saying that any of her accusations or innuendos were incorrect but none the less I was terrified of her.
So anyway, Mrs. Roseman, just three rows back from the young mother, stood up and walked toward the inconsolable baby. I expected that she was going to scold the mother and tell her where the nursery room was. From the expression I saw on other faces, I think many of us thought some sort of altercation was about to take place. But to my surprise, Mrs. Roseman kindly picked up the baby and after saying a few words went to the back of the church and out the door. A little while later, right before communion, she brought the child back, asleep in her arms.
For the young mother, I can only imagine the warmth and kindness she must have felt, the same kind of tender love we would expect Jesus to offer. That day, I saw something that I never saw before. This horrible Grinch of a lady was a caring and loving person. And on that day, and at that moment, I was a witness to the empty tomb and I imagine that many others were as well.
[i] John 21:29