For Mark, what matters is that we have the promise that transformation, that the new life of the empty tomb, meets us in every single minute of every single day. For Mark and for us…the story is still being written.
April 9, 2023
“Measure Your Life In Love”
“How Do You Measure Transformation?”
Mark 16: 1-8
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
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.
How Do You Measure Transformation?” Mark 16: 1-8
You’ll notice that I read this year’s Easter story from Mark’s Gospel which is not our usual Easter story from the Gospel of John. Sure some of the details are the same. There’s women going to the tomb early in the morning. They find the stone rolled away. They discover the tomb is empty. These details are part of the Easter story. They don’t and won’t change. What changes year to year is how much detail we actually get in the telling of the Easter story.
What I mean by this is that all the Gospels have some version of the Easter story. Some with more detail than others, but let’s be honest, we all have our favorite. If I had to guess, I would say we probably like John’s version the most out of all the Gospel stories. We like it because it tells us how Mary Magdalene came to the garden alone; how she sees Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener until he calls her by name, then joyfully she shouts Master!
We like how John’s version shares everything with us about that first Easter morning, that it leaves nothing out. John’s version makes us feel like we are there, standing beside Mary Magdalene, wondering and worrying until Jesus calls our names. John’s version of the Easter story is so vivid and alive, almost to the point where we can see Jesus ourselves, shining bright, glowing in love’s first light. John’s description fills in all the blanks for us as people of faith about that first Easter morning.
But not Mark’s version though. Compared to John’s descriptive twenty verses, Mark only gives us eight. Eight verses to describe Easter morning. It is almost like the empty tomb is an afterthought for Mark. Because compared to the previous chapters, when Mark went on and on about the moments when Jesus was on the cross, compared to the previous chapters, Mark doesn’t say much about Easter morning. The odd thing is that Mark tells us every single detail about the moments surrounding Jesus’ death, even describing the great tear in Temple curtain when Jesus died. But when it comes to the telling of what happened on Easter morning, all we get is “Well, you see, there was this guy, named Jesus. He did some amazing things. He changed lives. And oh, yeah, there was an empty tomb in there somewhere.”
What! Mark this the Easter story and all you have got to say is that there is an empty tomb in there somewhere. For us as people of faith, the Empty Tomb is the defining moment for us. It is the moment, the story which we tell over and over again about how Jesus overcame death, how Jesus turned the world upside down. And in the description of this defining moment for us as people of faith, all Mark can say is that on the first Easter morning, there were some women. They worried about how they were going to roll the stone away. They got there. The stone was gone. There was a guy all dressed in white. And oh, yeah, there’s an empty tomb in there somewhere.
And if this description of the first Easter morning wasn’t bad enough, Mark ends with, “The women fled the tomb in fear, and told no one what they saw.” The women fled the tomb in fear and told no one what they saw!
That’s Mark’s description of the first Easter morning. People in fear, running from the tomb, telling no one what they saw. A story which should tell us all about this life changing, this life transforming moment of the empty tomb, Mark ends his description telling us that the women were in fear, running from the tomb. Mark’s description of this ultimate moment of faith just stops in fear and silence. It is almost as if Mark’s story of that first Easter morning is incomplete and unfinished.
Now before we totally give up on Mark’s version of this story and before we totally get angry at the preacher for not giving us the “real” Easter story this morning, let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s give Mark a little credit for not being the worst writer ever. After all, he did write down the first Gospel shared with communities of faith after Jesus’ death. After all, Mark’s version of the Gospel message did influence the other Gospels so let’s give Mark a little credit for not being a complete idiot.
Because what if ….what if Mark’s story really was supposed to end in fear and in silence? What if Mark’s story of Easter morning really was supposed to end in confusion? What if Mark’s story of that first Easter morning really was supposed to end with us wondering what happens next?
I ask these questions because given all that is happening in our world right now, Mark’s version of the Easter story is connecting with me like never before. Given all that is happening in our world right now, I kind of like that Mark’s version is incomplete and unfinished. Just like the women on that first Easter morning, I find myself wondering where is God in all this brokenness, wondering will God love have the last word in the midst of all the grief. I find myself wondering how the Kingdom of God will show up in the midst of all the worry and fear.
Given all that is happening in our world right now, on this Easter morning, I kind of like the fact that Mark doesn’t give us a lot of details about that first Easter morning, that even though he knew the details, the how, when, where, and why of the resurrection experience, that he doesn’t share them with us. Instead he invites us to focus on what is happening in the moment.
Because You see, we are the ones wondering just exactly how the resurrection happen. We are the ones wondering, Did God just pop in and shout, “Wake Up, Jesus, It is time to go? We are the ones wondering if Jesus just sat up and said how in the world am I going to get out of here? But not Jesus. These are our questions, not Jesus’. These are the details we think we need to understand and experience the resurrection, but not Jesus, and not for Mark either.
For Mark, all that really matters is that there is an empty tomb somewhere. Mark knew that Jesus had better things to do than wait around, sitting in an empty tomb. Mark knew that Jesus had better things to do than wait for his crazy disciples to discover that he was actually telling the truth all along. Mark knew that Jesus had better things to do than sit around and answer all our questions of how, when, where, and why that surrounds the resurrection experience. Jesus had new life to share with all of God’s creation.
Jesus didn’t overcome death to give us elaborate details of the process of the resurrection. Jesus overcame death to bring healing and wholeness to all of God’s creation and now that he is back, there is no better time to get started than right here and right now! Jesus is not here! He has risen. Jesus is on the move, sharing the Good News with the people of God.
Because the thing we miss when we just focus on the details of the story is that the resurrection is not the end of the story. The resurrection is actually just the beginning. Mark wants us to realize that it is up to us as Jesus’s disciples to decide just exactly what happens next. Jesus is on the move and he is waiting for us to catch up! It is up to us as people of faith, as disciples of Christ, as ones who have experienced the power of life over darkness, it is up to us to decide how the story will continue.
What Mark knows, what Mark invites us to understand with his very brief telling of what happened on that first Easter morning is this…For us as people of faith, the resurrection is not the conclusion to our story. Rather it is just the beginning. It is a story which goes on and on. It is a story which never ends. It is a story which is constantly telling us, calling us , inviting us to live our lives as the people God created us to be, always inviting us to tell through our word and our actions, the never ending, the life giving, the life changing story of God’s love and grace.
So People of faith, Hear the Good News! On this Easter morning and all the days which follow, what matters most is that we know…We KNOW that Death is not the final Word. Darkness Doesn’t not and will not overtake the light. That WE KNOW Light and Love will always overcome! Thanks be to God!
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, April 9, 2023 – How Do You Measure Transformation?” Mark 16: 1-8.