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And They Fled and Told No One

Posted by chesterlanducc on April 19, 2017 at 2:10 PM

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.

Today we read the original ending to the Gospel of Mark. I never knew until College that there are actually three different endings to Mark. Two of which were added later on after the earliest version of the Gospel was written. In fact, the most ancient manuscripts of Mark end not with the Resurrected Jesus returning in the flesh to the disciples, but instead with an empty tomb. In this ending the female disciples are told by an angel that Jesus has risen and for them to go tell the other disciples, but instead they flee in fear and amazement tell no one.

And that’s how the story ends. It is an impossible ending of course, since we know the story was told, but the gospels are not meant to be history books, they are works of literature that help us to understand the truth of Jesus, and the Gospel of Mark does this well.

This ending seems very odd, except for the fact that in the passion stories leading up to Easter morning, the stories about the last few days of Jesus’ life; we see the same story unfold time and time again. It begins with the disciples at the last super as they promise to be loyal to Jesus, to love him, and then, one by one, they betray Jesus. Judas sells Jesus out for a bag of coins. The disciples closest to Jesus fall asleep in the garden of Gethsemane while they are supposed to be watching over him, protecting him. After Jesus’ arrest the disciples flee. And finally even Peter denies knowing Jesus three times.

It is the same story, over and over again, so the reader should be prepared for the female disciples at the end of the story, who encounter the empty tomb and who because they are afraid amazed, tell no one.

The gospel of Mark is powerful because the characters in this Gospel are so human, are so relatable. Most of us can probably identify with them at different points in our lives. Perhaps we sometimes feel at times we are like Judas who sells out. Perhaps at times we feel as though we are like the disciples in the garden who fall asleep on the job. Perhaps we often feel like Peter, that we have good intentions but we sometimes fall short. And perhaps we can identify with the female Disciples and Mary, who upon seeing something they don’t understand, turn away if fear.

And so the Gospel invites us, the readers, to walk in the shoes of the disciples during the passion. The Gospel invites us to live these last days with Jesus. And when we come to the end of the story and absolutely everyone has abandoned Jesus, every person who loves him, including the female disciples who run away in fear and tell no one—we the readers are left to question, who is left to tell the story?

The answer of course is you, you, the person reading or hearing the gospel—it is up to you to tell the story—it is up to you to live the story. You are invited to pick up where the disciples leave off—you are invited to share the good news that Christ is risen.

Easter is not just an ancient event that happened long ago, Easter is something that is happening now—Easter is something that we participate in today when we live the resurrection—when we practice what Jesus teaches us.

Easter is a proclamation that love and life is greater than violence and death. Easter is living the resurrection, it is loving those who society says don’t deserve our love. Easter is welcoming those into our Churches and into our homes and into our hearts who have been pushed to the margins of society. Easter is standing in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed.

This morning we come to the end of our Lenten journey. A journey through the wilderness and little towns scattered across the Judean countryside, and finally to Jerusalem the city of the prophets. And it is here in Jerusalem where Jesus, a seemingly powerless peasant, parades in on a donkey into the center of power in Judea and proclaims a new way—proclaims release to the captives, proclaims sight for the blind, proclaims comfort for those who mourn, proclaims that the meek are mighty, proclaims that those who are last shall be first.

The Romans and the Jewish Political elite do their best to silence Jesus. And it almost works. The story of Jesus almost doesn’t get told—the life and death and resurrection of Jesus almost goes unnoticed. But somehow, some way, the story gets out and as we read the gospel of Mark we realize that the story of Jesus is written to each and every one of us who might be like the disciples in this gospel. The story is written to each of us who might be afraid to live out the gospel that Jesus has shared with us.

And so we gather together each week to hear the story of Jesus together and to seek strength and courage together to live the resurrection—to celebrate the Easter story, but also to seek to practice it together.

Thanks be to God for God’s still speaking voice. Amen.

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