It has long given me pause for thought that the earliest Gospel offers no proof of the resurrection, offering only a promise. The earliest manuscripts of Mark end at verse 8, which says (of the women who had come to the tomb and heard the angel’s message) “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” What prompts the gospel writer to leave the story there, and not detail resurrection accounts as the other writers do?
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is depicted as continually resisting the desires of others to place him into their mould. Whether it be in the names they use of him, or the priorities they wish to ascribe to him, Jesus makes his own way through, resisting the temptation to let others control his destiny. We find this same trait through the other gospels – the disciples try to talk him out of going to Jerusalem; he slips through the crowds who want to seize him for their purpose; he challenges others’ understanding of the Messiah’s task. In the Easter narrative, we find Pilate pushing Jesus to answer the claims made against him. Pilate’s discomfort with the silence is evident.
And so when it comes to the resurrection, Jesus once again slips through the disciples’ grasp, a young man asking them to take a journey to Galilee to discover the resurrected Jesus. Mark reports their fear, and notes their silence.
The church, and we as members of it, have long been faced with the temptation of keeping Jesus under our control. How often do we make our plans and simply ask Jesus to bless them? How often are our prayers an expression of our desires which we want God to make reality? It is an alluring temptation to use Jesus as an overlay for our own desires. Yet, for Mark, even the resurrected Jesus is beyond our grasp, though not out of our experience.
In reality, the journey of following Jesus does not end at the resurrection. It begins with a fresh perspective. When we proclaim a gospel that ends with “all you have to do is pray this prayer and be saved,” we truncate the gospel call to follow the resurrected Jesus into the community, where we are called to meet and serve him. We are to be constantly vigilant for the resurrected Jesus at work and in need of ministry in our community - a ministry which is based in the resurrection, which affirms that the worst that can be thrown at us cannot destroy us, just as the array of powers against Jesus could not end His ministry.
begins a new journey for us, one which allows us to enter the world with
hope and courage, to believe that – even in the midst of hostility capable
of murder – God’s purposes in and through us cannot be stymied. Our challenge
is to ensure that we are working in God’s purposes.
Christ is Risen Indeed!
April 16, 2006