When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Did you catch that? “Trembling and bewildered…[t]hey said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
These are likely the last words that were in the original gospel of Mark. At a later point, someone – doubtless dissastisfied because there was no sense of closure – added a few more verses that told additional stories about how Jesus did, indeed, appear to the disciples.
However, I prefer the original ending.
Easter is traditionally a day of happiness and celebration. And there are a lot of Easter stories in other gospels that tell happy stories. But there is something about wonder and fear – anticipation of what is yet to come, that also seems appropriate on this day.
During the last week, I have tried to put emphasis on the political nature of the passion of Jesus, showing how he stood against the temple authorities, advocating the coming of the Kingdom of God. In so-doing, he invited (seemingly) death on himself.
Easter, however, is God’s way of saying “yes” to the way of the cross. It is our assurance that, just as the path of the cross (a way of confrontation with the powers of this world) did not lead to death for Christ, so for us it will not ultimately lead to death. The last word belongs to God – the God who raised up Jesus.
Mark’s ending, I think, fits that perspective well. It invites us to stand in awe (and even fear) of the powerful reality of the resurrection, dumbfounded by its radical implications for ourselves. It opens up for us a whole new world, where there is hope in the way of humility and service, rather than through the use of force and power. Furthermore, rather than telling us the stories of Jesus later appearing, it leaves us anticipating those appearances – expecting that Jesus could appear even to us at any moment. The story is unfinished, and therefore must be completed in our own lives.
May God bless us all was we live in our own wonderful bewilderment today – looking for the risen Jesus around every corner: from within ourselves, from within our faith communities, and – ultimately and fully – in clouds of glory, on the day when God makes all things new.