Easter Sunday – 31 March 2024

Mark 16:1-8

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. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 ‘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. 7 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.”’

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

“They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid…”.

A lot of people don’t like and don’t get the way mark ends his account of the life of Jesus. It is not exactly an exhilarating or convincing end to the account of the greatest act of God in human history!!

Where are those stories that the other gospel writers bear witness to – the ones about Jesus being alive and being seen and heard by bewildered but overjoyed friends?

Where are those ‘proofs’ of his bodily resurrection and his great commission that sets the agenda for those who follow him through however many remaining centuries?

Mark’s telling of the Jesus’ moment in history has been the subject of huge debate since it came into being in around 65AD. So much so that you will notice in most translations of the bible there is a note telling you that the verses after Mark 18:8 are later additions to Mark’s original telling.

Obviously, Mark is not that interested in a happy ending. He must have some other focus he really wants to get across that he thinks will make it possible to live this life under this Saviour he has just spent so long telling us about. So, what are we meant to hear from God on this day of days?

Many would say that Mark is not telling a happy or well-rounded story but making a bold statement to people searching for God. By minimiding all the stories telling of Jesus’ speaking and doing post-resurrection he is showing that no one can ever find God in their life apart from in this Crucified God.

God is a God serving in suffering for you and if you go looking for God in any other person or place apart from this Jesus, this crucified, suffering Jesus, you will miss God in your life and end up being an imposter god of your own life.

Not a nice story or an easy set of proofs for God’s existence. Rather, a blunt truth that God is only to be found in this crucified and resurrected Jesus of Nazareth and nowhere else.

We find this hard. We might prefer more signs of power of Jesus presence after Good Friday or at least more wise words for us to live in after the resurrection lest we end up powerless, loveless and maybe even godless with no sure proof, no glory, no victory, no idea!

But Mark is just not going there. He is so brief. How can we trust in God? How can we love him and love like him with so little to go on?

Mark just keeps pointing you back to the suffering, the pain, the love on show and the power of God on show in this crucified man. For him, that is who we need to trust God and love him, and love like him.

But this uncompromising pointing to the crucified God exposes our great weakness and might explain why we don’t like Mark’s ending.

As we have often said, reflecting on St Augustine and then Luther, our issue is not that we do not love enough or that we are godless, our issue is that we love the wrongs things too much, the right things too little, and have too many gods!

Remember, Luther said that a ‘god’ is whatever you fear, love, and trust above all things. So, in his explanation of the First Command in the Catechism, Luther explains:

“You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should honour, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Going where Mark takes us – continued focus not on the glory of resurrection, the power of it, the victory of it the proof of it, but on the weakness, the pain, the suffering, the betrayal the abandonment of this crucified God, we are confronted with our disordered loves and our pursuit of gods of varying kinds; anything thing and anyone but this God.

We keep searching; running; looking, looking for God somewhere else, anywhere else; longing for good news, for healing, for peace for joy in all kinds of people and places.

This pursuit usually ends up with us being the ones who are like the two Mary’s and Salome who “don’t say anything to anyone because we are scared”.

There’s no stopping our endless pursuit of any god other than the Crucified God. But, all the Law and the prophets hung on the Crucified God as he hung there for us.

Mark is saying that it was here and only here in this crucified Jesus, God’s Son, that God was willingly “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.”

Mark tells us Jesus rose alright. But he does so in super-short-hand way to impress upon anyone who finds themselves compelled to ‘take up their own cross and follow this Jesus’ that you will only find the relentless love, patient love, glorious love you need from God where he puts it – in this Jesus of the cross who did all of that for you and did not stay dead … and that is enough.

In other words: You don’t need proof of his resurrection as much as you need the love of his cross.

You don’t need the proof of his resurrection power for you as much as you need his love for your journey carrying your cross, because the Christian life in Jesus is like that – carrying a cross.

Mark tells you that you do have a Saviour who is alive, and that you will need him who carried the cross to carry yours, even after this great day right up until the last day. So keep looking at the cross and the crucifixion and the passion. That love given is what will sustain you in your suffering and loss and weakness.

Mark still announces the resurrection. He tells us the two Mary’s and Salome got that memo, loud and clear and they were flabbergasted, awe-struck, a bit panicky, trembling in wonder and maybe worry …

It is a bit ironic though. Up until this point they and many others around Jesus were constantly told by him not to tell anyone what they heard and saw. But of course, humans being humans with something amazing to share, they broke that confidentiality often!

Now, when these three followers are told to “go and tell”, they don’t (or not yet anyway)!

But that messenger of God is telling something.

“… go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’

‘Go and tell”. Yes. Especially tell Peter, the one we all know failed the loudest and fell the longest: the one who experienced the weeping of deep shame that night when he let his Lord down.

Go and tell him and anyone else like him, “I am ahead of you, still willing to call you and let you see me at work with you – even after that”.

How good will it be for Peter when the good news of new start, new love, new acceptance gets to his ears back home in Galilee!

How good is it for you today, friend, to hear the good news that you can fall the deepest and still be resurrected, righteous and free!

In the very place where it all began, where all the wonder and hope of those first days of being called and leaving everything and heading off into the unknown with Jesus, the whole thing will start again, this time with a crucified but ruling Jesus ahead of them calling them on with him.

It is Easter Day, friend. It is back to church, back to baptism, back to the Lord’s Supper, back to the story of stories in words and songs….

However, you have been and whatever the recent past has been like when it comes to your life in God, it begins again with this crucified but reigning Saviour ahead of you taking you back to a new beginning today.

Yes, you can relegate the resurrection to a fantasy devoid of enough empirical evidence for you to trust, and simply keep on loving too much and having many gods which can never deliver what the only God has delivered to you in this Jesus – love divine all human love excelling, deep peace of the running wave, reconciling love for all your relationships, meaning and purpose for your work, your marriage, your family, your business, your contribution, hope in dying, life in death, bread for living with joy.

But here he is still. Clear and very simple

6 ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here” in a tomb anymore …

Trembling, afraid, disinterested, struggling, dancing in the dark or getting blown all over the place by the winds of change and loss, the crucified servant king is calling you ahead into his new beginning again.

You don’t need proof of his resurrection as much as you need the love of his cross.

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