Our Easter Stories Mark 16: 1 – 8 (preached on April 12, 2020)

Our Easter Stories

Mark 16: 1 – 8


(preached on April 12, 2020)


The women said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.  This Easter, as our lives have been turned upside down by a deadly virus, those words are hitting me in a powerful way.  The women were afraid.  Many of us are afraid.  We wake up to news of more people suffering, more people dying, hospitals overwhelmed as they care for the sick.  We go to sleep praying for health for our families and ourselves, praying for those who are suffering, praying for all of this to be over.  It is a fearful time.


So this year more than ever, we can relate to those fearful women.  They are grieving the loss of Jesus.  They are hoping to see his body one last time. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had come to attend to a death.  Jesus had died.  They had come to anoint his body with spices, as was the custom in their time.  They had come to perform one last act of love for him.  But the tomb is empty!


When someone died in those days, it was women’s work to prepare the body for burial.  Still, the women must have been disappointed that Jesus’ closest friends, his disciples, hadn’t done anything to give him a decent burial.  After Jesus was crucified, the disciples were nowhere to be found.  They had all gone into hiding.  They had good reason to hide.  Jesus, their leader, had just been put to death by the Roman authorities.  Because the authorities considered Jesus a criminal, anyone associated with him would also be considered a criminal.  Anyone associated with Jesus had a price on their head.


The women are taking a risk by going to the tomb.  The soldiers posted to guard the tomb might report them to the Roman authorities.  They might be arrested, put in prison.  Still, the women come, in the early morning, to perform one last act of love.


But – surprise! – the tomb is empty!  A young man, dressed in white, tells them Jesus is not there.  “He has been raised,” the young man says.  What?  Their Lord who died three days ago is risen?  Not only that: the Lord has left word for them.  They are to go and tell the disciples to head out to Galilee.  He will meet them there, in Galilee, where they first began their ministry together.


It’s way, way too much for them to take in.  No wonder they’re terrified.  No wonder they go running from the tomb because, as Mark tells us, terror has seized them.  Where is Jesus?  Who is this guy, telling them he’s risen?  What does he mean, risen?  And what’s this about meeting him in Galilee?


At first, the women can’t do anything.  They’re paralyzed by fear.  Jesus has given them the slip.  They’ve come to take care of his dead body, but all they find is the empty space where his body had been.  They’re scared out of their wits.  All they can do is run away.


On this note, Mark’s gospel ends.  The gospel ends with terrified women running away from an empty tomb.  It’s an abrupt ending, an awkward ending.  Scholars of the Bible don’t agree about this ending of Mark.  Some biblical scholars think Mark did not intend to end his gospel this way, with the women fleeing in fear.  Some scholars think that Mark may have died before he had a chance to finish his gospel.  Or that his original manuscript was damaged, and the last pages were lost.   So if you look in your Bible you’ll find a couple of alternative endings, more like the endings of the other gospels.


Did Mark mean for his gospel to end this way?  We can’t know for sure.  But think about this for a minute:  what if Mark did intend to end his gospel with the terrified women?  What if Mark, with this ending, was leaving space for others to fill in the rest of the story?


In the early days of the church, when Christians gathered for worship, the gospels would be read out loud.  In those early gatherings, there may have been some people who were alive when Jesus was walking the earth.  It’s possible that those people would have been in the congregation, listening to Mark’s gospel.


So maybe those people stood up and testified that they had seen the risen Jesus, alive, talking and eating and praying with the disciples.  They would have added to the story with their own experiences.  Mark may have left his gospel open-ended so the stories of believers would become part of God’s story: a living history of God’s resurrection power, at work in the world.


This morning, like those early Christians, we hear the story.  It begins in a place of death.  The women come looking for Jesus, but he is not here.  But then in the words “He is risen!” we hear new hope.  We hear of God’s resurrection power.  Jesus is risen!  Death cannot hold him.  The power that raised him, God’s resurrection power, is alive and loose in the world!  That power takes hold of our hearts and we become part of the story.


What stories can you and I add to the story of God’s resurrection power?  How can we testify, like those early followers of Jesus, that we have seen the risen Christ alive in the world?  Will we testify to the life-giving power we see at work in the hands of first responders and health care workers as they risk their own lives to help the sick?  Will we testify to God’s resurrection power at work in the minds of scientists as they labor in laboratories to find healing medicine?  Will we testify to God’s power in our own lives as we rise up, no longer bound by fear, as we give and receive love in new ways?

Easter says that God’s resurrection power is alive and loose in the world.  Easter says death is not the end of the story, that even in death God is raising us to new life.  We say at Easter, Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  And he shall reign forever and ever!  Alleluia!  Amen.







Rev. Elva Merry Pawle                                                                                                                     Easter Sunday