April 5, 2015
Easter Sunrise Service
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
The sun came up on the day after the Sabbath, and Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome carried bowls and jars and sacks of spices. According to the traditions and practices of the day, they were going to anoint the corpse of Jesus.
And they worried about perfectly reasonable things to worry about: There is a heavy stone in front of the tomb. Who will roll it away?
But they get there, and the stone is rolled away. And instead of the body of the dead Jesus, there is a young man, dressed in white, and they freak out. (Okay, the Bible says “they were alarmed.”) “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.”
When it comes to people doing as they are told, Jesus cannot win for losing. Every time he heals someone in Mark’s Gospel, he tells them, “Keep it quiet. Don’t tell anyone what I have done for you.” And they tell everyone who will listen.
Now, we come to the empty tomb and the women are told to go and tell the disciples, which means finally Peter and John and James can speak about the transfiguration of Jesus that they saw, but instead, the women run away and say nothing, for they are afraid.
This ending is sometimes called the short ending of Mark. It appears in the two oldest copies of Mark that exist. There is another version that adds a verse, but that verse does not sound much like Mark. And there is another ending that adds another half chapter, but again, it does not sound like Mark.
So either somebody lost the last page on the way to the printer, or Mark forgot to save after the last chapter and his computer lost power, or we have to figure out what to do with a Gospel that ends with the women dropping their spices and running in terror from the tomb.
Like Mark’s first readers, we are here not to be convinced of the resurrection, we more or less believe, we more or less have an understanding of what it means, so this is not an argument about proving the resurrection that Mark is making. Mark is telling us something else.
Lamar Williamson asks, “When is an ending not the end? When a dead man rises from the tomb — and when a gospel ends in the middle of a sentence.”
Brian Stoffregen points out that two elements run through the story of Jesus’ passion in Mark: Jesus is abandoned by all; and God lives up to his promises.
- Judas betrays Jesus,
- Peter denies Jesus,
- At his arrest, “all desert him and flee,”
- On the cross, Jesus cries out, “O God, why are you abandoning me too?”
- And this morning, the women who had looked on the cross from a distance drop their spices and run.
People mess up. We fail. We make mistakes. We get afraid. We hide. We run. We feel abandoned by God, by family, by friends. We deny. We betray.
But the promises of God are fulfilled. Not because we have been faithful. But because God is faithful. He has been raised; he is not here. You are looking for death, but God has made new life. You are looking for sadness, but God has made of the tomb a new birth. You are looking for loss, but you have gained eternity.
I wonder what happened later that day as somebody walked through the tombs. Here is a stone in grooves where it was rolled over the tomb and where it has been rolled away, and scattered around are spices for anointing and embalming and prayer that look like they have been dropped and kicked as people hurried to get away.
Something amazing must have taken place here. People left behind expensive stuff, just left here among the tombs. Whatever happened must have been worth more than all of this.
- Do not be freaked out; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was murdered by the empire, hung on a cross like a common outlaw.
- God has fulfilled God’s promise in Jesus.
- He has been raised; he is not here.
- Look, there is the place they thought they had laid God’s plans to rest.
But go, tell his disciples he is going ahead of you to where you first met him; there you will see him, just as he told you.
Because however broken or hurting or lonely or scared or tired or mournful we are, however many mistakes we have made, whomever we have denied or betrayed, however much our heart longs for life to be otherwise, yet in the midst of all of this, the promise of God in Christ Jesus has come true.
Christ is risen. And so are we. Christ is risen, indeed. And indeed, so are we.
Thanks be to God.