IT AIN’T OVER ‘TILL IT’S OVER
MARK 16: 1-8
A. A man was driving early on Easter morning. He was motoring along when he suddenly saw a rabbit in the middle of the road. He tried to stop but it was too late. He ran over the rabbit. He got out of his car distraught and looked at the poor rabbit. It was dead. Then he noticed that there were Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies strewn over the road and a big basket lying near the dead bunny. “Oh no. I’ve killed the Easter bunny.” Just then a woman stopped to see what was going on. “It’s terrible. I’ve killed the Easter bunny.” She said, “Don’t worry.” She went back to her car and came up to the rabbit and sprayed something on him and the rabbit jumped up alive and well and began to hop away. Every ten yards he would stop and wave back at them. Ten more yards and another wave until he was out of sight. The man was shocked. He had to see what she had sprayed on the rabbit. He looked at the label and it said, “Hare restorer. Brings dead hare back to life. Adds permanent wave.” Hey, there is no groaning on Easter!
B. NO, you are right. That was just ridiculous. Foolishness. Did you know that foolishness is the way some people think of the resurrection? They say, “Maybe he wasn’t really dead.” No he was really clinically completely dead. “Well in that case this story about him walking out of the tomb is totally ridiculous. It is no more based in reality than the Easter Bunny. It’s just foolishness. It’s not rational”, the skeptics say.
C. And Paul says they are right. The cross and the empty tomb ARE foolishness to idolaters without faith. But to us; to the ones who are being saved it is the power of God. He says if the resurrection is not true then our faith is in vain and we are pitiful losers.
D. Because you see, this is not just about believing that Jesus walked out of the tomb alive. It is about our own resurrection to eternal life. We as believers have staked out lives on this truth that is beyond rationality
II. VARIETY OF IDOLS
A. I feel sorry for those who have missed having faith. Their world is limited to what they can see and explain. They still put on their Easter bonnet and finery. But they are all dressed up and no place to go; just like when they die. In a way they already dead. You know, a vale of tears, a few short years, life is hard and then you die, that sort of thing.
B. But let’s be careful in our judgment of them. Even if they are dead in sin, they can still be brought back to life. Jesus didn’t die just for the saints. He died and rose again for EVERY HUMAN BEING. He dies for sinners and idolaters like us too.
C. What do you mean Idolaters? I’ve never bowed down and prayed to a statue. Well there is quite a variety of idols. In the gospel stories, Peter’s idol was Judas had an obvious idol called money. The Romans worshipped power and political expedience. The Jewish leaders saw tradition as the thing to be worshipped. The crowd wanted to worship a winner. And rationality was the idol of skeptics. Those idols are still around today. Maybe you have dabbled in some of them. An idol is anything, even some good things, that comes before God on your priority list.
D. And rationality is one of the most significant idols of our time. We need proof to really believe something. And of course what you can see and explain requires no faith at all. Human wisdom says, “Resurrection can’t be true. I’ve never seen him.” That’s like the ending of Mark’s gospel. WE don’t see the Risen Jesus. We can get all caught up in thinking that truth is just what we can observe and understand. But Paul says that human wisdom is dumber than God’s foolishness.
E. And what happens when we limit ourselves to just the senses and the mind? We begin to live empty lives. (Macbeth: Act 5 Scene 5) If we live only in the security of rationality, then the shadow of death looms over every day of life. And we miss the most essential truths; God’s truth which has the power of life with meaning and life eternal.
III. YOU WILL SEE HIM IN GALILEE
A. There is a branch of Christian study that is called apologetics. It seeks to rationalize the stories of the Bible. I think it might be helpful to some. But we must decide ultimately to have a faith that goes beyond what we can explain. If you were hoping that I would explain the resurrection; dissect it; rationalize it, sorry I can’t. I can tell you that I believe it. I believe that it really happened. It was not just a parable about Jesus always being with us. We look for rational reasons to believe. One of the greatest to me is that 10 of the apostles died as martyrs for the Risen Christ. Can we really conclude that they all died horrible deaths for a lie or an illusion? But ultimately we believe without seeing.
B. Which brings us to this strange ending of Mark’s gospel. Once every three years we are directed by the lectionary to take a look at Mark on Easter. Here is how he ends his gospel. The women see that the stone has been rolled away. They look inside and Jesus isn’t there. The young man or messenger tells them that he has been raised. He doesn’t try to prove the resurrection. He just tells them not to be afraid. “Go and tell the others that they will see him in Galilee, just as he told you.” And the women run away in terror and tell no one. THE END!
C. What? We don’t even get to see the Risen Jesus? What kind of ending is that? It feels like dead hare back to life foolishness. The other gospel writers have Jesus talk to them and invite them to touch his wounds. He eats breakfast with them. He appears to many believers. Then they see him ascend into heaven. What’s wrong with you Mark? Is it April fools
?D. Again the rationalists try to explain it. They say the last page was lost or he ran out of parchment. Maybe he was interrupted before he could finish. Through the ages people have added extra endings to Mark’s gospel to make it more pleasing; to let us see Jesus again.
IV. WHAT HAPPENED THEN, MARK?
A.But I think this is exactly the ending Mark intended. He didn’t end the story because the story isn’t over. The messenger tells them that they will see Jesus in Galilee. That is, we will see Jesus in the everyday lives that we lead. Even in failure, like what was undoubtedly the temporary failure of the women to carry out their assigned mission.
B. One church where I was pastor had three Easter services. The first one was sunrise and there were not many who came. Then there was the late service which was also not all that well attended. It was the middle service that was packed to over flowing. We had the fool choir and brass and a big processional in which the same woman insisted on carrying the cross into the sanctuary. She said that neither of the other services did much for her. It was in the pomp and excitement of that middle service that mattered to her. She would say “NOW it’s Easter!” That never fit well with Mark.
C. But Easter is most significantly experienced in the every- day Galilees of life; in the down times and the routine times and the times and laundry day and the day you have to wait for the cable guy and when the roof leaks and the rent is due. It’s not just in the grandeur of Easter Sunday. Avery and Marsh wrote a song called “every morning is Easter morning from now on.” That’s pretty close to the meaning of Mark’s ending.
D. When we ask, “What happens next, Mark”, he tells us that the conclusion to the story is up to us. It’s about resurrection faith that sustains us and gives us new life right where we live. Only our being able to believe without seeing or explaining combined with the faithfulness of the God who raised Jesus can complete the story. The second shoe hasn’t dropped Mark ends the gospel in mid -sentence. The last word is GAR. It means for or because. The story goes on in your life and in my life and it…..