MARK 16: 1-8 EASTER APRIL 5, 2017
I. STRANGE: NO ENDING
A. So you are reading a good story. It is well written and it has kept your attention all through the chapters. The tension builds.Then, you get to the last line, where everything will be resolved, and there is no ending. Would you be frustrated? Or would you welcome the chance to decide for yourself how it would end? In Martin Scorsese’s movie, Inception, there is a spinning top that tells you if the main character is inside a dream or in reality. At the end of the film he spins the top and you wait to find out which it is. And as the top spins, the screen goes black. We never find out. We have to make up our own minds.
B. It’s a strange thing; a story with no ending. A young man played the bag pipes at funerals. The funeral director asked him to play the graveside of a homeless man who had no family or friends. It was way back in the country where nobody else had been buried. The bag piper got lost. He was an hour late when through the clearing he saw the backhoe and the crew who were eating lunch. He apologized for being late, stepped to the side of the open grave where he saw that the vault lid was already in place. He began to play Amazing Grace as the workers gathered around. He finished and was walking back to his car when one of the workers said, “That was strange. I never heard anything like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.
C. It seems so strange at first that Mark does not provide us with an ending to the story of Jesus. He tells us about the women who go to the tomb to anoint his body even though they don’t know how they will get in with a huge stone blocking the entrance. And when they get there, the stone has been moved and there is a messenger from God in white who tells them to not be afraid. And he tells them that Jesus is not here. He has been raised. The angel tells them to go and tell the disciples and Peter that he will meet up with them in Galilee. And the women run away in terror and say nothing to anybody….. The end. Wait… What? That is strange. In fact, it is so strange that believers in the centuries following added endings to the gospel. They were not comfortable with Mark’s ending. There is no resurrection appearance by the risen Christ. It just stops. In Greek, it is literally in mid-sentence. The reader is left waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I like Mark’s original ending. It is a master stroke of storytelling. It leaves it to the reader to decide by faith how it ends.
II. OVERHEARD, UNDERSTOOD, MISS THE POWER, SILENCE
A. Maybe the problem with the Easter story is that we have heard it so many times we think, “Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve heard it and overheard it.” Well, let’s take another look at Marks version. The women are the same ones who witnessed the crucifixion. Now, early on Sunday morning the sun rises, but they are still under a dark cloud of gloom and hopelessness. They are going to the tomb to serve a dead man. And it is not just the man that they mourn, but the end of a dream. They didn’t know how they would overcome the obstacle of the stone, but they went anyway. When they got there the stone had been rolled away by God. And the young man in white told them to not be afraid and to go and tell. And they were terrified and they told no one.
B. But let’s not be too critical of these women. They were blown away. Who wouldn’t be? The angel says, see where they laid him? He isn’t here. Nobody can put Jesus in a box. Death can’t hold him. Nobody can put up an obstacle that God can’t overcome. Maybe their silence was due to the shock of this news. Sometimes silence is the only correct response. Prudy and I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy this summer. It was so moving, we both wept and neither of us could speak. We were blown away by the death of so many young men and the grief of those gold star mothers. And here the women were confronted with the new reality of Jesus alive. It changed everything.
C. Maybe when we experience the real power and the real significance of Easter, we will be left without words too. If you came this morning wanting me to explain it or prove it, sorry. I can’t. But the power of that event is as real now as it was to those terrified women. If Easter is just a holiday to you or just a commemoration of an event, then you have missed that power. The power of the empty tomb is strong enough to scare the hell out of us 2,000 years later.
III. GOD AT WORK
A. Jesus was dead. He wasn’t in a coma or pretending to be dead. He was dead in every sense of the word. The women knew he was dead. They were there when they took his body off the cross. They had seen men do their worst.And now they saw God at It was God who raised Jesus to life. It was God who stood tragedy on its ear.
B. Maybe silence is the only appropriate response to such an amazing announcement. But it’s Easter and I feel the pressure to give a great sermon in response to the greatest news ever. That’s how preachers are. We are born with an extra bone in our heads that makes us always want to say something. One woman said there will be no preachers in heaven. Why, I asked. Because it says in Revelation that there will be complete silence in heaven for ½ hour and that would be impossible for preachers.
C. But I have to proclaim to you that He is risen. In my personal ending to Mark’s gospel, the women do ultimately tell the others that Jesus is alive. That’s backed up by the other gospel writers and Peter in Acts and Paul in Corinthians. But their initial silence shows that they understood the magnitude of this event. Awe struck and almost afraid to believe that it was true. And Mark allows us the readers to stand in their place and feel that power.
D. The angel tells the women that Jesus is going before you. Jesus will always be about what comes next. Jesus never dwells on what was before. And the church, Hope Church takes great comfort in that. We are the Easter people and we are ready to meet the living Christ in what comes next; no matter the obstacles. So God is present in the joyful, loud Hallelujah filled Easter morning celebrations. And God is just as present in the moments of our awe-inspired silence and speechless traumas.
IV. CONTINUED REALITY
A. Some cynics say that the early church borrowed secular elements for the celebration of Easter like the spring equinox and lilies and colored eggs. Well, of course they did, because that is what Jesus He takes common secular things and turns them into sacred elements. So ordinary things like bread and juice and wood and nails and colored eggs and even death are given new meaning.
B. Easter is not just a holiday. And it is not just the remembrance of something that happened long ago. It is more than history. Its current events. It is a continuing reality for every frightened follower of the one who conquered the power of death for us all. I’m sorry I don’t have a wiz bang, knock your socks off sermon for you. The point for each of us is to ask about our response to resurrection. At first, if we really experience the power of what it means, our response might be awe-filled silence. And then we provide, not the ending of the story, but the ongoing reality of what it And the response that God wants to see from us is……..