Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday, April 24th
Questions for Easter Sunday | Mark 16:1-8
The story of the empty tomb is told by all of the gospel writers. Much like 4 witnesses of an accident would relate different aspects, they all four tell the story a bit differently
(Matthew 28:9-20 | Luke 24:13-53 | John 20). Mark ends his retelling of that day in a peculiar, even a bizarre, way. Where we expect them to overcome fear and go forth to share the good news, they instead are terrorized and they run away to hide. Where they are commanded to speak they remain mute. Asked to return to a community, they prefer an isolation that seems to have become familiar. Jesus is not where they expected him. He is not what they thought him to be. Only now, after the end, at the time of a new beginning, do they realize that maybe they never actually understood the way in which they traveled with Jesus.
In our modern scientific world view we hear the story and focus immediately on the facticity. Can we prove that he rose from the dead? Do we have a body with DNA that we can analyze ? Are the witnesses credible? And how so? Yet the story isn’t a historical chronicle, nor is it a newspaper article. It’s not history, but rather his story: Jesus lives. God has vindicated him. The universe is transformed: made new.
In this day where we traditionally dons hats, consume chocolate and hunt for eggs, it’s easy for us to forget what the promise of this story means for our stories. Easter is more than the coming of the long expected Spring. It’s more than the lengthening of days. It’s the affirmation that God is bigger than death. Where we see destruction, decay and doom – God can birth and generate another way forward. It’s the universal declaration that life is worth living even when it seems impossible, overwhelming, doomed. A favorite anonymous quote of mine is “life leaves scars”. The resurrection doesn’t deny those scars. In fact Jesus shows his to his friends. But those scars aren’t the end of the story. They aren’t the things that define him – or us.
It’s hard, actually impossible, to get the resurrection. Maybe that’s why the mysterious young man in the tomb tells the women and disciples to return to Galilee: where they first met Jesus. It’s a story with an ending that sends you back to the beginning. Walking the Way of Jesus isn’t a linear journey of gradual improvement; but rather a curvy path of ups and downs, of clarity and confusion, of bliss and disappointment, of suffering and grace. Jesus doesn’t just save us from death. He saves us to life, to life abundantly.