Blogging Towards Sunday, September 9th
We’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark on Sundays for several months. Today we arrive at the end of the story. It’s either the worst ending to a story, or a great ending that’s actually a re-beginning. Most Biblical scholars esteem that the original ending of the gospel concludes with verse 8 (our proposed reading), advancing that the early church added what we call verses 9 – 20 in order to smooth the rough edges of the story of the women who remain mute, passive and afraid.
Resurrection is different than reincarnation. One is about new life reinvigorating old life. The other is about an old life being changed into a new one. The Christian promise of resurrection isn’t just a recycling of life and hopes, in a chain of ever-improvement, but a radical inbreaking of newness, a restoration that is also a transformation, it’s both continuity and a new thing; an affirmation of who we are and who God is making us to be.
The women respond is a way that we don’t expect. It’s not who most people would end a best-selling story. Mark alone ends his version with this silence and passivity. There must be a reason, for we have seen how he repeatedly develops the themes of the authority of Jesus being different than other teachers, his power over all powers, and his life-transforming encounters with the holy and profane, the clean and unclean, the Jew and the Gentile. So why would Mark end the story with a climactic scene of these faithful women hearing and seeing that Jesus is not dead but alive, and then leaving in haste not saying anything to anyone because they’re afraid?
Mark gives a special place to the women followers of Jesus in his retelling of the story. They alone are the consistent characters, being present at this death, burial and resurrection. How is it that we often forget this importance of women in Christianity?
The women come to “lay another wreath” on the tomb, to honor Jesus in his death. They’re only partially prepared: they have the anointing spices, but didn’t bring anyone big enough to move the stone. They don’t come expecting an encounter, a revelation or a commissioning – which is what they get. Why do they react the way that they do to such earth-shattering good news?
The angel of the LORD greets the women with the traditional angelic greeting found through both Testaments: “Do not be afraid!” Who is this young man?
The angel says that the Resurrected One will be found in Galilee. If you go back to the beginning of Mark’s telling it starts with Jesus coming from Galilee to be baptized (1:9) where he is recognized as the Son of God. Then 1:14 has him entering Galilee to proclaim “That the time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” The third iteration of Galilee in 1:17 is Jesus inviting Simon and his brother to “Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men and women.” Galilee seems to be associated with the basics of who Jesus is and what he’s about. In a sense it’s the part platform of the Jesus party: Jesus of Nazareth is unique because of his relationship and identity as the Son of God. He is unique because he proclaims a good news – promise and potential – not just about the distant future – but which is hear and now at hand. He’s not a tyrant or emperor who lords over others, but a Lord who empowers and invites, involves and sends out in a dynamic collaborative relationship through which the world is being remade and healed.
One of my favorite books, Jesus forPresident, concludes with a paragraph that seems to be wresting with the particularity of today’s text.
“The idea that the church is to be the body of Christ is not just something to read about in theology books and leave for the scholars to pontificate about. We are literally to be the body of Jesus in the world. Christians are to be little Christs – people who put flesh on Jesus – in the world. YOU are the only Jesus some people will ever see. The promise of the church is this: none of us alone are Christ [that’s blasphemy], but all of us together are Christ to the world [that’s ecclesiology].”
Questions for wondering and exploring:
• What is Jesus saying to you and our church community today through this text?
•How if resurrection good news for you, for us as a church? How do we not just understand it, but practice it in our world, in our life together, in our daily existence?
•How do you – how can we – life our lives as a story worth telling, living as little Christs in a world hungry for hope, thirsty for grace and desperate for a different way of living?