A New Beginning!

Few of you likely preached, and therefore few of you likely heard—even in this, the “Year of Mark”—the Easter narrative from Mark’s Gospel this past Sunday. Preachers remember from seminary that Mark’s original ending was 16:1-8, which means there are no explicit appearances of the risen Jesus. We so easily substitute John. It is, after all, Easter, and Mark doesn’t quite so readily evoke, “He is risen indeed!”

So let’s consider Mark right now. You’ll remember that throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus heals, casts out demons, stills storms, and performs all kinds of miracles. Most of those wondrous acts end with a stern warning by Jesus not to tell anyone, followed by Mark’s telling us how people go spread the message about what Jesus had done. There’s a pattern here, for sure.

But now, on Easter morning, the women head to the tomb in Chapter 16, numb, grieving, fretting. “Who will roll away the stone?” A valid and practical question, but also a focus on what they know they can’t do. We tend to spend immense energy and worry on things we can’t do anything about and precious little on what we can do. And when these women find the stone already moved and hear the news that Jesus is risen and already gone before them to Galilee, now, instead of “Don’t tell,” they are given the charge to “Go tell the disciples and Peter that he’ll meet them in Galilee.”

This task is something they’re fully capable of doing. It’s also the twist in Mark’s account of Easter. Whenever Jesus tells people not to tell, everybody does, and whenever the angel says clearly, “Go tell,” the women run away terrified and confused, and don’t say anything to anyone. It’s enough to make us wonder whether perhaps the two Marys and Salome in Mark were actually the first Lutherans. They fret about all they can’t do, and the one thing they can do—Go and tell—they don’t.

In any case, the first Easter for Mark doesn’t immediately evoke strong faith but is more of a radical intrusion that catches the women off guard. The resurrection of Jesus is not the continuation of business as usual but a new creation altogether.

As we stand before our own tombs of meaning, hope, and possibility, the radical message of the angel echoes for us today: “The world, the future, is so much more than you figured possible. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here. He is going ahead of you, just as he told you.”

If that’s true (and we bet the farm that it is), then the future is in the living Christ, and through baptism and God’s grace, so are you in Christ. The greatest reversal of all where death is not the end but a new beginning!

Won’t you join me in trying to worry a bit less about all we can’t change or do and put our energy instead into what we, in Christ’s power and full assurance of the resurrection, can do? Go. Tell. And as St. Francis is attributed with saying, if necessary, use words. Easter joy and hope to you.

Walking with you,

Tim-sig-informal
NC Synod Bishop
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