First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo

The Blessing of Life -- Mark 16:1-8 (Easter Sunday)

April 04, 2021 Rev. Scott Clark
First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo
The Blessing of Life -- Mark 16:1-8 (Easter Sunday)
Chapters
First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo
The Blessing of Life -- Mark 16:1-8 (Easter Sunday)
Apr 04, 2021
Rev. Scott Clark

In Resurrection, the Risen Christ blesses us with life, and invites us to go and tell the story with the lives we live. When the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Resurrection – in language spare and startling – “He is risen!  He’s gone ahead to meet you.  Just like he said.  Go and tell the others” – it invites us to write ourselves into the narrative.

Show Notes Transcript

In Resurrection, the Risen Christ blesses us with life, and invites us to go and tell the story with the lives we live. When the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Resurrection – in language spare and startling – “He is risen!  He’s gone ahead to meet you.  Just like he said.  Go and tell the others” – it invites us to write ourselves into the narrative.

Each of the gospels tells the story of Easter morning.. of Resurrection.. each in its own way.  The Gospels of John, Luke, Matthew are lush with detail. The Gospel of Mark is spare and startling.  The women go to the tomb, in the early hours of the morning, expecting to anoint the crucified body of Jesus.  They expect to find a stone they will have to move, but it is rolled away.  They expect to find a body in that tomb, but there is no body.  There’s only a young man, who says, “He is risen.  He has gone ahead of you into Galilee... just like he said.  Go tell the others.”  And then, Mark says, the women –  trembling and bewildered – say nothing to anyone... or as I might translate it... they say nothing to nobody. And that’s the end of the Gospel of Mark.  The Resurrection story in just 8 verses.


Some of you in the congregation know Polly Coote, who taught Greek for years at the seminary.  She is a friend and a mentor. Polly likes to ask this question about this text:  Who would tell a story like that?  This story where they find no body – this story with no Resurrection appearances – this story where the women at the tomb say nothing to nobody. 


Who would tell a story like that?

         

To be sure, many have come to the Gospel of Mark over the centuries, looking for a different ending.  The communities that later wrote the Gospels of Luke and Matthew – they took this story in Mark as a start to their own – but then they wrote more. They added their stories.  If you look in your Bibles at Mark 16, you’ll probably find two more additional endings that folks wrote years after the original ending.  As if those copying down this story – when they got to verse 8 – just couldn’t bring themselves to tell a story like that.

         

Mark’s telling is spare and startling. Let’s take a moment to look at what’s there: The women set out, early in the morning, still in the shock of grief. They watched as Jesus was crucified, and breathed his last.  They saw where they lay his body, and the women have come to anoint his body.  As Dr. J Alfred Smith, Sr. likes to remind folks, “Women were the last at the cross, and the first at the tomb.”

         

As they walk to the tomb, in the dim light of dawn, it occurs to them:  How are we going to move the big rock that we saw them roll across the tomb?  But they arrive, and it’s been rolled away, and it is very large.  They go in.  To anoint the body.  But there is no body.  Just a young man, in a white robe – like a baptismal garment, and he says, “Do not be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He is not here, see where they lay his body. He is risen! He’s gone ahead of you to Galilee... just as he said.  Go, tell the others!”

         

It’s all too much.  And so Mark says, The women run out of the tomb. Trembling and bewildered – they say nothing to nobody.


Who would tell a story like that?


Well maybe we should step back and ask an even more essential question of this text:  What is at stake here?  As we stand with these three women, in the bewilderment of this story – theirs and ours:  What’s at stake here?  Why even bother with this strange story so strangely told?

         

Well, here’s why. Here’s what’s at stake: What is at stake here is nothing less than everything.  That’s why the women are trembling and afraid and bewildered.  Because it’s all on the line here.  Everything they’ve experienced with Jesus.  Everything they’ve known.

         

Because you see, if the women arrive at the tomb, and somehow are able to roll the stone away, and if they go in, and they see there the body – the lifeless body of Jesus -- then this moving story really is over.  The women will wash the body.  Maybe with their tears, maybe with some of the expensive nard that one of them has left over from the last time she anointed Jesus.  They will speak in quiet tones.  Maybe say a prayer for the dead.  They will cover the body properly, take one last look at this one they love.  Salome may need to say, “Mary, it’s time to go.”  They will roll the stone back over the tomb.  And they will go home.  And they really will say nothing to nobody because there will be nothing left to say.

         

Everything is at stake here.

         

If the women walk into that tomb, and they see that body there, it means that Rome was right, that the religious leaders were right, and Jesus was wrong.  It means that violence really is more powerful than love.  It means it really is all about who can wield the most brute strength – who can crush whom.  It means that things that we hoped would change won’t change – that we will live in a world where vigilantes can hunt down innocent young men and kill them. The kingdom of God can’t really be all that near.

         

Everything is at stake here.

         

If the women walk into that tomb, and find the body, then this story is pretty much over.  And with that ending, if you ask the Apostle Paul’s question:  What can separate us from the love of God? You might get this answer:  Crucifixion.  Violence.  Power.  Life. Death.  The authorities.  In a hard world, it might be the way you’d expect the story to end.

         

But the story doesn’t end like that.

         

The women walk into the wide open tomb, and there is no crucified body there.

         

Mark is telling a different story.

         

Jesus, is risen.

         

It is bewildering.

         

The one who was crucified is alive.

         

The one who was silenced is now saying, “Meet me in Galilee.”

         

The one whom the authorities thought they had squashed for good – even now, even now – he is busy in Galilee – starting a movement.  As one writer puts it, Jesus is not only risen, he is already in Galilee, “resuming his work with the powerless and the exploited, the ostracized and the outcast.”[1]  Go.  Tell the others.  He’s there in Galilee, waiting for you. Just as he said.

         

So – Jesus got it right?

         

The writer of the Gospel of Mark needs only 8 verses to tell this story, because there is one thing – one thing – that they need to say – the one thing upon which everything else depends.  The one thing that has and will change the world forever:  He is risen!  

         

In this story, death no longer has the last word.  In this story, the powers no longer have ultimate power. This is nothing less here than a brand new world.  This is what Jesus has been saying all along.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  The Human One will suffer and die, but on the third day, rise again.  Do you see the oppressive structures you have built? Not one stone will be left on stone.

         

The powers of the world that have for so long oppressed and harmed and killed – Jesus has taken them all on – all the brokenness of the world – all our brokenness – the weight of all that, crushing him on the cross – and on the third day, he is not dead, he is risen!  In just eight verses, at what we thought was the ending of the gospel, what we find is a brand new beginning – a new world – a new humanity – Resurrection alive for us – and in us – right here, right now.


Though it may be bewildering Good News – What we find, with the women, when we go to the tomb, is the blessing of life.

         

Who would tell a story like that?  


The musical Hamilton dwells a good bit on the question of who tells the story.  In Hamilton, it’s the story of the founding of our nation – Lin Manuel Miranda’s telling of that story – weaving together hip-hop, rap, R&B, American-musical ballads, George Washington’s farewell address, the Declaration of Independence, and so much more – to tell the story of young revolutionaries creating and shaping a new nation.  The cast is predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and Asian – so there’s an embodied answer to who tells the story – American history told in Hispanic, African-American, and Asian voices and bodies. They tell the story.

         

And even within that story, the characters are aware that they are living history – Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, Burr – there’s even a song History Has Its Eyes on You – where they ponder the question – who lives, who dies, who tells our story. 

And, in that story of Founding Fathers – there are three women – the Schuyler sisters – Eliza, Angelica, “and Peggy.”  Eliza marries Alexander Hamilton – and as history is unfolding – she sings to him, “let me be a part of the narrative, of the story they will tell one day.” Now, if you know the life story of Alexander Hamilton, you know that things don’t end well – and I won’t say any more than that.  At one point, Eliza even writes herself out of the narrative.

 

But at the end, at the end of the play, Eliza emerges from the rubble of this ground-breaking life; she walks out of the wings and takes center stage; and, as the cast sings and wonders, “who lives, who dies, who tells this story,” Eliza says this:  “I wrote myself back into the narrative.”  Eliza Hamilton is standing there – with her life, and in her voice, in her body – telling her story, telling his story, telling our story.


At the end of the Gospel of Mark, the young man in the tomb says to the three women, “He is risen!”  And they leave the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and we’re told, “They said nothing to nobody.”


But we know.. we know.. that someone said something to somebody.  We know – because someone said something to us.  Someone said something to somebody.  Maybe it was that young man sitting there in a white robe – who remembered his baptism – and after fleeing in the night, wrote himself back into the narrative.[2] Maybe it was the women – who after trembling in bewilderment – took a breath – and held each other’s hands – and went on to Galilee – writing themselves back into the narrative.[3]


In just 8 verses, the gospel of Mark ends by opening into the expanse of Resurrection... a whole new story... a whole new world... a whole new life – that stretches on out into forever.  When the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Resurrection – in language spare and startling – “He is risen!  He’s gone ahead to meet you.  Just like he said.  Go and tell the others” – it invites us to write ourselves into the narrative.


Who would tell a story like that?


Well.  Us.  We would tell a story like that.  We are telling it right now.  Not just on Easter, not just on Sundays, but in every minute of every day when we live out the power and the promise of Resurrection – in our bodies and in our lives.


All through Lent, we have been talking about Blessing for the Journey – and what we find here – is that the blessing for this journey – is us.  We are the blessing for the journey – the power of Resurrection – alive in our bodies and in the lives we live – Resurrection pulsing in the fullness of humanity – pulsing in our humanity – this is how God infuses the world with good.


Friends, this is Easter morning!

Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen indeed!

Everything that lies before us is life.

We are alive with Resurrection.

Go.  Tell the Story.

Go.  Bless the world with Life!




© 2021 Scott Clark


[1] Herman Waetjen, A Reordering of Power (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1989), p.246.
[2] For more on this possible reading, see Herman Waetjen, A Reordering of Power (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1989).  
[3] This is the reading I take from this text.  But I also note that with any reading that goes beyond the open ambiguity of the last words of the Gospel of Mark, we start to write ourselves into the narrative.  We say something to somebody – which is at the heart of the invitation of this text.