Beginnings. Beginnings can be important. We know that first impressions can define the future of a relationship. The way a team begins their baseball season can foreshadow the rest of the season. And the first 10 minutes of a movie will either hook you in or lose you for the next two hours.
But so often what is more important than the beginning is the ending. We all know this. It is the ending of something that really makes or breaks it. On Super Bowl Sunday, everyone watching is looking for a game with a good ending. They’re looking for the nail-biting ending. If it’s a blow out, no one will care to watch the end of it. The way a TV show or a movie ends is crucial. We’ve got the end of the Newhart show, where it turns out the whole thing was just a dream. Or the Sixth Sense, where the whole time Bruce Willis is….well, okay, I won’t spoil that one for you. You’ll have to go see for yourself. But it doesn’t matter how great the beginning of a TV show or a movie is, if the ending is boring or just way too predictable, no one will care. But when an ending is good….it’s really good.
We know how important endings can be and here we are on Easter morning and we’ve come to hear the end of the story. Many of us are tired from getting meals ready for today, we’ve gotten up early because it is the one Sunday a year mom says we absolutely have to go to church. We’ve put on our Easter outfits that we picked out last night, we’ve got on our nice shoes, the trumpet is sounding, the egg bake baking, and we’ve come here simply to hear the end of the story and the gospel of Mark…just completely blows it. I mean, could you believe the ending we just heard?
The women, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome all go out to the tomb, planning to anoint Jesus’ body. And when they get there, they see someone has rolled away the huge stone in front of the tomb. And when they look in, there is this guy in all white sitting there, and naturally, they were freaked out. But then he is like, “No, don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. But he is not here! He has been raised!” The guy is all excited, saying, “Look, that’s where they laid his body but it isn’t here anymore. But go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus will meet you in Galilee, and there you will see him.” But the women were so freaked out, that they left the tomb and they didn’t say anything to anyone.
What kind of Easter story is that? The women leave and tell no one? Oh yeah, and did you notice anyone missing from the story? Jesus! This is the only Easter story where Jesus never shows his face. It is Jesus’ resurrection party and he doesn’t even show up.
What kind of ending is that? Doesn’t Mark know what we’ve been through to be here? For the last forty days some of us have been coming to church twice a week. Twice a week! And then it’s Holy Week and we get palms on Palm Sunday, we get together on Thursday for the last meal, and on Good Friday, we witness the crucifixion, and now it’s Easter morning, and all we want is to hear the uplifting story of how Jesus is raised from the dead and all is well in Bibleland. But no, Mark just totally messes up the ending. The bases are loaded, it’s a full count, and Mark whiffs at the ball.
In fact, here is a little piece of Bible trivia, which I knew you were hoping for today. This ending is so bad that somewhere along the lines, a monk came, read the ending, thought it was so bad and then tried to fix it by adding about 11 verses to it. Go home and check your Bibles. You’ll find that the 16th chapter of Mark ends at verse 20, but the real ending is here in verse 8 – where the women went away and said nothing to anyone.
So what are we, the readers of the Gospel of Mark, to do? If the women didn’t tell anyone, then the disciples certainly didn’t either. So who is going to tell about this strange and yet incredible news of Jesus resurrection? The only one else who knows is us, so who…..
Do you think Mark ends the gospel this way, with the women running away afraid and not telling anyone…because Mark wants us to be the ones who tell the story?
And what did that man, the one clothed in white, sitting in the tomb say again? Go and tell the disciples that Jesus will meet you in Galilee. Galilee. Well, that is where all of this began. That is where Jesus began his ministry, back in Mark 1. “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” (Mark 1:14) You know how with a story that has a really great ending, it kind of makes you want to go back to the beginning and read it again with new eyes? When the man in the tomb says that Jesus will meet us again in Galilee, which is where Jesus’ ministry began, what if he wants us to go back to the beginning of the story and read it again, only this time with new eyes? With resurrection eyes. Because now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, when we go back to re-read the Gospel of Mark, suddenly everything in the gospel of Mark becomes a post-resurrection story. When you re-read Mark as a post-resurrection story, you learn that the resurrected Jesus is still out caring for the sick, and sitting with the people no one else wants to sit with, and loving the people who hate and betray him. And when we realize those things are still happening today, then all of sudden we have something we have something to say about the resurrected Christ in the world today.
We can talk about how the resurrected Christ is alive and well in our world whenever someone serves their neighbor. Whenever someone defends those who have been forced to their knees. Whenever someone loves their enemy. Whenever non-violence is chosen over violence itself. Whenever in the face of hate, one stands up for love. Those are the places where Jesus is resurrected.
And when we look for it, we can start to see resurrection events happening here in this very congregation. Whenever a mosquito net is purchased by someone in rural Minnesota for a child over in Africa, Christ is risen. Whenever someone picks up an extra bottle of shampoo while at the store in order to give to the women and children at the Lilly’s Sparrow house, Christ is risen. Or whenever food is gathered for the local foodshelf, Christ is risen.
Jesus is raised from the dead because you can’t destroy that kind of love. It can’t be sealed in a tomb. God’s love will break out every time. In the end, death does not win. Love wins.
In the end, the women may have walked away afraid not saying anything to anyone. But that’s okay. Because Mark knows there others who can go and tell…Amen.
1). First piece of art come from He Qi, entitled, “Women Arriving at the Tomb.”
2). Second piece of art comes from Leif Michaelson, crafted during Easter Sunday worship.