He has gone before you

Week of April 12
Easter Day 2009
Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?' When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.' So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

This is where the oldest manuscripts of Mark end. There has been much speculation about "lost pages," and which, if any, of the later endings are the most authoritative. All of this is a measure of our discomfort with the message of the gospel.

Personally, I like the ending as it is! it is uncomfortable and challenging. It is not reassuring in the way of the other gospel endings. But the abrupt end fits the "edgy" style of the rest of the gospel of Mark.

"Edgy" is a word of my children's generation which suits Mark. Mark is provocative and daring, and like any edgy art work, not accidental. Jesus is not a domesticated Messiah, and the gospel is not built from easy images. The savage irony of the release of Barabbas is carefully slapped against the absolute despair of Jesus. Bar Abbas roughly means "Son of the Father." The real Son of the Father felt absolutely deserted; "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Even this despairing death is crafted. The edginess is deliberately and carefully constructed. My God My God.... is the beginning of a famous psalm. So the cry of desolation serves two purposes. It is despair, and real dying with no sneaky divine avoidance of the pain of death. And yet, for the reader who knows their scripture it is also a cry of hope. Psalm 22 concludes in triumph. Out of all the suffering God hears us:

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him...

In this edgy gospel it is then no real surprise that resurrection is an empty grave from which people flee. It's the style of Mark; bold, confronting, and on second appraisal, full of meaning. Where is Jesus, the risen Lord? Back in Galilee, at home in your ordinary life, where you first met him. To see the risen Lord, live life. It is even for the Peters among us; those who have failed and then denied him.

Partners in Urban Transformation puts this far better than I can:

"He is going ahead of you to Galilee." It is here that the Gospel of Mark comes to its abrupt end. But its end is, intentionally, no end at all! ...... As each person meets the resurrected Jesus and decides whether to accept Jesus' call to a radicalized faith and to act upon that faith, the new covenant community keeps on being recreated, and we follow Jesus into our "Galilees" as we each answer his ongoing call to discipleship. And as we follow him, then - and only then - is the Gospel of Mark completed as it is being lived out in our world!

Will we will return to Galillee, or remain romanticizing the cross?

Andrew Prior

Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!





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