Spoiler alert, for Risen Christ appearance stories stay tuned to the first three Sundays of the Easter season where John and Luke will fill us in on breaking news.
If the end of Mark’s account of the Gospel leaves you wondering why he did not provide detailed descriptions of the various sightings of the Risen Christ Jesus, imagine what the first readers thought of this a mere 30 or 40 years after the events of Jesus’ earthly life.
Those first readers and hearers would know some of the stories through oral tradition. Mark avoids re-telling them for a reason.
Mark, or John Mark, came to faith through the witness of the early followers; he probably traveled with Paul on one or more of his missionary journeys and likely was well acquainted with one or more of the original 12.
He had occasion to see how the Gospel message in its handing down through oral transmission could be “domesticated” and diluted by well-meaning preachers and pastors.
His entire Gospel account, but particularly these 8 verses are evidence that Mark is not a pastor trying to “hold the center” of his flock, but rather Mark is an evangelist and a prophet and a goad continually asking, “what does it mean to follow Christ?”
Let me take you into Mark’s symbolic universe for a few moments to better appreciate how rich and compact these 8 verses are.
1, The women are both the observant Jews going to fulfill the Torah laws for proper burial which had not been done in the hurry before the beginning of Sabbath.
And the women are true disciples and “diakonia” (deacons) of the early church who follow Jesus’ example (practice) of servant leadership.
2, The young man in the white robe seated on the right side connects to the young man in the Garden as Jesus is arrested.
And the young man’s robe is like that of Jesus at his transfiguration.
And sitting at the right side indicates a place of privilege and honor.
3, The young man says you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth; he is not here, which reminds us of the many times the crowds sought out Jesus to hear his words and to have him heal them.
Jesus was previously titled the “human one” throughout Mark’s account until this point when he is given a new title of the “crucified one”.
4, The women are alarmed (or “deeply troubled”) which term is used to describe Jesus in the Garden as he anticipates his execution.
5, The community Jesus had formed destructed when Judas betrayed him and the disciples (that is, all the men) fled and Peter denied Jesus; now it is time to re-construct the community. But it must be re-constructed or re-formed back where it all began, in Galilee.
6, Finally, instead of heeding the admonition to go and tell, the women flee and say nothing to anyone.
I think Mark give his readers/hearers a broad wink here because early in the Gospel Jesus warns those who are healed to say nothing, but they always ignore his admonition.
Mark wanted them and us to return to the Galilee of our time and place to resume living the Good News as Jesus had done and promises to do in and through us.
The Risen Christ Jesus goes before us into the compromised and stressed places of our world and our lives.
There we will practice forming community in the face of whatever strikes fear into our hearts.
We will never encounter the Crucified and Risen One at the center of worldly or religious power.
Galilee is the backwater where the “glorified” Christ precedes us, beckoning us to follow and die with him.
Jesus, once again, disrupts expectations, those of the disciples and those of other powers.
The Crucified and Risen One precedes us into the most vulnerable (tender) and compromised places.
Wherever we perceive fear – personally, communally, socially – the Crucified and Risen One goes before us into those places and bids us find the truth.
Frequently the truth is masked by commonly held assumptions, such as blaming the victim for his or her lot in life or finding a scapegoat when a power imbalance is the real issue.
e.g., nuclear family / kinship: How many of us replicate the dynamics of the previous generations and despair of ever experiencing a healthy and high functioning family?
The crucified and risen one precedes us in our quest for the truth that will set us free to love with authentic mutuality.
neighborhood: How many people in the Madison metro area live from paycheck to paycheck, allocating over 50% of their income to housing and always falling behind?
The crucified and risen one precedes us in looking at the obstacles that keep people poor.
village / city: How many people born in this country are permanent refugees moving from place to place and state to state trying to escape violence?
The crucified and risen one precedes us in laying bare the racism and classism and meritocracy that offends against all the commandments.
nation / country; how many people around the globe at this time are without a country that will accept them?
The crucified and risen one precedes us in naming the scandalous inaction that relegates millions to refugee camps.
Then the Crucified and Risen One instructs us in building community that provides an alternative to fear-based existence.
The crucified and risen one precedes us in constructing communities of believers that provide alternative visions to the hardened power-based relationships that oppress, enslave and desecrate the garden that is this earth.
If we read the Gospel accounts closely, we know that Jesus did not have an easy time of it as he called and instructed his followers.
We should not expect that our efforts to replicate the early community of followers will be any smoother sailing than they had.
We should expect misunderstandings and pettiness and betrayal and flight from the hard work of living the Christ life.
What Mark’s closing verses tell us is that the crucified and risen one precedes us in all we attempt to do in Christ’s name.
The freedom and the joy we experience in this process reveals the Crucified and Risen Christ Jesus to others.
In our return to Eucharist during this Holy Week, we remind ourselves that the crucified and risen one invites to this table of communion to nourish and sustain us on the journey.
********************************************************************Our crucified one lives, for death has no dominion over him. And so we, God’s holy church, proclaim the resurrection, saying: Christ is risen! Amen, Alleluia! …we pray
Created in the image and likeness of God, we pray to see God’s image in one another. May our lives proclaim: Christ is risen! Amen, Alleluia! …we pray
Tested in our faith and strengthened by God’s love, we pray for open hearts, that we may live to proclaim Christ is risen! Amen, Alleluia! …we pray
Joining with those who share in the passion of Christ through illness, famine, war, temptation, and trial, we pray for their courage and strength that those who suffer may proclaim Christ is risen! Amen, Alleluia! …we pray
United in our hope that we and all who die will live again, we pray for family and friends who have died, proclaiming Christ is risen! Amen, Alleluia! …we pray
FOR THE PRAYERS LISTED IN OUR BOOK OF INTENTIONS, AND THE PRAYERS WE HOLD SILENTLY IN OUR HEARTS, we pray …
Loving and true God. you have glorified Christ Jesus as the pledge of our freedom from sin and death, receive our praise and prayer through Christ our Lord, the great Amen and our Alleluia, now and forever. Amen.