When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus’ body. 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. As 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. (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
So when I was the Chaplain at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, the Drill Instructors would march the new recruits over to the chapel on the first Sunday morning of Recruit Training. The recruits didn’t know their way around the Depot, and besides, the Drill Instructors still controlled virtually every breath the recruits took at this point. The recruits were so nervous. They were still in the stage where they couldn’t do anything right. I just had to do something too put them at ease so I used to tell my recruits this story:
One day there was a terrible accident. A Drill Instructor and a chaplain were both killed. Of course the Drill Instructor was in better shape than the chaplain, so he got to the pearly gates ahead of the chaplain. He sat down with St Peter at the desk to go through the book of life and the chaplain took a seat in the waiting area off to the side. It took a little while, but pretty soon St Peter stood up and extended his hand to the Drill Instructor and said, “Welcome aboard, you’re good to go. Now get your gear and head down this way, then bear to the right and you will find your place of eternal abode, Mansion #3.” The chaplain thought, “Wow! This is going to b great. The Drill Instructor is getting a mansion, I’m going to have a palace!”
So the chaplain confidently sat down with St Peter and they went through the book of life. It took awhile, but soon enough, they were finished. St Peter stood, extended his hand and said, “Welcome aboard, you’re good to go. Get your gear and head down that way, around the corner and then bear to your left. You will find your place of eternal abode, Cottage #4.
The chaplain’s face fell in confusion and he stammered, “There must be some mistake.”
Then it was St Peter’s turn to look surprised. He said, “We don’t usually make mistakes here. Let me look again.”
He pored over his tallies and finally looked up and said, “Nope. It is right. Cottage #4.” The chaplain complained bitterly, “But, I spent my whole life serving the Lord, and I get a cottage while the Drill Instructor gets a mansion?!?” St Peter said gently, “Oh Chaplain, you have to understand. People slept through your sermons, but that Drill Instructor? He really made ‘em pray!”
Traditionally, the first Sunday after Easter is the Sunday for jokes and laughter, because the joke is on the devil at Easter, but with today being April Fools day, and because next Sunday is going to be Mission Sunday, I just had to move it up.
Did any one ever tell Mark that his story had a terrible ending? What kind of writer would write that kind of ending??? They were afraid? So they ran away in terror? And didn’t say anything to anybody???
The critics are going to have a heyday with that one.
That’s an ending that leaves you wanting more, that’s for sure. Or maybe Mark is setting up the sequel to his blockbuster hit.
Well, not to be a spoiler, but we already know Mark did NOT write a sequel, but you might look in your Bible and see that there is some fine print after this point in Mark’s gospel. You see, the critics really DIDN’T like it, so over the years they tried adding some details. There are actually two alternate endings. But you see, the joke is on those who have tried to add to it, because Mark’s original ending is really all that was needed.
First of all, we have to recognize, Mark is spoofing us when he says they didn’t tell anyone. That can’t be true or we wouldn’t be here today. If the women hadn’t told anyone, no one would know about Jesus’s resurrection or the empty tomb. So what is Mark trying to accomplish? That’s one question.
Second question is why would Mark write that the women were afraid and and ran away if he is trying to tell all of posterity how wonderful it is to believe in Jesus and how important it is to be faithful? That doesn’t seem like good marketing at all.
But let’s go back and look at it again.
The women go to the tomb to take care of Jesus’s body, but he isn’t there. They have worried about moving the stone, but that worry was for nothing. The stone was already moved. And come to find out, if you want to see Jesus, don’t go to the tomb. Go to Galilee where he has promised to meet them.
Seems like Mark wants us to work for the answers.
He wants us to invest in the end of the story. He wants US, his readers, to be part of the story.
The stranger in the tomb tells the women that Jesus will meet Peter and the disciples in Galilee. Why Galilee? Because that is where the bulk of Jesus’s ministry took place. That is the place where the work happened! That is where the people were fed and the hurting were healed. That’s the stuff of following Jesus.
Easter Sunday and the empty tomb is all well and good. The celebration of this day is truly wonderful; filled with joy, excitement, festive dinners with family and friends. On this day there is laughter. But to get to where Jesus is, we have to go back into real life. Following Jesus is all about getting down and dirty making a difference in the world doing what Jesus did. Feeding people so they weren’t hungry any more was what Jesus was all about. Healing people, setting people free from what burdens them; Jesus brings relief so they weren’t hurting anymore.
That’s how we follow Jesus, by bringing people relief.
The joke is on the devil every time a group gets together and builds a house for someone who lives in a shack made of old garage doors and tied together pieces of tin. The joke is on the devil when a Stephen Minister sits with their care receiver and really listens to their concerns. The joke is on the devil when the churches in a community work together to provide food that might otherwise go to waste to people who don’t have enough. The joke is on the devil when a family prays together and when a church family comes to the aid of one of their own.
On this Easter Day, celebrate. Have fun. Eat your chocolate bunnies and your peeps and be happy. But tomorrow, get to Galilee. Jesus is there waiting for you to get to join him in doing his work.
Please join me in prayer.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are 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.