Devotional Message for Easter Sunday; Year B (4/1/2018)

REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY TEXTS

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1st Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
St. Mark 16:1-8 or St. John 20:1-18

Prayer of the Day

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

16:1 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. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 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. 6 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. 7 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.” 8 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.

St. Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

“Go, Tell…”

In our Bible there are five unique stories which refer to the resurrection of Jesus. They can be found in 1st Corinthians 15, Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24 and John 20-21. The Gospel accounts describe the first Easter morning, and 1st Corinthians relates an incident that may have taken place as many as six years later. Each writer describes the scene a bit differently than the others. Some of the details don’t quite match up when it come to the witnesses at the tomb and the messengers sent from God. But the scene is the same: it is early morning on that first Easter Sunday. And the message is the same: Jesus is not there, but has gone ahead and will meet his followers in Galilee

Of all the accounts, St. Mark’s has long intrigued me the most. Mark tells us that these three women, Mary and Mary and Salome, go to the tomb in order to anoint Jesus for his burial. They wonder out loud about how they will enter the tomb, since it had been sealed the night before — one might make the case that they hadn’t quite thought this all through. But it ends up not mattering. When they arrive they notice that the large stone has already been rolled away from the tomb. And as they enter the tomb, they see a young man in a white robe sitting on the right side of the tomb. They are initially alarmed. And even though he assures them they shouldn’t be, the story ends up with them fleeing from the tomb, seized with terror and amazement, and afraid to say anything to anyone.

Many Bible students believe that verse 8 is the last verse that exists from Mark’s original account. If this is the original ending of Mark’s account, it is a troubling ending. The only witnesses to the angel’s message are paralyzed by the experience. They are commanded to spread the word, but can’t bring themselves to do it. And if that isn’t enough, the original Greek manuscript ends with the word “for” — καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ — “and nothing to nobody they said; they were filled with fear for.” This is a most unsatisfying ending for such a powerful story. No wonder later scribes added as many as three separate endings to the manuscript to correct what they understood to be a troubling error.

What if it wasn’t an error? What if St. Mark intended to leave off exactly where he seems to have? There is nothing that sticks in our minds like an unfinished ending, is there? After all, what ever happened to the older brother of the Prodigal Son? And anyone who knows anything about the story of Jesus Christ knows that it didn’t end there. Somebody eventually said something, since more than two billion of us alive today have some degree of faith in this story. 

Perhaps St. Mark didn’t end the story in chapter sixteen because he realized the story in fact hadn’t ended yet. It may well be a story that has no ending, at least not yet, because it continues to be played out in the lives of those who do what these three women couldn’t bring themselves to do. It continues to be told when people like you and me find ways to share our faith with others who haven’t yet heard. When we are able to make what First Peter describes as “a gentle and reverent defense for the hope that is in us.”

So come and hear the story this Sunday. Then go and tell it to someone. Share with them the hope this story inspires in your heart. Share with them the Easter Good News. This is the ministry to which God has called us. May we be faithful in doing so.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why aren’t the three women able to tell anyone about what they have seen and heard?
  2. Does it make sense that St. Mark may have intentionally ended the story at this verse?
  3. How does this story continue in the lives of the earliest believers in Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. How do I imagine the exchange between the angels and witnesses on that first Easter day?
  2. What is it about my faith in Jesus that gives me hope?
  3. How might I share this with others, in a way that is gentle and reverent?