Christ is risen:
Christ is risen indeed!
Three women go to a tomb with spices to anoint a body. That’s what they did in those days, in that place. Jesus’ body had been taken down from the cross in haste, to avoid it hanging on the Sabbath, and it hadn’t been anointed. The women were coming out of a duty born of love, to pay their last requests to Jesus, whose story had started so well, and ended so devastatingly badly.
But the women were used to washing and anointing dead bodies. They’d knew what to expect—they’d done it many times. They knew grief. This was hard, Jesus having been crucified and all, but they would shed their tears and see it through to the bitter end with every bit of their considerable strength of character. This they could cope with, this they has steeled themselves for. This they expected.
What they got was something else. They approached the tomb, realising they’d forgotten the detail of just who might roll the heavy stone from the entrance, when they found the tomb open.
They peer in, and see a young man, dressed in white—in their time, this was the robe of a martyr. He is sitting on the right side, the place of authority. He tells them that the Crucified One has been raised from death.
He tells them to tell the others that he is going to Galilee, where they will see him. This isn’t what they expected at all. Their resolve evaporates, and they run off, saying nothing to no one.
That’s where Mark’s Gospel ends. It’s the original cliffhanger.
You know, Mark has a great beginning! The first words are
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The first two words of the Gospel are “The beginning”—that’s a clear-cut beginning! But Mark has no end.
Or rather, it has this cliffhanger ending. Jesus is not there—he has been raised—and the women lose it. It’s not what they expected at all. Where do we go with that ending?
When the Gospel of Mark started to be copied, and spread to other places, people found this cliffhanger ending hard to take. So other endings were attached. You can see them if you look at your pew bible. They are called the Shorter Ending and the Longer Ending of Mark, and they have square brackets around them. Very few bible scholars believe they were part of Mark’s original story.
These endings are not what Mark wanted. Mark wanted us to feel something like vertigo, a dizziness of unfulfilled expectations. Christ is truly risen—but others encounter that resurrection through believers like you and me.
Christ is not seen within the pages of Mark’s Gospel because Mark wanted to make it clear that we are the living members of Christ’s body.
We are the way people will know Christ is risen. How? As we follow Jesus to Galilee, which stands for the place where we serve others in Jesus’ name.
You want to be the means by which others know Jesus is truly risen? Love as Jesus loved. You have intellectual doubts about the resurrection? Reach out to others and serve them in Jesus’ name, and you will know Jesus is alive.
Mark isn’t somehow having it both ways, saying Jesus isn’t really risen. But in his world, which was the world of Rome in the 60s of the first century, Christians were persecuted. Nero was the caesar. Being a Christian could get you killed, and you didn’t have physical sight of the risen Lord to comfort you. You had your faith in the Crucified One, who had died and is risen. You had faith that could help you to follow him, wherever that led.
It’s the same for us. In our world, few are granted visions of the risen Lord. We live in a world very different from the world of Jesus, but a world in which the Crucified One is still Lord. He is the one we follow, it is in his name that we live and work as the Church.
In the end, we are the ending of Mark’s Gospel. It is our feeble efforts, linked to his grace and the power of his Spirit, that reach out to a world that still needs to hear: Christ is risen: Christ is risen indeed!