The Resurrection Experience
24 April 2017
An illustration of the Resurrection from an 18th-century Ethiopian psalter ( From the Special Collections of the University of St Andrews)
On Friday afternoon, Joseph of Arimathea completed his task of burying the Lord. The women who no doubt began their task of embalming the body returned on the first day of the week to complete the anointing of the body. They were unable to complete this task before the Sabbath. However, when they arrived at the tomb, the suddenly realized that they needed help to move the stone slab which had been placed at the entrance. But they were in for a surprise. The stone had been removed, the tomb was empty, and a heavenly messenger, a white-robed young man, gave them a peculiar message:
Do not be frightened. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. - Mark 16 6
The reaction of the women to the strange tale was one of fear, amazement, and disbelief. Even before the women could get over this first Good News of Jesus Christ, they were given the responsibility fo sharing the amazing and incredible message:
But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, as He told you - Mark 16 7
They went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - Mark 16 8
For Mark, the reaction of the women had to be accepted. His Gospel ends abruptly with the words: "for they were afraid". Another writer, perhaps thinking that Mark's Gospel was unfinished, sort to provide a suitable ending. In that way, Mark 16 9-19 came to be written. Some scholars hold that impending persecution prevented Mark from completing the Gospel. Others hold that a part of his manuscript may have been torn off. But there seems to be no agreement on the question as to what really happened.
The abrupt ending and the reaction of the women were seen to be appropriate when one confronts the challenge of the resurrection and the tremendous responsibility of that little church of Mark's. The might of Roman society was pitted against the small Christian community. Again, could the women remain calm and composed with this great responsibility of proclaiming God's Good News amidst antagonistic and hostile forces?
But Mark 16:8 is also a powerful call to action. Throughout his Gospel, Mark makes the point that despite the fact that Jesus' followers were continually exposed to many astonishing and amazing works which often left them "afraid", "amazed" or "in fear" the only person to actually publicly speak out and identify Jesus as the Son of God was the Roman Centurion who was responsible for his arrest, trial and execution. So when you are challenged to spread the word and bear witness to Jesus' works are you going to run away and remain silent or go missing like Peter? Or will you be brave enough to:
Not be ashamed to confess the Faith of Christ crucifiedAmen
To Fight valiantly under the banner of Christ against sin, the world, and evil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.