Our narrative (Mark 16: 1 – 8) this morning is built upon and continues from that of last Sunday.
On Palm/Passion Sunday, we recalled the final week of Jesus’ life from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his arrest, passion, crucifixion, death, and him placed within the tomb. Yet, this morning we joyfully proclaim another mystery of faith: the resurrection, for “He is Risen! (He has Risen Indeed!)”
The resurrection account in Mark, however, is often misunderstood as lacking. Let’s review Mark’s account:
The women, attending to their expected duties, are traveling to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They are concerned about how they stone will be rolled away.
The women arrive at the tomb, probably surprised, to find that the stone has already been rolled away. So, they enter it.
An angel, similar to an administrative assistant, informs the women that Jesus is not present or available at the moment for Jesus has more pressing matters to attend, including going ahead of his disciples to Galilee. Oh, and the angel asks these women to pass the message along to the disciples, especially Peter.
These women, understandably, are seized by a sense of fear and awe that leaves them speechless as they flee the tomb.
As I shared last week, Mark does not offer the theological embellishments, or self-interpretations, that the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John does; therefore it does not offer church doctrine or intellectually satisfying answers to the mystery of faith that is the resurrection. Mark, however, offers us that complex drama to contemplate and ponder.
In Mark’s account, Jesus prevents the demons, those individuals healed, and his disciples form proclaiming his identity as the Messiah, as the Son of God. We (theological types) call this the “messianic secret”. This “secret” was, perhaps, about preventing a misunderstanding of who Jesus was and what Jesus would do.
The invitation for the disciples to return to Galilee, where Jesus was going before them, is an invitation for the disciples to return to the place where Mark’s gospel and Jesus’ ministry begins. It is an invitation to ‘rethink’ and ponder their experience and the narrative in light of the resurrection. This invitation is extended to us. This invitation is for us to ponder who Jesus was and is; and what Jesus did and continues to do.
In Mark’s account, we are offered two distinctively different aspects of Jesus the Christ’s personality.
Jesus the Christ is fearless. He is an whirlwind of divine presence with a sense of urgency in his mission (Mark 3:27).
Jesus the Christ, also, is a passivist. He is a silent victim that would be arrested, assaulted, mocked, and executed by crucifixion (Mark chapters 14 – 15).
The gospel of Mark never reconciles these different aspects of Jesus the Christ. We, the readers, are never shown how to logically or intellectually resolve the tension between these aspects of Jesus the Christ’s personality and identity. Mark, instead, holds these aspects in tension before our wondering eyes (hearts and minds); in order to understand Jesus, like Mark, we must also hold and ponder these aspects in the light of the resurrection. For Mark is a gospel of both/and not either/or.
May we ponder who Jesus was and is, as well as, what Jesus did and continues to do in light of the resurrection. Amen.