Loving God, in Christ you have made all things new, Amen
My guess is we have all read books or watched movies or seen TV dramas that end without a real resolution or ending. It might be the couple haven’t decided whether to make a future together. Or the detective working the case where the person who seems to be responsible for the murder cannot be brought to justice.
Sometimes it seems just the way it is …
Some people think the end of Mark’s gospel, our text for today, is just like that. That it ends prematurely …
Let’s go back over the narrative … the most important place to start.
Mark’s writing style, as we have mentioned before is short, sweet, and to the point.
If we can remember back to the gospel of Mark chapter 15, which we heard read on Palm Sunday, the passage ends …
‘Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.’
The narrative starts again in the next breath in chapter 16, our text for today …
‘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.’
It is all part of a continuous narrative. The women were there when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb. And the women (three of them this time) come, may be only 24 hours later, to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. As in many cultures, it was women who prepared the bodies of the dead for burial. It was the tradition to use spices to give a fragrant odour in a warm climate.
Jesus had been buried in a large tomb, not the usual place for an ordinary person. Joseph of Arimathea, who we understand was a follower of Jesus, asked for the body, and laid it in his tomb. Joseph would have been a well-off person to have a plot of land with a grave carved out of rock; large enough to require a large stone to be rolled in front of the tomb.
It was the moving of the stone that was the very matter that concerned the women as they made their way to where Jesus’ body had been placed that morning: how were they to get into the tomb, to anoint the body of Jesus if this large stone was in place? It was likely a whole group of people were required to move it.
Imagine their shock and surprise to find the stone removed. Yet despite how they felt, they were undeterred and went to go into the tomb to find out if the body of Jesus was still in there.
At the grave the women encounter a young man (dressed in white); this indicates the man was likely an angel or messenger from God.
The man tells the women, first not be alarmed. The women likely had a look of horror when they found the tombstone rolled away. Again, that time-honoured expression: do not be afraid.
The same message was given to Mary and Joseph, and to the shepherds out in the fields, in the various gospel accounts: do not be afraid.
Perhaps this very message is one we need to hear once again at this Easter time: Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid … of the trials and tribulations of life … health, our own and that of our loved ones; be concerned, but don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid of the pandemic … yes be careful, follow the medical advice, but don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid about the world and its challenges. Yes, work to make a difference, but don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid about the future, as you grow older, yes plan out what to do, but don’t be afraid.
Life is a wonderful gift that God has given to us. It is meant to be enjoyed; we are encouraged to make the very best of the opportunity. Yes, there will be challenges, there will be sorrows, but there is still so much to be grateful for, to enjoy, to celebrate.
After Good Friday, when we remember the death of Jesus, life continues and goes on and today we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the end of being weighed down by our sin, our problems, and a time to celebrate new life, new beginnings, and new opportunities.
In the northern hemisphere, Easter coincides with spring, and although the weather is changeable, we know that better weather is ahead. This itself should bring us joy, give us hope, and allow us to be delighted by the prospect of sunshine and warmer weather.
Yes, I know the pandemic is not over, and that we cannot be in person for worship today or meet our families and friends in the way we usually do. But lets us be glad that some of us have been vaccinated, that more of us with be having our own shot soon. Let us be pleased that we have completed our Lenten season, that the death of Jesus is behind us and we can with flowers, with light, with candles celebrate new life, new hope.
In the words of Psalm 118 (set for today) … ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’
The gospel according to Mark seems to end (at verse 8) on a slightly confusing note. But remember this is not the end.
Yes, the women left in ‘terror and amazement' but we know this is not the end of the narrative. It is central to our faith that although Jesus died on the cross, Christ rose again on the first Easter morning.
And as remember today, Christ is alive in our hearts and lives and gives us every reason to rejoice and be glad, to celebrate the life we have and opportunities that are ahead. That we walk the road of life, not alone, but with Christ, and with one another walking at our side.
‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’