The holy gospel according to Mark, the 16th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
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. 5 As 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.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
This morning’s gospel reading seems incomplete, doesn’t it? If you have ever been to church on Easter Sunday, you know this story. Today’s reading seems to end abruptly, like the cliffhanger at the end of the season for a tv show.
If you check your Bibles when you get home, you will see that this is the shorter ending to the gospel of Mark. Most scholars believe this ending is what Mark intended and that the added verses are just that, added later, because the early church was uncomfortable with this ending. They just can’t let the story end there, with fear and silence.
In our reading, we hear the familiar story about Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome on their way to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They are concerned about the stone in front of the opening to the tomb. But, the stone has been rolled away!
Jesus is not there! His body is not there! But there is a young man, sitting inside the tomb, where the body should be. The young man speaks calmly to the women, but it doesn’t work. They are still terrified and amazed.
Some say this young man dressed in white was an angel. Others speculate he was a young man named Mark, the author of the gospel, himself. The author doesn’t tell us who the young man is, but there are some clues. It was commonplace for writers to insert themselves anonymously into their books. We know that the gospel writer Mark was a young man whose mother was a follower of Jesus.
Chapter 14 is the only other place in his gospel where Mark mentions a young man. This is the story of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. There is a certain young man who was following Jesus. This young man was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. When the authorities grabbed him, the young man left the linen cloth, and ran off naked. Most scholars believe this young man was Mark, the author of the gospel.
If you were the gospel writer, you might have wanted to include those details, because it’s an interesting side note, but you might not want to say it was you who ran away naked.
Three days later, the young man isn’t naked any more. He is wearing a white robe. In the early church, baptism was done at the Easter vigil, in the dark of night, before the sunrise. Candidates were baptized naked, and given a white robe when they came up out of the water. Then they received their first communion at the celebration of the Resurrection. Mark’s first readers would have made this connection with baptism at Easter.
If Mark is the young man he writes about, then he is putting himself into the story. And that would explain some things. For example, if the women really said nothing to anyone, how do we even know about the empty tomb? And how does the gospel writer know all those other stories about Jesus?
If Mark is the young man, then this is his story, too. He was there. He was witness to the betrayal and arrest. Perhaps he was hanging around in the background the next day when Jesus was crucified. He watched from a distance when Jesus was laid in the tomb. He saw the risen Lord and promised to wait and give a message to the disciples.
The young man gave the women the message. “Tell the disciples that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
Mark’s story is incomplete. You don’t get to see Jesus at the empty tomb. You have to go to Galilee to see Jesus. If you want to experience the risen Jesus you have to go to the places where he showed you what baptismal resurrection looks like.
You have to go to Galilee where Jesus raised Peter’s mother-in-law out of a fever. Where he restored her to her rightful place in the family and society.
You have to go to Galilee where Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. Where he gave this man the dignity and ability to work so he can support himself and his family.
You have to go to Galilee where Jesus calms the storms that rock your boat and make you afraid.
You have to go to Galilee where Jesus heals and brings freedom to a boy threatened by a demon. You have to go to Galilee where Jesus restores sight to a man born blind.
We are like the disciples. There are times when we are traveling from the fear and silence of the grave, hoping that the road will take us to see Jesus in Galilee. Many places are Galilee for us. These are the places where we see the healing power of Jesus.
Mark’s story is incomplete. Mark places himself in it. He sends the disciples ahead to see Jesus in all the places where Jesus has shown them what a resurrected life looks like.
Mark’s story is incomplete. He even starts the book by saying it’s the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. So, he knows this is just the beginning. And Mark knows he is in the story. He shows us that the women are in the story. He tells us that the disciples are in the story. Mark tells us the places that Jesus promises to show up.
Mark’s story is just the beginning. The saints of the church are part of the story. All the faithful who have gone before us are part of the story. Our lives are part of the story, too. And our part of the story isn’t finished yet.
Our entrance into the story started like Mark’s. We entered the world naked. When we were baptized, we were baptized into the death of Christ, and received the white robe of righteousness. Now, the only death we every have to fear is behind us. Because all those who are baptized into Christ’s death are baptized into his resurrection.
Mark’s story is incomplete. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is just the beginning. We are in this story.
Today, the young man speaks calmly to you, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
We continue in the story, where Jesus meets us in the Galilee places of our lives. Our parents are part of the story. Our descendants will be in the story, too. Mark’s story is incomplete. Resurrection is only the beginning.
Alleluia Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.