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. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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. 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.” 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. Mark 16: 1-8
In the words of Thomas Long, theologian and preacher, “That’s no way to run a resurrection!”[i] He is referring to the account of Jesus’ resurrection as recorded in the Gospel of Mark that we heard a minute ago. And I have to agree with him. There are no post resurrection meals by the side of the sea with his disciples up in the Galilee, there are no tender garden embraces and no gardener’s, Mark’s ending is just not filled with joy and probably it is not worthy of all of the alleluias that we sing out today. That’s just no way to run a resurrection!
You have to admit, this is one abrupt and dramatic ending, “…so [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” And then the Gospel just ends. Of course there are attempts to add on and ease the Gospel up a bit but the original Mark just ends. The women have run off, silenced by their fear.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were followers too of Jesus and were faithfully with him until he drew his last breath of life. They stood and watched his suffering along with all of the other Jews who were crucified that day. There were so many. But this poor soul was their friend and rabbi. They were filled with grief as any of us would be when we watch a loved one suffer. I’m sure you can identify.
Then, after the Sabbath when they could go to the tomb, they brought with them some special spices for anointing Jesus body. There was just not enough time to do so before the beginning of Shabbat. But on the way to the tomb they were worried about rolling that large stone away from the entrance. Good point. That would have worried and kept me up all night too. You know how worries get much larger and luminous at night in your head.
But when they got there, and much to their surprise, it was already rolled away. So curious! How and who could have moved that boulder away? They hurried right inside without a moment’s hesitation, not to find their beloved friend Jesus but in his place was this stranger, a man dressed in white. That would be shocking and sad, not to mention confusing all at once. Who is this person anyway that knows so much? How does he know such things about Jesus? This is really not what the women expected at all.
So the women run. They turn around and high tail it out of the cold and empty tomb stricken with fear. And that is the end of the story. There is no resolution. We don’t really know what they did.
Now we are the ones standing at the gaping, cavernous, wide open and tomb. What are you going to do?
Alasdair McIntyre, Professor of Philosophy and Theology notes: "I cannot answer the question "What ought I to do?" unless I first answer the question "Of which story am I a part?""
What we read today is a story of people long, long ago and it is God’s story, through Christ, of redemption and renewal. It is ultimately our story too. This resurrection story gives us spectacles through which to see ourselves out of tough situations, out of sad circumstances, or deplorable conditions, out of our empty tombs. Let’s face it sometimes it’s really hard to see that proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. I know. I’ve been there too. But because of the resurrection I know it is there. Christ’s resurrection helps you to envision a real future ahead for yourself, where life follows death where hope thrives. This is the faithful promise of Easter.
Our lives are filled with unending tales and unanswered questions but the resurrection of Christ allows us to look beyond that. Christ’s life, death, and life is a circuitous cycle of rebirth. Let that be your story, today and everyday, too.