Of all the Bible’s accounts of the first Easter Sunday, the one that I like the best can be found in the gospel of Mark. According to the earliest and best manuscripts, Mark’s telling of the story ends like this: A young man dressed in white appears to the women who came to the tomb and tells them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He has risen! Go tell his disciples, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:6-7).
Of course, that’s the promise on which our faith is built, and it’s the kind of news that you’d expect people to get excited about! And maybe that’s why “what comes next” seems so unexpected. The very next verse says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)
That’s it. According to the scholars, that’s the way Mark’s gospel ends. Not exactly a rousing declaration of Easter triumph, is it? Why on earth would the Bible describe the greatest victory that was ever won in a way that seems so weak and unresolved?
Well, in the opinion of my New Testament professor in seminary (who seemed to know what he was talking about), Mark concluded his gospel this way because it puts the real end of the story in the hands of the reader. Think about it. The fact that we’re reading the message of Jesus’ resurrection means that this great news is now in our hands. So what are we going to do with it? Trembling and bewildered, will we go out and tell no one? OR…grateful and confident…will we share with others the promise of Easter: that not even death can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
This year, as our church family welcomes the celebration of resurrection hope, there’s a lot going on among us that could leave us “trembling and bewildered.” There are folks in our fellowship dealing with loss and illness…weakness and stress…pain and uncertainty. But in the face of all that, a messenger comes and says: “Jesus is risen! He’s going ahead of you – and you will see him, just as he told you.” What will we do with the promise of Easter?