(Mark 16:1-8) Jesus is risen – that’s our Easter message. But, what do we understand by it? In the space of one week we have remembered Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds shouting and cheering him. We have recalled the last meal that Jesus had with his friends and the instructions he left that when we break bread and drink wine together we should remember him. We have shared in the agony and pain of Jesus’ crucifixion and the total desolation that his mother and his followers experienced as he died. And now we celebrate our belief that his death was not the end but that God restored Jesus to life, not so that he would then die in old age but that he would live forever and be a living Lord and Saviour for us all.
The resurrection is fundamental to our Christian belief and yet is not easy to understand and accept. It’s not really surprising that many people simply reject the idea and sceptics try to explain it away, by, for instance, suggesting that Jesus didn’t really die and that in the cool of the tomb he then recovered. Yet, the gospels each point to the fact that the cross was not the end for Jesus.
My favourite account of the resurrection, that we’ve not heard this morning, is St John’s beautiful account of the women going to the tomb and finding it empty. The others go off but Mary Magdalene remains weeping beside the tomb, when someone, who she takes to be the gardener, speaks to her. She begins to question him about what has happened to the body and all he says is her name, and Mary knows immediately that it is Jesus.
In some ways, the account in St Marks’ gospel that we’ve heard this morning is less satisfactory because it doesn’t record anyone actually seeing Jesus. Indeed, it presents quite a disturbing account because the women who have shown such love and devotion in following him right up until this point are now terrified into silence. So, on a first reading we might be forgiven for thinking that Jesus’ life and death had achieved nothing.
But, St Mark clearly does believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and in these concluding verses of his Gospel, he intentionally emphasises the mystery and awesomeness of the Resurrection. But, he also believed that the world would end soon and the early church had to be ready for that, which explains the urgency of this passage. The Gospel says that the risen Jesus has gone ahead to Galilee and, the disciples, despite all their failures and failings, are again called to follow him. If they follow him, they will find him. That message is for us too. We also are called to follow Jesus who goes ahead of us. And if we follow him, he will show us the way to God.
Perhaps in the strange providence of God, the way St Mark’s Gospel ends encourages us to explore our faith again. There is a blank at the end of the narrative that we’re invited to fill ourselves. It encourages us to think again about how we feel about Easter and Jesus’ resurrection. It encourages us to reflect on how well we know the risen Lord and to ask how we can get to know him better. It encourages us to ask where it is that Jesus is calling us to follow him? To wonder what tasks he has for us to undertake today, tomorrow, in the coming weeks? And, whatever it is we are asked to do may we respond to his beckoning call wherever that may lead.