The Gospel according to Mark, which is the shortest and earliest account of Jesus’ earthly life, tells of the women coming to complete the practice of wrapping a corpse in fresh linen scented with herbs and oils, which had been halted by the approaching Sabbath. They had to wait for the first day of a new week which on their Hebrew calendar was Sunday. At first dawn they hurried and found the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb was rolled away and the burial slab was empty!
A voice meant to reassure them that “He is risen!” had the opposite effect. … 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.
That’s where John Mark, reported to be the writer of that account, ended the Easter morning story, with the first witnesses running away in fear, too afraid to speak!
Two things must be remembered when reading Mark’s Gospel; One, that the opening announcement is meant to be the story line carried through to the end: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Two, that what follows is one word-picture after another of individuals responding to that announcement brought to life in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The forces of evil, people looking to be entertained or healed from their illness, the religious leaders both Jewish and Roman, one after another responded in some way.
While, from beginning to end, Jesus’ disciples, chosen to carry on His ministry, and His closest friends, women who traveled with Him and served His daily needs, remained deaf to the good news of Jesus, God’s Son; they appear to be clueless and unresponsive to the last line. Even the sight of the empty tomb escaped their remembering Jesus had said He would be raised from the dead and that His closest friends would see Him,
but those who were the first to see the evidence, fled…and said nothing. Implying that they failed to connect what they were seeing with what Jesus had promised.
Later a shorter and then a longer ending were attached to cast the women and the disciples in a better light,
and give the story a happy ending.
But today, it’s the original Gospel that is heard, the one that ends at verse 8; the ending that invites us to read ourselves into the story, scene after scene, to the final one of the empty tomb, where, as baptized, confirmed members of Christ’s church, we, when hearing the unsettling ending: … 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. might have us seeing ourselves in those women, who at story’s end, turn to run away as they did, in fear and terror, driven away by the fear of the unknown, or the fear of being expected to accept what is unacceptable to thinking, reasoning person.
Or, are we misreading them? Are we jumping to an invalid judgment? And in doing that, also miscasting ourselves when we overlook one more word John Mark used to describe those women who ran away in fear and said nothing? Let’s not forget to add: amazement had seized them.
Amazement – the word which is John Mark’s subtle hint that those women were running away, not out of disbelief, but out of seeing what for them was beyond imaging, beyond comprehending sight. Theirs was the fear that what they were seeing couldn’t possible happen: That there is a God Who literally broke the chains of death that took the shape of the nails of crucifixion and escaped the stone-sealed tomb humans had used to keep God dead.
Yet. they were seeing an open grave and an empty slab, a sight so amazing that words like “fear” and “terror” describe a very natural human reaction to the kept promise of Jesus.
The sight of the empty tomb is not an illusion, not “an idle tale” spun by a grief-stricken mind, but amazingly true!
A sight so amazing that it stretches human comprehension to accept the unthinkable, that God would choose to turn the deadly darkness of Good Friday into the blazing dawn of Easter Sunday!
A sight so amazing, that we humans are amazed into silence, for what can humans say, how can humans find the words to thank God, to praise God? And so, the women were silent!
“Amazement,” yes that is a response, which Jesus’ closest friends would later find changed their fear into faith,
as the Easter Jesus made down-to-earth contact with Peter and then the twelve, so that Paul who had to rely on their being the witnesses, came to say to Christians in Corinth: so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
The word we hear today added to the Gospel that has us picking up on the ending, knowing now it is our time to be amazed with an amazement that has us searching for signs of the Risen Christ that will change us from running in fear to running on faith, the faith that somewhere Jesus is present to be seen through a very human action or words, through which we can “come to believe” “The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed!”
It was an Easter sight that almost evaded my attention as I waited for the elevator to take me from one floor to another at a medical care facility. A small blind man who often cries out in pain and fear, was in his usual daytime place in a reclining chair in the hallway. Another patient, an older woman in a wheel chair, maneuvered her way to be beside him so she could take his hand and stroke it. As she did, her touch quieted him and brought a smile to his face and a spark of life, and I thought, “The Easter Jesus is making Himself present through her touch; He is keeping His promise!”
As He waits to do when we come to be His guests at the Easter table of Holy Communion and who knows when and where beyond today?