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Shocked and Silent - Easter Message 2015

. 3 min read

2015/04/05
Christ Church, Mountain Top – EASTER!
Call
to Worship, Psalm 118, excerpts
Children,
empty box
Message,
Mark 16.1-8
  
My
embarrassing moment – shocked and silent
  
For
those of us who come to church regularly and proclaim “Christ has died. Christ
is risen. Christ will come again,” the Easter story can get a little stale. We
know how it ends, we are familiar with the foregone conclusion, even more
certain than an undefeated Kentucky team finishing the season at the top of
NCAA men’s basketball. In fact, if you like upsets, you might even start
rooting for the story to end with Jesus dead: When the women got to the tomb,
they found the stone sealed shut, the soldiers refusing entrance, but after a
little bargaining, they were allowed in to anoint Jesus’ dead body with myrrh,
an ancient embalming perfume. Then, they left to prepare macaroni salad and
turkey sandwiches for the funeral dinner. Because it’s OVER.
      As Ben Franklin said, “Nothing is certain
in this world except death and taxes” (BrainyQuote.com).

Instead,
the women show up and Jesus is missing. The tomb is empty. And, by the way,
while history and science can never prove something like resurrection, there is
plenty of evidence to support the history that Jesus died by crucifixion, that
his tomb was empty, and that his followers believed him to be risen.
      The women show up and Jesus is missing. No
wonder they are “shocked and silent”, or, in the words of the text before us,
“alarmed”, in “terror and amazement”, “afraid”, and saying “nothing” (16.5, 8).
The most ancient copies of Mark’s gospel that we have end the account right
there. What we see after verse 8 in our Bibles is from later copies. This is
one of the very few significant textual questions in the Bible, which, given
the ancient history of the text, is actually quite amazing and, compared to
other ancient texts, much more reliable by a huge margin.
      “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 16.8). I love this cliff-hanger ending. It has many
implications and it is remarkably consistent with the literary style of Mark’s
gospel. I just want to raise one of these implications: Resurrection is a
surprise ending, an ending that changes everything.
  
Jesus
was crucified by his own people as a blasphemer who declared that God’s kingdom
was for the poor and that the beloved community was for the outcast. And, in
his death, that vision of the kingdom and beloved community died. Jesus was
crucified by the Roman authorities as a rebel who proclaimed freedom for the
slave. And, in his death, that hope for freedom died. Jesus was crucified in
the deepest pain of “God-forsakenness”. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?” (Mark 15.34). And, in his death, he is forsaken to the uttermost.
      Christ has died. Christ is risen! The
outcast has a home. The poor have a kingdom. The slave is set free. And God
becomes Father to all the forsaken (Moltmann, 85-98).
  
In
1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul makes a lengthy argument regarding the
necessity and the historicity of Christ’ resurrection. Everything in the
Christian faith hangs on the resurrection. He writes, “If Christ has not been
raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.
… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your
sins” (1 Corinthians 15.14, 17).
      If you are someone who likes the universal
love and inclusive vision of Jesus’ kingdom, it does not exist without Easter.
If you are someone who values human rights and individual liberties, well, they
cannot exist even in imperfect form without Easter. If you appreciate the fact
that God embraces the broken and accompanies the forsaken, none of that is
possible without Easter.
  
No
wonder those first witnesses, those apostolic women, originally shocked and
silent at this huge surprise ending . . . no wonder they began to tell the
story.
  
Resources:
Jurgen
Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the
Spirit.