Summary: The resurrection of Jesus is Good News, surely? So why is everybody so scared? ...
(6)...“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. (7)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.” (8) 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.
And so ends the gospel of Mark - a funny note to end on really – the disciples of Jesus ‘running’ from the tomb terrified and confused. ‘Go and tell his disciples...’ says the man in white, but the women don’t tell anything to anybody. ‘Terror’ and ‘amazement’ had seized them, it says, and so the gospel closes with this picture of the friends of Jesus, not joyfully celebrating the wonders of the resurrection, but rather running about with dumb looks on their faces, wondering what to do next!
This is an odd sort of way to finish the gospel. Perhaps as you look through your Bible you’ll notice a longer and more detailed ending that indeed gives details about the actual reunion that took place between Jesus and the disciples, but read the fine print (which may be in the margin of your Bible). You’ll see there that these longer endings (and you may have a couple of them) were early endings that were added to the gospel of Mark to give it a proper finish, but they these were not the original ending.
Most likely the original ending was lost, or perhaps it originally just finished here – on this note of fear and confusion! However we try to reconstruct the facts, this is the conclusion of the gospel story as we have it – ‘they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid’.
What sort of ‘Easter note’ is this to sound?We sing about the resurrection this morning, and we sing of joy and happiness. Read through the hymns and you may find some other emotions expressed, but fear and confusion are not likely to feature prominently amongst them! Easter is a wonderful event, is it not? It’s God’s great ‘act of magic’ (as it were) that says ‘no’ to death and ‘yes’ to life. It’s the great and comforting reminder of the truth that death does not have the final say in this world, but that there is life beyond the grave.Indeed, the apostle Paul does say that in the resurrection of Jesus we see something of our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15).What is disturbing and confusing about that?
To grasp the full reality of the resurrection of Jesus though, we have to see it in the context of the life and death of Jesus. I suspect that if we look at the life of Jesus and death of Jesus, we may well see why those who lived with Him through those last three years of His life, found his resurrection initially to be, not just a basis for happy celebration, but something deeply disturbing and confusing.
If you had to think of one word that summarised the life and ministry of Jesus, as we read about it in the gospels, what would it be? ‘Conflict’ is the word that comes to my mind. I know some people depict Jesus as someone who just went around helping people and telling them to be nice to one another. Be realistic! If this is what you do, you don’t get yourself crucified.You get yourself invited to be a speaker at a Rotary dinner!
Jesus’ life and ministry, over the three years we read about in the gospels, is a life of constant conflict with the authorities – the civil authorities, but especially the religious authorities. As we read through the history of Jesus we see that conflict gradually intensifying, as religious leaders and teachers initially question Jesus, then challenge him, and finally try to kill him. It’s a story of frustration and anger, of conflict and betrayal, as Jesus forges a path that increasingly diverges from the official line taken by the official religious leaders of His day, to the point where the authorities decide that they can no longer tolerate his existence!
And what is the conflict about? Its about lots of things at one level – it’s about Jesus’ flagrant disregard of tradition, it’s about his failure to keep to the rules about what you do and don’t do on the Sabbath, it’s about the attitude Jesus takes towards sinners and prostitutes, and perhaps most especially about the company Jesus keeps. At one level it’s about all these things. At another level, it’s about one thing – it’s about Jesus’ conception of God, and how that clashes with the Pharisee’s (the religious leaders’) conception of God. Jurgen Moltmann, in his book ‘The Crucified God’ characterises the life of Jesus in this way – as a battle between two Gods, or perhaps we would rather say a ‘battle between two different conceptions of God’.