Summary: St Marks Gospel just ends - it leaves many questions unanswered, this sermon looks to help us understand how we deal with this
In the name of our risen saviour. Amen.
Imagine it if you will, Jesus is dead, the disciples and his closets followers are devastated, this man who was supposed to be the Messiah, the saviour of Israel allowed himself to be crucified on a cross and killed by the very people that he came to save.
Forlorn and grieving the women go to the grave to complete the rituals of anointing so that the body wouldn’t decompose into a stench.
But instead of finding the stone in place, it’s been moved and there is a man dressed in white saying, do not be alarmed!
I must admit I think I would have a few things to say to the man – probably most of which would be unrepeatable!!
The man says he is not there, and then shows them the place, so no doubt very cautiously thy look past the young man, and see the empty place where Jesus had laid dead.
Just when you think this day can’t get any worse, you realise with horror that it can!
Then without another word from them, they flee, and say nothing to anyone else.
The end, that’s it – the gospel ends – no explanation of who the man was, or what happened after that encounter.
Imagine your favourite series or soap on TV, the episode is building to a massive climax, your on the end of your seat, you want to see what’s going to happen next.
Just as they are about to reveal the answers you have been waiting for… … the screen fades to black and the credit start to roll – nightmare! You’ve just been whipped in to a frenzy of excitement, suspense and maybe horror, depending on what you’re watching – and then you have to wait that agonising time until the next episode.
Mark’s gospel gives a unique perspective on the events of that day, but they stop, its as if this was the very first cliff-hanger.
Some people believe that the last page of the manuscript was lost, and others believe that it was written specifically in this way, Marks Gospel causes us to think about how the events unfolded afterwards, fortunately or unfortunately depending on the way you see it we don’t have to wonder too much, as all we have to do is flick to one of the other gospels and read the rest of the story.
But I want to stay with Mark’s gospel, and although it is a small passage it’s full of rich ideas, but apart from a few small details, it’s quite ambiguous.
Who was the man in white? We believe it to be an Angel, but why not identify him as such? Why tell the women to fetch the disciples and Peter – wasn’t Peter a disciple, was there more to this statement than meets the eye? Could it be because just a short time ago Peter had denied Jesus three times? Did the women pluck up the courage in the end and tell the disciples to go to Galilee?
Lots of questions – no answers.
Today is Easter Day, our pilgrimage to the cross, and the pain that we felt through it has ended, our new Paschal Candles burns brightly with the new blessed flame which will remain with us all year, and today we have cause to celebrate as we recall the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, and his defeat of sin and death.
As we celebrate, Children (some older than others!) will enjoy the Easter eggs they receive, and perhaps some of us will sit down together with other members of the family perhaps for the first time in a long time, as we celebrate this most Holy and Glorious Day together.
But imagine if Mark’s gospel was the only one that we had, where would that have left us – would our faith be as strong without the other explanations? Would the Christian faith have begun and grown into what we now have?
Let’s take it that Mark did intend his Gospel to end there, how can we be sure that the message of Jesus would be taken up and spread to such a degree that it has been?
I think the answer to that question lies within the rest of the gospel. The Jesus that Mark portrays is one of truth and reliability, one who only spoke of things that actually happened, rather than making bold outlandish statements that didn’t come to pass.
Christ had already spoken of how he was going to be crucified and killed, and in Mark 9:9 as they were coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration he said that he didn’t want people to know he was the messiah until after his resurrection.
If we consider the other things he said, then it is logical that we would believe him on this point as well.