The ending or to be more accurate the endings of the Gospel according to Mark have been a source of conversation with theologian academics throughout the centuries. Manuscripts have been found where the longer ending is missing and others have been found with it attached. Some early writers make reference
to the material in the long ending and others don’t. Did the original come to an end at verse eight which we heard last week? ‘and the women, trembling and bewildered went out and fled the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ Or does it continue on to the verses, read to us this morning, with its collection of appearances by Jesus followed by the commissioning to go out to all the world and preach the good news. I think we will leave the academics to try and resolve that particular question
Reading: Mark 16:9-20
In these verses we have that whole tension arising between faith and misunderstanding. We have that whole visual backing the verbal again; they did not believe Mary Magdalene when she told them Jesus had appeared to her. Only when he appears to two of them walking in the country, other gospels record this as the Emmaus Road encounter. Or appearing to the eleven when they were eating, other gospels record in detail the whole upper room appearances. Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and unbelief that others had witnessed him risen from the dead. Then the final two verses giving Mark’s account of the Lord’s ascension. The scholars may well debate all of this but we will look at what we have. Mark opens the Gospel by declaring, ‘the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.’ And he draws it to a close by declaring Christ has risen. When we began to look at this Gospel back on the 10th of January, right up until this morning, Mark has only ever wanted us to recognise Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ. He has led us on an amazing journey in what I think is a very straightforward way. He has led us to the place we find ourselves this morning, in some ways irrespective of what ending we choose to finish off with. Jesus Christ is the son of God and he has been raised from the dead. You and I don’t need to be afraid anymore. On the Friday night, a man dies. He is buried on that same night. On Sunday morning, some friends of his arrive at the tomb where he was buried to pay their last respects only to discover that his body is gone.
What happened? “Come and See”! the angel said to the women who came to the tomb that Sunday. It was true for these women and it’s true for us, as well. Come to the truth of the empty tomb. This is the beginning of a new relationship that is real and honest, this is the new relationship of love with God, Himself. The angel said, “…SEE the place where He lay.” what is it that we SEE at this place? God putting aside His glory and dwelling among us. Offering for all who would believe salvation and eternal life. We look at that tomb today and we also see Jesus isn’t there! He is risen! He has conquered death! For us today the personal encounter with the risen Christ convinces us of the truths within scripture. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. As we look around at the world stage. We see regions of our world where there is no dignity for their citizens their lives are void of anything that remotely resembles joy or liberty.
Nations locked in negotiations over trade agreements and border disputes, ancient grievances causing war.
Surely by now we have become clever enough that we have the ability to bring relief around the world to those who are suffering. These world-shaping events are so important. They are literally changing the course of history. And as we watch, we wonder. We are reminded that no event in history has shaped the world like the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are reminded of this simple fact about life.
Life does not go on forever. There is death. Every one of us must face our mortality. There is no military victory, no medical cure, no global village that can prepare any individual to answer the ultimate questions in life. Where is there hope? Where is there new life? Where is there reason for joy? The answer to our questions has arrived. It is here waiting for us. It is a three-word message: Christ Is Risen! This Eastertime we proclaim Hope, the hope of His Resurrection. Jesus Christ is our hope of resurrection. Some people today see the empty tomb and believe. Some see the empty tomb and they don’t know what to believe.
Others see the empty tomb, and the change this has on people’s lives and they search for an explanation of what has happened. Because of the Resurrection the disciples were changed. Because of the Resurrection our view of death has changed. Because of the resurrection, our view of Jesus has changed.
Easter is all about LIFE; new, whole and abundant Life, Redeemed and Resurrected life. Easter says the purpose of life is not death, the purpose of life is life that triumphs over death forever. Celebrating Easter is a celebration of all that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful. It is the reality of Easter that makes everything else we would do possible.