Break the Silence!

Apr. 05, 2015

Is. 25.6-9; 1 Cor. 15.1-11; Mk. 16.1-8

There is an old Quaker saying that you should never speak unless it's an improvement over the silence. Because silence, as they say, is golden, so the speech had better be pretty good. That's the beauty of the gospel stories about Easter morning. Hearing Mark's telling of the Resurrection story strikes us by its economy and straightforward narrative. Of all the four gospel stories of Easter morning, Mark is the shortest and he makes us wonder what other things he could have said! Each of the four gospels tells the story of the women arriving first at the tomb at dawn with spices to anoint the body of the Lord for a proper burial. But Matthew adds an earthquake and an angel descending from heaven to roll back the stone from the tomb--and the guards being dumb with fear. But the Lord was not there, the angel said, because he has already arisen from the dead. As the disciples reported this "fearful and joyful" news to the others, the guards also inform the secular authorities of these strange events. In Luke's account, when the women arrive two angelic figures ask them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" That's the question that stops them in their tracks. Because, they say, the Lord has arisen and he has gone on ahead of you into Galilee and other places. And then, and only then they remember, the words of Jesus about dying and rising from the dead. Perhaps when Jesus tried to explain all this before, it had seemed too unreal, untouchable because of it's improbability. Each of the other gospels then follows with other stories of the appearances of Jesus to his disciples in various places and times after this Easter morning miracle. But, not Mark.

Mark's gospel has the least to say beyond the bare facts of this Sunday morning. From a literary point of view, it's a very unsatisfactory ending, because we want to hear the rest of the story! We want to know happened next! There must be more! But Mark is silent. Each of the other gospels tells this or that little detail that leads to yet another thing that is added. Until as John says at the end of his gospel, "If all the things were written down that could be said...the world wouldn't be able contain it all." But Mark shows an incredible economy. In a comical sense it's like the fictional story of Ole and Lena. They were husband and wife for over fifty years when Ole died. Lena wrote his obituary. It said simply, "Ole he died." The newspaper obituary editor was a friend of the family and he reminded her that they had had five children and at least dozen grandkids, all of whom could be listed. So, he asked her, "Can't you think of anything else to say?" So, she changed the obituary. It said, "Ole he died. Boat for sale." One thing leads to another.

But not Mark's gospel. There's a lot of stuff that could be added! Where is it? We don't know what happened with the ending...some have suggested that it was like the last page from a well-used book that just fell off and got lost...or maybe, something else...we just don't know.

But that's probably why someone went on to write another ending to Mark's gospel...it's often called the "longer" version of Mark and it's included parenthetically in almost every Bible. It has Jesus sending out his disciples, just like in Matthew's gospel. But Mark's final editor writes that the disciples would be able to "cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them". Most of it doesn't give us pause, except perhaps the part about picking up snakes or drinking poison. But the fact is, we too want to know the rest of the story. And in a very real way...the rest is still being written...every day.

I want to make a couple of observations about these Easter stories. First, Jesus told the disciples while he was with them that he must die and that he would be raised on the third day. And yet, in all of the accounts they all came running on Easter Sunday morning... ready to finish their burial duties, not because they expected to find an empty tomb! They obviously missed that day in disciple school when he was teaching about the resurrection! Or they just didn't believe it! Now, they believed. Seeing is believing. They were permanently changed from being timid, cowering, frightened mice into bold crusaders who had good news to share...which they proclaimed, "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" This experience radically rearranged everything in their lives! Jesus told them ahead, but nobody believed or understood.

Second, Easter shows that God is very forgiving. All of the disciples deserted him in the last hours and one of them; Simon Peter...denied he even knew Jesus at all, when he was questioned. Why would Jesus even bother with us? The answer is not found in us, but it's found in our God. Easter is about raising up that which is cast down, and the old being made new--that means ME and YOU.

Easter is about our continuint life. The stillness of the silent tomb is burst open with the shout of salvation! Alleluia! Christ is risen!...it's like a new-born announcing it's arrival into the world, as the newborn's cry says..."I'm alive!" God is saying, "Life that cannot die is yours through faith." Easter, changes everything!

Yes, Mark's gospel is not complete...because it doesn't tell the stories of hope and renewal that came after Easter--including yours and mine! But I believe that as we trust in and as we live in God, we will find and be found ourselves in the Easter acclamation, that Christ has died, that Christ is risen, and that Christ will come again! Break the silence with the bold and golden proclamation of the new life we live in Christ! Let's join our voices as we proclaim, Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


The Reverend WA Ray St Thomas Episcopal Church
Diamondhead, MS 4/5/15