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Could it be that the first Easter morning was full of sadness, disbelief and hearts that could not absorb the good news!
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" But when they looked up, they saw the stone had been rolled away--for it was very large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side;and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen? He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples--and Peter--that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."
So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8 NKJV, condensed
Mark's Resurrection Morning
Mark tells us that three women went to the garden where Jesus was buried; very early, at first light. Two Marys and the mother of disciples, James and John. Mary Magdalene was the ringleader, her name always heads the list. She was the one who led the others to the tomb without first making prior arrangements to have the stone rolled away. They had watched Joseph place the body in a cave-like resting place. They had seen that it took several men to seal the opening to the tomb. But off these women went. Facts didn't seem to faze them!
We've all met people like Mary Magdalene. No time to delay when her heart told her to go. They were intending to anoint the body of Jesus and somehow she would find a way into that tomb even if a boulder blocked the door. "We'll worry about that problem when we get there! Things will work out." Faith or foolishness? You make the call.
She was probably praying all the way there. "Lord, help us get inside the tomb!""Just like we do in desperation when we don't know what else to do--Lord, help us. Repeated 100 x over! And sure enough, when they got to the tomb, the stone was rolled back! Imagine their surprise. It was going to be easier than they had expected.
But that's when some very unexpected things began to happen. Things which even Mary couldn't dismiss. All three of these women knew Jesus quite well, but they had never seen an angel before. They had been so focused upon their plan to anoint the body of Jesus with all the love in their hearts, that they couldn't grasp the sudden change in plans. They wanted to see the dead body of Jesus, not an angel, even if that angel was telling them Jesus was alive.
The shining young man in white was expecting them and told them everything they needed to know. "Cool it! You're looking for Jesus. He's not in this grave. He's alive; not dead! See, this tomb is empty. Now, go; tell the others--including Peter--that he will meet you in Galilee. Remember Jesus told you all this himself before he died."
The grieving women were not hearing, only seeing. And what they saw was that the body was not where it was supposed to be. The angel tried to speak to them, but it was no use. These women understood death; they knew how to prepare a corpse for burial. They did not know the meaning of resurrection. If Jesus was not in the grave, then where was he? Confusion and chaos reigned, and they ran away in fear, not knowing what to do or where to go. It takes time to process new and unwanted, unbelievable information.
If you look in your Bible, you are likely to see that Mark's original Gospel ended with verse 8. You will find a footnote indicating that verses 9 through 16 are not found in the oldest manuscripts. It must have been commonly agreed upon that Mark didn't have a proper ending. The final word in Jesus' kingdom is neither fear nor silence. So a postscript was proposed and added to newer manuscripts. It's not difficult to see why scribes in later generations would do this. Gospel means "good news". But it's hardly good news if the story of Jesus ends with fear and trembling on the part of his followers.
While the other three Gospels give us a fuller picture of our Lord's resurrection, I believe Mark portrays an accurate snapshot of what was happening that first Easter morning. True, Jesus was victorious over death, sin and suffering; but his disciples were slow to believe and wallowed in fear and alarm for awhile. Maybe the reason we object to Mark's gloomy version is because we know these characters better than we want to admit. Their doubts and fears walk in our shoes! And rather than face that truth we pretend all is well as we proclaim, "Christ is risen indeed!"
The Psalmist had it right--weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. The night of fear and doubt and sorrow is longer for some of us than for others. But the holy scriptures are a call to faith. To those who believe, Joy does indeed ride in on the wings of morning.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What are your memories of going somewhere at first light?
We've all met certain people and said, "If anybody can do it, he/she can." Mary Magdalene was someone like that. Her confidence inspired others to follow her example. Describe someone you know who fits that description.
What do you make of the fact that it was women, and not men, who got to the empty tomb first on resurrection day? The men didn't believe the women's tale. Do you think if it was the other way around, the women would have believed the men's tale?Think of a time when you didn't believe news that was reported to you. Why did you not believe it?
Name some things that frighten you, or that silence you.How does intense grief affect how you see, hear or understand things?
Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome went to the tomb not knowing how to remove the boulder that prohibited entrance. They didn't wait to get the stone removed first before they got their spices in hand and took off. Scripture tells us God favors those, like Abraham in Genesis 12, who go in faith without having answers to all of their questions. When challenged to act in faith, we often respond, "Yes, but. . . ." What are some of your "buts . . . "? How do you determine what is faith and what is foolishness? Explain how faith can be both foolish and wise at the same time.
Do you find it troubling that Mark ended his Gospel with fear? Why or why not?Look up the section added later (Mark 16:9-16). Do you think that's an adequate ending for Mark's Gospel? If it were up to you to pen a proper ending, what would you write?
Resurrection morning sounds chaotic. What would it take to calm the chaos? Do you think you would have done any better than the original cast of characters in this text? Explain your answer.
Relate one thing from the Gospel accounts that is Good News for you. When announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary, the angel said (Luke 1:37), "With God nothing will be impossible." Is it also correct to conclude that with God there is no such thing as news too good to be true?