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Easter Sunday

Readings: Is. 25:6-9, 1 Cor. 15:1-11 & Mk. 16:1-8

As I sat down to write this sermon, I was feeling very angry. I’d had an experience with some people, who are not involved with the church in any way, which had made me feel like there was something wrong with me, for dedicating my life to God. And it brought back memories from other times in my life, when I was also made to feel that there was something wrong with me because of my Christian values, and I could feel the anger growing inside me. So I wrote in my journal the names of the people that I was angry with, and what I was angry with them for.

Then I opened the sermon I had prepared for Easter Day last year, and I read the final paragraph, which I will read aloud for you now,

“And I think that we can take great comfort and courage in that knowledge, knowing that as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection this morning, we are also celebrating the fact that we are all reconciled to God through the death of Jesus Christ, and that in His resurrection we are called to life eternal with Him.”

Reading that paragraph helped to calm me down, and to somewhat soften the anger I was feeling. I do believe in God, and I do believe that Christ died and was raised from the dead, and I do believe that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are reconciled to God. And I reflected on the last section of the paragraph:

“In His resurrection we are called to life eternal with Him”.

I do believe that as well; that we are called to eternal life with Jesus and God. But what I think is even more important than that, is the fact that because we have been reconciled to God, that means that we have been reconciled to Him in our lifetime. We don’t have to wait for eternal life to be with God. God is with us now. Perhaps we lose sight of that sometimes.

If we do, then we need only remind ourselves of the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14–15 NRSV) https://accordance.bible/link/read/NRSVS#Mark_1:14

Jesus himself was announcing that

“The kingdom of God has come near.”

It had come near in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore those who believe in Jesus Christ are drawn into the kingdom of God. Mark made that very clear for his readers in the opening verse of his Gospel when he wrote,

‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ (Mark 1:1 NRSV) https://accordance.bible/link/read/NRSVS#Mark_1:1

The good news is that God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. If we have known Jesus, then we have known God. If we have believed in Jesus and embraced him in our lives, then we have embraced God in our lives, and God has embraced us.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Christians in the church at Corinth of the good news; that Jesus died for our sins as had been prophesied in Scripture, he was buried, and he was raised from the dead after three days, again as had been prophesied in Scripture. Paul confirmed this as true by the witness and testimony of Peter, James, all the apostles, and more than 500 followers of Jesus, all of whom had seen Jesus after he had been raised from the dead.

The Gospel of Mark is the only one of the four Gospels, that does not contain a story of an appearance of the risen Jesus. At least not in its original form. Most scholars agree, based on the very earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel that have been found, that the gospel actually ended at verse 8 of chapter 16, which is the end of our reading this morning from the gospel.

However, several much later manuscripts, contain an additional twelve verses in chapter sixteen, which detail several appearances of Jesus to various of his followers, together with a commission from Jesus to the apostles to

“proclaim the good news to all of creation”,

and also a story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. These extra verses are generally considered to be much later insertions, which try to deal with the problem created by the ending at verse 8, which has no mention of any meeting between the disciples and the risen Jesus as promised in verse 7.

The ending of Mark’s Gospel at verse 8, with the women fleeing the tomb in fear and not saying a word to anyone, leaves us with a number of unanswered questions. Did they fail to report what they had experienced because they were paralysed with fear?1 Or were they worried about not being believed by the male disciples?2 Or were they afraid that the male disciples, who had deserted Jesus at his crucifixion, would react negatively to the idea that women could be chosen by God to be the bearers of such divine communication?3 Unfortunately, we will never know the answers to these (and other) questions posed by the abrupt ending of Mark’s Gospel.

Perhaps the fact that the story remains in a way unfinished, has something to do with the Second Coming of Jesus which is foretold in chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel. Perhaps that will be the real end of the story. In the meantime, it allows the opportunity for all of our lives to be written into the ongoing story, where we too can be servants of God’s outreach into an unbelieving world.4

The Lord be with you.
Fr. Michael.

1 Brendan Byrne, A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel
(Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2008), p. 257
2 Byrne, A Costly Freedom, p. 257
3 Byrne, A Costly Freedom, pp. 257-258
4 Byrne, A Costly Freedom, p. 259

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