From a preacher's point of view, that MK doesn't have a 'proper' ending lends itself to making the point that neither does Easter. We can of course opt for the ending as in this passage on its notes of flight, fear, amazement, confusion.....& the women not doing what they're expressly asked to do...all pretty negative! There are suggested alternative endings for MK, but in the case of the Great Easter Event, there isn't an alternative ending. Unless, that is, we give it one - in which case it ceases to be Easter! The real test is not whether we can come up with a satisfactory ending for MK, but whether we are raised with Jesus to that quality of life that has no ending among the other qualities of 'eternal'.
The passage starts with apprehension, moves on to shock & surprise,
ends on a note of fear. How can we offer help & hope to those apprehensive
about faith & life, shocked by things that 'jump' them, immobilised
by fear of various kinds? Can we lead them beyond these to Easter open-ended
- ness by tuning in to the stories going on in their margins, & through
these to active belief, belief that activates?
There is a strand of explaining away that, whatever the merits of its intentions, paralyses some in today's church from being able to come out the right side of Easter. Are we ourselves as preachers free as Jesus raised, or are we also paralysed by that kind of fear? Maybe we're afraid of being poo-pooed by others who believe it's time we all moved past that kind of belief? But for any church or congregation to live, surely it needs to be a post-Resurrection church, rather than a past-resurrection one. If we only offer past-resurrection beliefs, so far as Gospel is concerned, it's we who're left behind, not Easter, certainly not Jesus. However we try to 'explain' it, Jesus' resurrection must be real, meaningful, & powerful still.
Perhaps some of us out in the daily margins of life are where the women are as they approach the tomb: who is going to help us roll the stone away? What is the stone in our case? What's locking not Jesus but us in? Is something rolled in front of our 'cave', blocking our way out to freedom & new life? If so, whatever it is it's not the sort of thing we need to worry about rolling away, or even need to! God has done that. What we have to do is believe. If you like, from another angle, belief is God's shoulder put to tomb-rocks, ours & others', to break us out from behind them. Why remain 'interred' when Jesus has been freed & we can be out there with him, alive again & well?
Are any of us where the women are after they've seen the tomb opened
& met the 'young man' - scared out of our wits by what's been let loose?
God loves us. God wouldn't do anything, including raise his own Son from
death, to scare us. 'There's no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.....'
T God's answer for the big rock of unbelief remains that given to the women by the 'young man': "Don't be afraid! He's been raised!"
Jesus raised from death is always 'going ahead of us' into the margins of today's Galilees - & Baghdads. We can expect to see him in action there wherever Jesus is raised in us. That's scarey, but don't let being afraid stop us passing on, living through, living out that Good News.
An Easter sermon needs to be as open-ended as Eternal Life itself. But if Jesus is not raised, there's an end to everything! 'We are of all people most to be pitied' as Paul puts it.