“What do we do with an unfinished story?”
April 16, 2017
Rev. Vicky Hanjian
Mark’s gospel is the earliest one written. It ends abruptly – the two Marys visit the tomb where Jesus crucified body was hastily laid in order to conform to Jewish law that a body must be buried within 24 hours – and that the task needed to be completed before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath.
The women encounter a messenger who tells them that Jesus isn’t there. The same messenger directs them to tell the disciples to head north for Galilee – that Jesus has gone on ahead of them and the are to meet him there.
The women run out of the tomb in a mixture of wonder and fear – – and Mark tells us “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. “ And this is where the original gospel of Mark ends.
If this were the only gospel we were to receive it would leave us hanging – – sort of like leaving off the final chapter of a good mystery novel.
There are no post resurrection appearances. No one sees Jesus. Jesus gives his disciples no directions or commands other than that they are to go to Galilee – – that he has gone on ahead and will meet them there. The women say nothing to anyone. End of story.
The other gospel writers find this abrupt ending intolerable. Matthew has the disciples meeting up with Jesus and worshipping him. Jesus commissions them to go into all the world to baptize and to make disciples. Luke has two of the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus -conferring with a stranger -who later turns out to be Jesus. John has Jesus serving breakfast to the disciples on the lakeshore – and forgiving Peter for his great denial.
So – I wonder – what would we do if Mark’s was the only gospel – – and all that we had was the direction move forward with the promise that Jesus has gone on ahead.
Is the rest of the story up to the point of the crucifixion compelling enough that we might commit our lives to following the way of Jesus? Would the message of Jesus be enough to change our lives – – powerful enough to call us to something higher? Would we need one more encounter with him just to reassure us that he was all that we thought he was?
This is where Mark’s story leaves us – standing together in the early dawn – – astounded that the tomb is empty – – perhaps questioning what does it all mean. But the direction is clear – Jesus has gone on ahead of us. We do not meet him in the past. He has gone on ahead and waits for us in our future – beginning now. We’re called to take those critical steps toward whatever Galilee represents for us at this moment.
With its abrupt ending, Mark’s story is a call to faith. We don’t always get the vivid and clear signs we need along our life path. Mark’s story challenges us to move anyway!
So here we are. The tomb is empty. Galilee awaits. Alleluia!