Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
I watched a film recently in which one scene reminded me of the events of Mark 16:1-8. A veteran of World War I, who had a history of flashbacks and hallucinations, had been informed that his son, a combatant in World War II, was missing and presumed dead. Not very much later, as he was outside his house, apparently still grieving, his son, quite uninjured, walked up the lane to his home. The son probably had some doubts about the reality of the situation. The father did as well. They knew each other, but were uncertain whether their eyes and minds were playing tricks on them.
When the Marys and Salome went to the tomb to finish the burial customs for Jesus, they realized that they wouldn’t be able to access the tomb. There would be a closed door, and in a cave tomb the door would be a heavy disk of rock rolled down a channel from the side until it blocked the door. To pull it away would require some strong people and a long lever.
They found the tomb open. They found that Jesus, whom they knew to be dead, was not there. They were greeted by an angel who seemed to think everything to be perfectly normal and under control. What should they do? The angel reminded them that Jesus was doing what he had said he was doing, and that they were to go remind the apostles.
I think I’d be overcome with trembling and amazement too. Not one of us would know what to say or what to do. Going outside, based on the accounts of the other Gospels, we might have noticed the guards, who were unconscious.
To make matters more difficult from a literary point of view, the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end at verse 8. The women don’t even go anywhere and tell anyone, including the disciples. They have heard that Jesus rose from the dead. The narrative seems to end there. The alternative endings of Mark’s Gospel give a little more detail, but not much. It seems that Mark wanted to leave it on the abrupt side. Even if he is the one who wrote the longer ending which we have, maybe some years later, as I think likely, he doesn’t give any too much detail. He begins the gospel abruptly and ends it abruptly. It’s just a chunk of time.
When we are confronted by the power of the risen Christ we also go through a time of shock. We don’t know what to make of him. Are we deceiving ourselves? Is it a dream? A fancy? Maybe even a nightmare? As with the father and son in the film I watched, as with the women who had the angelic encounter, as with the apostles who were later confronted by the risen Lord, it gets worked out in time. May the Lord help us to make some sense of his resurrection and the fact that he values this bodily life so much that he rose, along with a body, and promises the same to us.
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