lleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
This year at our celebration of the Resurrection we read the account provided in the Gospel according to Mark. Mark’s version is strikingly brief, even stark, such that it seems hardly the great happy ending one might expect… and in fact, it is not so much an ending as it is an invititation to a new beginning.
Here is the final verse from the Gospel according to Mark:
So the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
That’s it. There are two extended endings to the gospel. One very short one – “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterwards Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation” – and one that runs fully twelve verses, but both are later scribal additions, which don’t appear until later in the second century. In the most ancient manuscripts of this gospel, things just end with the look of shock on the faces of those women.
We do, of course, have other material of the resurrection. Matthew, Luke and John all contain a good deal more, painting a picture of a Jesus so alive that this world – what C.S. Lewis called the “shadowlands” of the world that is truly there – could hardly contain him.
And we have Paul’s extraordinary insight that what happened to Jesus at a particular moment in time and history is the promise for us in the fullness of time. Resurrection life – so fully and vibrantly alive as to be beyond containment in a world bounded by time and space – is what is on God’s horizon for we who follow.
Mark might well know this, or at least have inklings of it, but he is not going to hand it to us in a tidy package. He has been writing a hurried and urgent story all along, and he ends with urgency.
In his book Three Gospels, the novelist and writer Reynolds Price summarizes the force of Mark’s ending in this way:
Mark intended to end his story as we have it, in literal midair, while the women flee the tomb in terror. Such an apparently reckless last-minute abandonment by an author of his reader’s keenest final expectation is thoroughly characteristic of the kind of narrator Mark has been throughout his book. This is my story, suddenly told – you tell it from here.
So yes, sing alleluia, and join the great feast; this is a joyous day. But it is not an ending, but rather an invitation to a new beginning. You, me, all of us… we need to take hold of the story and tell it from here. In our words and in the fabric of our lives, we must answer Mark’s challenge and live as a resurrection people.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!