Easter 15

Living With Hope

Two or three years ago, there was a comical series of commercials used to emphasize the reality of consequences for our actions. Do you remember the Direct TV commercials recommending that you get rid of cable?

As a former Marketing manager, I loved the creativity used to make these commercials. Do you recognize the swing of the emotional pendulum between confidence and fear? It swings from depression, to confidence, to fear, and back to confidence. Such is the roller coaster of life, swinging from one emotion to another. While we may prevent one cycle of pendulum swings by getting rid of cable, we cannot stop it from swinging. There will be consequences to deal with for the act of switching television services too.

And while we so desperately want to be in control of our lives, the reality is that in most cases we have little control. Instead we spend a lot of time reacting to situations and actions of others. The lines between order and chaos are thinner than we like to admit. We do not expect tainted water to come through our water faucets like the residents of Toledo last year. Bombs aren’t supposed to go off at the Boston marathon. And we may never know what happened to the 239 people on board the Malaysian airplane that went missing last year.

It is easy for us to proclaim “Christ is risen! He is risen Indeed!” on Easter morning 2015. But in Mark’s text, we experience life’s tension between confidence and fear. The women come to the tomb on the first day of the week with the confidence of anointing Jesus’ body with oils and spices. But the pendulum quickly swings as they arrive.

The heavy stone is rolled away. A young man dressed in white (described as an angel in the other gospels) introduces an empty tomb and tells the women that Jesus will meet the disciples in Galilee. Do we hear excitement and joy? Do they immediately go to announce the good news to Jesus’ followers? No. Mark’s version of the story says that the women ran from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and said nothing to no one. And that’s it!

While there are 12 more verses at the end of the chapter, scholars and theologians overwhelmingly agree that they were added decades later, and were not included in some of the original Greek texts. It is believed that those verses were added to put a nice bow on a tenuous ending. There was no Jesus sighting; just a promise to see his disciples in Galilee.

We find ourselves in an uncomfortable place in the unexpected. The crucifixion was not the end. A promise of resurrection and future appearance was given. Period. Now suddenly the line between life and death is paper thin. We are forced to reconsider familiar assumptions. Maybe reality IS bigger than our understanding.

Mark doesn’t seem interested in ‘proving’ that Jesus rose. Faith is tested. There is no mention of resurrection sightings or disciples touching crucifixion wounds like the other gospel texts. Everything hangs on a promise. Just like today.

The young man in the tomb told the women to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is risen and will meet them in Galilee. The same disciples who abandoned Jesus days earlier. The same Peter that denied his Lord three times. Grace and forgiveness is extended to these followers who fell short under stress and who continue to be paralyzed by fear.

Why doesn’t Mark end this story like the other gospels with the surety of Jesus sightings? Maybe because verse 8 where the women run in terror and bewilderment is where we (the readers) find ourselves every day...balancing between hope and fear. Maybe Mark is encouraging us to move forward, living into the promise that Jesus WILL follow through and show up in Galilee. Maybe he is challenging us to trust this God that has never broken a promise.

It’s Easter morning and the tomb is empty. The angel declared that Jesus is risen and will be in the disciple’s presence. In our pendulum swings of life, we are promised that Jesus lives and that he lives in us. Through states of confidence and fear, we can trust the one who overcame death to promise life to all who believe. Amen.