I love Mark’s resurrection narrative because its so honest. From the beginning of our gospel reading the women are coping with real life dilemmas. The women have taken the lead in preparing Jesus’ body and making sure that he laid to rest in dignity and honor; however they also have the practical problem of rolling the stone away and are trying to figure out how they will overcome the obstacle of a huge bolder blocking the entrance of the tomb. They are going through the motions of coping with death. Anyone who has had to cope with the death of a loved has an intimate understanding of how these women feel. They are lost in grief, but there are important tasks to be done and the time for grieving has to be put on hold. Jesus’ body needs to be tended and they realize that if it is going to get done they will have to be the ones to do it because the men have all scattered in fear. These women are down to earth, practical women and they are not afraid – yet.
I love the abruptness of Mark’s ending and how it is left open ended because it’s so honest. After the angel tells the women that Jesus has risen and that they are to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is waiting for them in Galilee they runaway in fear and awe and say nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Granted, they must have told someone something because the word got out. Probably, what happened was that the women kept the secret like most people keep a secret and that is by only telling one person at a time. What is so honest about this account is the fear of the women and the disciples. The women are afraid of the reality of the resurrection and the disciples are just afraid. Everyone is afraid for really good reasons.
The disciples are afraid of the leaders of the Jews and the Romans. They have just abandoned their Rabbi, teacher, leader, Messiah, to be crucified. The disciples’ fear is valid because they surely would be next to be crucified in order to nip Jesus’ movement in the bud. The disciples were willing to follow Jesus as long as they felt safe once Jesus is killed they scatter in fear. In the gospel of John Jesus comes to the disciples in a locked room where they were hiding in fear.
The emotion that is motivating all the disciples at this point is fear and the fact that scripture doesn’t shy away from the reality of their fear is poignant. God understands that fear is a huge hurdle for most people to face and conquer. Fear of being mocked, ridiculed, harmed, killed, or ruined take up residence in all of our minds and these fears determine or actions or in-actions. Right now I would say that our culture is in a constant state of fear and vigilance. We are bombarded with images that are designed to heighten our sense of fear. We fear the other to the degree that we have locked ourselves in our own little worlds to protect ourselves from “those bad people.”
There has been really good reasons for the measures that we have taken to protect ourselves and our families. Just like there were really good reasons why the disciples and the women were afraid. Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t unique or isolated. The Romans used crucifixion not only as a form of capital punishment, but also as a deterrent for would be criminals and rebels. Their fear was not in vain. However, hiding wasn’t the way to conquer the evil of which they feared. The only way the evil that the disciples feared could be defeated was through the resurrection. Jesus boldly confronts his fears, embraces his suffering and conquers evil. Its the only way evil is destroyed through the gospel and the gospel can’t be spread with isolation and fear. The gospel can only be spread through inclusion and trust.
What is truly amazing about the disciples after the resurrection is that they ceased living in fear, but what they feared actually came to pass. Peter, James, and the others were all martyred. They all died proclaiming the gospel. They moved beyond their fear, picked up their cross and followed Christ. They proclaimed the gospel in the knowledge that they would suffer for the gospel and they did it freely. Through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension they finally grasped the power of the gospel and how God was bringing about peace in the world. The disciples had every reason to live and fear and they turned their fear over to God and embraced the gospel.
The only way believers in Jesus can move away from fear and isolation is to trust in Jesus’ message and pick up our own cross and follow him. The angel told the women to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is waiting for them in Galilee. Galilee is where the gospel of Mark begins so the angel is telling us to go back to the beginning. Go back and read the gospel of Mark and while you are at it read Matthew, Luke and John too and hear the gospel. Jesus shows us how to confront our fears and how to defeat the evil that lurks behind our fears. We do it with faith and trust.
What Jesus taught the disciples was counter cultural to their time and it is counter cultural to our time too. Jesus teaches us to trust God’s love and mercy and to share that love and mercy with all. Jesus also teaches us that when we truly live according to his teachings we too will suffer, but through our actions in faith evil is defeated over and over again.
Imagine what the world would have been like if on that first day of the week fear had won the day? Jesus would have still risen, and evil would have still been destroyed, but no one would have known because those who were to go to Galilee stayed hunkered down in hiding and fear. The reality is that God embraced fear in Jesus and destroyed fear through Jesus to empower us to do the same. Let us fight the fears of this world with grace, mercy, and love and let the fears of this world take a backseat to the gospel.