You know how when a group of friends go out for an adventure, and when they come back and try to share the story with you, but you can never quite get “THE story”? Someone will remember the night happening one way, someone else will add another detail, another person will contradict or question that detail or embellish the story. You get the gist of what happened, but the exact details may be a bit fuzzy.
On Easter Sunday, that is kind of what happens to us. Each Gospeller – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – tells “THE Easter story” a little differently – different characters doing different things. We know the basics: the tomb is empty and Jesus is risen from the dead. But the details make the story different and fresh every year.
This year, we get Mark’s version. In that group of friends trying to tell the same story, Mark would be the one known for brevity. His version would be something like this, “The women went to anoint Jesus in the tomb, like we always do with the dead. But when they got there, the big rock was already moved, and Jesus was gone. Some guy was there and said Jesus has been raised. It was terrifying.” There are no embellishments to the story – no running around, no pronouncements of the Good News, no disciples doubting women, no victorious preaching. Just a stunning revelation and news so shocking it leaves people afraid.
This may not be “THE Easter Story,” as you remember. But Mark’s version of the Easter story may be exactly the Easter story we need this year. I do not know about you, but Easter is usually this spectacular day for me. We journey through Lent, reflecting on our relationship with God. We trudge through the drama and emotional labor of Holy Week. Then, on Easter, the alleluias feel well deserved and the joy is hard to contain. But this Easter, I am not totally there. This pandemic is still hanging over our heads, our worship is wonderful but not all we know Easter worship to be, and our lives are still in a holding pattern as we work toward herd immunity and even hear talk of cases spiking. I know this is a day for rejoicing, but there is still so much grief all around us, I am having a hard time fully embracing the alleluias this year.
That emotional tension is why I love Mark’s gospel this year. The women at the tomb are coming out of a deep grief too. The only reason they are at the tomb this morning is to do the work grieving people do – tend to the body, handle the practical details, do the things that begin the journey of healing. So, although the news from the man in white is incredible, the news is unsettling, confusing, and a bit scary. The women are going to need time to process this mind-blowingly good news before they can rejoice, before they give thanks to God, before they can muster up the nerve to say the good news aloud.
What I hear in Mark’s gospel are two words of promise for us today. First, no matter how we receive the Good News of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and triumph over death, the good news is there for us and for all anyway. Our reaction to the news does not negate the goodness or the radical love and redemption of the resurrection. Second, the man in white says something seemingly inconsequential that means the world. He says, “…go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” If you remember, Peter denied Christ when Christ needed him most. But today, the resurrection promise is specific: go tell his disciples AND PETER…and you will see him.” No matter if we have been faithful, no matter if we have actively denied Jesus, no matter if we cannot muster a joyful response to the resurrection, we will see Jesus. The Good News of Jesus is not just for the faithful – the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is for the broken, the sinful, the despondent, and the fearful alike. And on a day when you may or may not be feeling our alleluias 100%, the Good News is God is with you anyway, loving you and promising to carry you until you are 100%. Thanks be to God! Alleluia.