The story stops?
It was still dark, and very early in the morning. It fell to the women disciples to take on the final duty to the master they loved, and so after an emotionally draining and grief struck Sabbath rest they set out before dawn to the tomb.
They are going to tend the body of their dead master – that’s all that is in their mind. They are not going to witness the resurrection; they had no idea that any such thing was even thinkable.
They were taking spices to perfume the body and lessen the smell of decomposition, because other bodies would be put in this tomb in the coming years. Ultimately Jesus’ bones would be collected and put in an ossuary, a kind of second burial.
They have a load of spices and are concerned about mundane matters, like who is going to roll away the stone. Presumably they are going to ask some of the guards they heard would be stationed there.
They get the shock of their lives. The stone is rolled away and a young man dressed in white calmly explains that Jesus has been raised from the dead and they would see him in Galilee.
The women are told to go and tell the other disciples all about the good news. Sadly the gospel of Mark probably ends there – there were later additions, but the original text ends with the women rushing off in disarray and telling no one. The gospel ends in silence and dark uncertainty.
The story goes on to the disciples
It's an unusual ending for a gospel – the good news about Jesus – to leave us hanging there unclear about what happened next. Is that really what Mark intended?
The gospel of Mark is full of mysteries, people are told to keep silent about Jesus and that’s just what happens now - silence.
The gospel of Mark shows us how Jesus told his disciples all about the need for him to suffer and to die, and that he would be raised again on the third day (9:9), but they didn’t believe him. Maybe they thought he was speaking in parables, or just couldn’t believe that anyone could rise from the dead.
We know what that is like – we too are puzzled by Jesus’ sayings, and it is hard to believe that someone can be raised from the dead – it doesn’t happen every day, does it?
But surely God doesn’t want us to remain puzzled or not believing this good news. He wants us to know for sure that Jesus really didn’t stay dead, that he really did rise to new life, just like the young man, or Angel, told us.
The story must go on?
I believe there must have been another ending where Jesus meets the women and confirms that he is alive, and commissions them for service – then the women tell the other disciples.
After all, God wants us to be sure, and to allow this good news to change our lives, to change the way we look at this world, and how we live in it.
This is what changed the disciples’ perspective as they met together in their locked room that Easter evening and received the women’s message, and finally met with the risen Jesus. The dawning realisation that a great victory has been won, that God is in control, and that through Christ we too can be raised to new life.
In some ways nothing had changed - Rome still occupied their country with soldiers patrolling the streets and demanding taxes, the Jewish religious authorities were still looking for them, death and evil still reigned outside.
But in other ways, everything had changed, and gradually the shock of recognition gave way to a deep sense of joy.
If God could raise Jesus from the dead, then he could do anything. The story had not ended with silence and darkness, wonderfully, the story continued for those disciples, and changed their lives.
With those first disciples we have the victory, new life, a fresh start in life with Jesus, all the fears and worries of life gone, and the assurance of God’s love and power for our lives.
We too have been set free not to worry about death, but to live life in love and service to everyone.
The story continues…
Is this where the story ends? No, wait a minute. The angel told the women, “go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
Just sitting in their room and enjoying the victory of Jesus Christ is great, but it isn’t the end of the story. The disciples are sent out to Galilee to find Jesus – because he is always out there, ahead of us, calling us to follow him.
The story continues in our lives, and it must be passed on to others, not kept to ourselves. If this is good news we will want to talk about it, and let his new quality of life shine out in our lives for all to see.
The disciples were called to Galilee to see the Lord; we too will see the risen Lord, out there, in Galilee, in Crewe, amongst ordinary people we meet on the streets and in our homes.
This story is ours now, it never ends, so lets celebrate it and pass it on. Amen.