Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

  Northern Great Lakes SynodEvangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaBethany on Facebook  

Easter Sunday 4/12

          “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  You can’t end the story of the resurrection like that.  This is Easter!  Fear is replaced by joy; death is replaced by life; it’s the happiest, most celebratory day of the church year with shouts of “Alleluia! He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed,” the sound of the trumpet and Jesus Christ is Risen Today.  That’s Easter!  But Mark ends his story of Jesus with “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  No risen Christ appearing to the women and the disciples; no excitement; just an empty tomb and an encounter with…someone, a young man dressed in a white robe who announced to the women that Jesus was raised, that he wasn’t there…but then, fear.

          Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise though because fear is a strand that runs through Mark’s gospel, fear that is often contrasted with faith.  “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?” Jesus said to the disciples after calming a storm.  “Do not fear, only believe,” he said to the leader of the synagogue who was afraid that his daughter was dead and beyond the touch of Jesus.  The disciples were terrified at Jesus’ transfiguration, they were afraid to ask him questions when he talked about the necessity of his death, they were afraid as they approached Jerusalem with Jesus.

          So fear isn’t new in Mark’s gospel; but still, this is Easter!  Shouldn’t we be done with fear now?  Shouldn’t that move from fear to faith have been made?  The other gospels do wrap things up tighter than Mark does.  They do have encounters with the Risen Christ.  They do have fear beginning to be replaced by joy.  Even with Mark it didn’t take long for other writers to add more satisfying endings that included resurrection appearances; look in your Bible, you’ll find them there.  But Mark himself apparently wasn’t ready to settle the tension that exists between fear and faith.

          Mark was done.  He had said what he wanted to say; because remember how he started his gospel.  Chapter 1, verse 1 reads, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  The beginning of the good news; so… “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” is the end of the beginning.  The empty tomb is the end of the beginning, but it doesn’t end the tension between fear and faith

          Mark knew that there was more to the story; he knew that there was a longer ending but perhaps even better than the other gospel writers he understood that you couldn’t write an ending because he knew that even on Easter many years later, we can still find ourselves between fear and faith just like those women fleeing from the tomb.

          Even acknowledging that tension though, Easter for us is a day of joy and celebration, but for the women on that first Easter morning, fear was not a surprising response; joy and celebration would have been surprising, but fear wasn’t.  Their only expectation going to the tomb that morning was the expectation that dead was dead.  Even if they had heard Jesus say something about rising on the third day, their experience of reality didn’t include such a possibility; it didn’t make sense. 

          If they arrived at the tomb that morning and found Jesus’ body still there, life as they knew it could go on.  To be sure there would be a period of grief over the loss of a loved one, life would be different without Jesus, but reality would be the same.  Life would take some adjustment, but they would manage.  But…if Jesus was raised, not only would life be different, reality would be different.  A world where the dead are raised is a different world, a different reality and different is scary; different creates fear.

          Easter is about new reality.  The resurrection cannot be explained on the basis of any known reality…and that is precisely the point.  We can’t explain it but only receive it in faith as a new action of God that creates new futures, new possibilities, possibilities not limited by our skepticism about anything we are unable to understand and explain according to known realities.

          At first though, that’s scary, hence the reaction of the women at the tomb at the end of the beginning of the story.  But as the story goes on—and  it does go on; those women said something to someone because here we are—as the story goes on, there is a move from fear to faith, a move from fear to joy as new realities are imagined; new realities made possible by the action of God, new realities not limited by common sense, but unlimited because of the power of this God to even transform death into life.

          Easter is an invitation to imagine the new possibilities revealed in the crucified and risen Jesus, an invitation to live according to Jesus’ new reality made possible by his faithfulness to the will of God.  And the way Mark tells the story, the way Mark ends this part of the story, Jesus is the only one to look to because he is the only one who has been faithful.  By the end of the gospel all the other characters who were close to Jesus, including the women at the tomb, have abandoned him.

          In our known orders of reality that abandonment would be a source of fear for us, because we know we’re guilty too.  Jesus himself even warned that the Son of Man would be ashamed of those who were ashamed of him, and that creates fear.  In the new reality of Easter though, all those who have abandoned Jesus are welcomed back.  Even Peter, whose denial of Jesus was told in detail in the previous chapter of Mark, even Peter is welcomed back and given special mention when the young man in the white robe gave instructions to the women.  Those instructions begin to define a new reality.

          All are welcome to the new reality and the new possibilities of Easter.  All need to hear and live and tell this story of new life this story of a reality where even the dead are raised.   Mark gave us the beginning of the story and he gave us the end of the beginning.  He points us to Jesus, and looking to Jesus we know the ending, not just for him but for each of us.  We still live sometimes, between fear and faith.  But looking to Jesus, always coming back to Jesus, we know the ending and we know we’re part of the ending; and we know we’re welcome.

          He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!                   


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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