Daily Gospel Reflection - 06 September 2011
Mark 16:1-8 (9-20): When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you. Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
[They promptly reported all of the young man’s instructions to those who were with Peter. Afterward, through the work of his disciples, Jesus sent out, from the east to the west, the sacred and undying message of eternal salvation. Amen.]
[[After Jesus rose up early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to the ones who had been with him, who were mourning and weeping. But even after they heard the news, they didn’t believe that Jesus was alive and that Mary had seen him.
After that he appeared in a different form to two of them who were walking along in the countryside. When they returned, they reported it to the others, but they didn’t believe them. Finally he appeared to the eleven while they were eating. Jesus criticized their unbelief and stubbornness because they didn’t believe those who saw him after he was raised up. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”
After the Lord Jesus spoke to them, he was lifted up into heaven and sat down on the right side of God. But they went out and proclaimed the message everywhere. The Lord worked with them, confirming the word by the signs associated with them.]]
The resurrection. The cornerstone of the Christian tradition. St Paul wrote that without the resurrection, ‘[our] faith is worthless [and we] are still in [our] sins’ (1Corinthians 15.17). I’ve had many a discussion about this with many people. It is one of the things that, for me, is not up for discussion. Let me state this as simply as I can: If there is no resurrection, there is no Christian. If there is no resurrection, then the death of Jesus is just a sad, tragic, image of injustice. And there would be no need to worship him. There were plenty of dead would-be Messiah’s on either side of the time of Jesus and no one even remembers their names. No, the resurrection is critical to the Christian tradition. If there is no resurrection, then God’s plan for rescuing creation has failed. Jesus was the last great hope, if you will. If Jesus was not resurrected, then there is no hope for the world. The writers of the New Testament make it perfectly clear that Christ’s resurrection was the turning point of history. That is, when Christ was raised from the dead (and we’ll get to what that means in a moment), the world changed. God’s rescue operation when into over-drive. This is the reason that the Gospel was being preached to the Gentiles (Acts 15). If God’s New Heaven and Earth began at Christ’s resurrection in the middle of history (not the end of it like a lot of people thought), then the Gentiles should be included (and they were surprised to find that they were).
But what does ‘resurrection’ mean? Bishop N. T. Wright makes a great case in his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, the term has always meant one thing - a re-embodiment of the soul. That is, some sort of physical body. Now, the New Testament accounts make it clear that this was not just a resuscitation of the original body. Christ’s body was / is a transformed body.
And this transformation goes back to the heart of the resurrection story. It shows us that the natural world was never meant to be discarded. It was (and still is) ‘supremely good’. The resurrection shows that the material world (along with the whole cosmos) was the scope of God’s rescue operation. And, again, if Christ was not raised, then there is no hope for the material world. We are just drudging along for no reason.
But Christ was raised to life again! God’s rescue project is fully operational! Every day, God’s realm can be seen - if we have eyes to see. There are more and more of us looking for sustainable ways to live, whether that’s through vegetarianism, local food markets, slave free clothing, public transportation, more efficient uses of our water, electricity, etc. More and more people are helping those less fortunate by serving in soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, city councils, etc. More and more people are working for the end of the sex slave trade, capital punishment, etc. More and more people are working in community gardens, clean park initiatives, etc. So the question that comes rushing to the front is are we involved in any of these things? If not, let’s make a conscious decision to get involved. Let’s start looking for ways of bringing God’s rescue project to bear in our own neighborhoods.
On a different note, some of you may be asking why they’re brackets around the last verses? According to several different translations, the best manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark don’t have verses 9-20. These were added later. Furthermore, there are differences in the additions - some just have verse 9, while others have 9-20. Some of my friends who are King James Version advocates will have a troubling time with this. However, one should just keep in mind that to date, we have better manuscripts than those during the time of King James.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC