An Easter Message by Rev. Jeremy Tovmassian, Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Chicago and moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.
He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him […] Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were so afraid. — Mark 16:6-8
Jesus has risen!
This announcement to the women at the Christ’s tomb was meant to elicit praise and joyful proclamation. Instead, the announcement issues fear and trembling. Not a word is spoken. The women flee the tomb and the story Mark has been telling ends with a deafening silence.
If you like stories with closure, Mark’s gospel may not be for you. The Gospel of Mark ends in a surprisingly abrupt account of the disciples’ failure and disobedience even in the presence of Jesus’ resurrection. All throughout the story Mark has been telling about Jesus, the disciples have misunderstood and misrepresented Him. One scene after another we encounter a group of thick-headed, misguided followers of Jesus. At the end of the story, we expect to finally see the “Aha!” moment we’ve been waiting for. Perhaps, finally, we will see a faithful representation of discipleship. Sadly, we find more of the same; a failure to understand what God is doing and yet another discipleship failure.
The irony of this ending, is that the Church continues to read it on Easter morning! In other words, the very presence of a Christian community who reads this story signals the ongoing work of this Jesus who has risen indeed. Despite the failures and the imperfections of the disciples all throughout Mark’s Gospel — and throughout human history — there is still the miracle that we are here this Easter working out what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st Century.
So, perhaps Mark’s ending isn’t really an ending at all. Perhaps, instead, it is an invitation into a new beginning — a new story that we are called to live into and engage in today. One clever commentator suggested that we add the word “and” with an ellipsis to the ending of Mark — as if to say, “Jesus is risen! He’s alive and on the loose! The women say nothing! They run away in fear. They hide in terror and … ”
When we close Mark this way, we look up from the reading, we turn to our brothers and sisters in the congregation, and we find a community gathered around the text, to hear it fresh in the present. In the face of all our fears and failures, in the humiliating recognition of our weaknesses, the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection described in Mark reminds us that God is on the prowl. What God is doing in the world does not succeed or fail on our own merits, rather it succeeds because of the crucified-risen Messiah Jesus. We are the embodiment of the Risen Lord’s activity in the world and we are here today because He is risen.
Despite our persistent unfaithfulness and despite our pestering misrepresentations of Jesus, God continues to make us new. He remains faithful. His way is the way that is bringing life into the world. So this Easter we celebrate together even in this moment of isolation and fear; Jesus indeed is risen! See the place where they laid Him! He is alive and on the loose! And …