Joy to the world (03/27/16)

Jesus 25
Read Mark 16:1-8
“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (16:8)
These are the final words in Mark’s gospel.
There were some nervous editors in the first centuries after Jesus’ resurrection, who didn’t think that the gospel would sell if it didn’t have a conventional spectacular ending. You will find their added words in some Bibles. They added a resurrection appearance of Jesus, the granting of supernatural powers to the remaining eleven disciples, Jesus’ commission to go out and proclaim the good news, and a report that the disciple’s went out and preached the good news everywhere. But Mark didn’t write these extra verses. Even the most conservative biblical scholars agree that the gospel ends with the eighth verse:
“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (16:8)
It is a most extraordinary ending. It just ends by saying they were afraid. For sure, they were terrified when they saw an angel sitting in the tomb where Jesus was. Fear would be my reaction if I saw an angel. But the angel says, “Do not be alarmed.” But those words of assurance fall on deaf ears.
The women continue to be fearful because of what the angel says next: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. … But 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.” (16:6-7)
Please say this after me: they didn’t know what Jesus would say or do…………That’s why the fear of the women persisted.
Mark tells the story of the Son of God coming from the small, out of the way town of Nazareth, a town about the size of Waldorf, and doing ministry in a small, remote region of the world called Galilee, an area about the size of Waseca County.
That is to say, God came to us, in his Son Jesus, quietly, gently, not to overpower us, but to show us God’s love and compassion.
And what happened? He was rejected. First, by the authorities; they plotted to do away with Jesus, because they thought he was a troublemaker. Then, by his family; they couldn’t understand him and he was an embarrassment to them. Then, by the crowd; they chose Barabbas rather than the Jesus. Then, his disciples; at his arrest in the garden, they all fled.
It’s no wonder that on the cross, Jesus wondered if even God himself had forsaken him.
And so we should ask: If Jesus, the Son of God, really rose from the dead, what should we expect to happen now?
It is claimed that Mark Twain said, “If I were God, I would give the world a good swift kick right in the equator.” How will God react to the rejection and crucifixion of his own Son?
Jesus himself told a parable which reflected the common expectation of how God would act in such a situation. He said, a man planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenants. After a while, he sent his servant to collect the rent. The tenants beat up the servant. So he sent another, and they treated him shamefully. So he sent a third, and a fourth, and many more, and some they beat and some they killed. So he said, “I will send my son. Surely they will respect my son.” When the son came, they took him and killed him. Then the parable asks, “What will the owner of the vineyard do?” What would God do? What would people expect God to do? Jesus gives the answer. He says, “He will destroy the tenants.”
That is what was expected. If truly this was the Son of God, then look out. Get ready for retaliation. When the Son of God returns, run and hide.
Which is exactly what the disciples did – Every one of them ran for cover, including Peter. Remember that scene at the Last Supper? Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” Peter protested, “Not me! I don’t know about these other guys, but I will never leave you. Peter was the first to flee. He led the pack.
Only the women stayed. They followed him to the cross. They watched from a distance. It was too late to do anything. After the Sabbath was over, on Sunday morning, they went to the tomb to prepare his body for burial, because there had not been time before the sun set on Friday, the beginning of the Sabbath.
They assumed it was all over.
They get to the place where he was laid. He is not there. An angel is there who announces, “He is risen. Go tell the disciples and Peter that he is not here, and he will meet them in Galilee;”
And the women’s response? “They went out and fled from the tomb … and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
They figured the empty tomb could mean only one thing: We abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. We’re in trouble; Time to run and hide.
But the good news of Easter, the good news that these women, and the disciples discovered is this – say this after me – Jesus, who was crucified, will give us new life………
This is affirmed in this story in the most beautiful way in the instruction that the angel gives to the women, “…tell his disciples and Peter to meet me” …Where? … “in Galilee.” That is to say: “Meet me in the place where it all began, where I called you to follow me, where you saw my miracles, signs of my love, and where you heard the good news of God’s salvation breaking into this world.”
And you will notice that Peter is singled out. “Go tell the disciples and Peter.” Peter tried the hardest and failed the worst. If I know Peter, which is to say, if Peter is like me, Peter now feels the worst. So the angel tells the women: “Go tell the disciples and be sure you tell Peter, even Peter, that I will not give up on him. I will come and be with him in Galilee.”
The good news of Easter is that God’s Son, Jesus, who had been betrayed and rejected, has not given up on this world, or on us. He is alive, and his love is strong!
This good news of Easter is something like a story once told by Theodore Parker Ferris, a pastor and seminary Professor from the 20th century. He said that he thought he knew a good friend of his. But one day he had lunch with the man’s son. He knew the father to be a successful businessman, a man who was decisive, a man of action, for whom business is business. He never let emotion enter into making decisions.
Over lunch the son revealed something about the father that Ferris hadn’t realized before. It seems that the son had been in the Army, and he had made a terrible mistake. He got into trouble. He was given a dishonorable discharge.
He said that he knew he had disgraced the family, and that his father would be enraged when he heard about it, and was sure the father would reject him.
He also knew that he had to tell the father. So he sent his father a telegram and told him what had happened.
The same day the father sent a telegram back. There were only three sentences: “I will stand by you no matter what happens. I will be there with you. Remember, you are my beloved son.”
In time, the resurrection of our Lord came to mean many things to many people. But this is what it meant at the first: Jesus is alive! God is not finished with this world, or with you. Remember, he has chosen you in your baptism. He has given you his purposes to fulfill. You are a beloved child of God.
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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