Rev. Bob Maddox
Rev. Gill has given us the classic and timeless rendering of the Easter story. That’s the one we know and love best.
Most scholars say the original book of Mark ended with verse nine as read this morning by Linda Maddox.
Some unknown editors edited the book at a later date. They did a cut and paste job on the text that has been handed down as part of the book since early second century. Parts of the added endings have caused confusion across the centuries especially before consensus hardened that these two endings are later, non-Markan additions.
As I thought about Easter’s enduring legacy, Easter’s “next day” reverberations I looked at these endings again. Like it or not a group of early Jesus people saw in these endings part of Easter’s legacy. As we leave in a while to go out in the afterglow of this festival service let’s see how some of our distant Jesus people, our relatives celebrated, lived and passed on their own version of Easter’s next day. I will have to say to my cousins in the faith: you got part of it right and part of it you blew but what you may have blown God preserved for good.
The original Mark story has the women quaking in fear and telling no one what they had experienced.
This later paste job paints Mary Magdalene as a screwball but still trying to tell the men that Jesus had been raised. The men would not believe the women.
The women may have been shook. Who wouldn’t be? But they were never silent at least not for long. And better evidence has shown Mary Magdalene a central character in Jesus’ life and ministry. From the very beginning and certainly into all the next days that have followed women have contributed equally with men in gospelling. Since men did most of the writing women got the short end if history’s stick. So this second ending is partly accurate and partly off target but the witness of next day is women have been right in there with men from the beginning. And nowhere more so than in UCC life.
Next day paints Jesus’ close friends hiding behind closed doors in fear. In this cut and paste version Jesus appears to them and upbraids them for their fear. I’m not sure my iPhone camera could have snapped that picture but the net effect was the men shook off their fear or at least refused to be paralyzed by their fear and soon were going into the uttermost part of the Roman world with the good news.
And those appearances of whatever nature became part and parcel of the next day story. Whatever of the Risen Christ those early followers experienced became integral to the hope of resurrection that captured the hearts and imagination of dozens, then thousands and eventually multiplied millions. Today we refuse to let crosses, death and despair be the final word about human life.
There’s a negative word in here that I reject. “Whoever believes in Jesus is saved.” I like that. “Whoever does not believe is condemned.” That’s not the Jesus I encounter in the gospels. He offered an unbrokered kingdom. All who would could become part of the kingdom. Those who did not see it he Jesus way earned his grief and heartbreak but not his condemnation. That kind of hellfire and brimstone preaching has always been with us. No doubt many have been scared into baptism. But that’s not Jesus’ preaching. It’s not cheap grace but not Jesus’ way either.
This pasted ending says that if we go out in Jesus’ name we can cast out demons, speak in tongues, handle venomous snakes and drink deadly stuff and not be hurt. And we can heal the sick by laying our hands on them.
For me demons are not little creatures that get down inside. But we have cast out many demons in the name of Jesus across the ages. We have learned to proclaim and live the way of Jesus in just about every language and dialect on the earth. Some folks up in the mountains of Appalachia and New Mexico still handle rattlesnakes and some of the die. But like those demons, we have stared down countless vipers and drunk all manner of poison in the name of Jesus and not only survived, but remained victorious. And in the name of Jesus we have assailed every known illness we human beings and our planet have known. And in the name and spirit of Jesus have whipped many of these scourges and are working to contain others.
Then Jesus left them. I am imagining a time of deep grief, confusion. Then they shook off their grief and fear or at least refused to be ruled by grief and fear. They did go into the world. Today we are likewise called to go into our world with Easter’s next day message of hope and justice.
Now go have a glorious Easter afternoon with family and friends. But tonight while you load the dishwasher for the third time, or tomorrow when you have a few moments to yourself reflect on your own next day after Easter. This is serious business. The demands are daunting but we are not alone. We work with the blessing of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. We serve today with the energy of God’s spirit in us. We have the existential in-dwelling of Jesus of Nazareth who has become for us the Risen, Ever living presence of God. Amen and a blessed Easter day and productive Next Day.