Jesus is Missing from the Easter Story
By Beth Demme
One of the reasons I come to you via email, Facebook, or blog each week is to fulfill my personal mission to help people see the Bible as manageable and meaningful. That means there are times when I have the joy (and challenge?) of sharing something with you that you might not hear in church.
There are Bible study lessons that don’t fit in well with preaching. When a pastor has precious few minutes with you each week, they generally feel they can’t afford to spend those minutes on background and nuance that are better suited to a Bible study. But then in Bible study, the goal is often to cram in as much information and application as possible so, again, nuance is seen as a nuisance.
So, this Easter, you might not hear the Easter story as told in the Gospel of Mark.
It’s an optional reading for those churches following the Revised Common Lectionary, but even still many (including me) will opt for the Easter story as told in the Gospel of John.
Wait a minute? There’s more than one Easter story?
Well … sort of. There is only one Easter story (He IS risen!), but there are four perspectives on this all-important event. Mark’s perspective is the most challenging because it ends on a cliff-hanger. If you open your Bible to Mark chapter 16, you’ll probably see a note after verse 8 explaining that “some of the most ancient [i.e. oldest] authorities” end the book here; others include verse 9, some go all the way through verse 20.
For this discussion, let’s assume Mark ends at 16:8. A young man dressed in a white robe tells Mary Magdalene and the women with her, “go tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Jesus, just as he told you” (Mark 16:7). Then what? The women “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).
The women, like the other disciples, let their fear get the best of them. (This is a theme of Mark’s gospel.) In one sense, Mark is saying the story is left to you and to me to tell.
The other fun thing about having four Easter stories is that only one person shows up in all four.
You might think it’s Jesus, but nope.
Mary Magdalene is the only one who shows up in all the accounts. To be sure, all four accounts are about Jesus, but read Mark and Luke again, closely. Jesus isn’t there.
Actually, that’s sort of the point. Jesus isn’t there. The tomb is empty.
That is the incredible good news this, and every, Easter. The worst thing we humans could do was to kill God. But God absorbed our violence and overcame it.
My prayer is that God will do the same in me … and in you. That God will take the violence of what separates us from God, absorb it, and overcome it so that we can be in renewed relationship.
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