Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Easter In September
Mark the Evangelist thought it was enough to describe Jesus as a prophet, a man whose life and teaching testified to God's action in the world, to the point of giving his life fully in martyrdom. It's a surprise to many readers to learn that in that original gospel—probably the oldest of the four canonical gospels in the New Testament—the story ends just after Jesus' death, with a somewhat cryptic reference to Jesus' tomb being empty (see explanations here and here). There are no resurrection appearances, no memorable scenes with disciples or references to heaven and hell. Just an empty tomb.There is no gospel without the resurrection - I fully understand that, but I have a great deal of sympathy for this particular spin of the story. Christ's resurrection has indeed won the victory, but the victory is not yet ours, we have but the anticipation and the struggle - WE are still called to hang ourselves on that cross everyday to make room for God to work in our lives. Our full victory is yet to come.
I like to think that this original gospel was Mark's way of saying "wait and see." Perhaps Mark wanted to convey a sense of hopeful anticipation of what would come from Jesus' ministry—a hope that in some sense was already beginning to unfold around him, since it's not unlikely that he was a companion on Paul's missionary journeys around the Mediterranean. The leading message that one takes from Mark's gospel is this: "Here is a man who knew the ways of God and was willing to die for them! Let us follow him!"
There is something very honest, I think, about that empty tomb. What is next? The other evangelists fill in the story, and there is much to ponder. But with Mark we have an early sense of wonder, a story whose end has yet to be written. And isn't that how we ourselves experience our lives?
Before victory - sacrifice. Will we experience the glory of the resurrection> Oh indeed we will, but the real question is have we? I think not - the path to that place is through the cross.
"I have been crucified with Christ..."