Three weeks ago a New York Times article reported on renewed speculations and debate that the bones of Jesus may have been discovered in Jerusalem.
I doubt that anyone will ever be able to prove that these bones are those of Jesus. But it does raise the question: What is most important about Jesus? Theology or discipleship? That’s the question the Gospel of Mark raises. And I believe that’s the reason why Mark finished his Gospel the way he did, at verse 8 of chapter 16. As I have often explained, it is my conviction that the way we read the Gospel today and also at Pascha midnight, ending at verse 8, is exactly how Mark finished his Gospel.
My friend in Scotland, Mike Mair, has an excellent blog site. Yesterday he speculated that the young man who met the women at the tomb was the same young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51). He ran away in fear. But now he becomes the messenger of resurrection, and it was now the turn of the women to flee in fear – εφογούντο γαρ! Although all Orthodox icons show an angel greeting the women, I like Mike’s suggestion. It makes for a more interesting encounter.
The women and the young man are examples of discipleship, and so are the male disciples who have disappeared from Mark’s conclusion. Mark’s Gospel ends on a conjunction, trailing off into the new creation. We read it like that at the beginning of our Easter midnight service, where it trails off into the night air right before CHRIST IS RISEN is sung. Powerful symbolism.
We are like those disciples. How do we follow Jesus in today’s complicated and dangerous world? The world has always been dangerous for disciples of Christ. Complicated too! Each generation has to come to the same place as those women. They walked to the tomb, not knowing how they would move the stone. But they went, and their discipleship was answered in a totally unexpected way. They expected to find a dead body and instead heard news that filled them with joy and terror.
If you want to find bones in Jerusalem, there are plenty – and not just ancient bones! If you want obstacles and excuses, there are plenty of those. About a dozen years ago, at Borders Bookstore, I bought a book called, The Answer to How is Yes. It’s not a religion book. I loved to browse the many aisles of that wonderful, much lamented bookstore, and this book caught my eye in the Business section.
The title and message of that book capture the situation of the women on their way to the tomb. The answer to How is Yes! It is also the answer to all our fears and questions about our church. How do we ensure the continuing existence and vitality of our church? Better yet, how do we make our church more vital and alive? The answer to every How question is always Yes.
My fuller thoughts in today’s sermon: