At this point, the reader of the story of the gospel of Mark knows what is coming. They have read Jesus’ passion predictions and the Jesus’ promise to go before the disciples to Galilee after his resurrection. The reader knows the story will not end with the death and burial of Jesus.
The disciples, however, have run away in fear and grief, and the women come, fully expecting to find his dead body. Throughout all of the gospel of Mark, people are constantly doing the wrong thing. Those told to keep silent do not, the disciples cannot stay awake and then run off, Peter says he will not deny Christ and he does, Judas betrays him to the authorities, and at the end of our reading today the women are told to go and tell, and they do the opposite. In Mark’s telling of the gospel, people are clearly unreliable, but Jesus is not.
All of this human failure and lack of understanding will not keep the stone from rolling away. Nothing, in fact, will keep the stone from rolling away. This is the picture of the way that God loves us, so deeply and profoundly that nothing will keep this tomb from being empty. Jesus will rise from the dead not only in spite of our human sin and frailty, but for our very sake. Nothing we do or fail to do will keep Easter at bay. Our deepest secrets, our smallest failures, our lack of belief, our distraction, our lack of understanding…not only could they never hold the stone in front of the tomb, they are in fact redeemed by this mysterious resurrection. No power in the world can keep God from loving us.
This story of death transformed into life is profound and at the core of our faith. It is also a story that ends without an ending. The end of our reading today is where the gospel of Mark originally ended. No post-resurrection appearances, no disciples going and telling. So much is left unknown and unsaid. This ending of Mark is so unsettling for us that by the 2nd century, different endings had been added. The longer ending pulled stories from the other gospels and the book of Acts, which were all written down after Mark.
But by trying to ‘fix’ the ending of Mark we take away from its brilliance and power. Stories that end with no answers, in an open-ended fashion by their very nature draw the reader into the story, inviting them to live out the story themselves. And so the story of the Gospel of Mark continues to this day, in the reader, in us. The gospel story and message, like God’s love, has no end. Chapter 1, verse 1 of Mark starts “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Chapter 16, verse 8 then, is not the ending, but simply where the reader becomes the doer, where the words leave the page and enter the world.
Galilee was home for the disciples of Jesus. And that is exactly where Jesus said he would meet them after the resurrection. Jesus meets us right at home, in the mist of our daily lives, in the midst of the ordinary. For Mark, the hope of the resurrection is in an empty tomb and the promise of gathering with us right where we are. Right where we live, right where God has placed us. It was the reminder the women received in the tomb, Jesus has gone home to meet you, just like he said he would.
And so Jesus meets us, and together we continue the story of a loving God who will stop at nothing to get to us. We continue the Easter story every moment when we live out our lives in the way that God has called us – in compassion and mercy, justice and love. There is no ending written in the book of Mark because we are still the story today, and the story will continue throughout all of history and into the future.
The bible and its stories are not a set of claims about what is true that people can accept or reject, the bible and its stories are a living conversation that are plopped right down in the complexities and ambiguities of life. That is what makes them real and relatable. While the first Easter morning is worlds away, resurrection is right here. We find the tomb empty in ways large and small. Sometimes we are surprised, sometimes not, but always we are reminded that nothing will keep this stone from being rolled away.
And so we follow the resurrected Christ, knowing that there are no heroes among Jesus’ followers. Those who physically walked beside him struggled to understand, to follow, to live the story. But God brings faith out of weakness and failure, Jesus accomplished the will of God in the story of these three days. No one can get so far away from God’s love that they cannot be touched by God’s healing presence. Nothing will keep the stone from being rolled away.