1. David Lose – "It’s Only the Beginning"
The story of what God is doing in and through Jesus isn’t over at the empty tomb, you see. It’s only just getting started. Resurrection isn’t a conclusion, it’s an invitation. And Jesus’ triumph over death, sin, and hate isn’t what Mark’s Gospel is all about. Rather, Mark’s Gospel is all about setting us up to live resurrection lives and continue the story of God’s redemption of the world.
Mark gives us a clue to that in the very first verse, in an opening sentence that is almost as abrupt and awkward as the closing one. Mark, you’ll remember, doesn’t give us the long genealogy of Matthew; the tender story of shepherds, angels, and a mother and her newborn together in a stable as in Luke; or the theologically soaring and totally wonderful hymn to the Word made flesh of John. Rather, Mark says simply, even pointedly, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Goodness gracious, but that doesn’t even sound like an introduction (and, indeed, some have wondered if it was Mark’s title rather than opening line). But the key thing here is that Marks says straight off that all of Mark’s writing is only the beginning of the good news of what God has done and is still doing for the world through Jesus the Christ.
It’s only the beginning; this story isn’t over. It’s only the beginning, and we have a part to play. It’s only the beginning, and if you wonder why there is still so much distress and pain in the world, it’s because God’s not done yet. It’s only the beginning, and Mark is inviting us to get out of our seats and into the game, sharing the good news of Jesus’ complete identification with those who suffering and his triumph over injustice and death with everyone we meet. It’s only the beginning, and we’re empowered and equipped to work for the good in all situations because we trust God’s promises that all will in time come to a good end even when we can’t see evidence of that.
It’s only the beginning….
2. Lawrence – “A Brand New Future for the whole of creation”
The first is that we fail to recognise that what happens on Easter Sunday – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – is far bigger than a “reasonably significant event in the life of Jesus”. It is nothing less than a brand new future for the whole of creation. On Good Friday, the entire old world order of fallenness, despair, decay and death triumphs over Jesus. It is the end of Jesus’ mission and is the human race’s verdict on God’s salvation in Jesus: “Crucify him!”
Good Friday leaves everything in ashes. Sin wins. It is not so much that it defeats us: the horrifying thing is that we deliberately choose it over God. On Good Friday we choose to be godforsaken rather than saved. Until we understand the cosmic, eternal significance of what we choose to do in crucifying Jesus, we will not grasp the enormity of Easter Sunday.
For God chooses not to judge, condemn or withdraw. God does not let our Last Word stand. God does not allow us to reap the consequences of our addiction to self-destruction. Hatred and death get the Last Fling in Jesus’ crucifixion … but on Easter Sunday, we discover that the Last Word belongs to God – a word of Life and Love.
The Word of Resurrection that summons Jesus from the tomb is the freshly uttered Word of God that summons a new creation into being out of the ashes of the old. The old world order that has subsisted for as long as human beings have been in charge is dead and buried in Jesus. Cosmic destruction is complete; sin’s destructive power has been exhausted. Now, on Easter Sunday morning, God’s creative Word smashes the cosmic silence of Easter Saturday: “Let there be Life!” And as the risen Jesus steps from the tomb, the New Creation is born. The Light of Christ has come into the world. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not been able to put it out.
Easter Sunday isn’t some sort of self-congratulatory “the Church got it right!” jamboree. It’s the time to recognise that we stand this side of the resurrection of Jesus, in a new world that was born on Easter Sunday over 2,000 years ago – a world determined not by death and futility, but by the inexhaustible, unfathomable, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and welcome of the God of Resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection isn’t a portal into a different world: it’s the irreversible beginning of changing how this world works – rather like a beneficial form of climate change
Something has happened that means there is no going back. Death and futility no longer have the Last Word. And the Christian hope and conviction is that they will one day have no say at all, because this world will be transformed into the Kingdom of God.
The “today” in which Christian faith – following Jesus – has to be lived out is shaped by that “one day” – not in the sense of passive waiting, but of mission: actively shaping the world to take on the contours and structures of the Kingdom, which is its destiny under God because of Easter. When that happens, resurrection – New Creation – becomes gradually visible.
Mission plunges us back into the Jesus story. We experience the same tension that permeates the gospel narratives: to those who yearn and ache for a transformed world and hunger and thirst for God’s justice and peace, the Kingdom is news to be welcomed with outstretched arms and shouts of joy. For those who benefit from the way things are, the Kingdom is a threat to be neutralised by whatever means possible.
We still live in a world that crucifies messiahs. That is why Jesus calls on us as would-be disciples to take up our crosses and follow him. Resurrection doesn’t give us a free pass: it gives us what we need to live the Way of the Cross. There isn’t any other broader, safer road. There isn’t any other way to find Life. The new comes into being because the old dies. The life of faith – following Jesus – is not cost-free. It demands everything of us. At times, changing the world in the ways God calls us to do even costs our lives.
Easter faith doesn’t turn away from the Way of the Cross. Not out bravado, but out of the conviction that our lives – including our deaths – aren’t determined by the apparent triumphs of our Good Fridays, but by the God who raises the dead, so that we can share in the promised future of this world – what Jesus calls the Kingdom of God.
St Paul calls this Easter faith “sharing in the sufferings of Christ”. Good Friday isn’t good in the sense that “suffering is good for us”. It denotes the deep mystery of God’s salvation: the broken, bloody man hanging on a Roman cross is the means by which God will give birth to the New Creation. It is as we walk the Way of the Cross that we are most visibly, authentically like Jesus. It’s all about dying and rising. And it’s a world away from La-la land. As we love the world enough to enter into its deepest, darkest, most hopeless places in order to change it, our scars proclaim the genuineness of our love, our connection with Jesus and our hope in the God who loves a new creation into being.
3. John P. Newell
Christianity will rise again to bless the earth to the extent we remember the sacredness of everything that has been born in the universe, to the extent that we look into the face of the world’s brokenness and the earth’s brokenness as our brokenness to the extend that we remember that the temple of the earth is the primary context
4. Dennis Bratcher – Resurrection – “A reality that is experienced existentially by believers in a wide variety of way”
This resurrection story acknowledges that the response to the Christ event may vary from one Christian to another. Peter unhesitatingly enters the tomb. The Beloved Disciple is more cautious, but once he enters the tomb and sees the undisturbed grave clothes, his perceptiveness leads to faith in the resurrection. Mary on the other hand is outside weeping and will experience the resurrection of Jesus yet another way. It is no wonder then that there is not a single gospel written but four. Indeed, more than four. There is also the preaching of Paul, and James, and Hebrews, and the rest of the New Testament. In spite of the central reality of the resurrection of Jesus, the story can be told in so many different ways because the resurrection is not merely a fact of history. The Beloved Disciple believes when he sees the abandoned linen wrappings. Mary believes when she hears the Lord call her name. Thomas believes when he is given a chance to put his fingers in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. The two disciples on the Emmaus road believe when Jesus breaks the bread. How do I believe? How do you believe?
5. Matthew Skinner –“Daring to Hope in the Stress of Uncertainty (Mark 16:1-8)” From On Scripture
Mark’s not interested in proving that Jesus rose. Mark puts readers smack in the middle of an existential crisis: a faith crisis. If Jesus’ death doesn’t end his (or our) story, if he goes before his followers to Galilee (16:7; see 14:28), then anything is possible. God effectively pledges to make it so, opening wide the doors into a desirable future. But it doesn’t just happen in a flash. It’s a future that must be lived into — moving forward.
The disappointing thing about this ending is that no one in the book seems able to live into that future. The rest of the disciples couldn’t even stick around past Jesus’ arrest, except for Peter, who famously pooped the bed while trying to catch a glimpse of the trial. The women at the tomb get much farther than anybody else, but the sheer prospect of what lies ahead, stemming from this Easter surprise, justifiably terrifies them.
And, yet, the promise remains.
Recall the elements I already mentioned, the ones with which Mark builds the Easter story: an empty tomb, a promise, and frightened disciples. There’s a promise that can’t be muted by the retreating disciples and their breathless quiet. The messenger — by implication, an angel — delivers it: “[Jesus] is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (16:7).
Why doesn’t Mark tell that part of the story? Why no heartwarming account of a huggy reunion, a picnic, forgiveness, or a commissioning? Why doesn’t Mark move us forward?
Probably because the author of this Gospel knows that our post-Easter reality resembles the book’s ending — at verse 8. The place where the women dwell at that moment is the place we live day in and day out.
It’s situated on the line between hope and fear. Teetering between disappointment and attainment. It’s wondering if we’re fools to hope for a world that’s reliable and a life that’s meaningful.
Like the women, we believe; or we’re trying to. Some days other people have to believe for us. But we’ve seen enough of the Easter reality to be enticed to dare. Honestly, the possibility alone should scare us.
Like they, we know that resurrection is a game-changer. If it’s true, death has been bested. Then we lose our excuses for taking refuge in cynicism or hopelessness.
Like they, we are going to need some help. Leaps of faith are easier when someone else tests the landing site for us. Jesus made other promises in this Gospel that proved true. So we trust him to ensure that he will indeed keep this one: that he will meet his disciples in Galilee in the “longer endings” to this story we construct for ourselves — in the unforeseen consequences of Easter that extend forward to us.
If, like the angel promises the disciples, Jesus goes before us, then on Easter we rightly ask: Where will he lead? In our uncertain faith we rely on him to help us see that indeed “the kingdom of God has come near” (1:15) and that “those who lose their life…will save it” (8:35).
6. For the time being, we pretend we don’t know how it all ends. For the time being, we reflect on our own hearts, we reflect on our own participation in the sordid cavalcade of the human condition. We ponder the ways we need to be restored, renewed, renovated, recreated—born again.”
– Br. Mark Brown, St. John the Evangelist
7. Gary Jones, St. Stephens, Richmond
This has been a hard winter, and we’ve all had difficulties of one kind or another. God answers hard winters with beautiful springs, and urges us to do the same for each other. That’s what our Easter celebration of new life is all about. People have many different ideas about the resurrection of Jesus, about what really happened. Whatever yours might be, please come and enjoy this village-wide festival of new life. I’m not very interested in doctrinal disputes on this great feast day; such disputes only put people in their heads and spoil the celebration. Instead, I sense that while our children are hunting for eggs, God is relentlessly hunting for us, and a resurrection we might come to know and believe in is our own