BUT THE STORY does not end here. Mark’s gospel is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. It has no ending. The first readers/listeners continue the story.
We continue the story.
When Mark wrote his gospel, most of the people who were going to read/hear it were already believers. They do not have to be convinced about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. They already know/believe it. So, Mark is doing something different than giving information of the resurrection.
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THEY ARE LIVING under the reign of Nero, who was one of the greatest persecutors of Christians who ever lived. Under his reign, both Peter and Paul are executed; and many of Mark’s readers may face the same possibility.
Where is Jesus in the midst of the trials and sufferings and perhaps deaths? Where is Jesus when they need him most? A question we might ask at times.
Those early believers don’t need a history lesson. They need assurance that Jesus is right there with them during their troubles, persecutions, fears. Maybe some of them feel like failures in trying to follow the way of Jesus. Maybe some of them have denied Jesus to prevent their own crucifixion.
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MARK TELLS THEM that Jesus goes ahead of them — through the trials, sufferings, and death. Jesus goes ahead of them to the resurrection from the dead.
Even if they have failed Jesus, Jesus will not fail them.
Jesus goes ahead of all of them to Galilee.
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JESUS IS KEEPING his promises to his disciples who have failed him. When disciples fall short, Jesus is there to pick them up and empower them again. When they struggle to understand a parable, Jesus explains it.
When they are slow to figure out their role in feeding a hungry crowd, Jesus walks them through it.
When they talk about priorities contrary to the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus shows them the way. And when the disciples abandon him, Jesus emerges from an empty tomb and summons them to Galilee for reconciliation and mission.
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ALL OF THEM are invited to the Galilee reunion — the men, the women, even those who have failed most seriously. That is why Peter is mentioned separately — even Peter is invited.
The disciples who ran away are invited. The women, present at the cross but who left the empty tomb frightened and silent, they are invited. All are invited to the reunion.
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JESUS WILL NOT FAIL those who have failed.
What good news! Many of the disciples and women followers were from Galilee. My hunch is that after all that’s happened, they return to their homes in Galilee. It’s about a four-day hike from Jerusalem to Galilee. Even if the disciples leave Jerusalem on Friday, they will be Tuesday arriving home.
So, before the disciples get to their safe refuge; before they have time to consider “what’s next”; by the time they arrive home, Jesus is already there in Galilee waiting for them!
Jesus doesn’t follow them there; Jesus goes before them!
The place they will see the risen Jesus is back at home — perhaps, we might even say, in the ordinary stuff of life. (Luke writes about Jesus encountering Peter while Peter fishes.)
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JESUS PROMISES IT. Jesus is faithful.
Jesus is always a step ahead of our fearful flights. Always ahead of us. Always going before us. Always holding us together. Always guiding us back to himself and to our first collective calling:
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THAT IS A MESSAGE that I think Mark’s readers needed to hear. This may also be a message that we need to hear. In our sufferings, deaths, and resurrections, Jesus goes before us. He’s already been there, he promises to meet us in our hurt, our pain, our loss.
What good news!
But also, the place we will see the risen Jesus is back at home in the ordinary stuff of life. Going back home after the Easter celebration there may be piles of dirty dishes, unmade beds; a yard or garden that needs tending, a house that needs cleaning; cars that need washing; spring shopping that needs doing; and preparations for a great crowd of people coming for dinner.
At home is the anxiety of bills and health and loneliness. At home is the ordinary stuff of life.
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WHERE IS the risen Jesus when we return home — to the drudgery of the same old things? The risen Christ has gone there ahead of us. We will see him even in the mundane.
When we leave worship today, we cannot get away from Christ. He goes ahead of us.
The story continues. After all, it is not and has never been our story to finish. This has always been and is God’s story. It is Jesus’ story.
Mark may have composed a gospel with a surprisingly open ending, but Jesus is the steadfast one who pulls us into that opening.