Following Jesus: Beyond the Empty Tomb
Scripture Reading: Mark 16:1-8
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? From the parade on Palm Sunday to the journey to the cross on Friday, to this new morning on the first day of the week: Following Jesus leads us on a path that brings us to New Life in a New Creation. This is what Easter Sunday is all about: New Life in a New Creation. If a dead man walked out of the tomb as the Lord of life, then this is a very good day. This is a good time to be alive and to follow Christ. Jesus has come in order to proclaim the arrival of God’s Kingdom. The Creator of all things is making all things new through his life, death, and resurrection. If you have followed Jesus to the cross, will you now have the courage to move on to the empty tomb and beyond?
All four gospel accounts tell us the story of Christ’s resurrection. What is unique about the version we find in the gospel of Mark?
Who are the first people to go to the tomb? What did they want to do? What were they worried about before they got there?
Upon their arrival at the tomb, the women see that the stone they were concerned about is already rolled away. When they go inside there is a man dressed in white (an angel) sitting next to the place where the body of Jesus should be. He says to the women, “Do not be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here! (This second statement is meant to emphasize the first!) See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:6-7 is the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ: Do not be afraid. Come and See. Go and tell. It’s a three-point sermon from the angel:
1. Fear not.
2. Come and See.
3. Go and Tell.
When was the other time in the life of Jesus that an angel said, “Fear not”?
Mark’s gospel account ends in the middle of a sentence and the original ending appears to be lost. The last words are in verse 8 which says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” Lamar Williamson writes, “When is an ending not an end? When a dead man rises from the tomb – and when a Gospel ends in the middle of a sentence.”
However, if the call of the gospel is to make us followers of Jesus Christ, then maybe this is a good way to end. Why? Because the story of the resurrection has not ended. We rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, and Lord. However, this good news and the implications of this good news continues right into our lives today. If the story of Jesus came to an end, then we would no longer have to follow. We can leave the path and turn our attention and interests elsewhere. We can ignore worship and the proclamation of the Word of God. If the Story of Jesus is over, you have the right to live for yourself and your own self-interest. But, if the gospel is living and active, and through his Word and Spirit Christ is at work and calling us – even to this very day – then it’s time to get serious about following Jesus.
In his second point the angel says, “Come and see”. What are the women invited to see? How do we “see” Christ today?
In his third point the angel says, “Go and tell”. Who were the women to go to first with the story of Christ’s resurrection?
In what ways are we “to go and tell” the good news today?
The Church of Jesus Christ will not stop proclaiming the good news of Christ’s resurrection because this is the living and active Word that continues until Christ returns. Maybe Mark is the most amazing gospel writer because his gospel ends in the middle of a sentence. By the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Story does not end. Jesus has been raised from the dead and (as we learned from the book of Revelation) the Lord is not dead, silent, or absent from his people even for one moment.
By his Word and Holy Spirit, we continue to meet the risen Lord every time we come together for worship, hear the Word, and participate in the sacraments. Mark’s gospel has no conclusion because the Kingdom of God continues to unfold in this world. Amen.