Your life in Christ is lived in what Mark left open – chapter 16, verse 9, where you, like believers for centuries, let go of your fear and witness to God’s life in the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Resurrection of Our Lord, year B
Text: Mark 16:1-8
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“The women went out and fled from the tomb . . . and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Yes, that’s how Mark’s Gospel ends. Fear and silence. If there was more written after verse 8, it was lost very early on. Little wonder that by the second century some scribe added in his verses 9-20. But our best and most ancient manuscripts don’t include them.
Of course, we’re celebrating Christ’s resurrection 2,000 years later. Someone told. Matthew, Luke, and John fill in what happened. The other disciples’ fear was so great they stayed locked up that morning, but these brave, frightened women re-discovered the courage that first got them to the tomb in the early morning hours, and began telling the good news that spread that Sunday morning and afternoon. They overcame their fear and witnessed to what God had done in Christ, witnessed to God’s resurrection life.
These women created and lived their own verse 9.
Maybe Mark had good reason to end at verse 8.
He knew that the women soon told others. So, what if Mark intentionally stopped where he did? Mark called his story “Good News” in chapter 1, giving us the word “Gospel” itself. What if Mark believes this story only becomes Gospel, “Good News,” when you and I live our own verse 9, overcome fear, like these women, break our silence and witness to God’s resurrection life, like these women?
Maybe Mark is asking, how will you end this story? Will you remain in fear and silence? Or do you have a verse 9 that you can live?
To move on from verse 8, start by letting go of your fear of dying.
That Sunday the believers began to grasp just what it meant that Jesus was alive. They knew beyond doubt that he had been killed, buried. As the day unfolded, it began to dawn on them: death has no power over God’s Christ. That meant they didn’t need to fear dying, either. Death was just a doorway their beloved Master had opened to a new life.
Their witness to God’s raising Jesus from the dead poured out in this new awareness. They faced death and deprivation, imprisonment and torture, and yet they proclaimed loudly wherever they could go. They learned to live and witness without fear of dying.
What would your verse 9 be if you truly believed that death is no threat to you? Would living confident in God’s resurrection life for you change your life? If you learned to face anything, even your own imminent death, with peace, knowing you were secure in God’s love?
Imagine your witness to others if every day you lived as if it were your last, but you lived that day with joy and love and grace unafraid of what was next.
That’s what living verse 9 can look like for you.
Next, you can learn to let go of your fear of living.
If God can bring you through death into life, the early believers realized, all of Jesus’ promises of abundant life here are also true. The fear that led most of the disciples to betray and run away on Thursday was replaced by joy in this life with God, peace of mind and heart no matter the circumstances, in great difficulties, even suffering.
What would your verse 9 be if you released all the things you cling to in fear, and found a path to simplicity and joy in simply being alive? All our grasping for possessions or security, all our belief that faith means we’ll have no problems, all can be let go in Jesus’ resurrection life, and you can find true life here and now.
Imagine the witness your life would be to others if you lived free of the things that cause the world anxiety, and you witnessed with joy – even in serious difficulty and suffering – to God’s life living within you.
That’s what living verse 9 can be for you.
You could also learn to let go of your fear of loving.
When God’s resurrection life fills you, and you release your fear of dying and fear of living, the fear of loving is next to go. Those early believers lived into an abundant life in Christ and became vulnerable with each other in their love. Love shaped their community. At first, they shared everything in common, no one went without food or shelter, all were cared for.
It didn’t last, because this fear is tenacious. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to others in sharing what we have, in love, in forgiveness, risking being wounded by others, is frightening. But what would your verse 9 be if God removed the bondage of this fear and you gave of yourself for others in ways you never thought possible?
We’re watching and longing for justice from the Chauvin trial, we see in our nation persistent racially-motivated violence such as recently in Atlanta, we know the ever-present inequities and injustices in our society. We also know our relationships are fragile and we can harm even those closest to us. There is deep need for this love Christ calls out of us. When God’s resurrection life removes all your fear of loving with Christ’s self-giving, sacrificial, love, you participate in God’s healing and justice that vulnerable love creates.
Imagine the witness your self-giving love could be to others, joyfully letting go for the sake of your family, your neighbors, as you follow Christ’s example and calling.
That’s what living verse 9 can be in you, and it will bless the world you are placed in.
From today, this could be your path: live out your verse 9 with God’s Spirit as guide and strength.
Freed from fear of dying, fear of living, fear of loving by the Good News that God has broken death’s power over you and the creation, you can witness to this resurrection life in all that you do.
Mark has left open the rest of the Gospel for you to write. To live. Go, be verse 9 and show your world why this is Good News indeed.
In the name of Jesus. Amen