- Bishop Tracie Bartholomew
Mark 16:1-8 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples, and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
There are no alleluias in Mark’s resurrection story. There are no conversations with Jesus, no shouts of joy, no racing to tell what has happened. There is, alarm, fear, amazement, silence and emptiness. Not our usual picture of Easter Sunday!
Clearly the early church was not very satisfied with this picture, for not long after Mark’s gospel was written, additional endings were added. Endings that satisfy our need to fill up the emptiness, to make some noise, to include some actual sightings of the Risen One!
But I like the shorter ending. It’s helpful for me to think that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were so overcome that they were speechless. As one who is rarely without words, I can only imagine the magnitude of what it takes to render one speechless. To leave a scene so utterly transformed by what has happened that words will not do it justice must be a wonderful thing.
Into a world that is quick to make pronouncements, cast judgement, weigh in with opinion, and comment on everything, it is refreshing and powerful to hear that these disciples said nothing. I am reminded of Jesus’ birth when his mother, Mary, treasured the words of the shepherds and pondered them in her heart. There are some life events which are so powerful that words will not do.
Obviously, between the time of the women fleeing the tomb and the time it was recorded in Mark’s gospel, the women found the words to describe what had happened. Eventually Mary, Mary and Salome must have told the story of being at that tomb early on the first Easter morning. But in their initial silence, they allowed the power of the event to penetrate their lives.
We, too, are invited into that silence. We are invited into the place where we are so overcome by the power of Jesus’ resurrection that words fail us. We are invited to be so amazed by the reality of the empty tomb that we fear saying anything will lessen the meaning.
And then, after we have taken it all in, we might dare to proclaim: Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!