6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said.
“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.
He has risen! He is not here.
See the place where they laid him.
For the first time since 1956, Easter 2018 (Resurrection Sunday) falls on April 1st. This is the fourth time since 1900 Easter comes on April Fool’s Day and it will not happen again until 2029.
April 1st is a day to “fool” others with pranks. As a child we looked forward to this day much to the chagrin of our teachers. Most of our pranks however were not that good and many ventured into silliness. The best April Fool’s pranks consist of an element of surprise in addition to leaving a lasting impression.
The Resurrection of Jesus was the ultimate prank. It is God’s prank over death. Christ’s resurrection is what makes Christianity distinctive from other religions. It is as if through the resurrection God said, “April Fool’s” to death. Think about it. As much as Jesus spoke of his resurrection none of the disciples were prepared for it. Even though they knew it was coming they were surprised when it happened. They were more prepared for his death then for his rising. They could not fathom an event such as the resurrection. This is what made it a surprise.
That surprise began early on the first day of the week. In Mark 16 Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Just 3 days prior witnessed the last supper with the disciples. They saw Judas betray Jesus with ha kiss. The women saw Jesus taken into custody and brought before the Council, Ananias and Pilate. They gasped in horror as Jesus received 40 lashes minus one. They wailed as the nails pierced his arms. They shielded their eyes as the cross was raised towering about them. As he breathed his last they saw Jesus’ body taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. Following closely, they saw the stone rolled across the entrance sealing his body inside. Their new normal of life without Jesus had begun.
As the two Mary’s and Salome went to the tomb on the third day they fully expected to find Jesus’ body. On the way they carried spices and discussed who would roll away the stone. They expected to encounter death. They were surprised by God pulling the greatest prank of all time.
As women approached the tomb they encountered an unexpected event. The stone was rolled away from the entrance and inside was a young man (the New Testament Greek word here: neaniskos, = young man, youth https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/neaniskos.html) urging them to not be afraid. He assured them Jesus had indeed risen and would meet them in Galilee, just as he promised. The young man instructed the women to tell Peter and the others that God pulled the ultimate prank over death. Fearfully the women ran away saying nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:8).
So ends the earliest known manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark. I wonder why these women were afraid. Were they afraid of the young man in the tomb who served as a messenger? Were they afraid of Peter and others not believing them? Were they afraid of the resurrection itself? Perhaps their fear was a combination of these things. Most importantly however was their fear of the resurrection. Fearing the resurrection means to not believe it is not true. We do not know for sure they did not believe in the resurrection, perhaps they were not sure what they believed.
Later manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark continue the story of Salome and the two Marys. It says that after rising, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, encouraging her to tell the disciples that he is alive. Her fears were correct; they did not believe Jesus had risen. Understandably Peter and the disciples feared the resurrection. They too had witnessed the death of Jesus.
I can relate to their fears. I’m afraid of the messengers God sends into my life. Like the women, if I were to see an angel in dazzling white, I would be afraid. The reason I fear the messengers is because they bring a life changing message, similar to the messenger in the tomb. Secondly, I fear others will not believe me. When we share our faith we are proclaiming what God has done for us through the resurrection. Some are not willing to believe this event has left a lasting impression in our lives.
Thirdly, I fear the resurrection itself. Like the women at times I’m not sure what I believe about the resurrection. Is it real or a great hoax. Is it the greatest prank ever invented? Was it just a spiritual resurrection, a physical resurrection or both? Does the resurrection even matter?
Even though I fear the resurrection, it is foolish for me to not believe it. Instead of fearing the resurrection, I’ve come to embrace these it. To embrace the resurrection means to believe that it is real and has a lasting impact on our lives. Belief in the resurrection has left a lasting impression on my life.
Embracing the resurrection puts us in on the prank God pulled over death. Once we embrace the resurrection we are empowered to preach the Good News:
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:15-18).
The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus is alive. In other words, it is the message that God pulled the greatest prank of all over death, the resurrection of Jesus. This is the message we proclaim. A message confirmed through God’s word by many signs pointing to the ultimate “prank” God pulled over death that made a lasting impression on us and on the entire world.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:19-20).
In the risen Christ,