Through the New Testament in a Year

Today's Reading – Mark 16:1-20 – He has risen

We can only begin to imagine the devastating effect of Jesus' death on his disciples. All of their hopes for the kingdom had rested in him, and now he is gone. But his death was not to be the end. Confronted with an empty tomb the women are told by an angel, "Don't be alarmed... He has risen."

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The angel told the women who had come to the tomb, "Don’t be alarmed... You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6). With these simple words the resurrection is announced on that first Easter morning. Jesus had rested in the tomb on the Sabbath day, but now it is the first day of a new week – of a new world. It is resurrection morning, the dawn of a new creation.

Some of the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end with verse 8. Other manuscripts include a number of variant additional endings to the Gospel. The traditional verses 9-20 seem to be a later collation from other Gospels and from various events recorded in the book of Acts. All of this makes for confusing evidence. It is difficult to know whether Mark actually ended his Gospel with verse 8, and scribes sought to provide what they felt was a better ending, or whether the additional words he originally wrote have been lost. Whichever may be the case, all that we now have of Mark’s own account appears to stop at verse 8.

And so we have a puzzling conclusion: "Don't be alarmed" says the angel. However, Mark’s account concludes with the women fleeing the tomb, trembling and bewildered and unable to tell anyone what they had seen and heard.

But Mark's readers know that this is not the end of the story for they are the continuation of the story. They are those to whom this message has now come. The challenge now for them is how this story will continue to be played out in their lives?

And now this same unfinished story challenges us. Christ is risen from the dead; how shall we live in the light of this new creation? Are we going to remain trembling, bewildered and silent? Or are we going to show and tell the reality of Christ crucified and risen from the dead?

Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:14).

A few years ago I attended an Easter service at which wristbands were passed out with the single word “Risen!” emblazoned upon them. I have worn mine ever since that day. It continually reminds me not only that Christ is risen from the dead but that I too am raised with him. By the power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, I am to live the life of the new creation – the life of the age to come. Every part and aspect of my life is to be affected by the resurrection of Christ. Nothing can ever be the same again.

A well-known Christian song has the words, “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today… You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” That response is wholly inadequate. The world is to know that Christ lives – that he is risen – not merely by some mystical inner experience but by the manifest reality of resurrection life in the people who bear his name. We are to make the resurrection of Christ visible and incontrovertible.

Heavenly Father, I gladly confess that Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Teach me more of what this truly means. Spirit of Christ, translate this confession into the very fabric of my daily life. Help me to die daily to the self-centred life that called for your death. By your living presence and power, enable me to live the self-giving life of the kingdom that shows the world that you are risen indeed. In this way may I live daily in joyful anticipation and living hope of the day of your coming.

Peter Misselbrook