Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are grieving. They are expecting their Jesus, the one they loved, to be in a tomb. They are going to anoint his body and prepare him for a proper burial. They are coming because they love him. They are coming to do right by him.
But Jesus is not there.
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.
The original ending of the Gospel of Mark does not give us the resurrection we expect. There is no resurrected body. There are no alleluias. Jesus is just. . .gone.
Jesus is on the loose.
This is, and this should be, terrifying to the women who have come to anoint him.
When a person is nailed to a cross, and pierced with a spear, when his blood flows out of his body, he ought to die. The rules of biology and logic demand death.
The women who loved Jesus expect death.
And Jesus experienced death.
But not for long.
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark, God has been rewriting the rules. At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens tear open, the Holy Spirit descends, and the Father’s voice booms over the crowd, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased.”
God the Father announces to the crowd, and to us, that everything about life as a human being is about to change. God breaks into human history in a new way and reclaims us for his own.
Now, humans tried to control that holy in-breaking. Some tried to control the in-breaking by ignoring Jesus. Some tired to control the in-breaking by insisting Jesus follow the rules. Some controlled the in-breaking by turning Jesus over to the authorities.
Those authorities helped control the situation even further by killing Jesus.
But when God decides to reclaim his people, not even death can stop him.
God the Father resurrects his Son, changing every rule. Jesus is on the loose.
Thousands of years later, we haven’t learned this lesson. We still think we can control God’s in-breaking in our lives. We still think we can pin Jesus down. We set aside one day a week to worship him. We celebrate his birthday in December. We give him a week in the spring to remember his death and resurrection.
But Jesus doesn’t do well in confined spaces.
Jesus is on the loose in your life.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, we were owned by sin and death. They were our masters and we were forced to do their bidding. But God defeated sin and death through Jesus’ resurrection and now we belong to God.
You may think you can control Jesus by setting aside Sunday to think about him and going back to your real life the rest of the week, but good luck with that. The God who created the Universe is reclaiming you. The God who broke through the heavens, and became a human being is reclaiming you. The God who defeated sin and death is reclaiming you.
Jesus is at loose in your life when you brush your teeth in the morning. Jesus is at loose in your life when you write your Facebook status or balance your checkbook. Jesus is at loose in your life when you commute to work, when your boss gives you a dressing down, when you turn on your television at night. There is no moment in your life that is apart from Jesus and his Father who raised him from the dead.
Think about that for a moment and now tell me that the ending of the Gospel of Mark doesn’t just about sum up your reaction.
Terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The idea of Jesus loose in our lives is terrifying. At any moment he could ask us to reconcile with someone we loathe, give away the money that gives us security, humble ourselves when we want to advance. How can we know this mysterious resurrected Jesus has our best interests at heart?
The author of the Gospel of Mark gives us a little clue about this mysterious resurrected Jesus to calm our anxiety. The heavenly messenger at the empty tomb tells the women “. . .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.”
If you turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, you’ll see that Jesus first arrives on the scene in Galilee. Mark is pointing us back to the beginning of his Gospel. The resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus that taught and healed and exorcised demons. The Jesus that is on the loose in your lives is not some zombie, not some spiritual Santa Claus, spying on you in judgment. He is the Jesus who loved men, women, and children; brought wholeness out of brokenness; and spoke truth to power. He is the Jesus who loved Peter, even through Peter’s betrayal. He is the Jesus who loved us so much that he wanted to identify fully with our human experience and was willing to die, so that we might be united with God.
This is the Jesus who is on the loose, loving us, healing us and bringing us eternal life.
And for that we can heartily say,
Alleluia, Christ is risen!