When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, 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. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8 ESV)
Do you want to be a Christian? She was shocked! “No way! Why would I want to join a patriarchical legalistic group?”
Do you want to be a Muslim? He was shocked! “No way! Why would I want to join a group that can produce such followers as ISIS?”
Do you want to be Hindu? They were shocked! “No way! We’re not high born, upper class, what if they regarded us as Dalits? We’d have to wait for another life to get treated nicely.”
Do you want to be Buddhist? They were shocked! “No way. I like my meat too much and even if I’m allowed to eat it everyone would be judging me.”
Now it is not hard for us to imagine Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all taking a collective intake of breath and marshalling their replies. They would want to present other perspectives, wider contexts, and challenge the perceived attack. Such conversations will often however end with various versions of truth, different examples to support the varying positions and probably both sides thinking that the other has an agenda to maintain – but if they are civil, they agree to differ.
What are the facts people might say? To which the post modernist replies, ‘According to whom?’ and other people mutter ‘Fake news’.
Do you want to join the Conservative Party? The Labour Party? Do you want to register as a Democrat? A Republican?
What do you think of Brexit? Climate change? Gun laws? Cricket balls?
To live – have opinions – make decisions we bring the knowledge and experience we have acquired to the topic and respond. Increasingly it seems to me that we no longer run to the home set of Encyclopaedia Britannica or World Book as arbiter, judge, or source of knowledge but we are confronted with differing sources of knowledge – which we still use as foundations on which to have opinions, make decisions and live.
Today if it is about anything – and Christianity can fill libraries with books on theology, history, liturgies, liturgical theology, prayer, spirituality, practical help, ecclesiology, missiology, archaeology, evangelism and more – which means Christianity can certainly present its case and argue it if it has to – but when it does so, it knows that no one has ever been argued into the Kingdom of God – no, if today is about anything, it is about news!
News flash! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
That’s very kind of you. I’m obviously speaking to those who believe.
But what if someone was to say, ‘Fake News!’? Or ‘April Fools!’? It might be hard for us to sense again the ludicrousness of what we are saying. To comprehend the incomprehension of our news. And when the world seeks clarity, we can clarify … No, it was a bodily resurrection. No, it wasn’t a resuscitation and Jesus didn’t die later as an old man somewhere in Europe. No, his disciples didn’t conjure up the message to make money. Yes, I am saying that Jesus was raised to life again and he has never died again. Yes, he has defeated death’s power to have the last word about our existence and separate us from life. Yes, that means Jesus is God who has come to rescue us – rescue you and give you life with him.
But it can be scary to contemplate. To trust such news. To live according to such news. That was the situation of the women in Mark’s Gospel. Remember they don’t see Jesus but the young man in a white robe who has told them the same message people today are hearing, ‘Jesus has risen’ – and in their case, ‘He is going before you to Galilee’ – which is often understood as going out into the world – and they were to follow him – out into the world. And the women are afraid and silent – because this news is not what they expected at all. The world is upside down.
Yes, it is a strange ending for an account that is certain about Jesus’ resurrection. But perhaps it is the Gospel account we can turn to – not to emulate its silence – but to understand the effect that today can have on the world.
After nearly 2,000 years the Christian Church has many foibles, failings, and sins – so much so that people who do not wish to deal with Jesus can easily target his followers. Yes, this might be a jaundiced view of history – for the Christian Church has also had a legacy of many good things – but that still leads us to an inevitable he said – she said – they said. So at some point Christians have to move themselves and the Church out of the way – acknowledge our sins – why would we not?! – we do so every Sunday – and introduce Jesus. We can tell the story of Jesus. And Jesus then presents himself and the world continues, generation after generation, to never be the same again.
Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!]
It’s not fake news and it’s no April Fool.
- Mark 16:1 - 8