Is the resurrection another ‘rabbit hole’?
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)
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Only that’s not exactly what we hear today from the Gospel according to Mark! No, the last words from Mark appear to be that the women say nothing to anyone because they are afraid. In fact the additional endings in Mark in other manuscripts probably exist precisely because this seems a strange ending.
And we ask the question and so does the world. What sort of ending is this?
Except Mark is not a journalist writing the first version of history. No, he is writing decades later to his community and church tradition has him close to Peter and he is writing because the word had got out about Jesus – he was alive again and he did go on ahead to Galilee to meet Peter and the others – and his readers knew this and were learning more about Jesus.
Is this ending a dramatic pause – the shock of the unexpected, the mute of the unbelievable – designed to spur the readers on to speak and not be afraid? Maybe someone was hearing Mark’s account of Jesus for the first time but probably most already knew the story of Jesus – precisely because they knew he had died for them and was raised for them!
Was it Mark’s way for reminding the followers of Jesus, “You are used to this account of the resurrection but the first time the world hears it, takes it in, and realises what you are saying, then don’t be surprised at the reaction you get”?
Were the women reacting to the idea of the dead coming back and they had failed him? What if they thought of Jesus as some sort of horror character, like Freddy Krueger – despite what the young man in white said? Death is traumatic enough as it is but how do we react to it if something happens that defies all our experiences? Surely we can understand fear in such contexts?
And yet the Christian Church never disputed Mark’s account of Jesus and regarded it as canonical – authoritative for the followers of Jesus – and so we hear this account every three years according to our current lectionary. And we ponder what this could mean – not to see Jesus yourself, to hear that he is risen, to be told he has gone on ahead of you and you will see him – and for us now nearly 2,000 years later with a small shift of Galilee to ‘heaven’, we realise that this is our situation – not seeing Jesus, hearing that he is risen, and being told that he has gone on ahead of us and yet we will see him. This is us!
Are we to be afraid and silent? We might have been had we been there that first Sunday but we are hearing this message because the silence and the fear have ended and the news is going out – Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!)
To which the world says, ‘Resurrection rabbit hole!’. Today’s use of the term ‘rabbit hole’ is to describe the journeys taken trying to understand truth but when facing conspiracies, deceptions, lies, mischief, and even nefarious or evil things that seek to ensnare or entrap you. Social media intensifies these rabbit holes and if you travel too far down them you simply become enmeshed in that world. The increasing challenge to truth and trustworthy news – whom to believe – just exacerbates this situation.
The world calls Christians ‘deluded’ because of their ‘resurrection rabbit hole’. There is a fear of being ‘sucked in’ – and that is not unreasonable to be cautious because if someone has defeated death’s power that is someone every person imagines they might have to reckon with at some stage.
However the ‘rabbit holes’ and conspiracy theories of our modern world are marked by anonymity – secrets being released, often gradually, to help the believer understand this world and how to make a new world order – which never happens – and so new enemies are needed to be found to keep people
in this reality. ‘Rabbit holes’ and conspiracies breed anger and a lot of fear and possibly violence. Rabbit holes and conspiracy theories want and need people to believe.
When we look at the so called Christian ‘resurrection rabbit hole’ that the world is too smart to fall for – one surely has to notice that Christians are not anonymous but public – you know who they are and their message – in fact additional secret messages are cultic and rejected by most Christians. Yes, Christians want the world to understand God’s Word but not to make a new world order – a theocracy – but to live with God life to the full – which can happen no matter the times and places, political systems or economies, war or peace. People are not regarded as enemies but as those God has put near them to care for and serve them. Any Christian world view centred on grace breeds love and confidence because God is faithful and merciful. Yes, the so called Christian ‘resurrection rabbit hole’ wants people to believe but respects those who do not and knows that arguing has limited effect but love is powerful.
Today we remember the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion when everything changed and the reactions that occurred – none of which deny the resurrection. What does it mean?
That answer involves a lifetime of facing the message, the good news, that an unseen God is not to be feared;
that Jesus Christ can be followed as Friend and Lord;
that God’s grace – this undeserved love – is genuinely for us;
that God’s forgiveness and mercy is real and for us because we need it because we do sin; and that the resurrection is the public declaration that what Jesus did on the cross need not be feared – God isn’t ensnaring us but loving and rescuing us from the powers of sin, shame, fear, the demonic, and death.
Today does bring truth and why we believe things into focus.
The followers of Jesus, today, say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life – always for us and not against us. His message and presence do not ruin life but redeem it. His message and presence do not shrivel life but expands it, because he gave us his life for us on that cross and today we learn that his life given through words, water, bread and wine is the best gift of all.
- Mark 16:1 - 8