MARK’S RESURRECTION: LEANING INTO THE PROMISE
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Image by He Qi
In this time of pandemic and social distancing, it may not feel much like Eastertide. The resurrection may seem distant or even overly forced in the face of so much sickness, death, and struggle. So, how do we proclaim an honest resurrection in a COVID-19 Good Friday world?
As I suggest in my first post, I think three of our gospel writers—Mark, Matthew, and John—might offer guidance for how we preach resurrection throughout the Easter season (no matter the preaching text) in ways that are faithful and truthful under the weight of our pandemic reality.
O. Wesley Allen, in his text Preaching Resurrection, asserts, “The ending of the Gospel according to Mark is so odd that preachers rarely approach [it] [especially] during Easter …Why would they? There are no resurrection appearances…There is only an empty tomb about which no one hears.” Unlike the endings of Matthew, Luke and John, or the shorter and longer endings of Mark added by the 2nd century church, Mark’s shortest ending contains no resurrection appearances. And while the “man dressed in white” proclaims resurrection good news, the women flee the tomb saying “nothing” (ouden) to “no one” (oudeni). This resurrection proclamation lives in the unresolved tension between the trauma of Good Friday and the hope of an unconfirmed resurrection. But, that may be just the kind of resurrection we need right now.
The message of the young man dressed in white holds the tension between future hope and the women’s present experience. The messenger acknowledges the traumatic reality: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified” (Mark 16:6a). But, the messenger also announces the good news and points them on toward a future encounter in Galilee: “He has been raised; he is not here…But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6b-7). Without an immediate resurrection appearance, the women who have encountered this news are not required to move beyond their fear into instant joy. There is both physical and chronological space created between the trauma they have experienced watching from afar as Jesus cried out in utter abandonment at his crucifixion, and the future hope of encounter with the resurrected Christ in Galilee.
Perhaps Mark offers us one way we can preach an truthful resurrection in this season when we live under the shadow of the Good Fridays of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can preach honestly what is hurting, broken, even trauma-filled in these challenging days, holding out the resurrection not as cheap grace or an easy solution, but as a word of promise for us and for our congregation. We may not be experiencing lots of evidence of the resurrection in the present moment. In fact, we may even find the resurrection hard to believe in our given circumstances. But, the Word is still there for us; the promise still holds for us; the resurrection truth is promised and held in trust for us until we encounter it down the road, in Galilee.
 O. Wesley Allen, Preaching Resurrection, Preaching Classic Texts (St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press, 2000), 9.