We Know a Man Named Jesus: March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024

 Easter, Year B                                                                          Mark 16:1-8 and Acts 10:34-43                                                                      

reading from Mark feels incomplete.  Mark
has some of the pieces that we expect in an Easter Gospel reading. There is the
empty tomb and a man in white who greets the women and tells them that Jesus
has risen.  However, there is no
appearance of the risen Christ, no sharing of the Gospel message.  The last line is: “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.”  This
ending made early scholars so uncomfortable, two optional endings were added on
centuries later—a shorter ending and a longer ending. 

The shorter ending is
one verse long and includes the women going and telling the disciples, just as
they were told to do.  The longer ending
is 11 verses and includes appearances of the risen Christ and instructions from
Jesus to the disciples about spreading the good news.  No one knows who wrote these additional
endings.  We just know that it wasn’t the
original author of the Gospel of Mark.  One
might ask why these additions were made and accepted as gospel for so long? I
believe it’s because we like neat and tidy endings.  We like happy endings, especially on

think that Mark’s original ending was lost. 
The text would have been written on papyrus…which was a delicate
material.  It’s not irrational to
conclude that something could have  broken off. 
However, if we look at the rest of Gospel of Mark, we can see that he
had a style which was a bit like a news reporter with limited space. Just the
facts.  For instance, Mark didn’t include
the story of Jesus birth.  For him, that
was not critical to the story.  Mark’s
emphasis was on the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus.  There is also a unique theme in Mark called
the Messianic Secret in that whenever someone revealed Jesus to be who he truly
was, Jesus told them to be quiet and ordered them not to tell anyone.  The theory is that Jesus didn’t believe
anyone could truly understand who he was without him dying on the cross. 

some ways, it’s a cruel irony that the last line would be that the women said
nothing. The whole Gospel Jesus has been telling people not to tell anyone who
he was and now they have this magnificent news and they are still following his
original directions.  But at the
transfiguration (when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah— 2 great prophets
who had died long before) he told the disciples not to tell anyone until after
he had risen from the dead.  They didn’t
know what that meant at the time, but Jesus hoped that they would once it
actually happened. Now was the time.  Now
was the time to finally tell, but if all we know is what we read here in
chapter 16 of Mark, they never told—for terror and amazement had seized them.

yet…they must have told.  We know this
because the other gospels tell the 2nd part of the story.  It’s even in our reading from Acts
today.  But the primary way we know that
the women shared this amazing story is because we are still talking about
it.  That is why you all are here
today.  It’s not just the flowers and the
glorious music.  It’s not just the finger
sandwiches or the baptisms.  We are here
because we believe that something incredible and frightening happened 2000
years ago, something that should never have happened. People die every day.
It’s horrible and it painful, but it’s real and we all believe in death.  Jesus’s disciples knew he had died. They were
ready to grieve his death and visit his grave. They were not ready for this
brand new reality, the reality that this carpenter from Nazareth had defeated

back to Mark.  Why did he leave it
without the ending we all want?  I think
Mark knew, that it’s wasn’t up to him to finish the story.  It’s up to us to share the good news.  Do we share the good news because it’s
interesting and fun? I guess that could be a reason.  Someone coming back from the dead is
definitely newsworthy.  But I think if we
look at our reading from Acts, we will hear why this news of Jesus’
resurrection is good news.  We call the
gospel the good news, but we never talk about why it’s good news.

(the guy who denied Jesus and was constantly sticking his foot in his mouth)
went on to be a rock star disciple after the resurrection.  In this reading from Acts, we hear part of
Peter’s message: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every
nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him…he is
Lord of all.”  Do you know what kind of
message that was? It’s one of our favorite words here at Christ Church.  It was revolutionary.    This
wasn’t revolutionary for a specific place or a specific people—it was for ALL

This was a time when
only certain people were allowed in the temple. 
And it wasn’t just the Jewish faith that had limitations, almost every
faith had limitations on who was and wasn’t loved by God.  There was no major religion that was open to
all regardless of gender, sexuality, color or race.  Yet that was what Jesus and Peter were trying
to do, show a new way where all people could approach God as equals.   

That was Jesus’s
intention, but it took Christians a long time to figure that out, even though this
idea of God’s love for all is what Peter was encouraging 2000 years ago. It was
that radical, that it took 2000 years for us really to embrace the fact that
God shows no partiality. God has no favorites.  And I admit we are not completely there
yet.  We still have work to do. Yet I am
confident that the more we can celebrate and embrace the resurrection and the
more we can follow the path that Jesus created for us, the more we can be a
truly a revolutionary community of believers. 
Because before we can consider ourselves revolutionary, we must first
consider ourselves people of the resurrection.

is a reason this fisherman with little education was able share that kind of radical
message that took 2000 years for us to embrace. 
Because he knew a man named Jesus who had treated all people with love
and compassion.  He knew a man named
Jesus who died on a cross because people were not ready for his message.  He knew a man named Jesus who promised he
would be resurrected and then defeated death. 
That is how he could say “God shows no partiality…” 

Do you know a man named
Jesus? It’s ok if you don’t completely know him.  Look what it took for Peter to get on board—a
lot.  We always say at Christ Church,
“Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, you
are welcome at Christ Church.”  That’s
true.  You don’t have to believe a
certain thing to be a part of this community. 
But let me tell you why I and so many others can provide that message of
unconditional love and welcome….because we know a man named Jesus who loves all
nations, blesses all nations and shows no partiality.  We want you to know him too.