Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Text: Mark 16 v 1-8 . "Raised up by God! "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share with one another any experiences you may have had that felt risky, dangerous or deeply disappointing and hopeless at the time and yet afterwards had a profound transforming effect on your life.
A Window on the Text
Some of life’s most exciting and rewarding experiences come about through having to take risky or perhaps even dangerous decisions or actions. In our reading from Mark, we see how the women who visit the tomb go with a mixture of emotions – apprehension and sadness which quickly changes to that of fear, surprise, amazement and bewilderment.
The reading opens with the women making their way to the tomb. They are uncertain about what they will find and they are filled with a mixture of emotions. They look into the empty tomb but are not sure what it is they are witnessing.
The Sabbath ended at dusk on the day after the crucifixion and so the women had only a very short time in which to prepare spices to embalm the body of Jesus. So they set off very early in the morning, immediately after sunrise on the first day of the week. Their desire to carry out this important act is overshadowed by an important practical problem. How will they gain access? How will the stone be removed from the entrance? Their journey may be in vain (v 3).
On finding the stone already removed they enter the tomb to find a white clad young man who speaks to the women, informing them of what has happened, the meaning behind it and their mission. His words are central to this passage ‘he has been raised’. This is a mighty act of God – defeat has turned to victory – God has vindicated Jesus.
His words are spoken to calm the women’s fear, to reassure them that the body has not been stolen. In their excitement, bewilderment and obvious fear of the moment, the women do not seem convinced by the young man’s reassuring words. The fact that the body of Jesus was not there does nothing to reassure the women, they would need to see Jesus alive to be convinced. “Trembling and bewildered they fled and said nothing”. (v 8)
The Easter day account here in Mark’s gospel takes us to the very heart of the experience of these women and how we should not be surprised if our own faith is stretched in the same way as theirs.
Responding as a community
- Michael Trainor says ‘only through the engagement with failure, defeat and misunderstanding can the disciples know the resurrection.’ (The Quest for Home, Liturgical Press, page 172) Negative experiences enabled them to recognize the resurrection. Is this your experience and/or that of your community of faith?
- On Easter Day, when people may come to church and look in, what will they see in your community? Will it be a group resembling mourners gathered around a lifeless body, without hope, or a group transformed with new life, giving themselves to God, to one another and to the wider community in love? How might you encourage that deep sense of joy, thanksgiving and celebration in your gatherings as church?
To what extent does your church live according to prevailing secular attitudes rather than that of Christian discipleship? How might your witness and experience be more consciously counter-cultural? Some are suggesting that the environmental crisis (global warming, climate change, peak oil and species and habitat extinction) is the critical gospel issue for humankind in the 21st century demanding a massive change in lifestyle from rampant consumerism and materialistic lifestyles. Might this be a way to lead society from death to life? Christian spirituality is all about how we live in the here and now. What steps could you take towards an environmentally sensitive lifestyle and spirituality?
- What does/might it mean for you to be Easter people who declare Christ risen from the dead and who seek to maintain a household of disciples focussed on Jesus? Mark’s ending hints at the difficulty of the task of proclaiming the gospel. How do we make known the impact of the Good News on our lives among family, friends and neighbours?
We pray for those who are visiting loved ones or friends who are close to death and who make the journey with a heavy heart, deep sadness and regret. May they find peace and strength for all that they must face.
We pray for those who will come into our church this Easter day and look into our life together and the witness of our faith. May they see people who have been transformed by the Easter story and live lives that are a witness to what we say in words.
We pray that our homes may become places of hospitality and sharing and from which mission and ministry can be offered to others in our local community.
We pray that we may seek ways to express the power of the resurrection enabling us to live differently and more simply, particularly in relation to the environmental crisis we are in.
More background Information
- Verse 7 of the passage contains some interesting instructions for the future. Mark suggests that the women must now, in the light of what they have witnessed, go on a new journey that is both physical and spiritual. They are to go to Galilee for that is where Jesus will be found, “He is going before you”. The whole of that sentence portrays Jesus on the move, in contrast with the earlier context of the passage which is of death, mourning, the paying of respects and deep sadness. For the women, if they are now to understand the resurrection, then they must be willing to take a step for themselves that involves both risk and obedience. No past experience ever removes the challenge that is found in each new step of faith. Nor does any past certainty or confirmation insure the next step against the possibility of risk. Discipleship is always about responding to every new call and its implications for ones life.
- Today’s reading highlights how the resurrection story is entrusted to a group of grieving women. This appears to be consistent with the frequent references Jesus made in his teaching to the overturning of accepted standards and an upside down view of relationships and power structures.
- The Angels advice/instruction to the women after he told them of the resurrection was that they should return to their homes. The importance of this statement lies perhaps not in where they were to go, rather in where they were not to go. The witnesses to the resurrection would build their new life in community together, not in places of power or influence, but in their ordinary lives, in the hospitality of one another’s homes amidst the daily realities of where we are and the issues we have to face.
- The Gospel of Mark is interesting because at this point it breaks off abruptly, without any further reference to the empty tomb or any description of the post resurrection appearances. This abrupt ending (at verse 8) is a strange way to conclude the gospel. Some suggest it is written as a dramatic and high point conclusion, with simply the empty tomb offering proof of the resurrection. Others have found this unsatisfactory and two alternative endings have been added. It is clear that the remaining verses were added by someone other than Mark since they were not present in the early Latin and Syriac translations of the gospel and the language is not consistent with Mark’s style of writing.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion