I like Mark’s gospel. It’s so direct; so straight forward. He gives us the important stuff, and leaves out all that extra, unnecessary material.
Details which we usually assume are so essential, so indispensable, so crucial to the story.
In Mark’s telling of the Jesus story, there’s no Birth narrative (virginal or otherwise). No wise men. No visit to the Temple as a boy. No Beatitudes. No prodigal son (or father, or jealous brother for that matter!). No Talent buried in the ground. No good Samaritan. No sheep and goats. No “High Priestly prayer.” No “Father, forgive them.” No “It is finished.”
With Mark, you get what you get, and that’s all that you get!
This Sunday, Easter Sunday, most Christians will gather in churches around the world and listen to the conclusion of Mark’s gospel.
Who among us, I wonder, will notice the long list of missing material which many would assume to be central to the story? Look at what’s not in Mark!
- There’s no encounter with the risen Jesus.
- There’s no Mary thinking she’s talking with the gardener.
- There’s no appearance in a locked room.
- There’s no journey to Emmaus with shaken disciples, or opening the scriptures to them, or burning hearts, or broken bread, or opened eyes.
- There’s no miraculous catch of fish.
- There’s no eating in front of them to “prove” he’s not a ghost.
- There’s no wound on wrists, ankles or side; no invitation to see or touch them; no affirmation to those who believe without having seen them.
- There’s no “Peter, do you love me?” or “Feed my sheep.”
- There’s no “Great Commission.”
- There’s no Jesus floating up to heaven where he is surrounded by clouds.
For Mark, this whole list is all extraneous, unnecessary filler. With Mark, what we get is what we get – an empty tomb, and a promise.
This Easter, I’m wondering if we preachers can give people what Mark gives them – an empty tomb and a promise – and leave it at that.
It will no doubt be a challenge! We want to proclaim why this is important. We want to announce how this changes things for us. We want to explain how all this is possible (and many of our listeners will want to hear that part, too!).
Can we leave their curiosity unsatisfied? Can we leave unfulfilled our desire to demonstrate our learning and insight? Can we leave the blank spaces blank, and admit that we don’t get it either?
I’m not sure I can. And to be honest, part of me doesn’t want to!
But Mark did.
And maybe it’s time to take our cue from him.
Because, let’s face it, an empty tomb and a promise is actually enough.
For all of us.