"Fear and Shame Overcome" - Easter Sunday
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
April 1, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Central Passage
Mark 16:1-8
Easter Sunday: Holy Communion

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Easter Sunday B – April 1, 2018

Mark 16:1-8


Fear and Shame Overcome


            Out of all the resurrection accounts, Mark is my favorite. Three women go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices, a common 1st-century Jewish practice in lieu of embalming. The heavy stone sealing the tomb weighs on their hearts. They wonder who might roll it away for them. A terrible shock awaits them when they arrive. They see a “young man in a white robe” sitting in the tomb, but no body. This young man greets them with the ludicrous suggestion, “Do not be alarmed!” He tells them that Jesus is not there, that he is risen, and that they should tell the other disciples and Peter that he is going to Galilee ahead of them. And then they go and do exactly that.


            Oh, wait, that’s exactly what they don’t do. They run away from the tomb in terror and amazement and tell no one. The End.


            This unresolved, Hitchcock-esque ending is almost certainly how Mark originally ended. The Gospel ends with an open and empty tomb, a strange young man, and women fleeing in terror. There is no appearance of the risen Christ. No appearance of the disciples. No walking through doors. No Emmaus road. No breakfast on the lakeshore. The account is sparse. Bare. Several early scribes were unsatisfied with Mark’s ending and appended at least two different additional endings on to Mark, using elements from the other Gospels. You can read these in your own Bibles. Mark’s Gospel, as it was, gives us a bare-bones account.


            But any cook knows you can make a rich stock with just the bones. And Mark’s resurrection account provides a great richness underneath the words on the page.


            Think for a moment – have any of us ever seen the resurrected Christ? Have we seen him in the flesh as Mary Magdalene and the disciples claimed? For that matter, have any of us ever seen someone dead come back to life? We’ve seen and heard about people who have “died” from cardiac arrest and were resuscitated. Most of us know at least one person who’s been through that. But we’ve never seen someone stone-cold dead come back in-the-flesh. We have no experience with it. It’s not a reality in the world as we know it.


            It wasn’t a reality in the world that the women knew, either. Dead was dead. People didn’t come back. By Jesus’ day, there was a general belief among most Jews in a general resurrection at the end of the world. But none believed in the resurrection of one man first. And among Greek-speaking Gentiles, the idea of bodily resurrection was revolting. This “crude matter” (as a certain little green character in a certain series of popular films puts it) would take on life again? Preposterous! They believed in the immortality of the soul, rather than in the resurrection of the body. To these Gentiles, the body was shameful. It did all kinds of disgusting things in life and rotted after death. Why would anyone believe in the resurrection of life to that?


            Many of us have our own body-image issues today. Our society, to put it bluntly, despises the human body as it is. From airbrushed models in magazines to photoshopped pictures on social media, our culture promulgates a “perfect” body type – a type that none of us can live up to. Many of us are ashamed of our bodies in some way – too large, too small, too tall, too short, nose too big, eyes too far apart, balding head, too much body hair – you name it, there is something we are ashamed about.


            And yet, in the resurrection of Christ, Christ shows us that the human body has infinite worth to God. When God created human beings, God created them in the divine image, both male and female. All of us, with all our flaws, are mirrors reflecting the glory of God. Because Christ is risen from the dead, in a glorified spiritual, yet still physical body, the darkened mirrors we are now will one day become clear. At our own resurrection, we will perfectly reflect the glory of God in our own glorified bodies. In the meantime, God cherishes us now – all of us, body, spirit, soul, no matter what faults and flaws we see. God sees us all as perfect, whole, complete.


            There’s another way in which God overcomes our shame. Sometimes we don’t just feel shame over our bodies, but also over what we have done or who we think we are. Bad decisions or poor choices can eat away at us, and make us think we’re less than worthy of God’s love. Someone I once helped out with a grocery bill once told me, “I’m Lutheran, but I can’t come into your church. The walls would cave in on me!” He was joking – kind of. I believe he thought he had sins that could not be forgiven.


            The strange young man in the tomb speaks to this kind of shame. Think of how he speaks of the disciples. He orders the women to tell “the disciples and Peter” that Jesus is risen. Because of his denial of Jesus, Peter, in some way, is not a disciple in the same way that he once was. He needs repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. He needs Jesus to overcome his guilt, shame, and fear.


            And Jesus does just that for Peter. As we heard in our Acts reading, Peter was indeed restored to the company of disciples. And not just restored, but given a place of prominence. Jesus overcame Peter’s shame and fear, and turned him into one of the most powerful witnesses of the risen Christ in the early church – not just to his own people, the Jews, but to Gentiles as well (Peter is speaking to the Roman centurion Cornelius in our reading.). Peter received the forgiveness and restoration he desperately needed. Jesus made him whole again.


            And Jesus grants us the forgiveness of sins we so desperately need too. Jesus makes us whole again. He restores us to full fellowship with him, day after day. He overcame the fear of the women – they eventually told someone, or Mark’s Gospel would never have been written. He overcame the shame of Peter. He also overcomes our fear. Because Christ is risen, our fear and shame at ourselves, who we are or what we have done, has been overcome. We are forgiven and saved. Healed and made whole. Fed and sent. And for that we say, “Alleluia! Amen!”


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.