The Gospel of Mark encourages us to pay attention to what's missing on Easter. For example, consider the Roman Centurion charged with the terrible responsibility of carrying out the order of execution. This soldier knows how to follow orders. But, after beating, mocking, ridiculing and crucifying Jesus the Centurion discovers something is missing. His resolve to serve the Roman chain of command isn't there in the same way. Upon witnessing Jesus death the Centurion, of all people, declares "This was God's son."
Another important person in the Easter story is Joseph of Arimathea who is a member of the Jerusalem ruling council. The council hates Jesus for religious and political reasons. They see him as a challenge to their own power and even a threat to national security. And yet, on the day Jesus dies Joseph asks Pilate for his body. At his birth it was Mother Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling cloths and laying him in a manger. But, at his death it is Joseph of Arimathea wrapping his body in a linen cloth and laying him in a tomb. He does this because something is missing. The hatred and rage he once felt is gone, replaced by worship and devotion. To be sure some important things are missing on Easter.
What about the disciples? You expect them to be present, but they are missing. Disciples then and now have to do more than talk. When 1st and 21st century disciples say "We will follow you to the death," this must be more than talk. The old hymn asks "Where you there when they crucified my Lord?" The first 12 disciples are not; they are missing.
Some other disciples are present. In particular the two Marys and Salome and other women are with Jesus from the Galilean beginning to Calvary's end. They see him die and where his body is laid. And early in the morning on the first day of the week they are there at the tomb. You have to love the women's faith. They have no idea how to move the great stone so they can reach Jesus' body. But that doesn't slow their steps as they hurry to the garden. Because of their faith they go anyway.
The women enter the tomb and see a young man dressed in white. The women are scared so the angel says what angels say, "Don't be afraid. You are looking for Jesus, but he is not here. He is missing!" The power of death isn't strong enough to hold him. Jesus is missing from the tomb. He is raised from the dead by the power of the living God.
One more important thing is missing in the Mark's Easter story, the ending. Most early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark simply have the women running out of the tomb. What kind of an ending is that? The truth is we get to write the ending to the Easter story by what we tell or what we refuse to tell; by how we love or withhold love.
The story continues through our willingness to forgive or our quickness to judge. We can flee from the empty tomb scared to admit anything of consequence has happened or we can come to our Easter senses determined to live a new and holy life. The end of Mark's story is missing because the resurrection isn't an ending; it's a beginning. Easter is the beginning of a story that God invites us to finish by how we live, how we die and how we live again.
- Charnock is the Susquehanna Health director of pastoral care and volunteer services