Most New Testament scholars say that the Gospel of Mark originally ended with the story of the women who go to the cemetery, only to encounter a mysterious young man pointing to Jesus’ empty tomb and announcing the resurrection. One of the challenges of this view is that if Mark truly ended his narrative here, he seems to have concluded by deliberately not concluding, by dangling something incomplete and unsatisfying before the reader in the final verse.
In the days before Easter, preachers find themselves ricocheting back and forth between anticipation of full-to-overflowing sanctuaries and anxiety about being up to the task. In the case of the people who make it to church only on Easter, the preacher has only one shot; we want to make it count.
Whoever tied Easter to the spring equinox made a very good decision. For those who are so inclined, there is no better time for feeling alive, as the whole world wakes from winter and makes new birth look easy. Clumps of green grass erupt from the flat tan lawn. Bluebirds appear on the clothesline. There are so many redbuds in the woods that a pink haze seems to waft through the trees.
"Easter is a terrific story,” says Tony Hendra, an actor, satirist and author of the wonderful book Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Life. So it is, and so we rediscover each year as we turn to the familiar narratives. The Gospels’ accounts are themselves modest, however. Curiously missing is any note of celebration.