Co-opting Christ

April 17, 2022

What happens when you know you need to say something…..but you don’t?  

I mean, you have your reasons, right?  

You don’t want to be judgey … or be judged.  What will people think?  What will people say?

Sometimes speaking truth is a fearful thing…

So, sometimes we say nothing…

This is where the women in Mark’s gospel find themselves that first Easter morning.

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid   Mark 16:8b

This sentence is all that is left of the original ending of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest gospel recounting the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  

Of course, later editors would add pieces to bring it to completion, but let’s hang with this ending for a bit.

We might infer from Mark 16:8 that the women were weak and fearful by nature, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus was their beloved teacher. 

They had followed Him throughout His ministry for three years, even when ‘such behavior’ was inappropriate for women back then. To be unchaperoned in the company of men just wasn’t done, if you valued your reputation; but these women didn’t seem to care what ‘people would think.’ They were fearless in their devotion.

Even at Jesus’ death, the women bravely showed up at the ‘criminal’s’ tomb as soon as possible. 

The One Who had accepted and ministered to them in life would be ministered to by them in His death. 

Theirs was a truly fearless act of love. What if they were arrested as co-conspirators?  Would they suffer the same fate Jesus had endured?

Not of that seems to have been a concern.

Their only worry seemed to be logistical: how to get the huge stone rolled back from the opening of the tomb!  Turns out that wasn’t going to be a concern either!

But there was something that was very concerning….where was the dead Body? 

There was nothing dead in that cave – rather living being sat inside the empty tomb who told them Jesus was alive then gave them directions on what to do next!

Those poor women! 

Already emotionally exhausted from the drama of the past week: the euphoria of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to shouts of praise only to collapse in the horror of the crucifixion a mere four days later.  

And now THIS?  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!

Anyone in her right mind would have been terrified at what they saw….and didn’t see! 

So, as probably would we, they ran – terrified, amazed, and silent…and this is where the original scripture ends….

It’s an awkward but powerful ending because of the reactions it evokes.

It makes me want to cry out – TELL SOMEONE!  ANYONE!

The world needs to know!  Jesus is not a criminal, nor a blasphemer! Jesus is Lord!  His teachings of love and forgiveness are true! His promise of new beginnings for everyone are true!  He is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!

Of course, we know the women did tell someone.

They told the male disciples; the emptiness of the tomb needed the verified of at least two male witnesses. Legalistic verification was crucial. As we preachers often declare: the stone was rolled back so that we could see in, not so that Jesus could get out!

But what can we learn from our anxiety over the initial silence of the women? 

+ + +

As we celebrate Christ and the miracle of His resurrection mostly particularly during this season, we, too, are often silent and afraid.  

Silent when we hear the truth of Christ’s message of love, forgiveness, inclusivity, and new beginnings misrepresented.  

Silent when the loving ministry to all in the name of Jesus is overwhelmed by self-righteous rants of marginalization, fearmongering, and the lifting of scripture out of context so that it might become a cudgel beating off the ‘unwashed masses.’  

Silent when more focus is given on determining ‘who’s out’ of the kingdom of God, rather than finding ways to ‘invite all to receive the unconditional loving forgiveness of Christ so they might join us in the Spirit’s journey of transformation.

Silent when proclaiming the love of Christ, the forgiveness of Christ, the invitation to new life found only in Christ seems ‘too easy;’ so more rules are imposed for those wanting to join the Christian club! 

But sadly….though we know the truth that is Christ and His love …. we often remain fearfully silent.

We fear the judgment of our peers.

Fear being marginalized ourselves. 

Fear being kicked out of whichever denominational club we have chosen to join. 

Our fearful silence co-opts the truth that is Christ.

Have we forgotten the words of 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out all fear for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”? 

In our fearful silence, we have allowed the perfect love of God in Christ to be co-opted into a religion of fear and punishment. 

Thing is, choosing to remain silently fearful doesn’t mean the truth will be lost. Christ cannot and will not be co-opted. 

Read Luke 19:36-40 from Palm Sunday again!  If we are silent, the rocks will cry out!  Indeed, a rock did cry out, in a way, on that first Easter… it was rolled away from the tomb!  As I once told the children at one of my churches – I have never seen a rock with lips, so we need to speak up!

So, this Easter what if we let go of our fearful silence became those who complete the ending of Mark as we fearlessly bear witness to the truth that is Christ with the same love of that light-filled young man who filled the space in the tomb and offered the good news to anyone who would listen?

The living Christ embodies absolute forgiveness, unconditional love, and new life for those who choose to follow Him from the cross, to the empty tomb, out into the world and into the lives of those who long to know and be the beloved of the living Christ Who came for them as well.

Easter is a time of new beginnings.  Let’s begin by fearlessly telling the truth to everyone who will listen!

And to God be the glory! AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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