St. mark’s account of the Resurrection is the shortest and most abrupt of the four evangelists. The women come to the tomb to finish the work of burying Jesus, find the stone rolled away, hear the angel’s message, run away in fear, and tell no one. And, according to some ancient manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, that’s where it ends. It seems a strange way to end a Gospel, and an even stranger place to leave us on Easter, for us who know the rest of the story. As odd as that may seem, it’s good for us. It causes us to look at the Resurrection and realize that, as earth-changing as it is, it wasn’t at the time, at least not for those shocked and confused and traumatized disciples living in complete fear. We see now, as we study the history from the Resurrection to today, that this is an event that turned the world on its head and has rewritten the entire story of mankind.
This Easter, I have a challenge for you. Before you eat your Easter dinner, go home and read all four Evangelists’ resurrection accounts. When you read you’ll find something interesting. Only St. Matthew gives us the slightest hint of joy, but even that is combined with fear. The Easter attitude we know, that we look forward to, was nowhere to be found on that first Easter. St. Mark is the most blunt. The angel tells the women that Christ is risen and to go share the good news with the disciples. And what do they do? “They went out quickly and fled from the tomb…and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” So, the Christians are terrified, and, as St. Mark goes on to record, Jesus appears to them, not to comfort them, but to rebuke their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.