Amazing Beautiful Earth
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

risen
Continuing where we left off yesterday, with the abrupt, sudden, immediate ending to the Gospel of Mark. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. This is is original ending to the Gospel story, the Good News of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ. There is no expansion, no explanation, no encounters with the risen Christ. Just three women who went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Three women who, after all the events of the week leading up to the crucifixion, the triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, Jesus prophesying the end of the temple, Mary anointing Jesus to be king (and for his burial – her anointing was for both, but she didn’t know it), the last supper, the betrayal, the arrests, the trials, the suffering, the torture, and the crucifixion, after it had all started so well and ended so, so catastrophically badly, three women who encounter a young man in the tomb where the body had been lain leave in trembling and astonishment, yes they are left speechless by what they find.
They go up to add spices to His body in one last act of devotion and love, but the stone is moved the body is gone.

empty_tomb
Jesus is risen.

jesus of nazareth
What other response should they have had?? It is a real cliffhanger, isn’t it? Trembling, astonishment and stunned silence seems to me to be the only appropriate response possible to what they found. It’s jaw-dropping. Dead men don’t walk. They had seen his crucifixion. They had watched him breathe his last, seen the spear go into his side. They were there when Joseph and Nicodemus took his dead body off the cross, prepared it for burial, and placed it in the tomb.
But the body is gone. The young man sitting in the spot where his body should have been tells them “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Yes, he was crucified, we know this because we were there!!

amazing-sunset
Again, what other response should they have had?

Amazing Pictures of Nature_7

Trembling, astonishment, and stunned silence is exactly the right response, isn’t it? It wasn’t time for theology, it wasn’t time for preaching, it was a time to walk away afraid and speechless. It was time to walk away overwhelmed by what they encountered.

silence
Astonishment mixed with fear and stunned silence is the only appropriate initial response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

meeting jesus
American Christianity lacks astonishment. Mark just leaves us astonished and hanging. We know that a longer, less abrupt ending was later added to Mark. Matthew wrote next, he gave us more after the resurrection. Luke gives even more, then John gives us two entire chapters after the resurrection. All these are appropriate and inspired, but the only correct response on hearing the gospel, upon finding the empty tomb, is stunned, shocked astonishment, is it not?

trembling and astonished
We are very jaded today. We are no longer overwhelmed by what we find at the tomb. We should be left trembling and astonished. It is astonishing.

Notre Dame Paris
But instead of being left astonished, we are left with our culture wars, TV evangelists, and commercial Christianity. Something to be bought for $19.95 on late night TV. American Christianity comes across as tawdry and formulaic, like a pitch for some multi level marketing plan.

Resurection-Sunday-iStock
We should be astonished when we meet Jesus. How did you meet Jesus? Have you ever been astonished by him? What happened after you met him? When you meet Jesus for real for the first time, he will change you. You should know going in that not everyone is going to like how you’re being changed. Some people, as you get to know Him and move in ways which seem strange, different, and even weird, are going to become uncomfortable with you.

untitled.png
Here’s a hard, strange truth, many who profess to be Christians will be surprised by this. Christianity is not practical. I’ll say it again, Christianity is not practical. It’s not a practical utility to change your life in 5 easy steps. It is not a self help book. It’s not a device we put in our back pocket and carry around with us. We can’t buy it in 3 easy monthly installments on late night TV. Christianity is not something to be used as we see fit.
We want the church to be popular, we want people to come, we want to show them how great it will be for their lives. We want to make it practical. We need to stop. Stop trying to make Christianity practical, and let it be what it truly is, which is astonishing. Breathtaking. Stunning.

strip mall
We have turned Christianity in America into just another strip mall or big box store. It’s just a utility to use as we see fit. But the Gospel if Jesus Christ is astonishing. It’s as astonishing as the difference between your local Wal-Mart and Notre Dame cathedral.
Exactly what part of “take up your cross and follow me” sounds like a plan to improve your life? Save your soul, yes. Save the world, yes. Make your life better, easier, and more comfortable for the smallest investment possible, probably not.

sistine chapel ceiling facts
The trinity, the incarnation, resurrection, communion are sacred mysteries. They are not a practical utilities to change your life with the smallest investment possible. Christianity is not a cheap trinket for your back pocket, it’s not something we can buy, it’s not a ticket into heaven. It’s a mystery we enter into, a breathtaking gothic cathedral where we walk through the doors, look up and find that Michelangelo painted the ceilings.
Christianity is an ancient faith and a sacred mystery. It’s handed down to us, we don’t get to make it up. If you’re making up your own Christianity as you go along, all you have is a self help book. The rains will fall, the floods will come, the wind will blow, and great will be the fall.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
We don’t get to make it up. Christianity is like a great gothic cathedral. We didn’t build it, we couldn’t build it. All we can do is enter into it and be astonished by it.

 

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.]”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.16.1-8.esv

John Lewis

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6 thoughts on “Trembling and Astonished

  1. Are you saying Mark endorses stunned silence? And furthermore that this is how he is reacting to Christianity turned into another strip mall or big box store?

    Don’t get me wrong here. I totally join you in criticizing a “Christianity” that is made out to look like or even try to be a 5 step self help program or any kind of marketing. I am asking if you are saying that is what Mark is aiming to adjust or change and if you think he favors stunned silence instead OR at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. None of the above. I’m just saying that I believe, after all that had occurred during Jesus life, ministry, trials, suffering, torture, crucifixion and death, that on that early Sunday morning the only correct response from the 3 women who went to the tomb was exactly “trembling and astonishment” described here by Mark, the first Gospel writer. Mark left is as a cliffhanger, which I’m sure he had a point with when he wrote it. As you know better than me, this was the “original” end of the written gospel story. A little stunned silent astonishment would do us well our own first, corrects response to finding the tomb empty, says John L from Southern Maryland in AD 2017.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post….I have long thought that there are so many folks who do not take the awe factor of God into their hearts and really stand and think about how seriously God wishes us to take him, and how much he loves us.

    Liked by 1 person

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