You can see all the lectionary readings for Easter Sunday, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.
I love the simplicity of this story in Mark. Three women, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James come to the tomb of Jesus just after sunrise on the first day of the week. As they approach the tomb they realize they will be unable to move the stone covering the entrance to the tomb. Just then they look up and see that the stone was already moved. They walk into the tomb and see a man in a white robe. They are afraid, but he tells them not to fear.
You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, the one who was killed on a cross. He has risen from death! He is not here. Look, here is the place they put him when he was dead. Now go and tell his followers. And be sure to tell Peter. Tell them, “Jesus is going into Galilee and will be there before you come. You will see him there, as he told you before.”
The women are afraid and baffled. They run away from the tomb and don’t tell what happened out of fear. And there it ends. There are later additions to Mark that tell more of the resurrection story, but this is where the original ends (though some scholars think there was more to the story and that part is missing). It does seem to end very abruptly.
I enjoyed this note from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible:
16:8 They said nothing to anyone. Ancient audiences appreciated irony. Sometimes in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus warns witnesses of miracles not to tell anyone, yet the witnesses proclaim it widely (1:45; 7:36); here, when finally some people are commanded to tell (v. 7), they remain silent!
I love that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, at a time when women were not considered reliable witnesses and weren’t allowed to testify in court. But in the story of Jesus, they matter. If Mark were just making up this story, he wouldn’t invent the first witnesses to be women; he would make them fine upstanding men.
In Marcus Borg’s Conversations With Scripture: The Gospel of Mark, he invites readers not to argue about whether the resurrection was a bodily one or not, but to ask the question of meaning:
What does the story of the empty tomb mean?
For early Christians generally, Easter had two primary meanings. Jesus lives–he is a figure of the present, not simply of the past. And Jesus is Lord–one with God, raised to God’s right hand, vindicated by God as both Lord and Christ, and thus vindicated against the powers that put him to death. All of these are present, explicitly or implicitly, in Mark’s story of the empty tomb.
You may notice that I often put the Gospel stories in the present tense as I recount them–it’s because I do like to make the stories of Jesus immediate and present. He is risen and he is with us. He is Lord of now, not just of then. He is risen, he is risen indeed!