Unfinished business
April 6 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Unfinished business | Friday, April 6, 2001

Friday, April 6, 2001

Unfinished business

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Something about us doesn't like an unfinished story. We like things carefully drawn to a conclusion, wrapped neatly and tied with a bow. Open-ended conclusions leave us a bit uncomfortable - and that is precisely what we find in the Easter story. In all the world's history, there has never been an event quite like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a story we never tire of hearing and of telling because it is the heart of our hope.

Easter is the fulfillment of a prophecy that no one expected, save the One who lived it out.

It is the birth of a promise that no one deserves, save the One who died to make it possible.

It is the doorway to an eternal hope, unsealed by a rolling stone and proclaimed to believers who shook in unbelief.

It is a story without an end ... the story of a crucified Savior who won't stay nailed down, a buried Master who won't stay dead, a resurrected Lord who won't stay away from those who follow Him.

It is our response to all this that makes the story unfinished.

The ending of Mark's gospel offers an apt illustration of Easter's unfinished business. Many scholars who study the thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts underlying our present Bibles believe that Mark's gospel ended with Mark 16:8. The manuscripts accepted as most accurate by the majority of textual scholars simply stop at that point. Other manuscript families have one of two different endings appended, one longer than the other. Some manuscripts include both endings. It is the longer ending that incites some believers to prove their faith by drinking poison and handling snakes.

If an early version of Mark's gospel really ended at verse 8 of the final chapter, then the narrative ends with fear and uncertainty. Three women had come first to the tomb and found it empty. A divinely appointed messenger declared to them that Christ was no longer dead but risen. Overcome by the enormity of the angel's news, the absence of the Lord's body, and the presence of unexpected hope, the women ran away from the tomb, afraid and uncertain but committed to proclaiming what they had seen and heard.

We know, from other gospels and from the remainder of the New Testament, what happened. Jesus appeared to His followers, commissioned them all to become witnesses and then left them in body while promising never to leave them in Spirit.

We know what those early followers did. They believed. They obeyed. They suffered and died, some of them. They shared their lives in a community of faith. They shared their faith from one end of the known world to the other. They trusted in Christ's promise, experienced the power of Christ's Spirit, and birthed a church that has lived and grown to this day.

But the story is still unfinished.

We know what the first disciples did.

It remains to be seen what we will do with the Christ who won't stay in the tomb, who won't stay in the church, who won't even stay in the Bible.

What will we do with a Christ who still lives and speaks and touches our being?

It would be easier and more comfortable, perhaps, if Jesus would just stay put in a safely concluded story, but He continues reaching beyond the story. He keeps calling sinful people to hope, to believe, to follow and to obey. He persists in wringing our hearts and sending us out to Africa and Asia and Asheville. He insists on reminding us to love one another, as He loved (and loves) us - even those who don't deserve our love any more than we deserve His.

We all have unfinished business with Jesus and unfinished lives to live.

So, ...

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4/6/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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