Mark is building his case for the resurrected Jesus. His first witness is Mary Magdalene but the jury of disciples do not believe her. The second witness is a Cleopas and friend who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. But they were not believed also. The third testimony appears in Mark 16:14, “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” For more details about this evening gathering, we turn to Luke 24. Witnesses are comparing notes. Evidently Peter has also seen Jesus but we do not know those details. John also records this encounter. We know it is Easter evening and disciples, followers, are gathered behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Remember, the guards have been paid off to say that the disciples had come and stolen the body of Jesus. Not only are the followers grieving the death of their leader, rumors are circulating that they are thieves.
Rumors, news and truth – how do we tell the difference? Webster defines rumor as, “ talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source” or “a statement or report current without known authority for its truth.” The story of the guards does not agree with the story of some disciples. True the body is missing but “who dun it?”
When stories conflict and accusations fly, fear and suspicion grip our hearts. Remember the childhood song-game, “Who Took the Cookie in the Cookie Jar”? We snapped our fingers and said “Not me” with one hand and named another with the snap of the other hand. We have sayings to ease our anxiety, “Where there is smoke there is fire.” We don’t want to call anyone a liar and so we concede that there must be an element of truth in the report. Witnesses in a trial are cross-examined to not only know if they are credible but also if they are qualified to speak as an authority. We are just as skeptical today as people were at the time of the disciples.
What helps you believe that someone is telling you the truth? One of the qualities we look for is trustworthiness. Is the person known to be someone who tells the truth? We might also ask if the person has a vested interest and if there is a hidden motive in telling the story. Perhaps we look for consistency. Are the basic elements of the story the same as the story unravels and as the person remembers more and more about what happened? Figuring out truth is not easy and in our culture today where so many people are “experts” of different kinds, it is possible to be confused and fearful. Perhaps a lesson here is to ask myself if I am a reliable witness and friend as I tell my stories. Am I believable?
Into this midst of confusion and fear, Jesus steps three dimensionally. He is seen, heard, and touched. God wants us to be sure of his resurrection and presence in our lives. He reaches out to us. Thank you, Lord.