“Nobody Said a Daggum Thing”
April 17, 2022
“Why do the good guys always win?” she asked us. The question came up casually, over a dinner of chicken fingers, carrot sticks and apple slices lovingly culled together at the very last minute from the dwindling contents of our kitchen. It was one of those nights.
“What do you mean – ‘always win?’” I replied.
“You know – in books and movies – why do the good guys always win?”
I really wanted to see inside her mind at this moment.
Was she old enough to see the difference between what happens in stories and what happens in real life? Was she realizing that the good guys more often get it in the neck?
Was she watching this war unfold in Ukraine and losing her confidence in the goodness of humanity?
These questions were racing through my mind as she waited for an answer to her question,
“Why do the good guys always win?” I muddled through some depressing answer that good guys don’t always win, but we tell stories in which they do because that’s the world we want to live in…yadda yadda yadda….
Then my far more insightful wife answered with three simple words.
“Why do the good guys win? Because of Easter.”
A reading from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and 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.
They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Easter has come to be a very colorful day, has it not? All the freshly blooming flowers, the neatly pressed pastel dresses, the vibrant Easter eggs, the….neon…colored Peeps (I still say those things are gross). Easter has become an absolute feast for the eyes.
But before Easter became “EASTER” I picture it a more dull and dreary kind of day – the early morning sky a pale slate-gray with not a hint of blue; ground washed out khaki as far as the eye can see. That’s how I imagine that first Easter morning – a cruel and colorless world.
At least it must have seemed so to Mary and Mary and Salome as they shuffled out in the creeping dawn to complete their dreadful task: to give their friend a proper burial. Much like those mass graves in Ukraine, Jesus’ burial had been all wrong, too.
There hadn’t been time to wash the blood from his face or comb the dirt out of his hair or anoint his head with perfume. All day long they thought of nothing except his lifeless body, hastily wrapped in a cloth and flung into a cold, dark cave. But what could they do?
He had died just before sundown on a Friday – right on the cusp of the Sabbath.
“Keep the Sabbath Holy!” They’d been saying that all their lives…no work shall you do on the Sabbath, not even tending the body of their friend.
So they waited twenty-four long hours before they could complete the task. Twenty-four hours with nothing but their troubled thoughts and feelings to keep them company…it was one of those nights and I suspect their hearts harbored some rather unholy thoughts all Sabbath long.
“If Pontius Pilate was standing here there’s no telling what I’d do to him – and those High Priests as well.”
“If only we had the power to hit them back where it hurt.”
But when you’re power-less, you don’t act on such feelings.
You keep your head down and you bury your dead…and that is precisely what Mary and Mary and Salome set out to do.
Of course, once they get to the tomb it is not at all what they expected: stone rolled back, guy dressed in white informs them Jesus is risen. And how do they respond – they turn tail and run and the story ends there.
This might be a good time to acknowledge that you may have been perplexed by the reading today. The story ends with the women fleeing the tomb ‘for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”
You might be thinking: “Preacher, where’s the part when Jesus appears to Peter and to the disciples? When does Jesus command them to go out and spread the good news of resurrection – that death is defeated – that we have nothing left to fear?
Come on, Pastor, don’t tell me I ironed these smocked dresses, prepared a dish for the potluck brunch and actually bought neon-yellow Peeps just so you could tell me they ran away and didn’t say a daggum thing.”
I hate to say it – but that’s precisely what I’m telling you on this Easter Sunday.
But don’t blame me – that is Mark, all Mark.
“Now wait just a minute there preacher,” you might say, “I was reading along in the Bible and I know for a fact that you left off at verse 8 and there’s 12 more verses to go. Verses in which – wait for it – Jesus appears AGAIN to Mary Magdalene, THEN to the disciples; AND he tells them to go out and proclaim the good news before he ascends into heaven.
Why’d you leave that out, preacher? With everything going on in the world today – don’t you think we need better news than ‘they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid?’ We’re all afraid, Preacher, but don’t we deserve better than that?”
It’s a fair question – you look up Mark 16 in those red pew Bibles and that is precisely what you’ll find. Twelve more verses that I did not read.
And I did not read them because I believe they were never part of Mark’s version of the story. Even those pew Bibles have a footnote to say as much.
If this seems to you a most unsatisfactory ending – you would not be the first.
The going theory is that somebody a long, long time ago was copying the Gospel of Mark and decided that ending just wasn’t good enough – and so made some editorial additions.
But most agree that the original version of Mark ends at verse 8.
To answer the question – we are all afraid and of course you deserve more than that – JESUS deserves more than that. You know it. I know it. And Mark knows it too.
It’s a brilliant move, but the last thing Mark shows us – the readers – is Mary and Mary and Salome high-tailing it out of there, not saying a daggum thing – all so that he can turn the camera right back on you and on me and ask “What about you? Are you going to say anything? Are you going to DO anything?” Well – Are you?
Sometimes the best theological conversations you’ll ever have are with children.
Long before I was asked why the good guys always win, I was reading bedtime stories to one of my girls.
Two books is our tradition.
First book – Sandra Boynton’s “Moo, Baa, La–La-La”
All Right! We’re fast-tracking it tonight…I can recite that one in less than 30 seconds.
The Cow says Moo
The sheep says Baa
Three singing pigs sing “La, La, La”
No – No you say that isn’t right
The pigs say oink all day and night
Rhinoceroses snort and snuff
And little dogs go ruff, ruff, ruff
Some other dogs go Bow Wow Wow
And cats and kittens say meow
Quack says the Duck
The Horse says Neigh
It’s quiet now
What do you say?
Done! Book Two – what’s next?
Well, this time instead of a “Piggy and Gerald” book or “The Paperbag Princess,” she chose a small collection of illustrated Bible stories. That night she wanted to hear about Jesus calming the wind and the waves – “the man in the boat” she called it.
We finished the story and it was time for prayers and songs, but she was staring off at the wall like she was thinking really hard about something. Then she turned to me and asked
“Daddy – is Jesus God?”
“That’s a very good question,” I said, “It sounds weird for two people to be the same person, doesn’t it?”
“Let’s see if I can explain – The Church says that if you want to know what God is like – you look at Jesus and how he lived. He shows us everything we need to know about God.”
She thought about that for a second, and then added – “Daddy – how did Jesus get hurted?”
“Well, there were some people who were jealous of Jesus – they didn’t like how everyone was following him and wanting to live like him and so they wanted to get rid of him.”
She was silent for a good while – and then she asked
“What…tools did they use?”
“Are you talking about his hands…” I asked, “how Jesus hurt his hands?”
A wise Christian educator once told me to let the child lead you – “they will tell you what they are ready to hear” she always said. I held on to those words, swallowed hard and said “Well, yes, back in those days they used a cross – they nailed Jesus to a cross and left him hanging there until he died and it was really sad.”
We sat in silence for a good, long while…when I couldn’t stand it any longer I added
“But, you know what…the story doesn’t stop there. Three days after that, Jesus’ friends went to visit his place in the graveyard, but when they got there, Jesus was gone. Jesus was alive again. God had undone the hurt that those people did to Jesus.”
She got real animated and said:
“And then Jesus HIT those bad men.”
I laughed at the time – Ninja Jesus, beating up on the haters.
But who are we kidding? That’s exactly what we would do. Bloody my nose, I’ll bloody yours. Hurt me – I’ll hurt you more.
It’s been like that forever and a day…I imagine that’s what Mary and Mary and Salome would like to have done, too – just hurt them back.
If only they had the tools to do it.
But standing in that empty tomb, I wonder if they suddenly “got” who Jesus is and what he is about. They finally understood what it asked of them to be his disciple – that they had to put away their right to revenge forever – and it scared them speechless.
I wonder if they weren’t so much scared of Jesus being alive.
They were more scared of the life that Easter would demand of them…
so much that they ran away and didn’t say a daggum thing.
So the question that I’ve been asking off and on ever since that night is this:
“how do you teach your child not to run away from that enormous calling?”
“How do you tell yourself not to run away from that?”
At the time – this was all I had:
“Welllllllllll” I said, “the amazing thing is that he didn’t hit those bad men. God didn’t hurt the people who hurt Jesus – God only undid the hurt they did to Jesus. It was probably the hardest thing to do, but God didn’t hurt them – God forgave them and undid the hurt.”
And then this child in my lap began waving her arm back and forth in front of her and she asked “Daddy – what’s the name of that tool that God used to undo the hurt.”
I looked at her wave that little arm back and forth – and I tried to visualize this magnificent tool that could cover over every hurt and every injury. It almost looked like she was holding a paint brush in her tiny hand and she was re-painting this cruel, colorless world in kinder hues – in reds and oranges and purples and greens and blues.
“It’s actually a really big word” I said, “and it’s a really big tool – it’s called Resurrection.”
“WHAT!” She said…
“Yeah,” I added, “but you know what, God isn’t the only one who gets to use that tool…we get to use it too.”
“It’s not easy – but we do.”
I said it as a declarative statement – We Do get to use that tool.
Of course, Mark leaves it more like a hanging, unanswered question:
“Do you use that tool?” “Will you use that tool?”
Mark – Mark – Mark – what are we going to do with you Mark?
The disciples are nowhere to be found.
The women run away and don’t say a daggum thing.
The silence is deafening.
It’s such a maddeningly brilliant way to end the story,
but he turns the camera back on you and on me, as if to ask one more question.
“It’s quiet now – what do you say?”