The morning our daughter started kindergarten, she posed for pictures in our driveway with tears in her eyes and a sheepish smile on her face. When I asked how she was feeling, she responded with a word I’ll never forget: “Nervousited.” Nervous and yet, still excited. She’s a child who feels all the feelings at once, so this brilliant word made sense to me. I learned later that she picked it up from her favorite character on My Little Pony (Rainbow Dash, of course). The first day of elementary school is certainly a time to be both nervous and excited. And I imagine the first time you experience a resurrection, one might feel both terrified and amazed. And that’s exactly how Mark describes Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as they flee the empty tomb.
Mark’s account of the resurrection will be less familiar to your children. At 12 and 9 years old, I don’t know that our own kids had ever heard it before this year’s Good Book Club. It’s certainly not featured in any of the children’s Bibles lining our bookshelves; those are all combinations of the other three gospel accounts of the resurrection. Mark’s version is missing for good reason—he doesn’t include appearances of the risen Christ or any male disciples. There’s no sharing of the Good News. There’s not even any joy, beyond the man dressed in a white robe sitting by the empty tomb telling them women what happened.
And yet, Mark’s account of the resurrection is absolutely perfect for children. Children know what it’s like to be nervousited. They understand how the women felt as they fled the empty tomb, filled with both fear and awe. Our children understand complex feelings, far better than adults most of the time. I know my own children will wake up this morning with the excitement of Easter alleluias, chocolate eggs, and new books in their Easter baskets. Only to be thrown back into the pandemic life of desk shields, masks, and distancing at school tomorrow.
The other reason Mark’s account of the resurrection works well for kids is because it gives them a role to play. The original conclusion of Mark’s gospel is where our Easter text ends today. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
It seems incomplete. This ending feels like it was pulled from the stack of And Then…..Story Starters we used with our children when they were younger. The ones that invite readers to finish the imaginative tales begun on the cards.
Well-meaning authors tried to finish Mark’s gospel for him. Study Bibles will point out 16:8 is what’s known as the “shorter ending of Mark,” ending the same place our text finishes today today. But then there’s also a “longer ending of Mark” which sounds more like the other gospels than Mark’s. In these additional verses, Mary runs and tells the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection like she does in John’s account. A little bit later Jesus appears to two disciples walking in the country, as he does in the Gospel of Luke. There’s even a version of Matthew’s Great Commission.
But none of these endings are original. Mark ends his gospel where we end today—with terrified women fleeing the tomb and not telling anyone about their discovery. And so today, as you read the Mark’s account of the resurrection, invite your children to finish the story. You might simply offer the two words, “And then….” allowing them to fill in the rest. Or if your children are familiar with Godly Play, you might offer wondering statements to get the conversation going.
I wonder where Jesus went after leaving his grave.
I wonder what happens after the women get back home.
I wonder what the women are feeling a few days later.
I wonder what Jesus’ male disciples are doing.
I wonder who the women finally told about the empty tomb.
Today is complicated. We come to this Easter morning with joy but also carrying a year’s worth of pain and grief. Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome show us that the authentic response to Chris’s resurrection is feeling both. I want to be mindful today that jumping into the joy of the resurrection will be jarring for our children after the year we’ve experienced. Instead we’ll ease our way in over the next 50 days, taking our time to feel all the feelings.
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