Whenever I hear someone suggest the gospels are pretty much straight forward, I want to ask her or him whether we are reading the same books.
There are so many times when reading the gospels, I stop, wondering if I missed something. I begin to think I somehow got the one bible which got messed up at the printing press. Leaving out important verses with quintessential details, which if only I could read, would make more sense of the stories found in the gospels.
There has to be more to the story in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus calls his first disciples (Mark 1:16-19). How else can you explain Simon and his brother Andrew dropping everything they know after Jesus simply says, “Follow me?” To make things more mind-boggling, Mark says they immediately followed him. No hesitation. No questions. Jesus simply called and they followed. What was it?
What did Jesus do which provided them all the assurance they needed to leave without a thought for their livelihoods, their families – especially Simon who we find out is clearly married. Did the writer forget to mention an awe inspiring light centered over Jesus shrouding him in a warm glow? Perhaps in line with Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John, the author of Mark forgot to mention Jesus was carrying with him new wineskins. A celebration is at hand if only Simon and Andrew choose to follow Jesus.
Either way, there had to be something to give them an inclination there was something completely different about this man in front of them. Something so unique it would change their lives forever. Something to let them know this mystery in front of them was worth dropping everything they have ever known.
Recently in a passing conversation, I was told the Easter bunny was a pagan symbol. What was being implied is this symbol along with Easter eggs shouldn’t have a place inside a church. I wasn’t sure how to respond. My mind went in multiple directions at once.
One, I have no doubt their intentions were good. Like Christmas commercialism, I am sure they were primarily concerned the emphasis of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection were living in the shadow of the Easter bunny and all the sugar and candy which comes with it.
Two, I am not so sure the Easter bunny is viewed as a pagan symbol in our contemporary context. And even if it is, it wouldn’t be the first pagan symbol to find it’s way into a church. In fact, there is a pagan symbol found much more prominent in churches all across the world.
I have always found it a strange irony that the cross has become the most universally recognized symbol associated with Christianity. This Roman inhumane instrument of torture, which was used to keep rebellious tribes in line, oppressed, has somehow become the symbol by which Christianity is now known. I can’t imagine the early church, trying to hide in the shadows from the imperial emperor worship, would have found the cross as a source of comfort and symbol of Jesus’ presence.
Three, I began thinking of all my wonderful childhood memories of first hunting for Easter eggs and then second as I got older, hiding them for the next generation. The best hunts were those with the most challenge and difficulty of finding where my older cousins hid the Easter eggs. Wonderful memories of the family coming together, sharing meals, and laughing over stories and funny moments from the hunts.
Like Easter egg hunts, the disciples knew what it was like to be in search for Jesus. Theologian William Placher writes in reflection of Mark 1:35-39, “Simon and his companions have to ‘hunt’ for him [Jesus]-the verb does not mean just ‘looking’ but is used for the tracking and pursuit of animals.” Throughout Mark, the disciples continue to hunt and figure out who exactly is this mysterious man they committed to follow.
Seldom do they get it right on the first try. They make mistakes. They fail. They abandon this mysterious Jesus in his greatest moment of need. Only to be perplexed by what happens to this man after he dies on a cross and rises, leaving an empty grave.
Accepting the Gospel of Mark ends with 16:8, it reads like a suspense novel. Mark writes, “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.” Leaving the reader with the question of what type of disciple will I be? Am I willing to go in search for this man/divine Jesus?
Easter eggs may not be found in the bible, but they are certainly theological appropriate in understanding what it means to be a disciple. If I am seeking to follow this man called Jesus, I am going to have to search. I am going to be perplexed at times. I am going to have to let go of what I think I know as I travel through life with this Rabbi who reveals himself on the shore. And yet is infinitely more than what he appears to be in that moment. Whether I can see it or not.