Jesus' Resurrection: History or Parable?

This coming Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday on the Christian calendar. It marks the beginning of what we call Holy Week in which we, through various traditions, celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. As I made preparations for this week I went back to a book I read some years ago, called The Last Week, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It is a book that details the day-by-day events of the last week of Jesus’ life according to the Gospel of Mark.

Biblical scholars agree that Mark is probably the first of the genre called “gospel.” The root word in greek, euaggelion, was used to describe the body of writing we know as the New Testament. Euaggelion literally means good news.

Gospels are the books that provide a narrative, a story, about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

What I want to reflect upon today is the centerpiece, the core of Christian faith that is celebrated on Easter Sunday: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. And I want to reflect upon this event through the interpretive lens of the Gospel of Mark.

All four gospels give an account of the resurrection of Jesus, and they all differ. The reason for that is the writers were each offering their interpretation of what happened, and what it meant.

We all do that, don’t we? We reflect upon the events and experiences in our lives in order to find meaning in them. And the meanings can change over time. Some things that seemed tragic in the first moments seem to actually have been fortuitous when remembered years later. And since Mark was probably written around the year 70, some 40 years after the resurrection, the meaning of it would be seen in the light of both time and experience.

So Mark, like the other three, makes a concise statement about Jesus resurrection. Jesus is not in the tomb. The tomb is empty. A young man dressed in a white robe says to the women who have come to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here.” (Mark 16:6) He has been raised is an emphatic statement. But for many it raises questions.

Mark and the other gospels give no account how Jesus was raised. They simply state his raising as a fact. “But,” some might say, “how do you know that’s what really happened?”

Jesus’ resurrection is difficult to prove. Obviously an amazing event in itself, there is no record of such a thing happening anywhere else.

So my question is this: is Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection history or parable?

I believe Jesus’ resurrection, while it certainly might be historical, it is most certainly parable. I say this because the questions concerning history or parable are different. History asks questions about whether this happened or not, how it happened or not. In other words, history demands proof.

Parables on the other hand question the meaning of things. What is the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection? For me this is a far more important question to answer. And here are my answers.

No tomb could hold Jesus. It’s empty.

Jesus is not among the dead. He is among the living.

In raising Jesus God has said “No” to the worldly powers who think they can control life and death, and “Yes!” to Jesus’ way.

We will see him. (We are told this will happen when we go back to Galilee. Mark 16:7)

Going back to Galilee means going back to the beginning of the story.

A story about the way and the Kingdom of God.

Easter blessings to you and yours.