Most people agree that belief in the resurrection of Jesus is crucial to being a Christian, but what do we mean by the word 'resurrection'? Some Christians take it to mean that Jesus' physical body was miraculously transformed and disappeared from the grave as St Mark reports , while others argue that his new spiritual existence is much more important than what actually happened to his earthly remains. Either way, if we don't believe that Jesus is alive, can we really call ourselves 'Christian'?
However, if the resurrection is so crucial to belief in Jesus, what are we to make of the curiously downbeat ending to St Mark's Gospel? Let us make no mistake about it, the Gospel does end here and the rest of chapter 16 consists of later additions by people who felt that St Mark's abrupt conclusion to his story is much too severe.
At least we can take some reassurance from the psychological honesty of the Easter accounts in all four Gospels. The narratives reveal that the disciples were not convinced by the empty tomb. Instead, deep doubts and fears persisted for quite some time. And this is realistic. The Easter story is not a fairy tale ending. In some ways it is mysterious and disturbing.
Since the dawn of human existence, people have always longed for eternal life, but Jesus' resurrection is not the kind of life beyond death which they were hoping for. Even today, most people want heaven to be the fulfilment of all their dreams and wishes, with a smattering of old friends and close relatives thrown into the mix to complete their happiness.
This isn't the same as the resurrection life enjoyed by Jesus. His new life involves being out in the world – going ahead of the disciples and urging them to go on confronting new challenges. It is eternal life, Jim, but not as we know it from previous myths and legends. It's not a cosy promise of future bliss. It's a guarantee that Jesus mission is unstoppable and that God's love is indestructible. It's amazing, but it's not comforting in a wrapped in cotton wool way. It offers us hope, but only if we continue the struggle to follow Jesus' example and identify ourselves uncompromisingly with his cause. No wonder the women were terrified and decided to keep quiet about their discovery – at least for the time being.
Are we ready for new life with Jesus? Are we ready to meet him, still going ahead of us, to challenge and sometimes terrify us with his powerful claim on our lives? And are we ready – after our own death – to share the resurrection life of one who is the living embodiment of love without limits?
 Mark 16.1-8