Thankfully, the journey to the cross doesn’t end there. Thus, Mark takes us to the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection. However, Mark says very little about this—only eight verses. Writing so little about the resurrection is in keeping with his emphasis on the importance of the cross and the place of suffering in the Christian life. Most scholars today agree verse 8 of chapter sixteen was the original ending to Mark’s Gospel. It’s an ending that leaves us with more questions than answers and an invitation to respond to Jesus. We can’t remain passive. A later tradition added another longer ending in which Jesus appears and speaks to his disciples. It gives a neat and tidy conclusion to Mark’s account of the Jesus event. Many scholars reject the longer ending considering it to be unworthy of exegesis (Meyers. 2015, p. 401). Meyers suggests that the longer ending symbolizes “our unending efforts to domesticate the Gospel” (2015, p. 402). Meaning that we try to resist the necessity to struggle with an ending challenges us to respond and persistently follow Jesus, his way and not ours, despite the cost. I’ve chosen to end these devotions with the original and rather abrupt ending to Mark.
PREPARE TO LISTEN. Be still and silent then pray: For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28)
READ: Mark 16:1-8 Station 6: The Tomb. “They said nothing to anyone”
1When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But 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. 7But 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.’ 8So 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.
We don’t really want the gospel to end with disobedience to the command to “go tell his disciples and Peter.” But, just as so many spoke out when Jesus commanded silence, the women kept silent when commanded to speak; “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark’s Gospel has been full of surprises and even shocks from the beginning and this abrupt conclusion and silent witnesses is in keep with his narrative style.
It gives the end of the story a less than joyous one. We don’t usually associate ‘terror and fear’ with the resurrection. On Easter Sunday, the most joyous day in the Church year, we should celebrate joyfully. This is the day to “go forth in the dance of the merrymakers” (Jeremiah 31:4); enjoy “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear,” prepared by God for his redeemed people (Isaiah 25:6). And I hope you will experience great joy today in your salvation in Jesus. However, Mark doesn’t end his account with that sense of joy. We’re left with the women fleeing from the tomb in “terror and amazement,” too afraid to tell anyone what they’d heard and seen.
I think we can assume that it took a while for the women to finally realize what they’d just witnessed. As Rowan Williams points out, “The women clearly did say something because this Gospel has been written” (Meeting God in Mark, 2014, p. 65). How long did it take, we wonder? What was it that made them fearful? I think we can also assume that the gospel will both terrify and amaze us at various times and thus, we too will take a while for its message to sink into our inner most being, settle and embolden us to speak up.
I try to imagine the women running from the tomb in great fear. As they pause to catch their breath, one of them asks to be reminded what the ‘young man dressed in a white robe’ said. Did he really say Jesus had been raised? Did he really command them to go and tell the disciples and Peter Jesus would meet them back in Galilee? Perhaps they began walking with a lighter step as they discussed what they heard, and it started to sink in. Didn’t Jesus predict he’d go ahead of them to Galilee after his crucifixion (14:28)? Galilee, that’s where the story of Jesus began; it’s where the story ends. It began to make sense, just a little.
But, the story doesn’t really end there. Mark’s brief and abrupt ‘ending’ is intentional. It invites us to continue the story in our lives, to keep it going. Mark’s narrative is just the beginning of the gospel (1:1). It continues in the world today in the life and work of followers of Jesus living the story of Jesus described by Mark.
What story are you living today? Who or what narrates your story?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Fear and terror shouldn’t surprise me, Lord Jesus. It was a fearful thing to be told such unexpected news. I don’t understand the resurrection either, but I do know that you have gone ahead of me and I choose today to live the story of your life, death and resurrection. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST who is risen. Hallelujah!
Final benediction to all who journeyed to the cross with Mark this Lent:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
One last word, I plan to keep working with Mark’s Gospel and will be posting devotions again, reflecting on the many stories we skipped over in our Lenten journey to the cross. If you’re interested in following Mark, please let me know and I’ll be in touch when the journey gets underway once again. Thank you for reading and growing with Mark. I trust it was a life-changing experience for you.