Although the Gospels vary significantly in the ways that they tell the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, nowhere do those differences seem more noticeable than in the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection account found in Mark has proven the most troublesome for people of faith. Although most versions of the Bible include either two brief sentences or twelve additional verses following the eighth verse of Mark 16, most scholars agree that Mark ended his Gospel with the words, “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.” Mark closes with an announcement of Jesus’ resurrection by a young man, whom we identify as an angel. But Jesus himself neither appears nor speaks to anyone.
The final scene may make us elated to have three other Gospels, Gospels that end with the risen Jesus comforting his disciples, appearing in various places and giving final instructions before ascending into heaven or mysteriously vanishing from sight. Many ancient believers obviously felt the same way. If you read the footnotes or added verses in your Bible, within the first generation of its circulation, other endings found their way onto Mark. In them, Jesus appears to several of his followers, commissions believers to continue his ministry and is taken to heaven. Each of those makes for a much happier and more comfortable scene than that of a group of women fleeing from the tomb in fear and saying nothing to anyone.
Why would Mark end the Gospel on such an apparently dismal note? Why would the women feel such fear and, even if they did, why would Mark stop the story there? Some readers have suggested that the women feared that the au- thorities, who had crucified Jesus, would punish them if they reported his resurrection. That is possible. The Book of Acts reports that the authorities punished Peter and other disciples when they spread the news of the Risen Jesus – in Mark however – it is Easter morning. Could any- one who had gone to a tomb expecting to find a lifeless body and instead discovered a talking an- gel truly have said nothing to anyone because they thought they would get in trouble?
Others have suggested that Mark ended the story that way in an attempt to convince the readers, the believers in the first century, that they must get involved in spreading the good news – if any generation decides not to tell the story, it will disappear. That sounds plausible – but no need to push that reflection too far.
The angel says that Jesus has gone before them. Jesus hasn’t retired following the
resurrection. He remains out there in the world somewhere. God calls us to spread the news, but everything does not depend on us. Mark challenges us to believe that Jesus goes ahead of us, that we can expect to encounter him in our daily lives. Mark appears to consider stories of resurrection not the unique experience of a chosen few, but gifts from God to all who live with trembling faith and hope-filled expectations.
Resurrection is a reality to believe and experience as we go forth with trembling faith, hoping and expecting to discover Jesus outside the tomb in the Galilees where we live. Daily faith allows us to glimpse eternity in a sunrise, to discover new life in unexpected places, to light a candle called hope that flickers but will not surrender to the howling wind.
Happy Easter, Rick