The scene is the first day of the week after the crucifixion of Jesus. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome took spices to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body. Of course, His body wasn’t there so there was nothing to anoint. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in white, an angel, and they were alarmed. But the angel told them not to be afraid, that Jesus had risen from the dead and would meet them in Galilee as He had said He would. Then the angel instructed them to go and tell the disciples what had happened. Mark 16:8 says, ‘Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Many scholars believe that the original Book of Mark ends at verse 8. Before verse 9, most Bibles have a bracketed note that says something like, ‘The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” But others believe that Mark wouldn’t have ended his gospel there for two reasons. One, stopping the story at a point where the women are silent due to their fear is awkward, and two, it doesn’t work grammatically in the original Greek. In the Greek the last sentence literally reads, ‘They were afraid for.” ‘For” is a transitional word that leads into something else; it gets us ready for the next statement.
Some believe that well-meaning Christians finished Mark’s gospel for him, giving it a proper conclusion by explaining the Resurrection and showing how the disciples preached everywhere with signs and miracles accompanying them. Now that is a proper ending. Mark certainly never intended to end his gospel with ‘They were afraid for.”
Or did he? Perhaps that was exactly his intention. Maybe his purpose was to leave us off-balance, in mid-stride, having to decide which way we will go with the Resurrection news we have heard. What will we do? Will we continue in belief or unbelief, righteousness or wickedness? Maybe Mark was too much of a gentleman to write our own story for us, knowing that our response to the resurrection news of Jesus is completely up to us.
Mark tells us that the women walked away from the empty tomb trembling and bewildered, amazed and quaking with fear, and they said nothing to anyone. How do you put into words the miracle of a resurrection after three days of despair and mourning? At first they didn’t do anything. They simply trembled and were bewildered.
‘They were afraid for” what? For what purpose was their fear, and what did they do with it? What was their response when they realized Jesus had been resurrected? (Or, closer to home, what is our response?) Fortunately Matthew and Luke fill in the rest of the story, and we know that they took their fear, overcame it, and then they talked and talked, and Jesus’ disciples haven’t stopped talking for two thousand years about the miracle of a risen Savior.
The question remains: How will we write our own ending to Mark’s gospel? Will we take the revelation of God to the rich young ruler and move on to the repentance offered to Jonah? Will we allow the Father to restore our relationship with Him and return to His house and celebrate with our fellow brothers and sisters the love and forgiveness of the Father? Will we choose the righteous ways of the Lord revealed to Hosea and walk in them, letting them be stepping stones that bring us into His presence and not stumbling blocks in our own selfish path? Will we finally come to realize that the resurrection power of God is bigger than anything we could ever expect or imagine, and that knowing the truth of the Gospel leaves us with a responsibility, an ability to respond, to the good news of a risen Savior?
We each have to write our end to the story. How does yours read?