Weekend Extra – The End?

April 25, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection is my favorite of all the Gospel accounts.  I know that John’s account holds a special place in the hearts of many, perhaps because, at least in the many Easter services I’ve attended, it always seems to be the appointed Gospel lesson for the day.  And no doubt the picture it paints of Peter running to the tomb and finding it empty and his companion John seeing and believing is gripping and exciting, but nevertheless, Mark’s account holds a special place in my heart, mainly because of how it ends:  “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.  The End” (Mark 16:8).

Well, “The End” is not actually in the Greek text, and that’s part of the problem.  Because with an ending like this, many in the early church thought, “Surely there must be a better, more appropriate ending than three women, scared out of their wits, fleeing from an empty tomb where they have just encountered a young man dressed in white!”  And so, in most Bibles, there is Mark 16:9-20, appropriately culminating with Jesus’ great commission in verse 16, His ascension into heaven in verse 19, and then a strange line about snake handling in between these verses.  But don’t worry, that verse about snake handling probably wasn’t in the original, divinely inspired text.  Whew!  Am I a glad about that one!

If you’ll notice, after verse 8 in most Bibles, you’ll find a notation:  “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20.”  In other words, even though Mark’s gospel wraps up nicely with Jesus’ great commission and ascension in verses 16 and 19 respectively, the earliest manuscripts of Mark end with wary women.  This leads textual critical scholar Bruce Metzger to comment on verses 9-20, “The section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with verse 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion” (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 105).  It is important to note that Metzger also explains that verses 9-20 have a long storied history in the Church, first being attested to by Irenaeus and Tatian’s Diatessaron in the second century.  Thus, though these verses were probably not written by the Evangelist himself, they did not come long after him.

But even with all this in mind, I kind of like that we seem to have nothing more of Mark’s Gospel after verse 8.  After all, if I found a missing body and a supernatural looking guy in white hanging out in Jesus’ tomb, I think I’d be scared too!  And yet, we all know that the women shouldn’t have been scared.  After all, Jesus had foretold His death and resurrection time and time again (cf. Mark 8:31, 10:33-34).  The women should have known better.

But then again, so should we.  For we, like the women, have the promise – and the fulfillment – of a risen Savior!  We, like the women, can say with the young man in the tomb, “Christ is risen!”  And just as the young man told the women that Jesus was going ahead of them into Galilee where they would see Him (Mark 16:7), Jesus tells us that He goes ahead of us as our Good Shepherd, leading us through this life, and even into the next (cf. John 10:4).  So why in the world do we worry?  Why in the world do we fret?  For what reason in the world do we have to be afraid?

Perhaps we are more like the women than we care to admit.  For we have the same message as the women:  “Christ is risen!”  But we also have the same response:  We are trembling, bewildered, and afraid.

But we don’t have to be.  For Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, invites us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  Fear may mark the end of Mark’s Gospel, but it does not have to mark the end of our lives.   For Jesus’ gospel in and through our lives is still being written.

So, of what are you afraid?  Your finances?  Your future?  A person?  Perhaps even your eternity?  Remember that the message of Easter is not only, “Christ is risen,” but also, “Do not be alarmed” (Mark 16:6).  For we serve and follow a living Lord who can take care of and take away our fears.  I hope you’ll let Him.  Because although verse 8 may be a good place for a Gospel to end, it’s never a good place for a life to end.

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Entry filed under: ABC Extra. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Resurrection! It’s Not Just for Jesus ABC Extra – When Family Members Don’t Believe

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