Summary: An Easter Sunday sermon
Recently I came across a collection of the best last lines of books ever written:
“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before. –Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
I never saw any of them again—except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them. –Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953)
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. –A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928)
It’s often the final few words of a book that linger on. On the ofther hand, there’s nothing worse than a good book which is spoiled by a lousy ending. Yet the Gospel of Mark risks such an accusation. The book ends very suddenly and the reader is left to decide whether or not the abrupt ending is a fitting conclusion to such an INTRIGUING story.
Mark describes the events of the resurrection in a MERE eight verses. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and SALOME go to the tomb with spices in their hand. Clearly they were expecting to see a corpse. Instead they see an angel who says that Jesus has risen and they ought not be alarmed by this turn of events. The angel’s not terribly convincing, for according to Mark 16:8, ‘trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid’ (Mk 8:8). And the book ends.
It’s a strange way to end an account which wants us to believe in the resurrection. We are not told that the women believed, we are not told that they threw their spices away and jumped for joy. They didn’t even want to tell anyone what they had seen. It’s an BLUNT ending to a provocative book.
Such a bizarre set of circumstances has led others to add another ending which is probably printed in your Bible. But this addition is not in the earliest documents. The NIV inserts a comment after verse 8, ‘The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20’. Most Bible have a similar notation. The extended might tidy up a few loose ends, but it also creates more problems than it solves—demons, tongues, snakes and healingonly add to the mystery.
What sort of ending would YOU write? ‘And they lived happily ever after’ DOESN'T work too well. Surely MARK could have said that ‘the women eventually pulled themselves together and realised what had happened. And they spread the news that Jesus is alive’. Other suggest tacking the last few verses of the Gospel of Matthew to the end of Mark.