Summary: Mark’s original ending has been seen as controversial yet it is so powerful & real & full of challenge.
The Easter resurrection story in Mark offers us a different slant in a way on old story. It offers us an ending where the feeling is not spontaneous joy & praise, but fear & confusion & doubt. It is a ending that has troubled the Church for generations, indeed it made the people who put together Mark’s gospel so uncomfortable that someone decided the best way out was to add in a new more positively more mainstream ending!
Today I want us to think about Mark’s real ending not the phony one. To try to unpack the reasons Mark must have had in mind for this truly wonderful ending to the story of that first Easter day.
First we need to explain a little about why there are so many endings? Well lets think about any eye witness event, a car crash or robbery for instance. Hopefully the Police would be able to rely on at least a handful of witnesses. They would probably if the incident was very serious open some sort of Incident desk in the locality so that prospective witness can come forward.
Each of these witnesses would have seen things in slightly different ways; each would bring their little pieces of the jigsaw & when they are all put together hopefully an accurate picture could be built up.
So those first witnesses in Mark’s account were the women. Now obviously culturally the fact that he has women being the first to know of the Resurrection is saying something so powerful about this gospel. It is about inclusively & a real turning on its head of everything people thought they understood about God & power & status.
They are there because they know without a doubt that Jesus is definitely dead, but unknown to them something remarkable has happened. Unseen by human eyes Jesus is alive! While the earth has been sleeping the Resurrection has happened.
They see the angel & they are naturally alarmed - who wouldn’t be!
They learn from the angel of the resurrection, that their friend who was dead is now alive, & again quite naturally they are alarmed.
They leave, they run away bewildered & trembling.
You know all of this sounds quite normal to me. They have seen there friend die the cruelest of deaths, & the women were the only ones who remained according to John at the cross. Unlike Peter & John & the others they have watched Him suffer & be emptied out. They witnessed him being laid to rest, & now they come exhausted & no doubt all cried out at the crack of dawn likely because they had not slept.
Now as if they had not been through enough in the previous week they hear that the unthinkable has happened. There few facts in life that are true for all people. Taxes seem to be one for almost everyone, but death is for sure, & what’s more once you are dead you remain dead. Dead men didn’t get up.
No wonder they were in shock. You would have been in shock & so would any sane human being. It is quite natural that they ran out of there & said nothing to anyone.
So on human level I hope you agree it is easy to understand this.
Some have said Mark wasn’t sure Jesus was alive & that is why he ended things like this. I think that is pure nonsense - he knew all right! The whole of his remarkable wonderful gospel has been about the secret of who Jesus really is. Mark didn’t believe Jesus wasn’t alive – absolute rubbish. No Mark is a master story teller at work, & he wants us to talk about the continuing story, for the gospel doesn’t end when Mark uses his last full stop.
No. We are the continuing story, & we are meant to ask the person next to us - did it really mean that? Could he really be alive? If He is alive, wow, what does that mean for us, for me, for you? I know the tomb is empty . . . but . . . ?
Mark the master storyteller wants us to gossip the good news.
Remember he wrote some 40 to 70 years after the resurrection, & if there hadn’t have been resurrection he would have had no story to tell. What story would there really have been without a resurrection? A prophet lives a good life, says some amazing things about life & God, dies - end of. So what? Certainly that is not enough to change world. Definitely not enough for seasoned men like Mark, Peter & John to die horrible deaths for.
It seems obvious to me that Mark has left things like this because this is not the end of story. It’s kind of like he is saying Jesus is alive, now go & meet Him!