Summary: We think of Easter as lovely, yet many people are troubled and distressed as they come on Easter morning. Mark 16:1-8 is for people like that, as Mark's gospel ends with the women "trembling...bewildered...afraid."
ON A MORNING LIKE THIS—Mark 16:1-8
“In the sky the song of the skylark greets the dawn in the fields wet with dew
The scent of the violets fills the air on such a lovely morning as this
Surely on such a lovely morning as this Lord Jesus came forth from the tomb.”
John Carden, A Procession of Prayers
“On such a lovely morning as this…”
Easter has become a celebration of Spring: Days are longer, flowers are blooming, birds are singing.
And so, on that first Easter, the women came to the tomb, wearing new Easter outfits, and carrying Easter baskets with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow eggs.
But no! On that first Easter morning, three women, who had spent Friday watching their hopes die on a cross, and Saturday in shock and tears, got up early to go to a tomb just outside of Jerusalem. Mark says there were three women: Mary Magdalene, who knew the face of evil personally until Jesus cast out her demons, the other Mary, the mother of the disciple James the Less, who followed Jesus with her son, and Salome, mother of James and John (the Sons of Thunder), who had big hopes and dreams for her sons when Jesus set up his kingdom in Jerusalem.
“On a morning like this…” What kind of morning was it?
Last night, as the sun went down and the Sabbath was over, the women risked their safety to go out into the darkness, to buy spices. In thes morning, they went sadly to the tomb, hoping that the body wouldn’t stink too much as they put the spices around him. They were helpless and alone, as they couldn’t even find a man or two to roll the heavy stone away from the grave.
On that not-so-lovely morning, they were preparing to say goodbye to Jesus—and not just to Jesus, but goodbye to their hopes and dreams.
“On a morning like this…” What kind of morning is this?
Some people today are sitting by their husband or wife (or not!), and wondering, “Where do we go from here? Is there any hope for us?”
Some are looking over at the kids, thinking, “What do we do? How do raise kids in a world like this?”
Some are overwhelmed by stress and pressure: debt, work, or trying to find time to fit it all in.
Some are fighting depression, or wracked by guilt, or feeling lonely and out of place.
Others have the world by the tail: Their lives really are filled with sunshine and birds and flowers—for
now. But is this “it”? Is this what all that life is meant to be?
“On a morning like this…Jesus came forth from the tomb.” We know how the story goes, don’t we?
The women come to the tomb, and they are thrilled to see that stone has been rolled away. A glorious, shining angel appears, to say, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus is alive!” Then, there appears a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest…” (Oops—That was Christmas.) The angel says, “Go tell his disciples.” Surely, the disciples will immediately be thrilled to hear that Jesus is alive! Everyone sings: “Alleluia!” Then they all go home and color Easter eggs, and eat Easter ham.
That’s not how Mark tells the story!
Mark 16:5 “They were alarmed”?
Mark 16:8 “trembling…bewildered…afraid”?
And that is the last verse of the Gospel of Mark!
If you have an older translation of the Bible, you might find verses 9-20, or in a newer Bible, they may be set off from the rest of Mark, with a note that they were not in the original text. Mark wrote his gospel in about 65 A.D., and by comparing early manuscripts, scholars can determine that several endings were added to the end of the gospel, in the second century.
Did Mark’s gospel end with verse 8? Maybe there was more: The gospel was originally written on a scroll, and it is possible that the last part of the scroll broke off and was lost, before any copies were made. But maybe, Mark wanted to leave his readers hanging. Maybe Mark wanted to tell the story the same way Peter told the story when he preached, for after the resurrection, Mark was Peter’s interpreter, and Peter was probably the source for most of what Mark wrote.
Whatever, happened, this is no way to end a gospel! If someone was making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, they could do better than this, or for that matter, better than any of gospels! The first people to come to the tomb were women, and in those days, women could not even sworn to tell the truth in a court of law, because they were deemed to be unreliable witnesses. The apostles were not portrayed in best light; they were reluctant, and slow to believe. The angel was not spectacular enough, a mere “young man”; a movie would certainly use special effects.