This week, I’m reading the Holy Week passages from the 4 NT Gospels and giving a bit of comment from them as we approach Easter Sunday.
Today I read Mark’s account, which read in close step with Matthew’s version. Matthew has more interaction between Jesus and his opponents. There are some other details that differ between the two. The majority, however, reads the same and follows a similar narrative stream.
It’s hard not to make mention of Mark’s ending, though. Most study Bibles are honest in that the traditional ending found in some English translations (Mark 16:9-20) is not found in the earliest manuscripts or other “ancient witnesses.”
Without verses 9-20, however, Mark’s Gospel seems to have a bizarre ending. In the last chapter of Mark, the women go to the tomb (like the other Gospel accounts) and find it empty. However, in Mark’s brief ending, they do not see Jesus. They merely see the empty tomb and are instructed by the angel there to:
- not be alarmed (easy for you to say)
- to go tell Peter that Jesus is raised and that Jesus will go ahead of them into Galilee to meet with the disciples
Notice the ending at verse 8, however:
“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Now, imagine the camera shot zooming out of this final scene as the credits begin to roll signaling the end of the story… Weird, right?
Maybe that is why the Markan tradition felt compelled to “provide a deleted scene,” in order to not only round off the story to a proper conclusion, but to also elevate the reputation of these women who seemed to do the exact opposite of what the angel asked them to do.
Call me crazy, but I think the traditional, short ending of Mark is vital. We might be quick to be disappointed with the women who did the opposite of what was asked of them and embarrassed that our fore-sisters were paralyzed by the news of the resurrection.
But, who could blame them?
Jesus’ resurrection re-ordered everything. Sure, Jesus may have hinted at his resurrection during his preaching ministry, but part of the power of the resurrection is its startling property. It’s hard for something to re-order the entire cosmos when it can be neatly fit into pre-existing categories.
Mark’s ending allows us to consider a God “on the loose,” who is mentioned, but not seen. Although he is announced as risen, his cover is still kept and under that holy “disguise” he’s allowed to continue his redemptive work in the world all around us.
The God of the resurrection is a projectile (who flies at us) and not a projection (that we can anticipate and trace). People with power like to make projections because it allows them to adjust to what might happen in order to retain their power. Followers of Jesus learn to watch for the projectiles, we live to follow a God who is on the loose.
I think a fair question to consider this Easter is, “Can I follow a God who is not only alive, but who is also on the loose?”