The glory of Easter worship still rings in my ears and heart. The Gospel of Mark’s bold message announced to the women and to us, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised” (Mark 16:6). The resurrection is what sets Christ apart from all other prophets and religious teachers. It is central to our Christian faith, yet seems so beyond our personal experience.
Perhaps that is one of the reason so many people become uncomfortable with how Mark’s Gospel ends. Reliable scholarship points to the final verse being verse 8:
So they (women) went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The gospel writer provides both the empty tomb and the young man’s witness that Jesus is raised and believes that is sufficient for the reader. This seems inadequate and unsettling at first. Where are the appearances of the risen Jesus as described by Paul (I Corinthians 15) or Matthew (28:16-20) or Luke (24:13-53) or John (20-21)? Where are the final instructions from Jesus to his disciples? Verse eight has an unfinished feel to it. In fact, early in the church’s history, additional endings were added to Mark to give a more “comfortable” and “respectable” ending.
As I preached on this yesterday, I think Mark’s ending makes sense at verse eight, if we see it as the challenge to us and our faith that it is. The writer wants us to wrestle with the message of resurrection and the promise that he is going ahead of us. Stories of Jesus’ appearances may give some comfort but none of us have actually seen the resurrected Jesus. We have only the written reports of the Gospels, such as the young man at the tomb. Ultimately we will have to judge the validity of the witnesses. Paul makes this case in I Corinthians 15.
I continue to think that the most valid testimony of Christ’s resurrection is the transformed lives of his followers. They had trusted him to be the Messiah, but he had been crucified. Their hope was crushed that day. The were like the frightened women, tongued-tied. Only the actual resurrection of Jesus could have changed them from frightened ex-followers into courageous ambassadors of Jesus. And I have seen such transformation in people’s lives today as they trust in Christ.
The end of Mark’s gospel pushes the reader to trust in the message of the young man.
It is only fitting that just at the tomb will not contain Jesus, neither can Mark’s story. Jesus is not bound by its ending; he continues into the future God has in store for the creation. In the meantime there is only the Word, the bread, and the wine, and the promise that “you will see him.” We walk by faith and not by sight. We can only trust that God will one day finish the story, as God has promised. (Donald Juel, Mark, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament. p. 235.)
Lord Jesus, help me to walk by faith and not by my own narrow vision.