16 1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?”
4-5 Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
6-7 He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”
8 They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.
When visiting a family with a sick relative, I’ve found that each family member takes on a different and unique role. One family member becomes totally unable to care for his ailing mother. But, he’s perfectly competent in handling her financial affairs. Someone else takes over nursing responsibilities with ease. Another sibling sees that food is provided while another takes care of those long neglected home repairs.
Each member of the family rises to the occasion as long as they can do what they’re good at. Sadly, too many families become critical of each other. They don’t understand that there are differences in gifts and talents. The one caring for mother is a “saint.” The others are criticized for “running away.”
As near as theologians can tell, this is the original ending to Mark’s gospel. The other two endings don’t appear in the earliest manuscripts that are available to us today. When you think about it, it’s no surprise that new endings were added. Ending the gospel with the women running away from the empty tomb and not speaking to anyone about it is a pretty lousy ending. How was the news to get out? How was Jesus’ ministry to move forward?
So, this is it? This is the Good News? Mark’s Gospel may be short and concise, but what happened? Did he run out of paper? or time? We don’t know, but it’s worthwhile looking at it to see what God is telling us.
The Sabbath is over. It’s time to get back to work as usual. Mary, Mary Magdalene and Salome come to the tomb. Mark tells us they have spices they’ve purchased to embalm the body. The body has already begun to decay, the smell won’t be pleasant. And, they have very little hope of entering the tomb anyway because of the heavy stone blocking it.
I think they’re here for another reason: they need to be near him. Even if he is dead, being at his grave will hold some bit of comfort. If they can get in and anoint the body, so be it. If not, they’ll sit for awhile and simply be near him.
The men can’t stand to be close to the grave. Peter denied him. He’ll have to come to terms with that. Judas betrayed him. By now, he’s probably dead. The others? They’re hiding from the authorities; hiding from God. They couldn’t stand by that cross and watch their dearly loved friend die. Along with his death went their hopes and dreams for a new Israel, free from Roman occupation. What had become a successful ministry was stopped three days ago at Skull Hill.
The men stay away because they can’t stand to be close. The women stay close because they can’t stand to be far away.
Enter the young man in white. He carefully explains to the women: “I know who you’re looking for and what you’re after. He’s not here. See? Yes, he was crucified. But, he’s been raised from the dead. Now, here’s what you’re to do. Go. Tell Peter and the disciples what I’ve told you. Jesus is headed to Galilee. You can join him there.”
He ends the conversation with something important: “Just as he told you.”
“Exactly as he said.”
No one was able to understand Jesus’ words when he was with him. He told them three times that he would be turned over to the authorities, be tried and killed and would rise on the third day. But it didn’t compute. Not with any of them. Not a single one.
As my GPS is fond of telling me when I take a wrong turn, “Recalculating.” Arrested and tried. “Recalculating.” Crucified. “Recalculating.” Rise again. “Beyond recalculating.” Beyond comprehension.
The women watched him die and saw where he was buried. The ministry is over. Grieving has begun. Not a single one of them remembered what Jesus told them. So the young man in white reminds him, “Exactly as he told you.”
And what do the women do? They flee. They run for their lives, terrorized and amazed. And they say nothing to anyone.
And that’s how Mark ends the gospel. “They say nothing to anyone.” They don’t listen to the young man in white. They didn’t listen to Jesus. They’re scared. They say nothing.
How do we respond when we think our world is coming to an end? The decline of Christianity in America. No end in sight to war. School shootings vs. gun rights. “Lawful and awful” police shootings. There’s nothing that can be done. We’re all headed to hell in a hand basket.
Or are we?
How did word get out about Jesus’ resurrection? How did Christianity spread? How does the impossible happen?
It’s up to God.
God, who is faithful, completes the story. Remember at Jesus’ baptism when God split open the heavens to declare that this was God’s son? Remember when Jesus breathed his last on the cross? The curtain was torn from top to bottom while a deathly darkness descended.
We may be deniers and doubters and betrayers. There may be sophisticated and cunning schemes afoot. But God won’t be put off by them. God is faithful. God has a plan. And God’s plan won’t be diverted. Not by silence or running away. Not by anything.
So the ending to this gospel? It seems to me that it’s appropriate. Mark kept pointing out Jesus’ power and God at work. How best to end the gospel?
With a hanging sentence.
A reminder that God is still at work today.
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!