Reading for Monday, Oct 29: Mark 16
Many of our Bibles have a notation that begins at v9: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20).” Scholars have debated the veracity of the final verses of Mark and, although many early manuscripts do not contain them, there is nothing in these final verses that should cause us to disregard them as non-authoritative.
But suppose for a moment that they weren’t part of Mark’s original composition. Suppose for a moment that the Gospel ends at v8. What a strange ending that would be: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” If this were the final image of Mark, we’re left with a cryptic description of these women: fearful, confused, and trying with all their might to wrap their minds and hearts around this unimaginable truth. Mark leaves us here with nothing but an empty tomb and a mystic allusion to a Messiah who cannot be contained. Jesus is “out there”, loose and unbound, running around in the world as the firstfruits of what will be someday. If we’re honest with ourselves, resurrection is difficult for us to understand. The scholars say that for the Jews of Jesus day, the idea of someone being bodily resurrected in the midst of human history was an impossibility. The ending simply doesn’t intersect the middle. But the empty tomb obliterates this expectation, drawing us into the dawning reality of God’s Kingdom. Remember, this is a Kingdom that steadily advances, like daybreak on the horizon. And even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. And we stand planted in the present, watching the dawn of God’s resurrection light as it continues to creep forward, the reality of heaven breaking in to consume the darkness of our present.
The only difference: we’ve learned after 2,000 years that God does not intend for us to sit by idly, fearfully. No, we learn what these women quickly learned: this truth is to be declared in the highways and the hedges, from the rooftops and in the valleys. This is the truth of the Gospel.