Terror & Amazement

Read Mark 16:1-8

Choosing without Seeing

The earliest manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8. It is believed that the other three endings, two of which are bracketed in the NRSV Bible, were later additions.

Scholars believe that the original gospel writer’s intent was the shortest version. Other endings were added because the short version fails to offer a resurrected Jesus sighting, only the word of the “young man” (an angel?) who tells the women that Jesus is risen.

The shorter, original ending of Mark was unsatisfying to early Christians longing for proof. As Christians living in the scientific era, we, too seek proof. We are not comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

While the men are in hiding for fear for their lives following the crucifixion, the women go up to anoint Jesus’ corpse. They are surprised to find the stone of the tomb rolled away. A young man, likely of divine origin, tells them that Jesus is risen.

Though the women are told to go and tell the others that Jesus is risen, they “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone…” [16:8]

They are seized by terror and amazement! Though this ending is less satisfying then the longer versions or the other gospels I think it reflects our humanity well. I think it reflects the nature of living: we yearn for certainty but the world is filled with uncertainty.

It forces us to choose. Do we trust in the magnitude of God’s love that raises Jesus or do we trust in the earthly seeking of power and fear and self-interest?  Do we choose to trust the young man in the tomb that Jesus has risen or do we demand a sign or proof?

As scholar Bonnie Bowman Thurston suggests, “Mark…wanted to make clear that faith is generated by the word of Jesus, not by miracles” (B. Thurston, Preaching Mark, Augburg, 2002). That is, faith is about doing and living as Jesus taught.

The resurrection, then, is not the end. The implication that once we are “saved” the story is over is to misread the Good News. The cross is just the beginning; it is the moment when we choose to be and become expansive, unimaginable love & justice in the world or we choose to cower at the news of the empty tomb.

See you Sunday at 10:30,

Tim

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