Text: Mark 16:1-8
Date: Easter + 4/4/15
All this year we have been sitting at the feet of Saint Mark the Evangelist. The main thing we have noticed is how he seems to be in such a hurry, he doesn’t want to fool around but to get to, as he says in the beginning, “the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” Therefore the first thing we discover is that Mark doesn’t have a Christmas story but begins with the grown up Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist and then thrust into the wilderness, as of first importance, to be tempted by the devil. It’s not too long until we discover opposition forming to Jesus and then He is on the road to His goal. The gospel, Mark has been hinting, is all about the death and resurrection of Christ. Well, here we are! The End. Or is it?
The ending of Mark’s Gospel is mysterious to say the least. It’s almost as if he were still in a hurry. But in a hurry to go where? to do what? Did something happen that made him suddenly stop writing after that strange ending, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” “Nothing to anyone,” “they were afraid!” Strange way to end. We may think Mark must have been interrupted. He couldn’t have really meant to end that way, could he?
Then there is a longer ending to Mark’s Gospel. Did Mark, later on, pick up his pen again to finish the task? Or was someone else so disturbed by the odd, abrupt ending that they added some finishing touches for the Evangelist?
Maybe, just maybe, Mark intended to leave the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God on such a seemingly incomplete note. Maybe, just maybe, he intend to leave the impression that the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God remains incomplete until it finds its proper goal of faith, saving faith in you the reader and listener, in your heart and mind.
I mean Mark did complete the story. After the dramatic events, the three-day long tragedy and spectacle of: our Lord’s betrayal by Judas; those mysterious words at the Passover Seder, “This is my body,” “This is my blood” given and shed for you; His agonizing over it all in the night time Garden prayer; His arrest and fixed trials; Peter’s denials; then before Pontius Pilate; then the crowds and the cry, “Crucify!” Then the mocking and scourging and dereliction on the cross—that cross, that shameful tree of damnation; finally, His death and His burial.
But this is not yet the Gospel, this is not yet “finally” or “the end.” Oh, it is the heart and core of the gospel. But it is not yet complete. This is, remember, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As God, though He died, yet He lives, He lives triumphant from the grave. There is no deliverance, no salvation without Good Friday. But Good Friday alone will not save you. For He died in order to conquer death. So Mark faithfully tells us how the women “saw [in the tomb] a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe,” an angel we are to understand, “and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The End? Hardly.
Did St. Mark know of Matthew’s Gospel perhaps written shortly before his? Surely Peter told him of all the post-Easter appearances of the risen Christ. He really didn’t have to “finish” anything. And he couldn’t really “finish” it if, as we said, the gospel isn’t finished until it is finished in you.
And the gospel is finished in you as a result of our Lord’s command of the longer end of Mark, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” That includes you! Now! “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” That “whoever” means you! Now! “But whoever does not believe will be condemned.” The warning is for you, now. But only to impel you to repent and return, to hear this gospel again until it finds its end as faith in your heart, faith in God through Jesus Christ the Son of God who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.