Do We Need an Ending?
Read Mark 16:9-20
Contemplate: What is “your” word in this passage today?
Read also John 20, 1-18; Matth 28:16-20; Lk 24:13-39. What do you notice?
Look back at the 40 days of “finding Jesus” in Mark’s Gospel. What’s Jesus like? Did he surprise you? In what way?
How does this passage (Mk 16:9-20) “complete” the message about Mark’s Jesus as the “secrete” Messiah for you?
Mark 16:9-20 is the Word of God for us, but it wasn’t written by Mark. According to all we have read, it is possible that Mark himself even intended to leave us with an open ending. After all, throughout, Mark portrays Jesus as the hidden one, who grows secretly in the hearts of the people who follow him. Often, the disciples are afraid of Jesus, and even more often, they are perplexed by him. Their “way” with Jesus is full of contradiction – or at least, this is what it looks like to the people who are watching to see, but miss Jesus’s point.
If we follow the disciples along Mark’s way to Jerusalem, we are constantly frustrated by the “incompleteness” of their of their faith, of their understanding, and of their dedication. We wished that at least once they would arrive, but they don’t. Instead – they run away (sometimes naked and in fear) from their dedication to Jesus! So, actually, ending his gospel at 16:8 Mark may have done just that again – left us “on the way” wondering! We hoped to come to a closure, but instead there are the three dots.
Study shows that the passage we read today (Mk 16:9-20) is a patchwork from the other gospels (and Acts). It tries to supply the reader with a proper closure. Early church history shows that from the start, people had a problem with Mark’s gospel. I guess, in our time, it would get a bad criticism on Amazon, and would be left alone to die.
But since Mark’s story was based on Peter’s story with Jesus, it could not be easily dismissed. So, an ending was supplied from the other traditions which Mark somehow missed: Mary Magdalene did inform the disciples, and they did not listen to her at first, but then Jesus appeared to the two too on the way and commissioned them all finally to continue his work of reconciliation in the world. Their word was mightily confirmed by miracles. Also, they were divinely protected in dangerous situations. Jesus, although now sitting “at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19) continues his work and he was with the disciples and confirmed his word by miracles.
This gives us a sense of closure, but if we think about it, it does not erase the challenge of incompleteness from Mark 16:8. The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Resurrected, stays unfinished without people in each generation who will pick it up and faithfully run with it to the ends of the world, against all odds.
We have completed our meditation on Jesus in the Gospel of Mark today – on Palm Sunday. Somehow, the church made this a joyous event, where in fact, it is a challenge. Are we ready to follow Jesus on his Via Dolorosa? Can we stand by him through the suffering of our current uncertainty? Or even can we bear to see him resurrected and have our lives overhauled? We have his promise that he is going before us in all of this and also his promise that eventually, we will see him, the Resurrected One, in those new circumstances.
So, when today you sing or pray: “Hosanna!” are you ready to also embrace the way on which Jesus walks before you? Although it sometimes feels that way to the human eye, it’s not a way into senseless suffering and denial. It’s the way to victory, where life has conquered death.