My wife and I watch a lot of movies. No, I mean A LOT of movies.
So naturally this pursuit pushes us deeply into the realm of independent endeavors, indies. There is one thing that seems to be indicative of indies, the abrupt ending. Perhaps you have seen some of these. The closing scene consists of the two main characters talking to each other after a plot that begs for a resolution. They say something like, “Yea, I’m glad you came back,” role the credits; what!? Did they run out of money? Aren’t they going to unravel all the questions that crossed my mind as I watched this ridiculous movie? Truth be told, this kind of open ended conclusion to a story is a very effective device that keeps the listener suspended in the plot long after the story ends. We are left to ruminate on our own about the meaning of the story. Perhaps the best way to describe this literary device is resonance. We hear the final note, however stark it might sound, and it keeps ringing in our ears and minds as we are enticed to rehearse the totality of the story thinking, “what was that all about?”
I think this is an apt description of the ending to the Gospel of Mark.
Perhaps you did not pick up on it in your reading but it seems Mark actually ends at verse 16:8,
“They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Most Bibles have a note in the margin explaining that vv. 9-20 are found in “later manuscripts” which means they were most likely not part of the original story. This is not to say that what is reported in the extra verses is inaccurate. They were probably added by well-meaning copyist(s) who wanted to resolve the obvious tension created by the abrupt ending. Let me suggest that the design of the original ending is meant to function much like the indie movie ending I described above. Mark/Peter forces the emotional experience the disciples encountered as they were confronted with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection to bear on all that has been recounted in this gospel. With this stark ending, “and they were afraid,” we are invited to read the story again with the awe of those final words guiding our thoughts as we contemplate the implications of “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
Are you frightened by the world around you today?
I invite you to re-read the gospel of Mark and be amazed with Jesus’ disciples as they come to grips with Jesus’ full identity. Get to know him through the Scriptures; especially in the light of his resurrection from the dead.