Mark 16: What Will You Do With Jesus?

Blogs are an ideal place for experimental writing, so I hope you will allow me to do that today.

In just about every Bible translated since the King James Version there is a line after 16:8 that says verses 9-20 are not found in the earliest manuscripts.  Still, I have always read the chapter as a whole, trusting that the editors of whatever translation I am reading had a good reason for putting vv. 9-20 in there.

Verses 9-20 were probably not written by Mark; there is ample evidence to suggest that.  They do show up before AD 150, though, so they are early and maybe still apostolic.  Maybe a copyist thought the book was too messy if it ended at 16:8 and added an ending of his own.  Maybe someone wanted to add a truncated version of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, the Great Commission and mention of miracles to be done by the apostles.  Maybe someone felt we needed to actually hear about Jesus meeting the apostles in Galilee as 16:7 mentioned.  Maybe Mark did have an ending and it was lost or destroyed (this section would have been the end of a scroll or codex) and vv. 9-20 are just a copy of the original that was rewritten later.   Maybe Mark died or was arrested before he could finish the book.  Honestly, I am not that worried about it.  It might be wise to refrain from picking up rattlesnakes thinking the Bible authorizes it, just in case.

Today I would like to experiment with ending Mark at 16:8 and seeing what message arises from that decision.  Maybe Mark wanted his gospel to end as abruptly as it started in chapter 1, no mention of his birth and now no post-resurrection appearance by Jesus.  So, the ending of Mark would be:

They [the women] went out, and fled from the tomb.  Trembling and panic had seized them.  They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (16:8)

That seems like a weird ending to the book.  We never see the resurrected Jesus; we must simply believe that what the angel says is true.  We never see emboldened believers: the apostles are still hiding, and even the women who were at least faithful enough to come to finish the job of anointing the body run away in a mix of awe and terror.  Is Jesus alive as the angel said?  What will become of this new movement?  What more should have been done?  These questions are all left unanswered in Mark’s awkward ending.

But maybe that is the point.  Maybe Mark, who we have repeatedly seen leave us hanging with forced vows of secrecy and people swimming in puzzlement, wants to leave us with questions.  That certainly would fit with the “messianic secret” idea we have seen already.  Remember these questions from Mark?  We are left answering these questions for ourselves:

Who do people say I am? (8:27)

Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? (14:61)

Are you the king of the Jews? (15:2)

What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews? (Mark 15:12)

More practically, maybe Mark is intending to push us back into his book to decide for ourselves whether we can believe that Jesus really is who he says he is. Some people think Mark was intended to be used as an evangelistic tool and this sort of ending could set up quite a fruitful conversation with a spiritual seeker.  Maybe we are supposed to naturally compose the ending we think there should have been — what the women should have done, what the apostles should and will do, what needs to be done now if Jesus really is alive.  Moreover, maybe we aren’t just supposed to compose the ending, maybe be are supposed to do that ending we imagine.

I think I like that sort of ending.

As we finish Mark, please take the time to write one sentence summarizing what “big idea” has stayed with you these past three weeks as you have read.

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Mark 16: What Will You Do With Jesus?

  1. v14- I though Jesus going to mad at Peter, he is not. make me more confused, even Peter do not apologize. Why…

    v16- Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. He believe that

    v20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
    Is it this verse dont have in earliest manuscript. Even i take the the word Lord to be lord, but fundamental I see is the most pure teaching is the teaching of eleven disciples.

    If I take a view of solely on St. Mark, he believe :

    > that sin is being forgiven by Father not Jesus.
    > there was no sin purified by blood of Jesus.
    >A person must do good deed and follow all commandment to enter Paradise.

    Too many opening for people want to attack Christian, Jesus and the creed of Christianity. If people like Atheist really want to attack religion in debate, I think it was a hard thing to do

    As I read “Son of God” as Jewish word = The Anointed One (one meaning). If I change to English it become two meaning = Son of God or “son” of God. If I change to my native language it become “Anak Tuhan” purely the meaning is begotten son of god. I think it better for me to rely the original language (Hebrew).
    If today, the Bible have many version, may be in next 100 years KJV and NIV is gone, how many version will survive and which version will survive? the fundamental always rely in original language.

    I was interested to read you reader comment. It seem all people have moved by the stories and not what Jesus preach or a lesson that we can take from Jesus for our today life. It give me a though who is Jesus to Christianity, logically?

  2. Trent Williamson

    I find GREAT HOPE buried in 16:7 because I can really relate to Peter. Eager, passionate, outspoken………..yet when the chips were down he did just as Jesus said he would, tucked his tail and ran…….ashamed to be connected to Jesus in any way. Two simple words in verse 7 give me great hope, “But go, tell his disciples, AND PETER…………” AND PETER —- I love those two simple words. Grace & mercy comes to life, and I am hopeful that even in the midst of my denials and failures He continues to say “But go, tell his disciples, AND TRENT……..” I love the exchange between Jesus and Peter found in John 21 as redemption and reconciliation are fully realized in Peter’s life. Looking forward to Acts!!!

  3. Linda

    Unanswered questions….kinda like a Harold Hazelip sermon! He led me to do more thinking on the way home than I would have done if he answered all the questions for me!

  4. I have never noticed verse 20 before, and I love it! “And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence.” There is a lot here. The disciples who haven’t gotten it up till now, finally get it. They are obedient. The work keeps going. But the part I love is that Jesus was right there with them. The resurrected and ascended Jesus is still right there with them, working in and through them. Jesus is not gone. He is risen. He is here. Love it!

  5. Eddy

    “Right there with them.” … That’s how our next book (Acts) begins. He acsends but he is there with them in Spirit and in their Community.

  6. I am struck by how early the women came to the tomb on that Sunday morning: “It was very early in the morning as the first streaks of light were beginning to be seen in the sky” (16:2) It was like they couldn’t wait another minute. They can as soon into the day, as soon after the Sabbath as they could.

    But then I am struck by the fact that Jesus is already resurrected: “But when they arrived, they discovered that the very large stone that had sealed the tomb was already rolled away!” (16:4) Jesus got out of that tomb as soon as he could, faster than the women could move even!

    I love these characteristic examples of Markan rapidity.

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