When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Humans love resolve. When we read novels we want happy endings. When we listen to music, our bodies ache for that final chord to reach a beautiful melodic resolve. We can only hold so much tension at any given time. And it’s no different when it comes to Scripture.

An addendum to the Gospel of Mark was added due to this very fact. For years, many have viewed Mark 16 as unfinished. However, N.T. Wright says, “Mark rewards careful study.” Although John Mark seems to blaze through the life and ministry of Jesus and leave us with a rather uncomfortable cliffhanger, perhaps this is exactly his literary strategy.

His audience is a group of young believers in Rome suffering under intense persecution. Mark’s gospel reminds them Jesus IS the Son of God and his resurrection informs the way his disciples live under unexpected circumstances. In the first half of this book, only demons understood who Jesus was, even his own disciples only understood in part. Finally, in chapter 15 we see a Roman centurion making a definitive statement that “Jesus is truly the Son of God” while the disciples in today’s passage ran away in fear.

Here’s where we believe the book of Mark was intended to end. Like any literary cliffhanger, Mark ends abruptly in order for the story to have gravitas. When we end at Mark 16:8, this story begs so many questions. Today, take a few minutes to identify and answer the questions this gospel poses to you.

  • For those who doubt the resurrection- How does Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection make you feel? What are you going to do about it?
  • For those who believe in the resurrection- When God shows up in unexpected ways, will you cower in fear or rise up in faith?
  • For those who proclaim the resurrection- How can your life reveal the relevance of Jesus’ resurrection today?

By Yvonne Biel