“Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
—Mark 16:8 (CEB)
I’ll be completely honest with you and just admit I have a lot of sympathy for the Christian scribes whose job it was to copy by hand the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end. Who could believe Mark intended his gospel to end right here with this verse (16:8). So awkward. So unsatisfying. Distressingly incomplete.
You’ll notice in your bible, when you turn to the end of Mark, that, yes, his gospel does, indeed, end right there with that sentence. You’ll also notice two other endings, usually in brackets, a longer one and a shorter one, because some scribe decided to clean up Mark’s ending, adding to it what was in one of the other gospels. It is as if some scribe just couldn’t bear to let the story hang there the way it does.
It is, by all accounts, a lousy way to end a gospel which begins so promisingly: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, . . .” (1:1). If you’ve read Mark, you know it will take only about 30 minutes to do, and you know how impatient he is in his telling, how everything in the story he narrates is done with urgency and energy. You’d think it was heading for a thrilling finish. And then this. An epic fail by the women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Ugh!
I’m of the camp which believes Mark intended to leave off his gospel with this grammatically awkward sentence (it ends in a preposition, for heaven’s sake) because, well, because of the way he started it.
I believe Mark resisted putting a neat and tidy end on his gospel because he believed that what he wrote was just the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Just the beginning. Even here, at the end of what he wrote, a broken off fragment of a sentence, he knew what his readers would know, that the story—in real time, not story time—did not end with the terror-filled silence of the women disciples. The story of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, of which his gospel is just the beginning, would continue in every person who reads his gospel.
The good news of the way this Good News ends is that the story isn’t over, it has just been broken off in such a way as to invite us to get up out of our seats and share what the women, in this telling, could not.
And which of us can resist telling what we know, what Mark knows we know, and in his wisdom, by the way he tells the story, forces out of us? You? Me? I didn’t think so.
Go and tell.