Mark concludes his gospel with an account of the resurrection. The account is so simple and unpretentious that some early copyists added to it. Mark doesn't even record a meeting with the risen Lord. This has prompted scholars to suggest that the actual ending of the gospel is lost, or that Mark was interrupted before he could finish. Yet, it does seem likely that Mark wants to leave his readers up in the air. Like the women at the empty tomb, we are left with a feeling of amazement and wonder. Are we able to take the next step of faith and follow the risen Lord?
v1. It was the first day of the week, Sunday, and three of Jesus' disciples, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome, having acquired some spices, head for Jesus' tomb to properly prepare his body for burial. They were unable to perform this rite on Friday, and felt they couldn't break the Sabbath on Saturday, but now they are free to act.
v2. It is dawn, on the first day of the week - Sunday.
v3. In their haste, the women had not really prepared themselves for their task, for as they journey to the tomb they begin to discuss how they will remove the stone from the entrance of the tomb. They will obviously need some help, but nevertheless continue on their way.
v4-5. On reaching the tomb they find the entrance stone rolled away and inside the tomb they see a young man sitting on the right side, looking very much like an apparition of some kind. Fear takes hold of them.
v6. The young man calms them with the news that Jesus is risen; "He is not here."
v7-8. Instructed to report what they have seen to the apostles, the women scurry away from the tomb, filled with amazement, "because they were afraid."
"Who will roll the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" Mark 16:3b.
Good Friday is a rather strange title. I mean, what's good about it? Black Friday is a better name. As far as Australia is concerned, it's just another public Holiday, an extra day to run the Royal Easter Show and help balance the books. We may go to church, certainly get into the Hot Cross Buns, and possibly spend a moment to reflect on the death of Jesus, but for most it's just another holiday.
Of course, behind it all there lies the meaning of that tragic death. On the one hand the payment of a price, a ransom, a turning aside of the wrath of God. On the other hand, a victory over the powers of darkness. Here lies the high theology of the cross, but underneath the majesty of such truths lies the example of the cross, the simple truth of cross-bearing. In the cross lies our example for discipleship, the way of suffering and sacrifice instead of self-satisfaction.
"Wait!" I hear you say, "today is Easter day. Enough of this death stuff. Today we think about life." Of course, that's true, the gospel concerns an empty tomb rather than a wooden cross, but the trick about Easter is that it must follow Good Friday. The life of Easter is linked to the death of Good Friday. We believe in life through death. Indeed, a strange notion. So, consider death, and how that stone is rolled away.
At the flesh and blood level of our lives, our psyche tells us to live for self-satisfaction; Let's be happy. Life is short, death is permanent, so eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If we seek meaning at the flesh and blood level then we are bound to chase after ephemeral experience, and when we have experienced it then we wonder what all the fuss was about. Like a good wine, the thrill, the joy lies only in the first taste. Once the business man has tasted success, then what more is there? To earn another million, to make another killing? If we try to find meaning in our family, in our children, then when they grow up what are we left with? Are we to live our lives manipulating them, gathering them under the maternal wing, indecently struggling to possess them? If we seek meaning in romance, in love, what happens when marriage becomes a little predictable, do we then go about uncorking new bottles of wine to rediscover the taste of youth? Our flesh and blood tells us that meaning is found in romance, in a career, in learning, in home building, in family and friends, in recreation.......... yet none of these things can give meaning and we are fools to believe that they can.
Jesus invites us to undertake a journey toward meaning, toward intimacy with the creator of this whole universe. The journey is undertaken via a cross and empty tomb. There, with the women, we stand looking out through the opening into the sunlight and we hear the message that this Jesus will go before us, will lead us through life. The choice is ours. If we want to know God and be his friend for eternity, then Jesus will take us on that journey into the Father's divine presence. All this freely for the asking.
So, Easter is about life, life eternal, life in all its fullness. Life is what we want, abundant and overflowing, satisfying our deepest desires for meaning, for substance.
The ending of Mark's gospel seems somewhat abrupt. Discuss the ending as a literary device and propose intended conclusions.