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Thought for the month… by Revd Becky Bevan

Article posted on 12 April 2018 Leave a Comment

‘So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’

This is the final sentence of Mark’s Gospel.  Imagine going to all the trouble of writing the story of Jesus, and carefully building up the plot, everything leading to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, and every thread coming together on that first Easter morning when the tomb was found to be empty… And then finishing the whole saga like this with the women fleeing in terror and saying nothing to anyone.  Whichever way you look at it, it’s an odd way to end a story.

For centuries people assumed that this couldn’t really be the end of the Gospel and that the real ending must have been lost, or Mark got interrupted and didn’t finish the story for some reason. And if you look in a Bible you’ll see that there are some suggested endings added in, but hardly anyone today thinks these are original, but that the Early Church added accounts from other sources to compensate for the unsatisfactory ending. We know from the other later Gospels that there was much more to be said about Jesus, and so no one could be blamed for wanting to ‘improve’ Mark’s ending and make it a bit more positive.

But the strong consensus now is that Mark’s Gospel was meant to end in this abrupt, apparently unsatisfactory way, with the women running off, full of fear and saying nothing. One theory is that the ending is left open by the writer because the story is open, that the whole of Mark’s Gospel is simply the beginning of the story of Jesus which continues in the life of the believer and will only conclude when God’s kingdom comes. Indeed, the very first words of the Gospel – ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ…’ – could imply that everything that follows is simply the beginning.

Seen in this way Mark leaves his story of Jesus incomplete because its continuation depends on how hearers respond. He hands over the story to the women, he places it in their hands, because the resurrection of Jesus only becomes good news when it becomes good news to them. Of course the women who fled the tomb in terror clearly did go on to say something because the Gospel has been written. Frightened, bewildered women became messengers of hope because Jesus was with them – his resurrection became theirs.

So instead of a full-stop and THE END, Mark finishes his Gospel with an ellipsis…This is a story to be continued. And whether the surprising ending was intentional or not the effect is the same –  Mark invites all who are longing for resurrection to let the story of Jesus be told in them.

 

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