The Ending You Choose
“So [Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome] went out and fled from the tomb,
for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
(Mark 16:8, NRSV)
In Mark's gospel's earliest manuscripts, verse 8 is the ending to Mark's resurrection story. The two Marys and Salome go to the tomb after sunrise Sunday morning with plans to do the final preparations of Jesus' body for burial. After his death on Good Friday (God's Friday), his body had been hastily taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. A large stone was rolled across the opening to secure the grave. Those attending Jesus' body met only the minimum of burial requirements so they could faithfully observe the Sabbath that began at sundown. The women were going to do the final preparations for a proper burial. The women speculated on their way about who would be around to help them move the stone. Upon arriving, to their surprise, someone had already moved the stone aside. Entering the tomb, the women saw a young man seated on the raised slab where Jesus' body was supposed to be, but it was gone. He said he knew they were looking for Jesus, but Jesus wasn't there because he was no longer dead. The angel instructed the women to find the disciples and Peter and tell them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. According to Mark's original ending, the women are so afraid they run away and speak of this to no one.
Running away and telling no one is a horrible way to end this story. At least that's what the Christians of the late First Century concluded.
So on two separate occasions, they altered the ending. First, there was the "short ending" added as part of verse 8:
"And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter.
And afterward, Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation." (Mark 16:8 ancient addendum, NRSV)
This addition didn't go far enough for some, so they picked up pieces of the other gospels' resurrection story and added verses 9-20. In those verses, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and then to two disciples who were on a journey, reminiscent of Luke's Emmaus Road encounter (Luke 24). Then he appears to the eleven remaining disciples before ascending to heaven. It seemed as if those early Christians didn't like the unresolved nature of Mark's original ending. They didn't want the resurrection story to end with fear and silence.
I think Mark was a master storyteller who wanted us to pick up the telling of the story. We know that even though Mark suggests the women did not tell anyone, the news of Jesus' resurrection still got out. Someone had to say something—maybe even the women.
Mark is asking us to find ourselves in the resurrection story. Are we afraid and silent, or are we willing to share the good news? Will we boldly proclaim the resurrection of Jesus so that the world can find our living Savior for themselves, or will we keep this as a secret for ourselves? The true answer to these questions lies in our response to this simple question: Who have you told lately about what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ means to you? We are responsible for sharing this incredible news with the world!