“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).
A good many folks believe the Gospel of Mark should end right there. Yes, I know you have eleven more verses in your Bible, but even your Bible will have something of a question mark about them.
I will turn to the long ending next week, but for today, let’s grant that Mark ended with verse eight. What might have been the purpose of such an odd ending?
The women mentioned in this verse had been told to go tell the disciples, and Peter (probably “especially Peter”), to meet Jesus in Galilee. Mark says they don’t. But just here you should see a connection with the beginning of the book. At the end of chapter one, Jesus heals a leper and “sternly commands him” to tell no one. But the leper does anyway.
Written for Christians, the Gospel of Mark addresses the call to discipleship. Those who read Mark for the first time knew that the story didn’t end in disobedience. The disciples changed, made the message known, and began a movement that spread like fire across dry prairie. But to keep it spreading would depend on new people in succeeding generations faithfully following Jesus.
Perhaps Mark’s readers are being given an invitation: They can believe the story is over and go back to their lives. They can believe the story continues with a call to them – but never respond because of fear. Or they can, like the women and apostles did, get on with following Jesus.
If I’m right about Mark’s intention here, we are being given an invitation too. How will you respond?