Continuing the Gospel
April 15, 2015
by Adam Thomas
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 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. (Mark 16:1-8)
You’re probably wondering why the reflection has already started. You’re probably asking yourself, “Is that all? Where’s the rest of the story?” But I’m here to tell you that this is the end of Mark’s account of the Gospel. We get no more. despite the efforts of early Christians to add new endings to Mark’s account.
So why does Mark seem to end before the good part — the resurrection appearances that we see in Matthew, Luke, and John? No one really knows. A priest I’ve known for a long time fancifully posited that Mark is writing the Gospel in his room in Rome in the mid-60s A.D. when a knock clangs on the door. It’s the Emperor Nero’s soldiers come to take him away for persecution and eventual martyrdom. What is he to do? He stashes the Gospel in a hiding place before the door crashes in.
This may sound far-fetched, but it could have happened. Either way, Mark’s account ends the way it does above. And we are left with those three women fleeing the empty tomb, awestruck and dumbstruck by what the young man in the white robe told them. But is it possible that’s just the way Mark wanted to end it? Is it possible Mark, if he had been writing in English, would have added an ellipsis to the end, signaling there’s more to come, just not here…
I think so. I think Mark leaves his Gospel account incomplete on purpose in order to encourage us to continue telling the story in our lives. We are people who live on the far side of Easter. The resurrection is our reality. And so we can finish Mark’s Gospel by giving voice to the silent women at the tomb and saying, “Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
How do you continue the Gospel in your life? What is the Risen Christ writing in your chapter? Spend some time in prayer and discernment, then write out a list of three to five ways you continue the Gospel. Ask a close friend to make the same list for you, then compare the two.