“They went out and ran from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Today this journey comes to an end. It has taken us two days shy of 13 months. I’m so glad to have had you with me on it. As I said yesterday, we’ll start a new journey together soon, and I am very much looking forward to that. I’ll have more news on what that will be in the next few weeks. In the meantime, don’t tune out! We’ll spend the next few weeks looking at some of the lies followers of Jesus believe and why the truth is so much better. And just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a link back to where we started on September 1 of last year. Thanks for reading and sharing. Now, let’s get to the task at hand.
Have you ever seen someone react to something in the wrong way? Perhaps it was a surprise party, and instead of excitement, they were angry. Maybe it was a Christmas present that made them start crying. It could have been really sad news that made them laugh. There is an endless combination of possibilities here. Sometimes people simply don’t react to something the way most folks think they should act. What we see here at the end of Mark’s Gospel is a perfect example of this. Let’s dig in to see what the reaction was, what it should have been, and what it means for us.
Mark’s ending is the most interesting of any of the Gospels. And when I say that, I’m talking about this verse, not the next 8 you probably see in your own Bible. The final 8 verses of Mark’s Gospel were probably not written by him, but added later by an editor. They aren’t present in the earliest manuscripts we have, and the tone and writing style are different. That is, they don’t sound like Mark. They are included in most Bibles for the sake of tradition, but modern translations generally bracket them off with an editorial note about their not being original.
As for the ending we do have here in v. 8, Mark simply cuts off without telling us anything about what happened next. (That is likely why a later copyist or editor felt the need to add a few more verses to complete the story.) The women receive this incredible news that Jesus is risen from the dead…and they sit on it because they were afraid. This prompts a rather obvious question: How could they do that? How could they receive this world-shattering news and not shout it from the rooftops? Fear wasn’t the right reaction to the angel’s revelation. They needed to be rejoicing.
Well, we know from the other Gospel writers that they did eventually share the news, there was much excitement, and they would indeed eventually shout it from the rooftops, but at this point in time, none of that was even a glimmer of a thought. Let’s think about why. Perhaps the first and most significant reason the women were so bewildered with fear and uncertainty was that they didn’t understand what the angels meant. They understood all the words individually, but put together like that, they didn’t compute. This is because, as we have talked about several times already, they didn’t expect Jesus to come back from the dead.
This bleeds into a second reason for their scared silence: They didn’t have a category for this and so they simply didn’t know what to make of it. It wasn’t just them. No one had a category for this. They knew that if they went back to the group and reported what the angel had said, no one would believe them. And indeed, Luke reports that when the women told the other disciples, “these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women.”
They did not believe the women because they didn’t have a category, but also because, to a certain extent, they didn’t want to believe the women. They did not for a second think Jesus was really alive, and they knew what the implications of His missing body would be. Jesus’ body had been guarded by Roman soldiers. Its being missing would likely be pinned on His followers. That was, in fact, what happened. When the chief priests heard from the soldiers what had happened (they reported it first to them because they knew their Roman superiors would put them to death for dereliction of duty), they paid them off to say the disciples stole the body and offered them protection from the Roman authorities. The disciples all realized that if they were accused of stealing the body, the strong likelihood was their being arrested and put to the same end Jesus had faced. With Jesus’ being gone, they hadn’t signed up for that. For their part, the women knew the men would react this way and so they kept silent at first.
The simple fact of history is Jesus’ resurrection was the best news ever. It means there is something on the other side of the grave. Death now needed to hold no fear for us because of the many unknowns associated with it. It meant sin was defeated and a right relationship with God was possible for everyone. Doubt and despair could be discarded because God had proven His love for us in the most dramatic way imaginable. We could embrace justice and righteousness with confidence because whatever happened in our pursuit of them, death wasn’t the end any longer. It changed everything, and all of the changes were for the good.
But in a world accustomed to bad news, the announcement of this good news was so shocking it took folks a little while to adjust their hearts and minds to the reality of living in a good news world. The world before the resurrection was one of bad news and bad news only. Yes, there were some hopeful reports that God was going to do something someday to make everything better, but no one had seen it. In that world you lived, you died, and what came next was a terrifying mystery. We made up stories about it because death just seemed like it couldn’t be the end, but we didn’t know. No one did. We lived in fear of God or the gods because if they got angry enough, they could wipe us out, and that was it. Then came this good news that, again, changed everything. It was more than they could handle at first.
It can be more than we can handle sometimes too. Jesus may have risen from the dead, but we still see sin at work everywhere we look. If we take our eyes off of the source of life – or don’t know to put them there in the first place – our vision can become entirely clouded with the chaos of sin. We can get overwhelmed by the bad news just like our forebears were. Yet this is not the world in which we live. Because of the resurrection, we live in a good news world. The good news is out and spreading and will eventually come to dominate the scene. God is on the move and He won’t be stopped. His church is advancing in every corner of the globe. In every nation there are lives being transformed by the Gospel. All because of the resurrection. My friends, we live in a good news world. It’s time for us to get used to it.