|Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes at
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Other Gospel option: John 20.1-18
One of the most significant issues in Markan studies is the ending of the gospel. We have four known possibilities.
There is also the unknown possibility that Mark intended a longer ending, which he either was unable to write or that he wrote and it has been lost.
I'm inclined to believe that Mark intended the writing to end at 16:8. It continues the theme of the disciples' failure and of Christ's promises.
A question related to the ending is, "Who is Mark written for?" Is he writing an evangelical tract to convince unbelieving readers about the reality of Christ and the resurrection? Is he writing to people who already know about Jesus and believe the resurrection? If so, then he isn't trying to convince them that Jesus rose from the dead. If we assume that Mark is writing to believers, then we need to ask: "What is Mark trying to say to these believers (and to us) with the way he ends the narrative?"
I like the comment Williamson makes ("Mark," Interpretation Series): "When is an ending not the end? When a dead man rises from the tomb -- and when a gospel ends in the middle of a sentence."
Related to that quote: Mark has a beginning: 1:1 -- The beginning of the Gospel.... It doesn't really have an ending. The Gospel story is still unfolding and will continue to unfold until the parousia.
I also like the thought that the Gospel of Mark is like some parables which leaves the conclusion to the hearers. Does the barren fig tree bear fruit after the gardener spends a year caring for it (Luke 13:6-9)? Does the older brother join the party (Luke 15:11-32)? The unstated conclusion then poses the question to the hearers. "Will you bear fruit?" "Are you willing to join the party?" Or, at the end of Mark, "Are you willing to go and tell others about Jesus being raised?"
An Outline of Mark indicates the increasing blindness of humanity:
A. Jesus Authority and Human Blindness (1:14-8:26)
1. The Pharisees' Blindness (1:14-3:6)
2. The World's Blindness (3:7-6:6a)
3. The Disciples' Blindness (6:6b-8:26)
B. Jesus' Open Revelation (8:27-10:52); But the disciplies are still in the dark (8:32b-33; 9:32-34; 10:35-40)
C. Jesus' Passion and Resurrection (11:1-16:8)
Within this section, Jesus is abandoned by all.
Often Jesus orders people/demons to be quiet and in some instances the people disobey and speak (1:25, 34, 43-45; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9)
Now the woman are told to speak, and they are silent. The time for the three disciples to tell about the transfiguration has come (9:9), but they won't know it.
Jesus can't seem to win with his followers.
The passion predictions (suffering, death & resurrection) -- they happen
Because of the previous fulfillment patterns, we can be certain about the following promises. * "But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." * Word at the tomb: "He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him."
While the disciples are pictured as utter failures, we have the promise that Jesus will not fail those who have failed.
My hunch is that after the disciples ran away, they would have gone back to their homes. It is likely that the territory of Galilee was where most of them were from. (Mark tells us that about five of them.) So, before they get home, Jesus is already there! Jesus doesn't follow them there, but goes before them! The place they will see the risen Jesus is back at home -- perhaps, we might even say, in the ordinary stuff of life.
Jesus is going to keep his promises to his disciples who have failed him -- and even to Peter who has denied him. That is a message that I think Mark's readers needed to hear.
What do you say to a group of Christians about the resurrection of Christ? This is a question that not only faces preachers every Easter, but it was also a question that faced our gospel writers. When Mark wrote his gospel, he knew that most of the people who were going to read/hear it were already believers. They did not have to be convinced about the reality of Jesus' resurrection. They already knew/believed it. So Mark must be doing something different than giving information in his account of the resurrection.
They were living under the reign of Nero who was one of the greatest persecutors of Christians who ever lived. It was under his reign that both Peter and Paul were executed; and many of Mark's readers were facing the same possibility. Where is Jesus in the midst of the trials and sufferings and perhaps deaths?
Those believers didn't need a history lesson about the name of some women who find an empty tomb. They needed the assurance that Jesus was right there with them in the midst of their troubles now -- and perhaps some of them felt like utter failures in trying to follow the way of Jesus in the midst of their trials.
Mark tells them that Jesus goes ahead of them -- through the trials, sufferings, and death. Jesus goes ahead of them to the resurrection from the dead. Even if they have failed Jesus, Jesus will not fail them.
This may also be a message that our pew-sitters need to hear -- not just in reference to their own sufferings, deaths, and resurrections; but also about going back home after the Easter celebration. At home there may be piles of dirty dishes, unmade beds; a yard or garden that needs tending, a house that needs cleaning; cars that need washing; spring shopping that needs doing; and preparations for a great crowd of people coming for dinner.
It can be easy to "see" the risen Christ in a packed Easter Sunday worship service, or perhaps even in a sunrise or the spring flowers blooming; but where is the risen Jesus when the people return home -- to the drudgery of the same old things? The risen Christ has gone there ahead of them. They will see him.
It might also be added, that no one can leave Christ behind. When the men in the garden and the women at the tomb run away from Jesus; when the worshipers leave the church building -- they cannot get away from Christ. He goes ahead of them.
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