I like stories that wrap up loose ends before the last word. I want to close the book knowing that good will triumph over evil, that lovers will unite having gone through difficult times, that those who are ill receive healing or at least an opportunity to mourn those who die. For when the author has wraped up all the loose ends, I can close the book or eject the DVD, put it on the shelf, and turn to other tasks and adventures.
But the Gospel According to Saint Mark as originally written ended abruptly. The women had seen the empty tomb and ran away afraid to tell anyone what they had seen. Loose ends are left dangling: How did Peter and the others learn of the resurrection? How did the resurrection affect their lives?
The unfinished story must have bothered scribes copying this gospel for they added two endings. We know that these other endings were late additions because the oldest and most reliable manuscript ends with verse 8 and letters between early church leaders also note the abrupt ending of Mark’s Gospel.
I think Mark did this intentionally. An unfinished story demands attention. For example: a composer once lay on his bed awaiting sleep while someone practiced a melody on a nearby piano. But the piano player stopped one note short of resolution. Instead of sleep the composer tossed and turned in his bed until he arose and strode the to the piano, played the melody with the resolving note that begged for attention.
Mark left us begging for the rest of the story, imagining how we would respond the stranger’s message: “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.”
This is incredible! Tombs do not open themselves. Dead men, especially after crucifixion, stay dead. No one would believe them. Their friends and family at best would pat them on the hands and explain what they had seen and heard as a hallucination; at worst they would laugh at these silly women.
Would you tell? Would anyone believe you?
Will you tell a neighbor about Jesus this Easter?