Many years ago in preparation to see the musical Wicked I decided I wanted to read the books first to compare. While that kind of ruined the play (a lot of liberties were taken), the books to this day continue to be on my favorites list. I enjoyed seeing both the complexity of the story where good and bad lie and the fact that like most of the book, the end did not leave the reader with a nice neat blow where everything is revealed, yet there are pointers to the next book.
We often have a hard time remembering that to many in his time Jesus was seen as something evil. Those who challenge the status quo or are different usually find themselves in that place. So as the stories of Jesus start to be passed around, those who are supporters and followers of Jesus are beginning to make a case for Christ. In fact, the gospels represent four unique witnesses to Christ so that they can make the case that he is the Messiah.
Now there are some who will say that Mark is the Cliff Notes (or, depending on your generation, Spark Notes or Readers Digest) version of the gospels. To look at Mark this way is to miss the independent witness of this gospel and the unique witness to Christ. While it is true that everything in Mark is contained in Matthew and Luke, Mark’s witness is both complete and unique.
No place is that more apparent than the ending of the Gospel, our passage this Easter morning. Mark has three known endings. The first is the end of the Easter tomb story we have this week, then there is what scholars call the “Shorter ending” which is a two sentence mirror of the ending of Matthew and the “longer ending” which has Jesus appearing to the disciples.
Most scholars accept that both the shorter and longer endings were most likely tacked onto the Gospel long after it was first written. While the endings bring a nice conclusion to the story, the ending that really is keeping with the witness that Mark is giving lets the story end with the women in a very interesting state. They are filled with confusion. But this is not the type of confusion which we might associate with being lost, but rather the type of confusion that occurs when you have just seen something life-changing that a human brain cannot instantaneously grasp.
This is where the Gospel of Mark is really interesting; it requires us as the readers/hearers, to think and process the witness it gives. Personally, there is something about that I find really appealing, as if the author is inviting me into the creative process to think about what comes next. The Bible, especially the other gospels, seem to give “completeness” to the story of Jesus. Here I am not asked to blindly follow, but I am really being given the invitation to believe, maybe even question, but mostly to come to a deeper understanding of what it all means.
This Easter as we celebrate this awesome witness, hopefully we do not do so in fear, but we have prepared our hearts to celebrate with the renewed Joy and life which comes from knowing that the story was not completed at the resurrection, but it may have just begun!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen