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What About The End of the Story? – Why Mark ends abruptly

Turn in your Bible to Mark, Chapter 16. Do you notice a pause after verse 8? Your translation may have slightly different wording, but it should say something like this:

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]

What’s that about?

That means that the earliest readers of this gospel would have found themselves faced with a cliffhanger. In these last few verses we see that two women, Mary Magdalene and Salome, come to the place where Jesus was buried and find it to be empty. Then, a “young man dressed in a white robe” speaks to them,

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

Wait a second… that’s it? That’s the ending to this incredible account of the life of Jesus? One is left wondering, why? Why would the author end there? Some believe that the ending of the book was lost. Others believe it was intentional. Whatever the case may be, some time later an ending was added to close out the book of Mark (see verses 9-20). However, this was only found in later manuscripts. 

For just a moment, let’s assume this abrupt ending was intentional by the author. Why would he decide to close the book this way? The most common belief or thought is that he wanted to leave his audience to ponder a certain question after having read about the radical act of suffering and dying for the sins of the world that Jesus just accomplished. The question is: 

What is your response going to be? 

See, Mark is written strategically as three acts or parts. At the end of each act is a scene with people responding to Jesus in confusion. He wasn’t anything that his disciples or anybody else at that time expected him to be. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom – the last will be first, his followers will become servants, his power is in laying down his life for both his friends and his enemies.  

This final act of the book of Mark ends in the same way. The women who find Jesus’ tomb to be empty run off confused and scared. It says

They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

You, as the reader, are left bewildered and forced to decide what your own response to this gospel will be. 

Will you also remain confused and silent? 

Will you run away like the women at the end of this story? 

Or will you choose to meditate on the scriptures, seek understanding, and spread the good news about Jesus and his kingdom in the world today? 

Only you can answer this question for yourself. So, I will ask it again. Upon reading the gospel of Mark and the account of Jesus in action, what is your response going to be?

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