Have you ever noticed in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Mark, verse 8 has a little (*) asterisk. The accompanying note goes something like this: “At this point, some of the most ancient witnesses bring the book to a close.” The shortest of the four gospels, most scholars agree that Mark is also the oldest gospel and therefore, the closest in time to Jesus’ actual life, death and resurrection.
Now a word about the Gospel according to St. Mark. The pervasive overarching question in the text is this: Who is Jesus? Is he truly the Son of Man, the Messiah, God’s anointed— the Savior (which, by the way, is what the name “Jesus” means in Hebrew)? This question gets batted around throughout Jesus’ life and ministry as he calls the 12 disciples, heals the sick and engages the religious leaders. At one point, Jesus even asks the twelve what they think, to which they respond, “Some say Elijah or John the Baptist come back to life, while others a prophet.” Then Jesus asks point blank, “And who do you say that I am?” To which Peter answers, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29).
The question of Jesus’ identity is raised right up to the end. At Jesus’ trial, first the religious leaders, then Pilate and King Herod, each ask Jesus whether or not he is a king, God’s anointed. Indeed, this is the very reason Jesus went to the cross for they concluded Jesus was blasphemous — claiming to be someone he was not. So Jesus is put to death and laid in a tomb to rest.
Then comes the shortest Easter story ever. In just eight verses (ch.16), we read that three women went to the tomb with burial spices and were dumbfounded upon finding the tomb empty and an angel telling them that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was no longer there. The angel gave clear instructions for the women to tell the others and that Jesus would meet up with them in Galilee. And the final verse reads, “They said nothing to anybody, for they were afraid (16:8).”
So the only resurrection witness in Mark is the angel revealing that Jesus has been raised from the dead and the women who saw the empty tomb. I find this rather abrupt, as did some in the early church for they added extra verses and accounts of Jesus appearing from time to time.
It occurs to me that there are two Easter Stories going on here. The one written in Mark ends rather abruptly, with no one telling anybody. The other story, however, goes on even to this day, and that is our own Easter stories. Stories of forgiveness in all their shapes and forms: Broken relationships, divorces, harsh words spoken to loved ones, acts of violence, sins of all kinds — known and unknown, when confessed and owned, turn into the stuff of New Life and resurrection. Like reading a really good book or watching a compelling movie, you’re going to tell someone. In fact, you cannot not tell anybody. It’s just too amazing to keep to yourself. These are the Easter Stories that continue, and that are made possible by the very first Easter Story, that the tomb is empty, the one whom you seek has been raised from the dead. Go and tell the others. Do not be afraid.
The Rev. Keith Anderson is pastor of First Lutheran Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.