The Passion According to Mark: Chapter 16

Points made by Raymond Brown in A Risen Christ in Eastertime, p. 9-22)

  • (Regarding the stone over the tomb…)  Notice the contrast between human incapacity and God’s power.  When Mark reports that the women saw the stone already rolled back, he is using the passive to indicate divine action.  God has undone the sealing that the Sanhedrin member Joseph of Arimathea so carefully placed.
  • A young man sitting on the right side (a place of dignity) clothed with a white robes surely a divine spokesman; and the amazement that greets him is typical of the reaction to the appearance of angels.  They are seeking “Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.”  The women now know that their well-meaning search for Jesus was in vain.
  • See 14:28.  The angelic youth hearkens back to that promise of Jesus to meet the disciples in Galilee after he is raised.  Those who were “scattered” (14:27) by the events of the passion at Jerusalem will once more become a community when they return to the place where they were first called together as disciples.  [It’s like this is the place of safety, the place of coming home, their hang-out.  If you saw West Side Story, it’s like the Jets returning to Doc’s Store after the rumble.]
  • Throughout the Gospel Mark has shown how those who followed Jesus failed because they did not understand that Jesus had to suffer or because they were unwilling to accompany him into his passion.  Mark somberly insists that none can escape suffering in the following of Jesus.  Amidst Mark’s readers surely there were some who had been tested by persecution and had failed.  They could find encouragement in the story of Jesus’ own disciples, all of whom failed during the passion.  But others among Mark’s readers would not have been so tested.  There is a parallel between them and the women who appear on the scene only after the crucifixion and observe his death without having become involved even in his burial.  Like the women they are will-inclined, but after they hear the proclamation of the resurrection and receive a commission to proclaim what has happened to Jesus, they too can fail if they become afraid.  Mark’s enduring warning, then, would be that not even the resurrection guarantees true faith in Jesus’ followers, for the resurrection cannot be appropriated unless one has been tried.  People may say that they believe firmly in the risen Christ, but they must realize existentially in their own lives that the one they are following is none other than Jesus the Nazarene who was crucifiedRelate this to your own life.  Have times of trial led you to appreciate life even more?  How much do we let fear make our decisions?
  • In “The Longer Ending” (which is debated whether or not Mark wrote), Mary Magdalene is introduced as if she had not just been, and there is other grammatical awkwardness in who “he” is.  Both Mary and the 2 disciples find courage to share their experience of Jesus (to the disciples “in another form”), but they are not believed.  The risen Lord is not to be deterred and finally shows himself to the Eleven when they are at table.  Those who have just been upbraided for lack of faith and hardness of heart (especially Peter who is named!) are now entrusted with preaching the gospel to the whole world.   

Mark seems to have purposefully refused to allow his readers to become passive spectators of the greatest human/divine drama in history.  That is why he left us with so many unanswered questions after verse 8, (M. Birmingham’s Word & Worship, p. 412).

Reflection Questions

  1. Why does the man in white refer to, “His disciples and Peter,” rather than simply, “His disciples?”
  2. What does this passage teach us about God?  What does this passage teach us about mankind? 
  3. What are your feelings if the Gospel did end with verse 8?

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