But he said to them, “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.”
(Mark 16:6-7 NRSV)
The Gospel of Mark is both the shortest and the earliest of the stories of the Life of Jesus in the Bible. It has often been referred to as an “extended passion narrative,” meaning that the author has devoted a good portion of the gospel to reflection on the events leading up to that first Easter. By contrast he seems to have very little to say about what happened after Jesus rose.
Matthew’s Gospel completes the story of Jesus’ earthly mission by sending out his disciples to carry on his work – to teach, to baptise and to make new disciples in every nation. And the Gospels of Luke and John both have considerable details of the risen Lord and his encounter with the disciples – Luke’s account continuing into the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Paul.
But Mark’s gospel leaves us in a strange place, and this is partly because we don’t know if verses 9 to 20 of the last chapter of the gospel were written by the author, or added later as a summary by someone else.
The reason we don’t know is that these 12 verses do not appear in some of the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel. They are completely missing. For some Biblical scholars, they have all the appearance of a summary added by someone else to tidy up Mark’s messy ending.
That’s why many translations of the Bible put those verses in brackets or as a footnote to the Gospel. We don’t know their provenance for certain; you must decide for yourself.
What we do know and what really matters is that the resurrection of Jesus is proclaimed without any ambiguity and uncertainly – Jesus is risen and that, given the somewhat terse writing style of the author, may be all he wants his readers to grasp.
Christ is risen, Mark tells us. Christ is risen, Matthew, Luke and John tell us. Christ is risen, proclaims Paul to all who will listen – and that is what really matters.
Two things follow from the acceptance of this truth. Firstly, we are directed to the identity of Jesus: The Messiah, the Son of God, the Word incarnate – the very presence of all that God is, in human form.
Secondly, we who call ourselves Christians are both challenged and commissioned. We are challenged to do our utmost to live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus – specifically to live lives of love for God and love for those around us. We are called to explore the scriptures to learn and discern God’s purposes for our lives, in Christ. And we are commissioned to share what we know with others, and to encourage, others by our best example, to see the importance of Christ for their lives, too.
To put it simply: Mark’s Gospel proclaims the risen Christ. His proclamation is urgent and brief with the clear intention to encourage others to do the same.