What I’m Thinking: More Story to Tell

Mark devoted far more of his gospel to describing the last week of Jesus’ life than he did to describing Jesus’ resurrection. Could it be that the rest of the story is for us?

Here’s a transcript:

Welcome to Holy Week. That has me thinking about the… well, the last six chapters of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 11-16).

For Palm Sunday, of course, we began in chapter 11 with the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem greeted by a shouting, cheering, welcoming, and beseeching crowd. “Help us! Save us!” – that’s the meaning of “Hosanna.”

The rest of Jesus’ week in Jerusalem is what is contained in chapters eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen. Jesus spends a lot of time in the Temple. The Cleansing of the Temple is described by Mark in chapter 11. Mark then goes on to talk about some debates between Jesus and various authorities, religious leaders from the different theological and spiritual movements of first century Judaism – Sadducees and Pharisees; the Essenes don’t seem to have been in on the conversation.

But Jesus and his followers were in Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and so they gathered for the celebration meal (not a seder; the seder did not emerge for some time after Jesus’ death and resurrection).

Mark spent an entire chapter on his account of Jesus’ crucifixion after his arrest on Thursday. It’s one of Mark’s longer chapters: 48 verses [Ed. note: 47 verses, actually].

Finally we come to the text for this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, Mark’s description of that first Easter morning. It’s only eight verses long (Mark 16:1-8), and it ends with something that is clearly a falsehood. In Mark’s Gospel, women go to the tomb – there’s Mary and Mary [Ed. note: and Salome] – and they find angels who tell them that Jesus has been raised. He is not here; go tell his other followers. The last words of Mark’s Gospel, as he apparently wrote it or completed it originally, were that they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

Well, at some point they said something to someone or we wouldn’t know the story at all. There were no other witnesses except for them. Some time or other they shared the story.

The event of the resurrection is one in which there are any number of untold stories, not just in Mark but throughout the rest of the Gospels. When Paul was writing to the Corinthians he included a list of the people who had seen the risen Jesus. The very first one, Paul said, was Simon Peter, but we never ever hear that meeting described. If Peter said anything about it, other than that it happened, well, it never got written down. It never got passed on. The curious thing about Mark is that Mark is the Gospel writer who does not believe in leaving us wondering about things. He began his Gospel, quite literally, with the words, “The good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We were not to be left in suspense.

Here at the end of his Gospel, Mark left us in suspense. There’s got to be more story. Where is the rest of the story?

I don’t know if it’s what Mark intended, but I think there is a truth here that the rest of the story ever and always lies with us. We are the ones who are having, have had, will have experiences of the risen Christ. We will be told again and again that the powers of empire, the powers of fear, the powers of death itself cannot hold the love of God as expressed in Jesus of Nazareth. We are the ones who are witnesses to that truth, and a strange and scary truth it is.

We are the ones challenged amidst our fear to share what we have known, to share what we have experienced, to share what we have been strengthened and renewed in, to share the good news of Jesus’ life.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on March 29, 2021

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