The last 3 chapters of the Gospel of Mark, that which we have read today, are relatively unremarkable when it comes to the content of Jesus’ last days and its similarity to the other Gospels. Granted, Mark’s writing style and quick moving through it are certainly different than that of Matthew, Luke, or John, the same material and details are still covered in the Gospel of Mark. What I would like to discuss today is the unique and somewhat confusing ending of the book of Mark, and some of the issues surrounding the “additions” that were placed after Mark 16:8.
Before we do this, though, there is a very unique and obscure passage at the end of Mark 14, after Jesus is arrested we read these two verses about a “young man” who runs away naked after the officials try to arrest him with Jesus. Considerable work has been done to ascertain the truth behind this person, who he was and why he was there. While I think that this is an intriguing line of thought to follow, I think that focusing on him and trying to figure out if he was one of the disciples or anything of the sort is really missing the point of the passage. Some have even tried to link him to the “young man” of Mark 16:5 who was sitting in the tomb after the stone was rolled away. I think it would be foolish to say that these people are one in the same, especially considering the accounts of the other Gospels that say that it was an Angel of the Lord that rolled back the stone. Arguments have been made for this idea simply by the fact that they use the same words to describe both characters. This is a weak argument at best as the descriptor of “young man” applies in many different situations. In any case, whether or not they are the same person, I think that when we look at Hebrew culture of the day we see a much greater purpose for the story of the young man running away naked. Jesus has recently told His disciples that they would all fall away from Him, a comment that they vehemently denied themselves. Yet, when Jesus was arrested, they all did fall away even to the point of shame. See, in the Hebrew culture, to show one’s nakedness was a source of great shame. I think, perhaps among other things, Mark is trying to convey the truth of the deep denial and rejection that set in with Jesus disciples, accompanying their fears as He was arrested. They were truly exposed, their weaknesses laid out before the Lord.
The other really interesting thing that is presented to us here at the end of Mark is how he ends his writing. The young man, assumed to be the angel of Matthew 28, says to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” So what do they do? “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The End.
What an ending right? The most monumental, reality changing event in the history of the cosmos has just happened and no body tells anyone about it because they are afraid. This actually fits in with the motif that has been created around this fleeing young man that we just talked about. No one says anything, they just run away. Now, there seems to be more to the story here as there have been additions that were added to the book later. Whether or not they were added by Mark, or others along the way, they have made it in the canonical Bible which means they are of some significance. They all, with the exception of the last few verses, carry with them the same theme of doubt and disbelief, a particular interpretation of the post resurrection disciples’ reaction to all these events. Then Jesus shows up to all of them and rebukes them for their lack of belief and sends them out with power and authority.
I think that a focus on Mark’s audience here makes a big difference in these passages. Remember that Mark is writing to a Gentile audience, likely Christians in Rome that are under great persecution. Mark has just laid out for them the whole of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and then ended it by saying, “everyone was afraid, no one said anything, and no one believed.” I wonder if this isn’t Mark’s particular way of pointing out the Roman Christians’ own reaction to the persecution that they were facing. If we think of it in this way, I would suggest that not only do these obscure passages make sense but so too does the end of Mark and the few additions (written by whomever they were written by) make sense. Our tendency is to fall away when we are faced with trials and persecution. We cannot rely on our own strength. We would even give in to being shamed by our own actions out of fear. It isn’t until Christ shows us to strengthen us that we have the strength and courage to move outside of ourselves and tell the good news of the Gospel in the face of all resistance. May we too find strength from this message, and hope as we ourselves are a light for the nations.
- Mark’s Last Supper vs. John’s Last Supper (cudderisbackk.wordpress.com)
- Characters in the Gospel of Mark (patienttrust.wordpress.com)
- Blog Assignment #6 (mbueltel.wordpress.com)
- He Left the Linen Cloth And Ran Away Naked (xulonjam.wordpress.com)
- Our Allegiance (ericanna.wordpress.com)
- Ministry Sacrifice? (comeochurch.com)
- Mark 16 (whiteinchconnect.wordpress.com)
- Is God Confirming Your Words? (aneaglesnest.wordpress.com)
- Jesus’ command to share the Gospel (ronstott.wordpress.com)