I love the abruptness of the Gospel of Mark. No long introduction.No birth narratives. But straight to the action. The story is told with a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose.

Although, it is generally agreed, the end was tidied up, the original ending to the gospel, at verse 8, is in keeping with the starkness of the rest of the gospel. No fripperies, just plain telling.

Mark leaves us with the women being terrified and amazed, too frightened even to tell their story. A cliff hanger – or an anti-climax?

What scared them so much?  The stone rolled away? The man in white? Or the words that he spoke: “He has been raised.”? Such a simple telling of an amazing event: “He has been raised” Simple words that incited terror and amazement, that rocked the women’s world. Their plan was to begin their grieving properly with the tradition of anointing the body. Instead, the body has gone. They are denied the chance to begin to process the events of the last days, to find comfort in ancient rituals shared with other women, to seek closure in the familiar.

Doesn’t Mark’s account of resurrection have a ring of authenticity about it? No embellishment. No resolution. No neatly packaged post resurrection sightings by which the gospel spread. But terror and amazement. And silence wrought of fear.

This Easter, how will you preach the Resurrection?

  • Will you tidy up the starkness?
  • Will you go with amazement or with terror?
  • Will you ask: What if?
  • What if it’s true? Resurrection is a scary thought.
  • What does the truth of Resurrection mean for us? What does it demand of us?
  • Will we keep silent out of fear?
  • How does the Resurrection speak into world politics and world violence today?
  • How will we finish up the Gospel?

It has been a long trek through the Lenten desert. Are you ready to preach Resurrection? Share your thoughts on the ending that is a beginning…

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9 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Terror at the tomb(Mark 16:1-8)

  1. I am going to focus on amazement and why they didn’t speak. Why don’t we speak? Why do we hide the resurrection as if it were a dirty secret and what does it sound like to speak that

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  2. I’m grabbed by your point that the resurrection deprives the women of their familiar, “comfortable” mourning rituals. I too take great comfort in funerals and rituals and closure – and I’m not sure I’m ready to let that transform into an actual new beginning.

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  3. In many ways this is my favorite Easter account to preach. AS a storyteller I prefer John’s version but to preach the shock and awe that Easter should create in the witness Mark’s version is unparalleled. Sometimes in our familiarity with the story we miss out on the emotional depth of the Easter cycle. My sermon title for this year is “Now What?”


  4. I was struck this year by the fact that there is no Jesus at the tomb, speaking Mary’s name, like John’s gospel; no appearance on the on the road like Luke or Matthew. The women are told to “go to Galilee” and that’s where they’ll see him. In other words, they have to take action to see the Resurrected One in the flesh. I want to play with the question, “Will you go to Galilee?” as in “will you take the risk of faith?” Why it’s safer, easier, more rational to NOT go, to not take a chance on faith. And, of course, why you should and how to get started. I have my eye on those who come only on Easter and Christmas, those who are seeking, curious, or needing encouragement.


  5. There is a hymn in the last few pages of the Iona book “Eggs and Ashes” that is based on this account, and in verse 4 it talks about the Holy Spirit obviously overcoming their fear, or else we’d have no story…and in verse 5 we commit ourselves to sharing the good news even though we are afraid. I’ve decided to use the title “overcome” and look at how the women were overcome with grief…and then with fear…and then obviously something else had to happen: good news overcomes fear, life overcomes death, etc…
    How often do we get stuck in the first two? This Easter, perhaps we can allow ourselves to be overcome by the Spirit too, and good news can leak out into a broken world.

    Or something.

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  6. I just ran into something in the Feasting on the Gospels commentary for this passage: “This is a better ending to the story than where it was left in the previous chapter. In this sense there is completion, a kind of open-ended closure.”

    “Closure” is sort of a buzzword in the world around us nowadays. It’s as though we can take a difficult or traumatic event, and say that at some point, when something happens (the funeral for a beloved grandparent who’s actually been gone for years because of dementia, or sentencing the convicted killer, for instance), we will have “closure” and can move on with our lives; until then, we’re stuck. And that just isn’t how the world works.

    Do we have “closure” when we go home after the funeral dinner? Is there “closure” when we finish writing the thank-you cards? Is there “closure” when we can go and tell an abusive former partner how they hurt us? Is there such a thing as “closure”? Or could the desire for “closure” actually be what leaves us stuck?

    ISTM the desire for “closure” is evident in the pasted-on endings of Mark, after verse 8. Subsequent Evangelists were not comfortable with leaving the ending hanging like Mark does, so there are resurrection appearances, Great Commissions, and even an ascension. And somebody came in and stuck similar endings onto Mark because the original ending didn’t offer enough “closure.”

    Mark never intends for there to be closure. He means for us to see not a tidy tied-up-in-a-bow ending, where the old movie would put up a screen saying, “THE END.” It isn’t THE END. It’s the end of the beginning, and the story continues.

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  7. There’s something for me in the stone, the very large stone, seemingly insurmountable obstacle to the women’s small gesture of respect, dignity, love. They leave home not sure that they’ll even be able to tend to his dead body–to do that they’d have to roll the stone away, tend the body and then roll the stone back, or risk animals, vandals, desecration entering. They are kind of already stepping out in faith, in uncertainty, just to go there. And the idea of what the stone is meant to do–protect, close up, construct a quiet place for peaceful deterioration. Sounds a little like a church, on our worst days! That the stone is rolled away, the tomb is wide open, it’s not quiet or dark where Jesus is and there is no deterioration.


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