This morning we are going to take a look at the empty tomb through the eyes of the Gospel of Mark. It has a very peculiar and controversial ending in verse 8: "Trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." Isn't that interesting? Mark 16 actually has two endings. There is the ending in verse 8 and then something called "the longer ending of Mark." In your bibles you will see a notation that reads, "the earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have v.9-10."
It's as if the earliest readers of the manuscript couldn't believe the way Mark's gospel ends either and so tacked on v.9-20. All of the statements in this passage are in other parts of the New Testament, so they aren't false, but many do not believe that this was the true ending of Mark.
I actually like Mark's shorter ending. Because obviously, that's not the complete story. It didn't end there. For if the women NEVER said anything to anyone, Mark would not have a gospel to write. Many people believe that Mark wrote his gospel based on the apostle Peter's teachings and so we have to understand that Mark's readers knew all about the resurrection of Jesus. So why did Mark possibly choose to end his gospel this way?
One theme running throughout the book of Mark is the "Messianic Secret," which was the idea that Jesus kept telling people NOT to say anything to anyone about the miracles He was doing. Jesus would heal, cast out demons, raise the dead and then would give strict orders for people not to tell others. Mark wanted to show that Jesus did not come to do miracles but had a grander plan in mind. But here in this last chapter of Mark, with a twist of irony, when the angel tells them women to go and tell others, they don't!
At Jesus' death, the disciples failed and fled. And now the women, who had remained faithful through Jesus' crucifixion come to the tomb, all prepared with spices, expecting to find a dead body. But when they are confronted with an empty tomb and told to proclaim the news, they seemingly fail and flee.
Here is where Mark leaves us at the end of His gospel: in failure and weakness and fear. I love this ending because it reminds us that in the midst of failure, fear and weakness we know that this is not the end. God and His Word and His resurrection power will not fail. The power of the gospel is not dependent upon the faithfulness of the followers but on the faithfulness of our God.
Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!