Mark 16: 1-8
The Resurrection of Jesus
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But 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. 7But 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.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The women, who had watched where Joseph had laid Jesus’ body, waited until the Sabbath had ended. Mark lists Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as the women there. All the gospels agree that Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb; there is disagreement as to which women were with her. It may have been that there were more than the three, and the gospel writers chose to remember those they knew or whose story they had heard. Regardless of which women are listed, all agree that “the women” found the empty tomb. Early on the following morning, just as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They planned to anoint the body. But as they went, they asked one another how they would get into the tomb, for they had seen the stone rolled into place and it was very large and heavy! But then they looked – and the stone had already been rolled away!
Since the stone was gone, the women tiptoed into the tomb, expecting to anoint the body of Jesus. Instead, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting there, and they were alarmed! But he said to them “Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Now angels always seem to say, “Do not be afraid” or alarmed; they must have been pretty frightening beings! Even more frightening, this “man” seems to know who they are and why they are there! And then he tells them Jesus is not there – he has been raised! Imagine how these women feel at this moment! They are frightened, and bewildered. The angel shows them where Jesus’ body had been – and it is empty. And then he gives them instructions: they are to go tell the disciples and Peter (interesting that Peter is singled out) that he is going ahead of them into Galilee, and they would see him there.
But Mark says the women went out and ran away from the tomb, and never told anyone, for they were afraid. Notice, unlike the other gospels, they do not see the risen Jesus, only the angel at the empty tomb. It is the empty tomb that testifies to the resurrection. This was the original ending of the Gospel of Mark. The most ancient texts end here (let’s talk about “textual criticism” tomorrow).
But Mark’s readers know that the women did tell, maybe not that morning, but soon. How could he tell the story if they had not? And the disciples did go to Galilee, and they did meet with the Risen Christ – isn’t that what this was all about? Mark’s story is about the slow and difficult process of the disciples coming to realize that Jesus is the Christ, and that that means he is the Son of God. Once they come to that realization, faith is all that is needed – the empty tomb, the testimony of frightened women – that is enough. They will believe, and they will follow, and they will build the church.