“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,” Mark 16:8. So ends the gospel of Mark.
The final word is “afraid.” The day we know as Easter.
Of all the subjects I am most fascinated with related to the historicity of the Bible, it is textual criticism. This is the field of study given to an analysis of the words we have in our Bibles. It ruthlessly examines and unbiasedly gives its opinions on the authenticity of those words that make up biblical scripture.
The Old Testament is reliable because of the quality of the few complete texts and the Dead Seas scrolls, which authenticates its accuracy. The New Testament has only a few complete early texts yet there are hundreds of “bits and pieces.” How do we know what rendering should be in the chapters of Mark’s gospel, the Acts of the Apostles or the Epistle to the Ephesians? The field of textual criticism addresses these issues.
Scholars are sure that Mark 16:9-20 is not original with Mark. Most agree it is unlikely Mark intended to end his gospel with the clunky rendering of the word “afraid.” To make Mark’s gospel read more like Matthew or even Luke, early scribes, probably by way of oral history, penned what we read in verses 9-20.
I am comfortable with this because textual criticism strengthens the case of scripture’s claim of being the word of or from God. Over 95% of the New Testament we have today has no genuine reason to doubt its legitimacy. Scholar Norman Geisler discusses this topic and I suggest you Google his research.
My opinion is that the original final leaf of Mark was either lost or that Mark was physically unable to finish his gospel because persecution may have prevented it’s completion. Whatever it is, I also believe it was providential.
Most are familiar with the raw emotion and pain of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” portrays the gruesomeness of what Jesus endured. The actual biblical images of the suffering of Jesus likely exceed what our eyes would willingly watch.
Yet Easter, much like Christmas, is portrayed as squeaky clean. “Oh yes Christ suffered on the cross but on Easter He rose from the dead and… everyone lived happily after.” That’s not so and history doesn’t gloss over the fear and cowardly decisions made on and after Easter.
Yes, we believe he rose from the dead and without the resurrection our faith is a waste of time (I Corinthians 15:17). Yet, the risen Christ brought with him a new kingdom where God reigns, not in temples made with hands but inside the hearts of his followers. New things can bring confusion, misunderstanding and sometimes division. The early disciples experienced all these things and more, so states the New Testament.
Easter completes the salvation process for anyone who truly calls upon the Lord but begins the hard journey of discipleship where disciples aim to be Christ-like. The women who came to the tomb were terrified as to the whereabouts of the missing body of Jesus. Disciples were later taught to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12).
Easter is beautiful and exhilarating as Jesus overcomes death, giving all believers hope and promise of eternal life. Yet, it is a mistake to think that because I follow Jesus in this new kingdom that suffering is gone and that the good Christian life should be a pain-free one.