‘For trembling and astonishment were upon them…’
Mark 16: 1-8
[This is the second of the Eleven Resurrection Gospel readings of Matins]
Mark’s Resurrectional Gospel is the first mention of the Myrrh-bearing Women. We all know the story, or so we think. But, as so often happens in Mark’s Gospel, things do not always go as you might expect. Indeed, this short passage describes the women with words like alarmed, trembling, astonished, and afraid.
The real shock is not so much that the large stone had been rolled away. Or that the tomb was empty. Or that a young man in white (an angel?) appeared to announce that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, was not there. Or that He is going ahead to Galilee, where the disciples will find Him (Mark 16:6-7).
These events were indeed astounding. But they were also prophesied by the Lord Himself. You would certainly expect the women at the tomb to be filled with a reverent and holy awe. But something more is going on. This is a rather strange Gospel account. There is no resurrectional appearance of Jesus. And it ends with the women fleeing in fear!
This is how the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end. Later copies add another account, but that is not the earliest witness. It’s a real cliffhanger. What is Mark trying to tell us?
Basically, Mark wants us to know that it is not only the tomb that cannot contain Jesus. We, too, even when we rejoice to the cry of ‘Christ is Risen’ – even here there is no closure to the story. We can never say we have cornered the meaning of Jesus, and have Him where we want Him, or tell Him how the ending should go.
Instead, we are left with expectations and a future yet to be fulfilled. We too must press forth to Galilee in our daily lives. Christ is with us, but He also goes before us. He has forged the path and we must follow.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (II Corinthians 3:18).