Friday, August 24th. Mark 16:9-19

[The New Revised Standard Bible I use calls this the SHORTER ENDING OF MARK]  And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter.  And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

 

[The same Bible calls this THE LONGER ENDING OF MARK]  Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

 

After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

 

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

 

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

 

There is no way – none, nada, nyet – that these verses were part of the original work we now read as the Gospel of Mark.  They are clearly – in tone, vocabulary, style, and substance – later additions from editors who, as I wrote yesterday, were probably uncomfortable with the abrupt ending at 16:8.  So they added stuff in a desire to “improve” Mark.  What do we make of this?

 

I’m sure that whoever (and I have to say whoever because some details of life will forever be lost in history…which is good for historians who need stuff to work on) added these bonus endings were well intentioned people just doing their best.

 

But I’m still left with two questions.

 

First, why do modern translations, put together by scholars who clearly recognize what they are doing, insist on keeping this stuff in line with the rest of the accepted text?  Introducing them with ALTERNATIVE TITLES IN CAPITAL LETTERS or [[double brackets]] while yet another “bonus ending” is hidden down in the small print of the notes doesn’t help when they don’t belong in Mark in the first place.

 

My guess?  Money.  If a translation left them out altogether, or relegated all of the bonus endings to the textual notes, they might run the risk of public rejection of the translation.  (It wouldn’t sell.)  So it is just easier to leave it in.

 

But my second question is far more serious.  Why is it, when we take the opportunity to “improve” the Christian faith, that we end up making it more harsh, less loving, and less Christ-like?

 

Consider these words from the longer “second ending” of Mark:  “Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” 

 

Does that honestly sound to you like the Jesus we know?  Can you honestly imagine Jesus scolding the disciples for their lack of faith and their stubbornness?  We might think that is something they (we) deserve but that doesn’t make it what Jesus would think…or do.

 

Or these words:

 

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

 

Seriously?  Am I less of a Christian than I ought to be because I can’t remember the last demon I cast out (other than publicly renouncing all evil at our last baptism service), because I pray in English, because I DON’T, AND WON’T, pick up a snake, or purposely drink poison?  And what do I say to the family of the man I prayed with this week who died last night?

 

Obviously, according to some Christians, I am.  At some point, someone thought these practices were so normative that they included them in the final verses of a Christian book of the Bible.  Well sometimes people are wrong.  And sometimes Christians end up holding very very tightly to very un-Christian beliefs, ideas, and practices.

 

I love the ending of Mark at 16:8.

 

Fear will forever hold us back from carrying and living the Jesus story in our lives but faith overcomes fear.  I love knowing that the first witnesses of a very unlikely event were as unlikely as the event itself – and if the Bible says anything, it says that God has a thing for doing unlikely things in unlikely ways.

 

But mostly, I appreciate that the story invites us, urges us, to write an ending.  Not by adding words to a carefully crafted story but by adding stories to the lives we touch along the way.

 

I hope that the ending we write is as direct, truthful, loving, gentle, inclusive, incisive, and hopeful as an ending that Jesus would write himself.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your love, your presence, your Word, your will, and the community which bears your name in the world.  May we surrender to your love, fight back against our fears, speak forth our truth, and be a sign of your inclusive, transformative, creative love.  Until we see you face to face.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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One Response to “Friday, August 24th. Mark 16:9-19”

  1. Donna Koska Says:

    My adult eduation class is beginning a study of “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus” by Peter Gomes next week. I am leading the first session, and plan to use this devotion to open the study. Thanks for the inspiration, Pastor Kerry!

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