In 2017, my dad & I flew from Alabama to Texas & drove to California. After miles of driving through the desert, I finally caught my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I’d seen it in pictures. I’d even seen other large bodies of water, but seeing it with my own eyes was totally different. I could smell the cool salty air & see the waves crash into big cliffs. I could hear my cousin telling me about his experience spearfishing in Monterey Bay. As the time rolled on, I couldn’t help myself. I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans & walked into the frigid water. It wasn’t enough to just look at it in a picture or even from a distance. It wasn’t enough to just listen to someone else share about their experience. I needed to experience it for myself. I needed to step into the ocean.
Hang with me as we make a sharp left turn into Mark 16 for his rendition of what happened Easter morning. I promise, we’ll come back around.
“‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him…’ Trembling & bewildered, the women went out & fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
This probably isn’t the Easter story we’re familiar with. But this is how the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end. Some scholars believe that this was Mark’s original ending & that verses 9-20 were added later using details from other Gospel accounts to make the ending less… awkward.
Why would Mark choose to wrap up the story this way - with fear & trembling? It’s awkward & unfinished. This ending feels confusing & uncomfortable, but so often, the uncomfortable places where we’re forced to wrestle are the places where we grow. So let’s lean into the tension together.
This ending leaves us with a lot of questions. What happened next? Did they see him? Did the women ever say anything? What did Jesus do when they saw him in Galilee? Where is he now?
Mark’s spent a lot of time painting a picture of who Jesus is. He’s told you all the stories, let you hear other people’s experiences. The tomb is empty. He’s walked you right up to the edge of the ocean. You’ve seen who Jesus is. You’ve heard the stories of other people’s experiences. What are you going to do? Are you going to stay here on the edge? Are you going to roll up your pants & get in the water?
Personally, I love the confidence Mark has. He is confident that there are answers to the questions you're asking. He’s confident the rest of the story is accessible. More than all, I think he’s confident that Jesus always shows up to those who go out in search of him. In the extended edition of the ending, we get to see that Jesus does show up in all kinds of people's lives. Mary Magdalene, two disciples on a country road, the eleven in the upper room…They get to experience him, not just from a distance, or through a third party, but up close & personal.
This week, as we journey towards Easter, I’d encourage you to lean into the question “What am I going to do?” Don’t just settle for seeing him at a distance, or hearing someone else’s story. Roll up your pants and get in the ocean. Seek him out. As you do, I pray you also lean into this confident expectation “Jesus always shows up to those who go out in search of him.”