As we enter this final reading in the Gospel of Mark, let’s retrace some steps. Mark launched this book with his own conclusion about Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus announces His arrival with equal thunder: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
From the first moments the disciples have been present. Even when Jesus looked for escape, they, and the crowds, found Him. They were often amazed, sometimes frightened, regularly confused, but always there. So were the Pharisees and scribes, looking from the earliest days for a way to eliminate Jesus, one way or another.
In the first half of Mark, Jesus was a man of action, moving freely throughout Galilee, Judea, the Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon. Everywhere healing, teaching, and amazing. A pivot occurs around Peter’s confession in chapter 8: “You are the Christ.” From there, Jesus’ movements became singular: toward Jerusalem, and a destiny only He was willing to see.
That destiny is completed in today’s reading. The chaotic scene shifts from the chief priest’s house to the governor’s. The author reveals that even Pilate knows what’s going on, but makes a political calculation to give the crowd what they want.
Listen for what is present rather than for what is absent: the abuse, the wine, the inscription; those who are near, and those who are far. In the paragraph depicting Jesus’ death, there are three lines of dialogue: from Jesus, from a bystander, and from a Roman Centurion, who in eight words sums up the themes of this book.
As the page turns to the final chapter, three women who were only introduced yesterday become central figures. As you could expect, the final surprise is revealed not to the disciples, nor to the Pharisees, scribes, or priests, but to these women. Very early, on the first day of the week, they find the tomb open, and a young man, sitting on the right side, who has a message for the disciples…and Peter.
The final verses of this chapter are sometimes omitted in modern Bibles, or at least bracketed, because they don’t appear in the earliest manuscripts of Mark. For more about these passages, see my note about John 8 on Day 81. The terror of the story is more profound if we end with verse 8, but you can listen and determine for yourself if verses 9-20 sound like Mark’s voice. Either ending brings the book to a fitting conclusion.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 138:8: The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Mark chapters 15 and 16. Now let’s read it!
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.