Mark’s Gospel ended not just abruptly, but negatively! Why? Its last words in Mark 16:8 is but a depiction of the failure of the woman disciples to obey the angel’s instructions. It seems verses 9 to 20 are later scribal additions to smoothen out this ending with a positive note. These verses are not found in the earlier manuscripts of Mark.
In fact, Mark has the shortest resurrection account among the four Gospels. If our purpose is to reconstruct the events after the resurrection of Christ, we can find help by referencing the other three Gospel accounts. But if our purpose is to interpret Mark, we need to ask why Mark ends so abruptly at verse 8. What does Mark intend to convey?
The key is perhaps found in Mark 16:7. After the angels announced to the women that Christ had risen, he instructed them to tell the disciples to meet Christ in Galilee. Yet even if the women failed to do, the disciples would still know where to meet the risen Lord, as Christ had already instructed the eleven apostles privately in Mark 14:28, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” This came immediately after Jesus told them in Mark 14:27, “You will all fall away.” Hence, it would seem Mark intends we should recall these words of Christ.
It is no coincidence that these same words were given to the women who failed immediately to obey the Lord. The invitations given privately to the eleven were later make known to the women as well. It will not be wrong to say this invitation is open to us too. Failure will not have its last word, not in Mark’s Gospel, not in the lives of Christ’s followers, not in our lives, if we choose to hear what Mark is saying to us. To follow the Lord, we are invited to meet Him again where He began His ministry in Galilee.
Mark does not record any post resurrection appearances of Christ or the restoration and commissioning of the disciples to preach the gospel to the world because these were already implied in earlier words found such as in Mark 13: 9,10 and 14:9. The call to meet the risen Christ in Galilee is thus a call to return to the beginning, to hear afresh the word of Christ. Reread Mark, for all that we need to know about Him, Mark has already recorded for us. Mark invites us to read and reinterpret all that he has written in the light of the resurrection. In moments of our own failure, Mark shows us where we may meet the risen Lord again and hence continue the story. This, Mark 1:1 tells us, is but “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”