The ends of the Gospel of Mark is simply brilliant. All three of them. In quick review:
- an empty tomb, and the women who discover it go away and keep silence because they were afraid;
- an empty tomb, and the women tell...and the Good News goes out into all the world (sort of a happily ever after);
- an empty tomb, and then a series of resurrection appearances, a lot of doubt and fear and then a commission from Jesus to go out into the world, proclaim the good news, handle snakes and don't worry about being poisoned and then an ascension narrative. Concluded by another happily ever after sort of coda.
What do we do with these options? Take them on one-by-one and choose from the one that suits our current mood the best? Dispense with faith in the resurrection because folks can't seem to get their stories straight? Declare on the earliest, and thereby reject the others as wishful redaction?
Read them all as fast as we can and pretend that there are no breaks in the story?
Or, perhaps, we treat them all like the optional endings that are sometimes featured on the DVD/Blueray releases of movies...but....
WHICH ONE IS REAL?
That's the consternating question, isn't it? As people of faith, we would like to confirm and codify the story of Jesus so that there is as little doubt as possible injected into the mix of our experience. We conflate the birth stories from Matthew and Luke to have Church Christmas pageants, yes? We tend to gloss over the fact that each Gospel tells the resurrection in different ways, creating different effects. That Mark should tender us three different ways to see and perceive the resurrection? Well, that shouldn't bother us.
But...we do struggle. The challenge is to not struggle and dismiss, but to struggle and hold on to the tension that these alternate endings provide us. I am convinced they are levers that make the story(ies) more effective tools for proclamation. There are no pat endings, no easy answers when it comes to experiencing resurrection. There is no one, sure way for any one of us to impose a particular interpretation of a particular narrative on this mutual, continual and ever-relevant human encounter with a living, raised Jesus Christ.
There can be no one ending, perhaps because we have not yet come to the end of our story...our own storied walk with God....