I belong to a book club in my neighborhood. We read a book each month and then meet to discuss it. The conversations are always lively and interesting; these ladies are well-read, intelligent, and thoughtful. One thing we’ve noticed is that sometimes an author seems to “run out of steam” by the time they get to the end of the story. It’s as if they are tired of writing and just want to wrap it up. The story ends without enough details to satisfy us.
I kind of feel like that with Mark’s last chapter (16). A comparative reading with the other gospel writers reveals there are a lot of details he leaves out as he describes the resurrection of Jesus. But, because all scripture is God-breathed and divinely inspired, we can trust that he wasn’t just tired of writing. He wrote exactly what the Holy Spirit told Him to write, and he wrote with a specific purpose in mind.
In choosing the details found in this last chapter, Mark seems to want to make a point about unbelief, even in the face of irrefutable evidence. First, a small group of ladies come to the tomb early on that Sunday, intending to anoint Jesus’ broken body with spices as was the burial custom. Instead, they find the stone rolled away, and are greeted by an angel. He tells them Jesus has risen, and they are to go tell the disciples. They specifically mention Peter needs to know! The women are astonished but fearful. Instead of obeying the angel, they kept the news to themselves; they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid (16:8).
Next Mark mentions the encounter Jesus had with Mary Magdalene. Having seen Jesus face to face, she runs to tell the disciples, but they don’t believe her. Mark says they refused to believe it. Mark also briefly mentions Jesus’ encounter with the two men on the road to Emmaus, who also reported to the disciples that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe them either.
What is wrong with this picture?
The women go home afraid, and don’t even share the good news?
The disciples receive multiple reports from people they know and trust, and still refuse to believe?
Mark makes his point by including just one more encounter with the risen Jesus. The disciples have gathered to eat, and Jesus Himself appears in their midst. We don’t get a detailed description of a happy reunion; instead, Mark tells us that Jesus reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen (16:14).
Unbelief…refusing to consider that what you’re hearing is true…leads to a hard heart. And the harder your heart is, the more difficult it is to believe at all.
Thankfully, the disciples did believe when they saw Jesus in His resurrected body, still bearing the scars of the crucifixion in His hands and side. They realized that Mary Magdalene and the others had been telling the truth all along.
What evidence was necessary for you to believe that Jesus is the perfect Son of God, born of a virgin? That He lived a sinless life and was crucified on the cross for your sin? What opened your eyes to know without a doubt that He truly rose from the dead, and was received back into heaven and now sits on the right hand of God, interceding for you?
When did you believe?
Have you believed?
Why haven’t you believed?
Mark ends his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a sobering warning. A hard heart can cause you to miss what’s right in front of you. God is the perfect Author, and He’s given us exactly the end of the story we need. If you’re still waiting for more details, ask Him for spiritual eyes to see, and a heart to believe. After all, seeing isn’t believing…believing is seeing.