An Ironic Ending

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened (Mark 16:8).

The ending of the Gospel of Mark presents multiple mysteries. Most English Bibles print several options for the concluding verses of Mark 16, usually with notes that explain the curious manuscript evidence. The oldest manuscripts of Mark end with verse 8, the last words being: "because they were too frightened" (ephobounto gar in Greek). The women who had been the first witnesses of the empty tomb and who had been told of the resurrection of Jesus by an angel kept the news to themselves out of fear.

Of course, this is an ironic ending and that may well have been Mark's point. We know from the other Gospels and from the longer endings of Mark that the women soon shared what they had experienced with the other disciples of Jesus. Their fear turned to excitement and even boldness as they delivered the good news of the resurrection. This is telling, because a women's witness was undervalued in 1st-century Jewish culture, yet they became the first evangelists of the victory of Jesus over death.

So the original ending of Mark is ironic, in part because the fearful silence of the first witnesses to the resurrection soon became bold proclamations that would change the world. It is also ironic because the first witnesses were people whose voices had been ignored by their culture. Yet they served as a paradigm for the calling of all followers of Jesus: to announce the good news of his victory to the world.

How ironic--and wonderful--that God uses ordinary people like Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James to deliver his good news. How ironic--and wonderful--that God uses ordinary people like you and me to do the same in our world. May he give us courage to tell the truth about Jesus and the new life that is to be found in him.

Questions for Reflection

Have you ever felt afraid to talk with people about Jesus? When? Why? What helps you to share the good news with others?


All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you were raised from the dead on the third day!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you defeated death and opened up the way of life!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you have chosen ordinary people to bear witness to your victory!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because, by your Spirit, you help me to tell the truth about you!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are my Savior, my Lord, and my God!
Hallelujah! Amen.

2/24/2010 5:00:00 AM
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  • Mark Roberts
    About Mark Roberts
    Mark D. Roberts is Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, a retreat and renewal ministry in Texas. He blogs at Patheos and writes daily devotionals at, and he can also be followed through Twitter and Facebook.