Easter Season Guest Author Series: the Rev. Zac Koons on Mark 16:8
by The Rev. Zac Koons | May 17, 2018“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
You’ve got to be kidding me, Mark.
Seriously? That’s it?! IT’S OVER?!! DON’T DO THIS TO ME, MARK!
It’s like the movie that when the black screen hits and the credits roll your jaw drops, your eyes stop blinking, and you have to catch your breath because, well, there’s no way it’s over, right? There’s so much unresolved tension. So many unanswered questions. Am I going to have to wait years now to see the sequel to Infinity War??
The other gospels end with scenes of resurrection bliss: with a theological frolicking in fields, with segue tours on rainbow roads lined with puppies. All is well. All is tidy. All is sparkling in resurrection splendor.
But in Mark we get none of that. Here we get terror and amazement. We get panic. We get running away. We get questions instead of answers and fear instead of promise. Why?
Why? Because St. Mark is a freaking genius.
Let me explain.
Imagine if Mark was the only Gospel you had. Imagine that you’ve been reading through the Gospel. You binge-read it. The very first verse—“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”—is like lighting the wick at the end of a firecracker. You were stunned by his miracles of healing and feeding. Compelled by his teaching in parables. Amazed by his radical commitment to befriending the poor. You were refreshed by the way he called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. You were confused by his claims to be the Messiah but given everything else you began to wonder whether or not he really was. You began to wonder whether or not you were going to have to do something about it yourself. And just then everything falls apart. He’s killed. And just when you thought everything was going to be different everything turns out to be just the exact same.
But the grave is empty. And before you can even fully swallow that reality, the Gospel ends. It just ENDS in stubborn ambiguity. Maybe the body was stolen. Maybe it was misplaced. Maybe the tomb was laced with an hallucinogenic mist. Maybe, just maybe, he was raised from the dead.
But the key, the genius, is that Mark doesn’t decide for us. He introduces a crisis that must be acted on, and then leaves no one behind to act on it. Which means at the end of the story, it’s YOU AND ME who are left, jaw dropped, eyes wide, desperate to catch our breath, on the outside of this empty tomb. We must be the ones to act. The women run out into the night, seized by “terror and amazement”—again, ambiguous—and they leave us standing there, seized ourselves by Mark’s rhetorical mastery. It’s like we’ve been tricked, abandoned in the bistro just when the check has come. Whatever we do is a decision: paying, running, even doing nothing is still a reaction to this crisis. The resurrection of Christ may be the most important thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world, but if it is, precisely because it is, Mark refuses to make the decision for us. He’s led us up to the finish line, but we have to cross it ourselves. With the final stroke of Mark’s pen, we’re left as the only characters in the world’s most important story.
So what are you going to do now?
The Rev. Zac Koons currently serves as associate rector at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Round Rock, TX. However, Zac has recently been called as the next rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX. Zac’s first Sunday as rector of St. Mark’s will be Sunday, July 15th, 2018.