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Surprise Ending

Rejoice in the many personal endings to the Gospel of Mark's ending.

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Introduction

We like our Bible stories to end with a bang: Israel escaping from Egypt through the watery walls of the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, David decking Goliath with his slingshot. You hear a Bible story like that, and you are ready to sing a hymn and go home happy.

The best ending in the Bible, of course, is the ending we celebrate today—the resurrection of Jesus. Every time we read the story from the Gospels it gets us. It's great. Well, except for Mark.

Fact is, Mark wrote sort of the black sheep of Bible story endings. I'll let you in on a professional secret: I think this is the first time in all my years of preaching that we've read Mark's account of the Resurrection in an Easter morning service. You read the end of Mark, and you wonder if he got writer's block just before he finished or if his printer ran out of ink. Here's the ending of the Resurrection story as Mark wrote it: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid" (Mark 16:8).

The Bible's other storytellers emphasize the joy; Mark emphasizes fear. He piles on the heart-pounding, breathless words: "trembling," "bewildered," "fled," "afraid." What kind of gospel ends with "because they were afraid"?

'Don't be alarmed'

It isn't that the women's fear was irrational. It wasn't. It just isn't a good place to end the story.

(Read Mark 16:1-5)

They caught their breath. Their hearts started pounding. Oh, yours would too. Imagine ducking through a low entrance to a family mausoleum and seeing a young man in bright white clothes (Matthew says they were ...

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Lee Eclov is pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire in Lake Forest, Illinois and author of Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers). Eclov also leads a gathering of pastors for mutual support and learning called Pastors' Gatherings. To find out more about these Gatherings visit his site www.leeeclov.com.

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