By Ed Little
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 16:9-20
9 Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.
“Hand, hand, fingers, thumb! One thumb, one thumb, drumming on a drum!” My son and daughter couldn’t get enough of Al Perkins’s beloved children’s book, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb — so much so that they begged, over and over and over: “Read it again, Daddy!” Some words — and some stories — bear repeating.
Mark’s Gospel understands this. No one knows if the longer ending was part of the original manuscript or was added later to fill out the story. Many biblical translations place it in a footnote or in brackets. Never mind. Whenever it became part of the New Testament, the longer ending repeats the story, hammers it home.
The language is almost staccato. It tells us about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the remaining eleven apostles. It offers its own version of the Great Commission, with a promise of miraculous signs. It concludes with the Ascension and points forward to the Book of Acts: “They went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere.” All this in 12 verses!
We can never hear the story too often. Whether fulsomely or in summary, the resurrection of Jesus and its profound aftermath has power to change lives. And we need to hear about them, over and over and over. We can never be reminded too often that Jesus overcame death. St. Paul in his own way makes the same point. “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received, that Christ died … that he was buried … that he was raised” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The world changed forever when Jesus rose from the dead. Easter is a season, not a single day, because we live now and forever in the risen Jesus. “Read it again!”
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).
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Today we pray for:
St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Carlsbad, Calif.
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines