Mark’s gospel is the earliest account of Jesus’ life, and includes details left out in others’ accounts. However, it comes to an abrupt end.
Two days after Jesus was crucified, three women went to the tomb to attend to his body. When they arrived, they saw the stone rolled away from the entrance and a young man waiting for them. He told them Jesus was not there and that he was alive again. The last sentence of Mark’s gospel says that the women left the tomb bewildered and afraid.
That it. That’s where it ends. An empty tomb.
Evidently, people were dissatisfied so two different endings were attached at later times. One was short; the other was longer and more detailed. Take your pick. There’s been much discussion but most scholars think the endings are not part of the original text.
The writers of the later gospels changed the ending, too. Instead of one guy at the tomb there are two angels. John says Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb and actually saw Jesus (she even hugged him). Then Jesus appeared to disciples in different places for the next forty days. A handful of those disciples watched him rise into the air and disappear into the heavens with a promise to return.
But not Mark. The earliest account ends with fearful women looking at an empty tomb. If we look through the whole text we can see that it’s his style to end a story abruptly, leaving the reader to ask, “What happened? What does this mean?” I think he meant to challenge people to find answers within themselves.
You’re looking at an empty tomb and a stranger saying Jesus has risen from the dead. What do you think?
A lot of preachers say, “Here’s what really happened, and this is what you should believe about it.” Many of them also say, “Everything is pointless until you agree that it actually happened.” If they refer to the later gospels, picking the passages carefully, they may find something to back up their assertions.
But it boils down to this. A story is told that a long time ago, there was a great teacher who worked miracles. He was executed and became a martyr. But he didn’t stay dead and the evidence of his resurrection is an empty tomb.
Did any of it happen? We don’t know. Did Jesus rise from the dead? We don’t know. Is Jesus a deity worthy to be worshiped? You get to decide.
A lot of people have insisted it’s all true, including the parts that are added later. They have the right to believe it. They also have the right to speak up and say they believe it.
But they don’t have the right to force others to believe it. They don’t have the right to insist that it be taught as history in our schools. They don’t have the right to legislate belief in any form. Even if they did have the right they still wouldn’t have the power, no matter how hard they try, to force someone to believe.
Preachers can preach. Teachers can teach. Parents can read it to their children at bedtime. Movies can depict the story with stirring music and graphic detail. But none of that makes it true and people don’t have to accept it as such.
However, if you want to believe it, by all means do so. It’s your choice.