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Bible Readings and Reflections for the Week of April 26

Saturday, May 2, 2020
John 1:43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


Like for all of John’s Gospel, magnitudes more paper and ink have been spent on commenting about this passage than it takes up in our Bibles. There are the quotations from Jesus about Nathanael, and speculation about what they might mean. What is it about Nazareth, other than it being only an obscure village, that nothing good can come from it? Who is Nathaniel, who appears only among the apostles in John’s Gospel, and might he be the same person as Bartholomew, who only appears in the other three? What means that statement of Jesus at the end, about angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, clearly referring himself, and clearly a reference to the dream of Jacob at Bethel [Genesis 28:12]? Is it Jesus proclaiming his divinity in an indirect way? In Genesis, after awakening, Jacob declares “Surely the Lord is in this place … How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” [Genesis 28:16-17] Is Jesus saying effectively, God is not in a place, but in my person? And finally, what does it mean that the two “you” in that very last sentence of this passage are in the plural, and thus seemingly addressed to more persons than just Nathanael? Are they addressed to us, to all humanity?

All those questions would be wonderful to discuss and speculate about, but I want to focus on something much more mundane. It is hidden in the structure of this tale, so much so that we might not notice it, getting caught up in all the fascinating detail. Jesus goes to Galilee, the area around the large lake of that name. and comes upon Philip. Philip comes from Bethsaida (likely a village north of the lake), as do Andrew and Peter. These three likely know each other, therefore when Jesus asks Philip to “Follow me” we can assume he already knows of Jesus, and that his friends have shared with him who they believe Jesus to be. That explains Philip’s “We have found him …” when he goes to tell Nathanael about Jesus. Nathanael’s reaction is not unusual, it is that of the sceptic, actually not a bad reaction when someone appears with an unlikely claim. Philip doesn’t argue, or give up, he issues an invitation, “Come and see”, Nathanael accepts the invitation, and is convinced of Philip’s claim by Jesus himself.

There we have the short course “Evangelism 100” – if you have come across Good News, tell others. If they need more evidence than just your say-so, don’t argue, invite them to come and experience the Good News for themselves. There is an old story of four people coming upon a high wall. Intrigued, they built a ladder to see what was on the other side. The first person climbed to the top of the wall, cried out in delight, and jumped to the other side. The same with the second and third. The fourth climbed to the top, and looked down at a scene of lush, green gardens with every kind of fruit growing, streams full of fish, animals, wild and tame, in abundance. Thinking of friends, family, and neighbours – he climbed back down the ladder, and went home to share the good news of this discovery!

You, those for whom I am writing this reflection almost certainly have heard the Good News of Jesus and come to our worshipping community through the invitation of someone else. (If you came as a child, it was probably more order than invitation, but still!) And having seen for yourself, you became convinced that this Good News was meant for you and has meaning for you. The next step is obvious!

The reality that we are presently in the midst of a pandemic emergency, and do not have a physical place to come together does not stop us from continuing to experience and share the Good News. As a church community we have and continue to seek and find new ways of communicating and sharing with each other, supporting each other, helping each other, and worshipping with each other by technological means. Those means make it easier, not harder, to invite others to “Come and see”. You can do so with a click of a mouse, or tap of a finger. Be like Philip, or my fourth person to look over the wall.

We are posting these daily reflection to our Church Facebook page, largely for people who already know about us, and mostly already belong to our community. But Facebook is a place of strange and wonderful connections, and it is also possible that someone reading this is hearing of this Church community for the first time. If who we are interest you, and you would like to know us better “Come and see”; electronically now, and in person when we are able to welcome you to our place.

[Gerry Mueller]

Friday, May 1, 2020
Psalm 105

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

He is the Lord our God;
his judgements are in all the earth.
He is mindful of his covenant for ever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.’

When they were few in number,
of little account, and strangers in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, ‘Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.’

When he summoned famine against the land,
and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house,
and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure,
and to teach his elders wisdom.

Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people very fruitful,
and made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.

He sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they rebelled against his words.
He turned their waters into blood,
and caused their fish to die.
Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
He gave them hail for rain,
and lightning that flashed through their land.
He struck their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
He spoke, and the locusts came,
and young locusts without number;
they devoured all the vegetation in their land,
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first issue of all their strength.

Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.

So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!

+ + +

Some of the Bible’s one hundred and fifty psalms seem to be universal, crossing over several thousand years and considerable cultural differences with no noticeable loss to their force or meaning. Psalm 23 is the most obvious example of such universality: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” We do not need to know all the intricacies of shepherding to feel at once strengthened and comforted by such a psalm. Here and there, we may wonder at the sense of a word or verse, but we do not require a backstory to read such psalms. Other psalms, if they are to make much sense to us at all, require that we share in a particular cultural memory—the history of Israel—which most Christians take on by adoption, being “children of Abraham” not by blood but by faith. Psalm 105 is an example of such a psalm, requiring us to have the biblical story close to mind to understand it (and so to understand what we are up to when we give voice to its words in worship). The more we embrace Israel’s history as our own—as a story that continues to inform our lives as Christians—the better we will understand Psalm 105, the more the events it recalls will stir our own gratitude to God.

In fact, the remembrance of Israel’s history and the expression of our gratitude for it is at the heart of Psalm 105. The psalm begins with the words “O give thanks to the Lord,” but the psalm goes further than simply telling God’s people to “remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered”: we are called upon us to “make known his deeds among the peoples,” to “tell of all his wonderful works” (verses 1, 2, and 5). The rest of the psalm does precisely what it prescribes in these opening verses, giving an outline of God’s grace-filled acts towards “the offspring of his servant Abraham” (verse 6).

For me, the pattern of God’s grace comes through most clearly in the seven verses given to describing the life of the Joseph:

When he [God] summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom. (vv.16-22)

But to quote just these seven verses is misleading: each and every verse of this psalm has its own power to remember the story of God at work in the lives of his chosen people.

What strikes me most about Psalm 105 is the way it remembers Israel’s history—above all, what it leaves out of this history. The psalmist shows evil only as something suffered by Israel’s enemies (giving nine verses to recall the plagues against Egypt), omitting the evil suffered by God (and by Israel) to emphasize the good. Although the psalm surveys Israel’s journey through the wilderness, it entirely ignores Israel’s forty years of wandering there: “Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold, and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled. … So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing” (verses 37, 43). There is nothing between these two verses that incriminates either Israel or God. Israel’s stubborn self-righteousness is entirely overlooked, as is the plague of serpents that God sent upon them as a result (Numbers 21:5-9). While the Pentateuch is clear that the Israelites “complained” (Exodus 16:2, Numbers 14:2) in their hunger, Psalm 105 takes a more compassionate view of the complaint, remembering simply, “They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance” (verse 40)—a view rooted in the psalmist’s deep awareness of God’s grace.

Coming right after this psalm, Psalm 106 opens with the exact same words, “O give thanks to the Lord,” only to immediately turn to detail Israel’s own acts of unworthiness instead. Yet the purpose of Psalm 106 is not to sling mud at the sinful but to set in relief God’s abundant, life-giving grace. Surely our own lives are dotted by acts that show forth us also at our unworthy best. We do not remember such acts to inhabit the dark willingly but rather so that we might be made the more thankful to God, by the simple act of remembering his life-giving grace in our own lives. Reading and remembering God’s Word, we no longer feel cut off from Israel’s history but rather “remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered.” And we see in such works shadows of what will be revealed in Jesus Christ: the “wonderful works” of the Christian story, the story of God at work in the world. For an outline of this story, we need look no farther than that part of the Creed that describes Christ’s saving work—from his being “conceived by the Holy Ghost” to the life in the Holy Spirit which that work makes possible for us, in him (“The holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting”). Aware of such amazing grace, we might even take the hint from Psalm 105, and “make known” God’s “deeds among the peoples,” and “tell of all his wonderful works”—above all, God’s saving work in our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Craig Love]

Thursday, April 30, 2020
Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,

“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.”’

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

+ + +

Jesus has been baptized. He’s made his big public revealing. His ministry is about to begin. But first, the Spirit sends him out into the wilderness, to be tested. There are inherent risks to being a public figure. We saw recently, the backlash at the celebrities singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” We’ve seen the news report about the number of times President Trump congratulated himself during pandemic-related press conferences. In going out to the desert, Jesus is tested in a way that ensures that he will put others first, rather than his own glory. This is important, not just from a sincerity perspective, but because we know that his ministry will lead him to the ultimate self-sacrifice: the cross.

The reading today underscores not just Jesus’ faithfulness to God in doing right when it would have been easy (tempting) to do what the Devil wanted, but also that he had enough self-understanding to see that his purpose was to love and serve others instead of puffing himself up. The Devil was accurately quoting the Bible to Jesus. But Jesus shows us that “living Biblically” is more than unthinkingly applying the plain words of scripture, but understanding its deeper themes that are only perceived when scripture is looked at with maturity, compassion, and wisdom.

[Matthew Kieswetter]

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Colossians 1:15-23

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

+ + +

What is your hope? There’s probably a short-term answer to that question; something about getting through the day, or week, or month. But going bigger than that, what is your hope? Another way of phrasing that would be: what is the story that gives your life direction and purpose?

For Christians the answer, we would expect, would have to do with the life, death, and raising of Jesus. Immediately before today’s passage the writer has summarized the story with this: “[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And then, similarly to the prologue of John’s gospel, goes on to describe how Jesus is more than an ordinary person. He’s the beginning and goal of human history. We are players in the grand story of which he is the source and main character.

As the One who “holds all things together” and through whom all things came, not a speck of the created world is beyond his reach. But look at how so often our world falls short of this. The letter urges us to be a part of Jesus’ story, so that we can be a part of Jesus’ reconciling work, and in doing so, dream a world that is at peace.

We all have guiding narratives that give shape to our lives. (We tap into them, buy into them, invest in them.) The one described in Colossians is ours to learn about and by which to be shaped, “provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”

[Matthew Kieswetter]

Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Exodus 19:1-16

At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.’

When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses: ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, “Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.” When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.’ So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, ‘Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.’

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

+ + +

I can see where the film makers who shot this scene paid a lot of attention to the smoke and fire and billows of cloud that accompanied the Lord talking to Moses on Mount Sinai. It makes for great cinema. But a dramatic image of the power of God is not the real story here.

The whole episode hinges for me on the smallest of words: IF.

The message to the people, faithfully passed on by Moses is clear: “If you obey me fully and obey my covenant, then out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”[v.5,6] That’s quite a lot to promise, a lot to live up to. There are signs that some in Isreal will not keep that promise long.

There is a warning that if any people or animals touch the base of the mountain when the Lord comes down to speak, they will be killed with stones or arrows. And their bodies are not to be touched.[v.12]

If people cannot even stay back from a mountain, or wait until a ram’s horn is blown to approach, there’s not a lot of hope they will obey the covenant and be priest-like for generations to come.

To prepare for their consecration and meeting with the Lord, everyone in the entire camp is asked to wash their clothing and abstain from sex for three days. I’d like to believe that all of them obeyed that instruction. But we all know better. And there’s the catch: Obey…!

It appears that the Lord is looking for a people who are willing to give over their stubborn insistence on being in charge of their own lives and their own decisions and let the Lord be their guide and their God.

It appears that the Lord is still looking for people to do the same to this day. And those who stop
wrestling with the Lord and do hand over the controls find a new way of life. Life Abundant.

During this time of pandemic, we see all over the world and close to home folks whose defiance of authorities in the name of “freedom” and “independence” may just cost them their health and possibly their lives and the lives of others. We pray for them as we pray for our loved ones at home.

I’m not sure I need billowing clouds and lightning to let me know that to obey God is good and to defy God gets me in a terrible mess every time. God grant me the humility to obey and to stay safely inside the promise of that wonderful “IF”.

[Peter Mansell]

Monday, April 27, 2020
Psalm 25

Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance of David.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
 O my God, in you I trust;
 do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; 
teach me your paths.
 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
 Who are they that fear the Lord?
He will teach them the way that they should choose.
They will abide in prosperity,
and their children shall possess the land.
 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes his covenant known to them.
 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
 Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress.
 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
 O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all its troubles.

+ + +

Think back to your high school years. Standing in your social gatherings, do you recall the occasional conversation drifting into unsavoury topics? At such moments, standing face-to-face with teenage peers, many of us latched on to the best and safest response: “my parents wouldn’t approve.” As teenagers, we sometimes balked at parental constraints, but we still leaned on their teachings, sought explicit parental advice, or took the implied comfort in that constantly burning late-night porch light. We confidently knew that our parents would defend us and lead us to the safe shelter of our homes; parents don’t count the number of times their cherished children slam doors or stomp feet; they love and express their love, unconditionally.

Similarly, in Psalm 25, David calls upon the Lord with the fullest of confidence that a safe path will be provided. We are assured that God takes the parental role with the upmost responsibility; for instance: Make me to know your ways (v2)/ Lead me in your truth (v5)/ Be mindful of your mercy (v6). God will take charge; all we need to do is ask.

As a Christian, I sometimes wonder if we take on too much liability in trying to perfect our daily lives. We may lament that if we do not read, pray, and practice our beliefs, our faith will be lost. Still, the scriptures advocate the opposite of this thought: reach out to God and He will lead. Our faith is not dependent on action or works, but rather on God’s promise that He will guide and teach the way. I am reminded of Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5: it is the Lord who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Because God does not break promises, our salvation lays securely in his hands.

If we proceed with the premise that our salvation is in His hands, and all we need to do is seek Him (To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul), we can take solace in knowing that it is God who guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way (v 9). Even during this period of physical distancing, it is God, not we, who finds a path to draw us close to Him: it may be unprompted telephone calls of support, encouraging ZOOM bible studies, or unbidden groceries dropped off at the front door. As long as our eyes are on the Lord (v 15), whatever our need, God takes it upon Himself to lead and guide.

For as in our youth, in which we confidently called upon our parents, let us confidently call upon God, and leave the rest to Him.

[Katherine MacLean]

Sunday, April 26, 2020
Mark 16:9-20

[[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. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

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. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 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.’

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. 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.]]

+ + +

Today’s reading is the “longer ending” of Mark’s Gospel. If you look in your Bible you might see that it’s in brackets, or separated by a line, or included as a footnote. It’s not present in some of the earliest Biblical manuscripts, and some of the early leaders of the Church seem not to have known about it.

It is a curious piece. Mary Magdalene, who was present at the empty tomb at the beginning of chapter 16, is re-introduced (in detail: the one who had had seven demons cast out from her). It reflects some of the other resurrection appearances that we find in the other gospels, and some other aspects of other New Testament books: the reference to miracles and poison is reminiscent of Acts, for instance. There’s also a very condensed version of the Road to Emmaus story.

One need not be troubled by the strange circumstances around this ending of Mark. It is possible that, in the difficult early years of the Church, that the original ending of the gospel was lost. It’s also possible that the abrupt ending of verse 8 concluded the gospel originally, but this seemed out of place in a community of resurrection faith.

Moreover, we know that the early Church was changed and inspired by their faith in the resurrection. The resurrection was a reality that was not just life-changing, but hard to describe; think of how Jesus is recognizable, then unrecognizable, can appear and disappear at will, and so on. The Biblical witness speaks of a number of people having encounters with the risen Jesus, and we should probably find some reassurance that each of these encounters are slightly different from the next. If they were too polished, then we might get suspicious (like when bank robbers getting their stories straight).

The curious longer ending of Mark gives us a glimpse into a community that was awed and changed by their experiences of the resurrection.

[Matthew Kieswetter]