When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So 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.
Translation: And when the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Maria of James and Salome bought spices so that they might go anoint him. And very early on the first of the week, they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to each other, "Who will roll for us the stone out of the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they see that the stone had been rolled away, for it was very large.
And going in into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right a white robe thrown around (him) and they were amazed. But he said to them, "Do not be amazed. You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here. Look, the place where they laid him. But go, tell the his disciples and Peter that he has gone ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just he said to you. They they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and bewilderment held them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.
Here, the women now come to anoint the dead body of Jesus. The action is anachronistic. Jesus' body had already been anointed by the unnamed woman who "has anointed my body beforehand for its burial" (14:8).
If, as per Mark's theology, Jesus reigns from the cross, then of course he would be anointed before he was crucified. The women at the tomb, however, wanting to anoint him now, after his death, are operating out of an old, now outdated, worldview.
Note, too, that the women "bought" the spices after the sabbath was over. The word is agorazen--they "bought" at the marketplace. That is, they acquired the spices through the established market system.
Contrast the extravagence of the unnamed woman in 14:3--"...an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head..."--with the business-as-usual, pick-up-a-jar-of-spice mindset of the women at the tomb. Even the women disciples, Jesus' most loyal, get it wrong.
14:51 compared to 16:5: The women get to the tomb early in the morning "when the sun had risen." They wonder amongst themselves how, exactly, they're going to get into the tomb. (They do this much: They consult together, which is to be a characteristic of Jesus' followers.) Then, "looking up," they "see" that the stone has already been rolled away despite its great size--"for it was very large."
They "go in" to the tomb, whereupon they see a "young man sitting on the right," the position of authority. The young man--neaniskos--has a "white robe thrown around"--periballo.
This recalls another "young man," also identified as neaniskos, the one mentioned in 14:51 which NRSV renders: "A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked."
This is interesting. It appears to me that 14:51 should be translated this way: "A certain young man was following together with him, a linen cloth was thrown upon his naked body..." As the KJV renders it: "...having a linen cloth cast about his naked body..." (NIV seems way off. It has: "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind." It uses 23 English words to say what the Greek does in 12.)
The Greek seems clear that the young man did not throw the cloth off. It was put on him. This type of cloth--sindona--was made of linen and was used to bury the dead. Symbolically, this young man has the shroud of death cast upon him.
This is entirely consistent with Mark's over-all theology. The follower is not above his Master. True followers of Jesus will meet the same fate as Jesus.
As is well known for Mark, the twelve disciples never ever get it. They keep getting the theology wrong, and they don't follow either. This is true from start to finish in Mark's gospel.
Yet, occasionally, certain others do get it, and do follow. In chapter 10, a blind begger "sees" and "follows." In chapter 14, an anonymous woman understands that Jesus' crucifixion will be his coronation and anoints him beforehand.
In chapter 14, an anonymous young man also is "following." This is high praise for Mark. The Twelve are always worrying about which of them is the biggest big shot. True disciples follow Jesus. They understand and live the way of the cross. (It's not for nothing that Mark is sometimes called the "most Lutheran" of the four gospels.)
In the resurrection account, this young man--this anonymous follower of Jesus who once was wrapped in death--is now radically transformed. He is now sitting on the right, in a position of authority, in the transformed tomb of Jesus.
Moreover, he now wears not the shroud of death, but the dazzling white robe last seen in the Transfiguration of Jesus in chapter 9. Thus, Mark is telling us, the lot of the true follower of Jesus is death, yes, but also resurrection. (Neaniskos may also be translated as "new one.")
"He has been raised...go to Galilee": The women were "amazed"--exethambethesan, "astonished, startled, awe-stricken." The young man tells them not to be, and says, "You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified." The young man makes sure to note that they are looking for Jesus of Galilee, the crucified. For the true follower, this is the proper designation.
"He has been raised." The word is egerthe, which has previously been used in Mark in the context of healings and also in, you might say, "glimpses" of resurrection, such as the raising of Jairus' daughter in chapter 5. (The verb is in the passive voice. Jesus was raised. He did not raise himself.)
"But go, tell the his disciples and Peter that he has gone ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just he said to you." His disciples were last seen high-tailing it out of town, and Peter was last seen denying he ever knew Jesus. The resurrection reclaims them.
On the other hand, the note has a barb in it as well. Yes, be sure and tell his ne-er-do-well disciples that the way forward is into Galilee, and, pointedly, not Jerusalem. (Jesus had earlier said, in 14:28: "But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.")
If, as is thought, Mark was written around AD 70, he is writing, therefore, in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem, a catastrophic event. The way forward will not be with the compromised "head office" in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, where the movement began, and where it will yet be continued. The mission and work of the Crucified is being regenerated in the place from which it sprang.
"There you will see him." The word "see" is opsesthe, which is used only three times in Mark--here, and in 13:26 and 14:62. In both of the other instances, the word is used to refer to, and link Jesus to, the "son of man" figure of Daniel. Here, it is used to refer to Jesus' presence in Galilee, yet another identification of Jesus with the "coming son of man" figure in Daniel 7:13.
"They they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and bewilderment held them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid." In other words, the women expressly did not do what the young man told them to do. They were instructed to go and tell, but they "said nothing to anyone" out of fear. The women fled, just as the twelve had done in 14:50: "All of them deserted him and fled."
Thus ends Mark's gospel. The ending is so unsettling that at least three attempts were made to fix an additional ending to it.
Mark knew exactly what he was doing. Remember that the gospel opens with these words: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The entire story Mark has just told is only "the beginning." When the book ends, the mission of Jesus is being regenerated in the place of its own "beginning."
Granted, the resurrection account is only 8 verses, during which time Jesus does not actually appear, and which ends in confusion and fear. This is because Mark doesn't want to take too much emphasis off of the cross. Even in the resurrection account, Jesus is identified as "the crucified."
Recall that the only time in the entire gospel where Jesus is proclaimed "Son of God," and this designation is allowed to stand, is at his crucifixion and death. The centurion said, "Truly, this man was God's Son."
Only at his crucifixion--only after one knows the course of his life, his mission, his teachings, and how he died to further those teachings--is one able to say who Jesus really is. Now, Mark tells us, the mission of Jesus continues. It continues through those who "follow" Jesus, those who understand and live "the way of the cross."
Image: Retablo, Cathedral of St. Francis de Asis, Santa Fe, New Mexico