New year’s eve. A time of endings, even as we look to tomorrow’s beginnings. The endings at the close of the year don’t tend to be neat. It’s an arbitrary distinction, really. They are endings because that’s how we see them, that’s how we frame the narrative of our lives.
When we look at end of Mark’s gospel (assuming we stop at verse 8) we tend to think that because it’s the last bit of the book, it must be an ending in the conventional narrative sense. But why must it? Mark isn’t writing a novel, a story. He’s writing a gospel, a way of helping people come to know and follow Jesus. That’s something very different, and it demands a different way of writing, a different way of thinking.
I think if Mark was around now, he’d probably like Godly Play. Because wondering is what he invites us into with the ending of his gospel. He doesn’t even give us a wondering question: even wondering what the question should be is left up to us. The end of Mark’s gospel isn’t an ending in any traditional narrative sense, it’s an invitation. An invitation to wonder, and explore, and consider what the resurrection really is, how we can live it, what the rest of the narrative can tell us about it.
Mark is deliberately giving us something which is both less and more than a narrative story to be read passively. Less, because it seems incomplete, perhaps unsatisfying. More, because it is an invitation to enter into the gospel ourselves, to delve more deeply, enquire, search, work out what the gospel means for us, and go on living the story, living the gospel, which is so much more important than just reading it.
The end of Mark’s gospel isn’t really an ending at all, but a beginning. As the written gospel ends, our own living of the gospel begins. How will we take up that challenge this year?