Closing Off

Thank you to those who have visited and left comments.

I would appreciate any “review” of this verse-by-verse approach to Mark. There is the possibility of this being turned into a self-published paperback book several months down the way. It obviously needs some editing.

There is also the reality that my next three months will have a primary focus on a Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church as it wrestles with how close to grace it will come regarding its own LGBTQ+ members and LGBTQ+ persons in discriminatory settings. I work with Love Prevails and would appreciate your support of our work through your prayers/intentions/meditation and donations.

One of the outcomes of this work is a new translation of Mark—
Slow-Reading the Gospel of Mark. Any reviews of this book on Amazon would be appreciated.

May you be awed enough in life that you will leave an empty tomb of the past and proceed to the yet-to-be-seen.

Wesley White
wwhite (at) wesleyspace (dot) net



Marking Time

betwixt and between
be and ing
fits and starts
we begin and end
with a provisional
beginning and ending

never a definite article
a the beginning
a the end
flowing again
remembering anticipating
are ing and tomorrow ing
our each is ing

wilderness at core
tempts and restores
within each boundary
unsettling every settled
feeding off certainty
to retreat deeper
until urgency pauses

a living heart
pushing onward
repenting again
with wounds near and dear
and Johnny AppleEater far
betwixt and between

Mark 16:9-20

Later additions

(Inserted in some manuscripts from an ancient source)

[9But all that had been revealed to them they reported briefly to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]

[9After his rising again, early on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first of all to Mary of Magdala, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10She went and told the news to those who had been with him and who were now in sorrow and tears; 11yet even they, when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, did not believe it. 12Afterward, altered in appearance, he made himself known to two of them, as they were walking, on their way into the country. 13They also went and told the rest, but they did not believe even them. 14Later on, he made himself known to the Eleven themselves as they were at a meal, and reproached them with their want of faith and their stubbornness, because they did not believe those who had seen him after he had risen from the dead. 15Then he said to them, “Go into all the world, and proclaim the good news to all creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17Moreover these signs will attend those who believe. In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18they will take up snakes in their hands; and, if they drink any poison, it will not hurt them; they will place their hands on sick people and they will recover.” 19So the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God. 20But they set out, and made the proclamation everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the message by the signs which attended it.]

homo constructus is most proud
of the meaning behind its contraptions
there is an intentional lack of mystery

no thing can long be left
without its interpretive core
locating its place in knowing

once placed it is fenced in
now to the next open field
erecting explanatory containers as we go

The beginning continues. This is the shape of Mark—Next….

The urgency of the first part of Mark to reveal changed hearts and behaviors shifts in the second part to an expectation of “beyond” only accessible through consequences lived out in this world.

Anything that attempts to concretize and control the wilderness of indeterminacy, chaos theory, and any spirit that blows where it will to tap the most unlikely undermines Mark’s emphasis upon the human Jesus. What began with Jesus identified as Christ/Messiah/Anointed ends with Jesus identified with no-place located no-where—Nazareth in Galilee. It is this common everyday reference that offers us an insight into a never-ending beginning.

Since we are there now it becomes our wilderness to enter and go deeply enough into that we are freed from all that the spurious additions would have us believe as orthodox (right thinking that would again crucify a bubbling source of seeing beyond current limits).

A non-ending frees us from any “sacred and undying message of eternal salvation”—rising goes where it will.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” has no standing in a court of Mark which asked no one to be baptized or even to believe, but is abundantly fruitful in lives from Peter to Bartimaeus. Belief and baptism might be responses people would choose to do, but are quite unnecessary to salvation (“healing”, “wholeness”).

We all know demons are not demoted by sincere belief; even snake charmers are bitten, and poison is poison. Healing can occur but as a surprising gift, not as proof of anything.

To be true to Mark and Galilee, Jesus is raised to Galilee—not to heaven. Jesus continues as partners of those taking Mark’s story into themselves, listening behind its surface, and rewriting it into the next experiences they engage in. Hang on! BANG! Onward to rising!

Mark 16:8

They went out, and fled from the tomb, for they were trembling and bewildered; and they did not say a word to anyone, for they were frightened.

filled with too much information
our mothers were flabbergasted

this will take some gestation
before it can speak on its own

from outside appearing overcome
great pondering deepens distance

a wilderness widens to welcome
urgency transfigures to enough

The Greek and its traditional translations into English leaves much to be desired. Victoria Phillips, in Levine233, affirms that,

The three emotional responses of the women (‘fear’, φοβος; ‘astonishment’, ἔκστασις; and ‘trembling, τρόμος) have positive ethical connotations through­out the Gospel.”

“Trembling” and “ecstasy” (better translations) are different than “terror” and “dread”. Sabin2199 reflects,

…the meaning of the women’s “fear” is contextualized not only by the precedents of the disciples’ awe but also by their “trembling and ecstasy” (tromos kai ekstasis)—which are, in Mark, the feelings that accompany a breakthrough in human perception.

Religious “fear” throws us into creative confusion as we are consciously caught between the models of our everyday and what might yet be. My own preferred last word is not an undifferentiated “fear” but either “awed” or “flabbergasted”.

Aichele173 concludes that “the reader has yet to encounter the resurrected Jesus.” Those yearning for such an encounter will take heart from a later poet, T.S. Eliot—

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We are left with a basic choice of storing this story away to see what our unconscious will do with it or returning to the beginning to re-read the story through the lens of every character encountered and with an appreciation of our own partnering in such a story.

Mark 16:7 – take 2

Who knew? A second take? That can happen in many places in Mark—at heart it is a Wisdom tale.

But go, and say to his disciples and to Peter ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

to you is entrusted
an everyday still available
for you and more than you

the dead have been buried
you are to unearth the living
to trust rising together

you have said thanks
now comes living yes
welcome to G*D’s presence

With a strong command to “Go! Tell!” the Three Wise Women are given an apostolic (those sent forth) task to witness to the scattered men (Peter being their leader).

The women are to do so out of their experience of an “empty” tomb.

So often Jesus has instructed people who have experienced a mysterious return to life to remain quiet about it. Here what is to be told is a double announcement—we are leaving this tomb and claiming our life for Jesus is risen from this tomb. This double announcement about ourself and the universe is to be told.

What is to be told is that Jesus’ rising happened before the women arrive. It is already accomplished. There is no opportunity here for John’s story of Peter and another disciple beating Mary Magdalene into the tomb to be the first to note its emptiness. Nor is Luke’s version of bringing the men to the tomb to confirm its emptiness. Not even Matthew’s similar tale is sufficient as it still leaves the male disciples in charge a commission intended for all.

Galilee is a reminder that the last identifier of Jesus is that he is from Nazareth in Galilee. The Sea in Galilee is the locus of a first call to Simon and Andrew, James and John. Like the Geresene, they are not to follow Jesus away from everyday life, but return to their home base and tell what they experienced with Jesus—to incorporate the Wisdom, the Mystery of New Life, into their own—to move from student to a next teacher (not a replica or faint image but a full-partner or colleague). In terms of theosis, to become as that which is beyond.

The first effect of Jesus’ rising is a recapitulation of the last becoming first. The background of women, supportive in Galilee, has become a foreground of women. Women are transformed.

We might view this whole Day One as a trance such as a Day of Ecstasy. Such a state is etymologically connected with a G*D-initiated trance for a new beginning (Genesis 2:21) and covenant (Genesis 15:12). Walking through ordinariness to rising anew.

Mark 16:7

But go, and say to his disciples and to Peter ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

to you is entrusted
an everyday still available
for you and more than you

the dead have been buried
you are to unearth the living
to trust rising together

you have said thanks
now comes living yes
welcome to G*D’s presence

Women are always getting the short-stick of diakonia—they “serve” while men “minister”. Here they are told to ὑπάγετε(hupagete, “off with you!”, “depart”).

In Mark’s gospel, we do not hear of Judas dying. Readers might wonder why Peter, especially, needs to be told. Is his betrayal greater than that of Judas? Judas’ betrayal proactively moved Jesus to the suffering and death components of his envisioned journey. Peter’s betrayal was reactive in his self-protective denial.

The “especially” translation may be too dramatic. To honor Mark’s tendency toward ambivalence, it is better to translate it more toward a more general, “including Peter”.

When Jesus is “going ahead of you” or “going before” you, we are not in another glorious or mocking parade (depending on how you see the earlier entrance into Jerusalem). This is a temporal, not spacial precedence. Jesus is already present in everyday settings.

For those who distinguish different types of grace, this places a risen Jesus in the position of prevenience (already present, much like practice that leads to Preemptive or Premeditated Mercy).

It is in Galilee, everyday life, where fishing is fishing, a business, not an allusive luring of a witness or apostle, that Jesus will be “seen”. Those who have been watching for some apocalyptic scene will need to recalculate their position to arrive at the learning of wisdom in everyday terms—not the glory of a rebuilt Jerusalem and Temple repeating its fall to authorizing death and away from a house of prayer for “all”.

Aichle55 helps us wonder:

Insofar as the young man here speaks for Jesus, is he telling the women (who may hear for the reader) that the resurrection has not yet occurred? Is he implying that the resurrection is even now, at the present moment of the reader’s reading, a future event?

Mark 16:6

but he said to them, “Do not be dismayed; you are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified; he has risen, he is not here! Look! Here is the place where they laid him.

a first order of business
acknowledge fear’s failure
point to an ever-present
cheshire cat’s smile
quietly beckon resolve
relax breathe listen

you are searching
the wrong soil
for a seed already harvested
it is not safely stored away
but already invested
in feeding thousands

you won’t find here
what you came looking for
all that’s present
is a changed life
the question left is
not surety but trust

Readers may remember the contested “Son of G*D” language from 1:1. As it is not attested to in the earliest manuscripts, I prefer to delete it.

Either way, though, 1:1 identifies Jesus as “Christ”—“Messiah”, “Anointed”. That’s the starting identifier.

Here at the end of Mark Jesus is known as “of Nazareth”, which is in Galilee. This returns Jesus to his pre-baptism identifier (1:9)—“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee”.

After all those titles along the way of “Son of G*D”, “Son of Man” (ben ’adam or image of Adam), “Son of David”, “Son of Mary”, “the Beloved Son” “the Anointed”, “Messiah”, we are left with the mystery of Jesus (a human, one from a no-place like Nazareth) being like G*D. This can be taken as a confirmation of a “divine” image in every human (Eastern Orthodox vision of theosis). Now we can look back to the early Galilean disciples—to be invited to “fish for people” is to move into the image of G*D, to come to one’s S*lf, and be a lure attracting others to follow in like manner: to follow their path to wholeness.

Life is never confinable to a tomb. Life rises. In recent applications of the conservation of matter and energy, it may be differently located, but not lost or erased. The old ballad of Barbara Allen gives an image here of rose and briar growing from graves to form a true lover’s knot.

Look. Your assumptions, expectations, religious constructs, and fears have tricked you. You’ve not been “Watching”. Look.


Mark 16:5

Going into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on their right, in a white robe, and they were dismayed;

ready for a stink

surprised by surprise

a stone rolled away

a live body

a young body

dressed in white

too much to take in

struck immobile

we’d far rather
a stink

After finally recognizing there was going to be a stone to be rolled away that they were not prepared to do and being surprised when that impediment had been taken care of, there comes a question of how to proceed.

Do they stop, afraid to go further? Is there a hesitant peek in? Is a confident striding in available to them?

However they enter the relative dark of a tomb, they eventually made out a figure in white, seated.

Following typical human responses to the unexpected, their reptilian brain kicked in with the usual flight or fight reaction. In Greek this is ἐξεθαμβήθησαν (exethambēthēsan, to throw into terror or amazement, to thoroughly alarm). This compound verb is only found here in the authorized Christian scriptures.

Similar words in 1:22 and 1:27 lean toward amazement or astonishment. Those are options to come to after an initial gasp and re-orientation to the situation. Initially, though, surprise upon surprise, as in a horror film strikes the characters far harder than those watching with an expectation of a next body to fall.

The last time we heard about a young man (15:61–52) he had his linen cloth pulled from him as he ran away. Now a young man is seated and dressed (in his right mind?) as was the Geresene (5:15). If Mark is putting these two scenes together, we might expect to hear a message of mercy that the Geresene was to pass on to those in the Decapolis (his Galilee). This mercy has connections with changed lives and hearts that began Jesus’ ministry after his experiences of baptism and wilderness.

Mark 16:4

But, on looking up, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back; it was a very large one.

well look at that
our fears failed again

To look up is to re-engage with reality. We can get so caught up with our speculations and emotions that we lose track of what is actually happening around us. This common experience extends to our spiritual experiences as well.

To look up is to again “watch” as doorkeepers in Jesus’ parable (14:33–37). Our attention is again activated. We are able to see more than “walking trees”.

Of course, inquiring minds want to know how it was moved. The quickest and easiest response is, “G*D did it”. Myers206 moves in this direction:

The verb here expresses the perfect tense and the passive voice—the grammar of divine action. This stone has been rolled away by an ulterior leverage, by a force from beyond the bounds of story and history with the power to regenerate both.

This is in line with Matthew’s account (Matthew 28:2) which is not comfortable with Mark’s usual ambiguity. Matthew enlists an earthquake and an angel to effect the stone’s movement. Matthew also has the women hurrying away to tell the disciples (wherever they might be scattered). Before they get far Jesus appears to give them explicit instructions about Galilee.

One way out of this mystery is to posit that the earliest form of the passion narrative ended with Jesus’ burial and Mark has added an empty tomb to it (Ludger Schenke as referenced in Collins117).

There are extra-biblical accounts of the stone moving of its own accord at a command from the heavens (Gospel of Peter 9).

LaVerdiere320 connects the stone with a return to the beginning of Mark and baptism.

In terms of Mark’s story of the passion-resurrection, the stone was a baptismal symbol, blocking the way for someone effectively to be buried with Christ. The passion was a story not just of Jesus dying but of the challenge for the disciples to die with Christ.

All in all, I appreciate Mark’s simplicity at this point. If we have had a numinous experience, we know any attempt to explain it beyond its surface will be disappointing for both ourself and others.

Mark 16:3

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

there is always one more thing
usually its something small
and we can work around it

every once in a while its big
huger than we ever imagined
that takes more than we have

before we can close the door
on all that has come our way
we need to open it again

we’ve got what we need out here
but how in the world will we
ever complete our closure out here

It is not unusual for us to get so caught up with intentions that we miss some critical piece of information. The women have been focused on the incomplete burial they witnessed and thinking about making it through Sabbath to bring spices and complete the burial with an anointing.

They hustle to purchase the spices in the dark after Sabbath. They hurry on their way at sunrise.

As they draw near to the tomb it dawns that there is an impediment—that stone rolled over the entrance. Where are James and Joses when you need them? They help to identify Mary as Jesus’ mother, but they are not close enough to help move a stone. Their absence reminds us that all the male disciples, having run away, are also not available.

If we take a step back, we can see that Mark is using the stone as a signifier of death. It is not just Pilate and a centurion who authenticate Jesus’ death. Creation itself testifies that dead is dead. This is a stone that cannot be removed.

The stone is mentioned 4 times in 5 verses. LaVerdiere2320 picks up on Mark’s penchant for emphasis through repetition:

Mark underlined its importance. In this part, Mark’s story is not so much about the empty tomb as about the rolling away of the stone.

The symbol of the stone is connected not with Jesus’ resurrection but with his burial. The stone was not rolled against the exit from the tomb but against the entrance to the tomb.

The blocking of the entrance was not just about hindering the bringing of spices, which would be a cultural/cultic confirmation of death.  The stone would also keep out a disciple-come-lately who, at the last minute, might have tried to literally follow and be buried with Jesus as a way to force their way into rising.