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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.