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.

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