‘Going to Galilee’ has special meaning in Mark’s Gospel, the first of the four to be written. It’s original ending, which includes that phrase, has left Bible students head-scratching, however, for centuries. Referring to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome just after encountering the ‘young man dressed in a white robe” (Mark 16:5) outside the tomb, it reads:
Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid (16:8a, NLT).
Could this possibly be where Mark truly ended his story?! A significant majority of Bible scholars agree, explaining a short ending of v. 8b was added in the 2nd century CE. Then the longer ending (vv. 9-20) was a compilation of traditions that related to the resurrection appearances of Christ Jesus found in the other Gospels as well as Acts.
Back to the original ending. Why?! New Testament scholar, R. Alan Culpepper writes one of the clearest explanations I’ve found: “How could the women, who had witnessed the death of Jesus and who had seen the empty tomb…go and not tell anyone? Mark was a skillful writer. Perhaps shock and surprise were the reactions he intended for the church to have, for now it knew everything the women knew. So the question comes home to haunt those who hear Mark’s Gospel. How could they, how can we, hear these words, go and tell no one?” (emphasis added, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary on Mark, p. 597).
And why would we be surprised to find that Mark’s Gospel actually tells us how to share the Gospel in the verse immediately before:
‘But 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.”
Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee, filled with so much of the healing, teaching and preaching. This is where his words came alive, where both disciples and crowds were eye-witnesses to the piercing through of a spiritual reality they had only hoped for. It is to his lifework that we turn in order to follow him, to continue the work he began. And in doing our own work as disciples, we find that resurrected Christ continuing to guide, comfort, and encourage us forward.
Perhaps Mark meant that every Christian has to find their own ‘Galilee’ – the marketplace, the neighborhood, the political arena, the home or school – where people still need to be uplifted, fed, healed, comforted. Our ‘Galilee’ is where we find/make the time to pray, to be led, to discover the work our Father has for us just as Jesus had for his ministry.
I find it especially comforting that even though the women might have been afraid, the angel still charged them, still called them to discipleship…and still calls us regardless of our often hesitant–or even detouring– footsteps. That’s heartening.
See you in ‘Galilee’.