Mark’s gospel concludes with a scene that contains several bizarre elements that defy logical explanation. One of these is his narrative of the women bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body but wondering as they go: Duh, has anyone worked out a plan for how we are going to get through the door of the tomb? (Mark 16:3)
The story, as told, does not make narrative sense. Yes, one can imagine a whole array of factors to make it work, but then it becomes the story of whoever is doing that imagining, and it is no longer Mark’s story as he has given it to us.
But the story, as told, does make profound and cogent sense as a parable or allegory. It recalls two stories in the early chapters of the gospel:
Firstly, it recalls the paralytic healing story: Jesus was inside the house and four men carrying their paralytic friend came to see Jesus but they could not get inside for the crowd. The blockage at the door to Jesus is emphasized. It is remarked on in 2.2 and 2.4. Those who want to get to Jesus cannot get to him through the door of the tomb. The paralytic, as already explained in earlier posts, must be laid in a hewn out “tomb” — the way to get to Jesus is to die with Jesus, to be follow or be united in his death of the cross.
Secondly, it recalls the very namesake of one of the women at the tomb not being able to get to Jesus through a door in another house. But strangely in this incident the woman, said to be his mother, is not named here. And in the tomb scene in the last chapter she is named but not explicitly said to be his mother, this time. But the crowd around Jesus is so immense it prevents his mother from reaching Jesus whom she has come to reach — 3.20, 31, 32. Jesus insults his mother – 3.33-35. The point is that one’s physical kin are not one’s real kin in the kingdom of God. Jesus calls on his followers to leave their physical families for spiritual ones — 10.29-30. The physical kin, those of this world, cannot come to Jesus. They seek to come through the normal channels.
But to come to Jesus through the door of the tomb would be to simply come to anoint the dead. And Jesus is not dead. The stone blocking the door was removed because Jesus was no longer inside. Those who are truly of Jesus will come to him only by joining him in his death (via the cross) so that they can live in him. Mark has shown repeatedly in his gospel that this is a basic lesson. One cannot come to Jesus apart from dying with him.
Once again, Mark’s gospel makes no sense as historical narrative. But it makes perfect sense as a theological allegory.
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