This passage describes, in superlative terms, the salvation for which God’s faithful people wait. There will be an end to hunger, to sorrow, to shame, and even to death. All God’s people will be joined in a joyful celebration hosted by God Himself.
The fulness of that salvation is still in the future, and we continue to wait for it. But in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive a foretaste of that joyful celebration, as Paul reminds us, quoting from this passage in Isaiah, that death has been swallowed up in victory.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
This psalm is thought to have been used in Jewish worship in Bible times, providing the liturgy for the procession into the temple at the festival of Passover. The people celebrated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, thanking God for providing their salvation.
We use this psalm to celebrate an even greater salvation, our redemption from sin and death through Jesus Christ, and an even greater victory, as Jesus was raised from the dead and promises eternal life to us also.
Throughout church history, readers of Mark’s Gospel have been puzzled, even bothered, by the way the Gospel ends in verse 8. (Longer endings included in some translations are generally agreed to have been added later by those who wanted to give the Gospel a “proper” ending.) We are told that Jesus is risen, but no one sees him. The women are told to share the news of the resurrection but instead they flee in fear and say nothing.
A variety of explanations have been offered, some of them as puzzling and uncomfortable as the abrupt ending itself. Whatever the correct explanation, one thing to keep in mind is that the Gospel writers were not trying to write a comprehensive biography of Jesus that would include all the facts available, as is common practice today.
Some writers and preachers see a positive message in the “unfinished” feel of Mark 16. We are not to be spectators, enjoying a story with a satisfying ending for those early followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus today, we are part of the ongoing story, and it is up to us to go out and spread the good news of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.