Thomas Jefferson could not accept the miraculous elements in Scripture. Therefore, he edited his own version of the Bible in which all references to miracles were deleted. In editing the Gospels, Jefferson primarily retained the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson’s Gospel are these: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulchre and departed.”
That is the extent of the Gospel that many modern-day people have; this is true simply because they cannot seem to accept the existence of miracles. However, Jefferson’s Gospel is no Good News at all because it leaves us with no hope.
There is another kind of Unfinished Gospel and it is actually contained in the Bible. It is Mark’s Gospel which ends with Mark 16:8. Verses 9 through 20 are not in any of the early manuscripts of the New Testament. And the style of the Greek language used in verses 9 through 20 cannot have been written by the same person who wrote the rest of Mark’s Gospel; the style is too different.
Many scholars believe that Mark could not have intended to end his Gospel at verse 8 because it seems like such an inappropriate ending. There are no appearances recorded of the resurrected Lord. The women run from the tomb and tell no one what they have seen and heard. What kind of Gospel is this?
Some scholars think that Mark may have died before he could complete his Gospel. Others believe that when there was still only a single manuscript of Mark’s Gospel that the ending of his account of Jesus’ resurrection must have been torn off accidentally, being on the outside of the scroll.
Why would God allow Mark’s Gospel to remain unfinished?
I think this Gospel is unfinished because the Lord wants us to complete the story in our lives. We have a message to tell. Just as the angel said to the women, “Go tell his disciples and Peter,” so too do we have a message to tell to the Peters of this world. There are people within our reach right now who are just like Peter. They may have failed the Lord just like Peter did. Maybe they have even denied him like Peter did. And they wonder if they can ever be forgiven. They wonder if there is any hope.
We have that message of hope. We have that message of forgiveness and freedom. The only question is: will we pass it on . . . or not? The Gospel of Jesus Christ always remains unfinished until we share it with someone else.
There is one more thing to note before we move on to reading Luke’s Gospel tomorrow. Allow me to say a few words about the author of the Gospel of Mark….
One piece of evidence that the women had, verifying the bodily resurrection of Christ, was the message of the young man. This Gospel specifically says the women saw a young man dressed in a white robe at Jesus' tomb, not an angel. Interestingly enough, this same phrase, “a young man,” is used in Mark 14:51. We read that after Jesus was arrested in the garden “A young man had followed him, wearing only a linen tunic over his otherwise naked body. They seized him, and he left the tunic and ran away naked.”
None of the other Gospels mention this incident. A number of scholars have suggested that this young man was Mark himself, a nephew of Peter, a traveling companion of Paul, and the author of this Gospel. It is impossible to prove, but it is a reasonable guess. And it may be this same young man, in a white linen garment that was the first to witness the empty tomb and, perhaps, see the resurrected Jesus.
If you want to read a wonderful, modern-day, re-telling of the Gospel based upon this assumption, I would encourage you to read The Christ Commission by Og Mandino. It is one of my favorite books and I often re-read it during Lent each year.