Year B Easter: Mark 16,01-07

16:01 When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James,
and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him.

16:02 And very early in the morning on the first day of the week
they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.

16:03 They had been saying to one another,
'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?'

16:04 But when they looked they saw that the stone -- which was very big --
had already been rolled back.

16:05 On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe
seated on the right-hand side, and they were struck with amazement.

16:06 But he said to them, 'There is no need to be so amazed.
You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified:
he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him.

16:07 But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, "He is going ahead of you to Galilee;
that is where you will see him, just as he told you."

Friday, just before sunset, Jesus was buried in a hurry. No time to balm the corpse. At sunset Sabbath started. But immediately after Sabbath the women go to the tomb to balm Jesus. They are the same women who were watching from a distance when Jesus was crucified (15:40). They had taken care of him when he was teaching in Galilee, and they must have accompanied him all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem (15:41).

Young man in a white stole
The word ‘young-man’ occurs only twice in Mark’s Gospel: during Jesus’ arrest and in the tomb at the place where Jesus had been buried.

In 14:51 the young-man has ‘thrown-around’ a ‘linen [cloth]’ over his naked [body].

I think this particular nakedness is very important. We will speak about it. The word ‘linen [cloth]’ occurs three times in Mark’s Gospel. The first time when we hear about the young-man during Jesus’ arrest (14:51). The second and third time when Joseph of Arimatea buys a ‘linen [cloth]’ to wrap Jesus in to bury him (15:46). On that occasion it turns out that a ‘linen [cloth]’ is a shroud (funeral cloth). Looking back at the young-man during Jesus’ arrest: what a strange outfit he has: with a shroud around his naked body in the night...

When we hear about the young-man again, he has changed: his ‘thrown-around’ ‘linen [cloth]’ had been changed into a ‘thrown-around’ ‘stole’ (That is literally what the Greek text says!) In the Biblical world a stole indicates great dignity (cfr: Mark 12:38: ‘Look out for the scribes who want to walk about in long stoles...’)

Further Mark tells us that the stolè of the young man in the tomb was ‘white’. Believe it or not, but the word ‘white’ occurs only twice in Mark’s Gospel. This is the second time. When was the first time? Then we have to go back to Jesus’ Transfiguration. There we hear that Jesus’ garments became ‘very white’. So the white stolè of the young man in the tomb associates with the ‘very white’ garments of Jesus at the moment of his Transfiguration.
I think that cannot be a coincidence. The cloths of the young man in the tomb are as white as Jesus’ garments during his Transfiguration.


Is this young man a kind of a double or perhaps a look-alike of Jesus? Don’t we recognize the baptismal ritual from the first centuries of the Christians in what Mark tells us about this young man?

When in the first centuries a catechumen would be baptized they were guided to the font filled with water. They laid off their everyday clothes and descended into the water in their nakedness..., and were ‘buried’ with Christ (cfr. Romans 6:4). When they ascended out of the water on the other side of the font a deacon/deaconess was waiting with a very white new garment. I don’t know exactly, but I hope that this garment was a stolè. They were clothed in the white garment and guided into the community. As a new person, ‘risen’ with/as Christ. As an ‘alter Christus’, another Christ.

In short, I have the impression that the young man in Mark’s Passion - and Resurrection Story is a model for a new Christian. In older times we spoke about an ‘alter Christus’: another Christ. Isn’t that our vocation? To put ourselves in the place of Jesus and announce to the people where they can find him...

‘Tell his disciples and Peter...’ ‘And Peter...’? He was the man who denied Jesus three times on the day of his torture, now only two days ago. Wouldn’t it have been more logical to deny Peter? As a traitor, a useless disciple? At the decisive moment he had said not to belong to Jesus. One would say: he had forfeited his place among the disciples. And now they should go to Peter...? How much forgiveness is included in this short line!

Picture Meditation

This picture is a fragment of the big Mark painting of Peter Clare. This detail is to be found in the centre of the painting. The young man in ‘transfiguration white’. On the right. Under the arch of the tomb. Pointing in the direction of the resurrection. Jesus had been raised.

As a consequence the three women are looking in the same direction. With what emotion? What does the attitude of the woman with her arms thrown up express?

I try to feel what they are feeling.

But on the other hand, Mark suggests that the white young man is sitting and acting in the place of Jesus, literally. Can I imagine myself in his place? Would I point to heaven to indicate where the risen Jesus is to be found?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ