The fear and trembling of the women at the tomb is par for the course. It is the ordinary reaction of those who encounter Jesus and see that he is not just a man, but that he possesses divine power and glory.
The ending of the gospel of Mark can be surprising – a group of women, close friends and family of Jesus, get up early in the morning to visit the tomb where Jesus lay so they can give him a proper burial. Instead of finding Jesus wrapped in burial clothes, they see an angel in white robes who explains that Jesus has been resurrected and can be found in the region of Galilee.
That sounds like good news to our ears and so we scratch our heads a bit when we read that the women leave the empty tomb “trembling and bewildered.” Furthermore, we are told that they were afraid to tell anyone what had happened.
Whether or not you think this is the original ending of the book, it seems strange that Mark deliberately highlights the fear and trembling of these women after their encounter with the empty tomb. A more convincing and exhilarating ending would include Peter and John running to the tomb, or Mary Magdalene mistakenly identifying Jesus as the gardener, or surely the account of Thomas being overwhelmingly convinced of the resurrection by Jesus himself.
Instead, Mark leaves us with a puzzled look on our faces as he describes how the women loyal to Jesus are overcome with fear to the point that they are afraid, at least for a time, to share the amazing thing they have just seen and heard. And yet, in the fear and trembling of these women, we can hear echoes of what we have been reading throughout Mark’s gospel.
In Mark 4 we read the well-known account of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus had rebuked the winds and waves and sat down again, the disciples looked at each other and were utterly terrified at what they had just witnessed.