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Mark 16

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Mark 16:1-5… When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus’ body. 16 And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 They were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entry to the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled back. 5 Then as they went into the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

Commentary

All four of the Gospels contain various details about Jesus’ resurrection, but each one does so from the viewpoint of the evangelist writing. There are no contradictions in their accounts, for each writer wrote their account within the freedoms they had to summarize and emphasize different aspects of the same event. If the writers would have had the exact same story word-for-word, then it would make the account suspect. But their differences, not contradictions, actually end up proving that their accounts are believable and historical.

Three women are mentioned in v. 1 who set out early on the Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion. Their goal was to anoint the body of Jesus with perfume to further prevent the stench of decay in their Lord. Many tombs of antiquity are found today with perfume bottles scattered around the bones, signifying that the practice of anointing the dead was common. Their journey to the tomb that morning means that they had waited until the Sabbath was over and that they had no idea that Jesus had been raised. Their conversation along the way concerned how they were going to move the stone away. Clearly they had no knowledge of the Roman guard that had been placed in front of the tomb or the Roman seal (Matt. 27:62-66). If they did, they would have been more concerned about breaking the seal than rolling away the stone.

Apparently the women set out for the tomb “while it was still dark” (John 20:1), but their journey was long enough that when they arrived there it was “at sunrise” (v. 2). They were surprised to find that the stone had been rolled away when they got there, and one can only imagine the look on their faces as they proceeded into the tomb not knowing what they would find. To their great astonishment they were greeted by a “young man dressed in a white robe” who was sitting in the tomb to their right. This young man, given the unique circumstance, his white robe (which normally depicts heavenly splendor), and his message to the women, was very likely an angel sent to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Certainly, Matthew, Luke, and John all speak of an angel that announced Jesus’ resurrection that day.

Upon seeing the angelic messenger the reaction of the women was one of great fear… “they were alarmed.” The compound Greek term for this signifies overwhelming distress in the face of the unusual. In other words, the angel scared the women half to death!

Matthew mentions a great earthquake that occurred when the angel came to sit upon the stone covering the tomb (28:2). But Jesus didn’t need help getting out of the tomb. The stone’s removal was designed to allow witnesses to see that it was empty. Jesus could pass through walls (cf. John 20:19). Now no one saw Jesus arise, but many saw him alive after his death. The Apostle Paul says that over 500 saw him at one time after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6).

Food for Thought

            Dead religions always pay homage to a dead leader. But Jesus’ tomb is empty because he is alive. Facts are based upon that which is true – that which is attested in history. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. Without it our religion is dead. With it, our religion stands up as the superior one because our God is alive and well. All others are dead.

Mark 16:6-8… Then the man said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He is not here. Look at the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he said.” 8 Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Commentary

            The first thing the women did was fixate on the angel who stood before them. His words are common for holy beings when they confront humans: “Do not be alarmed.” He told them that Jesus was not there – he had been raised, and he pointed to the place where he had been laid so that they would see and believe. It was clear the body had not been stolen; it was resurrected!

            Then in v. 7 the angel instructed the women to go and tell the disciples, specifically Peter. This is the first time Peter is mentioned by Mark since his three denials on the night Jesus died (14:66-72). In God’s mercy and grace He had not only forgiven Peter but he also wanted him to be a part of Christ’s great triumph over death. Jesus had prophesied that after his death he would rise from the grave and meet his disciples in Galilee (cf. 14:28), and this is what the angel commanded that the women tell the disciples. Peter was to be assured that he had not been rejected by his Lord. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him and that the rest of his followers would be scattered like sheep when their shepherd is struck, but their actions could not separate them from God’s kindness in molding them into the very ones who would change the world.

            It is interesting to note that in all the Gospel accounts the women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. In Jewish society the witness of women was unaccepted. So if the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are myths concocted by liars (as skeptics have suggested) then the question is “why would those concocting such a tale say that women were the first to witness it?” The early church did suffer for this testimony because women were considered ineligible witnesses. But the fact that women were the first to witness it attests to its authenticity because anyone making up such a story would have certainly used men to witness the account, thus making it valid.

In v. 8 the women are said to have been seized with terror and bewilderment as they departed to tell the disciples what they had witnessed. Mark’s Gospel actually ends in v. 8 even though modern translations add vv. 9-20. Verses 9-20 are not the work of Mark but of a later scribe who added to the seemingly abrupt ending for his own purposes and to finish the story that Mark left open for his own purposes. The abruptness of the ending in v. 8 with the astonishment of the women is consistent with the theme of astonishment and fear that Mark develops all through his account of Jesus’ life. He wanted to leave the reader with a sense of awe over what had just happened and to make application of the story on their own. The ending is as abrupt as the beginning (1:1) which has as its purpose the revealing of “the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

Food for Thought

Mark’s ending leaves the reader with a decision to make. The story of life has been told to him/her. What he/she does with it will determine whether or not they will be a part of God’s kingdom or the kingdom of scoffers who invented lies to explain away Jesus’ resurrection.

God revealed Jesus to the world in the resurrection in order to reveal Himself to His creation. The resurrection IS the good news. Without it, Christians are just like all other religions who worship and/or pay homage to some dead guy. God sent His angelic messenger to announce that Jesus had risen, and angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). Now let us be a ministering spirit to the world about Christ’s resurrection.

Mark’s Longer Ending in 16:9-20… Mark 16:9-20 is known as “the longer ending of Mark.” Most modern English translations bracket these verses and add a footnote of warning that the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts do not contain these passages. It’s no secret that Mark did not write these verses and ended his Gospel at v. 8. The abrupt ending fits Mark’s style, but because it ends somewhat abruptly it makes sense as to why a scribe may have added to the ending in accordance with the other Gospels written later. Consider the following:

External evidence (sources outside the Bible): First, the two earliest Greek manuscripts containing all or most of the NT (4th century) do not contain vv. 9-20. These verses don’t appear in Greek manuscripts until the 5th century. Second, many later manuscripts dating from the 7th century contain the “shorter ending” to Mark’s Gospel in place of vv. 9-20. Third, though early church fathers like Justin Martyr (AD 148), Tatian (AD 170), and Irenaeus (AD 180) all quoted verse 19, therefore supporting the inclusion of these verses, Eusebius (AD 325) and Jerome (AD 407) had no Greek manuscripts that contained these passages. Fourth, a 10th century Armenian manuscript attributes vv. 9-20 to a man named Ariston who is thought to be a comrade of Papias (AD 60-130) who himself was a disciple of the Apostle John. Conclusion: it seems clear from the external evidence that Mark ended his inspired account in 16:8.

Internal evidence (what the Bible says about itself): First, there is an abrupt change of subject from v. 8 to v. 9. In v. 8 the subject is Jesus, but in v. 9 it’s the women. Second, Mary Magdalene, though already known to the reader because of her former introduction in 15:40, 47, and 16:1, is introduced again with a descriptive phrase in v. 9. Third, a good portion of the Greek vocabulary used in vv. 9-20 are not words Mark ever used in his Gospel. They either don’t appear elsewhere in Mark or they’re used in a different way than he used them up to 16:8. Furthermore, the Greek literary style is night and day different in vv. 9-20 than the rest of the Gospel. Fourth, though the angel told the women to tell the disciples to go into Galilee to meet Jesus, the appearances of Jesus in vv. 9-20 are in and around Jerusalem in Judea. Finally, Luke and Matthew agree with Mark in detail up to 16:8, but they differ significantly with the information provided in vv. 9-20. Conclusion: it seems clear from the internal evidence that Mark ended his inspired account in 16:8 but that vv. 9-20 came into existence soon thereafter.

Four possible solutions for this are now suggested as to why Mark finished so abruptly at 16:8: First, Mark’s original ending was lost or destroyed. This is unlikely because most writers used a scroll instead of loose-leaf paper which can get lost. Second, Mark finished his Gospel but intentionally suppressed the end of the story contained in the other Gospels. This is unlikely because God would not have allowed His inspired words to be suppressed. Third, Mark could not complete his work due to illness or death. Fourth, Mark completed his Gospel at 16:8 in order to leave an open-ended question in the minds of his readers: “What shall I now do with Jesus in light of all that he did for me – including death, burial, and resurrection?” Option four appears to be the most appropriate, and it is in keeping with the themes in Mark’s Gospel.

The conclusion to the matter is that Mark intended to end his Gospel in 16:8. Verses 9-20, though not inspired and inerrant, were later added by some trustworthy Christian scribe in order to clarify what did happen after Jesus was seen by all. This would mean that very early after Mark wrote, possibly within 50-100 years, vv. 9-20 were added with no intention of conforming them to Mark’s vocabulary and style. These verses are consistent with the rest of Scripture though they do require some explanation and have been highly misinterpreted through the church age (e.g., snake-handling, necessity of water baptism for salvation, etc.). The themes of belief and unbelief in the additional passages do seem to unify the story as a whole however.

 

Mark 16:9-11… Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. 12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were on their way to the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected. 

Commentary

            Mark 16:9 is attested by John 20:11-18 that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection on Sunday morning. Harmonizing the Gospel accounts, in relation to vv. 9-11, reveals that the women saw the open tomb, obeyed the angel’s charge to go tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, informed Peter and John who ran to the tomb and saw that Jesus’ body was gone, then Mary lingered around the graveside weeping when Jesus then appeared to her. Verse 9 adds that Mary Magdalene had previously been afflicted by seven demons. That Jesus had healed her of this demonic possession is attested by Luke (8:2).

Verse 11 says that the disciples did not believe Mary that she had seen Jesus. John only implies this in 20:18-19, but Luke is clear that the disciples thought Mary was just talking nonsense when she told them she’d seen the resurrected Jesus. Though Peter and John had seen the empty tomb, they only believed Mary’s words that Jesus was gone. They did not believe he was alive even though he had told them he would rise again three days after his death.

            In v. 12 Jesus is said to have appeared “in a different form” to two disciples as they were walking along the road. This summarizes the account in Luke 24:13-35 when two the skeptical disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem. The different form Jesus took was one that prevented people from recognizing him. Clearly the only way anyone could recognize Jesus after his resurrection were the ones Jesus enabled to do so (cf. Luke 24:16, 31). He looked the same way he did before, but he prevented people from recognizing him until he decided to reveal himself. So it is with salvation today. God reveals Himself to whom He desires, and He enables His chosen children to know Jesus for who He really is – God Almighty.

            The two that Jesus walked with on the road to Emmaus, once their eyes were opened as to Jesus’ identity, also went back and told some of Jesus’ followers that Jesus had appeared to them. But even then, as with Mary’s testimony, the people did not believe. So finally, Jesus appeared to the Eleven (for Judas had taken his own life after he betrayed Jesus) while they were eating and listening to the testimony of the two men who spoke with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. Jesus simply appeared in their midst – even asking for a bite to eat while they dined together. He also rebuked them for not believing the initial accounts of his resurrection, and although this is not recorded in the other Gospels, it is implied (Luke 24:36ff. & John 20:19-22).

Food for Thought

            Jesus told the disciples over and over that he would be delivered over to the Jews, would die, and would be raised on the third day. But they apparently didn’t believe him. Their unbelief, therefore, kept them from rejoicing over the fact that Jesus had been resurrected. Those who wrote the accounts were first-hand witnesses, and their lives were changed through faith. Those who reject Jesus today are no different than the unbelieving disciples. God had to open their eyes for them to see. So it’s clear that even belief in Jesus is a gift from Jesus. All glory to God!

Mark 16:15-20… He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well.” 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 They went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs.

Commentary

            In Luke 24:45 Jesus is said to have opened the minds of the eleven disciples so that they could understand the Scriptures. Once they believed and understood the whole truth about Jesus they were commissioned in v. 15 to go into all of the world and preach the good news to all people. Matthew 28:19-20 expounds more upon this, but v. 15, like v. 12, only summarizes Jesus’ commission to the disciples. Once the Holy Spirit was poured out on them in Acts 2 some 50 days after Jesus arose, the disciples made their way to the ends of the earth obeying Jesus.

            Verse 16 says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. Now believing and being baptized are inextricably linked together. Belief is the inward effective reception of the gospel truth by faith, and baptism is the outward symbol of that inward belief. Those who truly believe in Christ for salvation have no qualms about being baptized, and the writer in v. 16, along with the early church, could not imagine one who believes inwardly yet refuses the outward sign of their faith in baptism. The two are so inextricably linked together that in the second part of v. 16 the writer says, “He who does not believe will be condemned.” Notice that he doesn’t add “and is baptized.” Those who don’t believe are not baptized and have no intention of being baptized. This passage, though disputed as authentic, clearly portrays baptism as an ordinance for believers once they profess faith in Christ – not children when they’re born.

            In v. 17 the writer mentions five signs that will accompany those who believe. Signs are miraculous events that authenticate the ministry of apostles (who died out in the first century). First, they will drive out demons in the name of Jesus Christ – an action seen throughout the NT. Second, they will speak in tongues (unlearned languages) – a phenomena which occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Third and fourth, they will pick up snakes with their hands and drink poison without dying. Now apart from Paul being bitten by a snake and experiencing no effects from the bite in Acts 28:3-5, there is no mention of this in the rest of the NT. This promise of immunity by God’s protection in both situations is a reference to the times in which Christians would be forced to pick up snakes and drink poison to prove their powers. In no way does this passage teach that Christians today should pick up snakes and drink poison to prove their faith. Finally, true apostles who believed in Christ would also be able to heal the sick – a phenomena that is commonplace in the ministries of the apostles in the book of Acts (and in the Gospels).

            Verses 19-20 parallel Acts 1:9 where Jesus ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God (cf. Acts 7:55-56; 1 Pet. 3:22). Once Jesus left the disciples the Holy Spirit came upon them, and worked in them to confirm their message with miraculous signs and wonders.

Food for Thought

            The commission to preach Christ to the world is called the Great Commission. It is given to all Christians. God will open the eyes of those whom He chooses, but it’s our task to preach, and as St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.”

More notes:

U  Mary, the Wife of Clopas… In John's gospel we read that "there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19:25). The same group of women is described by Matthew as consisting of "Mary Magdalene, along with Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee" (Mt 27:56) and by Mark as "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome" (Mk 15:40). From a comparison of these passages it appears that Mary of Clopas and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joseph are the same person and that she was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus. In answer to the alleged improbability of two sisters having the same name, it may be said that Miriam, the sister of Moses, may have been the holy woman after whom Jewish mothers called their daughters. This is on the hypothesis that the two names are identical, but on a close examination of the Greek text we find that it is possible that this was not the case. The virgin Mary is Mariam; her sister is Maria. Mary of Clopas was probably the elder sister of the Lord's mother. She is brought before us for the first time on the day of the crucifixion-in the parallel passages already quoted from Matthew, Mark, and John. In the evening of the same day we find her sitting desolately at the tomb with Mary Magdalene (Mt 27:61; Mk 15:47), and at the dawn of Easter morning she was again there with sweet spices, which she had prepared on Friday night (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 23:56), and was one of those who had "a vision of angels, who said that He was alive" (Lk 24:23). It is probable that Clopas was dead and that the two widowed sisters lived together in one house.

U  Matthew mentions that one angel was sitting on the stone that had been moved (28:2). Mark notes that it was a young man in white sitting inside the tomb on the right (16:5). Luke speaks of two angels who appeared standing next to the women after the realized Jesus was not in the tomb (24:4). John speaks of the women immediately going to inform the disciples about the empty tomb, and when they had returned and only Magdalena was there, then two angels appeared sitting where Jesus had been lain – one at the feet and the other at the head (20:11-12)… In John’s Gospel the first appearance of the angels is implied because the women ran to get the disciples like the angels had told them to in the Synoptics. Mary must have also run back to the tomb with Peter and John and stayed there after they left. It was at that point that the two angels appeared to her, then Jesus appeared to her. The angels in John, therefore, are completely different than the ones in the Synoptics.

Shock and Awe! (Mark 16:1-8)

U  Astonishment is the norm in Mark after seeing God

o   4:41… Astonished by the wind and the waves calming at Jesus’ command (Jesus then questioned them as to why they had no faith)

o   5:15… Astonished by the demoniac who had been exorcised and in right mind

o   5:33… Fearful of Jesus’ anger after her faith had healed her of affliction

o   5:36… Encouraged to not be afraid (at daughter’s death) but to believe

o   6:50-52… Fear after seeing Jesus walk on the water and calm the storm

o   9:6… Terrified after seeing Jesus’ glory in the transfiguration

o   9:32… Afraid to ask Jesus to elaborate on his prediction of death and rez.

U  After we’re faced with God’s glory we have a decision to make.

U  Jesus told his followers that he would die and come back on the third day (8:31; 9:31; 10:34)

U  In 14:28 Jesus specifically told them he’d meet them in Galilee after he was raised!

Mark wrote to end the way he began and to leave the reader with an obvious decision

Matthew later wrote to Jews saying, “Go preach the Gospel!”

Luke wrote to a Gentile man giving salvific information about Jesus’ being

John wrote to elaborate on Mark’s ending and encourage BELIEF.

U  Lane: “History can declare only that Jesus’ body disappeared, but this baffling fact fails to communicate the gospel message. The event of Jesus’ resurrection is open to understanding only through a word of revelation received in faith. The focus of Mark’s account falls, therefore, upon the presence of the divine messenger and the disclosure of the truth.”

U  The purpose of the resurrection was not to create faith but to enlighten that faith.

U  If Jesus did not then he was just a lunatic who thought he was God. No one write about that!

U  The empty tomb only begged the question: “What happened to the body of Jesus”?... So God sent his angelic messenger (cf. Heb. 1:14) to announce the truth. All who believe are saved.

U  Acts 2:29 speaks of David’s tomb who “died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day.” His tomb could be visited, but Jesus’ was left empty.

U  The silence of the Jews and the inability to produce a corpse proves the grave was empty… the boldness of the cowardly disciples… the  conversion of Saul… YOUR conversion…

U  The resurrection is based on the facts of history... occurred on a given date, in a defined place, to a man of history who had been crucified, buried, and declared dead.

U  Dead religions… pay homage to their dead leaders.

U  All religions true? All religions good? The Christian faith is proved by the resurrection.

U  Angels (messengers) sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation… GO!

U  God opens the eyes of those whom He chooses. We’re supposed to just preach.

U  We must preach the Gospel always, and we should use words if necessary (Assisi)

U  The person who takes up serpents just to prove his or her faith is yielding to the very temptation Satan presented to Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5–7). Yes, God cares for His children when, in His will, they are in dangerous places; but He is not obligated to care for us when we foolishly get out of His will.

U  In a remarkable way, the Gospel of Mark parallels the great “Servant passage” in Phil. 2:

  1. He came as a Servant (Phil. 2:1–7)—Mark 1–13
  2. He died on a cross (Phil. 2:8)—Mark 14–15
  3. He was exalted to glory (Phil. 2:9)—Mark 16
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