The Resurrection, 1-8

16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Mk 16:1–8 = Mt 28:1–8; Lk 24:1–10

‘This is not an account of how Jesus rose from the dead but of how his resurrection was discovered. The miraculous removal of the stone was not in order to let Jesus out but to let the women in to see the empty tomb. Each of the gospels presents a different story of how the fact was discovered, but none of them describes the event itself.’ (NBC) In fact, it was not until the apocryphal gospels of the 2nd century that anyone is said to have witnessed the resurrection.

‘All four Gospels report that the female disciples of Jesus were the first ones to receive the angelic account of Jesus’ resurrection and commission to go and tell the male disciples of this event (Mt 28:1-8; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-12; see Jn 20:1-13). According to Luke (Lk 24:10-11,22-24) the men did not believe the report of the women (see also Mk 16:11 in the long addition to Mark).

Further, the Gospels of Matthew and John and the long ending of Mark report that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:14-18; Mk 16:9-11; in Mt 28:9-10 the other Mary (see Mt 27:61; 28:1) is with Mary Magdalene; this other Mary is presumably Mary the mother of James the younger and Joseph, mentioned in Mt 27:56). In the Matthean and Johannine accounts Mary Magdalene is commissioned by Jesus to tell the male disciples what she has seen and heard.’ (DJG)

‘The surface inconsistencies between Mark 16:1–8 and its parallels, of which so much is made by those eager to see the accounts as careless fiction, is in fact a strong point in favour of their early character. The later we imagine them being written up, let alone edited, the more likely it would be that inconsistencies would be ironed out. The stories exhibit, as has been said repeatedly over the last hundred years or more, exactly that surface tension which we associate, not with tales artfully told by people eager to sustain a fiction and therefore anxious to make everything look right, but with the hurried, puzzled accounts of those who have seen with their own eyes something which took them horribly by surprise and with which they have not yet fully come to terms.’ (Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God, p612)

‘Mary Magdalene had been especially helped by Jesus and was devoted to him. (Lk 8:2) She had lingered at the cross, (Mk 15:47) and then she was first at the tomb. With her were Mary the mother of James; Joanna; and other devout women, (Lk 24:10) hoping to finish preparing their Lord’s body for burial. It was a sad labor of love that was transformed into gladness when they discovered that Jesus was alive.’ (Wiersbe)

‘That women are chosen as the first witnesses is highly significant; the surrounding culture considered their witness worthless. It fits Jesus’ countercultural and counterstatus ministry and certainly runs counter to what outsiders would have valued or anything the later church would have chosen to invent.’ (NT Background Commentary)

16:2 And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 16:3 They had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 16:4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled back.

The tomb – ‘In the east tombs were often carved out of caves in the rock. The body was wrapped in long linen strips like bandages and laid on a shelf in the rock tomb. The tomb was then closed by a great circular stone like a cart-wheel which ran in a groove across the opening.’ (DSB)

The stone

It has been said that the stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.  Indeed, it is possible to infer from Matthew’s account (taking Mt 28:6 into account) that the body of Jesus left the tomb before the stone was rolled away (so Murray Harris; see the discussion in Grudem, Systematic Theology, p612)

16:5 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. 16:6 But he 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, there is the place where they laid him. 16:7 But go, tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Young man – ‘In all four Gospels…angels announce Jesus’ resurrection. In the Matthean account, an angel rolled back the stone at Jesus’ tomb (again, probably the Angel of the Lord, Mt 28:2), and reassured and instructed the women who had gone there. (Mt 28:5-7) In Luke “two men” appear in similarly dazzling dress (Lk 24:4-7; cf. Lk 24:23), while Mk 16:5 has “a young man” in white. (cf. /APC 2Ma 3:26,33-34) At this critical point in the gospel story angels intervene, bringing divine revelation and encouraging and instructing Jesus’ followers. Similarly, angels were integral to the events surrounding the Savior’s birth. We might best understand the mediation of angels at both his birth and resurrection as marking the unique meeting of heaven and earth in these events.’ (DJG)

“Don’t be alarmed” –  ‘Often when people fell before a revelation as if they were dead, the revealer declared, “Do not be afraid” (compare Mt 28:10; 17:7; Mk 16:6; Dan 10:11-12; for other parallels, see notes on Mt 17:6-7). But here the angel says Do not be afraid to the women, not to the guards who had fainted before him (28:4-5). Jesus appears directly to the women as well, but not to people who did not believe (Mt 28:8-10; compare Acts 10:41).’ (IVP NT Commentary)

‘The story of the women at the tomb is interlocked with that of the soldiers by the common motif of “fear.” (see Mt 28:4,5,10) Although both the women and the guards when confronted with the same events involving an earthquake, the removal of the stone, and the appearance of the “angel of the Lord” are both gripped with “fear,” (Mt 28:4-5) the women are addressed directly and told not to be afraid, (Mt 28:5) while the soldiers’ “fear” leaves them as “dead men”.28-2 (Mt 28:4) Instead of being incapacitated like the solders, the events, coupled with their divine interpretation, move the women to action. Clearly, the women followers of Jesus function as models of discipleship. Exemplary devotion enables them to be present as witnesses of both the crucifixion and resurrection. Discipleship as defined by the action of these women, consists of both recognizing and worshiping Jesus as the crucified and risen Christ, and being obedient to a commission to bear witness to others. (see Mt 28:7,10) In fact, it is the commission of Jesus given the women to announce his resurrection to the disciples that precipitates the reassembling of the male disciples so they might be commissioned to a worldwide mission (28:16-20).’ (College Press)

“He has risen! He is not here” – ‘To be told he is not here, would have been no welcome news to those who sought him, if it had not been added, he is risen. Note, It is matter of comfort to those who seek Christ, and miss of finding him where they expected, that he is risen: if we find him not in sensible comfort, yet he is risen. We must not hearken to those who say, Lo, here is Christ, or, Lo, he is there, for he is not here, he is not there, he is risen. In all our enquiries after Christ, we must remember that he is risen; and we must seek him as one risen. (1.) Not with any gross carnal thoughts of him. There were those that knew Christ after the flesh; but now henceforth know we him so no more, 2 Cor 5:16. It is true, he had a body; but it is now a glorified body. They that make pictures and images of Christ, forget that he is not here, he is risen; our communion with him must be spiritual, by faith in his word, Rom 10:6-9. (2.) We must seek him with great reverence and humility, and an awful regard to his glory, for he is risen. God has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, and therefore every knee and every soul must bow before him. (3.) We must seek him with a heavenly mind; when we are ready to make this world our home, and to say, It is good to be here, let us remember our Lord Jesus is not here, he is risen, and therefore let not our hearts be here, but let them rise too, and seek the things that are above, Col 3:1-3; Php 3:20.’ (MHC)

‘For the proof of Christ’s resurrection, we have here the testimony of the angel, and of Christ himself, concerning his resurrection. Now we may think that it would have been better, if the matter had been so ordered, that a competent number of witnesses should have been present, and have seen the stone rolled away by the angel, and the dead body reviving, as people saw Lazarus come out of the grave, and then the matter had been past dispute; but let us not prescribe to Infinite Wisdom, which ordered that the witnesses of his resurrection should see him risen, but not see him rise. His incarnation was a mystery; so was this second incarnation (if we may so call it), this new making of the body of Christ, for his exalted state; it was therefore made in secret. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Christ gave such proofs of his resurrection as were corroborated by the scriptures, and by the word which he had spoken; (Lk 24:6,7-44 Mk 16:7) for here we must walk by faith, not by sight.’ (MHC)

The foundation of the Christian faith

‘The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus is the key to the Christian faith. Why?

  1. Just as he promised, Jesus rose from the dead. We can be confident, therefore, that he will accomplish all he has promised.
  2. Jesus’ bodily resurrection shows us that the living Christ is ruler of God’s eternal kingdom, not a false prophet or impostor.
  3. we can be certain of our resurrection because he was resurrected. Death is not the end-there is future life.
  4. The power that brought Jesus back to life is available to us to bring our spiritually dead self back to life.
  5. The resurrection is the basis for the church’s witness to the world. Jesus is more than just a human leader; he is the Son of God.’ (HBA)

The crucified one is raised

Tim Chester stresses that it is the crucified one who has been raised.  We cannot separate cross and resurrection:-

  • The One who died under judgment is now justified by God.
  • The One who died forsaken by God is now embraced by God.
  • The One who died in darkness now rises with the dawn bringing light to the world.

So it’s not just Jesus who is raised. It is the crucified One who is raised. It is the One who died bearing my sin and your sin. It is the One who died in my place and your place. And that means he rises bearing our justification. He rises for us to give us eternal life. His resurrection is the basis and promise of our resurrection – if we belong to him.

Three imperatives

‘As we read this story of the first two people in the world to be confronted with the fact of the empty tomb and the Risen Christ, three imperatives seem to spring out of it:-

(i) They are urged to believe. The thing is so staggering that it might seem beyond belief, too good to be true. The angel reminds them of the promise of Jesus, and confronts them with the empty tomb; his every word is a summons to believe. It is still a fact that there are many who feel that the promises of Christ are too good to be true. That hesitation can be dispelled only by taking him as his word.

(ii) They are urged to share. When they themselves have discovered the fact of the Risen Christ, their first duty is to proclaim it to and to share it with others. “Go, tell!” is the first command which comes to the man who has himself discovered the wonder of Jesus Christ.

(iii) They are urged to rejoice. The word with which the Risen Christ meets them is chairete; that is the normal word of greeting; but its literal meaning is “Rejoice!” The man who has met the Risen Lord must live for ever in the joy of his presence from which nothing can part him any more.’ (DSB)

“And Peter” – Bauckham remarks that this reference to Peter, at a point when we might have thought that he had dropped out of the narrative altogether, completes an inclusio that goes back to another emphasised reference to Peter in Mk 1:1:16.

Bauckham further observes that the twelve disciples had dropped out of view at the end of Mk 14 (their testimony being replaced at that point by that of certain named women).  Their mention here ‘looks ahead to a future resumption of the story of Jesus with Peter and the Twelve, but that future lies beyond the end of the Gospel.’

‘How that message must have cheered Peter’s heart when he received it! He must have been tortured with the memory of his disloyalty, and suddenly there came a special message for him.’

‘They are expressly enjoined to carry this message to Peter; not because he was at that time higher in rank than the others, but because his crime, which was so disgraceful, needed peculiar consolation to assure him that Christ had not cast him off, though he had basely and wickedly fallen. He had already entered into the sepulcher, and beheld the traces of the resurrection of Christ; but God denied him the honor, which he shortly afterwards conferred on the women, of hearing from the lips of the angel that Christ was risen. And, indeed, the great insensibility under which he still labored is evident from the fact that he again fled trembling to conceal himself, as if he had seen nothing, while Mary sat down to weep at the grave. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that she and her companions, in beholding the angel, obtained the reward of their patience.’ (Calvin)

16:8 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.

Trembling and bewildered – According to NBC, the sense is more one of a mixture of awe and joy.  But the context suggests a negative, rather than a positive response: fear, rather than faith.  In fact, this verse contains a whole battery of negative responses.

They said nothing to anyone – ignoring the Lord’s command in v7.  ‘We know from the other gospels that it took a personal meeting with the risen Christ to change a private emotion to a living faith that would witness (Jn. 20:18). Perhaps Peter himself was able to confess to this in person to Mark’s church (v7).’ (NBC)

‘Throughout Mark, people spread news that they were supposed to keep quiet; here, when commanded finally to spread the word, people keep quiet. If the original Gospel of Mark ends here, as is likely, it ends as suddenly as it began, and its final note is one of irony. Many other ancient works (including many treatises and dramas) also had sudden endings.’ (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

The Longer Ending of Mark, 9-20

Many of the oldest and best manuscripts do not have vv9-20.

Given that Mark’s Gospel would otherwise have ended very abruptly, these verses seem to incorporate two or more (non-inspired) attempts to complete it.  Verses 9-18 have much in common with what we find in John’s Gospel regarding the risen Lord’s appearance to Mary Magdalene.  Verses 12-13 summarise the appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24).  Verses 15-18 contain a version of the Great Commission.

The Holman Apologetics Commentary lists the following parallels:

v. 11: lack of belief (Matt 28:17);
v. 12: the two on the road (Luke 24:13-35);
v. 14: reproach for unbelief (John 20:19, 26);
v. 15: the Great Commission (Matt 28:19);
v. 16: salvation and judgment (John 3:18, 36);
v. 17: speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:46);
v. 18: serpents and poison (Acts 28:3-5);
v. 18: laying hands on the sick (Acts 9:17; 28:8);
v. 19: ascension (Acts 1:2, 9);
v. 20: general summary of Acts.

[[16:9 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. 16:10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 16:11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
16:12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were on their way to the country. 16:13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Vv 12f – This would appear to be a reference to the account of the appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus, Lk 24:13-32.

16:14 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.

He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him – ‘Note, The evidences of the truth of the gospel are so full, that those who receive it not, may justly be upbraided with their unbelief; and it is owing not to any weakness or deficiency in the proofs, but to the hardness of their heart, its senselessness and stupidity. Though they had not till now seen him themselves, they are justly blamed because they believed not them who had seen him after he was risen; and perhaps it was owing in part to the pride of their hearts, that they did not; for they thought, “If indeed he be risen, to whom should he delight to do the honour of showing himself but to us?” And if he pass them by, and show himself to others first, they cannot believe it is he. Thus many disbelieve the doctrine of Christ, because they think it below them to give credit to such as he had chosen to be the witnesses and publishers of it. Observe, It will not suffice for an excuse of our infidelity in the great day, to say, “We did not see him after he was risen,” for we ought to have believed the testimony of those who did see him.’ (MHC)

16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16:16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 16:18 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.”

Most of the signs mentioned here reflect what we learn elsewhere in the Gospels and in Acts.  The exception, of course is drinking poison without harm.

Cole notes: ‘The speaking of new tongues, for instance, is frequently found from Pentecost onwards (Acts 2:4). For the rest, in Acts 16:18 Paul expels a demon; in Acts 28:5 he shakes off a snake into the fire; in Acts 28:8 he lays his hand on the sick and heals them.’

They will pick up snakes with their hands – The word here is ophis (snakes generally), not echida (venomous snakes).  ‘This raises the question whether the image of “picking up snakes in their hands” cannot be understood metaphorically, that is, that in the age of salvation the curse of the serpent has been overcome.’ (Edwards)

‘In 1910, after reading Mk 16:18, George Went Hensley introduced snake handling to churches throughout the Appalachian region. Although this passage is a part of the ending of Mk that is considered by many not to be original, much of the church for 18 centuries viewed this passage as authoritative. Therefore, if it is interpreted literally, one would expect to hear that early Christians obeyed the directive to “pick up snakes.” No evidence exists that this ever happened, although the Apostle Paul was protected when bitten by a venomous viper (Ac 28:1–6).’ (Apologetics Study Bible)

‘Jesus’ assurance related to snakes recalls Jesus’ promise of protection in Luke 10:19: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions.” The promise is fulfilled in Acts 28:3–6 on Malta during Paul’s voyage to Rome, where he is bitten by a poisonous snake but not harmed…It hardly needs to be stated that the promises of protection here and in Luke 10:19 were never intended to justify the kind of snake-handling “worship” services practiced by some sects (often with injurious and even fatal consequences).’ (Strauss)

When they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all – Edwards points to a passage in Ignatius (c 100 AD) which may refer to the taking of a poisonous drink to represent, symbolically, the reception of an (unnamed) heresy.  ‘The reference to drinking deadly poison without harm thus signals to Mark’s readers that those who believe and follow the gospel are guaranteed immunity from heresy, including heretical potions to drink.’

16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 16:20 They went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs.]]

16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 16:20 They went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs.]]