Mark 16

In the empty tomb an angel tells three women to report the resurrection to the disciples. They leave, trembling and amazed, and in awe. Let’s look at the Longer Ending in the light of other Scriptures.

As I write in the introduction to every chapter:

This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.

The translation is mine. I add yet another translation for one purpose: to learn. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.

I ask Growth Application (GrowApp) questions after each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

I add some Greek word studies, in a nontechnical way. The Greek terms with brief definitions can also be looked up at biblehub.com.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

The Resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:1-8)

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary (mother of James), and Salome purchased aromatic spices, so that going there they might anoint him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb, after the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance?” 4 Then, looking up, they observed that the stone had been rolled away, for it was massive. 5 Going into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe. They were astonished. 6 But he said to them, “Don’t be astonished. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here. See the place where he was laid. 7 Now go! Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you. 8 And exiting, they fled from the tomb, for trembling and amazement gripped them. They told no one anything, for they were awed.

Comments:

1-8:

The first day of the week is (our) Sunday, and all four Gospels use it for the time when the women discovered the empty tomb. It was discovered on the third day, but not seventy-two hours exactly. In Jewish reckoning of the day, it was Friday (part), all day Saturday, and part of Sunday. We should not over-read “three days.” Go to biblegateway.com, linked above, and look up “third day.” It is remarkable how many times it means something significant and redemptive. So of course the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus would be accomplished on the third day. See my comments on 8:31.

Mark 8

The Sabbath ended at sunset (about 6:00 p.m. or 18:00h), so the shops would reopen, and they could buy the aromatic spices.

The young man was an angel, by the clothing he wore. The other Gospel accounts mention an angel or angels.

For a quick review of angels generally in systematic theology:

Angels:

(a). Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);

(b). Are created spirit beings;

(c). Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);

(d). Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).

(e). Have moral judgment;

(f). Have a certain measure of free will;

(g). Have high intelligence;

(h). Do not have physical bodies;

(i). But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;

(j). They can show the emotion of joy.

See my posts about angels in a series:

Bible Basics about Angels

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

The story is unfolded briefly and lovingly. The three women make their way to the tomb, but first they had purchased a container of burial spices. They were discussing along the route, “Didn’t we think ahead? Who will roll away the stone? It’s massive!” They were still not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. They were going to lovingly anoint his body for burial, just to care for him—the body—as their last gesture before they went on with their lives. Jews did not embalm bodies, so they were going to anoint him, not to preserve the body from long decomposition, but to honor him.

Then, they looked up as they got to the tomb, and to their astonishment, the stone had been rolled away. France writes insightfully: “The women’s concern about the stone (which Mark underlines with the comment that it was [very heavy or large], though any stone sufficient to seal a tomb entrance would probably have been beyond the strength of three women) adds an almost humorous, homely touch to the scene: they had made their other preparations but had forgotten this elementary obstacle. Rather than arranging with Joseph’s servants to come back with them, they were now trusting to luck that someone would be around to help. But from the dramatic point of view their anxiety is important as the foil to their discovery that the problem was already solved” (comments on vv. 3-4).

The verb “rolled away” is in the passive voice, and so it is probably the “divine passive.” This means that God was behind the scenes rolling away the stone. Or the angel probably did it, as God’s messenger. Matt. 28:2 says an angel did in fact roll away the stone, but I like how Mark implies that the angel did this. The tomb was big enough, apparently, to enter. Lane writes: “Inside the large opening in the façade of the tomb was an antechamber, at the back of which was a rectangular doorway about two feet high led inside. Small low doorways between the antechamber and the burial chamber were standard features of Jewish tombs in this period. The inner chamber where the body had been laid was perhaps six or seven feet square and about the same height” (p. 586).

A young man was sitting there inside the tomb, on the right side, dressed in a while robe or garment. He knew what they wanted. He had been sent down by God to answer their curiosity and commission them. He proclaimed the resurrection to them. “He is risen. He is not here,” in this place. Apparently, the angel could point to the place where he had been laid or placed, because leftover clothing was there. “Astonished” can be translated as “alarmed” or “shocked” or “amazed.” Using the same Greek word that described them, the angel commanded them not to be “astonished” or “alarmed” or “shocked” or “amazed.” Sometimes we need to be commanded not to let our emotions get the better of us.

Grant R. Osborne, in his commentary, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010) compiled all the material about the appearances, and he counts eleven appearances (slightly edited, p. 1054):

1.. Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-18

2.. A group of women (Mark 16:5-7; Matt. 28:9)

3.. Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)

4.. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

5.. The disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-43; John 24:13-35)

6.. Thomas and the others, eight days later (John 20:26-29)

7.. Seven disciples on the Lake of Galilee (John 21:1-23)

8.. The Great Commission appearance on mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20)

9.. Five hundred believers at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)

10.. James (1 Cor. 15:7)

11.. The disciples at the ascension (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-12)

Further, here is a supplemental table of the resurrection appearances:

Resurrection Appearances

Appearance Place Time Scriptures
The Empty Tomb Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Mt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:1-9
Mary Magdalene In a garden in Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 11-18
Other women Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Mt. 28:9-10
Two men on Road to Emmaus Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32
Peter Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5
Ten disciples in upper room Jerusalem Resurrection Sunday Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25
Eleven disciples in upper room Jerusalem Following Sunday Mk. 16:14; Jn. 20:26-31; 1 Cor. 15:5
Seven disciples Sea of Galilee Some time later Jn. 21:1-23
Eleven disciples on mountain Galilee Some time later Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15-18
More than five hundred Unknown Some time later 1 Cor. 15:6
James Unknown Some time later 1 Cor. 15:7
His disciples at his ascension Mount of Olives Forty days after resurrection Lk. 24:44-49; Ac. 1:3-8
Paul Damascus Several years later Ac. 9:1-9, 22:3-16, 26:9-18; 1 Cor. 9:1
Adapted from NIV Study Bible, p. 1754.

Also see Do I Really Know Jesus? He Appeared to His Disciples

The commission was to tell his disciples that he had been resurrected and that he is presently going to Galilee. “Is going” is not in the future tense, but the present. Is he walking? If so, why? To show them how life with the resurrected body was supposed to be? We should not take the verb overly literally. He was going on ahead of you (including the women). He was there before them. He is waiting for you.

Strauss writes what is now well known:

The discovery of the empty tomb by women—reported in all four Gospels—constitutes important evidence for the veracity of this account.  Since in first-century Judaism the testimony of women was not considered reliable, the early church would never have created stories in which women were the primary witnesses. It seems beyond dispute that a group of women discovered the empty tomb on the third day, after Jesus’ crucifixion. (comment on v. 1)

In v. 7, Peter is singled out, which corresponds to 1:36, “Peter and those with him.” I like the idea that he is singled out here, not only because of his leadership role, but because he needed restoration. We last left him in deep sorrow and weeping (14:72). Jesus needed to ensure that Peter did not lose hope, and Jesus was there in Galilee to meet him (Wessel and Strauss; and Lane). France again is right: “The specific inclusion of Peter reflects not so much his leading role in the group as his specific and more public failure in loyalty to Jesus: even after the curse at the second cockcrow, Peter has not been written off. It is also possible (Gundry [a commentator on Matthew], 1003) that Peter needed to be mentioned separately because, smarting after his humiliating failure, he had not yet rejoined the other surviving disciples. Thus both for Peter and for the rest of the eleven remaining [disciples], the message sent by the women implies an assurance of forgiveness and restoration, the more impressive for being left unsaid” (comment on v. 7).

As for Jesus’ appearances in Jerusalem and going to Galilee, there is no need to harmonize the Gospel accounts. He probably told them to go back down to Jerusalem, after he revealed himself and dialogued with them in Galilee. Maybe they had to say goodbye to their home region (Galilee) one last time, before he commissioned them to go out into all the world. Peter went through Corinth and ended up in Rome. John was in Ephesus and the island of Patmos.

I like the description of how trembling and amazement (literally ekstasis) held on to the women. So the command of the angel did not take root completely! They were awed. It is the standard verb for “afraid” or “feared” (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It means a wide range of things, like “filled with awe,” but “afraid” is also correct.

Let’s become a little more definite. BDAG defines the verb as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.

The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”

It can be translated as “awed” (I take Decker’s word choice, who goes for “awed.”)

And most commentators say that this is how the Gospel of Mark ends.

Or not.

Let me translate the longer ending, and then offer my own commentary according to the beliefs and practices of the early church.

But first the GrowApp.

GrowApp for Mark 16:1-8

A.. Study 1 Cor. 15:17. How crucial is the resurrection for your faith?

B.. Study Eph. 2:1-6. How have you been personally “resurrected” from the dead?

The Longer Ending (Mark 16:9-20)

9 After he was resurrected early on first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled. 10 She went and announced to those who had been with him, as they were grieving and weeping. 11 And on hearing that he was alive and was seen by her, they did not believe.

12 After these things, two of them were traveling, and he appeared to them in a different form, as they were going to the country. They departed and announced to the rest. 13 They did not believe them, either. 14 Later, he appeared to the eleven, as they were reclining at table, and reproached their unbelief and hard heart because they did not believe the ones who saw him resurrected.

15 And he said to them, “Going into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, and the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany them who believe: in my name they will expel demons and speak in new tongues. 18 With their hands they will pick up snakes and may drink anything deadly, and it will in no way harm them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will be well.”

19 Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 They went out and preached everywhere, as the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message through accompanying signs.

Comments:

I’m not getting into a dispute about the manuscripts. Strauss lays out the manuscripts that have the longer ending, and they are numerous and come from different families (p. 728). They strongly support the longer ending.

I will say, however, that after translating the entire Gospel of Mark, it is clear to me that the Greek grammar and vocabulary in the longer ending has a different “feel” to it. I can see why, just based on the Greek text, the vast majority of scholars reject the longer ending. They too have worked with the Greek, and it is different. (Decker provides lots of evidence for the grammatical and vocabulary differences in his pp. 285-91.) If Mark wrote it, then (1) he added it much later after learning more advanced (or at least different) Greek, or (2) he came out from under Peter’s preaching and wrote the summary on his own, and his more advanced (or at least a different) Greek was revealed, or (3) he had help of some kind from a better (or at least a different) writer of Greek.

Simpler option: Another Greek writer added it later, and he knew the beliefs and practices of the early church.

Moving on, I would like to mention that (nearly) every idea in (nearly) every verse in this longer ending is supported by other Scripture, revealing what the editor who later wrote the longer ending believed about the power of the Spirit and the basics of the Gospel and doctrine.

Here is a list, verse by verse.

9:

He appeared to Mary Magdalene first (John 20:11-18).

Seven demons had been expelled from her (Luke 8:2).

10-11:

Mary did announce his appearance to the disciples (John 20:18)

They did not believe, for it seemed like nonsense (Luke 24:11). Some did not believe (Matt. 28:17; John 20:26-29).

Peter was weeping after denying Jesus a third time (14:72).

12:

Two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed, were traveling on the Road to Emmaus, and he was seen by them. At first they did not recognize him (Luke 24:13). They were leaving Jerusalem (= going into the country). Mark 16:12 does not say explicitly that the two were of the twelve, though they probably were, and the two on the road to Emmaus were not of the twelve, but at least the passage in Luke shows that it is probable that two of the eleven could walk down a road and Jesus appear to them in a way that they did not recognize at first. In any case, back in Luke, when they did recognize him, they returned to the city (Luke 24:33), as the two disciples did in v. 12 here (“departed” can be translated as “returned”).

They responded with disbelief, as they did in Luke 24:41.

13-14:

He did appear to them while they were behind a closed door, and it is possible that they were eating or had eaten (John 20:19).

He rebuked Thomas for not believing (John 20:26-29). In Luke 24:25, in speaking to foolish people, he rebuked them for being slow of heart. He sat down at table with the two men who had been traveling on the road to Emmaus and broke bread and blessed it, and then their eyes were opened, but he disappeared out of their sight.

He could have easily rebuked the eleven for their unbelief (see Luke 24:46-42)

15:

Jesus issued the Great Commission to go into all the world (Matt. 28:18-20).

16:

Believing and being baptized went together in the minds of the early church, because very often, as soon as one repented and believed, one was baptized (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13; 36-37; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:1, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16). Salvation and baptism went hand in hand for them (We don’t need to get into a debate about the water being a saving sacrament or not.)

Not believing leads to condemnation (John 3:17-18, 36).

17:

Signs and wonders accompanied them who believed (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; 19:11; Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12).

They expelled demons (Matt. 10:8; Mark 6:13; 9:38; Luke 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:11-12).

They spoke in new prayer languages or Spirit-inspired languages (Acts 2:4; 38; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 13:1; 14:1-40).

18:

Luke 10:19 says that Jesus gave the seventy-two authority to trample on snakes and scorpions (probably referring to demons). He did not say, however, that they will pick up snakes with their hands.

Paul was bitten by a poisonous viper on his hand, on the island of Malta, and was not harmed (Acts 28:3-6). (There is no Scripture about the deadly drink).

They did heal by laying on of hands (Acts 9:12, 17; 28:8)

19:

He was lifted up into heaven (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9).

Jesus himself referenced Ps. 110:1, which says of him, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (Matt. 22:43-44 // Mark 12:36; // Luke 20:42). He also promised the high priest that Jesus was about to be exalted and sit at the right hand of God (Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69).

See these verses also, which teach that he is seated (or he sat down) at the right hand of God: Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; 7:55 (standing); Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22.

20:

They went out and proclaimed the gospel beyond Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8) and to the whole world (Acts 1:8; 8:39; Rom. 1:5). The adverb “everywhere” refers to Luke 9:6, when the disciples went out from village to village and healed people everywhere.

The only way the disciples could work signs and wonders was by the Lord working with them (see v. 17, above).

Bottom line:

The longer ending reflects the beliefs and practices of the early church. They actually did all the things enumerated in those verses, except picking up snakes with their hands and drinking poison for show. Those two acts may speak of promises that if any disciples were bitten by poisonous reptiles or drink the wrong liquid, they would survive. The verses must not prompt people to force God’s hand and protect them. Satan tempted Jesus to jump off a high point, but Jesus said no because it is wrong to test God and force him to rescue foolish behavior (cf. Matt. 4:5-7 // Luke 4:9-12).

In any case, this Scriptural attestation for the longer ending is good enough for me. I can learn Scriptural truths from it and what the early church believed and did.

Summary and Conclusion

Now let’s return to the main point of vv. 1-8.

It is gratifying that Mark highlights three women at the end of his Gospel. They act and react to Jesus’s burial and to the rock being rolled away and then to the young man in the white garment (not the same young man who fled from Gethsemane in 14:51-52!). They were trembling, astonished and amazed.

However, the centerpiece to the whole narrative and culmination of the entire Gospel is the resurrection. So let’s dig deeper into its meaning. We do this by quoting from the epistles, because these writers were inspired and had the benefit of looking back on the resurrection and interpreting it for the church and our Christian lives.

First, the resurrection is essential to the core of the gospel:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

Numerous Christian scholars believe that those above verses contain a very early creed.

Second, if Christ was not raised from the dead, then the early apostolic preaching has been useless and so is our faith: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:14, NIV).

Notice that Jesus appeared to five hundred at one time. Where?  Either in or around Jerusalem or in Galilee.

Third, the implication for us and the dead is massive if Christ is not raised from the dead:

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:15-19, NIV)

Fourth, here are the benefits when Christ has been raised from the dead, as indeed he has:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Cor. 15:20-23).

Christ being the firstfruits means that we are next. His resurrection guarantees our own. He was first, and we follow him.

Fifth, his resurrection reveals what our bodies will be like:

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:42-44, NIV)

When we are reunited with our bodies at the second coming, they will be transformed and glorified. They will be immortal and imperishable.

To sum up, His resurrection changes everything. It ratifies the plan of salvation. It seals the promise that he will return to put all things right, for he is the God of justice. He can now send the Spirit into our hearts, sealing them for his second coming and our secure place in heaven. and then on the new heaven and new earth He has been restored to the glory he had before he was incarnated to a man. Now we relate to the heavenly Jesus. He can now have an intimate relationship with each of the seven billion people on the planet. That includes you.

Source: Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was Resurrected from the Dead

For further inquiries into what he did between his death and resurrection (or between his death and ascension), please click on this post: Do I Really Know Jesus? Did He Descend into Hades to Preach?

SOURCES

As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible teachers. I end my commentary on Mark’s Gospel by saying that the scholars I referenced were excellent. Amazing. Admirable. Decker was especially helpful. I also write from a Renewal perspective.

Decker, Rodney J. Mark 9-16: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).

France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).

Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).

Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).

Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993).

Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).

Works Cited

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