The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central fact of Christian history. Jesus’ resurrection is unique. Other religions have strong ethical systems, concepts about paradise and afterlife, and various Holy Scriptures. Only Christianity has a God who became human, literally died for his people, and was raised again in power and glory to rule his church forever.
Christians can look very different from one another, and they can hold widely varying beliefs about politics, lifestyle, and even theology. But one central belief unites and inspires all true Christians—Jesus Christ rose from the dead!
Jesus Rises from the Dead / 16:1-8
16:1 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had been at Jesus’ cross and had followed Joseph so that they would know where he had been buried (15:47). Salome had also been at the cross; she was probably the mother of the disciples James and John. The women went home and kept the Sabbath as the law required, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So they purchased burial spices before returning to the tomb early Sunday morning. Anointing a body was a sign of love, devotion, and respect. Bringing spices to the tomb would be like bringing flowers to a grave today. Since they did not embalm bodies in Israel, they would use perfumes as a normal practice. The women undoubtedly knew that Joseph and Nicodemus had already wrapped the body in linen and spices. They probably were going to do a simple external application of the fragrant spices. Since Jesus’ body was buried so rapidly after he was crucified, they had been unable to perform the anointing before Jesus’ burial.
16:2 Sabbath had ended at sundown on Saturday, so very early on Sunday morning, the women left their homes, arriving at the tomb just at sunrise. They wasted no time. This further illustrates their misunderstanding of Jesus. He had told them that he would rise from the dead, yet they expected nothing.
16:3 Two of these women had seen where the body had been placed and knew that a huge stone had been rolled across the entrance to the tomb (15:46). Apparently, they were unaware that the tomb had been sealed and a guard set outside it (Matthew 27:62-66). So as they approached the tomb, they remembered that the stone would be a problem. They wondered aloud who might be able to roll the stone away so that they could get in.
16:4 The women needn’t have worried about the stone. Jesus had said he would rise again after three days. In the Jewish reckoning of time, a day included any part of a day; so, Friday was the first day, Saturday was the second day, and Sunday was the third day. When the women arrived at daybreak, Jesus had already risen.
When they arrived at the tomb, they saw that the large stone had already been rolled aside. Matthew records that there had been an earthquake and an angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, had rolled back the stone, and had sat on it.
16:5-6 The women entered the tomb. Once inside they were startled to see a young man clothed in a white robe. We learn from Matthew and John that this was an angel. When angels appeared to people, they looked like humans.
The angel spoke reassuringly to the women. They were looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the human being who had been crucified. But Jesus was not there; he had been raised from the dead.
The angel invited the women to look into the inner burial chamber and see where they (Joseph and Nicodemus, 15:46) laid his body. John records that the linen cloths that had been wrapped around Jesus’ body were left as if Jesus had passed right through them. The handkerchief was still rolled up in the shape of a head, and it was at about the right distance from the wrappings that had enveloped Jesus’ body (John 20:6-7).
16:7 The women who had come to anoint a dead body were given another task, that of proclaiming the Resurrection to the frightened disciples. The disciples had deserted Jesus in the hour of trial, but the angel’s words held hope of renewal and forgiveness. The disciples were invited to meet Jesus in Galilee—there was work to do. The angel made special mention of Peter to show that, in spite of Peter’s denials, Jesus had not deserted him.
The angel told the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee just as he told you before he died. This was exactly what Jesus had told them during the Last Supper, that he would go ahead of them into Galilee after his resurrection (14:28). But the disciples, filled with fear, remained behind locked doors in Jerusalem (John 20:19). Jesus met them first in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36) and later in Galilee (John 21).
16:8 The women fled from the tomb, realizing that they had seen the results of an awesome miracle in the empty tomb and had been in the presence of an angel. They either went straight to the disciples with the news, saying nothing to anyone along the way, or for a time they said nothing out of fear, perhaps expecting the response of disbelief that they eventually did receive from the disciples when they told the story (Luke 24:11).
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene / 16:9-11
While the material included in 16:1-8 is universally regarded as being original to Mark’s manuscript, the section of 16:9-20 is not considered to have been original. Most scholars believe that verses 9-20 were added sometime in the second century or later; whoever added these verses borrowed heavily from the resurrection accounts in the other Gospels. There are four other different additions to the ending of Mark as found in a few other ancient manuscripts. But the earliest and best Greek manuscripts do not contain these verses, and testimony of the early church fathers indicates that these verses were not part of the original text of Mark’s Gospel. Most modern translations note that these verses are absent from our earliest manuscripts but include them anyway.
16:9-11 After the women had told the disciples about the Resurrection, and Peter and another disciple (presumably John) had gone to see for themselves (John 20:3-9), Mary Magdalene apparently had returned to the tomb and was weeping (John 20:11).
Although Mary Magdalene has been mentioned earlier in this Gospel as one of the women at the cross and at the tomb (15:40, 47; 16:1), Mark reminded his readers of the reason for her devotion to Jesus: He had cast out seven demons from her (see also Luke 8:2). This devoted woman was the first person who saw the resurrected Christ.
Jesus told Mary to return and tell the disciples. The disciples did not believe the women who came to them; Peter and John saw the empty tomb and still did not understand what had happened. They continued their grieving and weeping. Mary returned to the disciples with the news that she had actually seen and talked to the risen Jesus, but they didn’t believe her.
Jesus Appears to Two Believers Traveling on the Road / 16:12-13
Luke’s description of Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus should be read when studying this brief paragraph—Luke 24:13-35.
16:12-13 At another point, Jesus appeared to two of the disciples who had disbelieved Mary’s report of seeing the resurrected Jesus. They were walking from Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus (west of Jerusalem). These disciples knew that the tomb was empty but didn’t understand that Jesus had risen. To compound the problem, they were walking in the wrong direction—away from the fellowship of believers in Jerusalem. They didn’t recognize Jesus when he appeared beside them because he had changed his appearance.
After talking with these two disciples along the road and reprimanding them about their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures that described all that happened, Jesus revealed himself and then vanished (Luke 24:31). When they realized who he was, they immediately returned to Jerusalem and reported that they too had seen Jesus. But still, no one believed them.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples / 16:14
The disciples’ reluctance to believe was resolved by Jesus’ appearance to them all at one time. The common theme in Mark’s list of appearances was the disciples’ reluctance to believe.
16:14 Jesus finally appeared to the eleven disciples together (Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, had killed himself). Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. Jesus had foretold his own resurrection. Every time he had told them he would die, he had also told them that he would rise again. The Old Testament prophesied all that had happened to Jesus and also spoke of his resurrection. The disciples had no excuse for the stubborn refusal to believe.
Jesus Gives the Great Commission / 16:15-18
This paragraph represents a change of scene. This was another post-Resurrection appearance, the last to the remaining eleven disciples and other followers. This paragraph outlines Jesus’ final charge to his followers (see also Matthew 28:16-20). The Gospel of Mark is a record of the gospel (or Good News) from its beginning (1:1). As the book closes, the gospel does not end, but continues in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Jesus’ command is to go everywhere and preach the Good News.
16:15 This is the Great Commission. The disciples had been trained well, and they had seen the risen Lord. God had given Jesus authority over heaven and earth. On the basis of that authority, Jesus told his disciples to make more disciples as they preached, baptized, and taught. With this same authority, Jesus still commands us to tell everyone everywhere the Good News.
16:16 The disciples were commanded to baptize people because baptism unites a believer with Jesus Christ in his or her death to sin and resurrection to new life. It is not the water of baptism that saves, but God’s grace accepted through faith in Christ. Because of Jesus’ response to the criminal on the cross who died with him, we know it is possible to be saved without being baptized (Luke 23:43). Jesus did not say that those who were not baptized would be condemned, but that anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. Baptism symbolizes submission to Christ, a willingness to live God’s way, and identification with God’s covenant people.
16:17-18 As the disciples fulfilled their commission, and indeed as others believed and went on to spread the gospel, miraculous signs would accompany them. As with Jesus’ miracles, these signs would authenticate the source of their power and draw people to belief. At times, God would miraculously intervene on behalf of his followers. While some people have misinterpreted the notion of “picking up snakes” as thinking that one’s faith is demonstrated by handling rattlesnakes, the writer seems to have in mind incidents like the one described in Acts 28:1-6, where Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake without being harmed. The same could happen for someone who accidentally drank deadly poison while on mission for Jesus. This does not mean, however, that we should test God by putting ourselves in dangerous situations.
Jesus Ascends into Heaven / 16:19-20
16:19 These final verses end where the book of Acts begins. Luke wrote in Acts that Jesus appeared to various people over a period of forty days before he ascended (Acts 1:9). As the disciples stood and watched, Jesus was taken up into heaven. Jesus’ physical presence left the disciples, but the Holy Spirit soon came to comfort them and empower them to spread the gospel (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus’ work of salvation was completed, and he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand where he has authority over heaven and earth (see also Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1).
16:20 While Jesus’ work on earth was completed, the disciples’ work was just beginning. This verse compacts the book of Acts. These doubting, stubborn disciples turned into powerful preachers who went everywhere and preached. God worked with them—giving them peace, strength through persecutions, and confirmation of their message with miraculous signs (16:17-18; Hebrews 2:4).
Mark’s Gospel emphasizes Christ’s power, as well as his servanthood. Jesus’ life and teaching turned the world upside down. The world sees power as a way to gain control over others. But Jesus, with all authority and power in heaven and earth, chose to serve others. He held children in his arms, healed the sick, acted patiently with his hardheaded disciples, and died for the sins of the world. Following Jesus means receiving this same power to serve. As believers, we are called to be servants of Christ. As Christ served, so we are to serve.
Thanks for reading through the gospel of Mark. I hope you have come to KNOW Christ better during the past 16 days. To continue to GROW like him: take time to read from God’s word each day, serve and worship with others, reach out to those who do not know Him and be sure to give him your life and everything in it.
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