The Gospel according to Mark
Chapter 16

16.1-2 The Passover sabbath began with the Passover seder which was followed by doing no work the next day (to remember the first day of their escape from Egypt, Exodus 12:16-17). These three women had been by the cross (see 15:40, 47). The Jews did not use a coffin for burial. But the practice was to put spices around the body to prevent the smell of putrefaction (quite different from the Egyptian practice of embalming, Genesis 50:2,26). Following the Passover sabbath was the ordinary weekly sabbath on the Saturday. This would have ended at about 6 pm, and the women would have gone out that evening (Saturday) to buy the spices. But the earliest the women could come to the tomb was at dawn on the Sunday.

16:3 We imagine Mark may have risen early to see what the women did to Jesus body, and he heard them discussing who would roll away the huge stone (16:4) that covered the entrance to the tomb in the rock face. Moving a stone this size would normally need at least two men, and Nicodemus had joined Joseph for the closing (see note on 15:46).

16:4-6 When they arrived at the tomb they saw that the very large circular stone had already been rolled away. As Mark watched, they entered the tomb and they saw what must have been an angel sitting to the right of where the corpse had been laid. They were obviously alarmed and wondered who might have stolen Jesus' body. They were told that Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified had already been raised from the dead. And the angel added "This is indeed the place where they laid his body."

Note on the disposal of Jesus' body In the model used on this website Jesus' physical body never descended into sheol (Hades), as happened in the Old Testament period. But immediately he died he was given his resurrection body to enter Paradise (Luke 23:43, as will happen with us, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). The first thing Jesus did with his new resurrection body was to go and release all those who were imprisoned there in the abode of the dead (as Jesus had foretold in John 5:25). Clearing out sheol would not have been possible with his human body. And it is important to see that those freed from sheol appeared in Jerusalem even when Jesus' corpse was still hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:52-53). Part of this model of resurrection is that Jesus came with his resurrection body early on Easter morning and disintegrated his previous earthly body from inside its grave clothes (see John 20:5-7). The purpose of this was that his earthly body would never be found and people could not come and venerate it.

Other theologians use a model in which Jesus' corpse, which had lain in the tomb for three days, was reconstituted as a resurrection body on Easter Day. This usually goes with a theological model in which our dead bodies will remain in the grave till the last judgment when they will be resurrected for heaven or for eternal punishment in hell. That is in sharp contrast to our model in which we are welcomed into heaven and given a resurrection body the moment we die. How our corpse is disposed of is irrelevant. People should say of me the moment I die "He has been raised; he is not here." I do not want my family reverencing my dead body in the grave.

16:7 The women were told to go and announce the empty tomb to the disciples. And Peter was to be assured that Jesus would meet him in Galilee (where he was restored, see John chapter 21).

16:8 It seems that the three the women at first ran away in terror, but then they did go to make the announcement to the apostles (Luke 24:10).

Note on the Longer Ending of Mark (16:9-20) I am indebted to a very detailed study by Jim Snapp, Minister of Wayne Church of Christ, Wayne, Ohio (, January 30, 2003) which gives me the most plausible explanation (for the confusion) concerning this ending. This is how I now interpret what happened. Mark originally included the longer ending in his Gospel. When a copy of the Codex was sent to the Church in Alexandria the last page was lost in transit. This is why it is omitted in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the two great fourth century Alexandrian versions, and by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and some others. Some scribes felt the Gospel needed an ending and they put in what is called the Shorter Ending. Meanwhile Mark's Gospel including the longer ending was circulating in other church circles. When the complete Mark's Gospel eventually arrived in Alexandria, scribes left a break or added a note to say the addition might not be by Mark.

I therefore agree with Jim Snapp (and many others for other reasons) that the longer ending should be included in our translations of Mark's Gospel and viewed as canonical. The reason for the change in style might be that from Mark 16:9 onwards Mark is recording what he went and gathered from eye-witnesses, rather than reporting what he heard from Peter earlier in the Gospel, or saw with his own eyes after Peter had left the scene.

16:9 If we use the model suggested in the above note on The Disposal of Jesus' body, we should translate "Having risen from the dead, his first appearance was to Mary Magdalene" (as described more fully in John 20:11-16). From the point of view of human onlookers the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 12:39-40) meant that Jonah disappeared from sight for three days, which is what happened when Jesus died and was buried. But Jonah as a person continued alive during that time. And Jesus was never for a moment dead to God during the three days.

16:10-11 What had happened earlier was that the three women had first reported that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:10), which was upsetting to the apostles, but believable. Eventually Peter and John ran to the tomb, saw it was empty, and then went back to the city (as described in Luke 24:12, and more fully in John 20:3-10). When Mary Magdalene arrived back with them she remained crying by the tomb. When she gave the apostles the further news that she had actually seen the Lord they refused to believe it.

16:12-13 The fuller account of what happened on the road to Emmaus was obtained by Luke when he interviewed the two disciples (Luke 24:13-33).

16:14 The appearing to the disciples as they sat at table on that Sunday evening is given in John's Gospel (John 20:19-23, and with more details in Luke 24:36-42).

16:15 The command to go into all the world was given on a mountain in Galilee (as recorded in Matthew 28:16). It is unlikely Mark could have been there, so he must have heard it from Peter or another apostle.

16:16 As Jesus gave the great commission, the sequence was "Go therefore and make disciples (learners) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey (observe) everything that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). In Go Make Learners I have suggested (based on John 4:1-2, 6:66) that those who heard Jesus announce the Kingdom, and wanted to learn more, were enrolled among the learners by baptism. At first they knew very little, but they were taught what Jesus explained about the Father, about the Messiah, and about the Holy Spirit. This basic Trinitarian syllabus of instruction was outlined in the Apostles' Creed. That suggests two stages in faith. Peter would have been baptized to begin learning, but it took him two years to grasp that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (8:29, as in Matthew 16:15-17). We need not deduce that those who fail to believe as Peter did are all condemned to eternal damnation. John tells us that the krisis dividing line is response to the light of the eternal Son of God (John 1:9, 3:19-21).

16:17-18 Among those who become true believers there will be some who by the Holy Spirit have the power to cast out demons, survive deadly perils from snakes and poisons (as Paul did when he was not killed by a viper, Acts 28:3-5), and exercise gifts of healing in Jesus' name. We should not deduce that those who lack one or more of these miraculous gifts are not believers (see 1 Corinthians 12:14-31).

16:19 The ascension of Jesus after 40 days of appearing to the apostles is described by Luke (in Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:2-3, 9-11). And both Mark and Luke must have heard this event described by one of the apostles who were there.

16:20 By the time Mark wrote his Gospel (probably commissioned by the church in Jerusalem soon after 44 AD when James was beheaded, Acts 12:1-2) there had already been several missionary journeys (described in Acts 8:4-11:27) into Samaria, along the coast up to Caesarea, and up to Antioch and Damascus. Some of the miraculous signs that had supported the preaching are recorded (Acts 3:1-9; 5:12, 19; 6:8; 8:6-7; 9:32-35; 36-42; 12:6-11) and similar signs were later evident in Paul's missionary journeys.

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