Series Theme: Short meditations through Marks Gospel
This Page: CHAPTER 16
Overview of all
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Notes: These meditations are particularly short for easy digestion. To go to a chapter use the table above. to go to a verse use the contents on the left of each page which has been simplified by showing only every third mediation. Please go to nearest number and scroll up or diown.
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 326. Good Intentions
Mk 16:1-4 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
It is Sunday. Whether or not Joseph and Nicodemus had done a proper job with the body is unclear, but ‘the women' are obviously under the impression that it had only been partially done, and so early in the morning, they make their way to where they know the tomb is. Their intention, as they take spices with them, is to embalm or anoint Jesus' body.
Now what is obvious is that no one – Joseph, Nicodemus, the women or the other disciples remembered (or believed) Jesus' words that he had spoken several times about rising from the dead. In the awful anguish of all that had gone on, on Thursday night and Friday morning and then into Friday afternoon, all of that had been lost. Saturday had presumably been a day of morning, mixed with frustration for the women who wanted to go and anoint Jesus' body.
And so the women start out with all good intentions, their minds set on the task of anointing the body, and then one of them asks the obvious question that previously none of them had thought about – how are we going to move the stone? The tomb entrance had been covered with this very large stone and it was probably beyond the women to move it. So what was to be done? No thought appears to have been given to the fact that a guard has been mounted on the tomb to stop anyone tampering with the body – but perhaps the women did not know about that.
But as they arrived at the tomb, things have changed. There is no mention of the guard and the tomb entrance is open with the massive stone rolled back. Matthew records, “ There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. …While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened” (Mt 28:2-4,11) OK, problem solved, God has been at work but what more will follow?
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 327. Angelic Reassurance
Mk 16:5-8 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee . There you will see him, just as he told you.' " Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
The reports of the resurrection are varied but not contradictory. This is not surprising when you consider the shock and sense of unreality that each of the disciples and the women must have been feeling. As we saw previously Matthew records this ‘young man' in the tomb clearly as an angel. Each part of his message is significant.
“Don't be alarmed.” He seeks to reassure them aware that what they are witnessing might create fear. He knows why they are here: “You are looking for Jesus.” But he also has great news: “He has risen”. But then he instructs them to check out what he says – “See the place where they laid him.” Yes, he's no longer here. Then comes an instruction – tell Peter and the others he's going up to Galilee where he will meet with you all just as he had told you.
The women ARE afraid and leave quickly and make to go back to the disciples. Matthew tells us that on the way Jesus met them (Mt 28:9). John tells us that what we have just read was probably the second encounter at the tomb. John says that Mary Magdalene went first, went back to the disciples, then Peter and John came and went, and then there were angelic appearances and Jesus appeared to Mary.
Possibly one of the most puzzling things about all this is the fact that the Gospels all make reference to going back up to Galilee . At the Last Supper Jesus had told them, “ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee ." (Mk 14:28) and so these words DO correspond to that BUT the records clearly show that Jesus encounters the disciples a) on the road to Emmaus (which seems not to be on the way north) and b) behind the locked doors. So why did he change from the original intention?
The answer has to be that we don't actually know because we are not told, but here, I believe, is a reasonable suggestion. Jesus, the Son of God operated with what we now call the gift of knowledge and so he knew things that eyes could not see. Did Jesus see two disciples clearing off to Emmaus, did he see his disciples hidden away in fear behind closed doors and so were all of his activities the activities of a shepherd collecting up his fearful sheep? It fits!
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 328. The End of Mark?
Mk 16:9-11 [ The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20. ]
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
We need to pause for a moment to consider whether we have come to the end of these studies, bearing in mind the note that you will find in your Bible that the remaining verses in this chapter do not appear in the most respected of ancient documents and it is believed that they were added on by someone other than Mark.
Now when the early church decided the canon of scripture, they asked did the writing have a sense of authority out of which comes the belief that it is inspired by God? Because these following verses have some slightly different characteristics from the rest of the Gospel, there is doubt about its inspiration. Does that mean that they are of no value, therefore? The simple answer is, examine them and see if they agree with the rest of Scripture. Let's check each of the remaining verses to see if that is so.
The first thing we're told is that Jesus rose. Excellent, no problem there. Next that he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. Well Matthew records that she went to the tomb with the other Mary (Mt 28:1) as does Luke (Lk 24:10) but it is John who reports the detail of her encounter with Jesus (Jn 20:11-18)
At the end of these particular verses we are told that she went and told the disciples but they didn't believe her. Luke agrees with this (Lk 24:11) We might also note that these verses describe Mary as the one out of whom Jesus has previously cast seven demons, which agree completely with Luke's record (Lk 8:2)
Thus what we have found is that so far at least, all of the information provided in these verses is actually correct in detail and conforms to the records of the other Gospels. Whether it conforms because it was copied from the others by a later writer is not certain, but the truth is that much of the contents of the Synoptic Gospels is shared material anyway, so that is not a negative thing.
At the end of the investigation, the answer is not clear, so what lessons are there to be gleaned from this? Well, at the very least, to check the contents of what we read and see how the Gospels match up with one another in what they record of the life and ministry of Jesus. Do that and you will get a fuller picture of what took place.
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 329. Appearances
Mk 16:12-14 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Intriguingly the Synoptic Gospels, although mentioning the instructions to go to Galilee, don't actually refer to the time up in Galilee , thought to be the forty days Luke refers to in Acts 1. Perhaps for them it was not of great significance or nothing happened that they wished to report. It is left to John, probably writing after Peter's death, to record the time up by the Lake of Galilee where Peter received his reinstating and commissioning by Jesus.
Perhaps Peter would have felt self-conscious talking about the time recorded by John. Indeed, if we are to assume these last verses are added on by another, Mark (& Peter) wind the Gospel up quite abruptly with the angels telling the women that Jesus has risen; in many ways a quite unsatisfactory ending. Why not something about Jesus' appearances (see 1 Cor 15:3-11 for a summary by Paul). Indeed it may be these very reasons that prompted someone to add on these final summary verses, to ‘round off' the Gospel, so to speak.
So, first of all in this add on summary we have a brief reference to the incident on the road to Emmaus recorded in Luke 24:13-32 and simply noted here as, “ Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.” It is a clear reference to that incident because, although Emmaus is not mentioned, the words “in a different form” refer to the fact that the two disciples did not recognize him until he specifically revealed himself.
Its accuracy is further confirmed by the fact that they returned to the others in Jerusalem to tell them what had happened, but the others did not believe them because although their records matched, when Jesus shortly appeared they thought they were seeing a ghost. Furthermore Luke's account indicates they had food there had been eating and also that Jesus gently rebuked them for not believing.
So, add-on or not, what we have here conforms to other Gospel accounts and confirms for us the things that happened after Jesus rose from the dead. As chaotic and almost haphazard as these various accounts seem to be, when you piece them together a clear picture emerges. It happened!!
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 330. Great Commission
Mk 16:15-18 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
First of all we find what is usually referred to as the Great Commission, Jesus' instructions to the apostles to go and take the gospel into all the world but the fuller version of it is found in Mt 28:19,20: “Therefore go and make disciples 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 everything I have commanded you.” The extra words here, “ Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”, are very similar to much else that is found in the New Testament.
When we come to this next part, it is here that we will find some of the things that troubled the early church: these signs will accompany those who believe. There are five things in the list that follows, some of which ‘fit' and some of which don't! Driving out demons was clearly part of Jesus' ministry and that which he imparted to the apostles at least. However it seemed to be something that happened so regularly that it must come into the group of things that we might consider when we read Jesus saying, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing .” (Jn 14:12)
Then comes speaking in tongues which occurred on the day of Pentecost and was later seen as one of the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 12 & 14). But then we move into dubious areas. Next comes picking up snakes. The only reference in Scripture to anything like this is in Acts 28:3-6 when Paul was bitten by a snake and did not suffer, but this is far away from picking up snakes purposely. Likewise there is absolutely no reference anywhere else in Scripture to drinking poison.
The final point, laying hands on the sick is, of course, clearly something that was part of Jesus' ministry and of the early church. Indeed James was to write specific instructions for this (Jas 5:14,15).
Thus we find ourselves in these verses with a mishmash of verses that echo the truth found elsewhere in the New Testament, and two that seem to take us right outside the New Testament canon. Lesson? Be discerning and understand what it means when we speak of Scripture being inspired – and recognise what is not!
Short Meditations in Mark's Gospel: 331. Ascension & Activity
Mk 16:19,20 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it
To conclude the Mark add-on, and indeed the whole of the Gospel, the writer's penultimate record is in respect of Jesus' ascension. Matthew concludes his Gospel with the Great Commission and does not mention the ascension. Luke records, “While he was blessing them he left them and was taken up to heaven” (Lk 24:51) and then later in Acts 1 records the ascension more fully. John doesn't mention it.
The reference to sitting at the right hand of God was the accepted place of the Messiah and Jesus had said to Caiaphas, “You will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds.” (Mk 14:62). Of course in prophetic Psa 110 we find, “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The right hand was the secondary place of authority, next to God the Father on the throne in heaven.
The writer then concludes with this overall description: Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it which is an admirable summary of the Acts of the Apostles.
As we draw near to the end of this rather large series of studies, it is interesting to note the difference in quality of these verses from verse 9 onwards. Before that in the Gospel we have specific details but once we arrived at this last part, the record moved into ‘summary mode'. For the most part the summaries conformed to the rest of the New Testament record but in bits it raises doubts over its authority and authenticity. For this reason we agree with the generally held view that here we do not have part of the original Gospel.
However, this does not mean with have to write it off as of no use, for in the most part, as we've said, it conforms to the rest of the New Testament record. What is interesting is that obviously some later Christian ‘scribe' felt it worthwhile to add these summary pieces in order perhaps, to round off the Gospel.
In that respect that writer conforms more to modern approaches. In those days the writers obviously did not worry about getting all the details down, more to convey the overall picture and each Gospel writer seems content to conclude their Gospel in a way that we would feel is abrupt. This ‘add-on writer' appears to feel a more rounded finish gives a better and more complete finish and in some ways we would agree. Hope you have enjoyed these meditations.