David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Mark 16 - Jesus Is Risen
A. The testimony to the resurrection.
1. (1-5) The women discover an empty tomb and a special messenger.
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him."
a. When the Sabbath was past: The earliest the women could go to the tomb and properly embalm the body of Jesus was on Sunday morning. Sabbath was over at the start of Saturday evening, but it wasn't light enough until Sunday morning to do the work. The time from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Sunday must have been dark, empty, desperate days for the disciples.
b. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome: These women proved themselves to be the most devoted followers of Jesus, and they were the first to proclaim His resurrection.
i. Brought spices: "Spices were not used for mummification, which was not a Jewish custom, but to offset the odors from decomposition." (Lane)
c. Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us? The women were not expecting to find an empty tomb. They came wondering how the stone door would be opened. This shows that the resurrection accounts cannot be the product of wishful thinking. The disciples of Jesus did not expect it to happen.
i. Matthew 27:65-66 reminds us that there was a guard set round the tomb. All this shows that the stone could not have been rolled away by the women (they were not strong enough) or by the disciples (even if they were brave enough, they could not overcome the armed guards). We also understand that no one else wanted to roll away the stone. Matthew 28:2 tells us that it was an angel who rolled it away.
ii. The stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out. John 20:19 tells us that Jesus, in His resurrection body, could pass through material barriers. It was rolled away so that others could see into the tomb and be persuaded that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.
d. A young man clothed in a long white robe sitting: The women saw an angel in human form, who told them of the resurrected Jesus and showed them the empty tomb.
e. Who was crucified. He is risen! The angel painted the contrast between what Jesus was and what He is. He was crucified, beyond all doubt - that means He was dead. Now, He is risen - not only resuscitated, but resurrected.
i. There are several examples in the Bible of people being resuscitated before this, such as the widow's son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). Each of these was resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected. Each of them was raised in the same body they died in, and raised from the dead to eventually die again. Resurrection isn't just living again; it is living again in a new body, based on our old body, perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.
ii. We should also say that Jesus still is risen. He ascended into heaven and continues to reign as resurrected man, still fully man and fully God.
iii. Jesus of Nazareth . . . who was crucified: These were not exalted titles for Jesus. Nazareth was not a place to be proud of and crucified was a title of shame, not honor. Yet Jesus was not ashamed to be called "of Nazareth" and "crucified." "This description of his shame has become his crown of glory, for Paul and all who look to the Crucified and Risen Christ as Saviour and Lord." (Robertson)
f. See the place where they laid Him: The actual event of Jesus' resurrection is nowhere described, but the discovery of it is recorded in some detail. Here, the women who intended to give Jesus' body a more proper preparation for burial discovered that the stone was rolled away from the tomb and that the body of Jesus was not inside the tomb.
i. Those women were later grateful that the angel told them to see the place where they laid Him. It would have - it should have - been enough to merely hear the testimony of the angel. Nevertheless, when they saw it, it gave them ground to stand on even more solid than the testimony of an angel. "One eye-witness is better than twenty ear-witnesses; men will believe what you have seen if they do not believe what you have heard." (Spurgeon)
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that the Father did not forsake Jesus.
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that death is conquered.
When we see the place where they laid Him is now empty, we see that we have a living friend in Jesus.
g. He is risen! The fact of Jesus' resurrection is a matter of history. What it means can only be understood by what the Bible tells us. Therefore, it is important to consider what the empty tomb of Jesus and His resurrection means.
i. The resurrection means that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
ii. The resurrection means that we have assurance of our own resurrection: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
iii. The resurrection means that God has an eternal plan for these bodies of ours. "There was nothing in the teaching of Jesus approaching the Gnostic heresy that declared that the flesh is inherently evil. Plato could only get rid of sin by getting rid of the body. Jesus retains the body; and declares that God feeds the body as well as the soul, that the body is as sacred thing as the soul, since the soul makes it its sanctuary." (Morgan)
iv. The resurrection means that Jesus has a continuing ministry: He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
v. The resurrection means that Christianity and its God are unique and completely different and unique among world religions.
vi. The resurrection proves that though it looked like Jesus died on the cross like a common criminal He actually died as a sinless man, out of love and self-sacrifice to bear the guilt of our sin. The death of Jesus on the cross was the payment, but the resurrection was the receipt, showing that the payment was perfect in the sight of God the Father.
2. (7-8) The angel gives the women a message to relay.
"But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
a. Go and tell: Through the angel, the women received a message from Jesus they had to deliver. We might think of this message as an invitation, because through this message the disciples were invited to meet with Jesus.
i. This shows that the invitations of Jesus are filled with grace. The disciples had completely failed Jesus. He had every right to be done with them, but in grace He extended this kind invitation to them.
ii. This shows us that the invitations of Jesus are always fulfilled on His part. He said that He would meet them in Galilee and indeed He did (John 21:1 is one example).
iii. This shows us that when Jesus invites us He wants to reveal Himself to us. "He is going before you into Galilee, there you shall see Him" was the message. The main object was to see Him, for Jesus to reveal Himself to His people.
iv. This shows us that when Jesus invites us He always remembers His promises. "As He said to you," the angel added to the invitation. What Jesus says, He will do, and He can never fail in any promise.
b. His disciples; and Peter: We are amazed that Jesus wanted to meet with these men who failed Him so deeply, yet He made special notice of Peter. Some say He distinguished Peter because he was separate from the rest of the disciples in the sense that he was no longer among them. This was probably not the case. Instead, Jesus distinguished Peter because He had special hope, special forgiveness, special restoration for the one who denied Him the worst.
i. "If any of you have behaved worse to your Master than others, you are peculiarly called to come to him now. You have grieved him, and you have been grieving because you have grieved him. You have been brought to repentance after having slidden away from him, and now he seals your pardon by inviting you to himself." (Spurgeon)
c. For they trembled and were amazed: "These women left the tomb, and fled. Seized with trembling, and astonishment; - the actual Greek word there is 'ecstasy,' - seized with trembling and ecstasy, filled with fear; so they fled." (Morgan)
d. And they said nothing to anyone: This does not mean that they made no report of the resurrection because we plainly know that they did (Mark 16:11 and Luke 24:9). It means that as they left the scene of the empty tomb, they did not discuss it among themselves. They didn't try to figure it out or match their stories. They simply went to make a report to the disciples as the angel invited them to do.
B. Preface to Mark 16:9-20: Do these verses belong in our Bible?
1. In many Bibles, this last portion of the Gospel of Mark is footnoted in some way, indicating that it did not exist in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the gospel of Mark. This troubles some Christians regarding the reliability of God's Word. They wonder if this passage belongs in our Bible.
2. The argument against including Mark 16:9-20 in our Bibles.
a. The two oldest existing Greek manuscripts (dated from 325 and 340 a.d.) do not contain this section and neither do about 100 other ancient manuscripts translated into other languages. A few ancient manuscripts put asterisks next to Mark 16:9-20 to indicate that it is an addition to the original text.
b. According to their writings, almost all the Greek manuscripts known to Eusebius (who died in 339) and Jerome (who died in 419) did not have these verses.
c. In a few other manuscripts there are two other endings - one shorter, one with some additions.
d. About one-third of the vocabulary is totally different from the rest of the Gospel of Mark and there is a very awkward grammatical transition between Mark 16:8 and 16:9.
e. Most contemporary scholars reject these verses as original.
3. The argument for including Mark 16:9-20 in our Bibles.
a. Many very early Christian writers refer to this passage in their writings. This shows that the early Christians knew about this passage in the Gospel of Mark and accepted it as genuine.
Papias refers to Mark 16:18. He wrote around a.d. 100.
Justin Martyr's first Apology quoted Mark 16:20 (a.d. 151).
Irenaus in Against Heresies quoted Mark 16:13 and remarked on it (a.d. 180).
Hippolytus in Peri Charismaton quoted Mark 16:18 and 19. In his homily on the heresy of Noetus, he refers to Mark 16:19. He wrote while he was Bishop of Portus (a.d. 190-227).
Vicentius, Bishop of Thibari, quoted from 2 of the verses in the 7th Council of Carthage held under Cyprian (a.d. 256). Augustine, a century and a half later, in his reply, recited the words again.
The apocryphal Acts of Pilate contains Mark 16:15-18 (thought to be written in the somewhere around a.d. 200).
The Apostolic Constitutions clearly allude to 16:15 in two places and quote Mark 16:16 outright (thought to be written somewhere in the late third century or the early fourth century).
b. The overwhelming majority of ancient manuscripts do include this passage.
4. Thoughts on the problem of including or not including this passage.
a. It is highly unlikely that the Gospel of Mark ended so abruptly at Mark 16:8, with the women simply being afraid but seeing no concrete evidence of the resurrected Jesus, only of an empty tomb. However, it is possible that the original ending of Mark's gospel was lost rather early.
i. Noted Greek scholar A.T. Robertson wrote, "It is difficult to believe that Mark ended his Gospel with verse 8 unless he was interrupted. A leaf or column may have been torn off at the end of the papyrus roll."
b. But importantly, the earliest testimony we presently have, from writers like Irenaeus and others, argues that the earliest Christians accepted Mark 16:9-20 as genuine.
C. Appearances of a risen Lord.
1. (9-11) The appearance to Mary Magdalene.
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
a. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene: Mary's dramatic meeting with Jesus (whom she first supposed to be the gardener) is described more fully in John 20:11-18.
b. When they heard that He was alive: Jesus sent her to tell the other disciples that He was risen from the dead. In that day, her testimony would not be considered reliable because she was a woman. Yet Jesus trusted her, even though the disciples did not (they did not believe).
2. (12-13) The appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.
a. He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked: This remarkable encounter with the risen Jesus is described more fully in Luke 24:13-27.
b. They did not believe them either: The disciples did not receive the testimony of the women, but they did not receive the testimony of these two men either. They were equal opportunity unbelievers.
3. (14-18) The commission of the eleven, and all the followers of Jesus.
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
a. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart: They could have done better. They did not understand, but they could not escape responsibility.
i. "Unbelief is a bloody sin, Hebrews 10:26; a heavy sin, John 3:19; a most ungrateful, inexcusable sin, such as shuts a man up as a close prisoner in the dark dungeon of the law, unto unavoidable destruction, Galatians 3:23." (Trapp)
b. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. This was a command, not a suggestion. "Interest in missions is not an elective in God's university of grace. It is something in which every disciple is expected to major." (Ironside)
i. The idea of a faith that should go into all the world wasn't a part of the Jewish thinking in the days of Jesus. It wasn't part of the pagan thinking either. It was a revolutionary idea in its time.
ii. This command was not obeyed immediately; for many years, the disciples stayed at Jerusalem, and it was only until the church was persecuted that it began to spread out to the world. But it did spread, and continues to.
iii. "An army chaplain once said to the Duke of Wellington, 'Do you think that it is of any use our taking the gospel to the hill tribes in India? Will they ever receive it?' The duke replied, 'What are your marching orders?' That was the only answer he gave. Stern disciplinarian as that great soldier was, he only wanted marching orders, and he obeyed; and he meant that every soldier of the cross must obey the marching orders of Christ, his great Commander." (Spurgeon)
c. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned: This was a combined promise of salvation and a warning. Jesus did not say that condemnation belonged to the one who was not baptized, only to the one who does not believe.
i. "A superficial reading of Mark 16:15-16 would suggest that sinners must be baptized to be saved, but this misinterpretation disappears when you note that the emphasis is on believing. If a person does not believe, he is condemned, even if he has been baptized." (Wiersbe)
ii. "The omission of baptized with 'disbelieveth' would seem to show that Jesus does not make baptism essential to salvation. Condemnation rests on disbelief, not on baptism. So salvation rests on belief. Baptism is merely the picture of the new life not the means of securing it." (Robertson)
iii. At the same time, it would be terribly wrong to regard baptism as "non-essential." It may not be essential to salvation, but it is absolutely essential to obedience. Jesus told the believer to be baptized, and they must do it. It becomes essential as soon as Jesus commands it.
d. And these signs will follow those: Jesus gave His disciples a promise of divine power and protection.
i. This promise is to be understood in the context of the dangers inherent in the worldwide spread of the gospel, as Paul was bitten by a snake and preserved on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1-6). Jesus never intended drinking poison or handling snakes to be a specific test or measure of faith.
4. (19-20) The ascending Jesus; the working disciples.
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
a. He was received up into heaven: It was important that Jesus leave this earth in His bodily presence, Jesus had to ascend - so that confidence would be put in the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit, not in the geographical presence of Jesus.
i. Jesus went ahead to prepare a place for you (John 14:3); to make intercession for us (Romans 8:34); and to give gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8).
b. Sat down at the right hand of God: "He is said to sit on the right hand of God, to distinguish him from angels, whose places are but places of ministration." (Poole)
c. They went out and preached everywhere: This means that they didn't remain together to bless each other, they went out. The followers of Jesus should come together, but they come together to properly equip them to go out and touch a needy world.
i. "I do want you all to feel that it is not the end, though it may be the beginning, of Christian life to come and hear sermons. Scatter as widely as ever you can the blessing which you get for yourself; the moment you find the light, and realize that the world is in the dark, run away with your match, and lend somebody else a light." (Spurgeon)
d. The Lord working with them and confirm the word through the accompanying signs: When we go out to do the work of God, Jesus will work with us. The disciples did what Jesus told them to do, and Jesus then did what only He could do - the accompanying signs.
i. This is an excellent pattern for ministry. The preaching came first and then the signs following. Signs are meant to follow believers, instead of believers following after signs.
ii. The final verse continues to this day. The followers of Jesus are still preaching everywhere, the Lord is still working with them, and He is still confirming His word through accompanying signs. Amen!
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