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Bible Commentaries
Mark 16

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-20

XVI 1-18 The Resurrection and Apparitions of Christ; cf.Mt 28; Lk 24; Jn 20-21—1-8. The Women at the Tomb. When the Sabbath ended at sunset on Saturday the women bought unguents with which to anoint Christ’s body. Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Joseph had watched the placing of Christ’s body in the tomb. They must, therefore, have known that a mixture of myrrh and aloes brought by Nicodemus had been used in the burial, John 19:39 f. But apparently they felt that, because of the haste on that occasion, the burial rites had been performed only in a summary, even provisional fashion. They proposed to complete the rites by anointing the body.

2b. ’the sun being now risen’; cf.John 20:1 ’when it was yetdark’. This discrepancy is eliminated in some MSS of Mk which read ’as the sun was rising’. According to some authors, who hold that the women purchased the unguents on their way to the tomb on Sunday morning, Jn refers to the time when they set out, Mk to the time when they reached the tomb. Probably both evangelists should be understood as eferring to the brief period after sunrise before darless disappears completely.

3-8. The stone at the entry to the tomb had been rolled back by an angel, Matthew 28:2. It was quite natural that the women should wonder how they would have it removed, as it was very large. A man would probably have needed some kind of lever to roll it back. Mary Magdalen may have reached the tomb ahead of the others. Apparently she did not delay when she saw that the stone was rolled back, but immediately went to Peter and John, John 20:2 ff. The other women, possibly believing that the stone had been rolled back by some of the disciples, entered the tomb. A young man, i.e. an angel, seated on the ledge at the right side of the tomb told them that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth whom they sought had arisen from the dead, and instructed them to inform ’the disciples and especially Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee’. The special mention of Peter, recorded only by Mk, was a sign that he had been forgiven and retained his position as head of the Apostles. The women were so filled with fear that they delayed in delivering the angel’s message; cf.Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:9.

9-18 Apparitions of Christ —At this point there is a break in the continuity of Mk. The abrupt final phrase in 8 ’for they were afraid’ leaves the story of the women unfinished. In 9 Mary Magdalen is introduced and identified, Luke 8:2, as if this were the first time she has figured in the narrative. The statement that Christ had arisen, 9, is not linked with the angel’s words. The whole final section of the Gospel, 9-20, appears to follow a different plan from that of 1-8. Instead of the typically Marcan narrative, with picturesque detail and other graphic touches, we have a rapid, detached summary of events between the Resurrection and the Ascension. A number of the words and expressions which occur in the passage are not found elsewhere in Mk. In view of this internal evidence, it has been questioned whether this is the original ending of the Gospel and whether it comes from the pen of St Mark cf. § 726a, b.

9-11. The appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalen is described more fully in John 20:11-18. ’appeared first to Mary Magdalen’. This statement does not exclude the possibility of an earlier apparition to our Lady. The evangelists were concerned with those apparitions which had a certain public, official character. The appearances to the Apostles were the foundation of the Church’s teaching, and those to Mary Magdalen and to the other women were a reward for their fidelity and a preparation for the manifestation of Christ to the Apostles and disciples; cf. Lagrange, Saint Marc, 449, 12-13. The apparition to the two disciples is described at length in Luke 24:13-35-’hewas manifested in another form’. It seems that Christ’s outward appearance had undergone some change which made it difficult to recognize him; cf.John 20:14; John 21:4., John 21:14. The narrative has emphasized the unwillingness of the Apostles to believe the reports of the Resurrection. Their unbelief is overcome only by the appearance of Christ in their midst; cf.Luke 24:25-43; John 20:19-28. Christ reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. The rebuke is more severe than any other administered to them by Christ.; cf.Mark 4:40; Mark 8:17. In view of his repeated prophecies of the Passion and Resurrection, they should have been more ready to accept the word of those who had seen the risen Christ. 15. The command given to the Eleven is similar to that which was addressed to them by Christ at the mountain in Galilee where he had directed them to meet him, Matthew 28:16-20. The narrative here, 15, does not mark clearly the change to a scene different from that described in 14. This does not imply, however, that the author meant to convey that these instructions were given to the Apostles on the occasion when Christ first appeared to them. The account is simply a summary which does not purport to give precise indications of time or.place. The Apostles are commanded to preach the Gospel of salvation to all men throughout the world. The Gospel and the salvation which it brings are for all without exception.

16. Those who hear the message of the Gospel must accept it with faith and be incorporated with Christ by baptism, if they are to share in the supernatural salvation which he has merited by his death. Refusal to believe the Gospel means rejection of the proffered salvation and involves eternal condemnation.

17-18. When sending the Apostles on a temporary mission in Palestine, 3: 14 f.; 6:7, 13, Christ gave them power to cast out demons in order to strengthen the appeal of their preaching. Now he promises to believers miraculous signs to guarantee the truth and divine origin of the doctrine which they had accepted; cf.Hebrews 2:4. The promise is made to the community of the faithful rather than to each individual believer. In the early days of the Church, possibly because of a greater need for extraordinary signs in order to move a sceptical and hostile world to which the Gospel and Church were still new, some of these manifestations of miraculous power were more frequent than in later times. But Christ’s promise is not limited to a particular period. In every age miracles have given proof that Christ abides with the Church. ’cast out devils’; cf. Acts 8:6f.; 16:16ff. Irenaeus (cf. Eus., HE 5, 7, 4-6) and other early writers speak oKnumerous instances of casting out demons. ’speak with new tongues’; cf. Acts 2:3 ff.; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor 14. ’take up serpents’; cf.Acts 28:3 ff.; Luke 10:19. ’shall lay their hands upon the sick’; cf.Acts 28:8.

19 The Ascension; cf.Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-11— ’after be had spoken to them’: this does not mean that the Ascension took place immediately after Christ had given the Apostles the command to preach the Gospel throughout the world. In this brief summary the author does little more than allude to the different events without marking the changes of time and place. ’has taken his seat at the right hand of God’; cf. 14:62. In this metaphorical expression the author proclaims his faith in the divinity of Christ ’who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, revealed to angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed in the world, taken up in glory’, 1 Timothy 3:16. The glorified Christ sits at the right hand of God, equal to the Father in dignity and power.

20 Conclusion —The Apostles had evidently preached the Gospel in many districts outside Palestine when these words were written. Christ was no longer visibly present on earth, but he assisted the Apostles and set the divine seal on their preaching by the miracles which followed it, Hebrews 2:3 f., thus fulfilling the promise, ’Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’, Matthew 28:20.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Mark 16". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/mark-16.html. 1951.
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