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. And when the Sabbath was past. The meaning is the same as in Matthew, In the evening, which began to dawn towards the first day of the Sabbaths, and in Luke, on the first day of the Sabbaths. For while we know that the Jews began to reckon their day from the commencement of the preceding night, everybody understands, that when the Sabbath was past, the women resolved among themselves to visit the sepulcher, so as to come there before the dawn of day. The two Evangelists give the name of the first day of the Sabbaths, to that which came first in order between two Sabbaths. Some of the Latin translators (302) have rendered it one, and many have been led into this blunder through ignorance of the Hebrew language; for though ( אחד) sometimes means one, and sometimes first, the Evangelists, as in many other passages, have followed the Hebrew idiom, and used the word μίαν, one. (303) But that no one may be led astray by the ambiguity, I have stated their meaning more clearly. As to the purchase of the spices, Luke’s narrative differs, in some respects, from the words of Mark; for Luke says that they returned into the city, and procured spices, and then rested one day, according to the commandment of the law before pursuing their journey. But Mark, in introducing into the same part of the narrative two different events, at—tends less accurately than Luke to the distinction of dates; for he blends with their setting out on the journey what had been previously done. In the substance of the fact they perfectly agree, that the women, after having observed the holy rest, left home during the darkness of the night, that they might reach the sepulcher about the break of day.
We ought also to recollect what I have formerly suggested, that the custom of anointing the dead, though it was common, among many heathen nations, was applied to a lawful use by the Jews alone, to whom it had been handed down by the Fathers, to confirm them in the faith of the resurrection. For without having this object in view, to embalm a dead body, which has no feeling, would be an idle and empty solace, as we know that the Egyptians bestowed great labor and anxiety on this point, without looking for any advantage. But by this sacred symbol, God represented to the Jews the image of life in death, to lead them to expect that out of putrefaction and dust they would one day acquire new vigor. Now as the resurrection of Christ, by its quickening vigor, penetrated every sepulcher, so as to breathe life into the dead, so it abolished those outward ceremonies. For himself, he needed not those aids, but they were owing to the ignorance of the women, who were not yet fully aware that he was free from corruption.
(302) “ Aucuns En la translation Latine.”
(303) “ Et ont ici mis le mot Grec qui signifie Un ; ” — “and have put here the Greek word which means One. ”
3. And they said among themselves. Mark alone expresses this doubt; but as the other Evangelists relate that the stone was rolled away by the angel, it may easily be inferred, that they remained in perplexity and doubt as to what they should do, until the entrance was opened up by the hand of God. But let us learn from this, that in consequence of having been carried away by their zeal, they came there without due consideration. They had seen a stone placed before the sepulcher, to hinder any one from entering. Why did not this occur to them, when they were at home and at leisure, but because they were seized with such fear and astonishment, that thought and recollection failed them? But as it is a holy zeal that blinds them, God does not charge them with this fault.
. And when they heard. The testimony of Mary alone is related by Mark; but I am convinced that all of them in common conveyed the message in obedience to the commands of Christ. And even this passage confirms more fully what I have just now said, that there is no disagreement among the, Evangelists, when one of them specially attributes to Mary Magdalene what the other Evangelists represent as common to all the women, though not in an equal degree. But the disciples must have been held bound by shameful indifference, so that they did not recall to their recollection that what they had often heard from their Master was accomplished. If the women had related any thing of which they had not formerly heard, there would have been some reason for not immediately believing them in a matter which was incredible; but now they must have been uncommonly stupid in holding as a fable or a dream what had been so frequently promised and declared by the Son of God, when eye-witnesses assured them that it was accomplished. Besides, their unbelief having deprived them of sound understanding, they not only refuse the light of truth, but reject it as an idle fancy, as Luke tells us. Hence it appears that they had yielded so far to temptation, that their minds had lost nearly all relish for the words of Christ.
. Afterwards he appeared to the eleven, while they were sitting. The participle ( ἀνακειμένοις) which some have rendered sitting at table, ought, in my opinion, to be simply rendered sitting; and it is not without reason that I take this view of it, if it be agreed that the Evangelist here describes the first appearance; for it would have been an unseasonable hour of supper about midnight. Besides, if the cloth had been laid, (322) this would not have agreed with what Luke shortly afterwards says, that Christ asked if they had anything to eat. Now, to sit is the Hebrew phrase for resting in any place.
And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart. This reproof corresponds more to the first appearance than to the second; for since, the disciples, as John tells us, (John 20:20) were glad when they had seen the Lord on the day after the Passover, their unbelief was then rebuked. To restrict these words of Mark to Thomas alone, as some have done, appears to be forced; and, therefore, I prefer to explain them simply as meaning, that when Christ first appeared to the apostles, he reproved them for not believing the testimony of eye-witnesses, who informed them of his resurrection. And yet when he condemns their hardness of heart, it is not solely because they did not give credit to men, but because, after having been convinced by the result, they did not at length embrace the testimony of the Lord. Since, therefore, Peter and Mary, Cleopas and his companion, were not the first witnesses of the resurrection, but only subscribed to the words of Christ, it follows, that the rest of the apostles poured dishonor on the Lord by refusing to believe his words, though they had already been proved by their result. Justly, therefore, are they reproached with hardness of heart, because, in addition to their slowness, there was wicked obstinacy; as if they had intentionally desired to suppress what was evidently true; not that they intended to extinguish the glory of their Master, or to accuse him of falsehood, but because their obstinacy stood in the way, and hindered them from being submissive. In short, he does not here condemn them for voluntary obstinacy, as I have already said, but for blind indifference, which sometimes hardens men that otherwise are not wicked or rebellious.
(322) “ Si la nappe eust esté mise.”
He who shall believe and be baptized shall be saved. This promise was added in order to allure all mankind to believe; as it is followed, on the other hand, by a threatening of awful destruction, in order to terrify unbelievers. Nor is it wonderful that salvation is promised to believers; for, by believing in the only begotten Son of God, not only are they reckoned among the children of God, but receiving the gift of free justification and of the Spirit of regeneration, they possess what constitutes eternal life. Baptism is joined to the faith of the gospel, in order to inform us that the Mark of our salvation is engraved on it; for had it not served to testify the grace of God, it would have been improper in Christ to have said, that they who shall believe and be baptized shall be saved. Yet, at the same time, we must hold that it is not required as absolutely necessary to salvation, so that all who have not obtained it must perish; for it is not added to faith, as if it were the half of the cause of our salvation, but as a testimony. I readily acknowledge that men are laid under the necessity of not despising the sign of the grace of God; but though God uses such aids in accommodation to the weakness of men, I deny that his grace is limited to them. In this way we will say that it is not necessary in itself, but only with respect to our obedience.
But he who shall not believe shall be condemned. By this second clause in which Christ condemns those who shall not believe, he means that rebels, when they reject the salvation offered to them, draw down upon themselves severer punishment, and not only are involved in the general destruction of mankind, but bear the guilt of their own ingratitude.
17 And these signs shall follow them that shall believe. As the Lord, while he still lived with men in the world, had ratified the faith of his gospel by miracles, so now he extends the same power to the future, lest the disciples should imagine that it could not be separated from his bodily presence. For it was of very great importance that this divine power of Christ should continue to be exerted amongst believers, that it might be certainly known that he was risen from, the dead, and that thus his doctrine might remain unimpaired, and that his name might be immortal. When he says that believers will receive this gift, we must not understand this as applying to every one of them; for we know that gifts were distributed variously, so that the power of working miracles was possessed by only a few persons. But as that which was bestowed on a few was common to the whole Church, and as the miracles performed by one individual served for the confirmation of all, Christ properly uses the word believers in an indefinite sense. The meaning, therefore, is, that believers will be ministers of the same power which had formerly excited admiration in Christ, that during his absence the sealing of the gospel may be more fully ascertained, as he promises
that they will do the same things, and greater, (John 14:12.)
To testify the glory and the divinity of Christ, it was enough that a few of the believers should be endued with this power.
Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in his Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give luster to the gospel, while it was new and in a state of obscurity. It is possible, no doubt, that the world may have been deprived of this honor through the guilt of its own ingratitude; but I think that the true design for which miracles were appointed was, that nothing which was necessary for proving the doctrine of the gospel should be wanting at its commencement. And certainly we see that the use of them ceased not long afterwards, or, at least, that instances of them were so rare as to entitle us to conclude that they would not be equally common in all ages.
Yet those who came after them, that they might not allow it to be supposed that they were entirely destitute of miracles, were led by foolish avarice or ambition to forge for themselves miracles which had no reality. Thus was the door opened for the impostures of Satan, not only that delusions might be substituted for truth, but that, under the pretense of miracles, the simple might be led aside from the true faith. And certainly it was proper that men of eager curiosity, who, not satisfied with lawful proof, were every day asking new miracles, should be carried away by such impostures. This is the reason why Christ, in another passage, foretold that the reign of Antichrist would be full of lying signs, (Matthew 24:24;) and Paul makes a similar declaration, (2 Thessalonians 2:9.)
That our faith may be duly confirmed by miracles, let our minds be kept within that moderation which I have mentioned. Hence, also, it follows that it is a silly calumny which is advanced by those who object against our doctrine, that it wants the aid of miracles; as if it were not the same doctrine which Christ long ago has abundantly sealed. But on this subject I use greater brevity, because I have already treated it more fully in many passages.
. And after the Lord had thus spoken to them. The Evangelist Matthew, having extolled in magnificent language the reign of Christ over the whole world, says nothing about his ascension to heaven. Mark, too, takes no notice of the place and the manner, both of which are described by Luke; for he says that the disciples were led out to Bethany, that from the Mount of Olives, (Matthew 24:3,) whence he had descended to undergo the ignominy of the cross, he might ascend the heavenly throne. Now as he did not, after his resurrection, appear indiscriminately to all, so he did not permit all to be the witnesses of his ascension to heaven; for he intended that this mystery of faith should be known by the preaching of the gospel rather than beheld by the eyes.
. And sat down at the right hand of God. In other passages I have explained what is meant by this expression, namely, that Christ was raised on high, that he might be exalted above angels and all creatures; that by his agency the Father might govern the world, and, in short, that before him every knee might bow, (Philippians 2:10.) It is the same as if he were called God’s Deputy, to represent the person of God; and, therefore, we must not imagine to ourselves any one place, since the right hand is a metaphor which denotes the power that is next to God. This was purposely added by Mark, in order to inform us that Christ was taken up into heaven, not to enjoy blessed rest at a distance from us, but to govern the world for the salvation of all believers.
20. And they went out and preached. Mark here notices briefly those events of which Luke continues the history in his second book (325) that the voice of a small and dispersed body of men resounded even to the extremities of the world. For exactly in proportion as the fact was less credible, so much the more manifestly was there displayed in it a miracle of heavenly power. Every person would have thought that, by the death of the cross, Christ would either be altogether extinguished, or so completely overwhelmed, that he would never be again mentioned but with shame and loathing. The apostles, whom he had chosen to be his witnesses, had basely deserted him, and had betaken themselves to darkness and concealment. Such was their ignorance and want of education, and such was the contempt in which they were held, that they hardly ventured to utter a word in public. Was it to be expected that men who were unlearned, and were held in no esteem, and had even deserted their Master, should, by the sound of their voice, reduce so many scattered nations into subjection to him who had been crucified? There is great emphasis, therefore, in the words, they went out and preached everywhere — men who but lately shut themselves up, trembling and silent, in their prison. For it was impossible that so sudden a change should be accomplished in a moment by human power; and therefore Mark adds,
The Lord working with them; by which he means that this was truly a divine work. And yet by this mode of expression he does not represent them as sharing their work or labor with the grace of God, as if they contributed any thing to it of themselves; but simply means that they were assisted by God, because, according to the flesh, they would in vain have attempted what was actually performed by them. The ministers of the word, I acknowledge, are called fellow-workers with God, (1 Corinthians 3:9,) because he makes use of their agency; but we ought to understand that they have no power beyond what he bestows, and that by planting and watering they do no good, unless the increase come from the secret efficacy of the Spirit.
And confirming the word. Here, in my opinion, Mark points out a particular instance of what he had just now stated in general terms; for there were other methods by which the Lord wrought with them, that the preaching of the gospel might not be fruitless; but this was a striking proof of his assistance, that he confirmed their doctrine by miracles. Now this passage shows what use we ought to make of miracles, if we do not choose to apply them to perverse corruptions; namely, that they aid the gospel. Hence it follows that God’s holy order is subverted, if miracles are separated from the word of God, to which they are appendages; and if they are employed to adorn wicked doctrines, or to disguise corrupt modes of worship.
(325) That inspired book which is now generally known by the name of The Acts of the Apostles, was often denominated, by older writers, Second Luke. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Mark 16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany