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The Resurrection of the Lord. The Great Victory, and the Appearance of the Victor in the Company of the Apostles, to bring to Completion the New Church. His Ascension (Last Withdrawal) to complete His Conquest of the World
THE RISEN ONE AS CONQUEROR ON BEHALF OF THE CHURCH; OR, THE INTRODUCTION OF THE BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY. THREE EASTER MESSAGES: THE ANGEL, THE WOMAN, THE TWO MEN
(Parallels: Matthew 28:1-15; Luke 24:1-35; John 20:1-18)
1. The Resurrection. The Angelw Message, and the Women. Mark 16:1-8
1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from1 the door of the sepulchre? (4And when they looked [up], they saw that the 5stone was rolled away,) for it was very great. And, entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you intoGalilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed [trembling and ecstasy held them]: neither said they anything to any man; for2they were afraid.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
See the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.—This portion, considered in itself, is manifestly a fragment; for no treatise, especially no Gospel, can conclude with ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. Upon the critical question, as to the authenticity of the following part, compare the Introduction. In this section, we have followed the remarkable division of the Pericope; but we would point out that this part might most properly be united with the following, under the common idea with which we have designated the section. Mark gives the day of the resurrection in such a way as to supplement the other Gospels. The early morning is termed by him the sunrising. He is the most accurate in the account of the women who came to anoint Christ’s body, stating their number to be three, and giving their names. He agrees with Luke, in saying that the women came for the purpose of embalming the Lord’s body. The representation of the moment of the resurrection, and the revelation to the women as they were returning from the grave, of which Matthew gives the details, is omitted by him; and we find here, moreover, but a brief notice of the meeting of the risen Lord with Mary Magdalene. He alone remarks upon the anxiety of the women, as to how the stone was to be rolled from the door of the sepulchre. Only one angel, according to his account, appears to the women; and the same is true of Matthew. This was the first appearance, whereas Luke and John relate a later appearance (see Matthew). In describing the return of the women from the grave, the Evangelists differ the most from one another. Matthew states: “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word.” Luke similarly. Mark, on the contrary: “And they said nothing to any man; for they were afraid.” The circumstances, however, are different. These women who were afraid, are Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who had gone into the grave after Mary Magdalene had hurried forth on finding the grave empty. The women, however, who departed quickly with great joy to declare what had taken place to the disciples, form a larger group, composed of those who had been the first at the grave with the materials for embalming, and of those who had followed them. (See Matthew.) Mark omits this fact in order to introduce the separation of Mary Magdalene from the other two women. And yet he makes it appear that the first impression produced on the women was a mingling of fear and ἔκστασις.
Mark 16:1. And when the Sabbath was past.—That is, on Saturday evening, after sunset. Luke says, 23:56: After their return (when they came back), they prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment. It is not said, “and thereafter,” but, “and of course rested;” so that it is intended as a special explanation of the preceding. We have no contradiction, accordingly, between Luke and Mark, as Meyer would make out. The antecedent embalming, John 19:39, is not excluded by this. Neither is the fact excluded, that some of the women purchased the spices as early as Friday evening, before sundown; only the two Maries had remained too long at the grave to do so, and hence they could not make their purchases till the Sabbath had passed. (See Lange’s Leben Jesu, ii. 3, p. 1623.)—Spices, ἀρώματα.—“Aromatic herbs to mix with ointment.” Meyer. The ἀρώματα are not necessarily dry substances. “The ointments were seldom simplicia (e. g., the nard); they were generally composed of various substances (Job 41:22; Plin. 29, 8),—of olive oil (that much-praised product of Palestine), and various fragrant, especially foreign (Ezekiel 27:22), vegetable extracts,—namely, oils and resins, such as nard and myrrh. Such ointments were, in part, very expensive, and special articles of luxury. Amos 6:6.” Winer.
Mark 16:2. When the sun had begun to rise.—We translate thus somewhat singularly, because De Wette (and, following him, again Meyer) maintains that ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου can only mean, when the sun had risen, not, as it was rising.3The words, “very early,” immediately preceding, contradict this view. But between the beginning of the sunrise and its ending is a considerable interval, as between “eve” and “evening;” and according to this distinction has Mark conceived of the matter, as he previously distinguished the two evening seasons. The sunrise, accordingly, had begun: oriente sole. Meyer discovers in this passage not only a discrepancy between Mark and John, who indeed says it was still dark, but in a certain measure between the statements of the Evangelist Mark himself (“very early, when the sun had risen”).—Beza’s conjecture, οὐκέτι ἡλίου ., is quite unfounded.
Mark 16:3-4. From the door of the sepulchre... when they looked up... rolled away... it was very great.—These are all accurate statements, which are characteristic of Mark’s clear view of things. The stone was lying in the hollow cut deep into the rock, so as to form the door, and must accordingly be rolled forth from this recess outwards; hence “rolled away.” The rock-tomb, however, itself lay upon a height; hence the women saw the stone when they looked up. That upward glance, accordingly, does not form a mere contrast to the supposed circumstance, that before this “their eyes were cast down to the ground.” And because the stone was very great, they could even from a great distance see it lying. This latter explanation of Meyer, respecting the stone, is to be preferred to the reference (by Cod. D., and Wessenberg) of the clause, “for it was very great,” to the clause, “who shall roll us away the stone?”—although this conveys a natural meaning.
Mark 16:5. A young man.—The angel is described in these terms, because of his external appearance. Similarly does Luke express himself: “Two men in shining garments.” The facts, as they occurred in point of time, must be distinguished in the following way: First, the appearance of one angel in the tomb, who showed himself to the two Maries after Mary Magdalene had hurried forth to inform Peter and John (Mark); then, two angels who manifested themselves to her upon her return (John). These two appearances of the angels are given only generally by Luke, (they appeared “to the women which came with him from Galilee.”) Finally, we have the appearance of the angels before the tomb upon the stone, which was seen by the larger group of women who assembled in the garden at a later period (Luke 24:1 :“And certain with them”). This construction commends itself, if we adopt the view that Luke’s account is not designed to give an exact description. The first point then is, that there are three women who are witnesses: Mary Magdalene hastens back to tell the disciples, and the other two Maries see an angel in the sepulchre. The second point to be considered is, that the Magdalene sees two angels in the tomb, then the Lord, while the two Maries wait irresolutely for the other women, or go to meet them. The third point is, that the assembled women, among whom also is Johanna, first see the angel upon the stone (or two angels,—one of them in the sepulchre); then, as they are returning, the Lord Himself.
Mark 16:6. Be not affrighted.—In the liveliness of the words, we find by asyndeton the copulatives omitted.
Mark 16:7. And Peter.—Especially. Meyer (following De Wette): “Because of his superiority, not because Peter as denier required a mark of forgiveness (as is the common opinion).” But the superiority of Peter had ceased for a time. It must be first, according to John 21:0, restored to him. So it is, accordingly, a gracious token to unfortunate Peter.—He goeth before you.—̔́Οτι introduces the message.—As He said unto you.—See Mark 14:28. Upon the apparent contradiction between this announcement, that Jesus would precede the disciples, and His appearing unto them so shortly after, consult the commentary on Matthew. The first message applied especially to the Galilean disciples in a body. They, as such, first saw the Lord in Galilee again. Secondly, it was in a more special sense a preparation of the disciples for the approaching appearance of the Lord, which was by no means excluded by the message. And thirdly, the return of the disciples to Galilee was delayed, contrary to the wish of the Lord: first, through their own unbelief; secondly, through the unbelief of Thomas. See Leben Jesu, ii. 3, pp. 1664–5–6.
Mark 16:8. They trembled and were amazed.— The term εἶχε δὲ is intended without doubt to express the idea, that, even when out of the sepulchre, their former feelings held fast possession of them. These feelings were the opposing sentiments of trembling and ἔκστασις, which latter cannot be possibly conceived of as horror. It is the parallel to the phrase in Matthew: With fear and great joy. The ecstasy indicates always, that one is not master of oneself; and here it indicates such a state of feeling, in opposition to the extreme measure of fear, τρόμος. It is a state of transition from trembling and amazement; and while this play of feeling continues, men find it impossible to act.—Neither said they anything to any man.—De Wette maintains that this is contradicted by Matthew and Luke. It certainly does not mean simply, that they said nothing to any one by the way (Grotius), nor yet to any man beyond the circle of the Apostles; but, nevertheless, there is no contradiction. The intention of Mark was to lay hold of the fact of their indecision, and to unite it to the two following manifestations of hesitating unbelief. The women did not act upon the message of the angels, the individual disciples did not act upon the women’s message, the assembled Apostles did not act upon the message of the men and of the disciples who had been met upon the way to Emmaus. The intention of our history is this, to bring out prominently the barriers which unbelief throws up, by which the ever-increasing urgency of the pressing messages is repelled. In the first instance, the weak faith of the two Maries prevented them from fulfilling their mission. The Magdalene met them in this state, and they did not allow themselves to be cheered by her information till they had met the other women (see Luke), and with them had seen the Lord. Now, their message was naturally a new and different one. Meyer distinguishes thus: They related the message at a later period, but it is self-evident that they had not fulfilled it. We distinguish thus: They did not fulfil their original commission, but, at a later period, the related, along with the other women, the earlier and later occurrences in one united narrative.—They were afraid.—This can only mean: The occurrence was so new to them, great, unheard-of, that they ventured not in the full confidence of faith to publish it, and that they, still more, did not expect to find any faith among the disciples.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Consult the parallels in Matthew.
2. The entire chapter in its one central idea: Christ risen in perfect certainty and in the might of His resurrection, the destroyer of all unbelief in His people, and thereby the destroyer of the kingdom of darkness throughout the world; or, Christ appearing in His triumphal glory, able to redeem to the uttermost by that unlimited power which He acquired through His victory.
3. The three grand divisions of the chapter are—the Risen One as Conqueror for the Church, in the Church, with the Church.
4. The contrast in the chapter: The annunciations of the resurrection of the Lord to the Church, by the angels, by the women, by individual disciples, are not sufficient to overcome fully the unbelief of the disciples; the circle of disciples becomes a believing Church only when Jesus Himself reveals Himself personally in their midst. And this is, indeed, the thought underlying the entire Gospel of Mark, which is founded upon the mission of Peter—of that Peter whom man would and will make the head of a new Church in which, by the tradition of an Apostle, angel-voices, holy women, and visions to women, should be made to represent Christ Himself.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Upon the whole chapter, consult the superscription and the Doctrinal Reflections.—Upon the Section, Mark 16:1-16 : The Church has not arrived at the full belief in a risen Saviour by even the most glorious messages, but by the personal revelation of the Risen One Himself.—Upon the Section up to Mark 16:13 : The three Easter-messages of Jesus to His Church in their progressive effect: 1. Through the angels to the women; 2. through the women to the amazed disciples; 3. through the two amazed disciples to the assembled company.—Upon the Section before us: The [Jewish] Sabbath is passed away, the [Christian] Sunday has appeared; or, a new arrangement of the periods of rest and labor has been made by Christ. Man proceeds no more to the holy day from his labor, but from the holy day to his labor. 1. So is it in the life of the glorified Christ: first sitting at the right hand of God, then ruling, then coming again. 2. So is it in the life of the Church: first Sunday, then the consecrated working-day.4 3. So in the life of the believer: first justification, then sanctification. Conclusion: In this form, Christianity is the beginning (the principle) of the glorified world.—Our conversation is in heaven.—The walk of the three women to the grave is a symbol of the separation between the old and the new world in the history of the Passover: 1. The three women with their solicitude [Mary Magdalene in the deepest emotion; the others, two mothers of five Apostles, two aunts of Jesus of Nazareth, calmer, quieter]; their unconsciously-entertained hopes of life, and their ointments for the dead corpse. 2. The rising sun, but the heavy stone of their anxiety. 3. The angel appears, but the Lord has disappeared. 4. The resurrection of Christ declared, in the distant prospect of His re-appearance, out of the mouth of the grave. 5. The delightful commission to proclaim these good tidings; but their souls are oppressed by the overmastering feelings of fear and joy.—“And Peter” [Peter could never forget this addition, and hence Mark records it].—How the sinner ever thinks of the word which shows that the Saviour thought of him.—The first Easter-message, a message from the Prince of Life given by angelic lips to the women who wished to anoint the dead.—This message is not carried to its destination; but in the contending feelings of the women, between their fear and joy, is left unfulfilled.—Why the female disciples, even now, do not come up to that evangelizing faith which the message enjoins: 1. They are not yet able to give themselves up to that obedience of faith, because the fact overcomes their feelings [could not believe for joy]. 2. They cannot yet give themselves up to the confidence of faith, because their feelings amid the signs of the fact are not yet stilled [they cannot believe for fear; they miss the Lord, whom they have not seen; and they are still afraid of finding among the disciples no faith to receive their great news]. 3. They cannot yet give themselves up to the peace of faith, because these conflicting feelings are contending in their hearts.—As Christ is elevated above the angels, so is the certainty of the resurrection elevated above the testimony of the angelic appearance.—Since Christ died, a new heavenly activity is demanded, which lies far above all the visions of the old economy.
Starke:—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—What does not love do, when it is strong?—Through woman was life lost at first; by women must it be first sought, found, and revealed.—(The stone.) Hindrances in the way of salvation.—Men often make to themselves unnecessary anxieties: before they actually meet them, the Lord has helped them already.—If we look with believing eyes into Christ’s grave, all our anxiety falls into it; for Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection.—God will comfort the penitent, and will make their anguished hearts joyful again.—Christ’s heart is as compassionate after, as before, His resurrection—God’s promises pass certainly into fulfilment, and that too more gloriously and sooner than their mere form would lead one to expect.—Osiander:—Untimely fear often hinders from fulfilling one’s office.
Braune:—No shrine is made of the grave, and no worship from the contemplation of it; but the women are bidden to carry the good news and to awaken faith.—Weak sentimentalism avails nothing in the kingdom of God which has been established in the earth by the death of Jesus.—Brieger:—The resurrection, which is also a birth, is a mystery, like every birth. It is also an act of God’s omnipotence, like every other birth.—If we are because of sin related to death, which is so foreign to our being, much more are we related to life.—Heubner:—The morning of the resurrection of Jesus: 1. Distinguished by heaven itself; 2. bringing a glorious reward to Jesus Himself; 3. fearfully condemnatory as regards His foes; 4. joyfully quickening as regards the disciples of Christ.—Dietzsch:—The mingling of fear and hope which the thought of death and immortality is wont to awaken in us.—Schultz:—The first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection: 1. They were strong [their love is manifested in their going to the grave]; 2. they were weak [their sorrow, their fear].—Thiess:—The cross of Calvary illumined by the rays of the Easter-sun.—Rautenberg:—Easter at the graves: 1. The stone of the curse is rolled away; 2. angels inhabit them; 3. the dead are risen.
[Mark 16:3.—Codd. A., B., Tischendorf read ἐκ; i. e., upwards from the descending entrance. With this corresponds the reading ἀνακεκύλισται in B., L., Tischendorf.]
[Mark 16:8.—Codd. B., D., Lachmann, Tischendorf read γαρ instead of δε.]
[The English version agrees with Lange’s: “At the rising of the sun.”—Ed.)
Sonntäglicher Werketag: a secular day into which the spirit of Sunday is carried.
2. Mary Magdalene and the two Disciples. Mark 16:9-13
(Parallels: Matthew 28:9-15; Luke 24:9-35; John 20:11-19)
9Now, when Jesus was risen early, the first day of the week, he appeared first to 10Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
See Matthew and Luke.—According to Meyer, the apocryphal fragment of some other evangelical writing begins here. Compare the Introduction on this point.5 The epithet apocryphal, would not be appropriate, even if the section were an addition taken from another Evangelist’s narrative. The narrative contained in our Gospel comprehends within its very brief hints the detailed statement of John regarding the Easter-message of Mary Magdalene, and the still more detailed account by Luke of the Easter-message sent by the disciples met on the road to Emmaus. Mark groups both accounts under the single head of two duly-authorized embassies, which do not meet with full credence. The first and second halves of this chapter are, however, united into an inseparable unity in the one fundamental thought, that the risen Saviour is the absolute and universal conqueror of unbelief, which was already, even in the circle of disciples, throwing obstacles in the way of Jesus; and that Christ, as the subduer of this unbelief, stands raised above all the messages of men and angels.
Mark 16:9. Was risen early.—The manifestation of the Risen One by the angels had been preceded by His own personal appearances. The first day of the week is again named, of course, for the purpose of bringing into prominence, even at that early period, the Christian day of rest. We would translate: Upon the first of the seven days (τὸ σάββατον indicating here, as frequently, the week, after the later and more extended custom of the Jewish language). Upon this day He appeared to the Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils. Christ, as the Risen One, has sanctified the week as a holy period; and at the beginning of the holy week, He reveals Himself to one who was preëminently sanctified and susceptible, because He had cleansed her from seven demons. The Evangelist has, accordingly, not merely before him the contrast,—the risen Saviour revealing Himself to a poor woman,—but the spiritual relationship,—she who had been freed from seven devils stands especially near to the conqueror of demons on the morning of His great triumph, and she is peculiarly fitted in spirit to be the first to see Him, and to announce to the disciples His resurrection. Accordingly, in this revelation we have the activity of the Saviour, in His conquest over devils, set over against the passivity of the pardon-seeking woman, who had been freed from the seven devils. Meyer considers this remark concerning Mary as not belonging to this passage. We view the expulsion of seven devils in connection with the sacred number seven, and regard the term symbolic of a glorious deliverance out of the great snares which Satan had prepared. (Comp. Matthew.) Mark is wont to employ ἐκβαλλειν in other passages to express strongly a glorious redemption. It is questionable whether the words, “early on the first day of the week,” go back to ἀναστὰς δέ (Beza, Ewald, etc.), or are to be construed with ἐφάνη (Grotius and others). We prefer the first construction, because the second mention of the resurrection as having occurred upon the first day of the week appears to point at the sanctification of that period. In verse second, μία σαββάτων had reference to Jewish customs; but here the allusion is to the renewed week, the πρώτη σαββάτου.
Mark 16:10. And she went.—That is, even she. It must be conceded that Mark employs πορευεσθαι to express a solemn proclamation of the Gospel only in this place (Mark 16:15 excepted). By this, however, he reminds us of the mode of expression employed by his teacher, Peter: 1Pe 3:19.6—Them that had been with Him.—This also is a peculiar expression to indicate the disciples in a wider sense. It indicates, however, their scattered condition, their present despairing state, as opposed to their former blessed communion with Him. The expression itself is not an unusual one with Mark; see Mark 1:36.—As they mourned and wept.—Comp. Luke 6:25. This has undoubtedly a special reference to the sorrowful and weeping Peter. To bring prominently out that Jesus revealed Himself to Peter, after the message given to Mary, consists not with the matter-of-fact disposition of Mark.
Mark 16:11. And had been seen of her, ἐθεάθη.—A strong expression. “That θεᾶσθαι is not found elsewhere in the Gospel by Mark, considering how frequent is its use by others, is one of the marks of a strange hand.” Meyer. Hermeneutics might, we think, have taught him: new facts, new words.
Mark 16:12. In another form.—An explanation of the expression in Luke 24:16, but by no means a condensation of Luke 24:13-35, as Meyer would represent. Jesus’ form was, on the one hand, changed: different clothes (John 20:15), traces of the sufferings during the crucifixion: on the other hand, more sublime in its appearance, Jesus being in the transition-state from humiliation to glorification.
After that.—The three specifications, πρῶτον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα, ὕστερον, relate manifestly to one another. Hence it cannot be at all remarkable that μετὰ ταῦτα is not elsewhere to be found in Mark (comp. Mark 13:24).—Of them—of the unbelieving disciples in a wider sense.
Mark 16:13. Neither believed they them.—Even they did not gain credence. Meyer: “A different tradition from that given in Luke 24:34.” It is certain that no interpolator would have allowed this manifest appearance of a discrepancy. But the Evangelist, who was writing from the stand-point of a special idea of the resurrection, was not afraid to employ it. And Luke gives the means of knowing what is meant. The Eleven knew for a certainty, in the evening, that Christ had appeared to Simon, and were consequently for the moment believing. Now the Emmaus disciples arrive, and declare that Jesus had revealed Himself unto them. Not being able to comprehend this new mode of existence on the part of Christ, that He now is here, and now there, new doubts fill them. The thought of a spiritual apparition occurs to them; and hence they are affrighted when Jesus at length appears in their midst, and imagine that a ghost is present. And now the Lord must convince them as to the truth of His new corporeality. The point brought forward by Mark testifies, accordingly, to an exceedingly accurate, and moreover, a perfectly independent, knowledge of the facts of the resurrection. The expression is, of course, explained by Luke 26:34, without, however, referring to it (Schulthess). And so it is unnecessary to suppose, with Augustine, that the λέγουντες were certain believing disciples, to be distinguished from certain who did not believe; or to say, with Calvin, “At first they doubted, then they believed.” The situation of affairs was of such a nature as to lead them into new difficulties on hearing the message of the Emmaus disciples, instead of strengthening them in their belief. Because, as yet they were not in possession of the idea of a glorified body; and hence they thought very naturally, that if the Lord had appeared to Simon in Jerusalem, He could not at the same time have appeared unto others at a distance from the city. Not to speak of this, that several of the Eleven might very reasonably have thought: Why should He reveal Himself to these two at Emmaus earlier than to us at Jerusalem?
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. See Matthew and the parallels in Luke and John: also the foregoing Note on Mark 16:13.
2. The Easter-embassy of the angelic world to the human world has been replaced by the message of the resurrection passing from man to man, at first from the female disciples to the male disciples, then the message passing between individual disciples and the disciple-band. The Risen One has destroyed, in His resurrection, the bands and bolts of the grave; He must now destroy, likewise, the doubts, the weak faith, the unbelief of His own, in order with them to destroy in like manner the unbelief of the world. The certainty of His resurrection presses gradually forward; but the Church comes only to perfect knowledge when He reveals Himself in her midst.
3. The appearing and disappearing of Jesus in the circle of disciples is a type of His appearance in, and of His disappearance from, the Church.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See Matthew, and the parallel passages in Luke and John.—The risen Saviour presents Himself to be recognized by one who stood especially near to the kingdom of heaven and of the Unseen, because He has freed and cleansed her heart from seven devils.—Mary Magdalene, the much-forgiven sinner, sent as a comforter to the weeping Peter, to the sorrow-laden and mourning disciples.—The two Maries, who had remained with Jesus beside His grave, late into the night of His dying day, are to be the first to see Him on His resurrection morn.—The distinction made in the case of the two disciples going into the country: 1. Because they, like Magdalene and Peter, especially required consolation; 2. because they united in going before the Lord as two messengers and witnesses unto the Church.—The risen Saviour brings His own at once together again.—Jesus appearing in another and new form, as the Prince and Pledge of another, new world: 1. In the form of one who had passed through death; 2. with the glorified crucifixion-marks; 3. with the signs of the new life (even the Magdalene did not at once recognize Him).—The threefold form of the unbelief which departed not, even from the community of believers, without assistance: 1. They cannot conceive to themselves the mysterious majesty in which Christ caused an angel to represent Him; 2. they cannot conceive to themselves the greatness of the grace, in consequence of which He appears to Mary Magdalene first; 3. they cannot conceive to themselves the might of His exaltation, by reason of which He appears now here, now there.—Neither the angels, nor the women, nor the two Evangelists, satisfy their faith: they wish to be assured of His actual existence by His own appearance.—Not having yielded themselves to faith in His prediction, they find it difficult to believe in its fulfilment.
Starke:—As the woman was the first to sin, so hath Christ, after finishing salvation, chosen to reveal Himself to a woman first.—The most despised in the opinion of the world are often the most precious in the eyes of God.—Quesnel:—God delights in blessing those who have remained faithful to Him in persecution, and have not been ashamed of the cross.—Christ imparts His grace according to the need for it, Matthew 5:4.—Jesus ever, even upon our journeyings, with us.
Braune:—The intelligence brought by Mary and the women concerning the resurrection of the Saviour is believed neither lightly nor superstitiously; and hence we see that their belief, and their testimony, is the more firmly founded, and the more trustworthy.
[The reasons for assuming that Mark 16:9-20 are an original portion of Mark’s Gospel much outweigh those to the contrary. 1. They are found in the Uncial Codd. A., C., D., X., Δ., E., G., H., K., M., S., U., V.; as well as in 33, 69, and the rest of the Cursive MSS. which have been collated. They are in copies of the Old Latin, in the Vulgate, Curetonian Syriac, Peshito, Jerusalem Syriac, Memphitic, Gothic, and Æthiopic. 2. Irenæus (Cont. Hær. iii. 10, 6) recognizes their existence; as do also Hippolytus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, Augustine, Nestorius. Scholz also claims that Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Alexandria sanction the passage; but Tregelles regards this as an error. The chief argument against the genuineness of this section is found in the fact, that it was wanting in some of the early copies of Mark’s Gospel. This is attested by Eusebius, Gregory Nyssa, Victor of Antioch, and Jerome. But this is certainly an insufficient reason for affirming its spuriousness in the face of the strong testimonies upon the other side. See Tregelles on the Printed Text of the Greek Testament, p. 246 seq. Its genuineness is affirmed by Simon, Mill, Bengel, Matthæi, Eichorn, Kuinoel, Hug, Scholz, Guericke, Olshausen, Ebrard, Lachmann; is denied by Griesbach, Rosenmüller, Schulz, Fritzsche, Paulus, wieseler, Ewald, Meyer, Tischendorf.—Ed.]
[Lange seems to have in his eye the objection of Meyer (in loc.) to the genuineness of the section, drawn from the fact that the word πορεύω occurs three times in it.—Ed.]
THE RISEN LORD AS VICTORIOUS IN THE CHURCH, DESTROYING UNBELIEF, PERFECT ING FAITH, AND PREPARING THE CHURCH TO GO FORTH WITH THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
(Parallels: Matthew 28:9-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-21; John 20:25)
14Afterward7 he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.8 15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils;9 they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents;10 and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
See the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.—The section before us is another of those peculiar passages which are so characteristic of Mark. The object sought in it is to show the full persuasion of the Apostles of the truth of the resurrection,—the complete subduing of their hard-heartedness, so often brought out by the Evangelist (Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17), and of their unbelief. This is with him the decisive point; and hence he connects all further information with the manifestation made by Christ of Himself in the midst of the disciples upon the evening of the first day after the resurrection. In the account of this manifestation, contained in Mark 16:14, he agrees with Luke and John. But while Luke brings prominently forward the pains Jesus was at to free His disciples from all fear, through convincing proofs of His bodily presence, Mark gives prominence to the fact, that Christ blamed their unbelief; and also to the facts of the completion of the disciples’ training, of their deliverance from hard-heartedness, and of their being brought at last to a full belief. Luke’s account is not, however, wanting in the points which go to corroborate the Lord’s reprimand, 16:38, 44, and especially 16:45. John relates this revelation of Jesus from the other side,—from the side of the solemn perfecting of the disciples’ faith. Mark then brings forward in this connection, Mark 16:15, the apostolic commission, which Matthew represents to have been issued on the mountain in Galilee. As to this point, we have only to remark, that he connects the anticipatory re-installation of the Apostles upon the first Easter evening, of which we are informed by Luke and John, with the sending forth of the Apostles from Galilee, and gives to the whole the solemn expression of the latter commission. In doing this, he selects a stronger term than Matthew, “Preach the Gospel to every creature;” this is the phrase corresponding to “Disciple all nations.” Mark alone, in accordance with his energetic character, gives the alternative, “He who believeth and is baptized,” etc.; and he combines in the brief expression, “and is baptized,” both the words, “make disciples of,” and the baptismal formula contained in Matthew. Very strong, and peculiar to him, is the promise given by the Lord to the Apostles; and it is a grand thought, that He gives it to the Apostles for all who believe, Mark 16:17-18. It is the full, the last unfolding of the charisma, which the Lord (according to Mark 3:15; Matthew 10:0) has imparted to the Apostles; the wonderful proclamation through them of the forgiveness of sins, the institution of absolution recorded by Luke and John, and also the promise of Jesus given by Matthew, “Lo, I am with you alway.”
Mark 16:14. Afterward.—By ὕστερον we are, certainly, not to understand, lastly; still it marks here the later, the personal revelations of Christ in the circle of the disciples, which succeeded His former isolated manifestations, and which established the fact of His resurrection. The confusions, which Meyer discovers in the account now following, rest upon critical prejudices, and upon the absence of details in the narrative of the Evangelist, which last characteristic also appears in the final chapter of Luke.—And upbraided them with their unbelief.—Upbraiding, the original form which Christ’s contest took with the weak faith, the doubting, and feeble yielding to the influences of the evil one. (See Leben Jesu, 2:1. p. 295.) And these are the causes of Christ’s last upbraiding among His disciples.—And hardness of heart.—Comp. Mark 8:17 seq.
Mark 16:15. And He said unto them.—Thus Mark, exactly as Luke 24:45, passes over to a general conclusion.—Preach the Gospel to every creature; πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει, the entire creation.—We find no reason to limit, with De Wette, this phrase to the conception, “all men” [“literally, all creatures, that is, all men, as also the Jews use בִּרְיוֹת:” Lightfoot, Wetstein]. Comp. Romans 8:21. Because the miraculous gifts of the Christians, here mentioned, point to a glorification of all nature through the Gospel. See Isaiah 9:0. Still less is the phrase to be restricted, with Lightfoot and others, to the heathen, who were contemptuously termed by the Rabbins הבריתו; for, as Meyer remarks, this would be in opposition to Mark 16:16; Mark 16:20.
Mark 16:16. He that believeth.—Expressed from the stand-point of Christ, as He who was one day to return in the capacity of the world’s Saviour and Judge, for the purpose of giving the due recompense. Baptism is not named along with faith as in itself an indispensable matter, but as the natural, certainly, also, necessary consequence of faith; because baptism indicates the entering of the believer into the communion of the believing Church. There is no occasion for the distinction made by Meyer between the newly converted and the children of Christians, because the antithesis runs, ὁ δὲἀπιστήσας; and it is not self-evident that baptism was not dispensed to such children. It is manifest that Jesus, according to Mark, has made the damnation depend upon a positive, personal disbelief, or rejection of the Gospel. But the Gospel is to be proclaimed to every creature, without exception. In this we have a connection opened between this passage, and the-passages 1 Peter 3:19; 1Pe 4:6.11
Mark 16:17. Signs.—Σημεῖα is first brought forward the term indicating that miracles of all kinds should accompany them, should make their testimony trustworthy; but these signs Christ will specify.—That believe (that have believed).—That is, who have become believers, have adopted the faith. This promise holds good not merely of the Apostles and the Seventy (Kuinoel), but also of all Christians without exception. Meyer: “Finally, Jesus does not mean that each of these signs should manifest itself with each believer, but this miracle with one, that with another.” In entire Christendom, however, all of them; and, apart from their original, miraculous form, these signs were always to be more and more glorious and potent in their action, as the forces which are transforming the world.—Follow; παρακολουθήσει.—Literally, to follow in company, to proceed along with. See the expression, Luke 1:3.—In My name.—The miraculous power by which they were to effect all the succeeding wonders. To the expulsion of demons corresponds speaking with new tongues, and to the taking up of serpents the drinking of anything deadly; and, finally, to the laying of hands upon the sick, their recovery. The first division indicates, negatively, the overthrow and expulsion of ethical evil (the casting out of devils); positively, the new form taken by the ethical world in the life of believers (speaking with new tongues). The second division indicates, negatively, the destruction of what is physically injurious, and its transformation into what is beneficial for the world (to take up serpents); positively, the overcoming of all that is physically injurious, through the strengthening of the life of Christians. The third division (laying hands upon the sick) indicates, negatively, the removal of all ethico-physical sufferings from others; positively (they shall recover), the return of the perfect, natural feeling of health to those who believe. These six members represent a proclamation, by means of facts, of that Gospel which is designed for every creature, or better, for the whole creation.—Cast out devils.—Employed in the most extensive sense, and with the deepest meaning. Purification of the new, divine world from all evil spirits.—Speak with new tongues.—This statement is to be restricted neither to the form under which “the speaking with tongues” showed itself at Pentecost, nor to the more general form of the Corinthian gift of tongues, obtaining commonly among the new converts of the apostolic era (Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6). For the statement of Christ applies to Christians generally, and to all time. The germ of this promise, of speaking with new tongues, lies in the instructions to the Apostles, Mark 13:11; comp. Matthew 10:0. The new form which the spiritual world assumes, under the teaching of the Spirit, is here revealed by means of a symbolic expression; and we have an indication of the miraculous development of that world when the apostolic gift of tongues appeared. Meyer declares that there is a reference in this passage to the Apostles speaking with tongues under the influence of ecstasy (a state as entirely different from the Montanist conception, as the free, ethical inspiration is from pathological somnambulism); that tradition has explained this “speaking,” with reference to what occurred at Pentecost, as speaking in foreign tongues,—the fact being that Mark, influenced by traditions, conceived of the matter in a mythical way, and went far beyond Luke’s idea. But, holding such opinions, Meyer is on the high road to a mythological explanation of the passage, and only obscures a statement which is to be received as an exalted expression, symbolical in character, but in meaning most fully accordant with the Bible.
Mark 16:18. Take up serpents.—By αἴρειν may be understood destroy, drive forth (Luther), or exterminate (Theophylact). This explanation would give a good sense, and might find support from some other passages of the Scriptures (Luke 10:19): nevertheless, to express such an idea, no such peculiar expression would have been selected; and moreover the conception we obtain thus is too trifling, for Hercules had already proved himself able to exterminate serpents. The word may, however, have another meaning: throw into the air (and so mediately destroy the reptiles), as Paul did with a serpent (Acts 28:5). But to express this idea, the term before us is not sufficiently clear. Or it may signify, to draw forth by means of some potent conjuration; an idea that savors too much of heathenish magic arts. Or, finally, it may mean, to set up on a pole, as a token of victory. Commentators have hitherto passed over unnoticed this signification of αἴρειν, to lift up, or elevate as a σημείον or signal upon some pole or staff, and yet it is a force properly belonging to the verb; and it leads our thoughts back to the lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of victory. The expression ἱστάναι ἐπὶ σημείον, Numbers 21:9, is of the same import as αἴρειν, for which John employs (Mark 3:14) ὑψοῦν for a particular reason. The special reference of that brazen serpent was to Christ, who was elevated upon the cross in the character of a heretic and transgressor, rejected by the old world, and so formed a type of the arch-enemy, and yet was made by God Saviour of, and means of life to, all that looked up to Him. Still, the more general reference was this, that the deadly and horrible serpent was not only overcome, but that its image was made to be a standard of victory. And this is accordingly a type which has been fulfilled to the fullest extent in Christianity: serpents are not simply overcome, destroyed; they are lifted up on high as ensigns of victory, with healing efficacy. What was in itself injurious has been serviceable to the interests of God’s kingdom, as we find represented in the Gothic cathedrals. And this occurs not merely in a typical manner, but with actual serpents,—of course according to their symbolic signification. The fact that Christ only represented a serpent (that is, represented a deceiver and destroyer of the people dying on the cross, by whom the world was delivered from ruin), does not prevent our adopting the more general explanation, according to which actual serpents, the signs of death in the world, are changed into signs of life. Meyer, in his remarks on this passage, far surpasses De Wette, when the latter says, “If Mark had before his mind the serpent-charmers so common in the East (Mich. Mos. Recht, § 255), the account is apocryphal.” Meyer puts this view aside with the one hand, and with the other takes it back again, with many additions. This conversion of the symbolism of the Bible into obscure, mythical allusions is now altogether antiquated. [The simplest explanation is the most rational. The “taking up of serpents” is immediately connected with the “drinking of any deadly thing,” and denotes that their lives would be preserved by the miraculous power of God, whenever the exertion of such power was needed. The extension of the statement to believers generally, in every age of the church, is not warranted by anything in the text, and introduces confusion. This was a promise to the Apostles, and the apostolic age.—Ed.]—And if they drink any deadly thing.—This expresses symbolically the restoration of life to such a degree as to be actually inviolable. De Wette thinks that the apocryphal story of John having, without injury, drunk a poisoned cup, and the similar story regarding Barnabas, related by Eusebius, Hist. 3:39, gave origin to this passage. Meyer has good reasons for opposing this view; but he is somewhat inconsistent, since he considers this section to be an apocryphal addition. The remark has more force, that the custom of condemning a criminal to drink a cup of poison suggested the idea. And why should this custom not have occurred to Christ? yea, why may He not have thought of the condemnation of Socrates, and then have declared, “The poisoned cup shall not harm My people;” primarily, of course, in a symbolic sense (just as the cup of hemlock hurt not the soul of Socrates)? But also in a typical sense the life of believers should grow more and more able to overcome all injurious influences, and often literally to overcome these influences in a miraculous manner. The passage Matthew 20:23 is the most general, the passage Matthew 26:39 the most special, Christological conception of the similar thought in a symbolic form.—Sick.—Miraculous cures. Also a symbolical expression of the removal of sickness.—They shall recover.—Guided by the two preceding parallels, we consider this last sentence to refer to believers themselves. They are, on their side, to enjoy perfect well-being.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Comp. the parallel passages in Matthew, in Luke, and John.
2. By the first appearance of Jesus in the full assembly of the disciples, on the first evening after the resurrection, the certainty of His having risen is decided for the Church, and so mediately for the world. This first revelation of the risen Christ stands opposed to the last rising of the unbelief of the disciples. They have sinned, in respect to His resurrection, through unbelief; and hence His appearing is accompanied with an upbraiding of their want of faith, which wakens shame in them. The last remnant of unbelief is now actually driven forth by rebukes with this departing unbelief, the hard-heartedness disappears, the spiritual life of the disciples becomes free and active; they can now yield themselves up to the perfect revelation of His glory, and all succeeding revelations of that glory, with full confidence, and with an ever-growing soul-life. This upbraiding of the unbelief, which passes over into a blessing, marks the perfected triumph of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and so gives the concluding thought of Mark, through whose entire Gospel the contest of Christ against the unbelief and hardness of heart of His disciples is found running as the fundamental thought. Least of all could the Gospel by Mark conclude, as a Gospel of fear, with the little faith of the disciples. In the belief, however, of Christ’s absolute glory through His victory, the spiritual glory of the Church is also declared. According to the Gospel of Peter, the Church of Christ must go on from one degree of faith to another, till it attains unto perfection. It cannot, like the Romish phantom of Peter, remain amazed for ever upon the first step of faith; it must advance with the almighty administration of Christ, must grow and work in the fulness of spiritual life, till the Gospel be preached to every creature.
3. The Gospel to every creature.—Out of the demon-polluted, the enslaved, the fear-ruled world, shall arise an evangelized, freed, glorified world of faith, of peace, of life. The glorification of the world through the Gospel is an idea and a promise which runs through the whole of Holy Writ (Deuteronomy 28:0; Song of Sol.; Isaiah 11:0; Isaiah 65:17; Romans 8:0; Revelation 2:1): and Christ here makes this promise to take the form of an institution. What His resurrection is in fact,—a proclamation of the Gospel to every creature: this the apostolic preaching is to make known to the world, to bring about, and to seal by the sacraments. And every true, living, earnest preaching of the word is consequently a proclamation of that Gospel, the aim of which is to free all creatures from their subjection to vanity, a power conducing to that regeneration which the great palingenesis is to bring about, and which shall appear along with the world’s end. This thought of the great regeneration of the world rests altogether upon views peculiar to Peter: Acts 2:20; Acts 3:20-21; 2 Peter 1:4; Mark 3:13.
4. He that believeth.—With the Gospel, accordingly, begins the great crisis, the separation, which comes to view at the end of the world. See John 3:19; John 3:36. Belief and unbelief form the grand distinction in the new history of the world; and they are operating to bring to its completion the separation of the eternal, divine world from the territory of death and of the devils’ torment; and they will continue to act thus until judgment begins. That the believer, as such, is at once baptized, that is, enters under the sacramental seal of his faith into the communion of the believing Church, is a self-evident presupposition; therefore, whoso believeth and is baptized. The promise of salvation, of deliverance, is not annexed to baptism in itself, but to the faith which receives its completion in baptism. Hence, on the other hand, want of baptism is not followed by damnation, but the want of faith, which may undoubtedly evidence itself, even though baptism be lacking.
5. Upon the doctrine of baptism, consult the dogmatic systems.
6. The accompanying miracles.—The new birth of creation is completed in three stages: 1. The personal stage, preaching the Gospel: 2. the social stage, the sacrament; 3. the cosmical stage, the cures, as they enter into the natural life, arid lead it on to its transformation, by working on the one hand to purify, on the other to liberate. Compare the preceding observations on the single miracles. Heubner: “Promise of miraculous powers. How far does it extend? Many commentators maintain that it extends to all time, and in a very wide sense; e. g., Grotius. He says, we are to blame that the χαρίσματα have ceased (so also Lavater, Hess). But have, then, the later Christians,—e. g., from the third century down, the most spiritual of the Christian Fathers, the Reformers,—had no faith, because they wrought no miracles? Augustine says: The miraculous gifts continued so long as they were needed, until firm ground was laid for the Church to rest upon; they could be dispensed with, when the Church became firmly established (comp. De Civ. Dei. x. 7).” According to Mark, however, this promise is given in as universal a form as the sending of the Gospel into all lands, for all times. The elder theology was wanting in the defined conception of the Church as an organic whole; otherwise, it would have seen that the miraculous signs continue, though the forms are not the same,—least of all, do the forms at the beginning correspond with those to obtain at the last end.
7. The festival of the Ascension.—It was from the first, undoubtedly, celebrated within the great Quinquagesima period, between Easter and Pentecost. After the fourth century, it assumed the form of a special festival, and was celebrated when the fifty days began to end.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See Matthew, and the parallel passages in Luke and John.—This section, Mark 16:14-18. Not until after the personal appearance and presence of Christ in the Church, did the belief of the Church in the resurrection become perfect: 1. The personal revelation as opposed to the earlier, preparatory revelations; 2. the belief in the resurrection as opposed to those degrees of faith, at which the hardness of heart remained stationary.—With the personal announcement of Christ in the Church comes the Spirit and spiritual life, in which all hardness of heart ceases.—The last upbraiding of Christ in the circle of His disciples changes into a blessing.—Lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed!—The last death-cry of the Lord upon the cross, and His first life-word in the Church, in their great and ceaseless efficacy.—The Easter-period, the great turning-point at which the Church of the disciples became the Church of the Apostles.—The Lord’s upbraiding in the Church; or, the seven thunders which from time to time resound in her (Revelation 10:0): voices of reformers, which affright the demons, and predict new summer-seasons.—The expulsion of unbelief from the hearts of the disciples is succeeded by their being sent into all the world.—The Gospel of faith: 1. From the faith; 2. in the faith; 3. for the faith.—The Gospel in its unlimited appointment: 1. To the end of the world—all creatures; 2. to the end of all time—blessed or damned; 3. appointed to work till all imperfection in the kingdom of God is ended [the miracles].—The Gospel in its threefold attestation: 1. By itself; 2. by the sacrament; 3. by miracles.—The miracles which accompany the Gospel: 1. In the world of spirit: a. the evil spirits expelled; b. the good spirits praise the Lord [new tongues]. 2. In the external world of nature: injurious things overcome, the evil in life made serviceable, life triumphing over death. 3. In the personal life, as soul and body: diseases removed, the restored rejoicing in a new existence.—Christianity remains a continuous miracle of curing and of life till the new, great signs of the world’s glorification.—The Lesson for Ascension Sunday, Mark 16:14-20. See the following section.—The ascended and glorified Christ, in His perfect victory over the world’s unbelief: 1. In the Church [Mark 16:14-15]; 2. by the Church [Mark 16:16-18]; 3. above and along with the Church [Mark 16:19-20].—The exaltation of Christ, how it was unfolded in the resurrection and ascension of the Lord: 1. The resurrection, the beginning of His ascension; 2. His ascension, the completion of His resurrection.—The last retreat of the Lord into concealment the ground of His victorious advance into, and progress through, the entire world: 1. He retires from view, in order to advance again into the light as the risen Lord; 2. He retires to heaven, in order to advance again as He who had been raised to the glory of heaven.—Preaching faith is an upbraiding of unbelief to the end of the world.—The upbraiding of unbelief in the Church and the world, the sweetest message of highest love and grace.—The Lord’s glorious upbraiding: 1. Glorious in the storm and the thunder-peal; 2. glorious in the law; 3. still more glorious in the Gospel. Or, 1. Fearful only to devils, opposed only to them; 2. to all susceptible, pious hearts a greeting of peace.—Whosoever cannot rebuke in the spirit of Christ, can expel no demons.
Starke:—Bibl. Wirt.:—We must willingly and pleasantly receive even the denunciatory statements of God’s word. They proceed from the purest love, to effect our salvation.—Luther:—The words of Christ are words of majesty; for that may well be termed majesty, by virtue of which these poor beggars are commanded to go forth and preach this new truth, not in one city or country, but in all the world, in every principality and kingdom, and to open their mouths freely and confidently before all creatures, so that all the human race may hear this preaching. This was most assuredly stretching the arm far out, grasping on all sides, and lading itself with a great burden. This is a command so strong and powerful, that no injunction of earth has surpassed it.—Those alone can preach repentance who have repented, and are truly humble.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Lo, Jesus has instituted the ministerial office for the benefit of all the world. The portals of grace stand open to all: oh! let us enter, and not delay!—Osiander:—God will exclude no one from eternal blessedness, who does not exclude himself through unbelief.—Faith is enjoined upon all, but given only to those who do not obstinately oppose themselves.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Mark well, my soul, how blessed thou mayest be, and escape damnation! One way alone leads to heaven, faith; one way alone to hell, unbelief.—Unbelief is the sole ground of damnation.
Gerlach:—Although no man can be saved except through Christ, nevertheless Christ declares him alone damned who has refused the salvation offered to him.—All miracles which accompany the proclamation of the divine word are signs: they point to that internal wonder of salvation and the new birth which the word effects, and only in so far have they value.—Lisco:—He who is ashamed of such a confession of Christ [baptism] should think of Matthew 10:32-33.—In the name of Jesus, in faith upon Him, empowered by His might, for the furtherance of His ends, were these signs to be wrought.
Braune:—From Rieger: “Wonder not, although in thine own case faith is a constant overcoming of unbelief.”—Brieger:—The command of Christ [“Go ye,” etc.] given to the Church, which came into prominence at Pentecost.—The Gospel is for all.—The state of a Church may be seen in what it does for missions.—After the signs which accompanied belief have ceased, the ascension of the Son of God can be evidenced only in that which manifests itself as the life of faith [and this is the sign of the regeneration of the world; a sign, no doubt, manifesting itself ever under new forms, while the divine power remains ever the same].
The Lesson. Heubner (compare, in addition, Luther’s explanation, Works ix. 2546–2747):—Unbelief is blameworthy, is dependent upon the heart, upon being willing or not willing. Were it otherwise, Christ could not rebuke.—The world is the theatre for the display of the Gospel.—Christianity is a matter for humanity.—It is a duty continually to spread the Gospel.—We must profess the faith we have in our hearts (baptism).—Faith is necessary for all without exception, would they be saved. To disbelieve is very different from not knowing the Gospel (unbelief and ignorance are two essentially distinct ideas): unbelief is rejecting an offered, an understood Gospel, which has to some degree influenced one. Unbelief is chargeable, when it is a positive, determined rejection. The heathen cannot be charged with (deliberate) unbelief.—The revelation of the glory of Jesus in the moment of His parting from His disciples.—The departure of Jesus from the earth: 1. The description itself; 2. how edifying for us.—The power of faith in the heavenly majesty of Jesus.
Schleiermacher (Predigten, Bd. ii. 1834, p. 204): The close of our Lord’s appearance upon earth compared with its beginning.—Gruneisen (Pred. 1842, p. 280):—Upon the blessing of the exalted Redeemer.—Heidenreich:—The ascension of the Lord, contemplated from the stand-point of faith.—Illgen:—How heaven appears to us in the light of Christ’s ascension: 1. As our eternal fatherland; 2. as the land of our spiritual perfection; 3. as the place of our highest blessedness.—Von Kalm:—Let the entrance of Jesus into glory strengthen us during the period of probation; let it strengthen, 1. Our faith in heaven; 2. our longing for heaven; 3. our striving to attain heaven.—Uhle:—What Christ in His exaltation is to men upon the earth.—Rambach:—If we look into the hearts of the disciples of Jesus, upon His exaltation to heaven, we see the deepest reverence for His divine majesty, living faith in His promises, heart-longings after the better world, joyous zeal to fulfil His commission, courage undaunted by consequences.—Reinhard:—The connection between true Christians and the Church above.—Rambach:—Seek the things above.—The ascension of Jesus in its power to elevate the heart.—Reinhard:—Our unbroken communion with the perfected of our race.—Kummich:—Our Lord’s ascension shows us the way to heaven.—Hossbuch:—Our Lord’s ascension is the real completion of His work on earth.—Herberger:—The ascension, the last miracle; with it the Lord closed His visible sojourn on earth: a blessed termination of Christ’s entire journey, as St. Bernard says.—Kapff:—The ascension of Jesus shows us heaven now standing open.—Dietz:—The ascension of Jesus contemplated as His entrance upon government as the King of God’s earthly kingdom.—Harless:—The Gospel being preached to every creature is the best testimony of Christ being raised to the right hand of God.—Bengel:—With the ascension, the kingdom begins to extend on all sides.—Genzen:—The Lord ever continues to bless His Church.—Ahlfeld:—The last expression of the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.—Kem:—Not till His ascension did He become properly our Saviour [i.e., the most remote distance becomes the most immediate contiguity].—Florey:—The disciples’ pain and consolation in the departure of the Lord.—Burk:—Consider how Jesus, by His ascension, has opened all that formerly was closed: 1. The human heart to faith; 2. the whole earth to the Gospel; 3. heaven for all to enter who believe on Him.
THE RISEN SAVIOUR IN HIS ASCENSION, AS CONQUEROR WITH THE CHURCH, GIVING POWER TO THE MESSAGE OF SALVATION THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE EARTH
(Parallels: Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:4-12.)
19So then, after the Lord12 had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Comp. the parallels in Luke and Acts; also the comments upon the conclusion of Matthew.—Mark’s account of the ascension possesses a noble simplicity; and so conveys to the mind a comprehensive idea of Christ’s majesty and rule, which consists most fully with the character of this Gospel. The ascension, described accurately by Luke, is here briefly sketched: the exaltation of Christ in the words, “and sat on the right hand of God,” implies the supreme rule of Christ, as related by Matthew; while the last verse is analogous to the end of the Gospel by John, and expresses in a word the essence of all contained in the Acts.
Mark 16:19. The Lord Jesus.—Term of reverence.—After He had spoken.—Augustine and the majority of commentators understand this to refer to the forty days; but Meyer will not concede this. According to him, this account and the lapse of forty days are quite irreconcilable. It is only when the Gospels are treated as mere chronicles, in which an exact sequence of all events in time is expected, that it becomes impossible to reconcile them with each other.
He was received up.—Taken up. Meyer properly combats the representation given by Strauss and Bauer, that Christ ascended to heaven from the room where they had supped. Yet, if we must not interpret this passage literally regarding the place, Meyer has as little right to insist upon a literal view as to the time. The account of the ascension is in every point to be supplemented by that of Luke, with whom Mark stands in no contradiction.—And sat on the right hand of God.—An account, resting partly upon the direct vision of the disciples (Acts 1:19), partly upon a revelation (Acts 1:11), partly upon the words of Christ (John 14:3), and upon the lively inference of faith, especially from the events occurring at Pentecost, Acts 2:33. The fact is itself, on the one hand, local—that is, the being seated upon that throne of glory where the self-revelations of God take place, and in the midst of that majesty whence the manifestations of His power proceed; and, upon the other hand, is symbolic of Christ’s royal dominion, Philippians 2:10.
Mark 16:20. Everywhere.—As it is probable the Evangelist wrote in Rome, and had been in Babylon, he knew that the Gospel was extending over the earth.—The Lord working with them.—See Matthew, close; Ephesians 1:19.—With signs following.—The previously-promised powers to work these signs have been conferred; the miracles have appeared in striking forms, and conveying their symbolic import in their more general working. We see here the Gospel’s absolute power to conquer in the might of the Lord. From this we perceive how close the connection between the closing of this Gospel and its beginning, and its every statement. Each Evangelist concludes in a manner peculiar to himself, but with each the common topic is the glory and the kingly rule of Christ. The view peculiar to Mark is the forthputting of Christ’s power by His servants on earth, to free the world and remove all demoniacal powers by which the earth was polluted.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. See the conclusion of Matthew and the parallels in Luke.—We find the explanation of the circumstance, that Mark has combined the ascension in his Gospel narrative, in the fundamental principle of his Gospel, viz.: Christ, the omnipotent conqueror bursting through all barriers, the Lion in His retreat and advance. On this principle he was led to briefly mention the last withdrawal of Christ, the ascension; but then, only as the basis for the last forthcoming of Christ in His people, in their preaching of the Gospel and their working of signs in all places. Matthew presents Christ as a spiritual, invisible, theocratic King, beneath whose jurisdiction the present and the future worlds both lie, and whose administration over His people is in this present world universal, and of a specially spiritual character. By John, the universality and the present manifestation of Christ’s glory are still more strongly emphasized. The typal form of this administration of Jesus is to be seen in the activity of a John and a Peter; that is, in contemplation and profound meditation combined with earnest labor and constancy in faith. Respecting Christ Himself, it is only hinted by John that He goes and comes again. According to Mark and Luke, Christ is with equal distinctness characterized as King of both worlds; but He works individually and personally from the other world outwards: and hence both these Evangelists present the ascension as a link, connecting Christ’s life on earth with His work in and from heaven. In addition to this, however, Mark, like Peter, makes the rule of the exalted Christ in and with His people to prevail, because it is a work of the exalted Jesus which success will certainly crown; while Luke, with Paul, makes this prevalence result from the exalted state of the working Jesus.
2. When we estimate the resurrection properly, and consider that it was not the return of Jesus to His old, His first life, but His exaltation to His second, His new life, we see at once that the ascension must be joined to the resurrection as its necessary consequence. Christ’s last departure from His disciples must have therefore, in any case, been termed His ascension; nevertheless, it consisted with His glory, that His return home should be an imposing and sublime ascension.
3. The doubts of critical writers as to the history of the ascension rest upon a mistake, often alluded to, regarding the nature of the Gospels, which are held to be memorabilia collected from various sources, instead of being received as individual, graphic life-pictures and views, organic in form, and Christological in character. The doubts of writers upon dogmatics are to be connected with their doubts regarding the resurrection itself, the divine dignity of Christ, the eternal continuance of personality, and the reality of a future state in heaven. In each of these two points the Apostles agree, as witnesses of the ascension, in their testimony with one another.
4. The theologians of the Lutheran school have thrown as much obscurity around the historical ascension, as those of the Reformed school around Christ’s descent into hell (the Heidelberg Catechism). The Reformed Church has gone too far in its teaching regarding the glorified Christ’s spiritual, omnipresent working; and the Lutheran, in its views upon the distinct localization and extension of Christ, now exalted. (Luther upon the Supper.) But the descent into hell and ascent to heaven must not be separated; and the localization of the exalted Redeemer in heaven must be held, along with His omnipresent manifestation. “That He reveals Himself in one way only in heaven amid the blessed, and that He in some other sense is everywhere present, are not contradictory propositions.” Spener, Katechismus-Predigten, 2 Bd. p. 914.
5. When we represent the ascension as the triumph of Christ and His Church, let us not forget the sad, earnest side for the Church in her human weakness. But as death is swallowed up in victory, so human sorrow is swallowed up in divine joy.
6. For the accounts given in Church history, and for the various traditions regarding the apostolic labors in preaching the Gospel, see Lange’s Apost. Zeitalter, 2 Bd. p. 401.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See Matthew and Luke.—Christ’s exaltation the great turniug-point in His life and work.—The exaltation of Christ to heaven, a sign of the completion of His work on earth (“After the Lord,” etc.).—The union of the Father and the Son seen in the ascension: as He had been sent, and yet came freely,—as He had finished the work given Him by the Father, and unfolded His own secret life, was given up to the death, and resigned His life,—as He was raised from the dead, and rose by His own power,—so He is exalted by the Father, and yet ascends by virtue of His own might.—The degrees of Christ’s exaltation shadowed forth in the ascension: 1. It points back to His descent into hell, and His resurrection; 2. it points forward to His being seated upon the throne of glory at the right hand of God.—Christ’s ascension: 1. A return home; 2. an exaltation; 3. a never-ending march of triumph.—The import of Christ’s exaltation for His people. It settles, 1. the ascension of the members in Him, as the Head; 2. the ascension of the members after Him, in the spirit; 3. the final ascension of the members at the coming of the Lord.—Christ’s seat at the right hand of God, the goal of His pilgrimage; or the point of rest between His two great careers: 1. His career through all the misery of the world; 2. His career through all the salvation of the world.—Because Christ is the highest above all heavens, He is the nearest to His people in all their depths: In their depth, a. of struggling, b. of suffering, c. of want, d. of death and the grave.—The Lord’s rest causes the activity of Apostles, and of the members of Christ’s body.—From the tranquil, rejoicing, divinely-human heart above, proceeds every pulsation of the new life throughout the entire world.—All Christ’s Apostles are Apostles of His royal authority.—The blessed consciousness of Christ’s glory, the motive power of the Gospel in the hearts of believers.—The preaching of Christ is a preaching for all places.—Human proclamation of salvation confirmed by the divine manifestations from the Lord.—The truth of the faith established by the signs of love.—The Lord was one with them in tiepower of the Spirit.—The ever-blessing and victorious efficacy of the Gospel, a witness for Christ’s everlasting administration of blessing and conquest.—Christ above all; Christ here, too, in His people.—Lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed!—Our faith is the victory which overcometh the world.—Christ’s seat, His throne: 1. The unceasing rest and festival in heaven; 2. unceasing work on earth; 3. unceasing rule in both kingdoms.—At the right hand of God, working in concert with Him; or, the revelation of the Trinity in Christ’s exaltation (as at His birth and baptism, in His death and resurrection).—Where the exalted Christ appears, there doth heaven appear: 1. Where He is throned, there is heaven; 2. where He works, thither heaven comes (the spiritual, glorified world; the inheritance incorruptible, undefined, that fadeth not away, 1 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 1:11).—We are with Christ transferred to the heavenly state.
Starke:—Let each see that he hold his confifidential interview with Jesus, ere he leave the earth.—God is gone up with a shout, Psalms 47:6.—The ascension of our Jesus is our after-ascension. Where the Head is, there are the members. “Where I am, there shall My servants be, that they may see My glory.”—The heavens stand open: we are certain of our salvation. Even so come, Lord Jesus!—The presence of Christ in the earth has not ceased with His ascension; it is rather established, being combined with His session at the right hand of God.—Hedinger:—Be faithful and industrious in thy calling; God will add His blessing and success.—If believers are not able to see Christ with their eyes, yet they feel His working in their hearts (proof sufficient that He is with and in them).—Osiander:—Jesus is to the present day with the preachers of the Gospel.—When the spiritually blind are enlightened, the spiritually dead quickened, the spiritually deaf and dumb made to hear devoutly and speak piously, the spiritually lame made to be righteously industrious and active, and the spiritually leprous are cleansed from sins, these are greater signs and wonders than physical changes.
Lisco:—He wished to depart from them in such a way that they, seeing whither He had gone, could not imagine that they had lost Him: rather should the thought that He lived and was in heaven be ever present to them, that they might testify courageously of Him, and labor for Him, as though they had Him by their side.—They should know Christ no more after the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16), but as the exalted Son of God, whose glorious elevation filled them with the most blessed hopes and opened to them the most blessed prospects.—Braune:—A close of the activity of the visible, personal Redeemer, that corresponds perfectly with the beginning. Not more mysterious than the birth and resurrection of the Saviour is His ascension.—Christ, having conquered death, could not die, and so ascended to heaven.—Brieger:—Psalms 68:19; Ephesians 4:8 : Christ, to manifest His victory over the devil and his angels, returns as a conqueror to heaven, Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 8:1.—We are the subjects of the Heavenly (the second Adam), who is transforming us more and more into His likeness.—Bauer:—Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.
Mark 16:14; Mark 16:14.—C., D. add δέ to ὕστερον.
Mark 16:14; Mark 16:14.—Ἐκ νεκρῶν, supported by A., C., X., Δ., 1, 33.
Mark 16:17; Mark 16:17.—The omission of καιναῖς by C., L., Δ. is not decisive against it.
Mark 16:18; Mark 16:18.—Codd. C., L., M.**, X., Δ., the Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac versions, read before ὄφεις, καὶ ἐν ταῖς χερσίν. But it is probably a mere explanatory addition.
[These passages, however, speak only of human creatures.—Ed.]
Mark 16:19; Mark 16:19.—After κύριος stands Ἰησοῦς in Codd. C., K., L., Δ. Lachmann adopts this reading. (Lange renders literally: “The Lord Jesus, after he had spoken thus unto them, was raised,” &c.—Trs.)
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 16". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29