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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Mark 16

 

 


Verse 1

1. And Salome — Besides the three women here mentioned, Luke mentions a fourth, Joanna, the wife of Chusa, adding that there were others, of women from Galilee. It was, therefore, a numerous party. Sweet spices — Consisting of myrrh, aloes, and other preventives of putrefaction, and odorous perfumes. These spices had been prepared upon the previous Friday evening. Previous to this, the sacred body had been embalmed by Nicodemus with spices to the enormous amount of a hundred pounds in weight, inclosed within the linen cloth that enwrapped him. Why was this exceeding copious amount of spices lavished upon the Lord’s body? The ancient Egyptians adopted the practice of embalmment with the idea of preserving the body undissolved and unmarred for the day of resurrection. Did these friends of Jesus provide these ample preservatives under a somewhat similar conception? As Mary unknowingly anointed his body for his burial, so these disciples seemed half unconsciously to be embalming him for his resurrection. It is almost impossible to suppose that some thought of his prediction of his rising again should not cross their minds, and it seems naturally to have shown itself in this munificent honouring of the sacred body.


Verse 2

2. First day of the week — Sunday. Hence this day of the week was called the Lord’s day by St. John in Revelation 1:9. It is therefore recognized by inspiration as the sacred day in the Christian week. The day of the Saviour’s sepulchral repose was the last of Jewish Sabbaths. The first day of the week has from that time to this succeeded to the honours of the fourth commandment. Six days still shalt thou labour, but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. The first day of the old week is the decalogue’s seventh of the new. At the rising of the sun — See note on Matthew 28:1.


Verse 4

4. For it was very great — This clause seems to render a reason for the query of the women, and would, therefore, be naturally appended to the preceding verse.


Verse 5

5. Entering into the sepulchre — The sepulchres of the ancient Jews were often hewn in the solid rock, and consisted usually of two or more apartments. Entering its front door, you find its first and largest apartment to be a room several feet square. From this a low door opens into another apartment, into which you descend by a flight of steps. This is the sepulchre, or place where the corpse is deposited, either in cells cut into the wall, extending lengthwise to the distance of six or seven feet, or shelves cut parallel to the room, so that the entire length of the corpse would be visible. It is probable that the sepulchre in which our Lord was deposited was of this latter kind, for the two angels seen by Mary Magdalene stood one at the head and the other at the foot, where the body of Jesus had lain. John 20:12. We may suppose then that the women entered the first apartment (sometimes called the court) and saw the young man at the right hand, near or within the sepulchre, at which place he could easily invite them to see where the Lord had lain. Whether the whole train of women entered or not is not certain, but probably Mary, Salome, and Joanna did enter the first apartment. Nor is it certain whether any of them complied with the invitation to enter the sepulchre to see the shelf on which the sacred body had been deposited.

Young man — A man in form but an angel in nature. It would seem that angelic beings can assume different forms, and invest themselves with apparent habiliments, and present or withdraw themselves from sight as they please. So our Lord in his resurrection body could make himself more or less known, as he chose, to his disciples. And this answers the very foolish question which some have asked: Whence did Jesus procure his resurrection garments? Sitting on the right side — At their right hand as they entered the inner chamber.


Verse 7

7. And Peter — The Greek word for and is by critics interpreted to be equivalent to and especially. Peter is especially mentioned here, as some suppose, because he was the most eminent of the apostles; and others, because of his late denial of his Lord. According to the former view it was a token of respect; according to the latter, of compassion and restoration to favour. Both views may be combined. Without assigning to Peter any official primacy, he was pre-eminent in character. And as he had pre-eminently fallen, so now he is pre-eminently remembered and named by the angel of the Lord.


Verse 8

8. Fled from the sepulchre — We may suppose that most probably the women did glance at the spot vacated by the risen Lord. The vacuity and the consciousness of an angel’s presence filled them with awe. In Oriental manner they bowed to the earth; they escaped from the sepulchre as men flee from a supernatural apparition. Neither said they anything to any man — That is, on their way they addressed no bystander, but hastened to fulfil the message of the angel to the disciples.


Verse 9

9. Appeared first to Mary Magdalene — A close comparison of John and Luke will perhaps show that our Lord could hardly have been seen first of all by Mary Magdalene. For as these women hasted from the sepulchre, Luke informs us that they were met by the risen Saviour before they arrived at the residence of the disciples. But before Mary saw the Saviour, she had gone to the residence of Peter and John, followed them to the tomb, was left there by them, and conversed with the angels before she saw the Lord. A comparison of the time of Jesus being seen by the women and by Mary Magdalene will show a strong improbability that the last occurred first. But perhaps the word first here is to be taken not absolutely, but relatively, as the following considerations may show.

In the entire remainder of the chapter Mark gives three appearances of our Saviour, which illustrate the matter of the unbelief which his resurrection had to overcome in the minds of the apostles. First of all, to Mary Magdalene, whose narrative was discredited; “after that” to the two from Emmaus, whose account was also disbelieved; and “afterward” (or rather finally, υστερον, Mark 16:14) to the whole eleven, whom he “upbraided with their unbelief.”

The word first then in this verse by no means implies that the Lord’s absolutely first appearance at all was to Mary Magdalene; but the first of this class of three cases. No more does the υστερον, or finally, of Mark 16:14 imply that it narrates our Lord’s last appearance on earth. Both terms may indicate the first and last of the three instances. Our Lord, therefore, may really have appeared to the company of women earlier than to Mary Magdalene. See note on Matthew 28:7.

But the counter view of Milman seems to me perfectly satisfactory. Peter and John alone of the apostles had followed Jesus to the cross, and were probably staying not far from the sepulchre. So near were they that they ran the distance in a race. The other disciples had fled, had scattered, were very likely to be at Bethany, (the place of Christ’s seclusion during the nights of Passion Week,) and the appearance of Jesus to these women may have been on Mount Olivet, or somewhere else, long after the interview with Mary of Magdala first.


Verse 10

10. Them that had been with him — Namely, his apostles whom he had chosen to be with him, who for near three years had been his constant followers. As they mourned and wept — As they were mourning and weeping the loss of their beloved Master, and the overthrow of their dearest prospects. In the catastrophe of the crucifixion, their courage and fortitude had been lost. Recollections they no doubt had of his predictions of his resurrection; but their minds are incapable now of rising to the high level of so stupendous a supernatural fact. This seems, indeed, strange. But the same thing is occurring every day to ourselves. We weep and mourn hardly the less for our friends just deceased, from the fact that they are still living in soul and will rise in body at the last day. Sense so overcomes faith that we are overwhelmed with sorrow for the sad lot of those whom we fully believe to have gone to a better world. See notes on Mark 9:10; Mark 9:32.


Verse 11

11. Believed not — They had not forgotten, nor did they truly disbelieve their Lord’s predictions. But in their dejection of mind they had lost the realizing power and could not grasp the fact. Besides, if our Lord is to rise again he ought to come in the glory of his kingdom, appearing perhaps in the skies. Mark 9:10-31. Hence they afterward ask our Lord, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. It is quite unexpected, therefore, that his resurrection shall steal upon them, and be first announced to them by women. Nor, had the resurrection been a fable invented by these apostles, would they have made themselves so little the heroes of the history.


Verse 12

12. After that — Mark here selects a second appearance of Jesus, which is more fully described in Luke 24:13. The place in the country was Emmaus, some eight miles from Jerusalem. Dr. Thomson identifies Emmaus with the present Kuriet el’Aineb, situated on the road to Jaffa on the dividing ridge between plain and mountains. By that power of appearing at will under various forms to human senses, which we have above described as belonging to supernatural beings, our Lord at first conceals himself from their knowledge, but finally resumes his well known appearance to their vision.


Verse 13

13. They — The two disciples from Emmaus. The residue — The rest of their fellow apostles. Neither believed they them — There was perhaps a reasonableness in this distrust of particular relations of our Lord’s appearances. A due skepticism of any particular story was doubtless right.

It did not imply necessarily a disbelief that the Lord would rise again according to his promises. In fact, like true philosophers, the disciples held that no narrative of the kind should be accepted until it had been fully tested by the most satisfactory evidence. Hence their skepticism affords just ground for our belief. Their testimony is the testimony of incredulous and scrutinizing witnesses.


Verse 14

14. Afterward — Mark gives here a third appearance. Appeared unto the eleven — They are called the eleven because this was now their official number, and not because there were really eleven present, for Thomas was absent on that occasion. This was probably the same as the appearance mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5, where they are called the twelve. This same meeting is described in John 20:19-23, but most fully in Luke 24:36-49; upon that occasion our Lord saluted them with peace, presented his members to their senses, and ate in their presence, to show that he was no spirit. And he opened their eyes to understand the prophetic Scriptures, that they might appreciate their predictions of his death and resurrection, and the universal propagation of his Gospel. He promised to commission them as universal preachers of his word, but bade them remain in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high.


Verse 15

15. Go ye into all the world — These words somewhat resemble the great commission given in Matthew 28:16-20, on the mountain in Galilee, but they were now uttered on a different occasion, namely, as they sat at meat. As these words were addressed to all preachers of the word, who are therein successors to the apostles, so they make it the duty of the Church to prosecute the enterprise of converting the world. Nations nominally Christian are to be converted to a real piety. Heathen nations are to be converted to the acceptance of a vital Christianity. The words sound as a trumpet blast pealing through all ages to the army of faith to win the world to the Saviour. Preach — The preacher and the preaching are divine institutions. They are established by Christ, and shall last till the world shall end. All other moral means of converting the world to righteousness — the press, the sabbath school, the voluntary societies, social prayer meetings, class meetings, and other meetings for Christian counsel — are auxiliary to the preacher and the preaching of the word. The Gospel — That is the “good news.” (See note on Matthew 1:1.) Preach the good news that there is a Saviour who can save us from sin, death, and hell, and endow us with holiness, blessedness, and heaven. Preach the good news, that all who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and desire to turn from sin to piety, may find the way. Every creature — That has a soul to be saved.


Verse 16

16. He that believeth — Accepts the good news as the ground of his action. And is baptized — Baptized in the true spirit of the ordinance. For the external baptism by water is a public profession that the baptism by spirit has taken place. It is a professional outward consecration indicating an inward consecration of soul and body to the blessed Trinity. It is an emblematical regeneration figuring a real and spiritual regeneration. It is a figurative washing away of the sin, correspondent to the real washing away of sin. It is an external entering into the kingdom of heaven, correspondent to the real entering by regeneration into the spiritual kingdom of heaven. It is the being born of water, figuring the being born of spirit. Hence he who believes and is baptized really and truly shall be saved. Saved — The condition of perseverance in belief and consecration is of course implied in order to salvation. To believe once secures not our salvation, any more than to disbelieve once will secure our damnation. Saved from all those evils which the true man, who would do his duty to himself and to his God, desires to escape. Hence, as Christianity brings ample evidence of affording such a salvation, every true man who desires holiness, and earnestly wishes to escape from sin and its consequences, will accept Christianity. The Gospel, therefore, presents itself as an alternative, and a test of conduct, character, and destiny. Affinity for it will produce belief in it and faith upon it. It is an infallible test. It tests and discriminates rightly. All who ought to be saved believe it, and all who believe it ought to be saved. Hence we see the folly of those cavillers who object that it is unreasonable for Christianity to make belief a condition of salvation. Shall be damned — To reject Christianity is to reject the method of becoming right, of attaining to ultimate purity, holiness, and heaven. Hence those who reject it are left to sin. They are left to be punished for all their sins. And they are pre-eminently punishable for that one great sin, the rejection of the way of holiness through the Redeemer.

Those who object that it is wrong to punish men for believing that they ought to reject Christ, might perhaps as well object to punishing a thief who believed it best for him to steal, or a murderer who in his malignity believed that it is best for him to assassinate his victim. The wrong belief in all these cases arises from the wilful indulgence of a wrongful heart. Damned — Condemned, in opposition to being saved. If salvation means deliverance from sin, guilt, and hell, damnation means surrendry to sin, guilt, and hell. Whatever is the curse of the law, that Jesus saves from on our faith. Whatever is the curse of the law, to that damnation consigns us upon our disbelief. If the curse of the law be, as some think, temporary, and coming to an end, then he who suffers it to the end is not saved by Christ. If, therefore, damnation terminate by its own limitation, and any shall become happy after suffering it to the end, they become happy without salvation and without redemption. Theirs is a final heaven in which no glory is offered to Christ for his redemption or to God for his grace. Of such a heaven holy Scripture knows nothing.


Verse 17

17. Follow them that believe — This promise is general, but not universal. It does not affirm that all in all ages who believe shall be followed by these signs. In fact, if each sign is once, twice, or thrice fulfilled in the case of any who believe, it is completely fulfilled. All over that is surplus fulfilment. So that those are very foolish who cavil that, according to this text, all believers must perform signs, and that none that work not miracles can be true believers.

The signs here mentioned do not include the raising of the dead. That great miracle, by which the soul is recalled from its departed state, has perhaps never been unequivocally and completely performed since the resurrection of our Lord.

In my name… cast out devils — As Jesus cast out devils in his own original power, so the apostles must perform the same miracles in his, and not in their own name. Their first miracle should be that signal work which typified the great work of Christ in expelling evil and its author from the soul of man, and from the world, namely, the casting out of devils. This phenomenon of possession existed through the apostolic age; and the fathers of the early Church bear ample testimony that the true believer expelled demons through faith in Jesus’s name.

Speak with new tongues — Tongues by them not hitherto possessed. Here is an intimation of the Pentecostal miracle. This miracle remained with the early Church (1 Corinthians 12:10) as a symbol of the power of Christianity to pervade all the tribes and languages of the babbling earth, and as a means of arresting the attention of the unchristian and unheeding world.


Verse 18

18. They shall take up serpents — All the miracles here specified, and more, were doubtless plentifully performed in the early Christian Church; but the scantiness of the historical record furnishes no narratives of some of them. Of the present miracle of taking up serpents but a single instance remains on record, namely, in Acts 28:1-6.

Drink any deadly thing — There is a legend that this miracle occurred to the apostle John, but it is not sufficiently authentic. Hands on the sick… recover — Instances are alluded to in Acts 3:6; Acts 5:15, and James 5:14.

As bodily ills are the shadow of the ills of the soul, so these miracles of external mercy are images of the spiritual and moral miracles that Christianity ever works. In all ages the regenerating Spirit casts out devilish passions from men’s souls. The young convert to the Gospel speaks with a new language. The powerful grace of God enables the faithful Christian to handle unharmed the evil things of this life, and perform its secular business, which bite other men and kill them. The cup of temptation and trial which poisons the soul of the unregenerate is drained by the faithful truster in Christ unhurt. And from all the ailments of which men sicken and die, the power of the resurrection shall completely heal them.


Verse 19

19. He was received up into heaven — Of this ascension the fullest account of all the Gospels is given in Luke 24:50-52. And as if the ascension belonged less to the Gospel narrative than to the growth of the kingdom of God after that narrative closes, the fullest picture of all is given in Acts 1:2-12.

The scene took place (not in Galilee, but) on the Mount of Olives near the verge of Bethany. Our Saviour led them to that spot, and while conversing with them, he lifted up his hand and blessed them. And as he blessed them he began to ascend. And as he ascended, the cloud gathering beneath his feet at once bore him upward and closed him from their sight.

Whither did the person of Jesus ascend? Into heaven. But where is heaven? We know not its locality in the immensity of the universe. Astronomers indeed tell us that there is a centre of our solar system, and that is the sun. But the sun is a member of a larger system, which has its centre or sun.

And this is member of a still grander system revolving around its centre. At last there is a centre of the whole universe. At that centre resides the great MOVER of the whole. There doubtless is the central residence of GOD. To that centre perhaps Jesus departed. At any rate heaven is away from this earth, and away from this earth is up. Wherever heaven is therefore it is up. The language of Scripture, the language of humanity, the language of our childhood, herein is true, and, strictly in accordance with the highest science.


Verse 20

20. Went forth and preached — They no longer sat and mourned and wept. (Mark 16:10.) They rose like heroes and quitted themselves like men. They were afraid of no danger, and braved all deaths. Such was the Pentecostal power with which they were endued from on high. The Lord working — Through them as his instruments. With signs following — All the promises of signs were lavishly fulfilled. The apostles’ faith was made mighty by the signs that attended them, and the Gospel prevailed by these powerful testimonies from God. And how mighty was the spirit of this young Christianity!

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Mark 16:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/mark-16.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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