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Mark chapter 16

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What does Mark chapter 16 mean?

He is risen!

Jesus has finished His three years of ministry and training for His disciples. He has faced the cross and taken the sins of the world. Now He has risen, just as He said He would.

After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:42–46) and Nicodemus buried Jesus (John 19:39). They washed His body, wrapped it in linen, and placed Him in a grave. Mary Magdalene and another Mary followed to see where the tomb was (Mark 15:47), then went home to prepare more spices and ointment and to observe the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). The Sanhedrin, afraid that Jesus' disciples will steal His body and claim He has risen from the dead, asked Pilate to seal the tomb (Matthew 27:62–66). A cord would have been wrapped around the stone and the crack filled with wax. The stone could not be moved without breaking the wax and dislodging the cord.

Now that the Sabbath is over, several women come to Jesus' grave to complete the preparations Joseph and Nicodemus hastily provided. Mark mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses (Mark 15:40, 47), and Salome, James and John's mother (Matthew 27:56). Luke adds Joanna (Luke 24:10), and says several other women are present (Mark 16:1–3).

When the women arrive on Sunday morning, they discover the stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty except for a young man in a white robe (Mark 16:1–8). He tells them that Jesus is risen and charges the women to tell the disciples, particularly Peter, to meet Jesus in Galilee. The women leave, telling no one on their way (Mark 16:4–8).

The book of Mark is the story of Jesus trying to teach the disciples who He is and what He has come to do. Ironically, the most reliable manuscript finishes without this mission being completed. Jesus' disciples are in hiding. His tomb is empty. His women followers are confused and scared. But this is, perhaps, an appropriate ending considering what Mark has shown us about Jesus' relationship with His followers. What we think of Jesus has no bearing on Who He is. We may think Him to be a teacher, a future King, the source of infinite blessings, or a helpless, innocent man hanging on a cross.

What He is, is the Son of Man from Daniel 7 who will be given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him" (Daniel 7:14). The women may not understand what has happened yet and the disciples may not believe the news of His resurrection at first. But Jesus will patiently reveal Himself to them, and through their testimony the world will come to hear of who He is. The fact that Jesus returns and chooses these clueless, timid souls to build His church merely proves how much we need His grace-giving sacrifice.

While verse 8 is the end of the oldest transcript of the Gospel of Mark, less-reliable manuscripts continue. Most likely, the additional verses were added as footnotes or addendums, then accidentally included as part of the main text by a scribe. The inclusion of the extended ending of Mark does not invalidate the reliability of this Gospel or the Bible as a whole. In fact, all but one phrase recorded in verses 9–20 is at least partially confirmed somewhere in the other three Gospels or the book of Acts.

As John 20:1–18 states, after the women tell the disciples, Peter and John see for themselves the tomb is empty. Mary Magdalene follows them, and after they leave she meets Jesus (Mark 16:9–11). Jesus sends her back to tell the disciples she has seen Him, but they do not believe her.

Luke includes a much longer version of Mark 16:12–13 (Luke 24:13–35). Jesus speaks with these two travelers, explaining how His ministry, death, and resurrection fit into the prophecies of the Old Testament. He even eats a meal with them. They don't realize He is Jesus until right before He vanishes. The two rush back to Jerusalem to find the eleven disciples and report what happened.

One of the added verses briefly mentions that Jesus rebukes the disciples' unbelief (Mark 16:14). Luke says He appears in the room where they are hiding and scolds them for disbelieving the accounts of others as well as the evidence of their own eyes (Luke 24:36–43). John adds that Thomas is absent from this meeting, but Jesus returns and proves Himself again (John 20:24–29). Thomas responds, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). After several appearances, the disciples finally trust Jesus enough to go to Galilee, where He'd promised to meet them. Matthew 28:16–20 covers the shortened Great Commission found in Mark 16:15.

Mark 16:16–20 is not found in the other Gospels, but most the promises are fulfilled in the book of Acts. The disciples do cast out demons (Acts 19:11–12), speak new tongues (Acts 2:1–11), survive serpent bites (Acts 28:1–6), and heal the sick (Acts 3:1–10). The Scriptures have no record of a disciple surviving poison, although extra-biblical accounts do. The use of this passage to encourage handling snakes and drinking poison is tragic, and entirely contrary to orthodox Christian teachings.
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