About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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alternative ending of Mark 

The Resurrection  (ch. 16:1-20)


Now comes the resurrection of Jesus.  It is the resurrection that our faith is built on.  If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then nothing else really matters, and any other thing we might believe about Him is useless to believe.  Our hope for the future is also based on the resurrection of Jesus.  Christian teaching is that since Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven, we can be as well.


Verse 1 speaks of the Sabbath being over.  It was now early Sunday morning our time.  Mark mentions two women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of  James and Salome going to the tomb with spices.  The other gospel accounts mention other women being present as well.


Some believe that there was not sufficient time for anyone to properly anoint Jesus’ body with spices on Friday since the Sabbath was very close at hand. Joseph had to wrap Jesus’ body with the linen clothes quickly to avoid working on the Sabbath. So it’s possible that  no one got to anoint His body at His burial, so this might be why these ladies were at the tomb with their spices.


All this being said, we do need to remember what John said in John 19:39.  John tells us that Necodemus  went with Joseph of Arimathea to anoint Jesus’ body and to bury Him.  I’ve just said that it is possible that Mary took spices to anoint Jesus’ body because there was no time on Friday to do so. If this is the case, then that  would mean Nicodemus did not get to use his spices to anoint Jesus.  But if Nicodemus did anoint Jesus then it is clear that the women brought the spices for different reason. . 


In verse 3 we see the women asking each other who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb.  It is possible that they felt that they might not have the physical strength to move the flat circular stone down the fixed groove it was place in. 


Yet in verse 4 we see that when the women got to the tomb “the large stone” was rolled away already.  The word large tells us that the stone would be hard for these women to move.


We learn from Matthew that the stone really wasn’t simply rolled away along its grooves.  It was actually hurled right out of the grooves.  You might say that Jesus blasted His way out of that tomb.  It thus appears to me that the stone might well have been a number of feet away from the entrance of the tomb. 


Verse 5 tells us that the women saw a young man dressed in white sitting to the right of where Jesus’ body once was.  We know from other gospel accounts that this young man was an angel.  Mark only speaks of one angel here but the other accounts tell us that there were two angels.  We thus conclude that there were two angels present but only one angle spoke and this is why Mark mentions only one angle, that is, the one who spoke. 


Most scholars believe that angels don’t have bodies, at least not earthly type bodies but when they appear to humans, they appear in such a way that we can see them and they always appear as young men, even though angels aren’t men or women.


In verse 6 the angel tells the woman not to be alarmed.  Their first thought, although not recorded by Mark was that someone took the body away.  But the angel assures them that didn’t happen.  He told them that Jesus had risen from the dead and they could see that where Jesus once laid was now empty.


How these women must have felt at this moment would be hard for us to imagine. When first seeing that Jesus was not in the tomb they were worried and full of fear.  Now they have been told by an angel, not just a man, that Jesus rose from the dead. Confusion and joy met together in their hearts that morning.


We might want to note at this point that the Scripture speaks of both Jesus raising Himself from the dead and the Father raising Him from the dead. Apparently it was a joint effort.  While on the cross, Jesus died alone, but not now.  The cross was in the past and Father and Son were working in unity once again.


In verse 7 the angel tells the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen from the dead and He will meet them in Galilee .  One obvious question asked here is “why is Peter specifically mentioned by the angel”?  There could be at least two possible reasons.  One is that Peter is now the one taking charge, at least for the time being.  The other is that Peter denied Jesus more than the others.  He thus needs to be told specifically what needs to be done.


Mark gives little details other than what has just been said.  Concerning more of the details to when and how Jesus met up with His disciples you can read my commentary on the Book of Luke and John.


Verse 8 clearly tells us the mental state of these women.  They were “bewildered” and they “were trembling”  All sorts of emotion were running through their hearts and minds at this point.  They actually ran from the tomb and went straight to the other disciples without stopping to tell anyone else.  This clearly shows the urgency they felt to tell what had happened. 


You will note that the NIV and most other Bibles separate the conclusion of Mark from the rest of the book.  Many scholars believe that Mark himself did not really finish his account and that he ended it at verse 8.  They say that someone else finished it for him at a later date. 


There has been 4 main different endings discovered in ancient manuscripts, the longest of which appear in most English translations.  The reason why many feel that Mark did not write these endings is that the writing style in Greek is different from the rest of his book.    


There are pros and cons to thinking that Mark did or did not write the last 12 verses of this account.  I will not address this situation.  We should only note that this difficulty exists among scholars and this is why there is usually some form of designation of separation between verses 8 and 9 in our Bibles.


A the end of this commentary you will find the three other versions to the ending of Mark’s gospel. 


Yet for those who don’t believe Mark wrote the last 12 verses, some discount what is said.  Many of these people discount the verses because of the supernatural aspects to them.  But even if Mark did not write these verses, and even if one does not think these verses are inspired of God, their supernatural content should not be ignored simply because there are many other parts of the Bible that confirms what is said in these 12 verses.


For example, just because one might believe that speaking in tongues is not for today, one can’t conclude this by saying that these verses aren’t inspired and were never written by Mark.  Even if these verses weren’t written by Mark and inspired by God, there are ample number of verses that speak to the issue of tongues. 


Verse 9 tells us that Jesus rose from the dead early the first day of the week which is our Sunday and that the first person He met was Mary Magdalene.  Mark also points out that Jesus had cast seven  demons out of Mary which is probably why Mary was so grateful to Jesus and why she felt so close to Him. 


Verses 10 and 11 tell us that when Mary saw Jesus she ran to tell the other disciples but they did not believe her. John and Luke give a greater account of these things and for further information you can read my commentary on John and Luke.


Verse 12 speaks of Jesus appearing to two men as they walked down a road.  They also spread the news of Jesus being alive but met the same resistance as  Mary.  So Thomas was not the only one who had a hard time believing that Jesus was now alive.  Sometimes I feel we are too hard on Thomas for doubting.  He certainly was not the only one who doubted that Jesus was alive. 


It is interesting to see that this verse tells us that Jesus appeared “in a different form” to these two men on the road. There are differing thoughts to what this means.  Some say that the “different form” is simply Jesus’ glorified body.  His new body was different than His old one.


Others say that Jesus in His glorified body appeared differently to various people after the resurrection.  These people suggest that if the “different form” here means just His new glorified body why isn’t it so stated elsewhere in post resurrection appearance that He is in a different form  Why is it only stated in this one appearance? 


I am not sure what to think at present.  It seems to me that “different form’ suggests that Jesus might well have looked differently to these two men than He did to the women at the tomb.  Why this would be the case I don’t know.


Then there would be others, because of the uncertain ending to Mark that would suggest that these words are not even relevant because they may be additions that are not Mark’s words.      


Verse 14 tells us that Jesus also appeared to the eleven and rebuked them for their lack of faith.  At this point in time things still had not changed for these eleven men.  They were still having a hard time believing, as they had for the last three years, and Jesus was still rebuking them for this lack of faith as He had been for the last three years as well.


Mark uses the words “stubborn refusal to believe” in connection with the Eleven.  This suggests to me that their unbelief was persistent, which it is clear that it had been for the last three years.   These words also suggest to me that their unbelief was not simply a matter of frailty to believe but a calculated and somewhat thoughtful persistence not to believe.  They chose not to believe.  It’s not that they had a hard time believing. It was more than human frailty.


Next we see what Bible scholars have called the Great  Commission over the years.  Mathew’s account of this I quoted more often than Mark’s, maybe because Matthew elaborates on what Jesus said or else maybe because of the uncertain authorship of  these verses.  I’d suggest the former over the latter.  


Jesus tells the Eleven to go and preach the good news to all of creation.  A few people have actually used this verse to promote the idea that we should be preaching to animals and trees since they are part of creation.  The fact of the matter is that we preach to men and women, and in the long run, when men and women are finally redeemed at the end of this age, the rest of creation will be redeemed as well.  Therefore all of creation receives salvation because all of creation was placed under the Adamic Curse in Genesis 3.  There is just one exception to this.  Those men and women, along with satan and his demons will not receive this salvation, but rather the eternal wrath of God.      


Matthew tells us the reason why we can go and preach.  Mark doesn’t.  Matthew says that all the authority Jesus has as the Son of God and as the Lord of all things was also given to these Eleven men by Him.   Jesus was giving these men the authority to go out in His name and represent Him to the world and preach to all men.  Christians have the God given right and responsibility to preach the gospel to everyone.  Of course many non-Christians suggest that we should not be trying to convince others to believe like we do.  They say that it is fine for us to believe as we do, but that’s our choice and we shouldn’t try to tell others to believe the same.   The problem with this is that preaching the gospel is part of the main tenants of our faith.  Part of what we hold to as truth as Christians is to share the good news we have with others. So to deny us the right to preach is in fact denying us the right to live our faith.


Verse 16 says that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”.  This tells us the importance of faith and believing in Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t say that eventually all people will be saved as some suggest.  He says those who believe and are baptized will be saved. 


Now some may suggest that baptism is part of the salvation process.  Certain Christian groups believe that if you are not baptized into water, you cannot be saved.  I interpret these words differently.   I think what Jesus means here is that only those who believe will be saved, and He expects those who believe will be baptized after they begin to believe.  It’s not that baptism is part of the salvation process.  It’s that it’s an expected thing to do after one gets saved. 


Some churches actually believe that baptism itself saves you.  Anglicans and Catholics believe that infant baptism saves a person, but they have this backwards.  By believing in infant baptism as a means of salvation they omit the whole idea of one needing to come to personal faith in Jesus. It is clear by what Jesus says here that believing is the important issue.  Without faith you cannot be saved.


I believe one can be saved without being water baptized.  The thief on the cross would be the first example of this.  The first New Testament Christian was not water baptized.  This does not or should not under estimate the importance of water baptism.  


The last half of verse 16 makes it clear that not all people are saved.  Jesus says that if you don’t believe, you’ll be condemned.  One must believe, that is give himself over to Jesus who paid the price for his salvation.  If you don’t believe, then you can’t receive salvation and the only thing that is left is the judgment of God that condemns people to the eternal Lake of Fire. 


From verse 17 on we have some controversy.  Mark adds a few things that can’t be found elsewhere concerning the Great Commission and they have to do with miracles.  Some parts of the church believe that miracles ended with the first apostles and these verses don’t mean anything anyway.  I don’t believe this.


Jesus says that for those who believe, certain things will follow them or be part of their lives.  These miraculous things will be done “in my name” Jesus says.  “In my name” simply means that those doing the miraculous things will be doing them as Jesus’ representatives on earth. 


The things that disciples will do are; cast out demons, speak in new tongues, will pick up snakes and drink deadly poison which will not harm them, and heal the sick. 


Tongues have always been controversial over the years.  I do believe in tongues for today.  Picking up  snakes has turned into a ritual in some parts which is not what Jesus was talking about here.  He’s simply saying that you can be protected if harmed by a snake. Or if you happen to drink poison by mistake, you’ll be protected from the poison.  He’s not telling us to pick up snakes and to drink poison.


Verse 19 tells us that after Jesus spoke these things He was taken up into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God.  Now Mark drastically shortens these events.  John gives way more details.  Still, it is quite possible that the Great Commission might have been the last thing that Jesus told His disciples.  We don’t know for sure just what He said moments before He ascended into Heaven.  Acts 1:8 might well be part of His lasts words as well.  Whatever the case, Jesus did ascend into the clouds to be with His Father.


Mark and others tell us that Jesus went to sit at the right hand of God.  This is an idiom to say that Jesus reigns with God His Father as the Supreme Authority over all there is.  It does not necessarily mean that God the Father has a body and has a right hand for Jesus to sit beside.  It was just an expression of speech in those days to represent the authority that one would have. 


One might sit at the right hand of a king. It did not mean that he always sat beside the king.  It meant that He had the authority of the King to do certain things.  Jesus has given us authority in this present age.  It has to do with preaching the gospel and being good representatives of Him.  Yet when we return to this earth with Jesus, we will have a greater measure of authority.  The last couple chapters of Revelation clearly shows us that we as Christians will reign with Jesus on the earth.  


Verse 20 is important because it shows us the nature of the relationship that Christians should have with Jesus when it comes to our duties and work as Christians.  Mark tells us that the disciples went everywhere preaching the gospel. But that was not the end of things.  He also said that while they went everywhere preaching, Jesus confirmed their words with miraculous signs that accompanied them, just as Jesus said would happen a few verses earlier.


The nature of our job as Christians is that we do the manual labor, such as preaching, and Jesus will supply the spiritual ability for miracles that will confirm our words.  Thus we do the physical or manual work and Jesus does the spiritual work.  We work together with Jesus in spreading the good news.  We don’t do it all alone.  Neither does Jesus do it all along.  It’s often said that we work for Jesus as we preach and do the things we do as Christians, but this isn’t actually technically accurate. We don’t really work for Jesus.  We work with Jesus.  These are two different things altogether.   Working with Jesus implies an ongoing relationship with Him. It also implies that He is actively involved with us as we work.  To work for Jesus implies somewhat of a humanistic approach to our ministry, which is often the case. 


This is a very important principle of Scripture for Mark to end his account of the life of Jesus.  He ends it by telling us that we all have a job to do in the Kingdom of God, and that job is done by our cooperation with Jesus.



Alternative Endings To Mark


And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.



Afterward Jesus appeared to the eleven as they reclined at table and reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he arose.  

The eleven made an excuse: "This age of lawlessness and unbelief is controlled by Satan, who, by means of unclean spirits, doesn't allow the truth to be known. So," they said to Christ, "reveal your righteousness now!" 

Christ replied to them, "The measure of Satan's years of power is filled up, although other fearful things draw nigh to those for whom I, because of their sin, was delivered to death, that they might turn back and not sin anymore so that they might inherit the imperishable, spiritual glory of righteousness in heaven."



And they excused themselves, saying, "This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or: does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now" — thus they spoke to Christ.  And Christ replied to them, "The term of years of Satan's power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven

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