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-LESSON 18: Mark 16

by Dr. D ~

Lesson 18: Mark -Chapter 16


First read Mark 16 all the way through.

The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in  Mark 16

Things you don’t see everyday:

Verse 4:

– Stone was rolled away

Verse 5:

– Angel was in the tomb

Verse 6:

– Jesus has risen -he is resurrected


Verses 9-14:

-Appearances of the Resurrected Lord

Verses 17-18:

-Supernatural Signs

Verse 19:

-Ascension of Jesus’

Verse 20:

-Jesus continues to help

-Supernatural Signs Confirm Message



Now read it again in detail along with the Notes and Commentary below:

Notes and Commentary:


I.  The Resurrection of Jesus –Verses 1-8

     Verses 1-3:  The two Marys and Salome went to the first Sunday morning sunrise service on Resurrection Day. The three women were at the crucifixion-  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome who was the mother of the Zebedee brothers- James and John (Matt. 27:56). Now they were going to the tomb to show their devotion to Jesus and complete the anointing of his body for burial. On the way they were wondering who was going to move the stone away from the tomb once they got there.

     Verses 4-5:  When they got to the tomb they found that the rock was already rolled away from the entrance. When they entered, there was a ‘young man’ dressed in a white robe sitting there. Matthew identifies him as an angel (Matt. 28:2). The woman were taken back and alarmed at this unexpected sight.

     Verses 6-7:  The young man (angel) speaks to them:

"Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."

     Verse 8:  The women responded to the message with fear and trembling and actually were afraid to tell anyone. Luke 24:9-11 tells us that the woman did go back and tell the eleven but the apostles did not believe.

Comment: The disciples and apostles of Jesus really were not expecting a resurrection. The woman went to the tomb to complete the preparations for burial that they were not able to do earlier because of the Sabbath. The brave men were back at the upper room hiding out.

Even though Jesus had spoken repeatedly about rising again on the third day, they were not expecting or even hoping for a resurrection. When Jesus finally did appear to them, it changed everything and the world hasn’t been the same since.

This is the earliest Gospel account of the Resurrection. The Gospels written later have all sorts of details and testimonies that were left out of this brief account. The earliest written account and testimony of the Resurrection of Jesus is found in the writings of Paul, I Corinthians 15: 1-8. Paul testifies that he saw the Lord, Peter and the Twelve also, James and over 500 on one occasion. Most were still alive at the writing of the letter.


**Note- Verses 9-20: Some of the earliest and most reliable New Testament manuscripts do not include verses 9-20.

See our Scholarship Notes and Conclusions On The 9-20 Text following the continuation of our Notes and Commentary:


Notes and Commentary: (cont.) 


II.  The Appearances of the Resurrected Jesus –Verses 9-16:

Verses 1-8 record the Resurrection Sunday events through the eyes of the women ( Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome)  who came early to tomb to prepare the body of Jesus. While the major emphasis and focus of Verses 9-16 are the appearances and the ascension of the resurrected Lord.

     Verse 9:  The verse seems to bring a rather abrupt change of direction. While verses 1-8 record the experiences of three women with the angel (young man) at the tomb. Verse 9 singles out Mary Magdalene as having a direct encounter with the resurrected Lord. 

Other Gospel Records: 

Matt. 28:1-10 has the same order of events as Mark but records that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” went to the tomb and encountered the angel and then both later met Jesus.

Luke 24:1-11 mentions that the women came to the tomb and saw two angels but doesn’t record the appearance of Jesus to the them.

John 20 records the most complete account of the events of the day.  In Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene encountered the Lord during a second trip to the tomb while she lingered and wept outside. 

Mary Magdalene- “from whom he had cast out seven demons.” Interestingly, the mention of the ’seven demons’ in connection with Mary Magdalene is not mentioned earlier in Mark (It is mentioned Luke 8:2). 

This is cited by many scholars as one of the examples in 9-20 that may indicate that ‘the longer ending’ probably had a different author than verses 1-8. One who used additional sources for the 9-20 ending. 

     Verses 10-11:  Earlier in verse 8, the women didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid. Here in verses 10-11 Mary Magdalene boldly tells the disciples that she has seen Jesus but they do not believe her.

It is interesting, given the prevailing culture, that Jesus appeared to a woman first. In first century Judea the testimony of a woman was not respected or considered to be equal to the word of a man. It still is that way in the Muslim Middle East.

     Verses 12-13:  Here the appearance to two traveling on the road is mentioned. The whole story is recorded in Luke: 24:13-35. The disciples don’t believe them either.

     Verse 14:  Jesus finally appears to the eleven and rebukes them for their unbelief.

On at least three occasions in Mark, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be killed and then later resurrected. They substantially ignored this teaching because it did not fit in with their understanding of the coming of the Messiah and his Kingdom. They expected Jesus to kick the Romans out of Israel and eventually rule the whole world and they continually fought over who was going to be the number two ruler.

After Jesus was crucified they believed it was all over and discounted all of the appearances of the resurrected Lord until Jesus personally appeared to them.


III.  The Great Commission –Verses 15-16   

     Verses 15-16:  Here a shorter version of The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is given:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.

Whoever ‘believes’ and “does not believe” is the major issue in verse 16. Those who don’t believe cannot be saved but are condemned.

Secondarily, I believe that the verse supports the importance of following the command to be baptized. Baptism should naturally follow belief and commitment to Jesus.

The Great Commission in Matt. 28:18-20 records that his servants are called to:

1. Make disciples of all nations

2. Baptize

3. Teach them to observe the commandments

Notice that Baptism, in the Matthew ‘Commission,’ has a prominent part to play in the discipleship process according to Jesus.

So many seem to de-emphasize the importance of baptism. It has become an after thought and a once-a-year practice in many churches today. It is probably a reaction to some of the sects and cults who teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Unfortunately, some try to use verse 16 as a text for proving their view of Baptism– as necessary for salvation.  Again, the verse should not be twisted in that way, the central subject is “believes” and “does not believe”. It doesn’t say that those who are not baptized are condemned, but those who do not ‘believe’.  

IV.  Signs Following –Verses 17-18

     Verses 17-18:  The promise of ‘signs’ is distinctive to the longer ending and is not found in any other Gospel. It is reflective of the experience of the early church in Apostolic times as recorded in the book of Acts and in church history. Many of us today believe that the church should continue to reflect apostolic practices and teachings.  

Casting out demons and the gift of Tongues (Acts 2) were a major feature of the early apostolic church. Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and survived (Acts 28:4-5). He healed the sick through laying on of hands (Acts 28:8-9) along with others, and James says to call for the elders (James 5:14-15).

While drinking deadly poison is never mentioned in scripture, there are stories and traditions about early Christians being forced to drink poison and surviving which are alluded to early Christian literature.

V.  Ascension of Jesus –Verse 19

     Verse 19:  Here the ascension of Jesus is recorded. It also mentioned in Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11.  Jesus  ‘at the right hand of God’ was also observed by Stephen as he was being martyred in Acts 7:56.

“At the right hand of God” –symbolized and demonstrated the divine authority that Jesus shares with God the Father.

VI.  Response of the Disciples -Verse 20

     Verse 20:  Mark 16:9-20 ends with a clear response by the disciples. They went out  and followed the commission of Jesus by preaching the Gospel everywhere. Notice that it says that Jesus continued to help them. Also, miraculous signs supported their message and ministry.

Many in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles today observe that Jesus continues to personally work with his church and that he continues bless us with signs, wonders, and healings which accompany and confirm the preaching of the Gospel in all the World. Therefore, for many Christians the message of Mark 16:15-20 continues to be confirmed in the life of the church.


Scholarship Notes and Conclusions On The 9-20 Text

All of the modern English versions of the Bible note that Mark 16:9-20 is not contained in some of the earliest and most reliable NT manuscripts. Verses 9-20 have come to be known as the ‘Longer Ending’ of Mark since there are shorter endings in some of the manuscripts. But what exactly does that mean for us–for those who believe, read, study, and teach the Bible? Let’s take a look at this issue:

All of the major New Testament textual scholars in the last 50 years (who have spent a lifetime looking at the ancient texts in the original languages) have cited problems with the manuscript history of verses 9-20.  Nearly every major Bible scholar from every major seminary, including all of the Evangelical and conservative schools I am aware of, also observe that there are some problems, though they may disagree on what those problems really are.

Every Bible translation committee of every new English version made in the last 50+ years, some with 100’s of respected scholars, have supported some kind of notation about the difficulties in the textual history of verses 9-20.

The earliest mention of 9-20 in early Christian literature comes from Irenaeus (AD 184)  and Tatian’s Diatessaron in AD 172.  Justin Martyr (AD 160) may have earlier alluded to the passage but that is far from certain. Jerome did include the verses in his Latin Vulgate translation in AD 383 and that was probably one of the primary reasons it was ultimately included in the canon. However, later in life Jerome did observe that many of the Greek manuscripts did not have the verses in question.

The lack of references to 9-20 before 160 AD is cited as a reason to suspect that the verses were possibly a late addition. However, this is not entirely conclusive since it can be characterized as only evidence ‘from silence.’ 

Many scholars believe that a final page of the original manuscript may have been lost since the Gospel does not seem to end very well at verse 8, while some do hold that the original could well have ended at that verse. Other scholars have observed that the words, style, and content of verses 9-20 seem to have been written by a different author and view the verses as an early attempt to ‘finish’ the Gospel.  They note that Verse 9 seems rather abrupt in its continuation of the story.

To complicate the issue, there is also an alternate ending (called the ‘Shorter Ending’) that appears in some manuscripts. The textual evidence for this ending is even later and weaker–which seems to accentuate and prove that there is some sort of problem with the original text–here’s the entire ‘shorter’ reading:

“But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from the east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”

This does not mean that all these scholars are necessarily correct. In fact, it is all rather subjective and there is little agreement between any of them except that verses 9-20 were probably not part of the original.  Also, there are some who still champion the authenticity of the verses–here is a link to one Pastor who presents substantial evidence in support of 9-20.

Conclusions: Most scholars believe that the original ending may have been lost, if it didn’t end at verse 8, and that these verses  (9-20) could have been a later attempt by someone else to ‘finish’ the Gospel. Presently, we don’t know for sure when these verses became part of the text and probably never will know this side of Heaven and barring any providential textual discovery.

What does this mean for Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, including the Gospel of Mark?  Should verses 9-20 be taken out of the Holy writ? For all practical purposes, the opinions of many of the ‘scholars’ seem to border on that and leave us hanging with what we should do with the verses. Plus, there is no ultimate Christian forum today that can address a canonical issue like this.

How I believe We Should Respond to the 9-20 Textual Problem:

1.  The verses were part of Mark when it was canonized by the church.

2.  I have preached and have taught the verses in question in the past and will continue to do so.  It continues to be part of the canon as far as I am concerned. Though the difficulties should always be noted. 

3.  I personally believe that verses 9-20 were probably written in the first century and reflect authentic early Christian apostolic tradition and should continue to be recognized as part of Mark even if they might have been written by a different author.

4.  I would caution however that these verses should never be a major ‘stand alone’ text for creating theology and practice. For example, the sects who use snakes in their worship and cite verse 18 are not only going beyond the context of the text here but will find no support for it anywhere else in the Bible.


-This concludes our Lessons on the Gospel of Mark 


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1 Response to -LESSON 18: Mark 16

  1. Borbie Remy

    I also agree that those verses should not be related with or used in isolation. Unfortunately, people who misrepresent the scriptures are those who are never familiar with bible history such as canonization.

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