Mark 16


‘When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ Mark 16:1-8

A few loyal women had prepared spices and went out to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning. They were planning to embalm His body in order to give it a more honourable burial than had been possible in the few minutes that had been available on Friday afternoon. As they walked down to the cave, they thought about how hard it was going to be for them to roll that large rock away from the entrance of the burial cave.

When they arrived, however, they saw that the rock had already been removed and the cave was open. Inside, an angel told them that Jesus had arisen and was on His way to Galilee.

‘He is not here but is arisen!’ With these words, the women who had come to the tomb of Jesus at dawn on the first day of the week were greeted by two angels who stood before them. In keeping with the law of Moses, they had rested on the Sabbath and had returned to complete the burial rites of the Saviour which they had begun on the day of His death. Now, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.

The appearance of Jesus

The women went to tell the apostles what they had learned. Immediately Peter and John ran to the sepulchre to confirm their report. A little later Mary Magdalene stood weeping near the tomb. Suddenly Jesus appeared to her, but she did not recognise Him until He called her by name. He told her to go to His brethren to tell them that He would ascend unto the Father. This she quickly did.

About this time Jesus appeared to the other women, possibly including Mary Magdalene. The stories of His appearances raised the hopes of the apostles who had been as lost as sheep without a shepherd after the crucifixion.

Other reports came to their ears. Christ had shown Himself to two disciples walking in the countryside on the road to Emmaus and had been seen by Cephas, Peter.

Even so, they must have been startled when later that day Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst as they were gathered in a closed room. But the lacerations of His body soon convinced them that the One who stood before them was their Master in the flesh. He showed them that He was not in the form of a spirit by eating a broiled fish in their presence. Luke 24:43

The apostles no longer doubted the resurrection of Jesus, except for Thomas who was absent. When told of these events, he declared, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ John 20:25.

Just a week later Jesus again appeared to the disciples. This time Thomas was present. Christ addressed Himself to Thomas, John 20:27. Thomas did believe as he cried out, ‘My Lord and my God.’

The fact that the apostles, and especially Thomas, were turned from scepticism to belief is one of the strongest proofs of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Later Christ appeared to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee and again to the eleven on a mountain. We are told that He presented Himself to 500 at one time and also to James. 1 Corinthians 15:6-7

Finally, He appeared to all the apostles at His ascension into heaven, forty days after the resurrection. As Jesus spoke with them, giving them His final words of exhortation, He ascended into the clouds of heaven and was seen by them no more. He asked them to tell the disciples and Peter. The women fled away very frightened.

The angel told the women to invite the disciples and Peter’ to meet Jesus in Galilee. Since Peter was himself a disciple, it seems unusual that he would be singled out and receive a special invitation.

Perhaps it was because the Lord knew that Peter would no longer feel worthy to be counted as a disciple after having denied Him, and therefore, Jesus gave him a special invitation to the meeting. What tenderness the Lord showed!

The significance of the empty tomb

The importance of the resurrection of Jesus is summed up by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14-15 / 1 Corinthians 15:17. Jesus died to atone for our sins. But we could not know that He did so unless we also knew that He arose from the grave, for one who did not have the power to conquer death would not have the power to forgive sins. Only in the light of the empty tomb does the cross have significance.

Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the possibility of our resurrection. If He could conquer death for Himself, He can overcome it for His disciples. The Christian’s hope of eternal life is inseparably connected with the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection of Christ also shows that Jesus brought an end to the old covenant and its law when He died on the cross. The Mosaic Age in which Israel had been living for 1500 years ended at Calvary. There Jesus blotted out ‘our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.’ Colossians 2:14.

From that time forth all men, Jews and Gentiles, have lived in the Christian Age and are subject to the laws of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.

‘When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.’ After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.’ Mark 16:9-20

The disciples had never expected to see Jesus again, they watched Him die and knew about His burial, they were very sad. Because of this, the news of the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearance seemed too good to be true, but they refused to get their hopes up.

Later, when He did appear to them, He rebuked them for being so slow to believe. Then He gave orders for their future work, telling them to go everywhere and preach the Gospel to all. He told them what to preach and His message was simple, the one who believes and is baptised will be saved. Jesus set forth the conditions of salvation.

He requires faith and baptism. Unfortunately, men of our day have tried to eliminate one or the other of these two requirements. Some try to eliminate faith. They teach that infants, who are too young to believe, should be baptised. But Jesus’ order was belief first, then baptism.

Throughout Scripture only those who believed and repented were considered qualified for baptism, Acts 2:38 / Acts 2:41 / Acts 18:8 / John 6:44-45. Others teach salvation by faith only, without baptism. But Jesus clearly said that baptism was a requirement to receive salvation, John 3:5. In accordance with this command of Jesus, the apostles insisted that water baptism was a prerequisite to receiving forgiveness of sins and the new life in Christ, Acts 2:38 / Romans 6:3-4 / 1 Peter 3:21.

The great commission

Before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples a commission. It’s recorded in different forms in the first three Gospels. Although He had previously given them a limited commission to go only to the Jews, His new commission was worldwide in its scope. Let’s read the three accounts of the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20/ Luke 24:46-47.

‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ Mark 16:15-16

Christianity is aggressive

Jesus insists that His disciples take the Gospel to others. Therefore, He instructed the apostles to go. They were to teach or preach the Gospel, which as we shall later learn includes the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They proclaimed Christ, not politics, science or economics. Their message was to be taken to all nations.

Unlike the law of Moses, the Gospel story is intended for those of every race or nationality who will accept Jesus as their Saviour. Christians cannot allow racial prejudice to confine their efforts to proclaim Christ. The conditions of salvation as given in the commission are simple. A sinner must believe in Christ, repent and then be baptised.

Baptism is to be baptised into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit rather than into the Name of Jesus only. The blessings of forgiveness of sins and salvation come as a result of one’s baptism rather than preceding it. Jesus states, ‘He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.’ Mark 16:16.

The Great Commission concluded by instructing the apostles to teach the converts all of those things which Christ has commanded them. It is not enough to show the lost how to come to Christ. They must also be taught how to live for Him so that they may receive the eternal reward at the end of the way.

Notice that Jesus gave them ‘signs’ to confirm their message, it’s very important to remember that Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He gave them signs to confirm the message.

What was the purpose of miracles in the ministry of Christ, or the apostolic age?

Their design must be consistent with the lofty theme of redemption. Of the early disciples who were endowed with spiritual gifts, Mark declares, ‘Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.’ Mark 16:20.

The function of the ‘signs’ was to ‘confirm’ the revelatory process, i.e., the word of truth being communicated from God to man. The writer of Hebrews argues similarly, he declares ‘For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.’ Hebrews 2:3-4

Of special interest in these passages is the term ‘confirm,’ ‘bebaioo’. The word denotes evidence that establishes the validity of the divinely-given word. The supernatural gifts of the primitive age, therefore, had as their design the establishment of the credibility of Christ and His spokesmen, and so ultimately, the validation of their message, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world!

Now observe this very important point. If it can be established that those early miracles do corroborate the testimony of Christ, and those commissioned by Him, and further, that the recording of these events in the New Testament was designed to perpetually accomplish that function, then it stands as demonstrated that the repetition of such signs is not needed today.

The fact is, that’s exactly what is affirmed by the apostle John. He declares that the ‘signs’ of Christ, which he records in his Gospel account, ‘are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.’ John 20:31.

Even those who claim that God is working miracles today when asked if they believe that the recorded miracles of Christ in the New Testament are sufficient to establish faith in Him will answer affirmatively.

It ought to be abundantly clear, therefore, that since the miracles of the Bible continue to accomplish their original purpose, there is no need for a repetition of them today. They are not being replicated in this age!

If these verses only apply to the apostles, then what about the Great Commission? Would that only apply to them and not to us today?

‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ Mark 16:15-16

Well, the apostles have given the Great Commission, but we have the responsibility to share that good news with others too, even today, 2 Timothy 2:2.

The Gospel of Mark closes with a note about the results of the great mission Jesus entrusted to the apostles. After He had ascended back to heaven, they went out and began to preach everywhere, just like Jesus told them.

The Lord blessed their revelation of the Gospel message with signs to confirm it, just as He said He would.