For the full text of Mark 16, click here.
This last chapter, as the last chapter of Matthew, is all about the resurrection of Jesus. Salome is also mentioned here as being with Mary Magdelene and Mary the mother of James on the day that they went to the tomb. This time Mary Magdelene is also mentioned as being the one Jesus had cast seven demons out of. On the way, they wonder about how they’re going to move the rock that closes it but then see that the tomb is open and see an angel waiting for them. In this account, there is no shaking of the earth and no other guards, so we noticed from the last chapter as well. The angel assures them that Jesus has risen and instructs them to tell everyone else but they don’t here. They’re understandably freaked out at this point.
There’s a note that the rest of this chapter isn’t in all the manuscripts the same way but that the information in this version is in all of them. Jesus appears again to Mary Magdelene alone and this time she does manage to tell others. Then He appears to two disciples and then later to all the eleven remaining disciples together. I find it interesting that He “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart” after everything that had happened before. He had warned them several times that it would happen and exactly how it would go down. I can see how the expectation would have been that forewarning solidified the belief in Jesus and that if the first part of the prophecy He gave were true than the second part would be too, but no.
It is at the meeting when Jesus is with the eleven disciples that He gives them the “great commission” but it reads a little different than the Matthew account.
Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole 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 cast out demons; they will speak new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
There is a distinct difference in approach for the disciples between these two commissions. Show them fancy signs and condemn who doesn’t believe OR teach them the right way and I am with you. Personally, I prefer the Matthew version. Not only am I not into condemnation, but signs and proof erode actual faith. You can’t have faith with proof. Also, this expectation invites the same kind of parlor tricks that the Pharaoh’s magicians were up to way back in Exodus. Sure, it’s probably helpful to be able to perform signs and it’s great to help the people but this is so conditional. If they fail at a sign, is their faith wavering? Does condemning people who don’t believe really help the situation? I can see why I’ve heard the Matthew account much more often at church. I don’t actually remembering hearing this one ever.
Nevertheless, the book of Mark, like the one before it, ends on a high note. Jesus has returned and seen all the people He needs to see to get the message about the sacrifice He made on earth and what it meant for everyone.