The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 16B

Chapter 16:9-14

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  • As we approach the last 12 verses of Mark 16, we are faced with a critical question.

    • That question is: “What do we do with Mark’s gospel past the first 8 verses?”

      • Do we acknowledge the fact that it is in our current scriptures, or do we neglect it altogether given the scribal notations provided?

    • For some, depending on which bible translation you possess, you may have a note provided after verse 8 which indicates the following verses were not in the original manuscripts.

      • For instance, here is the note found in the Greek New Testament Bible (TGNTB).

      • The note reads as follows:

‘In some of the copies, the evangelist finishes here, up to which (point) also Eusebius of Pamphilus made canon sections. But in many the following is also contained.’
  • As we will come to understand a little later tonight, the discussion of the longer ending of Mark has been debated over many centuries.

    • So, the point of tonight’s message is not to enter into textual critique with ancient writers, but to understand the text as part of the canon.

    • Additionally, we will see how the early church fathers viewed this textual variance and how these external sources inform theological thought today.

      • By being informed of textual criticism, canonicity, and veracity of scripture, we can walk away as better bible students.

      • Above all, we can grow in our reliance on the Scripture and its inerrancy and infallibility.

    • If I were to establish an outline of our time tonight, we will cover the following:

      • 1. Understand the importance of Textual Criticism (Define Textual Criticism)

      • 2. Explore where the Church Fathers stood in light of the ending of Mark

      • 3. How to best understand the last 12 verses within the context of Mark 16?

    • Prayerfully, we will get through the first 6 verses tonight to gain a better grasp of both Mark’s traditional ending and the significance of the Longer Ending.

      • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text, it would simply be: Now What? An Explanation of the Long Ending of Mark 16.

      • Let’s begin with some background work before we dive into the text.

    • We must first understand what “Textual Criticism” is:

      • Textual criticism is defined as the science and art that seeks to determine the most reliable wording of a text.

    • This process becomes necessary because there are no true autographs available for both the old and new testament today.

      • We simply have copies of the originals which were transcribed as best as possible over a period of time by scribes.

      • We see the careful preservation of scripture with strong internal evidence as well as relative external proof.

    • For instance, the original copy of the book of Jeremiah was destroyed by King Jehoiakim in Jerusalem, yet God told Jeremiah to write it again just as he did prior.

      • Check out quickly, Jeremiah 36:27-28 and verse 32

Jeremiah 36:27 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah after the king had burned the scroll and the words which Baruch had written at the dictation of Jeremiah, saying, 
Jeremiah 36:28 “Take again another scroll and write on it all the former words that were on the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned.
Jeremiah 36:32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.
    • So, it is clear to see that God is serious about His word and the preservation and consistency of it.

    • Therefore, if we know the seriousness of autograph transcription and its inspiration by the Spirit, then we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit would provide similar oversight in the transcription of the autographs.

      • Another question that you might ask is: “What qualifies the difference between the original autographs versus copies of the scriptures we have today?”

    • Autographs are the completed or final works of the author that have been sent out to others.

      • In other words, it is the published works of that writer to his audience.

    • Then we have what is referred to as manuscripts or copies.

      • Manuscripts were original copies of the autographs which would have been copied repeatedly to circulate the text to surrounding communities.

    • Think of it as a means to preserve the originals and the integrity of the autographs.

      • The more copies you have of the originals, the better preservation of the autographs you have.

      • Unfortunately, over time since the canonization of the scriptures, the majority of the autographs have been lost.

    • Be it as it may, the good news is through the process of scribal copying, therein lies a means of authorial preservation and textual integrity.

      • One scholar named G.W Houston argues that “manuscripts could last anywhere from 75 to 500 years, with the average being about 150 years.”

    • Now you put that on top of the fact that, to date, we have a little over 5,500 New Testament manuscripts speaks a lot to the integrity of the scriptures and their preservation over time.

      • The process by which a scribe was involved in the copying of a manuscript was quite time-consuming and meticulous.

      • The process is not like what we have in Microsoft Word or other programs today where you can speak and AI technology converts audio to text.

      • No! This process required handwriting using ink on a material called Papyrus.

    • The scribe would be required to first lay out strips of the Papyrus plant in both a horizontal and vertical format, joined together by the plant’s juices.

      • After the juice was applied to bond the papyrus together, a hard and heavy item would rest on top of the papyrus for the material to mesh.

      • Once this process was complete, the scribe would have one sheet of Papyrus.

    • After that, the scribe would lay his sheet of Papyrus down on a board pinning the edges of the sheet to the board to prepare the copying.

      • With a sharpened reed at hand and a small container of ink, the scribe would be ready to begin his copying venture.

    • Lastly, because there were no pre-printed margins and lines for the scribe, it required him to etch these lines as a means of boundary and separation for the respected text.

      • Therefore, penmanship and detail were of great importance.

    • What makes the manuscripts we possess today trustworthy is the reality of the methodical process by which scribes took to copy the text.

      • And most assuredly the Holy Spirit’s oversight and internal conviction of the transcribers to preserve the accuracy of the text.

    • Now one thing that comes to mind for many is the issue of variance in the scriptures.

      • This is where certain manuscripts have minor variations in word order or spelling errors due to the scribal transcription.

      • These were humans not inspired by the Holy Spirit, simply copyists.

    • The individuals who penned the autographs of these 66 books which was approximately 42 Jewish men, were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

      • Therefore, these copyists, with their best efforts, try to remain consistent in their copying of every word in the autographs.

    • All of this to say, we can trust the Word of God knowing that it is the only trustworthy book there is.

      • I mention this brief background because I want us to approach these remaining 12 verses of Mark with a sense of confidence.

      • Confidence not in and of ourselves, but rather confidence in God’s ability to rightfully preserve His word throughout the ages.

    • Again, just to reiterate, it is believed that Mark’s gospel ends at verse 8 of Chapter 16, yet we find a longer ending is provided, perhaps through scribal addition.

      • And as we have just discussed, how scribes copy information is based on manuscripts that they have come across.

      • This means that within these over 5,898 Greek Manuscripts, there have been several instances where the long ending is included.

      • Whether through Mark’s omission or scribal addition, the fact remains that it is in the canon of scripture.

      • Furthermore, we have external evidence that speaks to the longer ending of Mark through writings of some early Church leaders.

    • For example, here is a list of early church fathers and leaders who mentioned in their writing or agreed to the inclusion of Mark’s longer ending with no major qualms:

      • 1. Irenaeus

      • 2. Hippolytus

      • 3. Chrysostom

      • 4. Jerome

      • 5. Ambrose

      • 6. Augustine

      • 7. Victor of Antioch

    • On the other hand there are some church fathers and leaders such as Eusebius, Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen who expressed no knowledge of Mark’s Long Ending in the oldest manuscripts.

      • They attest to the fact that verses 9-20 are absent from the two oldest Greek Manuscripts which are:

      • 1. Codex Sinaiticus (4th Century manuscripts)

      • 2. Codex Vaticanus (4th Century manuscripts)

    • At lastly to throw even more fuel on the fire, within all documented manuscripts there are a total of 5 endings of Mark that have been circulated. They are:

      • 1. The Traditional Ending (16:8)

      • 2. The Traditional Ending (16:8) followed by two sentences known as the Intermediate Ending (IE)

      • 3. The Traditional ending of (16:8) with the Intermediate Ending, followed by the Long Ending (16:9-20)

      • 4. Long Ending (LE) (16:9-20)

      • 5. Long Ending (16:9-20) followed by four extra sentences inserted between verses 14 and 15. Known as the Freer Logion (FL)

    • So, it is easy to see why these variations of Mark’s ending could cause confusion for many and potentially have some call into question Mark’s gospel altogether.

      • However, with the Long Ending remaining consistent throughout most manuscripts, it is safe to say that, as some early church fathers mentioned regarding the Longer ending, it would essentially be wrong to consider one to be canonical and the other not.

      • And in my study of this text, I find that statement to be fair, because the reality was the scribes were not inspired, they simply copied what they saw.

      • Therefore, to stay true to scripture and not remove words from the scrolls, it was a safe bet to keep what was there as recorded.

    • So, with all of this information and data to wrestle with, as we approach the text tonight, let us approach it without bias and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth.

      • With that being said and time being of the essence, pick me in Mark 16:9-14 for the reading of the word of the Lord.

Mark 16:9  [Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 
Mark 16:10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 
Mark 16:11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
Mark 16:12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 
Mark 16:13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
Mark 16:14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
  • If you recall from last week, the text ended quite abruptly.

    • The women arrive at an empty tomb, they see an angel inside, they receive a message to bring to the disciples, and consequently run away in fear having told no one.

      • Again, an abrupt ending with an amazing message to be shared and made known to provide the hope and assurance the 11 disciples needed.

      • But here it is that Mark leaves us with a cliffhanger.

    • I believe that the hope of that ending was similar to the point of Mark’s thesis statement in Mark 1:1, that those who hear about and have read about this Jesus would come to know who He is.

      • It begs the question, “What do we do with this Jesus of the bible?”

      • We will either respond to who He is based upon what He said and has accomplished, or we remain in unbelief.

      • Do we escape the wrath to come through belief upon the Lord Jesus because of who He is, or do we stand rightly condemned?

      • This would have been where Mark’s gospel ended – with us wrestling with that reality.

    • However, as most scholars have debated, most narratives within the gospels have always been rounded out with a resurrection appearance and not just a resurrection pronouncement.

      • As we think through the build-up that Mark has provided prior, from Mark 8:31; 9:31;10:34, it is clear that the narrative naturally wants to move into the resurrection appearance.

      • Yet, Mark concludes with a simple pronouncement.

    • I believe a fair assessment of the text leads us to see that there is an implied sense that the resurrection has occurred because the Angel mentions that “Jesus has indeed risen.”

      • So, as we approach verses 9-20, we will see that the scribe/writer who added these additional verses seems to want to round out the text for the reader in a summary form.

    • We find, starting in verse 9, that there is a repeat of information that seems to conform to both Luke’s and John’s accounts regarding the timing related to who arrived at the grave first.

      • All the gospel accounts confirm that the women were the first to arrive at the empty tomb as the disciples are in great grief and mourning at home.

      • More specifically, John’s gospel mentions that Mary Magdalene was the first to arrive on the scene of the empty tomb.

      • The timing is further verified because John, too, mentions that it was very early when she arrived for it was “still dark”.

    • The scribe that added this long ending specifies that it is “the” Mary Magdalene whom Jesus “had expelled seven demons out of.”

      • So far, this ending remains consistent with the gospel accounts.

      • This becomes one way in which textual critics can verify the authenticity of particular verses.

    • Furthermore, we notice that there is a subject shift.

      • This means that where the women in the previous text (v.8) were the focus, it now moves to Jesus being the subject now appearing before Mary Magdalene.

John 20:11  But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 
John 20:12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 
John 20:13   And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 
John 20:14   When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 
John 20:15   Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 
John 20:16   Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in [a]Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 
John 20:17   Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 
John 20:18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
    • So, verse 9 alone seems to round out the narrative regarding a resurrection appearance feature from a literary standpoint.

    • If we were to observe this passage in light of another gospel account, it would most align with what we find in John 20:11.

      • Contextually speaking, this would now be the second time that Mary Magdalene would have been at the tomb.

      • Because the first time she went and saw that the tomb was open, she ran to go and tell Peter and John.

      • And in response to that news, Peter and John both go to see the tomb and find that Jesus was not there, upon which seeing this sight John responds in belief based upon what Jesus told them before. (He would rise from the dead).

    • According to John’s gospel, Peter and John do not go to the other disciples but rather go to their own homes.

John 20:10  So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
    • Luke in Luke 24:12 mentions that Peter marveled and went to his home.

    • So it seems that the message the women in verse 8 were to give was in fact distributed according to verse 10.

      • And now we know by whom first – none other than Mary Magdalene.

      • Check out the response of the disciples upon receiving the word from Mary and the women in verse 11.

Mark 16:11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
  • Upon the disciples receiving Mary’s witness statement of having seen Jesus herself during her second visit to the tomb, they respond in unbelief.

    • It would seem that the disciples’ understanding of the message Mary and these women had brought was at best “wishful thinking”.

      • Because these men at far distance saw Jesus die and could not stomach the sight of this event.

      • So, in their minds, there is no way that these women’s statement of the tomb being empty made sense.

    • As a matter of fact, Luke 24:11 tells us that the disciples' response to Jesus having been raised was nonsense.

      • Check out Luke 24:11

Luke 24:11  But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.
    • And just for good measure, after Mary leaves, Peter goes to the tomb to see for himself and simply marvels at the sight.

      • Again, this too corroborates with John 20:6-10.

    • These men would have to witness for themselves Jesus standing before them to truly believe He had been raised.

      • Isn’t it funny how we want the evidence before we can believe it?

      • However, as we have learned before, faith does not require sight, simply trust in what has been said and not yet seen.

    • Despite the unbelief of the disciples, we still see Jesus faithfully meeting the needs of the 11 disciples so that they may come to believe in His resurrection.

      • Check out verses 12-13.

Mark 16:12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 
Mark 16:13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either
  • The writer of this Long Ending mentions in summary a particular event in which Jesus appeared to “two of them”, meaning disciples, as they were walking to the country.

    • From this encounter, it looks as if the two who encountered Jesus believed what they saw and communicated their findings to the other disciples.

      • But without much surprise, the disciples refuse to believe this report as well.

    • Up to this point, Jesus has made Himself known to Mary Magdalene, the women, and these two disciples on a road heading to the country.

      • As we mentioned earlier, for a variant like this one, in order to determine its accuracy and reliability to be included in the canon, there has to be some level of certainty.

      • This means the scribal committee would have to determine where, within the immediate context or surrounding text, is there corroboration of the text.

      • The slides show a list which contains the 3 levels of certainty that are measured for textual variances.

    • We need look no further than Luke 24:13-35 and here is where we find the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

      • Emmaus was a village about 7 miles outside Jerusalem.

    • And Luke states that these two disciples, one of which is a man named Cleopas, are in deep conversation with one another.

      • And amid their conversation, the text says that “Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them” (Luke 24:15)

    • What becomes both interesting and confirming to our textual variant is that these two disciples were “prevented from recognizing Him”

      • Well, this confirms with some certainty the weird description of Jesus “appearing in a different form” in Mark 16:12.

    • Luke tells us that the reason for these men not recognizing who Jesus was is due to their eyes being prevented from recognizing Him.

      • This is not surprising because a similar experience happened with Mary Magdalene in John 20:13-16.

John 20:13  And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 
John 20:14  When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 
John 20:15  Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 
John 20:16  Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
  • By doing a clear read-through in the text, we see that Mary turned twice.

    • The first time she turned was answering the question from the two angels at the tomb.

    • Perhaps she was wiping her tears or disheartened at the sight knowing that Jesus was not there.

    • Yet as she turned with Jesus standing before her, she does not recognize who He was.

    • Mary is then asked the question again, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

      • John states that Mary supposed it was a gardener to which she tells Him, “Just tell me where you laid Jesus’ body and I’ll take Him away – off your hands”

    • It is this second time that Mary is called by name and the text says, “She turned”.

      • She now recognizes who this is man before her. He’s not the gardener – He is the resurrected Christ!

    • Now let’s examine the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

      • Both these men have Jesus traveling with them to this nearby town.

      • They are talking to a man who they don’t realize is Jesus.

    • Now if you are walking somewhere, it requires a means of sight.

      • The text does not mention these disciples are blind by any stretch of the imagination, so we know it’s not their physical sight that is hindered.

    • As they carry on in conversation, they are talking about recent events regarding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

      • They even mention a recent moment in which 2 disciples went to verify the story from the women about the empty tomb.

      • Yet, after seeing the evidence of the tomb because they did not see Jesus, the disciples did not believe.

    • The response from Jesus begins to set the stage for the growing familiarity they will soon recognize in Luke 24:31.

      • For it is in Luke 24:31 that these two disciples welcome Jesus into the village with them and recline with Him at the table.

      • Once they witness how He broke the bread and blessed it, the text says “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”

      • And it is at that point that Jesus vanishes.

      • Both experiences required personal experience with Jesus!

    • One thing to note is that Jesus’ resurrected body is able to do things in which our earthly physical bodies cannot. (We can’t vanish and appear)

      • The resurrected body is one which materially is quite distinct in form, yet it is not so foreign that these men weren’t able to recognize Him as Jesus.

    • As Dr. Fructenbaum suggests, it’s like a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while and something appears different when you meet again.

      • You may not recognize each other at first, but after some time the recognition and familiarity hits you.

      • So, this “difference of form” in Mark 16:12 potentially addresses the physical changes to His body which caused Him to look differently and not be initially recognized.

      • As these two pictures express, from the hearing of Mary’s name to the burning of the hearts of the disciples on the Emmaus Road, familiarity hits them.

    • Now one would imagine that with these several witness accounts, there would strike belief in the recipients of these testimonies.

      • However, according to Mark 16:13, there still remained unbelief among the 11 apostles.

      • And their continued unbelief would now move Jesus to go before the 11 Apostles, Himself, to reprimand them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. Check out verse 14.

Mark 16:14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen
  • The text states that later that day, Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles as they were reclined at the table, and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of hearts.

    • This type of rebuke is a very strong verb that was not used by Jesus before.

      • The Greek word oneidizo means to reprimand in the harshest way.

      • In other words, Jesus is on these boys like white on rice because He has told them on several occasions that He would rise.

    • Not only that, but there have been several witnesses, even those amongst the larger disciple group who have made mention to them that Jesus was raised.

      • And at every opportunity, these 11 men refused to believe the testimony.

    • And Mark’s account reveals that their failure to believe was directly linked to their hardness of heart.

      • The phrase “hardness of heart” is a combination of two separate Greek words.

      • Skleros which means hard or stern, and kardia which is heart. So, these men have hard or stern hearts.

      • This is someone who has an unyielding frame of mind.

    • The text makes it clear that even believers can find themselves with hardened hearts at points in their walk with the Lord.

      • And like my Mom used to say: A hard head makes a soft butt.

      • Translation: Discipline will commence!

      • And that is exactly what these men received.

    • The reality was, these men hearing of the testimony of these eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection was providing them the opportunity to learn what it looks like to believe the testimony of eyewitnesses.

      • This would be the way in which those, after the Ascension of Christ in His Session, would come to believe in the Lord Jesus – through the testimony of eyewitnesses!

      • That’s how you and I came to faith, through the preaching of the Gospel by means of the eyewitness testimonies.

    • No one here in this room or listening to this message has seen Jesus or walked with Him in the 1st century.

      • Therefore, what we believe is based upon what the scriptures say Jesus accomplished and through the personal accounts and witness of men and women.

      • All of these witnesses' accounts have been perfectly preserved in scripture which provides solid integrity of the text itself.

      • And furthermore, it provides us with assurance that what God has completed through His Son has been accomplished in real History.

      • Friends, the Gospel is verifiable!

    • As we round out our last 7 verses next week, it is my prayer that we see the veracity of scripture!

      • In other words, there is no doubt in our mind that these 66 books and every word within them provides confirmation of the Power of God and displays His Glory throughout all the world!

      • I pray you join us next week as we conclude the Gospel of Mark.

      • Let’s Pray.