Mark Chapter Sixteen
May 18, 2020, 2:00 AM

Mark 16:1-8
In the sermon a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I believed the Gospel of Mark ended at verse eight. That sort of off-beat ending: And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. I told you I’d tell you why here. It’s a technical note, but here goes.

There is an explanatory note about the ending in most all English translations. In the ESV Study Bible, there is this note:

“Some ancient manuscripts of Mark's Gospel contain these verses and others do not, which presents a puzzle for scholars who specialize in the history of such manuscripts. The longer ending is missing from various old and reliable Greek manuscripts…  Early church fathers (e.g., Origen and Clement of Alexandria) did not appear to know of these verses. Eusebius and Jerome state that this section is missing in most manuscripts available at their time. And some manuscripts that contain vv.9-20 indicate that older manuscripts lack the section. On the other hand, some early and many later manuscripts…  contain the longer ending, and many church fathers (such as Irenaeus) evidently knew of these verses… Many think this shows the verses to be a later addition. In summary, the longer ending should be read with caution. As in many translations, the editors of the ESV have placed the section within brackets, showing their doubts as to whether it was originally part of what Mark wrote, but also recognizing its long history of acceptance by many in the church.”

One of my professors from Reformed Theological Seminary, the late Roger Nicole, described in a blurb for one of his last books, this way: “Long regarded as one of the pre–eminent theologians in America, Roger Nicole has devoted a lifetime to teaching and defending the orthodox belief on issues under attack including the inspiration of scripture, the nature of the atonement, [and] the existence of hell.” This man said he believed Mark ended at verse eight because God would never encourage anyone to drink deadly poison or pick up deadly snakes (v.18). (And yes, that’s where the expression, “Pick up the serpent” came from.) In all likelihood, somewhere along the line of copying and re-copying, this ending was added to provide a more definitive, proper ending to the Gospel.

For me, personally, I have come to believe that the shorter, more shocking ending fits. What will you do now? The angel said the tomb is empty but remember that Jesus said He’s going before you to Galilee. What will you do now? Will you believe? The ending is a challenge to faith. Looking to the other three Gospels, we see that the women were equal to that challenge!

The tomb was empty. “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.” (16:6). Death had been defeated. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, he soon disappointed the expectant crowds. They wanted a hero to defeat their enemies. But the irony is, no conquering messiah of the sort they expected could have given them what they really needed. They needed to be delivered from the power of death and sin. They needed to be reconciled to a holy God. They needed a peace that only Jesus could bring. The tomb was empty! Mission accomplished! “Do you, gentle reader, believe this?” (To quote yet another one of my professors in seminary, Reggie Kidd.)

God bless!
For he is risen. He is risen indeed!


Our own John Cannon, outside the tomb at the Garden Tomb on our 2018 trip to the Holy Land.


Inside the Garden Tomb tomb. It is still empty!


Onthe Garden Tomb door. What else?!


"The Resurrection" - Painting above the entrance to the edicule in the Holy Sepulcher by Paolo de Matteis (17th century).


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