The narrative of the resurrection in this book is brief, but it is truly powerful. As we consider the appearances of the Lord, and His current enthronement, our prayer should be that we continue to spread the word. He is risen indeed.
“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.. . . .” (Mark 16:1-20).
First, the women came. When the sabbath was over, three women came to anoint Christ’s body (v. 1) Their coming was with great devotion, but still it was a devoted unbelief. They brought materials that presupposed that Christ was going to remain dead. They came first thing on Sunday morning, wondering how they would move the stone (vv. 2-3). But when they looked, the stone was already rolled away (v. 4).
They found a young man clothed in a long white garment. He was inside the tomb (v. 5), which scared them. He told them not to be frightened, and that the Jesus they were looking for had risen from the dead (v. 6). They were in the right tomb, but at the wrong time. The women were then told to go tell the disciples that Jesus had meant what He said about meeting them in Galilee (v. 7). With great grace, the message singled Peter out. The women fled from the tomb, trembling and amazed, terrified with joy (v. 8).
Now many modern versions of the Bible cast doubt on the authenticity of the last twelve verses of Mark. Without going into all the arguments, we should at least note why we are not going into all the arguments. The reconstruction of the autographs (the originals) is a task utterly beyond the competence of scientific textual critics. This does not keep them from trying it, but it should keep us from believing them. And further, the issue is not the original text; the issue is the canonical text. The search for “the historical text” parallels the search for the historical Jesus, and is built on the same unbelieving assumptions, and will end in the same dismal swamps of liberalism. We are not supposed to be unearthing the history behind the text. These things actually happened, to be sure, in real time, and in photographable ways, but God did not send cameras. He sent Gospel writers — the way our gracious God gave these events to us was by means of this text. We should just say thank you.
In the beginning, we see the Garden renewed. Christ appeared first to a woman, Mary Magdelene, from whom He had cast seven demons (v. 9). Once again we find a woman, and a garden (John 20:15), but the serpent is missing, having been destroyed. The first witness of death was a woman who became a sinner; the first witness of everlasting life was a sinner who became a woman. She then went and told the others that she had talked with Him, but they were too busy mourning and weeping (v. 10), and did not believe her (v. 11).
The next appearance was to two disciples as they were walking out to the country. When they realized who He was, they went back and told the disciples. But they were not believed either (vv. 12-13).
Some time later, the Lord appeared to the eleven, while they were eating, and rebuked them for refusing to believe. They had been given many opportunities to do so without having seen the Lord with their own eyes (v. 14). But for us here, at the last portion of the this book, though we are still seeing “unbelief and hardness of heart” in the disciples, let us not get above ourselves. We would have done no better, and we should also remember that we are looking at future martyrs, men who would conquer the world.
What would this conquest look like? They would go out, preaching the gospel to every creature (v. 15). Those who will believe and submit to baptism will be saved; those who refuse to believe will be damned (v. 16). The believers will be given great power; they will cast out demons, speak in tongues, handle serpents, drink poison, and heal the sick (vv. 17-18).
When the Lord ascended into heaven, He was seated at the right hand of God the Father, meaning that He received universal dominion and authority (v. 19). The Lord’s dominion was seen in two things. As His followers scattered over the world, preaching the Word, the Lord from heaven worked together with them, and He also confirmed the word with the accompanying signs (v. 20). The Lord is still in heaven, and He is still seated on David’s eternal throne, and He still works with us when the gospel is preached. And He is still confirming it daily.