Weekly Word – 12.6.20

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “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. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  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.”
Mark 16: 1-8

Reflect on these thoughts from one of our Elders, Jerry Fonte:

Our final Message in Mark, “The Beautiful King”, is this second Sunday in Advent out of Mark 16:1-8. It is “the end” of the Gospel of Mark among some “alternate endings” due to Greek manuscript variations, which our Preacher has titled “The Beginning”. Mark 16 loops us back to Mark 1:1, and the “ending” of the Gospel is actually the “beginning” of the Gospel of God’s Grace to an “Age of Grace and Mission” among mankind. We are now 2,000 years into that Age and counting to the Second Advent of the Beautiful King. See the “Olivet Discourse” of Mark 16 on His Second Coming at the end of this gracious Age, which was not included in our series this time.

Following the Crucifixion Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. He was hastily wrapped in “linen grave cloths”, “entombed”, and a “stone” rolled across the entrance. Two famous Marys: Magdalene and Josephs’ mother marked out the “place where they laid him” (15:42-47). Then they “kept the Sabbath” from Sundown on Friday until dawn on the First Day of the Week.

Our text for Sunday begins with three of those devoted disciple women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome coming back to the tomb. They had prepared “spices” to anoint the body of Jesus for proper burial. They wondered, as they approached, “who might roll the large stone from the entrance of the tomb” (16:1-3). Upon their arrival, they amazingly noted that “the stone had already been rolled aside”, revealing the opening to the tomb. Bravely, they “entered the tomb” where they heard amazing words and saw an amazing sight.

What followed could be described only as the appearance and message of an angel of the Lord:They saw a young man, sitting on the right, wearing a white robe.” It must have been to the right of where Jesus had been wrapped and placed before the onset of the Sabbath. His Message is the heart of the joyful good news: “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” It has been said that the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out, but to allow witnesses to see the truth of what was within. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, just as He said He would. For 2,000 years pilgrims have traversed to the site of the empty tomb and have seen the same thing, the tomb is empty. This is the Gospel. “He was delivered over because of our transgressions, and raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4). The Confession of Peter and the Centurion stand firm: He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Then the intention of God is that those who receive the Good News are urged to joyfully tell it to others: “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” The alternate endings of Mark’s Gospel, mirroring the other Gospel accounts, tell of that joyful reunion of Jesus with the eleven and others.

The initial and strange response of the three women, in the minds of early Christian transcriptionists, seemed too abrupt and defeating for them to let the Gospel end at 16:8, and I tend to agree. Their initial response is consistent with the unbelief and hardness of heart found previously in Mark’s Gospel, which Jesus persistently sought to amend. The women fled from the tomb with “trembling and astonishment” and “in fear told no one” of what they had seen and heard, at least for the moment. If the Gospel ended here, what a sad and disappointing ending it would be, just as our fear and unbelief troubles us. We know better, however, as Jesus continues to overcome unbelief (Romans 10:16,17).

What follows is that “later manuscripts” add verses 9-20, for alternate ending number one. Someone with more knowledge of manuscript evidence and textual criticism could explain this alternate ending better than I can. Biblically, I piece it together in this way. Verses 9-11 constitute a tradition of what John later contained in his Gospel in chapter 20:1-18 of His first appearance to Mary Magdalene, which the disciples would not believe due to their grief and spiritual stupor. Verses 12 and 13 constitute a tradition of what Luke later contained in his Gospel in 24:13-35, His appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus, which was again met with the incredulity of the disciples. Finally verses 14-20 combine the account later found in Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-29 where unbelief is met and conquered by the Appearance of Jesus to the Eleven. He “reproved them for their unbelief and hardness of heart”, demonstrated His Resurrection Life with “signs”, and promised both “salvation” and “signs to the faith” and a believing Community, the Church. The Book of Acts then testifies of salvations at the commitment of “faith expressed in Baptism” and “signs which testified” the truth of the Gospel in and through the believing Community. Hold fast to Mark 16:14-18 with memorization, prayer and deep expectation for the miraculous expansion of the Gospel and Planting of the Church worldwide. These verses constitute one of five Great Commission passages to the Church in the Gospels and Acts.

Then, having given the Commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (16:15), we read of His Ascension, Seating at the Right Hand of the Father, their obedience to the command to preach the Gospel and the confirming signs which followed, reported to us in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, or the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the believing Community of Faith (16:19-20). We are called to a supernatural work.

For me, I do not want to give these verses up due to manuscript variance. Since they are true and borne witness to by all other Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts, I deem them real and actual in the History of the Mission of the Church.

The alternate ending number two which is placed unversed in my NASV Bible constitute what a few late manuscripts contain, usually after verse 8 and some at the end of the chapter after verse 20. It contradicts verse 8, and says instead that “they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions”. The other sentence, though probably not written and included by Mark, but by a scribe, does tell a truth of the first 30 years plus of the History of Christian Mission: “After that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east (Jerusalem) to west (Rome) the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” And the Mission continues, and will, until “all of creation” of each man, woman and child hears the Gospel with the miraculous work and demonstration of the Holy Spirit with power, and many believe and are Baptized. So far, from Jerusalem, the Gospel has gone West, North, South, further East “to the ends of the earth.” Who knows what 2021 holds, and missiologists will tell us how close we are to the whole world hearing the Gospel and churches being planted with Gospel access to each tribe, tongue, people and nation. Even so, amaze us, Lord, with “greater things” in the year(s) ahead.