Mark 16

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Women Go to the Tomb (1-8)

This is the shortest account of the resurrection in any of the four gospels. Mark leaves out a great deal that the other gospels include, and emphasizes some very strange elements (like the women's fear), while ignoring more crucial ones (Like Jesus appearing, any statements of belief in the women, explicit mention of the empty tomb, or the disciples being told). Some scholars have suggested that Mark's extremely sparse treatment of the resurrection was what prompted Luke and Matthew to expand on it and write their own gospels.


Verse 1: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. (NIV)

  • Mark mentions the reason behind delay in taking care of the body, the Sabbath.
  • We have absolutely no mention of what happened to anyone during the Sabbath, or what the women and disciples were feeling during that time (France 676).
  • There are three women mentioned here.
    • None of the different gospels record the same number of women, with Matthew saying two, Luke saying more than three and John saying only Mary.
    • The only person who is mentioned in all four is Mary Magdalene.
  • Proper burial was very important, but why the women needed to anoint it is questionable because Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had already done this (John 19:38-39). The women probably did not know this.
  • Notice that is says that the women bought the spices at this time, probably just after sunset Saturday when Sabbath ended (Brooks 268), not started out then. This is to explain how the women could set off so early the next morning.
  • Spices were used in Jewish culture not to preserve, but to offset the smell (Lane 285), so with Jesus in the grave already this seems irrelevant.
  • This anointing desire also definitely points out that the women were not going to the tomb hoping for a resurrection, they were expecting to find Jesus' body.
  • The practical sense should be addressed here as well. The women expected a several day old body. This was a serious level of dedication to deal with the smell, the decay, the sight alone.


Verse 2: Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb (NIV)

  • That this was the first day of the week is more important than that it was three days later. This emphasis led to the tradition of Christians gathering on Sunday instead of the Sabbath.
  • This explicitly mentions it happens after Sunrise, but John mentions that it was still dark out. This isn't necessarily a conflict as it is still dark for quite a while after the sun begins to be visible.


Verse 3: and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (NIV)

  • Why this question wasn't raised earlier is questionable as the women had several days to think about it.
    • Perhaps they were simply trusting to luck or that someone else would be around to help.
    • It is possible that they knew about the posting of the guards over the tomb mentioned in Matthew 27:62-66, but that is unlikely.
    • The wording for “asked” could be interpreted as an iterative imperfect (Brooks 269), which means that they “kept” talking about it, ie that this was a regular topic of discussion that they simply hadn't resolved yet.
    • However, it serves to tell the reader about this seemingly insurmountable problem that would be solved miraculously in the next verse.


Verse 4: But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (NIV)

  • The emphasis here is that the stone was huge.
    • The word used is “lithos” which just means “stone,” often large.
    • But Mark adds two words meaning “exceedingly great” that together make the impression that this stone was completely impossible to move, especially by only a few women.
  • There is no mention about who removed the stone, or when, in Mark (France 678).


Verse 5: As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (NIV)

  • The layout of the tomb seems to be that inside the initial opening was an antechamber, with the final tombs branching off from there with small openings (Lane 586).
  • There is no mention that the women saw any linens, or that Jesus body was even missing.
  • There is no explicit mention that this was an angel, unlike the other gospels. It is assumed, but not stated.
  • ”Young man” is a completely normal word to use, quite common in Greek.
    • The young man is given authority as he is sitting right in the tomb, and sitting was a traditional position for teaching (France 678).
    • This term was used a lot in non-canonical gospels and writings for angels that were not recognized.
  • Unlike in John's gospel, the women here are alarmed by the visitor, a standard reaction to angelic visitations.


Verse 6: “Don't be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (NIV)

  • This is the only mention of the resurrection in the shorter version of Mark, one word spoken by a man in white clothes.
  • There is no mention that the women looked at the spot where Jesus should have been.
  • The empty tomb alone only asks the question of what happened to the body. Faith is here based on believing the young man's words in this gospel as there is no appearance of Jesus himself.


Verse 7: But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' ” (NIV)

  • The announcement of the resurrection is not the end, but the basis for action here (France 680).
  • Peter is separated out apart from the other disciples, which is not saying that he isn't a disciple. This is probably either because he was a leader or because he had publicly rejected Jesus and would need personal reinstatement.
  • The wording here implies that the disciples had been forgiven for their failings (Brooks 271).


Verse 8: Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (NIV)

  • While John does not mention fear at all, Mark emphasizes it as much as the message itself.
  • ”Fled” is literally the word used for armies running away or people avoiding or escaping (Liddell 858).
    • This is another example of Mark emphasizing action without completely thinking through the theological implications.
    • The other gospels avoid this language or emphasize the joy (Matthew 28) that the women felt.
  • Mark is also the only gospel which does not say that the women told people about what they had heard and seen.
  • There is no mention of the women coming to faith here, which is a very odd way of ending a gospel, with no one coming to faith in the risen Christ and none of the disciples even knowing about it.


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