Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. Mark 16:1-8. The Resurrection
1. And when the sabbath was past] Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday night passed away, three days according to the Jewish reckoning (comp. (a) 1 Samuel 30:12-13; 2 Chronicles 10:5; 2 Chronicles 10:12; (b) Matthew 12:40; John 2:19; Matthew 27:63), and He, Who had truly died, lay also truly buried.
bought sweet spices] Meanwhile the holy women, whom a love stronger than death had drawn to observe the spot on the evening of His burial, had returned in order that they might complete the embalming of the Body, which had necessarily been done in haste, as the Sabbath drew on (Luke 23:54).
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.2. And very early in the morning] while “it was yet dark” (John 20:1), before the dawn streaked the eastern sky on
the first day of the week] the world’s first Easter-Day, our Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10),
they came] or rather, come (observe again the graphic present of the Evangelist), draw near, to the sepulchre.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?3. And they said among themselves] Unaware of the deputation of the Jewish rulers, which had gone to Pilate, and secured the sealing of the Stone and the setting of the watch over the Tomb (Matthew 27:62-66), their only anxiety was, Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.4. And when they looked] But as they drew nearer amidst the glimmering light, the earth quaked beneath their feet (Matthew 28:2), and looking up they saw that all cause of anxiety was removed, for the stone was already rolled away. Observe the force of the expression “when they looked”. It means when they “looked up;” an accurate and graphic detail.
for it was very great] About this fact there could be no doubt. The stone which had closed the entrance was “very great,” and even at a distance on looking up to the height, on which the rock-tomb lay, they could see it was not in its place, but had changed its position.
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.5. And entering into the sepulchre] This emboldened them all to enter into the tomb, except Mary of Magdala, who, seeing in the rolling away of the stone the confirmation of her worst fears, fled away to the Apostles Peter and John; and there they saw
a young man] or as some of them may have specified, two (Luke 24:4), sitting on the right hand. (Comp. Luke 1:11.)
clothed in a long white garment] white or “glistering” (Luke 24:4); “hilid with a whit stoole,” Wyclif. Note the word “hilid” here, from “hélan” to “cover,” whence our word “hell” = “the covered place.”
and they were affrighted] On the force of the Greek word thus rendered, see above, ch. Mark 9:15. The sight of the heavenly visitants (Luke 24:4) filled them with the utmost terror and amazement, “olei weren abaist,” Wyclif.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.6. he is risen] When exactly He had risen no man knoweth, for no man saw. But that it was true did not admit of doubt. When the Apostles Peter and John visited the tomb an hour or so afterwards (John 20:3-10), they went in undismayed, but it was empty. The Holy Body was gone! There were no traces of violence. All was order and calm. The linen bandages lay carefully unrolled by themselves. The facecloth that had covered the Face lay not with them. It was folded up in a place in the empty niche by itself. But He was not there. He had risen even as He had said.
behold the place] where, indeed, He had been laid by kindly hands, but which did not contain Him now.
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.7. go your way] Practical action must take the place of vague astonishment. There was a message to be borne.
and Peter] No wonder it is in the Gospel of St Mark we find this wondrous touch. Who afterwards would have been so likely, as the Apostle himself, to treasure up this word, the pledge of possible forgiveness, after the dreadful hours he must have spent during Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday night? What story would he have so often told to his son in the faith either in Eastern Babylon or the capital of the West?
he goeth before you] as a true Shepherd before His sheep. It is the same word which (a) He Himself used on the evening of the Betrayal, “After I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:32; Mark 14:28); which (b) is applied to the star “going before” the Magi at His nativity, and (c) to His own “going before” His Apostles on the road towards Jerusalem, where He was to suffer. See note above, ch. Mark 10:32.
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.8. they went out quickly] At present the holy women were over-whelmed with alarm at the sight they had witnessed and the words they had heard.
they trembled] Literally, for trembling and amazement possessed them, or as Wyclif renders it, “forsoþe drede and quakynge hadde assaylid hem.” The original word = “amazement,” has been already the subject of comment above, ch. Mark 5:42. The word rendered “trembling” occurs nowhere else in the Four Gospels.
neither said they any thing to any man] That is, on their way to the Holy City they did not open their lips to any passers by they chanced to meet. Joy opened them freely enough afterwards to the Apostles (Matthew 28:8).
for they were afraid] In a tumult of rapture and alarm they fled back from the tomb towards the Holy City. The occurrence of the morning was so new to them, great, and unheard of, that they ventured not as yet to publish it.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.9–11. The Appearance to Mary Magdalene
9. Now when] On this section from 9–20, see Introduction, pp. 15, 16.
he appeared first] As yet, it will be observed, no human eye had seen the risen Conqueror of Death. The holy women had seen the stone rolled away, and the empty tomb, and had heard the words of the Angels, and announced all that had occurred to the Eleven, but their words appeared to them as “idle tales” (Luke 24:11). The Apostles Peter and John also, when they visited the Sepulchre, beheld proofs that it was indeed empty, but “Him they saw not.” The first person to whom the Saviour shewed Himself after His resurrection was Mary of Magdala. After recounting to the Apostles Peter and John the rolling away of the stone, she seems to have returned to the sepulchre; there she beheld the two angels in white apparel, whom the other women had seen (John 20:12), and while she was in vain solacing her anguish at the removal of her Lord, He stood before her, and one word sufficed to assure her that it was He, her Healer, and her Lord.
out of whom he had cast seven devils] That He should have been pleased to manifest Himself first after His resurrection not to the whole Apostolic company, but to a woman, and that woman not His earthly Mother, but Mary of Magdala, clearly made a strong impression on the early Church.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.10. she went and told] In the fulness of believing faith she hurried back to Jerusalem and recounted her tale of joy to the Eleven and the rest.
as they mourned and wept] Desolate at the loss of their beloved Master, and unable to realize the wonderful accounts of His resurrection. “Weylinge and wepynge” is Wyclifs rendering.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.11. had been seen of her] The original word here translated “had been seen” occurs nowhere else in St Mark except here in this section and in Mark 16:14.
believed not] So incredible to them did the whole story appear.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.12, 13. The Appearance to Two of them
12. After that] On the world’s first Easter-Day the risen Saviour manifested Himself first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other ministering women. The Evangelist now proceeds to relate the appearance to the two disciples journeying towards Emmaus, which is more fully described by St Luke (Luke 24:13-35).
he appeared] “he is schewid,” Wyclif. This word in the original is applied to our Lord’s “manifestations” of Himself after His resurrection (a) by St Mark twice, here and Mark 16:14; (b) by St John three times, John 21:1; John 21:14; (c) by St Paul to our “manifestation” in our real character at the Last Judgment, 2 Corinthians 5:10 (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:5); (d) by the same Apostle to the “manifestation” of Christ at His second coming, Colossians 3:4. The word points here to a change in the Person of our Lord after His resurrection. He is the same and yet not the same. (a) The same. There are the well-known intonations of His voice, and the marks in His hands and feet (John 20:20; John 20:25); and He eats before His Apostles, converses with them, blesses them. And yet He is (b) not the same. His risen Body is no longer subject to the laws of time and space. He comes we know not whence. He goes we know not whither. Now He stands in the midst of the Apostles (John 20:19); now He vanishes out of their sight (Luke 24:31). He knows now of no continued sojourn on earth. He “appears from time to time” (Acts 1:3); He “manifests” Himself to chosen witnesses, as seemeth Him good.
in another form] It is plain from St Luke 24:16 that He was not at the time recognised. This appearance would seem to have been vouchsafed early in the afternoon of the day of the Resurrection.
unto two of them] The name of one was Cleopas = Cleopatros, not the Clopas of John 19:25, and another whose name is not known. Some have conjectured it was Nathanael, others the Evangelist St Luke.
as they walked] from Jerusalem in the direction of the village of Emmaus. St Luke says it was sixty stadia (A. V. “threescore furlongs”), or about 7½ miles from Jerusalem. From the earliest period it was identified by Christian writers with the Emmaus on the border of the plain of Philistia, afterwards called Nicopolis (1Ma 3:40), situated some 20 miles from Jerusalem. Afterwards it was identified with the little village of el-Kubeibeh, about 3 miles west of the ancient Mizpeh, and 9 miles from Jerusalem. The true site has yet to be settled.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.13. they went and told it unto the residue] No sooner did they recognise our Lord in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35), and He had vanished out of their sight (Luke 24:31), than they returned in haste to Jerusalem, ascended to the Upper Room, found ten of the Apostles met together (Luke 24:33), and whereas they thought they alone were the bearers of joyful tidings, they were themselves greeted with joyful tidings, “The Lord has risen indeed, and appeared unto Simon” (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5). When this appearance was vouchsafed to St Peter we are not told. It certainly occurred after the return from the sepulchre, but whether before or after the journey to Emmaus cannot be determined.
neither believed they them] The Ten, as we have just now seen, announced that the Lord had appeared to Simon, and this they at the time believed. When the two disciples arrive, they announce that He had appeared to them also. Unable to comprehend this new mode of existence on the part of their risen Lord, that He could be now here and now there, they were filled with doubts. They had refused to believe the evidence of Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:11), and even now hesitation possessed them, and they could not give credence to the word of the two disciples. The Evangelists multiply proofs of the slowness of the Apostles to accept a truth so strange and unprecedented as their Lord’s resurrection, and that not to a continuous sojourn, as in the case of Lazarus, but to a form of life which was manifested only from time to time, and was invested with new powers, new properties, new attributes. The Resurrection, it is to be remembered, was unlike (a) any of the recorded miracles of raising from the dead, (b) any of the legends of Greece or Rome. It was “not a restoration to the old life, to its wants, to its inevitable close, but the revelation of a new life, foreshadowing new powers of action and a new mode of being.” See Westcott’s Gospel of the Resurrection, pp. 154–160.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.14–18. The Appearance to the Eleven
14. Afterward] That is on the evening of the day of the Resurrection, when the two disciples returning from Emmaus had recounted their tale of joy, and the others had told them of the appearance to St Peter.
as they sat at meat] On this occasion, when they were terrified at His sudden appearing (Luke 24:37), and thought they were looking at a spectre or phantom, He calmed their fears by (a) bidding them take note of His Hands and His Feet, by (b) eating in their presence of broiled fish (Luke 24:41-43), and by (c) reiterating His salutation, “Peace be unto you” (John 20:21).
and upbraided them] Their new-born joy still struggled with bewilderment and unbelief (Luke 24:21), and one of their number, St Thomas, was absent altogether, having apparently thrown away all hope.
hardness of heart] Compare His words (a) after the feeding of the Five and Four Thousand, and (b) to the disciples journeying towards Emmaus, Luke 24:25.
them which had seen him] Of the five appearances after the Resurrection vouchsafed on the world’s first Easter-Day four had already taken place before this interview. (i) To Mary Magdalene, (ii) to the other ministering women, (iii) to the two journeying to Emmaus, (iv) to St Peter.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.15. And he said unto them] St John informs us that on this occasion the Risen Saviour breathed on the Apostles, and gave them a foretaste of the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, with power to remit sin and retain sin. St Mark tells us of very important words, which He went on to utter, anticipating the final charge recorded by St Matthew (Matthew 28:16-20).
Go ye into all the world] Or, as it is expressed in St Matthew’s Gospel, “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and comp. Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8. Contrast these injunctions with those to the Twelve during His earthly ministry, Matthew 10:5-6, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
every creature] i. e. to the whole creation, the whole world of men, not Jews only or Samaritans, but Gentiles of all nations. Comp. Romans 8:21-22.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.16. He that believeth and is baptized] Not faith only, but baptism also is required by the Lord. Compare the words of Philip the deacon to the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8:37.
he that believeth not] He addeth not and is baptized here. This would have been superfluous. He who refuses to believe will refuse to be baptized.
shall be damned] See note above, ch. Mark 12:40. He who wilfully rejects the Gospel message, when duly offered him, shall have no share in its saving mercies, but shall be left to the condemnation due to him for his sins.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;17. And these signs] For this word applied to Miracles see note, ch. Mark 6:2.
shall follow] Literally, shall proceed along with. The same word in the original is used by St Luke, Luke 1:3, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things” (literally, having carefully followed up).
them that believe] i. e. those that shall have believed, shall have adopted the Faith and been baptized.
In my name shall they cast out devils] As is afterwards recorded to have been done by Philip the deacon in Samaria (Acts 8:7), by St Paul at Philippi (Acts 16:18) and Ephesus (Acts 19:15-16).
they shall speak with new tongues] as all the Apostles did on the day of Pentecost, and the Gentile friends of Cornelius (Acts 10:46), and the twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:6), and many afterwards in the Church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:10).
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.18. they shall take up serpents] And so we read of St Paul shaking off the viper at Malta (Acts 28:5). Comp. Luke 10:19.
and if they drink] As is related of St John that he drank the cup of hemlock which was intended to cause his death, and suffered no harm from it, and of Barsabas surnamed Justus (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. iii. 39).
they shall lay hands on the sick] As St Peter did on the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3:7), and St Paul on Publius in the island of Malta (Acts 28:8). “Gifts of healing” are mentioned both by this last Apostle (1 Corinthians 12:9) and by St James (Mark 5:14-15) as remaining in the Church.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.19, 20. The Ascension
19. So then after the Lord] Some MSS. here insert the word Jesus. Combined with Lord, it would be a term of reverence.
spoken unto them] This does not mean immediately after our Lord had uttered the last words, but after He had on different occasions during the “Great Forty Days” spoken unto them of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). The original word here rendered “had spoken unto them “has a much wider signification. It signifies to teach, to instruct by preaching and other oral communication. Compare its use in Mark 13:11; John 9:29, “We know that God spake unto Moses,” i. e. held communications with Moses; John 15:22, “If I had not come,” says our Lord, “and spoken unto them,” i. e. preached to them. So that here it denotes after our Lord had during the forty days fully instructed His Apostles by His oral teaching in all things appertaining to His kingdom and the planting of His Church.
he was received] The original word only occurs here in the Gospels. It is applied three times in the Acts (Mark 1:2; Mark 1:11; Mark 1:22) to the Ascension, and is so applied by St Paul, 1 Timothy 3:16, “received up into glory.”
into heaven] What St Mark records thus concisely in his short practical Gospel for the busy, active, Christians of Rome, St Luke has related at much greater length. From him we learn how one day the Lord bade His Apostles accompany Him along the road from Jerusalem towards Bethany and the Mount of Olives; how, full of hopes of a temporal kingdom, they questioned Him as to the time of its establishment; how their inquiries were solemnly silenced (Acts 1:7); and how then after He had bestowed upon them His last abiding blessing, while His Hands were yet uplifted in benediction (Luke 24:50-51), “He began to be parted from them, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
and sat on the right hand of God] The Session at the right Hand of God, recorded only by St Mark, forms a striking and appropriate conclusion to his Gospel, and “conveys to the mind a comprehensive idea of Christ’s Majesty and Rule.” Our Lord was “taken up,” and bore our redeemed humanity into the very presence of God, into “the place of all places in the universe of things, in situation most eminent, in quality most holy, in dignity most excellent, in glory most illustrious, the inmost sanctuary of God’s temple above” (Barrow’s Sermon on the Ascension). There, having led “captivity captive, and received gifts for men” (Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8), He sat down on the right Hand of God, by which expression we are to understand that in the heaven of heavens He now occupies the place of greatest honour, of most exalted majesty, and of most perfect bliss, and that God hath conferred upon Him all preeminence of dignity, power, favour, and felicity. See Pearson on the Creed, Art vi.
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.20. And they] i. e. the Apostles.
went forth] Not immediately. They were commanded not to “depart from Jerusalem,” but to “tarry” there until at Pentecost they should be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). But when the day of Pentecost had come, and the Comforter had been bestowed, they went forth on their career of conquest,
and preached every where] St Mark himself when he wrote his Gospel had witnessed the spread of the Church from Babylon in the distant East to the City of the Seven Hills in the West.
the Lord working with them] according to His promise, “Behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” The word translated “working with them” only occurs here in the Gospels, but is used by St Paul, Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good to them that love God;” 1 Corinthians 16:16, “to every one that helpeth with us;” 2 Corinthians 6:1, “we then as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain;” and by St James (Mark 2:12), “seest thou how faith wrought with his works?”
confirming] The original word here employed denotes (1) to make firm to the tread, (2) to make steadfast, (3) to establish, confirm. It occurs nowhere else in the Gospels, but it is found five times in St Paul’s Epistles, and twice in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Thus St Paul writes to the Romans (Mark 15:8), “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision … to confirm the promises made unto the fathers;” and to the Corinthians (Mark 1:8) that God will “confirm them unto the end, that they may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and to the same Church again (2 Corinthians 1:21), “now he which stablisheth us with you … is God;” and he exhorts the Colossians (Mark 2:6-7), “to walk, rooted and built up in [Jesus Christ], and stablished in the faith.” And for illustrations of the confirmation of the Apostolic commission compare (i) Acts 4:29-30; (ii) Acts 5:12; (iii) Acts 14:3.
with signs] Rather, by the signs which followed.
following] The original word thus rendered denotes more than merely to follow, and = to follow close upon, to follow in the track of another. St Paul uses it in 1 Timothy 5:10, speaking of the condition of a “widow indeed,” “if she had diligently followed every good work;” and in 1 Timothy 5:24, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand … and some men they follow after.” St Peter uses the word in one place (1 Peter 2:21), “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps.” The word is very expressive here, and denotes that the “signs” followed close upon, and were the immediate result of, the continued operation of Him, Who, clad in majesty ineffable, sitteth at the right hand of God, and hath promised to be with His Church “even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). The Evangelist does not conceive of Christ’s Session as a state of inactive rest. (i) As the High Priest of His Church He pleads with the Father the merits of His wondrous sacrifice (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). (ii) As the Prophet, He teaches, inspires, and guides His Church into all truth (Deuteronomy 18:15; Luke 24:19). (iii) As King of kings and Lord of lords, He sways the destinies of the universe, and employs the agency of heaven and earth for the government and defence of His people, till He shall have subdued all things unto Himself (Php 3:21), and the last enemy, even death, shall be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), and the victory, for which all Creation waits, shall be finally and completely won (Romans 8:19-23).
Amen] This is wanting in the best MSS. For some remarks respecting the apotheosis of the Cæsars at the era of the Ascension, see Abp Trench’s Hulsean Lectures, and compare the striking fact that “on public buildings at Ephesus, Augustus is found, from inscriptions on recently discovered buildings there, to have been described by the singular title Υἱὸς Θεοῦ, “Song of Solomon of God.” With this revelation of the great Conqueror, the true divus Cæsar, seated at the right hand of God—of which glorious reality the divine honours paid to the emperors at the very time he was writing from Rome were the dark shadow—the second Evangelist brings his Gospel to a close. He has portrayed the Son of Man and the Son of God as He wrought on earth, in all the fulness of His living Energy, “going about doing good” (Acts 10:38); He leaves us to realize, and realizing to believe in, His continued operation in the very heaven of heavens, in behalf of His Church and the Humanity He came to save.
“The golden censer in His hand,
He offers hearts from every land,
Tied to His own by gentlest band
Of silent love:
Above Him winged blessings stand
In act to move.”
Keble’s christian Year. Ascension Day.