“The End of Mark” Mark 16:9-20 June 27, 2008
SI: We come this morning to the end of Mark. I looked back through my notes this week and discovered that we started in September 2006, but with summer and Christmas/Easter sermon series, we’ve actually spent 55 Sundays studying Mark.
My preaching professor in seminary warned us against long sermon series.
He said, None of you men should try to be Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a sermon series on Romans that lasted 25 years.
I hope this study of Mark hasn’t felt like 25 years to you,
and that you have enjoyed it as much as I have.
What are we going to study next? Next Sunday, I’m going to be in the Smokys
with my family, Brad Tubbesing preaching. RUF minster at UAH.
Sunday after that, going to start a study of a little book that some people think
is the most refreshing and encouraging story in all the Bible—the book of Ruth.
Ruth is so short, that you can read the whole thing in about 15 minutes.
So think about reading it for yourself, or read a chapter a night after supper
for your family devotions and it might become your favorite book of the Bible.
INTRO: About 3 months ago, someone came up to me after church and said:
I was wondering, what are you going to do with the end of Mark?
I knew immediately what he was asking.
He wasn’t asking, What are you going to preach next.
He was asking, what are you going to say about this passage?
How are you going to explain that my Bible has a line separating this passage
from the rest of Mark and a note that says:
“The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.”
I said, You’ll see. I’ll cover that when we get there.
But I was thinking: I don’t know what I’m going to say.
If you Google “the end of mark” or “the ending of mark” you will find
numerous pages, even websites devoted to explaining this passage.
This is the issue: New Testament scholars think that the evidence shows
that Mark did not write these verses, that he ended his Gospel
with verse 8, and that someone else wrote this ending.
You will probably ask, who are these scholars?
Are these liberals who have a low view of the Bible?
Are these people who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God?
This is a view that is held by most Bible-believing, conservative,
New Testament scholars who affirm inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
Not all, there are a few who argue that Mark wrote these verses—
but most argue that he did not.
I’ve listened to several sermon series on Mark and I was disappointed to find
that two of my favorite preachers didn’t cover this passage.
They just stopped with verse 8.
Made a brief comment—Mark really ends here, we’re ending here.
But they didn’t really explain it.
That bugged me because I think this needs to be covered in a sermon.
We are people of the Book. The Bible is our food. It’s the Word of God.
If you have a note in your Bible written by the translators that implies that
the next part is probably not written by Mark, but added later—
you need to understand that.
It would be a disservice to you to spend a year and a half on Mark
and stop with this ending hanging out there.
A person could ask: If we have questions about the authenticity of this part
of the Bible, then what about all the other parts?
That could hurt a person’s faith.
I don’t think that would be true of any of you, but as students of the Bible,
and as people who are committed to love God with all our minds,
we should want to have answers about the end of Mark.
And there are good answers.
As we delve into this, you will find the trustworthiness of the Bible affirmed.
And through the Bible we can know and have relationship with risen Lord Jesus,
and though his Word and Spirit, we receive power to live for him.
Want us to look at the end of Mark from three perspectives:
1. The inspiration of Scripture.
2. The problems with this passage.
3. The lessons for believers.
(Bible, passage, ourselves)
Credit to Mike Campbell, seminary buddy, pastor in Jackson for sermon.
MP#1 The inspiration of Scripture
First, let’s look at the end of Mark in terms of the inspiration of Scripture.
2 Timothy 3 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
2 Peter 1 says, the prophets “spoke from God as they were carried along by the
Inspiration means that the Holy Spirit guided the original authors of the Bible—
Moses and David and Isaiah and Mark and Paul—all the prophets and apostles—
so that the words they spoke, and words they wrote were the very words of God.
If the words they wrote were the inspired word of God,
then that means that it is completely true and accurate and reliable and has no
mistakes, errors, falsehoods or contradictions.
Theologians often use the terms infallible and inerrant to make this point.
We believe the Scripture is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.
But this is the issue.
We don’t have the original Scriptures.
We don’t have the scroll that Jeremiah dictated to Baruch.
We don’t have David’s original 23rd Psalm.
We don’t have Mark’s original Gospel or Paul’s original letters.
We don’t have any of the original Scriptures that were directly inspired by God.
Here’s what we have: We have thousands of ancient copies of parts of the Bible.
Some are written on vellum (animal hide), some on papyrus.
Some in scroll form, some in primitive book form. Many just little fragments.
Scattered in great libraries and museums around world.
By putting all these copies and pieces together, scholars have been able to compile
the whole Bible in Hebrew and Greek and from that it’s been translated
into English and German and Chinese and many other languages.
But when you look at all these ancient copies of Bible, you find little differences.
And that shouldn’t surprise you. There was no printing press in ancient world.
Every single copy had to be copied by hand, letter by letter by scribes.
Being a scribe was a very precise job with lots of rules.
But even so, mistakes were made—letters, verb tenses.
Things accidentally included or left out.
If you have a modern translation like NIV—will find often footnotes—
some manuscripts say this. These are differences in the copies.
If this is the case, if there are lots of copy mistakes,
then how can we trust the Bible in or laps to be the word of God?
How can we hold up the Bible and say—this is without error—
it’s trustworthy and reliable? Two reasons.
1. God himself. God not only inspired the writers of the Bible, has providentially
overseen the copying and preservation of the Bible through the centuries.
God is sovereign and he cares for and protects his Word for his people.
2. The ancient copies themselves.
When you look at them closely you can help but say: Wow!
God has overseen this very human process of copying.
Because what you find is that over 99% of the words in all of the copies
are absolutely identical. Just let that sink in for a minute.
We have thousands of ancient handwritten copies of the Bible.
Some copies made hundreds of years apart, some even a thousand years apart.
These are copies of copies of copies.
They were made in different places, using different originals, by different scribes.
And yet when you lay them all side by side, over 99% completely identical.
Let’s go over this again, just so you can see what an amazing demonstration
this is of God’s providence.
Mark writes his Gospel about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
There is just one original, handwritten manuscript, inspired by God.
Christians in Rome say: Let’s have some copies made. Very expensive.
They have fund drive, get five copies made, read throughout Rome.
Christian there from Egypt. Pays to have copy made. Another Antioch.
So expensive, keep and use for a long time, faded, torn—copies of copies.
Copies of ones in Rome. Hundred years, two hundred, three hundred.
Copies of copies of copies of copies—families of copies.
You would think, when compared, full of contradictions and differences.
But they are not. Over 99% identical.
Means we can read Bible in laps and say, this is the inspired, infallible Word.
This is what David wrote, Paul wrote. If alive to day and read.
Yeah, I wrote that. That is what the Holy Spirit inspired me to write.
Story of how we got the Bible is awesome. Should fill with confidence.
MP#2 Problems with this passage
But what about that fraction of 1%? Those differences in the copies.
What are we supposed to think about those differences?
Do they harm our view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God?
That brings us to the second point, the problems with this passage.
As I’ve already said, most of the differences in the copies are very small.
A word is dropped out or inserted. A verb tense is changed.
Sometimes a phrase or verse is inserted or dropped.
These are typical scribal errors. Most can be easily explained.
But there are two longer passages in the New Testament that have raised questions:
the beginning of John 8 (story of woman caught in adultery) and the end of Mark.
Most scholars think that John 8 was in the original,
but most scholars think that the end of Mark was not, added later.
There are two reasons.
1. The two oldest copies of Mark don’t have verses 9-20.
Lots of copies do have it. But these are newer, and so it seems logical added later.
Can we make a judgment based just on these two old copies?
Well, we actually have more than that.
Two church fathers, Eusebius and Jerome who lived about a hundred years apart,
made the very same observation. Our oldest Greek copies of Mark don’t have
this ending, our more recent ones do. Seem to have thought it was added.
But, just so you know, this ending was found in so many of the later copies,
that most church fathers accepted it as genuine.
Still, this is a very strong argument.
2. Style and vocabulary.
You may not have noticed the difference in style. But even when read in English,
this just doesn’t sound like the Mark we’ve read for 16 chapters.
It doesn’t have the same, active, narrative style.
Also, the transition from verse 8 to verse 9 is a problem.
NIV covers up the problem by making the verse say: “When Jesus rose early.”
But it literally says: “When he rose early.” Doesn’t mention Jesus’ name.
In the verse right before, the subject is the women. But it just starts talking
about Jesus as “He” without introducing him.
Also, Mary Magdalene is introduced as if for the first time, but
she has already been introduced in chapter 15, and Mark never wastes words.
Also, in these 11 verses there are, depending on how you count, 11, 15, or 18
significant words that are not used anywhere else in Mark.
There are responses to all of these style and vocabulary problems—
but I also think this is a significant argument.
On whole, I’m convinced that Mark ended his Gospel at verse 8,
that he did not write verses 9-20, but they were added as study notes
or commentary and then by accident were added to the text and
found their way into several families of copies.
Some people look at the evidence and come to opposite conclusion.
This is the only place in the New Testament that mentions snake handling.
So you know all the snake handling churches argue that Mark wrote this
and that is the inspired Word of God.
But if I was ever debating a snake handler, I wouldn’t argue that Mark
probably didn’t write this, I would argue that it’s wrong to build your beliefs
on just one verse in the Bible taken out of context.
And I think that illustrates the reason why this debate about the end of Mark
does not in any way harm our confidence in the reliability of the Bible.
Everything important in this passage—the resurrection, appearances of Jesus,
his command to go and preach the Gospel, promises of his presence and power
are found elsewhere in Scripture and completely affirmed by all ancient copies.
In fact, as you comb through all of these copy differences and errors—
this fraction of one percent—you will not find a single place in all the Bible
where a key doctrine of our faith is undermined or called into question.
Bible is reliable. God has overseen this very human process of copying
through the ages and has brought us his word so that we can live
by faith in His Son.
MP#3 The lessons for believers.
That brings us to the third point—how does this impact us?
Let’s consider the end of Mark and the lessons for believers.
If Mark didn’t write verses 9-20, then how did he end his Gospel?
The women found the stone rolled away.
They saw a young man dressed in white (an angel).
He told them that Jesus had risen.
They were to go and tell the disciples,
and remind them of Jesus’ own words that he would rise,
and that they were to meet him in Galilee.
And then how did the women respond? Did they whoop and shout?
And say: He’s alive! Nothing can stop us now!
“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.
They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
There is no appearance of Jesus like we have in the other Gospels—
just the empty tomb and the testimony that he has risen
and the reminder of his promises that he will meet his disciples.
And the women’s first response to all of this was confusion and fear.
That couldn’t be right. Surely Mark didn’t intend to end the story here.
But haven’t we seen this all along in our study of Mark?
The disciples were fearful and confused every step of the way.
Fearful and confused when faced with sick people and hungry people.
Fearful and confused when caught in the storm on Sea of Galilee, and even more
fearful when Jesus calmed that storm.
The were fearful and confused in the Garden of Gethsemane—
and they were even fearful and confused at the empty tomb.
They bring nothing to this story but their weakness.
But Jesus makes things happen.
Jesus drives out evil spirits.
Jesus lifts the lame, touches lepers, blesses little children.
Jesus raises the dead and calms the storm and feeds the multitudes.
Jesus suffers and dies and rises from the dead.
Jesus who brings the power and presence of God into the world so that
we can have life and hope and forgiveness.
Mark probably wrote his Gospel for Roman Christians facing persecution.
These were second generation Christians, many of them were Gentiles.
None of them had ever seen Jesus, all had believed based on witness of others.
And now they were suffering terribly.
They had to be bewildered and afraid.
They had to wonder, why are we going through this suffering?
What is going to happen to us?
They had to wonder about their fear and confusion—
Is this how a Christian responds? Why am I not strong like the first disciples?
And then they got this document written by Mark, this scroll.
The very first, the original, inspired, God-breathed record of the life of Jesus.
They opened the scroll and listened as these words read aloud for very first time:
“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
And they read through to the end, the empty tomb, the announcement
of the angel, and the promises of Jesus fulfilled—
and the women fearful and bewildered.
And they realized that the Good News is that a good ending does not depend
on human performance, but on the work of Jesus Christ.
And even though we can’t see him,
we have the testimony of God’s inspired, trustworthy, written word that he died
and rose again, so we can trust him and walk by faith.
Are you suffering? Are you at times bewildered and fearful like these women?
Do you say, Why is this happening to me?
Why can’t I figure this out?
How can I fix this thing?
The Good News is that it isn’t up to you, it doesn’t depend on you.
Trust in Jesus, believe the word of God
Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Fulfilled his mission in spite weak disciples. t And because of what he did, not only are your sins forgiven,
but all of your suffering is redeemed.
And then he rose, and because the tomb is empty—
it doesn’t ultimately matter if you are strong and confident,
or trembling and bewildered—as long as you trust Jesus—
you can be assured that everything will be ok.