Mark 16 Bible Commentary

John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary

<< Mark 15 | Mark 16 | Luke 1 >>
(Read all of Mark 16)
1. 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.

[That they might come and anoint him.] "What is that, that is allowed as to the living [on the sabbath day], but as to the dead it is not? It is anointing."

2. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

[And very early in the morning, &c.] The distinction of the twilight among the Rabbins was this:

I. The hind [cerva] of the morning: the first appearance of light. "R. Chaija Rabba, and R. Simeon Ben Chalaphta, travelling together in a certain morning, in the valley of Arbel, saw the hind of the morning, that its light spread the sky. R. Chaija said, Such shall be the redemption of Israel. First, It goes forward by degrees, and by little and little; but by how much the more it shall go forward, by so much the more it shall increase."

It was at that time that Christ arose; namely, in the first morning; as may be gathered from the words of Matthew. And to this the title of the two-and-twentieth Psalm seems to have respect. See also Revelation 22:16; "I am the bright and morning star." And now you may imagine the women went out of their houses towards the sepulchre.

II. When one may distinguish between purple colour and white. "From what time do they recite their phylacterical prayers in the morning? From that time, that one may distinguish between purple colour and white. R. Eliezer saith, Between purple colour and green." Before this time was the obscurity of the begun light, as Tacitus' expression is.

III. When the east begins to lighten.

IV. Sunrise. "From the hind of the morning going forth, until the east begins to lighten; and from the time the east begins to lighten, until sunrise," &c.

According to these four parts of time, one might not improperly suit the four phrases of the evangelists. According to the first, Matthew's, as it began to dawn. According to the second, John's, early in the morning, when it was yet dark. To the third, Luke's, very early in the morning. To the fourth, Mark's, very early in the morning, and yet at the rising of the sun.

For the women came twice to the sepulchre, as John teacheth; by whom the other evangelists are to be explained: which being well considered, the reconciling them together is very easy.

13. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

[Neither believed they them.] That in the verses immediately going before the discourse, the question is of the two disciples going to Emmaus, is without all controversy: and then how do these things consist with that relation in Luke, who saith, that "they...returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon," Luke 24:33,34. The word saying, evidently makes those to be the words of the eleven, and of those that were gathered together with them: which, when you read the versions, you would scarcely the original Greek, since it is the accusative case, it is plainly to be referred to the eleven disciples, and those that were together with them. As if they had discourse among themselves of the appearance made to Peter, either before, or now in the very access of those two coming from Emmaus. And yet saith this our evangelist, that when those two had related the whole business, they gave credit no not to them. So that according to Luke they believed Christ was risen and had appeared to Simon, before they told their story; but according to Mark, they believed it not, no not when they had told it.

The reconciling, therefore, of the evangelists, is to be fetched thence, that those words pronounced by the eleven, The Lord is risen indeed, &c., doth not manifest their absolute confession of the resurrection of Christ, but a conjectural reason of the sudden and unexpected return of Peter.

I believe that Peter was gong with Cleophas into Galilee, and that being moved with the words of Christ told him by the women, "Say to his disciples and Peter, I go before you into Galilee." Think with yourself, how doubtful Peter was, and how he fluctuated within himself after his threefold denial; and how he gasped to see the Lord again, if he were risen, and to cast himself an humble supplicant at his feet. When, therefore, he heard these things from the women (and he had heard it indeed from Christ himself, while he was yet alive, that "when he arose he would go before them into Galilee"), and when the rest were very little moved with the report of his resurrection, nor as yet stirred from that place, he will try a journey into Galilee, and Alpheus with him. Which when it was well known to the rest, and they saw him return so soon, and so unexpectedly, "Certainly (say they) the Lord is risen, and hath appeared to Peter; otherwise, he had not so soon come back again." And yet when he and Cleophas open the whole matter, they do not yet believe even them.

15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

[To every creature.] To every creature, a manner of speech most common among the Jews: by which,

I. Are denoted all men. "The Wise men say, Let the mind of man always be mingled [or complacent] to the 'creatures.'" The Gloss there is; "To do with every man according to complacency." He makes the Holy Spirit to dwell upon the 'creatures': that is, upon men. "In every judge in the bench of three is required prudence, mercy, religion, hatred of money, love of truth, and love of the 'creatures'": that is, the love of mankind.

II. But especially by that phrase the Gentiles are understood. "R. Jose saith, Woe to 'the creatures,' which see, and know not what they see; which stand, and know not upon what they stand; namely, upon what the earth stands," &c. He understands the heathens especially, who were not instructed concerning the creation of things. The speech of all the 'creatures' (that is, of the heathens) "is only of earthly things, And all the prayers of the 'creatures' are for earthly things; 'Lord, let the earth be fruitful, let the earth prosper.' But all the prayers of Israelites are only for the holy place; 'Lord, let the Temple be built,'" &c. Observe, how the creatures are opposed to Israelites.

And the parallel words of Matthew, chapter 28, do sufficiently prove this to be the sense of the phrase, every creature, in this place: that which in Mark is, preach to every creature, in that place in Matthew is, disciple all nations; as those words also of St. Paul, Colossians 1:23, the gospel that was preached in all the creation.

In the same sense you must, of necessity, understand the same phrase, Romans 8:22. Where, if you take the whole passage concerning the Gentiles breathing after the evangelical liberty of the sons of God, you render the sense very easy, and very agreeable to the mind of the apostle, and to the signification of the word creature, or creation: when they who render it otherwise dash upon I know not what rough and knotty sense. Let me, although it is out of my road, thus paraphrase the whole place:--

Romans 8:19: "'For the earnest expectation of the creature, or of the heathen world, waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God.' For God had promised, and had very often pronounced by his prophets, that he would gather together, and adopt to himself, innumerable sons among the Gentiles. Therefore, the whole Gentile world doth now greedily expect the revelation and production of those sons."

Verse 20. "For the creature, the whole heathen world, was subjected to the vanity of their mind (as Romans 1:21, became vain in their imaginations; and Ephesians 4:17, the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind), not willingly, but because of him that subjected it."

Verse 21. "Under hope, because the creature also" (or that heathen world) "shall be freed from the service of" (sinful) "corruption" (which is in the world through lust, 2 Peter 1:4), "into the (gospel) liberty of the sons of God": from the service of Satan, of idols, and of lusts, into the liberty which the sons of God enjoy through the gospel.

Verse 22. "For we know, that the whole creature" (or heathen world) "groaneth together, and travaileth, and, as it were, with a convex weight, boweth down unto this very time, to be born and brought forth."

Verse 23. "Neither the Gentiles only, but we Jews also (however we belong to a nation envious of the heathen), to whom God hath granted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we sigh among ourselves for their sakes, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our mystical body, whereof the Gentiles make a very great part."