The long ending of Mark.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 May
Mark 16.9-20 KWL
9 [Rising at dawn on the first of the week,
Jesus first appears to Mary the Magdalene,
out of whom he had thrown seven demons.
10 Leaving, this woman reports
to the others who were continuing with Jesus,
to those mourning and weeping,
11 and they’re hearing that Jesus lives—
and was seen by Mary!—and don’t believe it.
12 After this, as two of them are walking,
Jesus is revealed in another form, going with them,
13 and leaving, they report to the rest.
The rest don’t believe them either.
14 Later, as the Eleven are reclining at table,
Jesus appears, and rants against
their unbelief and hard-heartedness,
for people had seen him risen up,
and they don’t believe it.
 
15 [Jesus told them, “Go into the world
and proclaim the gospel everywhere to every creature.
16 Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Those who don’t believe will be judged.
 
17 [“Miracles will accompany the believers:
In my name, people will throw out demons.
People will speak in tongues.
18 People will pick up snakes in their hands,
and if anyone drinks poison, it won’t injure them.
People will lay hands on the sick,
and they will be well.”
 
19 [So after Master Jesus’s speech to them,
he’s raptured into heaven and sits at God’s right.
20 Leaving, these apostles proclaim everywhere
about the Master they work with and his message,
confirming it through the accompanying signs. Amen.]

This passage—often found in brackets in our bibles—is called the Long Ending of Mark. I already wrote about the Short Ending. Mark wrote neither of these endings. Some eager Christian, unsatisfied with the abrupt way Mark ended—or unhappy with the brevity of the Short Ending—tacked it onto Mark in the 300s or 400s. Speaking as someone who’s translated all of Mark, I can definitely say he doesn’t write like Mark.

However. Even though Mark didn’t write it, it’s still valid, inspired scripture. Still bible. No, not because of the King James Only folks; they have their own reasons for insisting it’s still bible, namely bibliolatry. Nope; it’s bible because it was in the ancient Christians’ copies of Mark when they determined Mark is bible. It’s bible because it’s confirmed by what Jesus’s apostles did in Acts and afterward. It’s bible because it’s true.

Those who insist it’s not bible, are usually Christians who insist it’s not true. And like the KJV Only folks, they have their own ulterior motives.

Those who don’t believe.

Y’might notice belief and unbelief is the main theme in the Long Ending. Mary the Magdalene saw Jesus and reported it to the others; they didn’t believe her. The two followers (whom Luke elsewhere identifies as Cleopas Lk 24.14 and Simon Lk 24.34) who went to Emmaus saw Jesus and reported it to the others; they didn’t believe them. Then Jesus himself showed up and yelled at them for not believing his apostles. Seriously: The Long Ending says he ὠνείδισεν/oneídisen, “throws in [their] teeth, reproaches, upbraids, chides, defames, rails at, taunts, reviles.” Some of these definitions can’t apply to Jesus because of how very kind he is, but nonetheless he is very disappointed in them. He expected them to believe Mary, Cleopas, and Simon. He shouldn’t’ve had to visit them himself to get them to believe. He shouldn’t see such σκληροκαρδίαν/skliro-kardían, “hard-heartedness,” i.e. closed-mindedness, in people who’ve seen him do so many impossible things before—and they ain’t seen nothing yet.

He wants his followers to spread out throughout the world, and share the gospel with every creature. He wants them to believe in him too. Those who believe are saved; those who don’t are judged. Mk 16.16 Different bibles translate κατακριθήσεται/kata-krithísete as “damned” or “condemned” or “judged guilty.” It can mean “sentenced,” as in doomed to the usual destiny of everyone who rejects eternal life. But I believe in grace, and that God’s only gonna hold us accountable for the revelation we have. If we hear a twisted, demented version of the gospel from dark Christians, and reject it because it doesn’t sound like God at all, we’re kinda right to. And if that colors any future presentations of the real gospel to such people… well God understands. But he also knows whether we really rejected it for understandable reasons, or not. His BS detector is infallible. Those who reject the real Jesus, and know better than to do so, suffer the consequences of their selfish choices. Believe!

Then Jesus lists some freaky things which are gonna happen when people believe. Gonna happen. We see them do these things in Acts. They threw out demons. They spoke in tongues. They healed people. Paul got bit by a viper, and shook it off. Acts confirms these things happened, and throughout Christian history there have been miracle stories of even more impossible things. I’ve been cured of illness, and have prayed for others to be cured and watched God cure ’em. I see tongues-speaking all the time. I’ve seen demon-tossing; it’s mighty disturbing, but if it needs to be done, we Christians can do it. I’ve only seen snake-handling on video; I’m pretty sure those guys are inviting disaster, and am entirely sure that’s not how this scripture is meant to be interpreted. But I don’t rule out Christians surviving an accidental poisoning. It’s happened before.

Here’s where we get to those who reject this passage: They don’t want any of these freaky things to happen. They don’t want miracles. They don’t do miracles themselves, wanna justify their lack of miracles, and how they’ve done it is to reject any miracles. Miracles ceased, so this passage isn’t valid.

Such people are much happier when God is at a long, long, mythologically long, distance. They’ll permit the idea miracles used to happen… so long that they’re a relic of the far-distant past. From ancient times; from the apostolic age. But they want it to come no further. Certainly not into their lives, where they’ll be obligated to practice faith. Certainly not to disrupt things and change them.

This, despite Jesus stating:

John 14.12 KJV
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

If you believe Jesus, you’re gonna do as he did. Signs will follow. The only reason they won’t follow is—duh—absent faith. Much as you might try to disguise that with cessationist claptrap, you only prove yourself faithless.

The unbelieving believers.

Supposedly the Eleven were believers… but they didn’t believe Mary, and didn’t believe Cleopas and Simon, after these three people encountered the living Jesus and swore up and down they really and truly saw him. Jesus had told the Eleven more than once he’d rise again… and they didn’t entirely believe it.

So Jesus reprimanded them for being unbelieving and closed-minded. They didn’t trust their fellow Christ-followers, nor their Christ. They didn’t believe the others’ experiences, solely because they hadn’t experienced those same things themselves. If Thomas’s complaint was reflective of the whole—“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” Jn 20.27 KJV —they demanded to have their own experiences be the foundation for their beliefs. Not Mary’s; nor anyone else’s. Wouldn’t heed apostles; wouldn’t even bother to double-check with the scriptures.

So Jesus had to return in person to yell at them. And I expect he’s gonna have to do the very same thing with cessationists. Some things never do change.