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Summary: A Bible Study of Mark 16:9-20

Snakes, Poison, Demons, Tongues, and Healings

Mark 16:9-20

A few weeks ago someone came to me with questions about a specific passage of Scripture that started me on the search for answers. That journey and the answers that I found are the basis for this morning’s teaching. We’re going to do more of a Bible study than a sermon as we look at a rather confusing passage of Scripture and try to see if we can make some sense out of it. So turn with me, if you will, to the last chapter in the book of Mark – the 16th chapter and verses 9-20.

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. [10] She went and told those who had been with him ad who were mourning and weeping. [11] When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

[12] Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. [13] These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

[14] Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

[15] He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

[19] After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. [20] Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

Now, you may think, “What’s so difficult to understand about that passage?” Well, let’s take a closer look.

I. Not Found In Earliest Manuscripts

Depending on what Bible translation you have, you may or may not see a very interesting note concerning these verses. In the NIV translation you will find a note saying something to the effect that the earliest manuscripts of this gospel and certain other ancient witnesses do not include verses 9-20 of Mark 16.

So that leads us to the first set of questions concerning this passage. Why isn’t it found in the earliest versions of this gospel? Did Mark actually write these verses or did someone else? If someone else did write them and add them to the end of this gospel, why did they? And perhaps most importantly, what affect does this have on our beliefs as Christians?

These are some very important questions and should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately I couldn’t find definitive answers to some of them, but I want to share with you what I did find.

A. Supported By Other Scripture

First of all, scholars have not been able to determine who wrote this final passage of the book of Mark. They are uncertain whether Mark wrote them or if some later scholar added them to “finish” out the story. Verse 8 of chapter 16 ends with the women at Jesus’ tomb finding an angel in place of the body of Christ and being afraid. It seems like a rather strange place to end the story of the life of Christ, but throughout Mark’s gospel he chose to show the disciples as ordinary men and women who are frail and who routinely fail. So, it is possible that Mark would end showing Christ’s resurrection and the disbelief and fear of His disciples.

If this is the case, then our passage this morning was added at a later date by someone transcribing the gospel. So, how then should we view them? Should they be something we throw out as false?

I don’t think so. If you do some careful study, you will find that everything that is mentioned in this passage of Scripture can be supported by other passages in the Bible whose authorship and authenticity is not is question.

1. Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Resurrection

For example, in verses 9-11 it says that after His resurrection, Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her to tell His disciples what she had seen. It also says that when she did this, the disciples didn’t believe her.

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John Gaston

commented on Nov 29, 2008

Refreshing approach. The 2 mms not having those verses are aleph & B, but one left the exact space for them. Several earlier church fathers quote them. Good work.

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