Mark 15–16: Amazed, Astonished & Afraid

Read the Bible in 2011–2021* ◊ Week 18: Saturday

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:39

Today’s Bible reading of Mark 15–16, finishes the gospel of Mark. Before you begin to read, ask God to help you put aside distracted thoughts, and be ready to learn from His Word. Ask Him to teach you and help you understand what He wants you to learn.

These two chapters of Mark open with Jesus before Pilate. He is mocked, crucified, buried, and then He rises from the dead. Read these passages carefully. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, they may be very familiar to you. Don’t try to ramp up your emotions because you think you should, but spend time thanking God for the great and incredible gift of His Son, that in His great love for you, Jesus Christ, died for you, taking God’s right judgment of you and the death you deserved on Himself, that you might be forgiven, made right before God, and live forever.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21

I want to finish the posts on Mark by talking about its themes as well as its ending in Mark 16:9–20.

When I posted Mark 1–2: Authority & Power in March 2011, that Mark’s work is the shortest of the four Gospels, and sometimes you may think you need to stop and catch your breath to keep up with him—notice the frequent use of the word immediately in these first two chapters. His use of immediately didn’t end there. Mark used the word 40 times in his Gospel—more than any other book in the Bible. Look at all the verses in which immediately occurs. The same Greek word is translated as straight in Mark 1:3, as just then in Mark 1:23, and early in Mark 15:1.1 The Discovery Bible explanation of the Greek word, makes it clear why several different English words were used.

euthýs – properly, straight, without unnecessary zig-zags or detours; upright (not crooked, bent); (figuratively) without delay, immediately, “straightway” – taking a direct path from “God’s point A” to “God’s point B” which avoids unnecessary delays (deviations).”2

The Discovery Bible goes on to say:

“The Gospel of Mark most often uses 2117 (euthýs).  Indeed, “straightway” is a key theological theme (emphasis) in Mark which illustrates the Lord is always in immediate and complete control of every scene of life.”3

I ended that first post by saying that Matthew began his Gospel by calling Jesus the Messiah and beginning his authentication through Jesus’ genealogy. Mark identifies Him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God and begins his authentication through the ministry of John the Baptist and the events and interchanges that demonstrate Jesus’ authority and power. R. C. Sproul writes:

“Mark takes pains to show that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God in the flesh. He opens by saying, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1), and everything in the book leads up to Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ” (8:29). In a day and age when the world insists Jesus was at best a great teacher, we desperately need to see and be reminded of these truths. Mark actually seems to downplay Jesus’ teaching in order to focus on the power and authority with which He carried out His ministry, demonstrating again and again that He was like no other man. This is a perspective we dare not neglect.”4

“The facts Mark gives us are included to demonstrate two things: Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Son of God. Mark makes this affirmation at the beginning of his work, saying, The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (v. 1). That is the thematic statement for the entire gospel.”5

As you read Mark you’ll see the reaction of people to Jesus’ power and authority. You’ll find the words: amazed, astonished, astounded, and fear or afraid. John MacArthur asks, “Could I retitle this book, The Amazing Jesus?”6 Sproul writes:

“Throughout the gospel of Mark, we have seen frequent instances of astonishment and amazement over the things Jesus said and did.”7

In Mark 16 when the women encountered the angel at the empty tomb, Mark describes their overwhelming reaction:

They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Mark 16:8

In Let’s Study Mark Sinclair Ferguson considers their state of shock:

“Should they not have returned home rejoicing in the news they had heard? Is there not something unexpected about this response? That in itself is a mark of its authenticity (if we were to invent the story we would not end it in this way). But it is more. In Mark’s Gospel, this fear is always man’s response to the breaking in of the power of God. It is the fear the disciples experienced when Jesus stilled the storm; the fear of the Gerasenes when Jesus delivered Legion; the fear of the disciples as they saw Jesus setting his face to Jerusalem to die on the cross. This fear is the response of men and women to Jesus as he shows his power and majesty as the Son of God.”

Mark 16:9 begins a new paragraph. At the very beginning of Mark 16:9 you may have noticed a bracket [ . At the end of 16:20, you’ll find the closing bracket ] . The brackets are there to indicate that Mark 16:9–20 is a variant text. The New American Standard Bible explains, “Some of the oldest manuscripts do not contain vv. 9–20.”8

John MacArthur has an excellent sermon, “The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel,” on the Mark 16:9–20. He goes into detail on the study of ancient manuscripts and these last verses in Mark’s Gospel. I’m going to quote from it, but I highly recommend reading all of it. He is at pains to affirm:

First lines of Mark 16 from the Codex Sinaiticus

“All translations of Scripture, all of them, are based on ancient sources, ancient sources that have been discovered in libraries throughout ancient times, treasures for those libraries. They have been discovered, they have been studied, they have been analyzed for their accuracy. They have been compared by the most fastidious, dutiful, thoughtful, careful scholars through the centuries so that I can say to you unequivocally the Bible you hold in your hand, if you have formal equivalency, an actual translation, I can assure you, you have an accurate – an accurate Bible…

“Nothing – nothing in ancient literature even comes close to the mass of manuscripts that we have on the New Testament. And what they demonstrate is the uniformity and the consistency. There are, as I said, twenty-five thousand ancient manuscripts. There are five thousand six hundred or so Greek manuscripts, and they go way back. We have Greek manuscripts from the second century, from the third century. Our Lord lived in the first century.”9

I’ve included a photo of a portion of the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, because of their importance. MacArthur mentions both:

Mark 16:7b–8 from Codex Vaticanus

“Once you get into the fourth century, around 325 or so, you get Constantine making Christianity legal. The persecution ends and now manuscripts proliferate. They’re everywhere. And so by the time you pass, say, 325, the Council of Nicea, we begin to see manuscripts in abundance.

“The two most important ones, one is called – it’s a Codex, this is called a Codex because it is a bound volume rather than a scroll. The first one that is very important is called Sinaiticus, and it’s about 350, and it’s the whole New Testament. The second important one is called Vaticanus, 325, and it’s the whole Bible. By the way, both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus end Mark at verse 8.”10

He quotes the preeminent Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson:

“The vast array of manuscripts has enabled textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with” – listen to this – “more than 99.9 percent accuracy.”11

You can read others on the ending of Mark here.

I went into this because I want you to be firm in your faith and to be assured that you hold God’s Word in your hands. Those who aren’t Christians frequently attack the Bible. Because I grew up in a liberal church and didn’t become a Christian until I was in college, this topic was and is very important to me. I’ve had several books since the 1970s that discuss it. One is by F. F. Bruce: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? I also own Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands A Verdict and More Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

May the Lord be with you and bless you as you read His Word that has been carefully preserved for us through the ages. Paul wrote to his beloved Thessalonians:

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13

In the first century God’s Word performed its work in the Thessalonians; almost 2000 years later, God’s Word performs its work in us.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
First lines of Mark 16 from Codex Sinaiticus: Public domain.
Mark 16:7b–8 from Codex Vaticanus: Public domain.
1BibleWebApp: Retrieved 09/19/2021.
2,3HELPS Lexicon: 2117 euthýs. The Discovery Bible. Retrieved 09/19/2021.
4,5,7R. C. Sproul, Mark: An Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust Publishing, Sanford FL: 2019) xiii, 3, 236.
6,8,9,10,11John MacArthur, Copyright 2011, Grace to You. All rights reserved.  Used by permission. This Grace to You sermon, “The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel,” originally appeared here.
The next year Dr. MacArthur preached again on these last verses in Mark, “Confidence in God’s Word, as It Is Written.” You can read this Grace to You sermon at the link.
8New American Standard Bible @1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 used for The New International Inductive Study Bible (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR: 1993, Precept Ministries) 1649.

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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