Commentary on Mark 16:9-15
This passage, known as the ‘Longer Ending’, is a kind of summary of all that we have been reading during the past week. It comes from the very end of Mark’s gospel, verses many commentators believe are not part of the original text. Most commentators believe the original text ends with 16:8. However, this ending is so abrupt that many feel the original ending was somehow lost and this ending was put in its place.
Although the style shows it was not written by Mark, it has long been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent. It was known to Tatian and to Irenaeus in the 2nd century, and is found in the vast majority of Greek MSS.
The text consists of brief summaries of longer stories which appear in the other gospels [Luke 24 and John 20] e.g. the appearance to Mary Magdalene, the disciples going to Emmaus, and the appearance in the upper room.
The common theme is the incredulity of the disciples who could not accept that Jesus was truly risen. Right to the very end of his gospel, Mark continues to be harsh on the disciples’ lack of understanding. It is, of course, not about them he is writing but us.
The passage seems directed at many of the early Christians’ contemporaries who would not accept the message of Christ risen. But, as we can see from the First Reading today, the disciples very soon not only found faith but were more than ready to suffer and die for it.
In our times of doubt, let us remember their experience and their example and the fruits of their work. It is a work that still urgently needs to be done.