Although most modern Bibles make it seem that Mark 16:9-20 can’t possible be original, they overstate the case a bit. However, even if it’s excluded, we don’t lose anything in this particular case. What is described here is found in the other gospels and in the book of Acts. Some want to make what Jesus says in 16:17-18 prescriptive, meaning that it’s what all believers are supposed to do. I believe that it’s descriptive, describing precisely what happens next according to the book of Acts. In fact, that’s one of the reasons some believe that it can’t be original, and think that it must have been added later! But Jesus certainly knew what was going to happen next, and describes it in detail. And if it’s descriptive, then we shouldn’t handle snakes in church today!
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what happened during the resurrection because each of the gospels provide different details. Here is the order of resurrection appearances that I come up with (not including the appearance to Paul):
- To Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
- To the other women (Matthew 28:9-10)
- To the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)
- To Peter (Luke 24:33-35)
- To the 10 disciples (John 20:19-25)
- To the 11 disciples (John 20:26-31)
- To 7 disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25)
- To 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6)
- To James, Jesus’ brother (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- To 11 disciples on a mountain (Matthew 28:16-20)
- At the time of the ascension (Acts 1:3-8)
If we exclude Mark 16:9-20 we don’t actually have a resurrection appearance in Mark, but we do have angelic testimony to that effect. And that’s important, because the resurrection is essential. It testifies to the integrity of Jesus Christ, the majesty of God, and the hope that we have for the future!
1 Corinthians 15:12-22 “Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”