In the following article you will find a brief commentary on Mark 16 that goes along with our Riverside Church Two Year Bible Reading Plan (Volume 1 & Volume 2). This plan will allow you to read the New Testament and Psalms once every year and the Old Testament once every two years.
The ending of Mark is uncertain. The best manuscripts do not include the longer ending and most translations make the reader aware of this. What should we do?
In short, we should be careful to accept texts with questionable attestation. The bible is rare amongst ancient writings. While we do not have any original manuscripts, we have a great number of early manuscripts and more than virtually any other ancient text. Our modern translations, though not all possessing the same reliability, are typically the result of careful study and comparison of relevant manuscripts, with priority given to older manuscripts. Therefore, when translators agree that a section is not reliable, we should not confidently accept it, especially if it contains teaching that is not clearly attested elsewhere in the bible. This is the case with the longer ending of Mark.
The good news for us is that there are very few texts of any significance that fall in this questionable category. In the case of Mark 16, it is not that we could never harmonize the longer ending with the rest of scripture. However, an overly literally interpretation could be difficult, especially if applied equally to every age.
It is preferable to establish the commission from our Lord to his disciples from Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49 and Acts 1:1-8. In a broader sense, we could apply the purpose recorded for the book of John as a commission in the sense that we share in the same mission – see John 20:30-31.