The chiastic structures of the 16th chapter begin back in the 15th chapter:
1a) Mar 15:44-45, Pilate confirms that Jesus is dead;
1b) Mar 15:46, Joseph laid Him in a tomb, and rolled a stone against the door;
1c) Mar 15:47, (At sundown) The women observed where He was laid;
central axis) Mar 16;1a, When the Sabbath was past;
2c) Mar 16:1b-2, The women came to the tomb when the sun had risen;
2b) Mar 16:3-4, When they arrived, the stone was already rolled away.
2a) Mar 16:5-8, The angel confirms that Jesus is risen.
The central axis reveals that Jesus rested in the grave on Shabbat. Sabbath rest — this gift of grace is central to God’s commandments, plan, and timing!
1a) Mar 16:5, Entering the tomb, they saw the angel, and they were alarmed;
central axis) Mar 16:6-7, The angel said, Do not be alarmed, Jesus is risen! Go tell His disciples;
2a) Mar 16:8, The women fled from the tomb, and said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
This structure reveals that the women were given a job to do: witness to others what they had seen and observed. However, they did not obey the angel, for they were afraid.
1a) Mar 16:9a, Now when He arose early on the first of the Sabbaths;
1b) Mar 16:9b-13, He appeared to Mary Magdalene + two on the road, who told them, but they did not believe them;
central axis) Mar 16:14a, He appeared to the eleven + He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart;
2b) Mar 16:14b, Because they did not believe those who had seen Him;
2a) Mar 16:14c, After He had risen.
Jesus did not appear to His disciples first. He appeared to others first. What was He doing? There is a Torah command, which God obeys, which says, Let every fact be established on the testimony of two or more witnesses. It was a fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus appeared two times: to Mary, and to the two on the road to Emmaus. These two incidents are the two witnesses of the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Their matching testimony, according to Torah, is enough to establish the fact that Jesus is alive. But the disciples did not believe their testimony.
In fact, this structure teaches a greater spiritual truth: hardness of heart is the root of unbelief. We can pray for unbelievers and against unbelief all day long, but until hardness is rooted out of the heart, the unbelief will keep sprouting back up. Where does hardness come from? A heart is like soil, we learned in the parable Jesus taught, which is the key of understanding for all the parables (Mar 4). Soil becomes hard by lack of rain. We just need to learn what rain symbolizes …
1a) Mar 16:15-18, Go into the world, and preach, and these signs will follow those who believe;
central axis) Mar 16:19, So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God;
2a) Mar 16:20, And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord confirming the word through the signs.
Jesus is looking for witnesses — anyone who will go out and testify of what they have seen and heard. And then when others have believed our report, we are to make disciples of them. A disciple is more than a believer, or someone who mentally assents to the truth of something. A disciple is someone who walks in Jesus’ way.
Jesus went away to the right hand of the Father, so that He could replicate His efforts. When He lived and walked on this earth, He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Act 10:38). But that good could only benefit people in a small area of real estate in a certain time in history. What about all the other people in every other place and time? That is where His disciples come in. We are to follow Him, and go, and do likewise. He will confirm the truth of our word, with signs following.