Below is the text of a brief talk which I gave at last year's Equip conference. May you be encouraged as we celebrate our Lord's love this Easter!
Dead men don't come back to life again. We all know this. As the American blues musician Seasick Steve sings in his The Dead Song: "No one is coming back from the dead—at least I haven't met him". Any of us would need to admit that, by our own experience, once dead, someone is not coming back. And even if we conceded that they could, they would not stay alive. According to Ravi Zacharias an inscription on a tomb in Cyprus reads: "Lazarus, Twice Dead, Friend of Jesus". While Lazarus was resuscitated, he did not stay alive, and is now a pile of bones. So how can we believe that Jesus was truly resurrected from the dead?
Firstly we need to understand that it is improbably that this story was thought up in the first century. People simply did not expect anyone to be resurrected. The Greeks and pagans believed that people would live on after death as spirits in a shadowy underworld. Hades was a place where restless, almost demented, spirits, cut off from the physical world, would mill endlessly. Jews additionally believed that people would be resurrected, but only on the Last Day of God's final judgement. We see this, for example in Ecclesiastes 9, Isaiah 38:18, Daniel 12 and Ezekiel 37. But when Jesus was resurrected, He was restored in body (not just Spiritually), and in glory as well. We see this in that He could appear and vanish suddenly, and that even though His body was wounded, it did not hinder Him. This story, to be blunt, would have been too absurd to have been believable in the first century. Jesus had returned from the shadowy underworld; He did not rise to an afterlife, He rose.
That the disciples came to a sudden and radical belief to Jesus's resurrection is undeniable. As someone once said: liars make poor martyrs. Each of the disciples suffered greatly for what they proclaimed—from the first sermon in Acts 2 onwards—that Jesus did not merely come back to life, but conquered death and is able to give everlasting life. Since the stoning of Stephen, Christians at death's door look ahead in eager anticipation of being reunited with their Lord and all their other brothers and sisters.
In your NIV Bible, if you turn to Mark 16:9, you will see this disclaimer: [The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]. This does not mean that what follows is false or invalid, just that Mark did not originally include as part of his story. We may ask, why did Mark stop his story so abruptly? Does his silence betray uncertainty about the Resurrection? I don't believe so: I believe that he was clear that the Resurrection did take place and that his intention was to leave us with the question: what does the news of the Resurrection really mean? Suddenly, we are forced to go read through his book again, see that Jesus confidently predicted His resurrection, that prophecies from hundreds of years before accurately predicted it, and compels us to take all that that He had said seriously.
So now, how will you respond when you read that the young man in the robe had said to the women at the grave, "He is risen!"
Mark 16:9-20 and the nature of Lazarus's resurrection...
First, it is a leap of logic to say that the NIV's disclaimer is adequate to conclude that Mark omitted the text. There are other possible explanations. It is also substantial counter-evidence to this conclusion that many, if not a majority, of other translators (than those of the NIV) have weighed the evidence in favor of its inclusion.
Second, miracles like resurrection, by definition are physical, supernatural, impossibilities. Birth isn't a miracle. Resurrection, or immediate removal (or contraction, as with Moses) of a disease, is.
Miracles are used by God as a means of authenticating the speaker of His word (in this case, Jesus, and in the case of Lazarus, resurrection), but may also help reinforce other points (e.g., that Christ would do the same for Himself shortly).
Thank you for your comment. The NIV is not unique for giving a notice about Mark 16:9-20. The ESV does as well. Other Bibles that I've checked (including non-English translations) give at least a footnote saying the same, even if they believe that Mark 16:9-20 is authentic (like the WEB). You are correct in saying that there are other theories as to what happened to the ending of Mark. For example, that Mark did write an ending, but that the ending was lost due to damage or a missing folio. It is also possible that the ending of Mark that we have today is the real, original.
What I did not explain in detail above is that this talk was a short, five minute encouragement before a sermon during an Easter weekend camp. I therefore was not able to give a lecture on the different kinds of theories and possibilities about the ending of Mark. Five years later, I am still convinced of the interpretation which I presented. I am not doubtful or in two minds with another interpretation. That does not mean that I am correct, but I have peace about what I said, and will defend it if necessary.
I also need to be clear that, even if I don't think that the ending of Mark is not original, that does not mean I don't think that it should be taught, is inspired, or otherwise have value (as some do). We know that other books of the Bible have been edited; Mark is not unique in this regard.
I am not sure what prompted your second point. I agree with you that "miracles are used by God as a means of authenticating the speaker of His word" and "also help reinforce other points". And while the fact of a birth may not be miraculous in and of itself, I would say that the birth of any specific individual (whom God foreknew and knit together in their mother's womb) is indeed a miracle.
Grace and peace to you.