No Need to Doubt

Posted: October 5, 2014 in Mark
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Mark 16:9-20, “No Need to Doubt”

When is good news not good?  When it’s not received.  You can be told the best news in all the world, but if you either do nothing about it, or you make the decision not to believe it, it does absolutely no good.  The disease of Ebola has been in the news lately as it made its way to the United States.  It is a horrendous virus causing massive internal bleeding, and it kills well over 50% of those infected.  (Pray for those who are ill & for those who medically care for them!)  Although a proven cure is not yet available, imagine if one was produced tomorrow, and taken to those infected in Dallas and even all the way in West Africa.  They are told, “We have a cure for your disease – all you need to do is swallow this pill & you’ll be healed.”  That would be incredibly good news!  But what would happen if they replied, “You must be kidding!  That’s too good to be true.  I’m not going to take it.”  At that point, life-saving news is nothing more than words in the air…used breath & nothing more.

Men & women, we face a far more ravaging disease than Ebola or AIDS.  We are “infected” with sin, and it carries a death rate of not just 50% or 75%, but 100%.  10 out of every 10 people die, and the root cause of it all is sin.  Once someone dies in their sin, they not only go to the grave, but they go to eternal death and separation from God in hell.  No disease upon the earth compares with the horror that is eternity apart from God.  Jesus described it as a place of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Yet…there is good news!  It would take a literal miracle to save us from such a fate, and that is exactly what God provided for us.  He sent His Son Jesus to die upon the cross for us, taking upon Himself the death that we deserved.  Jesus was buried, and then physically raised from the dead three days later.  Now He offers forgiveness and eternal life to any and all who believe upon Him as Lord.  Anyone can be saved!  All they need to do is respond to Jesus in repentance and faith, believing that He is the Living God risen from the dead.  That is gloriously good news!

But what happens if no one believes it?  What happens if someone says, “I know what you told me about Jesus – I know what the Bible says about Him, but it’s too good to be true.  I don’t believe, and I won’t do it.”  At that point, the good news is no less true, but it certainly does that person no good.  The news that was shared with them literally dissipates into thin air.  Good news must be believed to be effective.  If you don’t believe it, the gospel will not save you from death; it will only confirm your death sentence.

That’s true for everyone…including the original disciples of Jesus.  Three days after Jesus was crucified, He rose from the dead, and the news got back to the apostles.  The problem was that they didn’t believe.  We tend to think of the original followers of Jesus as massive giants of the faith – and indeed, they later turned out to be tremendous examples to all of us, and the doctrine of the apostles lays the foundation for what we still believe 2000 years later.  But they weren’t always so faith-filled.  They were just like anyone else.  They had their doubts – they struggled with unbelief – and unless they had their minds drastically changed, it would have cost them their eternal salvation. 

Thankfully, Jesus appeared to them personally and their minds DID change.  And once their minds changed about Jesus, so did everything else.  They believed; now they were to go help others believe.  Jesus sent them into the world with the good news, and He empowered them to help others receive it.  Their sending is our sending – their commission is our commission.  We need to ask ourselves two questions today: (1) Do we believe the gospel? (2) If so, what are we doing to do about it?

Before we actually get into the text today, we need to take just a few minutes to dig into a bit of the debate that surrounds this particular section of Scripture.  Normally, we wouldn’t engage in too much textual criticism (in that it’s too easy to miss the forest for the trees), but it’s virtually impossible to avoid with the ending of the book of Mark.

Most of your Bibles likely have some sort of marking on the page (either in the reference section or next to the verses themselves) stating something like this (quoting from the NKJV reference): “Vv. 9-20 are bracketed in NU as not in the original text.  They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other mss of Mark contain them.”  The NIV takes an even stronger position stating, “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.”  So what does that mean?  Does it mean that Mark 16:9-20 do not belong in our Bibles, and that it is a waste of time to study these verses?  Does it mean that our Bibles are untrustworthy on these verses?

No matter what position someone takes on the authorship of vss. 9-20, the answer to both of those questions is “no.”  No, it is not a waste of time to study these verses because what these verses state is taught elsewhere in the Scripture – there is no new doctrine here.  Secondly, it does not mean that our Bibles are untrustworthy on these verses.  What we read is what was written down, and what was unquestionably received by the early church.  The only real question is if Mark wrote them or not.

Let’s back up for a bit.  Obviously we do not have the original manuscripts of the books of the New Testament (or any book of the Bible) as penned by Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, etc.  It was likely in the wisdom of God that we don’t, because no doubt we would have elevated those writings to the point of idolatry.  Although those original writings are gone, there are multitudes of hand-written copies of them.  As these writings were passed from church to church, copies were made so that Christians everywhere would be able to learn of the earthly ministry of Jesus and the doctrine of the apostles.  In the days prior to the printing press (and copy machines or scanners!), mistakes could, and would happen easily.  When Mark and others originally wrote their books, their writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that same inspiration did not necessarily carry over to each individual time that the books were copied.  Thus manuscripts can have variations from time to time, and those variations could be passed along (much like the children’s game of “telephone”).  At first glance, that sounds like terrible news, because we’d have to ask ourselves how we could possibly know what was original. (?!)  It’s actually good news, in that because there were so many copies made, we can simply compare the copies together and see where minor variations may have been introduced.  In fact, there are over 25,000 copies of the NT (over 5000 in Greek alone) – more than any other book of antiquity.  It is no exaggeration to say we have more historical evidence that we have the NT as it was written, then we do of all of Roman history put together.

Now let’s put that with the ending to the book of Mark.  As our Bible translations note, there are two very important manuscripts of the New Testament that do not include vss. 9-20.  These two (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) are fully extant manuscripts…meaning that they’ve got full books of the NT included (rather than parts and pieces), and they are each very ancient – dating to the 4th century.  To find an early-dated fully extant manuscript is extremely rare, and it’s no wonder why scholars rely so heavily upon them.  Neither one of these manuscripts contain the ending to the book of Mark. And they are not alone – there are other manuscripts (of lesser value) that do not include the ending, and there are even some manuscripts that include a different ending altogether.

However, that’s not the end of the story.  The overwhelming majority of manuscripts DO include vss. 9-20 as found in our Bibles…it’s just that most of those manuscripts date later than the first two that many scholars rely upon.  That said, it is misleading to state that there are not early witnesses to vss. 9-20.  There may not be Biblical manuscripts, but there are most definitely Biblical quotes that reference them.  Several church fathers reference these verses (Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus), and they all write from much earlier dates in the 2nd century (between 160-184AD).  Even with the church fathers that explicitly said that they did not have the ending of Mark in their available manuscripts, they most certainly knew of the ending.  In fact, when we put all of the manuscript evidence together, there really is no question that the early church accepted Mark 16:9-20 as being totally legitimate.

Was it actually written by Mark?  Perhaps not – there is much evidence in the language and grammar that indicates otherwise.  But that’s not really the point.  The Bible isn’t the Bible because certain people wrote it; it’s the Bible because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit to be written.  Whether or not the Mark was the actual person that wrote it is irrelevant.  There are some theories that perhaps he lost the original ending, or even died prior to completion.  We’ll never know the answer to that question this side of heaven.  But we DO know that the early church recognized the end of Mark as being just as much inspired by the Holy Spirit as the rest of the book.  There is even precedent for Biblical books to be started by one person and completed by another (i.e. Deuteronomy written by Moses, but completed by Joshua after his death).  It’s quite possible the same thing happened here.

That’s a lot of background for a little text – but it’s important to know that we can trust our Bibles.  What we have been passed down is what was originally seen to be the inspired word of God, and we can know with certainty that God will ensure His word is preserved.

What is far more important than all the debate surrounding the text is the actual text itself.  Perhaps one of the reasons the text is so debated is because the apostles are not exactly see in the best light.  They were full of doubts, which makes them what?  Human, just like us.  They each had to make the choice to move from doubt to faith.  And then once they believed, they needed to do something with that belief.

Mark 16:9–20
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.

  1. Verse 9 actually brings out one of the questions as to whether or not these verses are authentic.  It speaks of “Mary Magdalene,” but then goes on to describe her as if she had not been mentioned before.  However, Mark writes of Mary Magdalene three other times – all very recently (15:40, 15:47, 16:1).  Why describe her now as someone “out of whom [Jesus] had cast seven demons”?  That seems rather awkward.  Why not mention that earlier?  Again, perhaps this is a different writer picking up where Mark left off – but setting all of that aside, there is very good reason for Mary’s background to be mentioned here and not earlier.  Think about it: Mary Magdalene is the very first physical eyewitness of the Risen Lord Jesus.  This is confirmed in each of the four gospel accounts (though sometimes she is mentioned with others).  From the world’s perspective, she would be an amazingly POOR choice for reliable testimony.  Not only was she a woman (a strike against her in the male-dominated culture), but she had a history of demon-possession.  She would have been viewed as formerly insane.  Obviously she did not have a mental illness caused by imbalanced hormones (which can be bad enough on its own), but she was legitimately demon possessed.  Not by one demon, but by seven.  The only other account in the gospels in which a single person had more than one demon was the Gadarene man who was indwelt by the “legion” of demons (Mk 5).  With all of that in mind, who among us would set Mary Magdalene in a courtroom as a character witness giving sworn testimony?  She would be our last choice to provide a reliable eyewitness.  Yet she was Jesus’ first choice.  The least likely was the most blessed.  The last shall be first, and the first shall be last…poignantly demonstrated in Mary Magdalene.
  2. BTW – the fact that Mary was indeed the first witness of the Risen Jesus is itself evidence of the truth of His resurrection.  After all, who would make something like that up?  If you were trying to invent a myth of someone rising from the dead as proof of his deity, would you use the testimony of a person with a history of clinical insanity?  Of course not!  We’d use the testimony of presidents or kings, or anyone who might be universally respected and beyond question.  In His divine wisdom, God goes the opposite route.  He picked someone who no one would choose, in order that it would be totally obvious that the resurrection simply must be true.  There would be no reason to record her testimony, otherwise.  This would be something to hide; not to proclaim.  Yet there is no way to preach of Jesus’ resurrection without preaching of Mary Magdalene.  God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.
    1. He still does that today through the Church.  WE are the foolish things of the world, and God chose us for His purposes and His glory. (1 Cor 1:27)
  3. Mary had been obedient to the commission given to her: “she went and told those who had been with Him.”  Be it just the 11 remaining disciples, or the larger group of believers, Mary went and told them what she had witnessed.  Their reaction comes in vs. 11, but notice what they were doing in vs. 10: mourning & weeping.  We might say, “Well of course they were weeping!  They had witnessed their Messiah die three days earlier!”  Right, but their Messiah was not STILL dead at the moment.  They had every expectation to mourn their King, but at that hour there was no need to do so.  The problem was, they just didn’t know it yet.  It wasn’t until someone told them about Jesus that they could stop weeping.  Of course, they not only needed to be informed; they needed to have faith…

11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

  1. Again, we can probably relate to the disciples.  After all, we might not be so ready to believe such an incredulous statement coming from the lips of a formerly-demon possessed woman.  Mary came in with her testimony, and they gave her no credence – no credibility.  They had no belief in her words, and they missed out on their opportunity for joy.
  2. Keep in mind that the truth did not hinge upon their belief (or lack thereof).  Jesus WAS risen from the dead at that very moment.  Whether or not they believed did not change what was true and factual.  What it did change was the effect of the truth upon their own lives.  Jesus was alive – exactly as Jesus had said He would be, but they were living as if He was still dead.  They were told the truth, and they could have been rejoicing, but instead they remained in their grief and weeping.
    1. Who do you hurt through your refusal to believe?  Yourself.  The time you waste is your own – the opportunity you miss is yours.  If you’ve been told the truth about Jesus, and you’ve not believed, then that is a choice you’ve made.  Your unbelief (like that of the apostles’) is an act of the will.  And the one you’re hurting is yourself.  Why continue like that?  Today, it can all change!
    2. BTW – that’s not just for the person who hasn’t yet committed his/her life to Christ.  How many Christians say with their mouths that Jesus is risen from the dead, but live practically as if He’s still in the grave? They sin and they are grieved, but instead of humbling themselves in prayer and confessing to Jesus in faith, they wallow in self-pity and guilt.  Soon it becomes a vicious cycle, and they do it over and over again.  But here’s the thing: no one HAS to do so.  Jesus is risen from the dead, and offers forgiveness to all who confess and repent – all we need to do is believe and appropriate His forgiveness.  People just haven’t done it yet.

12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.

  1. What is stated in one verse at the end of Mark takes 14 verses in the gospel of Luke.  This is most likely a summary of the famous road to Emmaus.  Two of Jesus’ followers (Cleopas, and one other unnamed) were walking from Jerusalem seven miles to the village of Emmaus, when they encountered the Risen Jesus along the way.  Luke writes that their eye were constrained, so that they were not able to recognize Jesus (Lk 24:16), and Mark’s gospel adds that Jesus was seemingly in “another form.”  His appearance had physically changed somehow, and although these two men were seemingly well-acquainted with Him, they certainly did not recognize Him at the time.  When they encountered Jesus on the road, Jesus had asked the men what they were talking about, and why they were sad.  They seemed amazed that this “stranger” had no idea of the events of the past few days, and they told them of their faith in Jesus, how He had been crucified, and how they had denied the testimonies of those who had actually seen Jesus risen from the dead.  At that point, Jesus chided their slowness of heart to believe, and taught them an overview of all the Old Testament showing them the different places in Scripture that spoke of Himself (presumably looking at His foretold death and resurrection).  Eventually, the three of them arrive in Emmaus, the two believers ask Jesus to stay for dinner, and their eyes were opened to the truth of Who was in their midst right as Jesus vanished from sight.  Needless to say, they didn’t stay the night in Emmaus, but rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others…

13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

  1. Cleopas and his friend gained no more belief than Mary Magdalene.  The other disciples had no faith in their testimony either.
  2. This is truly amazing.  To put the various gospel accounts together, the disciples have had the testimony of Mary Magdalene and other ladies who went with her – they had the testimony from Peter and John of the empty tomb, though they had not personally seen the Lord – and now they had the testimony of two more men, who apparently had the longest conversation yet with the Risen Jesus.  Though it shouldn’t matter, culturally speaking, the credibility of the witnesses kept on rising.  There was one woman (formerly possessed), there were multiple women, there were two apostles confirming at least the circumstances, and now there were two men confirming the resurrection itself.  The only thing that hadn’t happened was Jesus’ physical appearance to the apostles themselves.  The apostles had no reason not to believe, but they chose to remain in their unbelief.
  3. We tend to think of only one apostle with unbelief – we even know him by the label “Doubting Thomas.”  In reality, it was ALL of them.  The ones who had walked with Jesus for three years – the ones who had witnessed the miracles – the ones who heard more teachings from Jesus than could ever be put to pen and paper – the ones specifically named by Jesus to take His gospel to the world – THEY had doubts…every last one of them.
    1. Have you had doubts of your own?  You’re not alone.  It’s easy to look around at all of the various religions of the world and wonder if everyone isn’t nuts.  Why believe any of them?  Where’s the proof?  Answer: it’s the same place for you as it was for the 11 apostles.  It’s the resurrection of Jesus.  They had doubts, but they had no reason to doubt.  Think about it – what was the claim?  “Jesus rose from the dead.”  Obviously that is something that would be impossible to believe for anyone.  Anyone BUT the Son of God.  Isn’t that what they had confessed Jesus to be?  They had worshipped Jesus as God when He calmed the storms at sea and walked on water.  They had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God when Jesus asked them their belief.  They had seen Him perform miracles, and teach with authority unlike any other.  Someone rising from the dead is impossible, but it’s not impossible if that Someone is God.  They said they believed Jesus is God; now was the time to see if they really believed it.  The proof was right in front of them, but they had to choose to open their hearts and believe it.
    2. It’s natural to have doubts – everyone does.  But at some point, you need to make the choice to believe.  What do you choose?

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

  1. Finally the disciples receive the hard evidence they had been waiting for, but it came with a well-deserved rebuke.  Jesus appeared to them, but as He did He could not commend their faith (as He had for other women and Gentiles who had believed Him in the past).  He could not even comment on their “little” faith, as He had with Peter when Peter was the only disciple to get out of the boat and walk on water.  Instead, He has to rebuke their “unbelief” – their complete lack of faith, as if they had the same lack of faith as any Pharisee or Sadducee.  They would be going out into all the world to preach the Risen Jesus, and others would be expected to believe without seeing Jesus – but the apostles themselves had not done the same.
    1. Don’t you love the fact that the Bible does not pull any punches?  We can be so grateful for the apostles regarding their lives, doctrine, sacrifices, and examples…but be careful about putting them on pedestals from which they so easily fall.  They were normal guys, just like the rest of us.  They had their flaws and their failings…just like everyone else.  God called normal Joes to Himself, and used these men and women to turn the world upside-down.  If He did it with them, He might just do it with us, too.
  2. Again, this is one more reason to believe the truth of the gospel accounts.  If someone is going to invent a bunch of stories about Jesus rising from the dead, one of the last things they would do is to undermine their own credibility.  Normally, an author would write of himself as some sort of hero – the one who believed when no one else would…a giant of faith.  In contrast, the disciples are completely honest.  They didn’t believe at the first, and they certainly were not the leaders they turned out to be later on.
    1. BTW – what made the difference?  How could the apostles go from men who ran away at the arrival of soldiers, who trembled at the questions of little girls, who hid behind locked doors, who refused to believe multiple testimonies of Jesus’ resurrection – to those who would boldly stand before Jewish leaders and even kings to steadfastly proclaim the Lord Jesus?  What on earth could make THAT sort of change in someone?  Answer: nothing from earth at all.  That only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, completely transforming their lives and ministry.
    2. Have you felt powerless to live the Christian life?  Have you been weak and unsteady in faith?  Ask to be filled anew with the Holy Spirit.  He will utterly transform your life!
  3. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t only rebuke the apostles.  He didn’t fire them and start over.  On the contrary, He sent them out.  That in itself is an act of grace!  Vs. 15…

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

  1. Although we’re more familiar with Matthew’s version of the Great Commission, the basic idea here is the same.  Go preach the gospel!  The emphasis here is on “preaching” – the “going” is just the way the disciples were to do it.  After all, it doesn’t do any good to travel throughout the world if you don’t have anything to say.  It might make for a nice vacation, but it doesn’t save anyone’s soul.  No, Jesus told them to “preach the gospel,” or to put it another way, “proclaim the good news.”  He’s not telling the disciples that the only way to make disciples is to preach a whole bunch of sermons, but to go tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to every single person they meet.  Like ambassadors heralding the coming of their King, so were the disciples to proclaim King Jesus.
    1. This is the essence of evangelism.  Sometimes we have a tendency of making evangelism so complicated.  We think it’s all about memorizing certain methods, or having certain materials or answers to certain kinds of questions.  And because we don’t have these things memorized, or we’re not scholars, or we’re not people specially gifted by the Holy Spirit for evangelism, or whatever…we think we’re not capable of doing it.  After all, we’re not all pastors, and pastors are the only ones that preach, right?  Wrong.  It’s just simple proclamation.  If you can say “Jesus is Lord,” then you can preach.  If you can tell the person right next to you, “Jesus is Lord,” then you’ve already taken the first step in preaching the gospel to another creature.
    2. Not only is it something you CAN do, it’s something you SHOULD do.  Sometimes we look at the Commission of Jesus and think that it’s something He gave only to the 11 apostles, or at least those in “official” ministry, and not something for the rest of us.  As long as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and others are preaching the gospel, that’s enough…it’s not something other folks need to be concerned with.  Yes, Jesus told this to the 11, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think that the 11 were the only ones who were listening.  Besides, the whole point of making disciples is that those disciples would make other disciples.  WE are the ones who have inherited the commission that passed from the original apostles.  Every member of the body of Christ is an ambassador for Christ.  Every person who believes in Jesus is to proclaim Him to others.
    3. So how are you taking part in this?
  2. So what happens with those to whom we proclaim Jesus?  He said it in vs. 16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  There is salvation, or there is condemnation.  Pretty stark choice, isn’t it?  That’s not a choice a lot of people like, but that’s the choice that exists.  There is an existence beyond this one.  It is appointed to every human being once to die, and then face the judgment of God.  And when we face Him, we will either experience His salvation, or we will experience true eternal condemnation.  Why?  It all goes back to the disease of sin.  Every single one of us is infected by it, and the proof is in the fact that we all do it.  We all sin, some in more visible ways than others perhaps, but every single person is guilty of it.  No matter how “good” someone might appear to be, they have still sinned in some way in the past, and will undoubtedly sin again in the future.  That sin leaves us condemned before God.  He is perfectly righteous, and He must judge sin wherever it is found.  Sadly, it’s found in all of us.  There is only one Man in all of history who lived life without sin, and that man is Jesus.  The rest of us face the righteous condemnation of God.
  3. What is to be done?  God did it already when Jesus went to the cross.  John 3:16–17, "(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." []  That is exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave.  All that is left now is belief.  The very thing that the apostles were unwilling to do prior to having undeniable proof set before them is what every one of us is called to do now.  It’s not that we need more proof (the evidence is overwhelming); it’s that we must make a simple choice.  We must choose to believe, and act according to that belief (i.e., baptism).  That’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, and that is what He said here to the disciples.  Believe.  Trust.  Have faith.  Those things are not works of our hands – they are responses of the heart.  We must believe upon Jesus, giving ourselves to Him in full surrender.  Baptism is simply identifying ourselves with Christ, a demonstration that we have been “immersed” in His grace – fully belonging to Him.  It all begins with the choice to believe.
  4. Is Jesus saying baptism saves us?  No.  Notice that baptism is specifically associated with belief.  Baptism alone does nothing for anyone…it just gets them wet.  Baptism isn’t the primary issue in play here; belief is.  How can we know for sure?  Look at the opposite.  Those who believe and are baptized will be saved, but those who do not believe will be condemned.  If baptism was all that was necessary for salvation, then people could just immerse themselves in a bath to escape eternal condemnation.  It is unbelief that sends people to condemnation and hell; not a lack of any religious ritual.
  5. Don’t miss the import of what Jesus is saying to the apostles.  He’s not just telling them how THEY can be saved; He’s telling them how OTHERS can be saved.  Often we read these words and are comforted in our own salvation, as we remember how our eternity is based upon Jesus’ work and simple faith.  But that’s not the primary reason Jesus said these words.  He’s imparting to them the gravity of their task.  Look at it again: “Go preach the gospel.  People who believe will be saved from the result of their sin, but people who don’t will be eternally condemned in it.”  IOW, the disciples had the news that would save people’s lives.  Can you imagine having a cure to a deadly disease, but refusing to give it to people?  You’ve already partaken of the cure, and you are inoculated against the disease in the future, but you refuse to hand it out to anyone else.  That’s not just a “little” wrong; that’s downright criminal.  Beloved, with as much grace as can be mustered, please understand the importance of what it is we have been given.  The gospel is not a truth for us to sit on and feel good about; it’s something that needs to be given out.  It’s not just for us; it’s for others.  If we don’t hand it out, who will? 

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

  1. These verses have caused no little confusion or debate.  Quite honestly, there is no need.  Just a cursory read of the book of Acts shows everything Jesus proclaimed to be absolutely true.  The apostles did cast out demons, on multiple occasions.  Those who believed in Jesus did speak with new tongues.  Those who were sick were healed when the apostles laid their hands upon them…sometimes even when their shadows fell upon them.  Even Jesus’ mention of the snake proved to be true when Paul was bitten on the Island of Malta (Acts 28).
  2. Notice nothing that He said had anything to do with tempting the Lord by willfully handling rattlesnakes or purposefully drinking poison.  He did not give the disciples a list of party tricks to perform, nor did He give them a command to do anything deadly in some perverted form of worship.  The whole context is what God the Holy Spirit would do through those who both preach the gospel, and those who believe what was preached to them.  These were to be “signs” to give credence to the gospel message as people came to faith; not something done by the church in the comfort of their own homes and churches.

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.

  1. Many other things took place between Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples and His later ascension, but the gospel accounts say little about them.  No doubt there will still be much to learn of Jesus in heaven.
  2. Luke tells us that the ascension occurred 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:3).  Although it’s not often remembered among evangelical Christians today, it’s actually a wonderful confirmation of the finished work of Jesus at the cross and resurrection.  Jesus died for us once – and once was enough.  No more death is needed – no more work needs to be done by Jesus.  Once He rose from the dead, He did not need to die once more to gain entrance to heaven; He could (and did) ascend there in the glory of God.  Today, Jesus is still in His ascended place in heaven, seated in victory and power at God’s right hand.  The ascension speaks of Jesus’ sufficiency – His victory – His glory – AND it is tied to the promise of His return.  Jesus will be coming back, and He will do so in a similar manner to which He rose.

20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

  1. The disciples went out, obedient to the commission of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit empowered them exactly as Jesus had said.  The book of Acts is the first evidence, and 2000 years of church history is the rest.  As you listen to this, you yourself are proof that the disciples did as instructed.  They preached, we believed, and now we are saved – brought into the family of God.  Hallelujah and amen!

Regardless what someone concludes about who actually penned vss. 9-20 of Mark 16, there can be hardly any doubt that the Holy Spirit gave them to the church.  Jesus rose, and He revealed Himself to those who followed Him.  First, it was to the least likely, and then to the rest.  As a result, those who were in unbelief came to belief.  Their weeping eventually turned to joy…they had just stayed in their weeping far longer than necessary.

It’s not that they didn’t know the truth; it’s that they refused to believe.  Faith is a choice, and it’s a choice that everyone must make.  It doesn’t change the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, but it certainly changes the future of our eternity.  Make the choice to believe

Let us weep no more, but live in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection!  Let us believe the wonderfully good news that Jesus is alive!

And for those already do, let us do something about it.  We’ve been entrusted with the most glorious news in all the universe – the cure to the terrible disease of sin.  How can we not share it?  As with the other disciples, Jesus has sent us into the world that we might proclaim the gospel to others.  The task is not complicated, but we so often find it extremely difficult.  It doesn’t need to be that way.  Remember that we follow the living Lord Jesus.  Ask Him for help, and He will give it.  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you power and boldness to be a better witness of Jesus, and there’s no doubt that He will.


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