One writer says that Mark wrote a ‘fast paced’ Gospel. This is true. For this reason details found in other Gospels are not found here. However, the power and glory of God is certainly present as Mark describes what happened in simple but potent ways. After all, it is not a novel, but a report on actual events.
When the Apostles were sent out by Christ, they were given accompanying signs and wonders (miracles), with power. Those who insist that these disappeared with the last Apostle are denying that God is the same today as He was yesterday. This is both sad and spiritually injurious.
As a ‘reformed’ Christian, I have known myself to preach with almost ‘electric’ power. I have known listeners in a church cry out in tears when only moments before they were uninterested and silent. Whilst preaching, I have known the disturbance of demons as they banged doors and windows in an empty hall. I have known immense spiritual power within, affecting those who are before me. I have known God speaking to me, not just ‘in my head’ but audibly. I have been used in healing… I have known the miraculous intervention of Almighty God. Yet, I am not a charismatic and I tend to recognise fakery when I see or hear it. Mark is very real!
God is all-powerful. He is just as powerful today. If you do not believe it, then your life will know nothing of His presence, or His ability and pleasure to help you. I am not trying to send you down a wrong path. Like the disciples, I speak only of those things I have myself heard, seen, and experienced. How can I deny what I have known in my own life and what I have witnessed with my own eyes?
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
Jesus lay in the tomb from Friday night, through Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sunday (“when the sabbath was past”). Early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, walked to the tomb with sweet spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Younger people today might not really understand that, but even in my own younger days, family used to wash, dress and take care of preliminaries when a relative died at home. The sweet spices were used to help reduce the smell of putrefaction. Very clearly, then, the women knew Jesus had died.
As they made their way to the tomb, with the sun just rising over the horizon, they wondered amongst themselves how they would roll away the large stone door, so as to reach Jesus. But, when they arrived, to their astonishment, the stone was already rolled away! (Other texts tell us it was guarded by soldiers, but they had no idea how the stone was moved).
What is beyond us is as nothing to God! He can bring about things we think are impossible. That is because He is the Creator. Not only did He make everything, but He also made the elements that ‘something’ was made of! This is our God. And this is why we can pray to Him with full confidence. And it is confidence in God (faith/trust) that gives us the answer to our prayers!
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
The women were anxious that something had happened and entered the dark tomb with trepidation. As their eyes got used to the gloom they jumped with fear, for a young man was sitting on the right side, probably on a shelf hewn out of the rock to hold a body. The young man wore a long white garment. Evidently, he was an angel.
He told the women not to be afraid – the One they were looking for, Jesus of Nazareth, was no longer dead but alive. He was arisen, just as He had prophesied! He then motioned to the shelf he was sitting on, to show Jesus was indeed not there. He then told them to return to the disciples and Peter to give them a message. We are not told why “and Peter” was added, but it is likely it was reassurance for the apostle, who must have been in abject misery since he denied Christ.
Yes, he had done an awful thing, but Jesus was still His Lord and Peter was still an apostle! We all sin, sometimes greatly, but if we belong to God, we cannot ever be lost. Many think their sins are too big for God to forgive them, but this is just human thinking getting in the way of truth!
The angel said that Jesus was going to wait in Galilee for the apostles. Again, Jesus had prophesied that He would do this. The women ran out, trembling with a mixture of fear and elation. Though having a wondrous meeting with an angel, they were too afraid to talk to anyone on the way. In some cases fear and trepidation is a proper response to what God does for us, for He is Lord and has our lives in His hand.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
In the above text we see Mary Magdalene was just as afraid as the other women, and running with fear to find the disciples. We are given the extra information, that this was the Mary Jesus had cast seven devils out of. This sight of Jesus was after she entered the tomb and before the women found the disciples, because when she told them, they were still mourning and crying.
For reasons of simple human frailty and the inability of people to understand or accept God’s ways, they did not believe Mary! Jesus told them a number of times that He would arise on the third day, yet they did not believe it when it occurred! This is like every one of us – no matter how many wonderful things Jesus does for us or others, we will not just accept in faith and praise God. Instead, we look for ‘alternative’ explanations. This is a legacy of our ‘old man’ who loves to trip us up with doubts and fears.
Note how God does not just cast us aside for our stupidity and sin, even if we deny Christ, as Peter did. This is because what God plans will come to pass, no matter what human beings do. This is proof of God’s fidelity to those He saves (and to those He does not). He has promised… so He will execute His plan.
Jesus appeared “in another form” to two disciples as they were walking in the countryside, probably consoling each other. The phrase “in another form” is interesting, for it suggests He changed His appearance for the two men. The word ‘appeared’ shows us that He came to them in visible and actual form.
He appeared in “another” form… heteros, not the same as before, different. And “form” means the outward shape and appearance. Thus, the way Jesus looked to the two disciples, seems to have been different to the way He looked to Mary. Or, alternatively, He was different from the way He looked before His death. As we were not witnesses to these events we can only say that Jesus had an indefinable quality to Him. When you think that even a smile can change how a person looks, this is not so mysterious as it may at first seem.
The two disciples immediately returned to the others (the ‘residue’; those left in the house) to tell them Who they saw. But, they did not believe the two disciples, either! No doubt, like modern critics and doubters, they thought the two men and Mary had received a psychological vision, because they wanted to see Jesus so badly. We have many ways to deny Christ and the acts of God!
After that, Jesus again came to the whole company of Apostles (“the eleven”, because Judas was already dead) as they had their evening meal that day. He simple appeared before them. The astonished men were rebuked by Jesus for their unbelief and “hardness of heart” in not accepting the testimony of Mary and the two disciples. He rebuked them yet loved them; they were His children, not to be cast aside for their sin, but rebuked and then encouraged to carry on.
So, be encouraged: no Christian’s sin is too big to be forgiven. As Jesus counselled before – do not do it again! That is, repent and then continue in life, but minus the sin you just committed. I know some who have gone on to live a life of near abandonment… but even these will be forgiven if they only believe, repent, and stop doing what they do. Christians must NEVER believe otherwise, for to disbelieve this fact is to deny Christ.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
So, the Apostles did not have a very auspicious start! Even so, Jesus went on from rebuke to give them their tasks. The same goes for all of us: we sin, we repent, and then carry on, living holy lives full of purpose. The command for the Apostles to go everywhere preaching the Gospel was for them. It may, or may not, be for others today. As with everything else, God calls each of us to our particular ministry… EVERY Christian has his/her own ministry. And that ministry is not simply sitting in a pew to listen to someone else talking! This is because Christian activity and ‘work’ arises automatically out of a genuinely saved soul.
Jesus gave a very precise definition – those who believe and are baptised shall be saved, but those who do not will be damned to hell. I know that Arminians and those who believe in free will, will reject that statement. They do so because of sin.
Baptism (full immersion) is a sign to the world and to other Christians that you are saved, so it must follow salvation. Salvation comes by grace, not by belief… belief is part of our acknowledgement of God. First, our ‘heart’ and spirit are made alive (regeneration); then the Holy Spirit can commune with us. This can happen in many ways, for God tailors His meeting with individuals. Once we are made alive spiritually, we WILL continue on to repent (and believe) and be given salvation by God.
An element of belief in what must happen is inevitable, but this belief does not in itself save us. We are saved by God’s grace, freely, and without any act or work on our part. Otherwise, as Paul warns, it would be ‘of works’ and not of grace. Belief is, then, a part of the ‘spiritual package’ given to us by God, not because we think it or want it. The idea that we cooperate with God in our salvation is a Jesuit lie.
Jesus then told the apostles that they would not just preach, but have their words proven by signs and wonders! To put it in modern parlance, this news must have ‘blown their minds’, after what must have been a ‘roller-coaster’ few days.
The signs would “follow them that believe”. In this text ‘follow’ means to accompany. In other words, the signs and wonders would validate the Gospel preaching. The “signs”, sōmeion, were signs or tokens (validating the Gospel and proving the authority of the preachers), consisting of miracles and evidence of spiritual power. Note that the signs or miracles were not given for their own sake, but were used to validate authority. Charismatics tend to insist on ‘signs’ (fake) for their own sake; so do many other cultists.
Jesus added that those who were saved would be able to cast out demons in His name. They would also speak in tongues… foreign languages (not supposed ‘heavenly’ languages). This does not necessarily mean they ALL cast out demons or that they ALL spoke in tongues. The sense is that these attributes would come to many of them as a result of having new spiritual life. The tongues were given so that those saved could witness to others from foreign lands.
The same saved people would “take up serpents” (as did Paul at a later date). That is, poisonous snakes that would not harm them. They would drink poison and not die. They would lay hands on sick people and heal them. In summary – they would experience special protection and power. Now, these commands and prophetic utterances were given to the Apostles, and to those who would be saved under their preaching. Therefore, it is not necessarily applicable to every preacher and to every saved person ever since.
Do not mistake what I am saying here. I am NOT saying no Christian after the Apostles experienced signs and wonders. However, these things appear to have slowed down throughout later history. There could be a number of reasons for this, including the laxity of Christians and sinful attitudes towards God. It is during these lax times that falsity increases, as in charismatic circles, when false gifts and miracles occur. Nor am I saying that no preacher since the Apostles has known God’s power and authority… genuine godly preaching ALWAYS has an effect.
I can take my own life as an example: there are times in my preaching or teaching that I KNOW God has given me great power to speak or teach. I know it not just because I feel it within, but by accompanying signs. Also, I have known times of great blessing, with signs and wonders, though these seem to be rare. The biggest attribute is holiness, faith, and power to teach in truth. In other words, the attributes Jesus refers to are part of genuine Christian life, but they do not necessarily occur all at once, or even all the time. Indeed, they may only occur on rare occasions.
Some, then, overplay signs and wonders and think they occur at will, whilst others downplay them, saying they no longer occur at all. Both positions are false. God is the same as He has always been. His interventions in our lives are constant, even if we do not recognise it. We must, as a priority, sort out our minds in this matter, for many have lives of low-expectancy, and so prayers go unanswered or results go unrecognised, and few know the vibrancy of God’s power and authority.
Not many early Christians were bitten by snakes (though it was common), or drank poison. Jesus was only saying that if these things happened, they would be safe by relying on God. The actual incidents are not important – what matters is that Christians have this power and reliance within, and God answers their needs. Do YOU believe this? Do you know that God is always with you and will speak with you, if you speak to Him? He will even speak to us when we do not wish to know about it! And even today we can pray for healing.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
It is likely that Jesus said many other things to the Apostles, but they are not recorded. After He spoke to them, He rose into the sky physically. His body was changed so that He could enter Heaven, where He sat with the Father, to again rule the creation.
After that the Apostles went out gladly, preaching with boldness, with “the Lord working with them”. He is always with those who preach truly! And, as they preached, signs and miracles followed. Do you believe God is with you? Amen (So be it).
© July 2010