Mark 16:9–20—Jesus’ final instructions

9 It was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.

12 Afterward he appeared to two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country, but they didn’t recognize him at first because he had changed his appearance. 13 When they realized who he was, they rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. 14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief—their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them.” 19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked with them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

Points of Interest:

  • As was mentioned in yesterday’s ‘For you’ section, many ancient manuscripts of Mark’s good news end with yesterday’s passage. Other ancient manuscripts end with what is called the ‘shorter ending’: ‘Then they reported all these instructions briefly to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.’ Still other manuscripts end with today’s passage, the longer ending, which is today’s passage. Most scholars think that the shorter ending and longer ending are epilogues added shortly after Mark’s original story to give people a bit of how the story turns out, i.e. how the story got to them. Even though they are not original to Mark, these things have been left as part of his story because they fill out the story and because everything said in the longer version is verified in the other gospels or Acts.
  • ‘she told them Jesus was alive’—as we all might have guessed, by the fact that we have heard the story, Mary, after her initial shock, does gain the faith to tell the disciples. Unfortunately, the men do not believe her. The disciples are again behaving like bad soil: they don’t believe what they are told, and they don’t remember his words. For this, they gain a rebuke from Jesus later; but in his mercy he continues to appear to them until they believe.
  • ‘to everyone, everywhere’—This is not a message that should be given only to the Jews, there is plenty of good news to go around to the whole world.
  • ‘They will be able to handle snakes’—some sects have taken this verse to mean they ought to handle poisonous snakes intentionally as a sign to people that they are followers. It doesn’t seem to me that this is what Jesus has in mind. Rather, he is saying that Jesus his rising from the dead gives his disciples power over death: things that should have the ability to kill them no longer will. He is not telling them to seek out poison, but that they are impervious to poison if they happen to drink it. There are stories of Jesus’ messengers, like the apostle Paul, literally being bitten without harm. But even if one does die of poison, the effect is not permanent; they will be raised.
  • ‘These signs will accompany those who believe’—Most of these signs are simply the ability to do what Jesus did: the experience the twelve had when they went out on their mission is being expanded somewhat and widened to all who believe: all of Jesus’ followers should be able to cast out demons, heal the sick, and be impervious to death. The miraculous speaking in new languages is described in Acts 2. The intent here seems to be that they will be given a miraculous ability to tell the story to people who don’t even speak their language, as indeed happens in Acts 2.
  • ‘sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand’—the third reference in Mark to Psalm 110:1: the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. Jesus’ ascension to the Father marks the beginning of the church, the new temple built on him. Jesus will watch the Father, through the work of the church, complete the work of establishing his kingdom.

Taking it Home:

  • For you: Yesterday’s ‘for you’ section is true: the continuing of the story depends on you telling the stories to others. But today’s passage gives the rest of the story: Jesus gives us what we need to have the faith to tell the message and the power to confirm it. Ask Jesus to give you the faith to tell the message. Ask him to appear to the people you tell himself, proving what you say. And ask him for the power to cast out demons and heal. Above all, praise him for passing along to you the power of his resurrection, rescuing us from fear of death.
  • For your 6: Jesus keeps appearing until the disciples finally believe. Ask Jesus to keep working on any of your 6 who don’t yet believe also. Ask him to show the same mercy toward the unbelief of your 6 as he showed to the disciples.
  • For our church: Pray for an increase in the signs that are supposed to accompany those who believe in our church. Ask God for more healings, for protection, for more power to cast out demons, and even for the ability to communicate the good news in languages we don’t know. Pray also that God will send people from our church everywhere, to everyone with this good news.