Pulpit Commentary - Mark 16:1 - 16:20

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Pulpit Commentary - Mark 16:1 - 16:20

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And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices ἠγόρασαν ἀρώματα ) that they might come and anoint him. A hasty but lavish embalming of our Lord's sacred body had been begun on Friday evening by Joseph and Nicodemus. They had "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight" (Joh_19:39). This would be a compound—the gum of the myrrh tree, and a powder of the fragrant aloe wood mixed together, with which they would completely cover the body, which was then swathed with linen cloths ( ὀθόνια ), also steeped in the aromatic preparation. Then the sindon would he placed over all. Compare the ἐνετύλιξεν , of St. Luke (Luk_23:53), as applying to the sindon, with the ἔδησαν of St. John (Joh_21:1-25 :40) as applying to the ὀθόνια . This verse records a further stage in the embalming. What had been done on the Friday evening had been done in haste, and yet sufficiently for the preservation of the sacred body, if that had been needful, from decay. The remaining work could be done more carefully and tenderly at the tomb. Observe the aorist in this verse (hJgo>rasan) "they bought;" not "they had bought."


And very early on the first day of the week
( λιάν πρωΐ́ τῇ μιᾶ τῶν σαββάτων ), they come

among themselves, Who shall roll us away
the stone from the door of the tomb? The usual form of tombs in Palestine was the following:—There was generally an approach to the tomb open to the sky; then a low entrance on the side of the rock, leading into a square chamber, on one side of which was a recess for the body, about three feet deep, with a low arch over it. The stone here referred to by the women would be the stone which covered the actual entrance into the vault. It would probably be not less than six feet in breadth and three in height. This great stone had been rolled By Joseph to the mouth of the tomb; and then he had departed. Now, as the women approached, "they were saying ( ἔλεγον ,) among themselves, Who shall roll us away ( ἀποκυλίσει ) the stone?" They had seen the arrangements, and had observed the size of the atone on the Friday evening. (Mar_15:47).


And looking up
( ἀναβλέψασαι ) they see ( θεωροῦσιν ) that the stone is rolled back ( ἀποκεκύλισται ): for it was exceeding great ( μέγας σφόδρα ). At this point we learn from St. John that Mary Magdalene ran away to tell Peter and John (Joh_20:2


And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed
. They enter the tomb, the expression "tomb" including the ante-chamber They see that the stone has been rolled back, so as to expose the entrance into the place where Jesus had lain. On that stone a young man was sitting. The angel peared in the form of a young man, because youth indicates the vigor, the beauty, and the strength of angels. The good angels always appear in beauty and comeliness of form. There will be no deformity in heaven. The angel appeared as arrayed in a white robe. This white robe, or talar indicated a heavenly spiritual being. St. Matthew (Mat_28:3
) says that "his countenance was like lightning," flashing with splendor, and his raiment was as white as snow. It may be that he appeared more terrible to the keepers (Mat_28:4), and that he abated something of his dazzling brightness when he appeared to the women; but "they were affrighted" ( ἐξεθαμβήθησαν ); literally, they were amazed. Amazement was the dominant feeling, though probably not unmingled with fear.


And he saith unto them, Be not amazed
μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε , the same word—ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, which hath been crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold, the place where they laid him; that is, here is the place where they laid him ( ἴδε ὁ τόπος ). St. Matthew (Mat_28:6
) says, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay" ( Δεῦτε ἴδετε τὸν τόπον ). This seems to imply that the women actually entered the inner chamber, and saw the very place where the Lord lay. Who does not see here how irrefragable is the evidence of his resurrection?


But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall
ye see him, as he said unto you. St. Gregory ('Hom. in Evan.') says, "If the angel had not named Peter, he would not have dared to come amongst the disciples. Therefore he is specially named, lest he should despair on account of his denial." It was evidently intended as a special message of comfort to Peter. St. Luke (Luk_24:34
) records the personal appearance of our Lord first to Peter. Here St. Mark, with characteristic modesty, keeps Peter in the background. In Mar_14:28 our Lord is recorded to have said, "After I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee." He would go before them as their Shepherd, and lead them to that part of the Holy Land which, as he had honored it before his resurrection, so he would honor it again now.


And they went out
—the word ( ταχὺ ) "quickly" is omitted—and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them ( τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις )agitation and ecstasy; they were in a state of the utmost excitement. And they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid. The vision of angels had terrified them. They were probably afraid to say anything to any one, on account of the Jews, lest it should be said that they had stolen the body of Jesus. It has been well remarked that independent accounts of events occurring a time of supreme excitement, and related by trustworthy witnesses, but from different points of view, naturally present difficulties which cannot be cleared up without a full knowledge of all the particulars. (See 'Speaker's Commentary' in Mat_28:9


Now when he was risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven devils.
St. Luke (Luk_8:2
) mentions that "seven devils had gone out of her;" and St. Mark repeats it here, to show the power of love and penitence, that she was the first to be permitted to see the risen Savior. The vision of the angel had scared her, and she said nothing; but the actual sight of her risen Lord gave her confidence, and she went immediately, in obedience to his command, and told the disciples (see Joh_20:11-18). She had lingered about his tomb; her strong affection riveted her to the spot.


She went and told
( ἐκείνη πορευθεῖσα ἀπήγγειλε ) them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. The aorist here indicates immediate action. This word πορεύεσθαι occurs again in Mar_16:12
and Mar_16:15, but nowhere else in St. Mark's Gospel It is to be noticed, however, that it occurs twice in the First Epistle of St. Peter, and once in his Second Epistle. This seems to connect St. Peter with the writer of these verses.


And they, when they heard that
he was alive, and had been seen of her, disbelieved ( ἠπίστησαν ). They refused to believe on the bare statement of Mary Magdalene, although M. Renan says, "Sa grande affirmation de femme, 'Il est res-suscitei' a ete la base de la foi de l'humanite." They did not believe her until the risen Lord stood before them., p. 297.)


And after these things he was manifested in another form unto two of them, as they walked
( πορευομένοις ) on their way into the country. This appearance is doubtless the same as that which is related fully by St. Luke (Luk_24:13


And they went away and told
it unto the rest: neither believed they them. This want of faith happened by the permission and providence of God. "This their unbelief," says St. Gregory, "was not so much their infirmity as our future constancy on the faith."


And afterward
( ὕστερον δὲ ) he was manifested ( ἐφανερώθη ) unto the eleven themselves ( αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἔνδεκα ) as they sat at meat. There is an emphasis here on the word "themselves." The former appearances had been to persons not having any official character. But now he appears to the eleven apostles, when they were all gathered together at the close of that memorable day. "Unto the eleven." If, as seems evident, this appearance refers to the day of our Lord's resurrection, there would be only ten present; for Thomas was not then with them. Still, they might be called the eleven, because the apostolic college was reduced to eleven after the betrayal by Judas; so that they might still be called the eleven, although Thomas was absent. St. Bernard says on this, "If Christ comes and is present when we sit at meat, how much more when we kneel in prayer!" He upbraided them ( ὠνείδισε ). This is a strong word of rebuke. They ought to have received the testimony of competent witnesses. But their doubts were only removed by the evidence of their senses; just as afterwards in the case of Thomas. St. Mark is always careful to record the rebukes administered by our Lord to his apostles.

Mar_16:15, Mar_16:16

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation
( πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει ). He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. Here is a considerable interval of time, not noticed in any way by the evangelist. And he saith unto them; not on the day of his resurrection. It would seem that this charge was delivered to them in Galilee, and that it is the same as that recorded in St. Matthew (Mat_28:19
), which was again repeated immediately before his ascension from Bethany. Go ye into all the world; not into Judaea only, but everywhere. This command has expanded with the discovery in later times of new portions of the inhabited earth; and must ever be coextensive with geographic discovery. Preach the gospel to the whole creation; that is, "among all nations." Man is the noblest work of God. All the creation is gathered up in him, created after the image of the Creator. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. These words are very important. The first clause opposes the notion that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, without those works which are the fruit of faith. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; that is, he that believeth, and as an evidence of his faith accepts Christ's baptism, and fulfils the promises and vows which he then took upon himself, working out his own salvation with fear and trembling, shall be saved. But he that disbelieveth shall be condemned ( ὁ δὲ ἀπιστήσας κατακριθήσεται ,). The condemnation anticipates the doom which will be incurred by continual unbelief.

Mar_16:17, Mar_16:18

And these signs shall follow them that believe
. Such evidences were necessary in the first dawn of Christianity, to attract attention to the doctrine; but our Lord's words do not mean that they were to be in perpetuity, as a continually recurring evidence of the truth of Christianity. St. Gregory (on 1Co_14:22
) says, "These signs were necessary in the beginning of Christianity. In order that faith might take root and increase, it must be nourished by miracle; for so even we, when we plant shrubs, only water them until we see that they are taking root, and when we see that they have rooted themselves, we cease to water them. And this is what St. Paul means where he says 'Tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving' (1Co_14:22)." In my name shall they cast out devils. St. Mark, of all the evangelists, dwells most perhaps on this, as characteristic of our Lord's work, and as the evidence of his supreme dominion over the spiritual world. They shall speak with new tongues. This was the first intimation of the great miracle to be inaugurated on the day of Pentecost. The gift was continued but for a very limited time. They shall take up serpents. The instance of St. Paul at Melita (Act_28:3-5) would be familiar to St. Mark's readers. And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them. There are some few traditionary notices of the fulfillment of this promise; as in the case of "Justus Barsabas," mentioned by Eusebius ('H.E.,' 3, 19), and of St. John, mentioned by St. Augustine. It may be observed of this passage, that no one could have interpolated it after the cessation of the signs to which it refers, which took place very early.


So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven
. Here is another interval. The evangelist has gathered up some few of the most important words and sayings of Christ; and now he takes his reader to Bethany, the scene of our Lord's ascension. It has been well observed (see Bishop Wordsworth, in loc.) that the fact of the Ascension is gradually revealed in the Gospels. St. Matthew does not mention it at all. St. Mark refers to it in this brief and very simple manner. But St. Luke describes it with great fullness, both in his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, throughout which book he leads his readers to contemplate Christ as ascended into heaven, and as sitting at God's right hand, and as ruling the Church and the world from the throne of his glory.


And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen.
These words are alluded to in several passages by Justin Martyr, and, for the reasons given above, could not have been written later than the time of miracles being wrought. They form a fitting introduction to the Acts of the Apostles. Cornelius a Lapide concludes his Commentary upon St. Mark with the following beautiful apostrophe of St. Augustine:—"O kingdom of everlasting blessedness, where youth never grows old, where beauty never fades, where love never waxes cold, where health never fails, where joy never decreases, where life never ends!"



The empty sepulcher.

In this passage there is no direct narrative of the Savior's resurrection. The evangelist probably tells what, and only what, he had heard from credible and well-known witnesses. There were no such witnesses to the act of the Lord's emergence from the tomb. But the Marys and Salome had stated what they had seen and heard. They declared that, although they went early to the sepulcher, they found it both open and empty. They related their interview with the young man, the angel, who informed them that Jesus had risen. And it is upon their testimony that the evangelist bases in the first instance his gospel of the resurrection.

I. LOVE WILL FIND OCCASIONS AND WAYS OF EXPRESSING ITSELF. In our Lord's ministry, devout and attached women had often provided for his wants. When the end of that ministry arrived, these affectionate friends were found faithful to their Master; they were amongst the witnesses of his crucifixion and his death. Nor did they then withdraw, but lingered by the lifeless body until it was deposited in the new-hewn tomb. Even then their love was not satisfied; it remained for them to finish the rites which had been so hastily performed by Nicodemus and Joseph, and so abruptly suspended by the sunset which was the commencement of the Jewish sabbath. Behold them, accordingly, in the garden immediately after sunrise. On the past evening they have purchased spices; and they have now, at early morning, come, laden with the fragrant preparations, to perform the last offices to the body of him they have long honored and loved. The incident reminds us of the grateful and most graceful tribute offered to Jesus by the sister of Lazarus, who poured the costly perfume over the sacred feet of her Lord, her Benefactor. In both cases the value and the charm of the services are owing to the love by which they were inspired. Love followed Jesus, not only in the way, and into the dwelling, but to the cross and to the grave. They who truly love the Lord Christ will find opportunities in abundance of proving their affection.'

II. WE IMAGINE DIFFICULTIES WHICH GOD HAS ALREADY SOLVED FOR US. NO wonder that these feeble women questioned one with another, "Who shall roll us away the stone?" Strong men had closed the entrance to the tomb by placing this huge stone against it; how should this barrier to the carrying out of their intentions be removed? They looked up, and lo! the stone was rolled away. This had been done at daybreak by the celestial messenger. Very similar is much of Christian experience. We perplex ourselves, it may be, with speculative difficulties. Nature and revelation teem with mysteries. To our finite and untrained, inexperienced intelligence it must be so. Our penetration is too dull, our wisdom is too short-sighted; our powers, knowledge, and opportunities are all unequal to the task. But all is clear to that Being who is infinitely wise; and when we lift up our eyes we shall in due time see the resolution of our doubts. We perplex ourselves, it may be, with practical difficulties. How shall we do our work—that work being so vast, and we so hell, less? How shall we train our family, conduct our business, discharge our responsibilities? We cannot tell. But, looking unto him, we shall be lightened. He shall bring our way to pass. We perplex ourselves, 'it may be, with difficulties as to the Church and kingdom of Christ. How shall the Lord's people be awakened to zeal, or reconciled in unity, or qualified for the work assigned them in a dark and sinful world? Our mind is baffled by the problem, which we have no means of solving. Let us go on our way. When we come to our difficulty, we may perhaps find that it is gone. Let us leave the problems of the future to be solved by him with whom all is one eternal "now." Let us commit the distant in space and in time to him to whom belong alike the far-off and the near. There is no stone so exceeding great that he cannot roll it away; none that he will suffer to hinder or delay the execution of his own purposes.

III. CHRIST MAY BE SOUGHT IN THE GRAVE, BUT HE IS FOUND IN THE RISEN LIFE, THE SPIRITUAL REALM. Notwithstanding that Jesus had foretold both his death and his resurrection, the disciples were overwhelmed with astonishment at his crucifixion, and were amazed and incredulous at the tidings of his triumph over the grave. The men do not seem to have come to the tomb until they were summoned; the women came, but they came to embalm the dead, not to welcome the living—the risen, It needed that they should be assured "He is risen; he is not here]" in order that the current of their mournful thoughts should be arrested and reversed. In the tomb they did not find him, but they met him in his glorious resurrection-body. There are many who still commit the same mistake regarding our Savior. They think of his bodily and earthly life, of its outward incidents and of its tragic close. They think of him as if his ministry and his mediation came to an end on Calvary. They do not think of him as risen, as living in human society, as working in human hearts, as governing and blessing human lives. Yet, for us, what is the significance of the Redeemer's rising from the dead? Is it not just this—that the Savior's resurrection-life is his moral and spiritual sway over humanity? It is not in his body that his presence consists. It is in the penetration of the world's moral nature by his ever-present, all-pervading Spirit; it is in the transformation of the world's moral life by the power of his sacrifice, his obedience, his self-denial, his benevolence. Many a king and conqueror has died, after a life of ambition, a career of slaughter and of oppression. The death of such has been welcome, for it has put an end to a power for mischief which has cursed the world. But every teacher, every discoverer of truth, has implanted in the soul of humanity a seed which has outlived himself. How much more does the Divine Light and Life of men continue to illumine and to inspire the world, which first rejected him, and then found out his inestimable worth, his incalculable power!

IV. THE MOST WELCOME AND GLORIOUS REVELATION 1S RECEIVED AT FIRST WITH FEAR, ASTONISHMENT, AND SILENCE. Of the women we read, "They were amazed;" "trembling and astonishment came upon them;" "they were afraid;" "they said nothing to any one." It is a strange effect to follow from such a cause. Nothing could be so welcome and so joyful as the news which greeted them. But it was too startling, too surprising, too unexpected. They "departed with fear and great joy," just as the eleven afterwards "disbelieved for joy." There is news which seems too good to be true. Even so now there are doubting souls, who fain would believe in a Divine Savior, and who withhold their faith, not from unspirituality of nature and habit, but from the intensity of their appreciation of the blessing needed—the revelation of Divine favor, and the prospect of a glorious immortality. Let such raise their minds to the height of the Divine benevolence. "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" Such an interposition is surely worthy even of the Supreme! "That our faith and hope might be in God." Surely such an end may be believed to justify the most unexampled revelation and the most stupendous display of power. It is well that the tidings should be received with some sense of their amazing importance and their unique bearing upon the state and prospects of mankind.

V. THE NEWS OF THE RESURRECTION IS GOOD TIDINGS TO BE PUBLISHED ABROAD. The faithful women were directed to act as messengers. They have been called "the apostles of the apostles." They were to find Peter and the other disciples, to tell them that Jesus had risen, and to direct them where they should meet him. This they did, and in so doing they set an example to Christians in all coming time. Whatever else may be said of the resurrection of Jesus, this must be said of it first and foremost: It is good news, worthy of all acceptation. As such the apostles received it, and as such they published it. In the record of their ministry, nothing is so prominently put forward as their preaching Jesus and the Resurrection. A risen and glorified Savior was the Savior they preached—a Savior who had died, but who liveth evermore. Glad tidings to be proclaimed in every language and to all mankind!


1. Let us learn to live a life of faith in a risen, exalted, reigning Savior and Lord. Our religious life should receive its impulse and its motive from looking upwards to the Lord of life.

2. Let us regard it as our sacred ministry to publish as good tidings the truth that Christ is risen. This is the office and privilege of the Church of him who was dead and is alive again, and lives for evermore.


Disbelief convinced.

The day of Christ's resurrection was a day which opened in gloom and closed with gladness. In the morning our Lord's disciples and friends were mourning their Master's death, were grieving at what they deemed their forsaken and friendless lot; in the evening the same persons were rejoicing in a risen and triumphant Redeemer. They had found the key to their perplexities; they had received a new impulse and aim, the power and the promise of a new life. To what was it all due? Simply to this: they exchanged unreasonable disbelief for reasonable faith.

I. THE EVIDENCE DISBELIEVED. In some cases we are justified in refusing our assent to testimony; in others we are justified in withholding that assent until the testimony is confirmed. Such was not the case on the occasion under consideration. The evidence was that of credible persons, and of persons whom the eleven knew to be credible. Mary of Magdala, and Cleopas, and his companion were well known to the company of our Lord's friends and disciples. They were persons of unquestionable veracity. They had been themselves convinced against their own persuasions and prejudices. Mary had gone to the grave to complete the rites of burial—a proof that she was not expecting the resurrection. The two who walked to Emmaus regarded the death of Jesus as She destruction of their hopes; they were sad of countenance and slow of heart. If the testimony of Mary were rejected as that of an enthusiast, how could the testimony of the two companions be disputed? Besides, from the other Gospels we know that the other women had also borne witness to having seen Jesus, and that the Lord had appeared to Simon, who had announced the good news to the others. Testimony so varied, repeated, and credible as this deserved a better reception than was accorded to it. But whatever was said of the rising of the Lord Jesus, the disciples during that day disbelieved.

II. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS DISBELIEF. There must have been and there were reasons, or rather motives, for the attitude of the unbelieving disciples. According to this passage, grief was one explanation. The sorrow which possessed the hearts of Christ's friends, when they saw him insulted, tortured, and slain, was deep and poignant. Time had not elapsed for that grief to be allayed. They were still prostrate beneath the anguish which had crushed their hearts. They would hear of nothing that might alleviate and soothe them. And with grief was mingled disappointment. Their mounting hopes were smitten as with a bolt, and fell lifeless to the earth. They had looked for conquest, and they thought they saw defeat. They had looked for a kingdom, and lo! their King was slain. Doubtless, the sentiments of all were expressed in the pathetic lament, "We trusted this had been he who should have redeemed Israel." Such hopes, so crushed, could not easily arise again. Minds so amazed, staggered, utterly perplexed, were all unready to welcome tidings of encouragement. The storm-blast had passed over the tree and snapped the trunk in twain; the calm and the sunshine could not rear the prostrate head.

III. THE BLAMABLENESS OF THIS DISBELIEF. When the Lord himself appeared unto them he doubtless made allowance for their feelings. Yet it is here recorded, "He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen." This implies that they ought to have felt and acted otherwise.

1. And they would have done so had they cherished a juster view of the nature of the Lord himself. Had they remembered the witness borne to him by the Father, had they recalled his own lofty claims, had they pondered his wonderful works, and especially his miracles of raising the dead to life, then the tidings that he had risen would not have fallen upon unreceptive minds.

2. Further, the disciples should have remembered the Lord's promises, some of which had been given in figurative language, but some of which had been couched in the plainest terms. He had said that, after being put to death, he would rise on the third day. How is it that they had so utterly forgotten a promise so express and so surprising?

3. And they should have borne in mind the predictions of the Old Testament regarding the Messianic kingdom, which should be based upon humiliation and suffering, but should be built up in glory. Jesus himself reproached them for having missed the purport of the Messianic prophecies: "Ought not Christ to have," etc.?

IV. DISBELIEF VANQUISHED. What Christ's messengers could not do, he did himself. What could not be wrought by testimony, was wrought by evidence of eyesight and hearing. The change which came over the disciples demands attention. Their conversion from disbelief to faith was:

1. Instantaneous. For long hours they had resisted the witness of those who had seen the risen Lord; but, upon themselves seeing him, they yielded an immediate assent.

2. It was complete and joyful There was no further questioning, and no further sadness. For a moment "they believed not for joy; but "then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." Their minds went quite round; from doubt they passed to confidence, from depression to exhilaration.

3. And this conversion was enduring. Never did they hesitate in their own testimony. They thenceforth regarded themselves as witnesses of the resurrection, and spake boldly of what their eyes had seen, their ears had heard, their hands had handled, of the Word of life.


1. It makes the testimony of the disciples the more valuable. Clearly, those men were not credulous, were not disposed or prepared to believe. It must have been conclusive evidence indeed which convinced them. There can be no danger in accepting the testimony of such men as these.

2. It is a rebuke to those who, through hardness of heart, believe not in a risen Savior. With the clear, full evidence which we possess, we shall indeed be blamable if we withhold our cordial faith from him who for us died and rose again. "Blessed," says the Lord, "are they who, not having seen, yet believe."


The great commission.

Whether these words were spoken at once upon one occasion, or whether they are the summing up of many words uttered by our Lord between his resurrection and ascension, one thing is clear—they are the unburdening of his great heart of what was the load chiefly pressing upon it. Why had he condescended to live upon earth, to fulfill a ministry of humiliation, to endure unequalled woes, to die a death of ignominy and of shame? Surely not that after his departure from earth all things might be as before. But rather and only that, as the great foreseen result, of his earthly advent and ministry, a new and heavenly power might be introduced into humanity, a new spiritual kingdom might be set up in the world, and a new day might dawn upon the long, dark night of time. Hence the gospel which he caused to be proclaimed, the commission which he entrusted to his disciples and especially his apostles. Hence the authority Jesus entrusted to his servants, and the vast sphere he contemplated for their labors of witness and of work.


1. What they were to take. "The gospel," glad tidings of salvation and eternal life through a Divine Redeemer, who died for the world's sins, and lives for the world's eternal life.

2. To whom they were to take it. "To the whole creation," i.e. to all mankind, of every race and every through them on his Name were entrusted with this great commission. "Freely," said Christ, "ye have received; freely give." No order of men, but the whole Church, receives this sacred trust.

II. THE RESPONSIBILITY LAID UPON THE WORLD TO WHICH THE GOSPEL COMES. A great alternative is propounded. There is no middle course supposed. Belief and baptism are the condition of salvation; disbelief ensures condemnation. We may well admire the wisdom and the condescending compassion which determined such a condition as faith as the condition upon which the highest spiritual blessings may be enjoyed. It is possible to the youngest, to the least learned, to the feeblest of men. Yet it is a mighty principle; being able, when directed towards a Divine Savior, to secure all good which man can need and God can give, both for time and for eternity.


1. What they were. There are enumerated: power to exorcise demons, power to speak with tongues, immunity from harm by poison or by serpent-bite, the ministry of supernatural healing.

2. Why they were given. It was to authenticate the message and the messengers. As in Christ's ministry spiritual authority was indicated by miraculous works, so was it in the ministry of Christ's followers and apostles. As a matter of fact, attention was thus drawn to the Word of life.

3. Why they were withdrawn. When this exactly was we cannot perhaps decide; but as the purpose of their bestowal was temporary, it is evident that when this purpose was answered, and Christianity was launched upon the waters of the world, it was in accordance with Divine wisdom that miracles should cease.

Mar_16:19, Mar_16:20


Christ ascended on high. How could it be otherwise? He came into this world in a manner and with accompaniments so remarkable, he lived in this world a life so singular and unique, that it was but appropriate that he should quit this world as none other has ever done. What is meant by his being "received up"—where "heaven" is,—this we do not know; our knowledge is limited, and our power of conceiving the eternity and infinity around us is feeble. One thing we do see, and that is, that Jesus finished his work on earth and then departed; and one other thing we see, almost as clearly, viz. that the moral, spiritual work which was the object of his mission, so far from coming to an end with his bodily departure, really then commenced, and has been proceeding ever since. How he interests himself in it and carries it on, we can only tell in general and scriptural language; that he does so, is plain to every spiritually enlightened man. St. Mark, who plunged at the outset so boldly into his task of relating "the gospel of the Son of God," here, with characteristic brevity, clearness, and vigor, tells the last portion of his narrative—the ascension of the Savior into heaven, and the consequent continuation of his work on earth.

I. THE ASCENSION IS THE COMPLETION OF OUR SAVIOUR'S EARTHLY MINISTRY. To those who believe that the Lord Jesus arose from the dead, the narrative of the Ascension can present little difficulty. It is impossible to believe that he who consented to die, and who conquered death, could again enter the grave. It remained for him to quit the earth without dying; and what we read of his resurrection-body leads us to believe that this was not only possible, but natural and easy. In fact, the Ascension may be regarded, not as the consequence so much as the completion of the Resurrection; and, in apostolic language, the two events are sometimes referred to in one and the same expression. How explicitly had Jesus foretold this great event! Early in his ministry he had declared, "No man hath ascended into heaven, save he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven." Expostulating with the cavillers at Capernaum at a later period, he had asked them, "What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before?" And on the day of his resurrection he had directed Mary to take to his disciples this message: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God " The foresight and authority of our Savior were proved by the correspondence between his words and the event which exactly fulfilled them. The Ascension implied that all the purposes of the incarnation and advent of the Redeemer were accomplished. What he came to do, to suffer, and to say, he had already done, suffered, and said. He did not leave the earth until on earth there was no more for him to do. In his recorded intercessory prayer, addressing his Father, he said, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."

II. THE ASCENSION IS THE COMMENCEMENT OF OUR SAVIOUR'S REIGN. We are too prone to think of human life as if it closes when the last breath is drawn and the heart beats no more. We forget that this is but the birth to the higher, the proper, the eternal life. Similarly with our view of the Redeemer's ministry of service, his tenure of priestly, royal office. We are too prone to regard his life as closing with the conclusion of our Gospel narratives. We follow him in thought until the cloud, descending upon Olivet, receives him out of our sight, and then we say, "It is all over! His course is run, his work is finished!" But it is not so. The very contrary of this is the case. That Christ's ascension draws a sharp line of demarcation, is true; but the one side is finite, the other is infinite. We can comprehend the one; the other baffles all our powers of penetration. The steps of Jesus through this earthly pilgrimage are steps which we can trace; but we lose sight of them, and faith alone can follow, when he ascends on high. This, however, is certain to us, that, with the ascension of Jesus, the second, the more spiritual, the more beneficent, the more enduring stage of this Divine ministry, commenced. He did much in his humiliation; he is doing more in his glory, tie came to found a kingdom; he went to administer it; and he must reign until his foes become his footstool. Contemplate the Son of man as he is here represented, no longer wearing the disguise of feebleness and submitting to the insults and the hatred of the wicked. His days of toil, of hunger, and of weariness, his nights of exposure and of mental conflict, are over. No more is he to endure the misrepresentations of the hypocritical and the malicious; no more to baffle the insidious snares of the crafty and the unscrupulous; no more to be patient under the cold mockery of the unspiritual and ungrateful. His deeds of mercy shall never again be attributed to the powers of evil; never again shall those he fain would benefit seek to cast him headlong from the precipice; nor shall he sigh because of the hardness of heart and insensibility of his foes. It is well that he has gone through it all; that he has been despised and rejected of men, that he has been overwhelmed with the baptism of suffering, that he has drunk to the dregs earth's bitter cup of woe. All this is well. But it is better that it is past and over; that he takes with him into the unseen state the memory of his humiliation, his obedience, his death; that he enters upon his purchased possession; that he sees "of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied;" that he is "received up into heaven, and sits down on the right hand of God." What are we to understand when told that Christ sat down" in heaven, and by the Father's side? The evangelist speaks here in such a way as to convey to us important religious truth· Christ's earthly ministry had been one of unrest and homelessness; from the commencement of his public labors until those labors ended on the cross, few had been the intervals of repose. With the Ascension began the period of rest. The seat upon the throne is becoming to royalty: the monarch sits whilst the courtiers, guards, and attendants stand. So the expression implies the kingly dignity of Immanuel. He has exchanged the crown of thorns for the diadem of empire. On his head are many crowns." Further, a judge sits upon the judgment-seat, whilst the criminal stands at his bar. Jesus not long before had stood, as the vilest culprit might have done, before the malignant Caiaphas, before the vacillating, unrighteous Pilate. Now, no longer the accused, he is the just, majestic, and almighty Judge, ordained by God to be the Judge of quick and dead. How bold and plain, although metaphorical, is Mark's language here! "The Lord Jesus sat down at the right hand of God." "The right hand of God" is one of those expressions, so frequent in Scripture, which are used, in condescension to our infirmities, to convey to us, in a striking and effective manner, truth otherwise not easily communicated. A courtier, when at the right hand of his sovereign, is near him, is readily addressed; is in a position either to give information or to receive instructions; can easily obtain a signature, or an authority or warrant under the sign-manual; is in a position to introduce to the king any applicant or petitioner; in brief, occupies a post of privilege, trust, influence, honor, and authority. And when our Savior is pictured as at the right hand of God, we are to understand that he is the Mediator, through whom the Divine power and guidance, favor and blessing, are bestowed upon those in whom he has shown himself interested by undergoing on their behalf the labors and the sacrifices of the earthly humiliation. No wonder, then, that the position occupied by Christians is described in language so rich, full, and inspiriting—that all things are declared to be theirs, for they are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

III. THE ASCENSION WAS THE PREPARATION FOR A NEW AND SPIRITUAL ECONOMY. The bodily absence of the Redeemer was the condition of a new dispensation of spiritual power and of world-wide extent. Hitherto the evangelizing journeys of the twelve had been restricted in scope and local in range; they had gone only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and they had directed attention to the speedy approach of the kingdom. But the aim of Jesus was one of universal benevolence; other sheep, not of the Israelitish fold, were to be brought in; he was to draw all men unto himself. This was to be done by spiritual agencies, which were dependent upon the removal of the Lord to heaven. In fact, the ascension of the Lord Jesus was, in the Divine counsels, the condition and the occasion of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, in the manner and measure distinctive of the new, the Christian dispensation. He himself had put this with great plainness before his disciples' minds: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you." This was a doctrinal statement of the nature of a revelation. What was the intelligible and manifest fact corresponding to it? Surely this—that the earthly mission of the Savior being complete, the gospel was to be preached, and should be made, by a spiritual force acting on human natures, the means of awakening men to a new conscience of sin, a new yearning for holiness, a new purpose of an unselfish and unworldly life. It is no more unreasonable to attribute the fruits of the gospel to the Spirit of God, than it is to attribute human purposes to the spirit of man. It is a spiritual universe, and things material and outward actions are nothing but the garb and utterance of what is spiritual. If there be truth declared, revealed, and if there be a nature capable of receiving, feeling, responding to truth, there is one all-sufficient explanation of this wonderful and beneficent correspondence, and that is, the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit of God. The ascension of Christ changed the life of the apostles, and through them, the history of the world.

1. Now and henceforth there was an express theme for them to publish. This was the gospel, the good tidings, which only now was complete, and so divinely perfected by all that Jesus had done and suffered, that it was adapted to fulfill the purposes of Divine wisdom. Before, the disciples had directed attention to what was to come; now, to what had occurred actually and really. Christ had died for men's sins, according to the Scriptures; he had arisen from the dead for their justification and salvation. Around the great central facts of Christ's birth, crucifixion, and resurrection gathered all the Divine truths which constituted the gospel. Accordingly, in the first place, the facts were related as facts abundantly attested, and as facts of interest and precious moment to all' mankind. And, when these facts were believed, then they were explained, and (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit given from above) the inspired apostles taught their bearing upon the position and prospects of the sinful race of man. It should never be forgotten that our religion consists in something more than laws of life, sentiments of virtue, promises of help, hopes of immortality. In accordance with the constitution of things, all these depend upon and flow from the great central facts relating to the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Besides having a theme, the apostles of our Lord now had a commission which authorized them. They did not go unbidden, without instructions, without authority, upon this errand of mercy and blessing to mankind. He who had all power in heaven and in earth had given them their commission. He had said "Go!" and they went; not in their own strength and wisdom, but in his. The same warrant and authentication abides with the Church of Christ throughout all the ages. The apostles were, as the name implies, those who were sent; in this respect, as distinguished from personal endowment and equipment, an apostolic mission is entrusted to the whole body of Christ's followers to the end of time.

3. The sphere within which this commission was to be executed was world-wide. "Go ye into all the world," Jesus had said, "and preach the gospel to the whole creation." "Make disciples of all nations." A grand and noble design, worthy of the source whence it emanated, in the heart of him who is "the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe." The habitable globe is the field in which the Christian missionary is called to work; for the human race is the object of Divine compassion, the destined participant in the bounty of the Divine beneficence. None, however large-hearted and compassionate, can complain that the operations of mercy and benevolence are restricted and restrained.

4. In fulfilling this commission, the heralds of Christ's gospel were assured that they should enjoy, not only personal assistance, but the assistance involved in undoubted credentials, by which they and their message should be commended to the attention of men.

(1) The Lord wrought with them. They were workers, but they were fellow-workers with him. What was to be done in the renewal of human hearts, and the transformation of human character, was not to be done by the exercise of merely human power. A Divine energy and operation were alone adequate to secure results so difficult, so glorious.

(2) Signs followed. Signs, i.e. of a Divine presence and energy. There were such in abundance, as is evident from the record in the Acts of the Apostles. Signs outward, manifest, obvious to every eye, as in the case of those miracles of healing which accompanied the ministrations of the first Christian preachers. Signs of a less obtrusive, but of an even more convincing character, as in the case of those Jews who were delivered from formalism, those Gentiles who were emancipated from idolatry, those flagrant transgressors of the moral law who were turned from darkness unto light, and from the service of Satan unto God.

(3) Thus the Word was confirmed. Miracles, preaching, all were means to an end, and that end the establishment and extension of a spiritual kingdom. For the Word of God was no mere instrument of music to charm the ear and captivate the imagination; it was and is "the sword of the Spirit." Its work is to conquer, to subdue, to govern; and this work it does with incomparable keenness of edge, with incomparable force and efficiency. It has been promised, "My Word shall not return unto me void." It has proved itself a Word of power, a Word of salvation, a Word of life.


1. In heart, let Christ's people ascend with their ascended Lord and Leader. "Risen with Christ," "set your affection upon things above."

2. In life, let Christians seek to execute their Master's parting commission. He has left them a trust to fulfill, a work to do; let them not be found slothful, but diligent and watchful.

3. In hope, let all who "love his appearing," look forward to his return. For in like manner shall he come again, to receive his people to himself. "Even come, Lord Jesus!"



Resurrection proofs.

The last days of the manifestation of God in Christ were signalized by a great deprivation and a great recovery. A life beyond the dread confines of the grave completed the cycle of wonders associated with the earth-life of Jesus. This, although not sufficiently realized ere it actually occurred, is a part of a continuative development. It is no awkward and hasty fragment joined on to another and more legitimate narrative. To intelligent students of the life, it appears the sublimely consistent outcome of all that preceded the death. The evangelists, from the very beginning of their histories, prepare one almost unconsciously for such a denouement. It is in a sense the necessary conclusion towards which they move, and It throws into new relations and proportions all the preceding events. The earthly actions and experiences of Christ are sufficiently verified, but in describing them evangelists do not seem to think of having to furnish proof. It is only when they begin to tell us of the resurrection that all is alertness, and that conscious collation of evidence takes place. This is the arcanum of the faith which must be preserved from all uncertainty; this fact must be certified that all else may be made intelligible and morally effectual. And the moral significance of the Resurrection is even more insisted on than its physical wonder. It is the defeat of evil machinations, and a triumph over every precaution of his enemies.

I. SOME IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION, The number and variety of Christ's appearances have been noted by the evangelists. The spiritual nature perceives the supplementary effect and educative efficiency of his resurrection fellowship. There is also a marked absence of all appearance of collusion.

1. Conspirators would have striven to keep the grave sealed until its emptiness should be discovered.

2. The Roman watch was all but inviolable.

3. Those who might be expected to conspire remained at a distance, and were informed of the event.

4. Many of them at first refused to believe the news.

5. From the Emmaus and embalming incidents, we see that most of the disciples did not look for his (at all events immediate) reappearance.

II. THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION. The question of those who deny the physical, yet emphasize the ideal and spiritual resurrection—"What can a few pounds more or less of dust and ashes matter?"—is shallow and impertinent.

1. The senses were appealed to: sight, hearing, touch; physical results were produced; fellowship was realized with him under physical conditions (the fish and honeycomb).

2. was not recognized at first. A great change had, therefore, been produced. And such a thing might be looked for. Mary, Emmaus, Thomas and the stigmata.

3. The manner of disappearance as described is suggestive of a real body (Act_1:9; Luk_24:50, Luk_24:51).

III. THE BEARINGS OF THIS FACT UPON CHRISTIAN FAITH AND LIFE. In considering these, we see how the foregoing question betrays an incapacity for discussing the highest practical problems.

1. Christ came to save the entire nature—body, soul, and spirit. He is, therefore, himself the Firstfruits and the Type. There is, in his resurrection state, a hint as. to the possibilities of our material nature when completely purified and redeemed.

2. The bodily resurrection of Christ is a more signal marvel than the spiritual alone would have been, and was at the same time more susceptible of sensible demonstration.

3. It was in harmony with the method of his miracles, and the grand key to them. How the moral element in this life grew and expanded into ever more powerful effects and general relations! At last, when earnestly and carefully regarded, doubt is overwhelmed by it. How it appeals to our sense of the highest fitness, and answers the unconscious longings of the spiritual life!—M.

Mar_16:3, Mar_16:4

"Who shall roll us away the stone?"

Two things occurred together in attempting the last service to the buried Christ—weak, though willing and loving instruments, and a practically insurmountable difficulty. They themselves were unable to roll away the stone which closed the sepulcher, "for it was exceeding great." This experience has often been repeated.


1. By discounting the help of Christ. They thought him dead and helpless.

2. By calculating only one's own resources. Looking inward. The healthy outward and upward look at the indications of Providence and experience.


1. By finding the difficulty which had been anticipated already removed.

2. By finding the intended service rendered unnecessary. The empty grave at first a disappointment, but afterwards a source of joy.—M.


"He is not here."





Mar_16:19, Mar_16:20

The gospel the Word of the ascended Lord.

These words, at the end of Mark's account, give the great sequence of our Lord's manifestation. The Ascension was the divinely necessary result of the Resurrection; the gospel is the necessary fruit on the human side of the experience produced in the hearts of the disciples by his life and work. Such a series of events could not end in silence. As in life, so in death, resurrection, and exaltation, Jesus Christ "could not be hid." The preaching of the gospel is a result, therefore, of an express command and an inward impulse. The two verses are in sequence to the preceding account, and the one to the other, logically, spiritually, and potentially. Notice in this connection—

I. THE POINT AT WHICH THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL BEGINS. At the final withdrawal and exaltation of Jesus.

1. Its subject is a completed one.

2. The various portions of it are self-evidently connected, and mutually interpret one another. The final transcendent issues of the contest of Christ with sin and death are each representative and interpretative of what preceded and led up to them. The life and its relation to the Divine purpose, prophetic anticipation, and human yearning, would be incomprehensible without this glorious trinity of consummations: death, resurrection, and ascension.

II. THE POWER IT REPRESENTS. The power of a finished work of atonement, a victory over death and hell, and an exalted, glorified humanity.

1. The highest exaltation has been reached by him of whom it speaks, He is invested with Divine power, and executive authority in the universe of God. Whether there be any such place as the "right hand of God" may be a curious question; that there is a state which such a phrase describes is a matter of spiritual revelation and experience. "All power is given," etc.

2. Its tone is therefore authoritative in the highest degree. The gospel is a throne-word. Preachers are ambassadors. The dignities and pretensions of earth are nothing to them. The Lord through them "commands all men everywhere to repent." Herod is a sad illustration of what occurs when even a king attempts to patronize the gospel.

3. This pretension is confirmed by practical proofs. The works accompanying it and resulting from it are "signs." You cannot explain them unless on the highest ground. Although physical miracles have ceased, spiritual results are still more demonstrative and glorious. In changing the heart, renewing the nature, purifying the affections, the "Word of his power" achieves what nothing else can. And such signs are to be looked for whenever and wherever it is proclaimed. "The Lord working with them"—everywhere, because ascended and glorified.

III. THE PEOPLE IT CONCERNS. "And they went forth, and preached everywhere." This was no accident or caprice of choice: he commanded it (verse 15). But it is also divinely fitting that this should be so.

1. The gospel is intended for all men.

2. It is adapted to all men.

3. The work of Christ's servants is to seek the salvation of all men.

Until all have had an opportunity we must