THE COMMISSION OF THE CHURCH
When he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary of Magdala, out of whom he had cast seven devils. She went and told the news to those who had been with him, who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
After that he appeared in another form to two of them as they walked, as they were on their way to the country. And they went away and told the news to the rest, but they did not believe it.
Later he appeared to the eleven as they were sitting at meat and rebuked them for their disbelief and the obtuseness of their minds, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and preach the goodness. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe. By my name they will cast out devils. They will speak with new tongues. They will lift serpents, and even if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the infirm and they will be well.”
So the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed their message by the signs that accompanied it.
As we saw in the introduction, Mark’s gospel really stops at Mk. 16:8. We have only to read this passage to see how different it is from the rest of the gospel and it appears in none of the great manuscripts of the gospel. It is a later summary which replaces the ending which either Mark did not live to write or which at some time went astray.
Its great interest is the picture of the duty of the church that it gives to us. The man who wrote this concluding section obviously believed that the church had certain tasks committed to it by Jesus.
(i) The church has a preaching task. It is the duty of the church, and that means that it is the duty of every Christian, to tell the story of the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard it. The Christian duty is to be the herald of Jesus.
(ii) The church has a healing task. Here is a fact we have seen again and again. Christianity is concerned with men’s bodies as well as men’s minds. Jesus wished to bring health to the body and health to the soul.
(iii) The church has a source of power. We need not take everything literally. We need not think that the Christian is literally to have the power to lift venomous snakes and drink poisonous liquids and take no harm. But at the back of this picturesque language is the conviction that the Christian is filled with a power to cope with life that others do not possess.
(iv) The church is never left alone to do its work. Always Christ works with it and in it and through it. The Lord of the church is still in the church and is still the Lord of power.
And so the gospel finishes with the message that the Christian life is lived in the presence and the power of him who was crucified and rose again.
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