There are many noble and worthy causes to devote yourself to. But none – and I mean none – are as worthy and as noble as the Great Commission.
KIDS: Listen for: 1) What did Jesus tell the disciples to do? and 2) Where did Jesus go afterwards?
The Bible is one long narrative of God telling people to “Go!”
We come to an interesting section in the Gospels. There’s some concern that this last section isn’t actually part of Mark’s Gospel, that the final section was lost and this was added in later on. The reason is because in 2 of the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel this section is absent. Here are two reasons why it’s not a concern for me and rather than skip this final section I’m going to preach it.
First, that while it is missing in those 2 trustworthy manuscripts, this last section is in many other of Mark’s manuscripts and in many versions. So there is a reasonable basis for considering it part of Mark’s Gospel.
The second reason is that there is nothing in this section that contradicts what the rest of the NT teaches. What is in this section is consistent with everything. Therefore, it is profitable for us and we are going to preach it. And by God’s power and grace, we’ll profit from it!
#1: The Appearances (9-14)
First we see The Appearances of Jesus, read 9-14. There are 3 appearances mentioned here: Mary Magdalene, the two country disciples, and then finally the 11 disciples. This is an abbreviated list of Jesus’ appearances, Paul gives a full list in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. You can see a progression here in the passage: 1) Jesus appears, 2) those who see Him go and tell others, 3) those who hear about it don’t believe.
There’s a parallel here at the end of Jesus’ ministry with the beginning. At the beginning John the Baptist was sent ahead to preach and prepare Israel to believe in Jesus. ….
Application: At the outset we need to recognize again that the death and the resurrection of Jesus were historical facts. Jesus was seen by people after he was raised up. We are not dealing with myth or legend, but, with historical reality. That means you have to deal with a real Jesus. He’s going to deal with you.
Application: Jesus expects that those who have seen him tell others. Jesus is in the business of making people witnesses. The pattern is the same: he appears to people, and then those people go tell other people. “God has raised this Jesus to life” Peter declared in the very first Church sermon of history, “and we are all witnesses of the fact!” (Acts 2:32). Listen to the “witness-like” language of John in 1 John 1, “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the word of Life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” Can you hear it? They witnessed Jesus and as a result they told others. The demoniac of Mark 5 went back to his village to tell what Jesus did for him. The man healed of leprosy in Mark 2 told so many people about Jesus that Jesus had to leave town because he was being mobbed. Not only does Jesus expect that after we have “seen” him that we tell others, but, really how can we not? Isn’t there something about Jesus that makes us want to tell others?
There’s something else here: people who hear, but haven’t seen, are still obligated to believe. Seeing is not believing. Hearing is believing. “Faith comes by hearing the message” Romans 10:17 declares. “You believe because you have seen” He told Thomas, “but blessed are those who believe but have not seen.” (Jn 20:29). Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone [11 disciples who have seen him]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (Jn 17:20). In Hebrews 2 the author says, “This salvation was first announced by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” Notice what the author is saying: Jesus preached salvation, and those who were witnesses of Him (Apostles) turned around and preached to others who didn’t see or hear Jesus. The author is one of those who did not see or hear Jesus personally, but, heard about Jesus from the Apostles. And his whole point is that seeing Jesus is not necessary for believing. Hearing about Him is all one needs: “Faith comes by hearing”
This is why Jesus rebukes the disciples. That Jesus rebukes his disciples is important for two reasons.
First, He rebukes them for their unbelief. Luke 24:25 has Jesus saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus is right, we are fools not to believe. Faith is the most important thing to God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” Hebrews 11:6 says. “When the son of man comes” Jesus said in Luke 18:8 “will he find faith on the earth?” Salvation is by faith and not by works.
The other reason why it is important that Jesus rebukes their unbelief has to do with the Great Commission. Notice the order in the text: He rebuked them before giving them the Great Commission. Do you see that in the text? Rebuke in verse 14, Commission in verse 15. Why is this important? Because they were not qualified to call others to believe what they themselves did not believe. Their whole preaching careers were preaching the resurrection of Jesus…..but if they didn’t believe it?!!
The most important thing you want from me in my preaching is that I believe what I’m saying. Not eloquence, not humor, not enthusiasm or passion, not clever illustrations and applications. But real faith. For one thing, can we really expect the Spirit of God to work through the preaching if there is no faith? “Jesus could do no miracles in that town because there was no faith” we read in the Gospels. Similarly it could be said of us, “The Spirit could work no power in that church for its pastor had no faith” Another reason you ought to care is that If I don’t believe what I’m saying I’m defrauding you. It’s just a job to me and I’m just looking for a paycheck. May God remove every man from every pulpit who does not himself believe what he preaches.
#2: The Assignment (15-18)
Our next heading is “The Assignment”, read verses 15-18, “…”
Jesus gives them an assignment. Its a command. Its the purpose of their lives for the rest of their lives: Go and preach. Here we have the Great Commission. Mark focuses on the evangelism of the lost, while Matthew’s Gospel focuses on the discipleship of the saved.
I’m going to look at both aspects, but, first, I want to say something. This is the purpose of the Church, and, it is the purpose of every individual Christian. There are many noble and worthy causes to devote yourself to. But none – and I mean none – are as worthy and as noble as the Great Commission. I’m afraid many Christians will leave this life, stand before Christ, and while having lived good lives, they will not be able to name anyone they ever told about Jesus, let alone one person they led to Christ. Nor will vast numbers of Christians be able to name one person they ever spent time with to teach them the Bible and how to live for Christ. Yet, telling people the Gospel, and teaching other Christians how to live for Christ are the two things Jesus has left us to do as the Church. Our purpose is found in personally advancing the Great Commission.
Evangelism: Go and preach, read verse 15, “…..” Philemon says, “be active in sharing your faith…” “Do the work of an evangelist” Paul told Timothy.
Jesus told them to be evangelists “in all the world.” In Acts 1 Jesus explained the progression of the Gospel out from Jerusalem: “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Notice the outward expansion from Jerusalem into all the world.
Wherever they were they would go and preach the Good News. What is the good news? It is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why is that good news though? Why is the idea that someone 2,000 years ago died good news? Why even is him coming back from the dead good news? It would be spectacular, amazing, but why is it good news for us? The reason is in “why” he died and “why” He came back.
Every local church must be engaged in evangelism. Be a part of this ministry and that ministry, this cause and that cause…fine. But do along with evangelism – do not do it instead of doing evangelism.
Now we have to address this section on “signs”. Read 17-18… The question is this: Are these signs supposed to be normative for all Christians everywhere all throughout history? I’m strongly inclined to say “No”, and, say it quite strongly.
First of all, these signs would be normative for the Apostles. Wherever they went these supernatural miracles would happen. Just read the book of Acts. People are being healed of sickness, Apostles and new converts spoke in tongues, demons are being driven out and even Paul was bit by a snake and nothing happened to him. The pagan natives thought he was a god because of the incident (Acts 28). So these kinds of displays of power were seen wherever the Apostles were at during their lifetimes. You even read in the very last verse, verse 20, “…..and the Lord confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
But, this does not mean that these are normative for all Christians. First of all because the faith is established in history. While God shifted from the age of Law to the Church Age He demonstrated this divine plan with miracles and powers through His chosen change agents: the Apostles. But what is normal for the Apostles as far as miracles was never intended to be normal for all Christians everywhere throughout history. You don’t experience these things as a normal day-to-day part of your Christian life, so experience tells you this.
Let me tell you what to look for today in people who come to Christ: Repentance. Turning from sin. Turning to holiness and truth. Loving God’s word and believing it. Having a whole new love for God and for other people. Humility. These will speak far more in volumes to me than watching someone speak in tongues or heal someone or drink poison. Satan can imitate miracles, but, he cannot imitate holiness.