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MARK 16:9-20
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Forty Nine

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 5, 2019

If you are able, please stand with me as we come together before God’s word.  And read with me our passage for this morning Mark 16:9-20. 


Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.  She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.  But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.


After these things He appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.


Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen.


And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”


So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.


Before we come to verse 9 we need to be clear on why these 11 verses are here and why it’s important for us to study them.


Which isn’t the way that you’re suppose to start a sermon.  You’re suppose to start with an illustration that draws people in not a study in textual criticism that has the potential to put people to sleep.  But it’s important that we get this up front.


Any credible English translation of the Bible is going to have these 11 verses set apart by brackets or asterisks or some kind of notation and footnotes that includes a discussion about manuscripts and potentially 3 different ways that Mark’s Gospel may have ended.


Anyone have any of those in your translation?  Maybe you’ve noticed those and wondered about that.


That all that is there should give us greater confidence in the scholarship that’s behind the English translations that we’re using.


What all that represents is scholarship that’s committed to producing for us an English translation that is as close to the original that Mark himself penned with his own pen as it’s possible for us to have.  And good scholarship that is going to let us know when there is discussion about that process.


Which is scholarship that generally goes on behind the scenes of our translations that we’re not really aware of as we’re just picking these up and reading.  And ultimately doesn’t affect the meaning and truth of what we’re reading.


But - coming to these verses - does give us the opportunity to pull back the curtain a bit and to see behind the pages of Scripture to see some of the mechanics of how we’ve gotten our English translations and why - especially coming to these 11 verses - and why those verses are important to us.


Bottom line:  What all those brackets and asterisks and footnotes are getting at is this:  Those who study these things - those who do what is called Textual Criticism and the translation work that leads to our English Bibles - after all that scholarship and discussion - they’re still not 100% certain that Mark was the one who wrote these 11 verses.  In fact, he probably didn’t.


Having said that - I want to make sure that we’re clear that Mark’s Gospel is authentic - without error - each word inspired by the Holy Spirit -  Scripture and completely reliable.  And, if you have questions about any of this come and talk to me.


But the issue is, that the oldest manuscripts of Mark we have don’t have these 11 verses.  Manuscripts written later do.  So there’s discussion that keeps the scholars going and footnotes being included.  Do we include these verses or not include these verses?


What’s here is similar to what happens at the end of Deuteronomy.  Most of Deuteronomy records what Moses told Israel on the plains of Moab at the end of 40 years of wandering in the dessert just before they cross the Jordan River to conquer Canaan.  Credible scholarship will tell us that Moses is the author of Deuteronomy.


The last chapter of Deuteronomy records Moses going up onto Mount Nebo - and dying - and God burying Moses somewhere  Which is probably not something Moses wrote because he’s… dead.  And, we don’t know who did write it.  Best scholarship points to Ezra.


But the last chapter is there at the end of Deuteronomy - included by those who came after Moses - who were led by the Holy Spirit to include it because it’s important for us to know what happened and to pay attention to it.


So, even though we know Mark didn’t write these 11 verses, they’re here because we believe that those who wrote them were moved by the Holy Spirit to write them and to include them so that we would know what happened and to pay attention to it - to it’s application to our lives.


We’re kind of together on that?


The way Mark ends his gospel in verse 8 - what we looked at on Resurrection Sunday - as Mark ends his Gospel the women have come to the tomb very early Sunday morning with spices to anoint Jesus’ body - to honor Him and to weep over Him.  As they arrive they’re confronted with a rolled away stone - an empty tomb - and an angel who explains that Jesus is risen and that they are to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is risen and will meet them in Galilee. 


Confronted with the reality and implications of Jesus’ resurrection - everything Jesus taught is true - Jesus really is the Son of God - He really will be with us forever - confronted with the exclamation point of the good news - the response of the women is to… run away in trembling and astonishment and to tell no one because they’re afraid.


And that’s all folks….  Mark’s ending is abrupt.  Stunning in it’s abruptness.  And it's on purpose. 


Mark is writing to... Romans.  Probably Gentile converts living in Rome.  Which is why Mark includes explanations of Jewish customs and translations of Aramaic expressions.  Mark's footnotes and explanations.  Which are helpful to us - just like them - as we’re living in a Greek - Roman - Gentile world - they’d of had no clue about things Jewish.  Explanations are helpful.


It’s been suggested that Mark is writing using a form of drama - Greek tragedy - that the Romans would have connected with.  It’s shorter.  It’s faster paced.  It all ends abruptly at verse 8 with trembling and astonishment and fear.  What would have grabbed the attention of Mark’s readers.  As it does ours.

It leaves us hanging.  Wanting more.  Like some end credit scene that gives us a clue that something else is coming.


As Mark is writing persecution is beginning to happen in Rome.  Following Jesus - sharing the gospel - can get you dead.  The future is not happy and hopeful.  The believers are living in uncertain times and with understandable fear.


Mark - from page one has focused with brevity and clarity on the realty and truth of the Gospel - Who Jesus is - His ministry and message.  And in order to drop that reality and truth into the real world uncertainty and fear that was Rome - Mark ends with stunning abruptness and leaves his readers hanging - without resolution - without a happy ending - wondering how to respond to all that.

How will we live what we know is true in the uncertain and fearful time times we live in?  Where do we go from here?  What will that look like?

Our society today is slipping into Satan induced darkness - deception - and self-focused delusion.  Our culture - our society - is moving farther away from God.  The Church - Christians - are increasingly vilified - marginalized - targeted.


How messed up is it when people routinely walk into places of worship - and not just Christian - but anyplace that claims to be focused on faith or worship - and they just start shooting or blowing people up?


Is that any worse than that was 50 years ago?  It sure seems like it.  Is that the same as what Christians were facing in Rome.  Probably not.  But it could get there.  And here’s a reality check.  It’s worse in other places on the planet.  But we live here.


Here is where God has called us to respond to the realty and truth of Who Jesus is in the uncertain and fear inducing messed up reality of where we do life.

Verses 9 to 11 are included to help us respond.  These are down the line of history - Holy Spirit inspired - verses that are included to help us answer the question:  How am I to live what I know is true about Jesus in the uncertainty of where I live?

Verse 9 begins the Postlude [16:9-18].  A postlude is... what comes after the end.  An afterword.  That was added to help answer the question:  In the places where we do life, how do we respond to the realty and truth of Who Jesus is.


Verse 9 is the first of 3 personal postlude encounters with Jesus.


Verse 9:  Now when He [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 


Mary was from Magdala - this place on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.


At one point she’d had seven demons cast out of her.  The other women - looking at the other passages that describe this scene - the other women who are mentioned - the other women are described by their relationship to someone else - someone’s mother or wife or sister.  But not Mary.  Mary is alone.  A refugee from Magdala.


Before she encountered Jesus her life - tormented by demons - her life was hell.  She owes everything to Jesus.  Her life centers in Him.  Whatever family she has is this community of people following Jesus.


In the last few days she watched Jesus put on trial - paraded through the streets - ridiculed - abused - hated - spat on.  She was there as they drove nails through His hands - as He was lifted up on the cross.   She watched her friend - her Lord - watched helplessly as He died - horribly.


We know that Mary of Magdala is the first to arrive at the tomb - impassioned with the desire to honor Jesus.  When she sees the tomb empty her aloneness crashes in.  Distraught - she fears that Jesus’ body has been stolen - desecrated.


Convinced that Jesus - the only One who gave her any hope in life - convinced that Jesus is dead and His body stolen - once again she’s alone - hopeless - empty - at loss - fearful.  With the words of the angel echoing in her ears she flees the tomb.


Mark briefly tells us that Jesus first appears to Mary of Magdala.  John records that when Jesus appears to Mary - at first she thinks He’s the gardener.  She’s working to come up with a way out - a way forward.  She’s so focused on her loss - fleeing in fear - deep in uncertainty - that she’s not seeing that the answer to her fear is standing right in front of her. 


John 20:16:  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).


Jesus simply speaks her name, “Mary” and suddenly everything falls into alignment. 


Remember what Jesus said about Himself as the Good Shepherd?  “He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens.  The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”  (John 10:2-4)

“Rabbi” - “teacher” is the one word to come from Mary.  Recognition of Who Jesus is.  Rabbi’s had male disciples - not women.  But Jesus did.  Women who were invited by Jesus to be His disciples.  Mary has that unique relationship with Jesus.

Mary is not just some woman passing through the garden - part of a crowd of mourners.  Mary matters to Jesus - personally.  He cares for her.  He’s returned for her.  This whole encounter - with the angel and Jesus - is a set-up by God for her.


The Shepherd calls to the sheep to lead the sheep from the tomb - out of the valley of the shadow of death - into the garden - into green pastures - to still waters.  Not even death can sever that relationship.


Verse 10:  She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.  But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.


The disciples are in funeral mode.  Mourning and weeping - grieving and wailing - when Mary breaks in with this astounding life and history altering news.  “Jesus is alive.  I’ve seen Him.  Talked with Him.  You need to get to Galilee.”


Their response… “they would not believe it” - “it” meaning the message.


Imagine Mary telling the disciples the greatest news in history.  Telling people - people in despair and confusion - who need hope - who are just barely hanging on - people who should already want to hear that news - should be lapping it up - believing you.

“They would not”
meaning they “choose not” to believe.  Luke records that they thought it was foolishness - more like a fairy tale than reality.  If it doesn’t fit our understanding of how God and things work then it can’t be real.


There is significance for us in that.


When we’re weeping - and mourning - and confused - and lost - and wounded - at a total loss - our dreams are shattered and our lives are coming apart at the seams - when what we see ahead of us is only uncertainty - when we are so tempted to improvise a plan - to put together solutions based on our clueless understanding of our lives - when we’re fearful and thinking we’re only talking to the gardener - we need to be praying for God to open our eyes to see Jesus.  To take us  beyond our limited understanding of God and how He works.


We need to be listening for His voice.  Because the resurrected Jesus is the answer to the deepest need of our lives.


Appearance number two - verse 12:  After these things He appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.   


Luke records more of the details of the appearance.  Luke tells us that there were two men - one named Cleopas - the other’s name we’re not given.  In the afternoon these two men were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus - which is a town about 7 miles west of Jerusalem.


While these two men are walking - they’re discussing what’s taken place in Jerusalem over the last few days - talking about Jesus’ crucifixion - possibly they were there when Mary told the disciples that she's seen Jesus.  And as they're walking they're trying to make sense out of what they’d hoped - what they’d seen - what they’d heard.


While they’re walking Jesus joins them - enters into the conversation - challenges their interpretation of what they’ve seen - challenges their understanding of how God works - explains what Moses and the prophets had said about the Messiah and what they’d been seeing.


When they reach Emmaus Jesus gets invited to dinner.  At some point Jesus takes the bread - blesses it - breaks it - gives it to them.  Suddenly there’s this spiritual light bulb “a hah” moment and they get it.  And then Jesus is gone.  He removes Himself from their sight. 


The result comes in Luke 24:33:  And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.  And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed…”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.


The account in Mark is much briefer:  “After these things He [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.”


Second appearance.  Same result.  “They did not believe them.”  Notice that this time it’s not the message they don’t believe.  It’s the messengers - “them.”

Imagine telling people the reality of what you’ve experienced with Jesus - and having people just not go there. 
“We don’t believe you.”


Or, like so many today:  “What you believe is what you believe.  Everyone has their own beliefs.  It’s all good.”  Which is still, “I don’t believe you.”  But it’s just more PC.


Appearance number two - same result:  they did not believe them.”


Appearance number three - verse 14 - Jesus’ appearance to the disciples.


Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen.


“to rebuke” someone is to scold them.  Jesus is not pleased with their lack of faith - their cold hearted response to those He’s sent to them and to the message they’ve shared.  Jesus scolds them.


John fills in the details for us.  John 20 - starting at verse 19:  On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”


Jesus appears to the disciples are who are huddled together in a locked room. 


The word “fear” in Greek is “phobos” as in phobia.  Like “nomophobia” - which is the... fear of being without cellphones.


“Phobos” has the idea of terror - dread - being seized with fear - the heart stopping kind of fear that tears us apart inside - drops us dead in our tracks - makes us want to run in terror.


The disciples had narrowly escaped arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus - the One they’ve been following for 3 years - the leader of the group - has been brutally executed.  Now His body is missing.  They’re probably thinking about plots - conspiracies - against them.


As disciples of a condemned well known agitator they’re under suspicion - probably next on the list for being arrested.  They might have been trying to figure out a way to get out of Jerusalem without being picked up by the temple police or Roman authorities.


There they are - waiting to be arrested - the doors are locked - they’re in fear “phobos” of the Jews.  They’re face-to-face with the unknown.  There’s no way out.  No hope.  No solution.  Doom is certain.  Fear.


Can you relate to where these guys are at?  Fear touching us deep in our hearts.  The uncertainty of the unknown.  What do we do when the bottom drops out?  When we realize just how little control we have over our lives.


It is so like Jesus that the rebuke also comes with the greeting of peace - Jesus giving them the way forward.  There is a way forward - a better response than fear.


Jesus’ greeting, “Peace be with you.”  Was pretty standard for the day.  “Shalom.”  But coming from God - who is the source of peace - that greeting is not just a trite, “How’s it going?”


John 20:20:  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 


Huddled in a locked room in fear or in the semi-controlled chaos of our lives we long for peace.  We need peace that goes much deeper than just an absence of conflict.  Peace that goes deeper than a few moments apart from everything else we’re dealing with.


Peace that touches the deepest parts of who we are.  That becomes the inner strength and confidence we need to get up each morning and do life.  Peace that quiets the uncertainty and fear in our heart.

Jesus' reality check is His hands... His side.  "It's Me.  I'm all the answer you need.  I am your 'how do I respond' way forward peace."

Jesus was born without the disease of sin.  Born into humanity that faces certain death as a result of our sin.  And yet Jesus took on our sin - bore it on the cross - died in our place.  Rising from the dead He conquered over the worst of what we fear in this world - the crud of this world - even death.


The reality of that truth is standing face to face with the disciples in that room.  It is Jesus.  He is alive.  It’s all true.


The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:18:  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  As Jesus came and lives with us - the love of God is revealed to us.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  God is not just all-powerful - but also all-loving.  That love - sending Jesus to the cross - should drive fear from our hearts.


Then Jesus commissions His disciples:  “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.   


Which is an unexpected command to give to a bunch of guys huddled in fear in a locked room waiting for the door to be busted down and to get hauled off to their execution.  But it’s the core reason why Jesus is appearing to them and rebuking them and reminding them of Who He is and what He’s done for them - and us.


You are the one’s I’ve chosen to take My Gospel message out to the world.  You are the one’s who will take the promise of salvation to those who will believe.


Verse 17 and 18 record specific signs that will accompany those who believe.  There’s a lot of discussion about what this list of spiritual signs means - casting out demons - speaking in new tongues - handling snakes and drinking poison and healing the sick.


Let’s be careful:  This list isn’t a prescription of what we’re all suppose to be seeking after and doing.  There’s no place else in Scripture where we’re told to manipulate snakes and drink deadly poison with immunity.  Which is something we can be thankful for.  Amen?


What’s here is probably a summary of some of the amazing things that took place as these huddled in fear men - and women - choose to move forward in faith obeying Jesus their risen Savior.


Mark’s intentional abrupt ending calls for a response.  How will we respond to what we’ve been studying through since January of 2018?


The added postlude - these appearances give us what was the response to uncertainty and fear - which is a call to faith.  Faith in the risen Savior.  And to live in obedience to Him.


Verses 19 and 20 are a Prelude to what comes next.


So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.


A prelude is usually an... introduction.  Not something that comes after an afterward.  But this prelude is really about what comes after what comes after Mark’s account.  It’s the prelude to the work of God that we are still living in today.


Next Sunday we’re going to begin a study of the first 2 chapters of Acts - which is about what comes next and what that is to look like for us as the Church - those who are followers of Jesus.   What Jesus is commissioning His disciples - us - to be and to do. 


Thinking about the disciples, how did that go? 


Martyred.  Right?  Horribly.  All of them except for John - who they tried to boil him in oil but he wouldn’t boil - so they exiled Him to Patmos. 


Deaths that - huddled in the upper room - on the first day of the week - deaths that the disciples feared.  But later faced with boldness and confidence - living out their relationship with Jesus - they testified of Him.  The response the prelude points us to.


Verse 19 records Jesus ascending into heaven.  Which is good news. 


His work here is done - complete.  And now His position at the right of God is a position of power and authority and proximity.  Knowing that is an assurance for us of Jesus’ continual working - not for our salvation which is an accomplished work - but on our behalf as we seek to live in faithful obedience to God.


Thinking about that practically - notice verse 20:  [as] they went out and preached everywhere the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.


Whatever the uncertainty and fear provoking circumstances this is still Jesus’ ministry.  We are not alone as we go.  He is at work with us.  Jesus is up a ahead and we need to keep our eyes on Him as we go.


Processing all that…


Mark leaves his Roman readers stunned - hanging - trembling and in fear.  An ending that calls for a response.  The postlude is a call to faith.  The prelude is a call to live by that faith.


What about us?  What about you and me?


There are number of things that come at us in life that can cause us to be uncertain and fearful.  Each of us could make our own personal list.


We struggle with time and schedules and wonder if we can keep up.  Are we adequate for all this?  What if some debilitating illness comes?  We fear loosing control - loosing our minds - loosing control over our bodies - over our lives.  We fear failure.  We fear success.  We fear change.  We fear trusting God. 


I don’t know what fears you live with.  God does.


Grab this and don’t let go of it.  Faith is the always the answer to fear. 

We’re like the
man who went to his doctor with a terrible cold.  After his doctor examined him - the doctor said, “I want you to go home and take a very hot bath.  Then go to the window, open it, and inhale as much cold air as you can.  Then go to bed.  In a few days, come back and see me.”


The man complained, “But, doctor, if I follow your instructions I’ll catch pneumonia and I could die.”


“Don’t worry,” said the doctor, “We can’t cure the common cold, but we do have a cure for pneumonia.”  Old joke.  Bad joke.


The reality is too often we’re focused on curing the wrong disease.  We’re focused on the wrong issue.  Hiding behind locked doors - fearful of the Jews - the unknown of what may happen to us.  We’re stressing out over our circumstances.  We’re focused on our fear when we should be focused on Jesus.


Isaiah writes, “You - God - will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”  (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)


Faith is always the answer to fear.


Two takeaways from verses 9 to 20.


First:  Do not forget what you know because you fear what you do not know. 


Mark is about the facts - the truth of Who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.  That reality doesn’t change because our circumstances do. 

Second:  Do not forget Whom you know because you fear those whom you do not know.


Realize that Jesus is with you and that God will supply everything you need to do life.  Learn to trust Him and you will know His peace.






Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.