Go Into All The World
Key Verse 16:15
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
It seems that the author of this gospel, Mark, for some reason originally decided to end his gospel in chapter 16 with verse 8. The comment you see inserted before the rest of the passage says: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” This comment does not mean that Mark was not the original author of this last passage in the gospel. Nor does it reduce the credibility of the passage in any way. Instead, this section compliments the gospel perfectly. It affirms the resurrection. It also includes the Great Commission Jesus gave to his disciples. There may be a good reason why Mark may have left it out at first and then incorporated it into his gospel at a later date.
The author Mark followed Peter. He learned the gospel from Peter, who followed Jesus. And Mark recorded Peter’s recollection of the events of Jesus’ life, and later on his suffering, death and resurrection. Mark recorded these events as he heard them from his mentor Peter. He wrote down what he heard and believed. But here’s something most people do not know about this young man Mark. Mark was a believer, but a weak and timid believer. He put his faith in Jesus. But he had a hard time obeying the teachings of Jesus. He was afraid, and he could not shake that fears away. We know this from the travel stories of Paul the Apostle and Barnabas, the companion of Paul in his missionary journeys. These two men of faith had a hard time preaching the gospel in hostile Jewish and Roman territories. They also suffered from relentless persecution. Nothing bothered them. But it bothered Mark who travelled with them for a while. He just couldn’t bear the struggles and sufferings that followed these two men. Mark hated suffering. He hated hardships. And so he became a hindrance to the progress of the gospel. In the end, he ran away from the gospel work and abandoned the mission field. But that’s not the end of Mark’s story. We see him much later rejoining Paul in his campaign. It seems that Mark changed a lot during the years he ran away from his mission before rejoining Paul again. He had overcome his fear and dislike for the difficult mission gospel work. There was a time, when gospel mission was not a priority to Mark. He had believed the gospel, but had ignored the gospel mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations” because it had required sacrifice and commitment. Now, we can see why he may have omitted this last part in his gospel only to put it back in again at the end. In this last part of the gospel of Mark, we clearly see the responsibility every believer in Jesus has— the responsibility to mission— to preaching of the gospel to all people— of all nations. We can say that this last part of this passage is Mark’s faith based on his own personal experience.
In verses 9-20 Mark first talks about a woman called Mary Magdalene as an important witness to the resurrection. After that he tells us of Jesus who met with his disciples to give them the Great Commission. It is interesting that Mark would single out Mary Magdalene from among the women who went with her to the tomb that morning and who also witnessed the resurrection. Mary the mother of Jesus had visited the tomb that morning. But Mark doesn’t say a word about her. He only mentions Mary Magdalene. Look at what he says about her in verse 9. “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” Shouldn’t he have singled out the saintly Mary the mother of Jesus instead? But he singles out Mary Magdalene. It’s interesting to consider why he would do so.
Mary Magdalene had been a sinner— a notorious sinner. She was an offensive woman in whom lived seven demons. We don’t know what kind of demons occupied her heart and mind. Without doubt she had a demon of lust who tormented her with such strong desires until she threw herself into the arms of any man who showed some slight interest in her. And the demon of lust is usually accompanied with a demon of guilt who didn’t show himself until after the demon of lust had had his way with her and caused her to commit some immorality. Then the guilt demon showed himself and began to torment her about what she had done. When she could no longer bear the guilt brought about by guilt demon, then the demon of anger and that of bitterness began to torture her. When they’ve had their way with her, then the demon of indifference and that of despair rose up to make her life even more miserable. Mark tells us that Mary had seven demons! To have even one demon is intolerable. But to have seven was agony. Mary was a hopelessly lost woman who couldn’t even live with herself.
Then one day everything changed. Jesus met her on the way, and felt compassion for her. He drove the demons out of her. She had felt dirty all over her insides. But now she felt cleansed and pure for the first time in her life. She felt the forgiveness of God in her soul. Then Mary did what every one who receives the grace of Jesus does— Mary started following Jesus and his disciples to serve them. When Mark considered all the women who visited Jesus tomb and witnessed the resurrection, he mentioned Mary Magdalene. Why? Probably because Mary symbolized the beauty of Jesus’ grace of forgiveness and the love of God for all sinners. Mark himself had gladly received the grace of Jesus’ forgiveness. But he had forsaken the grace of mission. When he finally saw his sin in doing so, he must have felt like a traitor to Jesus and to gospel cause. But when he saw in Mary the grace of Jesus, he was comforted in his heart and made a leap of faith to live as a messenger of the gospel— a missionary to the world Jesus called him to serve.
Look at verses 10-13. When Mary witnessed the resurrection, she did not need to be told, but knew what she had to do. She had to go tell the others. The resurrection itself compelled her to go and to tell the others of the great event that has taken place. She could not contain such news. She ran to tell the disciples what had happened at the tomb and what had been told to her. She was sure that the disciples would believe the resurrection story. Of all people, they should believe the resurrection story. But with great surprise we see that they did not believe. We wonder why? Jesus himself tells us why. Read verse 14. “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Jesus says that they just refused to believe— that they were stubborn— that they were faithless. There was a time when they had great faith— a time when they believed everything Jesus said— and everything Jesus had done. But now they hardened their hearts— they refused to believe. So Jesus rebuked them until they decided to believe that he is Risen.
After Jesus rebuked them, he also commissioned them. Read verses 15,16. “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” This is what God commissioned the disciples to do. Of course, they were fearful— they were weak and helpless. They were also stubborn and proud. But Jesus had faith to believe that— in spite of all their weaknesses— God would work in them to make them the gospel workers for the world. Jesus believed God’s hope for them to make them the heralds of the gospel to all people. Jesus also believed that God would fulfill his purpose through them. Paul shows that kind of remarkable faith with these words: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil.1:6) Jesus himself has hope for us to complete the work he had begun in and through us.
Read verse 16. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” These are very harsh words. But they also are absolute words teaching us that the gospel itself is absolute. In these words Jesus tells us that there are no observers when it comes to the gospel. There are those who believe and those who don’t believe. For those who do not believe, a day would come when they will stand before God to tell why they did not believe— even when there had been such great evidence that the gospel is true—even when God’s love is so abundant and clear. Yet for those who believe, there will be forgiveness— and hope— and peace— and the unending love of God— which will be their salvation.
Read verses 17,18. “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” The disciples really had no means to accomplish what Jesus wanted them to do— go and make disciples of all nations— seems impossible. They also had no special abilities to fulfill the will of God in their lives. Yet Jesus promised them the power to heal— to preach— to serve the gospel to all people. Jesus also promised them security to work for his kingdom— the security to live the life of faith in a difficult world. That much Jesus promised them. How about us? We are the same if we believe. That gifts have been given to each one to serve his or her own purpose in the gospel work, wherever we may be, wherever we may go. We must believe this. Our faith does not rest on our own ability or on the possibility of whether we can or cannot do the kingdom work. Our faith rests on him, whose words are absolute and true and reliable.
Look at verse 20. “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” These words could as well be your own life story if you decide to believe. Therefore we need to close our eyes to ourselves and to our own abilities and to the world around us— and then open our spiritual eyes to see the Risen King who ascended and has given us all that we need to live a life of faith and mission. Believe the resurrection. Accept the world mission command. Have vision for what God has planned to do in and through you in this world. Let’s dedicate our lives to preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth. Amen. Read verse 15.