The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 16:9-20, to download or stream the audio sermon. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you listen.

Mark 16:9-20, On The Subject of Faith
• The comforting promise the Lord Jesus gave us all who believe is, that He will be with us always. But it is a promise we take lightly, and often times it is a promises we don’t even consider, especially in the times we need to. None-the-less, we’ll come back to this.
• Something you might first notices is that verses 9 through 20 are probably in brackets, or there is a marginal note explaining that these verses do not appear in the most ancient manuscripts. So Mark ends his gospel with the blazing reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ gripping the souls of these women with wonder and astonishment.

• Now, we can spend the next 40 minutes debating the origins of these verses, and whether they are Scripture or not. But that is not why we studied Mark’s Gospel.
• The reality is, Mark’s writing of the Gospel, ends in verse 8. So why does he end the way he ends? Throughout the Gospel, Mark wrote abruptly. A key word we saw was, ‘immediately.’ He has nothing before the ministry of Jesus, and he has nothing after the resurrection of Jesus.

• And therefore, he proves his point, that Jesus is the Son of God, and Mark proves it by following Him in His ministry to His resurrection. So the last word that Mark wrote was the word afraid, fear. Not in the sense that they were afraid for their lives, but this word phobeō, refers to their amazement. And so the Gospel ends in wonder.
• Which is another key word throughout the Gospel. Mark 1:22, “They were amazed at His teaching.” Verse 27, after Jesus casts out a demon; “They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves.” Chapter 2:12, “He healed the paralytic, and they were all amazed and were glorifying God saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this.’”
• In Mark 4:41, “He calmed the storm and they became very much afraid, and they said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” You get the picture. This is his pattern!
• However, we still have verses 9-20 before us. So we’ll look at this final section with the theme of calling the disciples from unbelief to belief. Now we’ll do that with three headings, as we deal with our hearts which are so prone to unbelief even though our Lord promised to always be with us.

  1. The Heart of Unbelief:
    • Text – v9-14
    • Explanation – Now we see that the witness of Mary, and the witness of two other disciples, wasn’t enough to convince the unbelieving. Why is that? Mark 14:72 records the grief of Peter, now his grief has influenced everyone around him. What Mark doesn’t say is, Peter & John ran to the empty tomb.
    • But that is all there is, emptiness. One could make the argument that within Jewish society, a woman’s testimony did not bear much weight. But that is not why they don’t believe her. Two witnesses come along and tell them the same thing, and their response? Disbelief.

• Illustration – According to Deuteronomy 19:16, two witnesses establish a truth. Mary’s testimony came as a lone witness. However, you now have 3 witnesses that Jesus has risen. And yet, they still don’t believe. Don’t think that these two men were holding back their testimony.
• Turn to Luke 24:13-35. Our two travellers in Mark presupposes and summarizes the story of the resurrected Jesus appearing to two travelers on their way to Emmaus. At first they didn’t recognize Him. Even when He sat with them. Only when He vanished from before them, did they make sense.

• Application – So immediately they were filled with excited and ran to tell the disciples the wonderful news. Only to find them seated with unbelief. Listen, in addition to these testimonies, you have two other women who are in shook from what the angels told them. Look at verse 8. Their silence, facial expressions and body language – testify of something extraordinary they witnessed.
• But there is nothing more tragic than the refusal of the disciples to receive such witness, even when it was the answer to their problems. Remember, the unbelief of the disciples has been a constant theme of Mark’s Gospel: they are still the same, even after the resurrection of Jesus.

• Conclusion – It almost seems as if the disciples, in the stubbornness of their sorrow, had actually preferred unbelief to God’s joyous truth of the resurrection. Now verse 14 tells us they were rebuked for their unbelief and hardness of heart.
• So what is the heart of unbelief? The word represents two Greek words that translate “disobedience” and “distrust.” The problem isn’t their unbelief in the witnesses, it is their unbelief in Christ Himself. They are disobeying His command for them to go to Galilee. They distrust His promise of being resurrected. You put those two together, and you get their unbelief.

• Bridge – Friends, when these two realities are married in our hearts; that produces unbelief. When we disobey God’s Word, we are assuming He is not Lord over our lives. And when we don’t trust His Word, we are assuming He isn’t true.
• But He is true, and He is Lord. And even when we don’t believe Him, it doesn’t change these truths. We need to change. We need to trust Him, and we need to obey Him. Especially in the times where we experience overwhelming worldly pressure. This brings us to…

  1. The Task of Continuous Belief:
    • Text – v15-18
    • Explanation – Now having been rebuked by the Lord, and having to time to consider His Word, we find them in Galilee. According to Matthew 28:16, they finally obeyed His command. And so they are challenged with the command to once again, ‘go!’
    • This time, not to another town, but to go beyond the world they have always known. See, that’s the remedy for someone who trusts in the Lord. Faith will lead to the proclamation of the Gospel. For that is the evidence of our trust in Him, and our obedience to His Word.

• Illustration – So they are commanded to continue believing through the task of proclaiming the Gospel to all. Right, not to the Jew apart from the Gentile, or vice versa, but to all people. The point is, there’s not a separation. The only separation is between the believing and the condemned.
• The gospel is not only of universal significance but also of eternal consequence for salvation or damnation. John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

• Application – Now it is faith that justifies and unbelief that condemns. So Christian faith is to be symbolized and sealed in baptism. Baptism doesn’t save anyone, but it is a physical testimony and evidence for one who is saved. Furthermore, according to verses 17-18, the consequence of salvation is not only assurance and peace but also signs of power.
• Remember, there was no complete written word for the church. So these signs included casting out demons, speaking in tongues, healing the ill by the laying on of hands, and preservation from harm in handling snakes and drinking poison.

• Just a side note, the snake bites refers surviving poisonous snakebites in Acts 28:3–6 and Luke 10:19. Today there are Pentecostals who actually practice this act as a form to prove your faith. Christ isn’t telling these guys to prove their faith. It is because of their faith and obedience that these thing would happen.
• With regard to drinking “deadly poison,” there is no account of drinking poison with immunity in the NT, although Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.9) speaks of Justus Barsabas (the disciple not chosen in Acts 1:23), who drank poison without harm. Sadly the drinking of poison became a cult in late first century

• Conclusion – The signs are to be given to those who believe, not primarily in order that they may believe. This promise is a word for the church; it is for those within, not for those outside. Every one of these evidential ‘signs’, except the drinking of poison, is recorded in the history of the early church in Acts.
• Bridge – And for what purpose? So that believers would continue in the task of belief. It was for comfort, and confirmation, and courage; which brings us to the final heading.

  1. The Comfort of Believing:
    • Text – v19-20
    • Explanation – Never has so little been said about such a monumental event. Only Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) had been taken to heaven in their physical bodies. Unlike what happened in Emmaus, where Jesus suddenly vanished, here He rose up into heaven in a physical, literal form as they watched.
    • In the account of this scene in Acts 1:10-11, two angels asked the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking [longingly, as if they were losing someone] into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

• Illustration – Now the comfort is this, although He left, the Lord would still be with them (Matt. 28:20) through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord is with all believers! In addition, if Jesus does not go away, the Helper will not come (John 16:7).
• So here’s the comfort, God raised Jesus from the grave and exalted Him to His right hand in heaven (Ephesians 1:20). Yet for 40 days Jesus made many bodily appearances to His disciples. But the 40th day was different. With His disciples looking on, He slowly ascended into the sky until a cloud hid Him from view (Acts 1:9).

• Application – From heaven Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to replace His bodily presence. Christ would form the church and rule as its Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). By His Spirit, He would live within His followers and fill them with peace and power.
• From the seat on the right, He would intercede for them before the Father’s throne (Hebrews 7:25). He would no longer be visibly present, but He would still be with them, in a much closer way. The same is true for us as believers today. That’s why we can be thankful that Jesus ascended to heaven.

• Conclusion – More so, John 14:2-3 tells us “I go to prepare a place for you. . . . I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” So we can also be comforted, trusting that Jesus has reserved our place with Him. An ancient writing says that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven “our entrance to secure, and our home to prepare.”
• What a wonderful Saviour we have! “He who came to save us, He who bled and died, Now is crowned with glory at His Father’s side; Nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die, Jesus, King of glory, is gone up on high. —Havergal

• Bridge – Friends, let your faith be comforted, Jesus ascended to heaven that He might continue His work on earth, through us, the church! So what can we take home today? My dear friends who have been called according to His purpose, when you struggle to believe His word – as you face financial battles, emotional setbacks, health problems, fear of an unknown future because God’s plans are different from yours; there is no condemnation.

• Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is a truth you shouldn’t preach to those around you, but to yourself on a daily basis. And as your trial grows, and your faith shrinks, proclaim the Gospel of the living Lord to yourself!
• And then you will be ever more aware of His promise, that His presence is with you always. That He is with you always; whether you struggle with your grossest sin, or doubt His hand of provision; He is with you. So head up friends, go and make Him known, trusting that He continually works in and through you. Amen!