“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all 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 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.’ After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”—Mark 16:15–20 (NIV)
Note: Mark 16:9–20 didn’t exist in the earliest Greek manuscripts we have of the Gospel of Mark. That doesn’t, however, mean that it was always part of the original Gospel account. While this troubles some Christians, a large number of very early church fathers, scholars, and Christian writers refer to this passage in their writings. This shows that early Christians (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Papias, Hippolytus, Vicentius, and more) knew about this passage and accepted it as genuine. In addition, the overwhelming majority of ancient manuscripts do include this passage. Greek scholar A.T. Robertson stated, “It is difficult to believe that Mark ended his Gospel with verse 8 unless he was interrupted. A leaf or column may have been torn off at the end of the papyrus roll.”
It’s extremely unlikely that Mark ended his Gospel so abruptly with the women simply being afraid but seeing no concrete evidence of the resurrected Jesus, just an empty tomb. Thus, the idea that some surviving earlier manuscripts were simply torn and missing these passages is valid as the earliest testimony we presently have from trusted church fathers, scholars, and leaders demonstrates that the earliest Christians accepted Mark 16:9–20 as genuine.
In this passage, Jesus gives a final command to His disciples to “preach the gospel to all creation.” Similarly, in Matthew 28:19 (NIV) He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
Sadly, an overwhelming majority of us today balk at or, in most cases, completely disregard this command to proclaim the good news. But why is it so important we share the good news? Because of the bad news. Mark 16:16 (NIV, emphasis added) says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
It’s interesting and relevant for us to note that the idea of taking one’s faith to all nations simply wasn’t a part of Jewish thinking back then—or the non-Jewish thinking for that matter. This was a revolutionary idea. People didn’t go out to try to convert others to their religious beliefs. The Greeks didn’t try to get people to embrace their gods, neither did the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, or Israelites.
This isn’t far off from Western, post-modern, progressive ideology today: Believe what you want, but don’t push your beliefs on others, and don’t let your beliefs hinder anyone else from living their truth.
The problem with this, again, is the bad news is whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. Jesus took the condemnation of humanity and paid the price for us on the cross. But whoever dies without having received His grace and salvation will stand condemned and go to hell.
This thought should keep us up at night. It should move us to action, because God has made the vehicle through which the gospel is disseminated throughout the world. He’s included us in His redemptive work and commanded us to declare the good news so people may be saved. And guess what? Jesus gave His disciples a promise of power and protection. Does this mean we’ll all be able to drink poison and speak in tongues? No. It’s possible He will provide miraculous protection or do something amazing in a moment as it serves His purposes and advances the gospel, but this is meant to convey a promise of protection and provision in the context of the dangers inherent in the worldwide spread of the gospel. Handling snakes isn’t an added perk to our discipleship journey.
God has commanded you to be His ambassador as though He Himself were making His appeal to the world (2 Corinthians 5:17–20). But there’s an amazing promise in that calling. Matthew 28:20 (NLT) says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Rest in this promise today, friends. He has called you, He has equipped you, and He will work in, through, and around you as you surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the good works He has prepared in advance for you to walk in!
Pause: What is the Christian’s purpose in life?
Practice: This week, pray for someone in your life who doesn’t know Jesus yet. Ask the Lord to open their heart to receive Him and to open a door for you to share the gospel, to give you the boldness to share, and for the words to flow from the Spirit and not from you. Then when He makes a way, when the Spirit leads, preach the gospel to them!
Pray: Father, thank You for this account of Your Son’s life and work. Thank You for all You’ve done in my heart, mind, and life through this study. I pray this lesson and all the lessons and wisdom Your Spirit impressed upon me would take root and that I would walk in Your purposes and plans for me. Help me, empower me, protect me, and provide me with the opportunities to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the people around me so they may be saved and no longer stand condemned in sin. Amen.