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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on October 22, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, October 22, 2017 from Mark 16:9-20

Theme: The story of our Lord’s actions on earth after His resurrection unfolds to us the story of our witness to the world.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

This morning, we come to our final time together in the Gospel of Mark—the Gospel of our Lord as the Servant of men.

Long ago, I suggested to you that the main verse of this Gospel was Mark 10:45. In that verse our Lord said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” And in the unfolding of this Gospel account, we have seen our Lord’s two-fold ministry set before us. First, He told us that He came to serve; and that was the content of the first ten chapters of the Gospel. In those chapters, we were told the story of the many ways that He served people; and how those acts of service testified to His nature as the Son of God in human flesh. But He didn’t come only to serve, but also to give His life as an atoning sacrifice—a ransom for many; and that was the content of Chapter 11 all the way to the end of the Gospel.

Last Sunday, we came to the story of the completion of His sacrifice for our redemption. We were told of how the women came to His tomb after His crucifixion and burial, and discovered the tomb to be empty. An angel announced to them that He had been raised from the dead; and that they should go and tell His disciples that He was going ahead to meet them in Galilee. The closing words of our last time together were those of Mark 16:8; where it says,

So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:8).

It feels as if things were left hanging. What happened after they fled away?

And now, as we come to the last time together in the Gospel of Mark, I am faced with an unusual situation. The closing 12 verses of Mark that we find in most of our Bibles proposes to tell us what happened next; but they are controversial. Some of the earliest and most important manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Most of us are using a translation of the Bible that makes note of this fact—setting these closing verses off in brackets, or indicating in some way that they are of doubtful authenticity. The Ryrie Study Bible—a very helpful guide when it comes to studying the Scriptures—has this comment: “The doubtful genuineness of verses 9-20 makes it unwise to build a doctrine or base an experience on them.” Some have suggested that Mark’s Gospel ends in an abrupt way because the last portion became lost and is missing; and that a later scribe inserted these verses to fill in the story. Others have suggested that the Gospel ends the way it does because—as far as the Holy Spirit had led Mark to write—that was the end of what was intended to be given to us. Others still have said that the portion in question—verses 9-20—is authentic; and that even some of the early church fathers quote from it.

So what should we do? Should we just ignore these twelve verses? I don’t think that would be right to do. But should we treat them as if they were an authentic and authoritative portion of Scripture? I don’t feel comfortable doing that either. And yet, these verses clearly record for us some things that are true and that are affirmed elsewhere in undisputed passages of the New Testament. It’s a real puzzle for the preacher—and also for good Bible believing followers of Jesus.

And so, here is my suggestion. Let’s read this closing portion together and consider carefully what it says. But then, let’s look together at the other portions of the New Testament where the things it tells us are affirmed in a reliable and authoritative way. I believe that if we handle this portion of Mark in this manner—even though the passage itself is of doubtful authenticity—it will end up being useful in guiding us toward important spiritual truths.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now first, let’s read it. Mark 16:9-20 picks up after the abrupt ending of verse 8—after the women had fled from the tomb of our Lord—and says;

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

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen (Mark 16:9-20).

As I read and study these twelve ‘doubtful’ verses, I find that—in spite of their doubtful origin—almost everything they say declares the truth of the story of our Lord. They declare the stories of the things that truly happened after our Lord’s resurrection, and of how the good news of His gospel began to be preached in the world. And when I put these various things together, they seem to point me toward the development of the witness we, as Jesus’ followers, are to bear to others about Him. We can see that even the apostles themselves had to be convinced of the truth that He was alive; and that once they were convinced, our Lord gave them an authoritative commission to go forth into the world and proclaim what He has done.

I believe that, if we handle this controversial passage correctly—confirming it through what is said elsewhere in the New Testament—it will give us the content of the witness we also, as followers of Jesus, are to go forth and bear in the world in response to the testimony of the apostles.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; I believe you can divide what it tells us up into four kinds of basic post-resurrection events. And so, notice first what it tells us of …


First, it tells us in verse 9 of how Jesus rose early in the morning on the first day of the week; and that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, “out of whom He had cast seven demons”.

And is this true? It certainly is. John tells us about it in John 20:11-18. After the women had reported to the apostles that the tomb was open and the body of our Lord was gone; and after Peter and John ran to the tomb and saw it empty with only the grave clothes inside, we’re told;

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her (John 20:11-18).

I love that story; don’t you? It’s one of the sweetest and yet most profound stories in the New Testament. And Mark 16:9 reports it truthfully. It also tells us in verse 10 that Mary went to the apostles who had been with Jesus while they were still mourning and weeping after His crucifixion, and told them that she had seen the resurrected Lord. Verse 11 tells us that they didn’t believe her; and the story of their unbelief is also a true report of what happened. We’re told in Luke 24:9-11;

Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:9-11).

The story of things as we find them in Mark 16—in this doubtful portion—places things in a bit of a different order of events than the other Gospels do. But its report of the initial unbelief of the apostles is clearly a faithful one.

Mark 16:13-14 goes on to tell us another story of still another appearance of our Lord after His resurrection. It tells of the two disciples He met on the road to Emmaus. The full story is told to us in Luke 24:13-35; and I hope you don’t mind if we read that whole story together:

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things? So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:13-35).

These two disciples also went and told the apostles; but as Mark 16:14 indicated to us, they didn’t believe that report either. And do you notice how these last few verses in Mark 16 seem to stress repeatedly that the apostles of our Lord had a hard time believing that He was actually alive from the dead? Verse 14 tells us that the Lord finally appeared to them all as they were gathered together; and that He rebuked them for their unbelief and for the fact that they didn’t believe those who had told them that He was alive. This too is a true report of what actually happened; and it’s told to us in John 20:19-29:

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:19-29).

Now; I find it comforting—and, itself, a very authenticating part of the story of the gospel—that the apostles had to keep hearing the report of others and had to be convinced of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus themselves before they could faithfully preach it. It shows that they weren’t simple-minded, gullible men who just believed whatever amazing thing was told to them only because it had been told to them. They had to wrestle with believing such an amazing thing—just like countless people throughout the centuries would have to do who heard their testimony afterward. And it also taught them what it feels like to have to depend on the testimony of others before they declared their testimony to us.

Praise God that they all became so convinced that Jesus was alive that they willingly laid down their lives for that testimony—and that they faithfully passed that testimony on to us!

* * * * * * * * * *

So then, the Lord Jesus appeared and presented Himself to the apostles; and they too became convinced that our Lord was alive. And next, Mark 16 tells us about …


The story that is told to us in Mark 16:15-18 is of an event that happened after Jesus appeared to them in the upper room. It tells of something that happened at the end of His forty day of appearing to them after His resurrection—just before He ascended before them. It tells of what we have become accustomed to call ‘the Great Commission’. We’re told about it at the end of Matthew’s Gospel—in Matthew 28:16-20:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:16-20).

What an important event! Those are our marching orders in this world. And this disputed passage in Mark’s Gospel reports it truthfully.

It also mentions some of the events that would accompany the preaching of the good news of Jesus—of how the message declared by the apostles would be authenticated. And many of the things that are told to us are also attested elsewhere in the New Testament. For example, we’re told that the gospel would be accompanied by the casting out of demons; and in Acts 5:16, we’re told of the ministry of Peter in Jerusalem of healing people:

Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:16).

We’re also told in Acts 8:47 of what happened to Philip the Evangelist—one of those who went out preaching the message that had been given by the apostles;

Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city (Acts 8:4-7).

Clearly, the forces of darkness were being defeated by the message of the gospel! This was a sign of the divine authority of the message that the apostles had been given. And as Mark’s Gospel tells us, so was the sign of tongues. We’re told in Acts 2:1-4, when the Holy Spirit first came upon the followers of Jesus after His ascension:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

This same sign was also demonstrated in Acts 10 and in Acts 19. Then it goes on to speak of how those commissioned to proclaim the gospel would also take up serpents and suffer no harm. This was not like the strange and reckless practice that we see in some cult groups today (a practice often followed by funerals); but rather a true miracle. We’re told this in Acts 28:3-6—in the story of Paul’s shipwreck on the Isle of Malta;

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (Acts 28:3-6).

Paul, of course, corrected their error. But he then also found that the miracle had authenticated his message to them, and enabled his preaching to them. Mark’s Gospel speaks of how the saints would drink deadly poison unharmed; and though we don’t have any stories in the Scriptures of this, there is a story in an early record of church history of how Papias—a disciple of the apostle John—knew of a believer who had been given deadly poison and yet lived. And then, we’re told of the healing of the sick. Acts 5:12-16 tells us;

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5:12-15).

Acts 28:7-9 also tells us of Paul’s ministry on the Isle of Malta;

In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed (Acts 28:7-9).

When the Lord Jesus gave His great commission, He gave it as a commission that was backed-up by His own authority. And the miracles that the apostle’s performed demonstrated the divine authority of their message.

We preach that same authoritative message today. God only needed to demonstrate the authority of it once in history; and He did it through those miracles. The authority of the message, however, remains even today when we preach it.

* * * * * * * * * *

And then, the closing verses of Mark’s Gospel tell us of …


Mark 16:19 tells us that, after our Lord’s post-resurrection activities on earth were completed, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. This too is a true report. Luke 24:50-53—in the closing words of that Gospel—says that He finished His words to the apostles;

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen (Luke 24:50-53).

That’s the closing words of the Gospel of Luke. But Luke also wrote the Book of Acts. And here’s what Luke tells us in Acts 1;

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

Do you know why it’s important to our witness of the gospel that our Lord’s ascension to the right hand of God the Father? It’s because it affirms our Lord’s authority. When He gave the Great Commission, He gave it as the one who has been given “all authority” in heaven and on earth. And so, today, when He says to go and preach His gospel, there is no one anywhere who has the authority to say, “Don’t!” He sits at the Father’s right hand as if to affirm that the work of redemption is done, that the message is to now be proclaimed, and that He will come back in power and great glory to receive those who have believed on Him. In Acts 2:32-35, Peter preached to his Jewish brethren on the day of Pentecost and said;

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (Acts 2:32-35).

Even this is affirmed in the last few words of Mark’s Gospel.

* * * * * * * * * *

And there’s one more thing these closing twelve verses affirm to us; and that is …


The closing verse of Mark’s Gospel tells us that the apostles went forth to preach everywhere—and that the Lord worked through them and confirmed His word with accompanying signs. This too is a true report. Acts 2:43 tells us;

Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles (Acts 2:43).

Acts 4:29-33 tells us of how the believers were commanded by the authorities to be quiet about the message of Jesus Christ. They were even threatened with punishment. But they gathered together and prayed;

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:29-33).

We should trust in that confirmation too. Our Lord has given us a commission to proclaim Him to the world. And we can be sure that when we do so—even if we must suffer for it—He will nevertheless stand behind every word He has said, and will confirm the truth of His message to those He has appointed for salvation.

* * * * * * * * * *

So as you can see, even though these words in the closing chapter of Mark’s Gospel are of doubtful authenticity, what they proclaim has nevertheless been faithfully authenticated elsewhere in the New Testament; and what it reports to us are true events. Together, these stories help us to see how the story of our witness to the world of the Lord Jesus Christ has unfolded—the story of the Savior of all who place their trust in Him.

I think a great way to close is to borrow from the conclusion of another one of the Gospels—the Gospel of John. In John 20:30-31, it says;

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31).

When we read that, we can all agree with the final word of these twelve questionable verses—and whether it is authentically from Mark or not, nevertheless embrace it as our own:

Amen (Mark 16:20).

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