The Gospel Goes Forth
“They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”- Mark 16:20
Today, we come to the final verse of the longer ending of Mark’s gospel and thus to the end of our study of this New Testament book. Mark 16:20 tells us in one brief sentence what the rest of the New Testament Scriptures tell us, namely, that the original disciples of Jesus went forth as His Apostles, preaching everywhere as the Lord Jesus Himself worked in and through them to confirm the gospel message with “accompanying signs.”
Christ’s confirming the message with miraculous signs supports our study of Mark 16:17–18, wherein we said that the gift of miracles was operative only in the Apostolic era in order to confirm the Apostles as representatives of God and deliverers of divine revelation. Such is the pattern throughout redemptive history. The Bible gives no indication that miracles were an everyday occurrence from creation through the first century. Instead, we see particular periods wherein miracles were abundant followed by periods of quiet. There was a flurry of miracles that attended Moses’ ministry when God revealed the law to Israel. Many miracles attended Elijah as God formalized the prophetic ministry during the divided monarchy. And the era of Jesus and the Apostles, when God established the new covenant, saw many miracles as well. Our Creator certainly continues to govern His creation and even intervene in extraordinary ways on occasion. But miracles as events that confirm new divine revelation do not take place today because there is no special revelation being given.
What is most remarkable about Mark 16:20 is the evident enthusiasm that the Apostles had to preach everywhere. After all, Mark’s gospel tells us repeatedly that the disciples were slow to understand Jesus or to know who He is (4:41; 6:52; 8:14–21; 9:32). When they should have stood boldly by Jesus’ side, the disciples ran away or denied that they knew Him (14:50, 66–72). Even after Jesus rose from the dead as He said He would, the disciples doubted (16:9–13). Only once during our Lord’s ministry did they grasp that He is the Son of God, and then it was only because the Father had given such understanding (8:27–30; see Matt. 16:13–20).
This should be expected. Though there is abundant evidence in Mark’s gospel and elsewhere that Jesus is the Son of God, no one will believe it unless God gives them faith (Mark 1:1; 3:11; 15:39; see John 3:1–8). But once the Lord grants such faith, those to whom He gives it cannot help but to proclaim the gospel.
When God saves His people, He equips them to preach the gospel according to their abilities where they find themselves. The gospel message is not something we can keep to ourselves, but we must proclaim the lordship of Christ to our children, our spouses, our friends, our family, and our communities. Let us pray for boldness to preach the gospel, and let us make disciples where God has called us.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5