An Unusual Text
The final section of the gospel of Mark is an unusual text in many respects. Its belonging to the original gospel of Mark is disputed, and it contains several elements that make it unique. In this text, the risen Christ sends His disciples into the world (Mark 16:15), and in doing so He calls them to grapple with three challenges.
Condemnation is part of the message. The Lord commands His disciples to preach the good news to all creation, and those who believe shall be saved. So far so good. But here comes another piece: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (v. 16). The other side of the coin is that condemnation for those who don’t believe is as real as salvation is for those who do believe.
Condemnation means being judged and exiled from the kingdom of God. Especially in our generation, this sounds arrogant, outmoded, divisive, and politically incorrect. Yet, it is part of the outcome of the message of the gospel. The good news is not a message of universal salvation for all, regardless of the response. Either we believe and we are saved or we don’t believe and we are condemned. Our moral obligation as Christians is to be faithful to the message by preaching it graciously and truthfully.
The supernatural intersects with the ordinary at the end of Mark. The text is also replete with references to unusual things: demons, new tongues, snakes, deadly poison, and healings.
Many supernatural events that involve these things and experiences appear in the book of Acts. We are confronted with a world that is affected by and open to the supernatural. God is sovereign over the natural, cyclical, predictable events and is sovereign over the unpredictable and extraordinary as well.
The point here is that the supernatural is part of God’s created reality and that God is free to act in ordinary and extraordinary ways. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against our spiritual enemy.
Seated and Going
The One sitting is also the One who is changing the world. After commissioning His disciples, the risen Lord ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God (v. 19). As King of the universe, Jesus is seated now on the throne. Yet Christ, by His Spirit, continues to work.
In the outworking of His mission, there is a contrast. While Jesus is seated, His friends go out. While Jesus is on the throne, His disciples are on the road. King Jesus chooses to act through us.
Our life is not yet a place of rest but a road to walk and a world to reach. This is another unique aspect of this unusual text.