Good morning church! We have reached the last passage in the gospel of Mark. We do have one more passage which we skipped earlier that we will study next week but we are almost at the end. And I was looking at some of the timelines and I think we started studying this in late 2017, so it’s been almost 1.5 years and God’s been faithful in revealing Jesus Christ in much more deeper ways to our hearts.

So as we are looking at Mark 16:9-20 – In most of our bibles it’ll have something mentioned in brackets saying that these verses don’t appear in the earliest manuscripts of Mark. The most likely explanation for that is that it was added later on.

So how do we interpret this passage as a church? I think it’s best to see this as true events which we’ll see are mentioned in all the other gospel accounts but was added later on to Mark. However, I don’t want us this morning to focus on the controversy but rather the message (main point) which is our call to take the gospel to all the world!

Now this passage like the passage in Matt 28 is a very familiar one I’m sure. Many of us have probably heard many messages on the Great Commission but before I get to the commission I want us to ask ourselves this question: We all know what Christ has commanded us to do, but what stops us from doing what He has commanded us to do? And I’m not preaching from a place where I’ve figured this out or I’m acing this but I’m also learning and growing in this. So the question to me and all of us today is:

1. What stops us from doing what Christ has commanded us to do?

The answer is UNBELIEF.

In this passage right before the great commission we see the disciples also struggling with unbelief. They should’ve been out rejoicing and declaring the gospel but instead we see them in disbelief. We see Mary Magdelene meeting Jesus and going back and telling the 11 disciples but “they would not believe”.

 Later that day two other disciples met Jesus on the road and they went back and reported this to the 11 disciples but “they didn’t believe”. And this is not simply unbelief due to ignorance, this is staunch, stubborn unbelief. That’s why when Jesus meets the disciples, it says that he rebuked them for the unbelief and hard heartedness.

Was Jesus being too hard on them for their unbelief. What did they fail to believe regarding Jesus Christ which made Jesus rebuke them?

  • Words: In the gospel of Mark we’ve seen how Jesus in very clear terms told his disciples about what would happen to him. He did this not once, not twice but three times at least.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31) So they clearly didn’t believe in Jesus’ words and prophecy about His resurrection.

  • Works : Jesus had performed unbelievable unimaginable miracles right in front of his disciples. He cast out demons from people. He healed those that were blind, deaf and mute instantly. He healed those that were isolated from society like lepers with skin diseases and a woman who had a severe bleeding problem. He miraculously provided a full meal for 5000 men (probably 10K + people) and 4000 people with a few loaves and fish in a desert. He made the wind and the waves obey Him. And He even raised up Jairus’ daughter from the dead! So it’s not like Jesus was an ordinary person who said these things. He did things that only God could do because He is the Son of God. And yet they didn’t believe in his power or nature.
  • Witnesses of the risen Christ : Finally we also see 3-4 different people saying that they personally met and encountered the risen Christ and still the disciples (the close ones of Jesus) disbelieve. In fact in Luke 24:11 it describes that when they were told about the risen Christ, it only seemed to them like an idle tale.

Okay, I know in what all they failed to believe about the risen Christ but if we have to go one step deeper, why do you think that’s the case? Why is it that the closest ones to Jesus Christ who followed Him up close didn’t believe?

  • Pride: They trusted their own intellect, their own rational mind and their senses – they were probably like “we saw Jesus dying on the cross and then buried in a tomb. There’s no way in which a man who died like that can come back to life”. Their pride stopped them from believing what God was able to do by raising Jesus from the dead.  
  • Insecurity: Now this is a big reason that we tend to miss out on. If they actually believed in Jesus Christ rising from the dead, then that would change their lives forever. They weren’t prepared to face the reality of the risen Christ. So they would rather be in denial and unbelief rather than surrender their lives completely to the risen Christ.

So what I want us to recognize is that just like the disciples – in our hearts we also struggle with unbelief and hard-heartedness. And that’s what prevents us from being on mission and doing what God has called us to do.

In our pride and insecurity, we fail to believe either the words of Christ (Great Commission) or the power of Christ (that Jesus can actually save and transform people through the gospel) or we fail to believe the witnesses of Christ (testimonies in Scripture and from people that we know). Unbelief is a problem of heart which needs RENEWAL.

2. How can we be renewed?

Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”.

It’s telling us that faith cannot be manufactured but comes when we hear the word of Christ! What does that mean? It means filling our hearts with the truth about who Jesus is – His power, His glory, His majesty, His wisdom beyond comprehension, His personal understanding of our hearts and our circumstances.

His mercy and compassion. His humility. And all of these characteristics are brilliantly echoed in the redemptive work of Jesus. All of history has been centred around & defined by what Christ accomplished through His finished work on the cross. Everything in history is reliant on the person and work of Jesus. And whenever we hear intently and see Jesus in Scripture, it builds and grows our faith. That’s why we need to continue to encourage each other to have time in the Scripture every single day. Because we cannot manufacture faith by ourselves – it comes by hearing the word of Christ!

But sometimes we can mistakenly think that “hearing the word of Christ” means knowledge only. Someone might say “I listen to 3 sermons every single day and so my faith is being built”. Not necessarily. In fact the Scripture tells us that knowledge apart from love puffs us up and makes us prideful nullifying the effect of the knowledge we’ve acquired. So here’s what I want us to learn and understand – faith is knowing Christ firsthand through the Word.

Not knowledge about Christ. It’s experiential knowledge. Think about it in terms of a close friendship. How does a friendship mature into a close friendship? Just by being bombarded with facts and more knowledge about the other person? No! The close friendship develops by spending time with that person, understanding the other person, opening up your life to the other person, enjoying your time with the other person and sacrificing your needs for the well-being of the other person.

What would pride and insecurity do in that relationship? Mess it up. All of us would agree that these are things absolutely essential in any close friendship. This is so much more true in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

When it comes to dealing with our unbelief in God’s mission and what He calls us to do, the answer is in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through the Bible. The more we see Jesus and beauty and His power and His grace in the Bible “firsthand” through a real intimate relationship, the more faith will be built up in our hearts to pursue God’s mission.

The more organic and natural will witnessing be to us. I still remember meeting an elderly uncle called MC John a few years back in Kerala. Someone told me about him and I went to him for some advice in ministry. I was astonished to see his knowledge of Scripture by memory and yet he had a very humble spirit in him. For every advice he gave me, he quoted a scripture from the Bible. I spent probably 30mins with this uncle and I left his home rejoicing in the Lord.

He was 77 years old when I met him but he had a passion like a 20 year old. I wish God can enable me to have his kind of joy and excitement when I’m in my older years. Did he know the Lord? Yes, quite personally. Did someone need to force him to witness for Jesus? No. It came out so naturally because he couldn’t separate the Lord Jesus from his life.  

3. How does this push us forward into mission?

Now that Jesus Christ has been sacrificed, and sin and its effects have been destroyed, V15-16 talks about this idea of “Going” or “travelling” to meet and engage with all the inhabitants in this world. It’s no longer one type of people – no longer just Jews or nominal Christians – but everyone. And we are “heralds” – people sent as an official spokespersons bringing the good news of God to people. And that’s the reason why we began the neighbourhood GCs – it’s not because we didn’t have anything else to plan for this year.

Rather we see this as an application of the command to “Go” to people who you would normally not find in and around a church setting.   My challenge to everyone who is either leading a neighbourhood GC or part of a local GC in your area…is pick out a day in the week to just meet for prayer regularly and ask God to stir up your hearts in such a way where your answer to God would be like Isaiah after he saw the vision of the Lord – “Here I am…Send me”.

Finally v17-18 talks about God’s power and His protection to be with His heralds or spokespersons. I know we are just a day away from voting. We should vote wisely but let’s remember that ultimately no matter who is in the government and who is ruling, our call to “Go and proclaim the gospel to everyone” does not change. Rather what we need and what God has promised is His power and His protection to go with us as we are on mission. And Jesus has promised that!

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