“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:19-20)
Every word in these two verses is of immense importance. We ought to read them with great care, praying that God the Holy Spirit will both teach us their meaning and seal them to our hearts.
“So then…” — That is a good way to wrap things up. Mark is here drawing his gospel narrative to a close. He is wrapping up his message. He is bringing his story to its conclusion. He is saying to us, “This is the conclusion to the story of the earthly life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.” What will the conclusion be? How will he finish the story? Read on…
“So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them…” — Notice how Mark speaks of the Master, the risen Christ. While on the earth, he wore the name of his humiliation, “Jesus.” But here Mark speaks of him as “the Lord.” That is more than a title of respect. It is a title of respect, which identifies our Lord Jesus Christ as “the Lord,” not “a” Lord, not one Lord among many Lords, but “The Lord.” Then he proceeds to describe his lordship.
Let us ever speak with reverence when we speak of our God and Savior. To speak his name lightly, or without the intention of bringing honor to him is to take his name in vain. — “Holy and reverend is his name!”
What is Mark referring to when he says, “after the Lord had spoken unto them”? We know, of course, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the eternal Word in and by whom God reveals himself to men. Without him, apart from him, God cannot be known by man. Man’s quest for God, his search after God, is like a blind man groping about in a dark void. No man knows who God is until God is revealed in the Person and work of the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3, 14, 16-18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:1-3).
Christ is the living Word of whom the written Word speaks. Jesus Christ is God; and he alone is the Revelation of God. God does not speak to men, nor will he be spoken to by men, except through the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, our Mediator.
But John is here talking specifically about that which our Lord had spoken just before his ascension and exaltation. He is talking about the Lord’s commission to his church to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and the Lord’s promise to confirm them as his servants and give success to their labors, as well as his own unceasing companionship unto the end of time. He promised us his presence, his protection and his power forever. We do not have to guess about this. The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that this is what he is referring to here (Acts 1:2-3).
When our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, had finished everything he came here to do, “he was received up into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of God.” How utterly thrilling that is to my soul. He who is my Savior, he who came here to save me, who shed his blood to redeem me, who gave his Spirit to quicken and preserve me, has been received up into heaven! There’s a Man in Glory! What does that mean? That means men are welcome in Glory! If one man entered into the holy place, perhaps another can. If there’s a Man in Glory, maybe this man will be found there!
The Lord Jesus “was received up into heaven.” He was received there as the God-man, our Mediator, as “the Lord our Righteousness,” as our sin-atoning Sacrifice and Substitute, as our Great High Priest and all-prevailing Advocate and as our Forerunner (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). When our Lord Jesus Christ was received up into heaven, the angels of God watched him and worshipped him, Satan and the devils were led captive by him, and his Father crowned him.
“He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” He sat down because his work was done. He sat down on the right hand of God, the place of supreme dignity and power, because he is the King of Glory (John 17:2; Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 10:11-14; Psalm 24:1-10).
Child of God, here is a blessed cordial for your heart and soul in this world of sorrow and woe. — Christ sits upon the throne of grace, the throne of sovereign, universal power and dominion. He who loved us and gave himself for us is the absolute Monarch of the universe.
Living in this evil world, in this world of trouble, care and heartache, we are often cast down. Living in this world of sin and death, we are decaying; our bodies and minds are wearing away, as they must. We have before us the prospect of death and judgment and eternity. Here is our comfort: — We lean back upon him who is our Lord and Savior, the King of Glory. We cast ourselves upon him. We fall into his omnipotent arms. We are weak; but he is strong. We grow weary and sleep; but he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. We fall; but he never can. We are dying; but he is Life!
J.C. Ryle wrote, “Blessed indeed is this thought! Our Savior, though unseen, is a living person. We travel on towards a dwelling where our best Friend is gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). The Forerunner has entered in and made all things ready”
Once the Lord Jesus was received up into heaven, “they went forth and preached everywhere.” They went because they were sent. — “How can they preach, except they be sent?” They preached. That is the business (the only business) of God’s church, and that is the business (the only business) of God’s servants!
They preached what they knew: — The Gospel. They preached Christ. Christ is the Gospel. As Robert Hawker put it, “Christ in himself is comprehensive of the whole Gospel.” The words “preach,” “preached” and “preaching” are used 37 times in the Book of Acts. Every time, the subject matter preached is Jesus and the Resurrection. Unless Christ is preached, no preaching has been done in the biblical sense of the word.
They preached everywhere. That is the sphere of our labor. To the best of our ability in the generation in which we live it is our responsibility to preach the gospel to all men everywhere.
The Lord’s Work
“The Lord working with them!” — Imagine that! What a Companion in labor they had! But Christ is more than our co-laborer. We are the tools. He is the Worker. We are just hoes and hoses in his hands, by which he tends his garden. He works with us, using us as he sees fit in his vineyard (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
Would to God we could learn this! It would put an end to all jealousy, envy, strife and division among God’s servants. The work is the Lord’s. He works with his tools as he sees fit, where he pleases, to accomplish his purpose. And he does it in such a way as to exalt himself and abase man, “that no flesh should glory in his presence.” Yet, we could not be more highly honored, for “we are laborers together with God.”
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” — Read the Book of Acts, and you will see how this fact is demonstrated time and again. Read the history of God’s church in this world, and you will see this Scripture emblazoned upon the pages of history.
“The Word of God is not bound.” — The Word of truth is not preached in vain. In spite of Satan’s rage, in spite of persecutions from popes and pagans, politicians and priests, the Word of God has flourished from land to land, from people to people, and from generation to generation. God has caused his little vine, sown in a dry, desert wilderness, to grow into a huge, fruitful tree.
We have seen these words fulfilled for ourselves. Have we not? I ask you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, do you not see the confirmation of God’s power and grace upon us to do the work he has sent us to do? The Word of God by his prophet Isaiah (2:3) is fulfilled in our midst every day, even as it was in the apostolic era.
I have been preaching the gospel of Christ for over forty years. In all those years, I have never yet knocked at a door he did not open, come to a raging sea he did not divide before me, met an enemy he did not slay, or have a need he did not supply.
These things were written for our learning, for our comfort, for our encouragement. The Word of God is never preached in vain. Our labor spent in the cause of Christ is never labor spent for nothing. We may never see the result of our work for Christ while we live in this world. If we did, our chests would burst with horrible pride. But in that day when God makes all things manifest, we will see that our labor was not in vain. Let us cast our bread upon the waters, and wait. After many days, it shall return (Psalm 126:6; Isaiah 55:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
There is one more word in Mark’s gospel that must be understood. Do not overlook it. — “Amen.” That means, “So be it,” or “So it shall be.” Here Mark says, “Amen,” to all that Christ did. I do too. — “Amen,” to all that Christ taught. I do too. — “Amen,” to all that Christ sent us to do. I do too. — “Amen,” to all that Christ promised to do with us. I do too. I say, “Amen,” to the purpose of God in Christ, the revelation of God in Christ, the Word of God revealing Christ, and the work of God by Christ.
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