IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Good News

Date: May. 31, 2020

Author: Michael Mark

Mark 16:9-20

Key Verse: Mark 20

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

In these recent times it seems like we need good news more and more.  Hearing of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact seemed bad enough.  The global spread of the virus has caused worldwide lockdowns and shelter in place, many businesses have had to close or reduce services, millions of jobs were lost and basic day to day necessities like toilet paper became scarce.  Add to that the recent increase in violence, protests and riots, we are living in a pretty crazy time.  There are some social media outlets trying to promote good news in the midst of this, to try to give us something encouraging to see.  On Instagram there is an account called “Good News Movement,” that shows the good things people are doing for one another in these times.  A popular video series streaming on YouTube, even amongst my coworkers is “Some Good News, hosted by actor John Krasinski.  But my dear brothers and sisters, there is some good news that’s even better than that.  There is a good news movement that has been going on, unbroken for the past 2000 years.  This is the good news the whole world needs to hear about.  This is the good news that transcends space and time, cultures and ages, this is the good news everyone should know about.  As one angel said, “This is good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:10 ESV).”  You excited yet?  You want to hear the good news?  Let’s find out and learn more about it through today’s passage.

We are now at the very end of the book of Mark, and this will be our final passage.  Last week we finally saw the glorious ending to the days and hours of Jesus’ great suffering, pain and agony, and even his death.  Last week we saw Jesus rise from the dead, winning the victory over sin and death for our sakes.  His glorious ending is a preview of what ours will be when we believe in Him.  We started Mark’s gospel May 28, 2019, so now we are finishing up one year and one month later.  The theme of our study through the book has been “Man of Action,” because Mark focuses mainly on the actions of Jesus, leaving out details we find in other gospels.  This gives the gospel a quicker pace, and shows that Jesus truly is a man of action.  The actions of Jesus continue to this very present day.  He is building his kingdom on the foundation that was set by his death and resurrection, and it is growing larger every day.  The path to the kingdom of God cannot be seen, but it is not hard to find.  In fact, it is very near.  To find the way in, you need to hear, and what you need to hear, is the good news.  And not only do you need to hear it, but you also need to believe it.  But by believing, you will find the way in.

You might notice in your Bibles a note on this passage before it begins, which says the earliest manuscripts did not include verses 9-20.  This passage may or may not be the original ending to the book of Mark!  The two oldest manuscripts we have, from 325 to 340 AD do not have these verses, but many newer ones do.  One theory is that the copyists may have been uncomfortable with the abrupt ending at verse 8, and included a summary from the other gospels to try to complete it.  Another theory is that this was the original ending, because early Christian writers from before 200 AD quoted these verses in their writing.  It may have gotten lost afterwards. So why is this passage included?  Because it is possible that it could be the original ending, it was left in with a footnote so that it could be studied and considered.  So now let us consider it.

The passage begins in verse 9: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.”  John’s gospel agrees with this: Mary Magdalene was the first person in the whole world to see Jesus after his resurrection!  What a privilege and honor he has given to this woman!  Who was she?  We learned she had seven demons.  However she suffered, she was probably not a very productive member of society in those times.  We meet her in Luke 8, in Galilee after Jesus had healed her and other women of demons and diseases, she was among them that supported Jesus’ ministry out of their own means.  She was present, watching at a distance of the crucifixion of Jesus, and she saw the tomb where he was laid.  She was also one of the first to come back to the tomb after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus with spices, but instead encountered him alive.  All this to show us, whom does Jesus esteem and honor?  It’s not necessarily those who have much honor in this world, but those who love and honor Jesus, he also loves and honors.

As we can see in verse 10, she went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.  Some people have described her as “the first missionary,” or “the apostle to the Apostles.”  She was the first person sent to testify about Jesus.  She was the first one sent to preach the good news!  What were the disciples doing?  They were mourning and weeping.  Their beloved master, their teacher, their friend has suffered horribly, and died.  He was gone, he went the way of the earth, so to speak.  It’s a heavy, sinking feeling to experience the death of someone you love.  To then give them a burial, and seeing that they are not going to come back up out of the ground piled on them, is a miserable thought.  If there was anything that could be good news to them, it would be that Jesus was alive.  This was the very good news Mary came to tell them, surely they would be excited, wouldn’t they?

Look at how they respond in v.11, “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.”  Wow.  How disappointing.  They heard the words that were coming out of her mouth: Jesus is alive!  She saw him!  John 20 shows us the excitement she had in telling them.  Luke’s account of this tells us that they thought this sounded like nonsense.  Verses 12-13 tell us Jesus appeared to two of them in a different form while they were walking in the country.  This is a condensed version of Luke 24, the road to Emmaus.  When they realized who was with them, the risen Jesus, they turned back and reported what they saw to the others.  What was their response?  They did not believe them either.

Jesus finally appears to the Eleven, in v.14, and points out what their real problem was.  Verse 14 says, “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  Their problem was a lack of faith, and stubborn refusal to believe.  Heb 11:1 defines faith as: confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  The strength of faith, the purity of faith is tested by how much we believe in what we do not see.  The disciples had not seen the Lord yet for themselves but they refused to believe the truth. 

Their lack of faith and unbelief is dangerous and sinful because it was a refusal and rejection of truth.  They suppressed the truth, and they ignored the evidence in their refusal to believe.  There was no lack of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.  A few of their very own – women who had supported Jesus, and men who were his disciples gave eyewitness testimony, and shared everything that Jesus had told them and all the details of their encounter.  More evidence is Jesus’ own words and prophecy.  Jesus told all of his disciples, very clearly, 3 times, in explicit detail what was going to happen to him.  He would suffer, die, but on the third day rise again.  He said he would rise again 3 times.  But not once did it cross their minds – hey now, remember when Jesus told us, he would rise again in three days?  Well, it’s been three days.  It’s Sunday now, and Mary Magdalene and the disciples’ testimony matches what Jesus spoke about.  Jesus also performed many signs and miracles before our very eyes, could his words possibly come true?  But no, they did not consider that, and even threw out eyewitness testimony twice.  So Jesus came and rebuked them.

In Jesus’ wisdom, he appeared to Mary Magdalene, and then to the two disciples before he appeared to the Eleven, and sent them to tell the others.  The result was that we could see the unbelief that plagued Jesus’ closest disciples – but this was not only about them.  The lesson we could learn is that unbelief plagues all of mankind.  If those who are closest to Jesus suffered from unbelief, how much more would everyone else.  Rom 1 tells us that we suppress the truth about God in wickedness.  God’s invisible qualities and divine nature can be seen from the smallest atoms and molecules in the universe, to the vastness of outer space.  Even the complex machinery of the human body is a wonder to behold.  The history of the nations, how they were formed from families and many named after them, matches the history of the Bible.  Even when you study genetics, it’s amazing how we can trace who our ancestors are, all the way back to a single person.  But rather than call our mother a human, we call her a monkey, or a bacteria.  Because people suppressed the truth, as Isaiah wrote, we all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way (Isa 53:6).  Judges 17:6 says, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”  Which meant idolatry and lawlessness.  That’s how we get to where we are today.  Chaos, anarchy, injustice and lawlessness, which lead to destruction and death.  That is all bad news, starting from a people who turn their backs on God.  But in the midst of this God calls out, he wants to give us some good news.

Look at v.15, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”  By this time, some time had passed.  After his resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for 40 days, continuing to teach and show more than 500 people (1 Cor 15:6), perhaps all gathered in one place at one point, that he was alive.  This was now near the end of his time before his ascension, and the disciples, now having believed that their Lord had risen from the dead, were filled with amazement and joy.  From here he says to them: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Jesus wants all creation, he wants all the world to hear the good news.  Gospel is a word that comes from two Old English words: god (meaning “good”) and spell (meaning “story”), so combined you have a “goodspell,” where today we say “gospel.”  Gospel and good news are the same thing, and I use them interchangeably.  The gospel is the good news.

What is this good news?  It is the story of Jesus Christ and what he has done.  Essentially, the gospel is this – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  These are the foundation of the gospel, but don’t stop there, look into it, meditate on it and dive deep into it from the Bible, and you will find treasure upon treasure.  Ask yourself, why did Jesus die?  Why did Jesus rise again?  He died for the forgiveness of my sins.  He died to pay the price for my sins.  He died to free me from the burden of sin.  He died because God so loved the world.  He died to reconcile the world to God, not counting their sins against them.  He died as my substitute.  He died to atone for my sins.  He rose because death was defeated.  He rose in triumph over his enemies.  He rose to give me hope.  Jesus did all of these things and more, through his death and resurrection.  We must never think we know it all, and we should never get tired of hearing the gospel.  Peter tells us even angels long to look into the gospel (1 Pet 1:12).  It is the wisdom and power of God.  As the hymn goes – tell me the old old story.

Jesus commands his disciples to preach the gospel.  That means to publicly proclaim it, to “publish it,” or “post it up for all to see (perhaps in today’s social media terminology).”  Now, that doesn’t mean to flood Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with Bible Verses and Christian quotes, unless that’s something that comes natural to you.  I myself avoid posting on social media because I get so consumed by it.  But I know of other people who do, and sometimes I screenshot what they post because it encourages me.  Matthew writes to go and make disciples.  This is another way – to teach what you have learned to others.  As a campus ministry, we preach the gospel through one to one Bible study, group Bible study, and Sunday worship services.  You could talk about it at work, if given the opportunity.  You could distribute tracts, or participate in outreach and inviting others.  You could go out as a short term or long term missionary.  Our church is built on the work of missionaries who have gone out and preached the gospel.  You can also preach the gospel at home, to your families, your children.  Be prepared to preach the gospel, by realizing that you need it, by believing it, and from there, sharing it.

On the gospel hangs life and death, that is why it is the most important good news to preach.  We can share all kinds of good news that’s not the gospel, positive stories and such, but the gospel is the key to eternal salvation, or eternal condemnation.  Jesus says this in v.16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  This is another reason why believing is so important, and unbelief is so dangerous.  The emphasis here is on believing.  It is believing that Jesus died for my sins, and rose from the dead.  Baptism is not a requirement for salvation, but it is a way to publicly confess to God and before others your faith in Jesus.  When we do not believe, we reject the truth and consequently we reject salvation.  The good news is the good news that our salvation has arrived, and to refuse it is to refuse the lifeboat that God has provided.

The gospel did not originate from man, but is from God himself.  It is not for one or a few specific groups of people, but it is for all people to hear.  It is open to all creation.  And to prove that the gospel, and the power of the gospel to save comes from God, Jesus continues in v.17-18: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”  In the early days of the gospel, when it was just starting out, these miracles confirmed and authenticated that the message was from God.  Demons were driven out by believers, and they could communicate in foreign languages without going through hours upon hours of learning it.  Snakes and poison couldn’t hurt them, when they normally would be fatal.  They were also enabled to heal.

We see today that these abilities are not for everybody, nor are they as common as they used to be, so don’t try to pick up snakes or drink poison, you might actually die.  The reason I think these signs diminished is because now we have the written word of God.  We have the Bible and the gospel completed, and now the emphasis should be more on faith, and the preaching of the word, and less reliant on signs and wonders.  These signs, as it says in v.17, accompany believers, they are an accompaniment, but the primary command is to preach the gospel.  Can they still happen?  Yes, I believe it’s all according to the will of the Holy Spirit, but I believe they have largely diminished.  Where do these powers come from anyway?  They come from the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  He is a distinct member of the Godhead, equal in power with God and with Jesus, but so humble that he doesn’t have a his own name.  We just call him the Holy Spirit, his aim is to glorify God and Jesus, but he is just as powerful.  Does the reduction of signs mean the work of the Holy Spirit has diminished?  By no means!  The Holy Spirit also works in this way: He gives us a new heart, He makes us born again, He regenerates us, He gives us faith, He gives us the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection, He opens our eyes to understand the Scriptures, He gives us sorrow for sin, and He gives us a desire to know and obey God.  The Holy Spirit is just as active today as he has been in history.  We shouldn’t downplay the Holy Spirit because we don’t see as many signs today, but realize that even our conversion from death to life is a miracle in itself.  He still works miracles, but they are mostly unseen.  It is through the Holy Spirit that the gospel activates and quicken those who believe.

As we come close to the end here, there is more good news.  Look at v.19, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.”  Maybe moreso in olden days, you never see a king walk anywhere, do you?  Emperors, Kings and Pharoahs were always shown riding on those manpowered carts.  Kind of in the same way, Jesus, our King, was taken into heaven, given the royal procession as he entered into heaven to the cheers and celebration of millions upon millions of angels, and took his seat at the right hand of God.  And this is good news: that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.  This is news that should give you comfort in this chaotic world.  For many reasons.  When Jesus came to earth, he was given a body of flesh, woven together with his divine Spirit.  When he ascended, look who is now sitting at the right hand of God.  Is it an angel?  Is it a Spirit?  No – it is a man, bonafide flesh and blood man, seated at the right hand of God.  My brothers and sisters, we have a brother in high places.  Jesus represents mankind, and is seated next to God.

Look again, look again into heaven, who do you see at the right hand of God?  It’s Jesus our Priest.  He was the sacrifice, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  He suffered in his body, he went through all of our temptations, and defeated them.  So he knows us.  He understands us.  He knows the weakness and temptations of the flesh.  He has tasted the bitterness of death.  Jesus is up there, interceding for us, and praying for what we need from God, as our High Priest.  Yet look at Jesus again, seated at the right hand of God, who do you see?  You see our King.  You see the King.  The right hand of God is pretty much the power of God, like the Prime Minister to a King, like Joseph was to Pharoah.  Jesus reigns over heaven and earth.  Don’t think he doesn’t see the injustice going on, and doesn’t take note.  Don’t think he doesn’t see the sin happening at all levels of society, and doesn’t take note.  Don’t think he doesn’t hear your prayers.  I’ve heard the illustration that he bottles up our tears, especially for those we love, and we will be comforted for sure when he comes again.  God is not unaware of anything, he sees all, knows all, and a Judgment Day is coming, but in his time.  The God of all the earth will do right.  Now is the time for those who hear the gospel to repent, believe, and receive personal salvation, because when that day comes, it will be too late for anyone who has not believed.  Now we must have faith.  And now look at our King, who once wore the crown of thorns.  For all the wounds on his head, many more crowns were given.  Crown him with many crowns, our King has many crowns.  Crown him the Lord   of love, behold his hands and side!  Crown him the Lord of Life, who triumphed over the grave!  Crown him the Lord of Heaven!  One with the Father and Spirit!

Jesus did not just enter heaven and sit in blessed rest.  True to his man of action character, He is still in action today.  Look at v.20, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”  The disciples went out and preached.  Peter to Rome, Andrew and John to Greece, James was the first martyr by Herod, Philip to Greek-speaking communities, Thomas to India, Matthew to Ethiopia, Jude to Armenia, and so on.  If the gospel were a lie, and the disciples almost refusing to believe it before the risen Jesus met them, how could all of these men then go out and bring all of these nations and people under subjection to the gospel?  How could we have the completed Bible, and Christianity thrive, if Jesus had not risen from the dead?  He did rise from the dead, and that is good news, and he is seated at God’s right hand.  As the disciples went out to preach, Jesus worked with them, and confirmed his word by those signs, as you see in the book of Acts.  Jesus continues to work today, as his kingdom continues to grow by the preaching of the gospel to all creation.

As we close out the book of Mark, let’s review what Jesus all the way in the beginning in Mark 1:15, “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  At that time, Jesus called people while was on the earth.  Today, Jesus calls people to believe the gospel, from heaven.  From beginning to end, Jesus is a man of action, proclaiming the good news he came to establish.  Want to hear some good news?  Jesus came, and died for your sins, and he has risen, and is seated at the right hand of God.  Believe this, and Christ will give you life, and eternal life in the kingdom of God.  May the Holy Spirit renew you, give you peace in these dark times, and empower you to preach the good news to all creation.

Daily Bread

Give Thought to Your Steps

Proverbs 14:1-17

Key Verse: 14:15

  The simple believes everything,
    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

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