Hamilton Smith's Writings
( Mark 16) THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
(Vv1-3). FOR THE THIRD time these three devoted women- Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome- come before us. Apparently they had already bought sweet spices to anoint the Lord"s body when the sabbath was past. Unbelief thought to find the Lord"s body in the grave, and ignorance would seek to retain it there. But the Spirit of God delights to take the precious from the vile, and dwell upon their devoted love that led them to purchase the spices and come to the grave at the rising of the sun.
On the way to the grave they say to one another, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" To the reasoning mind of the natural Prayer of Manasseh, there is still a great stone at the grave of Christ. Alienated from God, fallen man finds insuperable difficulty in the truth of resurrection. The Greek philosophers, as indeed the philosophers of today, may profess belief in the immortality of the soul, but they refuse to accept the resurrection of the body. It is pleasing to the mind of man to think that his soul lives on after it has left the body, but if the body is to be raised it is evident that the power of God must be put forth, and the thought of being dependent upon the God that men hate, is repugnant to the mind of man. Leave God out and resurrection is impossible, bring in God, and His power, and all difficulties vanish- the stone is rolled away.
(Vv4-7). Coming to the grave these devoted women find that God had been before them, and the stone is rolled away; not indeed that the body of the Lord might leave the grave, but that disciples might enter in and see that the place where He had been laid is empty. No stone, however great, could hold the body of the Lord in the grave.
Entering the grave they are at once confronted with a heavenly messenger to assure their hearts, and calm their fears, as he tells them, "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him." They were seeking Jesus, and this being Song of Solomon, in spite of much ignorance and unbelief, all would be well. What are we seeking? Is Jesus the object of our hearts? As one has said, "It is the consecration of the heart to the Lord that brings light and intelligence to the soul" (J.N.D.). How often our blindness to truth and inability to distinguish between right and wrong can be traced to our lack of the single eye that has Christ as the One Object. We often seek our own will, and exaltation, rather than "seek Jesus" and His glory. The measure in which we "seek Jesus" is the measure in which we get light. We may seek many things that are good in themselves but short of Jesus: we may seek souls, seek service, the good of Prayer of Manasseh, and the welfare of the saints; but, if we "seek Jesus" all else will fall rightly into its place and we shall find light for our path. Seeking Jesus, these women receive light from heaven and are sent on a service for the Lord.
They were to deliver this message to "His disciples and Peter." It is touching to notice that in the gospel that so fully gives the details of Peter"s grievous fall, we have this special mention of the name of Peter. Had the message been simply to the disciples, Peter might have said, "It cannot include me, I am no longer a disciple. Any such thought is dispelled by the special mention of Peter"s name. The disciples are to learn that though they had all forsaken the Lord and fled, and though Peter had denied Him, yet the Lord"s heart of love is unchanged towards them, and, as in the days of His life here, so now in resurrection, He will "go before" His disciples to lead the way, and they will "see Him," and all will come to pass "as He said." May we not say, in a wider sense, that in spite of the ruin of the church in responsibility, the scattering and failure of God"s people, the time is coming when He will gather all His sheep together around Himself, our risen and glorious Lord, and we shall see Him face to face, and every word He has uttered will be fulfilled.
(V:8). They had seen the empty tomb, they had listened to the angel, but Jesus they had not seen; as we read in the gospel of Luke, "Him they saw not." Apart from Christ, Himself, the great stone rolled away, the empty sepulchre, the vision of angels, only leave us trembling and amazed.
(Vv9-11). Now we learn that already the Lord had appeared to Mary Magdalene out of whom He had cast seven demons. The one who was a witness to the Lord"s power over demons, now becomes a witness to His power over death. She carries the glad news that the Lord is risen to the disciples as they mourned and wept. Alas! though they heard the message, they believed not.
(Vv12-13). The brief reference to the Lord"s appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus tells that neither was their witness believed.
(Vv14-18). Finally we have the record of the Lord"s appearance to the eleven, as they sat at meat. The Lord upbraids them for their unbelief which is traced to the hardness of their hearts. Cannot much of our unbelief be traced to the hardness of our hearts that, so often are unresponsive to His love and unimpressed by His word?
In spite, however, of this exposure of their hearts, the Lord immediately sends them forth to preach to others. We might think that such unbelief and hardness of heart would be a proof that they were entirely unfitted for the service of preaching to others. But this very exposure of their hearts in the presence of the Lord was a preparation for service. It is when we find out something of the true character of our hearts, and learn our own nothingness, that God can take us up for blessing to others.
They were to go into all the world and present the gospel to every creature. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." It would be contrary to the truth to deduce from this passage that baptism has any saving power before God, for the essential truth is believing the gospel. Therefore, it is not said, "He that believeth not, and is not baptized shall be condemned." As one has said, "Unbelief was the fatal evil above all to be dreaded. Whether a man was baptized or not, if he did not believe, he must be condemned." Baptism has this importance that it is the open sign before men of the faith before God. The man who professes to believe and yet refuses to be baptized is practically seeking to hide his profession of faith in order that he may keep in with the world. We may well question the reality of that man"s faith. The true believer will confess his faith by separating from the world. Baptism is the sign of death, the great separator. By being baptized the believer leaves the world to come into the Christian sphere on earth amongst God"s people.
The Lord tells His disciples that signs should follow them that believe. In Christ"s name they would cast out demons, speak with tongues, and heal the sick. It is to be noticed that the Lord does not say that these signs would follow an that believe, or that they would continue for all time. It is well to distinguish between the sign-gifts referred to by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, and the nourishment gifts of Ephesians 4:11. The sign-gifts in Corinthians were given to the early church for a public testimony, to attract the attention of an unbelieving world. The gifts for the nourishment of the body came from the ascended Head. Seeing that the church has entirely broken down in responsibility, the Lord ceases to call attention to a ruined church by outward and miraculous signs. But though the church is shorn of her outward ornaments, the Lord does not cease to love and nourish His body; thus the gifts of Ephesians go on to the end.
(Vv19-20). Having given His commission to His disciples, the Lord was received up into heaven to take His place on the right hand of God. His work on earth as the perfect servant is finished. Nevertheless, He works with His disciples, confirming the word they preached with signs following.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 16". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25