10 April 2010

Mark 16:9-15

"Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation." (v.15)


This is the 'longer ending' of Mark's Gospel. We often hear of film producers making more than one ending and only late in the day, even without the actors involved knowing, choosing the ending they want. Mark is generally regarded as the earliest Gospel, and the 'shorter ending' omits any appearance of the risen Jesus at all. This longer ending serves to fill in a couple of gaps in the composite account of Jesus' appearances after his death and resurrection. It adds bits of the story clearly thought to be necessary by the early followers of Christ.

We're told that, for whatever reason (though we might guess at some) the disciples disbelieve Mary's claim to have seen Jesus. There is an allusion to the story Luke records about two disciples walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), but the core group of disciples don't believe them either. Disbelief is endemic among the disciples of Christ.

No surprise then that when Jesus appears to the eleven disciples, sat round a meal table, that there are none of the comforting words of greeting or "peace be with you"s found in other Gospel accounts (eg Luke 24:36John 20:19). Jesus does what he has done several times prior to his death, particularly in Mark; tick them off for their lack of faith. Perhaps that's when they finally recognised it was really him?!

The other crucial factor, one of the very few 'ever present' themes of resurrection narratives, is the sending of the disciples into the world to be witnesses of Christ. What we call 'The Great Commission' is not unique to Matthew's Gospel (28:19-20) but is found in each Gospel.

"You have seen me, you do believe even though you doubt, you aren't perfect, you've not got all the answers, but nevertheless you are my witnesses. Now go and tell about God's saving love for all and everything!"

The basics of Christian discipleship include the non-negotiable elements of being witnesses and evangelists. Whether we like it or not. Today, as in their day.

To Ponder

Evangelism. Necessary? Nice? Naughty? Not appropriate in a multi-cultural context or in light of the racial and religious hatred act? What is your opinion?

What kind of Christian witness is given by Churches to those who are not Christian in Britain today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins

Martyn Atkins is a Methodist minister and currently serves as general secretary/secretary of the Conference. He was president of Conference in 2007-8.