Mark: According To
The Great Commission
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after he had risen. 15 And He said to them. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons: they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
I can truthfully say, that I can to some degree understand the hesitancy of some disciples to not believe Jesus had risen. However, for Peter, James and John, the disciples that spent the most time with Christ, I find it difficult to understand their unbelief. Yet I’ll give them the benefit of doubt for I probably would have done the same.
It had been quite a dramatic time, from the “Feast at Simons House,” the “Triumphal Entry,” “The Cursing of the Fig Tree,” to the exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders and even the cleansing of the temple. Then there was the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial of Christ. It had been a lot to take in and try to understand. Even to a Galilean, there was a certain amount of respect for the religious leaders, even those from Jerusalem. When you respect an institution and its leaders and suddenly they have Jesus arrested and crucified, there would be a tendency for you to be afraid for yourself and for the other followers of Jesus as well. In their way of thinking, “If they were willing to do this to Jesus, what are they willing to do against me and my friends.” Yes, as you can see, the disciples had reason to be skeptical, cautious and afraid.
But if they had looked closely they would have seen that the common people, the everyday people still longed for Jesus to be with them. Sure, many had rejected what he said, but Jesus had the power to heal them and their infirmities and for this they still desired Jesus company. Yet there were still many who longed to spend time with Jesus because of the clarity he gave the scriptures and authority by which he taught. But, for the disciples, all this was muted by their lack of faith. For all the words of warning that Jesus had given to them, they failed to remember, and to apply them to their own lives. Consequently, they coward in the upper room. A few by the instruction of Jesus had gone to the sea of Galilee and fished before having breakfast along the sea shore with Jesus.
So, I can understand why Jesus would rebuke them for their lack of faith and understanding in the promises of the Scriptures and the words He had spoken to them.
In the Jewish system of law, in order to free a convicted man or sentence him, you had to have two witnesses. The disciples, had witnessed the life of Christ along with the Scriptures could testify as to who Jesus is. It is evident by those who chose to follow Jesus that their lives were changed and so this became a strong testimony to the power that Christ had to change lives. Mary Magdalene is an excellent example of a life changed by Christ and her testimony in Scripture should give us all hope of the power of Christ.
But if one has been a witness and they fail to speak up and give their testimony, then of what use are they? This is the second reason why Jesus rebuked their unbelief. The disciples, had been a witness to Christ’s life and ministry and they had witnessed the events of His crucifixion. They saw the compassion in Jesus even as he was being nailed to the cross. They heard Jesus ask that those who had crucified Him be forgiven by the Father. They had witnessed the earthquake and the testimony of the centurion who said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
So Jesus commissioned his disciples and all his faithful followers to become witnesses for Him, to teach all nations and make disciples for the Kingdom of God.
That is all well and good, but they lived with Jesus and had a first-hand account of his teachings and his many miracles, so how can I be a witness if I wasn’t there?
We can be a witness to others by presenting the testimony of the Two Witnesses which testify of Christ’s character and love for fallen mankind. What are these Two Witnesses? Why of course, they are the Old and New Testament. Each prophet wrote as he was moved by the Holy Spirit and their words give testimony as to who Christ is and all heaven’s dealings with mankind.
Christ never said it would be easy, and in fact on many occasions he stated that it would be a difficult road to follow, but as Matthew states it in his version of the great commission, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end.” Christ has promised all his faithful disciples, that no matter the circumstances that are before them Christ has lived it before and will be there, to give us strength, courage and strength to meet the challenge.
Many have lost their lives for their faith and perhaps some that are reading this will someday lose their life for their belief and willingness to share the testimony of Christ. But we can rest assured for Jesus has said, “Lo I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”
My friends, put your trust, your faith in the only sure thing and that is Christ. No matter how dark it may seem, Christ has been there too, and he will never leave you nor forsake you, because he died for you and bore the penalty of sin for you that we may one day be restored as it was in the Garden of Eden in an earth made new.