A daily devotion for January 31st
9When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
12Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they 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."
19After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).
The key to this passage is the word believe. That emphasis is in line with the thrust of Mark's gospel, because this gospel does not present Christianity as just a nice story, a fascinating account of events that took place in the first century. It stresses the fact that the death and resurrection of Christ is something to be believed, and it is intended to change lives. As we act on our belief, it changes us.
Mark wants us to understand what a climate of persistent and stubborn unbelief prevailed among these disciples after the resurrection. They found it difficult to accept this amazing fact, that the one they had seen crucified was now risen and living among them again. The significant thing here is that Jesus expected the Eleven to believe before they saw Him. He wanted and expected them to believe the reports of the eyewitnesses who had seen Him. They were trustworthy persons and were reporting what they had actually experienced, and that should have been enough to convince these disciples that Jesus was risen from the dead. So concerned about this is the risen, living Lord, that He rebukes them for their unbelief, even as He did in the days of His flesh. He takes them to task because they refused to believe those who had seen Him.
You can see the importance He attributes to this matter of believing the eyewitnesses. John's gospel tells us that a week later Jesus appeared to them when Thomas, who had not been with them when He appeared the first time, was present. Jesus invited Thomas to examine Him, to put his hand on His side and touch the nail prints in His hands and feet. Thomas did so and fell down at his feet, crying,
My Lord and my God! (John 20:28b). Jesus said,
Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29). Years later when Peter is writing his letters to the Christians he says to them,
Though you have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8).
One thing is clear from this account in Mark: When we have adequate, trustworthy witnesses who report to us what they have seen, we are expected to respond with belief. These men saw the risen Lord. They were granted a privilege that we are not granted; but, nevertheless, our faith can rest upon a solid foundation. Even though we have not seen Him, we believe because of the eyewitness accounts here.
Lord, I believe! Thank You for the good news that Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and that He lives within my heart and has the power to break the chains of sin and the bondage of evil in my life.
Life Application: Do we think of Christianity as just a nice story? Have we looked and found there is historic, trustworthy evidence of the gospel on which to base our faith and our lives?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.