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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Mark 16

 

 

Verses 1-8

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Mar . Had bought sweet spices.—Simply, bought spices. No time specified, merely the fact stated. From Luk 23:56 we gather (unless, indeed, there were two companies of women) that the purchase was made before the Sabbath began. St. Mark's point is, that the women bought spices some time or other—no matter when—in order that when the Sabbath was over they might come and anoint the body of the Lord. They seem to have wished to complete the imperfect embalming which Joseph and Nicodemus had hastily begun. See Joh 19:39-40, and cp. 2Ch 14:14.

Mar . They came, etc.—They come (so as to be) at the sepulchre when the sun had risen. That is, they start from home very early, with the object of reaching their destination soon after daylight.

Mar . The door of the sepulchre.—"There was generally an approach to the tomb open to the sky; then a low entrance on the side of the rock, leading into a square chamber, on one side of which was a recess for the body, about three feet deep, with a low arch over it. The stone here referred to would be the stone which covered the actual entrance into the vault. It would probably be not less than six feet in breadth and three in height." Had the women known of the arrangement recorded in Mat 27:62-66, they might have hesitated about visiting the tomb that day at all.

Mar . Looked.—Looked up—"the only, but sufficient, proof that Calvary was a hill."

Mar . While Mary Magdalene, after a hasty glance, sped away to inform Peter and John that the sepulchre had been, as she supposed, rifled (Joh 20:1-2), the other women made bold to enter and inspect for themselves. Affrighted.—The word, used only by St. Mark, signifies amazement blended with fear. It is found also in chaps, Mar 9:15, Mar 14:34, Mar 16:6. Such experiences as these women were now passing through filled them with awestruck surprise.

Mar . And Peter.—With what solemnity the apostle would utter these words as he recounted the matter to St. Mark 1

Mar . Quickly.—Omit. Fled.—Not as Mary Magdalene had done, in terror and hopelessness, but full of bewildered excitement, for agitation and ecstasy had them in its grip. And to no one said they anything, for they were afraid to pause until they had delivered their message to the disciples and Peter.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mar

(PARALLELS: Mat ; Luk 24:1-12; Joh 20:1-10.)

The pious women visiting the sepulchre.—The present hopes of the followers of Jesus had been destroyed and their future expectations frustrated by the ignominious death of their Lord. When they beheld the accomplishment of all which the malice of His enemies could inflict, they seem to have given way to their feelings of despondency and dismay. But while the most favoured of the apostles had retired from the place where He was put to death, and from the garden in which they had seen His body laid and a large stone rolled to the mouth of the sepulchre, there were others whose faith and love had survived all these trials (Mar ). During our Saviour's life these pious women had ministered to Him of their substance. They had followed Him out of the distant part of the country in which they resided; and they were still found, in that hour of suffering, hoping against hope, or desirous to testify to the end the love which they bore to Him who had loved them. When, at a later hour of the same mournful day, the body of Jesus was taken down from the Cross and laid in the new sepulchre, "wherein never man before was laid," the same affectionate attendants still followed their Lord (Luk 23:35). "As yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead." But perceiving that they who had in a hurried manner buried the body of Jesus had not embalmed it, as the manner of the Jews was to bury, but had merely wrapped the body in linen with dry spices, they determined to perform that last office of affectionate care, and "returned, and prepared" the "spices and ointments" necessary for the purpose, and "rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment." "And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun." They knew not that the heavy stone which they had seen placed over the mouth of the sepulchre had been farther secured by having been sealed with a seal and guarded by soldiers set as a watch. But they were aware that, even without such a precaution, there was an impediment to the accomplishment of their pious intention insurmountable by their own strength. Still they persevered in their exertions, though not without some secret misgivings that their labour would be in vain (Mar 16:3). But as soon as they reached the sepulchre all their apprehensions were proved to have been groundless. They came but to embalm the body of Jesus; they expected to have found a lifeless corpse; and lo! a vision of angels, which told them that He was risen from the dead.

I. The constancy of these pious women, contrasted with the comparative weakness of the faith even of the apostles, may remind us that the "faith which worketh by love," the religion of the heart, is by no means in proportion to the outward advantages which different individuals may possess. There may be often found among the comparatively unlearned, in the meanest stations and in circumstances of the greatest apparent distress, a practical acquaintance with vital religion, a firm trust in God, an abiding faith in the merits of the Saviour, and a sense of the real consolations arising from a spiritual frame of mind, which may well serve as an encouragement and as a lesson to others who have been blessed with far greater opportunities of religious improvement. Such examples teach us, in language which cannot be misunderstood, what a treasure true religion is; for it is found supplying, and more than supplying, the want of all which this world can afford.

II. Another reflexion arising from this history is, that we are often ignorant of obstacles which really beset our path of duty, while we exaggerate to ourselves the magnitude of those with which we are acquainted. How many, when inquiry is made respecting their religious condition, are found to have fixed their apprehensions upon some circumstances which they conceived to be the principal, if not the only, bar to their advancement in piety! Some will complain of the cares of life. Before the eyes of others there may be set some trial of temper, some weakness of which they are especially conscious, some trouble which at present occupies their thoughts, or some easily besetting sin which they know not how to conquer or remove. And each of these may conceive that there is but this one barrier interposed between him and his duty. But when we are led thus unduly to estimate the magnitude of some one obstacle to a religious life, we overlook others of greater importance and still less surmountable by any powers of our own. If the sepulchre of Jesus was sealed with a seal to prevent all access from without, who knows not that the heart of man is by nature closed against Divine grace and remains dark and impervious to its holy light! If the sepulchre of Jesus was guarded with a band of soldiers, whose express duty it was to prevent the seal from being broken and the stone from being rolled away, who knows not what a band of evil passions and unholy desires and worldly thoughts besets the heart of man, and how the prince of the power of the air disposes his active and sleepless forces, to keep the thoughts and affections still cold and dark, "lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them"!

III. But while we thus learn justly to appreciate the real obstacles against which we have to contend, the example of the pious women may encourage us to persevere in the plain course of duty, in the firm persuasion that, although we cannot, by our own strength, roll away the stone from the sepulchre, yet that, however great it may be, there is a power which will remove it for us. There are periods when the heart even of the faithful Christian is weighed down with much sorrow. He is exposed to some great danger, or apprehends some severe trial. At such a time his faith is ready to fail him. He goes on his way, weary and sad at heart, although he knows that he is treading the direct path of Christian duty. But who shall set bounds to the mercy or power of God? When the Christian has accomplished his journey, he looks and sees that the stone is rolled away. Either his apprehensions are removed, or, if the trial which he feared has come upon him, strength has been given him to enable him to bear it. And if this be true in the trials which are of a temporary kind, so is it especially found in those which regard our spiritual state.

IV. If we persevere in faithful obedience, our exertions will often be blessed beyond our utmost hopes.—The pious women who visited the sepulchre of their Lord looked only for the sad satisfaction of preparing His body for the tomb. And the apprehension which chiefly weighed upon their minds was instantly removed, as soon as they looked and saw that the stone, which had appeared so great, was rolled away. And after they had been relieved from this fear, a new source of holy joy was unexpectedly opened to them. Their Lord was risen from the dead, no more to see corruption. And so assuredly will God deal with His servants at all times. With the temptation He will make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it; with the trial He will give strength; with the tribulation He will send patience; and with patience, experience; and with experience, hope.—Prof. Temple Chevallier.

Mar . All difficulties surmounted by the faithful.—If we look at the difficulties, trials, and sorrows which attend man from the cradle to the grave, and consider at the same time only man's strength, which is perfect weakness, we must say with the apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" "Who then can be saved?" Happy is it for him who is brought to confess, "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible"; for when men are brought to look out of themselves and to say, "Who shall roll us away the stone?" they have taken the first step towards its removal.

1. Sometimes the Christian is in great fear of danger, in common with other men who fear not God. He sees no means of escape—there may be no chance of it, as the world would say; a fatal sickness is around him, or he is in the power of an enemy. But is he without comfort or resource? Nay, he remembers Joseph in Egypt, Lot in Sodom, Daniel in the lions' den, the three children in the furnace, Israel at the Red Sea, Paul and Silas and Peter in prison; and when ready to faint, and cry, "Who shall roll away the stone?" he hears again those cheering words, "He shall give His angels charge over thee," etc. "Fear ye not, stand ‘still, and see the salvation of the Lord."

2. Sometimes the Christian is poor and in misery, and knows not to-day how he shall live to-morrow; distress presses him hard; he is in great straits, and there seems no help for it; he cannot see the least prospect of his condition being bettered, or he may have a dread that poverty must soon come upon him; his faith is tried to the uttermost; bad success, misfortunes of various kinds, daily threaten him. And is he without comfort or hope? Does he forget Hagar in the desert, the Israelites in the wilderness, Elijah at the brook Cherith, the widow and her cruse of oil?

3. The Christian is sometimes much oppressed and made to suffer under false accusations, his character mistaken, words misrepresented, motives misunderstood and falsely stated. Who shall roll away the stone? But he is not without great comfort under all this, for he calls to mind our Saviour's words (Mat ). He does not forget that Christ "came unto His own, and His own received Him not"; "He was despised and rejected of men"; "He was reviled." If he be inclined to think that God hath forsaken him, he hears God reasoning with him thus: Isa 40:27; Psa 37:5 to Psa 7:4. The Christian is sometimes sorely perplexed in some of his plans and undertakings: nothing he takes in hand seems to prosper; so many difficulties arise that he is tempted to yield to despair. But even here he can patiently abide; "in quietness and confidence is his strength"; he leans more unreservedly upon God; he waits His time; he knows that man's time is always ready—God's time may not be yet. He remembers that God often permits one to sow and another to reap, one man to begin and another to finish—as David, who prepared the materials, and Solomon, who built Him a house; and so looking steadfastly to Him, he sees the stone rolled away.

5. The Christian is sometimes in great doubt as to how he should act—whether this or that is his duty; in a strait betwixt two, or else in perplexity as to how he should perform that which he knows to be best. He is often haunted with the fear of consequences and of a doubtful mind, tossed to and fro like a wave of the sea. How comforting then are such words to him! (Joh ; Isa 50:10; Psa 97:11; Isa 26:3).

6. But if ever the Christian is ready to say, "Who shall roll away the stone," it is when, having borne the Christian name, he is convicted of having lived as a stranger to Christ the hope of glory—of exhibiting in himself that sad contradiction, a worldly and unholy Christian. Who can tell the blessing to a soul, weary and heavy laden with the burden of its sins, of hearing such words as these, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee"? Who can tell the comfort of such consoling counsel as this? Claim the privileges of the covenant, the first of which is pardon and forgiveness through Christ, into whom ye were baptised. Treat God as your Father: you are not strangers and foreigners, though you have been bad and rebellious subjects; but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints. You have "liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus"; "and having a High Priest over the house of God, draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith": for though you have no power of yourselves to help yourselves, you can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you.—E. J. Boyce, M.A.

Mar . The first preaching of the Resurrection.—Mark has scarcely anything to say about our Lord's appearance after the Resurrection. His object seems mainly to be to describe rather the manner in which the report of the Resurrection affected the disciples. And so he makes prominent the bewildered astonishment of the women. If the latter part of this chapter be his, he passes by the appearance of our Lord to Mary Magdalene and to the two travellers to Emmaus with just a word for each—contrasting singularly with the lovely narrative of the former in John's Gospel and with the detailed account of the latter in Luke's, he emphasises the incredulity of the twelve after receiving the reports. And in like manner he lays stress upon the unbelief and hardness of heart which the Lord rebuked.

I. The first witness to the Resurrection.—There are singular diversities in the four Gospels in the account of the angelic appearances, the number, occupation, and attitude of these superhuman persons; and contradictions may be spun, if one is so disposed, out of these varieties. But it is wiser to take another view of them, and to see in the varying reports—sometimes of one angel, sometimes two, sometimes of one sitting outside the sepulchre, sometimes one within, sometimes none—either different moments of time or differences produced by the different spiritual condition of the beholders. We know too little about the laws of angelic appearances, we know too little about the relation in that high region between the seeing eye and the objects beheld, to venture to say that there is a contradiction where the narratives present variety. Enough for us to draw the lessons suggested by that quiet figure sitting there in the inner vestibule of the grave, gazing on the tomb where the Lord of men and angels had lain. He was a youth. "The oldest angels are the youngest," says the great mystic. He was "clothed in a long white garment," the sign at once of purity and of repose; and he was sitting in rapt contemplation and quiet adoration there, where the body of Jesus had lain. Wherefore was he there? Because that Cross strikes its power upwards as well as downwards—because He that had lain there is the Head of all creation, and the Lord of angels as well as of men—because that Resurrection following upon that Cross, "unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places," opened a new and wonderful door into the unsounded and unfathomed abyss of Divine love—because into these things "angels desire to look," and, looking, are smitten with adoring wonder and flushed with the illumination of a new knowledge of what God is and of what man is to God. Farther, we see in that angel-presence not only the indication that Christ is his King as well as ours, but also the mark of his and all his fellows' sympathetic participation in whatsoever is of so deep interest to humanity. All the servants of our King in heaven and earth are one, and He sends forth His brightest and loftiest to be brethren and ministers to them who shall be "heirs of salvation."

II. The triumphant light east upon the cradle and the Cross.—"Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified." Do you not catch a tone of wonder and a tone of triumph in this threefold particularising of the humanity, the lowly residence, and the ignominious death? All that lowliness, suffering, and shame are brought into comparison with the rising from the dead. The cradle is illuminated by the grave, the Cross by the empty sepulchre. As at the beginning there is a supernatural entrance into life, so at the end there is a supernatural resumption of it. The Birth corresponds with the Resurrection, and both witness to the Divinity. Brethren, let us lay this to heart—that unless we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the saying "He was crucified" is the saddest word that can be spoken about any of the great ones of the past. "If He be not risen, our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain." "If Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins." But if what Easter Day commemorates be true, then upon all His earthly life is thrown a new light, and we first understand the Cross when we look upon the empty grave.

III. The majestic announcement of the great fact, and its confirmation.—"He is risen; He is not here." The first preacher of the Resurrection was an angel, a true ev-angel-ist. His message is conveyed in these brief sentences, unconnected with each other, in token, not of abruptness and haste, but of solemnity. "He is risen" is one word in the original—a sentence of one word, which announces the mightiest miracle that ever was wrought upon earth, a miracle which opens the door wide enough for all supernatural events recorded of Jesus Christ to find an entrance to the whole understanding and the reason. "He is risen." The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is declared by angel lips to be His own act. The Divine power of the Father's will did not work upon Him as from without to raise Him from the dead; but He, the embodiment of Divinity, raised Himself, even though it is also true that He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. These two things are not contradictory, but the former of them can only be predicated of Him; and it sets Him on a pedestal immeasurably above and infinitely apart from all those to whom life is communicated by a Divine act. He Himself is the Life, and it was not possible that Life should be holden of Death, Now, then, note the confirmation of this stupendous fact. "He is risen; He is not here." We take it as a plain historical fact, which the extremest scepticism has never ventured to deny, that the grave of Christ was empty. The trumped-up story of the guards sufficiently shews that. When the belief of a resurrection began to be spread abroad, what would have been easier for Pharisees and rulers than to have gone to the sepulchre and rolled back the stone, and said, "Look there! there is your risen Man, lying mouldering, like all the rest of us"! They did not do it. Why? Because the grave was empty. Where was the body? They had it not, else they would have been glad to produce it. Now note the way in which the announcement of this tremendous fact was received. With blank bewilderment and terror on the part of these women, followed by incredulity on the part of the apostles and of the other disciples. These things are on the surface of the narrative; and very important they are. They plainly tell us that the first hearers did not believe the testimony which they call upon us to believe. And that being the state of mind of the early disciples on the Resurrection day, what becomes of the modern theory, which seeks to explain the fact of the early belief in the Resurrection by saying, "Oh, they had worked themselves into such a fever of expectation that Jesus Christ would rise from the dead that the wish was father to the thought, and they said He did because they expected He would"?

IV. The summons to grateful contemplation.—"Behold the place where they laid Him." To these women the call was simply one to come and see what would confirm the witness. But we may, perhaps, permissibly turn it to a wider purpose, and say that it summons us all to thankful, lowly, believing, glad contemplation of that empty grave as the basis of all our hopes. Look upon it and upon the Resurrection which it confirms to us as an historical fact. It sets the seal of the Divine approval on Christ's work, and declares the Divinity of His person and the all-sufficiency of His mighty sacrifice. "Behold the place where they laid Him," and, looking upon it, let us think of that Resurrection as a prophecy in its bearing upon us and upon all the dear ones that have trod the common road into the great darkness. Chrift has died, therefore they live; Christ lives, therefore we shall never die. "Behold the place where they laid Him," and in the empty grave read the mystery of the Resurrection as the pattern and the symbol of our higher life—that, "like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Oh to partake more and more of that power of His resurrection!—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Mar . The message of the Resurrection.—The text, 'tis the first joyful tidings that came to the Church of God of our Saviour's Resurrection, the first blessed news of Christ's triumphant victory over death and the grave, and thereby of His restoring of us to life and immortality. This day Satan and the powers of hell, all the enemies of our salvation, were vanquished and subdued by Christ's Resurrection; the hold and fortress of death, the grave, was spoiled and ransacked, the gates and bars of hell broken in pieces. Our Samson hath taken the gates of the Philistines on His shoulders, and carried them away. Surely this is a day of joyful tidings. Let it be told to the King's household, published in the Church of God. Say unto Zion, "Behold, thy God reigneth": He hath triumphed gloriously; He hath led captivity captive; the horse and the rider, that pale horse, and Death riding on him, hath He slain in the battle (Rev 6:8).

I. The despatch of this message, and that seems very hasty and somewhat abrupt: it begins here with a word of diversion—"But." Why so? Were they in the wrong way? or in an unwarrantable employment? Just now, in the former verse, he bids them come and see the place, behold the sepulchre where the Lord was laid, and from whence He was risen. Why doth he now presently remove them from it, not let them stay and take their fill of that joyful vision? 'Tis said of Hilarion he went once to Jerusalem to see those monuments of Christ's death and passion; but he went no more, he made no practice of it, placed no piety in it. So here the angel allows them a sight of the sepulchre to confirm their faith; but withal he dismisses them presently, suffers them not to fix their devotion upon it. Besides this reason, the angel is thus quick and speedy in his diversion, to teach us that even the spiritual delights of contemplation must give way to religious and pious actions. Their piety in meditating on His Resurrection must give way to their charity in imparting it to others. He is the best servant, not that delights to stand in his master's presence, but that carefully minds and diligently goes about his master's business. For the despatch of this message here are two things considerable.

1. From whom it comes. The first news of Christ's Resurrection is sent by an angel.

(1) It becomes the excellency of this great work of Christ's Resurrection to be attended and published by the ministry of angels.

(2) Fit it was an angel should first publish it, a heavenly messenger, as being a matter supernatural and heavenly, and of special revelation. All proclamations are first published at the court-gate, then sent abroad into the kingdom. This new revelation, 'tis first proclaimed at heaven's gates by an angel, and then sent abroad unto the sons of men.

(3) Angels are made messengers and publishers of these tidings, and they gladly undertake it. See now there is a sweet communion and intercourse 'twixt them and us. It shews us the virtue and power of that great atonement of Christ's death and bloodshed; it hath made up the breach and alienation 'twixt us and the angels. They were all partakers in God's quarrel; and therefore the Scripture presents them in martial and military and warlike appearances, tells us of armies and hosts of angels. When soldiers and martial men proclaim peace and good-will, there is peace indeed. This office of love the angel performs, 'tis the fruit of Christ's mediation, the merit of His death, the purchase of His passion.

2. By whom the angel conveys this message; they are the women that repaired to the sepulchre. Reason would conceit that some other messengers should have been employed than these poor, weak women. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts are.

(1) God purposely makes choice of such instruments in this great and weighty service. In the whole carriage and economy of the gospel God observes a mixture of much spiritual power and glory, with much outward baseness and meanness.

(2) The tidings of His Resurrection are conveyed into the world by weak women. "Kings and princes," saith Chrysostom, "make known their minds to inferior people by their great officers and ministers of state: God, He employs poor, feeble, contemptible men to declare His will to the potentates of the world."

(3) But yet there is some congruity that God observes in the choice of these messengers. These good women, they stood to it and clave to Christ when the apostles all of them fled and forsook Him; they assisted His Cross when the others hid themselves (Mar ); they watched His burial, repaired early and weeping to the sepulchre; they were forwardest in attending His passion; and so they are first made acquainted with His Resurrection.

II. The persons to whom these tidings are directed.—"Tell His disciples and Peter."

1. Here is a general direction to His disciples.

(1) Why is not the message directed to Pilate and Herod, to Annas, and Caiaphas, and the priests, that condemned Him and compassed His death? It might have been a mighty conviction to them. No; 'tis purposely hid from them to punish their infidelity and former obstinacy. They had heard Him preach in His lifetime; now, should He appear from the dead, they would not believe Him.

(2) Why not to the common people, that sinned out of ignorance? No; this manifestation of His Resurrection was not made promiscuously to all, purposely to prepare a way to faith and believing. The great honour that Christianity doth to God is to embrace His truth upon belief.

(3) This message and tidings of Christ's Resurrection is directed to His disciples. (a) They were the only visible body of Christians—to teach us, to whom the benefit of Christ's Resurrection belongeth; 'tis to the Church, 'tis limited and confined only to believers. (b) The faith of the disciples was now in a great weakness; they had almost given over all belief that Jesus was the Messias (Luk ). Our faith, not only when 'tis in robore, in its full strength and vivacity, but when 'tis in vulnere, wounded and weakened and overwhelmed with temptations, is accepted of Him. (c) These disciples were at this time full of sadness and sorrow for the loss of their Master. Such mourners are blessed mourners; they shall be comforted. They that can lament for His passion, they shall be partakers of the joy and comfort of His Resurrection.

2. To acquaint Peter with these good tidings an express message is directed to him.

(1) Peter had fallen most foully—denied, forsworn, his Master with curses and execrations. Oh, 'twas a great sin of the first magnitude! And yet to such and so vile a sinner are these tidings directed. It shews the virtue of the gospel of Christ's death and Resurrection; the greatest sinners, the most heinous offenders, may get good by it.

(2) Peter's faith and graces have received a very great bruise and maim by his fall: his conscience is deeply wounded. He is like one fallen from a high place, exceedingly bruised, and lies for dead. Such a one must be catched up in our arms, more carefully tended.

(3) Peter is now overwhelmed with sorrow for his heinous sin: he wept bitterly, no doubt abhorred himself in dust and ashes. And to extraordinary mourners God graciously directs extraordinary and special and more personal comforts.

(4) Peter by his great fall in denying of Christ hath incurred a great and an infamous scandal, given a great offence to the whole Church of God. This personal message to him shall not only comfort his conscience, but cure his credit too. It plainly signifies he must not be cast off, but be dealt mercifully withal, and accounted as a brother. Nay, it restores him not only to his discipleship, but to his office of an apostle. The tidings are sent to him under the name of Peter, his apostolical name.

(5) From this personal message to Peter we may briefly collect these three corollaries: (a) As loving parents are most tender of their weakest children, so is Christ to the feeble Christians, sorrowful, heavy-hearted Christians; His bowels of compassion yearn most towards them. (b) The angel pities Peter, and hath care and compassion on him. Peter's tears were the wine of angels; they were a banquet in heaven. (c) In conformity to Christ, in imitation of His angel, it must be our duty to practise the charge given to these messengers; have a care of Peter, of a sorrowful, contrite, broken-hearted Christian.

III. The sum of the message, the news to be imparted.—"He goes before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him."

1. Here is an intimation of Christ's Resurrection. The angel is careful to confirm that truth to them. Indeed, 'tis the main capital truth of Christian religion—the sum and pith and kernel of the gospel. It strengthens our faith in other saving truths.

(1) It confirms us in the truth of His Divinity (Rom ; Psa 16:10).

(2) It confirms to us the benefit of His death and passion. Had He died only, death had overcome Him; now He is risen, He hath overcome death.

(3) This intimation is the strongest means to revive and comfort them. Faith, 'tis like the flower called heliotropium: when the sun sets, it fades and closes; when the sun rises and returns, it blows out and flourishes.

2. Here is a prediction that must evidence the truth of His Resurrection. "He goes before you into Galilee."

(1) Here is an act of local motion. Christ's body now, after His Resurrection, 'tis a glorified body, and yet within the compass and condition of a true natural body, to be transferred by motion from one place to another. (a) After His Resurrection 'twas a finite body: "He is risen; He is not here." When it was in one place, it was not in another, (b) It was a sensible body (Luk ). (c) It was organical: we read of His hands, feet, side. It had all the parts and members of a human body, in a just proportion and situation, the fit proportions of a human body.

(2) Here is an act of prevention: "He goes before you." Early and speedily He hastens to Galilee, to visit and comfort them. Tis the gracious course of God's preventing goodness; He is forward to relieve and comfort His Church. All delays are tedious to Him. Nay, see the impatience of His love to His poor disciples: He appoints them Galilee; but He cannot withhold Himself so long from them—He appears to them sooner. (a) To Mary in the garden. (b) To the women in the way as they are going to Jerusalem. (c) To the two disciples as they are going to Emmaus. (d) To the apostles ere they stirred one foot out of the city. This is the speediness of His mercy (Isa ). He is still better than His promise.

(3) Here is the designation of the place: "Galilee." Why to so remote a place? (a) As 'tis said of Peter's sinking, 'twas not pedes, but fides; not his feet, but his faith failed him,—so Christ here requires them not to exercise their feet, but their faith. He would have them begin with faith, and then they shall end in sight. (b) He sends them so far the more to quicken and inflame their desires and longings to see Him. If He comes sooner to them, 'tis to comfort them; if He stays longer, 'tis to quicken and enliven their desires towards Him.

(4) In particular Galilee is the place appointed. (a) 'Twas locus tutus: He graciously provides for His disciples' safety; He calls them out of Jerusalem, the place of persecution—makes them withdraw themselves from that bloody generation, where they were beset with dangers—leads them into a place of safety, where with greater freedom they might converse with Him. (b) 'Twas locus familiaris, a place where He had usually conversed with them; 'twas the place of His abode—He was called a Galilean. Purposely Christ chooses all the circumstances that might help forward their faith. In Galilee they had often enjoyed His presence; His appearing there would more fully affect them. (c) 'Twas locus discipulorum plenus; it was a place wherein Christ had most of His disciples. His preaching had nothing the success at Jerusalem that it had in Galilee. In Galilee He was seen of five hundred brethren at once. Here is the place that Christ delights to visit and frequent, where He hath the fullest churches, the greatest communion of saints and believers. (d) 'Tis locus typicus. Christ calls them from Jewry to Galilee; it casts the shadow of a type and prefiguration; it represents to us the passage and remove of Christ and His gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. Before in His lifetime He confined His own presence and preaching to the nation of the Jews, and forbade His apostles to preach unto the Gentiles; but His Resurrection brake down the wall of separation; now their commission is enlarged, "Go, teach all nations."—Bishop Brownrigg.

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Mar . The quest of faith.—

1. Faith seeks after life in the very sepulchre of Christ, and it will find even more than it seeks, because it seeks it as it ought, and out of a principle of obedience.

2. A solid and substantial devotion is always regular, does everything in its proper time, and is very far from neglecting what is commanded for that which is not.

3. The Spirit of God, which guides these holy women, permits them not to dispense with the observance even of a dying law, that so they may perform a service to Christ which could be deferred but a very little while.—P. Quesnel.

The earnestness of the women.—It is no wonder if we find the women here more earnest than the apostles in their grief and in regard to the death, the burial, and the embalming of the Lord's body. The woman is the first in the expression of her grief, for she was the first in hastening to the Fall; she goes before to the tomb who was the precursor to corruption; she brings the tidings of the Resurrection who had been the herald of death; she who had conveyed to the man the message of so dreadful a destruction herself conveys to men the sounds of a great salvation; that the loss which she occasioned by her suggestion to unbelief she might now compensate for by the tidings of faith (Gen ; Gen 3:12; 1Ti 2:14-15).—Pet. Chrysologus.

Apparent discrepancies in the narratives.—To harmonise the accounts a certain effort is necessary, because they tell of interviews with men and women who had to pass through all the vicissitudes of despair, suspense, rapturous incredulity, and faith. Each of them contributes a portion of the tale. From St. John we learn that Mary Magdalene came early to the sepulchre, from St. Matthew that others were with her, from St. Mark that these women, dissatisfied with the unskilful ministrations of men whose rank knew nothing of such functions, had brought sweet spices to anoint Him who was about to claim their adoration; St. John tells how Mary, seeing the empty sepulchre, ran to tell Peter and John of its desecration; the others, that in her absence an angel told the glad tidings to the women; St. Mark, that Mary was the first to whom Jesus Himself appeared. And thenceforth the narrative more easily falls into its place. This confusion, however perplexing to thoughtless readers, is inevitable in the independent histories of such events, derived from the various parties who delighted to remember each what had befallen himself.—Dean Chadwick.

Mar . The first day of the new creation.—Surely we Christians may see the reason of our keeping this day far more than any other day, inasmuch as it is the first of all days, the first day of the old creation, and the first day of the new in Christ, as on this day Christ rose from the grave. On this day, the first day in the beginning, the light was created. On this day, the first of days, Christ, the True Light, the Sun of Righteousness, rose from the grave. On this day the Holy Spirit came down, the true illumination, to fill the new creation with the light of God. This day, therefore, is beyond all days the day of our Maker, the day of our Redeemer, the day of our Sanctifier (Psa 118:21-25.)

The journey of the women.—A journey of—

1. Love.

2. Provident care.

3. Hope.

4. Joy.

5. Life.

Mar . "Who shall roll us away the stone?"—This question is applicable to—

1. Those who are seeking Divine guidance and direction. To be involved in circumstances of doubt and perplexity respecting some path is no evidence of the want of the Divine favour. God sometimes keeps His children in the dark to secure their safety (Isa ).

2. To the subjects of anxious care through poverty and affliction. "Stand still, and see the salvation of God."

3. To the persecuted and tempted believer. God will strengthen thee in thy weakness, and nerve thee for thy duty.

4. The hour of death. The eye of sense sees only the western horizon, and says, "The sun is going down." The eye of faith turns to the glowing east, and sees the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings.

Obstacles in the Christian's path.—-Many of the obstacles in the life of the Christian, when they are first sighted ahead and when they are seen from a distance, appear to be invincible, insurmountable—barriers never to be overstepped or moved out of the way. The fact is, they are looked at only as to themselves and their own great size, and for the time there are not taken into account the weapons which may be brought to bear against them and for their removal. In themselves, and as they stand before us, they are certainly formidable and fear-inspiring. Any mountain in the Alpine range is certainly of itself rather a startling and somewhat real obstacle; but it only requires, that one should pass over it into the fertile fields beyond, a stout heart, and a good physical frame, and abundance of "stay" and resolution, and plenty of time. A flood of water or. an army of men is, either of them, fear-inspiring under certain circumstances; but the one, be it remembered, is made up of single drops, and the other of single units; and either the one or the other may be very easily restrained or destroyed.—W. M. Arthur.

Mar . The stone rolled away.—

I. To let Christ out of the grave.—

1. To express the Divine acceptance of the work of Christ.

2. To do homage to the person of Christ.

3. To acknowledge the grandeur of the occasion.

4. To shew the futility of the mightiest human opposition.

5. To reveal the sympathy of the holy universe with the plan of salvation.

II. To let Christians into the grave.—

1. To convince them of the reality of the Resurrection.

2. To comfort them with the fact of the Resurrection.

3. To impress them with the power of the Resurrection.

4. To qualify them for the announcement of the Resurrection.

5. To assure them of their own resurrection.—B. D. Johns.

Mar . The tomb of a wealthy Jew, even when hewn from the solid rock, was a large and ample structure. It commonly consisted of at least two parts:

(1) an antechamber, which often took the form of a long vestibule or corridor; and

(2) the mortuary chamber itself, in which the body or bodies were laid. Joseph's tomb seems to have been of this type. When the women looked up as they drew near, they saw at once that the rocky slab which closed the corridor on the outer side had been removed from its place. Filled with amazement, they seem to have paused for a while; and then, while Mary of Magdala ran off to summon Peter and John (Joh ), the other women gathered courage to climb up to the vestibule and enter it. And here a still more amazing spectacle met their view. They saw—in the mortuary chamber, I suppose, or at the entrance into it—a youth sitting on the right hand, clothed in a long white stole, i.e. a talar, "which indicated a heavenly being, none other wearing such a vestment." They would know him for an angel by his garb and by his youth, angels being assumed never to lose the bloom and beauty of youth. "And they were affrighted," or rather amazed, the word denoting the extreme mental perturbation which a supernatural presence naturally inspires in those who are compassed with "this muddy vesture of decay." And what wonder that amazement, a solemn awe, should seize them, when, in the chamber of death, they saw the very type of immortal life! An angel in a tomb should teach us at least, if it did not teach them, that death is not the end, but a new beginning.—S. Cox, D.D.

Mar . The empty grave.—

1. A sure and undeniable proof of Christ's Deity.

2. A full security that He is alive, to die no more.

3. An awful view of the evil nature of sin.

4. The insufficiency and uselessness of all our own righteousness in the matter of our justification before God.

5. In the grave of Christ we may see the curse of the broken law buried, and the wrath of God finally and effectually appeased in relation to every one who enjoys an interest in a risen and glorified Redeemer.

6. Here we may see death itself lie buried, so that none of the followers of Christ have any reason to be afraid of that last enemy.—J. Young.

"He is not here."—

1. Not in the grave, for He is risen from the dead.

2. Not in the garden, for He goes forth into all the world.

3. Not here on earth, for He is entered into His Divine glory.

Where Christ is not.—There is but one place, only one, in which Christ is not to be found—His grave. He is not there; He arose and left it, and has never returned thither. If, then, that be the only place where He is not, He must be found by you, if you seek Him everywhere else, and everywhere only to bless you and do you good. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." And yet, though emptied of Christ, that grave is full of consolation. His not being there tells us that He is Emmanuel, "God with us"—that His sacrifice is accepted, and that we are saved.

"The place where they laid Him."—With most tombs the interest consists in the fact that all that is mortal of the saint or the hero or the near relative rests beneath the stone or the sod on which we gaze. Of our Lord's sepulchre the real interest is that He no longer tenants it. It is not as the place in which He lies; it is not even chiefly as the place wherein He lay; it is as the place from which He rose that the tomb of Jesus speaks to faith.—Canon Liddon.

The empty tomb of Jesus recalls an event which is as well attested as any in history; it is so attested as to put the idea of what is called illusion out of the question. The main purpose, the first duty, of the apostolic ministry was to witness to the fact that Christ had risen. The apostles did not teach the Resurrection as a revealed truth, as they taught, for example, the doctrine of justification; they taught the Resurrection as a fact of experience, a fact of which they themselves had had experience. And this is why the different Evangelists did not report the same appearances of our Risen Lord. Each one reports that which he himself witnessed, or that which was witnessed by an eye-witness on whose authority he writes. Put the various attestations together, and the evidence is irresistible. That which these witnesses attest must be true, unless they have conspired to deceive us, or are themselves deceived. The idea that they are deceiving us cannot be entertained by any man who understands human character; the idea that they were themselves deceived is inconsistent with the character of the witness which they give.—Ibid.

The empty tomb an incitement to Christian endeavour.—And why? Because of all effective endeavour hope must be a main ingredient, and hope nowhere so learns successfully to resist the pressure and shock of disappointment, and to reach forward with confidence into an unexplored future, as at the empty tomb of Jesus. Had He been crucified without rising from the dead, hope in the eventual triumph of truth and goodness must perforce have died away from the hearts of men; but as it is the Resurrection is a warrant that if the heaviness of spiritual discouragement should endure for a night, the joy of spiritual success, patiently awaited, cometh in the morning. So it is that those who while endeavouring to live the new life of Christ are fighting a hard battle against untoward circumstances, against strong insurgent passions, against deeply rooted and perhaps very evil habits, against some fatal weakness or warp of the will. Fail they must, if they essay to fight that battle in their own natural strength; but they can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth them, and the Christ that strengtheneth them is not only the teacher Christ, the example Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin, He is also the Risen Christ, risen for their justification, and to this end making them a free present of His Resurrection strength. As such a soul in moments of deep discouragement comes in thought to see the place where the Lord lay once, but where He lies no more, it learns to understand its share in His great victory, and to expect with confidence that He will take it out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and will set its feet upon a rock, and will order its goings. And so, too, with enterprises undertaken for the good of others—enterprises which seem to be stricken with the note of failure, which fail over and over again, which we are tempted to give up as a bad business. Do not give up that enterprise, be it what it may, if you can dare to offer it, if you have offered it, to God as intended to promote His glory and the good of your fellow-men—do not give it up. There was darkness over the whole world on the day of Calvary—darkness which lately portended, though it necessarily preceded, the brightness of the Resurrection morning. Your enterprise will have its Easter, if you will only have the patience and the grace to wait.—Canon Liddon.

Mar . The message to Peter.—Whence happened it that to Peter, guilty, fallen Peter, is vouchsafed not only a common interest with his brethren in the angelic tidings, but a separate and individual communication?

I. Because he had greatly offended against his Lord and Master.—The Good Shepherd went, as it were, into the wilderness to recover him to the way of life and salvation. And what message so likely to effect the purposes of infinite love, or to animate the apostle's hopes, as the assurance that Christ had gotten Himself the victory over death, had triumphed gloriously over the wide dominion of the grave, and proved Himself to be the Son of God with power by the Resurrection from the dead? He was thus taught that the sincerity and bitterness of repentance which he had felt were not in vain; but that the same compassion which had awakened in his mind a salutary sense of his guilt still waited to pardon, to embrace, to restore him.

II. Because he was a penitent transgressor.—"The remembrance of his sin was grievous unto him, the burden of it was intolerable." Shame and remorse had wrung his heart with anguish, which could bear no other witness than the eye of Heaven: "He went out and wept bitterly." Happy the tears which Peter shed in the seed-time of his sorrow! and great the measure of his joy when the reaping of the harvest came!

III. In order that he might be invigorated for future duty.—"When thou are converted," said our Lord, "strengthen thy brethren." The infant Church was in some degree committed to his especial care; and therefore an express revelation of his Master's triumph over death was vouchsafed, that he might bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, had begotten him again to a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. His faith was to be confirmed by the tidings of that wondrous event. His holy boldness in the great gospel cause was to be aroused by this pledge of his Saviour's power and truth. And thus it actually happened. He continued sound in the faith, unshaken in danger, unmoved in tribulation, and at length laid down his life for his Master, with whom he now reigns in glory everlasting, bearing on his brow the bright diadem of Christian martyrdom.

1. The preachers of the gospel may learn from the angel's message what should be the pattern of their own ministrations. We should guide the undutiful son to the tender Father whom he has left; and when he comes to himself, when he arises to seek salvation, we should shew how his peace has been made, and how he may partake the mercies of that amnesty which the trumpet of the gospel jubilee proclaims to all.

2. The spiritual application of this subject will also teach us the duty of preparing to meet our Risen Saviour in the world of glory. He hath first departed to prepare the way for us.—R. P. Buddicom.

A forgotten promise.—In common with the apostles they had forgotten His gracious promise, as in our hours of darkness we too commonly forget the words which should inspire trust and hope: "But after I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee" (Mar : see also, for the pastoral figure, the previous verse),—go before you as a shepherd who collects and leads his scattered sheep. It may be doubted whether we have any of us laid such stress on this promise as it deserves, or as the Gospels lay on it, and on the means taken to secure its fulfilment—whether we have not been almost as forgetful of it, and with less excuse, as the apostles themselves. What it really meant was, that before they returned from the feast to their Galilean homes Jesus would be there, going before them and shewing the way. Had they remembered the promise and acted on it, how much suffering they might have been spared! If, instead of mourning and weeping in Jerusalem, they had set out for Galilee, assured that He would there manifest Himself to them and renew His broken intercourse with them, the days lost in grief might have been bright with hope and action.—S. Cox, D.D.

Galilee, the place of meeting.—Galilee was the place where He had spent most of His time on earth, where His first miracle had been wrought, and where His apostles had been called to follow Him. It was the locality where He Himself had been brought up, and also the native place of the dearest of His disciples—Peter, James, and John. These had followed Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and there had witnessed many sad and solemnising scenes—scenes fitted to trouble, to agitate, and to overwhelm. Remembering all this, we cannot help seeing that there was great tenderness and love on the part of the Redeemer in asking them to meet Him after His Resurrection,—not at Jerusalem, where He had been faithlessly betrayed by one of the twelve; not at Gethsemane, the scene of His indescribable agony; not at Calvary, where He had poured out His soul even unto death; but in Galilee—remote and secluded Galilee—inseparably associated with the memory of their earliest days, and with their first impressions of the riches of the Saviour's grace.

A testing lesson in faith.—We believe on evidence, but in difficult things we want the greatest possible amount of evidence. Faith is awakened in us, but faith needs to be trained and confirmed by some hard act of faith. The disciples heard of the Resurrection, but heard it as an idle tale. Then He appeared to them, and they were affrighted, supposing they had seen a spirit. They behold His hands and feet; they handle Him, and find that He has flesh and bones, and is not a ghostly apparition. But there may yet be room for doubt; it may be an illusion or contagion of credulity that has crept into their wearied and excited minds. And so they are led away from the scene of the event to Galilee, a three days' journey. Thus a twofold end is gained: fresh confirmation, and a stern, testing lesson in faith. "Is it, after all," we can imagine them saying, "worth the while to make the journey to Galilee? Can He who died on the Cross, whose feet were pierced with nails, journey thither? That He should appear here is possible; we have heard the like before: but will He appear in Galilee?" So their minds may have acted; and as they made the journey every step and every hour must have tended to throw them out of their belief and hope. For there is nothing that so tests our faith in an event difficult of belief as to get out of the atmosphere of it. The wonder lessens as we go away from it. When remote from it, the mind settles back into the old habit of belief, and into its every-day habit. And nothing so aids this tendency as a journey. Its weariness takes away the edge of interest; the wider view of the world draws us back to the steady order of the world and the great facts of nature. In a journey we believe in what we see; we are engrossed in the changing scene. Travel helps the mind, but it is not favourable to the finer exercises of the spirit. This journey to Galilee was made by the disciples in resistance of all these influences. Doubtless the energy of their faith sank with weariness, and their practical minds fell under the spell of the old, every-day world. Doubtless they often said to one another, "Has not our life these three years been a mistake? Have we not left a real and rational life in the world for the vagaries of an enthusiast?" This is a temptation that we all undergo,—the temptation to let go the ideals of life that have been revealed to us—purity, honour, unselfishness, self-denial, truth, spirituality—and sink back into the selfish, striving world that is all about us, clamouring at every door of our nature for entrance. But if this experience of the disciples was a trial of their faith, it also strengthened it. For faith is not hurt by doubt until it yields to it. The very weakness and faltering of faith may be turned into strength by pressing on in its path, fighting doubt, and resisting the appeals of the world. This journey of simple trust and stout adherence to hope was a fine preparation for harder experiences soon to follow. There would come times when not merely the faltering of their own hearts was against them, but all the powers of the world—times when their only refuge would be their faith in the Risen and Ascended Lord. Then the memory of this experience, crowned by actual sight of their Master, would come to their rescue.—T. T. Munger, D.D.

Mar . "They were afraid."—Why? Certainly not, as Petter supposes, "from the apprehension of some hurt or danger which might befall them by or upon the apparition of the angel to them." Neither is it natural to think of any far-seeing solicitude lest the news should get wind and reach the ears of the members of the Sanhedrin, so as to arouse to persecution. Dr. Edward Wells comes nearer nature. "For," says he, "they were afraid to stay, and not to hasten all they could to the apostles." They were in a tumult of commotion, and could not pause by the way to speak to any.—J. Morison, D.D.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 16

Mar . The devotion of the holy women.—The nightingale is celebrated for its singing in the night. We have, however, seen it maintained that it is all a mistake to suppose that she sings only in the night. She sings in the day as well, only, as other songsters are then in full chorus, her sweeter strains are not particularly distinguishable from the rest. But at night, when all others are hushed, her song is heard, and is more sweet by reason of the contrast with the surrounding stillness. Similarly was it with these women. They served in the day of bright sunshine, but their service was then overshadowed, so to speak, by the demonstrative crowd that thronged around Him. Amidst all the marks of attention paid Him, theirs did not appear particularly distinguishable. But when the voice of the noisy, effusive crowd was hushed during the dark night of trial and suffering which followed the brief day of popularity, they continued to give forth the music of love and sympathy through the dark loneliness of the night.

Mar . Imaginary difficulties.—Once upon a time—so the homely tale runs—a man and his wife started one pleasant morning to pay a long-promised visit to a friend some four or five miles away. The good woman carried her only little one with her; and they had not got far from home when she suddenly remembered a bridge they had to cross which was very old and very unsafe. Then she began to worry about it. "What shall we do about that bridge?" she said to her husband. "I shall never dare to go over it, and we can't get across the river by any other way." "Oh," said the man, "I forgot that bridge! It is a bad place, What if it were to break, and we fall into the water and be drowned?" "Or even," said the wife, "suppose you should step on a rotten plank, and break your leg, what would become of me and the child?" "I don't know," said the man, "what would become of any of us, for I couldn't work, and we should starve to death." So they went on worrying and fretting and framing evil till they got to the bridge, when, behold I since they had been there last, a fine, new, substantial stone bridge had been built! They crossed by in safety, and found that they might have saved themselves all this anxiety.

Difficulties overcome.—Men who undertake great works, like the Mont Cenis tunnel, the Atlantic cable, a railway across a continent, know that there are palpable, vast, and costly difficulties. There are costs which are certainly known, which civil engineers can readily calculate; and there are probable costs, which hinge upon conjectured contingencies; and there are possible costs which may be brought to light by the progress of the work. The men who furnish the capital necessarily look at these. They do not want to be in company with the man whose tower was not finished, of whom the Master told us. But, nevertheless, they go forward. Immense difficulties had to be overcome to establish the Central and Erie and Pacific Railways, the continental and sub-ocean telegraphs, and other great works; but they have been brought into existence, and stand to-day, because men who are not visionary had the nerve to dare to take up great burdens, and the shoulders broad and strong enough to bear them.

Love never retreats.—A little English drummer-boy was brought prisoner before Napoleon. The emperor told him to sound the retreat. "I never learnt it," was the prompt reply. Love never retreats. Love is ever accompanied by faith and hope, and in their company it always dares to pursue its course, however the odds may appear against it.

Mar . The secret of Christ's influence.—During the years which followed the outbreak of the French Revolution, and the revolt against Christianity which accompanied it, there was an extraordinary activity in some sections of French society, directed to projecting religions that might, it was hoped, take the place of Christianity. New philanthropic enthusiasms, new speculative enthusiasms, were quite the order of the day. On one occasion a projector of one of these schemes came to Talleyrand, who, you will remember, was a bishop who had turned sceptic, and so had devoted himself to politics; but whatever is to be said of him, he was possessed, in a very remarkable degree, of a keen perception of the proportions of things, and of what is and is not possible in this human world. The visitor observed, by way of complaint to Talleyrand, how hard it was to start a new religion, even though its tenets and its efforts were obviously directed to promote the social and personal improvement of mankind. "Surely," said Talleyrand, with a fine smile—"Surely it cannot be so difficult as you think." "How so?" said his friend. "Why," said Talleyrand, "the matter is simple; you have only to get yourself crucified, or, anyhow, put to death, and then, at your own time, to rise from the dead, and you will have no difficulty."—Canon Liddon.

Nature's testimony to the Resurrection.—In the life of Michael Faraday there is a very touching and instructive reference to the Resurrection. He tells us that during his travels on the Continent he was particularly struck with the beauty and simplicity of the little posts of remembrance set up on the graves in a quiet little graveyard in Switzerland. He speaks of one grave which more than any of the others arrested his attention. Some one was too poor to put up an engraved brass plate, or even a painted board, but had written on a piece of paper the dates of the birth and death of the one whose remains were resting below. The piece of paper was fastened to a board, and mounted on the top of a stick at the head of the grave. The paper was protected from the rain by a small roof, the ledge of which protruded sufficiently to carry the water away from the board. It was a very simple contrivance to memorialise a friend. But on examining the contrivance Faraday saw that Nature had contributed her part towards that humble memorial. Because under that little shelter formed by the protruding ledge, and by the side of the inscription on the paper, a caterpillar had attached itself, and there had passed through its death-like state of a chrysalis, and ultimately assumed its finished state of a butterfly, and had winged its flight from the spot, leaving its corpselike relics behind. And the young scientist turned away from that humble grave, his heart strengthened in the belief of the Resurrection, and his thoughts kindled into a glow by the contemplation of the wonderful works of God.


Verses 9-18

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Mar . See Appendix, p. 641.

Mar . Go ye into all the world.—That is to say, "Go wherever ye will, wherever ye can, that the gospel may be diffused: no limits of place are henceforth prescribed to you." Every creature.—Every human creature. Cp. "all nations" (Mat 20:19), as contrasted with the one Jewish nation to which their labours hitherto had been restricted. See Mat 10:5.

Mar . He that believeth not.—Against heretics denying, from the omission in this latter clause, the necessity of baptism, it is sufficient to reply that baptism, if not a necessary means of grace, would not have been introduced as such, and without qualification, in the previous clause—to say nothing of the assertion of its necessity elsewhere (e.g. Joh 3:3). Nor, indeed, is the insistence on baptism really absent from this clause after all; although not verbally expressed, it is evidently implied; the previous conjunction of the two—faith and baptism—is such that to accept or deny one is to accept or deny both. Moreover, saving faith is practical, and includes the observance of all things enjoined, of which baptism is among the first.

Mar . These signs shall follow them that believe.—Not to be understood of every believer, nor of all times alike. Miracles were more needed while the Church was in its infancy than after it had obtained a secure footing in the world. Yet it must not be concluded that the power of miracles in the body of the faithful is absolutely extinct. We dare not attempt to draw the line, and say that miracles were possible up to such a date, but not beyond, since God has not drawn any such line for us Himself. To be critical in investigating evidence is wise and right; to be sceptical, in the teeth of evidence, is foolish and wrong.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mar

(PARALLELS: Mat ; Luk 24:13-43; Joh 20:11-29.)

Christ's first appearance after His Resurrection.—

I. Why did He appear first to a woman?—

1. To shew that God is no respecter of persons (Rom )—that is, that in the bestowing of spiritual graces or privileges God does not regard the outward quality or condition of the persons upon whom He bestows them, but He doth freely and indifferently bestow such graces and privileges upon persons of all sorts and conditions—upon women as well as men, poor as well as rich, etc.

2. To shew that the fruit and benefit of His resurrection, and consequently of His death and passion, belong to women as well as to men.

II. Why did He appear first to this woman in particular?—

1. Because she shewed most love to Christ, and was most forward and diligent in seeking after Him.

(1) She is first named; yea, she alone (Joh ).

(2) She continued longest seeking.

(3) She sought Him with tears.

2. To comfort her against her former miserable and afflicted condition.

Lessons.—

1. Christ is most ready and forward to reveal and manifest Himself and His comfortable presence to such as truly and earnestly love Him, and are most forward to shew and express their love towards Him.

2. Christ hath a great care of such of His saints and servants as have been in great misery and distress, that they may not want comfort and encouragement afterward.

3. Such as have received great mercies and favours from God, if they be thankful to Him and make good use of those favours, shall have more added unto them.

4. The more any have tasted of the mercy of God, the more they will love God and Christ, and the more forward they will be to shew their love by its fruits.—G. Petter.

Christ's appearance to two disciples.—Had St. Luke's Gospel never been written, or contained no reference to this incident, we might have indulged in a variety of conjectures and speculations regarding it. "Who were these two disciples?" we might have asked; "and where were they going? On what day, and what time of day? What are we to understand by the expression ‘in another form'? Did Christ merely shew Himself to them? or did He converse with them? and if so, on what subjects? If He appeared to them under a different form from that under which they had hitherto known Him, how did they recognise Him? What feelings and impressions did the incident leave upon their minds?" These and many other questions might have been suggested by St. Mark's brief account; but little or nothing satisfactory could have resulted from the inquiry. In this state of uncertainty, how gladly should we have welcomed the discovery of another and hitherto unknown portion of Scripture, containing the very information we were seeking—a narrative taken down from the lips of one of the two disciples, giving a full and particular account of the whole transaction—just such a narrative, in short, as we find in Luk ! Let us suppose that this narrative were now before us for the first time, and see what information may be obtained from it as to the particulars upon which we were in doubt.

I. The meeting of the two disciples with their Risen Lord.—St. Mark only states that after Jesus had first appeared to Mary Magdalene, who "went and told them that had been with Him" (i.e. the general body of disciples in Jerusalem), but failed to convince them—"after that He appeared in another form unto two" of those who had heard Mary's story and believed it not. We might almost infer from this that the appearances both took place on Easter Day itself; and St. Luke confirms this (Luk ). We also gather from his account that it was in the afternoon (Luk 24:29). The name of one of them—"Cleopas"—is mentioned incidentally (Luk 24:18); but no hint is given as to who the other was. All we know for certain is, that he was not one of the eleven apostles (Luk 24:33). To these two disciples, then, Jesus appeared, "as they walked and went into the country." Had we only St. Mark's statement, we might have supposed it was a walk of recreation, not of business (as Gen 24:63). What could be more natural than for persons in such a state of agitation and suspense to seek an opportunity of calm reflexion and discussion in a quiet country walk! We learn, however, from St. Luke that they were on their way to a certain place, several miles distant from Jerusalem (Luk 24:13), where they intended to lodge that night (Luk 24:29), though whether at an inn, or at the house of one of them, or at a friend's house we cannot determine. As they walked they talked; and their conversation could not but turn upon those recent and still passing events in which they were so deeply interested (Luk 24:14). Their hearts were full, and "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Their discourse was earnest and solemn, for it related to matters on the ultimate event of which the whole course and character of their future lives might turn. As they thus talked a Stranger came up and joined them. It was Jesus; yet they knew Him not (Luk 24:15-16). They were not struck with blindness; they saw other objects, and saw them as they really were; they saw the person and features of Jesus Himself, but by some providential arrangement of which we can form no conception they were prevented from recognising Him. Even His voice, with whose accents they must have been as familiar as a child with its parent's, failed to convey its wonted impressions to their ears. The same mysterious influence which had been exercised for a brief period over the senses of Mary Magdalene (Joh 20:14-16) now took possession of them, and maintained its ascendency throughout the lengthened conversation which ensued. First the two disciples related to the Stranger "the things which were come to pass there in those days" (Joh 20:18-24). When they had finished their statement, the Stranger Himself took up the discourse; and their share in the conversation consisted chiefly (we may suppose) in such inquiries and remarks as scholars are in the habit of addressing to their master, to elicit further explanation, and so forth. There was but one subject which at that time could be of the slightest interest to any of the party, viz. the accordance of all that had happened to Jesus with the prophetic announcements respecting the Messiah (Joh 20:25-27). On this subject He held His hearers in mute and rapt attention until towards evening they drew near their destination. All this time they had no idea who their Companion really was; but thinking Him a man like themselves, they begged Him to take up His quarters with them for the night. All three therefore turned in, and sat down to meat; and it was during this meal that the mist or veil was removed from their eyes, and they saw Him in His own proper form in which He had always appeared to them. Even the precise moment of the discovery is recorded by St. Luke (Luk 24:30-31; Luk 24:35); it was when He was in the act of breaking bread, and blessing it, and giving it to them, that they recognised Him who had so often before performed the same pious act in their presence. The recognition being complete, the purpose of this whole transaction was answered, and Jesus "vanished out of their sight."

II. The feelings of the two disciples in the presence of their Risen Lord.—"Did not our heart burn within us!" they exclaimed (Luk ). The expression is a striking one, and seems to be as pregnant with meaning as their hearts were with feeling. It indicates the presence not of one but of many strong and stirring emotions within the breast, all too big for the confined space in which they were pent up. It reminds us of the psalmist's language (Psa 39:3), or of Jeremiah's (Jer 20:9).

1. The first feeling excited in their breasts was perhaps that of hope. They had had hope in Christ before (Luk ); but His condemnation and death had filled their minds with despondency. To look for the salvation of their nation to One who had not been able to save Himself would indeed have been to hope against hope. But the discourse of their Fellow-traveller rekindled the dying embers, and fanned them into a flame. Did not the Scriptures of the prophets expressly point to a suffering as well as a triumphant Messiah, and suffering in order to triumph? See Isaiah 53. And as to His being alive again, as announced to the women by a vision of angels, why should they discredit it or be astonished at it? See Psa 16:10. If we at this day are able to build up for ourselves "a good hope through grace" on the foundation of these and similar texts, we may imagine what it must have been to hear Jesus Himself "expounding in all the Scriptures the things concerning" His own sufferings and exaltation; we may well believe that while they listened the hearts of these two disciples beat high with hope—the hope of seeing their Lord again, triumphant over death and the grave, and of themselves sharing His triumph. We often hear it said, "What is life without hope?" but those who say it are thinking of some temporal advantage, some improvement in worldly condition, the hope of which cheers them under present difficulties and animates them to fresh exertion in the struggle of life. But what is life, when all its hopes are realised and all its objects attained, without the Christian hope?

2. Did not the hearts of the two disciples burn within them with love and gratitude while the unknown Object of that love talked with them by the way and opened to them the Scriptures? And what should be more effectual to inflame love where it exists, or to kindle it in hearts as yet unconscious of it, than the contemplation of those events which were recalled to the minds of these men by the discourse of Jesus? The thought of Christ being "wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities" is one with which we have been familiar from childhood, which may have weakened somewhat the effect it ought to have upon our minds. But whenever it is placed strongly and clearly before us, cold and dead must be that heart which does not respond to the appeal! Fools indeed must they be, and "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" and all that the Evangelists have recorded, who are not melted by the bare recital of all that the Son of God suffered in the flesh for us men and for our salvation!

3. Doubtless the predominant emotion was joy. The two disciples had set out on their journey in sorrow and heaviness. But as the Stranger proceeded to shew them from Scripture not only the probability but the certainty and necessity of their Lord's resurrection, their hearts were cheered and warmed with the prospect of beholding Him again, in accordance with His own most gracious promise (Joh ). And if they had cause to rejoice, how much more have we! See Psa 118:24-29; 1Co 5:7-8.

Mar . The departing Saviour.—

I. Our departing Saviour's chidings (Mar ).—It sounds somewhat harsh to hear that the gentle Jesus mingled rebukes with His parting words. But it was love itself that gave birth to these upbraidings. It was not that Jesus took pleasure in reproaching His disciples, or that He did not wish them every comfort and peace of mind; but it was just because their highest welfare was the chief desire of His heart that He thus admonished them. Faith is the great saving grace; and where that is wanting there is misery, darkness, and death. It was just because He loved them, and wished to have them take in and possess the true joys of faith, that He upbraided them with their unbelief. Every interest of their own, and of those who were afterward to believe through their word, was put into terrible jeopardy by the indulgence of such stubborn scepticism. And as the Saviour loved them, and loved the souls of men in general, He referred to it in His last interview, expressed again His dissatisfaction, and gave to them, and through them to all men, a last solemn warning against "an evil heart of unbelief." Nor can we plead that no such evil temper and hardness have in any way characterised us hitherto. Have we so believed the Resurrection of Christ as to take all its momentous implications home to our souls, and to have them living in our lives? Have we so believed it, "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead," etc.? (Rom 6:4-6). Admitting that Christ is risen, have we then so risen with Him as to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God? (Col 3:1-2). Conceding it as true that there is a blessed resurrection life for the virtuous and the good, have we really set ourselves to attain to that resurrection of the just? Yielding that Jesus is declared the Son of God with power, have we embraced Him with all our heart, and clung to Him as the only Saviour of our souls, and given ourselves to obey Him in all things as the Captain of our salvation?

II. Our departing Saviour's commands (Mar ).—Here is another grand testimony and manifestation of our Great Redeemer's love. It is assumed that there is a heaven and that there is a hell; but the desire of Jesus is that all men should escape the horrors of the one and secure the blessedness of the other. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Pe 3:9). But there is only one way in which men can be saved (Joh 3:36). The Saviour Himself here reannounces the same, and has made it firm and unalterable for ever. But it is impossible for men to believe on the Son, or to turn themselves heartily to Him as their hope, without first having had Him preached unto them. This is now the grand commission of all Christ's disciples. The gospel calls men not only to be saved themselves, but to be agents and messengers in carrying the same salvation to others. No Christian is exempt from its binding obligation, and no Christian is excluded from the high privilege and honour of taking part in it, according to his sphere and measure. There is indeed a line of discrimination to be observed between Christians in general and those who are the chosen and appointed ministers of the Church; but the election of some to officiate more directly for the rest assumes that there is a common office of this sort inhering in the whole body and in all its members in common. That office it is the business of every individual to exercise, if not in his own person, yet in and through others, by his vote, concurrence, and aid. But the mere preaching and hearing of the truth is not all. Something more is necessary in order to full profit in Divine grace. As Christ commands the preaching of the gospel to every one, so He also at the same time appoints and ordains the holy sacrament of baptism to be received by every one, as a test of his obedience to the truth, and as a further means of imparting His Holy Spirit. Faith without obedience is nothing, and salvation is promised only to him "that believeth and is baptised." We must remember, also, that saving faith is not a product of our reason and will. "It is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8). It is a thing wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. And the instrument of the Holy Ghost is the Word and sacraments. God has appointed baptism as well as preaching; and the promise of salvation rests on one as upon the other. Hence it is written: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Joh 3:5). And again: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit 3:5). And, again, that "the ark wherein eight souls were saved by water" was a "like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us," which is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1Pe 3:20-21). Hence the farewell charge of the loving Jesus is, that we carry this sacrament wheresoever we carry the gospel itself; and that, equally with our preaching of His truth to every creature, it is our duty to offer baptism to every creature, and to demand of all men obedience to the one as we require faith in the other, as the Divine conditions on which alone we are authorised to promise salvation to them that hear us.

III. Our departing Saviour's promises (Mar ).—These are grand and startling announcements. Scepticism has often pointed to them, and challenged Christians to attest their faith accordingly. Whether such miracles occur now or not, if they ever were actually wrought by Christians, then the promise has been fulfilled, and the taunt of infidelity falls to the ground. Turning back, then, to those trying times when Christianity went forth in a few humble fishermen and tent-makers, to grapple with the hoary systems which then held empire over the world, we are also abundantly certified that in no instance did these assurances fail (Heb 2:4). Were they to be able to cast out demons? (Act 16:16; Act 16:24; Act 19:11-12). And many demons of pride, covetousness, uncleanness, drunkenness, gluttony, ambition, and demons of lust, hatred, moroseness, and spirits of wickedness of innumerable sorts, did these same apostles expel by their preaching, turning men from their idols and corruptions to serve the Living and True God—thus both literally and spiritually fulfilling the blessed promise of the Master, that in His name they should "cast out devils." Were they to be able to speak in languages which they had never learned? (Act 2:5-11; Act 10:46). Were they to be able to take up poisonous reptiles unharmed? (Act 28:1-6). Were they to be able to drink deadly draughts with impunity? Church history tells of a fatal potion prepared for the destruction of the Apostle John, which he drank, but was unhurt by the poisoned cup, which it was confidently counted would be his death. Were they to be able to heal the sick and the suffering? (Act 3:1-9; Act 9:33-35; Act 14:8-11). And time would fail to tell the works of healing wonder which the disciples wrought in the name of Jesus, by prayer and the laying on of hands, in which the Master fulfilled His promise: "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." "They went forth, and preached the Word everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following." Nor was the promise or the fulfilment of it confined to them alone. It was not made to apostles simply, but "them that believe," and hence to Christians in general. Accordingly we find this miraculous power working in and by the Church for a hundred years after the Saviour's ascension. It is still outstanding, firm, and good; and always must hold good, as long as the gospel is preached, and men are found to believe it. The lack is not to be sought in the absence of necessity, but in the weakness and the infirmity of our faith. There were places, when Christ was on earth, at which He did not many mighty works, because of the unbelief of the people. Want of faith will always restrain and grieve away the gracious power of God. And instead of reasoning these precious promises into a state of superannuation, let us rather conclude that the Church's living confidence in her Lord has declined. Let us look for more, pray with more confidence, realise more thoroughly what our high calling is, and what an Almighty Saviour we have, and as God is true His promise will be verified now as well as in other ages.—J. A. Seiss, D.D.

Mar . What is Christian preaching?—Our Lord believed in the work of the preacher, not only as one of the chief methods of disseminating the gospel, but as the chief method. By Him it was never undervalued as something secondary. He "went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching." When He sent forth the apostles He said, "As ye go, preach." After His Resurrection "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word." And Paul rejoices that he "was ordained a preacher."

I. Realising the importance of this office, as we turn to study the great Model we find ourselves at first discouraged, because that which impresses us most strongly is the dissimilarity between the discourses of Him who "spake as never man spake" and any which we may ever hope to produce.

1. We must study and frame our sentences beforehand, and many times sit down afterward and wonder that so great a truth could be so poorly told. The most striking element in Christ's discourses is their marvellous spontaneity. His words were real lightning: they flashed. With us, and our perhaps necessary elaborate methods, they become too often only lightning on canvas—a streak of yellow paint. But even here, in this at first most discouraging attribute of our Lord's preaching, we may find for ourselves an idea and an ideal. The ideal Christian discourse will be that which in manner and spirit as nearly as possible resembles Christ's. With Him preaching was speaking. "He opened His mouth and spake." We cannot do this as He did it; and if the perpetuation of the Christian religion had depended upon this kind of Christian preaching, it would have died with the death of the apostles and their immediate successors. If the inspiration which they received was not indeed different in kind from that which falls on us to-day, it was so infinitely different in degree that the result is the same in either case.

2. And yet there is one method by which in its effect we may approximate the manner of Christ's preaching. And because of the difference between us and the apostles that method is exactly the opposite of that which He suggested to them. What they, fresh from immediate personal contact with the Christ, were to do by "taking no thought," we can accomplish only by recognising in a very special sense the need of taking much thought. Thomas Guthrie began in Edinburgh a pastorate which lasted thirty years; and he determined from the beginning to preach extemporaneously, as Christ preached. But he realised that he had limitations which Christ and His apostles had not—that if he would accomplish this, it must be, not with less study than would be required for a written sermon, but more. He rose regularly at five in summer and six in winter, and for five days in the week devoted the first three hours of every morning to the preparation of his sermon. Thus for fifteen hours it was the single object of his thought. He wrote it and rewrote it, eliminating here and emphasising there, until when Sunday came he did not need to learn it; as our school-children say, "It had learned itself." Unconsciously he had absorbed it, and by reading it over once or twice on the morning of its delivery he went into the pulpit surcharged. The ideas leaped to his lips without conscious effort, in almost or quite the very language in which he had thought and written them out, with all the polish of a scholar and all the spontaneity of a speaker. He preached like Christ; and that which happened eighteen hundred years ago happened again, as it always will under similar circumstances: "The common people heard him gladly."

II. What was the substance of Jesus' preaching?—

1. Our Lord's sermons were doctrinal, if we remember that docere means to teach. When He speaks, He speaks as though something were settled; and that is dogma, truth crystallised. The very name of His followers was that of disciples, learners. He had something to teach. His discourses were not "guesses at truth." There was nothing in them which would remind one of the debating society, where "everything is an open question." "Do you know," said the late Oliver Wendell Holmes, "I don't like to listen to these everlasting negations that some ministers deal out from the pulpit."

2. Christ's preaching was pictorial: He knew how to teach it. That was probably an overstatement when some one said of Him that "our Lord never preached a sermon in which He did not tell a story, because it is written that ‘without a parable spake He not unto them.'" "But there is no doubt that His style of address was essentially Oriental. Neither is there any doubt that this was one of the chief reasons why the throngs hung so breathlessly upon His words. His eye swept all heaven and earth for metaphors and parables and similes. We may mark the perils to be met with here by noting how deftly He avoided them. He never fondled an illustration, as one does a pretty babe, to call attention to itself. His illustrations illustrated. They were suggestive, not exhaustive. With Him a metaphor was only "a window into an argument." He never deliberately constructed ornamentation; but we must believe, with His sermons before us, that He did ornament construction. But even here we need a qualifying word. Though His teaching was illustrative, it was always teaching. His figures were not wax flowers, put on for adornment, simply adherent. They were inherent, they were the truth in blossom.

3. His preaching was persuasive: He knew why He taught it. There is no true Christian sermon ever preached which does not contain, directly or indirectly, this element of persuasion to a Christian life. It is this which differentiates it from other forms of literature, and makes it a Christian sermon. A drama is always pictorial, and sometimes instructive: a lyceum lecture is supposed to be both. But the distinctive mark of a Christian sermon is that it is a discourse aimed at the will, for the purpose of inducing or strengthening the Christian life. What Christ said of Himself was eminently true of His preaching: it was "a way" not stopping with itself, but leading farther on.

4. In His teaching He was spiritual: He addressed the inner life. He not only had something to teach, and knew how to teach it, and why He taught it; He knew likewise to whom He taught it. His appeal was ever to the spiritual yearning which in greater or less degree is to be found in every soul. "I don't care whether it's Briggsism or anti-Briggsism," said a man at the close of a celebrated service in a New York church, as he ran up into the pulpit and grasped the hand of the clergyman; "but for God's sake help me; for I am a ruined soul." In every word He ever uttered Christ always had in mind that ruined soul, longing to be borne upward into an atmosphere of health. "I am come," He said, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."—G. T. Dowling, D.D.

Mar . The signs of faith.—When we remember such words as those which tell us that "he who believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," how should it at once arrest our attention to hear, from the lips of Him who cannot deceive, an account of those very signs which shall mark out the possession of this invaluable gift!

I. We seem to be reading—we are evidently reading—of gifts and of powers which have long passed away from Christ's Church: gifts and powers which never infallibly pointed out the true members of His spiritual body—for some had these who had little, if any, experience of the inward graces of Christ's Spirit—and which now, at all events, do not survive, to make any distinction, real or apparent, amongst the multitude of His professed disciples. It was one great object of Christ's revelation to draw up the veil which separated between the material and the spiritual, and to disclose to the eyes of men those great but unseen realities in the very midst of which they were blindly and unconsciously dwelling. This unseen world was of a twofold character. There was the world of God, and the world of the devil—the world of Divine agency, and the world of antagonist evil. With both of these every man upon earth was deeply concerned; and yet the nature, the very existence, of either could only be made known to him for certain by disclosures from God. Thus, on the one hand, the devil was permitted in that generation to manifest his operation upon men's souls by visible tokens of his presence in their bodies. On the other hand, that generation was blessed also with equally palpable proofs of the operation of God's Spirit. He enabled the tongue to utter languages which the understanding in many cases could not interpret; He made the word of a man powerful to heal diseases which had defied all the skill of physicians—to cast out from the convulsed and distorted body those evil spirits which had usurped it for their abode. But these visible and sensible proofs of the presence of God's Spirit were never designed, we may venture to say, to remain with the Church of Christ. The signs which were to follow them that believed—if in the first instance they were of a mixed character, partly gifts and partly graces, partly outward powers and partly spiritual virtues—were designed to become ere long wholly of the latter kind: the only powers with which Christ's people were ultimately to be endued in this life were such as are inseparable from the graces of love and knowledge and holiness—from the insensible but resistless influence of one who is proved by his life and spirit to have God with him and in him of a truth.

II. Every one of these signs has a corresponding token in times when miracles are no more.—Let us view by the light of other words of God each of the four particulars here enumerated in its application to our own days.

1. If Christ stood now in the midst of us and said, "These signs shall follow those amongst you that believe: in My name shall they cast out devils," should we not at once understand Him to declare, that, whatever be the peculiar sins to which we are most often and powerfully tempted, whatever the snares by which the great enemy most easily prevails over us, in His name we must overcome them?—-that, knowing as we all do our weaknesses, our faults, our past sinful acts, our present foolish and hurtful desires; knowing whether it be in the form of passion, or of selfishness, or of sensuality, or of sloth, that sin has most power over us; knowing by experience that in some one or in all of these forms it has great power over us, and recognising, as Christ teaches us to do, in all these things indications of his presence and his agency who like a roaring lion is ever going about seeking whom he may devour, we must cast him out in His name and strength?—that, If we really believe, we shall do so; that if we do it not, it is because we have no faith and therefore no life in us?

2. "They shall speak with new tongues." The miraculous power which fulfilled this prediction has long passed away. But what was the miraculous gift of tongues—glorious as it was, and most convincing as an argument of the Divine origin of the gospel—when viewed in comparison with that grace which was so aptly signified by its exercise, and for so many ages has survived its withdrawal? If he who has hitherto found no response within, when he would fain have summoned his heart to awake and utter praise—who has knelt on his knees to pray, and found his very prayers dried up at their inmost source by the withering power of long indifference or unbelief—is now able to realise God's being, to trust in Christ's mediation, to enter in through that door into the heavenly courts of the Lord, to present there with a full heart his daily offering of confession and prayer and thanksgiving, to believe that he is heard, and to receive according to his need the supply of life and strength and comfort,—what is this but the gift of a new tongue, a sign which follows them that believe, and betokens an heir of salvation?

3. "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." In other words, this is one of the signs which attend Christ's servants, that what is perilous to others is safe to them, that that is health to them which to others is but an occasion of falling. They live in an ensnaring world. Their own hearts are weak and treacherous. Their occupations in life are often perilous to the well-being of their souls. They hear evil maxims often avowed, corrupting principles more often insinuated. Their own duty sometimes requires them to read or to hear that of which they had been happy to have remained ignorant. Some friend, whom nature or choice had endeared to them most closely, seeks by argument or persuasion or ridicule to shake their steadfastness, and by his own example encourages them to sin. But what then? Greater is He that is in them than he that is in the world. To the pure all things are pure. The tempest which overthrows others but roots them more firmly.

4. "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." We have dwelt upon other signs of true faith: how it shews itself in fighting against our own sins—in bridling the tongue, and yet loosing it—in giving safety amidst danger, and stability amidst general defection. And now we are taught to remember how the same principle tends to make us useful in the world—useful in our own world, whatever that be, whether the world of youth or the world of men; how it enables us to help the weak, to warn the sinful, to comfort the weak-hearted, to establish the wavering, to bring back the wandering; how the consistent maintenance, in word and conduct, of that spirit of faith in Christ of which we are speaking, will, by God's blessing, often without a word of direct exhortation, act upon others with a powerful influence, silently reproving, teaching, guiding, supporting our brethren, even when we are least conscious of any eye being upon us.—Dean Vaughan.

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Mar . Christ's appearance to Mary of Magdala.—St. Mark reminds us that Mary had once been possessed by seven devils; and whatever else and more be included in demoniacal possession, we know that it must have perilously weakened brain and nerve. Is it not obvious, then, that, as we might have expected of Him, Jesus appeared first to Mary because she was in the most desperate need of Him? Wandering about the garden like one distraught, blinded with her tears, possessed with one idea—so possessed that even the angelic vision seems to have had no awe for her, and she fails to recognise the Lord she loved, till in familiar tones He cries, "Mary"—who does not see the extreme danger her susceptible and excitable nature was in? Insanity was not far off when she flung herself upon Him with the cry, "My Master," and would have clasped His feet. How wholesome for her too and calming to have a commission confided to her, to be made useful, to be sent to the disciples with the message, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God!"—S. Cox, D.D.

"First to Mary Magdalene."—To reconcile this representation with Matthew's (Mat ), we must suppose—what is perfectly natural—that there was a variety of runnings to and fro. We may conceive the case in some such way as the following—without, however, imagining that it embodies the absolute historic truth: When the group of women saw the open tomb and the angels, Mary may instantly, in a kind of ecstatic bewilderment, have turned on her heels to run and carry word of the fact to the apostles. By-and-by the other women would follow. Ere long Peter and John would come running, and then return. Mary for a little season was alone, near the sepulchre, and Jesus revealed Himself to her. By-and-by the other women rejoined her, and Jesus appeared to them all, as they were on their way to the apostles. There would be in all their bosoms not only interest, strung to the highest pitch, but ecstasy, and trepidation, and an impossibility of resting anywhere longer than a few moments at a time. See Greswell's Forty-third Dissertation.—J. Morison, D.D.

Mar . Another form.—By "another form" St. Mark seems to mean a different form to that in which Christ appeared to Mary, but may, and probably does, mean nothing more than a form other than that with which they had been familiar in the days of His humiliation—"a spiritual body," and no longer "a natural body." This conjecture is confirmed by the word rendered manifested, a different word to that rendered "appeared" in Mar 16:9. It implies that in His new form He was not necessarily visible, though He could render Himself visible where and to whom He would.—S. Cox, D.D.

Mar . The unbelief of the apostles.—" Neither believed they them." The original is stronger: but not even them did they believe. And yet it is said in Luk 24:33-34, that when they got into the midst of "the eleven and them that were with them," they were met with the exclamation, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." This apparent contrariety demolishes at a stroke the theory of Hitzig, who supposes that Luke is the author of Mar 16:9-20. It also completely overturns the theory of those who imagine that the section, though not composed by Luke, was, by the hand of some other one, culled out of Luke. But there is no real contradiction nevertheless. The disciples of our Lord were in the midst of the inconsistencies of a tumultuating and transition state of mind. All their hopes had been suddenly dashed. They had been utterly disappointed. And yet they could not bring themselves to believe that their late Beloved Lord had been an impostor. Had He not been uniformly and perfectly pure? Had He not been almost infinitely unselfish and noble? It could not be that He was a deceiver. And yet the unchallengeable fact stared them in the face, that, instead of throwing off His disguise and assuming His royal prerogatives, as they had anticipated, He had been seized, tried, condemned, and crucified like a slave! What could they make of the case? Mary Magdalene and other women had told them that the sepulchre was found by them open and illumined by the presence of angels. Peter and John had run to it, and found the report of the women true, in its main element at least. Then Mary had told them that the Lord actually appeared to her. They could not for a moment doubt her sincerity. But surely her imagination must have imposed on her! By-and-by, however, the Lord appeared to Peter also, and he reported the fact to his brethren. His testimony had weight; and they received it with raptures (Luk 24:34). And yet after a little, and because of the very preciousness of their new-born hope, they begin to be inquisitive and critical in reference in its foundation. What if Peter himself had been overmastered by his imagination? What if, under the influence of his sanguine nature, and with that haste which has been all along his besetting failing, he had mistaken a mere subjective vision for an objective fact? Then perhaps the assembled brethren would question Peter, and cross-question him, going into the varied details of the appearance, until, it may be, Peter's own faith began to waver. When once in the full flow of this doubting mood, they would be ready enough to set aside the testimony of the two comparatively humble brethren who had returned from the country. They would say, "No doubt the brethren are honest. But surely it cannot be true that He who actually on the Cross gave up the ghost, and was then buried, is now literally alive again! How could such a thing be? Must not the brethren and Peter himself, as well as Mary, be the dupes of their fond imaginations?" Such would naturally be the state of the disciples' minds for a considerable length of time—the tide of thought and feeling surging and resurging in contrary directions. And hence the facile conciliation of Mark's statement with Luke's.—J. Morison, D.D.

Mar . Christ's commission.—

I. What is implied in preaching the gospel?—

1. It means to spread the good news.

2. To make known that revelation which God has given of Himself.

3. To exhibit the privilege the gospel offers.

4. To declare the precepts the gospel enjoins.

II. To whom the office is committed.—

1. It was not confined to the apostles.

2. The preacher must have a deep and a living sense of the importance of Divine truth.

3. The preacher must have good sense and a power of argument.

4. A spiritual and experimental knowledge of the gospel.

5. A particular call by the grace of God.

6. A fervent love to the Lord Jesus, and an earnest desire to advance His honour and interest.

7. An intense desire for the salvation of souls.

8. A willingness to endure hardship and persecution in the work on which he is engaged.

III. Where and to whom is the message to be preached?—Every rational being of the race of Adam is to receive this important message, for all have sinned and come short of the kingdom of God.

1. None are excluded by the decree of God. He is loving to all men.

2. None are excluded by natural or moral incapacity. They are not too weak, ignorant, or depraved to obey the precepts of the gospel.

IV. The condition required from those who hear.—Faith is required in order to have salvation, for the gospel is—

1. A revelation of truths, and implies a persuasion of their certainty and importance.

2. An offer of privileges, and implies that we accept that offer in the way God has appointed.

3. A promulgation of laws, and implies that we acknowledge the authority of the Lawgiver.—Preacher's Analyst.

Gospel responsibility.—It was the saying of a great missionary preacher, "We shall soon have done with the gospel, but the gospel will not soon have done with us."

Mar . Belief and baptism.—By joining "believing "and "being baptised," as both necessary to salvation, did the Lord mean to put on an equality the highest action of the soul in embracing the truth of God and of Christ and the reception of an outward rite? Certainly not. For He did not consider that the baptism which He ordained was an outward rite. It is, according to His own words, a new birth of water and the Spirit into His kingdom. According to the teaching of St. Paul, it is a death and burial with Him to sin, and a rising again with Him to newness of life (Rom 6:1-4), so that the baptised man must, no matter what the difficulty, count himself to be in a new state, born anew into the Second Adam, grafted into the True Vine, endued with a new life from Christ, and gifted, if he will faithfully strive to use them, with new powers against sin and on the side of holiness of life. It was the Lord's intention, by His death and resurrection, not only to deliver men from sin as individuals, but to incorporate them into His mystical body, i.e. His Holy Catholic Church, so that in the unity of that Church, in the unity of its faith, its hope, its charity, they might grow up, not singly, but together, in the fellowship of the One Body. And so the reception of His baptism being the outward sign of this, and the means for bringing it to each one, was worthy to be put side by side with believing.—M. F. Sadler.

Words applicable to nations.—Whatever unbelievers think about individual souls, it is plain that these words have proved true for communities and nations. He that believeth and is baptised has been saved; he that believeth not has been condemned. The nation and kingdom that has not served Christ has perished.—Dean Chadwick.

Nominal Christianity insufficient.—Let a man (I speak of the generality of men) be asked upon what he builds his hopes of salvation. He will reply: "I am a Christian. I was born in a Christian land, of Christian parents, and baptised in the name of Christ, and therefore I am a Christian." It is well for him that he has been blessed with such advantages. But has he improved them as they might have been improved? The words of Christ are not, "He that is baptised shall be saved"; but, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved." The name of a Christian will, of itself, do nothing for us; it will only be an aggravation of our guilt, if we be found without a Christian heart, without a Christian faith, without a Christian practice. But perhaps he will say: "I am something more than a nominal professor of the gospel. I am constant in my attendance at the house of God, and regular in the observance of the Holy Communion." But let him be asked again: Is the heart in all this? Is it done solely and wholly to please God? Is it done with seriousness, earnestness, and sincerity? Or is this outward shew of religion the result of habit, put on in conformity with the custom of the world, or to deceive and gain the favour of mankind? Does he enter the holy sanctuary with the full determination that, when he has been taught his duty, he will perform the same? Does he, as he kneels at the holy table, "acknowledge and bewail his manifold sins and wickedness," and, "intending to lead a new life," pray for strength and grace to that God with whom alone dwelleth the power to bring him unto happiness? Does he "commune with his own heart" in public and in private, at all times and seasons, to discover whether he be wandering from the right way, from his duty, his religion, and his God, and with the purpose to correct what he finds to be wrong, and to improve what is deficient? The man who can answer these questions to the satisfaction of his conscience and his God will "be accepted with Him"; but too many, it is to be feared, are very far removed from such an advanced state of spiritual excellence.—H. Marriott.

"Shall be damned."—"God is too good to damn anybody." Quite right. God does not damn anybody; but many damn themselves. Damnation is sin and suffering producing and perpetuating each other. Look at the low dens with their diseased, poisoned, putrescent inmates, their depravity, their profligacy, their brutality, their bodily torture, their mental anguish. Is not that damnation?—sin and suffering acting and reacting. Hell is that same thing projected into the soul's future. God does not damn men. He moves heaven and earth to prevent it. The Crucifixion was God's supreme effort to keep men from hell. How unreasonable to charge God with your death! Suppose I went, sick and suffering, through the stormy night to hold a light for you at some dizzy chasm; suppose you struck down the light which I had brought with so much pains; suppose you lost your foothold and fell into the abyss below: could I be charged with your death? Well, then, did not God bring you light? Did He not with scarred hand hold that light over your pathway? If you reject it and fall, can you charge Him with your death? No; oh no! "This is the condemnation, that light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."—R. S. Barrett.

Mar . "These signs."—The Holy Church doth spiritually every day what she then did through the apostles corporally. For when the priests, by the grace of exorcism, lay hands on believers, and forbid evil spirits to inhabit their minds, what do they but cast out devils? And any believers whatever, who henceforth abandon the secular words of the old life, and utter holy mysteries, and rehearse as best they can the praise and power of their Maker, what do they but speak with new tongues? Moreover, while by their good exhortations they remove evil from the hearts of others, they are taking up serpents: which miracles are greater, because they are the more spiritual; the greater, because they are the means of raising not bodies, but souls. These signs then, dearest brethren, ye do, if ye will (Psa 91:13; Joh 14:12; 1 Corinthians 13).—Gregory.

Mar . The promise of power.—This promise, observe, is contingent upon faith; and it is a promise of power over spiritual foes and over natural disqualifications.

1. Over spiritual foes, so that even demons shall be subject unto us. 0 Christian worker, therefore abandon not the hardest case.

2. Over natural disqualifications. The timid, shrinking Peter shall speak with boldness before three thousand men; and John, the hasty Boanerges, shall become the apostle of gentleness and love.—E. A. Stuart.

Mar . Safety amid danger.—The Master promises to His disciples, on the condition of their faith in Him, perfect safety amidst the dangers of the work, so that what is harmful to others shall not hurt them. And this safety will consist not in the avoidance of evil, for the Master knew they would still be in the world, and that temptations would be round about them on every side. Therefore He does not promise immunity from danger, but immunity from harm. Yet this also, of course, only in the pathway of obedience. We may not throw ourselves from the pinnacle of the Temple, and expect His angels to bear us up in their preserving hands, for we may not tempt the Lord our God; but right sure we are that no harm can happen unto us if we be followers of that which is good—that He doth give His angels charge over us to keep us in all His ways—that upon the highway of the Lord no lion shall be there. And is it not so? Take, for instance, sceptical books; and can you take up a more deadly serpent, or drink a more poisonous cup? If you take it up simply from curiosity, or because the book is popular, and you covet the reputation of being liberal-minded or up with the times, even if you retain your faith, the poison of that book will oftentimes sting you in years to come. But if you read that book because it is your duty, because you wish to expose its fallacy to some young heart who is being led astray thereby, then you may take up the serpent or drink the deadly thing, and it shall not hurt you. And so it is all through. This man enters into politics strong in faith and in his desire to serve both God and man, and therefore walks erect amidst the pitfalls of public life, into which that poor miserable wretch, so selfishly ambitious, most miserably falls. This tradesman preserves his character unspotted and unsullied because he is a man of God, when yonder huckster's conscience is seared day by day by the tricks of trade, until he grows so callous that evil ceases to cause pain.—E. A. Stuart.

The promise of usefulness.—"They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Yes, the blessing shall not end with yourself; others shall live by your side. You will only be helpful when you yourself are safe, and you will only be safe when you are helpful. Bring yourself into contact with those who are sick and sorrowing, and you will know the exquisite delight of doing good. But we must "lay hands" upon them, come close to them, bring our personality into touch with them. You can never do good if you stand at a distance from your fellow-men. The Risen Jesus has left you in this world as His representative, to heal the sorrows of the world, and works through you in conferring blessings upon the outcast and the sad.—Ibid.

Christian treatment of the sick.—In nothing has the spirit of Christianity been more apparent than in the treatment of the sick. The latest discoveries of medical science are, in our great hospitals and infirmaries, immediately on their discovery, applied to the benefit of the poorest and meanest who have been taken to these places.—M. F. Sadler.

APPENDIX

[For this interesting review of the evidence for and against the Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark, I am indebted to my friend the Rev. F. W. Christie, M.A., Rector of St Mary's. Aberdeen.]

NOTE ON ST. Mar

Internal evidence.—Against the genuineness it is urged:

1. There is a want of connexion between this section and the foregoing. St. Mark would never have written consecutively ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωΐ, κ. τ. λ. Also Mary Magdalene is introduced in Mar as if she had not been mentioned before in Mar 16:1.

2. The usual relation between St. Mark and St. Matthew fails in this section. Mar is parallel with Mat 28:1-8, but there the connexion ceases. From Mar 8:7 we might have expected a mention in the sequel of this appearance in Galilee, such as we find in St. Matthew. The twelve verses contain no mention of it, and must therefore be from another hand.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 16

Mar . Unbelief unreasonable.—To one who affected to question the received account of the death of Julius Cæsar we should not say "You want faith," but "You want sense."—Isaac Taylor.

Mar . How to preach.—A wise clergyman, now deceased, once said he had learned to preach not only so that people could understand him if they had a mind to, but also that they could not misunderstand him if they wanted to. A hint here to all called upon to make statements with pen or lips.

The preservation of the gospel.—The monks of Lindisfarne set sail for Ireland with the book of the Gospels; a storm arose; the book fell overboard and was lost: they were driven back to the English coast. Disconsolate, they went in quest of the precious volume: for a long time they searched in vain, but at length (so says the story) a miraculous revelation was vouchsafed to them, and, following its directions, they found the book on the sand, far above highwater mark, uninjured by the waves, nay, even more beautiful for the disaster. Does not this story well symbolise the power of the gospel working on the Church? Through the carelessness of man it may disappear amidst the confusion of the storm, the waves may close over it and hide it from human sight, but lost—lost for ever—it cannot be.—Bishop Lightfoot.

Preaching Christ everywhere.—Dr. Boaz, of Calcutta, tells in his journal of the following incident, which happened to him and a fellow-missionary at the great fair on Saugor Island, whither they had come to preach to the assembled multitudes. While they were speaking, "a respectable-looking man, in evident astonishment," came upon the scene, and exclaimed: "What, are you here also? When I am in the north of Calcutta, there I am sure to meet you, and hear you speaking about Jesus Christ. When business takes me to the south of the city, there you are again, telling the people about the same Jesus Christ; and if I go to a distant village, I am sure to hear the same story; and here, in the midst of the very jungles, I hear the name of Christ. What is all this? You seem to be everywhere, and always talking about the same thing. Who would have thought to hear anything about Jesus Christ in such a dreary spot as this?"

The true preacher a Divine creation.—Speaking of art-training, Mr. Ruskin says: "Until a man has passed through a course of academy studentship, and can draw in an improved manner with French chalk, and knows fore-shortening, and perspective, and something of anatomy, we do not think he can possibly be an artist. What is worse, we are very apt to think that we can make him an artist by teaching him anatomy, and how to draw with French chalk, whereas the real gift in him is utterly independent of all such accomplishments." So the highest powers of the teacher or preacher, the power of interpreting the Scriptures with spiritual insight, of moving the hearers to earnest worship and decision, may exist with or without the culture of the schools. Learned Pharisees are impotent failures compared with a rough fisherman Peter anointed with the Holy Ghost. Inspiration is more than education.

Missionary zeal.—Raymond Lully, or Lullius, to whom the Arabic professorship at Oxford owes its origin, was the first Christian missionary to the Moslems. When shipwrecked near Pisa, after many years of missionary labour, though upwards of seventy, his ardour was unabated. "Once," he wrote, "I was fairly rich; once I had a wife and children; once I tasted freely of the pleasures of this life. But all these things I gladly resigned that I might spread abroad a knowledge of the truth. I studied Arabic, and several times went forth to preach the gospel to the Saracens. I have been in prisons; I have been scourged; for years I have striven to persuade the princes of Christendom to befriend the common cause of converting the Mohammedans. Now, though old and poor, I do not despair; I am ready, if it be God's will, to persevere unto death." And he died so, being stoned to death at Bugia, in Africa, in 1314, after gathering a little flock of converts.

Missionary enthusiasm.—In the first centuries every Christian looked on it as a part of his life to be God's missionary, and for centuries the Church produced men like Boniface and Columban. Then for a thousand years the darkness was only broken here and there by a man like St. Louis of France or St. Francis of Assisi. It is to Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians that we owe the revival of missionary zeal. In the last century missionaries were regarded as foolish and rash, and I know not what. When Carey proposed to go as a missionary to India, he was told that if God wished to convert the heathen He would doubtless do so in His own way. Think of John Eliot, the lion-hearted "apostle of the Indians," and his motto that prayer and painstaking can accomplish everything. Think of young and sickly David Brainerd going alone into the wild forests of America and among their wilder denizens, with the words, "Not from necessity but from choice, for it seems to me that God's dealings towards me have fitted me for a life of solitariness and hardship." Think of Adoniram Judson and the tortures he bore so cheerfully in his Burmese prison. And we, too, in these days have seen Charles Mackenzie leave the comforts of Cambridge to die amid the pestilent swamps of the Zambesi, and Coleridge Patteson, floating, with his palm branch of victory in his hand, over the blue sea among the Coral Isles. Nor do I know any signs more hopeful for the nation than these, that our public schools are now founding missions in the neglected wastes of London, and our young athletes are going out as poor men to labour in China and Hindostan.—Dean Farrar.

Christ wants to get the gospel into every home in the world; and the way He wants to do this is through the hearts and hands of those whom He has already saved. If we do not carry the good news, the lost will not receive it at all. It is told of a boy who was converted that at once he started. to walk—for he was poor and could not afford to go by train—away to a place more than a thousand miles from his home, to tell his brother about Christ. History relates that the early Christians, many of them, were so eager to carry the gospel everywhere, that they even hired themselves out as servants or sold themselves as slaves, that they might be admitted into the homes of the rich and great among the heathen, to live there, and thus have opportunity to proclaim the love of Jesus and His salvation.

A non-missionary Church is like Coleridge's ice-ship, manned by dead men from prow to stern.

A clergyman was once asked by the Duke of Wellington, "How are you getting on with the propagation of the gospel abroad? Is there any chance of the Hindoos becoming Christians?" To which the clergyman replied, "Oh no! I do not see anything doing there; I see no reason to suspect any work of the kind being successful." "Well," said the duke, "what have you to do with that? What are your marching orders? Are they not, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature'? Do your duty, sir, and never mind results."

An English preacher asked some British soldiers, "If Queen Victoria were to issue a proclamation, and, placing it in the hands of her army and navy, were to say, ‘Go ye into all the world and proclaim it to every creature,' how long do you think it would take to do it?" One of these brave fellows, accustomed to obey orders without hesitation or delay, and at peril of life, promptly answered, "Well, I think we could manage it in about eighteen months."

Mar . Baptism in the apostolic age.—It coincided with the greatest religious change which the world had yet witnessed. Multitudes of men and women were seized with one common impulse, and abandoned by the irresistible conviction of a day, an hour, a moment, their former habits, friends, associates, to be enrolled in a new society, under the banner of a new faith. That new society was intended to be a society of "brothers," bound by ties closer than any earthly brotherhood—filled with life and energy such as fall to the lot of none but the most ardent enthusiasts, yet tempered by a moderation, a wisdom, and a holiness such as enthusiasts have rarely possessed. It was, moreover, a society swayed by the presence of men whose words even now cause the heart to burn, and by the recent recollections of One whom, "not seeing, they loved with love unspeakable." Into this society they passed by an act as natural as it was expressive. The plunge into the bath of purification, long known among the Jewish nation as the symbol of a change of life, was still retained as the pledge of entrance into this new and universal communion—retained under the sanction of Him into whose name they were by that rite "baptised." In that early age the scene of the transaction was either some deep wayside spring or well, as for the Ethiopian, or some rushing river, as the Jordan, or some vast reservoir, as at Jericho or Jerusalem, whither, as in the baths of Caracalla at Rome, the whole population resorted for swimming or washing. The water in those Eastern regions, so doubly significant of all that was pure and refreshing, closed over the heads of the converts, and they rose into the light of heaven new and altered beings. It was natural that on such an act were lavished all the figures which language could furnish to express the mighty change—"Regeneration," "Illumination," "Burial," "Resurrection," "A new creation," "Forgiveness of sins," "Salvation." Well might the apostle say, "Baptism doth even now save us," even had he left his statement in its unrestricted strength to express what in that age no one could misunderstand. But no less well was he led to add, as if with a prescience of coming evils, "Not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1Pe 3:21).—Dean Stanley.

New birth in baptism.—An old man of eighty was baptised in America by a missionary, and thenceforth led a life devoted to God. Two years later he was lying on his death-bed, and when asked his age he replied, "I am only two years old, for my life began when I was born for God in baptism; the previous eighty years were a life of death."

Saved.—At the wreck of the steamer Atlantic on the coast of Halifax hundreds of lives were lost. Amongst the passengers who escaped was a Christian merchant from Boston, who, as soon as he could reach a telegraph office, sent a message to his family. It contained only a single word, but it was worth more to them than all the world. It was the word Saved. Afterwards the merchant had the telegram framed and hung up in his office to remind him of God's mercy to him.


Verse 19-20

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Mar . Mark the antithesis. The Lord, for His part, was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God—the seat of power; and they, for their part, went forth into the world to do as He had bidden them, and, doing it, they were sustained and reinforced by His almighty aid.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mar

(PARALLELS: Luk ; Act 1:9.)

Christ's ascension and co-operation.—The words "after the Lord had spoken unto them" may refer primarily to the commission which He had just given to His disciples to "go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature," and to the various instructions and promises with which that commission was accompanied. But the words probably refer also to all that Christ had spoken to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead; for we are told in His history that after His crucifixion "He shewed Himself alive by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Eighteen hundred years have passed away since these events occurred, and we never saw either the Saviour or the apostles to whom they refer. But we believe the record that relates them to us, we make them the subject of devout and delightful contemplation, and we feel that we have an interest in them which will never cease to influence our hearts through time or through eternity.

I. Let us contemplate these apostles witnessing the ascension of their Lord.—

1. The place from which He ascended was the Mount of Olives—that part of it which was situated in the district of Bethany (Luk ). It was the place to which He had been accustomed to resort after the labours and fatigues of the day, and where He had often spent whole nights in meditation and in prayer; and now He Himself ascends from the same place whence His nightly supplications had so often ascended to His Father and to our Father, to His God and to our God. It was the place over which He passed as He made His last entry into Jerusalem, where He was crowned with thorns; and from which He now passes to the heavenly Jerusalem, to be crowned with glory and honour. It was the place to which He repaired with His disciples, after they had partaken of the Last Supper; for when they had sung a hymn they went into the Mount of Olives. There His disciples forsook Him and fled, and there He was afterwards parted from them, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

2. The manner in which He ascended is minutely recorded (Luk ). His ascension was visible, and His disciples were eye-witnesses of His majesty, as He rose higher and higher from the mountain, till the cloud covered Him and concealed Him from their sight. But the most interesting fact connected with His ascension is that it took place whilst He was in the act of blessing His disciples. When the high priest among the Jews began to bless the congregation, he lifted up his hands and exclaimed, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord cause His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift upon thee the light of His countenance, and give thee peace." And in like manner our Great High Priest lifted up His hands—those hands which had so often given bread to the hungry, health to the sick, life to the dead, salvation to the lost—those hands which had so lately bled upon the Cross, and in which the print of the nails was yet visible—those bountiful and wounded hands He lifted up, and then He began to bless His disciples. "And it came to pass, while He blessed them" (after His blessing was begun, but before it was concluded)—"it came to pass, while He blessed them" (for how often does it happen that a blessing precedes a bereavement!)—"He was parted from them"; and He rose from the mountain, with His hands still lifted up, and with the blessing still dropping from His lips, and brightening as He took His flight.

3. Having thus left the earth, our text declares that "He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." As He had descended to earth in the likeness of men, and in order, through sufferings and death, to become the Mediator, He now, having procured eternal redemption for us, ascends in His mediatorial capacity, and rises "far above all principality," etc. And what, think you, must have been the rapturous joy that thrilled through heaven, when the expectant and listening silence of its inhabitants was broken by the shout, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in"! And having thus entered, He was received by the Everlasting Father, who declared, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." "Let all the angels of God worship Him!"

4. Such an ascension into heaven, and such a reception there, is in beautiful harmony with the dignity of the Saviour's person, and with the glory which He had acquired as the Author of man's redemption; and it was also a pledge and a preparation for the triumphant spread of His gospel in the world.

II. Contemplate the apostles going forth to preach His gospel.—The ministry of the gospel is represented by the apostle as one of the first gifts which the Ascended Saviour acquired and bestowed upon the world (Eph ). We therefore find that immediately after the ascension of their Lord these disciples "went forth, and preached everywhere."

1. The subject of their preaching was the gospel of Jesus Christ, or "the Word," as it is emphatically called in our text. And after what they had seen and heard and experienced themselves, on what other subject could they preach and what other name could they declare? It was not merely as an important fact that they contemplated His death, but as having essentially connected with it a moral meaning and design, as the only and the all-sufficient means of redemption to a ruined world. He was wounded; but it was for our transgressions. He was bruised; but it was for our iniquities. He suffered; but He suffered, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. He bled; but in His blood there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. He died; but through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. In preaching this doctrine the apostles warned sinners, as we warn you, to beware of rejecting Christ by trusting for salvation to your own works; and they exhorted sinners, as we exhort you, to go at once to Christ, and to go to Him laden with the full weight of all your guilt and condemnation, because "He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost."

2. They communicated this gospel to mankind by preaching. Nothing can equal the impressiveness of a living address from man to man, where numbers are assembled, where the place which they occupy is sacred, where the gospel is the theme, where the whole soul of the preacher feels and speaks, and where all are reminded that they are in the presence of God. Attention is awakened; emotions are excited; conscience is aroused; and the stream of sympathy flows from soul to soul, mingled with all those hallowed influences which render the gospel the power of God to our salvation.

3. The extent to which they preached this gospel was universal. They preached Christ first in the very place where He had lived, and died, and risen, and ascended. They preached His miracles to the very men who had witnessed them and experienced them. They preached His sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane and on the hill of Calvary where they had been endured. They preached His resurrection at the mouth of His deserted sepulchre. They preached His ascension on the very mount where He had been parted from them. But while Jerusalem was the centre of their operations the world was their circumference; and they went forth and preached everywhere, till they could say to the Colossians, "The gospel is come unto you, as it is in all the world."

III. Contemplate the apostles experiencing their Lord's co-operation with them in their labours.—Wherever His disciples worked as instruments He worked also as the efficient agent; for His power is omnipotent. And by this presence and this power He graciously fulfilled His own declaration (Mar ).

1. These Divine influences qualified the preachers of the gospel. The change which took place in the sentiments and conduct of the apostles, after the reception of Christ into heaven, was most manifest and remarkable. To that same Divine Redeemer let every minister of the gospel look for the knowledge, and the holiness, and the energy, and the pathos, and the patient perseverance, and for every qualification which is necessary to render him a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and instant in season and out of season, watching for souls as one who must give an account.

2. These Divine influences confirmed the truth of the gospel. As He sat at the right hand of God, He baptised them with His miraculous influences and power to such an extent that they could heal the sick and raise the dead whenever they invoked the name of Jesus. These miraculous influences are now indeed withdrawn. But as we can prove that these miraculous powers then existed, we can appeal to them as a standing evidence in our day that the gospel of our salvation is the Word of God. But though the miraculous influences are withdrawn, the spiritual and sanctifying influences are still continued.

3. These Divine influences ensured the success of the gospel. Though its original ministers were only the twelve fishermen of Galilee—men without learning, without worldly wealth, and without worldly power—yet they became so mighty through God that heathen philosophers were confounded, heathen oracles were struck dumb, heathen temples were deserted, and so mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed that in about thirty years after the ascension of Christ the whole Roman world was conquered by the Cross. And it was a glorious conquest; for it was a triumph over mind and heart. And, thanks be unto God, the same Divine influences ensure the success of the gospel in every age; and many of you, my brethren, are living witnesses of its effectual working in the hearts of them that believe; "for our gospel has come to you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance." And believing as we do that the Ascended Redeemer possesses all power both in heaven and earth, we are sure that His moral government of the world will be productive of the purity and joy and universality of the Church, and that the time foretold by prophecy shall come, when to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.—J. A. Alexander, D.D.

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Mar . The significance of Christ's Ascension.—

1. It was the end of the work of redemption.

2. It was the final triumph of goodness.

3. It was the exaltation of humanity.

4. It told of the continuity of life.

5. It inaugurated the reign of blessing. Let us realise that all gifts, both spiritual and temporal, come from Him, and so live that His benediction may be able to rest on all that we do.—A. G. Mortimer, D.D.

"Received up into heaven."—There is something remarkable in these words. We habitually speak of Christ as ascending, but Scripture more frequently declares that He was the subject of the action of Another, and was taken up. See Luk ; Act 1:2; Act 1:9. Physical interference is not implied; no angels bore Him aloft; and the narratives make it clear that His glorious body, obedient to its new mysterious nature, arose unaided. But the decision to depart and the choice of a time came not from Him: He did not go, but was taken.—Dean Chadwick.

Why such slight mention of Christ's Ascension?—It may seem remarkable that so great an occurrence should be so little noticed by the sacred writers; for it is mentioned by two only, St. Mark and St. Luke, and these two who were not witnesses of it. And yet we need not wonder at this, nor that it should have held a less prominent place in the minds of the apostles than the Resurrection; for, indeed, that He who had risen from the grave, who had laid aside His earthly body and put on the heavenly, that He should go up to heaven, that He who had so clearly shewn that He came down from God should return to God—this was but natural, and could not but appear natural to the enlightened minds of the apostles. What else could happen to Him who had risen from the grave, and clothed Himself with His "house that was from heaven"?—A. Grant, D.C.L.

Ascension joy.—Truly if we could ever live in this day all were joy; for the Ascension is the crown of all joys, the rapture of all creation, the wonder of the blessed angels, the union of all being, the finishing of the earthly course of the Son of God, His entrance into glory!—E. B. Pusey, D.D.

We ascend with Christ.—The Ascension of Christ is the great pledge and proof of our eternal state; our nature is for ever identified with His, so that as long as He is man we must be happy as one with Him. The great value of this transcendent fact is not merely that it is an example of our future ascension, but that it is our ascension begun—we in Him having risen to heaven—we in Him being at this time present before God—we in Him being united with the eternal plans and procedures of heaven, so that we are for ever blended with Christ—His property—His purchased possession—the very members of His body.—Prof. W. A. Butler.

Thou hast raised our human nature

in the clouds to God's right hand,

There we sit in heavenly places, there

with Thee in glory stand;

Jesus reigns, adored by angels; man

with God is on the throne;

Mighty Lord, in Thine Ascension we

by faith behold our own!

Bishop Chris. Wordsworth.

Christ on the right hand of God as our Intercessor.—The Epistle to the Hebrews over and over again reiterates that thought that we have a Priest that has passed into the heavens, there to appear in the presence of God for us. And the apostle Paul, in that great linked climax in the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, has it, "Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." There are deep mysteries connected with that thought of the intercession of Christ. It does not mean that the Divine heart needs to be won to love and pity. It does not mean that in any mere outward and formal fashion He pleads with God, and softens and placates the infinite and eternal love of the Father in the heavens. It at least plainly means this, that He, our Saviour and Sacrifice, is for ever in the presence of God, presenting His own blood as an element in the Divine dealing with us, modifying the incidence of the Divine law, and securing through His own merits and intercession the outflow of blessings upon our heads and hearts. It is not a complete statement of Christ's work for us that He died for us. He died that He might have somewhat to offer. He lives that He may be our Advocate as well as our propitiation with the Father. And just as the high priest once a year passed within the curtain, and there in the solemn silence and solitude of the holy place sprinkled the blood that he bore thither, not without trembling, and but for a moment permitted to stay in the awful Presence, thus, but in reality and for ever, with the joyful gladness of a Son in His "own calm home, His habitation from eternity," Christ abides in the holy place, and at the right hand of the Majesty of the heavens lifts up that prayer, so strangely compact of authority and submission: "Father, I will that these whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am." The Son of Man at the right hand of God is our Intercessor with the Father. "Seeing, then, that we have a Great High Priest that is passed through the heavens, let us come boldly to the throne of grace."—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Mar . The spread of Christ's influence.—As the ages pass the influence of the love of Christ is conquering the selfishness of mankind. Even the statute-books of civilisation attest His growing power. The regeneration of a world is a slow process, but the healing rays from His glorified presence at the right hand of the Father—calling forth the verdure and fruitage of an ever wider imitation of His life—have in them the pledge of a future in which their influence will extend over all lands.—C. Geikie, D.D.

Christ with His Church throughout the ages.—He has been with His Church, keeping her from fainting, from decay, declension, so that she has gone on conquering and to conquer; so that the hundred and twenty became three thousand at Pentecost; and before the end of the century the three thousand had become probably (Lange) half a million; by the eighth century the half-million had become thirty millions; by the Reformation one hundred millions. And to-day four hundred and forty millions of men give Jesus the Name which is above every name; multitudes that none can number doing so, not with lips only, but from the heart. He is with us still. A hundred years ago Carey reckoned up the population of the world with great accuracy, and found Christendom was only one-fifth of the whole; now it is nearly one-third. What another century of missions may make it will probably exceed the hope and prayers of the most daring believer. We must remember He is most richly with us when we are "going into the world to preach the gospel," i.e. when we are on the move of mercy. Let us, for our personal consolation, remember He will be with us to the end of life and work and need. Let us remember that, in all work done for Him, He still is with us, and is ever making the foolishness of preaching and teaching omnipotent to bring men into His fold.—R. Glover.

APPENDIX

[For this interesting review of the evidence for and against the Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark, I am indebted to my friend the Rev. F. W. Christie, M.A., Rector of St Mary's. Aberdeen.]

NOTE ON ST. Mar

Internal evidence.—Against the genuineness it is urged:

1. There is a want of connexion between this section and the foregoing. St. Mark would never have written consecutively ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωΐ, κ. τ. λ. Also Mary Magdalene is introduced in Mar as if she had not been mentioned before in Mar 16:1.

2. The usual relation between St. Mark and St. Matthew fails in this section. Mar is parallel with Mat 28:1-8, but there the connexion ceases. From Mar 8:7 we might have expected a mention in the sequel of this appearance in Galilee, such as we find in St. Matthew. The twelve verses contain no mention of it, and must therefore be from another hand.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 16

Mar .—It was an ancient myth that the Milky Way was the bright track made by the flashing wheels of the car of Phaethon, driving through the skies; but the Man of Calvary, ascending from the Mount of Olives to His celestial throne, has left across the heavens a brighter and more glorious pathway than the pale light of far-off stars. He has brought life and immortality to light, and millions who believe in His name have in all ages seen and rejoiced in His light, and by it been guided to the realm of everlasting day.

Mar . "The Lord working with them."—That is a sweet legend hanging about an old church in England, and it tells the great truth well,—how centuries ago, when the monks were rearing it, a new temple for the worship of their God, there came among the workers a strange monk, unasked, who always took on himself the heaviest tasks; and how at last, when a particularly gigantic beam was needed for a position as important as that of the keystone of an arch, and when, with sweating strain and united effort, it was lifted to its place, it was strangely found to be some feet too short. No device of the builders could remedy it; they had tried their best with it, they had used the most careful measurement they knew, but how sadly they had failed! There it was, too short, and their utmost skill could not find remedy. The night closed in upon the tired workers, and they went to their rest with sore hearts, leaving only this unknown monk, who would go working on. But when the morning came, and the workers came forth again, they saw the sunlight falling on the beam exactly in its place, lengthened to the precise dimensions needed, and resting accurately on its supports. But the unknown monk had disappeared. Yet the workers knew Him now, and were certain they could carry the temple onward to its topmost turret. For He who had been working with them and supplying their lack of perfect work, they came now to know, was none other than the Lord Himself. They were not unhelped toilers. Nor are we.

God working with man.—When Robert Morrison went out to China, he stopped for a little while in New York, and one of the American millionaires turned to him, and in a supercilious way said, "Mr. Morrison, do you expect to make any impression on China?" Robert Morrison, in the kingliness of a consecrated manhood, replied, "I do not, but I do expect that the Lord Almighty will."

Power of the Word.—Cæsar Malan found himself on the diligence at Angoulême in the company of a sprightly young gentleman from Paris. He proved to be a materialist, who, when his companion drew out the New Testament, treated it as "a book of fables, good enough for children." Though tempted to expose to him by argument the folly of infidelity, M. Malan thought it better to let the Word of God, as he said, speak for itself. So he read several passages. The young man shewed vexation, and his fellow-traveller, judging by this that his conscience was troubled, read still more. The infidel became very angry, then biting his lips he took refuge in silence. After travelling in this way for about half an hour, he suddenly exclaimed: "I should like to have a book like that, for I begin to believe that what it contains is true, and that I have been deceiving myself." M. Malan gave the young man his Testament; and meeting him afterwards at Bordeaux, he found that he was attentively studying it, and that in every way he shewed it had made a profound impression upon him. "When I saw this fruit of the Word of God," said M. Malan, "I rejoiced that I had not spoken of myself and of my own reasons."

Divine energy of Christianity.—Voltaire well said to Lady Chesterfield that the English Parliament patronised Christianity because no better system of religion had yet been found. Read the chronicles of Buddhism, Brahminism, Parseeism, and other heathen philosophies. Their logical work has been to quench the happiness of their devotees. Hours might be spent in portraying the transfigurations wrought by Christianity. She has recently lighted her vestal fires in Australia, Madagascar, and Liberia, and to-day each is a pharos of civilisation, shedding its radiance far out on the surges of domestic, civil, and moral gloom. Few benedictions of civilisation can be named that she has not pioneered. Over no acre has she waved her wand where the wilderness has not blossomed as the rose. Prejudiced sceptics speak of modern nations as being little improved over classic Greece and Rome. Look back to that period when the law of might was the law of right, when childhood and womanhood were in degradation, and when iron-hearted cruelty was enthroned in the metropolis of paganism. Read of the extensive butcheries of men in the sports of the Colosseum under numerous imperial monsters. Read of the successive massacres of the early Christians, from the coronation of Nero to the death of Diocletian, whose slaughter of God's saints was so general that on his commemorative medal was impressed, "The Christian religion is destroyed." Even such infidel essayists as Bolingbroke and Gibbon are pre-eminently brilliant in their eulogies of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Rousseau and Bonaparte penned as eloquent tributes to the achievements of Christianity as did De Tocqueville, Pascal, or Bacon. Macaulay describes a gorgeous window made from rejected fragments of glass. So Christianity has taken depraved communities and converted them into moral populations. It is because Divine energy is essential to the mental, social, and spiritual uplifting of all lands, because at their gates Jesus knocks to-day more earnestly than Henry IV. knocked at the gates of Hildebrand, and because history attests the regenerative influence of Christianity, that the ascending Redeemer commissioned His disciples to see to it that His kingdom shall finally achieve universal ascendency.

Progress of Christianity.—Arnobius, a heathen philosopher, who became a Christian, speaking of the power which the Christian faith bad over the minds of men, says: "Who would not believe it, when he sees in how short a time it has conquered so great knowledge? Orators, grammarians, rhetoricians, lawyers, physicians, and philosophers have thrown up those opinions which but a little before they held, and have embraced the doctrines of the gospel!" "Though but of yesterday," said Tertullian, "yet have we filled your cities, islands, castles, corporations, councils, your armies themselves, your tribes, companies, the palace, the senate, and courts of justice; only your temples have we left you free."

Final triumph of Christianity.—Travellers tell us that in Arctic regions, when the six months of night are ending, and the long day of sunshine is about to begin, the inhabitants ascend the peaks and await the magnificent sunrise. When his ball of light has chased from the ice-fields the shadows, and he rests like a globe of flame on the rim of earth, ere he begins to climb the rounds of a ladder of glory more luminous than Jacob saw at Bethel, the people shed tears of joy, and, embracing each other, they cry, "The sun has come to us, and the long night is over." So in fancy I see standing on the crests of all lands of heathenism the benighted races, looking for the appearance of the Sun of Righteousness to banish their long night of barbarism, idolatry, and cruelty, and usher in the unending day of Christ's universal reign. I seem to stand to-day in this vast and solemn presence. In vision I see the countless millions, Caucasians, Mongolians, Africans, Malays, and Indians. They crowd the summits of all the mountains of pagan provinces in fearful vastness of multitude. From the standpoint of this commission, and with the telescope of this farewell pledge of the Ascended Redeemer, we can even now by faith see that splendid period in history when, from the tall tops of all mission provinces, the grand concerted acclaim shall ascend, "The Sun has come to us. and the long night is over."—S. V. Leach, D.D.

Amen.—" My heart wishes it to be exactly so," is the Chinese rendering of "Amen." The value of this definition is that it is not a mere lip repetition of this blessed old Hebrew word, but a whole-souled, whole-hearted desire for the triumph of that which is good. Is there not danger that our "Amens" may become a mere head and lip endorsement of the truth, while the heart is not in it? Let us be sure that in everything excellent that is presented to us we can say of a verity, "Amen, my heart wishes it to be exactly so."

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 16:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/mark-16.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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