Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.Mark 16:1
Geiler of Kaysersberg said on this text: 'If thou desirest, like the three holy women, to anoint the dead Lord, thou must anoint Him inwardly, that is, thou must remember how for thy sake God died and for thy sake was raised again; thou must be willing to do what thou knowest to be the will of God and pleasing unto Him, for this ointment is nothing else but thy resolve to do God's will and that of none other. If thou hast thus spiritually anointed Christ our Lord in His own Person, thou must anoint Him also in His members.... Thou must anoint the saints by giving them honour, by speaking of them, by contemplating their holy lives and by invoking them.
References.—XVI. 1.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 12. XVI. 1-4.—A. J. Parry, Phases of Christian Truth, p. 266. XVI. 1-13.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 248. XVI. 1-14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2408. XVI. 2, 3.—A. G. Mortimer, Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 74.
The Israelites, marching up to the edge of the Red Sea till the waves parted before their feet, step by step, are often taken as an illustration of what our faith should do—advance to the limit of possibility, and then the seemingly impossible may be found to open.
But there is another illustration in the New Testament, more sacred and striking—the women going to the sepulchre of our Lord. With true woman's nature they did not begin to calculate the obstacles till on the way. On the road reason met them with the objection, 'Who shall roll us away the stone?' And faith itself could not help them, but love did. A bond stronger than death drew them on, and 'when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away'.
We may bless God that He can put into men's hearts impulses stronger than reason, and more powerful even than faith, such impulses that, if they are going to Himself, they shall find that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
—Dr. John Ker's Thoughts for Heart and Life, p. 101.
References.—XVI. 3.—R. H. McKim, The Gospel in the Christian Year, p. 240. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p. 168. XVI. 3, 4.—C. Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 21. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 300. XVI. 4.—W. Howell, Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 113. XVI. 4-8.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 63. XVI. 5.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 25. XVI. 5, 6.—Ibid. p. 274. XVI. 6.—W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 259. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 279; see also 2nd Series, p. 201. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Bought With a Price, p. 94.
After attending a Quaker's meeting in London, at which he heard Rebecca Collins speak, Locke wrote to thank her for the experience His letter closes with the remark, 'Woman, indeed, had the honour first to publish the resurrection of the Lord of Love—why not again the resurrection of the Spirit of Love? And let all the disciples of Christ rejoice therein, as doth your partner, John Locke'.
References.—XVI. 7.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 284. J. S. Maver, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 318. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2060. XVI. 8.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 341. XVI. 9.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 302. J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 42. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 625. vol. xiv. No. 792. XVI. 9-11.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 93. B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 15. XVI. 9-12.—J. E. Rattenbury, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 246. XVI. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2518.
Our Lord Appearing in the Country (Second Sunday After Trinity)
I. 'He appeared in another form.' If we only had eyes to see it, how many ways there are in which He appears to us!
1. He appears to us in the shape of the poor, for He was Himself so poor that He had not where to lay His head; and He will say at the end of the world, 'Inasmuch as ye did it unto them, ye did it unto Me'.
2. He taught His disciples by the flowers: He would teach us by the flowers also. 'Consider the lilies of the field.'
3. Our Lord has left us another lesson. 'Learn a parable of the fig-tree: when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it'—that is the Day of Judgment—'is nigh, even at the doors.' All the beauty of the green leaves, and of the woods and of the flowers ought to make us look forward to that Last Day, which will be so terrible a day for all, and should make us ask, 'If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?' Yes, and they make us look beyond the Day of Judgment to the kingdom that is laid up for God's true servants hereafter. For see how we are told of the Tree of Life that bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the river of the water of life, clear as crystal; and the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
II. Our Lord may appear to us in a thousand different ways, may teach us a thousand different lessons, and yet, like these two disciples, our eyes may be holden, that we should not know Him. Why? Our Lord Himself teaches us. 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' If we are not trying to be like Him, purifying ourselves, as St. John says, even as He is pure, neither shall we see Him.
If we may see Christ, when we will, in this world, so also we may do work for Him, where we will, in this world.
III. 'He appeared in another form, as they went into the country.' But we desire, as St Paul says, a better country: that is, an heavenly. And if, of God's great goodness, we are ever permitted to enter into that land, it will be indeed in a different form that our Lord appears to us there. Not in outward signs, but eye to eye, face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend. That will be the sight of all sights; that will be the happiness of all happiness.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. II. p. 9.
References.—XVI. 12.—B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 41. J. Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 264. J. M. Neale, Readings for the Aged (3rd Series), p. 103. XVI. 12, 13.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 387. XVI. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. 1. No. 2890. R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 408. J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 150. B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 59. XVI. 14, 15.—R. Glover, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 292. XVI. 15.—S. Martin, Rain Upon the Mown Grass, p. 126. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 308. A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 305. J. Parker, ibid. vol. xlix. 1896, p. 177. J. Johnson, ibid. vol. lvii. 1900, p. 324. J. Shaw Banks, ibid. vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 347. Ambrose Shepherd, ibid. vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 297. F. W. Atkin, ibid. vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 284. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 121. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 346.
The Evangel to Creation
The Gospel according to Mark is that which preeminently reveals Jesus as the Servant of God. It is interesting to remember that the book of the Old Testament which reveals the Servant of God is the prophecy of Isaiah. To that prophecy Mark made reference in the very first sentences of his Gospel; when introducing the herald of Messiah he declared that he came in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which foretold the sending of a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord.
In the messages of the ancient Prophet there are evidences of his almost overwhelming sense of the polluting effect upon the whole earth of the sin of man. Perhaps this is most pointedly and clearly declared in the twenty-fourth chapter. When we turn to the Gospel of Mark we find that he chronicled the words in the commission of Jesus which reveal the fact that the ultimate purpose of His mission was that of the redemption and renewal of the whole creation through the salvation of individual men.
In our consideration of this aspect of the commission we shall again seek to discover the deposit, the debt, and the dynamic.
I. First, then, as to the deposit, that particular truth committed to the Church, for the proclamation of which she is held responsible. This is only suggested by one inclusive word, which, standing alone, is characterized by indefiniteness. The word 'Gospel' is inclusive, but it needs explanation if we would understand the nature of the deposit suggested.
What then is 'the Gospel'? It is the good news that the Lord is risen. It may be affirmed that this is a narrowing of the intention of the great word in this commission; that nothing is said of the teaching of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the cross of Jesus. As a matter of fact all these are involved in resurrection, and become parts of the Gospel because of the resurrection. If we only have the teaching of Jesus, we have no Gospel. If we only have the account of His perfect life, we have no Gospel. If we only have the Cross, we have no Gospel. All these become part of the Gospel because of its central truth, which is that of the resurrection. The deposit then, the essential and central truth referred to in this phase of the commission, is that of the actual resurrection of Jesus from among the dead. The resurrection of Jesus was the demonstration of His perfect victory over all opposing forces; and of the fact that His victory enabled Him to baptize such as believe in Him into union with His life.
If the first phase of the Missionary Manifesto was that of the absolute Lordship of Jesus, which the Church is to affirm and declare, the second is that of the risen Jesus Who is Renewer and Restorer of the whole creation.
This is the great glad news committed to the Church, and we have been in danger of minimizing the meaning of the Gospel. Our outlook has been appallingly narrow, and we have disastrously failed to see the application of the fact of the resurrection of Christ to the whole creation. Our failure to discover His meaning does not mean His failure to work His purposes out to final fulfilment. He is the risen Lord, and is therefore Master of death. He is also, therefore, Master of all the forces that spoil, and is able to renew everything that has been corrupted.
II. What then, in this respect is our debt? At this point the commission leaves us in no doubt. The words of Jesus are perfectly clear. 'Go ye into all the kosmos, and herald the evangel to the whole creation.' A natural reading of these words should immediately arrest attention by reason of the inclusive nature of the terms, 'the kosmos,' and 'the whole creation'.
By translating the former 'the world' we have been at least in danger of thinking that our Lord's reference was to humanity only. As a matter of fact it is a far more comprehensive term, which He interprets by the second of the phrases referred to, 'the whole creation'. To take the first term, 'the kosmos,' and to trace the history of the word, is to be admitted to the larger outlook. The Greek word kosmos originally signified an ornament, or something beautiful. It was a word used entirely in the realm of art. In process of time, long before the ministry of Jesus was exercised or these Gospel stories were written, the word acquired a more spacious meaning, and was used in reference to the whole universe, because the Greek mind came to an understanding of the fact that the universe is beautiful and orderly. Then again, as the Greek mind failed to grasp the truth of the spiritual, the word passed back into a more restricted use, and was applied to the material frame in the midst of which man lives his life. In the days in which John made use of it—and it was peculiarly his word among New Testament writers—it referred to the earth and the heavens enwrapping it, the heaven of the atmosphere and the heaven of the stellar spaces, that system of which our planet is so small a part.
III. We pass finally to the subject of the dynamic This is no more clearly revealed than is the deposit, but it is as certainly involved. When Jesus said, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned,' He suggested a response on the part of God to a certain attitude on the part of man. The alternative attitudes are described in the phrases, 'he that believeth,' 'he that disbelieveth'. The ultimate results are described in the words, 'shall be saved' and 'shall be condemned'. The dynamic phrase is 'and is baptized'. That refers to the work of God. No man can baptize himself, or be baptized by another. Essential baptism is baptism in the Spirit. Water baptism is symbolic. In the moment in which a man believes, he is baptized by God in the Spirit, and so into the resurrection life of Jesus, and therefore he is saved. If a man disbelieve, he is not saved, but rather condemned because he does not enter into the regenerate life, seeing that he lacks baptism in the Spirit. The suggestion of these words is that as we herald the evangel of the Cross we do so in cooperation with the risen Lord, so that when men hearing the evangel believe, they are immediately baptized into living union with the living Christ, and so come into possession of the regenerative forces which being applied, produce the restoration of creation.
—G. Campbell Morgan, The Missionary Manifesto, p. 57.
References.—XVI. 15, 16.—George Moberly, A Sermon Preached in Salisbury Cathedral, 21 July, 1872. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 573; vol. xv. No. 900. XVI. 16-20.—J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 247. XVI. 16.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 197. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2339. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (1st Series), p. 292. C. E. Shirley Woolmer, Church Times, vol. xxxix. 1898, p. 729. W. Page Roberts, Our Prayer Book Conformity and Conscience, p. 225. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. x. p. 153. J. H. Bernard, From Faith to Faith, p. 245. A. H. Bradford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 17.
In his Development of Christian Doctrine (p. 441), Newman applies this passage to Catholicism: 'If it were a falsehood or a corruption,' he pleads, 'like the systems of men, it would be as weak as they are; whereas it is able even to impart to them a strength which they have not, and it uses them for its own purposes, and locates them in its own territory. The Church can extract good from evil, or at least gets no harm from it. She inherits the promise made to the disciples, that they should take up serpents, and, if they drank any deadly thing, it should not hurt them.'
For the use of this passage at the ceremony of touching for scrofula, see Macaulay's History of England, xiv.
References.—XVI. 17, 18.—W. Robertson Nicoll, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 357. John Wordsworth, University Sermons on Gospel Subjects, p. 15.
He Ascended Into Heaven (For Ascension Day)
It is most inspiring to read what it was that the Lord spake unto His disciples just before His Ascension, how that they were to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. But it is not of the Great Commission that we would think now, so much as of the Ascension itself. If we would understand its lessons aright we must read the Epistle to the Colossians: 'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God'. Since Christ is in the heavenlies, since He hath risen in His glory, therefore, be ye imitators of Christ as dear children. Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us.
I. The Ground of Hope.—Christ's Ascension means that He Whose words we love, Whose life was love, Whose name is love, is now set in the heavenlies at God's right hand, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also that which is to come. It means this, and therefore in whatever aspect we look at it, it means a lesson of infinite hope; it means that He Who died upon the Cross for man is the Lord of man, and that the Judge of man is the Saviour of man. It means that, however deeply we have sinned in the past, in Him is power even on earth to forgive sins. It means that we can find strength in the present, because when He ascended up on high He received gifts for men, and He giveth His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. It means that we can face the future without terror because His footsteps have illuminated even the dreary valley of the shadow of death; and since all this is involved in Ascension Day, this (a) forgiveness of the past, this (b) strength in the present, this (c) hope for the future, it were well for us, both as individuals and as a nation, if Ascension Day were more carefully commemorated, and if we dwelt more and more devoutly on that truth, 'He ascended into heaven'.
II. The Root of Faith.—But besides our hope, our faith must also depend on the Ascension of our Lord. If Christians dwelt more on the truth that their Lord is exalted on the throne of His Father's glory, they would have more of the calm and the quietness and the confidence of strength. How often have Christians gone rushing up in alarm to the Ark of God because to them it seems to be tottering! Is Christ denied? Is Christ insulted? Is Christ betrayed? Well, the Christian, however sorrowful his heart may be, will not lose his calm or his courage. He believeth that the Lord is in heaven where He sitteth, that He sees it all, and that because He is omniscient and because He is eternal, He, in His own good time, will shine forth again, and for that time Christians will humbly wait.
The story of the Ascension of Jesus is given three times in the New Testament. It is given in the verse of my text, though candour compels the remark that the last eleven verses of this Gospel are wanting in the oldest MSS. and are probably in the nature of an appendix added to Mark's Gospel by another hand. It is given very briefly in the concluding verses of St. Luke's Gospel, and once again by Luke with more circumstantiality and detail in the opening chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. All three accounts are marked by a certain reticence and reverent brevity.
I. The Ascension is the natural and inevitable completion of the Resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead on the morning of the third day, it was not to resume the old life He had led before dying. You remember when Mary recognized Jesus in the garden her first impulse was to clasp her dear Lord's feet. She thought that now Jesus had come back to them from the dead, the conditions that existed before His dying would be restored also. But Jesus gently and lovingly corrects her. 'Touch me not,' He said, 'for I am not yet ascended unto the Father.' Mary's arms were flung in affectionate embrace around her Lord as if to retain Him, as if to say, 'You shall never leave us more'. But Jesus had not risen from the grave simply to resume His old life, however gracious and beautiful that may have been. He had risen from the dead in order to enter into glory. His reward for becoming obedient unto death was to be exalted, and to be given a name above every name He only delayed His entrance upon this life until His disciples were convinced that He was not dead, but alive. He remained forty days with them; appearing now to one, now to another; now to two, as they walked together to a country village; now to the whole company of disciples in the Upper Room; and again in Galilee to about five hundred brethren at once. He showed them His hands and His feet; He talked with them, He ate with them, until the most incredulous were convinced, and even Thomas believed, and their doubt and despair had given way to radiant hope and dauntless courage. And having done that, 'He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God'. What a day that must have been in heaven when Christ came back again, glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength!
II. When Christ left earth He was not bereaving His people. He was depriving them of a lesser good in order to bestow upon them a richer and a nobler. We have that on His own plain and unequivocal assurance.
Wherein does that expediency consist?
1. In this, primarily. Christ went away from His disciples in order that—paradoxical as it may sound —He might come nearer to them. He left them in bodily presence, that spiritually He might be present with them everywhere and at all times.
2. And it was expedient for us that He should go away in the second place, because He went away to take unto Him His great power and reign. The Resurrection of Christ proclaims that He is not dead, but alive. The Ascension proclaims that He not only lives, but reigns. 'He sat down at the right hand of God,' says the sacred writer. Now, the 'right hand of God 'always means in the Scriptures the omnipotent energy of God, and to sit down at the right hand of God means to be clothed with all the energy and power of omnipotence. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. He ascended that He might reign. 'Jesus sat down at the right hard of God,' and His disciples went everywhere. Christ in the place of power—indomitable courage in the hearts of His disciples; Christ on the throne—and twelve poor men, with an audacity that was magnificent and sublime, went forth to conquer an unbelieving and hostile world.
—J. D. Jones, The Gospel of Grace, p. 184.
References.—XVI. 19.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 312. J. Griereon, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 333. B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 173. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 182. D. Donaldson, Pulpit Discourses, Berwick Presbytery, p. 90. XVI. 19, 20.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 616. XVI. 20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2467.
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.