Mark 16:19


These words, at the end of Mark's account, give the great sequence of our Lord's manifestation. The Ascension was the divinely necessary result of the Resurrection; the gospel is the necessary fruit on the human side of the experience produced in the hearts of the disciples by his life and work. Such a series of events could not end in silence. As in life, so in death, resurrection, and exaltation, Jesus Christ "could not be hid." The preaching of the gospel is a result, therefore, of an express command and an inward impulse. The two verses are in sequence to the preceding account, and the one to the other, logically, spiritually, and potentially. Notice in this connection -

I. THE POINT AT WHICH THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL BEGINS. At the final withdrawal and exaltation of Jesus.

1. Its subject is a completed one.

2. The various portions of it are self-evidently connected, and mutually interpret one another. The final transcendent issues of the contest of Christ with sin and death are each representative and interpretative of what preceded and led up to them. The life and its relation to the Divine purpose, prophetic anticipation, and human yearning, would be incomprehensible without this glorious trinity of consummations: death, resurrection, and ascension.

II. THE POWER IT REPRESENTS. The power of a finished work of atonement, a victory over death and hell, and an exalted, glorified humanity.

1. The highest exaltation has been reached by him of whom it speaks, He is invested with Divine power, and executive authority in the universe of God. Whether there be any such place as the "right hand of God" may be a curious question; that there is a state which such a phrase describes is a matter of spiritual revelation and experience. "All power is given," etc.

2. Its tone is therefore authoritative in the highest degree. The gospel is a throne-word. Preachers are ambassadors. The dignities and pretensions of earth are nothing to them. The Lord through them "commands all men everywhere to repent." Herod is a sad illustration of what occurs when even a king attempts to patronize the gospel.

3. This pretension is confirmed by practical proofs. The works accompanying it and resulting from it are "signs. You cannot explain them unless on the highest ground. Although physical miracles have ceased, spiritual results are still more demonstrative and glorious. In changing the heart, renewing the nature, purifying the affections, the Word of his power" achieves what nothing else can. And such signs are to be looked for whenever and wherever it is proclaimed. "The Lord working with them" - everywhere, because ascended and glorified.

III. THE PEOPLE IT CONCERNS. "And they went forth, and preached everywhere. This was no accident or caprice of choice: he commanded it (ver. 15). But it is also divinely fitting that this should be so.

1. The gospel is intended for all men.

2. It is adapted to all men.

3. The work of Christ's servants is to seek the salvation of all men.

Until all have had an opportunity we must continue to preach: that is our responsibility. It is not said that all will believe or be saved: that is the responsibility of those who hear. Only of this are we certain: The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). - M.







He was received up into heaven.
The hidden source of the Christian's spiritual life is with Christ in God. To Him he looks as his treasure — his treasure in heaven; thither does he endeavour in heart and mind to ascend; he sets his affections on things above; he seeks those things which are at the right hand of God, with Christ, to be dispensed by Him, according to His promise. The ascension was the great consummation of Christ's work. Observe in this connection —

I. THE PERIOD AT WHICH HE ASCENDED: after He has spoken to the apostles. He did not leave them until His prophetical work on earth was done, and He had provided for the continued application of the benefits He had secured for mankind.

II. WHENCE HE WAS RECEIVED: from the Mount of Olives. A favourite spot, and one hallowed by frequent communion with His Father, and close to the garden where He rendered His will to God. The valley of humiliation was changed into the mount of triumph.

III. BY WHOM He was received: by the holy angels. What joy for them! They ushered Him into the Presence chamber of Jehovah, and there He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.

IV. THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH HE ASCENDED.

1. To prepare a place for His people.

2. To rule and order all things for the glory of God.

3. To intercede for all who come to God by Him.

4. To send the Holy Spirit to dwell with His people and guide them into all the truth.That Blessed Spirit is the true remedy for all the wants we feel, for the coldness of our hearts towards Him, for our many departures from His will, our many shortcomings and turnings aside from Him.

(Bp. F. Barker, D. D.)

O happy parting, fit for the Saviour of mankind. O blessed Jesu, let me so far imitate Thee, as to depart hence with a blessing in my mouth; let my soul, when it is stepping over the threshold of heaven, leave behind it a legacy of peace and happiness.

I. FROM WHENCE DID HE ASCEND? From the Mount of Olives. He might have ascended from the valley; all the globe of earth was alike to Him; but since He was to mount upward, He would take so much advantage as that stair of ground would afford Him. Since he had made hills so much nearer to heaven, He would not neglect the benefit of His Own creation. Where we have common helps, we may not depend upon supernatural provisions, we may not strain the Divine Providence to the supply of our negligence, or the humouring of our presumption. O God, teach me to bless Thee for means, when I have them; and to trust Thee for means, when I have them not; yea, to trust Thee without means, when I have no hope of them.

II. WHITHER DID HE ASCEND? Whither, but home into His heaven? From the mountain was He taken up; and what but heaven is above the hills? Already had He approved Himself the Lord and Commander of earth, of sea, of hell. It only remained that, as Lord of the air, He should pass through all the regions of that yielding element; and, as Lord of heaven, through all the glorious contiguations thereof. He had an everlasting right to that heaven; an undoubted possession of it ever since it was; but His human nature took not possession of it until now. O Jesu, raise Thou up my heart thither to Thee; place my affections upon Thee above, and teach me to love heaven, because Thou art there.

III. HOW DID HE ASCEND? As in His crucifixion and resurrection, so also in His ascension, the act was His Own, the power of it none but His. The angels did attend Thee, they did not aid Thee: whence had they their strength, but from Thee? Unlike Elias, Thou needest no chariot, no carriage of angels; Thou art the Author of life and motion; they move in and from Thee. As Thou, therefore, didst move Thyself upward, so, by the same Divine power, Thou will raise us up to the participation of Thy glory.

(Bp. Joseph Hall.)

O my soul, be Thou now, if ever, ravished with the contemplation of this comfortable and blessed farewell of thy Saviour. What a sight was this, how full of joyful assurance, of spiritual consolation! Methinks I see it still with their eyes, how Thou, my glorious Saviour, didst leisurely and insensibly rise up from Thine Olivet, taking leave of Thine acclaiming disciples, now left below Thee, with gracious eyes, with heavenly benedictions. Methinks I see how they followed Thee with eager and longing eyes, with arms lifted up, as if they had wished them winged, to bare soared up after Thee. And if Elijah gave assurance to his servant Elisha, that, if he should have beheld him in that rapture, his master's spirit should be doubled upon him; what an accession of the spirit of joy and confidence must needs be to His happy disciples, in seeing Christ thus gradually rising up to His heaven! O how unwillingly did their intentive eyes let go so blessed an object! How unwelcome was that cloud that interposed itself betwixt Him and them, and, closing up itself, left only a glorious splendour behind it, as the bright track of His ascension! Of old, here below, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud; now, afar off in the sky, the cloud intercepted this heavenly glory; if distance did not rather do it than that bright meteor. Their eyes attended Him on His way so far as their beams would reach; when they could go no further, the cloud received Him. Lo, even yet that very screen, whereby He was taken off from all earthly view, was no other than glorious; how much rather do all the beholders fix their sight upon that cloud, than upon the best piece of the firmament! Never was the sun itself gazed upon with so much intention. With what long looks, with what astonished acclamations, did these transported beholders follow Thee, their ascending Saviour! As if they would have looked through that cloud, and that heaven that hid Him from them....Look not after Him, O ye weak disciples, as so departed that ye shall see Him no more; if He be gone, yet He is not lost; those heavens that received Him shall restore Him; neither can those blessed mansions decrease His glory. Ye have seen Him ascend upon the chariot of a bright cloud; and, in the clouds of heaven, ye shall see Him descend again to His last judgment. He is gone: can it trouble you to know you have an Advocate in heaven? Strive not now so much to exercise your bodily eyes in looking after Him, as the eyes of your souls in looking for Him. If it be our sorrow to part with our Saviour, yet, to part with Him into heaven, it is comfort and felicity: if His absence could be grievous, His return shall be happy and glorious. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly: in the meantime it is not heaven that can keep Thee from me; it is not earth that can keep me from Thee: raise Thou up my soul to a life of faith with Thee; let me ever enjoy Thy conversation, whilst I expect Thy return.

(Bp. Joseph Hall.)

How strangely calm and brief, this record of so stupendous an event. Something sublime in the contrast between the magnificence and almost inconceivable grandeur of the thing communicated, and the quiet words, so few, so sober, so wanting in all detail, in which it is told. The stupendous fact of Christ sitting at the right hand of God is the one that should fill the present for us all, even as the Cross should fill the past, and the coming for judgment should fill the future.

I. THE EXALTED MAN. In His ascension Christ was but returning to His eternal Home; but He took with Him — what He had not had before in heaven — His humanity. It was the Everlasting Son of the Father, the Eternal Word, which from the beginning was with God and was God, that came down from heaven to earth, to declare the Father; but it was the Incarnate Word, the man Christ Jesus, who went back again. And He went as our Forerunner, to prepare a place for us, that where He is we also might be.

II. THE RESTING SAVIOUR. Christ rests after His cross, not because He needs repose, but in token that His work is finished, and that the Father has accepted it.

III. THE INTERCEDING PRIEST. There are deep mysteries connected with the thought of Christ's intercession. It does not mean that the Divine heart needs to be won to love and pity; or that in any merely outward and formal fashion He pleads with God, and softens and placates the Infinite and Eternal love of the Father in the heavens. But it means that He, our Saviour and Sacrifice, is forever in the presence of God; presenting His Own Blood as an element in the Divine dealing with us; and securing, through His own merits and intercession, the outflow of blessings upon our heads and hearts.

IV. THE EVER-ACTIVE HELPER. The "right hand of God" is the omnipotent energy of God. The ascended Christ is the ubiquitous Christ. Our Brother, the Son of Man, sits ruling all things; shall we not, then, be restful and content?

(A Maclaren, D. D.)

1. To confirm the prophecies.

2. To commence His mediatorial work in heaven.

3. To send the Holy Ghost.

4. To prepare a place for His people.He went up as our Representative, Forerunner, High Priest, and Intercessor, and as the King of Glory.

(G. S. Bowes.)

The manner of Christ's ascension into heaven may be said to have been an instance of Divine simplicity and sublimity combined, which scarcely has a parallel. While in the act of blessing His disciples (St. Luke 24:50, 51), He was parted from them, and was carried up, and disappeared behind a cloud (Acts 1:9). There was no pomp; nothing could have been more simple. How can the followers of this Lord and Master rely on pomp and ceremony to spread His religion, when He, its Founder, gave no countenance to such appeals to the senses of men? Had some good men been consulted about the manner of the ascension, we can imagine the result.

(N. Adams.)

I. ON EARTH. Think of the marvellous day when the disciples once more followed the Lord as far as unto Bethany, now truly on His way home. All the glimpses of the forty days had pressed it upon them that, while truly the same Jesus, He was yet drawing away from them. Still loving and tender, He is hedged about with divinity that makes a king. He bends not again to wash their feet; Mary does not touch Him, John does not lie in His bosom. Nature is losing its hold on His humanity. Suddenly He comes and goes, scarce recognized at first, then quickly hailed with rapturous confidence. They see Him no longer bearing unweariness, hunger, or the contempt of men. Jew and Roman are now out of the contest. Satan dares no more assaults. He has no sighs, no tears, no nights of prayer, no agony with bloody sweat. And now as they watch, that chiefest force of matter on which the systems stand, slips away from the particles of the form He wears, and He ascends in their sight, out of their sight, until swathed in the splendour of a cloud of glory.

II. IN HEAVEN. Dare we imagine the scene? Angels unnumbered, their faces solemn with a new awe at the great work of God; the first woman beholding at last the Seed; the first man Adam, rejoicing to see his fearful work undone and the race left free to join itself to a new Head; the patriarchs no longer pilgrims; priests no longer ministering at temple and altar; prophets finding prophecy itself looking backward on fulfilment; the heroes of the Church; the babes of Bethlehem slaughtered about His cradle — can we imagine the scene as He passed through the midst of these? Did they gaze on His form, with print of thorn and nail and spear, which mark Him forever as the Lamb that hath been slain? Up He passes through the bowed ranks, among saints and elders and martyrs, the four mystical living ones, beyond the glassy sea, amid the spirit's seven burning flames, beneath the emerald glittering bow, to that glory whose brightness jasper and sardius can. not express, and on this highest height of the supreme throne of the ineffable God, He takes His Own place.

(C. M. Southgate.)

Whenever you think of our Lord's resurrection and ascension, remember always that the background to His triumph is a tomb. Remember that it is the triumph over suffering; a triumph of One who still bears the prints of the nails in His hands and in His feet, and the wound of the spear in His side; like many a poor soul who has followed Him triumphant at last, and yet scarred and maimed in the hard battle of life. Remember forever the adorable wounds of Christ. Remember forever that St. John saw in the midst of the throne of God the likeness of a Lamb, as it had been slain. For so alone you will learn what our Lord's resurrection and ascension are to all who have to suffer and to toil on earth.

(C. Kingsley M. A.)

What good would it do to you if you were suffering from some peculiar accident to a limb, and someone came and told you of a surgeon who lived a hundred years ago, and who had been wonderfully clever in resetting the same bone after that precise kind of fracture? You might feel that he would have been able and willing to relieve you from pain, and to prevent all subsequent deformity. But if you were told of some living man who had shown the same skill, and if it were explained how it was that he had acquired his special experience, and how he had succeeded in one case after another when every other surgeon was helpless, you would say, "Now I have heard all this I will send for him at once, and put myself in his hands." This is just what men have to be persuaded to do in relation to Christ...to realize that He is living still, and that He is not only willing but able to give every man who asks of Him forgiveness of all past evil and strength to do better in time to come.

(R. W. Dale D. D.)

John Bunyan was walking one day in a field, in great trouble of soul at the discovery of his own vileness, and not knowing how to be justified with God, when he beard, as he imagined, a voice saying to him, "Your righteousness is in heaven." He went into his house and took his Bible, thinking to find there the very words that he thus sounded in his heart. He did not discover the identical expression, but many a passage of Scripture proclaimed the same truth, and showed him that Jesus, at the right hand of God, is complete righteousness to everyone that believeth.

(Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
We cannot contemplate the characters of men who have benefited the world by the splendour of their talents or the lustre of their lives, without feeling a spirit of inquisitive solicitude to know how they finished their course, parted with their friends, and made their exit. We labour to catch the last glance of departing worth.

I. THE PERIOD WHEN CHRIST ASCENDED.

1. After upbraiding His disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart.

2. After assigning to them their work.(1) The work was to "preach the gospel," not false doctrines, not human opinions, not Jewish ceremonies.(2) The sphere of their operation was "all the world."(3) Their commission was to "every creature." Hence we infer that the gospel is suited to the circumstances of all — designed for the benefit of all — and that the ministers of truth should aim at preaching it to all.

3. After comforting them by the promise of a miraculous influence with which they should be invested.

II. THE MANNER.

1. Christ's ascension was accomplished by His own eternal power.

2. It was publicly witnessed by His disciples.

3. It was hailed with transport by ministering angels. St. Luke declares that "a cloud received Him;" who can tell what amazing scenes were unfolded beyond that cloud?

III. HIS SUBSEQUENT SITUATION. "He sat on the right hand of God." This signifies —

1. The honour and dignity to which our Saviour is exalted.

2. The rule and government with which He is invested (Ephesians 1:20-22; John 3:35; Matthew 11:27; Romans 8:34).

3. The tranquility and happiness of which He is possessed.CONCLUSION: From this subject we learn —

1. Christ finished the work which He came upon earth to accomplish.

2. Christ has highly honoured human nature.

3. Christ is exalted for our sake (Hebrews 9:24).This should give us confidence in our prayers, excite our emulation, and, above all, inspire our hopes.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

I. THE FACT OF THE ASCENSION. Christ was, according to His humanity, translated by the Divine power into heaven. As God, He transferred Himself, as man, thither: to sit, thenceforward, at the right band of the Majesty on high. This signifies —

1. Preeminence of dignity, power, favour, and felicity.

2. The solid ground, the firm possession, the durable continuance, the undisturbed rest and quiet, of His condition.

3. The nature, quality, and design of His preferment. He is our Ruler and Judge.

4. His glorification.

II. CONFIRMATORY CONSIDERATIONS.

1. Ocular testimony. The apostles witnessed Christ's ascension.

2. Rational deduction. His arriving at the supreme pitch of glory, and sitting there, is deduced from the authority of His own word, and stands on the same ground as any other point of Christian faith and doctrine.

3. Ancient predictions.

III. THE END AND EFFECT OF THE ASCENSION.

1. Our Lord did ascend unto, and doth reside in, heaven, at the right hand of Divine majesty and power, that as a King He may govern us, protecting us from all danger, relieving us in all want, delivering us from all evil.

2. Our Saviour did ascend, and now sits at God's right hand, that He may, in regard to us, there exercise His priestly function.

3. Our Lord tells us that it was necessary He should depart hence, and enter into this glorious state, that He might there exercise His prophetical office by imparting to us His Holy Spirit for our instruction, direction, assistance, and comfort.

4. Our Lord also tells us that He went to heaven to prepare a place there for His faithful servants. He has entered heaven as our Forerunner, our Harbinger, to dispose things there for our reception and entertainment.

5. It is an effect of our Lord's ascension and glorification, that an good Christians are with Him in a sort translated into heaven, and advanced into a glorious state, being made kings and priests to God.

6. I might add that God did thus advance our Saviour, to declare the special regard He bears to piety, righteousness, and obedience, by His so amply rewarding and highly dignifying the practice thereof.

IV. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.

1. It may serve to guard us from divers errors with regard to our Lord's human nature. Our Lord did visibly, in human shape, ascend to heaven, and therefore He continues still a Man; and as such He abides in heaven. He is indeed everywhere by His Divinity present with us; He is also in His humanity present to our faith, memory, affection; He is therein also present by mysterious representation, by spiritual efficacy, by general inspection and influence on His Church; but in body, as we are absent from Him, so is He likewise separated from us; we must depart hence, that we may be with Him in the place whither He is gone to prepare for us.

2. Is Christ ascended and advanced to this glorious eminency at God's right hand? Then let us answerably behave ourselves towards Him, rendering Him the honour and worship, the fear and reverence, the service and obedience, suitable and due to His state.

3. These points afford ground and matter of great joy and comfort to us. Victory over enemies; exaltation of Him who has stooped to become one with us — our Elder Brother; the possession of a Friend in so high place and so great power, etc.

4. The consideration of these things serves to cherish and strengthen all kinds of faith and hope in us. We cannot surely distrust the accomplishment of any promises declared by Him, we cannot despair of receiving any good from Him, who is ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of Divine wisdom and power, thence viewing all things done here, thence ordering all things everywhere for the advantage of those who love Him and trust in Him.

5. These points likewise serve to excite and encourage our devotion. Having such a Mediator in heaven, so good and sure a Friend at court, what should hinder us from cheerfully addressing ourselves by Him on all occasions to God?

6. It may encourage us to all kinds of obedience, to consider what a high pitch of eternal glory and dignity our Lord has obtained in regard to His obedience, and as a pledge of like recompense designed to us if we tread in His footsteps.

7. The consideration of these points should elevate our thoughts and affections from these inferior things here below unto heavenly things (Colossians 3:1). To the Head of our body we should be joined; continually deriving sense and motion, direction and activity, from Him; where the Master of our family is, there should our minds be, constantly attentive to His pleasure, and ready to serve Him; where the city is whose denizens we are, and where our final rest must be, there should our thoughts be, careful to observe the law and orders, that we may enjoy the immunities and privileges thereof; in that country where only we have any good estate or valuable concernment, there our mind should be, studying to secure and improve our interest therein; our resolution should be conformable to that of the holy Psalmist: "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help."

(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

I. CONTEMPLATE THESE APOSTLES WITNESSING THE ASCENSION OF THEIR LORD.

1. The place from which He ascended. Mount of Olives. Thither He had been accustomed to resort after the labours and fatigues of the day; there He had often spent a whole night in meditation and prayer; and now He Himself ascends from the same place. There His disciples had forsaken Him and fled; and there He was now parted from them, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

2. The manner in which He ascended.(1) Visibly. His disciples were eyewitnesses of His majesty, as He rose higher and higher from the mountain, till the cloud covered Him, and concealed Him from their sight.(2) While He was in the act of blessing.

3. The place to which He ascended. Heaven. His own home. What rejoicings at His return!

II. CONTEMPLATE THE APOSTLES GOING FORTH TO PREACH HIS GOSPEL.

1. The subject of their preaching. The gospel of Jesus Christ — the crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour.

2. They communicated this gospel to mankind by preaching.

(1)A Divine ordinance.

(2)A speedy way of teaching.

(3)A method admirably adapted for impressing the great truth of the gospel on men's hearts.

3. The extent to which they preached this gospel was universal. "Everywhere." "To every creature," was the command.

III. CONTEMPLATE THE APOSTLES EXPERIENCING THEIR LORD'S COOPERATION WITH THEM IN THEIR LABOURS. Wherever they worked as instruments, He worked also as the efficient agent; for His power is omnipotent; and the "signs" promised were the result.

1. These Divine influences qualified the preachers of the gospel.

2. These Divine influences confirmed the truth of the gospel.

3. These Divine influences ensured the success of the gospel.A glorious conquest — a triumph over mind and heart. It was great and godlike even to plan the moral conquest of a world; but when the plan is all accomplished, when all the nations of the earth become one holy and happy family, then shall the world enjoy its millennial jubilee, and Christ the Mediator shall be Lord of all.

(J. Alexander, D. D.)

When He ascended up on high, He opened and prepared a path, along which we may travel till we behold His face in righteousness. It has been said, that in the early ages an attempt was once made to build a chapel on the top of the hill from which Christ ascended into heaven; but that it was found impossible either to pave over the place where He last stood, or to erect a roof across the path through which He had ascended; — a legendary tale, no doubt, though perhaps intended to teach the important troth that the moral marks and impressions which Christ has left behind Him can never be obliterated; that the way to heaven through which He has passed can never be closed by human skill or power; and that He has set before us an open door which no man shall be able to shut.

(J. Alexander, D. D.)

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