The cross, the resurrection and the commission
Mark 16 from the daily reading In the One Year Bible
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
The Disciples Commissioned
14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” We need to understand though that while Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Him, He also calls us to follow Him beyond the cross, to the resurrection. In John 11:25 Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” Many people are deceived, believing that a life with Christ, taking up their cross, is a life of suffering and sacrifice, that the resurrection is only for after we die. Suffering and sacrifice was Christ’s cross. Jesus says we are to deny ourselves and take up our own cross, not His. Our cross is not a cross of sacrifice. Jesus alone, His finished work on the cross could fulfill the sacrifice for sin. Our cross is instead a denial of self and a bond to Christ. We are to continue, as Christ Himself did beyond the cross. We are not to remain on the cross, but rather to follow Him also beyond both the cross and the empty tomb to a life of resurrection. Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Jesus calls us to die to self that we might live abundantly in Him.
Our cross is used not as an instrument of physical suffering, but rather to bring our carnal desires to death, so that we may be bound to Christ. Jesus cross was to take away the result of our sin. Our cross is to take away our desire to sin. Jesus cross and our cross come together to bond us. They become like the yoke Jesus speaks of in Matthew 11:29-30, where He says: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Because we are freed from the consequences of sin through the cross of Christ and we are daily becoming free from our desire to sin, we can become yoked to Christ. We can join Him in the work He calls us to.
In today’s text, after the resurrection it says: Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” That is the life Jesus calls and commissions us to live, a victorious life, an abundant life. Because of His cross the victory has already been won. Because of our cross, because we are yoked to Christ our result can be as the result of the disciples in today’s text: So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. After the resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven, yet He still works with us. Together with Him, we can bring the realities of heaven, all of the victory of the cross, to earth. Yoked to Christ, we bring the kingdom of heaven to the situations and circumstances on earth.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the cross, for the cross of Christ by which I am forgiven and for my cross by which I put to death my own selfish desires. Thank You for the resurrection, the eternal life You have given us for the future and the abundant, victorious life we have now. Thank You for the commission, for calling us to walk and to work with You. May indeed, as I am yoked to You, Your kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.