15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Thoughts: It is easy to focus here on the extravagant signs of the gospel in verses 17-18 and stop there. When I lived in Asheville, NC there would be a story every other year about snake handlers in the mountains. But there is something far deeper and more applicable to all of us here. We are all called to go into all the world and preach the gospel not just to all people but to all creation. The gospel brings peace to all creatures and creation. But the definition of salvation here is belief. Belief is the key that opens the door to heaven. If Christ rose from the dead, but no one believes it, then the good news of life after death dies. If God loves us, but no one believes that, then the world lives in loneliness in the midst of the love of God. All are called to hear, and we are called to tell all about our Lord. When the disciples beleived and spread the news, signs would accompany them and God would bear fruit through them.
Prayer: Give me grace, O Lord, to believe and spread the good news to others.
John Calvin abridged: The meaning is this: that by proclaiming the gospel everywhere, they should bring all nations to the obedience of faith, and then seal and ratify their doctrine with the gospel. Leadership in the church is not an empty title used for luxury, but it is a working office. Christ here removes the distinction between Jew and Gentile by indicating all should hear. When Mark says, "all creation" it means the same as Matthew's "all nations" for when the gospel is spread to those who believe, it brings peace to those around them (Eph. 2:17,19). Mark links baptism and faith, indicating that one cannot just have the outward sign of baptism and expect salvation. Yet, baptism is not a requirement of salvation in and of itself, but should be done as a testimony of the obedience of faith (so that those who have faith but not the opportunity for baptism may be saved). "These signs..."-As the Lord ratified their faith by his miracles, so He passes His power onto His disciples that they may know that the Gospel did not depend on His bodily presence. Believers will be ministers of the same power which had formerly excited admiration in Christ, so that during his bodily absence the sealing of the gospel would be secured. Christ does not say whether these special gifts are to be temporary during the newness of the Gospel, or to remain perpetually in the Church. While there are false imitations of miracles today (as in teh reign of the Anti-Christ-Mt. 24:24), miracles are certainly not as common (perhaps because of our ingratitude), but the least we can say is that the frequency of miracles vary from age to age.
Mark indicates Jesus ascended to a place of glory and power (the right hand of God). Mark confirms in one sentence what Luke says in Acts, that the disciples indeed preached. One would have thought that after the crucifixion the name of Jesus would be silenced or mentioned in a shameful way. The disciples had deserted him and were in hiding. But this was not a human work- Mark confirms the "Lord was working with them." It is not that they (or we) add anything to God's grace by our work; but God assists us in His work. We are called God's fellow-workers (1 Cor. 3:9) because God makes use of us as His agents- so that our planting and watering does no good except by His Spirit.