Mark 16:12-15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 6, 2005


We’ve been walking through the account of Jesus’ last days. We’ve seen Him as an innocent man being put on trial and condemned to death. We’ve seen Him be beaten, crucified, and die. We’ve seen Him buried.  And last week we read what happened early on that Sunday morning – a group of women went to the tomb and found it empty.  An angel told them that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they should tell the disciples.  The disciples didn’t believe the women, but two of them, Peter and John, ran to the tomb and they too found it empty.  Then later that morning Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.  When Mary told the disciples, they still didn’t believe.

:12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.

Luke tells us the story in Luke 24.

(Luke 24:13-35 NKJV)  Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. {14} And they talked together of all these things which had happened. {15} So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. {16} But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. {17} And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" {18} Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" {19} And He said to them, "What things?"

I find it interesting how Jesus handled these fellows.  He knew the answer to their question better than they did.  Yet He let them go on and talk.

So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, {20} "and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. {21} "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. {22} "Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. {23} "When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. {24} "And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see." {25} Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! {26} "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" {27} And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Wouldn’t you love a CD of that Bible Study?  To hear Jesus Himself explain the Old Testament Scriptures.

Note how Jesus deals with their unbelief.  He opens the Scriptures.

{28} Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. {29} But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them. {30} Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. {31} Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. {32} And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" {33} So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, {34} saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" {35} And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Mark tells us how the disciples respond to their story …

:13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.

:14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

He rebukedoneidizo – to reproach, upbraid, revile

There are several different Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated as “rebuke”.

This particular word is used ten times in the New Testament. It’s usually used to describe how we are “reproached” or “rebuked” by those in the world. This is the only occurrence where this particular Greek word describes Jesus rebuking His disciples.  There’s something here to pay attention to.


Unbelief and Hard Hearts

Why would He rebuke their unbelief and hardness of heart?
Because these are two areas that are critical for Christians.

Hard Hearts

How does a heart grow hard? Disappointment
Disappointment in others, being unwilling to trust or risk loving another person.

Jesus said that the reason God allowed Moses to make a law concerning divorce was becase of “hard hearts” (Mat. 19:8).

Hard hearts can develop in relationships, in marriage.  It is hard hearts that lead to divorce.

Disappointment in God, things not turning out the way you wanted them to.

The Israelites wandering in the wilderness had hard hearts because they had run out of water, they had difficult times.  Psalm 95:8 tells us that they developed “hard hearts” and complained against God.

For the disciples, they had just gone through the biggest disappointment ever.  They had expected Jesus to become King and take over the world.  They had been trusting in Him and He had let them down.  He had died.  And it seemed as if He wanted to die.  He didn’t even resist.

God wants us to have a soft heart.  His “New Covenant” was built around a new, soft, heart.
(Ezek 36:26 NKJV) "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

When a person becomes “born again”, God gives their heart a fresh start.


God wants us to have “faith”
I don’t think God wants you to be “gullible” and simply believe everything.  I think its fine with God that we learn to “test” things, that we ask questions.  One of the things the bugs me most about Christians is how quick we are to spread these stupid Internet rumors.  I wish we’d learn to be a little more skeptical at times.
But the disciples aren’t being healthily skeptical here. 

Their first idea that Jesus had been raised from the dead should have come when the women first reported that the tomb was empty and that an angel said that He was risen.

Their second idea should have come when Peter and John confirmed that the tomb was empty.

Their THIRD idea should have come when Mary came back a second time and said that she had actually SEEN Jesus.

And now this FOURTH witness has come when the two fellows came back from Emmaus reporting that they had been walking and talking with Jesus.

That goes beyond healthy skepticism and enters unbelief.
What is faith?
I think that sometimes we have this notion that “faith” is some kind of magical fairy dust that Christians are supposed to carry in their pockets.  We think that if we could only have enough of this “stuff”, then all our problems would go away.
That’s not what the Bible teaches. This is what the Bible says …

(Heb 11:1 NKJV)  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

(Heb 11:1 NLT)  What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

It’s counting on something that you don’t see.  It’s trusting in something that doesn’t make sense.

Faith may indeed make your problems go away, but if it doesn’t, faith will help you go through your problems.

God likes it when we have faith.
(Heb 11:6 NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Faith produces something
It produces works.  It’s what makes a Christian keep going.

The disciples were going to have plenty of difficult times in their lives.  They would be facing unbelievable persecution.  They were going to go through many things that would indicate that they should just “quit” and walk away.  But they would need to keep going.  They would need to keep telling people about Jesus.  And that would require faith – trusting in Jesus despite what their circumstances would tell them.

Hebrews 11 contains all sorts of examples of what people did through “faith”.

(Heb 11:7-16 NKJV)  By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Noah’s faith didn’t make the flood disappear.  But it did make him get up and build a big boat.  And his boat rescued his entire family.  Yet he built the boat without ever having seen rain in his entire life.  He trusted in what he didn’t see.  He trusted in what God said.

{8} By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Abraham didn’t know where the “Promised Land” was.  He didn’t have friends come back from Canaan to tell him there was land for sale.  God just said, “Go”.  And he went.

{9} By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; {10} for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. {11} By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. {12} Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude; innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. {13} These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

They never saw a kingdom established.  They never saw descendants as innumerable as the sand. They lived on God’s Promises.

{14} For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. {15} And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. {16} But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

God was very pleased with these men and women who desired to trust and obey God, even though they didn’t understand and even though their circumstances told them to quit.

God prepared a city – God prepared heaven for these people.

Faith is a part of salvation.
(Eph 2:8-9 NKJV)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast.

For a person to know God, to find forgiveness for their sins, and to be assured of eternal life in heaven, they have to trust Jesus.  They have to trust that He died for their sins.  They have to trust that His death was enough to make the way to heaven for them.

How do we build our faith?
Through the Word.

Jesus dealt with the disciples on the road to Emmaus by teaching them the Scriptures.

(Rom 10:17 NKJV)  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

When you get the Bible into your heart, you will realize that God is someone you can count on.

Through obedience.  Through “going”.

Every time we take a step of “faith” and do something that stretches us a little, I believe our faith is stretched as well.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews has this clear link between men and women of faith, and the things they did as a result of faith.

For many of you, you have found that when you take one of those uncomfortable “steps of faith”, your faith grows.

It may have been stepping out and going to Russia.  It may have been stepping out and talking to or praying with a friend.

God is looking to use those who will trust Him.  He’s looking for those who will “go”.

:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

This is what we call the “Great Commission”.

Matthew gives us a little fuller rendering of it:

(Mat 28:18-20 NKJV)  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. {19} "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.


The Great Commission

It started with the disciples.  This was Jesus’ parting instructions to them, to preach the gospel to the whole world.
But it wasn’t just about preaching the gospel, it wasn’t just about driving around in a truck with a loudspeaker and reading Bible verses to people.
It was about making disciples.  A disciple is a learner, a follower.  The twelve were disciples, and they weren’t supposed to be the last disciples, just the first disciples.
A disciple is one who “observes all things He has commanded”.

And that includes the Great Commission.  Which means that more people become involved in God’s purpose to reach the world.

Paul wrote to Timothy,

(2 Tim 2:2 NKJV)  And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

For our church, I see our purpose contained in three statements:
Winning the Lost, Equpping the Saints, Sending the Servants
Winning the Lost
God loves this world we live in.  Jesus was the friend of sinners.  And God wants us to have the same kind of heart He does, to reach a lost world for Him.
For some of us, this is not a “fun” thing.  Some of us are more introverted than others.  Some of us have a hard time talking to strangers.  Some of us struggle with knowing what to say to a non-Christian.
But whether we are a person who is gifted as an evangelist, or a person who struggles with evangelism, the overall purpose of the church is the same – to win lost people.

Some may be good on the front lines – and we need to give them all the support we can.  Others of us may not be the greatest at witnessing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be helping to move the church in the right direction.  And that doesn’t mean that we can’t be nice people out in the world.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to be a better friend to the fellow at work or the neighbor next door, that one day we might be able to invite them to church, or be the one person they can talk to with a problem.

Evangelism doesn’t always have to be talking to strangers and debating the issues.

I think a lot might happen if we simply started praying for the people we have relationships with that don’t know the Lord.

Equipping the Saints
Once a person comes to the Lord, they become a “saint”.  I don’t mean they become perfect, but they become someone who has been forgiven and someone that God wants to work in.
But in my mind, a “saint” isn’t the end of the line.  I don’t think God’s heart is just to fill up the church with people who say “that sinner’s prayer”, and that’s all there is to it.
God wants us to grow as Christians.  God wants us to learn to follow Him.  God wants us to be disciples.
And that requires training.  One of my life verses comes from:

(Eph 4:11-12 NKJV)  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, {12} for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

As a pastor/teacher, one of my responsibilities is to “equip the saints” for the work of the ministry.  The “ministry” is not the pastor’s job alone, it belongs to all of us.  Reaching out to people, comforting the hurting, praying for the sick, are all things that we all are called to do.  And part of my job, as well as yours, is to help others learn to do the ministry.

The way I look at it, my goal is to take a “saint”, and help them grow to be a “servant”.

Too often the disciples themselves got caught up in wanting to become “important” in the church.  They argued over who was going to be the “top dog”.  But Jesus would take the fellows aside and let them know that they had it all wrong.  If they were to really grow as Christians, the goal is not to become “more important”, the goal is to become a “servant”.

He said,

(Mark 10:45 NKJV)  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Sending the Servants
There is still one more step in the health of the church.
God doesn’t want the church filled with servants who just come and listen to the pastor tell them how to be a better servant.
God wants a church made up of servants who learn to go.
Jesus told the disciples to “go” into all the world.
We need to “go” as well.

For some of us, God’s purpose is more toward “equipping” other saints.  These are the folks who will do well with ministering mainly within the church, helping others to grow in Christ and find their ministry.  Some might serve as servants in the cleaning ministry, as running the sound board, leading small groups, Bible teachers, Sunday School teachers, Worship leaders, things that help to build up other believers.

For some, they live to reach non-Christians with the gospel.  They thrive in meeting new people, handing out tracts, or speaking to groups of people about Jesus.  They may go to Mississippi, Mexico, Russia, Korea, or to McDonald’s down the street.  But we need to be sending them.

And the cycle begins all over again in winning the lost, equipping the saints, and sending the servants.
Where are you today?
Are you in that place where you need to take that first step of trusting God?  Are you ready to open our heart to Jesus?
Are you ready to take that next step in your walk – to “go”?