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.”
Our faith in God is how we receive our righteousness. This is why Jesus exhorts His followers for their lack of faith, because He knows that our faith isn’t just a nonchalant care or trust. It is everything. IN Galations 3, the Apostle Paul writes about this important detail:
6 Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU. 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
John Gill explains the phrase “He who as believed” in a very profound way:
Not notionally only, or that gives a bare assent to the truth of the Gospel; but spiritually, who sees Christ, his need of him, and the worth and excellency, suitableness and fullness of him; who comes to him as a poor perishing sinner, and ventures on him, and commits himself to him, and lives upon him; believing alone in him, and expecting life and salvation alone by him.
When Jesus says, “those who believe,” He isn’t referring to those who go to church and are faithful in reading their bible every day and praying at meal times. He is talking about those who in their hearts know and trust that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God, and that they need Him. This is a crucial understanding for what Jesus’ Great Commission as we read it here. Do you really believe in Jesus as the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer to God the Father? If not, what follows verse 16 is meaningless and pointless to try to do.
Yesterday I mentioned that this ending of Mark is contested as the original text. Nowhere in the scriptures is there a record of someone drinking poison and surviving, but there are plenty of records of all the rest. Does this mean then that this part is untrue? Does it mean that this whole section of scripture should be thrown out? Not at all! Simply because there is no New Testament record of someone surviving poison, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. In fact, surviving poison is probably easier than casting out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead (all things the disciples did). Quite frankly, I imagine this would be something that goes unrecorded because nothing happened. Maybe an enemy poisoned one of the disciples and they didn’t die. Why would this be recorded? The culprit wouldn’t have said, “Hey, I poisoned you and you didn’t die…what gives?” And if there was no affect upon the drinker, they wouldn’t have known to make note of it in their writings, would they?
So then, if some of us truly believe in Jesus, then why aren’t there more signs as Jesus foretold? Do they go unnoticed by the general public? How many of you reading this, who with all your heart believe in Jesus, have seen demons cast out, witnessed someone speaking in tongues, the sick healed, and dangers avoided as a result of your faith? Our problem is that we believe in Jesus to the level of our own comfort level. We don’t believe Jesus for what He says, only for what we are ready to believe. Maybe we do believe in the validity of these things because we read it in the bible, but since we do not see it we do not 100% believe. Jesus told doubting Thomas in John 20:29
“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Our belief does not come from physical sight, but from spiritual sight bestowed upon us by God the Father. In recognizing where we lack faith, we are able to go to Him and ask Him to open our hearts so that we do truly believe. This is why Jesus teaches us how to ask God for things in Matthew 7:
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
So let us ask then, our Heavenly Father who wants us to see and experience these things as tokens of His Kingdom so we may take it to others and they will know. Let us ask Him for wisdom and faith so that we can fulfill what Jesus said in verse 15, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel of His Reign to all creation.