The apostles were not blind believers of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus allowed them to have personal experience of him after his resurrection. He commissioned them to go all over the world and preach the gospel to all humanity. Starting from Jerusalem with the Jews, the disciples proclaimed to all the redemption through Jesus. Baptism is a requirement for salvation. Rejection of the faith, once received, shall lead to condemnation. Jesus continues to work through his disciples until his second coming when he will reward the faithful followers.
The Commissioning of the Eleven
(Mark 16:14) Later Jesus showed himself to the Eleven while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief and stubbornness in refusing to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. (15) Then he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. (16) He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who refuses to believe will be condemned. (17) Signs like these will accompany those who believe: in my Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; (18) they will pick up snakes in their hands and, if they drink anything poisonous, they will not be hurt. They will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed.”
The Ascension of Jesus
(19) So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. (20) The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord continually worked with them and confirmed the message by the miracles which accompanied them.
The Commissioning of the Eleven
(Mk 16:14) Later Jesus showed himself to the Eleven while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief and stubbornness in refusing to believe those who had seen him after he had risen
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven while they were at table
After Judas’ death, the college of apostles became eleven. Jesus appeared to them when they were eating at table. Though Thomas was absent at Jesus’ first appearance to the apostles, Mark has included Thomas in this vision to assure the commissioning of all the eleven.
During the Holy Mass, we are at the banquet table of the Lord, which is the foretaste of the eternal banquet in heaven. The Lord comes to us and shares his meal with us during each Holy Mass.
He reproached them for their unbelief and stubbornness in refusing to believe
The apostles came to know that Jesus had risen from the dead. However, that was from the witness of others who had seen the Risen Lord, including Mary Magdalene, Cleophas, and the two disciples who were travelling to Emmaus. Despite the predictions of Jesus on his resurrection, the apostles were hesitant to believe in the resurrection experience others shared. Mark presents it as the hardness of their heart. Like Thomas, they had been insisting to see for themselves the Risen Lord to believe in his resurrection.
When Jesus appeared to Thomas, Jesus had said, “You believe because you see me. Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen” (Jn 20:29). This message is for us who have not seen the Risen Lord yet believe in him. God bless us for that.
(15) Then he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation”
Jesus had formerly restricted his apostles from preaching the gospel to the Gentiles and Samaritans (Mt 10:5). After his resurrection, he commanded them to travel all over the world and preach to people of all nations, regardless of their religion, language, tribe, social, or financial status. Thus, the disciples declared the universality of the gospel and the salvation Jesus brought to all. The faith in the Lord should unify all the dispersed people in the name of Jesus.
Apostles represented Jesus in the early church. All Christians must continue Jesus’ mission in their life situations.
(16) He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who refuses to believe will be condemned
While it is the responsibility of a Christian to communicate the gospel of Jesus, the people who become believers in Jesus should receive baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude” (1257).
The unbelief in Jesus and refusal to join the mystical body of Christ through baptism after listening to the Word of God, are one’s own choice for condemnation in the life to come. When Jesus sent out the 12 during his public ministry to preach the gospel to the Jews, Jesus told of those who would reject them: “I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than it will for the people of that town” (Mt 10:15). When Jesus spoke of the unrepentant towns, he said: “Alas for you Chorazin! Alas for you Bethsaida! So many miracles have been worked in you! If the same miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in ashes, and wearing the sackcloth of repentance. Surely it will be better for Tyre and Sidon than for you on the judgement day. And what of you, city of Capernaum? Will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead” (Lk 10:13-15).
(17) Signs like these will accompany those who believe: in my Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages
Signs like these will accompany those who believe
Verses 17 and 18 give a list of extraordinary signs that would accompany the believers. Such divine powers were necessary, especially in the early church in its budding stage and while the Christians were facing severe persecution. The preachers and their listeners needed them for confirming their faith in Jesus. Some signs benefited others while other signs were to save the lives of the disciples during their missionary trip. These miracles shall not continue forever. However, even later, some holy Christians performed wonders, and some had miraculous experiences in their lives.
In my Name they will cast out demons
The Acts of the Apostles reports some instances of apostles doing an exorcism. “The people gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those who were troubled by unclean spirits, and all of them were healed” (Acts 5:16). Acts 16:16-18 describes how Paul expelled a demon from a slave girl who was also a fortune teller. Luke gives another instance in Acts 19:11-12: “God did extraordinary deeds of power through the hands of Paul. Even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were laid upon the sick and their illnesses were cured, and evil spirits also departed from them.”
They will speak new languages
The apostles, who had limited education and language skills, could go all over the world and could preach in the languages of the local people. This gift started on the Day of Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each one heard them speaking in his own native language” (Acts 2:5-6).
(18) They will pick up snakes in their hands and, if they drink anything poisonous, they will not be hurt. They will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed
They will pick up snakes in their hands
The Bible documents such an incident. While Saint Paul was in Malta (Acts 28:3-5) a viper fastened on his hand but he escaped from being bitten.
If they drink anything poisonous, they will not be hurt
Papias records the oral tradition that Joseph Barsabbas, one of the 70 disciples of Jesus (Lk 10:1) drank a cup of poison without harm. This Joseph was a candidate for apostleship along with Mathias to replace Judas Iscariot. Both had followed Jesus during his public ministry (Acts 1:21). Another tradition is that the Roman authorities took Saint John the Apostle to Rome for trial during the reign of Emperor Nero (56-68), where he had to drink a cup of deadly poison but remained alive.
They will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed
The Acts of the Apostles gives several instances of the disciples healing the sick.
1. Peter healed a lame man in Jerusalem (3:1-11)
2. Apostles healed many in Jerusalem (5:15-16)
3. Peter healed Eneas who was paralyzed for eight years (9:33-34)
4. Peter raised Tabitha to life in Joppa (9:36-41)
5. Paul healed a crippled man in Lystra (14:8-10)
6. Paul healed a multitude in Corinth (19:11-12)
7. Paul restored the life of Eutychus who fell from the third- story window (20:9-12)
8. Paul healed the father of Publius and others in Malta (28:7-9)
The Ascension of Jesus
(19) So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.
The Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven
The Acts of the Apostles gives more specific details of how Jesus ascended to heaven: “He was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight” (1:9).
Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God
Acts 7:55-56 describes Saint Stephen’s vision at the time of his execution. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, ‘Look!’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Though the normal posture of Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, here Jesus was standing as if he was welcoming Stephen to heaven.
A position at the right hand of a king is symbolic of the dignity or authority shared with that supreme person. The Father seated Jesus at His right hand and exalted him above all others in heaven. “Sitting” refers to the completion of Jesus’ mission, besides a symbol of authority.
The ancient patriarchs usually blessed their children and grandchildren with their right hand. For example, while blessing the two sons of Joseph, Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim as the favoured one (Gen 48:13-14). The bride of the king stands at the right side of the king (Psalm 45:9). Since most people use the right hand, it stands for strength. The right-side seat is for the second in rank of the king. When Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, came to his court, he bowed before her and then ordered to bring a second throne for her and placed at the right side of his throne to show her authority and honour in his kingdom (1 Kgs 2:19).
As Christians, our goal is to reach the right-hand side of Jesus. According to Matthew 25:31-46, the angels will separate the faithful from others at the last judgement. How we practise our faith would determine which side of Jesus we shall end up on – right or left? The reward is for those who are eligible to be at the right side of Jesus, the supreme judge.
(20) The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord continually worked with them and confirmed the message by the miracles which accompanied them.
The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere
The apostles and their followers continued Jesus’ mission and obeyed his command to preach all over the world.
The Lord continually worked with them
While the apostles and other missionaries of Jesus continued working for Jesus, he too was at work with them. They function as his instruments and representatives. Jesus continues to fulfil his promise to his disciples: “I am with you always until the end of this world” (Mt 28:20). Saint Paul wrote to Corinthians: “We are fellow workers with God, and you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor 3:9). Substantial changes have happened and continue to happen in the world through Christianity because of the divine intervention of Jesus through his representatives.
Confirmed the message by the miracles which accompanied them
As mentioned in verses 17 and 18, Jesus confirmed the words of the apostles and their successors through miracles and extraordinary outcomes. The church that was like a mustard seed has grown fulfilling the parable of Jesus: “It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it has fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and rest in its branches” (Mt 13:32).
1. Trust in the Lord is the basis of our faith than physical evidence or personal experience of God. Just as we believe and trust our parents, we believe in the Lord who is our creator and sustainer of our life.
2. We are the missionaries of Jesus in our time and locality. Jesus has entrusted us, through the sacrament of chrismation or confirmation, the responsibility to preach the gospel all over the world to all people.
3. Rejection of the gospel after receiving Jesus’ message would lead to everlasting destruction. Many people, when they enjoy the comforts of life, ignore God who created and sustained them. Rejection or disregard of God and his church is a grave sin and violation of the first commandment. Popes have been insisting on the need of a re-evangelization of fallen away Christians while continuing the evangelization for the non- believers.
4. We are indebted to God for our health and wellbeing. Often, we see God’s providence in healing or escaping an accident. Let us realize that God protects us from many mishaps that did not occur in our lives.
5. When Jesus fulfilled his mission on earth, God the Father took him to heaven and seated him at His right hand as a sign of honour and authority. We must carry out our mission in the world God entrusted us. Then our death shall also be a welcoming entry to the right hand of Jesus in heaven.
6. When we serve the Lord in the continuance of his mission, the Lord himself gives the result. It’s no credit to us. As Jesus taught, “So you also, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you must say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty’ ” (Lk 17:10). However, none of our good works will go unrewarded in heaven.