This is our last lesson from the Gospel of Mark. We learned of the Lord's birth; can you tell about it, where it was? And about the shepherds? Can you tell about the wise men who came to see the Lord? What did they follow? Who came to prepare the way for the Lord? What did John preach and do? Who came to him to be baptized in Jordan? Where had the Lord lived before His baptism? For about how many years? After His baptism He chose disciples to be with Him. How many? Near what sea did they live for a time after this? In what ways did the Lord show His love to the people among whom He lived? In teaching, He told them stories which were called what? Besides the healing of sickness what other kinds of miracles did He do? Who learned to love Him? And who hated Him as He lived this most holy life among men? Then came the news of the death of John the Baptist. Can you tell of that? What wonderful thing was given to three of His disciples to see on Mount Hermon? Can you tell of that? After this the Lord left Galilee. We learned of the journey to Jerusalem. Can you remember any of the things that happened on the way?
The events of the last week we have reviewed very thoroughly, beginning with Palm Sunday, and ending with the burial on Friday, and the rising again on Sunday, the glad Easter Sunday, the first day of the week and ever after the Christian Sabbath! We have learned of the Lord's appearing to Mary on the morning of that day, and now we are to learn of the other times that He appeared to His disciples. For He appeared to some or all of them many times during forty days after His resurrection.
During forty days after the resurrection the Lord appeared many times to the disciples, till they knew that He still was living and was with them.
The appearance of the Lord to two as they walked and went into the country, we read of in Luke in the story of the walk to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35)
Verse 14 refers to His coming to the disciples gathered together in Jerusalem, especially, it would seem, to the coming a week after Easter, when Thomas was with them. (John 20:19-29)
The charge and promise in verses 15-18 are probably a part of the charge given to the disciples when they met Him on the mountain in Galilee. See also Matthew 28: 16-20.
The ascension, verse 19, is more fully described in Luke 24:50-53 and in Acts 1:1-11. We must have clearly before us this last appearance of the Lord to the disciples. Forty days had passed since the Easter morning (Acts 1:3), and the Lord had appeared many times to the disciples. Once more the disciples were in Jerusalem, and the Lord appeared to them for the last time. He bade them tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. How little the disciples yet understood about the Lord's kingdom! They were still hoping for earthly power, and asked, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" The Lord answered them most gently, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father bath put in His own power"; and He told them of the great work before them.
Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. How many times the disciples had gone with the Lord out to the Mount of Olives, and over the hill to the little town, the home of Mary and Martha. "And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." (Luke 24:51) "And a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven." (Acts 1:9-12.) "And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God." (Luke 24:52, 53)
1. During how many days after His resurrection was the Lord seen by the disciples?
2. Tell me of His coming to them in Jerusalem. In a mountain in Galilee.
3. When did they last see Him? How was He parted from them?
4. How does the Lord come again in the clouds?
The great purpose of the Lord's appearing to the disciples during forty days after His resurrection, was to teach them that He was still with them, the same Lord, real and powerful. The human nature by which the Lord came near to men in the world was gradually glorified. What was from men and from the earth was gradually laid aside, and what was Divine was brought down in its place. In the sepulchre the material dust of the Lord's body was dissipated and its place supplied by Divine substances. Thus, even the Lord's body was glorified. Still for a short time there was somewhat finite about the Lord which could make Him sensible to the spiritual senses of the disciples, and His appearing to them in that way prepared them for the time near at hand when He would be wholly and absolutely Divine - too glorious for human eyes to see. There is an important difference between the Lord's resurrection and ours, which He taught by saying, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have." When we die we leave the natural body and the natural plane of life behind. The Lord did not leave that plane of life, but retained it and glorified it by replacing the weak substances of earth by Divine substances, on that same natural plane. He has not left us;
He is with us still, and forever. (L. 35)
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Is it the mere ceremony of baptism which saves, or is it repentance, and a practical confidence in the Lord, leading us to look to Him for strength to repent? (E. 475; T. 673)
Signs following belief. Were these signs ever literally fulfilled with the disciples? (Acts 5:12-16; 28:3-6) How may we cast out devils? speak with new tongues? The serpents are affections for pleasant things of sense. The Lord gives power to control these. Evils and false things which enter our minds from without we can reject with the Lord's help, and suffer no harm. Compare Matthew 15:10-20. (E. 706)
The Lord's ascension into the cloud reminds us of the bright cloud which overshadowed the disciples when He was transfigured. They could not bear the fullness of His Divine glory, but it must be veiled and interpreted to them by simple forms of thought, such as those of the letter of the Word. But as we become able to understand something of the spiritual truth within the letter of the Word, which is all about the Lord, the cloud opens and reveals Him. The Lord has made His second coming in the opening of His Word to the New Church.