Background: All three Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are one in stating that, after his resurrection, Jesus spent a number of days with his disciples before he ascended into heaven. St. Mark emphasizes:
- the difficulty the disciple experienced in believing in Jesus’ resurrection;
- the mandate he gave them to preach the Gospel to all; and
- the constant assistance extended to them by the Lord
Introduction: This passage is part of the so-called “longer ending” of the Gospel of Mark. Most of its content corresponds to Mt. 28:16-20 and Lk 24:46-51. Our text has the following in common with the other two Synoptics:
- the mandate to preach the Gospel to all men (v. 15. See Mt 28:19 and Lk 24:47); and
- the assurance of the enduring prescence of the Lord Jesus, (v. 20. See Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.)
But it has also some points that are proper to it, namely;
- the condemnation that awaits those who refuse to believe (see v. 16b),
- the mention of several “signs” which will indicate Jesus’ special assistance extended to his apostles in their work for the Kingdom. (See vv. 17-18.20b.)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Historical Background: The sudden capture of Jesus and his precipitate execution left his apostolic plan about the Church a sort of “unfinished business.” His disciples were not yet ready to stand on their own. They still had so many things to assimilate about the nature and mission of the Kingdom and their role in it. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus kept appearing to his disciples not only to convince them that he was indeed alive, but especially to complete their formation and to prepare them for the formal “launching” of the Church at Pentecost.
Introduction: Today’s passage, more than an introduction to the whole book, is a very concise summary of the last forty days of Jesus’ presence among his disciples after his resurrection. It is also immediate preparation for the Pentecost event which will usher in the long period of evangelization that will last until the return of the Lord. (See vv. 6-8. See also Lk 24:46-49.) The Ascension of Christ is the central event connecting the Resurrection and Pentecost, two vital stages of the history of salvation.
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Historical Background: The Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his life and was in prison (probably in Rome). Wishing to strengthen the faith of the believers not only in Ephesus but in the whole of Asia Minor, he wrote a highly inspired letter in which he emphasizes:
- the all-important role of Christ and the Church in the fulfillment of God’s plan (1:3-3:21); and
- the way the believers should live in order to respond to God’s call within the Church (4:1-6:20)
Introduction: Today’s passage is part of a longer prayer of praise and petition which starts with v. 3. In this portion of his prayer, the Apostle Paul asks God, “the Father of Glory,” to enlighten his audience in order that they may:
- know Him; and
- understand what He plans to do for them as a fruit and continuation of what He has already done for Christ.
The final part of the prayer emphasizes the pre-eminent role of Christ, both in heaven and in the Church.
Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.