As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.
My thoughts (Keith Phillips):
As you may know, these verses are not in the oldest existing manuscripts that we have of Mark’s Gospel, which was, most likely, the earliest of the four New Testament gospels. It seems that some ancient Christian(s) added pieces of the post-resurrection story from each of the other three gospels and maybe even from Acts, to help it have a more cogent ending. But, just because they were added later doesn’t make these verses less authoritative or less true.
The one thing that is included here and is not anywhere else in the gospels is that part about snake handling and drinking poison, which is taken quite literally by some of our more ecstatic (and occasionally sickened-unto-death) brothers and sisters in the faith. I sometimes think this ending to Mark is proclaimed as inauthentic so that we don’t have to think about handling snakes and drinking poison.
In my judgment, that’s a cop out. As I said above, just because they were added later doesn’t make these verses less authoritative or less true. In the Contemporary English Version Jesus says at the beginning of verse 17, “Everyone who believes me will be able to do wonderful things.” I’ll be honest — I’ve never handled snakes, I’ve never knowingly drunk poison, I’ve never performed an instantaneous healing, I’ve never exorcised demons.
But. . . wonderful, grand, glorious things (even better things, in my humble opinion, than those just listed) have happened in my life, in the lives of people I know and love, and in the lives of those I don’t even know, simply because I trust Jesus to provide the very best for all of us. I don’t think we should get distracted by the concept of “miracles;” there are far more of them in our daily lives than we acknowledge. Our faith and faithfulness are confirmed by the extraordinary turn of events throughout life which can only be attributed to God.
And, quite frankly, a deeper, even more wonderful thing than these signs and wonders, indications of God’s loving power, is that God has entrusted the message of God’s unconditional love for all humanity to me, and to you, to us who are dense, hard-hearted, and stubborn, yet do love the Lord.
Mark ends his story of Jesus with a statement of what’s happening among us in the 21st century: “And the disciples went everywhere preaching [that is, sharing the Good News], the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence” (Mark 16:20; The Message).
Thought for the day: As I share the Good News of God’s love today, what signs do I see that affirm the validity of that message?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.