The Great Commission

(Mark 16:14-20)

In these final verses of the Gospel of Mark we see the Lord commission the disciples to go out and preach the gospel to all of the world. He adds some interesting details, information and conditions in this section that it is worth listening to.

great-commissionThe key to salvation mentioned in this section is faith. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Verse 16) You cannot be saved without faith. There is nothing a man can do to be saved other than to believe in God and the the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot work for salvation, you cannot buy it, you cannot study to get great knowledge to get it. All you need to do is to believe for that is the basis and the key to salvation.

But he also added a condition, baptism. Why is baptism important enough that he would mention it as part of the great commission to the disciples? Baptism is one of the foundation teachings of the New Covenant as defined in Hebrews 6:1-2. It is through baptism that we take on the Lord’s death, for we are baptised into his death, and by baptism our sins are taken away and we are released from the law of sin and death. Baptism is the mechanism by which we enter the kingdom of God for when we are baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ we “put on Christ.”

So if you are not baptised, how do you receive these promises and enter into the kingdom of God? If Jesus made this one of the pre-conditions for salvation, should we ignore his word and think it is OK not to be baptised? Absolutely not. Part of the process of salvation is to be obedient to the Lord and being baptised is just one small aspect of that obedience.

Jesus then goes on to show the signs that will accompany those who believe. He said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Verses 17-18)

These signs certainly operated in the days of the disciples and they still operate today. There are plenty of instances of these things when you search and read the testimonies of Christians on the web and speak to believers that you may meet. I have seen and experienced some of these myself as I have testified to in the testimonies section on my web site.

He shows that there is protection, power and authority given to Christians in these signs. Speaking in tongues is given so that they can communicate with God and learn how to walk in the Spirit. Healing through the anointing of oil and laying on hands was given so that people did not have to suffer illnesses needlessly. And the drinking of deadly things or picking up snakes was provided as protection. I can testify that these things still exist and abound today and I have seen the power of these things in my own life.

There is a time coming when the Lord will send out the great invitation to all the people of the earth, just before the end and His return, and I believe we will see even more miraculous signs performed by those people he can trust to do his work. In the last verses of this section we see that the disciples went out and preached everywhere and Jesus confirmed the truth of the message by the signs that attended it. It will be the same today. Where the truth of the Lord is there will be confirmation of the message through the signs He gives to attest to the truth of the message.

This ends the Gospel of Mark.

Believe in the Lord

(Mark 16:9-14)

When the Lord arose on the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. Then he appeared to two others who were walking in the country. Each of these people then went to the apostles and others and told them they had seen Jesus.

after the resurrectionAnd what was the reaction of the apostles? Were they overcome with joy? Were they ecstatic that what the Lord had earlier told them, that he would rise on the third day, had come to pass? Did any of these things happen?

No! They did not believe those who had seen the Lord and testified to his resurrection.

Now think about this for a minute. The Son of God had told the disciples earlier that he would arise, and yet they did not believe. Remember too that it was only three days since they had last seen him. How could they have got it so wrong? Did they think that the word of the Lord could not be trusted? Did they think those who had seen him were untrustworthy or were hallucinating? Or perhaps they did not want to get their hopes up too much in case they were dashed when he did not return. Whatever the reason we see that Jesus did rise as he said he would and he did appear to a number of them.

Now why did he not appear to those who were closest to him first? Why not go directly and stand amongst the apostles and speak first to Peter, James, John and the others? Well there is an interesting twist in this event that is often missed.

We see that the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene. Then there were two others who were not of the twelve. In the Luke version of this event (Luke 24:1-12) we see that there were other woman also to see him appear at the tomb including his earthly mother Mary and Joanna. When these people testified to the apostles that Jesus had risen, they were playing a part that we today also play. They were testifying to the resurrection of the Lord. In fact what Jesus had done was to give the first testimony and ministry to preach the resurrection to people other than the disciples, and most of them were women.

In my post yesterday I stated that resurrection is the most important message in the Christian message and the one which sets it apart from all other forms of religion. And here we see that Jesus entrusted this commission to preach the resurrection first to the apostles to a group of women. If you consider some of the arguments that rage in the church today about women in ministry, and then look at the fact that the first people Jesus entrusted with this most important teaching were women, it rather makes a mockery of the arguments today. Jesus showed no partiality in who could preach the word and neither should we.

And the apostles did not believe those who had seen the risen Christ. Did Jesus say to them, “Oh well, I guess seeing is believing!” Absolutely not! He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those first eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

These women and the others should have been trusted by the apostles. Today we initially believe because of the testimony from the Bible written by men who could be trusted. Jesus entrusted the preaching of the Gospel to these men who wrote the Bible we use today, and unlike their lack of belief when the Lord appeared, we must believe. This is the second lesson from this section of the scripture. Believe in the Lord and accept the word of his eyewitnesses for they can be trusted.

Jesus Resurrection

(Mark 16:1-8)

This section of scripture contains the defining moment in Christianity. The one significant difference between Christianity and all other religions of the world lies in these few verses. The major difference between Christianity and all other religions is in the resurrection.

resurrection-of-jesusOnly Christianity preaches and teaches the resurrection of the dead. It is the hope of all Christians that they will attain to the resurrection of the dead and come into new life with Christ. Death is the end point of all other religions, but as Christians we believe that the death of the body is not the final death of the soul or spirit of a man. Christians believe and expect that when the Lord returns, we too will be resurrected and live into eternity with him.

This is the hope of Christianity…life! Eternal life, as well as a better life here and now. We believe that we will be resurrected for Jesus was resurrected as sin could not hold him.

Death is the outcome of sin. The bible says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) As men we earn death through sin, for death is the wages of sin, but in Christ our sins have been wiped away and we receive life as a free gift. Jesus could not be held by death for he never sinned and thus he did not “earn” the wages of sin even though he died. It was through his sacrifice though that he died for us so that we could take on his death as if it were our own and then not have to earn death too. This is the critical difference between Christians and other religions for we have a means of salvation from sin and death through Jesus Christ.

This is a very brief look at the ministry of the resurrection and what it means in Christianity, and I shall go into this in much greater detail in future posts.

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Burial of Jesus

(Mark 15:40-47)

After Jesus had died we see there were some women looking on from afar. They included Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, Joses and Salome, who was actually Jesus’ mother.

burial of jesusWhen he had been taken down Joseph of Arimathea, who was a respected member of the council, took courage and went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus to be delivered into his hands. This Joseph although a member of the council was also seeking the kingdom of heaven and clearly recognised in Jesus that there was a teaching he needed to know more of.

Jesus body was given to Joseph and he had him wrapped in a shroud and placed in his own newly carved tomb in which no one had ever lain. The two Mary’s watched and saw where he was laid, intending to return after the Sabbath to attend to the details of his burial as they still did not understand about the resurrection.

There is a key point as Christians we understand from this. The founder of our faith was Jesus Christ. But unlike every other faith or form of worship in the world today that was founded by somebody, there is no tomb that can be visited. Many people who are followers of other religions and their religious founders or leaders build shrines to these people who have died and are dead and buried. But as Christians we cannot do this for the simple reason that the founder of our faith…is alive!

In spite of the plotting and scheming of those who wanted Jesus dead, he could not be held by death and so his remains do not reside in some tomb. We can still communicate with him today and he communicates back to us also. He guards, guides and leads us so that we do not fall and as he said to the disciples all those years ago, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

We can take comfort from this knowledge for we do not worship someone who is dead and gone, but we worship a living and active Saviour who is with us always.

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Death Of Jesus

(Mark 15:33-39)

The death of Jesus from a human perspective is one of the saddest and most unjust events of all time. He suffered and died the death of a criminal when in truth he had done no wrong.

However there is another aspect to the death of Jesus which for mankind is the greatest blessing of all time. In his death we have been given the chance and the opportunity to receive eternal life and to stand righteous before God.

The death of Jesus was also the momentous of all occasions to occur on the earth. Nothing in all of human history can compare to it. At the death of Jesus we see the end of one era and the beginning of the next.

Jesus said that “The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached.” (Luke 16:16) In this statement Jesus draws a line in the sand. He said that the law and the prophets ended with John the Baptist, and after him came something new, the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God which Jesus himself preached.

But there is also a transition period here too. In the period between the ministry of John and the death of Jesus, first John and then the Lord were preparing and preaching this new message. Then at the end of Jesus’ ministry he is put to death and this single event is the beginning of the New Covenant age. The symbolism of the curtain of the temple being torn in two from top to bottom (Verse 38) indicates the close of the Old Covenant age and that after the death of Jesus the way has been opened for all of mankind to come and stand before God, not just the priests.

Under the Old Covenant, once the law and the commandments had been given, Moses took the blood of goats and bulls to establish the covenant. That is, through that initial sacrifice he brought the covenant into being. This is discussed in Hebrews 9:19-20 saying, “For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.”

Likewise when Jesus died and his blood was shed, he brought into existence the New Covenant, for he offered his own blood to the Father and thus the covenant began. Blood was the means by which covenants were established. In a similar way we see that it was a blood covenant that caused the angel of death to “pass over” the houses of the children of Israel when the first-born in Egypt were killed to convince Pharaoh to let the people go.

In the same way Jesus died at the Passover feast as the perfect “Lamb of God,” and through his blood sacrifice God now passes over our sins so that we can stand before him righteous through Jesus Christ. The children of Israel took on the blood covenant of the lamb’s sacrifice in Egypt by painting it over the frames and lintels of their doorways. Today we take on the blood covenant of Christ by being baptised into his death, which is our doorway to God through righteousness by faith. As the Egyptians did not receive release because they did not take on the blood covenant of the lamb, likewise today those who do not take on the blood covenant of Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) through righteousness by faith and baptism into his death do not receive sanctification. It is through baptism into the death of Christ Jesus and accepting his death as ours through faith that we can receive righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is why the death of Jesus was such a significant event. That is why Jesus came in the first place; to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin so that we can be reconciled to God, not through anything we do, but through Jesus’ act of obedience on our behalf.

Jesus Led Away to Death

(Mark 15:16-32)

Jesus had been tried, convicted and condemned in a kangaroo court. There was no justice and the greatest casualty of the process was the truth. He was taken off to his death on the basis of lies.

Adding insult to injury he was mocked and belittled by the soldiers who led him away. When they had finished their mockery, he was taken away to the place of his death carrying the beam to which he would be nailed. Clearly he was weakened from the trials and tribulations of the preceding days for the soldiers compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene to carry the beam for Jesus.

Here is an interesting situation. Some churches talk of the “Stations of the Cross.” I have seen different variations of this teaching with up to fifteen different “stations.” However most of these so called stations are the invention of man and are not written in the bible. They indicate at least three times Jesus was supposed to have fallen. They speak of two instances where Mary, his mother, is supposed to come to him. They speak of one instance where someone wipes his face and another station where Jesus is supposed to whisper “Thank you” to Simon of Cyrene. None of these events are shown in the Bible and so they should not be relied upon as truth.

It is important to know the truth in ALL matters. Even simple things like this, which could be thought of as harmless actually are not. The two instances of Mary’s presence are intended to heighten her role in this process as something greater than it was and to give her glory. In fact Mary was there during the process, but she looked on from afar. She did not come up to Jesus as he walked and she did not hold him in her arms when he was taken down after he had died. Do not be taken in by things that are simply not true. If you accept a part of a false teaching you might accept more.

The following parable Jesus gave talks expressly to this issue. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) We perceive much of the world through what we see and take in through our eyes. If you allow any “darkness” in then it can darken your understanding and prevent you finding the truth. Thus it is critical to learn the truth so your whole body will be full of light.

Back to the scripture. When Jesus was nailed up he continued to be derided by all those around him. Even the two criminals that were put to death with him mocked him and they deserved what they got. It was interesting that the charge Pilate had nailed above him saying, “The King of the Jews,” was actually the truth. And in it the truth was testified, albeit unintentionally.

So we see here the final suffering of the Lord and in the next section we will look at the circumstances surrounding his death.

Jesus Sent to Pilate

(Mark 15:1-15)

After Jesus was put on trial before the chief priests and elders, they held a meeting and decided to bind him and deliver him to Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus whether he was King of the Jews and Jesus responded, “You have said so.” (Verse 2) Despite the many charges made by the chief priests and scribes, none of which they could prove. Jesus made no answer and so Pilate wondered.

jesus-before-pilateNow the reason they brought Jesus before the governor may have been twofold. First, as governor they needed his consent to put Jesus to death. And second, by focussing on the fact that Jesus was King of the Jews they hoped Pilate would sentence him to death on the basis that he would be perceived as a threat to the rule of Rome over the land.

As the event continues we see that Pilate recognises that the priests had brought Jesus to him not for any crimes committed, but out of envy. (Verse 10) Pilate had a tradition that he would release one prisoner back to the Jews at the time of the feast each year. Knowing the envy of the priests he chose to offer Jesus or Barabbas, who was a rebel and a murderer accused in the insurrection. The comparison between these two should have led to the release of Jesus for Pilate deliberately offered a truly evil man that no person in their right mind would want back on the streets.

However he underestimated the power and the will of the priests. They stirred up the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. Pilate was completely perplexed over this matter for he said to the crowd when they sought Jesus’ death, “Why, what evil has he done?” (Verse 13) In the end he gave over to the crowd and having scourged Jesus he delivered him to be nailed to the stake and released Barabbas. (Verse 15)

Here is a lesson for us today. There is a rule of the mob or the crowd. Riots and insurrection are caused by the rule of the mob. Crowds become charged with emotion and take on a life of their own which cannot be reasoned with and cannot be easily controlled. Look at any television report where there is a mob out of control. Look at the eyes of the people in the crowd as they run to cause violence and destruction. They are not in control of themselves but are driven by adrenalin and emotion.

Emotion is the tool of the devil. By whipping people into a frenzy they lose their self-control and can be pushed to all kinds of evil as the devil leads them. Mob rule is satanic for it ignores what is good, right and true because mob rule is based upon emotion and not reason. This is exactly what happened before Pilate when Jesus was condemned. It takes only a few well placed people with axes to grind to whip a crowd into a frenzy, which is how the chief priests whipped this crowd into murdering the Lord and Saviour of the world.

It is the same today. Occasionally you hear of riots that have been orchestrated by certain pressure groups. All they need is a crowd and a few people to drive the agenda throug emotion and the process is set off and running like a runaway train. It is literally a train wreck waiting to happen.

Stay away from mobs. If there is a large gathering of people getting together to protest an issue, beware. It does not take much for it to turn to insurrection and violence as the mood of the crowd is pushed and pulled by those who want to stir up violence. I say it again, beware of mobs and crowds that can turn to violence. There is no good to be done in such a situation, and if you find yourself in such a place…flee!

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Peter Denying Christ

(Mark 14:66-72)

After Jesus had been arrested and taken away, Peter followed at a distance, entered the courtyard and was warming himself at the fire. He was recognised by one of the maids of the high priest and subsequently by other bystanders as having been amongst the disciples of Jesus. Three times this happened and three times Peter denied it saying, “I do not know this man (Jesus) of whom you speak.” (Verse 71)

peter-denying-christThen the cock crowed and Peter recalled the words of Jesus. He left in utter despair and he wept bitterly when he realised what he had done. How would he have felt at that point in time? Surely it would have felt like the lowest point in his life.

Here is a man who had walked with and learned from the Lord for three years or so and when it came to the crunch he could not even admit to knowing the Lord. Is it any wonder that he went out and wept bitterly when the realisation of whet he had done hit him.

Jesus was well aware that this would happen for he told Peter as much previously. He also comforted him previously saying to him that when he had turned and repented of this action, to strengthen the others. It was clear that Peter was a remarkable individual to be able to carry out this work in the face of his actions. But he knew that the Lord did not hold it against him. In essence the Lord said for him to “Get over it,” and help the others who perhaps did not have Peter’s strength.

There is a lesson in this for us too. We see here the failings of Peter, who was perhaps the greatest of the disciples. Peter was the one the Lord commissioned to feed and tend the flock after the Lord went. (John 21:15-19) It was Peter who was given the task of teaching, protecting and caring for the fledgling church. Surely Jesus would entrust such an important role to just anybody. Peter was the apostle to the Jews as Paul said in Galatians 2:7-9.

So if this great apostle and chosen instrument of the Lord could fail miserably and then get back on his feet to carry out his tasks for the Lord, then we can too. We need to understand too that when we fail and fall, we must not wallow in the depths of despair over our weaknesses, but instead we must rise, repent and return to the Lord as quickly as we can. More than that we must learn the lessons of our failures to try and not repeat those things that caused us to fall in the first place.

This is the challenge of Christianity and also the blessing. We are challenged as we walk to grow stronger and to become like Christ. But along the path we will fail occasionally and the challenge is not to fall headlong into condemnation.

The blessing is that we have a Saviour who has been through all of these things and understands our weaknesses. Jesus Christ is also compassionate and forgiving, knowing that the road we are walking can be tough sometimes. That is why God gave us his grace so that when we fall, our failures will be covered and we can rise and get back on the straight and narrow pathway to life.

Peter’s denial of Christ was a tough thing for him to have to go through. But it also shows us that there is forgiveness in repentance and the opportunity to grow when we turn back to the Lord. A lesson we should always remember and take to heart.

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The Trial of Jesus

(Mark 14:51-65)

Of all of the recorded trials in history none could possibly compare to the trial of Jesus for a complete lack of evidence and a judgement that was made before the trial began. To call this a “kangaroo court” is to muddy the name of kangaroo courts. It was such a farce that even in pretence it was pointless. The chief priests wanted rid of the Jesus who was undermining their position and they were prepared to go to any ends to see him killed.

trial of jesusThey conscripted base men to testify against him, and yet they could not even get their stories straight. They made up false evidence to accuse him with and it too failed for it’s falseness. They tried all manner of evil tricks and traps and yet they could find no fault in him. Even when they took him before Pontius Pilate as described in another version of these events, Pilate wanted to release Jesus for he found no fault in him.

But the chief priests would have their way regardless of truth. Indeed in this trial truth was the greatest casualty, which led to the ultimate death of Jesus. And Jesus remained silent throughout these proceedings for he knew what was coming and he knew that he must die for our sake. Without his death the New Covenant could not come into effect and we would still have to live in our sins. But through his death we who come to Christ and believe in the power of his death and resurrection have been freed from sin.

When asked by the chief priests if he was the Christ he replied, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” For this they accused him. For this statement they took the Lord of glory and nailed him to the stake. And yet he spoke the truth. His words bore witness and the deeds he performed all bore witness to the truth of who Jesus was, but the priests chose to ignore all of this evidence and had him killed.

They judged him without a cause and they condemned the Christ to death. Even though it was necessary on our account that this occurred, it is still the greatest travesty and miscarriage of justice to ever have occurred. To that end then we must give thanks that the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ was willing and obedient to the Father to do this for us. It is a humbling thing that he was prepared to die on our behalf who were undeserving of the great sacrifice he made. Let us always remember this sacrifice and give Jesus all the thanks he deserves for he has given us the chance of life in this one action.

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Jesus Betrayed

(Mark 14:42-50)

Here we see the betrayal of Jesus take place. All that he said would happen came to pass. Judas came by night to this private garden with a contingent of soldiers and others to betray him into the hands of the chief priests for trial and his murder.

Jesus-BetrayedWhat is typical of the way this took place is the same as criminals and the evil have conducted their affairs throughout history. They came under false pretences, under cover of darkness, in hefty numbers and appearing to be something other than they actually are. Judas had given the soldiers a sign saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away under guard.” (Verse 44) In a false act of greeting he came to Jesus calling him “Master” and kissing him to betray him into the hands of evil men.

This is the nature of evil people. They will appear to be your friend, but their intention is deception for their own ends. Is it any wonder that Jesus did not trust himself to men (John 2:24-25). And they do their deeds under the cover of darkness and in secret places for they fear being exposed for the frauds and the evil that they are. Thus as Jesus did not trust himself to men, we need to beware of men as well for if they did it to him, they will do it to the followers of the Lord as well.

Now we see that one of those with Jesus struck back by drawing a sword and cutting off the ear of the slave of the high priest. In another version of this event we see that it was Peter who did this act. But there Jesus said for him to cease and he healed the ear of the man struck, for Jesus knew he was to go through this ordeal and death and he did not want the disciples to suffer as well. (John 18:9-11) This was to fulfil prophecy that he was not to lose any of those the Lord God had given to him.

At this point the disciples all forsook Jesus and fled, as Jesus had already told them they would. Despite their earlier bravado, when confronted by the angry mob they ran for safety, which was what the Lord told them they would do and what they needed to do so that the gospel would be preached after Jesus’ death. They would suffer grief over this, and Peter especially who would shortly deny even knowing Jesus, but when they came around and repented they would return to their faith and seek the Lord as they moved forward.

The lesson here for us is that when we too fall, we must pick ourselves up and return to the Lord as well. We must not allow our weaknesses and failings to prevent us from standing with the Lord. Even if we fall and fail over the same issue many, many times. When we come to our senses we need to turn to the Lord with a repentant heart and be prepared to move forward. In due course we will have the victory over the issue as he strengthens us when we look to him for the truth.

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