We are at part 2 of Mark’s closing section. I decided to break the last section into the three component parts when I read it yesterday. We started with Jesus’ appearance to His disciples right after He rose. Today we will look at “the great commission”, which is what this section’s heading is in my bible. Tomorrow we will look at His ascension.
Jesus is speaking with all His disciples on the mountaintop in Galilee when He gives them these instructions. Matthew told us a bit more detail about this scene. We looked at his account in the blog titled “Go And Make Disciples Everywhere!” Matthew even told us about doubters in the group.
Mark focuses on more of the specifics of Jesus’ instructions. They both report Jesus’ command to go EVERYWHERE to EVERYONE. Matthew says to “all nations” where Mark says “the whole creation.” Matthew says to “make disciples” where Mark focuses on salvation. Mark specifically points out that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (verse 16).
I want to point something out here very quickly. There have been doctrinal splits over weather baptism is a requirement of salvation. In verse 16 Mark reports Jesus’ instructions of coupling believing with baptism and this resulting in salvation. BUT in the next phrase he only equates not believing as the requisite result of condemnation. Jesus didn’t say “if you don’t do both you are damned.” He said without belief you will be condemned. Condemned to life apart from God for eternity. That is the “reward” for rejecting Jesus and all He did for us. Baptism is important and Jesus did specifically command it here of the believer, but it is not what determines Heaven or Hell for eternity. Just felt led to throw that out there. Don’t even want to go there with the “what kind of baptism is required” debate. Let’s get back to our main message.
The next section speaks of works and wonders that will be accomplished by those who believe. We are given a list of powers and protections. The powers include: 1) casting out demons, 2) speak in new tongues and 3) lay hands on the sick and they will recover. The protections include: 1) picking up serpents with their hands and 2) deadly poison drunken not hurting them. Both of these categories are labeled as miracles, and rightly so. Without the direct intervention of Jesus, none of these things would be possible. But Jesus gave His disciples authority to do these things in His name. Does that mean that we should all run out there and pick up snakes? PLEASE GOD NOOOOOOO! But what it does mean is that when the needs for these things arise Jesus will provide the power to make them happen.
Jesus’ promises didn’t come with an expiration date, so that only those of His generation could access these miracles. He still provides these miraculous powers for us today too. We see a lot less of these types of miracles today though, in the United States anyway. Why do you think that is? I wonder if it is because we don’t have the same strength of belief they had back on that mountain. Could it also be because we have “watered down” Jesus’ teachings? In our effort to offend no one have we offended Jesus? He actually called out sin, no matter what it did to His popularity. I personally can’t say I do the same. However, He saved His strongest criticisms for those who were supposed to be teaching others about God and He freely associated with those who were considered sinners. He didn’t condemn them publicly. He did warn them of returning to their sin once they had learned the truth. He loved the sinner and hated the sin. That is what I try to do.
Jesus didn’t say the EVERY believer would do all of these things either. He said these works would be evident in the believers. I believe He meant that as a corporate whole. That is why Paul talks about the different giftings of the Holy Spirit. Not everyone is supposed to do everything. And the list that Mark penned for us is NOT an exhaustive list of the miraculous gifts Jesus bestows on His followers. There is something Jesus has called each of us to do that He equips us for. We are not all called to take the gospel into the deepest reaches of the jungle or to stand at the head of the line ministering healing prayers to thousands of sick people. But we are ALL called to be a light for Him, wherever He places us. My place is in my family and on the written page. I am amazed that God has used it to reach places I could never go, but that is part of His miracle power. I’m not some awesomely anointed preacher, profound professional writer or expert biblical scholar, but I am willing to do what I believe He called me to do and that is enough. The rest is in His hands.
The same goes for each of us. We are to serve Him by being a living example of His love, wherever He places us. Some placements are for a season and some are for a reason and some are for a lifetime. The shorter term placements are just as important as the long term ones and DO NOT mean that you are a failure when they end. It simply means that God has another placement He wants you to move into. I don’t know how long He is going to have me in this one, but I will do my best however long He keeps me here. All He asks is a willing heart and responsive hands when He points to where He wants you to go.
Lord Jesus, let me shine wherever You place me. For today, tomorrow, and the rest of my life. For the season, for the reason, and for forever. Let my little light shine for You.
Help me always remember that You use each of us to shine Your love above all else. I need You every day to be the light of my life. To shine Your love through and to me everywhere I go and to everyone You bring into my life. For a season, for a reason and for forever. Amen.