Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2012
Rev. Randolph Kesler
Happy Mother’s Day to Theresa and all. Mother’s are wonderful persons, giving sacrificially and lovingly to their children and families. 83% of the word “mother” is “other” and that fairly well expresses the mission of the position. None of us would deny that a mother’s work is never done
“A Woman’s Work Is Never Done “
Mark 16. 14-18
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Now let me help you understand the connection I’ve made between “God’s wife” and our text in Mark’s gospel this morning. The Biblical authors have an understanding which reaches throughout Scripture describing the People of God as the wife or the bride of God. Whether the description comes from the Old Testament dealing with the faithful of the people of Israel or from the New Testament comparing the church, the New Israel, the figure of the marriage relationship continues.
For example in Hosea 2. 16-20 (Selected)
“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘My Master…’
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.’”
This passage makes clear that God has forged a relationship with his people in faithfulness, righteousness, fairness (justice), steadfastness (love) and mercy (compassion).
And what is the reason for forming this relationship? It is that the people of God as the wife of God will “acknowledge” the Lord to the rest of the families of the earth. “Acknowledge” is to tell of God’s love for his creation, the grace He offers them in the forgiveness of their sins and new life that fills them with purpose and joy.
This “wife” image continues in the New Testament even more forcefully than in the Old.
In 2 Corinthians 11.2 Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” He is concerned that they are not living as faithfully to Christ as he trained them to be.”
And in Ephesians 5.25-26, Paul writes using the human marriage relationship as a figure for the relationship Christians have with Christ, “Husbands, love you wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…a radiant church…holy and blameless.”
John, in Revelation 19.7, tells us the great multitude sang, “Hallelujah, for the Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.
In 21.2, John sees the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And in the 9th verse, one of the seven angels said to John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
So our relationship with Christ individually as disciples and corporately as the church is meant to be understood as analogous to a husband and wife relationship married by a covenant of grace and faith, joined in a holy relationship, unfettered by time and sealed in eternity. It is an exclusive, constant and faithful relationship which is unbreakable and indissoluble.
Now, what the Risen Christ relates to the Eleven disciples in our text is the mission of the church. His instructions were not simply given to the Eleven but they are the marching orders which He confers on every generation of his followers.
And what is our charge from the Risen Christ?
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands;
and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Please notice that as we carry out this mission ministry, we do so as a continuation of a pattern we have seen lived out before our eyes. The mission the church is to carry out is twofold: 1- announcing the good news of God’s grace and mercy to a fallen world (vs. 15-16) and 2- being part of the healing work of the power of the Risen Christ loosed in our world (the signs listed in vs. 17-18) .
And what is the pattern we have seen? This spring, we have followed the preaching of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth and we have seen the signs that accompanied his preaching.
From a human perspective, most people tend to remember the signs and forget the words, but God’s way is not signs first. It is first the Word of God followed by the Works, the Deeds, the signs of God.
Both are significant and necessary, but we border on idolatry when the signs become far more important than the words.
To some degree, we might liken the Shepherd of the Valley worship services to the Word of God awaiting the Sign or Work of God when the building is begun. The Worship is the promise of the Sign –the building – which will follow in time. So all of us who are able ought to be worshipping on Sunday evenings as a token of our belief that the Lord is providing us the building. And, without doubt, He is doing that.
And it is time to begin investing toward that building. I believe the Lord has done his part in the major gifts which have supported it so far.
Therefore, the Risen Christ has given His Bride – you and me – his mission in the world and as the title of the sermon tells you, it is like woman’s work –God’s wife’s work -it is never done- until that day when the Bridegroom is coming to receive us as His own.
What, then, is our responsibility in carrying out the work of Christ in this world?
First of all, we must come to know our Lord intimately and walk with Him faithfully. We know Him by believing and trusting his word of love to us. We walk with Him by praying, by continuing communication daily. (v.14)
The Risen Christ overcame the unbelief and the hardness of heart of the Eleven by overwhelming Presence, overwhelming Personality and overwhelming Power.
The Eleven were overcome by the INSURMOUNTABLE CONVICTION that Jesus of Nazareth, executed on a Roman cross, was now alive and standing before them.
Because of their difficulty in believing in resurrection and then seeing the Risen One, the Eleven would have for the rest of their lives an INESCAPABLE EMPATHY with those to whom they preached who had trouble believing. They could say with conviction, “I’ve been where you are, but Jesus came to me and He is coming now to you.”
By this overwhelming experience they became INDISPUTABLE MESSENGERS that they knew the One person in this world who could give new life and forgive sin.
If we are going to be involved in the mission of Jesus, we must know Him. We must not only know the message; we have to know the Messenger. Do you know Christ?
Secondly, there are two responses AND ONLY TWO to the announcement or presentation of the claim of God upon human life.
If one believes, the result is salvation or to being saved. That is the word used by the Risen One.
To be saved means to restore to life a dying person. This is no game we’re playing here. Life in Christ or salvation – call it what term you like- is not a breakfast buffet as modern culture teaches us. Salvation is not choosing one meal from an array of items, all of which are good. Salvation is the one and only medication which will treat the condition that is killing you. No other drug will work. We will die if we do not take the medicine. Believing is taking the medicine when it is offered to us.
The second response is self triggered judgment. The translations are unfortunate in their use of the word “condemned,” though the idea is correct.
Actually the word is crisis so the text is saying that unbelief will bring the crisis of condemnation upon us. This translation is “will be condemned” and to me that carries the idea that Someone else will condemn the unbeliever. The literal translation would be this: whoever does not believe will bring down judgment upon themselves.
We are not to understand that God does this to us; by not believing, we do this to ourselves. We will not be able in the final day to blame anyone but ourselves. If we do not believe, our judgment is self triggered.
Our loving God, in his grace, has come to set things right in this world, to offer forgiveness to those who have offended him and attempted to destroy his grace and love.
Do you believe in the Risen One or do you not?
What are the five signs for the people of God who believe and what do they mean?
- In Jesus’ name, they will drive out demons.
We have seen Jesus exorcise the demonic many times this spring. This means that in Jesus and now in the church, the battle has been engaged for truth against falsehood, goodness to overcome evil, for people to see reality rather than deception.
Ultimately, it means that evil will one day be eradicated from human consciousness and from the world God created and that, in the interim,
the people of God must study the truth of God’s proclamation in the Scripture that we may defend the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- We shall speak in new tongues- new languages.
This is the necessary tool for the proclamation of the gospel.
- We shall pick up serpents with our hands.
The New Testament contains at least two references regarding this.
In Luke 10.19, the 72 had returned from the mission field, joyous in the results and Jesus said to them, “Behold I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall hurt you. But do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you but that your names are written in the book of life.”
In Acts 28, Paul is shipwrecked and in starting a fire a viper crawls out and bites him. Rather than dying as his companions expect, he shakes it off and goes about his business.
It seems to me that picking up serpents has much more to do with the protective power of God to accompany us while we are in the midst of our mission than with any show of courage or faith no matter how great on our parts to handle snakes.
(Additional interpretation needs to be added to this regarding Gen. 3.1f and perhaps Gen. 3. 15)
- We shall drink deadly poison without harm.
(This is actually the one line in Mark 16. 9-20 which scholars have used to denigrate the passage because they could find no New Testament illustration for the drinking of poison although there is early church confirmation in Eusebius III, 39.)
I suspect, however, that what we should be looking for is an OT example for the prophet Jeremiah records in speaking of the condemnation of the faithless ones of the people of God.
12 Who is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross?
13 The Lord said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. 14 Instead, they have followed the STUBBORNNESS OF THEIR HEARTS; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them.” 15 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water. 16 I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have made an end of them.” (Jeremiah 9. 12-16)
Here we find our old enemy which so beset the Eleven. They were stubborn of heart or their hearts were hardened when it came to believing that Jesus has risen.
And the punishment for the faithless ones is eating bitter food and drinking poisoned water. But this is a judgment that the true believers- not faithless unbelievers- will be able to endure as they continue to proclaim the truth of the good news of God in Jesus Christ.
Last is the healing of those who are sick.
The church is to be involved in bringing about the restoration of fallen humanity by bringing wholeness of mind, emotion, body and spirit. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that.
IN SUMMATION OUR CALLING TO CHRIST’S MISSION IN THIS WORLD IS FIVEFOLD:
- Learn the truth of God and express it as a defense or witness in the world in the face of spiritual oppositon. (demonic)
- Communicate the message of Christ’s love and sacrifice in effective ways. (tongues)
- Do mission in the Spirit’s power in the face of natural opposition. (snakes)
- Spiritual protection from the wrath of God’s human enemies during while on mission. (poison)
- Restoration to wholeness to those who believe in Christ – wholeness of mind, heart, body and spirit.
You are the wife of God and that calling presents you with many gifts and confronts you with many challenges. But the calling and gifting cannot be rescinded. We must follow the Master who precedes us into battle.
Your work for Christ will end when your relationship with Christ stops. And you know as well as I know – your relationship with Him will never end.
You are God’s wife and you cannot cease to be God’s wife.