On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Command and Promise
Dec. 21, 2014
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 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.” (Mark 16:15-18, NIV)
We know that, following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers at various times and places over the course of 40 days (Acts 1:3).
As Mark’s Gospel draws to an end, it does not attempt to provide a compendium of those appearances and conversations. Rather, the Gospel summarizes the essential command and promises Jesus made.
The command can be summarized in one word: “Go.” We know that the disciples at the end of His post-resurrection appearances are still thinking Jesus might restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Their attitude toward the nations might best be summarized as “Come.” They would have preferred to remain where they were and for the peoples of the Earth to come and visit them to hear the good news. It’s very difficult to relocate — especially when that relocation calls you into another culture, language and place.
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the disciples did not willingly go. They never held a missions convention, never strategized about how to reach their world. What drove them out of Jerusalem was persecution (Acts 11:19).
But let’s not be too hard on those first disciples. We too would rather be comfortable in our own circumstances. But Jesus keeps insisting, “Go!” Thus, He calls us to our neighbor, to our community, and beyond that to the far reaches of this world. Why is this so? Jesus answers that question: “Whoever believes is saved ... whoever does not is condemned.” The eternal destiny of others hangs upon our willingness to go and spread the good news.
When we do so, He promises that miraculous events will happen, and so they have. Demons fled (Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18), believers spoke in languages they had not learned (Acts 2:4-11; 10:46; 19:6), protection was given from snakebites (Acts 28:1-6), and sick people were healed (Acts 3:1-10; 5:15; 8:7; 9:32-43; 14:8-10; 19:11,12; 28:7-10). Nothing is recorded in Acts regarding protection from poison; however, my missionary father was once poisoned by nomadic Tibetans with whom he had shared the gospel. When they later saw him alive they said: “You must have a very strong God. We gave you enough poison to kill 10 men.”
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The command and the promises are not only for the first Christians; they are for us today. However, the promises are conditioned on our getting out of our comfort zone and telling others about Jesus. No signs accompany believers who sit around and do nothing.
We learn also from the experience of the early believers that Jesus doesn’t turn us into supermen and superwomen. A man lame from birth is healed when Paul prays for him, but the next moment Paul has no immunity when he is nearly stoned to death (Acts 14:8-20). In both signs and sorrows, miracles and persecutions — the underlying promise is always this: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)!
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark