|Volume 18 Number 11 November 2016||
[This is not the Robert Johnson of Longview, TX whose articles regularly appear in the pages of Gospel Gazette Online. This writer also lives in Texas, though. Incidentally, I am acquainted with four brothers in Christ with this name! Three of them live in Texas, and one of them lives in Pennsylvania. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 NKJV). Could there be any better place to start than at “the beginning”? I want to tell how Mark’s Gospel of Jesus has truly touched and changed my life. I found by reading the Gospel of Mark that there are some very interesting characters as well as some very interesting events. I want to express how some of these characters and events relate to my life. They have made a great impact on my heart and helped me to change in some areas of my life.
Perhaps you are wondering why I say, “some areas.” It is because to me change requires growth, and growth takes gradual processing with no shortcuts. Some say it this way, “He’s still working on me!” One cannot be a professional football player unless he keeps practicing. So, I want to practice some of the principles that I have obtained from the characters and events in this wonderful account of Mark’s Gospel.
The first character that we notice in Mark’s Gospel is a man who seems to be a very important person in the life of Jesus. This person impresses me deeply because of what he does and how he dresses. In addition, this man ate locusts and wild honey! What an appetite this guy must have had! He is one of the characters that I would love to learn to imitate, because in him I see a well contented man. He was content with what he had to say, with what he ate and with what he was doing for his best friend and cousin, Jesus. This humble and lowly man was none other than John the Immerser.
This is one guy that kept his girdle of camel’s hair wet in the Jordan River as he baptized people who came to him from all of the surrounding regions. How many of us can learn great lessons from studying this character? I know that I have, and I have not made it past verse eight of the first chapter, yet!
The way Mark spoke of how John did not feel that he was worthy to even stoop down and untie his own cousin’s sandals shows nothing but pure humility in the heart of John. I want to work on being truly humble in my spirit because Jesus said, “…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
This is one of the reasons that John had so many followers. I love being around the lowly and the meek, like John. He not only preached strong sermons, but he also had a special way of presenting his message to the people. I have learned from my past experiences in sharing the Gospel that if one does not have the spirit of humility, like John, there could be a lot more souls lost that otherwise would have been saved.
It truly touches me when I see the message of the cross bring a soul to humbly repent and to turn one’s life and will over to Jesus. Jesus was the heart and center of John’s message. John is one biblical person who helps me to build my character. John was preparing the people to meet Jesus, the One for whom they had been waiting and expecting. In modern words, the message of John was saying, “There’s a new day coming.” This new day would start with Jesus coming into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. The followers of John seemed to realize this fact, so it caused them to repent and to believe his preaching. Then, they were immersed by John.
Last of all, the life of John ended when he was put into prison and beheaded for speaking the truth. Sometimes I feel beheaded when trying to share the Gospel of Christ, and I always remember how John did not save his head by compromising or staying quiet in the face of sin. Rather, he courageously spoke the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus did not have many compliments for people, but He did compliment John by saying that among all men born of women, none had arisen that was greater than John.
The next thing that impresses me is an event that truly touched my life in the Gospel of Mark. It was the calling of the first disciples. It continues to amaze me how they left their jobs, their friends and their families to follow the way of truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no man can go to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
Can you imagine leaving all of your friends, possessions and family members to follow someone whom you have never met before? This is a very touching scene to me in the life of the disciples. This teaches me a great deal about self-denial. I believe that most of life’s root problems begin with a lack of self-denial, because when my decisions are not God’s decisions, then, I begin to satisfy the creature more than the Creator. I want to learn to be like the disciples of Christ and put all of my trust in Him. Mark 1:18 says, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”
I want Jesus to mold my life into being a ‘fisher of men’ (Mark 1:17) like He did the early disciples. I pray that men today will leave their nets “immediately” and follow Jesus Christ. This can come only through self-denial. When self is denied, then, the preaching of the cross will become real to and effective for a person.
This brings me to tell you about one of the bad guys in Mark’s Gospel. I am referring to Pilate. He truly lacked self-denial. A man’s true character is revealed when the fires of adversity are blazing around him. So it was with Pilate.
He was a key figure in the crucifixion of the Son of God. Pilate did what was wrong because of the influence of the big numbers and the big noises. He wanted to do what was right, but his pride and lack of self-denial would not allow him to stand for what he knew in his heart to be right. He even said at one point, “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4). Even though Pilate declared his conviction about Jesus’ innocence, he allowed the pressures of the circumstances to override his conscience. As far as we know, he did not repent like Peter who had denied Christ three times.
What was Pilate’s root problem? It was a wrong response to God. No matter how much fire and adversity blazes around us, we must not override God’s way. Some may say that Pilate had no choice because God chose him to do that job. Nothing could be further from the truth! Pilate had a choice to make, and he made the wrong decision. God did not make robots when he made mankind. God does, however, help man by always giving him a good option to choose to help one out of wrongdoing. “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). Again, we read, “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, Pilate had a choice, and he made it.
I remember that my mother used to tell me, “If you make your bed hard, you have to sleep in it.” She was saying to me that I would have to live with the consequences of any bad decisions that I would make in life. Pilate made a hard bed in which to sleep. His wife told him that she had suffered bad dreams about how Jesus was treated (Matthew 27:19). Pilate should have accepted this as a help sent from God to persuade him to do the right thing. Yet, he passed it by and yielded to the yells of the throngs of people.
Last of all, I want to speak about the character of whom I am most fond in Mark’s entire Gospel. This man went about doing good everywhere. He healed the blind, made the lame to walk and even raised the dead! Most importantly, He came to seek and to save the lost. He died to save you and me. This is God Who came in the flesh Whose name is Jesus. “…He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
I cannot speak for you, but for me, this is the most touching event and character in the entire Bible, and in fact, in all of the history of the world. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). There is something shocking about that statement. I am so glad that I know Him, because He is the One who made the change in my life. Mark was only the one used by the Holy Spirit to be the spokesman or the penman to write down the amazing account about the best character in all of history.
Jesus, the Word, became flesh (John 1:14). I pray that my life will continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Only by Him can my problems in life be solved as I struggle day by day. I long and hunger after this transformation to take place in my life. I must feed on the Bread of Life, Christ Jesus, the Son of the Living God (John 6:35).