There is a stunning verse in Matthew 10 in which Christ declares that he didn’t come to bring peace, “but a sword.” This, of course, is one of Jesus’s sayings that doesn’t fit the modern narrative most have for the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a statement from Jesus that is brought to light in Mark 3, in which we find a stark contrast between Jesus’s enemies and friends — and what constitutes his family.
The Lord’s Table is a special place and time for the deepest form of Christian worship. It is a time for serious rejoicing — serious in that it is reverential, but also joyful in that we celebrate the Lord’s victory over sin, death, and grave. The communion service is not a funeral dirge — we are not grieving a dead king but glorying in a risen Savior. Such is what the gospel tells us and what the Table shows us.
The great scheme of the devil isn’t to annihilate the gospel entirely — he knows he can’t do that — but to adulterate the gospel. Satan’s gambit is, and always has been, to mar, muddy, mix truth with error. As the “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:13–15), his plot remains to steal men’s hearts by swindling their faith from God’s gospel and to “another gospel.” He enacts this plot gleefully and successfully so long as Christ is not preached.
A few weeks ago, I shared a few comments on the stunning story of the “overcrowding epidemic” that is currently happening on the slopes of Mount Everest. Overcrowding on Mount Everest betrays what our culture worships. We bow down at the altar of the impossible so as to be seen as the conquerors, the champions. We seek out the unattainable and unachievable goal in hopes of ascending the hero’s stage. Such is why the reckless Everest climbers serve as living parables of the human heart.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus comes suddenly on the scene and immediately begins preaching the gospel of the kingdom. But, overall, his actions are less than kingly. He serves. He stoops. He touches unclean people and spends time with the riffraff. He subverts all the understood ways the Messiah should act and conduct himself. He is our unexpected Friend.
In 1 Timothy 1, after alluding to what “sound doctrine” is not, Paul moves on to expound what “sound doctrine” is. And in contrast to the fraudulent and counterfeit doctrine being proclaimed by these false teachers, “sound doctrine” is chiefly concerned with sinners. Paul knew this deeply because his life is a living testimony to the “sound doctrine” of God.
In Mark 1, we learn that Jesus was not opposed to benevolence in his earthly ministry; he healed countless lives, after all. However, I seriously doubt all those in crowd with “diverse diseases” were seeking him for his doctrine. And rather than merely being known as one who performed miracles, Jesus was desirous of being known through the fundamental elements of his ministry: death and resurrection.
A few weeks ago, I commented on the stunning story of the recent “overcrowding epidemic” that afflicted the slopes of Mount Everest. The mass of people striving to reach the summit is putting the climbers’ lives at great risk. What was once considered such an achievement that upon completing the climb you would be knighted by the queen herself is now being attempted with such frequency there are too many people trying to reach its peak. And so it is that our penchant to do the impossible exposes our foolish errand of self-salvation.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, the evangelist demonstrates a propensity to use the “immediately” or “straightway” to indicate his message’s urgency. Employing this term gives the entire account a sense of pace and the feel that the narrative is constantly churning forward. In chapter 1 alone, there are seven uses of “immediately” or a synonym for it. This is indicative of Mark’s entire Gospel, which has often been called the “Gospel of action.”