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A Divine Command
So said Jesus Christ, according to the report given in the Gospel according to Mark. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Can we make these words more universal? Can we add another province to the sphere? Let us see: "Go ye into all the world." Can you add one island to that geography a little island? Can you? "And preach the gospel to every creature." Is there one left out a little one, a black one? Say what omissions mark this census. Not one. Is this like Jesus? Was he always so big in thought, in love, in care? Was he never little, mean, economic, sparse, critical? Did he always keep house for the whole universe? What is the characteristic of Christ along this line of thinking? Is it not universality, inclusiveness, godliness? How many men did God make, and who made the rest? Where is there a man that shaped himself, called himself into existence, maintains an independent individuality and relation to things, comes and goes as he pleases? Where is that man? As at the first God's hand was upon all, so through and through all the story God's love is upon all, and Christ's dear Cross overshadows all, and Christ's infinite heart welcomes all. If there be anything contrary to this, then we are mocked; false words have been spoken to us, promises have been spoken to the ear and broken to the heart. Is this the God we can worship? Is he a trifler? Is he a verbal necromancer, saying one thing and meaning another, indulging in the double entendre ; ambiguous, uncertain? or is he positive, definite, clear, plain, meaning just what we expect him to mean when we are told that he is Love?
"Preach the gospel to every creature." Then every creature needs it? What is Man? I have never seen him; you have never seen him. You have seen a man, you have not seen Man. Only God can see Man. Until we get thorough hold of that simple thought we shall make no progress in our Christian studies. We cannot know human nature, we cannot know Man, we have never seen Humanity. Humanity is the sum-total of innumerable details; it is the total form of infinite variations and combinations. We have seen a man and many men, but Man is a singular-plural, a contradiction in grammar, a glorious unity in thought. You have never seen vegetation. What is vegetation? You have seen your own little garden and the field adjoining, and you may have gone even further, and you may know a little about English vegetation; some may go still further, and know a little about American vegetation. These are nothing. Who has seen all the vine-lands, corn-lands, spice-lands, all the lands watched by the zodiacs, the angels, the stars? We are very curious about this. We have near London built a large glass house at great public expense, and we watch it scientifically, and write reports about it, and treasure it as a national blessing. We call the place Kew. Let us enter this great glass house. What are these wondrous leaves, plants, trees? They are all named classically, and labelled and registered and cared for; but in the tropics they are all weeds. They grow out of doors; there are far too many of them; they are a nuisance. What do you know about Man? You have built him a glass house in some cases, and said, This is Man. Nothing of the kind: this is a man; but he who is an aristocrat here is a plebeian over yonder. Ah, that over yonder, that new place, that unknown territory, that unsuspected province! At Kew we are treasuring all kinds of weeds: we know nothing about sum-totals, we have no wisdom; we have little facts and small entries and minute memoranda about parishes, provinces, districts, and what we call empires. Only God can see the globe at one glance. We must therefore go to revelation if we would know what Man is.
Hear this and blush You have to be revealed to yourself. Until you know that you cannot make much out of Christ Jesus. He will not only be a mystery to you, but a mystery of darkness; not only will he be a mystery, he will be a perplexity. I have to be told what I am. I think I know myself, yet myself I have never seen. I do not know which is myself. My name is Legion, for there are many of us, and all within is riot, tumult, shouting, noise, war, bitterness, strife, prayer, blasphemy, seeing of angels and devils. What is this? Who is it? Father-Maker, come and tell me all about myself; I do not know what I am: reveal me to myself. What impudence it is therefore, what sheer impertinence and perversion of cleverness for any man to arise and pretend to tell us what Man is! Human nature is matter of revelation. If there is a book which reveals God, that book will reveal Man. As Christians we accept the Bible in this regard. We have come to look upon it as a divine revelation, below the letter, above the letter, glorifying the letter, and otherwise making the letter an inconvenient convenience, but still independent of it, as we shall come to know when our education is further advanced. The Bible tells us a poor story about Man, a most incredible story to man, because man does not want to believe it. It is very difficult to satisfy any man with his own biography. If you were to write your dearest friend's biography, he would wish, without saying so, that you had been a little more emphatic here, and a little more complimentary there, and without indulging at all in flattery you might have brought out three or four other points more vividly, so as to have thrown a softer glory upon his beautiful personality. This he would not say for the world. Man has great power of self-concealment, and still greater power of social concealment It is therefore extremely difficult to satisfy any man with his biography. It is well, therefore, that he should be dead before his biography is written; the severest of all critics would be himself. So when man comes to read the Bible story of himself, he says, This cannot be true; this is evidently fanatical, suppositional, allegorical; this is a Jew's account, this is a perverted statement. Man, why, I know what man is, quoth the critic. So impudent can man be, so bare-faced and shameless. Until we know every creature that ever lived, and every creature under every climate and under every civic, geographical, and celestial condition, we do not know Man, and we must accept a statement of man from a revelation.
We as Christians have accepted the Bible as God's revelation of himself and of humanity, and, accepting the Bible so, man stands before his Maker lost lost. How dare you take the responsibility of denying this? Who are you? and what will you do for us if you are wrong? If we believe all your nonsense what will you do for us in the crisis-hour? Where will you be? What will be your address then? How many of us may call upon you? If you do not make a revelation you suggest one; if you do not issue a new revelation of the universe you take upon you a still greater responsibility in contradicting one which has been believed by the piety, the benevolence, the purity, and the heroism of ages. What is the Bible account of man? The heart is deceitful above all things: God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions. There is none righteous, no, not one. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. This is the Biblical account of humanity, and the Bible is a large book; it takes large views, suggests infinite conceptions, grapples with the mysteries and problems of the universe, it lets nothing alone; it is a heroic book. It is not content with walking round little questions, and making little remarks upon them; it deals with God, man, sin, sacrifice, atonement, reconciliation, spiritual ministry, conquered death, and entered heaven. This book reveals man as lost. Hear this sweet voice, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," not some of it, not a little of it, not much of it, not most of it, but "that which was lost." If these words do not mean what they say, then we are let me repeat, solemnly and reverently mocked by an abuse of language. What is it that is to be preached to every creature? A new theory, a very intricate and most ingenious hypothesis about nothing? No. What then is "the gospel"? What does "gospel" mean? Good news, glad tidings, blessed intelligence, the most astounding and musical revelation of love ever addressed to the ear or the heart, musical music; and what is it in words? No words can express it all, as no instrument can exhaust a musician's soul. But some of the words are these, As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him might be saved. God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us: he died the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God: he bare our sins in his own body on the tree: he shed his blood for the remission of sin: and he cries, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Why, this is what we wanted; somebody has dreamed or invented the very thing man most needs. If this is not a dream, an invention, it is what it professes to be, a revelation of the infinite Heart, a declaration of the ineffable, inexhaustible Love.
How do we stand in relation to it, then? We have either believed it, or we have not believed it. We cannot take up a neutral position, and say we have nothing to do with it. That is impossible. No man can so treat the sunlight. If a man shall be charged with doing something that is contrary to the laws of life, society will not allow him to say, There may be a sun, but I really maintain a totally neutral position in relation to it; I do not regard it, I do not look to it at all. Society would call him fool, and put him down; and if he had done anything wrong society would lock him up and punish him. Society will not allow a man to be so indifferent to the light as to commit a crime when he might have left it undone. You cannot maintain a neutral or negative position in relation to the Cross. Christ, as a matter of history, has died, has sent forth his ministers, has declared his gospel, has opened his heart-door, has breathed upon every one the welcomes of his love; so you cannot say you will take no heed of it, but will receive destiny as it comes. You do not act so in other matters: why do you lay down and abandon your common sense when you come to face the deepest and most solemn questions of life? I believe every man may be saved. I have not a gospel given to me which reads, Give every creature a hearty welcome; but I will take care that there is only room for a few. Go into all the world, and tell everybody he may come; but when he is half a mile oft I will take care that he falls into a pit and cannot come. My gospel does not preach so; my gospel is a gospel of love, entreaty, of universality. It says to the very worst man, You may come. It says to the thief upon the cross, already half in hell, There is still time for saving prayer. "Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel!" This is what we need. We may not feel our need of it at some particular moment, but there are other moments in our life when we must have it all, and when we say to our friends, "Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and his love!" Then we become little children again, brokenhearted men. And God never loves us so much as when we are of a broken and a contrite spirit.
The following list of references to the Old Testament is nearly or quite complete:
Mark Mar 1:2 Mal 3:1 Mark Mar 12:10 Psa 118:22 Mar 1:3 Isaiah 40:3 . Mar 12:19 Deu 25:5 Mar 1:44 Leviticus 14:2 . Mar 12:26 Exo 3:6 Mar 2:25 1Sa 21:6 Mar 12:29 Deu 6:4 Mar 4:12 Isa 5:10 Mar 12:31 Lev 19:18 Mar 7:6 Isa 29:13 Mar 12:36 Psa 110:1 Mar 7:10 Exodus 20:12 ; Exo 21:17 Mar 13:14 Dan 9:27 Mar 9:44 Isa 66:24 Mar 13:24 Isa 13:10 Mar 10:4 Deu 24:1 Mar 14:27 Zec 13:7 Mar 10:7 Gen 2:24 Mar 14:62 Dan 7:13 Mar 10:19 Exo 20:12-17 Mar 15:28 (?) Isa 53:12 Mar 11:17 Isaiah 56:7 ; Jer 7:2 Mar 15:34 Psa 22:1 "Though this Gospel has little historical matter which is not shared with some other, it would be a great error to suppose that the voice of Mark could have been silenced without injury to the divine harmony. The minute painting of the scenes in which the Lord took part, the fresh and lively mode of the narration, the very absence of the precious discourses of Jesus, which, interposed between his deeds, would have delayed the action, all give to this Gospel a character of its own. It is the history of the war of Jesus against sin and evil in the world during the time that he dwelt as a Man among men. Its motto might well be, as Lange observes, those words of Peter: 'How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him' ( Act 10:38 ). It developes a series of acts of this conflict, broken by times of rest and refreshing, in the wilderness or on the mountain. It records the exploits of the Son of God in the war against Satan, and the retirement in which after each he returned to commune with his Father, and bring back fresh strength for new encounters." Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 16". Parker's The People's Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent