The Gospel of St. Mark

III - THE METHOD OF HIS SURETYSHIP

(a) The Passover. His Submission.

Glancing over the course of this record we reverently watch the Son of man moving along the highway of His definite ministry, expressing a perfect conformity of will, a perpetual compassion of heart, and a persistent concentration of mind for the fulfillment of His great task. The shadow of the cross which had stretched over the whole life of dependence, obedience and endurance becomes the occasion for suretyship.

The Passover is introduced. The natural deliverance which this ceremony commemorated was now to be fulfilled and surpassed by a greater deliverance than was wrought for the nation of Israel, by a greater deliverer than Moses, and from a more dreadful scourge than the tyranny of Egypt.

(b) The Passion. His Sacrifice.

The passion and sacrifice with the excruciating agony attending them are not for exposition or analysis, but rather to subdue our hearts until we bow adoringly at mysteries so great. Heaven and hell witness the awful affray. Surges of anguish swept over Him, but the distress was not mere shrinking from death, for even martyrs faced cruel violence without a waver. We reverently look, and as we gaze, the key of interpretation wells up in the heart, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." The amazing battle of Gethsemane and the atoning blood of Golgotha should draw from every heart that contemplates this ransom an adoring gratitude, similar to that which is expressed in Rev. 5:9: Revelation 5:9-10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

John declares in the light of these things that, "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world," and has therefore brought deliverance within reach of everyone. The acceptance or rejection of this is a personal responsibility. In the authority of resurrection He commissioned His disciples in a manner that is in fullest harmony with His own mission. He sent them to the creation and to every creature with the evangel of resurrection. From the lowliest labors He ascended to the highest honors with sole executive rights. This exemplified His own teaching. (Mark 10:44) The usurper's power which held in bondage to death had a fourfold medium through which it operated. These are expressed as being, firstly, demon possession; secondly, tongues, as intimating social dislocation; thirdly, Serpents and poisonous factors of destruction; and, fourthly, sickness, which is a scourge of civilization. (Mark 16:17, 18) The ultimate of all these forces dominating the inheritance is death. How appropriate therefore, is the message of resurrection that colors the entire gospel. He sent His disciples forth to declare this supreme fact. Belief or unbelief in resurrection depends on our conception of God. If we think of God as a Being imprisoned by the laws of His own universe, then resurrection would be difficult to believe in. But is the individual that holds such conceptions of God perfect in knowledge? Resurrection is not proved by reason but by regeneration. Resurrection cannot be disproved by denying it, but it can be proved by believing it. Saul of Tarsus is a standard example. The resurrection transmuted the cross from being a case of apparent defeat, to a cause of assured triumph, confirmed every syllable of His teaching, sealed the veracity of Scripture truth, interpreted His mission and identified His personality.

“He is risen.” (Mark 16:6)

What a mighty treasury of spoils is reaped by this conquest! A risen Christ is the promise of prophecy realized. (Acts 2:24, 33) A risen Christ is the pledge of resurrection power. (Eph. 1:19, 20; Col. 2:12; Rom. 8:11; I Cor. 6:14) A risen Christ is the proof of coming harvest, ‘Christ the firstfruits, afterward...’ (I Cor. 6:14) The ‘corn of wheat’ is the harbinger of harvest. (John 12:24) ‘The first sheaf’ is the earnest. (Lev. 23:10) A risen Christ is the power of endless life. (Heb. 7:16, 25; Mark 3:27) He spoiled death of its captives. A risen Christ is the pattern of our resurrection life. (Rom. 6:4,5,11; Eph. 5:14) A risen Christ is the prince of our salvation, (Acts 5:30, 31) a prince and Saviour. A risen Christ is the plea of our justification. (Acts 13:39; Rom. 4:21)

There is scarcely a chapter in Mark’s gospel where the resurrection is not in some way pictured, proclaimed, or predicted.

Since the time man mutinied against God, everything he does is destined for the grave; yet he is for ever attempting to discover something that will surmount so unenviable a destiny. Entrenching himself in the stronghold of self.sufficiency, he tries to evade any acknowledgment of dependence. In times past he has built up mammoth civilizations and has put each one in turn into the grave; yet no sooner is one buried than he starts another. When the Heir appeared and stated His claim, the nation was irritated by the holiness of His presence, and therefore determined to put Him in the grave, also. So, "He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death," but God has highly exalted Him, even to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and enthroned Him at the very center of the glory of heaven. Christ, the risen Man, has triumphed gloriously. He is the only Redeemer from the hand of the Grave, (Hosea 13:14) and we may now sing, "O, death, where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory?" Mark's gospel reveals a Christ that can take man out of the grave. No spiritual mind can examine the closing twelve verses of this gospel, over which there has been so much contention, with the weight of internal and external evidence, without being compelled to the conclusion that they are wholly genuine. This is corroborated by Dr. Campbell Morgan in his Living Messages of the Books of the Bible.

The conflict was by no means ended but the ultimate conquest was certain. The disciples in heralding His message saw demonstrated before their eyes the evidences that His authority was supreme by the signs that followed in them that believed. He showed them clearly that from the age of the cross to His personal advent would be a perpetual conflict with the enemy's forces. His administration still continues and will do so until the hour when He takes out of His kingdom all things that offend. Then He will establish the beauty of holiness, the glory of righteousness, and the purity of guiltlessness, which are features of the amaranthine inheritance.

The harmony existing between the teaching of this gospel and Peter's epistle is most striking and has been the subject of comment from the earliest period of Church writings. From Irenćus of Lyons in the first century to Eusebius of the third century, all speak of Mark as the writer and interpreter of Peter's oral message.

Peter, when referring to Mark in the spiritual sense, calls him his son, I Pet. 5:13, indicating that Peter had played some part as an instrument in Mark's conversion, and he certainly was the chief factor in bringing about his restoration after the relapse from missionary endeavor. No one was better suited for this task than Peter; he knew the agony of relapse in actual experience. Four passages from Peter's Epistle will suffice to confirm the line of interpretation we have followed in Mark's Gospel:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away.” (I Pet. 1:3, 4)

"The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.'' (I Pet. 2:7)

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith." (I Pet. 5:8)

“The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand
Until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.”
(Psa. 110:1; Heb. 1:13)

These references cover exactly the same ground. The inheritance is depicted, the rejection of the heir is declared, the usurper, the devil, is described, and the enthronement of the Son at the right hand of God is disclosed.

To what extent have we learned to resist this appalling adversary? Every writer in the New Testament calls upon us to make a resolute stand against his wiles, stratagems and devices. He is to this day the adversary, the accuser, the usurper, and deceiver, the serpent, the devil and satan. He is the embodiment of corruption, the father of falsehood, the personification of evil. His heart is hate, his mind is malignity, his will is revenge. He is the repressor of humanity, the enemy of purity, the destroyer of modesty. He uses fashion to degrade morality, education to pervert truth, and science to destroy life. He seeks to impose evolution on design, philosophy on theism psychology on spiritual life. As the master over confederate hosts of angels, principalities and authorities, his emissaries serve with a fidelity such as no earthly monarch has ever known. The lives of God's people are ceaselessly assailed by his malicious subtlety.

Even Christ seemed reluctant to meet him, for at the opening of the Gospel He was driven into the wilderness to be tried. (Mark 1:12) The pure soul of Christ recoiled from such a diabolical character. Paul pleads with us to put on the armor of God and withstand him; and Peter exhorts us to resist him. Christ commanded constant watchfulness, knowing that the enemy would seek to bring dishonor on His glorious name through those who confess Him.

Yea, the command to resist the devil is emphasized more strongly than the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit. Now that he has transformed himself into an angel of light the danger is alarmingly serious. If we are to triumph we need the heart garrisoned, the mind renewed and the spirit enlightened to firmly grasp the weapons forged at Calvary.

The Heir of the estate has conquered by His cross for there He spoiled principalities and authorities and made a show of them openly. (Col. 2:15)

If we neglect this aspect of revelation we place ourselves in grave peril. The thirty.five references in this one gospel to the devil, satan, demons and evil spirits, cannot be treated indifferently. The subject today is unsavory and unpopular, denied by many and ignored by most. Nevertheless the satanic work of lulling saints to sleep, dulling their sensibilities, arresting their activities, quenching all relish for the Word of God, quelling the desire for prayer and hindering testimony was never more apparent. He is using Delilah's skill to rock Samsons to sleep in the lap of romance, worldliness and indulgence until they are robbed of their usefulness. In his lawlessness he urges some diligent folk to work the entire seven days a week, until overtaxed and irritable, they are a disgrace to the character of the work they have been ordained to serve.

God seems to have anticipated that some people would use levity with reference to this infernal foe, and has strictly charged us to be sober and vigilant before telling us of his ceaseless quest to devour. Too many quote I John 5:18 without fulfilling the conditions therein stated, of keeping themselves guarded. If the devil cannot touch us why the need of the warning, "Neither give place to the devil"? Peter's denial was the result of Satan's sifting. The sole secret of the call to overcome that is so often stressed in the New Testament, is by having the Word of God abiding in you. (I John 1:14) Quote it as Christ did, claim its power, use the sword of the Spirit, for we are born for triumph. How void and powerless the claims of subtle temptations would become if we set our minds on Him "Who sitteth at the right hand of God." He can shake off the shackles, and shatter the tyranny of usurping evil in the lives of any who trust Him. This constitutes the evangel.

Mark's message has a tremendous appeal to every redeemed soul, for we are purchased and are no longer our own but His Who died for us and rose again. In the ministry of His stewardship, He ransoms all by His vicarious sacrifice. In the mission of His heirship, He reclaims all by His victorious strength, while in the majesty of His executorship He requires all from the redeemed soul in loyal service. Have we been brought into the close and conscious fellowship with the Heir of all things? Are we at heart, joint.heirs with Christ? Does the bondage of the world grip us, and its agony alarm us? Let us be done with claiming to be co.heirs if we feel no thrill of claim to the estate, and experience no Spirit.born impulse of compassion for the enslaved, and decline all part in the conflict with the enemy.

A portion of the wonderful poem in which Myers attempts to express the feelings of the apostle Paul is not inappropriate here.

"Oft when the Word is on me to deliver
Lifts the illusion and the truth lies bare,
Desert or throng, the city or the river
Melts in a lucid paradise of air.
Only like souls I see the folk thereunder,
Bound who should conquer, slaves who should be heirs
Hearing their one hope with an empty wonder
Sadly contented in a world of cares.
Then, with a rush, the intolerable craving
Shivers through me like a trumpet call,
Oh, to save these, to perish for their saving,
Die for their life, be offered for them all!"