Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:1 The Beginning Of The Gospel

Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

On the first Sunday morning I began my ministry here I preached on Matthew chapter 1 and verse 1, and now 37 years later as my pastorate is into its closing period I am preaching on Mark chapter 1 and verse 1, and that is just how it should be. In 37 years’ time few of us will be in this building, but every Christian here would long that the climactic aspect of worship would continue to be someone ‘opening the Book and finding the place’ and preaching to the congregation about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because, in the future as in the present, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about me; it’s not about you; it’s all about Jesus. It’s not our way; it’s not Alfred Place’s way, or the highway. It’s about his way, or it’s no way. It is by the effects of that Name preached and applied to us by the Holy Spirit that God saves his people. Thus it has been and ever will be until the end of the world.

1] THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST

The heart of the Christian religion is this person. The heart of Hinduism is everyman, the heart of Buddhism is the inward journey of self-discovery, the heart of Islam is the Koran, but the heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ. It is not a set of rules, though it has very important rules. But Christianity centres on what Jesus Christ has done rather on what rules we have to do. Notice these opening words: “the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ.” A message which keeps telling us Do this and Do that, is scarcely good news.

Neither is Christianity is a set of ceremonies though we do baptise and participate in the Lord’s Supper because the Saviour commanded us to do those things. But they cannot be the heart of Christianity because the thief who was crucified alongside the Saviour was neither baptised nor did he come to Holy Communion and yet he went to paradise because of his special relationship with the Lord Jesus. He cried to the Lord that he would remember him. People may be baptised by each and every mode of baptism, and kneel at a communion rail every day and have a wafer placed on their tongues, or take a piece of bread as it is passed to them, and still they may be as lost as a cannibal.

Christianity is not sitting with the right group doing what the group do though they are the most beautiful and powerful group in the world. It is not joining a cause to put wrongs right. The apostles didn’t walk around the Mediterranean basin going from town to town urging people to come and sit with their crowd or join their cause. Rather they went everywhere talking about the Messiah who had come: who he was and what he, all by himself, had achieved. Christianity is a person called Jesus. Nearly everyone nods their heads at that. Even those men who have abandoned much of the teaching of the New Testament will say to me, “I’m glad you’ve come to realise this, Geoff. It’s about time you Calvinists saw how dated it is to talk about Confessions of Faith and Doctrinal Statements and Creeds and Institutes of Religion. We all agree that Christianity is Christ.”

“Just a minute, please,” I say. “Which Jesus are you talking about?” Is the Jesus you are promoting the Mormon Jesus, or the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus, or a spineless effeminate Jesus of the grandmothers’ circle, or a Marxist revolutionary Jesus, or the well-fed, slick, health-wealth-and-prosperity Jesus? Or is it the Jesus whose life transformed many men and women about two thousand years ago, out of which people came these four gospels, many letters, a history and a divine revelation which are all recorded for us here in this book which we call the New Testament?

Ten years ago this year, that is, in 1992, an Australian woman named Barbara Thiering, got into all the papers through a book she had written called, “Jesus the Man: A New Interpretation from the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The most distinctive thing about the book, which resulted in her appearing on TV chat-shows and in the tabloid press for about a month, was her suggestion that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that he had by her three children, a daughter and two sons. Then they were divorced and Jesus married again, but that is not the Jesus of Mark’s gospel, is it? So the question we have raised is this, in which Jesus Christ do we believe and who are we following? There is only one who can properly be named ‘Jesus’ and that is the Jesus of the New Testament. One evangelical minister spoke of his shock in hearing a liberal clergyman actually say, “I hate the Bible.” To hate the Bible is to hate the God of the Bible.

2] MARK IS ONE OF FOUR GOSPELS.

There are four gospels, but Paul tells the Galatians there is only one gospel. He pronounces an anathema on anyone who maintains another gospel. Paul is dead right, of course, and we must take his warning seriously. There is only one gospel, one message of good news for the world, relevant to every person in every age. So it might be better not to speak of the Gospel of Mark – or of Matthew, of Luke, or of John for that matter. Instead we should speak of the Gospel according to Mark. Of course we intend no evil when we lapse into speaking of the Gospel of Mark because it was written by him, but it is better to stress the unity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So we are studying the Gospel according to Mark.

It is the shortest gospel made up of about 660 verses, and some 606 of them reappear completely or partially in Matthew, and about 380 in Luke. It was the Lord’s will that our knowledge of the words and deeds of Jesus should come to us from separate sources, and this has marvellous advantages. It means that all the work of the Redeemer is illuminated from four sides. We have a multi-perspectival view of the Son of God. As Cornelius Vanderwaal has written, “Each gospel writer, because of his own individuality, brings different facets to the fore. Each of the four books follows its own plan and has its own purpose. When we look at something stereoscopically, the two converging points of view sharpen our perceptual judgment. When it comes to Christ, we are allowed to look at him from four separate points of view. Doesn’t this enrich and deepen our knowledge of him? (C. Vanderwaal, “Search the Scriptures”, Volume 7, Matthew-Luke, Paidiea Press, Canada, 1978, p.8).

This word ‘gospel’ is not a special New Testament word. It was not invented by Christians as they did seem to have taken up quite obscure words and filled them with new meaning and made them their own. The Romans used this word ‘gospel’ and associated it with the cult of the emperor. His birthday, the day he came of age, the day he acceded to power were all ‘good news’ days. The festivals that celebrated these days were called ‘gospels’ or ‘evangels’ But the Jews also in their translation of the Old Testament into Greek, had used this word ‘gospel’ concerning a future blessed day of salvation. The word is especially found in the prophet Isaiah. “Blessed are the feet of those that bring good news,” Isaiah cried. “It will come one day,” said all his fellow Jews. “No, the good news is here in the Emperor,” said the Romans. Christians said to both Jew and Gentile that the good news had appeared in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

What struck the early observers of Christianity most forcibly was not merely that salvation was offered by means of the good news of Jesus Christ, but that all other means was resolutely rejected. Such exclusiveness ran directly counter to the prevailing syncretism of the Hellenistic age. In that day many saviours were offered by many religions, but Christianity would have nothing to do with these “courtly polygamies of the soul”. All other saviours, it asserted, must be rejected for the one Lord. The gospel was in Jesus Christ alone, and to that one gospel Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all bore witness.

3] MARK’S GOSPEL AND THE APOSTLE PETER.

Two thousand years ago our fellow Gentiles heard rumours of an extraordinary Jew who said and did the most amazing things. He was a fabulous healer, and as a teacher he was spellbinding in his authority. He could keep the attention of thousands of men for hours as he spoke to them. Many people had been transformed by him. If we lived then, but had never managed to see him for ourselves, wouldn’t we all want to hear about him from those who had been eye-witnesses to all of this? There was a certain Gentile, a professional soldier named Cornelius of the Italian Regiment who was living in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast north of Jerusalem. As a man he was upright, generous and religious and he became fascinated by the stories about Jesus that he was coming across. Then, through a wonderful act of God’s grace, he knew what he had to do. He sent two of his own servants and one of his soldiers who was also a religious man, to bring to Caesarea one of Jesus’ closest friends, a former fisherman called Simon Peter. They set out, meeting Peter and telling him that their boss would “have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say” (Acts 10:22). The very message about Jesus was creating ripples world wide. There was no need for the church to do any stunts to capture men’s interest. The Lord Jesus Christ had appeared and said and done the most fantastic works. Anything we sinners could do would be Amateur Night compared to his achievements. It would be like the Keeper of the Crown jewels parading before the people who were craning to see the royal tiaras an imitation pearl necklace which he had bought in Woolworths: “Get away with you! We want to see the real thing!”

So the very next day Peter accompanied them on the journey from Joppa to Cornelius’s house where he was welcomed with enormous respect, Cornelius finally saying to him, “we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” (Acts 10:33). It is a great verse for every congregation to say to every Bible preacher every Sunday: “We are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

Wouldn’t you have wanted to be there listening to Peter? But Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, gives us an actual summary of what Peter told them and that is the next best thing. “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by the witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:36-43) It took me less than a minute to read that sermon to you. None of us would be happy with 50 second sermons, and of course Peter would have spoken much longer than that, giving many details of the life, teaching, miracles, death and resurrection of his friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Then he would have answered questions and explained to them all about what he had heard and seen.

You notice one thing, that this outline of what Peter says is the same basic approach as that which Mark gives us in his gospel, in a brief sixteen chapters, covering the two or three years of the public ministry of Jesus Christ. Like Peter’s speech Mark starts with Jesus’ baptism by John, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon him, and the ministry of our Lord in Galilee and ending in Jerusalem. Then we are given an account of his trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Mark is following that outline of Peter’s sermon. They both tell us that on a literal, twenty-four hour day a man called John led Jesus into the wet water of the river Jordan and John baptised Jesus. On that same occasion God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power. For about three years (each year consisting of three hundred and sixty-five days, and each day being twenty-four hours in length), this same Jesus walked all over the land of Israel and he visited Samaria too. He opened his mouth and taught in a variety of pulpits – the homes of real people, from a boat, on a mountainside, in the streets, in a synagogue and in the Temple in Jerusalem. This same Jesus was really crucified, he actually died, and was literally buried in a rock tomb. That rock was just as real as the rocks of the promenade at Aberystwyth sea-front. Three twenty-four hour calendar days later, this same Jesus rose from the grave. He talked and ate and drank with his disciples. For forty literal days, he spent time with them, finally exhorting them to go into all the world with the good news of what they had seen and heard in him, and then he ascended into heaven.

In other words, this history of Jesus of Nazareth is not like the story of Santa Claus, or Harry Potter, or St George killing the dragon, or the stories of Narnia, or the tales of the Welsh Mabinogion, of giants killed, and mermaids and goddesses falling in love with handsome princes. The history of Jesus is earthed in history. In this 21st century we are surrounded by men and women who say, “It makes no difference whatever if Christ literally and bodily rose from the dead, whether that did or did not happen is immaterial. The important thing is the power of truth today. What did or did not happen in history is totally irrelevant to your truth and mine.” They speak to us condescendingly about the power of myths to teach great truths. But death is not a myth. If we don’t think about it, or if we whistle in the dark, or plan to have our bodies frozen, or if we switch on TV with the volume up high, death doesn’t go away. Every hour it is an hour nearer us all. Death is the fearful reality towards which we are all heading. Has someone returned from the grave or not? Is death ultimate reality or is the Lord Jesus? Did he rise in history or not? This New Testament claims that there are many eye-witnesses who can tell me about the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

4] THE AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL OF MARK.

Why is it that Peter’s approach to the life of Christ and Mark’s approach are so identical? The reason is because of the identity of the author. Today these sixteen chapters are called Mark’s gospel, but strictly speaking this is an anonymous publication. Paul’s letters are not. The first word in them is the word ‘Paul.” That is how all letters started 2000 years ago. Mark nowhere signs this gospel. However, from the very beginning of Christianity church leaders have told us that it was written by John Mark. As Sinclair Ferguson points out, “Around the year A.D. 140, Papias, who was the bishop of the church at Hierapolis, recorded something he had heard from an older contemporary: ‘The elders said something like this also: “Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord, but not however in order.”‘ Within another forty years, two further testimonies tell the same story. An anonymous preface to the Gospel of Mark, written sometime after A.D. 160 records: ‘Mark . . . who is called ‘stump-fingered’, because he had rather small fingers in comparison with the stature of his body. He was the interpreter of Peter. After the death of Peter himself he wrote down this same gospel in the region of Italy.’ A similar testimony is found among the writings of a leading early Christian writer, Irenaeus of Lyons: ‘After the death of [Peter and Paul] Mark, the disciple of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter.'” (Sinclair Ferguson, “Let’s Study Mark,” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1999, p.xiv).

So from the very beginning the apostolic authority of Peter was known to lie behind the gospel of Mark (as Paul ‘s shadow is cast over Luke) and the kind of account we have in these 16 chapters are in fact a divinely inspired record of Peter’s memories of being with Jesus from his baptism to his ascension. Peter, near the end of his life, said these words: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Pet. 1:16). That is the authority of the gospels. They come from eye-witnesses to those who are not eye-witnesses. Incidentally, similar words are found at the commencement of Luke’s gospel where we read that the events are presented “just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Lk. 1:2). So there was never any debate as to the canonicity of Mark, that is, the church never voted to accept Mark’s gospel into the canon of Scripture. Its authority was recognised and submitted to from the beginning. The gospel always has priority over the church. The word of Peter gave birth to the New Testament church at Pentecost. The word of Philip gave birth to the church at Samaria. The word of Peter gave birth to the Gentile church at Caesara. The word of Paul gave birth to the churches of Greece and Europe. Always the Word comes first, and the church is born and grows by it. The Church never gives its authority to the Word. The Word gives birth to the Church and then educates and sanctifies it by promise, warning, encouragement and rebuke. The Church remains the body of Christ only as it heeds the Word. So scripture comes to us with an authority of its own and demands to be received as authoritative.

So John Mark was Peter’s helper. He seems to have been a native of Jerusalem where his mother Mary owned a house large enough for many Christians to meet together for prayer. It was at Mark’s front door that Peter was knocking when the church was inside interceding that he might be freed. Maybe that was where the Passover was celebrated by Jesus and his disciples, and perhaps he is to be identified as the man carrying the jug of water (14:13). Mark might have been the young man who was in the Garden of Gethsemane and ran away when Jesus was arrested, slipping out of his cloak when someone grabbed him. He was the same John Mark who went evangelising with Paul and Barnabas who later left them under a cloud. When Barnabas, who was Mark’s first cousin, suggested that he be given another chance and accompany them again then Paul said No. So, from that time on, Barnabas and Paul took different missions. Later they were completely reconciled. Life is too short for godly men to do their own thing. This same Mark is mentioned in the letters to the Colossians, Philemon and 2 Timothy. Mark was able to tell Paul many details about the life of Jesus of which he had been an eye-witness. Peter also refers to Mark in his first letter and calls him his ‘son’ in the faith (I Pet. 5:13).

So John Mark was right there in Jerusalem as a teenager when Jesus came to the city preaching and healing, and he was quickly drawn into the circle of the disciples with his family. He is probably amongst the 500 people who saw Jesus risen from the dead. He had vital personal knowledge of what he was writing about. He had spent hours with the Lord Jesus. He had known failure and its guilt, yet he had come back and was gifted by the Holy Spirit to write this gospel in the friendship of Peter, who would have been just a couple of years older than he was. So we are going back to the very origins of Christianity to find out about the Lord Jesus, who he was and what he taught. One has to go back to the fountainhead to find the purest water, so one goes back to the first century church and reads a manuscript written within thirty years of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (remembering that there are three other gospels written around the same time).

The church could not preserve the original editions of the gospels and letters. They wore out from their much use, but many copies were made. In fact we have four thousand Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and one of the best, called Vaticanus, dates from about 300 years after the death of Christ, but we have a fragment that goes back to A.D. 120 and many date from A.D. 150. Classical scholars look with envy at the number and the age of the manuscripts Christians have to consult. Dr Clark Pinnock writing in 1967 at a more reliable period in his life pointed out, “The Roman historian Tacitus, writing early in the second century concerning events half a century earlier, is considered a first rate historical source for the period despite the fact that the oldest manuscript copy of his work which remains dates from a full millennium after he wrote. In like manner a full thousand years separates the writings of Caesar’s ‘Gallic Wars’ and the date of the oldest manuscript we have now. Aristotle wrote his ‘Poetics’ three and a half centuries B.C. and the oldest manuscript dates from the eleventh century A.D., a full fourteen hundred years later! The same is true of the Greek historian Thucydides of whose work the oldest manuscript was copied thirteen hundred years after his death. In every single case cited critical scholars do not think of dismissing the evidence because the original manuscripts have not survived. Each of the writers is considered an A-1 historical source” (Clark H. Pinnock, “Set Forth Your Case,” Craig Press, Nutley NJ, 1967, p.52).

We shouldn’t be afraid to those who point to alleged conflicts in the Scriptural record. Many of these ‘problems’ are invented by scholars intent on proving that Scripture contradicts itself. God’s word cannot be broken. We proceed from that assurance given to us by the Son of God. Then we are in a strong position over against suspicions and doubts about the Bible, because in the final analysis the issue is whether Mark’s gospel is really God’s Word. Let Scripture be its own interpreter.

5] THE CHALLENGE OF MARK’S GOSPEL.

In many ways the challenge of Mark’s gospel is the challenge of the self-consciousness of the Jesus Christ to whom Mark introduces us. His Lord claims to have been sent to the world by God. He claims to be the Christ the Son of the living God. He claims to be laying down his life as a ransom for many. He claims that on the third day he will rise from the dead. That’s the Lord’s claim, that he made you, that he is your Lord and your God, and so your judge. Mark is not presenting us with some emotional challenge in his gospel. He is confronting us with an intellectual challenge. Mark is challenging us with the historical veracity of the claims of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how you feel this morning. Homesick after leaving home for the first time and coming away to university? Bored at Word-centred worship? Hostile at what you are hearing? Intrigued or curious? Or maybe with John Wesley, your heart is ‘strangely warmed.’ But Mark’s gospel has nothing to do with the way you feel. It is presenting to us a record of historical facts that here is a man who was sent into this world by God, by your God and Lord. I am saying to you that you’ve got to respond to such a God. You must bow before him and worship him with us, not because of your feelings, nor may you refuse to do so because of your lack of feelings, but because what Jesus is is ‘real reality’ and what he says is ‘true truth.’ That is quite independent of how you feel this morning. You may feel that he is the Lord, or you may not, but the question is this, ‘Is what he says truth?’ Did he die as the Lamb of God to bear away our sins, and did he rise from the dead? If that is truth it has the most momentous consequences. If what he says is true and we reject him then we go to hell. If what he says is true and we receive him then he becomes our Saviour.

I am confronted here with sixteen extraordinary chapters that take about two hours to read slowly. Into whatever chapter I dip I find a colossal Christ, a divine Christ, one whom men must describe as a megalomaniac Christ if what he says is a tissue of lies. Have you ever pondered the challenge of his claims? Have you ever thought about the possibility that what Jesus said is true – the possibility that Christ is God the Son. There is never going to be a more important book for you to read than Mark’s gospel. There will never be a more important question for you to resolve. You have every right, from a purely academic angle, to sit down and examine it, or come here for a month or two and listen to what I say about Jesus Christ, and then reject it. But you have no right simply to dismiss it as beyond contempt. That is one thing that you cannot do with Christ. That is something no man who met Jesus Christ has ever been able to do. Peter and John Mark and Cornelius and all in his household followed Jesus. Others hated everything he stood for and crucified him. Nobody could pass him by and ignore him because he claims to be God, your God and Judge.

I am asking you today whether you have considered the claims of Christ? My point is this, that if what Mark’s gospel says is true then you must bow the knee, and submit your intellect and fall before him. You must cry to him that he will have mercy on you and pardon your sins and become your Lord and Saviour, and keep asking him until you know that he has heard you. If you say to me that you don’t feel anything then I am talking to you about historical facts, the record in Mark 4 where we are told that Jesus spoke and the winds and waves obeyed him, in Mark 5 where we are told that he raised a girl from the dead, in Mark 6 where he fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and also in Mark 6 we are told that he walked on the water. In Mark 10 we are told he prophesied that he would rise from the dead on the third day; in Mark 13 he announced that all men will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and in Mark 16 we are told that he who was crucified rose: “He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mk. 16:6).

Those are objective realities. Spoonbenders don’t preach the Sermon on the Mount. Frauds don’t deliver some of the most profound discourses recorded in John’s gospel that the world has ever heard. What would you think of a Plato or of a Bertrand Russell sawing women in half or pulling rabbits out of top hats? Would they rise in your estimation as teachers of truth so that you gave their writings even more authority? But with Christ we are being told by the sceptics that he deliberately deceived people with hundreds of fake miracles, and yet he taught sublime eternal truths, as relevant today as then, helpful to the Chinese rice farmer and to the Manhattan businessman. It doesn’t make sense. But if he actually did heal a man born blind, and cleanse a leper, and raise a totally paralysed man, and cause a man’s chorea to cease, and deliver one who had been bound in chains to stop him from harming himself and others – and many more such deliverances – then these are the actions of the one whom God sent into the world. We say that has the most massive consequences for you. If he is the Son of God then you must bow the knee, and you must bow the knee because Mark’s gospel is true. It seems to me that very often students seem to be looking for reasons other than that for becoming Christians. To me there is one great reason for becoming a Christian, and that is because it is true, and the moment it is true it has the right to the allegiance of every person in Aberystwyth.

How wonderful it must be to die with the thought that you are going to heaven. How comforting to live knowing that the Lord is in charge of your life and that he is working all things together for your good. How wonderful when you and your spouse are agreed in these truths – what a foundation for a happy marriage. I can tell you many things like that, that Jesus will make you feel good and give you rest. All of that may be true, but before any of that is so, it is true that he walked on water, and he preached the Sermon on the Mount, and died to redeem his people, and the tomb on the third day was empty. Jesus Christ arose, and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And I am urging your submission in the name of the objective reality and veracity of that. When the high priest asked him, “‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'” (Mk. 14:62). If that is true, then it transforms all my destiny. It commands, and deserves, and compels my allegiance.

Here I have this so-called simple Jesus. In Mark’s gospel I meet this so-called historical Christ, and I find him saying historically, “Yes, I am the Son of the blessed God. You will see me sitting next to God. You will see me coming again.” Wherever you turn in this gospel the only Christ you find is a divine Christ, one who makes the most awe-inspiring claims about himself, that the one who was born of Mary, and baptised by John, and loved by Peter, and betrayed by Judas, and taken down from the cross by Nicodemus in all his mortality and frailty, was also seen raised from the dead by Mary Magdalene and the others. That is the challenge of Mark’s gospel today.

Some days I feel like reading the Bible, but there are other days when I don’t. Some days I feel inspired to pray, other days I don’t. Some days I love my work as a pastor-preacher, but other days I don’t. But the case for Christianity does not fluctuate as my emotions go up and down. The case rests on the objective truth of such a book as this gospel according to Mark, and the divine person we find there. This one is so confident that what he has to say is totally relevant at this moment to me and every other person.

In other words, our claim is this, that when I hold Mark’s gospel in my hand I am holding a miracle. It is miraculous in the picture it presents me of Jesus Christ, his unique personality, the self-attesting quality of his teaching, the cogency of his manner, the compellingness of what he has to say, his invincible confidence that what he teaches is relevant today to you. I am saying that God has never left his congregations without a tangible miraculous presence. The divine visible authentication of the coming of the kingdom of God is the Bible. Here in the Scriptures, and in Mark’s gospel in particular, is a book that comes from another world, this great intrusion that perforates the lives of those it reaches. Here is something absolutely unique, because here are words that describe me, and know me, and search me, and find me, and speak to my needs. Here are truths that are quite unsurpassable in their grandeur and uninventable in their sheer originality.

I am saying to you that if God has brought you to the point where you say, “Yes, there is no one else but Jesus Christ,” then you have no right to wait any longer. You say, “I am waiting to feel something.” I say to you that you have no right to wait. The moment you know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God then bow your knees. Give him your heart, and give him your life. The hymn that was sung a hundred years ago in a great movement of God in Wales contains these words,

Believe it O sinner, believe it!
Believe the glad message, it’s true!

Believe it for that one great and all sufficient reason. You do not need to feel ‘strangely warmed’ You do not need to be worked over by me or any other communicators – why, for the rest of your life you would be worrying whether they had brought you to faith. You know the truth: yield to the truth: bow to the truth.

This year on June 18, 82 year-old David White died, pastor in Liverpool for 32 years having begun his ministry a year after the end of World War Two. He maintained a faithful and blessed ministry in Beacon Lane Mission where he saw many people won to Christ. He regularly cycled all over Liverpool to homes and hospitals. He suffered many health problems and heart attacks and the death of his dear wife. In his remains and effects the following words were found: “I am a witness, a glad and grateful witness, that the message of Calvary is true, and I must spread that message, the glorious gospel message, that Christ died for us.” That is the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Since it is true then fall at his feet, cling to him and say, “My Lord and my God.”

28th September 2002 GEOFF THOMAS