The Things Jesus Knew, Part VI
Gospel of Mark February 13, 2000
Scripture: 2Cor. 3:1-4:1
This passage tells us that the ministry given to the disciples was real. They had true converts. There was evidence of changed lives. Theirs was not a ministry of rules carved in stone but of changed hearts. Their ministry was life giving. It was a new covenant in the Spirit. It was permanent and not fading. It was glorious in its power of righteousness.
This evidence of effective ministry gave the apostles hope born out in holy boldness through the Spirit of the Lord not to lose heart. They saw that they were doing something never done before except by Christ. Human hearts were being healed. This ministry of the new covenant of Christ upon their own hearts gave them his competence to truly make a difference. If Christ is in us we have his confidence in ministry to confidently minister to others.
As we review the ministry that God has done here at Mayfair Bible Church we are also made more bold and confident in grace and faith and righteousness. This is because we see that he really does make a difference as we trust him to do what he knew he would do. We are encouraged to go on to greater achievements because we see his success through us and we want to bring him even greater glory.
Jesus knew all about the ministry that he would have to us. And Jesus knew all about the ministry he would have through us. And the heart of this ministry is the gospel – the good news that there is now hope of eternal life through his death and resurrection.
Last week we learned that he knew for certain about his own destiny. He would die on the cross and rise again to life. And because he knew his destiny, he also knew ours. That destiny is our eternal life through faith in him. This week's message is about his knowledge of this good news that will live through us to save others from eternal death. We have not only eternal life through the gospel by receiving his message, but our lives also have eternal meaning and significance as we share his message. Our lives are not only saved but can make a difference in the lives of others. We have been saved for a purpose beyond ourselves. Jesus knew all about his future ministry in us and through us – even after his death.
VI. Knowledge of Future Ministry
A. The Ministry of His Disciples
1. Sharing the Cup (10:35-40)
Jesus knows our own destiny in ministry through him as well as he knows his own destiny in ministry to us. The will of God is active in each life but we cannot presume upon it. James and John are hung up with places of honor at either side of Jesus in the eternal kingdom. Jesus tells them that they do not really know what lies ahead, but he does know. He tells them that they cannot bear what he is about to bear for them. He will drink the cup of suffering for the sins of all mankind – a death for sin. But they would follow and drink his cup in a death to sin. They would not be the ones to die for men's sin but they would carry their own cross of death to self in ministry. James would be martyred but John would not. Jesus knows the extent that each disciple will suffer in ministry, but it pales in comparison to his suffering for us. And any glory for us is incomparable to his.
Who were James and John?
They were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. James was the older and John was the younger. Zebedee was of the tribe of Levi. Salome was of the tribe of Judah. Salome was the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus (Mt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; Jn. 19:25). Jesus gave them the name, "Sons of Thunder," (Mk. 3:17) but it was already a family name used by their parents for these cousins of Jesus because they were of both the priestly and royal houses of Israel. And they were also quite bold in temper as their nickname indicates.
In Lk. 9:54, James and John were the ones who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who refused to receive Jesus. In Mk. 9:38, John was the one who told the man that was not one of them to stop casting out demons. And here they are so bold as to ask, or presume, upon Jesus for permission to sit on his right and left in his glory. And in Mt. 20:20, they ask along with their mother, Salome. You see, this was a family request.
And yet, along with their fishing partner, Peter, they formed the inner circle chosen by Jesus to attend him in his most intimate situations. Perhaps this is because they needed the greatest personalized instruction. Peter, James and John were asked by Jesus to attend him at the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mk. 5:37), and at his transfiguration upon the mountain (Mk. 9:2), and during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mk. 14:33).
They boldly ask for what they think they want. Perhaps they had already been taught by Jesus to do so (Jn. 14:13-14; 15:7). And they ask to sit with Jesus on his throne (but see Rev. 3:21). But Jesus will have a much larger family than they can now anticipate. James and John may be of the line of kings and priests, but so will all who believe in Jesus. Now Jesus did not say they would not share his throne. In fact, there would be many thrones or positions of responsibility (Mt. 19:28; Rev. 20:4) reserved for his extended family (Mk. 3:34-35). (Did I say, "positions of responsibility? That is different than what James and John may have had in mind.) But they ask to sit on his left and right. Jesus merely said that those places were reserved for future revelation. But Jesus did say that they would drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism.
In other words, Jesus would go before them as qualified to sit upon his own throne. And we know what it was that qualified Jesus for his throne. And they would follow in his train, becoming qualified themselves as overcomers who would pick up his cross and follow him. His ministry would live through them, and all like them through the ages, that would share his qualifications by faith. Jesus knows the ministry that he will live through his disciples.
James was the first to be martyred among the 12 apostles. He was slain by Herod Agrippa I in 44 A.D., just ten years after Jesus died upon the cross and shortly before Herod's own death. He was beheaded in the same manner as John the Baptist (Acts 12:1-2). This Herod was the nephew of Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist, and he was the grandson of Herod the Great who tried to kill baby Jesus. James, as one of the Sons of Thunder, had a vehemence and a fanaticism that made him feared and hated among the Jewish enemies of the Christians. According to the Martyrdom of James he preached to the 12 tribes of Israel scattered abroad and persuaded them to give their first fruits to the church instead of to Herod. James did indeed drink his cup.
John was one of the first to follow Jesus, along with Andrew, Simon Peter's brother (Jn. 1:35-42) even though he was not the first called. Even though he was a Son of Thunder, John wholeheartedly received and profited from the rebukes of Jesus and became the "one Jesus loved." It was John who wrote John 3:16; 13:34-35; and clarified in his first letter that God is love and that all who claim to be in him must love as God loves. John was touched and changed and transformed by the love of his Lord.
It was John to whom Jesus committed his mother at the cross (Jn. 19:27). And it was John about whom Jesus spoke to Peter after the resurrection that, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" (Jn. 21:22) John did remain alive to die a natural death at an old age, filled with the baptism of the Spirit to write Revelation, the last book of prophecy about the return of Jesus to close the N.T. In the Spirit, John saw it all. John was indeed baptized with the baptism that Jesus was baptized with.
Jesus knows the ministry that each of us will have and each will receive his reward and his throne as overcomers. But the right and the left belong to God the Father.
B. The Ministry of the Gospel
1. The Completion of the Gospel Witness (13:10)
Here Jesus proclaims that he will not return until the gospel is preached to all nations. We have a part in completing events for his return by our obedience to the great commission (c.f. 2Pet. 3:12). If he has promised his return, then he has promised our part in completing the events necessary for it. He knows we will be successful by our dependence upon his strength and purpose. He knows that the gospel witness will be completed.
2. The Eternal Words of Christ (13:30-31)
This simple but profound verse tells us that all material things like the heavens and the earth are temporary, but that the spiritual truth of God and those who believe it will remain for eternity. The words of Christ, the gospel, will always give hope and comfort to all who hear them and believe them. Jesus had absolute knowledge of the truth and eternal value and indestructibility of his words. They have been preserved and proven true throughout the ages.
And as long as there is a need for people to hear the gospel, which is forever, they will hear it – even after the transformation of the heavens and the earth. But by then, it will be not for salvation but for worship in what the gospel has accomplished. (See Rev. 5:6-12. And also Rev. 14:6-7 speaks of the eternal gospel.) Jesus knows that the time will come for the gospel witness to be completed, but he also knows that its truth will remain forever to minister to us as the basis for worship.
3. The Witness of Believers (14:8-9)
Along with the eternal witness of the words of Christ is the eternal witness of its effect in the hearts of believers. In essence, it is one and the same. Nothing exists without effect. Here Jesus speaks of the woman who anointed his body with expensive perfume in preparation for burial – a perfect picture of belief in the gospel. In defense of the beauty of her action through love and faith, he says that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, her story will be told.
Jesus knew that his gospel would spread throughout the world and that her story would be preserved even though the gospel had not yet been written. Our actions of faith also have profound significance throughout eternity. Even the prayers of the saints are preserved (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). So here we also see that Jesus knows the ministry of those the gospel has ministered to.
C. The Ministry of Christ
1. The Risen Christ (14:28)
Jesus' knowledge of future ministry extends not only through his eternal word, the ministry of disciples, and the witness of believers, it also proceeds through himself. He knew he would rise from the dead and here he proclaims his plan to reveal it for the disciples to see. He would go ahead of them into Galilee to meet them. And he goes ahead of us in our own ministry too. We cannot enter where he has not been.
These were not idle words. The proof of the resurrection would complete the gospel because he knew that he himself is our hope – the One behind the words to make good on them. The angel reinforced his words to the women at the tomb in 16:7, "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
1John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
It is we ourselves who are the living proof of his omniscient ministry. His gospel shall never die. Nor shall you ever face eternal death if you believe it. Jesus knew the power of his eternal message. He has loved you enough to die upon the cross for the forgiveness of your sins by the faith that he also gives you by his resurrection from the dead.
Are you convinced about it? Are you convicted through it? Are you conquered by it? We are! And our whole purpose on this earth is to minister the truth of his gospel to you.
Jesus doesn't live in us just for ourselves, but also for you. You are the reason we are here because you matter to him. And because you matter to him, you matter to us. Little children, let us carry out the ministry of love for one another that he has given us. (2Cor. 3:1-3) Through ministering to each other, we come full circle in his ministry to each of us. He knew we would.