In Mark 16:14 we find our selves smack dab in the middle of the Great commission. Jesus has appeared to a few people, but as a collective the disciples are doubtful of his Resurrection. In verse 14, Jesus appears to the eleven
14Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] –Mark 16.14 -20
In verse 15 Jesus says Go – when someone says go they are sending you somewhere. Jesus is sending his disciples out, but he is not just sending them, he is also sending us. This go statement is obviously in the context of the Great Commission. He is not just sending the eleven disciples, and then when they die no one has to go anymore. He is sending the Church. And, so God himself is a missionary God. God sends the Church. Now, if you look at John 20.21, Jesus indicates to his disciples that God sent him and now he is sending them. So God sends Jesus into the world to redeem. God and Jesus send the Holy Spirit to help us continue the redeeming process that Christ began. And the Trinity sends us into the world to be missionaries. So Jesus sending us is not just Him sending us, but it really is the Trinity sending us into the world. One of the mistakes the church makes in western culture is to believe that mission is an activity of the church and not it’s “mission” or identity of the church. So we as the western church see ourselves sending people to a foreign land, but we do think of ourselves as being in a foreign land. We don’t see ourselves as missionaries in a foreign land.
So, where are we supposed to go? Jesus says that we are to go into the entire world. The place that the church is sent is into the world. The other problem with the western church is that we have created two cultures – a Christian Culture and a secular culture. We have Christian music, Christian fiction, Christian schools, etc. They are setup against the Secular culture.
We are sent into the world. What are we supposed to do when we are sent into the world? We are supposed to preach the Gospel. The Greek word for gospel is evangelon. It means victories. Literally, the Gospel is the Victories of Jesus. This is what we are to preach. What has happen to the Gospel in the Church today? I think the church has claimed it as its own. We possess it. It is ours. The church defines how it is preached and how it is communicated. But that is wrong. The church should be possessed by the Gospel. The church belongs to the Gospel, not the other way around. The Gospel defines what the church looks like. When we talk about the Gospel it seems abstract. What does it mean? Does the Gospel just mean that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose on the third day defeating death, or is there something more? Yes, that is it, but there is more. It is the story of the Old and New Testaments. This is the Gospel fleshed out. (more on the Gospel later.)
So, who are we to tell this gospel to? Jesus, in Mark, says that we are to tell it to all creation, which means that it, goes out not just to people, but also to creation. Jesus seems to be saying that the Gospel is not just about you and me, it is the story of redemption, but that story also includes the redemption of creation.
I think the question the Church in America needs to ask – is why does the Gospel seem powerless in our churches? Why is it not our identity? Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel has explosive power for salvation of all people.
I think we have watered the gospel down. Think for a moment about what 1 Corinthians 2.1-5 says:
1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
We as a church look at the gospel through eyes of human wisdom. If you have come to Christ later in life, then you know how silly the Gospel sounds. It’s strange. Think about it. This God, who you have never seen, created this world. And, then humans brought sin into the world, and God had to send his son to save the world from death. His son, it turns out, God incarnate – is a backwater hick from Galilee who never travels farther that 30 miles from his town. He never writes any books. He dies on a Roman cross as a failed Messiah, and then his crazy disciples say that he rose 3 days later and if we believe we will be saved. It’s foolish.
The church, especially the modern one, has tried to rationalize the gospel and turn it into a set of propositions that lead to the ultimate truth. It seems not to have impact on the church. The gospel as truth statements seems not to change people’s lives. I think if the church wants to understand its mission and the identity of the Gospel it needs to look to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Paul is simply saying that since we are in Christ we no longer see him through the eyes of worldly wisdom, but through our identity in him. He goes on to say that because we are in Christ, we are new creations. The old is gone and is going and the new has come and is coming. Being in Christ means that you and I are Justified before God, but we are in the process at the same time. (more thoughts later). There is an assumption that to be a new creation, you have to be in Christ. The Gospel then begins with a living encounter with Christ. Why did the disciples run away and deny Christ during the Crucifixion. They had to face the cross. They had to make a decision – would they believe that this dying messiah was the future King of Israel and of the world. The Gospel then begins with a decision to embrace a wounded servant King, or the raw brutal power of Satan. If we embrace Christ, the process of living in our new creation and walking away from the old begins.
18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
So once you are in Christ you have a job. What’s happened? You have been reconciled to God and now you have a ministry. And this word in the Greek for ministry is where we get deacon from. But, we all hold the office of deacon. We are all ministers of the Gospel . . . of reconciliation. So, when Christ says go preach the Gospel to creation. We are to reconcile man and creation to God. We are sent to call both man and creation back to God.
19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, and now you and I are given the message of reconciliation. The logos of reconciliation. The church is given the message of Jesus. The Gospel.
20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5.16-21
What do ambassadors do? They don’t have a lot of power. They don’t very often get to step into a country wield a whole bunch power. No, they are trying to establish a friendship with a particular country. Improve communication and cultural understanding.
The way our ministry plays out in the world happens in the context of being ambassadors to the world. That is the Gospel. That is what God sends us to do. The church gets to offer the world an encounter with Christ and an opportunity to be reconciled to God.
What happens when you go into the world? If you look at John 17 you get a little clue as to what Jesus thought would happen. He prays that we would have his Joy. Missionary work is hard and you don’t often see great results right away. Jesus knows this and prays that his joy would be ours. Jesus also asks that we would not be taken out of the world or protected from it, but that we would be protected from Satan. Because when the church decides that it is a mission and that the ministry of reconciliation is their identity, then Satan attacks. You are invading his territory. You are reclaiming what was never his in the first place, and this does not make him happy.