There are some of Jesus’ commands that we elevate and others that we hide in a box. We don’t throw them away, we know better than that, but push them into a corner. Maybe they don’t seem to apply to us. Surely Jesus didn’t mean for us to do that. It must have only been for the twelve apostles or the folks that immediately heard it. Our next Jesus says command has either been pushed in the corner or in a few cases elevated as an idol.
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”” (Mark 16:15–18, NIV)
The command, the imperative verb, is on the word preach. It is important to understand that the “go” is expected, and like the great commission in Matthew 28 it could be rendered “while you are going.” To preach seems to have a dirty connotation nowadays unless it is those few minutes set aside on a Sunday morning. The strange thing is that we hear preaching, as the word is intended, all day long. Every form of media is in some ways “preaching” or proclaiming and urging acceptance of a truth. Whether that is the current news of the day or an advertisement for the best hemorrhoid cream to buy.
As recorded in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses the inclusive “all” twice. Go to all the world, preach to all creation. Granted, it would be impossible for one person to achieve this feat of being everywhere and speaking to everyone. Look at it this way, the command is fully inclusive. We are to extend our reach beyond the limits of comfortability and language to break through the barriers of culture. All the world includes the unreached in far-off jungles and the unreached in our city’s uncomfortable pockets of despair and violence. Even the unreached in the cubicle across the hall of our workplace is included in “all.”
Proclaim to all creation, no one is left out. The rich, the poor, the broken, the unworthy, those deemed to be acceptable and desirable along with those seen as unacceptable and undesirable. This message is to be proclaimed to the powerful and the powerless; to all without exception. Even to our enemies and those trying to destroy Christ’s message.
Proclaiming the Good News is not left up to the few that stand up and preach on Sunday Morning. It is something for all of us following Jesus. But notice that Jesus didn’t say how to go about making our proclamations. Some will stand in front of groups. Others will leverage technology. A few will literally go across the world. But the most common “preaching” and perhaps the most effective are the one on one quiet conversations which focus on a person’s personal needs and struggles.
A word about the verses following Jesus’ command. I included the full text of Jesus’ statement in Mark for a purpose. The command itself is not that much different than the Great Commission. It’s what follows that makes many super uncomfortable and pushes these verses into the shadows. Because of Lambchow’s reach, I thought it best to provide some balance to these verses about baptism, demons, tongues, snakes, and healings.
Jesus didn’t provide these signs as a kind of litmus test to prove who believes and who doesn’t. The command isn’t to baptize or do any of these other things. The command is to proclaim the Good News to everyone everywhere.
When the Good News is proclaimed and believed the kingdom of God will break through the darkness in tangible ways. People will be forever changed, they will die to their old life and live a new life in Jesus – a change symbolized and solemnized in baptism.
When the Kingdom breaks through God’s power will touch others in ways beyond our human abilities, revealing that God is God over all – Over the spiritual realm, over languages and communication, over the natural world, and over sickness and disease. We shouldn’t elevate or worship these signs, but neither should we fear them and push them out of sight.
The greatest sign, however, is not the screams of demons, the speaking of unknown languages, the sudden ineffectiveness of snake venom, or a miraculous physical healing. The greatest sign of the Good News of Jesus is a reclaimed, restored, redeemed life.
Let’s pull back to the main thing. You and I are proclaimers of something every day. We advocate for our desires. We proclaim our likes and dislikes. We let others know about our experiences and struggles. Why does it feel strange for us to talk about the one person that has changed our lives the most? We do need to be wise, we need to build bridges of relationship to carry the message, we need to be winsome and not judgmental, but we also need to be courageous and not hide the light shining in our hearts.
Jesus says preach. Be creative, be real, go to them, connect with others deeper than is comfortable, reveal your own journey, pray for God’s wisdom and words, pray also for others to be receptive hearers, be a risk taker, be inclusive, have the patience of a farmer, and be courageous.
Jesus Says proclaim the Good News