Reading Schedule and Intro
Today’s Bible Reading is Mark 14-16
Next week we will go back to Numbers and spend four weeks completing Numbers and Deuteronomy, and thus the entire Torah, or Law of Moses. Don’t bail out! You may not realize it yet, but Numbers and Deuteronomy are two of the most exciting books in the whole Bible.
The overall year’s plan is here.
My commentaries are sometimes long. The Bible is the priority. Read it first, and my commentaries are carefully sectioned so you can find the passage you may want help on. Please use the comment section of my blog if I missed something or you have something to add!
Today’s Reading: Mark 14-16
I’ve been too weak to write the last couple of days, and today’s reading is primarily story. It’s a story you’re familiar with from reading Matthew as well.
As a result, I’m just going to make a few comments about the passage overall. If you have specific questions or comments of your own, use the comment section.
The New Covenant
Today’s story is above all the founding of the New Covenant. At the end, the apostles are sent into all the world, not just to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
In the Protestant world, baptism has became one more victim of the over-emphasis on "faith alone."
To Jesus and the apostles, it was expected that everyone who believed the Gospel would respond by being baptized. Nowadays, at least among Protestants, we generally respond with a "sinner’s prayer," and baptism is sort of an afterthought, done as a public testimony.
If you read the Scriptures on baptism in the apostles’ writings, you’ll see that it’s always the first response to the Gospel. I’ll be pointing that out as we go through Acts.
Because it’s a controversial subject, I am going to cover a couple verses now.
The apostle Paul’s conversion, when he was still called Saul, is told a couple times in the book of Acts. Once, Luke narrates Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus (9:1-22), and once Paul testifies concerning his experience before a hostile crowd in Jerusalem (22:5-16).
Paul has an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that blinds him. He obeys Jesus and goes to Damascus to wait for Ananias to show up and tell him what to do. When he does, Ananias says:
What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (22:16)
Paul received the Spirit at that point, too, along with his sight, when Ananias laid hands on him.
The point is that Paul’s sins weren’t forgiven until he was baptized, calling on the name of the Lord.
As I said, that is the normal New Testament response to hearing the Gospel. If you believed, then you were baptized into Christ, dying to your old life, and rising to new life in him (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).
There is an exception in Acts. The first time the Gospel was ever brought to the Gentiles, it was Peter doing the preaching. It took visions and miracles for God to convince Peter he should be there (Acts 10:1-35), and even then he had no idea he was allowed to baptize Gentiles (10:47-48).
Therefore, God found it necessary to pour out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household separate from baptism, showing Peter that it was acceptable to baptize Gentiles (10:36 – 11:18).
Perhaps God is just as flexible today when we have been confused into thinking that baptism is a mere public testimony rather than the proper entrance rite into the new covenant. It is not good, however, to depend on God’s flexibility, but it is good for us to walk in what God has established.
Mark 16:17-18: Signs
This list of signs are all things that have indeed followed those who have preached the Gospel. We must not forget, however, that Jesus said it is wrong to put the Lord our God to the test (Matt. 4:7).
It is wrong and foolish to drink poison on purpose or to attempt to get a snake to bite you on purpose. That is not "signs following." It is presumption and putting God to the test.
Mark 16:9-20: Textual Issues
The earliest manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8. There is no way to determine whether that’s an omission or whether verses 9-20 were added later.
There is nothing in those verses that is going to change anything we believe unless we presumptuously put God to the test by trying to be bitten by poisonous snakes or by drinking poison.