The Commands of Jesus

One of the core values of the good news of Christ is grace. There are many places in the NT we could go to find the message of grace expressed but one of my favourites is in Ephesians ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ (Ephesians 2:8–9). Paul makes it clear that our salvation is 100% the work of God in Christ and 0% our own effort. No amount of law keeping on our part will win us access to heaven. Another way of expressing this truth is ‘Nothing I can do will make God love me more, nothing I can do will make God love me less!’ This is indeed good news and something to celebrate! Christ not only offers us forgiveness but also the freedom from the tyranny of law.

Does this mean then that there are no longer commandments to obey? Absolutely not! Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them”. (Matthew 5:17). The difference is that our obedience now arises from a love response to the gift we have been given rather than an effort to win God’s favour.

Have you noticed that Jesus actually gave us some new commandments? During the opening weeks of 2017 we will be looking at commands that Jesus gave his disciples and seeing how they apply to us. The first commandment is known as the Great Commandment and is found in both Matthew and Mark’s gospels. Actually we get two commandments for the price of one!

Love God and Love One Another

Only those who know the forgiveness of Christ are able to love God and love people as God intends for us to do. It is a good place to start the year by allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate again to us how to obey those ‘buy one get one free’ commandments.

The second (third?) commandment we shall look at is also found in Matthew and Mark but is usually known as the Great Commission. It is still very much a commandment because Jesus commands us to

Go and Make Disciples

Some people are inclined towards emphasising either the Great Commandment or the Great Commission but over the next few weeks I hope that we will see that these Commands of Jesus are inextricably combined. For people who have experienced the lavish grace, unlimited grace of God, obeying these commands is perfect freedom; a reciprocating demonstration of a love response to his love for us.

Exploring Mark

QI fact: Mark’s Greek nickname was Colobodactolus which means ‘stubby fingered’! Hardly the most flattering of names for the writer of a gospel, but then Mark is not the most obvious author of such an account. Although he spent time with Jesus he was not one of the apostolic band and any references to Mark himself in the gospels are cryptic and elusive. He does appear again later in the New Testament but only ever as a ‘number two’; first as an assistant to Barnabas, then Paul and Barnabas together and finally to Peter. It was from spending time with Peter that he gathered together the material for his account of the Good News about Jesus.

Mark captures Peter’s sense of action and adventure by emphasising what Jesus did more than what he said, prioritising miracles over parables and discourses. Unlike most modern biographies, a third of the book concentrates on the last week of Jesus’ life. The snappy, news bulletin style appeals to 21st century people used to sound-bites and tweets, making this a refreshing way to encounter Jesus. In this book Mark exposes us to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. He also depicts Peter’s weaknesses rather than his strengths pointing to a concern to ensure we focus on the person and work of Jesus.

During October and November we will be ‘Exploring Mark’ on Sunday mornings to complement Exploring Christianity’ midweek. If you have never read a gospel from beginning to end in one sitting I encourage you to read Mark this coming week. It will take you between 30-45minutes and will give you a broad overview of Jesus’ life that will open your eyes again to the things he did and said.

My prayer over the next two months is that however long you have been following Jesus you will find your walk revitalised as together we take a fresh look at him through the eyes of Mark.

This blog post featured in the October 2013 edition of Lifelines