Mark’s gospel has gotten me under a tree recently. Mark wrote primarily to encourage Roman Christians in a time of persecution. Did it work? Yes!
The Epistle to Diognetus was written less than a century after Christ died giving proof of the growth of the church in Rome. Mathetes writes to his friend Diognetus. “For this reason you hate the Christians, because they do not deem these to be gods.” They didn’t accept the gods of Rome so early Christians were called “atheists” by the Greco-Romans. It cost them but in spite of the persecution they grew as the letter below suggests.
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.“ He says much more.
Mark’s gospel records the first parables of Jesus that would have encouraged Roman Christians and us also. The first was a parable of four soil types where the first three didn’t bear fruit (false converts) because of poor soil conditions. The fourth type was good soil which produced much fruit up to one hundred fold. That is a picture of what genuine conversion looks like. I gave this first message on the The Parable of Your Soil last Sunday. They bear much fruit. What about you?
Then Jesus gives three other parables ending with one that pictures a tiny mustard seed growing into a huge tree providing cover for many birds (Mark 4:30-32). This pictures the kingdom of God and all who have repented and truly trusted Christ and are resting in this wonderful kingdom. It pictures believers of all ages here.
Some dismiss Christianity as a thing of the past that has seen it’s day and is in decline. It is a passing thing like all religions. But, after two millennia it is still growing and in the last century has tripled. The Pew Research Center says it is the largest faith on earth with roughly 31.5 % of the world’s 7.7 billion people (as of November 2018) claiming Christianity. Islam is second claiming 23.2%. Figures may not be fully accurate but, it does say something about the impact of gospel of Christ continuing. No other person in human history has affected the world more that Christ. That is why I am encouraged and resting under this massive growing kingdom. How about you? This Sunday we look at the parables where Jesus explains these to His disciples. See you at 10:30 at church or on line.
Also, this Saturday our men will gather from 8 to 9:30 for breakfast and our Bible study on 1 Timothy 2 in the Fireside Room.