Paul and the Viper*
TO CHEW ON: " ' And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents, and if they will drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.' " Mark 16:17-18
What an incredible list of predictions Jesus makes here, of signs that will follow those who spread the gospel:
1. They will have power over the demonic realm (Mark 16:17).
Luke recounts an almost humorous incident showing the unique power that Jesus' followers have in this area. When some Jewish exorcists use the name of Jesus without the power of true faith in Him, the demon responds: "Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are you?" Then the possessed man beats up the exorcists - Acts 19:13-16.
2, They will have new powers of communication: " ' … speak with new tongues' " (Mark 16:17).
I understand this promise to involve more than only the glossolalia of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). It is that for sure, i.e. the power to communicate in languages not learned. But I believe it is also the tongue used in private prayer and self-edification (1 Corinthians 14:2,4, 14-16). And, I would submit, we could also make a case for the new tongue including the tongue of boldness, so evident in the early Christians (Acts 4:31).
3. They will have remarkable protection (Mark 16:18).
The experience of Paul in the Island of Malta brings Jesus' words to life about protection from snakes (Acts 28:3-6). And to the protection stories from Acts we could add the testimony of Christians experiencing unusual protection through the centuries. In this department, I love the saying attributed to Henry Martyn: "I am immortal until God's work for me to do is done. The Lord reigns" (from Inspirational Quotes).
4. They will have unusual power to heal (Mark 16:18).
This comes true for the Apostles in Acts as we see them perform numerous healings, sometimes even raising people from the dead (Acts 3:7-11; 5:12-16; 9:3-9, 32-35, 39-42; Acts 14:8-18; 16:18; 20:8-12; 28:8-9).
The question I ask myself is, do these signs still follow the spread of the gospel today? Are these things our experience? Some have developed a hermeneutic which says the signs and wonders seen in Acts were only for that time. However the words we read today are attributed to Jesus. The evangelical church doesn't take His command to " ' preach the gospel to every creature' " as only for the apostolic time. So why do we often wave off the signs that confirm the gospel as meant exclusively for an earlier age?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, please confirm Your reality, power and word with signs and wonders again. Amen.
MORE: Modern prayer for spiritual awakening
Bible teacher Beth Moore has written an impassioned "Intercessory Prayer for Awakening." Read it HERE.
The Feast of St. Mark Evangelist.
Today the church celebrates the Feast of Mark the Evangelist, the author of the Gospel of Mark and today's Bible reading.
This Collect begins the day's liturgy:
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
* Illustration of "Paul and the Viper"
Illustration from Volume 10 of The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, edited by Charles F. Horne and Julius A. Bewer, published by Francis R. Niglutsch, New York, in 1910. Many of the original paintings were in color, but were published in this book in black and white.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.