On the night before His crucifixion, at the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:19). What an interesting statement for Jesus to make, knowing the disciples wouldn’t grasp it. One of them asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (14:22).
Of course, Jesus had a lesson in mind. He answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. . . . And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (14:23, 27, 29-31).
I have slightly abridged Jesus’ response here to bring into focus a theme He is driving at throughout this passage. That theme is separation. In these few verses, Christ makes three clear distinctions between His kingdom and the world: “The world will see me no more, but you will see me” (14:19). “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (14:27). “The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me” (14:30).
Why did Jesus make these distinctions to His followers? It seemed important to Him that we see the clear divisions between these things. The fact is, God makes such divisions throughout the Bible. At the Creation, He separated light from darkness and day from night. He separated Israel from all other nations. In the New Testament, He commands His Church, “Come out from among them and be separate.” And at the Judgment, He will separate sheep from goats. Throughout His Word, God constantly draws lines of division that tell us very clearly, “This is one thing and this is another.”
Let me ask you a question today on God’s behalf: Are you willing to love others the way Jesus commanded us to?
Will you be willing to open your home to others if necessary—to give of what you have to meet the needs of others in the Body of Christ? Will you be willing to be a vessel through whom God will give a drink to somebody who is thirsty? Food to somebody who is hungry? Clothing to somebody who is naked? Shelter to somebody without a home?
Now please don’t misunderstand me—I am not suggesting that you go out today and call a real estate agent, sell your house or your apartment, go to the bank to take out your savings and just throw it all to the wind. What I am saying is that God, foreseeing the days ahead of us, knows what we need to hear and consider, for this is what will earmark the true Church of Jesus Christ. Such was the case in the book of Acts: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47, NKJV).
When it says, “having favor with the people,” I believe it was exactly what Jesus told His disciples: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Over the past few decades, many have gone to great lengths to try to prove God’s presence among them. However, it is obedience to this new commandment that is the evidence! Tongues can be imitated, gifts of the Holy Spirit can be faked, prophecy can be of the flesh. All of these things can be fraudulent, but an ongoing, benevolent, self-sacrificing love for one another cannot be faked—at least not for very long. That is why if people in the world see the Body of Christ living in genuine fellowship—a stark contrast to the self-centeredness and divisions of this generation—they will have no choice but to acknowledge that this could be done only by the Spirit of God.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
How it must grieve our Lord when we forget His past victories in our lives, all His miracles of deliverance. He has called us His friends (see John 15:15), yet in our crises we often forget all about His faithful friendship. This is why Jesus warned the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees (in Mark 8). He told them, in essence, “If you come to Me with hard questions, don’t expect Me to answer if you have a heart of unbelief. You’re to come to Me with trust and faith, believing I am One greater than Solomon.”
In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples were again crossing a lake. This time, “There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:37). Waves flooded the boat, and the frantic disciples rushed to bail out the rising water. These were experienced fishermen, and they soon saw that their lives were in danger. They quickly awoke Jesus, who’d been asleep at the back of the boat, and cried, “Master, we’re going down!”
As I see Jesus being awakened, my flesh wants Him to encourage the disciples: “I’m so glad you woke Me. This is serious. You poor brothers, I’m sorry I let you endure this storm for so long. Forgive Me for not acting sooner. Hopefully, you didn’t think I was unconcerned about your crisis.”
No, Jesus’ reaction was just the opposite. He rebuked the disciples! “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Imagine what those men thought in that moment: “Did Jesus really expect us to stand in water up to our waists and have no fear? This is the worst storm we’ve ever faced. Waves are pouring in, the ship’s about to sink. Were we supposed to practice faith in a seemingly hopeless situation?”
The answer is: Yes, absolutely! Jesus was testing their faith. He wanted to know, “Will these followers trust Me in the face of death? Will they cling to their belief in Me?” In the flesh, Christ may have been asleep, but He was also God, and the Lord never sleeps: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
The devil’s threat to the Church today goes beyond the flood of filth being poured out on the earth. It’s beyond materialism, addictions or intense seductions. Our battle is one of faith. The more you set your heart to seek Jesus, the more vicious Satan’s attack on your faith becomes.
In recent months, I’ve heard confessions from godly saints who speak of awful attacks on their minds. They’re plagued by arrows of doubt and nagging questions about God’s faithfulness. Many are just staggering onward, wavering in their faith, thinking, “I don’t know if I can go on.”
There was this letter from a dear 81-year-old woman who wrote, “My husband is suffering with bone cancer, our son is dying of AIDS, and I’m slowly wasting away with diabetes.” As I read everything this family is enduring, I shook my head, wondering, “How could she possibly maintain her joy? This is too much for anyone to bear. Surely God will cut her some slack regarding her faith.”
And then I read the final paragraph of her letter: “In spite of it all, God is faithful. He has never once failed in any word He has promised us. We have given our son over into Jesus’ hands. And now we’re waiting for the day we see our blessed Lord face to face.”
Yes, the battle is all about faith. We see this illustrated in Mark 8, when Jesus had just fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Afterward, He got into a boat with His disciples and sailed for the other side.
“Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:14-21)
In Mark 4:2 we are told, “And [Jesus] taught them many things by parables.” Imagine what happened with the majority of that crowd after they went home. Neighbors crowded around them, anxious to know what Jesus had said: “What message did He bring? Tell us all you learned.” Those who had heard Him might have been able to repeat His parables but their words would have been dead, lifeless, with no impact or life-changing power.
I believe the same thing happens in Christ’s Church today. The word that goes forth from many pulpits is dead-letter, with no Holy Spirit revelation or power to deliver from sin. Then, when the people go home, many of them merely repeat the word they’ve heard without the life of the Spirit. What a contrast to the hungry disciples and the others who remained followers of Christ in this scene. These people represent everyone who hungers for God’s Word, and who will pursue Jesus at any cost to get it. They comprise a “Queen of Sheba Company,” servants who want Christ’s life-changing revelation.
How does Jesus respond to their pursuit? He says, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11). The Greek word for mystery here means secrets. In short, Christ reveals His secrets only to those who hunger for life-changing truth. He is saying, “If you want answers to your hard questions, pursue Me. Spend time with Me. I’ll reveal My Word to you, and show you truth that others don’t see.”
So, who are those “that are without” (Mark 4:11)? Jesus is referring to the multitudes who are not willing to wait upon Him. They won’t give up their comforts to do what is necessary to train their ear to His voice. They may come to church regularly and seek the Lord to meet all their human needs, but they’re not interested in knowing His voice beyond His ability to provide for them. His freeing truth remains a bafflement to them, a series of unopened riddles.