Black faced Impala in the Etosha Pan Nature Reserve (Namibia) . Photo : J.Rieck

Monday, July 14, 2014

Soccer - the New Religion ?

Soccer world cup 2014  in Brazil  has now truly   come and gone! 

We have enjoyed a  month of  great soccer.  The standard of  soccer is phenomenal, and one cannot but admire the skill of the modern  soccer players whose  brains are surely in their feet.   It is indeed “the beautiful  game” - a term apparently  coined by  the sports commentator Stuart  Hall in 1958 .  And what  a  great demonstration  once again of the fact that a united team   is  a formidable  team !

Statue of Christ the Redeemer  in Rio de Janeiro  in front of a full moon 
And yet  I can’t help but thinking that  soccer  has become  a  religious  affair. 

Think about this :  The  soccer players  huddle together for prayer  before the  game. They  look to   whatever god to answer their  prayer  for a win. They give whatever god the glory when they score  a goal . They  make the sign of the cross  before they go  on,    or  come off the field .  The coach   acts  the “pastor or priest ”,  and the players  perform  the sacred rites  trying to please the gods.  The   strongest god on that day wins !  The stadium is the cathedral (the soccer temple) and the tens of thousands are the worshipers, fervently praying  to their gods  for their team to win. In the process  they  become an emotional community,  singing  their anthems (hymns) ,  and raise their hands  like a bunch of charismatic worshipers!

I came across a blog written by Jonathan A. Lopez,   in which the fact that “soccer is religion  is  unashamedly asserted .  He writes :  “What is it about soccer that creates these emotions and feelings found in events like the World Cup? Well, there is a simple response to this. Soccer is no longer just a sport but a religion. To be specific, it is a civil religion. According to author Jordi Xifra, the term "civil religion"refers to a religion that demonstrates both the moral and spiritual values of a community or modern society. It is meant to uphold the political and social culture of a people. It involves myths, symbols of popular devotion, and public rituals. In light of this, civil religion stresses identity amongst a people. .

Sport  in general  is  indeed  the  primary religion of the world of our  day, although  it had been common  in the days of the  ancient Greeks and Romans,   who  in their times had built impressive sport stadiums.  An interesting article in this regard can be found at :

A Christian Mind ?

Christians  need to  think  carefully  about the the place and influence of sport  in society . Here are  a couple of my personal  reflections on the matter : 

1.      Our world   continues   to seek human heroes whom they  may  idolize.  Sport  and music  are  the primary  contemporary forums  for this purpose. This desire for  ‘idols‘  is   an indication  of  the fact that the human heart is made for worship.  Unfortunately  human sin and  pride refuses to come  to  God the Creator, choosing   to exchange the truth of God for a lie, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans  1:25) 

2.     Is it possible  to  enjoy sport  (soccer)  in a God centred way ?  I believe that it is. There are many things that are good about   sport. Physical discipline , endurance , patience , commitment , fair play , consideration of the other  team member, team effort, enjoyment, skill , humility (the  ability to  lose  gracefully)    are all godly virtues , and those who practise them ,  may glorify God  in them.  Eric Lidell[1] (1902 – 1945)  a Scottish athlete, Rugby player and missionary , made famous by the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire”,    is a famous example  of a  man  who glorified God in  the sport arena.

3.     Having said this, it is doubtful that the 2014  Soccer World cup displayed  much of God’s glory. Rather, it was an exercise of human glory, (and make no mistake – it was glorious!) – but it  was a cheap imitation of  the Glory of God .  Sadly,  when human glory  eclipses  God’s glory    it becomes idolatry  and so we are tempted  to become  children of a lesser god.    

So, how  did  I  as a Christian,  deal with  the world cup?  I enjoyed  it for what it was. I enjoyed the skill  of the players  and the  thrill  of competition. 
I even chose a side  - that side which happened to win the world cup this year! But I refused to pray for the German team to win J. I determined not  to  have a blue Monday, just   in  case they had lost  the match on Sunday evening  L

I refuse to  build my  hope on something  that is  nice but … ultimately oh so superficial and so utterly inconsequential  and  so temporary !

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest  frame , but wholly lean on Jesu’s Name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand!
All other ground is sinking sand !

(Edward Mote – 1832)

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Please note:  This article is not an attack on western people. I myself am a product of  European Western culture.  There are however many aspects about modern western culture that are deeply subversive to the Christian faith. They must be named ,  they must  be warned against and  they must be avoided.

We must admit that western   culture has a winsome flavour.  Everything,  from TV programs and movies,  from to fashion to food, and  from  western Christmas celebrations   to   western  Christian wedding rites  is being exported into all the world. The  West  has become the pacesetter  in many things . The world desperately seeks to imitate the West.   India can come up with nothing better than calling its growing movie industry ‘Bollywood’! 
Christian Dior, Mercedes Benz , Coca Cola , Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mc Donald’s are house brands in every part of the world. Truly, it seems as if western civilization has subdued the modern earth and…  Namibia.  

Do we want Western  Democracy and Capitalism ?

Most political  systems ( except those  guided by an explicit atheism)   will work provided  that God fearing men  are behind it. 
There is the problem … the lack of God fearing men in western democratic and  capitalistic  thinking!  But capitalism   without Christ  is catastrophic !   Democracy without  Deity  is dangerous!  Man’s pursuit  of  life  without God as the final  reference point  is  self –destructive!

Many seem to think  that   western    economic systems are biblically   sanctioned. After all, they appear to be successful on the surface of things. Are  we  saying  that  democracy  or capitalism  is  God’s truth per se  because we perceive it  to be  successful? Health, wealth and prosperity teachers seem to think so, but the biblically saturated mind can come to no such conclusion.   The parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21)  teaches us that  wealth is  a deceptive measurement for success .

Western culture is not presently influenced by a God-centered worldview. If the truth be  told  modern   western culture is  strongly  influenced by ‘secular humanism’ ,  a man centered worldview.  We must never  forget  that  the present  form  of western  humanism  was  conceived during  the  French Revolution   in 1789, when  the  “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”  was formulated.  Now to be  fair, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”    was  formulated  against the background of severe political and spiritual abuses by the French monarchy which was  then  in cahoots with the Roman Catholic Church. 

The authors of the humanist declaration rightly  rejected the   concept of the “divine right of kings“ and they  rightly rejected the false authority of the Roman Catholic church, but they made a huge mistake  by excluding God and His Word  from their manifesto, which was  based on what they called,  “natural law”.  This secular document  succeeded  to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and it has managed  to   dispose  of God centered thinking  in terms  of  politics,  economics, science, education   etc. , giving  rise to the thought of the ‘secular state’ – an ideal also enshrined in the “Preamble of the Namibian Constitution” !  

In tandem  with  this  concept of  “natural law”  the  theory of evolution , the brainchild of Charles Darwin  (1809 – 1882)  was  conceived and   born into  the framework  of  western  thinking  in the 19th century.  The ‘theory of evolution’ became the replacement for the biblical account of creation. This secular doctrine of creation provided an alternative viewpoint to the  biblical  view  of  “creatio ex nihilo”  by a Sovereign Creator,  and it helped the secular humanists to do away with the thought of God.  

Western Culture   as the Primary Exporter of Immorality

While the western world cannot be held solely responsible for the degree of moral decay in the world  (for clearly every  human heart  without Christ  is  a fallen heart – Romans 3:23 ), we do know that the   present western world  has been the leader  and  prime exporter of    perverse sexuality. Apart from the dissemination   and legalizing of pornography in   so called ‘western liberal societies’, many forms of deviant sexual expression have come to the world through the western door.   The west leads the world in presenting homosexuality as ‘normal’ sexual behaviour.  From a biblical worldview[1]   this clearly clashes with Scripture and with nature.  Can the Anglican Church in Africa   with good conscience look to the mother church in the UK for an unflinching commitment   to the authority of Scripture?    Thank God that African Anglicans are taking a strong stance against the homosexual agenda of the western liberals!

The West also leads the agenda on gender equality, maintaining that there is no functional difference between male and female. [2]  In this regard we   are made aware of some   bizarre stories, like the Canadian couple in Toronto raising their 4-month-old without identifying the child as a boy or a girl. This, as you might imagine created a media firestorm in Canada:

Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are raising their third child, Storm, to be free of societal norms regarding gender. Is Storm male or female? The parents won't say, so no one knows except Storm's older brothers, Jazz and Kio, as well as a close family friend and two midwives who helped deliver the baby, according to the Toronto Star.” (Fox news:  24th May 2011).

A BBC report of the 7th July 2011 reports that Sweden has opened its first gender neutral school! Where is this happening? Not in Namibia – not in Africa! This is happening in the so called western world!

Do we really want to look to the church in the western world as our definitive guide for life and faith in these challenging days?

The liberal theology   of the 18th  century  which   has  so profoundly undermined  the historic Christian faith   came as a reaction to the 16th century  theology of the Reformers, and it  has been much more insidious  and  subversive  and  devastating  in terms of  its effects,  than the Roman Catholic “Counter Reformation” of the 16th century.

Whereas  the  theologians  of the Reformation  affirmed the  SOLA SCRIPTURA principle – namely  that the  Bible  was  the Word of God , and as such  they affirmed  that  it  was  authoritative  and sufficient, Liberal theology (one of the horrible  children  begotten  of humanism), “made in 18th Century Germany”[3]  did exactly the opposite. It dismantled the Scriptures and rendered them “unbelievable“ and thus essentially useless!
Human opinion triumphed and was declared sovereign.   The venerable, God fearing evangelical  Dr. Martin Luther would turn in his grave if he  knew how neo- Lutheranism has infected an overwhelmingly large number of Lutherans with this liberal virus.
This liberal virus had affected every Protestant denomination.  My own Baptist denomination  were not immune from this cancer.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon a prominent Reformed Baptist of the 19th century battled the forces of the German led “Higher Criticism movement” which was undermining the English Baptists’ historically solid view of the authority of Scripture.  He was  eventually excommunicated from the fellowship of English Baptist churches, because he dared to challenge the liberalism of the 19th century church.

Liberalism and the 20th century Western Charismatic Phenomenon

Theological liberalism is a destroyer of the Word of God , and thus it is a destroyer of  the biblical church.  But it has a surprising ally, which came to us from the American   West : the Pentecostal  and Charismatic movement!
I know that many would like to make a distinction between the two, and there are always exceptions,   but it must be said that Pentecostalism is the seed bed for the later charismatic movement. 
This movement  rooted in the “1906 Azusa  Street  revival” , a spin off  from  the 1904 Welsh revival began to make more of signs , wonders and ecstatic phenomena  than of  the  plain revelation  of the Word of God. The results are now clearly seen.  American neo-Pentecostals  having dismantled the  SOLA SCRIPTURA principle  now have the world eating out of their  hands.  They are now the prime exporters of the new health, wealth and prosperity message.  It is amazing to see how Africans have bought into  Americans T.V. preachers  like  Benny Hinn, Fred Price, Joyce Meyer, and Myles Munroe etc. . . .  These  western figures  have become celebrity figures in Africa! 

Apart from this the western world in America has become the prime exporter of cults and sects into the world! Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, Scientology, Seventh Day Adventism etc. . . . .  These weren’t born in Africa, they were born in America - but they flourish here!
The 20th century Pentecostal and Charismatic movements (which were born in the west)   have continued to dismantle the  authority of the Scriptures  as they generally relied  more on  their prophets , healers and tongue speakers  than on the  Word of  God.

The result is that we are now speaking about a post Christian world – a term that, I believe may have been coined by the eminent  American-Swiss theologian, Dr. Francis Schaeffer.  Dr. Schaeffer observed that   western culture has continued to flourish for a while on the residual moral principles taught by Christianity; on what the Christian philosopher     Henry Van Til called “borrowed capital”. The sun of the gospel which once shone so brightly in the west is setting at an alarming rate!

My question is  this : Does the African church  at large wish to continue borrowing from the morally and spiritually bankrupt West?  I know that there are wonderful exceptions  in the West, but it cannot be denied  that  the African church by and large feeds  on the West.  

When will  Africa  choose  to obey  the Word of God rather than the  enticing  and corrupt  values of  the West?

[1] Romans 1:18-32
[2] Gen 1:27 ; Eph 5 :22-33
[3] The Higher criticism movement  led by the likes of Graf Julius von Wellhausen  led the charge  to destroy the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

Friday, May 23, 2014


 In taking  a look  at their  calendars , many people  will be asking themselves  this coming week : “ Thursday,  29th May— Ascension Day.”  “What on earth is that?”  Why Ascension day ? Christmas we know , Easter we know – but  what is  Ascension day ?  And why should this still be a  public holiday  to be remembered on our  yearly calendar ?

Ascension Day marks the day when our dear   Lord Jesus  Christ ascended up into Heaven , following His days of humiliation on earth , when He had taken on the nature of a lowly servant , to take up His visible glory once more  (John 17:5) .  

This  happened  40 days after His resurrection from the dead, which this  year was commemorated  on   Sunday  the 20th  of April.  Following that , after  40 days from  that  Easter Sunday , you get  to  Ascension Day—Thursday, the 29th of May.

It  is an amazing fact that Ascension day still  forms  part of our Namibian   national calendar, for after all our country’s  constitution  claims  to be secular –  that is . without favour towards  any particular  religion. 

It is amazing to think that a  day of such little   relevance in the eye of the general public   (and sadly even the church)  should   still  occupy  a  reason for people to stop doing any work on this Thursday  and to  remember  this significant event on the Christian church calendar . 

I see this as divine providence, and therefore I call all Christians to   make this a day  of praise and worship . 

If you live in Windhoek and you read this , and if your church does not have a service of remembrance on this day , that I take the liberty to invite you to our service . 

Join us then on    this coming Thursday  29th May   at Eastside Baptist Church  from  09h30 - 10h30   to  worship our ascended Lord Jesus.

I believe  that   this day publicly  recognized  on our national calendar   singularly honours   our  Lord  Jesus , and therefore I say :  “God bless Namibia !”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Biblical Counselling In Namibia: Why We Are Making This A Part Of Our Church’s ministry ?

My own  pilgrimage in  the field of counselling began  in 1986 when I  was a student  at  a seminary in Cape Town. Our  lecturer  at that time  in the field of counselling  was  a committed Rogerian[1] ( which is also known as Client Centred Therapy). I was exposed to and trained in this method, but  we were given no assurance that we could handle the difficult counselling cases that would arise  in the church.

Our lecturer taught us  to refer   and defer   the afflicted  church member   to the  ‘professionals’  – i.e. the psychologist and the psychiatrist. So,  if  the  church member was depressed or anxious  or if  he or she  showed  any  signs of  abnormal behaviour, they were  to be  referred to the ‘helping team‘ -  the psychologist or psychiatrist. This greatly discouraged me   at that time, for I really wanted to be a pastor  who  could help his people.  And so the inevitable question arose:  “ if  I really want  to help people, should I not become  a  psychologist ?”  

Three   major  questions   circulated  in my mind :
 1.     Unless the pastor  has additional training in psychology,  should  he  be counselling his people?
 2.     Is the  Bible   a sufficient  help  for  the wide range  of  counselling needs of the congregation?
 3.     Who did the counselling before  the  emergence of  psychology – which,  as we know is  a  relatively 
        new discipline ?

Dr Jay Adams 
My search for alternatives began in about 1987  and in the course of time  I  came across  the book  “Competent to Counsel”  by  Jay Adams[2] . I was intrigued by the fact  that here was a Reformed  theologian  and pastor who had dared  to  effectively challenge   the  counselling systems   of    revered  icons  of the   world of psychology,  such as  Sigmund Freud  and Carl Rogers. 

 Jay Adams answered  all three of my questions. He  believed   that counselling belonged to the church and her ministers. He believed  that the Bible was a sufficient guide   to  help people  with  their varied psychological problems. He believed that this had been the work of the church long before psychology made its entrance  on the world stage .

I am aware  of the fact that  Jay Adams  has  received  a lot of criticism – and much of it from  Christian quarters  – but  after 25 years in the pastoral ministry, I have  rarely found  a better  way than that which Jay Adams  had  led   me to. 
You see, as  a historic Protestant I am committed to  the principle  of the sufficiency of Scripture  (SOLA SCRIPTURA).  I believe in the  power of the Gospel. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe that  He has delegated  His authority to the church  to  make  obedient disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). I believe  in the Holy Spirit  who comforts,  counsels  and  convicts  the world  of sin through the work of the church.

I have come to see that  pure psychology (if there is such a thing) is  nothing less than  a  humanistic substitute  for biblical theology and biblical anthropology  - the basis of all  genuine pastoral work.   Modern psychology is  essentially steeped  in humanistic  thinking   with respect to   the problems  of  the psyche  (soul)  of man.  It is an attempt to get rid of God and the Bible when dealing  with people. The  system of evolution  is its  willing handmaiden,  for the doctrine of evolution  is an attempt  to replace the Christian concept of a  personal Creator - God. The atheistic doctrine  of  “evolution”  ( i.e.  a series  of impersonal, random,  chance happenings)  is an attempt  to  do away  with  mankind’s personal accountability to  its Creator.

Sadly, many Christians have bought into  the psychological model of counselling.  In many cases  psychology (in its various  forms and expressions) has been  dressed up  in Christian language  to make it acceptable to the church. There is of course   some overlapping of  Biblical counselling with  the insights that  psychologists  derive from empirical  evidence and observation. The difference between biblical counselling and humanistic psychology  lies  in the ultimate questions and answers that only the Bible  provides.  A secular psychologist may  describe a symptom , but he fails  to prescribe    an accurate  cure  when he or she ignores  biblical  revelation about the nature of man and God. And so it is  that medications have become the ‘miracle  cure’ of the modern  psychologist. They   appear to provide relief for a tortured soul - but  they do not provide  ultimate relief.  Psychological medications do not deal with  ultimate problems of the soul. They   mask  the symptoms, and  do not really  deal with the symptoms.  

Biblical counselling is  no easy walk in the park! I have come to see that  authentic Christian counselling, or Biblical counselling  is hard work. There is nothing simplistic about it. It presupposes that the counselor knows  God  and the Bible  really well. It presupposes that  there is a true understanding of  the  fallen-ness of man with respect to his Creator  and hence an understanding  of the nature of sin  and its terrible effects  upon the world. It presupposes that  there is  a healing balm -  a  solution to mankind’s dilemma. It presupposes that God in His mercy has provided  a solution for sin. He is Christ the Saviour. It presupposes that this Saviour  has mandated His church  to exercise her  spiritual gifts among other things   for the healing  of  sick souls. It presupposes that this Saviour has invested real power in His church.  He has given the church   power and wisdom  and knowledge and prayer  to  truly help  tortured souls in this world.  All that genuinely come to Him He will never drive away.  

Wayne and Carol Mack at Eastside 2014 
Now   Dr.  Jay Adams  is the  father of the modern  biblical counselling movement, and  Dr. Wayne Mack, another venerable pioneer  in the Biblical Counselling movement  has  recently told me, “we all stand upon  the  shoulders  of Jay Adams”.  Dr Mack considers  Jay Adams as a modern Martin Luther, leading the church back to her true  roots and  to her source of  true authority in the field of   the care of the soul .  
We are thankful that others,  such as the men and women of the  Christian Counselling and Education Foundation (CCEF)  have followed in his footsteps to recover for us  a  renewed  confidence  in the  sufficiency of the Bible  with respect to  the discipline of counselling .

Tedd Tripp at Eastside 2013 
At Eastside Baptist Church   we  have been using the material of   Jay Adams, Wayne Mack  and the Christian  Counselling and Education  Foundation, and   the material of men such as Tedd and  Paul Tripp  and  many others   to provide  sound counselling resources for our people .

In 2013   Anita Manthe, a graduate  in Biblical Counselling from  the  Master’s  College  in Los Angeles, USA has  joined us, and   our elders have  felt compelled to  make use of her skills.

We  had invited  Dr Wayne Mack  who  has  resided in South Africa for a number of years now, and who is a director  of “ Strengthening Ministries Training International “  (SMTI) ,   to visit us in April 2014 with the view to  help us  to  establish  a biblical counselling  center  in our country.

We  have now established a Biblical Counselling  office at Eastside  Baptist Church,  and  we have formally  registered the  Biblical Counselling Association of Namibia ( BCAN) with the local authorities.   
As from   the 22nd of May  2014 we will  begin with  formal  biblical counselling training   with  the help of   Dr Mack’s  DVD  material.

So why are we  doing this?

1.     We believe  that   biblical counselling  helps the church  to truly reach out  with the compassion of Christ and the wisdom of His word  to a needy world .

2.     For many years we have been asking  how we can  get practically involved in our community  in a life transforming way.  Our  conviction is  that the church exists  to make Christ  known through  His Word.  This happens through the regular and faithful proclamation of the Word of God  through our regular church services  and  in our  small groups. Many people  in our community however  do not darken the door of   a church. However, since  our  community   is extremely needy  in terms of marriage  issues, child raising issues, financial  issues  and similar  other  matters we  will be able to reach into their hearts  through this means. Personal counselling and  regular  seminars that will  speak to  the community’s  real needs will go a long way  to help.

3.     We are committed to train and disciple  skilfull , thoughtful, loving  biblical counsellors   who will go a long way  to  help our community  to find the Lord Jesus Christ  as a living  LORD , and who through obedience to His Word  are enabled to live truly happy lives .  

Please pray for us and  encourage us  in this work ! 

Interested people in Namibia are  welcome to contact  Anita Manthe  or Pastor Joachim Rieck  for further information.  

[1] Named after Carl Rogers  ( 1902 – 1987) an influential American psychologist  and among the founders of the humanistic approach  (or client-centered approach) to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.
[2] Jay E. Adams : Competent to Counsel,  Presbyterian & Reformed , 1970 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


MARK 16 
The sequence  of this Easter weekend  has been: (i)  Thursday: the night  He was betrayed  (ii) Friday  : the cross  (iii) Saturday : the silent  day – the grave  when Jesus rested  on the Sabbath  day from  His  work  on the cross  (iv) and now  the first day of the week (16: 2)  the day of the resurrection. Everything happened , just as  Jesus  had said  in   Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34.  He had said  that He would  be killed and  after three days He would be raised again.

As we survey the text in Mark 16, I do need to briefly draw you attention to the fact that the oldest and most reliable New Testament manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20 - the ending to Mark’s gospel. Most scholars think that it is a later addition, for if the gospel had ended at verse 8, it would have been an unusually rather abrupt ending . The thought is that someone, who had later made a copy of this gospel had thought that a proper ending was needed. Whether this is so, we cannot ultimately say, but what can we say about the truths taught in the ending of Mark? Apart from verses 17 and 18 there is nothing unusual or controversial here. It is in harmony with the other gospels. So, we will not major on those minor issues. We will focus on the big theme of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ , and as we now consider the entire chapter, we see two repeated phrases that dominate this text :

         (i)           The first phrase is this: “They did not believe !” The first fact before us is that no-one of Christ’s close associates really believed Him when He said that He would be raised from the dead! We will consider this in a moment as we take note of the recurring “unbelief “ of all concerned. We must not read ‘unbelief’ here as something of a final fact. These people all loved Jesus deeply! They missed him sorely. They mourned and wept (16:10). Mary Magdalene owed him her life for Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her (16:9). The two walking in the country (16:12) were according to Luke (24: 13-35) talking about these things , one to one another on the road to Emmaus, and it is clear that they were disappointed and depressed at this thought that Jesus had been crucified and buried in a grave. The language of the text reveals this! This has nothing to do with cynical unbelief . In their hearts and minds they were simply not able to bring themselves to believe that people came back from the dead , after all the facts speak for themselves : no one comes back from the dead! So, we need to tread softly here as we exercise restraint in our judgement of them. At all times we need to remember that God is at work here! As God, He has the sovereign prerogative to suspend the laws of nature. Jesus demonstrated this on many occasions[1] , thereby proving that the kingdom of God had arrived on earth .

           (ii)       The second phrase is this : “He appeared . Three times this phrase is repeated in verses 9-20:  In 16: 9, “he appeared first to Mary Magdalene”; 16: 12, “he appeared in another form to two of them,” ; 16:14, “Afterward He appeared to the Eleven themselves ….”.

These two phrases then govern Mark Chapter 16 , and these we want to consider now as work with our text :

          1. They did not believe ! 

We see this typical human behaviour reflected in our text , and we examine ourselves in this mirror . 

(i) The women : Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, after the Sabbath was past at about 6 pm on Saturday. They did this for the purpose of anointing the dead body of Jesus. That in itself is a sign of unbelief . If Jesus said that He would rise on the third day, then there was actually no need to buy these funeral spices. All they needed to do was to wait for the resurrection ! But they clearly did not expect the resurrection. So, when they came to the tomb the next day (the first day of the week), they saw that the tomb stone had been rolled away . John records that Mary Magdalene had run back to tell Peter about this. She reported (note the language!) … “ They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” (Jn. 20: 2,13). No thought of the resurrection ! Even when Jesus appeared to her a little later, she thought that He was the gardener (Jn. 20:15) supposing that he might have carried the body of Jesus away. Only when Jesus addressed her by name, “ Mary” (Jn. 20:16 ; Mk 16:9) , did she recognise Him. This is the power of unbelief ! There are none as blind as those who will not see! The fact is that we choose to see what we want to see. However , as I reminded you, this is not cynical unbelief- and yet we shall see that it is sinful unbelief.

(ii) The disciples : the angel at the tomb confirms the fact of the resurrection to the women : “Do not be alarmed, you seek Jesus of Nazareth , who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here … but go and tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he has told you” (vv. 6,7) . This induced terror into these poor women and when they told the grief stricken disciples ,they would not believe her ! Observe the power of unbelief, but do not judge them too harshly, lest you find yourself guilty of the same sin . The thought of resurrection of the dead does not yet feature as a possibility in their range of thinking . Even though they have heard the Lord Jesus saying this to them, they did not hear Him! We all engage in selective hearing. We all choose to hear what we want to hear! [2] Jesus repeatedly challenges us in the Bible to consider carefully how we hear [3] !

(iii) Thirdly , Mark’s account in vv. 12 - 13 relates an incident found in Luke’s gospel (Lk. 24:13-32) where two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus . Lost in grief, and being depressed about the things that had happened to Jesus in Jerusalem ,‘their eyes were kept from recognising him’ (Lk. 24:16) as He joined them. Later when He opened their eyes to recognize Him (Lk 24:31) they told the rest , but again we read ,  ”… but they did not believe them.”

(iv) In verse 14 we find the 11 disciples at table in Galilee, when Jesus joins them, and we read, “...and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen .” This is an important insight. Jesus categorizes this unbelief as sinful hardness of heart !

Now, you may say : “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart“. We modern New Testament believers, having been exposed to the Easter story for so many years may find it easier[4] to believe in the resurrection , than the women and the disciples who were Jesus’ friends because we have become used to the idea ! The thought that really challenges me is this : If I believe in the resurrection of Christ , and do not question this because the resurrection is now an established, historical fact , then do I also believe in the second coming of the Lord Jesus ? The thought challenges me, because in reality we seem to live with such little anticipation of the second coming . Do you get the point ?

2. He Appeared !
The appearances of Jesus were the grounds for believing in His resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 the apostle Paul speaks of many more resurrection appearances , “…he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Paul wrote these words about 20 years after the resurrection. Many of those who met the risen Jesus Christ were still alive at that time. From Paul’s perspective the evidence for the resurrection is utterly overwhelming!

The resurrection appearances were not that of a ghost. This was a physical Christ! He spoke to Mary; He spoke to the men on the Emmaus road; they also had a meal together on that occasion . The apostles ate fish that Christ had caught and prepared at the seaside . Ghosts don’t do breakfast for their friends!

"He appeared", says Mark three times. "He appeared" , says Paul 4 times in the letter to the Corinthians just quoted.

Peter says the same thing in Acts 10:39-41 in the home of a Roman soldier: “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem . They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”

This is what we also affirm today on this Resurrection Sunday. He appeared ! We have to get over the fact that supernatural is not irrational ! Yes, we do not understand how a man can die and live again, but are we saying and assuming that we can know everything? Surely our experience tells us that we don’t know everything! There is the planet Mars , and we have a rover there , but the truth is that we know very little about Mars. There’s a little girl born in our midst, and the doctors say that she has no brain tissues developing while she is in her mother’s womb . Abortion is the counsel by many ‘ experts ‘ . This little girl is 5 or 6 years old today and she is a normal little girl . How do you explain that? The doctors can’t! Yes, we can’t explain the resurrection , but the evidence is overwhelming !

Where does the knowledge of the Resurrection leave us?

The ending of Mark (16:15-20) like Matthew 28 :18-20 leaves us with the Great Commission. The resurrection leaves us with an evangelistic duty to perform.

For almost six weeks before the Ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ was with the disciples and then He gave them a great commission; He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” .
Verse 20 tells us “ and they went out and preached everywhere.” They went out and out and it was not long before their world knew that there was a resurrected Saviour whom God had sent to save ,from their sins, those who would believe in Him. Soon there were believers everywhere – in Rome , in Corinth, Ephesus …in every major city in Asia minor – in the Roman and Greek world, spreading into North Africa and Europe and into the Far East. Many of them experienced persecution and sufferings; numbers lost their lives doing this work. They endured it all. Would they have done this if they weren’t convinced that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead and had commanded them to go?

What else can explain the fact of the growth of the church in the world today ? Thank God for Resurrection Sunday! Without Christ's resurrection there would have been no hope for the world . Amen!

[1] i.e. when He  healed the sick instantly ; when He turned water into wine ; when He cast out demons; when  He walked on water and calmed the wind ; when  He raised  people  like Lazarus from the dead.
[2]  The doctrine  of election  is a  classic case . How many  of us  are not initially  refuse to hear  this biblical truth and are angry  with  those that preach it ?
[3]  E.g. Mk  4:9,23,24 ; 8:18
[4] although many  modern sceptics , unbelievers ,  atheists   and religious people like the Muslims  question the resurrection