The road to “Paradise” is bumpy, rough, and the environment is hostile to people, who are determined to take the narrow gate and the hard way; and on which few travelers are headed in the direction of eternal life (Matthew 7:13-17). There are no comfort stations or rest areas. Jesus had not even a rock for his pillow (Luke 9:58). Yet, a few women provided the basic needs for Jesus and his disciples (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56).
Like Their Lord, The Apostles Were to Owe Nothing — But the Gospel
After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. God your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades (Luke 10:1-16).
How was Jesus’ Mission Financed?
Jesus had ordered his followers to make friends with mammon (Luke 16:9). The people Jesus sent out to proclaim the Good News were instructed to find hosts, who could afford lengthy stays of news bearers (Matthew 10:11-13). Jesus, Himself, befriended men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, in whose tomb and garden Jesus’ body was laid (John 19:38-42). These two men, along with Joseph Barnabas and John Mark, went on the lonely road to Paradise with Jesus and made their income available to Jesus and His Kingdom (Acts 4:36; 12:12). We are not told how Jesus became friends with Mary the mother of John Mark, the mystery disciple who was with Peter before and after the resurrection of Jesus. It was this lady and her son, who hosted the stay and “Passover” for Jesus and his followers; and it was this John, who had the means to provide for Jesus’ mother and family, and for one hundred twenty more followers of Jesus. John Zebedee had nothing to care for Jesus’ mother and family with. Would Jesus not have rejoiced when the rich young ruler, whom Jesus also loved, walked away, but later returned and he became John Mark (Mark 10:17-22)? Jesus did not exclude rich people from joining Him on the road to “Paradise.”
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, bu not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Bu many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:23-31).
The Home of Mary and John Mark Became a Comfort Station on the Road to Paradise
Regardless how good and how devoted a poor person is, without a livelihood and a recharging place, the journey to “Paradise” can become unreachable. Now, if this young ruler was John Mark and if he had sold out, then who could have taken in the family of Jesus, his disciples, and served one hundred and twenty people at times? The early disciples, and especially Paul, had understood that Jesus would return in their lifetime, gather up the disciples, and remove them from the world (Matthew 24:31; I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Because of their anticipation of leaving the world, people stopped working, they began to sell off their holdings, and they ended up creating severe food shortages, and also health problems (Acts 4:32-37). The Gentile disciples were instructed to assist the Jerusalem disciples (Acts 6:1; Galatians 2:10; II Corinthians 9). These conditions may have induced the Romans to become involved in the Jewish religious affairs; and therefore, the Romans ended it all. But while it lasted, John Mark and Mary, his mother, were very likely the people that kept Jesus’ work alive with their abundant means and financed some of the missionary work. Therefore, Jesus must have been acquainted with John Mark’s family. How could Jesus tell the two disciple, whom He sent, what the place looked like for having His last meal with his disciples (Mark 14:15)? It became the place where the disciples hid after Jesus was taken from them, and where the “New Church” began (Mark 14:15: Acts 1:13; 12:12). Some one was able to befriend mammon and pay for “Jesus’ Kingdom” on earth.
John Mark was close to everything and everyone, who had something in common with Jesus and the Gospel. Luke and Matthew leaned heavily on Mark’s content and witness. Mark was the only one, who had access to the high priest and to Pilate’s residence. Mark also was a friend and a partner with Barnabas, who sold some property to help the struggling Church (Acts 4:36-37). Mark joined Paul and Barnabas in Jerusalem, spent considerable time in Antioch, and also went with them on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25). Mark did not approve of Paul’s ways; and therefore, he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul was displeased with Mark’s departure. And on his second journey, Paul refused to have Mark join his group. Paul chose Silas and because of it, he also lost Barnabas, who went with Mark on a separate journey (Acts 15:36-41). At that time, Luke, the writer, did not deem it necessary to follow the trail of Barnabas and John Mark. But when Mark became important for Luke and his account of Jesus; Paul too appreciated John Mark and he urged Timothy to bring him to Rome for consultation (II Timothy 4:11). Mark was a very close companion of Peter and he may have been already with Peter in Rome, where he too died and could not complete his gospel (I Peter 5:13).
The Parable of the Talents was Jesus’ Example of How to Finance the Road to Paradise
Jesus was the “Man” and “Owner” who had to leave and He entrusted His business and His Kingdom to his servants. It is up to them to finance and prepare the road to Paradise. The Master Jesus entrusted five talents to the most capable servant, two talents to one less capable servant, and one to a servant with no faith in himself. And what did the master expect from his servants?
For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at one and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now are a long time the master of those servant came and settled accounts with them.
And he who received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents me.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
He ask who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I new you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30).
The Road to Paradise is kept Open by Earthlings (Man) and Not by Celesial Beings
Jesus declared that He was the way back to Paradise (John 14:6). Jesus promised to start building the road and the Church with Peter, the first rock (Matthew 16:18). And therefore, Jesus trusted Peter with the first flock (John 21:15-19), and the flock with “His Kingdom” (Luke 12:32-34). The road is lit up by the lives and by the deeds of their converts (Matthew 5:14-16). Peter understood how the road to Paradise had to be build and so did the Apostle Paul:
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:4-5).
Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (I Corinthians 3:12-15).
Far too many think that they will squeeze into the Kingdom, but Jesus regarded such action and such behavior as foolish.
Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:24-27).
Therefore! Board the train — when you reach the platform:
Working together with him (Christ), then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:1-2).