JANUARY 20th, 2019 PASTOR DON PIEPER
Right On The Mark! Isaiah 52:1-2,7-10/Mark 1:14-34
“A KINGDOM ON THE MOVE!”
Mark's is a concise, fast-paced gospel that reveals that the kingdom of God Jesus came preach-ing is on the move, and, what keeps it on the move, is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
But if the kingdom of God is near, as Jesus proclaims, and he comes to make it so by baptizing us in the Holy Spirit, how do we know we're moving in the Spirit? Is this what that looks like? (*)
I don't know... Looks kinda scarey...! Thankfully, our reading from Mark provides a few clues as to how we can identify this kingdom on the move. First of all, Mark draws us in to this movement in the way he frames Jesus' story. For instance, Mark tells us Jesus is on the move, walking along the shore of the Sea, inviting some local fishermen to join him. It’s a call to action: Come, follow me...!
You get the sense that they dropped what they were doing and had to hustle after him. Jesus doesn't stop, he's on the move, heading further down the seashore, he calls a couple of other fishermen and they immediately drop what they're doing and follow suit. Next thing we know, they're on the road together, heading north to the town of Capernaum. Jesus is on the move and if you want to follow him, as these four fishy fellows soon discover, you better keep up! In fact, his story has barely begun and already my Bible has to provide a map of his movements to help me keep track of them...!
Mark is emphasizing Jesus as a man of action. We're informed that once in Capernaum, “Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach”, (Mark 1:21) Mark doesn't bother reporting the content of his teaching. This stands out especially in light of the fact that “the people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them with real authority”, (Mark 1:22) and yet Mark tells us nothing of what Jesus taught there. Instead, Mark draws our attention to Jesus' actions, his casting out of an evil spirit.
What's more, Jesus is quoted only three times in the span of twenty verses, and each time Jesus speaks he uses the imperative verb tense, conveying an intense sense of urgency. What is the imperative verb tense? Every parent in the room has used it. Consider Calvin's mom...
Calvin: Hi Mom! I'm up! I'm up! I'm up!
Mom: Hey! Get back in bed! I mean it, Calvin! It's way too late for this nonsense!
Calvin : Wheee! I'm gonna watch TV! Ha, ha, ha!
Mom: Calvin, stop this! You go straight to bed!
Calvin: WAAUGH! I don't wanna go to bed! I wanna stay up! Put me down! I'm not tired!
AAAAA! Mom has to earn a night's respite from me.
His mom spoke almost exclusively in the imperative there. And what about the next morning?
Calvin: Brrr, it's freezing out there! I don't want to leave my nice warm bed. On days like this,
I wish mom would come in, lay an extra blanket over me, pat my head, and as I sink into
the pillow under the weight of the covers, she'd say....
Mom: HEY, LET'S MOVE IT!! This is the third time I've called you! You're going to miss the bus! LET'S GO!!
Calvin: These mornings are going to kill me.
Most moms are the masters of the imperative, but far more so, is Jesus. In fact, all three times Mark quotes Jesus, he's speaking in the imperative – the verb tense in ancient Greek that is used in the utterances of commands and statements conveying tremendous urgency: “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15)
All three verbs are in the imperative. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” (Mark 1:17) Two of the three verbs are imperative. “Be quiet! Come out of the man!” (Mark 1:25) Two verbs – both imperative! The point! From his actions to his words, everything about this Jesus of Nazareth, this messianic son of God, is tremendously urgent!
What's more – Jesus' words call for action! Repent and believe! Come, follow me! Be quiet; come out! The first is a call to action to those in the crowd intrigued with his teaching and miracles, the second is a call to action to those who seek to live as his followers, his Kingdom players, and the third is a call to action delivered to his enemy, the Lord of darkness and deception and his evil horde.
We looked at that first command last week. Here Jesus calls us to let go of the distractions and the counterfeit sources of security – all of which compete for our heart and devotion, evident in where we tend to spend our money and invest our time – and put our trust and hope in him.
Jesus' second command is delivered to those who are responding, seeking to go deeper, to learn, as any fisherman does, from someone who knows the trade, only now they'll learn to fish for people, to creatively draw others to the one who loves them inside and out!
Likewise, Jesus calls us to step and learn from him: “Come! Follow me and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17) And that's what he does! He reveals the power of God's love in action as he heals Peter's mother, sets a man in torment free, and makes a leper whole...
It's significant that immediately upon calling these four fishermen to follow him and learn the trade of being fishers for men and women that he encounters a man in the synagogue enslaved in the dark spiritual bonds of demonic possession. It’s as if Jesus is saying, do you want to follow my lead, than learn to trust in God so deeply, to love his hurting people so sincerely, that anything is possible.
In this kingdom, where Jesus reigns supreme, he pushes back the kingdom of darkness in very specific and dramatic ways. As John said of him, “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
Note, that's ALL the works of the devil. Jesus came to bring us victory – not only over our own sinfulness, but also against the enemy and the kingdom of darkness he's been trying to build around and within us. Mark very deliberately begins the story of Jesus' ministry with the account of his casting out a demon from a man in the synagogue. That's equivalent to Jesus showing up as the guest preacher here one Sunday and casting a demon out from one of us here at Redeemer. Does he still do such things...?
In his book, Miraculous Movements, Jerry Trousdale reports that anywhere from 50-70% of all the churches planted in the last decade in Muslim Africa, many of which were violently opposed to Christianity, experienced miracles of healing or deliverance as part of their church's birth.
In one such village, the mother of the local sheikh began to manifest demonic spirits. She was taken to a witch doctor, and then to the muslim teachers, to no avail. The sheikh also tried everything but nothing helped. He was told about a group of people meeting to pray with a local missionary so he brought his mother there, but as soon as she entered the doorway she froze up and collapsed on the floor, becoming so deathly still that she lay there for several days without stirring.
The mother of the household was a devout Christian and prayed for her several times every day and then on the eight day ,as she prayed, the woman suddenly sat up, ate something, and spoke clearly. Word traveled fast: “The sheikh's mother is healed. The spirits have been defeated!” The sheikh heard the news and came running. When he saw his mother eating and in her right mind he begged the believers to teach him about their God and that day he and his mother became followers of Jesus.
In the days that followed, that little hut looked like an outpatient clinic, a hospital for body and soul, as many were healed of ailments both physical and spiritual. Now that former sheikh is planting churches. There are now 17 churches in that community. Persecution is still strong, but there is a foot-hold of the gospel there, and it is the work of ordinary people achieving the extraordinary!
(from Jerry Trousdale's “Miraculous Movements”)
So how's this ministry of pushing back the darkness by advancing God's Kingdom achieved? It begins by silencing the demon or demons within. Too many of us give the enemy too much leverage in our lives by listening to and buying into his lies. If you find yourself perpetually subject to thoughts and feelings of doubt, discouragement, anger, fear or despair, the enemy's getting too much air time. There's a reason why Paul urges his friends to give thanks in all circumstances. Thanks and praise readjust our inner antenna to tune out the enemy's interference and tune in the Lord's providence.
Every time we share the Gospel and lead a lost person to Christ, every time we heal in his name, or forgive a grievous hurt, of pray someone out of captivity to the enemy, or speak an encouraging word even, or embody Christ's love to someone, we're destroying the works and lies of the enemy. When we step out in Kingdom work, reclaiming what's been lost, we extend the Kingdom of God!
When Peter witnessed to Cornelius, the Roman centurion stationed in Caesarea, Peter told him and his family: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to do kingdom work in his name, they came back amazed that even the demons submitted to them. Jesus' response? “Behold, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy...” (Luke 10:19) All who are in Christ have received this authority.
“Being in Christ is not a sugary Christian metaphor – it's a riveting spiritual reality that should send shock waves down our spine, just as it sends demons screaming!” (Thomas Torrance)
Being a Kingdom people means that like Him, we live our lives in agreement with heaven, speaking and acting to accomplish what God wants to do here on earth, and Mark's gospel makes it pretty clear what that is – to loving us into the kingdom by healing and liberating us...!
Robby Dawkins talks about his early years in youth ministry when one of the girls brought some of her friends. These friends had two other friends who were into vampires, one of whom would make little cuts on the girls and drink their blood. He went on to hypnotize them, telling them they're under his control, leading them into a room where he locked them in. From that point on, whenever they closed their eyes, dark spirits would torment them, particularly at night.
Robby urged them to accept Christ, and all but one of them eagerly did so. One by one they reported that the feeling of heaviness over them lifted. They were completely set free and began having amazing experiences with the Lord, including being filled with the Holy Spirit.
We really do have more authority than we realize. One of the primary battles Satan wages is his attempt to keep us from a full revelation of that. Called the Accuser, he works to keep us in poverty when it comes to knowing God's love and walking in the authority Christ has given us.
Jesus calls us to follow him, and as we walk in His footsteps, we'll see the demonstrable reality of the Kingdom break in around and through us. Not that everything happens just the way we want it to, because the Kingdom of God is near but not fully, it’s still coming, evident that even Jesus had to submit of suffering in this life. Yet wherever he went, he brought the breaking in of the Kingdom of God.
As Paul put it, “I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.... God has put all things under the authority of Christ...for the benefit of the church..., and the church is his body!”
How does this work? How can we grow in our confidence in our Christ-given authority as his ambassadors of his love and grace? How do we live that out? It's that question that Robby asks as well:
“How do we live that out? How do we demonstrate that we actually believe God will work thru us? We do it through praying, ministering, speaking and acting. There not a situation in the world God can't break into. When we walk into a situation as carriers of His presence and authority, God is there because we are there. He shows up because we've shown up and He's in us. This doesn't mean that we never doubt, but where we let our actions exceed our doubts, that's faith. Since God says to abide in Him and He'll abide in us, should we expect anything less than the authority to heal those who are sick, bring wholeness where there is brokenness and by his authority route every demon? Authority that comes from abiding in Christ allows us to minister out of a sense of the generosity of God's love!”
(from Robby Dawkins' Do What Jesus Did)