FEBRUARY 24TH, 2019 PASTOR DON PIEPER
RIGHT ON THE MARK MARK 2:23-3:6 / 3:7-19
So, did you hear? There's more snow in the forecast! You know what that means...!
Dad: He knows I hate this!
(The Days..., 3rd frame, top panel, p. 28 and 3rd frame, top panel, p. 21)
Susie: It's no surprise to me that nobody's sold a house on this street for six years.
(The Days..., all four frames, p. 20)
Clearly what this world needs is more man-eating snowmen, don't you think? Ok, maybe not.
Actually, what this world really needs are more humble hearts embracing God's powerful grace.
Last week our readings in Mark ended with Jesus articulating an early mission statement: “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Jesus' mission statement points to, and reveals, the very heart of God – His longing for the lost and disconnected, and his passion to see every hopeless sinner loved into the Kingdom of God!
That longing was reflected in the love of a young momma for her little boy. She & her husband were all decked out one evening as they were getting ready to go out to dinner. The babysitter was about to arrive so the young mom called out for Davey. That's when someone knocked on the front door, and there he stood, baked in mud, tears running down his cheeks. It kinda looked like this...
Calvin: It couldn't be avoided. (The Days..., top panel, p. 38)
Unlike Calvin's mom, Davey's mom melted on the spot. When her husband caught up with her moments later, her beautiful, brand new dress was covered in mud. “What happened to you?”
She looked down at her soiled dress, smiled meekly, and said, “I couldn't help myself!”
Such is the heart of God. Loving us, he came down and took on our mud and muck on the cross so we might be set free by his love and grace. He couldn't help himself! So it is that Jesus went about demonstrating God's reckless love for us by forgiving sins, healing people and casting out demons.
Jesus opponents complained, “Who does he think he is? Only God can forgive sins!” (Mark 2:7) “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”
It's a remarkable question in light of this morning's pericope. Here Jesus is shown having all kinds of authority. First is his authority as a teacher, which surpasses that of the pharisees and even John the Baptist. When asked why he and his disciples don't fast as the pharisses and John's disciples do, Jesus responds in parables: “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom?” (2:19)
Notice how he answers their question with a question. It's how a rabbi would respond to his students. His response reveals that he possesses authority they do not. His reference to himself as the groom also suggest that he himself is at the heart of God's salvation plan. In Jesus' day it was not the mother of the bride who called the shots, but the groom. He's saying, 'I'm in charge'. My disciples are right to celebrate that! His parables of a new patch & new wineskins celebrate God doing a new thing!
Next, Jesus' adversaries confront Jesus for his disciples picking and eating grain on the sabbath.
Again, Jesus responds to their accusation, that they're breaking the law, by asking a question: “Haven't you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” (2:25)
His answering a question with a question reestablishes his authority as the most trusted voice when it came to understanding and applying scripture. His question, haven't you ever read, asserts his keen understanding of the nuances of Scripture. He goes beyond that to assert his authority over all things related to Worship and the Word: “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
You can bet money that statement pushed a few buttons. And Jesus knew it did, but he's less concerned with being politically correct than he is about helping people come to recognize, embrace and reflect the heart of God, a God who deeply cares for the lost and hurting.
Once again, he tries to break thru the hardened hearts present by asking a probing question. He has the man with the deformed hand stand up front, and then asks those present, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day of doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?” (3:4)
It's a leading question with an obvious answer but everyone present refuses to answer. So what do you think? If you're a teacher, which would be more frustrating – that your class of students is unable to answer a question on a subject you've just covered or that the class is unwilling to answer...?
Reasserting his authority as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus answers his own question, not with a verbal response, but as is the focus here in Mark, with action. Jesus heals the man on the spot proving that the sabbath is not a day for doing nothing but a day for glorifying God by doing what He'd do!
Jesus' authority is explored further by Mark in his telling us how large crowds of people follow-ed him from location to location and that these people came from all over the place. Mark reports that The news about his miracles spread far and wide and vast numbers of people came to see him.
The people were drawn to him. Jesus spoke & acted with a kind of authority never seen before, certainly not among the religious leaders of the day. Mark tells us: “The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them with real authority – quite unlike the teachers of religious law.” (Mark 1:22) And again, after casting a demon out of a man at worship, the people remark: “His words have such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” (Mark 1:27)
And that's the clincher, isn't it? Over and over again, Jesus demonstrates his divine authority and supernatural power by reclaiming spiritual territory from the enemy. Three times in three chapters Mark shows Jesus at work pushing back the kingdom of darkness by setting the spiritual oppressed free Mark even summarizes Jesus' early ministry by highlighting Jesus' authority over the enemy: “Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases and he cast out many demons.” (Mk 1:14)
How ironic that while the religious leaders of Jesus' day fail to acknowledge Jesus' authority, the demons readily do! For “Whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, 'You are the Son of God!'” (Mark 3:11)
Our pericope ends with Jesus singling out twelve individuals out of his followers, to be his team of kingdom players. It’s significant how they're identified. Mark includes the names of each of the 12, revealing that these individuals mattered. But more important than even that is the title he gives them: “Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles.” (Mark 3:13-14)
The word, 'apostle', means someone who is sent out. Its a title of significance. It would come to mean, as it is used by the apostle Paul, as someone chosen by Jesus to declare and demonstrate thru healings and deliverance ministry, the reality of the Kingdom of God at hand. It would be seen as a position of leadership and specific, spiritual gifting within the early church.
But in its basic meaning, an apostle is simply someone who is sent out. It's significant that Jesus chose this term for the twelve as Jesus' mission statement in the previous chapter reveals that he himself has been sent out. “I have come to call those...who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
The wording, I have come, which he'll use multiple times throughout his ministry, points to his awareness that he was sent with a specific purpose in mind. Likewise, he gathers together twelve unlikely sinners and sends them out. As Mark informs us: “They were to accompany (Jesus), and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15)
As he who was sent from above, Jesus sends out his apostles in training: “Then Jesus called his twelve disciples and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits... So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God, and they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” (Mark 6:7,12-13)
This was the beginning of what's called the apostolic age – where Jesus' disciples are sent out to do exactly what Jesus did. How is this possible? Because he has given us his authority and His Spirit – to preach, heal and cast out demons. This probably sounds scary or unrealistic to many but it shouldn't. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth, and has placed His Spirit in the heart of every believer so that we too, as Robby Dawkins puts it, can do what Jesus did.
(story from Dawkins' Do What Jesus Did)
It may seem like a stretch for you to do what Jesus did but clearly, this was Jesus' intent from the start, not just for the twelve, but for all of us who claim him as Lord and Savior. All we need is the confidence and a little experience – both of which come thru practice. So shall we practice a little...?