Mark 14:27-72 – God’s restoring grace

GOD’S RESTORING GRACE.

 

Mark 14:27-72.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

How many of you have ever been let down by a friend?

Someone you were really close to and trusted and then he/she let you down!

Maybe you were going through a very rough time and needed support but when you looked for it, it wasn’t there.

 

We have all been let down by friends and/or loved ones.

 

However, maybe there is something worse than being let down by a friend – and that is being the friend who causes the disappointment or breaks the trust.

 

ILLUS. I remember as a child when I had done something wrong my mother would come and sit on my bed and talk to me. Sometimes she spanked me but mostly she talked. That was worse than a spanking.  I would feel terrible – WHY? Yes because I had done something wrong but mostly because I had let down my Dad and Mom.

 

Every one of us has let God down!

The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and that we have broken God’s heart. BUT instead of turning is back on us and punishing us God loves us – that is why we have the cross – that is why Jesus died. To show us how much he loves us and so we can come to God and be forgiven.

 

I want to talk about Peter this morning. Peter was a disciple of Jesus who let him down very badly.

So I am talking mainly to Christians but the principles apply to all. Whether we are coming to God for the first time or coming the 101st time we still come by way of the cross of Jesus.

 

We have a fairly detailed account of Peter’s actions around the time of the arrest and trial of Jesus. Peter was on of Jesus’ closest disciples – he was one of the inner circle and he seemed to be the leader of that circle as we usually read about Peter, James and John. But at this point in his life Peter fails miserably. WHY? The simple answer is “Because he is human” but what lead up to this dreadful failure

 

 

 

  1. 1.     WHAT CAUSES US TO FALL AWAY?

                                  (to fail spiritually)

 

Let’s look briefly at what led to Peter denying three times that he even knew Jesus.

 

1.1.         Over-Confidence

“Even if all fall away, I will not” v.29.

 

Peter was very cocksure of himself. Jesus was trying to warn his disciples that they would all retreat when he was arrested. But Peter had confidence in his own abilities – he was a strong man – he wasn’t going to run away – Mark 14:31

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” … (NIV)

 

One of the greatest mistakes we humans make is that we think we are big enough to handle life and all its problems.

We have all heard people say, “It is only the weak who need the crutch of religion!”

Like Peter we all need to learn that over confidence in myself will only ever lead to trouble.

 

1.2.         Laziness

Mark 14:37             37 Then he [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? (NIV)

One of the major reasons why the Christian life often becomes boring and meaningless and why Christians fail spiritually it not because of some gross immoral sin. More often than not it is down to sheer laziness.

Like Peter we can’t be bothered to pray – sleep is more appealing – or the Match of the Day or my favourite Soap.

I want to have my needs met – I want to be entertained —

But you see prayer – like Jesus asked Peter to do – is hard work. Prayer is spiritual warfare. It is a battle and if Satan can keep us from that then he has won.

It is not just prayer – laziness can effect every area of life.

 

1.3.         Fear of Disapproval

Mark 14:54 a Peter followed him at a distance, …….. (NIV)

 

How are we following Jesus? With enthusiasm? Are we excited and proud to belong to Jesus?

Or are we like Peter?  He didn’t want to be seen with Jesus.

At school or in the office – Are we comfortable letting people know that we are Christians and go to Church?

 

ILLUS. What do you do on Sunday?

Well I went to a meeting.

What was the meeting for?

O you know just some friends and …

You mean Church?

Well yes!!

 

Let’s face it, being a Christian and going to Church is not ‘cool’.

It doesn’t have a lot of street cred!! Sometimes / often we are embarrassed.

Deep down we want to follow Jesus because we know it is the right thing to do but not to closely – we want to be like Peter and follow at a distance.

Being more concerned about what other people think of us rather than what God thinks of us leads to spiritual failure!

 

1.4.         Convenience

Mark 14:54 b ….. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (NIV)

This reminds me of the people who Jesus called in Luke 9 and they responded by saying “Well yes Lord, BUT … first let me wait until my father dies …. First let me get my family’s approval ..”

“Lord I will follow you if it is convenient / comfortable”

“I would like to do what you want but actually it is nice and warm here by the fire.”

“Lord, I will do want you ask as long as nothing more exciting / enjoyable comes along – please don’t expect me to sacrifice my comfort!!”

 

When these are our attitudes is it any wonder we fail spiritually!! And fall away.

And when we do, then like Peter, we end up denying the Lord we claim to follow. Maybe not in the outspoken way Peter did – but by neglect cold-heartedness.

 

GOD’S RESPONSE: GRACE

Romans 8:1

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (NIV) or (who belong to Christ Jesus)

 

If God responded to us as we usually respond to others he would turn his back on us and go off in a huff.

More than that he would destroy us – BUT rather we can receive his grace. We deserve to be punished, instead he shows us his love.

My Lord, what love is this that pays so dearly:

that I, the guilty one may go free!

 

Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me!

My debt he pays and my death he dies that I might live,…

 

  1. 2.     WHY DOESN’T GOD REJECT US WHEN WE SIN?

 

2.1.         Because His love is unconditional

Lamentations 3:22   God’s compassion never ends. It is only his mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. (LB)

We love because of something that attracts us to the object –

ILLUS.: If we had a box full of cute Labrador puppies many of us would be ‘Oohing’ and ‘Aahing’ over them. If we had a crippled, smelly, mangy mutt walk in most of us would be saying, ‘Yuck, get that horrible dog out of here’. {expect maybe Jane Richards!!}

 

We usually love someone because there is something nice about that person – something that attracts us to him or her.

ILLUS. Ever been at a party or in a pub – Who turns heads? The ordinary looking or not so attractive? Of course not!!

 

God loves us. Not because we are cute, or good looking or clever – in fact we are dirty and sinful and decidedly unattractive BUT he chooses to love us because he wants to. Jesus dying on the cross for us is the greatest demonstration of how much God loves us.

 

2.2.         Because salvation isn’t based on my performance

Titus 3:5 5 he saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. (NLT)

With most things in this life we have to do something to be recognised and accepted.

 

ILLUS.: At school if we want to get onto the netball or football team we must practise earn our place – we must perform well.

If you wish to go to university you have to work hard and earn your place.

 

So we often think that when it comes to God loving us we must ‘do something’ to make him love us.

Parents make the mistake of teaching their children that ‘all good children go to heaven’. NO! We won’t get to heaven by being good BUT because Jesus loved us and died on the cross to rescue us.

Yes he does want us to be good but that is to show that we love him for first rescuing us from our sin.

 

2.3.         Because Jesus has already taken my punishment

1 John 2:2 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (NIV)

1 John 2:2 2 When Jesus served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for God – and not only for us but also for the sins of the whole world. (Message)

 

Naturally we are all sinners and deserve God’s punishment. When we do our own thing and ignore God’s way – when we reject God we should be punished!

But when Jesus died on the cross he took the punishment for my sin and your sin.

 

2.4.         Because Jesus understands my human weaknesses

Hebrews 4:15 15 (He) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin”. (NLT)

 

ILLUS.: Many of you know my brother Leigh – nearly 23 years ago Leigh’s first wife Esther and our sister Jayne were killed in a car crash. Over the years Leigh has been able to help many people whose Loved Ones have died.

One of the reasons is because he understands what they are going through because he has faced it himself.

That is true of many people who have had an alcohol problem, or been through divorce, or been made redundant etc.

 

You know why Jesus doesn’t reject us when we mess up – he knows what it is like to be human – to be weak. He never sinned but he did face all the same kind of temptations and problems that we face.

We can never say to Jesus, “But Lord you don’t understand” [Well we can say it – but it is not true – and he understands that too].

 

2.5.         Because God doesn’t hold grudges

Psalm 103:9-13

9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor will he remain angry forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve…….. 13 He is like a father to his children, tender and compassion to those who fear him; (NLT)

 

ILLUS.: A group of friends at school – one of them does something we don’t like. “Well if that what she wants to be like then I’ll never talk to her again”

 

It is not just children who play those games – adults are also very good at dishing up ‘cold shoulder’ and ‘hot tongue’.

God doesn’t have piles of chips on his shoulders – God isn’t waiting to get even and to make our lives miserable. In fact, just the opposite! He wants us to know that he is tender and compassionate. Yes he is angry when we sin – BUT that anger changes to tender loving care when we ask for forgiveness.

God is not a miser – he doesn’t give us just tiny morsels of love – the Bible tells us that God “lavishes his love on us”. God is not grudging and he doesn’t hold grudges.

 

  1. 3.     WHAT SHOULD I DO? Turn / Return to God!

 

The Bible tells us that when Peter heard the rooster crow and realised that he had denied his Lord he “went out and wept bitterly”.

He knew he had let Jesus down. The hours and days that followed as Jesus was crucified and buried must have been the longest days of Peter’s life. That is why when the women brought the news of Jesus resurrection on the Sunday morning Peter was the first to run and see.

 

There was someone else who also let Jesus down very badly – Judas Iscariot – and he was also sorry BUT he was more sorry for himself than that he had let Jesus down. And he killed himself.

 

Peter’s great desire was to be reunited to Jesus and have the close relationship he had known before.

 

If you are in a place this morning where you are out of sorts with God. Maybe you have never come to him before – I want you to know this morning that for all the reason we have seen God loves you and wants to forgive you and accept you into his kingdom – why not turn to him.

 

Perhaps you are a Christian who through over-confidence, laziness, fear of disapproval or convenience have drifted away from God – you too, need to know that God loves you and wants to forgive you. He wants you to return to Him.

 

Isaiah 1:19 No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. (LB)

 

Isaiah 54:7 With great compassion I will take you back. (LB)

 

Jeremiah 15:19 If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me (NLT)

 

GOD’S RESTORING GRACE.

 

 

Mark 14:27-72.

 

 

1.WHAT CAUSES US TO FALL AWAY?

                                  (to fail spiritually)

 

1.1. Over-Confidence

“Even if all fall away, I will not” v.29. (NIV)

 

1.2. Laziness

Mark 14:37  Then he [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? (NIV)

 

1.3. Fear of Disapproval

Mark 14:54 a Peter followed him at a distance, …….. (NIV)

 

1.4. Convenience

Mark 14:54 b …There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (NIV)

 

GOD’S RESPONSE: GRACE

Romans 8:1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.WHY DOESN’T GOD REJECT US

                WHEN WE SIN?

 

2.1. Because His love is unconditional

Lamentations 3:22   God’s compassion never ends. It is only his mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. (LB)

 

2.2. Because salvation isn’t based on my performance

Titus 3:5  He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. (NLT)

 

2.3. Because Jesus has already taken my punishment

1 John 2:2  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (NIV)

 

2.4. Because Jesus understands my human weaknesses

Hebrews 4:15 15 (He) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin”. (NLT)

 

2.5. Because God doesn’t hold grudges

Psalm 103:9-13           He will not constantly accuse us, nor will he remain  angry for ever;  he does not treat us as our sins deserve……… He is like a father to his children, tender and compassion to those who fear him; (NLT)

 

  1. 3.       WHAT SHOULD I DO?

               Turn / Return to God!

 

Isaiah 1:19 No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. (LB)

 

Isaiah 54:7 With great compassion I will take you back. (LB)

 

Jeremiah 15:19 If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me (NLT)

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Mark 14:43-72 – How do we treat Jesus?

Mark 14v43-72

 

How do we treat Jesus?

 

 

Introduction.

ILLUS.: Last year when ManU won the triple the parade through Manchester took hours because of the crowds coming to celebrate their heroes. !0 years from now most of those players could walk down the street and most people wouldn’t  even recognise them.

 

Fame is very fleeting – the famous of today are the forgotten and discarded of tomorrow as new heroes emerge / as fads and fashions move on.

 

People only become famous and popular because the media and the public pay them a lot of attention. As soon as the spotlight moves they are forgotten. Crowds are very fickle / easily led. That is why Jesus was never impressed with large crowds.

 

However the crowds made him a hero – at least for a time. We read in John 12:19  So the Pharisees said to one another, “…… Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (NIV)

 

A few days before Jesus was arrested he rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey and crowds applauded. A week later he was dead.

Betrayed by a trusted disciple. Deserted by his followers. Rejected by the religious Leaders. Disowned by one of his closest disciples.

 

  1. 1.     The King Betrayed. [v. 43-52]

 

ILLUS.: Story of Peace Child. Warriors from one village befriend a warrior from another village with the express purpose of killing and eating him. They invited him as an honoured guest to a feast – but the failed to inform him that he was the meal.

When missionaries arrived and told this story of Judas betraying Jesus they cheered Judas as the hero. Treachery was the highest honour.

 

Why did Judas betray Jesus? What was going on in his mind? We can’t be absolutely sure.

Some put it down to plain old greed – on an occasion when a woman poured expensive perfume over Jesus Judas responded – John 12:5-6 , 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the moneybag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (NIV)

Did Judas betray Jesus just for 30 pcs of silver?

Or was it that he was frustrated that Jesus did not take the opportunities he had to take the Kingdom from the Romans?

 

Judas betrayed Jesus because he wanted to do things his way according to his agenda. He used his position as a chosen disciple to do that. He did it with a kiss – an expression of the intimate relationship between a Rabbi / Teacher and his disciple.

Why did the Jewish Religious police need Judas? They did not want to arrest Jesus in public – that would have cause uproar. They needed to do it secretly. Remember there would have been thousands of people in Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover. There were no hotel chains or B&Bs – people would have camped out in the open all around the outskirts of the city. How would they find and identify Jesus in the midst of all those people. They needed someone who knew where Jesus would be and who could identify him in the dark.

 

Jesus’ capture was a fairly low-key event in spite of Peter slicing off someone’s ear [another gospel] which Jesus put back on.

 

In the scuffle the disciples desire for self-preservation overtook their loyalty to Jesus and they fled – including the young man who fled naked. Some say it was Mark himself but that is speculation.

 

We may not betray the Lord in such a dramatic way – BUT we do betray him when like Judas we place our own self-interests and our own way before God’s way.

We will see in a moment what became of Judas and why.

 

  1. 2.     The King Rejected. [v. 53-65]

 

Jesus is now taken before the Sanhedrin. This is the Jewish Supreme Court. Israel was under Roman occupation at the time. They wanted to put Jesus to death but had no authority to do so. Also that had to find a reason to kill him. The verdict was decided in advance.

 

Everything about this trial wrong – really is was a preliminary hearing or was it more like a kangaroo court. According to Jewish Law the full Sanhedrin was not legally allowed to meet until daybreak. They were not allowed to meet in the High Priest’s house. And they were not allowed to trial and condemn on the same day. They failed on all counts.

More than that the charges were trumped up and the witnesses were liars – the testimony they gave was conflicting and even the prejudiced members of the Sanhedrin could see that! Lies are much harder to prove than the truth.

 

Through all this Jesus remained silent.

Eventually they ask Jesus himself. Mark 14:61-62 61 … the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

            62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (NIV)

 

the Blessed One is a way of speaking about God without actually using his name.

In the Book of Daniel and in Ezekiel on the OT the title Son of Man is used of someone who is Divine – this linked to the title Son of the Blessed One would certainly have qualified as blasphemy if it were untrue BUT it was true. It was just that they didn’t believe it.

The problem with Jesus’ accusers was that they had never asked themselves if indeed his claim was true before they reject him.

 

The same is true today with so many people. They reject Jesus Christ / Christianity as irrelevant without ever taking the trouble to ask, “It is true?”

 

ILLUS.: Sceptic: “I don’t believe in God!”

Christian: “Tell me about the God you say you don’t believe in.”

Sceptic:       {Explains his/her concept of God}

Christian: “I don’t believe in a God like that either.”

 

Often people reject Jesus Christ without really knowing what they are rejecting.

 

Why did these Sanhedrin reject Jesus? He threatened their position / authority / pride. Accepting Jesus would have been to loose face – a climb down. They would have to relinquish some of their opinions and their very comfortable lifestyles. So they rejected their King. They preferred a God would fit in with their lifestyles – Do we?

 

  1. 3.     The King Disowned.

 

Peter – a passionate man. A proud man.

 

We are prepared for Peter’s presence in v.54 of the previous section. Mark 14:54 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (NIV)

Why did Peter follow? Was it just to observe? Did he have some notion of rescuing Jesus? He had already tried that in the Garden and Jesus had rejected that approach. We don’t know his reason for being there.

What we do know is that he was unwilling to be identified with Jesus publicly.

BUT he is recognised as a companion of Jesus – his accent gives him away. Three times he claims not to know Jesus – eventually with curses. Probably something like “I’ll be damned if I know him!”

 

Luke tells us [Luke 22:61-62] 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly. (NIV)

Can you imagine Peter’s feelings at that moment – the shame / guilt / embarrassment at been caught out / the humiliation….

 

 

All three of these instances constitute sin. Any denial / betrayal / rejection of God and Jesus is sinful.

Judas was calculating – seeking to use Jesus for his own selfish ends. We can do that – Church and religious activity can easily be for ME rather than for God – What are my motives?

When things didn’t go his way and he was found out he felt guilty – he felt remorseful and he committed suicide / he hanged himself.

He was remorseful – sorry for himself and for the consequences of his action but not sorry / repentant towards God.

 

The Sanhedrin was just as calculating and scheming – they were all guilty of misrepresenting the Truth. Jesus was the only innocent one among them. They were characterised by resentment. Jesus threatened their position / power / prestige. When they were proved wrong and Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday they tried to suppress the truth with false allegations about the disciples stealing the body.

 

Peter was just as guilty of wrongdoing as Judas and The Sanhedrin. BUT Peter discovered what the others did not – that there is forgiveness even for such betrayals. Judas took his own life because he was too proud to repent. The Sanhedrin eventually lost the power the tried to hold because they were too hard-hearted to repent. BUT Peter was restored because he was repentant.

He was willing to admit his sin and to declare his love for Jesus. And God made him great in the Kingdom of God.

 

We should never be complacent about sin – all sin betrays and denies Jesus.

 

How do we treat Jesus?

Have you ever seriously considered who he is and what he did? Or are you like the Sanhedrin? Too proud and full of your own ideas to consider the truth of Christ’s claims.

 

OR are you like Judas – religious – but a religion of convenience to suit yourself. Get involved in Church activities only when it suits you.

 

Or like Peter? We all fail / sin / let God down. BUT are we willing to come back – to acknowledge our sin / wrongdoing / selfishness. To allow God to take the broken and spoiled strands of life and weave them into a rich tapestry to his glory.

Romans 8:28 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

 

We must always take sin seriously because it always betrays Jesus: BUT we should never be destroyed by remorse or resentment or guilt when sins takes over – There is Always forgiveness and restoration. 1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

 

 

 

How do we treat Jesus?

 

 

Mark 14:43-72

 

1.       The King Betrayed. [v.43-52]

Judas

Remorseful

2.       The King Rejected. [v.53-65]

Sanhedrin

Resentful

3.       The King Disowned. [v.66-72]

Peter

Repentant

Mark 12:28-44 – Love is the Key!

Mark 12v28-44

Love is the Key!

Part 1 – v28-37

  1. 1.     Love God completely. V28-34.

Jesus had numerous encounters with the religious scholars of day. Often their purpose in questioning Jesus was to try and trap him. So we have questions in the previous section about marriage at the resurrection, about paying taxes, about where Jesus got his authority from, and so on.

Here we now have another question. And from the way Jesus responds to his questioner it seems that this was probably a genuine question.

The Jewish scholars / religious leaders and teachers of the time spent much of their life studying the Law and going to amazing lengths to keep it. They had laws about laws. Of course there was the Law that God had given through Moses. However, added to that were thousands of others laws which these scholars had added.

The question “Which is the greatest command?” was a fundamental question which the rabbis often debated. The debate was about whether there was one command which reinforced all the others commands – e.g. “Thou shalt keep every law”. OR was there a command that made all the other commands less important?

Jesus is at Jerusalem in the Temple [11v27] There was a lot of religious ritual going on. There were the sacrifices / burnt offerings / prayers / burning of incense / ritual washing …..  Surrounded by all this religious paraphernalia the question is “What is the most important thing?”

Jesus answers the question by saying there are two greatest commands – Love God / Love your neighbour. Jesus’ reply is not new but is drawn from the OT [Dt.6v4-6; Lev. 19v18]. This would have been very familiar to the Religious teachers.

Jesus’ two replies are really one – love is the key.

Love for the one true God. Love for our neighbour. Two sides of the same coin.

If we say we love God but we do not show love our neighbour then we are hypocrites. 1 John 4:20 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (NIV)

Bear in mind that in the bible love is not some mystical, ethereal feeling. In fact in Hebrew there is no word for ‘love’ as an abstract concept – it is always ‘lovingkindness’ – i.e. acts of love.

  • In Luke’s gospel –ch.10 – were we have a similar account the next question asked was “Who is my neighbour?” to which Jesus responded by telling the story of the good Samaritan whose love for neighbour is seen in very practical acts.

Love for God is demonstrated in acts of love to neighbour.

On the other hand if we try to put love for neighbour first / or even leave God out altogether / we end up failing as well.

The teacher of the Law who asked the question understood this – That Love is more important that religious rituals / sacrifices and burnt offering and all the religious trappings that went with it.

Each of us must ask, “Am I guilty of a religious / Christian lifestyle while failing to practically love others?”

This teacher of the Law has come very close to the truth and Jesus commends him “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. The reason – He had not yet acknowledged Jesus as King!

The next few verses take up this point exactly.

  1. 2.     Who is the Messiah? V.35-37

 

Until now they have been questioning Jesus but now he poses a question. Jesus here quotes from the OT – Psalm 110:1 1 [Of David. A psalm.]

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (NIV)

Israel were looking for a Messiah a king who would be an ancestor of David and who would restore an earthly kingdom of Israel to the glory days of King David.

Israel was under Roman occupation – they longed for liberation. They saw Messiah as a purely human descendant of David. This is true but something was missing. Hence Jesus’ question.

The Teachers of the Law agreed that Psalm 110 was written by David and the ‘my Lord’ referred to God’s anointed / the Messiah.

How come then, says Jesus, can David the honoured ancestor, call his descendant, the Messiah, ‘my Lord’, thus granting him a superior position.

So Jesus presents them with a conundrum – “How can the messiah who comes after King David be superior?”

If you simply take the human line David is greater – he is the Son of David. BUT what the teachers of the Law failed to see was that Messiah was also divine / the Son of God/ and that is why David, under God’s inspiration, calls him ‘my Lord’.

And this Messiah is about to demonstrate in the next week of his life the greatest command. His love God his Father and his love for his human neighbours leads him to the cross in a supreme demonstration of that love.

Part 2 – v38-44.

  1. 3.     Giving all to the One who gave us all. V38-44.

In this section we have two contrasting pictures – those who reject and those who accept the values of God’s kingdom:-

1st – the teachers of the Law – the religious people.  They liked power and position and wealth. And they like to be seen to have it. They would strut about looking important in their smart clothes, demanding respect. The made an outward show of their religiosity while at the same time squeezing every penny they could out of the poor and the widows by demanding more and more religious contributions from they.

Matthew 23:1-7   1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’. (NIV)

They made a great show of bringing their offerings to the Temple and making sure all could see their BIG gifts. But they were giving a tiny portion of their great wealth.

2nd – those who accept the values of God’s Kingdom – pictured in the poor widow bringing her two pennies to give.

She willingly and gladly gave to God all she had – all that humanly speaking her life depended on. It is amazing how often it is the poor who are generous and the rich who are miserly.

ILLUS.: In SA the poor Coloured and Black and Asian Churches gave large honorarium. While the rich White church gave a little.

It is interesting to note exactly what Jesus says. He watches these rich people bring big gifts and then the poor widow – then he comments Mark 12:43

43 .., Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. (NIV)

She gave more than all the others put together – just like another woman in ch. 14. Who breaks a very expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus.

They gave all.

It is this sacrificial giving that Jesus demonstrated at Calvary – he gave all.

And it is that sort of giving that he asks of us – to give all.

Mark 12:30-31 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)

Mark 10:1-12 – Marriage and Divorce

Mark 10v1-12

 

Marriage and Divorce

 

cf. Matthew 19; 1 Corinthians 7; Deuteronomy 24; Hosea.

 

Introduction.

 

We come this evening to one of the difficult issues of life – divorce! It is difficult because it breaks hearts, it negatively affects children and it weakens society in general.

It is challenging for Christians because on the one hand we are called upon to uphold marriage God’s sacred institution and we are also called upon to reach out to those in society who are hurting and need support and comfort.

 

I am not going to bore you with reams of statistics – We all know that today fewer people marry as many more simply co-habit. Of those that do marry about 1in 3 get divorced. It is estimated that with in the next 20 years half the children in Britain will live in stepfamilies or with only one parent. The sociological implications of this we have yet to fully realise.

 

What does the Bible have to say about this issue.

In Mark 10 we have Jesus’ teaching about this issue – Matthew 19 is almost the same but adds a few things. Paul deals with a number of issues about marriage in 1Corithians 7.

In the OT we generally tend to go to Genesis 2 and Deuteronomy 24, both of which Jesus refers to.

 

  1. 1.     The Pharisee’s question.

 

The Pharisees were not particularly anxious about divorce – their purpose as on other occasion is to trap Jesus – and as before Jesus avoids the trap and deals with the issue.

Mark 10:2  Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (NIV)

Matthew 19:3       ADDS…………. for any and every reason?” (NIV)

 

Background:

Two schools of thought amongst the Pharisees at the time.

¨     One groups argued that a man could divorce his wife for the slightest reason.  If he didn’t like the way she ironed his shirt / or if he suddenly decided that he no longer like her hairstyle – trivial things.

¨     The other group argued only on the ground of “unfaithfulness” on the part of the wife.

Both based their reasons on Deuteronomy 24:1

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, [some uncleanness in her (KJV)] and he writes her a certificate of divorce, …….

 

In Jesus day a man could divorce his wife but not vice-versa.

Also, the Pharisees who opted for easy divorce – on trivial grounds – was operating on the basis that his happiness, not his wife’s, was the all important issue. This is so relevant today – People feel they have an inalienable right to personal happiness and to remove anything / anyone who does not serve that end.

 

The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in jumping into one or other of their camps – he does neither.

 

  1. 2.     Jesus’ question to the Pharisees.

 

Jesus responds by asking a question.

Mark 10:3  “What did Moses command you?” he replied. (NIV)

Jesus knows their thinking – they are bound up in legalistic argument. And their understanding was shallow because they were focussing on the laws to regulate their failures instead of focussing on the first principles of God’s original intention.

 

Their response was accurate – Moses did allow a man to write a divorce certificate for his wife and send her away.

However this God allowed under Moses not because it was his wish BUT because the people were not living up to his standards and he wants the situation to be properly regulated and controlled and the abandoned wife afforded some measure of protection. This permission was only granted Jesus reminds them in v.5 because the human heart is often so hard and so sinful that divorce becomes necessary.

 

  1. 3.     Back to first principles.

 

Having agreed that Moses allowed divorce Jesus now takes the Pharisees back to God’s original intention for marriage.

“It was not like this in the beginning…” –

 

Mark 10:6-9 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’. 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (NIV)

 

Jesus taught the Marriage is God’s idea – it is not an arrangement that man has evolved and that he can change to suit himself.

 

Jesus then, quoting from Genesis 2 gives three key elements marriage.

¨     Leaves – it talks of leaving mother and father  – a new family unit/ relationship is established. This new unit is recognised by society at large.

¨     United – a mutual / permanent relationship is established

¨     One flesh – there is a coming together in sexual union in this marriage relationship. It is within this union only that sexual activity is permissible.

 

This is God’s design – and so Jesus adds – Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate –

 

Divorce therefore is against God’s original design – in a sense Jesus is re-echoing what God said through Malachi – Malachi 2:14-16 14 …. the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner/ companion, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “…

God was so angry with those in Malachi’s day who were divorcing their wives esp. because the wife had been faithfully. “The words “wife of your youth” and “Partner/companion” are put in to show the aggravated nature of the offence. She was thus wronged was the companion of those earlier and brighter days, when in the bloom of her young beauty she left her father’s house, and shared your early struggles, and rejoiced in your later success; who walked arm-in-arm with you along the pilgrimage of life, cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry; and now, when the bloom of her youth is faded, and the friends of her youth have gone, when her father and mother are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her holiest affection by putting another in her place.” – Larry Richards

 

This was the result of the selfish pleasure seeking men of Malachi’s day and God says “I hate it….”

 

Jesus now states that to divorce one’s spouse and marry another constitutes adultery. Straight forward enough!

However – Matthew expands this statement and puts in and exception clause.

 

Matthew 19:9 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (NIV)

Matthew 19:9 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: {and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.} some mss. Don’t have this phrase – but does really change anything as it comes in 5v32 (KJV)

 

Matthew 5:32.. anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)

Matthew 5:32 32 …… whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (KJV)

 

Here Jesus gives one reason for which divorce it permitted – marital unfaithfulness.

 

¨      Marital unfaithfulness is treated as a special case because it breaks the oneness of the one flesh union of the married couple. Hebrews 13:4 4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)

However, forgiveness is possible, both by God and the offended party, and divorce is not therefore inevitable. After genuine sorrow and forgiveness restoration is possible. BUT even so there are scars and consequences as King David discovered to his cost.

 

¨     Although Jesus permits divorce on account of marital unfaithfulness this permission / concession must be seen against the background of his strong endorsement of the permanence of marriage. The gospel is the gospel of reconciliation. ILLUS.: Hosea is the classic example of a man with an unfaithful wife and yet he pursues her, and loves her and restores her – in spite of her blatant adultery.

Therefore divorce should only be pursued after every effort has been made towards reconciliation with the guilty party.

It is easy for me as one who is happily married to says these things and I don’t in any way want to diminish pain and hurt a person feels when his/her spouse has been unfaithful. BUT I honestly believe this is God’s way – reconciliation.

 

¨     HOWEVER – in spite of our best effort reconciliation is not always possible – God is a loving, understanding and compassionate father. Thus is believe that God allows divorce as an option in cases of martial unfaithfulness where reconciliation fails.

¨      Another justification for divorce is found in 1 Corinthians where Paul deals with the case of a Christian married to a non-Christian. 1 Corinthians 7:15  But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (NIV)       1 Corinthians 7:15 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. (KJV)

If the unbeliever insists on leaving the believer has to acquiesce. Here again permission is granted reluctantly.

 

4. The question of remarriage.

 

¨     What about the matter of remarriage of those who have been divorced because their spouse has been unfaithful or desert them because he/she is a believer. Godly scholars have disagreed on this issue for centuries! I don’t believe it is possible to be dogmatic – no doubt some will disagree.

  • Does “except for marital unfaithfulness” [Matt.5 & 19] refer to divorce only or to divorce and remarriage. It seems to me there are two reasons for allowing remarriage in these circumstances:-

1)    To me the most straight forward reasoning of the text is thus – Mark says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery” [and vice versa] Matthew adds the clause “except for marital unfaithfulness” – In other words the one who divorces and remarries commits adultery EXCEPT in the case where there was unfaithfulness – in which case the one flesh relationship is broken // and under the OT laws such a one would be put to death leaving the offended party free to remarry.

2)    In the OT divorce and remarriage were permitted [Dt.24] – Jesus does say Moses was wrong to allow this – just that this was not God’s original purpose.

  • What does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 7v15 when he says “not bound” [NIV]  / “not under bondage” [KJV] – Does he mean that the believer whose unbelieving spouse has deserted him/her is free to divorce only or doe he mean the marriage is dissolved and the believer is free to remarry? We can’t be certain!!

 

It seems to me that re-marriage is permissible under the circumstances I have outlined.

 

HOWEVER – Any Christian contemplating re-marriage should carefully consider the following:-

  • Don’t even consider marrying a non-Christian
  • Remember we are all imperfect human beings – and so is anyone you subsequently marry. ONLY Jesus is perfect and the ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfilment.
  • It may be God’s will that you remain single – prayerfully consider and seek counsel from mature Christians you value.
  • A depressing fact is that second time marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first time marriages.

 

5. What about singles?

 

In Matthews account there are some extra verses added:

Matthew 19:10-12         10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (NIV)

 

Jesus disciples found the standards Jesus set for marriage extremely high and demanding and considered whether it was better not to marry at all.

Jesus reply is amazing – “Not everyone can accept this word,… i.e. that ….. it is better not to marry.” –

He lists three groups:-

– Those born impotent

–       those who were castrated as a requirement for service where they were surrounded by royal women

–       and those who live as singles for the sake of God’s kingdom {Paul says that same thing}

Jesus teaches that singleness is a perfectly viable option for life – no better than marriage and certainly not inferior, in fact God esp. calls some to such a position.

 

Concluding Comments

 

Given the state of marriage in our nation we need to affirm the high place that God’s gives marriage. It is good for the couple, for the children, for society and indeed for singles who are part of society. Marriage is God’s design – God’s ideal.

On the other hand, God knows our world is far from ideal. God is compassionate, merciful and understanding of our human weaknesses.

 

May God give us his wisdom as we continue to grapple with this and other difficult issues.

May he also give us his deep compassion and love for hurting people.

Mark 4:35 – 6:6 – A demonstration of power!

 

Mark 4:35 – 6:6.

 

A demonstration of power!

 

Over nature

Over demons

Over disease

Over death

…. BUT dismay over unbelief.

 

Introduction.

Have you ever thought what it would have been like to have lived at the time of Jesus? Wouldn’t it have been so much easier to believe in him and follow him?

Already in Mark’s gospel we have read about how Jesus healed the sick and the maimed and drove out evil spirits from people possessed. Surely seeing these great miracles would convinced the most hardened cynic that Jesus was something special – that he was no ordinary man?

 

Maybe like me you have thought, “If only we saw miracles today like Jesus’ disciples saw then people would come flocking into church and believe!”?

 

Especially if we saw miracles like we are about to look at – calming a tempestuous storm – exorcising devils – and even raising the dead – surely no one can doubt after such miraculous signs!!

 

There is a view that the gospel of Mark divides into two – the first 8 chapters are Jesus demonstrating his power and authority culminating in the declaration by Peter in ch. 9 that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of God”.

 

Leading up to that point Jesus performs many miracles and explains who he is – After Peter’s declaration there are fewer miracles. Miracles are called signs in John’s gospel and the purpose of a sign is to point to the real thing. Signs are important but have limited use. We see this reflected in Mark’s gospel – once Peter and the disciples have recognised Jesus as the Messiah he turns from teaching the crowds to instructing his disciples – the miracles have served their purpose in showing his disciples who he is.

 

The question is – “Is there a need for such miracles today?” Opinions have been divided on this question throughout history. Some think miracles stopped after the NT era while others think they continue ‘til today.

Whatever our view the point is that with or without miraculous signs God is working out his purposes!!

READING 4v35-41.

  1. Dreadful Storm.

This account of Jesus calming the storm is not just about rescuing the disciples from a sticky situation that they had got themselves into? NO! – on the contrary it was in fact Jesus who got them into the situation – Mark 4:35  That day when evening came, he [JESUS] said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (NIV)

Points to remember –

  • Many of the disciples were fishermen who knew the Sea of Galilee well and would have encountered many storms – it seems that this was a particularly fierce one.
  • The disciples are Jews and they know who controls nature – God created all things – he sent the flood in Noah’s time – he made the sun stand still in the days of Joshua – he stopped the rain in the days of Elijah —

 

So here they are in the middle of the worst storm of their lives – they are terrified, bailing out the boat for dear life and Jesus is sleeping peacefully.

Mark 4:38 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  In desperation and no doubt anger they shout at him – I don’t think they tapped him gently on the shoulder and whispered in his ear. The wind is howling and they are frantic.

 

Jesus addresses the storm – the word used is similar to one used to subdue wild animals – the force of his command is “Be muzzled!” – and the impression we get is that instantly the wind stopped and the sea became calm!

I grew up at the sea and used to surf – after strong winds the sea was rough for days!! This was no coincidence and the disciples knew it!!

None but the creator could have done this!!

Is it any wonder the disciples ask, “Who is this!” – is it any wonder that a few chapter further on Peter concludes that he is “the Christ the Son of God!”

 

The main point of this miracle I believe was to show Jesus power of Nature – however at the risk of over-spiritualising I think it can also teach us that we must learn to trust him whatever storms of life come our way.

Storms of life do not necessarily come as a result of disobedience – remember it was Jesus who suggested crossing the lake in the first place.

We too can be come afraid and angry – angry at the situation / or at God because he doesn’t seem to do anything or even care. BUT in spite of what may appear he is with us in the storm and he is in control!

 

SING: HoF 402 “Fierce raged the tempest

READING 5v1-20.

  1. Demonic Spirits.

Living is our modern, scientific, sophisticated world we tend not to be too aware of demons and evil spirits. The only notice most people take is with something like Halloween which is seen as harmless fun – BUT it is anything but harmless – it is actually very dangerous.

In other times and places the spiritual world had a much higher awareness. Simply because we may not be conscious of it doesn’t mean that it is not there and active.

 

This story some how very real the demon world is!

The story takes place in a Gentile area – east of Jordan River. The man is probably not Jewish. This is borne out by the title given Jesus – Mark 5:7 ……..Jesus, Son of the Most High God? ……

Most High God – was a typically Gentile term for the God of Israel.

Jesus has cast out demons before [Mark 1]

This man is completely possessed / deranged – he is intent on hurting himself physically and he has superhuman strength.

ILLUS.: In Durban SA at a Muslim Sufi Festival – a small skinny teenager in a demonic stupor and he was so strong that 4 grown men could not hold him down.

 

This man was so far gone that no human beings could help or restraint him. YET face to face with Jesus he becomes aggressive yet he is restricted / he is held in check by a superior power. The demons within him / and there are many – there is an army of demons / – they recognise Jesus for who he is Jesus, Son of the Most High God / –

The demons may have been in control of the man but confronted with Jesus they cower in submission – NB he gives them permission to go into the pigs. It must have been quite a spectacle /- 2000 pigs rushing into the sea.

There are many issues here that are difficult to understand –

  • Why into the pigs
  • Why did the pigs rush to the sea and drown
  • What about the owner of the pigs

–I don’t really know!

 

The true miracles in no what happened to the pigs BUT what happened to the man. I love verse 15  When they [the crowds] came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (NIV)

 

This story shows Jesus’ absolute power of the spirit world. What is sad is that the people who witnessed it instead of believing in Jesus and begging him to stay actually begged him to leave.

 

Miracles do not necessarily produce faith and belief in those who witness them.

 

Power over Nature — Power over Demons.

 

SING: HoF 127 “Jesus the name high over all

 

READING 5v21-43.

  1. Diseased Woman and Dead Girl.

There is so much in these stories – we are just skimming the surface.

In this section Mark weaves two stories together.

 

Jarius, a leader in the local Synagogue, seeks Jesus help because his daughter is desperately ill. He has probably heard the stories of Jesus healing others / he has probably tried the doctors but they are powerless in the face of this particular illness.

 

En route a woman who for 12 years had had a bleeding problem reaches out to touch Jesus garments believing that to be sufficient to heal her – and she is right!

This is not unnoticed by Jesus Mark 5:30  At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (NIV)

 

A desperate woman – for 12 years she has been ill – she has spent all her money on doctors – BUT also by Jewish religious law woman were considered ceremonially unclean during menstruation and were cut off from fellowship during that time – FOR this woman it was 12 years!!

By touching Jesus she was considered to be defiling him as well as any others she touched.

Imagine the embarrassment when Jesus and all the crowd focus on her – Far from Jesus being annoyed that she has defiled him ceremonially, he commends her for her faith and heals her!

 

What she must have found hard to understand was that here was someone who not only didn’t reject her BUT was willing to ‘defile’ himself for her sake so that she could be ‘clean’. Previously Jesus had done this for the leper!

Here is the true power of God’s kingdom, the power of the cross and the power of love.

 

This incident with the woman delays Jesus and news comes that Jarius’ daughter has died. Jarius has believed that Jesus can do the difficult – heal the sick – Can he now believe the impossible?!?!!

 

By the time they arrive at the house the mourners [professional mourners most likely] are already there weeping and wailing – BUT their weeping turns to scornful laughter when Jesus says the girl is only sleeping. They know full well that she is dead. Mark 5:38-40 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him…..

 

It is interesting how Jesus excludes the unbelieving. Only the girl’s parents and Jesus’ close disciples are there!

 

So Jesus goes in and tells the girl to get up and she is restored!

Here is Jesus’ power over the ultimate enemy – Death! He is the Lord of life and death. This is s foretaste of the power he has over his own life and death!

 

 

READING 6v1-6.

  1. Dismayed Saviour.

When Jesus comes to his hometown – probably Nazareth – the people are amazed at what he said and did BUT that does not lead them to faith in him.

The simply express puzzlement that he is related to people they know. Instead of being drawn to him in faith they are offended!!

 

It seems the majority are unbelieving – he only heals a few people there who are humble enough and needy enough to believe in him.

Does this mean that God’s power is limited / or restricted by our lack of faith? Certainly not in the absolute sense!! BUT it seems that God chooses to act only in response to faith!!

 

It becomes clear as we consider these miracles that being a witness to them does not automatically inspired faith. In a curious way the demons know better even though they oppose Him.

 

Usually Mark says that the people are amazed at Jesus but here he says that Jesus is amazed at them!! At their unbelief.

 

It seems that the people of Nazareth are so familiar with Jesus that they enjoy no blessing: Is that a danger for us – “Familiarity breeds contempt!”

 

Here is a great exhibition of Jesus’ power over Nature, demons, disease and death and these are great miracles. However the greatest miracles of all is when he calls imperfect human disciples like you and me to join him in his task.

 

What Jesus wants is disciples who will follow him whatever – He does not want impulsive, fly-by-night, sensation seekers…

 

Chambers [October 21], …comments, “Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different”. Peter rashly dashed out and walked on the water…for a short while ‘til he started sinking. It requires God’s supernatural grace to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. Spectacular things soon vanish…but we have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, on ordinary streets, among ordinary people….to really build. And this is not learned in five minutes.

 

Do we want miracles?

We have a room full – ordinary people – whose faith in Jesus makes them extraordinary. The power of Jesus to calm storms, drive out demons, heal illnesses and raise the death is at work in us, his people.

 

Ephesians 1:18-23 18 I pray … that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

 

 

Mark 4:35 – 6:6.

 

 

A Demonstration of Jesus’ Power!

 1.       Dreadful Storm. 4v35-41

 2.       Demonic Spirits. 5v1-20

 3.       Diseased Woman and Dead Girl. 5v21-43

4.       Dismayed Saviour. 6v1-6

 

 

 

Mark 1:1-13 – Jesus: Who he is and why he came

Mark 1:1-13.

 

Jesus: Who he is and why he came.

 

Introduction.

 

When Mark wrote about Jesus in his gospel his purpose was not to simply pass on information. He wanted his readers to encounter Jesus personally. He wanted them to realise that God had intervened in history in a new way. It was not that God was uninvolved in history to this point but this was something fresh and new.

 

So he begins in a fairly abrupt and attention catching way:….

Mark 1:1      1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

Gospel – this word means ‘good news’. The word ‘gospel’ has become very commonplace to us – we are so familiar with it that we have lost some of the force. When the OT used the equivalent word it usually carried with it the idea of God breaking in to history in a dramatic way.

 

Mark tells us what the good news is about – Jesus Christ the Son of God.

AD last week        – Jesus – Joshua: Saviour, Rescuer, Deliverer.

–         Christ – God’s Chosen One

–         Son of God made it unambiguous that this was a unique person.

 

So this gospel of Mark is written to challenge the reader to faith. There is a urgency about this story. It is not written like a novel to entertain or like a textbook to inform. It is about life and death issues. S

So Jesus opening words in v15 are striking and attention-grabbing:- “The time has come … the kingdom has come … repent … believe …”

 

  1. 1.     The Preparation.

 

Mark 1:2-3

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way” —

3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.’ ” (NIV)

 

While Jesus’ coming was God dramatically breaking into history it was not a spur of the moment decision on God’s part. God had planned it long before and the Jews were expecting a Messiah. There was very patient preparation. Mark quotes from the OT to back up his claim [he says Isaiah but actually it is from Malachi, Exodus and Isaiah]

 

The point is that Jesus Coming into the world was planned by God from the beginning. And he told his people that this would happen. It did not happen exactly as they expected but that is because they didn’t understand not because God changed his plan.

 

I am sure that over the centuries preceding Jesus coming the prophet must have sometimes despaired, wondering if God would ever fulfil his promises. “Why doesn’t God do something! Our nation is in a mess surely this is a good time for God to send the Messiah.”

And then eventually when the Messiah did come he didn’t act in the way they wanted him to act.

 

We can often think that we know what God should do – we can be in such a hurry that we miss the lessons God is teaching – Patience being one.

God’s people in the OT had to be very patient. The Psalmist learned something of waiting for God – Psalm 37:7

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes. (NIV)

Psalm 40:1

1 ….     I waited patiently for the LORD;

he turned to me and heard my cry. (NIV)

 

We have seen God fulfil his promises in the OT – but we too need patience to wait for him. To a degree patience is a response to the sovereignty of God. When we wait for God we acknowledge that he alone knows the time, place and circumstances for things to happen in our lives.

 

ILLUS.: Often I look at a situation and think I know what God should do here.

But sadly my perspective on things is very narrow and no matter how well I may think I understand, I NEVER have all the facts.

 

How often the OT prophets must have thought – “Surely this is a good time for the messiah to appear!” BUT God knew better!

Sometimes the best answer to our prayers is “WAIT!”

 

So when the time is right God sends John the Baptist to preach a message of preparation.

 

  1. The Baptiser – Preacher.

 

Mark 1:4-5 4 And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River. (NIV)

 

The purpose of John’s ministry is to prepare the way for the coming Messiah – King.

 

ILLUS.: When the Queen goes to visit a town or village there is a great amount of preparation. The buildings are painted – roads are repaired – the place in generally spruced up.

 

The same was true in the 1st C. if a monarch was visiting a town the people would go out into the approaching road and remove rocks, fill in holes so that the king could have a smooth ride into town.

 

John’s message is Luke 3:4-5  [ a longer account than Mark] 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

5 Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth. (NIV)

 

John is saying to the people , “You need to straighten out your hearts to receive the coming Messiah as your Lord and king” HOW? >> Repentance!

Sin is that which clogs the way between us and God and it needs to be removed if there is going to be an open way between us and God.

 

John message to his hearer is come and repent for the forgiveness of your sins and the way you express that genuine heart change is by baptism.

Baptism was not a new concept to the Jews – any Gentile who wished to become a Jews – a proselyte – was baptised into the Jewish faith.

 

The surprise of John’s message was that he called the Jews themselves to be baptised – this would have been difficult for them to swallow, esp. the religious ones, because it showed that religion itself may be a hindrance to being ready to receive the Messiah.

 

Repentance simply means to turn around – to turn back. It is always pictured in relationship to God – when people, even religious people, through neglect or deliberate self-will leave God out then there needs to be a turning in repentance.

This is what John is calling for.

 

God was doing a new thing through John – There had been centuries of silence from God.

History is like that there seem to be ebbs and flows in God’s dealings with nations. God’s people pray and wait – pray and wait and the danger is we can get to the point were we no longer expect God to act. We are so locked into our traditions that we resent or even resist God’s activity when it does come.

On the other hand, we must not be willing to accept everything new unless we are sure it is from God. Remember there were many before Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah!

 

The way to receive the Messiah, Jesus then as now was through repentance before God for the forgiveness of sins!

 

  1. 3.     The promoter.

 

Mark 1:6-8 6 …… 7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

 

It is a special kind of person – a special gift  – to be no.2.

To untie someone’s sandals was a very lowly task – to claim to be unworthy to do even this could be to denigrate oneself beyond what is humanly reasonable OR to elevate the other beyond all levels of human honour. John is elevating Jesus – he is not trying to show false humility but he has a right view of how high Jesus is.

 

We don’t have time to discuss in detail the differences between John’s water-baptism and Jesus’ spirit-baptism.

John’s was just a sign – a sign of repentance– a taste of what was to come –

If you like John’s baptism was just the starter / the taster – Jesus’ came to give the main course.

Later when Jesus had ascended to heaven after his resurrection he would pour out his Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – and on every true convert since then.

 

John’s role was to announce the Coming King – and he played that limited role faithfully. He could have tried to hold on to his position of popularity but he willingly stepped aside to let Jesus have the glory.

Our place in God’s overall plan is very limited. History is his. The universe is his. He is working out his purposes BUT he gives us the privilege of working with him.

 

ILLUS.: I remember when our kids were small and they wanted to help with some task or other – in the kitchen or DIY. We let them fumble and muddle along. They didn’t really contribute to the task sometimes they were more of a hindrance BUT they derived huge benefit and pleasure in helping.

 

In some ways it is like that with us and God – he doesn’t need our help as if he were unable to cope – but he allows us the joy of working with him. BUT the glory is his and we must not try to steal the spotlight.

 

ILLUS.: Pastor Duma – his life story after his death “Take your glory Lord”

 

  1. 4.     The Promised One.

 

Mark 1:9-11

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Here’s a surprised – the messiah comes from Nazareth – Nazareth was a backwater, an insignificant one-horse town where the horse was long dead!! In the words of Nathaniel in John 1:46 ….. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

 

The principles by which God operates are different from ours. The bible is full of God choosing unlikely people to fulfil his purposes.

Moses – a murderer who had a speech defect – to be a national liberator!

Gideon – the youngest son of a poor farmer – to be an army general!

Amos – a farmer from the South – to prophesy to the king of the North!

Paul – persecutor of the church to become one of its greatest leaders!

 

God’s wisdom is different to ours – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. (NIV)

 

It is not that God doesn’t use the strong and rich and clever, he does. But they are more likely to rely on their own resources.

 

Our usefulness to God has more to do with our attitude than our abilities!

If we have hearts for God – seeking his glory and not our own – willing to obey He will surprise us in what he does for us and through us!

 

His Baptism.

Another surprise is this —-

If John’s baptism was for repentance then why did Jesus have to be baptised?  – He was the Son of God – perfect – sinless!

John must have thought the same as in Matthew’s account we read Matthew 3:14-15 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. (NIV)

 

It seems Jesus wants to dedicate himself to obey God completely – a symbol of his entire ministry.

By being baptised he shares and identifies with the circumstances in which sinners find themselves. He identifies with our needs in order to meet those needs. We see this again and again throughout Jesus ministry but supremely in his death and resurrection.

As Jesus is baptised God confirms his pleasure with his Son’s obedience in the coming of the Spirit upon him like a dove. Who saw this? Was it only Jesus? Was it John also? Was it everyone? We have different account in the gospels BUT one thing is certain this was a sign of God’s approval and pleasure with his Son.

 

His Temptation.

Mark 1:12-13

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (NIV)

 

Mark gives little detail about the temptation – it is much briefer than the other account – many things we could say.

Jesus has just identified with sinner in his baptism and is then thrust out into the desert to experience an onslaught of sinful temptation. To experience that temptations that sinners face.

Is there a link with the OT history of Israel – crossing the Red Sea, a symbol of baptism – and their wilderness experiences for 40 years; Jesus for 40 days? Probably!!

 

It probably is in keeping with Mark’s theme of costly discipleship.

The gospel is not just about coming to God through Jesus to have our sins forgiven – it is not just to have our sin problem solved and make life tolerable / enjoyable. We do receive BUT there is a cost. We see it in the life of Jesus and he calls us to follow his example!!

 

These verse – 1-13 – are Mark’s way of introducing Jesus the Son of God. In the next section we have Jesus preaching and performing mighty miracles.

 

Jesus arrives on the scene in an unexpected way; he is promoted by an unusual man in John the baptiser; – it is surprising that he comes from the backwater of Nazareth; we stand in awe at how highly John reveres him; we marvel that he identifies with us sinners in baptism and in the temptations he face.

As we look ahead we see his authority in teaching and over sickness and demons and nature ……

All we can do is stand amazed in his presence and wonder at how he could love us so much!