Mark Lesson Two: Jesus Begins His Ministry

Ministry begins.jpgLast week Mary told us the story of when she knew her husband was the one. I’m sure we can all remember a time when a significant person came into our lives. I remember the day when someone special came into my life. I was the perfect age – 1st grade. Mature enough to move beyond little kid stuff but still full of belief and wonder. I first saw her on TV.

She was different from other dolls – she ate food and actually wet her diaper. And she had the perfect name – Baby Alive. Unfortunately, she came on the market in late Spring – after my birthday and a long way from Christmas. I still put on a magnificent campaign, pleading with my mom, who was having none of it. “If you want this doll,” she said, “you have to work for her. $9.99 worth of work.” I remember the day I finally had enough money.

When I brought her home – she seemed perfect. I dutifully mixed up her food and got ready to feed her. My very own baby – who was almost alive! And then when I put the spoon in her mouth, I noticed it. It was a strange noise she made when she ate – Wah, wah, wah – machine like. Later when I checked her diaper, I noticed something else – the stuff in her diaper looked exactly like the food I had put in her mouth! She wasn’t really alive – a motor took the food from her mouth and pushed it out her back end. I soon tired of her, as my mother knew I would. The magic was over.

Jesus shows up in Galilee

Unlike, my experience with Baby Alive, when Jesus shows up in Galilee his arrival does not disappoint. He is very much alive, and he is the promised Messiah that John the Baptist told everyone was coming. If you’ll remember last week, Jesus had begun preaching a call to repent and believe, and he had begun to bring the Kingdom of God. This was Jesus’ ministry – to bring the Kingdom of God and call for a response of repentance and belief.

This week we see his ministry begin to unfold. And what do we see?- Jesus ministers with authority and brings tender healing. And we are left with a question. Will we follow him even when he ministers in our lives unexpected ways?

Ministry begins in unexpected ways

Jesus’ ministry begins in unexpected ways. The first thing he does is gather followers. On the face of it, this isn’t so unexpected. Every leader needs an inner circle. And so Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to be part of his inner circle. I’m sure you noticed the urgency and immediacy of these verses. Yes, Simon and Andrew probably would have heard about the events at Jesus’ baptism and maybe they had even heard Jesus preach. But Mark wants to us to feel the magnetism of Jesus as he interacts with these fishermen.

Simon and Andrew are doing what they’ve probably done since they were kids – they were casting nets. And then Jesus comes and says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, they leave a way of life they had known for years and they never come back to it. And then the same thing happens with James and John. I’m sure it was a day they never forgot.

But there’s more that’s unexpected about these verses than just the urgency of the call. It takes place in a humble location, among a humble group of people. Jesus is gathering followers from lowly circumstances in a backwater community. It’s sort of like the president going down to Medford to get a few small-time farmer’s sons as his top political advisors. It does not make sense.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John are excited for the chance to follow Jesus. They had been waiting for the Messiah just like all the other Jews had been. I wonder if the disciples thought that Jesus would be heading to Jerusalem to announce his kingship and challenge the Roman authorities. Maybe the temple in Jerusalem would be a fitting place for an announcement. Well, as we know that’s far from what happens.

Over time, the disciples are going to see more and more just how unexpected Jesus’ ministry is going to be. In fact, right here is one of the high points for the disciples in Mark’s gospel. In these verses, we see the disciples following Jesus wholeheartedly. After this point, we will see them struggle as Jesus reveals more what kind of Messiah he is going to be, and as his ministry becomes more and more unexpected. We’ll come back to the disciples.

A Commanding Presence

Let’s first think about what we learned about Jesus’ ministry in our passage this week. As I’ve already alluded to, there’s an authority to Jesus’ ministry. We saw how Jesus had a commanding presence when he called the disciples. Well, that commanding presence continues as he interacts with the unclean spirit, and as he heals people. Mark helps us to see all this through his use of imperative verbs. Think of the phrases Jesus uses in this section – “Follow me, Come out of him, Let us go, Be made clean.” All of these phrases make it clear that Jesus is in charge.

People who meet Jesus are changed

We also see in this passage that when people meet Jesus their lives are changed. The disciples never go back to fishing again. The man has the demon cast out of him. Simon’s mother-in-law is healed. The man with the skin disease is healed. And that is just the beginning. Verse 34 tells us that Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons.” And verse 45 tells us that even when Jesus was in deserted places, “they would come to him from everywhere.” Jesus’ authority is demonstrated as he heals people and casts out demons.

Authority in Jesus’s teaching

But that’s not all. Jesus’ authority is also demonstrated in his teaching. He enters a synagogue in Capernaum and begins to teach. The people are astonished because unlike the Scribes Jesus teaches as one who has authority. In Mark 7:8 we learn that the scribes were dependent on the tradition of men. Not Jesus. Jesus’ teaching was different and the people recognized it right away. Jesus said new things and he said them authoritatively. Mark points out twice that the people recognize that Jesus taught with authority, in verse 22 and in verse 27. Mark wants to underscore this point. Jesus is teaching with authority and the people recognize it.

In several different ways, we’ve seen that Jesus ministers with authority.

We’ve all met authoritative people, haven’t we? Sometimes they can be quite intense, like a bull in a china shop. They get things done but they step on toes along the way. We have a very different picture of Jesus in this passage.

Jesus interacts with people personally and tenderly

Jesus definitely gets things done, but he interacts with people personally and tenderly. We first see it with Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus hears that she is in bed with a fever. He could have easily healed her from the other room with a word. Instead, he goes directly to her bedside. He has just come from teaching at the synagogue, an important task for a Jewish man, but he takes time to go to the bedside of a sick, elderly woman. When he is at her bedside, he takes her hand and he raises her up. He heals her in a way that expresses personal care for her.

And then we have the man with the skin disease. I’ve had skin diseases and they gross me out even when it’s my disease. But it was much worse for a Jew in Jesus’ day. This man would have been an outcast – cut off from normal human interaction. He would not have been allowed in the synagogue. He was also cut off from human touch. He would have had to call out “unclean” if people came too close to him, so that they didn’t inadvertently touch him and make themselves unclean.

This man is desperate. He comes to Jesus on his knees and begs Jesus to make him clean. And how does Jesus respond? Jesus is moved with compassion. And Jesus acts on his compassion. He reaches out his hand and he touches the man. And then he heals the man.

A picture of Israelites’ unclean hearts

Mark intends this unclean man to be a picture of the Israelites. Like the man, they were unclean; but unlike the man their uncleanness was not external – it was their hearts that were unclean. I’m sure you noticed how many times the word clean is repeated in this section. Mark wants to emphasize that Jesus came to make the people clean.
As a part of his ministry, Jesus tenderly brings physical healing to needy people. This physical healing is a symbol of the spiritual healing he can bring through his death on the cross.

Responses

So, how should we respond to Jesus and his ministry? We see several options in our passage. The people are flocking to Jesus but it’s not fully clear why they are attracted to him. They recognize the authority of his teaching and they’re bringing their friends and family to be healed. But do they really recognize that Jesus has come to heal them spiritually? Time will tell.

And then there are the religious leaders. Maybe you missed them in this passage. That’s because they are not here. They’re silent. They should have recognized Jesus’ authority and welcomed him as the Messiah they were waiting for. But they are conspicuously silent.

Ironically, in the synagogue, the only one who recognizes Jesus is the demon. Remember during the overview we said that during this section the big question is – Who is Jesus? Well, the demon is the first one who answers that question correctly. Mark means it to be ironic & shocking. In verse 24 the demon says, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

But the demon’s response is not meant to be a model for us. The demon does correctly identify Jesus, but he doesn’t willingly submit to Jesus’ authority. All he wants to know is what Jesus is going to do to him. Some people do recognize that Jesus is the Son of God but they still want nothing to do with him.

The group in this passage we should pattern our response after is the disciples. They follow Jesus. In coming weeks, we will see the disciples struggle as Jesus reveals unexpected nature of his ministry. But they continue to follow him even as they struggle. And this should be what we do as well.

We follow even when Jesus work in our lives is unexpected

We should continue to daily follow Jesus even when his ministry in our lives is unexpected. We need to allow him to minister authoritatively in our lives. And we need to let him bring healing into our lives. Both of these require humility.

Jesus ministers authoritatively in our lives through his Word. When we give the Word of God authority in our lives we submit ourselves to it and allow it to change us. The question for us is – Are we going to allow his word to have lordship in our lives even when we don’t like what it says, or we think what it says is too hard, or that we can’t possibly do what it says? This requires humility and daily dependence on the Spirit through prayer.

Christians are still in need of healing

As Christians, we also need Jesus to continue to bring healing into our lives. We don’t like to acknowledge that we don’t have it all together but this is what is required if we are going to allow Jesus to continue to minister healing to us. Even when we realize that Jesus will tenderly bring the healing we require, it’s still difficult.

We can start by thinking over the Ezekiel sermons (current sermon series at Hinson Baptist Church). And acknowledge that apart from Christ the picture of the sinner painted in those passages is us. And the judgment in those chapters is what we deserve apart from Christ’s saving work on the cross on our behalf. If you have not been at Hinson on a Sunday morning the last 3 weeks just read a few select chapters from Ezekiel 4 through 24 and you’ll get the idea. We can go back to these chapters and meditate on what we are apart from Christ. And we can ask the Spirit to continue to work in our lives to help us put to death our sin.

It is hard. But there is real hope. Jesus has an authoritative ministry. We should praise God for that, because his ministry is effective. And Jesus uses his authority to bring real healing into our lives. If we will humble ourselves and submit to his ministry we will see real change in our lives. It might be slow but it will be real and.

 

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