Main responsibilities – help people identify ministry opportunities and equip them to do it. Ephesians “to equip the people for the work of ministry”. Mark’s gospel is often referred to as “The Servant’s Gospel”. Chapter 1 moves us quickly to the beginning of Christ’s ministry (v.14-15), and the calling of the first disciples (v.16-20). The next 4 stories highlight some of the distinctive qualities modelled by Christ in His ministry, which are applicable for us in our ministry to one another and the world.
A Servanthood Marked by Divine Authority (v.21-28)
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
ILLUS: Coaching – who do I listen to, parents, team-mates, coach.
Tagline: We live in a world of conflicting and confusing authorities and we are left alone to decide which of these authorities we will trust and seek to live by.
With so many differing ideas and options, which ones do we trust?
As we look at this passage of scripture, this is one of the first things that we notice, and it holds great significance in this story. When Jesus taught at the synagogue in Capernaum, the people were captivated by His teaching because they could sense the authority that undergirded His teaching.
- What was unique was the fact that Jesus neither quoted, nor leaned on any other rabbinic names as a precedent for his teaching. No scribe ever gave a decision on his own. He would always begin, “There is a teaching that…” and would then quote all his authorities. The last thing they would do is make an independent judgement.
- Jesus was different. He made a quiet assumption of personal authority. When He spoke, he spoke as if He needed no authority beyond Himself. He spoke with utter independence. He cited no authorities and quoted no experts. He spoke with the finality of the voice of God. And like a breeze of fresh air, Christ’s teaching captures the attention of His listeners.
- In this story, we also see that his teaching was backed by authority in action in the casting out of a demon. Notice the response of the crowds, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
First characteristic of doing ministry like Jesus:
A Servanthood marked by Divine Authority
Relevance: We want our ministries to reflect the right authority as well. Our appeal is not to our own authority, but to biblical authority.
The people were captured by Christ’s teaching because it was authoritative and relevant. It struck a chord with them, both because of the message, and because of the authority behind the message.
The Message delivered with Divine Authority will be both appealing (because it speaks relevantly and deeply to our souls) and scary (because it speaks relevantly and deeply to our souls). We all long for that kind of teaching to guide our lives, but at the same time, we all wrestle with giving ourselves completely to it.
Christ’s teaching of the Word of God is recognized as a legitimate authority, but it must also be responded to as a legitimate authority.
Jesus was asked a question once by the religious leaders that is helpful for us to ponder as we consider God’s Words this morning. They asked, “By what authority do you do these things?”
- We know that they had already pondered the question and had come to a conclusion about the authority behind Christ’s words and action.
- What conclusion do we come to as we consider this question?
The challenge that we must consider this morning is this: If Christ’s life and teaching is marked by Divine Authority, we must decide what our response to that Divine Authority will be.
Our responsibility as a church is to faithfully present the message and appeal to the biblical authority from which it comes. Our responsibility as individuals is to recognize and respond to the message and its authority.
Will we recognize an authority that rings true, but do nothing with it? Or will we recognized the Divine Authority in Christ’s life and teaching and respond to it appropriately, in faith and obedience?
A Servanthood Marked by Personal Attention (v.29-34)
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The story characters – All of us, like the people in these stories, have human needs that affect us and our lives. These needs are unique to us: unique hurts, unique pain, unique disease, unique loneliness, unique questions, unique obstacles and barriers that affect our lives. Sometimes these needs are obvious, and other times, they are not so obvious.
- I would guess that all of us are therefore on the lookout for those people who will take interest in us in such a way that they help bear the burden of our need.
- Jesus does that, through our personal relationship with Him, and through relationships with His people.
Mark continues to lay the foundation for understanding the Servant King. In the happenstance of life this day in Capernaum, Jesus shows Himself to be a servant to human need. There appear to be no conditions for who could be healed and only one motivation – to show personal care and attention to the needs of those who came to Him.
The Second Distinctive characteristic of Christ’s ministry:
A Servanthood marked by Personal Attention.
This scripture shows the evidence of Christ becoming involved with people personally. He gives Himself as a servant to those in need.
“They went to the home…” – while this scripture doesn’t explicitly say so, we can imply that real relationship begins when we start inviting people into our lives.
- Jesus might well have claimed the right to rest after the exciting and exhausting experience of the synagogue service; but once again His power was appealed to and once again He spent Himself for others.
- Note what this tells us about Jesus. He did not require an audience in order to exert His power – it was true servanthood of people, not a show to amaze and appeal to people by His power. He was never too tired to help; the need of others took precedence over His own desire for rest. Jesus helped instinctively because He was supremely interested in all who needed His help.
Jesus – Jesus teaches us by modeling the kind of servanthood that He wants to develop in our lives. He placed Himself in the position that He is seeking to teach us. He meets needs because He successfully shows interest in people – placing them and their need within His sphere of attention. That alone is enough to capture their attention – perhaps not their hearts allegiance, but it does capture their attention.
What’s the Problem? Acknowledge and address possible objections the listener may have.
Here is the beginning of tragedy. The crowds came, but they came because they wanted something out of Jesus. They did not come because they loved Him; they did not come because they had caught a glimpse of the new vision Jesus brought to the world; they came because their need could be met by Him.
The one thing that is missing in Christ’s performing of these miracles is the quest for faith that usually accompanies His miracles. Perhaps He was allowing them to bridge the gap by discovering faith as a result of witnessing the power of God on their behalf. In fact, we see this recognized in Mk.2:5, “When Jesus saw their faith…”. This is the first time recorded in Mk that faith accompanied a miracle – and Jesus was watching for it.
“For one prayer that goes up to God in prosperity
ten thousand go up in time of adversity.”
What this statement means for us is that people in need provide opportunity for ministry. They are looking for help; often they are open to real ministry.
What’s the Difference? Offer an alternate future that is based upon the transformed call of the gospel.
The Roman Readers – Christianity has long been known as a personal faith, and is unique because it is a personal relationship. Most religion, whether true or false, misses the most important thing that is presented here – God Himself is personally interested in us and our need.
How have we responded to the personal touch of Christ?
How Christ-like is our personal attention to others in need?
Christ is willing to become personally involved in our lives and our needs.
The personal attention that we are able to give others in ministry is an opportunity to see faith birthed in them.
A Servanthood Marked by Kingdom Priorities (v.35-39)
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
A third distinctive of doing ministry like Jesus:
A Servanthood marked by Kingdom Priorities
This scriptures shows us the unique focus Christ had on Kingdom priorities – starting with prayer. This scripture is not about prayer however. It is about the Servant of God seeking insight and direction regarding the Kingdom of God. Christ’s time in prayer was prioritized for the purpose of Christ’s intimacy with God, as well as to direct Christ’s life and action.
So let’s look at Three characteristics of prayer as a Kingdom Priority:
1. Prayer was the vehicle of intimate fellowship with God.
2. Prayer was the window to a balanced perspective of His ministry. Prayer facilitated Christ’s need to understand whether His ministry was effective in Kingdom purposes. Christ discerned that the crowd was not gathering because faith was being birthed. This speaks to our practice of prayer. The prayer talked about here strikes me as being inherently different than the kind of prayer we think about when talking about prayer. Often people think of prayer by equating it with either a discipline like exercise (necessary but not fun) or a shopping list (another task involving completing a list of tasks). But prayer here communicates clearly a relational event - requiring time, listening, conversing with God, filtering the thoughts and ideas of our hearts, allowing them to be sifted by God’s Holy Spirit, resulting in an action plan that is from God.
3. Prayer was the guide to lead and direct His day by day actions. Kingdom priorities lead Him to move on. Prayer affirmed the active response to the perspective gained by being with God.
Priority #1: Meet with God.
Jesus circumstances left Him with no time alone – He knew that He could not live without God.
- If Jesus was going to be forever giving out, he must be at least sometimes taking in.
- If Jesus was going to spend Himself for others, He must summon spiritual reinforcements to His aid.
- Jesus knew that He could not live without prayer. Jesus knew he could not live without intimate, nourishing fellowship with the Father.
- Jesus knew that if He was to meet the need of men, He must first meet with God. If this was necessary for Jesus, how much more is this necessary for us?
Priority #2: Listen to God.
Dr. A. D. Belden in the Practice of Prayer:
- Not to pray is to be guilty of the incredible folly of ignoring “the possibility of adding God to our resources”.
- In prayer we give the perfect mind of God the opportunity to feed our mental powers.
What was accomplished in prayer? Insight! From His response to the disciples we see that Jesus found the balanced perspective needed to minister effectively, and we also see that prayer lead to God directing His actions strategically.
Priority #3: Move with God.
Prayer will never do our work for us; what it will do is to strengthen us for the work which must be done.
Like the disciples, it’s easy to find ourselves excited by the gathering of crowds rather than sharing with Christ the burden and responsibility of birthing faith. We need the discernment that prayer provides in order to have that balanced perspective and insight focusing our efforts on birthing authentic, saving and sanctifying faith through our ministry.
The Roman Readers – Mark seems to be highlighting for his Roman readers that Christ’s priority was furthering the Kingdom of God by birthing faith in those who saw and heard the message of the Messiah. The priority was not working miracles for people. The miracles were an authentic and purposeful response to the need of people, but Christ did miracles to lead people to put their faith in Him. Mark’s message – don’t be impressed by the miracles – be responsive to the miracle worker’s message and mission.
How is our commitment to Kingdom Priorities?
I am challenged by Christ’s commitment to prayer. I am challenged by the sacrifice Christ made to find time and solitude in prayer. I am challenged by the purposes and blessings Christ found in making prayer a priority.
I am challenged by Christ’s commitment to stay focused on advancing the eternal Kingdom and not giving in to the allure of building an earthly kingdom. We must rightly define what it means to be successful in ministry to stay true to that which Christ deems success. First question, Am I becoming more like Christ in my character and in my actions? Second question, are you/we as a church becoming more like Christ in our character and our actions?
I am also challenged by Christ’s sensitivity to God’s leading and His obedience to that leading. The key to being led by the Spirit of God is found in the intimacy of our relationship with the person of God. It is consistent. It is deep. It is two-way communication. It is humble, but vital and active. It is obedient.
A Servanthood Marked by Uncommon Compassion (v.40-45)
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
What’s the Story? How does this story relate to your story? Why should you listen?
The Leper, although an individual and therefore unique in His attitudes and perspectives and role in this story, also represents the complexity of the hurt and pain all around us. Questions abound as to how to touch our world through the individuals and their unique and complex needs. Where do we start? What do we do first? What is the most important action once the diagnosis is made?
These questions give rise to other questions: Will my action really make a difference? I can only affect one small part of a much greater, much more complex need.
Of the many miracles that Jesus did, this one must have stuck out in Peter’s mind and in Mark’s mind. All three synoptic gospels record this story of healing a leper who came to Christ. What seems to be significant is the way the request was made by the leper, “If you are willing you can make me clean” and Christ’s response, “I am willing. Be clean.”
What a powerful question this scripture asks us to wrestle with. When we are faced with the needs of the world, the needs of the poor, the needs of our neighborhood, the needs of our neighbors – they make a request that penetrates through all our excuses – “If you are willing you can make me clean.” Sure we can ignore the significance of both the request and Christ’s response by saying, “But I can’t heal someone’s disease! I can’t bring cleansing!” That ignores the question of “willingness”. That is the real issue that confronts us. Are we compassionate? Are we willing?
- “Filled with compassion…” – Another translation says, Jesus was moved with pity to the depths of His being.
- What could, would fill Christ with compassion? What causes this response by Christ?
- Next Jesus does something that is totally unexpected, and totally unthinkable by the social structure of the day – He reaches out and touches a leper. His compassion would not let Him shrink from laying His hand on even the loathsomeness of leprosy.
- And in touching the leper he says more than just “I am willing”. He proves it! What a powerful message of compassion is communicated in those words – “I am willing!”
Christ never turned away someone who came to Him seeking help and healing, but Christ also never went seeking people to heal. Healing and helping was not His primary purpose and unfortunately, many people, even in fact an overwhelming majority of the people who came to Him for physical healing never experienced the spiritual and eternal healing that Christ preached and the gospel proclaims. Their eyes were fixed on themselves and their need. Christ unfortunately could not change that by healing them or meeting their need. They had to recognize a greater need than their physical one, and fix the eyes of their hearts, their faith, on Him.
We will always face the complexity and the frustration of that freedom – people choose. The eternal fruit that is born through our lives and effort is often not equal to the labour we invest. It is dependent on the turning of a heart from its selfishness to the tuning of hearts to the Saviour.
What is the Message? What does God want to say through this text at this time to these people?
Look at the needs that can be seen in the individuals that God has placed around us ask us the question, “Are you willing?” Are you willing to get involved with me? Are you willing to try to do something about this? Are you willing to make a sacrifice? Are you willing to move from your place of comfort?
The Servant sets the example by saying and showing – “I am willing!”
We have the ability to begin healing and bring cleansing to others, just as Christ did to this leper – and just as Christ did for us, by opening our hearts and arms to be willing. The truth of this statement confronts us in our relationships with individuals in need - “If you are willing, you can make me clean!”
He has shown us four characteristic marks of Jesus Christ, the Servant of God.
Christ’s example is a Servanthood that is marked by Divine Authority, calling us to humble submission in faith and obedience.
Christ’s example is a Servanthood that is marked by Personal Attention, calling us to follow His example by becoming involved in people’s lives and needs, living in real and redemptive relationship with people who are individuals and therefore unique and lovely.
Christ’s example is a Servanthood that is marked by Kingdom Priorities, calling us to intimacy with God to be lead by the King of the Kingdom.
Christ’s example is a Servanthood that is marked by Uncommon Compassion, calling us to extend the compassion in our hearts to the willingness of our lives
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