This week the Northwest part of Winnipeg began using the new garbage collection system. On the first day that they were used, CTV reported on this change and interviewed a number of people who were not happy and also reported that they could not find one person who liked the new system. The next day the results of a survey revealed that about 2/3 of respondents from all their viewers did not like the new system and 1/3 thought it was a good idea. I wonder if people will like it after awhile?
Sometime ago Facebook presented a new look. Many people didn’t like it at all and in fact there was even a Facebook group started which invited people to join in protest of the new look. I don’t know how many people objected to the change, but it happened anyway. I wonder if those who objected will eventually accept the new Facebook?
Change is hard for most people. I heard about a music director in a church who wanted to move the piano from one side to the other side of the front. The whole church objected, so every Sunday he moved the piano one inch until it was on the other side and people accepted it. It often takes people time to adjust to change and some are never able to adjust.
When Jesus began his ministry, people saw by what He taught and by the way he healed that He was a unique individual, but they struggled to understand exactly who He was. By what He did and what He taught, they seemed to understand that some kind of a response was required, but they struggled to know what that response should be. In Mark 3:7-35 we have four stories of how people responded to Jesus. As we look at these stories, we not only discover who He was but we also begin to understand what kind of a response Jesus was looking for. It is important for us to think about these things because as followers of Jesus, we also need to be very clear about who He is and what it means to follow Him.
I came early to a seminar once and there was a very ordinary looking man setting up chairs and giving instructions about different things. At first I thought he was the janitor, but later I found out he was the main presenter. His actions confused me about who he was. In the early chapters of Mark, we have read about Jesus’ ministry. From our perspective of much Bible reading in which we now have the whole story, we understand who Jesus was, but as people in that day observed Him for the first time, they didn’t yet have much information. The things he did and said did not fit into any category they had ever encountered before, so there was a lot of confusion about His identity. The stories in today’s text reveal this confusion, but also indicate who He was.
At the end of the last message, in Mark 3:6 we encountered the plot of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus.
Mark 3:7 seems to respond to this rejection when we read that “Jesus withdrew to the lake.” If we study the locations of Jesus’ ministry, we notice that before this Jesus was in the synagogue several times, but after this he appears in a synagogue only once more. Instead, we find that his ministry takes place around the lake. Because of the rejection of the religious leaders, he changed the location of his ministry.
But that rejection did not mean a rejection by all. In fact, in Mark 3:7-10 we find that his popularity increased even more. In Mark 1:28 we read that news about him spread all over Galilee. Now we see that “a large crowd from Galilee followed” but there were also people coming from all over Israel. They came from as far east as the other side of the Jordan, from as far south as Idumea and Jerusalem, as far west as Tyre and Sidon and as far north as Galilee. There were many people who were curious about Jesus and sought him for healing. His popularity spread all over and people came to see what He was all about. But did they really understand who he was or were they just interested in him because of what he could do for them?
Among them were those who were possessed by evil spirits. These evil spirits certainly recognized who Jesus was. They cried out that He was the “Son of God,” but Jesus told them to be silent. It may seem strange to us that Jesus refused their recognition and “gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.” Why did Jesus refuse their testimony? They knew who He was, but they did not follow Him. Cole says, “The Lord wanted men to find out who He was by listening to His words and by watching His deeds.”
There were many who followed Jesus, who were beginning to understand who Jesus was and in Mark 3:13-19, Jesus chose twelve of them to be apostles so that they could grow in their understanding. Geddert suggests that a change of leadership was taking place. The scribes and Pharisees had been the leaders of God’s people, but they had rejected Jesus and now Jesus was choosing a new group of people who would lead God’s people and these 12 were the foundation of this group.
After he had chosen and commissioned the 12, he went into a house and the crowds gathered once again. He was so busy teaching and healing people that he did not even have time to eat anything. Some might suggest that Jesus was a workaholic.
Among those who came to see what was happening was his family. We only realize that it was his family at the end of this section. It is another case in which the story begins in verse 20, 21, but another story comes in between and the story about his family isn’t completed until verses 31-35.
When they saw what was happening his own family had a hard time understanding who he was. For 30 years Jesus had been an ordinary man, a carpenter, a son, a neighbor. All of a sudden he changed completely. He never came home any more. He never worked in the carpentry shop any more. He worked so hard that he didn’t have time to eat. He taught things that were radical and he healed all those who were coming to Him. When His family saw this, they were not ready for the change and Mark 3:22 tells us that “they were saying” “He is out of his mind.”
Before Jesus had a chance to respond to them, however, we read that the “teachers of the law” who had come from Jerusalem, possibly as an official delegation, also had an opinion about who Jesus was. Just as his family “were saying” he was crazy, the teachers of the law “were saying” He is demon possessed and by the prince of demons is driving out demons. They had two accusations - one related to who he was the other to the source of His power. They clearly did not accept Jesus. This opinion of Jesus stuck and in later Jewish texts there is a quote about Jesus which says, “Yeshu of Nazareth was hanged on the day of preparation for the Passover because he practiced sorcery and led the people astray.”
But in defending Himself from this accusation, Jesus reveals a powerful truth about who He was. First of all he told them that it made no sense that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. If that were true, that would mean that there was civil war in Satan’s camp and if that were the case his reign could not stand. He further clarifies the true meaning of his identity and reveals what was really happening. His power to cast out demons indicated that a change of times was happening. His authority indicated a victory over Satan and the beginning of the eternal victory of God. Geddert says that this means that “Satan’s kingdom is not breaking up on the inside; instead, it is being conquered from the outside.”
In these stories we see that there were many opinions about who Jesus was and these are interesting stories if we look at them from the perspective of a search to understand who He was. In these stories there were some who rejected Him, some who came to Him for help, some wjp were ready to follow and some who thought He was either crazy or demon possessed. As Jesus responded to these different people, we get hints of who He really was. We discover that He has power to heal and that He is the Son of God. We learn that He has authority to call out a new people of God. And we rejoice to know that He has power to defeat Satan and establish the eternal reign of God.
If that is who Jesus is, then it is important to ask, “what does He want?” For if Jesus is the Son of God then he deserves respect and honor. If He is establishing a new eternal people of God then it is important to follow Him. If He is defeating Satan then it is important to live on the winning side.
So what does Jesus, the Son of God who is establishing a new kingdom want of those who choose to follow Him?
When Jesus chose the twelve to be apostles, he chose them out of the many who had begun to follow Him. However, later we discover that we are all called to the same kind of following that these 12 were called to. If we understand that we too are chosen by God to be disciples then this section helps us understand what following means.
We notice, first of all, that he chose them “that they might be with him.” Of course, they had a privilege that no one else has ever had. They were physically with Jesus 24/7 and saw everything he did, how He responded, what His goals were, His power and all of His teaching. The call to discipleship hasn’t changed and because of the Spirit of God it is still possible for us to be with Jesus 24/7. In fact that is a large part of what it means to be a disciple. Following Jesus means spending time with Jesus, being in the presence of Jesus. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
How are you with Jesus? Do you set aside special time to be with Him? Do you have a constant awareness of His presence? Do you always recognize that you are in His presence as you work, play and make decisions? That is what it means to be a disciple. It means being with Jesus and letting Him rub off on you.
As disciples they were also called by Jesus so that “he might send them out to preach.” In Mark 6 we read that this is exactly what happened. The twelve were sent out by twos and preached from village to village. But we would be mistaken if we thought that this intent was fulfilled in that preaching mission. When Jesus was with His disciples just before He ascended into heaven He told them once again to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching…” In Acts 1:8 we have a similar commission when he said to them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth.”
This also is what it means to be a disciple today. If we are followers of Jesus, we are those who have been given the task of making the name of Jesus known. That is why we expect people to become involved in service. That is why we create opportunities like camp and AWANA. That is why we have encouraged you to participate in Missionfest Manitoba. May we be motivated in the great commission which is ours.
The third intent of Jesus in calling the disciples was that they would “have authority to drive out demons.” It is interesting that casting out demons is presented in Mark as an authority issue. In Mark 1:27, Jesus had just cast out a demon and the crowd observed that this was “…A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” In this chapter we read that, because the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, they were searching for some other explanation for the authority he had and attributed it to evil powers, but Jesus indicated that He had authority over evil Spirits and demonstrated that power by casting them out.
Jesus gave that authority to his disciples and in Mark 6 when they went out to preach, they also demonstrated that power.
Does this authority also pass down to us?
It does if we believe Romans 16:20 which says, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."
Not only do we continue to have authority over evil spirits, but we do all of our ministry in the authority of Jesus.
In Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus says, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” On the basis of that authority statement, Jesus commissions all disciples to go and make Him known. So we see that we also go out into the world in the authority of Jesus.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised the disciples power. In Acts 3:12, after having healed a crippled man and being questioned about it, Peter responded by saying that they had not accomplished this by their own power, but that they had healed by the power of Jesus. Then when they were arrested and being tried, we read once again in Acts 4:7 that they recognized that they were working, teaching and doing their entire ministry in the authority and power of Jesus.
Today as we live in this world and serve Christ in this world, we also do not do so in our own strength or by the power of the church or any other power. Our authority for living, ministering, teaching, serving is the power of Jesus. May we recognize and rely on that power and authority.
As we have already seen, the Jewish leaders did not get who Jesus was. But it was even worse in their case when we find that they were guilty of the unpardonable sin. Many have wondered about “the unpardonable sin” and many church people have been afraid that they have committed the unpardonable sin. What is this sin that “will never be forgiven?”
The discussion is very specifically addressed in Mark to the issue of the accusation of the Jewish leaders. The blasphemy was, as explained in Mark 3:30, that they were saying that Jesus had an evil spirit. They could not explain the power by which Jesus cast out demons and so they attributed it to evil spirits. But in Mark 1 we learned that the Spirit who descended upon Jesus in order to empower Him for His work was the Holy Spirit. So if the Jewish leaders were calling the spirit within Jesus evil, they were calling the Holy Spirit evil and this is the sin which “will never be forgiven.”
Although this statement is applied specifically to the failure of the Jewish leaders, it also seems to have a universal application. The “eternal sin” is the sin of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and refusing to recognize the presence of God. It is the sin of declaring the good work which God is doing as having an evil source. Geddert says, “Those who attribute the work of Jesus to Satan and satanic power cannot simultaneously receive the forgiveness that depends on recognizing Jesus as God’s agent for salvation.”
So as we search for what it means to be a follower of Jesus, if we turn this around, we recognize that being a disciple means being able to first of all see the divine in Jesus. 1 John 4:15 (NIV) says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” Then it is also the recognition that it is the Spirit of God who is at work in us to bring us to God. Philippians 2:13 (NIV) affirms this when it says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Do we realize how much God is doing in our life?
The story of Jesus’ encounter with his family may puzzle us. Does this imply that Jesus rejected his family? It is more accurate to recognize that his family was rejecting Jesus. They did not understand what Jesus was all about and who he was. When Jesus answered the inquiries of his family, we learn some more important things about what it means to be a disciple.
When Jesus looked at those seated around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers,” he was indicating the existence of a new family. He did not reject his family because we see in John that he still cared for his mother when at the cross he assigned John to look after her. But we also recognize that the family to which Jesus calls all those who follow Him is not limited to a biological family, but rather is the family of those who follow Him. Jesus introduces a new family and being a follower of Jesus means recognizing that family.
Chuck Smith writes, “I was over in New Guinea and I had this native chieftain come up to me. He had to speak to me through an interpreter. And he had these spears in his hand. He said, "I used these to kill men. But," he said, "now that they have brought me this," holding up his Bible, "I don’t need these any more, and I want to give them to you." And there came an instant bonding between this chieftain and myself. My brother in Jesus. Though we could not communicate linguistically, we communicated spiritually, as he grabbed hold of me and I grabbed hold of him and we began to embrace each other in the love of Jesus Christ. And how I felt God’s love just pouring out from that man to me. And how I was bonded to him in the Spirit, as I realized, "This man’s my brother in Jesus." It was a tremendous spiritual experience for me, being bonded by the Spirit to this native who just not too many years ago was a cannibal. But now, because of the work of God’s grace in his life, he’s a brother in Christ. And though we are culturally worlds apart, though linguistically we cannot communicate, yet there was such a spiritual communication and a spiritual bond that I’ve never felt quite that experience of bonding before as I did with that native chieftain as we stood there in the village and embraced each other.”
The new family of His followers is further identified by Jesus in Mark 3:35 when he says, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Geddert says, “His true family does not stand outside and seek to control him. Jesus’ true family gathers around him and learns from him what it means to hear and do the will of God.” Philippians 2:12 (NIV) teaches us what this new family is all about when Paul says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
If we would have a hard time accepting the change to a new garbage collection system, it really wouldn’t matter. If we still don’t like the new look of Facebook, it really doesn’t matter, but if we have a hard time accepting the huge change Jesus has brought that is serious. Have we embraced the change Jesus has brought?
I trust that we among those who recognize just how amazing Jesus is! I hope that we long to know Him and follow Him! If we do, then the things we have learned today will be true of us.
We will desire to be with Him.
We will want to make His name known.
We will work in His authority and power.
We will recognize that the work of Jesus is divine work and continues to work in us.
We will recognize His family as the family of those who obey Him and we will rejoice to be a part of that family.
Our purpose statement as a church directs us to such a focus. Does your heart and life?