Stop Look Listen 1 29-45 041507
“Stop, Look and Listen”
Mark 1:29-45 Pastor Bruce Dick – BEFC
Pt. 4 of “Who is Jesus…?” April 15, 2007
Every one of us here this morning knows how easy it is to be distracted. You’re making supper and you have two things on the stove and one in the oven, bringing one to a slow boil and the meat in the oven is gently baking. Then it happens – the phone rings, the dog starts barking, and simultaneously each of your kids has an emergency that they need you for – right now! Am I close? And 15 minutes later you return to the stove and the slow boil has become an overflowing volcano, now baking onto the surface of your stove, the meat in the oven is becoming crisp and you haven’t even set the table.
Or try this: Anyone ever left the water running outside to water some plants and you figure you’ll just do something really quick while that soaks up? Anyone ever returned 2 hours later to find that not only is the flowerbed soaked but so it the basement?
Or how about this; eventually you farmers will be in the field. A number of years ago we had a Concord air seeder and because it relies on air to blow the seed and distribute it, there is kind of a vacuum effect in the seed and fertilizer compartments. Well, my brother was seeding that day and for whatever reason, when he was filling the seed and fertilizer compartments, there were 4 latches on each top cover and he got distracted and latched two of the ones on the seed compartment. 40 acres later he realized that he had been seeding only a fraction of the seed he needed to, just enough to keep the monitors quiet! But you guys never make mistakes like that do you?
No one is perfect, but sometimes we just wish we could keep our focus. What do we do when we realize that we have become distracted or realize that we could? How do we “stay on course? How do we keep the main thing the main thing?
Would you be surprised if I told you that Jesus faced the same problem? Now he didn’t make the mistakes that you and I did, but he could very easily have lost his focus and gotten off course with all that was happening to him. Three Sunday’s ago when we last were in Mark’s first chapter, the distractions were only beginning, and Jesus was the cause of the first ones. First, he went into the temple on the Sabbath and blew them away with his authoritative teaching; he had – do you remember the word? – s’mikhah. He is the best of the best of the rabbis and he can give new truth. But then he casts a demon out of a man in church – in church! – and that just scares the pants off the people; but it sure explodes his popularity! Now everyone wants a piece of him. And the potential distractions are only going to increase.
How do we keep from becoming distracted? How do we stay on course? Here’s the answer; I borrow it from what every child is taught about crossing the street; 3 words – STOP, LOOK and LISTEN. Three short, simple words. A child of 3 or 4 years old can understand this. Your ball rolls out into the street and you get to the edge of the curb and a voice rings in your head; it’s your parents – STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN. So you stop, you look both ways – twice – to see if any car is coming, and as you do, you simply listen; sometimes you hear a vehicle coming and for whatever reason, you didn’t see it. STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN is not only good advice for children crossing a street, but for Christians who are constantly distracted by the world and all the pressures associated with living.
I want you to see what happened to Jesus and what he did about it and then I want to come back to what you and I can and must do if we are going to stay on course. If you still have your Bibles open to Mark 1, good! If you don’t, would you do so now! Let me give you a quick overview of what is happening here in this passage. I say that there are two “bookends” to this passage. You know what bookends are; I’ve got two right here in my hands. One on each end keeps the books in between upright and neatly put together. There are two bookends in this story this morning and in between, Jesus stops, looks and listens. Take a look.
Bookend #1 - VERSE 29: The service is finished at the synagogue; Jesus has left the folks scared and breathless, in disbelief at what they have just seen. But now it is time for a meal. So they go to the home of two of the disciples – Simon (Peter) and Andrew – along with James and John.
VERSE 30: But when they get there, there’s a problem – no meal. Why? Peter’s mother-in-law is very sick with a fever. Does that fact that it says Peter has a mother-in-law surprise you? Did you realize that he was married? We know very little about his wife except that he had one. Only Paul refers to her in 1 Cor. 9:5, which says, “Do we not have the right to take along (on our journeys) a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and CEPHAS?” Cephas is Peter. It seems, and tradition backs this up, that Peter’s wife accompanied him on his travels? Does that surprise you? It did me too! Tradition also says that his wife was martyred, killed or crucified, just before he was, and he was forced to watch. His last words to her were reported to be, Remember the Lord! And then she died.
At any rate, the custom in Israel was that when you got married, you moved into your father’s house until you made enough money to move out. Add to the fact that his mother-in-law lives there too; this would have been rather interesting. How many of you who are married would like to live in your parents’ home for the first years of your marriage AND also have your mother-in-law there too! Yikes! I know that my parents lived with my dad’s parents for a few months and that was bad enough!
Anyway, Peter’s mother-in-law has a bad fever; Dr. Luke, who wrote the gospel by that name, indicates that medically it was very bad. They get to the house; see her lying in bed and rush to tell Jesus about this – after all, he has authority to cast out a demon, he can surely cure a fever! Look at the gentleness of Jesus: He came, took her by the hand and lifted her up and bam, the fever is gone. The word is stronger than it appears her; this fever fled from her, it was cast off in the same way Jesus cast off a demon. When the Great Physician touches you, physical torment flies out of the building.
And as if to emphasize how thoroughly she is healed, her response it to get up and serve them, making a meal for all of them. Now you read this and you think, “Good grief! What do they expect of this woman; she’s been sick for crying out loud! How rude!” But that’s missing the point. Now think about this; when you’ve been down with a fever for a few days, do you all of a sudden pop out of bed and go back to work? Well, you might go to work but when people ask how you are, what do you say? You say, “Well, I’m starting to feel a bit better, but I’m still feeling pretty weak.” That’s how thoroughly Jesus heals her; there’s no recovery period; she bounces out of bed, so healthy and so grateful, she’s busying herself around the kitchen as these new disciples stare in amazement.
VERSE 32: The episode in the synagogue really opened up a can of worms. At sundown, which marked the end of Sabbath, the sick and demon possessed show up at the entrance to their home. They come out of the woodwork. They had to, by Jewish law, do nothing until sundown, but with sundown they come and keep coming.
VERSE 33-34: The whole city is gathered outside their door and Jesus, this rabbi with s’mikhah does what he has authority to do – he heals them physically and he reaches into their lives spiritually, casting out demons. It made me wonder how many demon-possessed people lived in that area anyway. My goodness! This was spiritual warfare. But look at Jesus; he wouldn’t permit the demons to talk. The one in the synagogue did, but not these. It shows again Jesus’ authority; they knew who he was and they were desperate to share this little secret, but it wasn’t the time and the place and Jesus says, “No you don’t. Get out of here and remain quiet.”
Now this is one busy day! Jesus is taking this city by storm. And no doubt the line to see Jesus is endless and somehow, some way, perhaps well after midnight, he finally says that this is enough for one day; how he ended things we don’t know. All of that is one bookend. All of this is a clear demonstration of his authority, not only to teach but to heal on a physical and spiritual level.
Do you think Jesus was busy? Do you think he was as busy as you are in the course of a day? I have to admit that Jesus worked longer and harder than all of us; it was physically demanding but it was also direct spiritual warfare, hour after hour after hour. It was good that they had supper earlier because I’m sure he had no time to eat. I imagine Jesus finally crawling into bed, maybe 1 o’clock in the morning; you know that feeling when you crawl into bed after an exhausting day? I sure do; Easter night was one of those; sunrise service, Easter service, company all afternoon and evening; man, when I hit that mattress, my body just went, “ahhh.” You just kind of unwind and wait for sleep to overtake you.
But here’s what kills me. This is the part between the two bookends – his TIMEOUT. This next paragraph is one of my least favorite portions of scripture in the entire Bible. I have felt guiltier over what happens next than most anything I have ever read. Did you wonder about it when Craig read it? Take a look at what Jesus does. In verse 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.” The literal reading has the idea that he gets up during the 4th watch of the night; that means nothing to you, but it is the 3-hour period from – now get this – 3-6 a.m. Get that? He probably went to be about 1 (I’m guessing) and gets up between 3 and 6 a.m.; most likely it was earlier than 6 b/c it says it was still dark and that would likely have to be before about 5.
So here’s my sermon on this verse could sound like this: “Now listen to me; I don’t care that you worked 16hours yesterday; I don’t care that you were up half the night cleaning up vomit from your sick kids; I don’t care that you did homework until midnight; if you don’t get up at 4:00 a.m. to pray, you are not a spiritual person. You don’t need to sleep; you need to pray. And you need to leave your house and go somewhere lonely and isolated, like down by the lake or somewhere out by Brian Prince’s house – nothing’s out there! Don’t sit there like that! Do something!
I tell you what; I have hated that verse. It makes me feel so guilty. I dug and researched and dug some more, hoping to find some answers. And I think I found some things that make sense. And by the way, that’s not my sermon.
There are two things that I see in Jesus’ getting up at 4:00 p.m. to pray. First, I think he just longs to be with his father. So I think he gets up, not just because he is disciplined but because he has slept enough, wakes up and just wants to get away so he can talk to his father. You see, when John the Baptist baptized him and his father told him how pleased he was with him, his ministry hadn’t even started; but it has now and he has had quite a day. And as I have said before, God has made each and every one of us with deep longings in our hearts. Some of us here know what those deepest longings are and many of us have buried those longings under busyness, superficial things and hurts and pains. But Jesus knows his deepest longings and they are only for his father.
Here’s what I think, and I have wrestled with this all week long, so maybe this is human Bruce speaking. I think Jesus is like a kid who has just scored 30 points in his first varsity basketball game and can’t wait to get home to tell his parents, who were at the game, but whom he wants to tell. And besides that, he wants them to tell HIM how great a game it was. Kent Hughes writes that Jesus “lifted up his soul in ecstasy to his Father.”
I found this on a card I had stored away years ago and it fits so well. It’s simply titled, “Father” and it traces what we think of our dads as we grow up. 4 years: My daddy can do anything. 7 years: My dad knows a lot, a whole lot. 8 years: My father doesn’t quite know everything. 12 years: Oh, well, naturally Father doesn’t know everything. 14 years: Father? Hopelessly old fashioned. 21 years: Oh that man is out of date. What did you expect? 25 years: He knows a little bit about it, but not much. 30 years: (and this is key) Must find out what Dad thinks about it. Now I could stop there, because this is Jesus’ age, but in case you are wondering what’s next, I’ll finish. 35 years: A little patience, let’s get Dad’s meaning first. 50 years: What would Dad have thought about it? 60 years: My dad knew literally everything. 65 years: I wish I could talk it over with Dad once more.
Jesus is 30 years old and he’s had one of the most amazing days of his life and he just longs to share that with his father and feel the approval of a “good job son; you did me real proud today.” He wants to find out what his Dad thinks about his day.
That’s one reason I think Jesus gets up to pray. But there is a second one. Here it is: he needs to stop, look and listen to his father before his ministry gets off track. Remember I said that Mark writes only the things absolutely necessary to tell his story? Mark records only 3 times that Jesus prays. Each are in the darkness, each are alone. One is here at the beginning of his ministry; the second is in the middle of his ministry, after the feeding of the 5000 and the 3rd is at the end of his ministry, after the Passover meal and when he enters the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, asking his disciples to wait a ways away. And here is the key: each of those occasions, Jesus was faced with the possibility of achieving His messianic mission in a more attractive, less costly way. Look at what he has just done; he has spent half a day healing and casting out demons. Tomorrow the crowd will be even greater. He fed 5000 plus women and children; he could have fed 50,000 the next day. In the garden, he could have taken a different, less painful path to becoming king. Each time he escapes to pray, Jesus is faced with an opportunity to take his ministry in another direction. And each time he prays he stops to take a breath. He LOOKS around in the sense that he begins to realize what could happen versus what should happen. Should he become a great rabbi who heals? Why did he come? He came to seek and save those who were lost. Could he accomplish that by simply healing the sick and casting out demons? He LISTENS to his father to see what he needs to do and where he needs to make course corrections. I am not saying he was wrong to heal or cast out demons; I’m saying that if he continues down this path, he’s going to have a megachurch that is all about temporary fixes and not eternal. He is consciously dependent upon his father for strength and direction. And losing a little sleep is a small consequence to staying on course.
This word for prayer is not terribly unique, but it has the idea of turning toward God and directly and consciously turning his worship and attention toward him. E. Stanley Jones once described prayer as a “time exposure to God.” He used the analogy of his life being like a Polaroid picture (remember those?) which, when exposed to God, progressively bore the image of God in keeping with the length of exposure. The longer the exposure to his father, the more like him he will be. And as he stops, looks and listens, he is reminded of why he came and what he must do.
How do I know that? I know that because of what comes next. Before I share some practical ways to apply this section on prayer, let’s see how the story plays out. Then at the end I’ll come back with some practical applications.
VERSE 36-37: Sometime later, Peter and the others get up, notice that Jesus is gone and they hunt for Jesus; they track him down out there in the lonely hills outside Capernaum. They’re all excited; people are gathering at Peter’s home waiting for Jesus to begin healing them too; he didn’t get them all last night. They’re all excited; this megachurch thing is going really great; in a week they’ll have 1000’s of healed followers.
VERSES 38-39: This is profound; you have to see this. Jesus, after his time with his father, has his focus intact, remembers the reason he came and says, “Let us go to the next towns…” And you can hear his disciples groaning; “Jesus, are you nuts? You have work here for a month. Your popularity is enormous, your authority unquestioned. What in the world would you leave for? Listen to Jesus: “…that I may PREACH there also, for THAT is why I came out.” Did you catch why he came? He came to preach the Gospel, the good news. He is the Savior of the WORLD, not just the healer of a few. Now I am not saying that the few aren’t important; they ARE. But Jesus has his focus: “I can’t stay here; I have to go to these other towns and preach there too. The healings and demon-casting? Those just validate the authority the Father has given me.” And Jesus heads to the other 200 towns in Galilee, each of which has several 1000 residents.
Now here comes Bookend #2: VERSES 40-45: So he leaves and while in another place, look at what kind of person comes to him – a leper. This leper breaks through the crowd, begs Jesus to heal him, kneels before him in worship and says, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Now this is something new in Mark’s account. No mention of lepers before. This is by Mark’s design. Leprosy was then what AIDS is today; no one wanted to touch it with a 10-foot pole. There were rules of how far they had to be from people if they were upwind and for how far if they were downwind. It wasn’t that they were contagious, but that they were considered unclean and everything they touched was unclean and every building they entered was unclean. These people had to live outside the city, keep their hair unkempt, and every time people were close, they had to yell, “Unclean, unclean!” so people wouldn’t get too close. Again, it had the same stigma to them that AIDS has today. Leprosy was associated with sin; it was symbolic for the disease that is inside and shows itself in ugliness on the outside. In fact, there was no cure for leprosy then; it was thought that because this was sin-related, that only God could cure it.
Did you notice what he said? He does not doubt Jesus’ ability or authority to heal him. He just wonders if Jesus has the will or desire to do so. Jesus is moved by this; verse 41 says that he is moved with pity and compassion; not pity like, “Oh, you poor man,” but deep, gut-wrenching emotion for this man; he cares deeply for him and is pleased with his faith. For notice that he did not ask Jesus to ask God to heal him; he knew Jesus could do it himself. Again authority.
Jesus, in much the same was as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law, reaches out his hand (to the horror of the crowd), touches him, and says to him simply, “I will; be clean.” Jesus didn’t need to touch him. But he did. In fact, his touch is not just a dab with his finger; the word has the idea of clinging to him, grabbing him.
In verse 42, why should be we surprised, Mark writes that IMMEDIATELY the leprosy left him. His skin was healed instantly; he might have had stubs for fingers; they were instantly full, pink fingers. His skin would have been white but now became healthy. He wouldn’t have had hair and his hair grew back. He wouldn’t have been able to feel pain prior to this and now he can actually feel tingles through his body as nerve endings are made new. And it happened all in an instant. It was like electricity running through his body.
But here’s the shocking thing; if leprosy is associated with sin, Jesus is getting real close to demonstrating that he can not only heal, but he can forgive sin too. And that is totally going to blow their minds when they get that. The corruption inside this man physically Jesus has just healed. But he is also setting the stage for chapter two when for the first time, he will tell someone that is spiritual corruption is gone.
Now Jesus tries to tell this man to fulfill his religious obligation by going to the priest to have him verify that he is healed and that he is absolutely to keep quiet about this. But this man runs off, openly talking about what Jesus has done. This is a problem. This only explodes Jesus’ popularity further, so much so that he can no longer go into any town openly, but he remained out in desolate places, like along the Sea of Galilee where people would come to him rather than him going into their towns.
That’s the second bookend and it is greater than the first. Jesus is a man of action. He came to serve, not to be served and he’s doing a whole lot of serving. But he is also conscious of why he came – he came to preach the gospel and his miracles were to validate his message. But he was dangerously close to doing miracles and having his teaching play second fiddle to them. That he would not stand for. And that is why his time with his father was so valuable.
So let’s go back to that section between the bookends and see how we can benefit from that. Remember the two reasons that I said he escaped so early in the morning? It wasn’t so we would be asked to get up at 4:00 a.m. to pray each day, although that would be great if that’s what God stirs in your heart. And let me be very honest here; I started working on this passage last week, before Easter. So I knew what this passage would say 10 days ago. Easter Sunday was my Jesus’ day like his on the Sabbath. I’d love to say that I got up at 4:00 a.m. on Monday to drive outside of Devils Lake to a hideaway and pray. But you know what I did? I slept in! I took my day off on Monday for this week as the kids didn’t have school and I stayed in bed until 9:00 a.m.! Are you disappointed? And you know what I did much of the day? I did plumbing repair in the house. Two leaks fixed and one toilet tank kit installed. I hated it. I hate being wet and cold with squirting water. And you know what else I did? I took a nap! So no, I did not get up at 4:00 a.m.
But here’s the other part; God the Father was on my mind a lot. I did want to hear from him. I did return to my times with him the next day. I struggled with this passage greatly; I didn’t know how it fit together. I probably consciously and subconsciously put more God-time into this message than many others. I longed for his opinion and his direction to come out. I wanted him to be pleased with me. I wanted to stop, look and listen. I wanted to stay on course.
You see, for some of us, to stop, look and listen is to get up at 4:00 a.m. and sit with your Bible and a cup of coffee, getting your bearings at the start of the day, looking into his word and listening for what he is asking you to do and be that day. Great! Keep it up! But it’s not the legalistic getting up that gets you up; it is your longing to be with your father.
But for the vast majority of us here who don’t get up at 4:00 a.m. to pray, when do you stop, look and listen? If we never stop, look and listen, we are like the child who chases his ball into the street only to stare into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle; we get hit and never saw it coming. Some of us here today are hurting; we’re hurting in our marriages, our families, our jobs, our schools, and our relationship with God. When we the last time we stopped, looked and listened?
Here is what I want each of us to do this week. STOP. I want each one of us to take 10 minutes this week to stop, look and listen. Just 10 minutes; feel free to go longer if you like, but let’s at least start. For 10 minutes I want you to get alone or with your spouse and just stop. Get out of the house or turn off the TV and radio, but it has to be undistracted time for 10 minutes. Kids and teens I want you to do this too. So first, I want you to just stop; find a quiet place to be alone or with one other person.
Then with your 10 minutes let’s just look. You can look in a couple of ways; you can be outside and look at nature with a God-focus. The heavens declare the glory of God, David writes. So if you choose the nature route, look with an eye to see the glory of God. Don’t just look to look. You see geese flying north, glory in a God who instilled in geese the instinct of which direction to fly and when. And if you see a goose flying south, jump and shout and tell him he’s going the wrong way!
But another way to look is to open God’s word and look into that. But don’t just read; read it with your name in it, which is especially easy with the psalms. Read it as if it was written only to you and see what that does to your heart. Read it out loud back to God or read it in your head and heart. But look at his word.
Finally, and with perhaps the last 3-5 minutes, just listen. If you read, listen to what he might be saying to you from his word. If you look at nature, listen to the birds and the sound of the wind and see what he might be saying to you. Very few take time to listen these days; I mean, really listen. For some of you, this will freak you out; your mind will go in a million directions. You’ll remember someone you are supposed to call; you’ll remember a bill to pay; you can be sure Satan will do his best to mess you up and for some of us, it won’t take much. But you ask God to help you listen and if it lasts only 30 seconds of real listening time, you have won!
Stop, look and listen. Here’s what I’d like you to do; use the sermon notes in the worship folder to write down the stop (when and where), the Look (where did you look?) and the Listen (what did I hear? What course corrections do I need to make?) It’s really simple. And here’s what I’ll do; if you will commit to doing this 10 minutes this week, I’ll take some time next Sunday to ask you what happened. Did you get back on course? Was it impossible? Was it interesting? Did you see or hear something? 10 minutes; that’s all I ask; try it and next Sunday we’ll talk about it. Kids, teens and adults, will you do this with me? Let’s pray.
“Stop, Look and Listen”
Mark 1:29-45 Pastor Bruce Dick – BEFC
Pt. 4 of “Who is Jesus…?” April 15, 2007
Stop, Look and Listen – It’s what you taught your kids to do before crossing the street. It’s what we need to do to get and stay on course with God.
v Two “bookends” and a “timeout:”
o “Bookend #1” – Healing and Casting out Demons (Mark 1:29-34)
“Do we not have the right to take along (on our journeys) a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and CEPHAS?” (1 Corinthians 9:5)
o “Timeout” – Jesus gets up early to ________ and check his course (Mark 1:35-39) – 2 possible reasons…
§ He ___________ to be with his Father…
§ He needs to _______, ____________ and ____________ to his father so he doesn’t get off course…
E. Stanley Jones once described prayer as a “time exposure to God.”
o “Bookend #2” – Healing a leper (Mark 1:40-45)
v A challenge for this week:
o _______________: Set aside ______ minutes with no distractions, no matter what time of day it is. OK?
§ Where did I go? _________________
§ When did I do it? ____________________
o _______________: Two possibilities (you may have other ideas)
§ Where did I look? _______________
§ What did I see? _______________________
§ What did I hear?
§ What “course corrections” do I need to make?