We’ve been reflecting about the calling of God on our lives for several months now. And, as we jump into the Lenten Sermon Series on the Gospel of Mark we find ourselves caught up once more into God’s calling on people’s lives.
In Mark’s opening passages we read about the call of John the Baptist, Jesus the Messiah, and first called Disciples – Simon Peter and his brother Andrew then the sons of Zebedee, James and John. John the Baptist has stepped out into his calling to lead people to a change of heart and lives (Mark 1.1-8). Jesus follows obediently being baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness (Mark 1.9-13). Jesus then spends the next 40 days in the wilderness stepping up into his positions of authority as Messiah who brings the Kingdom of God to bear upon the hearts and lives of the people who will accept him. In the wilderness Jesus is tempted with hunger, corrupt use of power, false worship, and self-inflicted harm (Luke 4.1-13). Jesus declares victory as he returns from the wilderness into his place of Messianic ministry (Mark 1.14-15).
Mark declares that John the Baptist called the people to “change their hearts and lives” and desire for “God to forgive their sins” (Mark 1.4). After John is arrested, Jesus rises up in the public eye. Mark announces that as John’s ministry decreased, Jesus’ ministry increased. Jesus came to declare the arrival of the Kingdom of God inviting people to “change their hearts and lives” and “trust this good news” (Mark 1.14-15). Jesus initiates his ministry with a purpose statement: Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Jesus has come to invite people to a change of heart and an invitation to a changed life. Jesus desires for people to trust this announcement as “good news.”
Good News. In a number of languages the expression eujaggeli÷on translated ‘the gospel’ or ‘the good news’ must be rendered by a phrase, for example, ‘news that makes one happy’ or ‘information that causes one joy’ or ‘words that bring smiles’ or ‘a message that causes the heart to be sweet’ (Louw & Nida). As the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings (BibleStudyTools.com). The “good news’ is the fulfillment of the Messianic promise in Jesus, the salvation of the world.
The act that Jesus performs is to call people to participate in this new Kingdom. The first disciples are chosen, and right away they are invited to have a change of heart and leave their lives behind. They let go of their livelihood – nets, boats, & family business, their family – father Zebedee, and their comfortable futures – middle class business with hired workers (Mark 1.16-20).
Soon they find themselves in a synagogue, a religious place, and Jesus started teaching. Mark says he taught them with authority and not like the religious legal experts (Mark 1.22). It seems like Jesus has come out of this place of obscurity into the public eye, and he’s ready to begin his teaching ministry. Historically, Jesus would be about 30 years old when he began to his ministry. It seems he was relatively quiet until his appointed time. He was hidden away from the public eye.
As Jesus began his first lesson in the synagogue there’s an odd disturbance, an evil spirit screamed at him. Now this is not the first encounter that Jesus has had with evil. We read earlier in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan himself – the prince of evil spirits. Jesus does not delay his response but cuts directly to the point and commands the evil spirit to be silent and depart from the man! And, the evil spirit shook the man, screamed, and departed. And, everyone was shaken and wondered about his teaching with authority. Right away the news spread, and people came running to see this man who could command evil spirits.
After leaving the synagogue, Jesus and his called out ones – his disciples – went home with Simon Peter. As they arrived at Simon Peter’s home they were immediately told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever (most likely to keep them from catching any disease she might have). And, Jesus is quick to go to her and deliver her from the fever. She then gets up from her sick bed to serve them. As evening came many people who were sick, like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law or demon possessed like the man who was delivered in the synagogue, came to the doorway and he healed them. But he didn’t like the evil spirits speak for they recognized that he was the long awaited Messiah.
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus seems to know exactly what he is doing. It seems very natural in the way that his ministry steps are ordered. Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel Jesus appears to have a sense of direction for his ministry.
- He has gone to John the Baptist and been baptized.
- He has fought Satan in the desert to be tempted. He returns to the people his a message of ‘good news.’
- He calls his first followers to join him on his Kingdom adventure – and they surely have a change of heart and lives in order to follow him.
- Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach – with such amazing authority.
- As Jesus teaches he is confronted by a demon creating much disorder in that place. So what does Jesus do? He brings about Kingdom order by silencing the evil spirit and releasing the man from being tortured by evil.
- Jesus leaves to go home with Simon Peter. It is here at Simon Peter’s home that Jesus heals a woman of a fever, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Her immediate response is one of hospitality – to get up and serve.
Jesus has started off his ministry with a bang. People are coming from all over with diseases and demons to be healed. But it is at this moment that Jesus pauses for a moment of clarity with his Heavenly Father (Matthew 6.7-18). He takes time away from his disciples, his friends, and his work to catch a glimpse of what his Heavenly Father desired for him. We know from the text that everyone is looking for him. Simon Peter and his friends are tracking Jesus down to find out what’s going on. The town is abuzz with people wanting to receive a touch of healing and deliverance from him. And, yet Jesus takes time to step away from the crowds to be alone in prayer.
You can almost feel the drive of momentum. Jesus has been affirmed by John the Baptist, the forerunner of his ministry. He has seen Heaven split open, experienced the Holy Spirit like a dove, and heard from his Heavenly Father speak his love and happiness directly to him. Jesus has defeated his archenemy and nemesis Satan in the desert. He has announced his calling from Galilee. Jesus has called his first disciples to himself, and they were quick to respond. He has entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath to take his place as a teacher there. Jesus brings about right order in the synagogue by delivering a man from an evil spirit. He finds his place of rest disturbed by a sick friend, and he immediately frees her from the fever that has made her sick. She responds with hospitality even on the Sabbath. On the evening of the Sabbath many people come to him to be set free from demons and diseases, and he is able to heal many. But then he stops. Jesus has had a full day of events, and he takes time apart for his Heavenly Father. On the Sabbath Jesus fed the spiritually hungry, and he brought peace to the afflicted and sick.
It is in prayer that Jesus finds vision for his future. Well before sunrise Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a deserted place where he could be alone. He went there to be alone with this Heavenly Father. Jesus had been ministering hard from teaching, to delivering demons, and healing the sick. He would have been spiritually drained from just the shear volume of people. Yet Jesus understood that when he experienced being drained from his work, he required time to be with this Heavenly Father to recharge his batteries. He understood that the way to restoring his strength was in prayer. And, it is out of this alone time with his Heavenly Father.
Expect the Unexpected. After his alone time, Jesus is very clear about his mission. He is heading in the other direction. (Whoa! Hold your horses!) Did Jesus really say that? He has a host of people waiting for him. All kinds of ministry opportunities lay at his fingertips. And, he tells his disciples to head in another direction – to nearby villages – so he can preach. So it wasn’t his primary task to deliver and heal, but to preach. Jesus comes away from his alone time with a clear directive. He is correcting his disciples as they were directing him to the crowds who wanted his healing and deliverance. But Jesus had not come to submit to the needs of a crowd, but to his Heavenly Father. He made preaching his primary task. Jesus says… that’s why I’ve come. And, it was at that moment in his ministry that preaching in the synagogues became the primary task, and tossing out evil spirits his response to the overthrowing the old order of things so that the Kingdom of God would manifest its presence in the already not yet reality on earth. Jesus was establishing his Kingdom across Galilee.
So what is this ‘good news’ that Jesus asks us to trust? What is this authority teaching all about …this change of heart and life?
So far we understand this ‘good news’ to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelite people that he would send a Messiah to save the people from their sins. All of the Covenant Promises in what we call the Old Testament have been fulfilled in the Messiah – Jesus. All the sins of the world have been atoned for in the Messiah Jesus. People with sicknesses and diseases find their healing in the atoning work of the Messiah. People who find their lives disrupted by evil spirits find their peace in the atoning work of the Messiah. People who find themselves bedded down with illness find their ability to serve. People who are looking for a leader have found One who is affirmed, loved, and guided by God, the Heavenly Father. People who are hungry for righteousness have found a Teacher.
If you are looking for ‘good news’ today, you’ll find it in Jesus. If you are seeking guidance, take time for solitude and prayer to discern God’s voice. If you are seeking to change your heart and life, you’ve found the One you’re looking for in Jesus.