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Sep 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 13, 2015 – Mark 1:14-45

Jesus Christ
The Author and Perfecter of the Spiritual Journey

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 

Intro: A couple weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend a conference outside the U.S.

– it seemed impossible until I learned that transportation and accommodations would be provided
• that’s better than I have it here at home!
– how do we poor-in-spirit people have any hope of making this spiritual journey?
• everything is provided by our Lord Jesus

Christian mystics have sometimes lost sight of Jesus
– a few got themselves trapped in trying to explain spiritual phenomena
• some created road maps and models of how people moved toward God in prayer by degrees
• for them, progress came by stages, such as an ascent up a ladder or mountain
– some probed so deep into mysteries, their references to Jesus became unintelligible
– more recent examples come from those who try to appeal to universal elements in all religions

The Book of Hebrews encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ
– Why? Because he is the “author and perfecter of faith” (12:2)
• this reveals the place Jesus occupies in our spiritual journey
• Jesus is the alpha and omega of our walk with God
◦ he is in charge of our progress, growth and development start to finish
– we have come to last of our “Travel Tips for the Spiritual Journey”
• and here we find that Jesus Christ is the foundation on which it is built (1 Cor. 3:11)
• he is the way, truth and life that ultimately brings us to God
◦ we travel with him, for him and to him

We catch up with Jesus after his baptism and temptation

Galilee was not only a body of water, but also a large district surrounding the lake
– there were a few big cities in Galilee and lots of smaller towns and villages
• the Jewish communities were connected by their familial and social networks
• as a result, news traveled fast through the gossip mill
(Bruce Malina, Social Science Commentary on the Gospels, pp. 45-46)
– not long after Jesus’ ordeal in the wilderness, people hearing about the rabbi from Nazareth
• he was announcing that the long-awaited time had finally come, kingdom of God had arrived
• people needed to adjust their entire lives to the new reality; they had to believe in it that much

One day as Jesus walked the shore, he saw two men throwing a large net into the lake. Perhaps he stopped and watched the burly brothers for awhile, casting and hauling, tossing the good catch onto a swath of burlap, then casting and hauling again. My guess is that if you and I were there looking for followers, we would have walked on. These men were not the type we would be interested in recruiting. Their career was wrong and they simply did not have the right look.

But Jesus did not see them through our lens. We was not concerned about their past, he was not interested in their credentials or resume’ and he had no problem with their profession. Through his own lens, he saw a raw potential and untapped resource. He envisioned what he would make of them. In a voice that allowed no room for uncertainty, Jesus tossed them a quick invitation,

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

My guess is that if you or I were Peter and Andrew looking at Jesus standing nearby, we would not be too quick to drop everything to enter his academy and jump into the new career path he offered. After all, it was not like Jesus was a real rabbi–although as David Flusser observed, he was “far from uneducated.” But there must have been something compelling about Jesus that is not depicted in the story and maybe even invisible to the human eye, because both men immediately dropped their net as if it were a privilege to join him.

Further down shore Jesus passed a boat where another two men were mending their fishing nets. They also were brothers and Jesus issued the same invitation to them. So James and John joined Peter and Andrew in this strange Academy of Spiritual Formation and Global Mission.

I realize this is whimsical, but I would like to think it meaningful that two of the first disciples were throwing their nets when Jesus recruited them and two were mending their nets. If Christian evangelists are always throwing their nets into the sea of humanity, it is up to theologians to sometimes repair those nets. Like all other tools of the trade, nets get old, wear out, fray or break. Then fish that should have been brought into the boat, slip through the torn mesh. Repairing the nets can include upgrades and helpful innovations to effectively expand the catch to new waters, more fish and different varieties.

Jesus and his new followers kept to the shoreline until they reached Capernaum–a sleepy fishing village on the water’s edge. Already Jesus was known well enough, that when he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath he was asked to teach–and his teaching was amazing. His fresh ideas; his words and the way he put them together; his stories and parables; his first-hand knowledge of God; his voice and gestures; the intensity and the warmth in his eyes left everyone with an overall impression of unique authority.

The synagogue service was going incredibly well for Jesus until a shrill scream reverberated in the stone building, causing everyone to jump. A sudden manifestation of demon-possession interrupting a rabbi’s lesson would have normally broken up a meeting. People would run for the exits, look to their leaders to take charge or perhaps summon the local magistrate. But before anyone could move, Jesus addressed demon:

Silence! Leave him!

And in an instant it happened–right in front of their eyes. Afterward, the impression Jesus had left on them regarding his authority and increased a thousand times.

Peter and Andrew shared a home in Capernaum, so they withdrew to its privacy after the excitement in the synagogue quieted down. As soon as they walked through the door, someone was tugging on Jesus’ sleeve. His help was needed; Peter’s mother-in-law was so sick, she could not get out of bed. There is no way we can be certain that the disciples felt empathy for the woman or if they were disappointed that she was out of commission. Who would bake their bread and serve their meal?

There was no mistaking Jesus’ attitude toward Peter’s mother-in-law. The first thing he did when he entered her room was to touch her. This was unnecessary–he could have healed her with a word–but he chose to make physical contact.
◦ he assisted her to her feet

So now Peter’s home had become Jesus’ Capernaum headquarters. As the sun was setting, people swarmed gate separating the public street from the private courtyard. Hearing about what happened earlier that day, two times, perhaps three times as many people crowded the street as there were in the synagogue. Jesus met them, one-by-one, healing many of them and driving demons out of others. This was what kingdom of God looked like as it was being diffused through the membrane that separated God’s dimension diffusing from our four-dimensional universe.

So why are we given all these stories of Jesus healing people who came to him with a variety of diseases and disabilities? Was it meant to show us his compassion? Sure, why not. Was it also meant to reveal and verify that he was exactly what Mark said he was, “Son of God” and “Messiah”? (Mk. 1:1; 8:29) Yes, most likely. But the many instances of healing were also meant to teach us something about his notion of salvation–that it begins now and it includes every part of us.

Some people talk about God saving “souls”–as if he treated people like walnuts, taking only the inside and throwing away the shell. They also talk as if salvation is something that happens when we die. But Jesus was not only interested in the “spiritual bits” of us, he is devoted to rescuing and restoring the whole person. People who came to Jesus were not only made well in body, but put on a course to become whole in heart, mind and spirit. Holiness is a type of wholeness that the Lord works into our lives. Salvation is the process by which Jesus makes us whole. He is doing this work now, mending our brokenness and bringing us to his own fullness of life (cf. Ep. 4:13).

Early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus made his way through the streets of Capernaum, the the edge of town and off to a secluded place. He needed to be alone with God. Mark has nothing to say about what transpired between our Lord and his Father–apparently Jesus did not talk about it–, so we have only our imaginations to wonder wander around in the silence.

Peter lead the “search party” when they woke up and found that Jesus was missing. Of course, Peter was oblivious to the Lord’s mood when he stumbled into his prayer space. “Hey, there You are!” at least that is how I imagine Peter began, “Everyone’s looking for you.” Jesus replied, “It’s time to move on, to visit other towns where I can tell the people in those places about this new way of living in God. This is what I came for.”

Did Peter and the others spoil Jesus’ prayer? Did their intrusion ruin the moment for him? No. To Jesus, the disciples were were human persons, not obligations. Had someone asked him, “Does it bother You that You were not able to finish Your prayer in peace?” I am sure he would have said something like, “My disciples were no bother to Me; this is what I came for.”

At some point, a leper defied Jewish law and cultural norms by approaching Jesus and those around him. As with any beggar, he wanted something from Jesus that the Lord was able to give. At the same time, he knew that any benefactor would give what they had only if he or she wanted to give it. So falling at Jesus’ feet, the leper begged, “If You want to, You can make me right.” Now it was up to Jesus to decide whether or not he wanted to help this unfortunate man.

As with Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus did the unexpected and, at least in this case, the socially inappropriate; he touched the leper. Who can know what the fingers of Jesus felt like against the skin of this untouchable? What did Jesus have to say to him?

I am willing.

Of course. With a touch and a word, Jesus declared this man cleansed. But he did this only after he had been “moved with compassion.” Jesus was all compassion and love. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (Jn. 11:5). “. . . having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). Jesus taught compassion and love (Jn. 13:34). And, in the words of David Flusser, “this was no mere sentimental teaching.” Every person who encountered Jesus knew his love and intention to nurture love in the hearts of others was real.

Jesus, the Son of Man, has been here–in our world

This unique human, so like us, touched men women and children
– and he was touched by them
• he got hungry and fatigued; at times he was frustrated and even felt anger
(at the right things–oppression, injustice, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and so on)
• he sighed and groaned
– Jesus walks with us now, empathizing with our sighs and groans
• remembering what it feels like to be in these bodies in joy and grief, suffering and relief
• and having made the journey, all the way through death and beyond,
◦ he goes with us through our journey–guiding, helping, healing, instructing, encouraging
◦ in a word, saving

Conc: One of the gifts of the modern media, is that it creates a familiarity with certain figures

Especially news anchors, those who report the weather and sports, talk show hosts, etc.
– television gives us a sense of access and intimacy
• if we were to bump into any of these media personalities in a grocery store,
◦ we would likely greet them by name
• before television, radio introduced people to celebrities;
◦ before radio, books brought us close to popular and historic figures
◦ and before books, stories provided the service
– this is purpose of the New Testament gospels
• they were written to bring us to the first stage of getting to know Jesus
◦ and they continue to provide us interaction with him by the Spirit

But another side to this coin
– we know him, but we are equally concerned that he knows us

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Mt. 7:21-23)

There is plenty of evidence of Jesus’ nearness to us know, if we’re willing to receive it
– his words come back to us with “the birds of the air” and “the lilies of the field”
• his heart beats in sympathy next to ours
• in love and loss, hope and despair, in all things human and sacred

We do not leave our world or our bodies to connect with Jesus
It is exactly here in our embodied existence that he touches us and we touch him
This is what he came for

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