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Dec 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 27, 2015 – Mark 1:9-11

Following Jesus Christ
Into Whatever Comes Next

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

Intro: I’ve enjoyed reading in the Gospel of Mark this past week

It has been like sitting in a garden or wandering through a forest
– something rustles in one of the verses and I have to take a closer look
• there is much in Mark that inspires and much to savor
– it seemed like something here could provide a good theme for my last talk of 2015
• I want to share with you some of my impressions of Jesus
• since I’ve been reading two chapters at a time, that’s how we’ll go through this

Chapters 1-2: Jesus is always composed and unruffled

For example, his baptism was marked by several supernatural phenomena
– the heavens opening, the Spirit descending and the voice speaking from the sky
• but there is no indication at all that any of this surprised Jesus
– then later, he is not shocked that people would come to him for healing
• nor is he disturbed by a demon’s screaming as he taught in a synagogue (v. 24)
• Jesus acts as if all this is perfectly normal, exactly what he expected
◦ nothing knocks him off balance — it is as if the extraordinary were his daily routine
◦ it seems that around Jesus, miracles cease to be miraculous

Now let’s take a look at the people who came into contact with Jesus
– here we see a sharp blatant contrast: Jesus’ equanimity and their excitement
• two words come up in response to Jesus (vv. 22 & 27)
◦ they were amazed at his teaching and actions
◦ they perceived that Jesus exercised an unique authority
• immediately it became obvious that he was extraordinary
◦ he knew and interacted with a world that was closed off to them

It is always of critical importance that we acknowledge the humanness of Jesus
– he is among us as one of us — he hungers, tires out, cries, loves and so on
• yet he is of a higher human order — one that we are incapable of duplicating
◦ in other words, Jesus is a type of being we cannot grow into
• Jesus is a one-of-a-kind human — flesh and blood like us, yet more
◦ this does not make him less susceptible to pain and sorrow (Heb. 2:14-18)
◦ rather, it enables him to help us at the same time he is able to identify with us
– to see Jesus as anything less is to diminish what he is for us and can do for us
• reduced to what we are, he is a model of what we could be doing for ourselves
◦ merely an example of perfected human potential
◦ someone who points the way, but is not the way
• why would we look to Jesus for help and salvation if he were no more than we are?
◦ we’ve been sleep walking if we have not sensed our Lord’s superior quality

Chapters 3-4: Jesus was comfortable with metaphors and parables

A parable is a story that made use of analogies to assist learning
– Jesus was introducing another dimension of reality
• his goal was to help normal people perceive what he saw
• every parable is a glimpse into God’s dimension
– parables served to create associations
• between the world people already knew and God’s dimension
• they worked really well for some people, but not for others
◦ not because of different learning styles, but depending on a person’s receptivity
◦ the more receptive the hearers, the more they were transformed (Mk. 4:20)

Parables require deciphering – there are lots of ways to miss the point
– best book on parables I know of has over 500 pages of explanations
• almost 200 of fine print notes and a 45-page bibliography — yet:

[Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples (Mk. 4:34)

– it would be greatest privilege I can imagine to sit with Jesus for these talks
• not only for the informative value
• but in his presence we are near God’s dimension
◦ Paul said that the true knowledge of God’s mystery comes from Christ

in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Co. 2:2-3)

◦ our education to this is by direct experience — and Jesus is our guide

Chapters 5-6: Jesus helps people, but asks something of them

Three characters in chapter five — a sampling of people in Jesus’ crowds
– they brought their misery to Jesus
• including diabolical mental anguish, incurable illness, and death
• these were the hopeless cases, for whom others had given up hope
◦ verses 3-4, 25-26, and 35
– although their healing flowed through Jesus, he emphasized their faith

“Daughter, your faith has made you well” (5:34)
“Do not be afraid, only believe” (5:36)

• lack of faith was a serious obstacle when Jesus came to his hometown

And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he wondered at their unbelief. (6:5-6)

Faith is the challenge we must take on in this lifetime
– all spiritual progress moves forward in it and stalls without it
• there will always be obstacles to faith — that is the whole point
◦ faith will always require a choice, an act of our free will
– there are two “boat scenes” in the disciples struggle with faith and fail:

Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? (4:40)
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. (6:52)

Jesus will carry his disciples forward–into God
– but they must learn to trust him
• strangers, even Gentiles receive help when they come to Jesus with faith

Chapters 7-8: Jesus stretches his disciples’ perception

To me this is the most remarkable piece of work in Mark’s gospel
– one section is developed incredibly well, using a series of events

First, we witness a method of healing that strikes us as odd–even for Jesus
– Jesus used spit when healing a deaf man and a blind man (7:33; 8:23)
• these are the only two places in Mark that Jesus did this
◦ there are no instances in Matthew or Luke that Jesus used spit in healing
• this unusual action highlights each event and connects them
◦ therefore, they frame the other events that occur between them
– there are other parallels between these stories that cannot be coincidence:

  • an unidentified “they” brought each man to Jesus
  • they” implored Jesus to heal the man they brought
  • in each instance Jesus was asked to touch (or “lay His hands on”) each man
  • in both cases, Jesus led each the disabled man away from crowd
  • in the process of healing each man, Jesus spat
  • Jesus spat, then touched ears of deaf man and spat in the eyes of the blind man

Between the stories, the disciples misconstrue a warning Jesus gave them (8:14-15)
– at this point, the healing of the deaf man and the blind man converge
• the disciples prove to e spiritually blind and deaf  (8:17-18, 21)
• on a previous they asked Jesus to explain one of his parables
◦ but before he obliged them, he first asked, “Are you so clueless?” (7:18)
◦ now he again asks what is basically the same question, “Do you not yet understand?”
– we can almost imagine the tone of frustration in Jesus’ voice
• it seems to me, this could have been extremely discouraging for disciples
◦ and for us, the readers as well (do we see or hear any better than they?)
◦ we might begin to think our heart is chronically hard or there’s no cure for it
• but the story of the blind man, coming after this conversation, inspires hope
◦ Jesus healed him in “stages” — at first, his sight returned but was blurred
◦ after Jesus touched him a second time, “he began to see everything clearly”

Conc: This is the reason I wanted to take you into Mark’s Gospel today

In Jesus, we are not at end of year – or at the end of anything

Sidney Rosen, tells a story in which he was disturbed by a dream in which he saw the words, “You never finish anything.” Several months later while doing research, he asked himself, “Who says I ever have to finish anything? Nothing is ever really finished as long as we are alive.”

– if we trouble with our spiritual hearing or sight, we need not be discouraged
• we are still in discipleship and Jesus is not yet finished with us
◦ he is patient and will heal us in as many stages as it takes
◦ when Moses wrote his travel log in Numbers 33, he did not list Israel’s destinations

Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD . . . . (Nu. 33:2)

• we are not yet at the finish line — it is alright that we are not yet perfect
◦ wherever you are right now is your current “starting place”
◦ God always takes us where we are and begins there

A Russian Monk wrote, “The illumination that Christ offers us does not end with this life, nor is it static in the life to come. It is only the beginning of a progress that will never end.”

– isn’t this good news? Spiritual vision improves with age!

So don’t be discouraged that you’re not further along than you would like to be
And don’t be satisfied with where you are

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