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Dec 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 27, 2016 – Mark 1:1

Reconcilable Differences

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1

Intro: I want to carry our current theme of prayer through Christmas

Mark is an odd place to start, because he does not tell the Christmas story
– instead, he tells us who Jesus is and goes straight to his story
gospel: good spell (old English, a story or speech) a good message
◦ it is like hearing a relative who was in a car accident survived and is well
• we need good news, because something is wrong with the world
◦ something is wrong with us
– we live in a world of lost spiritual intimacy — not only with God
• but with the world of nature, human society, family, ourselves
◦ our world is fragmented – the pieces don’t go together
• the anger, hostility, violence and cruelty in our nation is staggering
◦ we have become strangers in a strange land

Daniel Siegel has pointed out that every relationship has instances of rupture
– we know this – we have felt rejection, insecurity, cut off from a friend or lover
• Siegel says that the answer to rupture is repair
◦ the repair he recommends requires education, retraining, courage, humility
(and probably therapy)
• people who experience too many fractures tend to give up
◦ in relationships they adopt defense strategies rather than intimacy strategies
– we need good news, we need hope, we need help — we need Jesus

. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself . . . . (2 Cor. 5:17-19)

So Mark says, The beginning of the gospel, which refers to a specific moment in history
– but, for us, the good news begins when we pick up the book and read
• the beginning is now – something new is entering our lives
• we can put up with a lot–trouble, imperfection, setbacks–if we have hope

Reading through Mark this week, I noticed something

There are themes or events or unusual phenomena that appear at
the beginning of Jesus’ story and reappear at the end
– of course, this is not surprising if we clearly understand his story
• Christmas and crucifixion are inseparable

More than once, Helmut Thielicke wrote, “The manger and the cross are made from the same wood.”

• the angel who appeared to Joseph told him,

. . . you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21)

◦ “Savior” is one of the words that defines his life
◦ it was in his dying that he delivered life to us

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour?” But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.  (Jn. 12:27-28)

– I have four examples of themes that tie the beginning and end of the gospels together

First, angels appear at the beginning of his story

Both Matthew and Luke report a flurry of angelic activity
– they make announcements and give people encouragement and assistance
• then they return at the end of all four gospels to announce Jesus’ resurrection
– only two other times during Jesus’ ministry do they emerge from their invisible realm

  1. The first is close to the beginning
    – right after Jesus’ temptation (Mk. 1:13), angels ministered to him
  2. The second is close to the end
    – the night prior to his crucifixion (Lk. 22:43) an angel strengthen him
    – so these other two visitations occurred at times of severe crisis

I wonder if angels are most present to us at these same times
– in birth, death and those hours of greatest danger
– I forget that we have these invisible assistants, these:

. . . ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14)

Second, Jesus was wrapped in cloths at beginning of his story

Mary wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger (Lk. 2:7)
– this was something done to him and for him
• only an an infant, he could not care for himself
• the gentle touch of a mother provided this nurture

At the end of Jesus’ story, this kindness is repeated after his crucifixion
– Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus

And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. (Lk. 23:53)

• as in the first instance, he was wrapped and laid, first in a manger, last in a tomb
– I always pause at this verse – Joseph was not handling Jesus
• rather, it was his body, a corpse, “him” but an “it”
◦ Joseph took care of the Lord’s body, because it could not care for itself

So at his coming, Jesus was wrapped like Christmas gift and placed under tree
– then at the end, his body wrapped for proper disposal

Third–and this may be a stretch–something “opened” as the story begins

Luke doesn’t say explicitly that heaven opened when the angels appeared to shepherds
• but he does at Jesus’ baptism
• Mark says the heavens were split open or torn (schizomenous)
◦ the only other place Mark uses this word is when Christ died

And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mk. 15:38)

◦ this was not to let God out, but to let us in (He. 10:19-20)
– so like the heavens and the holiest place, the tomb was also opened
• and for same reason – not to let Jesus out, but to let us in (Mt. 28:6)

The doors God closes cannot be opened and the doors he opens cannot be closed
– yesterday I read again about the women who came to Jesus’ tomb, worried

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. (Mk. 16:3-4)

• this formidable challenge was resolved before they arrived
• many of the obstacles and worries that stand in our way have been resolved already
– I doubt they thought of their care for Jesus’ body as “God’s mission”
• more likely, they were performing a necessary service to Jesus’ corpse
◦ one of those painful duties of ordinary life
◦ the extraordinary part was hidden from them
• the extraordinary is most often hidden in the ordinary
◦ we need the stone moved away (from our minds, hearts, eyes) so we can see it

My friend, Fr. Romuald once advised me, “Do one thing every day in which you are fully aware. It can be anything–weeding the garden, driving to work, looking at the clouds–, it doesn’t matter, because God doesn’t care what you’re doing when he breaks in on you. ”

Such moments can be revisited at the end of the day
– for example, “If I died tonight, that was the moment I lived for today?”
• how many moments like that can we have in a lifetime? in a day
• to savor beauty? To love someone deeply?
– E. Underhill, talking about experiences of intense encounter with God, said

“But what matters far more is the continuous normal action, the steady sober growth which the Spirit evokes, and cherishes if we are faithful . . . .”

The fourth example, Jesus is declared God’s Son early on

Mark gives us this information in the very first sentence of his book
– immediately we know something about Jesus that the characters in his story do not
• in fact, Jesus suppresses public announcements of his identity (Mk. 1:24-25, 34)
◦ but here and there through his story it shines through
• people needed to make this discovery for themselves so they could own it
◦ so it is a significant question when Jesus asked his disciples, . . . who do you say that I am? (Mk. 8:29)
◦ the idea is that as we read through Mark, we also make this discovery

At the end of Jesus’ story his identity as God’s Son is reaffirmed
• and it was not Peter or another disciple or even a religious person who acknowledged it

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:39)

Conc: Here is what I would like for us to take home today:

That Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of our lives in God
– belonging to him, we share his life’s experience, from first to last:
• the hope of heavenly assistance that ministers to us and strengthens us
• the hope of resurrection and reconciliation
• the hope that doors will open through which the extraordinary will enter our ordinary
• that knowing Jesus as God’s Son means there are possibilities we had never dreamed
– the human organs that keep our bodies going will eventually wear out
• but at least they won’t freeze up, atrophy, or corrode from sitting in storage
• until, we will never run out of fuel, because God’s grace is infinite

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