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Dec 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 27, 2020


Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:18-22

Intro: This year, 2020, was already old by June

Few people will regret seeing it in the rearview mirror
– of course, some of our past is carried into the future
• but crossing the threshold of a new year is our chance to pause and think
• what do we want to take with us? and what do we want to leave here?

Imagine you woke up this morning, got your coffee, sat down,
– and instead of saying,
“Okay, Lord, I’ve got all these things to do, please help me,”
• you prayed, “Lord, what do You want to do today”
• and suppose he said, “Let’s take a walk. Follow me”
– that’s what we’re going to do
• were going to walk with Jesus through a few episodes in Mark’s gospel
• as we do, his wisdom, personal power, kindness, and beauty will emerge
◦ and we’ll see again why we love him

Mark immediately rushes us into the ministry of Jesus

In fact, he uses “immediately” no less than eleven times in the first chapter
– it’s like there’s an emergency, and we must hurry forward
• so everything comes at us very fast
• he provides a brief description of John the Baptist and his role
◦ then in two short paragraphs he tells of Jesus’ baptism and temptation
– by verse 14, Jesus has already begun to proclaim his message,
• and we’ve had no time to catch our breath
• at least Mark told us what this story is about from the start:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk. 1:1)
we know this, but none of the human characters in the story know this
◦ that’s message of Mark – the ways that people discover who Jesus is

We meet up with Jesus as he’s walking the shore of Galilee

The New Testament refers to Galilee as a sea,
– but if you’ve been there you know it is more like a lake
(a large lake by California standards, thirteen miles long, seven miles wide)
• it is the primary supply of water for all of Israel
• its green perimeter provides lots of shady places to rest
◦ the low mountains surrounding it, make for scenic backdrop
(wherever you are in relation to the lake, the view is beautiful)
◦ I think Jesus liked going there – that he felt refreshed in that atmosphere

I have many special memories of being on and around the Galilee “lake.” More than once, we stayed in a hotel located at the water’s edge. One of those times, I got up early our first morning there to take a jog as near the shore as possible. Sensing something behind me, I stopped and turned around. A puppy had been running behind me. When I stopped, he stopped. When I took a step toward him, he backed away from me. So I turned and resumed my jog and he followed me again, all the way to the end of my route and back to the hotel. I tried to befriend him, but he was too wary of me. Still, I believe he enjoyed running with me, because he was back the next morning and we ran together again. I did not tell him or ask him to follow me, but he did.

• when Jesus walked the shore, he saw two brothers, fishing and said,
Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men
◦ then a little further, there were two more brothers and he greeted them with the same invitation
◦ all four dropped what they were doing and tagged along with Jesus

I imagine their first conversation being something like this:
Disciples: Where are we going?
Jesus: Wherever I go. Follow me.
Disciples: What are we going to do?
Jesus: You are going to get to know me.
– sounds like an easy enough assignment
• later they would be tested on it
Who do you say that I am? (Mk. 8:27)

What did Jesus see in those young men?
– I’m sure it was something you and I would not have seen
• they didn’t look like young men we would choose as future spiritual leaders
• perhaps he saw a potential – not potential that was theirs,
◦ not a seed or spark already inside them,
◦ but the potential of what he could do with and through them
– I knew an artist who would go into desert looking for alabaster
• although what he found had interesting shapes and color,
◦ they were still nothing more than jagged stones
◦ but he was able to sculpt faces and figures out of the stone
• Jesus looked at these men through the eyes of an artist

Another question: What did these young men see in Jesus?
– not their one chance of a lifetime to get rich
• one look at Jesus and they were asking, “Are we even going to get paid?”
• I doubt that they knew what he expected of them
◦ perhaps he wanted them to help him move a couch
– if Jesus saw potential with them, perhaps they saw opportunity with him
• the possibility of going places their boats would never take them
• Mark takes us straight from their fishing nets to a synagogue
◦ people amazed when Jesus spoke – and even more when he cast exorcized a demon-possessed man
And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching wit authority!”
◦ the disciples may not have known what to expect when following Jesus,
but they must have felt in it a sense of destiny

So Jesus has the first members of his team
– and they have something new to wake up to each morning

A few days later, Jesus was again by the lakeshore

A crowd was drawn to him, so he sat and taught them
– this is so–perfect! no budget, no entertainment, no advertising
people just showed up!
• after Jesus dismissed the crowd, he took a walk near the water
◦ as he went, he saw a tax-collector and gave him the same invitation he had given the four fishermen
◦ Jesus was reaching much lower in the social order to snag this one
• Matthew must have been thrilled
◦ “Lord, I want to introduce some of my friends to you”
◦ now what kind of friends would Matthew have?
people like himself
and what would a banquet with those people look like?
– this upset a few rigidly righteous people
• but Jesus did not apologize for being with them
◦ nor did he pretend that they were saints – “good people, after all”
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk. 2:17)
• in perspective, here is how I see what is going on:
◦ Jesus is partying with sinners, not because he is like them
◦ but because they were lost and he found them and brought them home (cf. Lk. 15:22 & 31-32)

This scenario fits well with the next scene
(the passage I read at the beginning)
– Jesus gave two answers regarding the reason his disciples did not fast
first, fasting is a response to specific events and concerns
◦ this was not the kind of situation that called for fasting
◦ instead, having Jesus called for a joyful celebration, like a wedding
◦ later on Jesus would say,
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his Son (Mt. 22:1)
Anthony Campolo tells a wonderful story that fits well here in his book, The Kingdom of God is a Party
second, the old system could not accommodate new effervescence of Jesus
• the new message and ministry required new structures

Weeks later, Jesus was down at the water’s edge again

And, again, a crowd came to see and hear him
– so Jesus climbed into a boat and told them stories
• there is something idyllic, almost romantic about this picture;
◦ Jesus teaching from a boat as it rocked gently on the serene water
• how easy it would be to sit there and listen to him,
◦ allowing his words to work our imagination,
◦ visualizing the images he evokes
– certain places are ideal for contemplation and gaining new insights
• blessed is the person who, when following, finds those places

Conclusion: Whenever I read Mark, and start with that first verse,

It feels like I am again at a beginning
– like something new is happening in me
Hannah Arendt attempted to stress the importance of human action
• that it introduces something new into the world
“It is the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. . . . The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability . . . the new always appears in the guise of a miracle. . . . And this again is possible only because each [person] is unique, so that with each birth something uniquely new comes into the world.”
She also says that each individual is an “unique, unexchangeable, and unrepeatable” entity

This coming week, we approach an end and a beginning
How will we live out our own newness? our uniqueness?
How will we discover a hidden potential in a new way?
By following Jesus

My hope is to follow Jesus myself,
and assist you with the walk of faith
To be a comfort and traveling for you my little children,
for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Gal. 4:19)


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  1. Ed Northen / Jan 2 2021

    Chuck, thank you for these thoughts. It seems my whole journey with Jesus is summed up in the words ” Follow me”. While my spiritual wanderings have taken me many places, it is always been in an attempt to follow Jesus with an honest and sincere heart. I don’t always get it right, sometimes I take off on a side path, or try to lead instead of follow but thankfully I always seem to come back to re-centering myself in Jesus.

    I know there have been so many difficulties in 2020. Events that have stirred up our emotions with racial injustice, political divisions that have set neighbor against neighbor, and a global pandemic that has impacted our lives financially, emotionally and even our hope. Yet in the midst of it, Jesus says follow me. I decided to try and take a different perspective on this year and look at where the journey of 2020 has taken me and what positives have come out of it. Where did Jesus take me this year that I might not have gone if not forced to. As I have lived out the year I have discovered increased compassion for others, the opportunity to help and serve others in need out of love and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. In short, to bring in the kingdom of God present through action. I have had more time for contemplative practices and creativity. I am not being Pollyanna in my thinking but I am hopeful, that perhaps the events and times we presently live in, might produce a re-centering of peoples thinking and values. Perhaps a realization there is more to life than what they thought and that they would hear Jesus words” Follow me”.

    Hope you and Barbara have a year filled with love, good health, fun adventures and many sacred moments.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jan 4 2021

    Ed, it is so refreshing to hear you tell of the lessons you have learned from the past year. Most of what I hear is that people are thankful that they managed to survive it, and hope with all their heart that this new year will bring brighter and happier months.

    Maybe today my smile or kind word will give someone else a smile. And perhaps that person will share a kind word or smile with someone else. And so on and on. As we have so often heard, it’s not about driving out the darkness, but turning on the light. Thank you for beacon of light.

    My best love to you and Carmen.

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