søndag 20. januar 2013

Mark chapters 1 -8 Who is Jesus?

Mark 1:1-15, Mark 8:27-29

What I am going to try to do tonight is actually quite difficult, I ‘m going to try to sum up the first 8 chapters of Mark’s gospel in 25 minutes! Trying to get at the key themes, the key moments that answers the question “Who is Jesus?”

It’s like in school when you had a set book to read – some people got the summary version. This is the slimline summary version – but I hope it inspires you to read and understand the real thing! My prayer is that you go home tonight and read Mark’s gospel and marvel at our amazing Lord and Saviour.

For who is this man who can speak to wind and waves and they obey him; who can create food out of nothing for thousands of people, and can walk on water as if it were dry land?
Who is this man who can teach with authority, speak to demons that they obey, heal sickness with a word, who can give sight to the blind and make the deaf hear, and even raise the dead back to life!

Who is Jesus?

That is a question that each and every one of us must answer. These miracles happened. These are eye-witness accounts. People saw these things and could not believe their eyes. But everyone around saw it happen too. And it wasn’t just in a special staging area – like David Copperfield walking through the great wall of China or other magicians doing magic tricks! No, Jesus was called by desperate people in desperate situations. Jesus, my daughter is dying, come quickly. Jesus I am blind, help me. Jesus, Son of the Most High God, I beg you, don’t torture me! (say the demons). These miracles happened right in front of them – in crowds, in marketplaces, in the synagogue, in people’s houses. Wherever Jesus went, he went with power.

Jesus spoke, and people listened. He was in the local newspapers, the “Telen” in the towns around Galilee. “Jesus raises girl to life. Exclusive interview with the parents” “Jesus: Could he be the Messiah” “Jesus: preacher, prophet, miracle-worker” or “Nazarene troublemaker once again in city” “Businesses complaining local preacher crowding up the marketplace with followers” “Religious authorities in Jerusalem condemn Jesus as a demon-worshipper”.

Jesus disrupted the “status quo” (the way things are), and so became very unpopular with those in power: the religious leaders, especially those called the Pharisees. They were the good people, the respected people, the important people – and Jesus was messing that up. People were following HIM instead of them, listening to HIM instead of them. And so they plotted to destroy him.
And one of the first things they had to deal with was his awesome power. If there had been any trickery, they would have found it! Jesus’ fame had spread to the top religious leaders. How long do you think a magician today could keep his trick a secret if the FBI and CIA and police were all watching him, analyzing every move, filming his hands in slow-motion, looking at all his gadgets? Well, Jesus had the 1st century version of the FBI all over him – and their conclusion? His power was real. Even Jesus’ enemies believed his miracles.

For who is this man? Mark sets out right at the beginning who he thinks Jesus is: 1:1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ (Messiah or Christ is the same word (Messiah is Hebrew, Christ is Greek) and is a title meaning saviour, ruler, rescuer as promised in the Old Testament, the first part of the Bible – it’s not Jesus’ surname). So Mark is saying Jesus is the Promised Rescuer – and more than that he says that Jesus is the Son of God. He is our Saviour and our God.

We’re going to look at this question “Who is Jesus” under four headings:

1. Jesus is to be feared.

2. He has authority.

3. He is God.

4. He has compassion.

So firstly

1. Jesus is to be feared

This might seem a strange place to start. Jesus? Feared? Really? But he’s such a nice guy. Isn’t that the picture we have of Jesus? The smiley man who hugs children and bunnies with a glowing light behind his head, often in fields full of flowers with a rainbow or two in the background. But if you actually read the eye-witness accounts that Mark has put together fear was a common reaction to Jesus. And that stands to reason: Jesus had incredible power. People with awesome power are feared. Here was a man who could restore a shrivelled hand at a word – what if he commanded my hand to shrivel up again. What if Jesus was against us – what would happen?

Well, we see that in the response of the demons, the evil spirits, to Jesus. They are afraid of him. In 1:24 a man with an evil spirit shouts “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. 26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. Fear.
In 3:11 we read whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!”

And in chapter 5 Jesus meets Legion, a man with two thousand demons – an army of demons. One lonely man versus an army? The text tells us that no-one could subdue Legion, and all the people were afraid of him. But not Jesus. When Jesus arrives it is Legion who fears Jesus: 5:6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!”

They are afraid. These forces of darkness, with awesome power over people – are afraid of Jesus. Who is this man who makes the demons afraid? A prophet? A teacher? If you know your Bible, tell me which of the prophets of old ever had demon fall at their feet and beg them not to torture them? None. In fact, the Bible barely speaks about demonic activity, until Jesus arrives on the scene. He is something different, someone different, someone they are terrified of: The Son of the Most High God.

I want to note two things before we carry on:

1. Jesus is more powerful than demons. Much more powerful. If you belong to Jesus, if he is your Lord and Saviour, you do not have to fear evil spirits, fear the darkness. There is no power on earth greater than Him. And if you have been involved with the occult, with evil spirits, or been cursed, or been involved in witchcraft – come to Jesus, for only he has the power to break the demon’s hold over you. Jesus is more powerful than the demons.

2. Jesus does not pray or cast out the demons in the name of God. He simply commands them himself. We can cast out demons in Jesus’ name. He is the one with authority over the spirit world. And in the Bible, there is only one ruler of the spirit world: God Almighty. Jesus does not need to appeal to God because he is God.

So demons fear him, and with good reason. But not just demons! His followers are afraid of him, particularly on two occasions: when Jesus walked on the water towards them and, unsurprisingly, they thought he was a ghost and were terrified. Who has power over the sea like that? Only God, who can part the Red Sea so that the Israelites can cross the water as if it were dry land. And Jesus commands the water to obey him and walks across the sea as if it were dry land. Who is Jesus?

4:37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

In the Narnia books there is a Jesus-figure called Aslan. Aslan is the King of Narnia, its creator (he sings it into existence), and its saviour. And he is a lion. A huge, powerful, lion. And as one of the characters says to another “He is not a tame lion, you know. Beautiful, but terrifying!”

Jesus is to be feared. Demons obey him. Creation obeys him. Be afraid, because God is amongst us.

2. Jesus has authority

Jesus didn’t exactly act like the uneducated bastard child of a carpenter from the backwater town of Nazareth! When he spoke, he expected people to listen - and they did. Simon and Andrew were fishermen until 1:17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
When he taught, 1:22 people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
In 3:13 Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles.

This man had authority. And he was audacious (recklessly daring, bold) – to the point of blasphemy (mocking God, if he isn’t God). When he arrives on the scene he says 1:15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near (lit: has come near)! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” That’s an audacious thing to say at the start of your ministry. I am here. God promises are fulfilled. God’s kingdom is here. Seriously? Old Testament prophets never even came near to trying to take God’s glory for themselves – or even appearing to try. They were always very careful to give God the glory.
But Jesus? Jesus wants the glory himself. That would make him a terrible prophet, a fallen angel, a rebellious man – or God Himself, in the flesh.

He has authority over sicknesses, healing so many that 3:10 all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. In 3:5 we see a man with a deformed hand – restored. In 7:35 a deaf and mute man is healed – he can hear and speak! 7:37 The crowd were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”
Who is this man who has such power, such authority, other than the creator and sustainer of all things? Note that he never heals in the name of another – but his own name. As Christians when we pray for healing, or cast out demons, we do it in Jesus’ name. That’s where the power and authority lies. Jesus.

He even has authority over death. 5:39–43 [Jesus said] “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” 40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.

Jesus’ authority is endless. There is nothing he does not command, does not control. His authority is limitless. Not death, not disease, not evil spirits, even the words of God bow to his authority. And unlike an angel or a prophet or a king of God’s people, he is happy to take the glory for himself, happy for people to worship him, to come to him, to listen to him. In fact in 3:35 he says that listening to him is doing God’s will.

Jesus is to be feared, and Jesus has authority because

3. Jesus is God.

Jesus is not a good teacher. He is not a prophet. He is not an angelic messenger. He did not leave those options open to us.

He acts like God. He commands evil spirits. He commands creation. He commands sickness. And all this he does in his own name, his own power.
He teaches with new words from God, adding to the Bible. He says things like “You have heard it said, but I say” (Matt 5).
In 2:8 He knows people’s thoughts, and he forgives sin, which only God can do.
And he calls out for himself a new people of God: calling on mountain, feeding in wilderness, walking on water – it’s the new Exodus.

Jesus is God. But the God of the Bible is holy, good, perfect! Jesus being God does not necessarily sound like very Good News at all. Mark begins by saying the Good News (Gospel) about Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, but what we hear from Jesus’ lips is not good news. We are rebels against God. We are sinners. We do what is evil.

Mk 7:20–23 (NLT) [Jesus said] “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Defile means dirty – we are dirty in God’s sight. Unclean. Sinners.

And 7:6 (NLT) “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me

He begins his ministry by calling on us to repent, which means to turn away from evil and turn towards good, towards him. 1:15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Good God. Evil men. This does not sound like a good combination. We saw what he did with the demons. So why is it Good News, and not Very, Very Bad News for us? Because

4. Jesus has compassion

There were two things that struck me in reading through Mark’s gospel about Jesus: one was his obvious power and authority – the other was his compassion and kindness.

Now those two characteristics don’t normally go together. Absolute power is normally bad news for everyone else, not good news! Stalin was not known for his compassion, nor Idi Amin, or Pol Pot, or Kim Jong-Il, or Saddam Hussein, or Gaddafi. And Jesus has more power in his little finger than those fools!

We see how Jesus has compassion on the sick, the injured, the demon-possessed. He sets them free. People come to him and he heals them. He does hug the children, and maybe he did hug bunny rabbits as well with a rainbow in the background! He is compassionate and kind.
But what those pictures get wrong is the kind of people hanging around him. Because it wasn’t the good, the groomed, the well-dressed, the religious, the priests, the perfect. It was prostitutes and sinners, the sexually immoral, adulterers, swindlers, thieves, tax collectors, people who knew they weren’t perfect. People who felt dirty inside. Those with dark secret pasts. The imperfect. Those who’ve fallen short. In other words, all of us. We make mistakes, and hurt people and lie and are impatient, and rude – not all the time, no, but we’re certainly not good all the time with a little halo around our heads. And even if we might seem good on the outside, like the Pharisees our hearts are far from God. Listen to this fantastic, glorious good news:

Mk 2:16–17 (NLT) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw [Jesus] eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Church is not a club for the religious, but a home for the forgiven. Forgiven! That’s why Mark says it’s the Good News about Jesus. That’s why Jesus says 1:15 The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!

He came, not to condemn and destroy, but to preach, to proclaim this good news! Come to Jesus and find forgiveness! Come to Jesus and be accepted. Come to Jesus and be washed clean.

How? Next week we’ll see how, as we look at what Jesus came to do, and what it means to follow him. The theme there is death that brings life. He came to die in order to bring us life. He did the impossible on the cross, the Holy God dying the death of unholy sinners like you and me, to make us holy and acceptable to God.

But that’s next week. This week we know only this: that somehow this Jesus is the Messiah, the great rescuer, the Son of God. I’ll end with Peter’s great declaration of truth in 8:38

Mk 8:27–29 As they were walking along, [Jesus] asked [his disciples] “Who do people say I am?” 28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” 29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah, the Rescuer.
He is the one who should be feared, the one with great authority, because he is Almighty God, holy and perfect.
But he is also the one who has compassion, and has come not to condemn, but to rescue. And he has come for people like you and me: imperfect, making mistakes, sinners, some of us with dark secret pasts – he has authority to forgive sins, to wash us clean, to wipe away the dark past.

Come to me, he says.

Repent and believe the Good News, my Good News.

Jesus, Messiah. Jesus, Son of God. Praise him!

1 kommentar:

  1. Listen to the MP3 here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-DSjRONViGJTFF6NFhjaUMtYmc/view?usp=sharing