SERVICE VIDEO (link)
TEXT: Mark 1:14-28
Last week we began our Fall series entitled, “Jesus Among Us.” I noted the emphasis Jesus put on discipleship, on FOLLOWING him into the world. That’s what he invited people to do, saying, “Follow me.” And that’s what he prayed for when he was praying for those who believed in him. His desire for us is to be not just believers, but followers.
Over the next several weeks we are going to look at his life and ministry, at what he said and did, because he prayed, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) We want to see how the Father sent Jesus into the world so that we can faithfully follow him!
We are going to be in the first few chapters of the Gospel of Mark. Mark starts right out with this ministry of Jesus in the world. He skips over the birth and nativity stories and starts with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan with John the Baptist. We looked at that a few weeks ago, so we are going to start right after that in Mark 1:14 with Jesus preaching, calling disciples, and doing miraculous things.
Preaching the Kingdom (vv.14-15)
What was Jesus’ message? Have you ever thought about that or tried to put it into words? We talk a lot about believing in Jesus as the Savior, and he is, but that’s not what he spent most of his time talking about. The thing he talked about most was the Kingdom of God, and specifically the arrival of the Kingdom with him. And in most cases, as in v. 15, the Good News is the news that the Kingdom of God is here! It’s all there in a sentence in verse 15. Jesus came into Galilee preaching the Good News of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel (Good News).”
We won’t unpack all of what the Kingdom is this morning, because it will be the core of Jesus words and actions over the next 8 weeks or so, but I’ll say a few things. That there is a Kingdom of God means that God is on the throne: there is a King! And that has connotations of God waging war against evil, sin, death, and Satan. It has implications for our place in the world, that we can be citizens of that Kingdom. It has values and characteristics that flow from the person and character of God: justice, righteousness, compassion, mercy, peace, and the presence of God with His people.
The arrival of the Kingdom is Good News because it signals that the reign of sin and evil, of Satan, is temporary and ending. It signals the setting right of what was broken in the Fall. It heralds God’s salvation and involvement and making all things new. It is Good News indeed.
And while it’s not unpacked fully here, there is also a now and not yet aspect to the Kingdom. You get a hint of that with the words “the Kingdom is at hand.” It’s near, it’s arriving, but all is not finished or we would already be in the presence of God with no more tears, death, sorrow, or sadness. The arrival of the Kingdom is spread out in time, with the sure sign of God’s victory with the arrival of Christ, but the wait until everything is finally done. I have heard it likened to D-Day and the storming of the beaches of Normandy. That costly landing on the beaches of Normandy marked the beginning of the end of WWII. It was not done, but the end was set in motion, with V-Day to follow later. So it is with the coming of Jesus into the world. His arrival and costly suffering and death marked the beginning of the end of sin, death, evil, and Satan, but we are still living in the in-between time until what God in Christ started comes to completion.
What we see in Jesus’ life and ministry are the clear signs of God’s Kingdom arriving. His words, actions, and demonstrations of the Kingdom announced to the world and to us the Good News that God was setting things right and establishing His Kingdom once and for all.
Call to Follow (vv.16-20)
And so Jesus traveled around with this message, inviting people to be a part of the Kingdom and his Kingdom work. Vv. 16-20 describe the calling of the first disciples, four fisherman. Jesus invited these unlikely disciples to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (v.17) That he started in Galilee and started with fisherman was already highly unusual. Most rabbis would have started in or near Jerusalem and sought students of scripture as followers. But Jesus was not a Rabbi or ordinary teacher. So in one demonstration of Kingdom values that he would repeat again and again he started among the least, those out of the way, and with common folk.
There must have been something compelling about him because Mark tells us twice that the young fisherman “immediately” left their nets and followed him. James and John left their father mending the nets in the boat. I wonder what father Zebedee thought of this. It might seem like leaving him in the lurch, but it would have been considered an honor to become students. If anything it would have mostly been surprising that his fisherman sons would have been invited to do this.
Do we consider following Jesus a great honor? I think too often we treat it as one more obligation or commitment to squeeze in to a life full of obligations and commitments. Even if Zebedee (and the boys) didn’t yet understand the full extent of what Jesus was doing, it was a great opportunity and honor, one not to miss!
Sign of Authority (vv.21-28)
Jesus would continue to call people to follow, but Mark takes us next to the town of Capernaum and a rather detailed story (for Mark) of what Jesus did there. He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. Not just anyone could or would do this, but in v. 22 Mark tells us that those in the synagogue were “amazed at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Do you see the difference? He taught with authority; he had a command of the scriptures and was able to interpret and apply them in a way that amazed people. It was more than just book learning; he KNEW them intimately. I think of the difference I’ve experienced between someone answering a question and thinking, “They must have read that in a book somewhere” and the person who answers and you know they have experience to back up their knowledge. Talk to Rick Bean about music sometime; that guy hasn’t just read about music, he’s lived it. It’s in the fiber of his being. He speaks as one with authority, which is rooted in experience and knowledge.
Speaking of authority, Jesus was not done. Imagine someone meeting Rick and talking a little about musical experience. Yeah, that guy seems to know what he’s talking about. But then, he sits down and plays and there is no doubt, he knows what he’s doing behind the keyboard. This is what happened with Jesus. He spoke with authority on the scriptures, but then a man entered the synagogue and is described as having an “unclean spirit.” It’s easy to get sidetracked on figuring out what that was, but we are told enough to know that the man was possessed by some kind of evil or demonic spirit. I might be persuaded that it’s a first century description of a seizure or schizophrenia except that the man spoke and called out Jesus as who he was – the “Holy One of God” and the enemy! That’s beyond a psychological situation… regardless, the main point is that Jesus was recognized by this “unclean spirit” as having the authority and power of God, and Jesus demonstrated that authority and power by commanding the spirit to come out of the man.
Again, it’s easy to focus on how we understand “unclean spirits” with a modern mindset, but that’s not what is in focus here. What is in focus is Jesus authority, specifically here in the spiritual realm. He is announcing God’s Kingdom breaking in to the kingdom of this world, in which sin, death, evil, and Satan have had some free reign for some time. But no more! God’s Kingdom is at hand and Jesus bears the authority and power of that Kingdom. Like allied troops moving across occupied territory and liberating captives, he is announcing and demonstrating freedom from spiritual captivity.
Yet to Come
In coming weeks we will also see him demonstrate authority and power in the physical realm by healing people. Clearly he is not yet healing ALL sickness or confronting all evil; the Kingdom isn’t fully here, but it is at hand. We still live in the in-between and struggle with sin, death, sorrow, loss, and more. But Jesus’ ministry on earth was declaring the Good News of what God was doing and demonstrating the reality and HOPE of that work through his own words and actions. And he calls us to do the same. We may not be able to do the miracles he did, but we can declare the Good News and offer the hope that he offered. And we probably can do more than we think we can do when we are following in his steps and trusting in God’s power.
I invite you to freshly hear Jesus’ call to believe and to follow, and to ask yourself what that means in your own daily life. What is God doing and how can you be a part? Amen.
Some Music Used
- For the Cause
- Your Name
- Let Your Kingdom Come
- Wade in the Water – arr. Rick Bean
- The Wonderful Cross
- What a Beautiful Name
- Simple Kingdom
- Seek Ye First