Tag Archives: Mark

Immediate Missions–Mark 1:29-30

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her.

When my pastor has the good sense to wrap up his sermon at a decent hour, I can avoid bolting out of the building like the anti-social person I really am and still make it to my favorite restaurant before the masses fill the place. There, I can share the morning’s gossip with my family before shuttling home to see how badly the Chiefs are being beaten. Once the ball game is over, I’ll lounge about the house for a few hours. If I have to go back to church for some meeting or other, I’ll do that, but often I get to relax my way all the way to bedtime. Sundays are marvelous.

That being said, I have to confess that today’s scripture makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It seems that Jesus, upon leaving the synagogue, did not head for Cracker Barrel. He didn’t even care who was winning the football game. No, Jesus, “As soon as” he left the synagogue took himself to the mission field. And when did the two pairs of brothers mention the illness of Peter’s mother-in-law? “Immediately.”

How often do we walk out of church and then allow the world’s demands to sweep us away from the things that we should do. We get swept into the ads for flashy electronics or the latest movie-of-the-decade. We watch the Chiefs lose or the rest of the family snooze. Back in the pews, we had great intentions to visit the afflicted and pray like crazy, but once we arrive home, things…change.

The point of a worship service is not to give us our religion fix, to fill us up like we do our car at the gas pump. Or maybe it is. Maybe we worship together in order to be able to drive off and actually go somewhere for God. You’d never consider filling up with unleaded on Sunday afternoon and then pulling away from the pump and leaving the car idling until the gas gauge read “E,” would you? That would be pointless and wasteful.

How much more pointless and wasteful is it to “fuel up” on Sunday morning only to idle away our time through the week. Instead, let’s leave church and launch into mission–immediately.

Spread the Word–Mark 1:28

News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

News travels fast. Today, a rumor about a sports team or a politician can fly around the world through Twitter and Facebook in just seconds. When Usain Bolt won the 200m gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the news flew at 80,000 Tweets per minute.

On the other hand, not all news travels fast. When I Tweet something, it pretty much just sits there. My handful of followers rarely if ever retweet or comment on my items. My favorite hashtag should probably be measured in Tweets per month.

The same goes in less tech-dependent communication. The really hot news, say in your church, will fly around the place. When my church’s youth pastor announced his resignation a couple of months back, it had gotten around the church thoroughly by the next day. When the church announced an upcoming budget meeting, the buzz didn’t quite move as quickly.

Whether it is bad new or good, we tend to spread the remarkable stuff. We want the people in our circle to know how miserable or how fortunate we are. Knowing how my circle might overlap your circle, it just makes sense that the really juicy news will get around in short order.

When we look at the verse today, the response to Jesus casting a demon out of the man in the synagogue, we shouldn’t be surprised that, even without Twitter and iPhones, the people of Galilee managed to get the word around quickly and thoroughly. They had seen something remarkable, something amazing; thus, they simply had to spread the word. My guess is that they did not spread news of the synagogue’s upcoming silent auction with quite so much enthusiasm.

As usual, my interest here is not so much with what some 1st-century Galileans did but with what you and I do. If we don’t spread the “news of him” with the same vigor that those people in Capernaum showed, might that not mean that we don’t really consider the news quite as good as we say? If we’re more eager to spread a movie review, outrage at the government, or the cute thing a child said than we are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, then perhaps we should look back to that Good News and understand just how remarkable it is.

Amazing Stories–Mark 1:27

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

 When was the last time you were amazed by God? I’ve heard people talk about God’s power through prayer for years. I’ve experienced it myself at times, but I have to admit that some of those examples of power can be explained without resorting to God. I’m reminded of the skeptic who, seeing the abandoned crutches and canes, supposedly left by those healed at the Marian shrine at Lourdes, said, “I’ll believe when I see a wooden leg left behind.”

I can claim to be amazed that God has granted me all the provision I need, but could as easily say it was my hard work that allowed that to happen. Since I haven’t received a check directly from God, there’s a limit to my amazement.

When the people in Capernaum watched Jesus heal that possessed man, they saw the people of God going from a defensive posture to an offensive posture. The whole Mosaic Law had not been established as a means of taking the world for God. It stands as more of a hedge against ruin. Yes, there were some moments of offense in the Old Testament. Joshua’s move into Canaan springs to mind, but largely the watchword of the people in the Old Testament was “Don’t mess it up!”

That changed on a Saturday in Capernaum, leading to the people being amazed. And we should continue to be amazed. No, we don’t have Jesus physically present with us, but he has promised to be with us. As we read through the book of Acts, we find amazing things following Peter and Stephen and Paul and Philip. We should be experiencing amazement within the church, at least now and then.

But are we? When was the last time you were amazed by God? And if you’re not being amazed by God, then why do you think that’s happened? From my own experience, I know that when I don’t feel God close, it’s because I’ve drawn away. When I don’t find myself amazed by God, it’s probably because I’ve tried to do so much for myself that I remove many opportunities for amazement.

Perhaps we’re not amazed by God because we need to be the vehicles through which the amazing deed takes place. Perhaps we can, enlivened by the Spirit, change the world, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead (Matthew 10:7-8) Can we have faith and still be amazed? Give it a try. You might be amazed at what happens.

Don’t Suffer Fools–Mark 1:25-26

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Several years ago, I attended a church that was rocked by a series of mistakes by the pastor and others on the staff. I will not defend the grievous sin that began the whole debacle or the actions of the pastor that some considered a cover-up. That’s not what I’d like to focus on here. Instead, I’d like to consider the actions of a significant number of church members, several of whom I counted as friends, that undoubtedly made the matter worse and reflected very poorly on this body of Christ.

To this day, I recall with discomfort sitting in a clandestine deacon meeting in which a cabal of self-appointed leaders had stacked the agenda to achieve their ends. When the rank and file failed to immediately embrace their ends, one of my friends leaped up and berated us: “What are you afraid of?”

To this day, I wish I had stood and rebuked him, saying “Be quiet.” I’m not suggesting that this man was demon possessed. He’d have a better excuse if he were. Instead, I think he just let the emotions of the thing carry him away.

When Jesus heard foolish talk, whether prompted by a spirit or the flesh, he spoke against it. In this case, he went on, calling the spirit out of the man in dramatic fashion. When he rebukes the Pharisees, he doesn’t drive out demons from them as they were not possessed. But he does not simply stand by and listen to foolish talk.

How much foolish talk do I tolerate in the course of a day. I’m not talking about the foolish talk regarding how the Kansas City Royals should rebuild the pitching staff. I mean talk that matters. Do I listen to unkind gossip? Do I listen to talk that tears down the church? Do I listen silently to destructive theology? All too often, like that evening at my former church, I do that.

How did Jesus respond? He stopped the foolish talk and then took the appropriate counter action. That approach could work for us as well.

Do You Hear Voices?–Mark 1:23-24

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Every church has some people that, if you take the time to get to know them, you’ll think are some of the most marvelous folks on this earth. At the same time, every church seems to have somebody who will just drive you crazy. If you haven’t found those people in your church, then you’re probably not sufficiently plugged in.

The extremes are not what Mark’s dealing with in today’s verses. In many churches, you’ll find someone who isn’t just annoying but who is downright evil, people who, if we had a Geiger counter to detect who is saved and who isn’t, would probably be kicked onto the street in a heartbeat. We shouldn’t feel superior to the Jews of Jesus’ day when we read that they had a man with an evil spirit in their synagogue. You might not want to know who all is sitting in the pews of your church.

The NIV, quoted above, says that this man was “possessed by” the unclean spirit. The Greek text doesn’t actually have a word for “possessed” here. Literally, the sentence would call him a “man with an unclean spirit.” I’m not sure if there’s a difference between those, but the literal rendering sure sounds less horrible to me.

How ironic it is that the unclean spirit would challenge Jesus by revealing him as “the Holy One of God.” How sad that the people apparently didn’t find that statement terribly impressive. Some of them, undoubtedly, heard this man and said, “Yeah, who does this Jesus think he is?” Maybe they agreed that Jesus’ course would destroy them, or at least their self-satisfied way of life. Perhaps they simply dismissed this guy’s words. After all, I doubt this was the first time he’d blurted something.

On this side of heaven, we have to inhabit churches that will be filled with all sorts of voices, including voices that would work against the Gospel. Our call is not to separate ourselves so that we cannot hear those impure voices. Instead, we have to tune ourselves to the Spirit within so that we can understand those voices for just what they are.