A. The Historical Setting
- At the time Jesus came to earth the Jews had been for more than 700 years without real national freedom. After centuries of domination by a half dozen nations, they tasted the sweetness of some glory in the guerrilla warfare feats of Judas Maccabaeus. However, that ended in 63 B. C. when the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem. Never again were they a free nation until our modern time. And, their liberty is even now precarious.
- As Jesus stepped into the scene in Galilee of His day, Herod Antipas was governor of that region, while Pontius Pilate was prefect down in Judea. Jesus' home area presented a lively, interesting mosaic of political connivery, social variety and a religious admixture. The more orthodox spiritual leaders at Jerusalem had their hands full trying to get uniform codes into the lives of their more independent neighbors to the north. The vast majority of Palestine's common people -- perhaps as high as 95% -- remained unaligned if not alienated from the strict, official religion of the land. This was especially true in Galilee where even socially they were looked upon by their Judean countrymen as less than cultured and living "on the other side of the tracks." A large difficulty confronting Jesus was how to exert His true spiritual authority among the religiously discouraged populous without precipitating wild political enthusiasm among these who had so long experienced oppression from Rome.
- This One Who promised to bring fire to the earth (Luke 12: 49) begins at once to stir the hearts of men. "God's kingdom," He says, "is now exploding on earth." A new age is dawning. With only thirteen verses of introduction, Mark arrives at this great launching point in Jesus' ministry. Nor are his omissions a defect in the writing. Mark's opening verse makes clear he is giving this account of Jesus' life and death as a presentation of the Gospel. With greatest simplicity, Mark divides his book as follows: The first nine chapters show Jesus in Galilee. Ten through thirteen cover the Judean ministry. And, the final three are devoted to the trial and death, resurrection, and post-resurrection events. Mark moves with quickened pace into the fast action of our text. In the Greek his characteristic word euphus,"immediately," nine times punctuates our text. At once men knew Someone unusual was among them.
B. Contemporary Setting
- We as Jesus' representatives now face complexities just as He did. Today in America there is a diverse admixture socially and politically with a distinctive lack of loyalty toward anyone leader. A deep longing is felt for a man of charisma. We have groped our way out of the swamps of recent anarchy in the streets and there is more openness to some kind of authority. Religiously, much interest in the supernatural is seen on every hand. Less parochialism is evident and a more relaxed openness to new points of view exists. The news media freely report rising interest in the new birth experience. In spite of these indicators of opportunity, the evangelical church has been unable to capitalize fully on the situation.
- Now, the life of Jesus as leader, teacher and Lord is presented by Mark for what it is -- the essence of the Gospel itself. Jesus lived the Good News. As His followers, it is our task now to preach the Good News; that is, to invade our society with the Christ of the Gospel message. A new encounter with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit should stir and change our society with greater permanent impact than even in His day. We must share exactly what He did and taught and then we may expect God's full blessing.
THEME: "In His contact with men, Jesus demonstrates His authority as Lord over each personal area of life." Read Mark 1:14-45.
I. THE OCCUPATIONAL AREA
A. The Call to Discipleship
1. Jesus gathered men for God's new society somewhat as the fisherman pulls his haul from the sea to serve new purposes. This began with His general call to repentance and belief in the Gospel message. Then, He proceeds to issue the more intense demands of discipleship upon His faithful ones. The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, makes it clear that Jesus had, prior to Mark 1 events, called Andrew, Peter, James and John to faith in Himself. Soon enough they find their whole lives interrupted but lifted to a higher plane.
- We might picture the pattern of Jesus' approach to men of His day as being in the form of a target of concentric circles. On the periphery were the uncaring, unmoved ones. In the next circle we might put the crowds of excited spectators, coming and going wherever Jesus was. A high fence separates between these and the next group which are those who believe and become disciples. That high fence is the new birth, true regeneration by the Spirit. Within the growing circle of disciples there was the Twelve. Even within these few faithful ones there was the select three, Peter, James and John. Each man today should recognize where he is on God's target.
B. The Price of Discipleship
1. To those who follow Jesus a promise is issued. He pledges to make them fishers of men. A new life purpose of drawing others to God will fill their lives with satisfaction and meaning. Now, it is not always possible to carry on both kinds of fishing -- with simultaneous concentration! Jesus does not promise to leave us to business as usual. For these four fishermen it meant a rather permanent disruption of their trade. Today, a committed believer must be prepared either to stay at his chosen profession or else leave all for Christ's service -- whatever the Lord commands.
- All ambitions must be placed on the line for Christ. As one has put it, becoming a true disciple is somewhat like attending your own funeral (Mark 8:34). Christ's call enters into our very dispositions. We are required not only to yield up things previously held dear but to respond in love to ill treatment.
- Our churches today all too often are populated by spectators rather than disciples. However, the only ones experiencing the joys of true intimacy with Jesus are those who pay the price in actions of sacrifice and attitudes of love. Perhaps no one really believes Jesus' claims who does not allow and meet His demands.
II. THE SPIRITUAL AREA
1. As with our work, so Jesus also concerns Himself with our worship. When the Sabbath arrives, Jesus appears in the synagogue and begins teaching. Much like our church buildings today, the synagogues were the active centers of worship where the people gathered to pray, be taught, and offer praise to God. Since the office of teaching was not highly exclusive in the synagogue, Jesus' ministry could be performed readily enough, as was the case in Nazareth (Luke 4:16) and with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:15).
- The impact was almost instantaneous. Clarity, certainty and authority marked our Lord's words. The contrast with the thick legalism and cumbersome quotations from dead tradition issued by the regular scribes was startling. Suddenly, the people realized God had something to say to them. There should be in our day also stirring enthusiasm and practical enlightenment upon the hearing of God's Gospel (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
- Nor was the synagogue congregation alone stirred. The spirit world even more clearly knows and fears the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship is interrupted by the outcry from a demon-possessed man.
- It is evident in Scripture that Satan as the god of this world has his own kingdom of spiritual beings. The lines of his heirarchy run down to the multitudes of unclean spirits who apparently strive to enter and claim rights within the bodies of the human family. This cannot take place apart from some volitional capitulation on the part of man. Those who choose Jesus Christ are protected by His name. It is true that cases of evil spirit possession in the lives of children are mentioned in Scripture. However this might be explained as a parental failure. Surely, parents are responsible to hold the umbrella of protection over their children. Just as in rain or intense sun the parents are responsible to shield a tiny one, so they must avoid exposing them to the realm of darkness through their own negligence or compromise with sin.
- With assured authority, Jesus orders the evil spirit out of the man. Again the people are amazed at His confident control of the demons. Public excitement blazes forth in every direction. However, it is not Jesus' intention to create mere excitement. God intends that we understand His absolute Lordship over the entire spiritual realm. He must both prescribe our worship and protect us in spiritual combat through his holy name.
III. THE PHYSICAL AREA
- Some twenty healings and six exorcisms received separate notice in the Gospel accounts. In addition, countless numbers of other such miracles are indicated as He dealt with the masses. These miracles are intended to show God's heart toward man's anguish and need. Furthermore, they demonstrate God's power and serve as "signs" that the Kingdom of Messiah has come. Gradually, the disciples are moved ever deeper in their understanding of the Lord Jesus. After learning what power He had, they are brought to understand who He is -- the Son of God, sent to be Savior of the world.
- Forgiveness does not release us from all the effects of sin. We may know an immediate release from guilt and condemnation. Further, the "punishment" element in our hard circumstances is removed and instead the blessed assurance of Romans 8:28 is pledged to us. For example, trying sicknesses may come to us, but God will either release us from them for His glory or continue them for our spiritual refinement. Jesus' friends were no exception. They knew sickness and death, but He stood with them.
- Peter's mother-in-law presents an example of a distressing but ordinary type of ailment. Jesus responds immediately to the request for aid and proceeds to heal her. In this case, there was no need for the continuation of the inconvenience and hurt of the sickness. One wonders, What if they had not asked the favor of Jesus' help? Just as they were faithful to request the aid, the mother-in-law was faithful to express her gratitude in immediate service. A good example to us who have received so many benefits at His hand.
- At sunset the entire town is gathered at the door, and Jesus' power is every bit a match for the scene of tragedy and need before Him. Shortly thereafter, Mark's Gospel pictures one with the awful disease of leprosy approaching Jesus. Contrary to the Law, the leper makes his request close up, within touch of Christ. The terrible contagion creates no hindrance as Jesus, "being filled with compassion," extends His hand. One wonders how long it had been since this one had been touched by another healthy person. The Lord's hand touches the sick body, and His words indicate the willingness of His heart and also His absolute authority over sickness. As God's angel once explained to the Virgin Mary, there are no impossibilities in God's rule over the physical realm (Luke 1:36, 37). Far from ideal were the results following the leper's healing. Even in this modern day, it is the Christian's responsibility to see that honor to the Lord and definite good come from Jesus' rule over physical aspects of our lives.
- Jesus quietly presents a pattern for us to follow. As clamor for Him greets a new day, He is discovered missing. Since early morning, before daybreak, He had been in prayer in a solitary place. Here is His power secret. Having prayed, He knows exactly His Father's will. He must move on into new areas throughout Galilee. Many who attempt discipleship fail to pay the price of prayer.
- Perhaps it seems a bit scary to think of being fully committed to Jesus as Lord over every area of life. Consider the alternatives. We cannot serve two masters, but we will serve one! Determine to yield all to the will of Jesus Christ. He must rule each life as altogether master and absolute monarch.
- Having followed Jesus in these activities, we are convinced there is no detail too small for His care. No concern beyond His power. No sin hid from His view. No task without His help. Jesus is Lord.
- Apart from personal salvation, what were the needs and problems of the general populous of Jesus' day?
- If Jesus stepped into our world, what similar needs would He encounter? What new ones?
- What are difficulties encountered by those who must stay at their regular jobs and yet desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly as His disciples?
- What can be done to move church members from the ranks of spectators to that of disciples?
- Seeing the great stir created by Jesus' authority as teacher, what are our advantages in this age now that He is absent from us?
- Is there demon possession today? What changes has the Gospel era brought in regard to this?
- Why are Christians whose sins have been forgiven still afflicted by sicknesses?
- Though there is a large cost factor, what positive assets belong to a disciple of Christ?