Summary: Let’s open up the world of Mark and walk in to see the one he’s proclaiming! Jesus will surprise us if we honestly look at him and listen to him.
Present Mark 1-3 dramatically, by memory if possible.
First Encounter with Jesus
I’ve been spending time with the Lord in Mark’s gospel this week and I can’t wait to tell you what he has shown me. But let me warn you up front, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve been in a hurry. I’ve never seen such a flurry of activity and intense interest in anyone like this. It all started with a strange voice in the wilderness, a prophet named John, who came on the scene and did his business of getting people ready for God’s Son. He dressed like he ate; he was all about the great wilderness and the mystery of God’s work of calling Israel to repentance in the waters of baptism. It was a call to change. People came to him from all over. He could draw a crowd of expectant followers, but he pointed beyond himself to another! One greater! One who instead of baptizing in water would baptize in the Holy Spirit of God! He echoed the voices of the old prophets, stirring up hope for the coming Messiah. Get ready! He’s coming! Repent!
Why didn’t John work in Jerusalem? I don’t know. Maybe there wasn’t enough water there for baptism. But why did he seem so separated from the people. They had to go to him. I don’t know. But the people came. Many came from all over. As the numbers grew, so did the expectations and hopes of the crowds that came.
Then it happened! He came! Jesus! Joined right in with us sinners in the waters of baptism at the hands of John! It was like he was sent here to be one of us, one with us, but oh, so much more! One to save us! He went into the wilderness too. He was lead by the Spirit, but was tempted by the devil. He knows what all that is like. He’s been there, done that. From there he emerged and entered his ministry full blast, preaching, teaching, revealing divine powers at work within himself by healing sick, forgiving sins, calling specific followers to work with him and watch him work. And oh, did the people come! Word travels fast among hurting people who are looking for hope. Word got out before you could blink! Before long Jesus had to tell the ones he healed, warn them sternly! Don’t tell anyone about this! He couldn’t get any rest or find any room or any peace, even for a place to eat! Had to stay outside of the towns and villages because the crowds wouldn’t leave him alone! His only escape was the sea.
That Galilee sea was such a blessing. Jesus often got in a boat, just to get some room to breathe or a little space from the crowds to speak from. It’s no wonder his first disciples were fishermen. These men of the sea, men with businesses and families who depended on the sea, they connected with Jesus in deep bonds of loyalty. They left their nets and came into their ministry; from a sea of fish they entered into a sea of humanity. Jesus completely transformed their careers just as he redeemed their hearts and lives. Oh, it was a process. But his presence has a powerful persuasive way about it. There is an amazing attraction about this man, Jesus. And yet, there is a lot about him that is terrifyingly unsettling.
Instead of simply looking to see what Mark says about Jesus, I hope we will walk with Jesus in Mark’s gospel and experience Jesus through Mark’s inspired message. I hope you will join me in this. Let’s drop our nets for a bit and just witness afresh this strangely disturbing Messiah, yet one who is so familiar that we may be tempted to avoid fresh contact with him. Jesus will surprise you! I’ve seen it. Let me just say: if you think you’ve figured him out, think again!
What kind of person are you? Do you just hate it when someone comes along and upsets your world? Are you one of those who’d just like the world to slow down and take a break? Do you want life to be simple and uncomplicated? Are you unimpressed with wild unpredictable Messiahs who show up and upset everything you know and hold dear? Have you finally figured out what life is about and where we are supposed to stand and what we’re supposed to do and you’d appreciate it if everyone else would follow suit, thank-you very much? For you, religious faith is probably like a rock that stands immutable, stable and sacred. It has a kind of comforting assurance that is predictable and familiar. What troubles you most are all these change agents who are working to destroy the church! Jesus will challenge that. Just walk with him and see.