Summary: A response is expected when Jesus is encountered.
Rev. Brian Bill
October 3-4, 2015
A recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Googling for God,” begins this way: “It has been a bad decade for God, at least so far.” Google searches for churches are down 15 percent over the last five years compared to the previous five years. Pornography searches are up 83 percent. Google searches for heroin are up 32 percent. Searches questioning God’s existence are up. The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a video game. If you’d like to read more check out the link on the “Sermon Extras” tab on our website.
Instead of focusing on Google web searches, we’re going to search God’s Word today. We’re going to discover that a response is expected when Jesus is encountered. Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 1:21-28 as we see what happened when the Savior showed up in a worship service. I can’t wait to see what will happen when Jesus shows up in our service today. How will you respond?
Last week we looked at the terrible temptation Jesus went through, we reflected on what real repentance is all about and we ended by wrestling with the demands of discipleship as Jesus calls us to forsake all and follow Him. And now we read in Mark 1:21: “And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.”
Even though Jesus was from Nazareth, the majority of His ministry was done in “Capernaum,” which was located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee. This city was a hub of trade and traffic.
We’ve pointed out previously that Mark depicts Jesus as moving rapidly from place to place and from person to person to help us see Him as Servant and Savior. In doing so, he skips over other ministry events. During the weeks that Mark does not mention, Jesus ministers in Nazareth, calls the others disciples, and delivers the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. According to Luke 4:16-30, after Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people try to kill Him so He moves his ministry headquarters to Capernaum.
Jesus wasted no time as He “immediately on the Sabbath” entered the “synagogue.” The synagogue was a gathering place and was started when there were ten families. The synagogue system goes back to the time of the Babylonian captivity. Since they couldn’t go to the Temple to worship, they started gathering in synagogues, which quickly became the center of every Jewish community. They were similar to local churches. The Talmud says that there were 500 in Jerusalem and because Capernaum was a good sized-city, it’s likely that there were several synagogues there.
By the way, if Jesus deemed it important to gather for weekly worship, then shouldn’t we as well? Luke 4:16 says that it was His “custom to go.” That’s why our very first “G” is to “Gather with God’s people.” Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not forsake our gathering together.
And we read that Jesus was “teaching.” It was common for visiting rabbis to speak in the synagogue so it wouldn’t have been unusual for Jesus to be invited to preach there. It was also common for the speaker to sit while he was teaching. The service contained elements similar to ours – prayer, praise, proclamation of Scripture and preaching.
We’ve praised and now let’s proclaim this passage as we read it together. When we’re done I’m going to pray and then we’ll move into the preaching.
Let’s stand and read Mark 1:22-28 in unison: “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.”
Since a response is expected when Jesus is encountered, let’s look at four different responses.
1. People astonished. Check out verse 22: “And they were astonished at his teaching…” The word “astonished” means “to be at a loss, to be knocked out of one’s senses.” The idea is to be “stricken as by a blow, to be dumbfounded.” In our culture, we might say, “their minds were blown by his teaching.” This was a common response when people encountered Christ.