GOOD NEWS PRESENTED BY MARK
Study of the Gospel According to Mark
As you read Mark, be aware that you are reading the very first written account of the ministry of Jesus – a fact well documented by credible Bible scholars. Quite naturally, we want to know who Mark was, and we find that he is mentioned frequently in the New Testament.
What we know about him is that he was the son of a very well-to-do woman in Jerusalem; her name was Mary, and her home became the center of early church get-togethers. So, you can imagine that Mark was there when Jesus’ closest followers came to his mother’s house for a “church council” meeting. Peter the chief elder referred to Mark affectionately as “my son.”
Mark was also the nephew of Barnabas who talked Paul into letting the youngster go with them on one of their missionary journeys - which, you may recall, resulted in Mark’s falling out of favor with Paul by leaving and going back home. However, it’s interesting to note that, years later, when Paul was in prison, facing execution, he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him, “for he is a most useful servant to me.”
I suppose Paul saw in this young man a Christian who had the ability to write; and, apparently having redeemed himself, he could now be counted on to carry out Paul’s wishes. This explanation is plausible because Mark had served as Peter’s scribe and, as such, had written much of what Peter related to him about his eye witness account of the ministry of Jesus.
MARK SERMON III – MARK 4:14-29 . . .
GETTING FROM “HERE” TO “THERE” BY HEEDING SOUND ADVICE
As I walked from my car toward the entrance to a store, a gentleman approached me and asked, “Can you tell me where I am?”
My response was: “Now that’s a good question; it’s one of the basic philosophical questions of life: who am I . . . where am I . . . why am I here . . . where am I going”?
“Why do you need to know where you are?” “A friend of mine is supposed to meet me, and I need to tell her where to come to.” “Where will your friend be coming from?” “She’ll be coming from Riverdale.”
I thought about it for a moment and said, “It won’t be easy to explain to her how to get here from there.” Then he added a bit more information: “I was supposed to call her when I got to Southlake Mall.” “She knows how to get to Southlake Mall.” “Well, then, that’s easy. I’ll tell you how to get to the mall, and you can call her from there.”
As we come to the close of the old year and start a new year, we need to take stock of where we are - spiritually . . . give some thought to where we need to be . . . follow directions on how to get there.
The parables of Jesus were intended to point us in the right direction in order to become the person God wants us to be. In one of His parables, Jesus teaches us that the best way to get where we need to be is to hear and heed the Word that has been sown in our hearts and minds - Mark 4:14-20 . . .
Like the seed that fell by the side of the road onto hardened soil, but had no chance to take root, there are people who hear about the gospel truth but never let it take root because they reject it.
In the minds of some of these folks, there is no God. Others of them believe there is a God but refuse to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah. Therefore, the Truth can find no entry into their hearts - due to indifference.
The tragedy of it is that by the time such folks realize their need of a Savior their hearts have hardened to the extent that there is no receptivity to spiritual truth. Thus, they fall by the wayside.
Like the seed that fell on a thin layer of soil – the kind that forms over sheets of limestone rock in Israel - there are countless numbers of folks who may be attracted to Christianity but never let it get beyond the surface of their lives. The least little thing can “blow them away”.
Like the seed that fell on thorny soil – where bad weeds take root alongside good seed so that the roots of the weeds intertwine with the roots of the seeds and thereby choke the life out of the new plant - there are those who commit their lives to Christ but get so caught up and entangled with “the things of the world” that they have no time for “the things of God”.
Now, having described those three types of negative responses, Jesus got to the point of the parable: Like the seed that fell on good soil – clean, deep, rich soil that every farmer loves – there are those in whose lives the Word of God takes root and grows until it flourishes - produces fruit of the kind the Apostle Paul spoke of when he described the “fruits of the Spirit.”
In order for this deeply rooted, productive, spiritual growth to take place in our lives, three things must happen: We must hear the Word . . . receive the Word . . . put the Word into practice.
The best part of this parable is the outcome of the seed that is sown in good soil. There will be a harvest! The crowd listening to Jesus that day needed to be reassured that things were going to turn out okay. At this particular point in His ministry, things had not gone well – He had been banished from the synagogue and was regarded with suspicion.
Folks: Our Lord doesn’t want us to get so discouraged by hostility toward the gospel that we start thinking negatively and feeling down-hearted about our efforts. Keep on sowing the seed . . . doing the work Christ has commissioned us to do! It will be worth it all! Don’t ever give up! The harvest is sure! So, let your light shine --- Mark 4:21-25 . . .
Jesus came into the world to shed light on God’s plan for building His spiritual kingdom. He expects His followers to do likewise. Those who live in “the darkness of sin” need to see the light of God’s love reflected in the lives of devoted Christians.
There are two ways of spreading light: be the candle or be the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)
Would you agree that Jesus is our “candle” and we who follow Him ought to be the “mirror”?
Would you also agree that the way for us to reflect His teachings is to hear and heed what He says?
Think about this: The more we pay attention to His words and put His teachings into practice, the more we are going to be able to understand the truth of what He has taught us. He will not give you and me more than we are willing to receive!
Open your minds and hearts to His Word and you will find that He will bless you with opportunities unlimited! From personal experience, we can attest to the truth of this principle of seeking and finding, of studying and learning, of worshiping and serving, of sowing and reaping – what we might call the achievement of balance in the Christian life.
The gospel truth was meant to be seen. Christianity was meant to be observed. There was a time when Christians who openly professed faith in Christ were subjected to the death penalty.
However, once identified as Christians, their lives could be spared if they renounced their faith in Christ. Thousands chose to die rather than deny Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior!
Even though Christianity would continue to be vehemently and even violently opposed by non-believers, Jesus declared that the gospel truth was so powerful that it could never be suppressed; therefore, the Kingdom of God was destined to grow.
In the minds of His hearers, there was this question: How can this be? How can a movement that crowns Christ Lord of lords and King of kings ever successfully grow in a world that pledges allegiance to self-declared rulers whose god is either themselves or a false god of made with hands or established by military might?
Jesus responded to their way of thinking by saying, “Let me tell you what the Kingdom of God is like” --- Mark 4:26-29 . . .
Nature’s growth is often imperceptible; we do not actually see the plant growing day by day; yet, over a period of time, we see that the seed that fell on good soil sprouted and became a mature plant. So it is with God’s kingdom that is not of this world!
Nature’s growth is constant – little by little, a day at a time, nurtured along the way, watered and cultivated. So it is with God’s kingdom.
Nature’s growth is inevitable – like the plant that breaks through the topsoil or the tree whose roots crack cement or asphalt. So it is with the kingdom of God.
In nature, there is the inevitability of a harvest - good fruit is gathered and weeds are destroyed. So it is with the kingdom of God – there will be a time of gathering the faithful together and separating the deniers of Christ from them. Would you agree that this awareness ought to be for each of us a summons to preparedness?
To begin the process of preparedness only takes a “grain” of faith --- Mark 2:30-32 . . .
Folks, with what did the Church begin? A baby! To whom was the message given? All who would listen and respond to the gospel! Who is Christianity meant for? The whole world! In what terms are those who will gather around the throne of God in heaven described? A throng! Multitudes - a great host of believers shouting, “Hallelujah!”
Never mind how small the beginning! In baseball, it’s the last inning that tells how the game went; in football, it’s the last two minutes; in racing, it’s the homestretch; in basketball, it’s the sound of the buzzer; in baking, it’s the last tick of the clock; in life, it’s the twilight years.
On a grave marker there is a birth-date and a death-date. Neither is as important as the dash between the two! Amen.