Summary: consequences of what happens when we model ourselves after Jesus in seeking the good of others.

Note: This sermon was introduced with scenes 12 & 13 of "Traveling Light"

Jesus pursued the good of other people. He did it in his healings; he did it in his teachings. Jesus poured his life into the lives of others. Ultimately Jesus pursued our good by dying in our place, taking upon himself the full weight of our sins. Jesus lived his entire life for the good of other people.

And if you become a follower of Jesus, you’ll find yourself pursuing the good of others too. In fact Life Bible Fellowship Church’s mission statement says that we exist to help unchurched people discover a relationship with Christ and to help Christians grow into full devotion, so they love God and other people. Helping you love other people means helping you pursue other people’s good as you live your life.

Christians use different words we use to describe this process. Sometimes we call it "ministry," "service," or "outreach." Whatever we call it, following Jesus means being like Jesus in this respect.

Pursuing the good of others is what happens when a Christian sees a coworker who’s beaten down because she’s going through a painful divorce. So the Christian offers a word of reassurance, a hand on the shoulder, an encouragement that God can bring hope to their hopeless situation.

It’s what happens when a Christian student notices that his teacher is discouraged because the students don’t seem to be learning. So this student stays after class to let his teacher know how much he appreciates the teacher’s effort. In fact, a few years ago we saw a junior high science teacher come to faith in Christ through her Christian students. That’s pursuing other people’s good.

Christians pursue the good of others in a variety of ways. We do it through our giving, sharing of our resources to help other people. We do it by starting ministries like orphanages, hospitals, and hospices for AIDS victims. We do it through our words, as we share the hope we have in Jesus Christ with others gently and compassionately. Whether you call it ministry, service, or outreach, the bottom line is that following Jesus changes our relationships with other people. Jesus pursued the good of others, and if you hang around Jesus long enough, you will too.

We’ve been in a series based on the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. Last week Pastor Bruce did a wonderful job talking about how Jesus creates all things new. Today we’re going to talk about pursuing the good of other people. Today’s message is going to center around three different scenes: A synagogue, a lakeside, and a mountaintop. In these three scenes we’re going to find out what happens when we pursue the good of other people.

1. The Synagogue (Mark 3:1-6)

The first scene occurs back in the synagogue of Capernaum in vv. 1-6. This is the second time we’ve read about Jesus doing a miracle in this synagogue. I mentioned a few weeks ago that archeologists have actually unearthed this synagogue.

The fact that this miracle takes place in a synagogue on the Sabbath day clues us in on the fact that the setting for this first scene is a worship setting. Going to the synagogue on the Sabbath was the rough equivalent of us going to church on Saturday or Sunday.

In this synagogue on this particular day is a man with a shriveled up hand. Now we don’t know how this guy’s hand got that way; perhaps he had a stroke, or was born with some kind of birth defect, or maybe he’d been in some sort of terrible accident. But for whatever reason, his hand was shriveled and paralyzed. According to Jewish law, this man couldn’t visit the Jewish temple in Jerusalem to worship God because of the condition of his hand. So for him to be in a synagogue took some courage.

The religious leaders are also present. In fact, you almost get the sense that this disabled man is a plant, placed there by the religious leaders like a piece of bait in a trap. This has all the marks of a staged scene, a carefully crafted con designed to incriminate Jesus. After all, this episode is the fifth of five conflict stories in Mark starting back in the first chapter, and each time the conflict with the religious authorities gets more intense.

So Jesus forces a confrontation, perhaps seeing the trap, by asking the religious leaders a question. Now if he asked, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath, working or not working," it would’ve been an easy question to answer. But Jesus goes to the deeper issue, which is whether the purpose of the Sabbath was for doing good and saving life or for doing evil and destroying life. In other words, "Why did God give us a special day for worship and renewal? Was it so we could seek other people’s good and save lives, or was it so we could find an excuse for doing evil and destroying life?"

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