Summary: Jesus went about preaching. Paul was compelled to preach Christ. What is the preacher’s central theme?
We have just heard that reading from Mark’s gospel where we hear of Jesus, first healing Simon’s mother-in-law (Do we, by the way, realise that Simon- or Peter as he was renamed, was a married man?), then healing many sick people and driving out many demons in Capernaum. Mark’s Gospel is an action-packed Gospel; everywhere in it we read that after doing this or that Jesus went on to do something else.
It’s not actually Jesus’ ministry of healing that I wish to focus on this morning, but rather to begin by noting that Jesus’ life and ministry was very full. But- in the midst of that ministry let’s note what we read in verse 35:
Very early, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Jesus’ activity was punctuated by those periods of prayer, and always somewhere where he could be, at least for a while, alone with his Father. We can be quite sure that these times spent i quiet communication were essential to all his activity, and that form that we can surely learn that all our activity, unless in be God-directed, is wasted activity. Maybe I should qualify that a bit, for God will be quiety directing our inner thoughts, as we desire to do his will, and can graciously redeem our error-strewn ways.
But let’s now note what comes next. After Jesus’ companions join him with the news that everyone was looking for him, his response is:
Let us go somewhere else- to the nearby villages- so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come. (v 38)
Jesus had come to preach; obviously the healing was a sideshoot activity. But his prime activity in his earthly ministry was to preach. Whilst in verse 39 we read that he preached in the synagogues we aren’t told what he preached. However, if we turn to Luke’s Gospel we find the answer to that one, on that occasion when he first preached in the synagogue in Nazareth, and where he quotes from Isaiah; from Isaiah chapter 61, where we read:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
I want to come back to this in a moment, but let’s just take a sideways glance at that other passage we had this morning.There Paul says: I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (v16). Paul had that total consumption with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that total consumption with Jesus Christ himself. Oh that we had but a portion of Paul’s total commitment with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! True that we are not all called to preach, true that even ’preachers’ do not preach all the time! In fact we preach a good deal less than earlier generations. At 10 on a Sunday morning we normally preach for 15 to 20 minutes. If we go back to the days of that great Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon we would be listening to a sermon for up to 90 minutes! There would be a few burnt offerings for Sunday lunch! That does beg the other question as to whether ’preaching’ is just what’s done from pulpits in churches. ’Preach’ can just signify (according to my dictionary) to ’earnestly advocate’. But: Paul’s concern in preaching was ’the gospel’, and ’gospel’, of course just means ’good news’, so we’re back full circle to Isaiah 61. And the main point I wish to address now just that: what is the preacher’s message? Surely it must be, if it is God’s good news just what it was for Isaiah and therefore as Jesus applied those words to himself (Today this prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing-Luke 4:21)
To preach the Gospel- that was, Jesus said, why he had come. That must be at the heart of the preacher’s theme! So let’s just look at those words of Isaiah:
Firstly, let’s note that Jesus says; The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to preach the good news
Any Christian preaching which has at its core God’s good news will have at root the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This sets Christian preaching apart from any other form of ’public speaking’. The Christian preacher is driven by God’s Spirit, inspired by God’s Spirit, informed by God’s Spirit. To simply pray at the outset, “May I speak in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” is to seek just that: that our words may come from and reflect the very nature of God himself. This can sound a very arrogant claim; it can actually also be very humbling to realise that one may be speaking words coming from the very throne-room of God! And because it is Spirit-anointed, there can be a power and authority behind the peacher’s words.