Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Master’s Focus

Christ had spent the previous day early in the synagogue. The clear, authoritative proclamation of the Word of God by the Word of God was just the beginning of a long day of ministry. After expelling a demon from a man in the synagogue, the Lord healed Peter's mother-in-law; as news of the two healings spread all of Capernaum, as well as many from the surrounding region descended upon Peter's house. For the remainder of the day and late into the evening Christ healed all the sick and demon possessed that were brought to Him. It would seem likely, even advisable after such a day, that Jesus would sleep in and rest up, but Jesus didn't abuse the snooze button on His alarm clock.

Mark records that Jesus "in the morning, rising up a great while before day…went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." As a model for all believers for all of time, Jesus refreshed Himself from the previous day and prepared Himself for the upcoming day by spending time alone with the Father. His quiet time was interrupted by Simon Peter, who was leading gaggle of folks on a "finding Jesus" mission.

Mark 1:36-37, "And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All [men] seek for thee." (An interesting note here is that Peter has already, in this early stage of their ministry, assumed leadership in Christ's absence.) Upon finding Christ in prayer, Peter and the others do not model themselves after their Lord. Instead, there is a mild confrontation and Peter issues forth a challenge: "All men seek for thee."

The tone here implies that this was no simple relay of information. In other words, Peter is excitedly and perhaps with a bit of frustration, saying "Everybody is looking for you, Jesus! People can't quit talking about last night. More people have arrived this morning, and you're out here in the wilderness by yourself. Let's go back and capitalize on your popularity. This is what you're here for, right?!

Jesus was not interested in that ministry strategy, and for the first time in Mark's gospel, but certainly not the last, it is obvious that the disciples do not completely understand His mission. Jesus says to His followers: "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth." (vv. 38)

Jesus was not interested in playing the role of "Miracle Max". Jesus' purpose was not to heal as many people as possible, but to speak truth and confront people with the gospel (see v. 15). "The healing heart of Jesus was not as interested in physical healing as in spiritual healing. He refused to let His disciples or the people own Him as their healer in Capernaum, but went out in the country preaching the gospel of belief and repentance." God did heal physical illnesses and deformities. God still heals! But physical healings are temporal at best. Jesus emphasized the healing that was eternal; the miracle of a dead spirit being reborn.
  • John 3:3, 7 – "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'…Marvel not that I say unto thee, 'Ye must be born again.'"
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (cf. Romans 6:4)
  • Galatians 6:15 – "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
  • Ephesians 4:23-24 – "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

All men sought for Jesus because of the miracles, not because of his teaching and message. The disciples had been swept up into that frenzy, and wanted to accommodate the popularity surge, but a following based on miracles would need increasingly more miracles. Such a following would soon fade away when the miracles were withdrawn. Christ had come primarily to preach. He wanted followers who were grounded in the Word.

Mark's gospel is the most concise of the four good news accounts. Texts such as verse 39 illustrate why that is: "And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils." With that brief sentence, Mark summarized a preaching tour that most likely lasted for weeks if not months. The terse text also identifies what must be the priority of our church's ministry. We are here to proclaim the gospel:

  • Jesus died on the cross for our sins, according to the scriptures
  • He was buried
  • On the third day He was raised from the dead, according to the scriptures

The church is to proclaim that message when we are gathered and when we have scattered. This does not mean that we preach to people while they lie on the side of the street naked, hungry, and hurting. We cannot forget that Jesus did meet people's physical needs, but the focus and primacy of our ministry must be on the clear, consistent, and charitable proclamation of the gospel.

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