So, it’s all about Jesus! Church is all about Jesus, our revised Mission Statement is all about Jesus, but do you know what, life is all about Jesus. That’s a huge claim, like life’s all about oxygen, life’s all about water. Life is all about Jesus. Whether you are a member here, a believer or not, let me test that on You. Helping people find follow and know Jesus. I want to preach that a bit and see if it feels right – to me and to you. This year Cate and I talked about preaching a bit out of Mark. Mark is the shortest Gospel, and over the next few weeks we will look at the start of Mark to give you a quick guide to Jesus. It’s going to be simple stuff – so why not invite your friends.
We’re meeting Jesus right at the start of his popularity - he’s got something new and he wants to get it out there. Now, the funny thing is that we don’t get a lot of detail about his teaching. What people noticed first was how he taught and not what he taught. I would have thought that the most important thing is the content - what was Jesus saying that everyone was so interested in? But that’s not what Mark writes down. It was something entirely different that people who got to meet Jesus in the flesh noticed. And here’s what they noticed. It was how he taught.
He taught as one who had authority. Now I want to give you a couple of choices about what that might have meant. Firstly, was he strict and stern, did he sound like an old school head master? Or did he come across as imposing, a 30 year old with an aura of gravitas about him? Or did he teach like someone who knew what he was talking about? Did he talk about spiritual laws in a way that made sense to people and seem to show a wisdom beyond his years? I think it was the latter. I think that whatever Jesus was talking about, he seemed to have an unusual grasp of the subject; the teachers of the law always used to quote other authorities, but Jesus spoke plainly. And I believe he still speaks plainly to each of us.
There’s a new TV series called ‘Grandchester’ – I’m loving it. Set in the 50’s, the hero is an Anglican priest who helps solve murders. And he’s got this delightful curate who’s the epitome of wet behind the ears – the curate preached a dreadful sermon quoting this person after that person and having no application at all. That’s the opposite of Jesus. He knows us; he’s like your personal surgeon for your soul. He knows your life history, he knows everything there is no know about human biology; and he knows about sin and greed and the diseases of the soul. And that’s why people were amazed by him. Authority
Verse 23 - He’s confronted by evil. We are all sinners according to the bible, we’ve all done things that are wrong, but there are multiple levels to evil in the world. And one level is someone possessed or afflicted by an evil or unclean spirit, an unhealthy spirit. The contrast is with the Holy Spirit who brings life. Some aspect of evil has got inside someone’s psyche. 20 years ago if I’d preached about this I might have talked about mental illness. Not any more, I see mental illness as more connected with the mind and spiritual sickness to do with an unclean spirit. Of course, you can have both but they are distinct. I’m very cautious of the word possessed; we are all tempted by evil thoughts; jealousy, theft, violence, gossip. I think an unclean spirit refers to when we begin to consistently give over to an evil pattern of thought and behaviour, and start to be controlled by that. We would say that ‘it takes on a life of its own. I would call that an unclean spirit. That kid who committed those murders in the States, he gave in to an evil thought pattern, and the longer you submit to an evil thought pattern the stronger it gets. If you look at pornography and let it into your thought life then it’s getting to take a hold in your mind.
Jesus met someone with an evil spirit, and here’s a different use of the word authority – he cast it out. As much as we need healing for our bodies and minds, we also need healing for our souls and Jesus has the power to rescue us from those strongholds. It’s usually much more of a process, but Jesus is the circuit breaker who can start that change for us.
I’ll tell you where I saw this recently. Four of the girls from the Youth Group missions trip came and spoke at the Monday lunch last week. One of our guests was particularly animated and confrontational all throughout. What I saw was an unclean spirit at work. And I want to tell you I was so proud of our girls standing up and giving their testimonies in a place of opposition. My friend, there are evil spirits at work in our community and Jesus has authority over them.
News spread about him all over the whole region. Mark has this sub-plot going on in his gospel – it’s often called the Messianic Secret. ‘Messiah’ ‘Christ’ ‘Anointed One’ are all the same Idea. What it means is God’s chosen leader. In Mark, Jesus often tells people not to talk him. Why? One possible reason is that even by verse 45, Jesus has become so well known he can’t get into most of the villages because there are such big crowds. But I reckon there’s another reason that Jesus wants to keep things quiet. He knows that coming to faith is more like a journey for most people; we start wondering and then find out a bit more, then we wonder a bit more, then we try Jesus out a bit then either consciously or unconsciously we start to follow Jesus, all the time building that level of trust and belief. In the gospels, Jesus doesn’t come out at the start and say, ‘I’m the son of God, you better become my followers’ and here’s irrefutable proof. I think Jesus wants us to trust him and choose him; he doesn’t want a whole lot of compulsory followers. He doesn’t want followers who don’t know if they like him or not, but followers who can clearly see he is the Son of God and we better do what we are told. That’s the whole mystery of faith; God wants to give us some choice and some room to believe while also giving us some evidence to believe on. So, word about Jesus spread. And word of Jesus continues to spread. In the same way, the church has to be born again every generation. We start with our parents’ faith, but Jesus doesn’t want us to remain with only our parents’ faith.
Jesus went to Simon and Andrew’s house and Simon’s mother in law had a fever. Here’s a third type of authority - he healed her of the fever. He has authority over sickness. And in the later verses, that’s why people came for healing from evil spirits that affected them, and from sickness. Notice Jesus doesn’t start with his positional authority.
I want to do a quick review of three things you will notice about Jesus, which I think are three things that are important about the church. Word – he taught them. Sign – he delivered them. Deed – he healed them. Now, often in the church you’ll see these things pulled apart. You’ll see churches that are strong on the word; they are generally called evangelical churches. You’ll see churches that are big on miraculous signs; they are often called Pentecostal churches, and then you will see churches that are big on deed, on service, and sometimes they are seen as more liberal. But we’ve got it wrong, because when you see the ministry of Jesus you see these three intertwined. Jesus was always teaching, always serving and always having a miraculous effect.
I want to finish by exhorting you with this Vision that we are weighing as a church. I want to test it against some of the things that we do know that Jesus said in another early sermon, the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. I believe that God is calling us as the church (individually and collectively) to be ‘soul for the city’, to bring spiritual value to the people of Tauranga. Jesus said to his would be followers, ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (Matt 5:13). You make things better by your presence. You purify, you bring flavour, you stand up for what is right. The church is meant to make the city a better place to live. Jesus also said, ‘You are the light of the world’(Matt 5:14). ‘Let your light shine before people that they might see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven’ (Matt 5:16). Salt and light both enhance good things and kill bad things. I believe that our Vision should be to have a positive influence on our city - speaking the truth, serving the poor, and praying for miracles – with the ultimate goal of leading people to praise our Father in heaven. To be soul for the city, to bring spiritual value to the people of Tauranga. How’s that for a Vision?