Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"Follow Me" My Authority (Part 2)

Can you think of a moment when everything seemed to come together for you? For the young, maybe it was a birthday or a gathering at Christmas. As we get older, more options emerge such as graduations, getting the perfect job, a wedding day, the birth of a child, etc. As age further, maybe it is some accolades or a certain position that you attain. Whatever the moment, nearly all of us can relate to some point in our lives where everything seemed to be great, or at least ok – even if it was for just a moment.

So did Jesus. In last week’s post, I shared from the initial stages of His ministry in Capernaum. Jesus began teaching in the synagogue where He was approached by a man with many demons. Jesus cast out the demons, then went to Peter’s house to heal Peter’s mother. Later that evening the entire town shows up to be healed. And in the midst of this all, Mark writes, “at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (1.28).

This was Jesus moment. This was the beginning of something great. So how did Jesus respond? He left! He got away from all the hubbub of the day and found a place to talk to God. Then, and only then, was Jesus ready to take the next steps of His JOURNEY. Let’s take a closer look at these verses.

Jesus went out to pray. (1.35-37)

Jesus goes to a solitary place. This is not the same wilderness where He was tested, but the word Mark uses the same word (Gk, eremos). The Bible often talks about the wilderness (or desert) as a testing ground for people. This is another test for Jesus. He already had a great deal of fame (v 27-28), and He has had tremendous success after His fame has spread. So, this test is about pride! What does Jesus do? He submits – which is the exact opposite of what a prideful person would do. Instead of getting caught up in Himself, Jesus goes to Dad. “Dad, what are your plans for the day?”

Note: Mark only mentions Jesus praying three times – here, Mark 6.46 after feeding the 5000, and in Gethsemane (13.32-42). Each occurs at night and each is a matter of him escaping the will of the people and yielding to the Father.

We do not know what Jesus prayed specifically, but knowing He prayed is enough. Jesus knew that His power stemmed from His intimacy with the Father. Jesus could not do what He was doing without the Father, and He could not be who He was to be without the Father. Jesus knew that prayer affects us both inside and out.

So what happens? Peter comes looking for Jesus. And the word here has the connotation of a hostile search. It wasn’t merely a matter of “I wonder where Jesus is.” It was more like, “Where is Jesus? We must find Him because all of these people are here and we want to see some more miracles.” In fact, these three verses provide rich insight to the idea of seeking. We can seek something or someone and do so for the wrong reasons. The early disciples did, and often we do as well. Consider the following question: Do you seek Jesus for what He can do for you, or for who He is and what He may ask of you?

In this story, we see how the idea of seeking can be done for the wrong reasons. Only Jesus is seeking what is right.
  • Jesus is seeking His Father.
  • Peter and the disciples are seeking Jesus, but for the wrong reasons.
  • Others are seeking Jesus, but for the wrong reasons.

Knowing this, and having spent time with His Father, Jesus knows it is time to leave.

Jesus went out to proclaim. (1.38-39)

These two verses beg two questions to be asked.

1) What did Jesus preach?

In the NT, to proclaim is to preach. So this is the easier question to answer. Mark provided the answer previously in verse 14 and 15.
  • The time is fulfilled – the Messiah has come. 
  • The Kingdom of God is at hand – God’s reign begins in earnest now. 
  • Repent and believe the gospel – Turn from your old life, and turn to God.

That’s the answer. It is short. It is sweet. And this message needed to be heard by the masses. But the masses in Capernaum (where He was) were only interested in His healings, so it was time to go elsewhere.

2) Is preaching really why He came?

This question becomes more complicated when looking at different translations.
  • ESV adds the word “out” – of Capernaum
  • KJV – for therefore came I forth?
  • NAS – what I came for.

If the word out is not included – does this mean the overall reason for His coming? The KJV and the NAS seem to suggest this. If true, then the whole reason Jesus came - not just out to pray, but came to earth - was to preach the gospel. And I do think this reason is a large part of why He came. But a couple of other verses suggest a larger purpose – though both are a part of His overall proclamation. If you recall, I mentioned last week that the words of Jesus and the deeds of Jesus are synonymous.
  • Mark 2.17 – I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners - a part of His proclamation.
  • Mark 10.45 – Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

These ideas are a part of the proclamation because they are a part of the gospel itself. And that is why Jesus came – to share a message from God about what God was doing – through Him. So, yes, in a sense, the proclamation of the good news of God was why He came. Again, His words and His deeds were one, and a part of that good news was Jesus death and resurrection.

But this verse also mentions the casting out of demons. When you confront evil, the enemy will be at work – as a few of us have seen in significant ways recently. So, Jesus confronted evil by proclamation, and ultimately overcame evil by dying and rising again. What an awesome Savior He is!

Jesus went out with power. (1.40-44)

Now we turn to the leper. Jesus has a couple of dealings with leprous individuals during His ministry. But this one is interesting. First, both the leper and Jesus appear to break the Law. As we will see in a moment, Jesus respects the Mosaic Law, but His touching the leper shows His authority over the Law. First, however, we look at the leper.

Leprosy was a disease of the skin. We have come to think of leprosy as a disease where the skin falls off, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, according to the Mosaic Law, it was up to the priest to determine if an individual had leprosy, and the scribes considered 72 different skin conditions to have been considered leprous in Jesus’ day.

If the priest did diagnose you with leprosy, it was humiliating. You were forced out of society. No family, no home, no job, nothing. Furthermore when someone was coming your way, you were supposed to cover your lip and yell out “Unclean! Unclean!” (See Leviticus 13 and 14 for details about diagnosis.)

But in this passage the leper doesn’t shout unclean. Instead, he approaches Jesus. This is a clear violation of the Law. And more than approaching Jesus, he asks Jesus if He might make Him clean. Notice He doesn’t say heal me, He says make me clean. Leviticus 14 says that leprosy must be cleansed, not healed. What is remarkable here is the faith of this man. He doesn’t doubt Jesus ability to heal him, he is only sure of Jesus’ willingness. He believes that Jesus can cleanse him, but essentially says, “your will be done.” And Jesus is willing. So Jesus touches the man and heals him. This action is the point where Jesus could be accused of breaking the Law because He touched the man. But Jesus did not; rather Jesus restored the man. Truly that should have been obvious to anyone around. In addition, such an act should have showed that Jesus was more than a man, because only God could truly cleanse. (We will observe something similar in next week’s post.)

After cleansing the man of leprosy, Jesus instructs the man to go show himself to the priest so that he could be declared cleaned of leprosy. Such a declaration would allow him to return to his home, his family, his job, etc. But instead the man goes and tells others what happened. Now, ordinarily this might be a good thing, but Jesus had specifically commanded the man not to do this. The next point will help us understand why.

The man went out – and disobeyed. (1.45)

Remember, this passage started with Jesus escaping the crowds – the miracle-mongers. These people wanted their own version of Jesus, not the real one – a statement that is sadly true for so many in our world today as well. So, Jesus has instructed this man to fulfill the Mosaic Law by going to the priest, and not telling others what had happened. This instruction was so that Jesus could continue to proclaim the gospel without the fanfare that the people wanted to bestow upon Him.

We do not know whether or not the man went to the priest, nor do we know for certain what the man may have said, but Mark uses an interesting set of words in verse 45. He says that the news began to spread and therefore Jesus could no longer openly enter a town. This verse is a double entendre, meaning it has a dual meaning. First, the fame of Jesus, like in verses 27-28, would have meant that as He prepared to enter a town, the people would have met Him with all kinds of requests and false expectations (e.g. Jesus entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday). But there is another meaning here as well. It is likely that the leper would have shared that Jesus touched him. That would mean that Jesus was now unclean and therefore according to the Mosaic Law and the customs of the day, Jesus could not enter a town for fear that Jesus would spread leprosy among the people.

The reality is that Jesus touch meant that both He and the leper were clean. But the leper’s disobedience meant that Jesus was now an outsider and His ministry was hindered. Jesus still had the same power. He still had the same authority. But would people be as eager to listen to the message He was proclaiming? Many would, but many likely used this as an excuse not to – just like people do today. Why?

Because while leprosy was and is a real disease, it could be considered symbolic of sin. Leprosy cannot be healed, it must be cleansed. That sounds like sin to me. Jesus had the power and authority to cleanse the leper, just as He had the power and authority to cleanse our sin. Like the leper we must be willing to come to Jesus in all of our sin to allow Him to cleanse us. But unlike the leper, many people enjoy their lifestyle and do not want anything to do with Jesus. However, Jesus message continued to make an impact in His day, and it is still impacting people today. He had whatever authority He needed then, but He has all authority now (Matthew 28.18). And He has given us a great cause - to make disciples for Him by His power and authority.


That is why our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – Jesus.

He not only showed what true authority was, but has provided an example for us to follow as well. Jesus’ prayer life gave Him authoritative power to proclaim, absolute power over disease and demons, and an abiding power to persevere. Listening and yielding to Him can do the same for us.


Opportunity: Spend time learning to listen for God’s voice. John had prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus had to prepare Himself to be ready for each day. He found the time to do so – whatever it took.

So, what about our next steps?
Learn to hear from God. When you pray, take time to listen.
Live after spending time with God. What guidance did He give you today? Follow it.
Love the process and do it daily.
Lead others to discern how God is leading them.

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