Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Follow Me"...An Opportunity to Reach the Nations

Sometimes the events in our lives correspond so well to the stories and teachings in the Bible that we get an extra measure of understanding. For instance, a couple of months ago, I was scheduled to preach on Jesus calming the storm and then we had the wind storm come through Fairfax. When we allow God’s truth to speak to us, we should not be surprised at how relevant this ancient text is for our lives today.

What is true in general has certainly been true for me lately. One instance is a better understanding of Paul’s longing to see certain people. I wrote about this in my blog last week, but to quickly summarize, a part of my heart is in Kenya and I long to see some people who have become dear to me in a short matter of time.

But another way I can better understand relates to today’s text. I believe all of us can relate to this in some way, but in the context of ministry, it takes on a little different perspective. I am talking about being tired and needing a break. All of us have times in our lives that we succumb to exhaustion, and many times that exhaustion leads us to get away, even to the point of avoiding the things we could, and even should, be doing.

Over the past two weeks, Rick and Reggie have showed Jesus and His disciples at that point. When the disciples returned from their mission, they were exhausted and had not even had time to eat. Jesus tries to find an isolated place for them to rest, but the people show up and the ministry effort continues. After an overnight boat ride (which was beyond ordinary), they arrive at Gennesaret and people seek out Jesus to be healed. Shortly after, the religious leaders of the day challenge Jesus regarding their religious traditions. The point is that Jesus, nor His disciples, can find a break from ministering to the people. And that brings us to our text today.

Rick covered much of the first part of this week’s text (click here), but I do want to expand on a couple of thoughts that relate to both parts of the text today. As Rick said, Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon to find rest – yet He could not be hidden. He then went back toward Galilee, but to the Decapolis. Everywhere Jesus went, people found Him.

In the first part of the passage, a woman finds Jesus wanting her daughter healed. As we have seen throughout Mark, the word immediately is in focus. With Jesus, there is no delay! In the second half of the passage, the people find Jesus in order that He might heal a man. In both cases, Jesus is in Gentile territory. In the first story, Jesus makes it clear that He was sent to Israel. The question thus arises, does that mean that the Gentiles were an afterthought? That answer to that is No.

Jesus was sent TO Israel, but not only FOR Israel.

Jesus went to Israel because they God’s chosen people. Israel was expecting Messiah. He had to go to Israel because no one else would know, or truly understand the coming of Messiah. In the great passage on God’s servant, Messiah was to restore Israel and be a light unto the nations (Is. 49.6).

It is important to note is that the woman seems to understand this very fact. Jesus answers her request in a parable, and she does not deny the precedence of Israel, but says that even as a Gentile, His mission includes those who make Him “Lord.” In fact, this woman is the only person in Mark’s account of the gospel that refers to Jesus as Lord, except Jesus Himself. Furthermore, this woman appears to be the first person who understands Jesus and His words. The disciples certainly didn’t, and most people were simply interested in the miracle man. She may have come for a miracle, but her response shows that she understands what Jesus came to do.

Jesus is concerned with our heart not our origins.

Immigration policies are prominent in the 2016 election cycle. Let us remember that a national policy on immigration is just that – national. But the national policy and enforcement is not the same as God’s. Only one set of geographic boundaries are given in the Bible and this is for the nation of Israel, which does not represent the modern map. All lines to distinguish countries, states, counties, or even towns and cities are man-made.

God’s boundaries are different and the woman here is a prime example of this principle. When she came, she fell at his feet. She was a Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter was possessed. In the first century, you couldn’t be much more unclean than that. But Jesus has just taught on what clean and unclean really is in the previous verses. If what we put into our mouths does not make us unclean, then neither can the place where we are born. We don’t choose where we are born. We don’t choose our parents. But we do choose how to live.

This woman not only called Jesus Lord, she treated Him as Lord. In that case, she is no different than the highly respected Jairus whom we saw back in chapter 5. Both had a daughter that needed healing and both were rewarded for their faith, despite their difference in origins and prestige. Again, it is a matter of the heart, which was the essence of the message Reggie shared last week (see Mark 7.19).

In our day, many people may call Jesus by a title of Savior or Lord, but what do they mean?

  • If He is our Savior, shouldn’t we show our thankfulness to Him for what He has done for us?
  • If He is our Lord, shouldn’t we be obedient to His call? Shouldn’t we follow His lead? Shouldn’t we give Him the honor and praise He deserves? Shouldn’t we trust that He will provide for us – which is exactly what this woman believed!

We may all struggle to do this properly at times, but if He is truly our Savior, then He should be our Lord. And if that is the case, then we must seek to glorify Him.

Jesus provides for our needs individually not ordinarily.

As routinely as Jesus encounters people, each encounter is anything but routine. Some are healed by touch, some by a statement. Some seek out Jesus (like Jairus); others have been sought by Jesus (like the man in the synagogue, Mark 3). In each encounter, Jesus provides what is needed in just the right way for that particular individual. In our passage today, we have two individuals needing help – one who asks for it, the other who cannot. One reveals her faith before the miracle; the other after the miracle.

Both accounts use a similar word – begging (the Greek word is different). We have seen this word before, particularly in Chapter 5 when Jesus healed the demon-possessed man. However, it is important to note that in both cases the begging is on behalf of someone else. The woman begs for her daughter to be freed of demonic possession. The man is brought to Jesus by those who beg on his behalf because He cannot speak. And Jesus responds to the begging based upon the individual.

For the woman, Jesus says, “Go, the demon has left your daughter.” Jesus recognized the faith of this woman and knew He did not need to go with her. The daughter was healed, and this woman would trust His word that it was so.

For the man, Jesus uses an entirely different approach. He touches the man and speaks to the man. Ultimately, this healing has three distinct parts.

  • The man is deaf so Jesus puts His own fingers in His ears. 
  • The man has a speech impediment so Jesus spits (into His hand, presumably) and touches the man’s tongue as if to transfer His ability to speak to the man.
  • Jesus lifts His eyes to heaven and commands that the man’s ears be opened, and tongue loosed.

Now, notice the response of each.

  • The woman leaves as Jesus commanded.
  • The man speaks and is certainly a part of the crowd who is rejoicing.

In fact, the word that was used to describe the man’s difficult in speaking is the Greek term mogilalos. The only other place in Scripture the word is used in in Isaiah 35.5-6. Listen to these words:

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

These verses come at the end of the first portion of Isaiah where judgment is pronounced. But the shift is from judgment to eschatology – where all creation will cry out to the Lord (Edwards, 224), and that is what the man is doing here.

The point is that Jesus is worthy of our praise not just because He is God, but because of how personal He is. He doesn’t just meet our needs, He meets them in the way that we we need them met. Jesus couldn’t just tell the man to go home, because he would not have been able to hear. Instead, Jesus reaches out to the man and provides a very personal healing. And He will do the same for us.


As we conclude, I want to focus on one final aspect – the lengths people will go to for love. Consider the mother. She went to great lengths to find Jesus. What lengths will a mother what lengths will a mother go through for her child?

Consider the people. This group brought the man to Jesus. We might deduce they were his friends, so let’s just pretend that is the case. What kind of love must we have for our friends to bring our friends before Jesus?

But the love of a friend, and even the love of a mother pale greatly in comparison to the love of our Father. Consider the measures our Father went through to save His creation. He was willing to sacrifice His only Son so that we might be with Him forever. That is love. And that is service. And that is what we are called to do as well. And for us, the time is now.


The JOURNEY letter for today is: JOURNEY.

Five-plus years ago, I came to a church that was weary and nearly dead (in your own words). I go back to the night in June of 2011 when I mentioned the Sigmoid Curve and the consensus from those here that night was that the church was almost dead. I said we could bounce back quickly, which would probably cause a later crash, or we could take our time and recover over time. Well, the recovery time is over. The time to serve begins now. We may not see all of the opportunities before us at the moment, but they are there. It is as Rick said a couple of week’s ago regarding the disciples and the feeding of the 5000, “The opportunity for ministry was there, but the disciples did not see it. We need to see through the open eyes of God, not the closed eyes of man.”

Don’t get me wrong, ministry has happened here over the past five years, but now we all need to check our hearts and prepare for a new level of ministry. As I said earlier this year, it is time to Engage! This is a critical time for our country and our world. It isn’t about just waiting until we go to heaven, although that is all that some people want. Rather, it is about serving so that we might hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The reality is that in order to hear WELL DONE, we must be DOING something. It is time to do.

It is time for leaders to be developed to allow God to do great things through this church. Leadership equates in many ways to discipleship. Jesus said to make disciples and that will be my focus as we move forward. Maintaining our unity and focus is important, but as we actively join God in serving this church, this town, this county, and this world, more leaders will be necessary to make that happen.

Opportunity: Prepare ourselves to serve and see how God will use this church to make a difference for His kingdom and His glory.


Learn: Take time to remember and then reflect on how God has ministered in a personal way to you. Write down your thoughts (perhaps in a journal) to keep these ideas fresh for you.

Live: Engage in God’s mission by serving others the way you have been served. (See 2 Corinthians 1.3-7.)

Love: Seek ways to personally minister to individuals by understanding what each person needs.

Lead: Realize that you are a leader who must also follow (Jesus). Commit to being a better leader in order that others will choose to follow Jesus as well.

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