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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Matt's Messages - More, More About Jesus

“More, More About Jesus”
January 8, 2006
Mark 2:13-3:6

It is good to be back with you and good to be back in the Gospel of Mark with you. Who is the “Main Character” of the Gospel of Mark? It is Jesus. We saw in chapter 1 that this gospel is Mark’s attempt to introduce Jesus to those in the Roman world (and beyond) who do not yet know Him fully. Introducing Jesus.

And we’ve been watching as Jesus has been introduced as the culmination of history, as the fulfillment of prophecy, as the baptizer with the Holy Spirit, as God’s beloved and well-pleasing Son, as the King of the Kingdom of God, and as the One with authority to teach His own message, to order around demons, to heal the sick, to cleanse the unclean, and even, to forgive sins!

That’s Who Jesus has been presented to be in just the first chapter and a half!

And today, what do we have? “More, More About Jesus.”

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.
(Eliza E. Hewitt)

Mark wants us to see “More, More About Jesus.”

Mark is singularly focused on introducing us to Who Jesus really is and calling us to respond.

Today, we’re going to see three main things that Jesus says He is. These all come directly from the mouth of Jesus Himself in the Gospel of Mark. And all three require us to respond.

Let’s pray, and then I’ll share them with you.

[prayer]

Our passage for today begins in a familiar place in Mark’s Gospel–beside the sea of Galilee. Verse 13.

“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.” Verse 2.

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”

Levi was probably the man who is also known as Matthew. And he was a tax collector. Which was a pretty unpopular job, to say the least! Historians tell us that “a Jew who collected taxes was disqualified as a judge or a witness in court [because you couldn’t trust them], expelled from the synagogue, and a cause of disgrace to his family. The touch of a tax collector rendered a house unclean. Jews were forbidden to receive money and even alms [charity] from tax collectors since revenue from taxes was deemed robbery.” And many rabbis believed that it was acceptable to lie to a tax collector, they were so bad [James Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, pg. 83]!

Tax collectors were a hated bunch considered turncoats, traitors, and sell-outs to the Roman oppressors. So, when Jesus runs into one...He asks Him to join His team!

In fact, He commands it. Jesus says, “Follow me.” like He did to James and John, Peter and Andrew in chapter 1. And, miracle of miracles, this greedy little grubber of a ripoff artist gets up and follows Jesus!

And more than that! He throws a party for Jesus and invites His riffraff friends! V.15

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.”

Isn’t that good news? Many of these people who were considered “low-lifes” are at this party with Jesus and many are choosing to become His followers.

Well, not everyone thought that this was good news. V.16

“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?’

You can just about hear the “Yech” sound in their voices as they say it!

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Ulch! V.17

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

More, More About Jesus #1. JESUS IS A DOCTOR FOR THE SIN SICK.

The Pharisees, who, in the gospels, pride themselves on being righteous, are aghast that Jesus would eat with, share a meal with, fellowship with, act as a friend with these “sinners.”

And Jesus says, “Who did you expect me to hang out with?”

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus is a doctor for the sin sick. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Not “that which didn’t think it was very lost in the first place.”

Now, this has some pretty strong ramifications.

First, we need to go to the doctor. He is calling us. Go to the doctor! But to go to this doctor, you have to see yourself as sick.

Go to the Doctor for Your Sin-Sickness.

But if you think that you don’t need a doctor, you are in big trouble.

We need to see our bankruptcy and our desperate situation so that we go to Jesus with our sin-sickness. That’s why Jesus says that the poor-in-spirit are blessed. They realize that they are needy.

Have you come to the Doctor for your Sin-Sickness. Not for a little tune-up on “a pretty good person,” but for a life-saving rescue from a deadly sin-disease?

This is such good news! Because we don’t have to get cleaned up first before coming to Jesus for salvation. He calls us right where we are. Right where you are today. He calls us and says, “Follow Me.” And we don’t have to get cleaned up first. Like Levi, we just get up and follow Him. And instantly, we are His friends.

“Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”

We don’t have to be healthy first. That comes later. He has come for the sin-sick.

And if we realize we are, we can be healed.

Isn’t that good news?

It is good news for our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family, too.

And we need to share it. We need to Take the Doctor to the Sin-Sick.

Because all to often, we think that the people around us are too far from the Lord to hear about the Lord.

Have you ever (or maybe I should say, have you this week), counted somebody out from hearing about Jesus or being invited to Jesus’ church because they seem so far away from the Lord?

I know I have. I tend think that the “good people” in my circles might be interested, but that icky fellow that I’m acquainted with wouldn’t care to hear about Jesus.

When I’m thinking that way, I’m acting like the Pharisees.

You and I don’t have to get cleaned up first.
Neither do our friends.

We need to take the Doctor to the Sin-Sick. That’s why He came!

Take a second here near the beginning of 2006 and write down the names of some people in your life that need to know the Doctor. And commit right now to praying for and talking to these people.

Put down the names of people who seem unlikely to you. Not just the “good people.” “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor.”

The second story is about fasting and feasting. V.18

“Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. [The Pharisees fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. They fasted as mourning and grieving over Israel’s sin and oppressed position in the world. John’s disciples were probably fasting because John the Baptist was in prison.] Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’” Don’t you believe in fasting?

“Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.’”

More, More About Jesus #2. JESUS IS THE BRIDEGROOM FOR THE WEDDING GUESTS’ JOY.

These people want to know why Jesus’s disciples don’t fast.

Jesus says, “How could they? I’m here! And I’m something to celebrate!”

You need to know, in this culture, a wedding was at least a one week affair. And it was the biggest party of the young couple’s life. That’s why it was such a scandal in John 2 when that one wedding party ran out of wine.

A wedding was a big feast!

And Jesus uses their picture of a wedding to explain something about Himself.

He likens Himself to the groom. When the groom is at the wedding feast, there is no fasting! This is a time for celebrating! This is party-time! This is a time for joy!

Can you imagine going to a wedding and saying, “No thank you for the hors d’oeuvres, no thank you for the big dinner, no thank you for the wedding cake. I’ll have a TV dinner tomorrow. I’m fine. I’m fasting today because I’m sad.” What kind of a wedding would that be?

Well, Jesus says, He’s the bridegroom. And while He’s around, fasting doesn’t fit!

However (v.20), “But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

Jesus knows what’s coming. It’s probably two or three years away at this point, but He knows that it is coming. Imagine being at a wedding where just after the ceremony, the groom is taken away and locked up for a weekend. That would throw a damper on the festivities!

Jesus knows that–the Bridegroom–that He will be “taken away”–the Cross. “On that day they will fast.” On that day, there will be mourning and grieving.

But Jesus says, “Not this day! Today is a day for joy. Because I am the Bridegroom. And I am here.”

He attaches to short parables to add to this point. The first is the common knowledge fact that you don’t sew a new patch of unshrunk cloth on a old garment. When it does shrink, you’ll be worse off than at the first. The second is that you don’t put unfermented wine in old wineskins, because as it ferments, it will burst the skins. You put new wine in new wineskins.

Jesus is the new patch and the new wine. He brings a freshness, a newness, that bursts the categories of everything that everyone expects.

When the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament shadows appear, the shadows must pass. Business as usual will no longer do.

Because the bridegroom is now here.

He has broken in on the old system and brought newness of life and newness of joy!

Jesus Is the Bridegroom for the Wedding Guests’ New Joy.

Now, this too, calls for a response.

And it’s a response of joy!

Rejoice in the Bridegroom!

If we belong to Jesus, we have every reason for rejoicing all the time.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice!”

Rejoice in the Bridegroom!

We are a part of the new era introduced with the coming of Christ. The new patch, the new wine is here.

And we have every reason for joy.

Even when it doesn’t seem like it.

January is here in full force. And sometimes January can be a pretty bleak month. It’s dark in the morning and dark in the afternoon. And it cold.

And maybe things aren’t going your way. You are going through a trial. A difficulty. A hardship.

Those things are very real and very painful.

But, believer, the Bridegroom has come! And we are (already but not yet) part of a great Messianic wedding party.

And our joy has begun now. Because of Jesus, we have every reason to rejoice.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t fast.

We are living in a strange time when the Bridegroom has come (has been taken away at the Cross) and returned to us alive, yet is gone away again to prepare a place for us.

And so we wait. And we fast at times for various good and biblical reasons.

But we don’t fast like they did in anticipation of the Messiah’s first coming. That would be old wineskins.

We fast now in the knowledge and enjoyment of the Bridegroom and in joyful anticipation of His second coming! [John Piper says in A Hunger for God that “the new wine of his presences calls for new fasting.” Originally in a sermon titled When the Bridegroom is Taken Away.]

So, if we fast now, We Fast for and in Joy in the Bridegroom.

More, More About Jesus #3. JESUS IS THE LORD OF THE SABBATH.

You’ve probably noticed that Jesus is facing more and more opposition as people learn more and more about Jesus. The Pharisees especially are growing in their disapproval of Jesus. They are now going to be tipped over by the issue of the Sabbath. V.23

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’”

This is a confrontation.

Jesus’ disciples pick the heads of grain in a field–which was lawful–on Sabbath day–which was a no-no (at least to the Pharisees). This was seen as “harvesting” and therefore doing work on the Sabbath.

Remember, the Sabbath was a day of rest mandated for and donated to the people of Israel. The Jews had made a whole list of what was and was not considered “work” on the Sabbath. And some of that had gotten pretty confusing and difficult for people to keep.

And to the Pharisees, it looks like Jesus’ followers don’t even try. So they challenge him, “Look, why are they doing what is [a “no-no”] on the Sabbath?”

And notice Jesus’ answer. He brings up a precedent: King David broke the rules once and the Old Testament seems to support Him in doing it. And the point has never been to bind up people on the Sabbath but heal and help them by giving them rest.

What kind of an answer is that?

It’s an answer from authority! Authority is a big theme in the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus is saying that He is like King David. And if it was good enough for David to seemingly break the rules to take care of His followers, then someone greater than David is now here and it’s okay for Him to “break the rules” for His followers.

“How do I know? I know what the Sabbath was made for–people, not rules.

And how I do know that? That’s why I made the Sabbath.

I am the Son of Man. I am the Lord.

I am the Lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

That is quite a claim! We don’t think of it as much because we don’t have the Sabbath. But the Sabbath was a big deal for the Old Testament Jew.

And now, this person comes along in this one chapter and claims to forgive sins, claims to have come for sinners, claims to have brought new wine that rules out fasting, and now claims to rule over the Sabbath and what is done on it.

Jesus doesn’t apologize for his disciples’ behavior on the Sabbath! Jesus uses this as a chance to claim His authority over the Sabbath.

And these Pharisees, the “religious right” of the day, don’t like that one bit. They begin to look for an opportunity to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing. Chapter 3.

“Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. [This is a demonstration of His lordship over the Sabbath. V.3] Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ [He knows what’s going on.] Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful [that’s their word] on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. [Seethingly silent, I think.] He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

The opposition reaches a new height.

The Pharisees are actually watching to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath so that they could say that it was bad!

You see, they taught that you couldn’t do any healing or doctoring on the Sabbath unless it was life-threatening. And of course, this wasn’t. And Jesus knows what’s in their thoughts. That’s why He makes a big deal of it. No secret here!

And He asks them with dripping irony, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or kill.” You’d think that the answer was obvious. But here were “good upstanding people” that had thoughts of killing on the Sabbath because someone was doing good on it! Scarey, huh?

So, in defiance of their hard hearts, the Lord of the Sabbath heals the man’s hand.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

And that calls for a response.

It calls for a response of obedience to His authority.

We need to bend to Jesus Authority.

He is, once again, establishing, demanding that we recognize His rightful rule over all things.

He is Lord...even of the Sabbath. He is Lord!

And we need to bend to His authority.

The Pharisees were unwilling to recognize His authority. And many, many today are as well, including professing Christians.

What Jesus says, goes. Or at least it should.

Are you bending to Jesus’ authority? Does His Word have command over you life?

Are there any areas of your life that are not yet submitted to the Lordship of Christ?

Anything you are anxiously holding onto?

Anything you are saying, “My will be done!” ?

It is good near the beginning of 2006 to consciously bend our wills to the authority of Christ once again. And surrender all to His Lordship.

And when we do, we also need to Do Good in the Name of the Sabbath Lord.

This passage doesn’t tell us what we should or shouldn’t do on Sundays. Personally, I don’t believe that Sunday is the new Sabbath. I think that the Sabbath is now a Person, not a Day.

But I do think that this passage reminds us that God’s rules don’t exist for themselves. They exist for the good of the people to whom they are given.

And we need to knock ourselves out, not to follow the rules slavelishly, but to love other people and do them good like our Sabbath Lord did.

Do Good in the Name of Our Sabbath Lord.

Is there someone you can serve this week in the name of Christ?

You probably can’t heal their withered hand. But could you write a note, deliver a meal, give them a call, lend a listening ear?

The Pharisees were seething that a good deed had been done on the Sabbath.

Let’s be like our Savior and “do good, not evil, save life, not kill.”

Worship at the Lord’s Table

Because “kill” is what the Pharisees set out to do. Verse 6 again.

“Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

How they might kill the Doctor for the Sin-Sick.
How they might kill the Bridegroom for the Wedding Guests’ Joy. And take Him away.
How they might kill the Lord of the Sabbath.

That’s what they conspired to do.

And that’s what this table represents–the death of Jesus.

They conspired with their natural enemies, the Herodians, and eventually they got what they wanted–Jesus’ death.

But God knew what He was doing.

It was Jesus’ death–and His resurrection!–that enabled Him to be a doctor for the sin-sick.

It was Jesus’ death–and His resurrection!–that brought us into the celebration of the bridegroom and the anticipation of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!

It was Jesus’ death–and His resurrection!–that caused God to exalt Jesus to the highest place that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! Lord of the Sabbath. And Lord of everything!

They wanted to destroy Jesus. But because of His death and His resurrection, we will know more, more about Jesus for all eternity.

That’s what we celebrate when eat and drink this meal together.

If you are faith follower of Jesus Christ; if you have come, like Levi, to follow Jesus, you are invited to celebrate this meal with us today. Come and share in the celebration of anticipation of that great wedding feast. Come and share in the celebration of the Lord of Glory.

If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, or you are not sure or you are not walking in fellowship with Jesus, we ask that you not eat and drink this meal with us.

Instead, use this time to think about your need of Him. Your own sin-sickness.

He invites you to come to follow Him, right now, by faith. Use this time to respond to His invitation.

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace. (Eliza E. Hewitt)

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