Good morning Gathering! It’s a joy & a privilege to be with you this morning as we open the Scriptures together. I just returned from Taiwan where I, along with Saju and about 150 other pastors and leaders, explored what church planting looks like in the Asia Pacific. It was such a good reminder for me that God is doing the same work throughout the world. He is filling the earth with His glory here in Mumbai, in all of India, in South Asia and to the ends of the earth. And the beautiful thing is that he’s doing it through you, the church. He has chosen to use His church to accomplish His purposes!
I was also reminded this week of how much of a sacred thing this is. We have the unbelievable privilege to come to God, as people who have been redeemed by Him. As people who have been brought back from the dead. We get to gather in His presence and experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as His Word performs surgery on hearts. And that is certainly my prayer for us this morning. That God would transform us for His glory. That we would be changed, not just for our sake, but with the goal that the whole earth would be filled with the glory of God through us.
So, I’m going to pray for us to that end. As I begin to pray for us, I’d invite you to turn to Mark chapter 3 in your Bibles. That’s where we’ll be this morning; Mark chapter 3. Let’s pray together.
Now, you might be wondering, “Why on earth are we going to Mark chapter 3” given the fact that we just wrapped up a series in The Gospel of Mark that has spanned a year and a half. That’s a great question! And the answer is that I want for us to consider our response to The Gospel of Mark. We mentioned throughout this journey the fact that Mark was driving us to respond to the coming of God’s Kingdom. He’s driving us toward a response to the call of Jesus in our lives. That’s the consistent message of Mark; that God is doing something new, something glorious, something that He has purposed to do from before the foundation of the world. And then he calls people to respond. So, if we’re not thinking toward a response to the coming of God’s Kingdom, then we’re sort of missing the point.
So, I want us to consider that by looking at three successive interactions that Jesus has in Mark chapter 3, verses 1-15. As we read this, I want for you to ask yourself this question: “How do I respond to the call of Jesus in my life?” I want you to have that question on the forefront of your minds and your hearts as we read this together.
Because this is the primary question in your life; it’s what is most important. If you’ve been around the Gathering for any length of time, you’ve heard me say this time and time again. There is nothing more important in your life than the issue of what you do with Jesus. How you answer this question is more important than your family and your job. It’s more important than anything else because it determines your eternal destination. So, let’s be thinking of that question as we read;
“How do I respond to the call of Jesus in my life?”
“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”
We see 3 responses to Jesus in this text, and they aren’t very different from the responses that we see to Jesus in our culture today. So, for the sake of clarity, I want to break these responses down into 3 categories. I’ll give you these up front in case you are taking notes:
Let’s start with the FOES of Jesus. I don’t think we need to spend too much time on this one because it’s pretty straightforward. But, I do want to say a couple of important things. The religious leaders, who have set themselves up as foes in response to the revelation of Jesus Christ, are people who are spiritually blind. Yes, they oppose the Kingdom of God. But it’s because they cannot see the truth. Yes, they miss who Jesus is. But it’s because they lack an understanding that God is doing something new, something beautiful & something different.
I think there’s a lot that I could say about this, but I believe what’s most important for us to recognize is this: We were all, at one time, enemies of God. I don’t care what your spiritual condition is right now. I don’t care how long you’ve been walking with The Lord and how much intimacy you have with Him right now. You were at one time His enemy.
Colossians 1:21 — “We were all once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds…”
Romans 5:10 — “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
There are many other verses that point out this truth. Our natural spiritual condition (because of the fall) is one of enmity with God. Our natural posture toward God is us running as far away from Him, as fast as we can. And that’s true of every single one of us at one time in our lives.
We were defined by pride, self-righteousness and rebellion. The same things that defined the religious leaders who were continuously opposing Jesus. Those things defined us at one point in our lives.
Now listen, some of you might fit into that category right now. You are standing opposed to the things of God because you have been blinded to the truth of who He is and how He loves you. You might think you know Him. You might think you’re following Him, but you’re really worshipping some version of Jesus and following some version of Christianity that you’ve invented.
Can I tell you something beautiful this morning? You’re not here on accident. God purposed, from before the foundation of the world, that you would be here and you would hear the truth that:
You can spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to find peace, and joy, and satisfaction and fulfilment. But, all you’re really searching for is how to be reconciled to the God who created you and who loves you. And the world & your flesh would have you believe that you can find what you’re searching for in any number of other things. But it’s a lie! The only way to be reconciled to God; to be made right with Him; to have peace with Him, is to embrace the Kingdom of God by submitting your life to the One who died in your place. His name is Jesus!
He died, taking on the sin of the world (taking on your sin), and offers you His righteousness — His right standing with God — in return. That’s the truth of the gospel. It’s the truth that you don’t have to be an enemy of God anymore. You don’t have to oppose Him. You don’t have to run from Him. You don’t have to try to earn or find things that you can never earn or find apart from Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel is that, where there was separation, now there can be reconciliation by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
So, that’s the first type of reaction we see to Jesus. It’s people who oppose Him. They are His foes. The next type of response to Jesus isn’t quite as clear, and I think we have to dig a little bit to uncover it.
This is what I would call fans of Jesus — the crowd that followed Him. I want you to think about what’s happening here.
As Jesus removes Himself from this conflict with the religious leaders, a mass of people followed after Him. And it’s not just Jews from the region that were following Jesus. This was a mixture of Jews & Gentiles, and they were coming from all over. They were coming from places like Tyre & Sidon, way in the North of the region. They were coming from Idumea, way down in the South by the Dead Sea. They were coming from the Decapolis, across the Jordan in the East. And from the Western shores of the Mediterranean. People were coming from all over the place because they had heard what Jesus could do. They had heard stories about Him.
In fact, so many people followed Jesus that He had His disciples set up an escape boat so that, if things got too crazy, they could just jump in the boat and not be pressed into the sea by the crowd.
Here’s the thing about these crowds. They didn’t really care about being with Jesus. They cared about what Jesus could do for them. They cared about what they could get from Him. We know that for several reasons, I’ll just give you one. There are many times in the gospels where Jesus would say a really hard thing and everyone in the crowd would leave except His actual followers. The best example of this is probably in John chapter 6 when people were following Jesus because they wanted food from Him. They had heard what Jesus had done to feed the multitudes and now they are looking for food from Jesus. But Jesus tells them, “if you want to follow me, you have to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And, after He said that, everyone left Him except His true followers.
You see, these fans of Jesus wanted things from Him, just as long as it didn’t cost them too much! Do you know what the definition of that is? That’s consumerism. Getting maximum return with minimum investment is the definition of consumerism.
And that’s where much of the world who says they follow Jesus actually lives. They live in nominalism, easy beliefism, luke-warm attempts at Christianity. Like, “I’m good with Jesus, as long as He can do things for me.” “But, if things get difficult, or weird, or are going to cost me too much, I’m out!”
Much of what we see in the modern day church has produced a lot of fans of Jesus. It’s produced a lot of people who claim Jesus with their lips, but not with their lives. And, if you really want to evaluate if you fit into this category, just think about how you relate to the church. How we relate to one another in the church is a direct reflection of how we relate to Jesus. You can’t get around it because He’s the head of the church & the church is His bride. If you take a consumeristic posture with your church, I’ll guarantee you, you have a consumeristic posture toward Jesus.
I have to tell you this morning, that must change. We must repent where that’s happening, because Jesus hasn’t called us to be His fans; He’s called us to follow Him. In our text, we see Jesus retreat from the crowd. He retreats from the masses, from the people who want things from Him. He retreats from His fans to do what? To call and to charge His followers. That’s our 3rd category;
I want you to listen closely to what He says to His followers, because this is the call to His followers today. Listen closely to this, because if you are here and actually want to Follow Jesus. If you don’t want to settle for some luke-warm, comfortable, consumeristic version of Christianity (which isn’t Christianity at all). If you want what’s real. If you want Jesus, because you know that He made it all, He paid for it all, He claims it all & He rules over it all. If that’s what you want, then hear His call this morning. Let me read it again; it’s verses 13 & 14:
Mark 3: 13-14
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach”
He says, “Be with me and preach my gospel.” That’s the charge that Jesus gives His followers then, and it’s the call that He lays before His followers this morning. Just think about these things for a moment. “Be with me.” Isn’t that incredible? We get to be with Jesus? As in, be in His presence. As in, have a relationship with Him. We don’t deserve that! We deserve separation. We deserve death. We deserve His wrath. But, because of the substitutionary work of Christ for us, we get to be with God again.
We can finally have that thing that has been echoing in our souls since the garden when we were separated from Him. And it’s all because of His goodness & His loving-kindness toward us in Christ.
When is the last time you just sat still for a little while and pondered the fact that you get to be with God? You know what weeds out the fans? This is that John 6 passage that I referenced earlier. Is your goal really just to be with Jesus, and you don’t care about anything else?
The second thing that Jesus says is “Join me in the work.” Which is equally incredible! Listen, God does not need us to accomplish His mission. He chooses to use us because He loves us. And, because being with Him will necessarily mean that we’re on mission with Him because He is a God of mission.
We get to walk in joyful obedience and follow closely behind the One who died for us. We get to be with the One who bought us back from Satan, sin & death. We get to follow Him and be with Him as He leads us. Church, I promise you, there is no better place to be. Let’s not be a group of fans. Let’s not just be interested spectators as God works to redeem and restore a broken world. Let’s be obedient followers as He calls us into that work.
Let me close by saying this: Your inclusion in the Kingdom of God means participation in the kingdom of God. Jesus is calling you to be with Him & to be about His work, no matter the cost. The question is: “How do you respond to that call?”
If you’re here this morning and this is new for you. You don’t know Jesus like this, or you don’t know if you know Jesus like this. Every word in Scripture is meant to drive you to this one overarching truth: Jesus Christ is your righteousness! Please don’t miss that. Because, ultimately, that’s the call this morning. JESUS CHRIST IS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! He is the door. He is the path. He is your all-in-all. He is life itself. He is the only way for you to be reconciled to God. No amount of good behavior, or religious activity or anything else will give you right standing with God. The only one who can save you, redeem you, restore you, and make you righteous is Jesus Christ Himself. And we only experience that by grace (which is a gift) and through faith in Him.
If you’re here this morning and you are a Christian. Let this fall fresh on your heart this morning. Your primarily calling is to be with Jesus. That, before you are called to do anything for Jesus, you are called to be with Him and abide in Him.