The Red Words #8 Jan. 28, 2019

Yes, I know – there was no post last Tuesday :-((  I’m sorry.  I spent last Tuesday in four different airports and on four different airplanes on my way back to Israel from the USA.  So….not terribly conducive to writing something inspirational!

This week, let’s go to Mark 5: 1-20 and talk about the Tombstone Terrorist and see how Jesus dealt with him.

Having reached the area of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes) on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and the disciples stepped out of the boat near a cemetery.  No sooner had they landed, a man who looked and acted more like a wild animal than a man, came running towards Him.

Now this poor fellow was a mess.  Nobody could control him, even when they tried to bind him with chains.  He broken them off as if they were paper.

He was possessed not by one single devil, but a ‘legion’ – several thousand, if you can imagine.  He lived in a cemetery at a time when corpses were buried in caves.  He screamed and yelled all the time, day and night and his body was covered with scars and blood for he cut himself with stones.  Did he do so to try to escape his desperate condition? Who knows?  But for sure, he was a pitiful but also terrifying sight to all around him.  People from the nearest village kept their children away from him.  They avoided him at all costs and hated to hear his shrill, blood-curdling screams.

Nobody wanted to be anywhere near him….no one except Jesus.  Jesus made a special trip across the sea and calmed a storm on the way in order to deliver this one man who wasn’t even a Jew.

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Running toward the Lord, this man who terrorized the entire region, cried out, ‘Leave me along, Jesus, Son of the most High God! Swear in God’s name that you won’t torture me!’ And the text adds: [For Jesus had already said to him, ‘Come out of that man, you demon spirit!’]

Jesus said to him: ‘What is your name?’

‘Mob’ he answered.‘They call me Mob because there are thousands of us in his body!’

Jesus sent the demons into the herd of pigs nearby.  The horde of demons drove some two thousand pigs down the hillside into the sea where they drowned.  Afterwards the townspeople – incredibly – asked Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus prepared to leave, the former demonic ‘terrorist’, now fully clothed and in his right mind, said to Jesus, ‘Could I go with you?’  But Jesus answered, ‘Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you.  Tell them how he had mercy on you.

So the man left and went throughout the area, even into Syria and Jordan to tell everyone he met about what Jesus had done for him and all the people were amazed.

There are four things about what Jesus did and said here that I want us to look at for a moment.

First, the Compassion of Jesus: Though everyone else feared and fled from this demonized man, Jesus went toward him.  The Lord cared about his condition and went out of His way to do something about it.  What Jesus did for this man assures you and me that NO ONE is too far gone for the Lord.  NO ONE is beyond the mercy and compassion of Jesus – NO ONE.  If there’s anybody you know that looks like a hopeless case, they’re not. Jesus is not only able, but willing, to deliver ANYBODY.  He’ll even go out of His way to where they are!

You know why? Because when we see a drunkard, Jesus sees a future disciple.  When we see a drug addict, Jesus sees a future preacher.  When we see a prostitute, Jesus sees a future Lydia or Priscilla or Mary Magdalene.  Jesus sees people with a different set of eyes than we do – we need to learn to see with His eyes!

Secondly, the Confrontation of Jesus: notice that the man everyone ran away from, ran toward Jesus!  The demons that drove him away from all other relationships on that day drove Him towards the only relationship that could save him from his desperate situation.  My friends, there is NO demon – NONE – that can stand against our Savior.  Every spirit is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ and they recognize His authority, sometimes more than humans do!  If you’re ever tempted to think that the devil is ‘winning’ in a situation in your life or in the world at large, think again!  Jesus alone is King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.

Thirdly, the Command of Jesus: No religious ritual delivered this man from his misery. No psychologist, no psychiatrist, no priest and no program.   There is only one solution to the problem of evil: His name is Jesus.  One word from Jesus and the man was set free!

Fourthly, the Miracle of Jesus: Jesus changed him, clothed him and calmed him.  The cemetery terrorist was seated, clothed and in his right mind when the villagers came out to see what had happened.  What a magnificent picture of what the Lord can do for every lost soul.  Salvation changes us, clothes us with His righteousness and gives us His peace.

How did the Lord do that? By starting from the inside out.  He delivered the man’s soul from a legion – thousands – of devils that tormented him inwardly day and night. The result was that he was then able to clean up, get dressed and sit calmly, listening to Jesus.

And…not only was he healed and delivered, Jesus actually commissioned him to ‘go and tell everyone what the Lord has done for you.’  And he did.

We don’t know this man’s name; we don’t know his family background, how long he lived after his deliverance or how many people he brought to the Lord.  We’ll only  learn those details when we get to heaven.

But his testimony speaks to every generation, right down to ours, that Jesus, and He alone, is Savior, Deliverer, Healer and Redeemer.  No one – NO ONE – is too hard for the Lord.

If you’re trusting God for the salvation of a loved one, a neighbor, a co-worker, etc., let this man’s miraculous transformation encourage and inspire your faith to new heights.

Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever!

The Red Words #4 12/18/2018

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the mew piece pulls away from the old and the tear is made worse.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine is spilled and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.  Mark 2:21-22

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Any time we are seeking to understand a scripture passage, we must first examine what was going on with the people directly involved.  Just before speaking the words above, Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s home – the account we considered last week. The fact that Jesus was associating with notorious sinners was in and of itself a scandal to the religious crowd. But apparently this gathering was on a day that the Pharisees and John’s disciples normally fasted. These disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were therefore questioning Jesus about why His disciples didn’t keep the traditional fast days imposed by rabbinic decree.

As you read the Gospels, you quickly see that conflict surrounded Jesus much of the time.

In chapter 1 Jesus is confronted with the temptation of Satan and the dangers of the wilderness and wild animals; in Capernaum he attends synagogue and is confronted with a demon possessed synagogue member.

In ch. 2 Jesus heals a paralyzed man but forgives his sin publicly first, thus causing the  Pharisees to accuse him of blaspheming God. Now he has the audacity to choose a tax collector as a disciple and to actually eat with all those nasty sinners, and on a fast day no less!  Jesus is just plain irritating to the Pharisees.

Now Jesus explains why his disciples do not fast by saying there is no fasting at a wedding banquet and follows that declaration with a parable about patches and old garments.  The Pharisees readily understood about the wineskins; new wine expands and if the skins it is put into for fermentation are old, they’ll burst as the wine expands. Remember, there were no synthetic fabrics in the ancient world.  When you washed anything made of cloth, it shrank.

But what is the wedding stuff?  What in the world is He saying?

In parable language, Jesus announces that He is bringing something entirely new onto the scene –  the Kingdom of God –  which, by the way, will not fit in with the man made religious traditions of the elite.  His coming to earth can be likened to a wedding.  It is the beginning of an entirely new life for all who heed the call of the Gospel.

Jesus then made crystal clear that what He’s preaching is completely opposite of what the Pharisees are preaching. What the Pharisees preached was that you work your own way to heaven by doing enough good works to convince God that He should let you into heaven when you die.  (As a friend of mine said once, ‘Good luck with that!‘)

The message of Jesus is so different, so opposite: He not only offers forgiveness to the worst of sinners but He actually is comfortable enough to sit down to a meal with them! This is an outrage to the Pharisees. And so on the heels of that act in regard to Matthew, Jesus now spells out just exactly how incompatible His message is with the establishment’s religious views.  In this confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus makes abundantly clear that there is no mixing of the old ways of legalism with the coming of the Kingdom, for salvation by grace through faith is a brand new garment.

The Pharisees should have quickly related what He was saying to something they knew from the prophet, Ezekiel:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

But they didn’t.  They had it backwards.  Their teaching was comprised of a legalistic and harsh keeping of rules and with His parable, Jesus declares the absolute incompatibility of the gospel with any words-based religious system.

Man’s sinfulness could not be ‘patched up’ with a few good works; mankind was in dire need of a brand new start – the gospel of repentance and forgiveness by grace made available through the precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But lest anyone misunderstand, let’s be clear. The old garment is not God’s Torah, it’s not the Old Testament.  The old garment is the religious system of rituals and traditions devised by man.  It is the religion of human self-righteousness and pieces of the gospel can never be stitched into it.

Make no mistake about it – the Pharisee-spirit is alive and well today.  Human nature likes independence, self-sufficiency, pride of achievement.  We are all the proverbial two year old who says, “I can do it myself!!!”

However, that doesn’t work when it comes to salvation or holiness.  No, my dear friend, you can’t do it yourself!  Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

I cannot save myself; and I cannot sanctify myself.  For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  Philippians 2:13  Yes, He does the work in us; all He asks is that we acknowledge our complete dependence on Him and live grateful for His grace.

This Christmas season, may we all be renewed in the wonderment of His amazing grace!

 

The Red Words #2 12/04/18

Welcome back to our study of the “RED WORDS” in the Gospel of Mark.  We are still in chapter 1 so let’s proceed.

1:16-18 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

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Simon and Andrew woke up that morning – like they did every other morning – expecting an ordinary day of fishing.  It was how they made their living.  They were skilled, most likely having begun to fish as young teenagers, probably trained by their father.  That was how young boys in that day were prepared for adulthood.  It would seem from the context of the Gospel at large that Simon and Andrew were well into adulthood so they’d probably been fishing for some years.  Peter had a mother-in-law, you will remember; which means he had a wife and historical records indicate he had at least one daughter.

Jesus was relatively unknown at the time.  He had very recently left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.  There is no indication in the text that He had preached yet or worked any miracles along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Had Simon and Andrew met the newcomer to the area?  Had they heard about Him in any way?

If all we had was the Gospel of Mark, we might think that they hadn’t, but John’s Gospel fills in some details for us by recording an event from several months earlier.

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.   And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:35-42 (NASB)

So in fact, they had met Jesus earlier.  Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and after John testified about Jesus, Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John’s had spend a day with Jesus.  Andrew was clearly moved and on returning home to the Galilee went to his brother and told him about Jesus.  Not only that, but he ‘brought him to Jesus’.

Was that in Capernaum? Or elsewhere?  We don’t know, but from John’s Gospel we learn that clearly Simon and Andrew had met Jesus previously and had been sufficiently moved, touched, attracted that when He passed by them on the shores of the Galilee and called them, their response was immediate.

Mark adds in the next verses that the same day, shortly after calling Simon and Andrew, Jesus passed by another boat where three more fishermen, Jacob (James) and John, along with their father, Zebedee, were mending nets.  Jesus called the two sons and again ‘immediately…they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him.’  vs. 20

So Peter and Andrew had already come to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah for they had accepted John’s declaration that the Messiah had come. But after their early encounters with Him, they had apparently returned to their work in Galilee.

We have here an illustration of the difference between being a believer and a disciple.

Peter and Andrew believed John’s testimony – they were ‘believers’ but it had not changed their lives.  Some months had gone by since that early encounter and now instead of Simon and Peter going to where Jesus was, He came to where they were and called them to follow Him – to become ‘disciples’.

Many Christian teachers use the term “disciple” as synonymous with the word ‘Christian’. There is a difference.  How does a person become a Christian? The answer is simple – A person becomes a Christian by faith in the redemptive and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ – His life, death and resurrection.

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly.  Let’s say it this way: salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and spiritual maturity in the Christian life.

Follow me – this is a command. Discipleship was a common feature in Palestine. The Rabbis had their disciples who came and learned from them and followed them. But they did so by choice, and they were not specifically called on to leave all.  Jesus’ call to follow Him was, however, all embracing and sacrificial. It was the call of One with sovereign authority.

Jesus did not issue an easy invitation.  There was no ‘sign-up’ bonus; no advance promises of provision.  (By the way, have you ever wondered what Peter’s wife said? Or his mother-in-law?)

Peter and Andrew  could not say, “I’ll catch men, but I don’t want it to upset my comfort zone.” They left their boats, their nets, their fish, and their families to follow Jesus. They were not deserting their father in such a way as to leave him helpless. The fishing business was apparently doing well. It was doing so well that they were able to hire extra help.

But notice something: These men were totally unqualified for the job to which they were called. They were fishermen by trade. They were just ordinary people. They were not trained as the Scribes or Levites or Priests. They were not Rabbis. As a matter of fact, they were not even Pharisees or Sadducees. They were just common country folk, ordinary fishermen, people like you and me.

But apart from all others whom Jesus could have called, He called these. It is as if Jesus wanted to make a statement that anyone could be used by Him for His purpose. Jesus wasn’t looking for the “cream of the crop” but for He ordinary people – four fishermen -and He called them.

Those first four disciples – Simon Peter, Andrew, Jacob (James) and John – had no idea where that calling would lead them. They did not know that they would face persecution, prison, and even death for the sake of the gospel of Christ. They did not realize that they would be the leaders of an infant church that would eventually span the globe. They did not realize that they would have a part in the revelation of Holy Scripture.

They just knew that Jesus called, so they obeyed.

He still calls….to you and to me.  Is our response as ‘immediate’ as theirs?

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