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 #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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