Text: Mark 3:7-19
Title: Kingdom of God : More Than Meets the Eye
Theme: The Christ revealed in the scriptures is so rich, deep and wide; therefore we are to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to see and understand his fullness.
Yosemite is one of my favorite National Parks. Every time we went there, I always take lots of pictures. However, when I review these pictures, I found out I usually end up taking the same scenery over and over again. I have so many pictures of the Half-Dome Rock that my son thinks this is all there is in Yosemite .
Its like the 4 blind men trying to know what an elephant is. One touches the tail, one touches the leg, another the trunk and one the body. And each person insisted that their touch is the real elephant. Or seeing the tip of an iceberg and conclude that there is all there is to it.
Isn't this how we sometimes look at Jesus and the Christian faith? Some of us may be attracted by the sensational aspect of it. How it touched our emotions when we first came into contact with Christianity. Others attracted by its rationality, how it answered all of our intellectual questions. Then others are impressed by how it solved some of our personal problems. Still others are attracted to it by the relational aspect, how the Christians love one another. Very often we hold on to the little piece we like, as if this is all there is to know about Christianity, about Jesus.
In recent months, in our study of the gospel of Mark, we begin to meet a Jesus we don't know too well. We thought we know him, but now begin to realize there is so much more than meets the eye.
This morning, in our study of Mark, we will discover the truth that: Since the Christ revealed in the scriptures is so rich, deep and wide; therefore we are to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to see and understand his fullness.
I. The kingdom of God advances with its own agenda.
Let me try to summarize vs.7-12. Jesus and his disciples went to the Sea of Galilee (map, vs.7). Large crowd of people came to him. They have come from the NW, S and East. They heard about his casting out of demons and healing the sick. And they come to see him. It was such a big crowd that Jesus asked his disciples to prepare a small boat so he could get on it, if needed. Again, he healed the sick and cast out the evil spirits. The demons recognized him and shouted that he is the son of God.
If you were Jesus, what would you do? This is what the people want. You have hit the jack pot. They want to see miracles, supernatural events and you can deliver. The demons know you correctly, that you are the son of God. So, what is holding you back? Let the words get out, so more people will come, listen and follow. How about the demons? Do you want to pass on what the demons say about you? No problem. You don't care whether it is a black cat or white cat, as long it catches mice, it is a good cat. You see, it is so easy to let the crowd determine our agenda and our message. We don't' want to lose them, consumers always come first, so give what they want. Let them, the mass decide our agenda.
However, what did Jesus do? Just the opposite of us. First, we notice that He forbids the demons to publicize his identity. Yes, the demons know him, but his identity is too sacred to be affirmed by them. Second, in vs.13a, we are told that he left the crowd and went up on the mountain. Mountain is a place of isolation and solitude, and he went up there. There was another incident similar to this. After feeding the 5 K, the crowd followed him and wanted him to be their king. Instead, he left them behind and went up to a mountain. He did not give in to what people wanted. Why? There is this simple truth: The kingdom of God has its own unique agenda. This agenda is not to be determined and affected by human desires. This agenda is not determined by the consumers nor borne out of market research. Jesus, the son of God, alone decides what the agenda is. Later on in Mark, we'll begin to see that his agenda, his path, is about death and resurrection. The cross, and not popularity, is his agenda.
II. The kingdom of God advances through the transformed lives.
What happened on the mountain? Yes, there is the appointment of the 12 apostles. Moreover, many biblical scholars agree that most likely, it is here that the Sermon on the Mount was taught. Jesus left the crowd and taught his disciples what the kingdom of God is. Jesus taught his followers and us, citizens of the kingdom of God , how to live a life that will both restore and reflects God's glory. This glory was lost and distorted when men first disobeyed him. And now, having been redeemed, with the help of the Holy Spirit we are to reflect this glory in our lives.
What do we learn from this? The crowd associated God's Kingdom with the power of casting out of demons and healing the sick. Yes, Jesus has the power to do so because he is the son of God, he is God. But He is teaching his followers that the kingdom of God is more than what meets the eyes. The miracles are the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg is about Jesus Christ, his power and glory. It is about how he can change his followers so they can be like him; becoming the salt and light of the earth.
Last Saturday after a meeting, a sister came up to me and shared that during these past two years, she had a strong desire for God and she has been to several healing and special meetings. At first it was full of excitement. Every time she went there, she felt energized and closer to God. She even decided to enroll in a seminary. But then the excitement slowly faded away and she wondered what was this all about. Then she asked, what do I do about this desire for God? After gathering my thoughts, I said, I am glad that God has given you this thirst for Him. In my understanding of the scriptures, this desire for God is to be fulfilled by asking God to take full control of your life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we learn to develop certain basic Christian disciplines. These are: regular worship, studying and obeying God's word, telling others about Jesus Christ, regular and consistent prayer life and serving God and people both inside and outside the church. This is how we satisfy that desire for God, that search for spiritual significance. And this is how God's kingdom advances through the transformed lives.
III. The Kingdom of God advances through the community of the redeemed.
We are still in vs.13. On that mountain, he called the 12 disciples, it is the first time these 12 are called the apostles. Please note: he called those whom he desired, and they came. He had first chosen them, then he called them and they followed him. Jesus is the one who sets the agenda. He is the sovereign God. We want to take note of the following:
1. The purpose of appointing the 12 apostles. Vs.14, And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. There is a 2 fold purpose: be with Jesus, to be sent out by Jesus. They are to be sent out to preach the kingdom of God and are given authority to cast out the demons. This authority confirms that they are sent out by Jesus. This is what is known as the apostolic community. They are Jesus representatives. Their words, teachings are from Jesus and have the same authority as Jesus. They became the foundation of the NT church. Jesus wants to expand his kingdom through his visible church on earth.
2. God's kingdom on earth. As the readers heard about the 12 apostles, it will certainly remember the 12 tribes of the Israel . In the OT we learned that God has chosen the 12 sons of Jacob to be the father of the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel . Here, the 12 apostles symbolize the beginning of God's kingdom on earth. Through the 12 apostles, the gospel message of the kingdom of God was carried to the ends of the world. Even though strictly speaking there are no more apostolic community, but there is now the community of the believers or the community of the redeemed. God is still using this community of redeemed to advance his kingdom.
3. God uses imperfect people to advance his kingdom. Let's take a closer look at the 12 apostles. Peter was first on the list. Judas was the last on the list. A very interesting way of listing the 12. You see, 3 years later, Peter 3 times denied Jesus, and Judas betrayed him and handed him over to the authorities. As we read Mark, we notice he usually does not show the disciples in a very positive light.
Then, when we think of the founding fathers of the 12 tribes, they were not that great either. Included in them were the adulteress, murderers, plus betraying one's own brother, Joseph. Jacob's life was also mark with deception. They certainly did not qualify to enter the Hall of Fames.
However, it is such kind of people that God chose to advance his kingdom. Isn't this also true with us? We too are broken and carry with us all kinds of sins. Spiritually we are blind, crippled, poor and mute. But when we come to him, his power will begin to transform us into something beautiful. He has chosen us so we have nothing to boast in ourselves. It is all His grace.
The crowd wanted to see Jesus did the healing and other miracles. But Jesus chose to advance His kingdom, the Kingdom of God via sinners like you and me.
As we read from Chapter 1:1 to 3:19, a thought start to surface: A long time ago, in the distant Garden of Eden, Satan instigated the first men to stage a rebellion against God. At the end of the rebellion, God said to Satan, , 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. ( Genesis 3:15). From that time on, what we witness in human history is a constant conflict, enmity between Satan and God's people. When Jesus came into the world, the conflicts intensified. Every time when Jesus met the evil spirits, it was a conflict, confrontation, between God and Satan. And each time, Jesus came out as the victor. However, all these conflicts point to the final conflict. That is: Jesus was put on the cross. , he did not stay on that cross for long. Three days later he rose from the dead. This is how he ultimately overcomes the power of Satan. Yes, his heel was hurt while on the cross, but he destroyed the devil's head. With this victory, he also destroyed the power of the devil over God's children.
Therefore we can say with certainty, that because we have been redeemed by him, the devil had no more power over us. Yes, he can influence us to sin, but he can never dwell within us. Because Christ is within us, we are his temple. And not only this, he is also using you and me to tell others about him. To point others to him, the son of God.
Most of my Yosemite pictures are of the Half-Dome Rock. And moreover, the color tone is kind of monotonous. Then I look at the pictures Ansel Adams took and ask, is this the same Yosemite ? How come the Yosemite he saw with those old box cameras is so much prettier than my Yosemite with my fancy camera? Yes, we both see the same Yosemite , but he saw something more. Something only a perceptive person, with perseverance can see. He would be there in winter, spring, autumn and summer. He would hike to places cars cannot reach. No wonder his Yosemite is so much fuller and majestic than mine
In our pursu it of knowing Jesus, don't hold onto our tip of the iceberg, our part of the elephant and our own Yosemite . Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes so we can see the totality of God as revealed in the whole counsel of the scriptures. The gospels are only an introduction to who Jesus is. The gospels are to be understood and interpreted in the context of all the OT and NT writings. We must take the Bible seriously. Be diligent in study the whole Scriptures. Attend SS classes or Bible Study Fellowships or other groups that will provide you with a systematic and greater understanding of the Truth. When we study the Bible, it is more than yours and mine opinions. It is to discover how rich, deep, wide and glorious Jesus is. We'll then conclude: this is indeed the son of God.
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