Rules

Rules

Mark 2: 23-24 “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

In one chapter we have the Pharisees just not leaving Jesus alone and they will as we know continue to do so. Questioning him over healing, over eating with sinners, over fasting and now they are objecting over his disciples eating some heads of grain in the fields on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are protecting their culture, they are crying out for purity, they campaign against sin. Why? Because it was sin that cast God’s people out of the garden, it was sin that caused them to die in the wilderness and sin was breaking the rules, law codes, sacrificial offerings that are mentioned in the memorised Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament).

Without Jesus, rules become very important and worth the effort to protect them. But when you follow Jesus then your attraction for Him may mean you cause offence to those who do not see Him like you do. Following Jesus means you will have to let go of pleasing man and the rules that protect your status with God.

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Mark 2: 18 – 22 “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. 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?” 19 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. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Fasting, fabrics and fermented wine.

Why are you not fasting?

Throughout the Old Testament the prophets spoke of God being the husband, the bridegroom of the bride, Israel. For Jesus to speak of himself as the bridegroom was his way of revealing in a veiled way his identity. He was God here on earth. Why should there be a longing, a spiritual hunger, an aching heart for God to come and lift off the oppression on their lives when He is here already?! This is amazing. He is here in front of you! All fasting is now cancelled, for now! But there will come a time when Jesus is no longer physically here on earth, then you should fast. This is now. This is for us. We should fast for moves of God.

Why are you sewing good cloth onto an old garment?

The good cloth is new. When Jesus came and then ascended He didn’t leave us alone. Through His victory He sent His Spirit who birthed a new kingdom of the presence of God here on earth. Something new took place. We are in the new period of time. It is incompatible with the old way of life. The new way of grace will not connect with the old way of law. Don’t take something old to build something new.

Why are you pouring new wine into old wineskins?

Similarly don’t take something rigid, tight, unmoveable and inflexible like an old wineskin to hold a new move of the Spirit of God. The foundations of our life need to change to accommodate the Spirit.

This is a new day and we need to treat it so.

 

Are you in need?

Are you in need?

Mark 2: 14-17 “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. 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.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?” 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.”

 

Jesus calls those in need.

Levi was a hated man. Having paid all the taxes to Rome himself he then collected taxes from the people and hiked them up with huge interest which gave him a very good living. He was greedy, wealthy and selfish. Yet he was ready to leave it all. There was no pull to stay. He needed a new life. He needed to get out. He needed a better purpose to live for. He had many friends like him. They stayed together in some sort of exclusive despised club. But he felt the need the strongest. He would lead them all into a new way of life if it be possible. He was ready. He needed to change.

Jesus calls those in need.

The Pharisees were righteous men. They were teachers of the law, they knew the Torah better than anyone else and they knew that fact. They had further interpretations of the Torah which acted as their own laws, more rules on top of the basic big rules on how to please God. Only they seemed qualified to keep these rules and they knew it. They looked the part. Appearance was everything. They would sneak into private dinner parties and snoop around looking for ‘sin’, wanting to demonstrate how righteous they were. They were the cleaners and evictors of sin. They spoke confidently. They were not in need. Jesus didn’t call them. There was in fact no need.

Jesus calls those in need.

If you are in need today He calls you. It doesn’t matter how you got into that need or whether you are responsible for it. You may be to blame or you may be innocent. He doesn’t come to sort it all out and put the sinners into one corner and the victims in another. He calls those in need for whatever the reason and actually those he dines with seem to be the ones no one would want to dine with.

Do you need Him today? He is calling you!

 

 

Let us get near the crowds

Let us get near the crowds

Mark 2: 13 “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.”

I began reading this and wondered how peaceful that must have been, choosing to go and walk by the lake. My first thought was ‘do I have a place that I like to go that is peaceful?’ That could have been my devotional blog this morning, until the large crowd comes along! It certainly is true in my nation that if you said to someone you are going to walk by the lake they would have a picture in their mind of time alone where you can be with the Creator and to meditate on the beautiful and solitary place. This is not that picture. Neither is it a picture of disruption. ‘It was peaceful and then the enemy sends distractions’ is not what happened.

Jesus purposely went to the lake to meet people. It was the place of activity. The Sea of Galilee was like a bus terminus, a railway station, every imaginable picture of workers, fishermen, buyers, sellers. There were no tourists basking in the sun on the sea shore. This was where people gathered for a purpose. It was where he had called the 4 disciples. Capernaum is on the side of the lake where he had his home base. Jesus lived by the lake and he chose to live amongst the crowds.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? God’s Son didn’t come as Immanuel to stay in the desert or a mountain top and to call us to him. He didn’t build a building and make it look lovely so that crowds could on a day off from their busy lives visit it to find him. No. He came amongst us. He lived amongst the crowds. Yes there were times when he needed to get to a solitary place to be with God the Father but mostly he lived and moved amongst the crowds. The good news was in the pressure cooker of people’s lives, in their work place, homes, neighbourhoods, where they gathered. It was there that Jesus began to teach them a different perspective to life.

Let us make sure that today the church/us are where people are doing their life. Let is make the good news accessible for everyone.

 

What does the Church need?

What does the Church need?

Mark 2:1-10 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

Where is the Church in this story?

Are we the house full of people? A packed church is a successful church, right?

Are we the 4 men carrying the paralytic demonstrating faith for their paralysed friend? Bring people to Jesus is what we do, right?

Are we the religious leaders, the custodians of all that is righteous and not? Keeping a moral compass is our task in this fallen world, right?

Are we the paralysed man who is without power and is broken inside and out?

Or are we Jesus? What picture of Jesus is the Church portraying? A Jesus who gathers? Surely that is the goal. A Jesus who preaches? Yes, we all need to become better at that. A Jesus who challenges mind-sets of the religious? Yes to all these things. But one thing that seems to be lacking, one thing that we must seek, one thing that we come close to on many occasions and when it is demonstrated we marvel and we cheer.

The Church needs to be Jesus with authority:

  • An authority that is heard in our speech – Why does this fellow talk like that?
  • An authority that makes us like Christ – He’s blaspheming!
  • An authority that brings a loving new direction to people – Who can forgive sins but God alone?
  • An authority that re-writes the story of broken people – He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
  • An authority for this generation – We have never seen anything like this!

You are not the exemption!

You are not the exemption!

Mark 1: 40 – 45 “A man with leprosy[h] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

 

I must have preached this hundreds of times and this morning I saw something I have never seen. Perhaps I have been reading it from other translations where the words are actually, ‘moved or filled with compassion’. At first I thought I had read it wrong, even thinking there was something wrong with my printed version, does it really say, “Jesus was indignant”?!

The leper believed Jesus could heal leprosy, he had faith for this. He just didn’t have the belief or the confidence that Jesus wanted to heal his leprosy. That’s what made Jesus indignant.

If we trust the translators who use the words that I am more familiar with, ‘moved with compassion’ then we know Jesus is not angry with the man.

Jesus was continually angry with the sin that he encountered, the broken sinful world that he had come to save.

‘God can do this but I am not sure God wants to do this for me.’ How did this man have such a high view of God but such a low view of himself? Why was he despising himself so much? Why such low self-esteem and self-worth? The problem was deeper than his leprosy. What was his story of life that made him think this way? Maybe Jesus looking into the man’s eyes could see the various chapters of the man’s broken story. The things that had happened to him, what he had encountered, the isolation he had experienced, here was a man who had the sins of this world fall on him. This is what made Jesus indignant.

So, maybe we should be careful how we pray or talk to others? The ‘God is not bothered with poor little me’ is likely to get an angry response! The point is that attitude is wrong and it needs correcting. If God can do it then why wouldn’t He do it for you?

I see something else which perhaps reveals more than we see at first reading. Jesus gave the man a strong warning not to tell people but to go to the Temple and worship. His response was “Jesus wanted this but he didn’t want this for me, not really.” The man thought he was exempt from the commands he had just received. His actions prevented Jesus’ moving freely.

So not only did this man doubt Jesus wanted to heal him, he doubted whether the commands of Jesus were for him also. Thinking you’re the exemption all the time is dangerous for you because it can prevent His work in your life and His work in other people’s too. You are not the exemption! So stop making Jesus indignant!

 

One v Everyone

One v Everyone

Mark 1: 35-39 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”

Everyone was still asleep, but the One was drawing Him.

Everyone filled the house, soon it would be noisy again, but the desire for quietness with the One motivated Him to leave it.

At first light everyone wanted Him. The 4 disciples wanted questions answering, some more teaching, others knocked at the door to say thanks for healing them the day before, still more came wanting their own healing and deliverance. Everyone was running on adrenalin and they wanted Him to copy them, this would be a busy day ahead. But after praying to the One He understood His purpose was to move on, He knew why He had come, the One told Him that not the everyone, they wanted Him to stay, but the One told Him to go.

Today the battle has already begun between everyone and the One. Who will you submit to?

Intercessors

Intercessors

Mark 1: 29 – 34 “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

When we saw Simon and Andrew casting their nets we didn’t know they had problems at home.

When we saw Jesus call them to follow him, we still didn’t know.

Neither when they went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath and saw the healing of the man with the demon.

But then they (the 4 disciples and Jesus) came home; to the home of these 2 brothers, then we see that all is not well. The mother of Simon’s wife is seriously ill and Andrew, James and John immediately tell Jesus how difficult this is.

  • Intercessors are concerned about the home life, our private world, what people don’t see. Be thankful for those who tell Jesus about your challenges, intercessors are gifts from God, make sure you have them.
  • The mother in law is laid on a bed in isolation probably for fear the fever will be contagious. Let us see what intercessors do from the great Intercessor Himself:
    • He went to her. They enter into places where others fear to tread.
    • He took her hand. They may get angry with the enemy but they are gentle with people.
    • He helped her up. They are with those they intercede for.
  • It is after sunset, the time when people are thinking of resting not working. The light is dimming, darkness is looming. The night is long when you are sick and demon-possessed. But intercessors are working in the night-time. They are resisting the works of the enemy who wants to steal the show or silence the intercession.

Authority in You!

Authority in You!

Mark 1: 21-28 “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

The authority of Jesus was heard in his teaching. He was engaging, confident and left people amazed. They hadn’t heard such teaching before. They were used to other teachers having to use someone else’s material quoting them verbatim in order to be acceptable but with Jesus He only quoted the Scriptures not Rabbi such and such.

The authority of Jesus was exposed by the demonic. The man was either already there or came running in. He starts shouting and it reveals the truth:

  • That Intimidation is always a work of the enemy. Let me show you – The demons shout “What do you want with us, Jesus of the nothing-good-comes-from-this-place?” “What business do you have with us, Jesus of the hidden-small place?” This is the meaning of Nazareth and they are exploiting it almost like a swear word. Jesus the insignificant.
  • When intimidation is resisted it gives rise to insecurity, “Have you come to destroy us?” Demons know they are a defeated foe. Jesus comes to definitely destroy them. Insecurity is the right response from the demonic.
  • Insecurity paves the way for truth of the infallible Christ. He is Jesus of Nazareth but He is also the Holy One of God, the Divine and the Messiah. No one is above Him or more powerful than Him. He never fails. He is always effective. Even if He looks weak He is not.

The authority of Jesus is the gospel and it spreads quickly. Promotion is not needed for it promotes itself. Non-believers share the gospel, people who have never even seen Jesus talk of Him until the whole region know. It is quick. This doesn’t take months and weeks and in today’s equivalent it would be minutes and seconds. It is the now. It is like a raging fire that consumes all that stands in its way.

This authority that we have read about and though of: where is it now?

It is in you! He has given you His authority, this same authority that speaks differently, that is exposed by the demonic, which brings effective change and which gets people talking, is in you today!!

The 4 requirements of discipleship

The 4 requirements of discipleship

Mark 1: 16-20

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

Casting or mending.

Simon and Andrew were casting their nets. James and John were mending theirs.

This is what they did every day. It was their life, if they were not taking all the salt off your nets they were repairing them all for the reason of casting them with the hope that today would be the big catch. They did this every day, it was all they knew. The same boat, same nets, same lake, same fish, life didn’t change much. That is until Jesus came along.

“I am going somewhere, I have a purpose, it is to people; we are going to catch people from their sea of fears, uncertainties and storms.”

Simon and Andrew were casting their nets. They didn’t wait to see if they had caught anything. They didn’t secure their business less someone steal what they may have caught. They left it all in an act of surrender and followed Jesus. The team was now 3 with Jesus.

James and John were mending their nets. There were others in the boat with them, their father and other fishermen hired for the day, this was a progressive business.  Jesus didn’t call all of them, he called James and John. They most probably knew Simon and Andrew and seeing them follow, maybe hearing of what and why they had decided to follow Jesus, they too followed. The team was now 5 with Jesus.

The foundation for this discipleship team was built that day and it hasn’t changed to this day:

Call – Have you known that call, that awakening moment when you know He was capturing your attention? Learn to fall in love with that voice. Whether you find it in a book, the Bible, in creation, in a sermon preached, in worship, in the stillness of your soul, once you have heard it, nurture it and above all respond to it, ‘Here I am’.

Purpose – The purpose is to follow Jesus. Walking behind Jesus that day what were they thinking? Maybe they were looking at how he styled his hair, what he was wearing, how he walked, was Jesus a fast walker and did they have to keep up, what kind of sandals did he wear? The following was to know Him.

Sent – We are sent to people with what we have learnt from a person: Jesus. He sends us to people, to rescue them, to set them free. We have to fish for them, we have to cast our nets far and wide, we have to reach them. They are not going to jump on the boat no matter how much entertainment or enticements we create for them. We have to catch them. Being sent is work.

Surrender – Following means leaving. That means pain either for you or those you leave behind. Surrender means you cut yourself free from ties so that you can be obedient.

These are still constant requirements for every disciple.