Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bartimaeus – Mark 10:46-52

Bartimaeus – Mark 10:46-52
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 26, 2010 AM

I watched a news story the other night that related how a man had noticed that his eyesight was being adversely affected. He had returned from a trip overseas and began to notice that he began to have headaches and his vision was getting worse. What the ophthalmologist discovered was kind of weird and scary. The man had a worm in his cornea. Evidently, he had been infected with this parasite while on vacation. Only 15 cases of this have ever been recorded. The doctor was able to kill it by using a laser. However, the man’s eyesight may never return to normal. How awful would that be, finding out your eyeball was infected with a parasite? Ugh!

I guess that out of all the senses I have, my sight would be one of the most important to me. In today’s passage of Mark, we find a man whose whole life was one of darkness. In Jesus’ day, if a person was born blind, people thought that either you had sinned or perhaps your parents had and God had made you blind because of it. I am not exactly sure how this explained why people who were blind from birth were sinners, except it was the parent’s fault in some way. Sadly, the man Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was blind. But on this particular day someone comes through Jericho were Bartimaeus lived and would change his life. Let’s discover who and how today…

READ: Mark 10:46-52

There were actually two different areas in the City of Jericho: An older section that was mainly Jewish and then a newer section which was mainly Roman. You had to travel through both in order to get to Jerusalem. We are not sure which Jesus was in, but more than likely the older section. A huge crowd was following and pressing in on Jesus, but in the midst of all the commotion, a blind beggar sits waiting. We discover that as Jesus and his disciples make their way through the crowd that day…

I. Bartimaeus saw his need! (Vv. 46-48)

1. You will remain blind until you realize your need in Jesus! Jesus and his disciples were entering Jericho and headed toward Jerusalem. As they were walking, there was a blind man by the roadside. This was a common thing in those days, not because of community tolerance for beggars but rather because there were, more who were impoverished and medicine was not advanced. Just about any debilitating disease or accident could cause you to be in danger of becoming a beggar. No cardboard signs, dower looks, and fabricated veteran tales for Bartimaeus. His problem was real and a constant concern. Being blind in Jesus’ day was just about as close to a daily death sentence as you could get. He could be killed in the streets, was often robbed, and He was totally dependent upon the mercy of the crowds in the marketplace. The good graces of others lead him where he needed to be. Yet this day was different because Bartimaeus had heard the talk of the crowds, Jesus of Nazareth was in Jericho. He had heard for years that Jesus could heal, he had wondered about it, he had prayed often wondering if God even cared, and here Jesus was in Jericho. Just perhaps this Jesus could heal his blindness. This was Bartimaeus’ chance. He was tired of being dependent upon others, he was tired of being in constant danger, and Bartimaeus saw his need. He began to holler as loud as he could, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Would Jesus hear? Those around him tried to rebuke him. Bartimaeus no longer cared what the crowd said. He shouted louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Would Jesus heal him, a sinner, and a blind man? More than anything else in life, Bartimaeus needed Jesus.

EXAMPLE: In our world today, there are a lot of ways to find out where you are on the globe. There are maps of course, compasses, sextants, global positioning devices; or you can use the stars or the internet. Many cell phones have GPS, Google Sky available, compasses, and internet mapping capabilities. You would think that with so many ways to find out where you are, no one would ever get lost or be lost. Yet, sadly, this is not the case. Many, each year, get themselves lost in the woods of the Northwest. It is easy to do, especially with the thick underbrush and the often-cloudy weather conditions. Interestingly many who get lost, that are found later, admit they were not prepared to find their way out, or that they became over confident and thought they knew exactly where they were. Spiritually, our lives can reflect the same kind of prideful mistake. We may pridefully think we know Jesus, when in reality we have no clue whatsoever. We are either ill prepared or pridefully confident in ourselves. We are lost and do not even realize it. Theologically it is called spiritual blindness. While Bartimaeus suffered from physical blindness, he realized his need and came to Jesus. He would soon realize his spiritual blindness as well. Bartimaeus saw his need, do you this morning or are you still spiritually blind?

After all, what did a blind man have to lose? Bartimaeus had already lost most of his dignity by begging for a living. He had immediately lost his social status by being blind. Bartimaeus had noting much left to lose except his life and was that so precious to him? We discover that…

II. Bartimaeus willingly left his blind lifestyle behind! (Vv. 49-50)

1. Things in life can trip you up until you throw them away! As Jesus and the disciples made their way through the crowds of Jericho, the people pushed one another and cried out for Jesus’ attention. They had heard he had healed others maybe he would heal someone here in Jericho today? Perhaps there were those in the crowd who desired to be healed themselves. Jesus stops as he works his way through the throng and pauses to listen. Jesus realizes that one lone voice raises above all the others and it is the blind beggar by the road. Jesus sends his followers to go and bring the man to him. So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Bartimaeus did not need to see Jesus to know where he was, he throws the cloak aside he was collecting alms in and heads in the direction he had last heard the Master’s voice. Now for us this morning it may seem like it was an easy choice for Bartimaeus, but least we think otherwise there is security in the things we know even if it blindness. People can become comfortable in their sin as well. Alcoholics, drug addicts, and those caught up in abusive situations can struggle with letting go of what they have become emotionally, physically, and spiritually enslaved. Yet we find here in Mark’s gospel a man caught in a life of darkness, wanting out. He wanted to see his sin cured and his eyesight return. He wanted Jesus more than he wanted to remain in his sin or sightlessness. What did Bartimaeus have to call his own? A ragged cloak to collect the few coins folks threw his way. Perhaps, an old carved wooden rod in order to feel his way along the city streets. All of his possessions, all he owned or cared about before was tossed aside and left behind him as he walked towards the voice of Jesus in the crowd. This is what we must do as well when we come to Jesus. We must cast aside anything that would hinder our coming to Jesus. Bartimaeus willingly left his blind lifestyle behind.

EXAMPLE: I do not know about you but my house is full of stuff I do not need or will I ever use. It seems as if every year I begin to “clean house” and end up with a whole new pile of stuff to take to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I have a drawer in my dresser that is full of, well, junk! Yo-yos, old whistles, watches that do not run, coins, tie tacks, shoe laces, assorted pocketknives, balloons, pencils, old teeth (don’t ask), and other a sundry things. As much as I want to get rid of this junk, I find it hard to part with a lot of it. I guess when I die someone will go through and throw it all out, unless of course they begin to like some if for themselves! Why is it so hard for us to leave junk in life behind? Not only is this true for physical garbage but for our lives as well. It can be hard to leave our lifestyle behind when Jesus calls us to himself. Yet, like Bartimaeus, we must. We cannot hold onto the things of this world in order to gain the kingdom of God. Bartimaeus willingly left his blind lifestyle behind. Are you willing?

This tale of Bartimaeus is truly a reflection of our lives. We are all spiritually blind until we willingly leave everything behind and come to Jesus. Gaining new spiritual sight however is not enough in the life of a Christian. The believer must mature in their faith. The believer has to act upon what has occurred in their life. We discover that…

III. Bartimaeus’ newfound sight put feet to his faith! (Vv. 51-52)

1. Action always speaks louder than words! Before Bartimaeus reached Jesus, before he had cried out, and before he threw aside his cloak, Jesus knew he would come to him. Feeling his way to Jesus, Bartimaeus finds a way through the crowd. The crowd could represent for us the world. You may think that one blindly has to make their way through the confusion the world offers to find Jesus. But in fact, Jesus already is there waiting for us just as he was for Bartimaeus. Jesus looks into the man’s sightless eyes and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus’ question does not reflect his ignorance of the man’s condition, anyone could see from the blankness of his face, he was blind, but rather Jesus desired to hear from Bartimaeus an expression of his faith. Did Bartimaeus believe Jesus could heal him? Bartimaeus’ simple response, “Rabbi, I want to see,” declared his confidence in Jesus’ ability. “Rabbi” is an intimate Aramaic word, meaning, “My Lord” or “My Master.” Bartimaeus saw Jesus as his Lord. “Go,” Jesus tells him, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. No matter how much we think we could, we cannot imagine what it would be like to be born blind, and then have our eyesight returned to us. I believe that only those who have lost their sight, have gone through blindness, and then have had their eyesight restored, can completely relate with Bartimaeus. The colors would have been intense, the light itself startling, and the curious crowds unsettling for him. However, none of that seems to affect him, he can only see Jesus. Bartimaeus’ response is to immediately follow his Master. Just saying you “believe in Jesus” or thinking that you do is not enough. You have to put feet to your faith and come to him. Bartimaeus’ newfound sight put feet to his faith!

EXAMPLE: In the movie Lucas, a skinny nerdy fourteen-year-old boy brags to his sixteen-year-old heartthrob that he is an athlete and part of the “in” crowd at his high school. Her incredulous look says it all. She does not believe his grandiose statements about himself. I found this humorous because it reminded me of when folks, after learning I am a pastor, try to convince me they are just as “Christian” as the next. They do not realize that their continued braggadocios spirituality simply sounds hollow. I have discovered that those who are actual Christians do not have to convince others of their faith. They have already proven it by their actions. As James would declare, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead!” (James 2:17) You have to put your faith into action, just as Bartimaeus did. Until you do, all your verbiage or holy thoughts about Jesus are just insincere musings. Bartimaeus’ newfound sight put feet to his faith!

Conclusion:
Bartimaeus saw his need! Bartimaeus willingly left his blind lifestyle behind! Bartimaeus’ newfound sight put feet to his faith!

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Disciples’ Mistake - Mark 10:35-45

The Disciples’ Mistake - Mark 10:35-45
September 19, 2010 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

School had just ended and Tyler was eager to leave the campus for several reasons: One, because school was so boring to him and, two, his mother was picking him up in their clunky old van. He didn't want anyone to see him with his mother or get into that rotten old van. Of course being the great mother she was, she parked the “hunk-of-junk” right smack dab in front of the school where it could easily be seen by pretty much everyone. So, having been already embarrassed that he had to be seen getting picked up by his mother in their trashy old van, he reaches for the sliding door, and the slider just keeps right on sliding and does not stop. It falls off its rail and clunks right onto the parking lot. His mortification did not end there though, Tyler then had to trudge to the wood shop and ask for a screwdriver to fix it! One of life’s wonderfully embarrassing moments.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you wished you could take back either something you said or something you did? I know I have and my father made me painfully aware I had! There can also be times when our loving parents have either said or done something that embarrasses us. For some of us we may think it is our job to embarrass our children, but in reality, it may not be as humorous as we think it is. This, in fact, was the case with the incident we read about in Mark’s gospel. Luckily, for us, the disciples have one of those embarrassing moments in life that is immortalized in Scripture for all of us to read. The followers of Jesus make several blunders we never want to make. Let’s discover what they are and why they were a mistake…

READ: Mark 10:35-45

Can you imagine being a grown man and having your mother come to your rabbi master to ask a favor for you? ARGH! How embarrassing would that be? Matthew relates that it was “the mother of Zebedee's sons, [who] came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.” (Matthew 20:20) As bad as it was for the mother of a couple of the adult disciples to come and beg Jesus to favor her sons, we find in Mark that they unknowingly make the faux pas themselves. We discover that…

I. The disciples made the mistake of wanting the wrong thing! (Vv. 35-40)

1. Some of life’s most awkward moments can begin with the wrong motivation! James and John ask Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask!” Wow, how self-centered is this! “We want you to do whatever we ask” is the same thing we do when we place Jesus in our own private bottle for our own benefit. Jesus immediately realized their spiritual myopia. He slyly asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus wants them to completely commit to their mistake. Why? Because it is often when we make a mistake, and learn by it, that we mature the most. “They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’” (v. 37) -- literally, they were asking Jesus for greater position in his kingdom than the rest of the disciples! Jesus also understood that they clearly did not understand what they were asking him to do. And he tells them so. “You don't know what you are asking.” The disciples did not realize what was involved in their ambitious request. To ask for a place of honor in His kingdom was also a request to share in His suffering since the one is indispensable to the other. For Jesus’ kingdom to come, he had to die on a cruel cross! Could they follow him in that? Perhaps in a moment of precognition of his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus rhetorically asks them, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” and like the puerile plebes they were, in pubescent immaturity they immediately respond, “We can!” Jesus warns them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” Baptism portrayed a picture of being overwhelmed by calamity. It also displayed one’s dying to self and living anew. The disciples would experience both. James was the first apostle to be martyred and John would suffer extreme persecution and exile for his faith. Jesus tells them, “But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Interestingly, Jesus is referring to those God the Father had already chosen. He denies their request. The disciples made the mistake of wanting the wrong thing. I pray we do not.

EXAMPLE: I can remember wanting the wrong thing and being embarrassed by the results. I wanted a sport coat, something we could not really afford, and to my utter horror, my mother bought me an ugly green sweater instead. And, yes, I have photographs of myself wearing it somewhere. Luckily, they are in black and white. Did you know that Jesus spoke about this very thing? He related that there would be those who would want the wrong things in life and would be embarrassed by the end result. He told his disciples, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”(Matthew 7:21-23) Can you imagine getting to heaven and finding out that you not only did the wrong thing with your life, but you also wanted the wrong thing in life? Talk about being embarrassed by the results!

We can live our whole lives and misunderstand what life is truly about. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But what is our life in Jesus to be like? The disciples had followed Jesus for three years and still they misunderstood, so is it any wonder that even today Christians misunderstand as well? However, the mistakes do not stop there we discover that…

II. The disciples misunderstand what discipleship is all about! (Vv. 41-45)

1. Misunderstanding in life can lead to unfortunate results! When the rest of the disciples hear about what the other two had asked Jesus for, “they became indignant with James and John.” Usually, when folks become indignant with others, is because they harbor jealousy. Perhaps, their jealous reaction indicates that they also harbored those selfish ambitions and they had not acted as quickly as James and John. Jesus will have none of it and calls all of them together so that each one can hear for themselves exactly what authority in his kingdom meant. Disharmony within the group would not be tolerated at this late stage of his ministry. They would need one another. Jesus begins by telling them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” The world would need the message Jesus was leaving them to share. Therefore, in the days, months, and years ahead they would need to understand that, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Each would face persecution for their faith. Each would have to decide whom they would follow, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each would have to live in obedience to the gospel. The truth of the message is that for the believer, “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all!” This is so contrary of today’s worldly message. We want to be first, we want service fast, and we want it our way or no way at all! Like gas stations of yesteryear, Christians have come to expect their church to be full-service for them, or they will move on. The eternal truth of the gospel is that “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If they want to be great in his kingdom, Christians would do well to remember what Jesus had told them before, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) The disciples misunderstand what discipleship is all about! I pray we do not.

EXAMPLE: Vernon Grounds, for RBC, writes, “Members of the upper level Brahman class in India never stoop to do any menial labor. So you can imagine how shocked Shriman Naraarayan was when, spending time at Gandhi’s ashram (a spiritual retreat center for Hindus), he was assigned a task that he felt was beneath his dignity. Having earned a doctorate from the London School of Economics, that young man had come to the ashram to seek guidance about his future. Unknown to him, everybody at the ashram was given some specific assignment, and Shriman’s was to clean toilets. Deeply offended, he went to Gandhi immediately and complained, ‘I hold a doctorate. I’m capable of doing great things. Why do you waste my time and talents on cleaning toilets?’” interestingly, Grounds writes that Gandhi responded in much the same way Jesus did with his disciples. Gandhi told him, “I know of your capacity to do great things, but I have yet to discover your capacity to do little things.” Grounds goes onto write that, “You may be highly qualified to serve our Lord Jesus in a significant way. Because of your training and gifts, you may have the potential to carry on great and effective spiritual service. But are you willing to humbly perform some menial task if He so assigns you?” We discovered that the disciples misunderstood what discipleship was all about, do you?

Conclusion:
The disciples made the mistake of wanting the wrong thing! The disciples misunderstand what discipleship is all about!

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jesus’ Mission – Mark 10:32-34

Jesus’ Mission – Mark 10:32-34
September 12, 2010 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

“Hindsight is always better than foresight,” is an old expression that rings true every time because we can continually think of ways we should have done something better. We often want to know what the future brings, especially when it concerns what we may become, where we might live, or whom we might marry! As children, we may have wanted to become one of our favorite heroes like a fireman, policeman, soldier, pilot or sailor. But what if we knew what was going to happen to us in the future? What if we learned that what would occur was awful; would we still want to know? Some may think that it is good to know, however, it can be frightening to know what the future brings. This is why some folks think, “ignorance is bliss” in not knowing the future.

Mark’s gospel presents to us an unvarnished view of Jesus and his disciples. It is wonderful in its simplicity, yet vibrant in relating the human condition that Jesus had to constantly deal with. Unknown to the disciples this was the last time they would walk together toward Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As they walk along the road, Jesus returns to a theme that both disturbed and alarmed them. They sense things are going to change but they are not sure what to think. Today, let’s take a fresh look at Jesus’ mission…

READ: Mark 10:32-34

From the day he had accepted the mantle of Messiah, Jesus was headed toward the cross. He had constantly warned his disciples of the outcome and now it was coming to a climax. It was for the disciples a daily revelation comprehending what Jesus’ mission was. We discover that…

I. Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were afraid!

1. The Bible teaches us that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) Were the disciples afraid for Jesus or for themselves? Perhaps it was a little of both. We often fear what we do not fully understand and the disciples still did not fully comprehend Jesus’ mission. What did Jesus mean when he said he would be betrayed and handed over, but more than that what did it mean “Three days later he will rise”? Here again, hindsight is beneficial for us, but for the disciples they had no real idea of exactly what Jesus meant. What would happen to them? Was Jesus the ruling Messiah who would lead Israel to freedom from the dreadful Romans? These fears would come up again and again in the next few days. We all think of ourselves first, when we are fearful of something we do not understand. This is why Jesus tried to teach them to “not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33) The kingdom of God was being fulfilled right before their eyes and yet they feared what they could not understand. In times of uncertainty, when we are afraid of what we do not know or understand, we can trust Jesus. Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were afraid! We never have to be.

EXAMPLE: There is an ancient road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho that is a narrow, treacherous path in the Judean wilderness along a deep gorge. Its geographical name is Wadi Kelt, but it is known, as the valley of the shadow. It inspired David’s 23rd Psalm. The place itself offers little reason to compose such a hopeful poem. The landscape is bleak, barren, and perilously steep. It is a good place for robbers, but not for anyone else. Listen, therefore, anew to the lines David wrote so long ago, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms 23:4-5) When David wrote he would “fear no evil” (v.4), he was in a place where evil was a constant reality. David, however, refused to give in to his fear. David wasn’t asking God to abolish evil so that he could pass safely through; he was stating that the presence of God gave him the confidence to pass through tough places without fear of being deserted by the Lord. In concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were afraid but there was no reason to be afraid. God was with them in Jesus.

Jesus did many incredible things during his life. He raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and made the lame walk. I believe that the disciples were often astonished at what they were exposed to each day in being his followers. It was part of Jesus’ mission here on earth. But here in this section of Mark, when Jesus graphically related what would happen, we discover that…

II. Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were astonished!

1. Habakkuk the prophet told the people, “Look at the nations and watch -- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5) A look of absolute astonishment was on the faces of the disciples at this statement of Jesus. Did Jesus really mean, “The Son of Man [would] be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law”? Would his own people “condemn him to death and… hand him over to the Gentiles”? When they looked at Jesus and heard what he said, it sounded exactly like he thought this was actually going to occur! There was finality and certainty to Jesus’ words and it not only frightened them, it astonished them as well. Robertson writes, “They began to fear coming disaster as they neared Jerusalem. They read correctly the face of Jesus.” And this absolutely astonished the disciples that he would continue in his mission, but that is exactly what someone who is called of God does. It is not his will but rather God’s will for his life. Here is the example of the Lord doing what God has called him to do no matter what the future holds. It astonishes us as we begin to think about the road ahead. We know exactly what would occur and how it would transpire. Luke wrote, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) Literally, the idea Luke meant is Jesus “set his face toward” Jerusalem and would not be dissuaded. Jesus would be “flogged and killed,” but “three days later he [would] rise” again! The mission of Jesus would be finished, not on the cross, but with an empty tomb! Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were astonished! We should never be, because he did it for us.

EXAMPLE: We are reminded that when Jesus healed the sick, the crowds who witnessed the event were often amazed, and they “glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12). More than a dozen times in the gospel of Mark, we read accounts of people reacting in a similar way to the words and works of the Lord. The word translated as “amazed” or “astonished” carries the meaning of “being thrown into a state of surprise or fear, or both.” We may sometimes feel that way when we have a fresh encounter with Jesus as we read the Gospels. I believe that, like the disciples, we may be amazed along with his followers when we read Jesus telling disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34) But why would they be so amazed? Jesus had a defined mission. And, Jesus is not bound by our limitations or expectations. He speaks and acts with authority and wisdom far beyond ours. It is because they are beginning to actually realize exactly who Jesus truly is. And that is why we are amazed as well. With reverence and awe, let’s hear Jesus’ words anew and look in wonder at his mission again.

Following Jesus was never an easy thing to do, but it would have been exciting. Speaking to crowds of people, seeing him perform miracles, and confronting the religious and social status was all in a day’s ministry. When Jesus first asked them to follow him, none of the disciples had any idea where their leader would take them, but they resolutely followed after him. Here in mark we discover that…

III. Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples followed!

1. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) When they were first called by Jesus, the disciples did not know that he would lead them to the foot of the cross. The dusty dirty road leading to Jerusalem would end there. They were afraid and they were astonished at Jesus’ mission, but through all of it, we still see them following their Master. In this small occurrence of loyalty, we can find comfort and strength of character. Certainly, a traitor would slither off into the darkness to betray the one he would later kiss on the cheek. Later those entrusted to help keep vigil would lazily sleep as he prayed for his personal strength to face the horrors ahead. We find rugged men fleeing into the darkness when confronted by those who seek to kill their beloved rabbi. We hear one of his closest friends deny they ever knew him and curse his name in order to save their own skin. Frightened they shutter the doors and hide behind the skirts of women who proved their undying fortitude better than the boldest of the twelve. But right now, as they resolutely head down the road to Jerusalem, where prophets were killed and those sent to it were stoned, they follow Jesus. His mission became their mission. He had called them and they would follow him wherever he led. And Jesus is leading them ultimately to eternal life -- the place where he leads all who desire to follow him as Savior and Lord. Jesus’ mission would not be completely finished even then, because he promised to make them “fishers of men.” Jesus’ greatest commission, his grandest ministry, his kingdom come would not be done until they were commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” he had commanded them. (Matthew 28:19-20) Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples followed – do you?

EXAMPLE: A woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10-year-old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to have a similar problem. Jesus had a scathing assessment of them: They were spiritually bankrupt. He held these two groups directly responsible for the sad spiritual condition of the Jewish people. As the successors of the lawgiver Moses, they were responsible for expounding the law so that people would walk in God’s ways and have a genuine and vibrant relationship with the Lord (Deut. 10:12-13). But their personal interpretation and application of the law became more important than God’s law. They did not practice what they preached and they would come into direct conflict with Jesus. They would be the reason he would end up on a Roman cross. Those who said they followed God deliberately placed his Son on a Roman machine of death. We find the disciples looking in astonished fear as he hangs there dying. They had followed him to his untimely death. And as one last act of responsibility, one is asked to watch over Jesus’ mother. After he dies, they hide themselves away in fear. But then early on the morning of the third day, they run after some women who had seen the risen Lord all the way to the empty tomb. Later, still frightened and amazed, the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions. They are reunited with him by the Sea of Galilee. They would never be the same. In concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples followed.

Conclusion:

Concerning Jesus’ mission, the disciples were afraid, astonished, and they followed! What about you this morning, are you part of Jesus’ mission?

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Leave Everything Behind! - Mark 10:28-31

Leave Everything Behind! - Mark 10:28-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 5, 2010 AM

In March of 2002 Petty Officer Neil Roberts, a U.S. Navy SEAL fell out of a stricken helicopter during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. According to a Pentagon report, Roberts survived the fall, and then held off Al Qaida and Taliban fighters for over 30 minutes, firing a belt-fed machine-gun. The terrorists finally overran Roberts’ position and killed him at close range, after his gun jammed. Believing that Roberts might still be alive, U.S. Special Forces mounted two rescue attempts. Six other Americans—including two airmen—died in the fighting that followed. The battle finally ended with the recovery of Roberts’ body, the evacuation of other casualties, and Air Force gunships raking the area with cannon fire. The effort to rescue Petty Officer Roberts typifies the military credo of “leave no man behind.”

In Christianity, there is a credo that has all but been forgotten in our day and age. Christians sing about it, and they often talk about it, but few of them do little about it. The credo is “Leave everything behind!” But what does it mean for the believer to leave everything behind in life? Jesus addresses this issue with his disciples in the gospel of Mark. Let’s find out what he told them and why as we rediscover the Christian credo of “Leave everything behind!”

READ: Mark 10:28-31


After Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler and his explanation to his followers, Peter is astounded as to what Jesus told them. If a rich person cannot be saved, who then can be saved, and what happens to those of us who have “left everything to follow” Jesus? Peter is guilty of doing what many folks do in our day when confronted with the Christian credo “Leave everything behind”, he wonders about what he will have to give up to follow Jesus! We discover that…

I. Too many ask, “What’s in it for me?” (v. 28)

1. You mean it isn’t all about me, Jesus! Peter’s pathetic pronounce is even more telling than the rich young man’s desperate rationalization. One was making excuses for his unwillingness and the other is trying to find out what his willingness will cost! Matthew writes that Peter continued by asking, “What then will there be for us?” Herein is the context of Peter’s question. The young man had not left his riches, but the disciples had. Peter understood what they had given up already -- homes, family, and a business. As a simple working fisherman, Peter had given up “everything to follow” Jesus. In a day where everything revolves around the individual, we find it hard to understand the notion of walking away from everything we hold dear to follow the Lord. But this is exactly what the disciples were asked to do! The Christian should never forget the cost. What do the Christian songs “I Surrender All” or “Give It All Away,” mean to the believer of our day? We love to sing them however do we really truly mean what we sing? Perhaps we would do well to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back until Monday comes, until Monday comes!” Faith in Christ requires us to leave everything behind in order to follow him. Does this mean we turn our backs on our responsibilities? No, Jesus would never ask us to follow him irresponsibly. But it does mean that we are to be willing to turn away from the things he asks us. For some it can include leaving parents, home, a job, or that which we may treasure most. Some are quick to follow Jesus as long as he never asks them to give up what they cherish, but what we cherish may be the one idol that stands in our way of following him completely. It was for the rich young man and Peter was dangerously close. Jesus says, “Leave everything behind and follow me.” Too many ask, “What’s in it for me?”

EXAMPLE: Luke relates that as the disciples and Jesus, “were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:57-62) Jesus sounds kind of harsh here but is he, let’s find out. Years ago when Romania was under the control of Communism, Bela Karolyi coached gymnastics. He skillfully developed the talents of stars such as gold-medalist Nadia Comaneci. For his success in training athletes who were bringing fame to his Iron Curtain country, he was rewarded with an expensive car and many other favors. But Bela hungered for freedom. So one day, carrying only a small suitcase, he resolutely walked out of Romania into penniless liberty. When the fishermen Peter and Andrew heard Jesus call, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” we are told that they “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:19-20). James and John also left their father and their livelihood to embark on a precarious life of discipleship. They knew the cost and chose to follow Jesus, leaving everything behind (vv. 21-22). Jesus desires His followers to be absorbed in one single, exclusive thought and passion—Him. Jesus tells us to “Leave everything behind.” Too many ask, “What’s in it for me?”

We may want to ignore it but we still think in the back of our minds, “What will this cost me?” as we try and follow Jesus. It is human nature and Jesus knew all about it as well. Jesus is not some cold calculating demigod that demands everything but gives nothing in return. Jesus understands the cost involved quite well because he had to be willing to give it all for us. Jesus also fully understands something we do not quite grasp when we are willing to “Leave everything behind…”

II. God gives us more than we can ever imagine! (Vv. 29-31)

1. El Roi sees your past misery, your present pain, your uncertain future! I can see Jesus stopping and solemnly looking at each of them. He then softly relates, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Hagar, Sarai’s abused maidservant, would understand. Running away into the wilderness because of her mistresses’ fickleness and her arrogance toward Sarai, she is completely dependent upon the Lord to protect and provide for both her and her baby boy. There in the desert, feeling the misery of her past and the uncertainty of her future, Hagar met God, who saw her and took care of her. She called him El Roi, “the one who sees me.” Jesus senses the disciple’s uncertainty. He reminds them of the truth of the situation; God will not abandon them. He sees them. If one truly leaves everything behind to follow him, he will more than provide. We fail to understand this provision of God when we run ahead of him. Christians can also fail to truly discover the blessing of allowing God to work when they try to plan it all out for him. We can begin to think our likes and desires are what God likes and desires for our lives, without ever asking him or waiting for a definitive answer. Jesus had definitely called Peter and the others. Their lives had been and would be totally changed. Families would be replaced with brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers in the Lord. Homes and fields were replaced with ministry and mission fields. Yet the warning was clear, there would also be persecutions. Those who leave everything behind for Jesus will face persecution for their willingness to follow him, but just as his eye is on the sparrow and he numbers the hairs on our heads, God sees us. Peter was not to concern himself with who would be first or who would receive the best from God, neither should we because “many who are first will be last, and the last first.” God’s rewards are never based on earthly standards but God always gives us more than we can ever imagine!

EXAMPLE: I often wondered if my father had eyes in the back of his head. We could be secretly trying to get away with something and he would declare, “I see you!” Argh! I grew up thinking God was kind of the same kind of spoilsport. Always looking for a way to ruin my fun, God would boldly declare, “I see you!” Later, after coming to know Jesus as my Savior and my Lord, I began to realize that God does truly see me. But it is not in some “I gotcha” kind of way. God sees me for who I am and he sees me as I am meant to be in him. He really sees the best in me that I often cannot see in myself. Yet it is more than that, God sees me when I am depressed, lonely, happy, glad, or in any situation in life. He sees me. Me. With all of my foibles, aches, pains, gripes, groans, ups and downs – God sees me. And I am so glad he does because knowing that God actually sees me means he has the best for me. I did not always fully understand what Paul meant when he wrote, “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’--but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12), now I do. And God gives us more than we can ever imagine!

Conclusion:
Too many ask, “What’s in it for me?” when we need to remember that God gives us more than we can ever imagine!

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.