So picture yourself as a God-fearing Jew at the beginning of the first century (the time when Jesus came and the New Testament starts). You know the story of the universe. You would know that a good God, the only God, made the world, that humans turned against Him in sin, and that He had chosen a people for Himself out of all the earth (Israel). You’d know that He had promised to make everything right, and to begin that by sending a Messiah, a χριστος. And now, as you wait for that part of His story to start, with you and your family and all your people stuck under the boot of a pagan (Roman) empire, here comes a young man from a tiny rural, out-of-the-way town called “Nazareth.” He’s the supposed son of a carpenter. And He’s called a few fishermen from the lake to join Him. And now someone rushes to tell you that this man, making a little bit of a stir out here in Galilee, is the long-awaited Prince of God, the Messiah come to make the world right.
We’re preaching through the Gospel According to Mark, the second book in the New Testament, as Velocity Church, and we’re in Mark 1.
You see at least three strands of the relationship between Jesus, this Messiah, and people in Mark 1. Three steps Jesus takes towards human beings.
- He calls people.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus came to Earth to call individuals to Himself, to change each of them, and to make out of them a new family and Kingdom. This man did not come merely come to teach religion classes in a room at an expensive school. And He did not come just to start a new country. And He did not come merely to write books or give speeches. This is not Muhammad or Buddha or George Washington or Gandhi or Socrates or Oprah. Jesus Christ came to save individual men and women from their sins. This man came to call, spill His blood for, remake, and resurrect human souls. He came to do what only a God can do.
And He does it out of grace.
If you claim Christ and yet think there is something in you that made Jesus choose you, you don’t yet understand (or perhaps believe) the Gospel.
Simon Peter was not called by Jesus because of his abilities. James and John were not told to leave their nets and the hired hands and their father because Jesus looked into their hearts and saw something worthy. There is nothing in any of us that is worthy! Hear me: There is nothing in you that is worthy! The ultimate reason any of us were called and brought into this Kingdom is the sheer, unfathomable grace of God.
What does this mean for your own self-understanding? Christian, are not treasured because of what you are or what you chose or what you perform or what you bring to the team. You are treasured because God has set His love on you in Christ (see: Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Deuteronomy 10:12-15, or Ephesians 2:8-10)
What does this mean for your evangelism? Don’t try to get someone to manifest some quality or to start doing some thing in order to get him ready to become a Christian. Proclaim Jesus to him! There is no quality that you can get a person to manifest that will make them attractive to God so that He’ll then save him. Preach Christ crucified to him, and plead with him to repent and believe the Gospel.
God’s called hookers and blasphemers and murderers and dirty, rotten thieves. One of the most surprising things Jesus does is shut the mouth of every drug dealer and adulterer and scoundrel who would say, “He can’t change someone like me.” And just as fast He’ll stop the tongues of the proud people who shake their heads and think, “He won’t save someone like that. Not someone like that.” This Jesus can hold up prostitutes like Rahab and murderers like David and blasphemers like Paul and say, “No? Watch me.”
Also, see that Jesus is the One who makes these brothers fishers of men. They do not do it by their own wills or strength (John 1:10-13). Jesus is saying, “Follow me, and I will make you what you could never make yourself. I will be what you could never be.” You cannot make yourself a fisher of men. You cannot make yourself a Christian. These men did not call themselves and they did not cause themselves to be born again. This God offers to do what we can’t, what we never could. He does not offer to help hurt men heal themselves. He offers to bring dead men to life.
When we talk about God making people fishers of men or God using each of us, some of you who are Christians probably think “How could He use me?” And others of you might think, “How couldn’t He use me?” And both of you need to be reminded of the same thing: You were brought into this family because of His love for you, not because of your love for Him. You were brought into this Kingdom because of His goodness, not because of your skills. He did not call you because of who you are and what you’ve done. He called you despite who you are and what you’ve done.
And let’s think about this: Jesus told them to follow. He didn’t make a suggestion.
Jesus is not merely our buddy. He’s our Lord. He told these guys to leave their livelihoods.
And Jesus is better than whatever He costs you.
These guys obeyed Jesus. They saw enough in Jesus that they left at a word. They left their jobs. Jesus Is worth leaving anything this world has to offer. A life of being poor or disgraced for Jesus is better than a life of awards or accolades without Jesus. It’d be better for me to be a poor old fisherman for Christ than to be a world’s king without Him. John the Baptist had his head chopped off and put on a plate as a joke at a king’s party for a bunch of drunken unbelievers. That’s how John’s life of living for God ended. But here’s the thing: John’s resurrected body will be enjoying Jesus on the new earth a billion years after every one of that wicked king’s palaces and crowns and achievements are nothing more than dead dust and old memories. Nobody at that party knew it at the time, but John had chosen the better life. It is better to be a nothing for Jesus and forgotten by men and then to be everything to men and unknown by Jesus.
Think about what it means to be owned by Jesus. To be redefined by Jesus. To be totally governed by Him. To have all your life’s meaning rooted in Him. That is what being a disciple of Jesus is. You are no longer your own. You are no longer primarily an American or an IT guy or a Thomas or a Democrat or a Republican or a Bengals fan or a high school dropout or a winner or a loser or a salesman or a mom. You are primarily His.
God calls us as disciples of Christ to do things. One of them seen here: To send us out to make more disciples.
We are not called merely for our own sake. We are called to make more disciples.
How beautiful is this, that God would use us? Shallow, tired, weak, petty, lonely, fake, angry, scared, scarred people like us? That He would call us to so miraculous a thing as making more sons and daughters through His blood-bought grace? We who’ve been truly saved are called to go and preach and watch the grace and Spirit of God use us to make more sons and daughters of God.
- He teaches people.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…’. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
Mark 1:14-15, 2
This Jesus came to teach people who God was, what He was doing, how He was going to do it, and why. We all believe in something. Humans are designed to act on belief. We don’t know everything and so we have to act on belief. And since Romans 1 says we all know God is there, we all also have theologies.
We all believe and we all have specific beliefs about God. Every human being, whether they recognize it or not, has a philosophy about how the world works and how to get what he wants and what God is like. And Jesus came to undermine all of our false ways of thinking and to teach people the true story of the universe: That the Father, Son, and Spirit who made all things are totally good, are going to make things right, and are bringing men and women into the Kingdom of God by grace through faith in Jesus.
Right belief leads to right behavior. This is why teaching is made out to be so essential in your New Testament. Jesus absolutely prioritized teaching people about who God was, what He was doing, how He was doing it, and why.
We are always learning and internalizing something. We are always becoming more of something. Like plants, we are always growing in the direction of something. Even if we are just watching videos on a Smart Phone, we are always, always teaching our hearts to love something, treasure something, enjoy something, hate something, fear something. We are always training our minds and our hearts to navigate the world in some way.
An addict may teach his heart to run from pain by getting high. A workaholic may teach himself to find worth in what he can achieve in his career. A woman living in sexual immorality may teach herself to find value in the attention of a man she isn’t married to. A lazy man may teach himself that life gets no better than a screen making him giggle. We are always being taught and teaching ourselves. And so even a Christian’s heart and mind must be constantly retaught to think and to feel rightly.
And in the middle of a world with people believing false things, here comes Jesus. “You think life is no more than food and fighting and family and a job and gossip and pleasure and a little power over other people and money and games… That’s not life. You are missing the truest treasure. Let me show you where life really is.” And that is Christian teaching! That is Bible teaching. This is what true theology is! It isn’t cold, sterile, religious math equations. It’s teaching your heart where life is, and then teaching other hearts where you found it.
So this Jesus is teaching because He wants people brought into relationship with God, and by God’s design this involves faith in a God people must know and know about. This reconciliation to God involves trusting Him. And you cannot trust a God you have not been taught about. You cannot believe a message you have not heard. You cannot live out a totally uninformed faith.
And it is Jesus teaching this. The messenger delivering this Message is God and the Son of God.
Jesus has the authority to declare absolute truth (1:22).
And this is what astonished these people. Mark tells us things like, “For He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes…” The religiosity scribes may have had a measure of power, but they didn’t have this.
Imagine being this demon-infested man, or one of the lepers who comes running to Jesus later; the last thing you’d need was one more hypocrite scribe… “I look around the synagogues, I’m seeing scribes who take advantage of the weak and the unaware, and I just need someone with the authority to really do good and to speak the truth. I need someone who can do what he says. I don’t need another pretender. And I don’t need any more opinions. I need someone who’s been sent by God.” Well that’s who was in this synagogue.
Everyone is making truth claims and value claims, even those who say there is no absolute truth or no objective values. One way or another, every person on earth is living out a system of what they believe is true and good. While every human has opinions on it they live out, Jesus knows. He reveals what He has seen from the Father. His statements on what is true and what is good are not opinions.
- He cares about people.
And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
You can see up close in Jesus the compassion of God. This Jesus is proof positive of God’s posture towards sinful, rebellious humanity. God has chosen to bless them, and to die to ransom those who will believe in His Son. That’s how this God treats those who spit in His face. He gets tortured and dies in shame to bless them. This God is more merciful, more charitable, more good than any of us can ever even begin to really understand.
This is a God with an outstretched hand.
In the Old Covenant, you could not come into God’s presence when you were ritually impure. But here, God is Himself touching the ritually impure.
Jesus is Good News for the unclean, the destitute, the beaten down, the lost. The lepers who are going to come to Jesus are forgotten men, flicked out of society because of their ugly disease and their uncleanness. They’re gross and have sores people don’t want to see or catch and nobody wants to go near them. They aren’t allowed in the pretty or happy places, where people laugh with each other and share meals together and give hugs and talk about the good times. They don’t have any good times to talk about. They don’t remember what a touch feels like, or what it’s like to be looked at without disgust. And so their whole, painful lives they can just ask, over and over, “Where do we go?” And then, crazy thing, here comes this carpenter’s son who also happens to be the King of the world. And this man will speak to their wounded hearts an answer they never expected to hear, not in a million years: “To me.” And one of them might say, “No, you don’t understand. No one wants me. No one. I’m sick.” And this Jesus can look him right in the eyes, right into his heart and say, “That’s exactly who I came for” (see: Mark 1:40-41).
This Jesus stays up late into the Sabbath night healing these people of Capernaum.
Jesus cares about individual people. About their pain and their agony and their discomfort and their anxiety and their hopelessness and their sin. This a very intimate God we worship.
And this Jesus’ hand is outstretched toward you.
And He is the victor over everything that assaults us.
Jesus does not ask permission to raise little girls from the dead or turn back the skin diseases of outcasts or send demons over a cliff in the bodies of pigs. He will not have to take a vote when He comes back and throws Satan into a Lake of unending fire with death hot on his tail. This is no well-meaning counselor. The King has come.
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ Mark 1:23-27
“Have you come to destroy us?” The demons know what should give us hope: That Jesus Christ is going to destroy every last one of sin’s shadows: Death, pain, worship of false gods, violence, deceit, pride, poverty, all of it. “Are you going to destroy us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to put a stop to all the things Hell loves? Hunger and bitterness and faithlessness and fatherlessness and rape and anger and broken families and bitterness and disease? Have you? I know who you are, Jesus of Nazareth, so just tell me: Have you come to destroy us!” And I praise God Most High that ultimately Jesus’ answer to this demon who’d tried to destroy this man for so many years is, “Yes. Yes, I have.”
“Holy One of God! Tell me: Have you come to crush Hell’s twisted hopes?”
“Yes. And in a way you could never, ever imagine. I am going to use your own worst weapon against you. From sin came death, and I will use death to slay sin.”
This compassionate Jesus is the victor over sin, demons, death, and Hell.
So, to the Christian: You have been called. You are being taught, by the Spirit, the Word, and the Church. You are cared about.
And to the unbeliever: This is the only Messiah. This is the only hope. Don’t exhaust yourself looking elsewhere. Come to Jesus in faith and all He is will be yours.
Jesus asks a wonderful question to Andrew the first time they meet. Andrew is following Him, wondering if this is truly the Messiah. If this is truly the One come to set all to rights. If this is truly someone worth living and dying for.
Jesus turns around and asks a short, simple question.
If you have not called on Christ, it’s my question to you.
What are you seeking?