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Mark

The Example of Christ

Mark 1:15 -- 43

The Example of Christ

Mark 1:21-43

Sometimes we learn best just by watching what the Master does. We shall see in his words, his actions and by inference his inner life some of what we as Christians should be doing.

The Holy Bible, New International Version

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the
synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching,
because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil£ 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!” 26The evil spirit shook
the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A
new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they
obey him.” 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the
home of Simon and Andrew. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever,
and they told Jesus about her. 31So he went to her, took her hand and helped her
up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-
possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and 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.

35Very 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. 36Simon and his
companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed:
“Everyone is looking for you!”

38Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can
preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39So he traveled throughout Galilee,
preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

40A man with leprosy£ came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are
willing, you can make me clean.”

41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I
am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was
cured.

43Jesus 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.” 45Instead 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.

Words

You often hear that we should be Christians in action, not words. There is truth in that; we should not be “mouth-Christians” only. But that does not mean that we should keep silent. Indeed, we are commanded to proclaim him.

Teaching

The key to teaching the Gospel is simply this: authority. If the teacher is to be successful, he must teach with the authority of Christ. That is how Christ taught, as we see here. What does that mean?

  • It means we must teach the truth as best we see it without fear – for greater is He…
  • It means we must teach the truth in obedience – as one under authority – and not simply as head knowledge.
  • It means we must teach it without “enhancing” it. It is the Gospel as delivered by God to man; it is in every sense sacred.
  • It means we must teach it as the Authority would – for the benefit of our hearers, not to puff ourselves up.

Theophylact, the ancient writer, commented here that Jesus taught by rebuke, not by flattery, as the Pharisees did. As teacher, a man must remember who is Lord.

Preaching

“That is why I have come,” says our Lord – to preach. To preach what? The Good News of the Kingdom of God.

  • It is good news because it tells us who Jesus is – the Messiah, the Son of God.
  • It is good news because it tells us what Jesus did – his sacrifice on the Cross for our sins.
  • It is good news because it tells us how we can receive salvation.
Our response

Most will say, “I am neither teacher nor preacher.” But consider if these are not indeed requirements on all Christians:

  • Are you not commanded to have a ready answer to all who question you about the faith?
  • Are you not commanded to be the first step in church discipline, the prompt correction of your brother or sister?
  • Are you not commanded to share the Gospel with all, wherever you go?

Actions

Christ suits action to words, and so should we. We can learn much from two types of actions seen here: healing and casting out demons.

Healing

If there is a consistent lesson in the healings of Jesus, it is the role of faith. Sometimes we miss, however, our Lord’s response. The leper says, “If you are willing…” – the implication is clear. He knows the Lord can heal; he’s afraid that he won’t.

Our Lord’s reply is comforting: “I am willing.” Remember that in this day most believed that if you became ill, it was likely enough a punishment for sin; therefore the leper must have been sinner indeed, or so he would have thought.

Our Lord does not stop at that – he touches the leper. It may seem a little thing to us today, but in that time it would make him ceremonially unclean until the following evening. Our Lord’s healings did not always happen with a touch; the leper would certainly understand why he would not want to touch. So why?

  • First, to show one and all who is Lord – even over the Law.
  • Next, the Son of Man shows himself – for which of us has not been comforted by someone’s touch?

It might then seem contradictory to send the man to the priest to offer sacrifices. But aside from the theology (Christ had not yet been crucified; the old covenant is still in effect) there is the human side of this. The leper is an outcast; until he presents these sacrifices and is certified clean, he cannot rejoin the synagogue. Our Lord knows we need such things.

Casting out demons

(The word translated “evil” is actually “unclean” – evil being closer to what we would understand today).

The modern Christian casts a squinty eye at the concept of demons. We don’t see them; we don’t see their effects; maybe this was some form of disease???? But ask the missionary about such things and you will get a different answer. Satan’s lie to the modern man is this: “I don’t exist; so all that stuff in the Bible about me is false; therefore the Bible is false.” But the father of lies does not hesitate to say to those who’ve never read the Bible, “I am stronger than any god these foreigners proclaim.” But here we see the truth.

  • These evil spirits fear him. Why? Is it because they cannot be forgiven? Or is it because they have knowledge – but not love?
  • One thing is certain: when Christ comes, the evil one must flee.
  • Note that the man shook when the demon came out of him. Our Lord permits this – as pain is often permitted – so that others might see what was truly happening.
  • But in no sense will Christ allow the testimony of these demons on his behalf. It is an important lesson in purity.
Our response

There are great examples in here:

  • Simon’s mother-in-law rises from her sickbed – to serve. “Saved to serve” as the Scots used to say – can we be that?
  • The man with leprosy was told to bring the ceremonial offerings as a testimony – to the priests and those around. Do we take the healings we see and proclaim them as testimony to the world?
  • The shame of leprosy did not stop the leper from coming to Christ; is there something of which we are ashamed so much that we cannot bring it to him?

Aquinas said that “those things men wonder at they soon divulge.” Perhaps we have lost our sense of wonder at the mighty works of God.

The Inner Life

Tucked away in the Gospel of action is the evidence of the inner life. So many of us “don’t have time for prayer.” So few of us even understand the contemplative life and its virtues. Our Lord sets us an example.

Time and place

Why did our Lord go out, early in the morning, into a quiet place in the desert? Perhaps it was (as ancient writers suggest) exemplary – setting an example for us, that we should do likewise. Perhaps too it is because he is the Son of man – fully human, and human beings need this.

Note that he went alone. Even in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed alone, though he took his inner disciples with him. We need that alone time in prayer.

We need it in contemplation too. We need to “think through” the things in our life, not in formal prayer but in meditation upon his word, pondering it in our hearts. Why do we hear nothing about the contemplative life?

·         The American evangelical church often portrays an attitude of “check your brains at the door, this is a matter of the heart.” Our Lord never said that; he insisted on heart, soul, mind and strength.

·         Often, too, we see contemplation as the province of the Roman Catholic – especially the monk. We see Christianity as a group exercise – loud on Sunday morning.

·         The world tells us that we haven’t time for contemplation – just look at your calendar. What are your priorities?

·         Christ tells you that he did it; he found time alone; so can you.

Did you ever wonder why churches offer retreats? Maybe it’s to meet a basic spiritual need.

The world will intrude

One thing you can count on in that quiet time with God, whether in prayer, or contemplation – or preparing a Bible lesson: the world will interrupt as often as possible. As soon as the Sabbath was over, the crowds came to Jesus.

I’m sure they were polite about it. The intruders usually are. They usually have “just one more thing” they need. That’s one reason I do my prayers at night – the intruders have less of a chance late at night.

There is a sense of “divine appointment” that must be achieved here. If you make your time with God a sacred ritual, unthinking, he will send the intruders to you. But if you do not make the time available, your spiritual life will fall apart. So do not make it a hard and fast regulation; rather, make it your spiritual habit. Then when the times of divine appointment conflict with your time of contemplation and prayer, you will know which is right to do – just as Jesus did here. See how the crowds prompt him – to go and preach in other villages?

Our response
  • There is a reason for church retreats; you need them. Consider well that opportunity.
  • Each week you have the brief opportunity of contemplation – at the time of Communion.
  • Most important of all: set a daily time and place for your Lord. It should be a time of contemplation and prayer, least likely of interruptions.

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