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AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?   Mark 1    Pastor Larry Boatright   (2nd Service)

{Manuscript—View video for complete content}    Years ago, I rekindled a childhood love for storytelling, and got into screenwriting.  I wrote a number of different things, from short films, web series, sitcom pilots, and most recently, a feature film script.  In fact, my friend Michael and I wrote a sitcom pilot that made it into the top 10% of an international screenwriting competition.  Pretty wild, huh?  One lesson I learned was to start the scene as late as possible, and to get out of the scene as soon as possible.  A great example of this comes from one of the greatest underdog stories of all time: “Tommy Boy.”  Tommy’s family is gathered for a huge wedding celebration, because Tommy’s father, Tom Callahan, got married that day to a beautiful younger woman.  While at the reception party, Tommy’s dad collapsed.  Tommy ran over to him, and we see the camera tighten on Tommy’s face.  The next shot widens to reveal Tommy and many others in a cemetery, burying his father.   A bad screenwriter does what’s called exposition—they add a bunch of filler material that’s really unnecessary.  For example, they might have kept the scene going with a 911 call, waiting for the ambulance, and more.   Good writers write just enough to reveal what’s important, what helps the reader understand the characters and move the story forward, and nothing more.  They take the reader or viewer through snapshots that tell a larger story, and leave us wondering what’s next.

We’re starting a brand new series today called “AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?”  And that’s exactly what we are going to do for the next 14 weeks.  We’re going to journey together as a church community through the Gospel of Mark.  We could almost call this the ADD gospel, because it moves so quickly from one thing to the next.  I was talking with a friend this week, and he said, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but are you a little bit ADD?”  I laughed and said, “Absolutely, it’s one of my superpowers!”  Mark moves very quickly also.  In fact, he consistently uses words like ‘immediately’ and phrases like ‘a little while later’ to move the story forward.  It’s a story that has all of the elements of an incredible story: Character development.  Conflict.  Power struggles.  And redemption.

We wanted to start this new year immersing ourselves in the life of the One who transforms us, who created all things, who invites us into life.  Our hope is that this will ignite something deep within all of us, not only people who’ve studied the scriptures for a long time, but also brand new followers of Jesus and even those who don’t yet claim to follow Jesus.  So the next 14 weeks, we’ll be looking at the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  My prayer is that we’ll all be challenged, as we look at snapshots from Mark, to explore what we can learn about 3 things:  Who Jesus is.  What Jesus does.  What Jesus invites us into.

As you might imagine, we won’t have time to look at every single verse, but we will look at some snapshots that reveal who Jesus is, what Jesus does, and how we are invited to join him in the renewal of all things. We’ll also be sharing some tips and tools to help you learn to the read the Scriptures well on your own, for your own formation.  I want to encourage you not to just gloss over some of these stories because you’ve read them before, but rather, to let the Spirit of God meet you in these passages, these stories, these examples, and to do a deeply formative work in all of us as we journey together these next 14 weeks.

Let’s pray before we dive in.  Lord, I just pray that you would meet us in the pages of scripture.  Jesus, as we study the scriptures to see who you are and what you’ve done, would you help us to see?  Holy Spirit, illuminate truth.  Permeate our hearts.  Expose our faulty ways of thinking in ways that we’ve seen things that aren’t true.  Show us truth.  Help us to live in your way with your heart.  I ask all these things in the strong, powerful name of Jesus.  Amen.

Okay, turn with me to Mark chapter 1, and while you’re turning there, here’s a little bit about the book of Mark.  The early church fathers believe that the apostle Peter passed along the story of Jesus’ life through his writer, John Mark.  It’s widely believed that Mark was written while in Rome, and while there is some debate about when it was written, it’s likely it was written somewhere between the mid 50’s and the mid 60’s. Early church tradition was that Peter was in Rome in the early to mid 50’s.  Mark was the earliest gospel written, and the shortest gospel written, and the gospel of Luke likely used Mark as source material.  Mark was written for a Gentile Christian audience, possibly the church in Rome.  It’s been said that the Gospel of Mark is a PASSION narrative with an extended introduction, because the second half of the book is what leads up to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

What I want to do today is give a quick summary of what happened in Mark 1 and then look at a handful of observations about who Jesus is, what Jesus does, and what He invites us into.  This is a summary of what has happened —

John the Baptist prepares the way (1:1-8)

Jesus is baptized and tested in the wilderness (1:9-13)

Jesus goes to Galilee and begins sharing the good news (1:14-15)

Jesus calls his first disciples (1:16-20)

Jesus casts out an impure spirit (1:21-28)

Jesus heals a bunch of people (1:29-34)

Jesus spends time alone (1:35-39)

Jesus heals a fellow with leprosy (1:40-45)

So what I want to do is drill down on three big-picture ideas from chapter 1. I’m not going to look in depth at the first part of the chapter.  In the first 13 verses, we see John the Baptist arrive on the scene, preparing the way for Jesus, and then Jesus baptized and tested in the wilderness.  We talked about this in the second week of Advent, so I highly encourage you to go back and listen to that talk if you want a refresher.  I want to jump down to verses 14 and 15:  After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

This is POWERFUL!  Don’t miss this!  This is the first thing we see Jesus saying to others. What was his message?  The Good News!  It comes from the Greek word ‘euangelian,’ which means evangelism, the good news, the gospel.  A lot of us have different ideas what the good news really is.  When I was growing up, the ‘good news’ was that God is perfect and pure and holy, and we will burn in hell if we don’t accept Jesus into our hearts.  It didn’t sound like good news to me.  We see from the Jewish scriptures that for millennia, the nation of Israel, God’s people, were waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to be established and His Holy King to be seated on the throne. So Jesus arrives upon the scene and what did He say?  “Accept me into your heart and you’ll go to heaven?”  No!!  Look at it again. He said, “The time has COME.” The word ‘come’ is used repeatedly throughout this chapter to indicate movement, to invite us forward, to heal and cast out impure spirits.  Eugene Peterson translates it this way: “Time’s up!”

The passage here says he went into Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God. We don’t have to wonder what the good news was.   It was “The time the Scriptures talked about is here.  The Kingdom is here. The King is here, and I am that King.”  See, God’s kingdom is a benevolent kingdom, one in which God’s perfect reign is established, and it means that things are beginning to move back to wholeness, back to shalom, the way God intended it to be. As Jesus begins to speak of this kingdom, he sets the stage to demonstrate what this kingdom was going to be about, that God was with his people and he was making all things new.  That’s good news, isn’t it?  I would say that if you watch or read the news, that’s good news for us today, isn’t it?  That there is a King and there is a kingdom, and He is doing something about the craziness that we often see.  He’s dispelling the darkness.

So what we learn here is this:  Jesus clarifies the good news and extends an invitation. (1:14-15)   This is super easy to get wrong. We’ve often reduced the good news to have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.  In the church I grew up in, you didn’t hear people openly talk about the Kingdom of God, pairing with Jesus.  What you heard, “Come down at the end of the service.  Repent of your sin.  Pray the sinner’s prayer and now you get to go to heaven when you die and narrowly avoid the gates of hell.”  I’m not just saying that as a characterization; that’s literally the words I heard.  I heard this from a lot of other speakers as well.  This was their message—I want to bring it to a point where you repent and you turn and say this prayer.

The problem is, all too often, we’ve made the good news about personal salvation. Listen to what scholar, professor, and author Scot McKnight says about this:  “I believe the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about ‘personal salvation,’ and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making ‘decisions.’  The result of this hijacking is that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles.  I am convinced that because we think the gospel is the Plan of Salvation, and because we preach the Plan of Salvation as the gospel, we are not actually preaching the gospel. {Let me say as someone up here preaching to you that’s terrifying to me to think that I could go years thinking and preaching the gospel to people and not actually be preaching the gospel.}  Our contemporary equation of the word gospel with the Plan of Salvation came about because of developments from and after the Reformation. {The Enlightenment caused us to think legally, judicially, to think transactionally and not relationally. Here’s how he frames it.}  The gospel is the work of God to restore humans to union with God and communion with others, in the context of a community, for the good of others and the world.”  THAT sounds like good news to me, how about you?

Jesus clarified the good news.  He said that the time had come, that the kingdom was here.  McKnight said in an illustration in one of his books that he was in an airport and he ran into a well-known, large-church, evangelical pastor and McKnight asked, “What is the gospel?”  The person answered, “That’s easy, it’s justification.  That is the gospel.”  So McKnight asked, “Did Jesus preach that?”  He said, “No. Paul was the first one to get it right.”  {NO!} I think we would want to listen to what Jesus has to say about the gospel; call me crazy, but I’m just saying, let’s start there. So I love McKnight’s summary:  The Gospel is the work of God to restore union with God and communion with others, in the context of a community, for the good of others and the world. That is shalom.  That is God’s good and perfect peace, and my friends, that is the gospel.  So when we reduce and we boil down the gospel to saying a prayer to get out of hell, we’re missing the big picture of what the gospel’s intended to demonstrate, which is the King is here.  You don’t need a King if the gospel is just a personal relationship with Jesus, you just need a Savior.  But the scriptures didn’t promise just a Savior, they promised a King.  That God’s good and perfect kingdom was breaking forth into all of the world.  That’s a beautiful picture of the kingdom.

So Jesus clarified that THAT was the good news—we don’t have to wait until someday or until we die to experience the goodness of God.  The Lord is present with us! The Lord is within this room right now!  The Lord is with YOU!  The Holy Spirit of God is within you.  You don’t have to wait until you die to experience the Lord.  The kingdom is NOW!  It wasn’t until I got out of the traditional denomination I was in and started doing some events in charismatic groups…..they talked constantly about the kingdom.  It was weird!  Twenty years later, now I get it.  The Savior is a savior but He’s also a King and his kingdom is good.

Jesus is working toward the renewal of all things, but then he also gave an invitation.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”  What was his invitation?  Repent and believe.  Just like we talked about in Advent about this idea of repent, often people think that repent means to turn from my sin.  That’s true, that we should turn from our sin, but the word ‘repent’ literally means ‘change the way we think.’  Sometimes the way we think isn’t necessarily inherently sinful, it’s just not God’s best plan for us.  It doesn’t necessarily move us toward wholeness.  Jesus is saying, “Turn from the direction you’re currently going and reorient your life in a new direction, the direction and way of the kingdom, and believe this good news!”

And all of these years later, the message of the gospel, the good news, is still the same:  The kingdom of heaven is here.  And the invitation is the same: Repent, turn from those ways—some sinful, some just not the right direction.  Orient everything toward the way of Jesus.  Turn away from patterns of living that don’t move you towards wholeness.  Turn away from relationships that don’t move you towards wholeness  Turn away from thinking that doesn’t move you towards wholeness in Christ.  Believe that the kingdom of God is here and turn towards it and live in His way with His heart.

This first part, Jesus clarifying the good news and giving an invitation, is critical to understanding the rest of the book of Mark.  Because the rest of the book shows not only WHO Jesus is, but demonstrates what this kingdom looks like.  If you don’t understand what the good news is, and if you don’t understand what repent means, and if you don’t believe in the good news, you’re going to miss so many riches throughout the rest of the book of Mark.  Are you with me?

For some of us, reading the scriptures is an intellectual exercise in simply taking mental notes and understanding concepts, but early in Mark 1, we see Jesus setting the tone for who He is, what He is doing, and what He invites us into.  He invites us to be subjects in this beautiful kingdom, this incredible new way of thinking and living, and that’s why our mission statement reflects this kingdom way of thinking:  To live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  He IS the King.  The first thing is, Jesus clarifies the good news and invites people to respond to it.  The second thing we see in this chapter is this:  Jesus demonstrates his intentions and his authority. (1:21-27, 1:29-34, 1:40-45)  If the good news is the gospel of the Kingdom, then Jesus demonstrates what He intends the kingdom to look like throughout the rest of this chapter.  We start seeing a tone of what the kingdom is about.  He casts out an impure spirit, he heals a lot of people, and he heals a man with leprosy.  He shows that His intention is to bring healing, to bring shalom and wholeness to people.  This was His intention—the way of the kingdom—and the way that he taught demonstrated He had the authority to back up what He was saying about the kingdom.  He could bring to pass what he was saying the kingdom was all about.

In verses 21-27, Jesus went to Capernaum and went into the synagogue and began to teach. Look at verse 22:  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  I’m sure this is very much how you feel when I teach….amazed at my teaching!  Just kidding!  But Jesus didn’t carry himself as others did, commenting on the text as observers with thoughts and interpretations.  No, He taught as one who had authority, as if He was the author of the text, that He embodied the text!  But then, as we’ll see in a couple of other instances, He doesn’t just demonstrate His authority by the way He spoke, He demonstrated His authority over all things by healing, by setting people free, by challenging systems that weren’t honoring to the kingdom of God.  Verse 23-27:  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “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!”  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  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.”   Can you even imagine being in that room when that happened?

In verses 29-34, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew, and Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, so Jesus healed her.  And, as you might imagine, if someone was able to bring healing like this, others would hear about it, and want to be healed too.  Look at verse 32-34: That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door, 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.  It’s easy to read something like this and think it’s just a story, but remember, Mark is presenting this as something that actually happened. Jesus exercised his authority by silencing the impure spirits he cast out, and he healed many people.  We can see by this point in Mark that a crowd is starting to follow him because He not only is proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, He’s demonstrating what the kingdom would be like by healing and moving things to wholeness.

And finally, in verses 40-45, a man with leprosy got on his knees and begged Jesus to heal him. Leprosy was a terrible disease—literally parts of the body flaked and fell off—and religious people wouldn’t be caught near a person with leprosy. But listen, I think one of the takeaways from this is that as Jesus is teaching us about this kingdom, as he’s setting this foundation for what the kingdom was about, He was showing that the kingdom of heaven is very INCLUSIVE, not very EXCLUSIVE.  We like to have US vs. THEM.  We like to think very black and white—you’re in and you’re out.  Jesus went to people that the other religious leaders didn’t want anything to do with and said you’ve got a seat at the table and He healed them instantly.

Jesus gave him some specific instructions on what to do now that he was healed—which he promptly ignored.  Verse 43-45:  Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “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.” {For whatever reason, Jesus is saying it’s not time for me to fully be revealed, so don’t go out and tell anybody.} 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.  

Jesus showed that his intention was to bring healing, to move people back towards shalom, towards wholeness, and to invite ALL people into the kingdom to enjoy the benefits of living under His Kingship. And boy did people respond! Crowds formed like crazy in response to this.  I have to be honest, as I thought about this, I wonder why churches aren’t exploding more?  The church is exploding around the world in countries where the church is oppressed.  But in places like America, where we’re free to say what we want and to think what we want, often we don’t see that.  I have to wonder if the average person believes that this Jesus that did these things wants to bring healing and wholeness to them?  I wonder if we’ve forgotten that this is the same God that chased Adam and Eve in the garden after they sinned.  The same God who parted the sea so the nation could pass through it.  The same God who called people—these fishermen—from sketchy backgrounds and put them in a position of leadership.  The same God who established His throne forever.  I wonder if we’ve forgotten that that same God is still at work today, moving and shaping all of creation, even right now as I speak, every fiber of the universe is being pulled toward what God’s intention for it is.  I wonder if we’ve forgotten that.  If we TRULY understood this, how could we be silent about the good news?  If we truly understood this, how could we not look at those who are not like us with compassion and take their hand and tell them about this Jesus?

What’s the breakdown?  These aren’t just stories, friends, these are examples that set the tone for what Jesus was all about, and who He was, and what he’s STILL all about today.  My hope is that you’d read these and realize that Mark is showing us that Jesus’ intention is to be involved when we are hurting.  I love John 11:35—Jesus wept.  The King wept with his people because Lazarus had died.  His friend passed away.  Jesus’s intention is to bring healing where there is brokenness, and to push back the forces of darkness.  The KING IS HERE!!

So Jesus clarifies the good news and invites us to repent and believe it, which means to reorient our lives around it.  And he demonstrated that his intentions were for the kingdom to be a benevolent kingdom, one that sets people free and begins renewing all of creation.  And that He had the authority to make the kingdom a reality in all of creation.  And then finally, the third thing we can take away is that Jesus builds a foundation for his ministry.  We’ve got to remember that Jesus is God, but God in the flesh and that He was one person.  He started the work of this ministry.  We see from the Gospel of Mark that Jesus did a lot.  Look, chapter 1, there’s like eight different vignettes of what He did.

He also set up the foundation to ensure that the Kingdom continued to break forth into all of creation.  One of the ways He did that was He began by building his team.  (1:16-19)  Jesus, obviously, is incredibly powerful—He can speak all things into existence. But He didn’t just say, “Look at me, I can do it all!”  He chose to start calling disciples—ordinary, average people—to do it with Him.  Verse 16-19:  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.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.   

I love that He called ordinary people to follow Him. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.  Notice Mark’s intensity of time here: “At once, they left their nets and followed Him.”  We’ll see a little later in Mark that these same people are the ones Jesus calls to be his inner circle, but more importantly, he called and empowered them to heal and drive out demons as well.  See, he was setting a foundation for his ministry so that the kingdom would continue to break forth.  What’s crazy, if you think about it, is we’re beneficiaries of this, but we’re also heirs in this process. He’s calling us, also, to be those same people—to come follow me, but also to heal people, to tell them about the kingdom, to pull them along.  Isn’t it cool that God invites us into that process all these years later?

So, He invited them to join his work of releasing the kingdom and the way of the kingdom in all of creation. Those humble fishermen—ordinary people like us—and He used them to do incredibly powerful things. Imagine what it would be like if we could believe that God wants to use us, that Jesus is calling us, not just the professional Christians, but the average person who follows Jesus…..what if God wanted to use you to bring forth the power of the kingdom, the renewal of all things, to Littleton and beyond?  That might sound crazy to you, but it’s true.  God has wired and equipped you to partner with Him and He’s still building His team.  So every week when you serve here, you’re part of His team.  When you go out and serve in the community, you’re part of His team.  When you gather with Watchmen on Wednesday night, and you’re praying, you’re summoning God’s kingdom to break forth in this city, you’re part of His team.  He continues to build His team.

He engages in a practice that helps him stay connected to God. (1:35)  Look at verse 35:  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.
Crowds have been pursuing Jesus increasingly throughout Mark 1.

You might not know this, but I’m actually an introvert.   Back in the days when I traveled all over the country leading worship, I was in front of large crowds on a regular basis.  While I enjoyed it, I also got fatigued after a while from the crowds.  All these people wanted to come up after an event and talk.  I just wanted to go to the trailer and start rolling mic cables or to get out of there and go back to my hotel and get away and recharge my batteries. I can also tell you it’s easy to be enamored with success.  When people like you and they’re glad you’re there and they praise you, it’s easy to get caught up in success and lose sight of God.

I love what we see Jesus modeling here.  He prioritized staying connected to God by getting alone and praying. I recently read a book by John Mark Comer called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” and he talked about this.  It’s easy to look at people that are super saints and to think, “To be super spiritual and to be like Jesus, I have to get up at 3 am and pray for hours.”  Comer reminds us that before electricity and light bulbs, the average person slept a total of 11 HOURS A NIGHT!  See, we see all these super saints from history getting up early to spend time with God, but it’s not hard to get up early when you went to bed at 5 pm!!

The point here isn’t that you have to do exactly what Jesus did.  I think the point is that Jesus modeled for us making time with God a priority.   For some, it’s through prayer.  For others, it’s reading the scriptures.  For others, it’s journaling.   For others, it’s meditating on Scripture.  I love that Jesus, despite the crowds and the hurriedness all around him, prioritized connection with God.  I also think it’s interesting that the entire book of Mark is hurried, and immediately this and that, but Jesus lives in complete contrast to that, living an unhurried life in the midst of it all, prioritizing what’s important.

So Jesus built a foundation for ministry by building his time, staying connected to God, and finally, He stayed focused on his mission. (1:38-39)  See, Jesus pulled away to spend time with God and Simon and the others went to find him and sort of frantically said, “Everyone is looking for you!”  Of course they were, Jesus was God in the flesh, who wouldn’t want to go out to God when He is near?   When He heals and delivers and all of those things?  But Jesus didn’t give into the demands of the crowd. Look at what He said in verse 38-39:  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.   Jesus could have stayed where he was, healing every single person that wanted to speak to Him, but He chose not to do that.  He kept laser focused on the mission—to go out and preach in the synagogues, and driving out demons, and we’ll see in the chapters to come, challenging old ways of thinking, healing, and inviting people to something much more beautiful than they could even imagine.  It’s easy to get distracted and to chase every opportunity that presents itself, but every successful organization, every successful movement stays successful because they are laser focused on what’s most important, and Jesus modeled that as He laid a foundation for the unfolding of the Kingdom of God.

So, we see in Mark 1 that Jesus clarified the good news and invited people to respond.  He demonstrated His intentions for the kingdom and His authority to live that out. And he began to lay the groundwork for a powerful move of God by calling others to share the load, prioritizing connection with God, and staying laser focused on His mission.  Friends, I’m really excited about the opportunity we have in front of us. I can’t wait to see what we will learn about who Jesus is, what He is about, and what He invites us to.  I want to encourage you to read the entire first chapter this week, and ask the Spirit of God to begin to reveal Jesus to you in a fresh, new way, and to read the Scriptures in a fresh new way.

So we’ve talked a lot about JESUS today….Who He is, what He does, and His invitation to respond.  Now I want to ask this:  What about you?  I want to end by creating space for us to wrestle with three questions:

What would it look like to reorient your lives around the way of the Kingdom? To repent and believe?

What is one practice you could engage in to stay connected to God?

What is one way you can join Jesus’ invitation to release the Kingdom into all of creation?

Take a few moments to chew on these and ask the Spirit to give you the strength and the courage to respond.