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  • Andy Grice

Read Mark Learn #11 - What's So Great About Jesus?


This is the video shown at the start of the sermon​

There was no audio recorded on the day ... so here's Andy's script instead ...

[So] I’ve been away for the last few weeks on our Summer Holiday ... which was really good so thank you to everyone who prayed and filled in in whatever way ... I’m very grateful ...

So this morning I’d like us to return to our series Read Mark Learn looking at Mark’s Gospel ... picking up where we left off just before I went away …

But before we do that I’d like to show a short video of people in central London responding to the question “Who is Jesus?”

[Video]

What is so great about Jesus?

What a great question ...

I wonder how you would answer it?

One way you address a question like that would be to turn to Mark’s Gospel ...

… Because in many ways Mark’s Gospel provides the answer to this question ... or at least it provides the beginning ... of the answer ... because as I have mentioned before ... and say again today ... the first verse of Mark’s Gospel ...

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... needs to be read as a Title ...

which begs the question as to where the ending of the Gospel of Jesus is to be found ... where is the ending of the good news about Jesus to be found ... where is the answer to the question what is so great about Jesus? to be found???

To which, of course, the answer is in the lives of His followers ... which includes you ... and includes me ...

So on Sunday morning’s ... when we’re not doing other things ... we’re going to continue to look at Mark’s Gospel ... the beginning of the Gospel ... and as we do ask questions about how this Gospel is to end in our lives today ...

However, there is a problem with this ... which is that Mark’s Gospel is really meant to be read and thought about as a complete work ... with a beginning a middle and an end ...

In fact I keep wondering whether one Sunday I could just preach the text of Mark ... the only problem with that is that my sermons vary in length from about 2 - 4 thousand words ... and the version I wanted to “preach” is 13, 626 ... so I’m not sure it’s going to work…

Which means we need to break Mark’s Gospel down into smaller sections ...

Or ... I guess we could just give up on trying to work our way through Mark ... and I could just preach thematic sermons ... or start with something that’s happened in the news ...

And although there is nothing wrong with thematic sermons as such ... I happen to think that our regular diet should start with Scripture ... and we should work our way through a text ... rather than just pick the purple passages ...

So we need to break Mark down ... but as we continue to do that ... as we break Mark down week by week ...it seems to me that it may be useful to have some frameworks that can hold the pieces in place as we put it back together again ... [are you with me?? Like a jigsaw] ...

So as we work our way through Mark it’s worth having a few things in mind ...

(1) Firstly, as we already seen ... Mark is written for a response ... Mark wants the ending of the Gospel to be written in the lives of his hearers ...

(2) Secondly, it’s worth knowing that there are four major sections in Mark ... each of which is roughly four chapter long ...

So the first section is the introduction ... key themes, characters and ideas are introduced in the first four chapters ...

The second section focuses on discipleship ... on Jesus teaching

The third section is the shadow of the cross ... which leads us the the fourth section Death and resurrection ....

Actually Mark has been described as being an account of Jesus death on the cross with a long introduction ... :-)

So four sections of roughly four chapters ... and as we break Mark down into bite size pieces week by week it is worth thinking about which section a piece comes from ...

(3) Third, thing that may help us to think to hold the pieces in place ... is to think about the stock characters Mark uses ...

In some ways ... Mark is a bit like a pantomime with goodies and baddies ... and they always react ... or almost always react in the same way ...

So, we have the baddies ... the Pharisees and the Sadducees who always oppose Jesus ... they always respond negatively ..

We then have the crowd ... who seem to spend most of their time begin “amazed” ... but often do nothing about it ... other than be amazed ...

And then we have the disciples ... the ones who become the insiders ... the ones who spend the most time with Jesus ... the ones Jesus teaches ... and yet they are also the ones who more often than not don’t get it at all ... and seem to be a bit confused ...

And so Mark seems to offer these three sets of characters as potential ways of responding to Jesus ... so he seems to be asking the reader ...

will you oppose ...

will you be amazed but ultimately unaffected by Jesus ...

or will you be confused ...

… or ...

will you in fact choose another way of your own ...

So as we work our way through Mark ... piece by piece ... it’s worth thinking about the characters and what is going on for them ...

whilst also thinking about what is going on for you ...

How are you responding to Jesus ...

… who do you say Jesus is?

Someone you learned about in Junior school ... a nice guy with a bottle of wine in his back-pocket ...

… your God ...

… or something else ...

Then finally, there’s one other thing to mention that may help us hold things in place ... which is this thing that scholars call “The Messianic Secret” ...

We’ve come across this a couple of times in Mark already .... and it was in the passage that Christine read a moment ago ... it’s when Jesus seems to want to prevent people from knowing who He is ...

Now this seems really odd to us as we read it ... why ... we ask ourselves ... is Jesus wanting to prevent people from knowing about who He is or what He has done??

and I think at least part of the answer ...

... and this is why its helpful to have in mind as we walk through with Mark ...

I think part of the answer to this Messianic Secret ... is that Jesus knows people have certain expectations of what the Messiah will look like and what the Messiah will do ...

... but Jesus wants to make sure that they have ALL the pieces ... ALL the story ... including His death on the cross ... including the resurrection ... before making a final response ...

If you only know about the water into wine ... then you can see how someone can come to the conclusion that this is what Jesus was about ... providing wine at parties ... but when you have the whole picture ... well ... you will arrive at a slightly different conclusion ...

So, this Messianic Secret invites us to keep the whole in mind as we consider each part of Mark’s Gospel …

[So]... that’s all as way of an extended introduction as we get back into thinking about Mark ... so as we work our way through Mark ... not just today ... but in the weeks to come ... it’s worth remembering these frameworks ...

> The challenge of how the Gospel will end in my life ... > it’s worth thinking about where we are in the narrative ...

> which Characters are being used and especially how they are responding Jesus ...

> then finally its worth remembering to think about the end of the narrative before we jump to any premature conclusions ...

So with all that in mind let’s turn to think about the bit of Mark Christine read to us a few moments ago ... and as we do let’s pray ...

[pray]

So Mark Chapter 3v6 ... We have the Pharisees ... stock-character of opposition remember ... plotting with the Herodians to kill Jesus!!

Why?

Because Jesus disciples ... not Jesus Himself but His followers ... were breaking the rules by picking wheat on the Sabbath ...

Chapter 2 consist of a number of scenes where Jesus appears to be rocking the establishment ... ticking off the religious status quo ...

Forgiving sins ... eating with tax collectors ... not fasting right ... and picking wheat and eating it on the Sabbath ...

Which leads the Pharisees to plot to kill Jesus ... which seems a little extreme!

Don’t miss the irony of this ... because people were breaking a guideline to ensure that people took a Sabbath ... these religious leaders decided to break the clear commandment of Scripture to not murder!!!

And so ... as we get to Chapter 3 and verse 7 ... Jesus is looking for some peace and quiet and so withdraws to the sea ... but a large crowd follows Him ...

You see although Jesus seems to be fairly unpopular with the religious leaders ... this seems to be the high point of His popularity with everyone else ...

It didn’t come across very clearly in the video I showed a few moments ago ... but often when people are asked about Jesus ... like the crowd … they think He is a cool guy ...

but when you ask about being a Christian of church ... you get a much more negative response ...

Anyway ... we have Jesus trying to go on retreat and we have people from across the region crowding round Jesus and His followers ... and they get so busy we learn later in the chapter ... they don’t even have time to eat ...

the crowd seem to be attracted to Jesus because He is able to heal people ... and deliver them from evil spirits ... and yet ... and here’s the Messianic secret ...

as the Spirits encounter Jesus they try to name Him ... perhaps to try to gain some kind of control over Him?

And yet Jesus gives them strict order not to tell anyone who He was ...

So what are we to take from this short section of Mark?

What can we learn from this? Remembering the need to consider the whole as well as the part …

Actually, there’s lots of things here ...

and we’ll probably think a bit more about this passage next week as we think about the appointing the twelve in the next section ...

but this week I want just us to think about this scene from the point of view of the crowd ...

… the large crowd ... a stock character remember ... often amazed ...

… but here they are not so much amazed as crowding ...

Funny that … to find a crowd … crowding … but hopefully you know what I mean … they are pushing forward ... touching ...

Can you picture this scene in your minds eye??

Jesus and His friends are almost fearful of this mob ...

I wonder if you’ve ever experienced being in a crowd when you could almost or even actually take you feet off the floor and still be moving along ...

Crowds like this can be quite scary ...

And this crowd ... some who have travelled hundreds of miles ... are coming to Jesus ... they are attracted to Jesus ...

And there is part of me that wants to say isn’t that great?

Wouldn’t it be great if people were attracted to Jesus like that today ... wouldn’t it be great if on your way in this morning you were almost crushed in the crowd of people flocking to church in order to meet with Jesus ...

And that would be great ...

But then ... neither Mark nor Jesus seems to celebrate this crowd ...

And so we need to ask what’s going on here ...

It seems that the crowd are pushing towards Jesus ... they are coming to Jesus ... they are being attracted to Jesus ... because He has healed many ...

And yet when He healed people and evil spirits came out of people Jesus ordered them not to tell people who He was ...

Why not?

...

I think because Jesus wanted to manage people’s expectations ...

He knew that people wanted Him to do certain things ... behave in a certain way ... on the basis of what they had already seen Him do ...

And Jesus also knew that people had certain expectations of what the Christ ... the Messiah would do ... and how He would behave ... and I think Jesus wanted to avoid people jumping to conclusions ... about what He was about ... until they had the whole story ...

You see it seems to me that the crowd are attracted to Jesus simply because of what Jesus can do for them ... or else are being swept along in the hype that was building up around Jesus ...

In the next scene that we will look at in more detail next week ... Jesus retreats up the mountainside ... away from the chaos of the sea and the crowds ... and calls people to be with Him ... and learn from Him ...

And I just wonder whether we are meant to contrast these two scenes ...

and as we answer the question asked in Mark 1:1 and consider how the Gospel ends in our lives … I think we are meant to consider the crowd in this scene and ask are we simply attracted to Jesus because of what He can do for us ... for the benefits we can get out of Him ...

...

Or have we in fact been called by Jesus ... to be with Him ... and receive from Him a new identity ... a new way of thinking ... are we to learn a new way of seeing ourselves and the world we live in ... as we spend time with Him ... in the everyday and the mundane ... not only in the hype and hysteria ...

...

In our OT passage this morning we were reminded that people look at the outward appearance ... but God looks at the heart ...

...

People look outward ... we want to have something to point to in order to be able to say ...

… I know I’m ok because of ... xyz …

But I think Jesus wants us to spend time with Him ... … not just in a crowd alongside Him ... but with Him ... … so that He can tend to our heart ...

You see our hearts will always incline towards something … everyone … even the most strident non-believer worships something … are often that’s where our greatest source of fear and anxiety comes from … If I think I’m good enough because of money, my family, my reputation, my good works in the community … then to lose any of these things will mean that I’m not good enough … so I work harder and run faster …

So what are we to do?

What’s so great about this guy Jesus?

Well He’s God for one thing … that’s pretty great …

He knows everything about you … good and bad … but the greatest thing … I think … is that even though He is God and knows everything … even though He knows our hearts … our mixed up motivations … the secret thoughts of our hearts that we don’t share with anyone … in fact we don’t even want to admit them to ourselves …

Even though Jesus knows our hearts … in His love for us … in His love for you … He allowed His heart to be broken on the cross …

… so that He can heal your heart …

To show that your worth is not found “out there” in “stuff” but that we can find our true identity by spending time with the one who truly loves us …

... because He knows us and loves us ...

And this isn’t seen in crowds searching for hype … but in small communities of disciples spending time with Jesus .. . who receive a new identity and a new calling from the Lord of the Universe

I want us to think more about this ...

I personally want to think more about this ...

But for now I just leave you with some questions to reflect upon ...

What is it that you point to “out there” in order to know that you are doing ok??

Who do you say that Jesus is?

And what are your expectations of Him?

Do you only want to be with Him so that He will fulfil your expectations … meet your needs??

Who do you say that Jesus is?

What do you thing He wants for you?

What do you think He wants to say to you … to your heart … this morning?

About the stuff you point to …

And about His love for you??

Who do you say Jesus is … and how does His Gospel end in your life today?

I’d like to close with a prayer I came across recently that seems appropriate for what I believe we see in this passage ...

May we pray?

Holy One, there is something I wanted to tell you,

but there have been errands to run,

bills to pay, arrangements to make,

meetings to attend, friends to entertain,

washing to do...

and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,

and mostly I forget what I'm about … or why.

O God, don't forget me, please, for the sake of Jesus Christ....

O Father in Heaven, perhaps you've already heard what I wanted to tell you,

What I wanted to ask is, forgive me, heal me, increase my courage, please. Renew in me a little of love and faith, and a sense of confidence, and a vision of what it might mean to live as though you were real,

and I mattered, and everyone was sister and brother.

What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is

don't give up on me, don't become too sad about me,

but laugh with me, and try again with me, and I will with you, too. Amen


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