Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mark, Week 13 - Taking Being a Disciple Seriously

Last week we talked about how we need to be recognizing where God is working and be a part of it. We saw two groups that were blinded by their inability to see God’s work. One used a physical excuse to dismiss Jesus, and the other used a spiritual excuse. And we talked about how if we follow that same path of denying the work of God, it can lead us to commit the unforgivable sin, which is a total denial of God. This is because we have made ourselves blind to him. And then we saw, in Jesus’ words, how to not commit this unforgivable sin, and the answer was simple: be a part of what God is doing. If we haven’t invested ourselves into God’s work, then we have already put ourselves into the beginning stages of denying God. And that’s not where Jesus wants us to be.

Now, as we get into the passage that we’ll be studying today, we’re going to do something slightly different. Instead of starting where we left off, we’re going to jump two chapters in Mark. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be taking a brief glance at Mark chapter 6, starting in the second part of the verse. The reason why, is this: in order to fully understand chapters four and five, we have to understand this section in chapter 6. If we do not understand where we’re going, we won’t understand why we need to take the path we’re on.

So let’s read quickly chapter 6 of Mark, starting in verse 6b.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits…12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Now, we only read verses 6-7 and 12-13. The reason we’re doing this is because, when we eventually get to this passage I’ll need to teach on it, and I don’t want to give away all of what we’re going to be talking about. But it’s these three and half verses that speaks to what we need to understand. From last week, we talked about how we need to be involved in God’s work right? But here’s my question, if that is true, then why does it take so long for Jesus to send out his Twelve? We haven’t been focusing at all on the actual time frame the book of Mark is following, but it’s helpful here. So thinking about it as a timeline of Jesus’ ministry, he called some of these disciples all the way back in chapter 1, when he was walking along the Lake of Galilee  Well, it’s about six months later, when we find ourselves in chapter 3, and it’s then that Jesus appoints the Twelve. Then, it’s a minimum of another six months before we get to chapter 6, and the sending out of the Twelve. That’s about one full year that these guys have been with Jesus. So, why the delay? Why is it taking so long for Jesus to send out these Twelve on their own? I mean, if he really wanted to to get the message out, wouldn’t he send them out earlier?

And like we noticed a few weeks ago, in verse 9 of chapter 3, it was the first time we saw the disciples actually do any work. In other words, it took the disciples six months to do anything, and another six months before Jesus sent them on their own. And the question we should be asking is why? Why so long?

To answer that question, we need to go back to where we left off from last week. So let’s flip back over to chapter 4 and read from verse 1.

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables…

Did you catch it? Did you catch the answer? Let’s back track a little further, and look at  chapter 3 verses 7-9, which is right before Jesus calls the Twelve, and then we’ll re-read chapter 4:1-2. 

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.

Now contrast that with chapter 4:

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables…

Isn’t this the same situation? Not in the sense that Mark is repeating himself, but rather these two situations are parallel. Both times we find Jesus at the lake. Both times the crowds are moving in on him. And both times Jesus was in need of a boat. But here’s the difference and the answer to our question of why did it take Jesus so long to send out the Twelve. The first time Jesus told the disciples to get him a boat, but this time he didn’t. Do you see the small difference there? In the first situation, Jesus had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat so that the crowds that were gathering would not crush him. This time, Jesus doesn’t say anything about getting a boat, yet the boat was there. I’m guessing the disciples saw the crowds gathering and had the boat ready, and that’s why Jesus didn’t say anything.
The disciples were learning. And that’s the answer to the question. The disciples had to learn. It took time for them to develop to a point where Jesus felt comfortable enough to send them out on their own. It took time for them to learn from their teacher, to experience with him, to learn to meet his needs before they were needed.

I’ve shared some of my story before Marika and I moved to Quartzsite. Almost every summer since I was twelve I worked with my dad. Mostly it was hanging sheetrock on side jobs for him, or cleaning up job sites. When I went to college, those summers became full-time jobs. And in those summer jobs I started being trained as an apprentice, learning metal stud framing. We’d work on mostly large commercial buildings, or small tenant improvement jobs at shopping malls. I was always the bottom guy, which meant, I had to do all the cutting, all the carrying, all the moving, and all the prep work. In other words, my job was to make sure that the guy on the rolling scaffold above me didn’t wait around. I had to anticipate what he needed. And it took time for me to learn that. By the time I was a year and half out of college, I had learned both the top and the bottom aspects of the job, and how to read our sets of plans.
Now, I wouldn't consider myself an expert, or a journeyman like my father, but I knew the trade. And because I did, my employers started paying me $22 an hour. At 22 years old, that was a lot of money.

But it takes time to learn, and to experience enough that we are ready to work on our own. And that’s where we find ourselves in the book of Mark. We’re at the learning stages of the disciples. It’s their prep time. Their apprenticeship time.

But here’s the kicker, in six months from now, these disciples are going to be sent out. They don’t know it, but we do because we can skip ahead. And because we can skip ahead, guess what we can learn about these guys? They never stop being Jesus’ disciples. They never stop learning. They never stop being taught.

Let me give you some examples: After the Twelve returned in Mark 6:30, Jesus immediately  teaches them on the scope of God’s power. This is done with the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples didn’t comprehend God’s power so Jesus had to show them. 
Fast forward to after Jesus is resurrected. Mary sees Jesus risen, but it says in verse 11 of chapter 16, “they would not believe her.” The “they” in that sentence is referring to the disciples. Even though Jesus had taught several times on what would happen, they still did not believe Mary. 
Fast forward even further ahead and out of the book of Mark to the book of Acts chapter 10 verses 9-48. Peter is still learning about the scope of God’s saving work, and how God is bringing into the church non-Jewish people. 
Finally, fast forward one more time, all the way to the book of Galatians chapter 2 verses 11-17. Here Peter, again the one whom Mark is writing down his words of this Gospel that we are studying, is confronted by Paul because Peter had not yet learned everything.

So what’s all that have to do with us? It’s simple, you and I are called to be disciples of Jesus. Matthew 28:19 and 20, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are to be disciples of Jesus. And how do we do that? We are taught. We learn through the teachings of the Word of God, like Paul did in Acts 18. We learn through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed us to learn in John 16.
You and I are to always be seeking to learn, to be discipled by the Word of God, so that we may do the work of God. As we go into these next two chapters of Mark, we need to have that heart, we need to have that understanding. Because it all falls back to what we talked about last week. If we are not willing to recognize God’s work, and if we are not willing to be a part of it, then we are in jeopardy of missing out on it, and all the blessings that come with it. But in order to participate, we must be discipled. We must put ourselves under God’s teaching and constantly have a desire to learn, to grow, and to be disciplined. This is why we are here. This is what the Church gathering is for, as Paul puts it in Romans 15, verses 4-6, “4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you see what he said? Be taught, so that we may be encouraged to have hope. So that our attitude would be like Christ Jesus’, and that we would glorify God in unity.

So here’s the challenge: This week I want each of us to read through chapters 4-5 and come away with one lesson that God wants to teach us from the passages. If God’s word is truly as it says, a living word, that means that no matter where we are at in our walk with God, his word is alive and can speak to our lives where we are at. So read, and re-read, and re-read chapters 4 thru 5 until God shows you what you need to learn, and then put it into practice.

Let us learn so that we may glorify God, and stand in this world as his disciples, ready for the work that stands before us. And may God who is the master, teach us what it means to be his apprentices, his disciples. Amen

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