Sunday, February 5, 2012

“I Didn’t Get It!” (Mark 1:35-39)

S-1294 5SAE/3B 2/05/12 Hymns: (O) #398; (S) #731; (C) #852 LSB

Text: Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; Mark 1:29-39

Theme: “I Didn’t Get It!” (Mark 1:35-39)

Question: “How easy is it for you get things?” Armour, SD. This sermon will be done in first person Narrative. The preacher is Peter. {Peter enters silently and looks at the people sitting in the pews}

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany is from the Gospel Lesson: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mark 1:35-39).

I was one of Jesus’ first disci­ples. Many say I was the leader of the disciples. I suppose that’s true. I was out front, saying things that so often got me in trouble. I was a leader in doing things that needed to be corrected. You know me as Simon, Peter. I know more is written about me than the other disciples, but I often didn’t get things right. There were times I was clueless as to what the Teacher, Jesus was doing.

An event happened early on Jesus’ ministry that I didn’t get. My brother Andrew and I, along with our fishermen’s partners, James and John, had just started to follow Jesus. It was the Sabbath Day, and Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. You almost had to be there to understand what was going on. You see, He taught with authority. We had never heard anyone teach like that before. And then He did something incredible. A man was demon-possessed. That demon started to challenge Jesus, and the next thing we knew, the demon was silenced and thrown out of the man, out of the synagogue. We were amazed at what we witnessed the power He had over demons.

We left the synagogue and went to my house. I’m not sure all of you know this, but I was married, and my mother–in-law who lived with us was very sick—with a fever. Now that may not sound like much to you, but we didn’t have many doctors or medicines back then. When you got a fever, it was serious. You could die from whatever was causing that fever. We were worried.

When Jesus was told about my mother-in-law, He took her hand and lifted her up. She was healed! She got busy serving us. What a fine meal we ate that evening! Sure, I was thankful, but, even more, we were beginning to see just what power Jesus had. And sure enough, the crowds came. People heard about Jesus—that He could heal the sick and was stronger than the demonic powers that haunted them. They lined up at the door and kept bringing and kept bringing and kept bringing people to Him. Finally, we had to stop them so we could shut the door and get some sleep.

The next morning, it was the same thing all over. People started coming again; but He was nowhere to be found. We searched for Him and found Him in the strangest place. He was in a desolate place, a secluded, wild area most people avoided. He was praying. I really didn’t get it.

You can imagine what I was thinking. Jesus has just started His ministry. He’s got the crowds coming to see Him. People are excited about Him. A few more miracles like this, and we’ll have it made and a small army to work with. No one will be able to resist Jesus. He’ll keep us healthy. He’ll keep away the evil powers that make us afraid. He’ll take charge and get rid of anyone who opposes us. He’ll make life our life easier and more wonderful.

So why was He in a desolate place instead of doing more miracles, instead of building His popularity and fame when He had this chance? We told Him that people were looking for Him. The whole world was coming to Him. And what does He do? He wants to go to other places and preach. He wants to go and tell people to repent of whatever sin is leading them away from God and to believe in Him. He said: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” I didn’t get it. We didn’t understand, at least not back then. Now I do. He was in a desolate place because that’s where Jesus confronted His temptations. He was tempted to give up His mission of bringing salvation to a world of sin and demonic evils. He had been sent not to build an army and overthrow governments, but to over­come Satan. He had been sent not to carve out a few square miles of ancient Israel and set up a new Garden of Eden, but to open heaven’s gates to us. His mission was not to become a miracle worker who would satisfy the desires of those who stood in line to see Him, but to do His Father’s will and bring eternal life to all people (Jn 3:16).

That was the temptation facing my Rabbi Jesus. He could have stayed in Capernaum and built His own little empire for a select few. But that would have meant abandoning the Father’s will. Perhaps, you remember that it was in the wilderness, that Satan tempted Him with this very temptation—if Jesus would just wor­ship Him. Jesus would have none of that! Three years later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night I saw Him betrayed, the night they beat and sentenced Him to die. He was tempted to walk away from His mission of bringing for­giveness, eternal life, and salvation to the whole world.

But Jesus would not give in to the temptation. No, He goes to the most desolate place of all. It is a cross. It is a place teeming with all our sins. It is a place where all our burdens and hurts are gathered together. It is place of punishment, my punishment as a denier and your punishment as liars, deceivers and cheaters. It is a place of agony and suffering. It is a place of death. It is a place where even God the Father in heaven abandons Him to the evils of hell. {move to another place}

Yet out of these lonely, desolate and hated places comes our eter­nal destiny. His mission was to bring forgiveness, to bear our griefs and sins. His mission was to open up heaven’s gate to us. His mission was to bring eternal life. And on Easter morning, He did just that. Out of the tomb, a place of death, Jesus rises from the dead. Satan defeated. Evil cast aside. Death undone. Sin no longer holding Him down. Mission accomplished. Salvation is won.

Now I GET IT and believe all this. Back at the beginning I didn’t. Back then I was impressed with the crowds and what I wanted Jesus to do. Back then I was thinking too small, too selfishly. But not Jesus. He would not give in to the temptation of pleasing the crowds. No, Jesus kept His eyes on the mission of reaching out to all people everywhere—calling them to repentance. He was on His way to the cross. He was on His way to the grave. But Easter morning proclaims loud and clear that Jesus brings our eternal destiny.

(Take off the headdress but leave on the rest of the garb. Pause and then address the people directly, as their pastor.} I can understand how Peter didn’t get it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He hadn’t yet seen Jesus die. He hadn’t yet walked with the risen Lord. But what about us? I’m afraid we don’t always get it either. Sometimes we’re more like Peter at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. According to a survey, the congregations that are suffering loss of membership are those that are challenging their members to repent, to do what’s right in life, to share in the suffering of others, to do personal devotions and outreach ministry. The pastors whose sermons make the comfortable uneasy are not well received. People want their church to confirm their pre­ferred political positions or say it’s okay to spend so much money on what they want. The pressure is for short sermons that tell amusing stories and make people feel good about themselves (G. Jeffrey MacDonald, “Congregations Gone Wild,” The New York Times, August 7, 2010).

Peter thought Jesus should be doing those same things that appeal to and draw crowds and make Him popular. Everyone was look­ing for another miracle. But what do we see instead? Jesus quietly, withdrawing to new places, where He could preach the Word and avoid the “show” (Mk 1:36-38). PAUSE.

Consider our prayer life for a moment. Certainly, we are to pray to our Lord about anything. He wants us to bring our requests to Him. (Invite the congregation to look at the bulletin). Almost all of them are asking for healing, for blessings, for protections, for jobs and more money. There is nothing wrong with asking these things from the Father of grace. But should we not be asking about the Mission of the Church, the growth of the Church, for sinners to repent, more devotional life and more service in His kingdom. YES, we don’t get it either. We think of what will make me feel good and satisfy me, instead of caring for my neighbor and sharing the Good News with them.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Back at Peter’s house, Jesus healed many of the sick and cast out demons. And today our Lord does bless us with good health. He gives us medical facili­ties to alleviate our pain and suffering. We live in a country with much wealth and comfort. Jesus is our shield and protection as we live day-by-day. He has answered our prayers, and we, need to thank Him for these blessings.

But don’t stop there. Jesus’ mission was bigger, much bigger. When you get right down to it, we need to become more like Peter after he got it. And we have so many ways to do that. We have two thousand years of Church history and teachings to help us see what Jesus came to do. We have the Bible to read and study as it does over and over again pointing us to the cross and Jesus’ res­urrection. We have Sunday School and Bible classes to teach us why Jesus gave His life for us. We have artwork and jewelry that take us to the cross. Look around. See how the stained glass windows and altar cross or designs on the paraments focus on Jesus. Our worship services lead us to repent of our sins and confess our faith in Him.

Why do want to do that? Out of thankgiving for what Jesus has blessed us—giving us forgiveness and eternal life through His cross and empty tomb. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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