Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Son of God

On Your Mark, 23 April 2017

On Your Mark—An Intro to the Gospel of Mark
Series—
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 1:1

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Mark wrote a stunning biography of Jesus, our Messiah and God.

Introduction

He is still risen! He is still risen indeed!

Welcome back! My name is Kirk and last Sunday we had a fantastic celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. But listen to these profound words from N.T. Wright:
But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

…Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

…we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins…

…if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again—well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative…. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”

As I said, last Sunday we had a fantastic celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. He is alive! But who is Jesus, really?

If you ask ten people who Jesus is, you may end up with ten different answers. But how can we know for sure? I submit to you two things:

- The Bible provides us with four biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
- Jesus is alive and knowable—personally—through prayer and the Bible

One of my greatest frustrations as a pastor is reading about “biblical scholars” who are atheists. It seems like every Eastertime they get busy promoting another book, another theory, hoping to make a buck off some naïve shopper in line at the grocery store with tabloid headlines about another new discovery, a new theory, a secret revealed. With all due respect to intellectuals who study the Biblical texts, the atheists among them miss the point. Jesus is a living Person. He wants us to know Him. He wants to know us. The first thing I want to know about a Bible scholar is if they know the Author…of the Bible, of life. Our faith is completely dependent upon the cross and the empty tomb. If you know the Bible but don’t know Jesus, it’s as useless as analyzing the penmanship of a love letter, missing its message.

The Bible is, in fact, a love letter. It is not written to us, exactly, but for us. Today we’re going to look at the background of the Gospel—or good news—of Mark and the most important question in life.

Why Four Gospels?

Matthew: Hebrew, religious audience, “Son of David,” advertising and announcements
Mark: Roman, strong, rulers, power, emphasizes Jesus the suffering Servant, headlines
Luke: also wrote Acts, Gentile author, historian, “Son of Man,” special features
John: emphasizes deity of Christ, Savior, “Son of God,” editorials/columns

This biography of Jesus will inspire, inform, and hopefully transform you and me to become more like Jesus.


Before we dive into the Gospel of Mark, I want to give you some background.

It’s the first gospel written, one of the first NT books to be written

It was written by John Mark. He was not an apostle, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, but he was an important figure in the early Church

He appears in the book of Acts

When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. (Acts 12:12)

He was a cousin of Barnabus.

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) (Colossians 4:10)

He was the spiritual son of Simon Peter.

She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. (1 Peter 5:13)

This has long been considered Simon Peter’s gospel. John Mark traveled with Paul and later Barnabus.

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:37-40)

John Mark made good. Paul later called for him in his letter to Timothy.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)

Mark learned about Jesus from Peter and Paul. Mark was also an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ.

Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. Mark likely wrote this book in Rome. A servant needs references, not a birth certificate (no genealogy as in Matthew).

Here’s J. Vernon McGee’s outline of the book:

John introduces the Servant
God the Father identifies the Servant
The temptation initiates the Servant
Works and words illustrate the Servant

It’s filled with more miracles than the other gospels.

Healing: Physical
Nature: Natural
Casting out of demons: spiritual
Raised from the dead: supernatural

Mark 1

The book begins with what might be the most important verse in the entire book. It answers what might be the most important question in all of life:

Who is Jesus?

John Mark’s gospel or “good news” begins…

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1 (NIV)
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1, NASB)

The purpose of the book of Mark is not history. It’s not merely a biography of Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ birth and childhood are omitted. The book begins with Jesus around age 30. No manger. No puberty. No teenage years! Mark begins with the gospel or “good news.” His purpose is “good news.”

The original Greek word for gospel,
euaggelion, was often used in a military context. The army would send a message back to the city and proclaim, “A victory has been won. We are not going to die! We are going to live!”

That’s what Mark does. He tells us Jesus is alive and, therefore, a victory has been won for you and me. Life is available for us. Not just survival, but abundant life (John 10:10).

He also tells us two things about Jesus’ identity. First, Christ is not Jesus’ last name! The word means “an anointed, royal figure” in Greek. In Hebrew, it is translated, “the Messiah.” A victory has been won for us by Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed, royal figure proclaimed for generations. Some English translations of this verse replace “Christ” with “The Messiah.”

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1, NIV 2011)

Second, Jesus is the Son of God. He’s not just the Messiah, He’s God!

Jesus is Messiah and God. This statement is a dividing line of faith. You can accept or reject the claim. If you believe Jesus is God, the miracles and teachings and resurrection are not difficult to accept. If you don’t believe Jesus is God, the rest of the book of Mark—the rest of the New Testament—will not make much sense.

If you don’t believe Jesus is God, there’s no shame. You belong here. Keep seeking. Keep asking.

Some contemporary Jews believe Jesus is not the Messiah because He did not bring the Kingdom to Israel. He was a failed Messiah. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of people who claimed to be the Messiah. You’ve probably never heard of any of them.

If Jesus is just another failed Messiah, how would you explain His influence two thousand years later? His Church is still growing, His Name is being worshipped in every part of the world.

What if Mark was correct? Let’s assume Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, God. Let’s assume He really died and rose again. Why do I believe that and others don’t?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Who do you say Jesus is?

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Look at how Jesus replies.

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)

If you believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, it was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by God the Father. It’s not because of your intellect or morality or a great argument. It’s because your Heavenly Father revealed it. The original Greek word for “revealed” here means “to take the cover off of something.”

Simon Peter is blessed by God.

Believers in Jesus Christ are blessed by God. The truth has been revealed.

The greatest longing in any heart may be to receive the blessing of their father and mother.

If you believe Jesus is the Christ, it’s because God the Father blessed you. Followers of Jesus are blessed sons and daughters of the King of kings.

Who is Jesus?

This is the question we will be answering each week in this series as we examine the gospel of Mark.

Listen to Jesus' answer to the question from the gospel of John:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus is the way…to truth, to life, to the Father.
Jesus is the truth.
Jesus is life. He is alive. He conquered death. He offers you and me eternal life. He offers us abundant life.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1, NIV 2011)

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the LORD of all.

Credits: some ideas from Matt Carter (Austin Stone Community Church), Warren Wiersbe, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Son of God, John 10:19-24

Big Idea: We are sheep in desperate need of the Good Shepherd, the Son of God.

Introduction

We are continuing our series, The Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His closest friends, John. Two week ago the scene had Jesus offending the religious leaders by healing a blind man on the Sabbath, something that was considered work by the scholars who knew the letter of the law but had no clue about the spirit of the law. They were envious of Jesus, His miracles, His teachings, and most of all the crowds He was attracting. Their insecurity continually rises from jealousy to rage as we will see yet again in a moment.

Last week we began John 10 where Jesus uses the common metaphor of a shepherd and sheep to illustrate Himself and His followers. The sheep of the Good Shepherd—mentioned in Psalm 23—know, listen and obey to the voice of their Shepherd.

It’s critical to understand a sheep before we move into today’s Scripture. Sheep are not the sharpest tool in the shed. They’re not the most brilliant animal on the farm. They aren’t the wisest beast in the field. They aren’t the smartest creature at the zoo. You get the idea!

Beyond their lack of intelligence, a sheep is weak and vulnerable. They cannot run fast. They don’t have poisonous venom, sharp teeth, or even dangerous claws. In other words, without the shepherd, they are one thing…dinner for a hungry animal!

In the first half of John 10, Jesus speaks of His Father—God the Father—and the authority given to Jesus by the Father. This infuriates the religious Jews all the more. It is here that we begin.


At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (19-21)

Jesus is the most divisive Person that has ever walked the face of the earth. He is the most controversial Figure in history. Some thought He was a demon and others divine.

When Paul went to Athens, some believe and some do not believe.

Jesus explained why a few verses earlier from last week’s text.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (4-5)

These religious leaders do not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd even though He’s right in front of them!

Blue Like Jazz Author Donald Miller notes several things about these people.

1. “They have a strong pre-conceived notion as to what the Christ will look and like like, and Jesus isn’t fitting that notion at all.” Jesus isn’t a member of their club. He dresses differently, talks differently. He’s doesn’t interpret the Scriptures the way they do, likely with a self-serving agenda.

  1. 2. “He threatens their power.” This is obvious. It’s also relevant to us. It was Jesus that said the first shall be last, to save your life you must lose it, and a host of other radical, uncomfortable things.

  1. 3. “These are zealous men.” All law, no grace…to the death…literally!

  1. 4. “…they would likely be threatened with physical retribution from their own community if they followed Christ.” How often do people succumb to peer pressure?!

  1. 5. “They are people who want clarity.” As Miller says, “They don’t like all this vague hippie talk coming from Jesus.” Everything is black and white to them.

6. “Jesus likes their enemies.” He loves sinners. They love Him! There are two common ways groups can form and unite—the first is to demonize a common enemy and the second is to take on a victim mentality, causing everyone to feel like the world is against them. If Jesus is a friend of sinners, He certainly cannot join their tribe.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (22-24)

Winter in Jerusalem is cold! It is 3000 feet above sea level.

This feast is also called the Festival of Lights. It is not found in the Old Testament because it celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucids in the second century BC. It is known today as Hanukkah! Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.

They ask, “Jesus, who are you?”

Who do you say that I am?

For hundreds of years the people were awaiting a liberating king. They were expecting God’s Anointed to free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. The people were awaiting a Messiah.

Jesus often revealed Himself to others in private settings but He resisted publicly proclaiming Himself the Messiah because the people were expecting the Messiah to come as a warrior and overthrow the government. They couldn’t imagine Him coming to suffer and die. The Messiah will, actually, come and rule as the King of kings, but that remains in the future!

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (25-27)

Jesus says His works prove His identity. Actions speak louder than words.

The brand on the sheep is obedience.

Sheep hear His voice.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (28-30)

Did you catch that promise? No one can snatch them out of God’s hand. That’s great news! Remember, though, who Jesus is talking about. It’s not just anyone but those who follow Him (verse 27).

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
(31-32)

I love this question! Jesus is playing with them. He knows the source of their rage. It’s His claim to be God that made them hysterical, and even though He dances around the issue and doesn’t explicitly say, “I am God,” the message is clear and affirmed by His audience.

“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (33)

God became man, yet they accuse Jesus of being a man who made Himself God.

There are many liberal Bible scholars that deny that Jesus was God, or that He ever claimed to be God. They can accept that a man named Jesus was a good teacher and perhaps could even do a miracle every now and then, but they fail to see Jesus as God. It was, of course, this very claim that put Jesus on the cross. Jesus claimed to be God, and then proved that He is God by conquering sin and death, resurrecting from the dead.

Jesus responds…

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken — what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (34-39)

Verse 34 quotes Psalm 82:6, a reference to judges that act on behalf of God as His representatives.

Verse 35 notes that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” He is affirming the authority of the Bible.

Jesus is in full control. Repeatedly in his Gospel, John describes Jesus’ ability to escape from the raging Jews that want to kill Him. It was not yet hIs time.

God is sovereign. That means He is in control. Even at His trial He was in control. He created everything so it stands to reason that He is sovereign over creation, time, and space. He was on a mission to die for us, but it was not yet time.

Our passage ends rather simply.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. (40-42)

Jesus just shows up and people believe. In many circles it was popular to believe, but that was always subject to change. We read that many followed, but many later deserted Jesus, too…especially as He died.

Yet many died for their belief. Throughout history millions of men, women and children have willingly surrendered their lives simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Do you live it or just believe it in your head? Maybe you’re like the religious leaders, finding it easier to judge others rather than examining your own life. Perhaps you have mental belief about Jesus, but your mouth remains closed for fear of rocking the boat and losing friends.

I’m humbled by the thought that one of Jesus’ best friends betrayed Him, another denied Him three times, and others doubted He was raised from the dead.

Conclusion

Whether you know it or not, we are all stinky sheep. We are weak, vulnerable, and very limited in the wisdom department. Left to our own devices, we will die. That’s where Jesus come in. Where religious is spelled “D-O,” what you do, Christianity is all about “D-O-N-E” and what Jesus has done for you. He died on the cross in your place and my place. Like a good shepherd, He sacrificed everything for dumb sheep like us. Today we celebrate that sacrifice. We celebrate not only His words, but His actions. Unlike celebrities in our culture, He didn’t gain fame and notoriety for His own sake, but rather to willingly be butchered in one of history’s most horrifying forms of torture so that we could experience grace, forgiveness, hope, purpose, and joy.

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