Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Galilean Ministry of Christ

(This message was preached 1/20/16 at Heritage Baptist Church )
THESIS: To explain the activities of Christ in his service and how said ministry impacts the believer.

This evening we’ll be considering the verses 28 to 39 of the 1st chapter of Mark.  Please turn there and follow along as I read. Mark 1:28-39, “And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of diverse diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, ‘All men seek for thee.’ 38 And he said unto them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.’

39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

If you recall, as we have been studying Mark, one of the main objections of Mark is to display the suffering servant.  I realize that we didn’t review those points in the previous message, but it seems most appropriate today.  As a matter of fact, let me state the thesis of today’s message.  I don’t do this often – usually it is a guide to me only, but the thesis for this message is not as obtuse as at other times. It is to explain the activities of Christ in his service and how said ministry impacts the believer.  And let us recall the key verse, Mark 10:45 which says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” This evening we will see how it is that Christ’s very life was a life filled to the fullness of service.

One feature of the book of Mark which I have not yet reflected upon with you is this idea of a key word.  I’m not sure that one could say there is a keyword in every book of Holy Scripture, but in Mark there is a word which is most pronounced.  Mark is often called the gospel of action and it is largely due to his use of this Greek word, εὐθὺς.  (Yooothoos) which is translated in English as immediately, forthwith, straitway, and anon.  More than 40% of the time we see this word in the New Testament it is in Mark.  It is used in Mark 43 times and in this first chapter it is used 12 times!  And while statistical analysis is not extremely important it does briefly highlight the idea that Mark is a rapidly moving book, and the activities of the ministry of Christ seem to pile on with little respite.  Mark is trying to get us to feel the suddenness of the activities of our Lord.  Yet for all the suddenness, we will see that Christ’s activity is not a thoughtless activity. 

This evening we are presented with 3 accounts of Christ’s ministry while in Galilee.  I want to consider the work of Christ in these accounts and try to draw some conclusions which we can take to heart. 

This is what we call his Galilean ministry.  So what do we know of this place called Galilee?  For years I used to confuse this place with a mythical place from an old children’s song.  I want to give you a picture of this place so concrete that when you hear the word Galilee you think of a dark sad pitiful place.  That is what we will discover when we study.

If I had a map of Israel and asked you to point out Galilee, and you knew, you would point to the northernmost portion of the nation.  Originally occupied by Zebulon and Naphtali.  They had the northern border to deal with.  North of the border we find Syria with the chief cities of Tyre, Sidon, & Damascus of the Arameans.  I want you to think of Galilee as a nation cut off from its cultural center, especially even from the temple.  Cut off by Samaria.

Consider its accent – as we read of in the gospel account of Peter’s denial in Matt. 26:73, “And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”  I want you to think of Galilee as being part of those northern tribes of Israel which were taken into captivity over 100 years before Judea into Assyria.  Tribes which never officially returned from the captivity.  Even before the captivity, this land had a stigma.  Please turn to I Kings 9:11-13, “(Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not. And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day.

Hiram, King of Tyre, called these cities cabul which means ‘good for nothing’.  Poor, unimproved, impoverished.  He rejected this gift of Solomon.  Later we read in II Chro. 8:2 that Hiram returned them and King Solomon settled them. 

Probably the most revealing thing we learn about Galilee is in the prophesy of Isaiah.  We read in Isa. 9:1-2, “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  The description of the land is this gloomy, dark, even troubled place.  It was said that these people walked in darkness.  And this we read in a messianic passage!  This is a passage of Christ and his ministry.  He indeed is the great light!  And in our own passage today we are shown what such a great light looks like!

In the first of the 3 accounts before us we have Christ returning from synagogue on the Sabbath.  If you recall, we are in the city of Capernaum, sometime after He had revealed who he was in Nazareth.  Last month as we considered the account of our Lord, teaching with an authority not seen before, it was in a synagogue service and he had cast out a demon right in the same service!  In today’s passage it is the same day.  Now he retires to Peters & Andrews home in Capernaum.  It’s apparent he has not been in the home before, for we see a situation present itself.  Peters Mother – in – law is sick.  And anon they tell him of her.  Peter & company see a need and tell him immediately.  The fever was of a chronic and significant nature.  Dr. MacArthur says, “That she was too ill to get out of bed, coupled with Luke [the doctor’s] description of the fever as a “high fever” (Luke 4:38) suggests her illness was serious even life threatening[1]  And what do we see Christ’s response is?  He healed her.  The description of his actions are simple enough, And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up. There is no account of Christ delaying in the matter.  He is presented with her condition and comes and heals her. The fever left her immediately. 

Providentially I was sick this past weekend.  Sore throat came on late Friday afternoon, bloomed to a full blown fever Friday eve throughout most of Saturday.  It was miserable.  However, I would get up to wander the house for moment and then retreat back to my bed or the living room chair for a couple hours.  No energy to do anything.  I even thought, well, I can at least prepare this message – but was not at all able to concentrate on the work at hand. 

Finally the fever broke late Saturday evening. I was able to sleep fairly well that night but still, without a fever, was fairly subdued all Sunday.  I was not able to tackle anything of significance – If I tried, I had to set it aside – no energy. 

Yet here we read of the fever leaving her and she ministers unto them… not the next day, but that same hour!  We know there was no delay for the very next verse starts out by saying, “And at evening”. Displaying a continuous account of time from verse 21 through 34.  The healing wasn’t simply a removal of the illness, but even a restoration of strength.  Yet Christ’s day was not yet over…

So when we see the phrase at even it does give us that idea of the passage of time.  But it also is a point in time reference, and an important one.  Evening was at hand and this signaled the end of one day and the beginning of another.  Yet what day was closing?  Verse 21 tells us it was the Sabbath.  So it makes sense that once the travel restrictions were over, the people came in droves.  The dramatic nature of Christs encounter and casting out of an unclean demonic spirit was riveting and the people had all the rest of the day to consider it.  The answer was obvious – bring our sick to Him!  All who were sick and possessed with devils came.  So many in fact that we read it was all the city!  Now remember how Galilee is known as this poor, dark place?  Can you see how dark when just in this one city there is such a response to Christs message and work?

When I was first reviewing this passage I had an interesting question.  We read in verse 34 that He healed many and cast out many devils.  Many?!  He healed many, not all?  And verse 33 does say that all the city was gathered at the door. 

Folks, this is the kind of bad thinking we can sometimes get into.  Yes, we want to take the Word at its most literal, but this is an accounting of an event – not an accountant’s ledger!  We must not force the words to mean other than they would ordinarily mean in a given context.  John Gill’s note on verse 34 is spot on when he states, “Not that there were some, who had some sorts of diseases, whom he did not heal; but he healed all that came, or were brought to him, which were many, of every sort of disease, which were diverse, with which they were afflicted.”[2]

But let us look at the character of Christs’ ministry.  He was ceaseless in His effort. Many people who were sick with various diseases or possessed with devils were coming.  He healed them.  Every one of them.  And without delay.  Consider even the term ‘possessed with devils’ – such words paint a picture of men in captivity, not free to do as they would on their own.  Christ sets them free of their diseases, of their captivity to demons, and even of the burdens of false doctrines which the Pharisee’s would lay upon them.  Christ freed them of all that!  See how Christ fulfills Isa. 61:1-2 – Turn briefly to Luke 4:17-21, “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he began to say unto them, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’  This passage he read is clearly messianic!  And if you doubt that assertion recall the answer of Christ to John’s disciples who were charged to find out if He is the One or do we look for another.  In Luke 7:21-22 we read, “And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” Verse 21 tells us he didn’t verbally answer them but healed the sick cast out demons and gave sight to the blind first.  After doing those things in the sight of John’s disciples he tells them to look for the very things Isaiah foretold in chapter 61!

Consider also the extension of His ministry through His disciples. In Mark 6:7-13 He sent out the 12 in pairs to heal and cast out devils.  We read in Luke 10 He did the same with another 70 disciples in pairs with the same instructions.  And please recall how many places and cities are in Galilee – some 20 as far back as Solomon’s day, and in my research, I came up with possibly 26 cities.  These 35 pairs and the 6 pairs before them had no lack of work.  In fact Christ bemoans that the harvest is great but the workers are few!

How dark must this land have been to have had so much illness and demon possession!  No wonder Isaiah prophesied in 9:2 that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!!

Are we blinded to our condition like the Laodiceans who were told in Rev 3:17, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”?

In verse 35 we see Christ up early the next day in a solitary place praying.  There are a multitude of sermons and devotional illustrations to be found in this verse alone.  However I want to have you take note of a very small item – it appears that the only time we see Christ separated from his disciples is here when he is in prayer.

Let me remind you of the account of the faithless disciples.  This occurred while He was on the mount of transfiguration.  The other 9 were down working in those white fields.  We read about this is in Mark 9:14-29.  These disciples who in chapter 6 had power to heal and cast out devils seem to have lost that power now.  Just recall Christs answer to their question, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.  So when we see Him up early in prayer – one reason is the great burdens of ministry!  Prayer can carry great burdens!  There is a preparation and a strength to the prayed up disciple which mere followers will never have.  Verse 36 – 39 we see the pursuit of the disciples.  They are persuaded of the needs of Capernaum right before them – but Christ had a greater scope in mind – Galilee of the gentiles!  For therefore came I forth.

We have tonight been presented with the ministry of the Messiah.  Such a ministry was not only for healing and casting out of demons – but to prepare a people.  This dark land was given a great light – In the words of Simeon, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

What kind of ministry do you undertake?  Are you tireless like the Savior?  Are you selfless in your preparation?  Do you take encounters with non-believers intentionally? You should you know.  Galilee is only about 120 Square miles – and while I can’t give you population numbers I can tell you Christ looked and said the field was white unto harvest.  He sent many to heal and they went.  What about your neighborhood?  Do we look at Greenwood, Harvard, Crystal Lake, Woodstock, Elkhorn, Wonder Lake and Lake in the Hills as our harvest field or as our resting place? 

Are we not the beneficiaries of the work of other men and women through the ages, and do we not take it for granted?!  Get up – get moving, look around you!  The fields are still white unto harvest.  And you don’t want to be responsible for leaving the ripe stalks behind do you?  They may be ripe today – tomorrow they may be rotting!  Now is the day of salvation – not tomorrow! 

Let’s change – just for this prayer meeting- a little of the format of our prayer service.  How about along with those specified requests we take, we each one take our own neighborhood to prayer.  Pray for those whom you know – that encounters may be had, that seed may be sowed and watered.  That we may shed abroad the Love of Christ!
Pray also for strength and boldness and love enough to care for them!  Galilee is dark!  We can bring the light of the gospel into a dark dim world with just a little love.  Put aside any fear of an uncomfortable social encounter and love on them!

Pray that we might have that love we so lack!  They will know we are Christians by our love.  If we have not love for them – we really betray the weakness of our love for Him! Pray for hearts of love and compassion, so much that when our precious time is threatened we think 1st of them and the dark world they live in!

May the Lord break our heart in love for them – that we might sacrifice whatever is holding us back.   Amen.

[1] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Note on Luke 4:38.  Thomas Nelson Publishers.  1997.
[2] Gill, John.  An Exposition of the Old & New Testament. Note on Mark 1:34. Mathews & Leigh. London. 1810.

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