Monday, January 5, 2009

Planting Seeds

Preached 11-9-2008

The church is to be Jesus’s hands and feet in our world. Every believer is a part of this body of Jesus, and receives from Jesus instructions on what to do, and is responsible to demonstrate faith by being obedient to Jesus. One of the things Jesus said to do was to make public the good news of God’s kingdom to everyone. This good news is that the kingdom is here, God is here, turn around (repent) and look into God’s loving eyes, and know that Jesus came to tell and show us that God has forgiven us. Why would we want to keep this secret from others who are running from God?

Remember that we started together in September by talking about how Jesus reveals to us the character of God by doing God’s will all the time. One of the effects of Jesus’s daily decision to obey God is that Jesus had God’s permission to act for God on earth. And what did Jesus do with that permission? He published the good news, he healed the sick, and he cast out demons.

There are several places in Mark where Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders because of his preaching—his making public the good news—his announcing the presence of God’s kingdom.

Remember that Jesus spent plenty of his time listening to God and doing what God said. This is where “authority” resides. It doesn’t reside in position or title.

We want to talk a bit about a word often translated as “authority”—the Greek word, “exousia.” Exousia—delegated authority, permission, freedom to choose what to do, influence, power as an agent of someone else

Mark 1:22
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:27
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Mark 2:10
“But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

Mark 11: 27-29 As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Read these again substituting “permission” and “freedom”—see how it changes how we understand authority? God gave Jesus permission to teach about the kingdom of God; God gave Jesus freedom on earth to forgive sins and to heal diseases. Jesus was acting as God’s agent, doing on earth what God wanted done.

Now we move on to those who followed Jesus at that time:
Mark 3:14-15 And he appointed (KJV ordained) twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message and to have authority to cast out demons.

Mark 6:7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

One of the problems with our picture of church is that we have special names for things that are very ordinary and applicable to all believers:

Preach means publish, proclaim openly, announce (like a herald);
Ordained means made ready, prepared;
Apostle means messenger, delegate, one sent forth with orders;

The same Greek word as “preach” is used in Mark 1:45 and 5:20; in both cases people Jesus has healed and freed are telling their friends how much the Lord has done for them and what mercy he has shown to them. All believers can be preachers.

Mark 16:14-15 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith (lack of obedience) and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

Mark 13:33-37 “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge (gives authority to his slaves), each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Here is a picture of a proclaimer of the good news:

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” . . . The sower sows the word.

What is “the word”? It can legitimately be a number of things: a story, an event, a doctrine, an instruction, an explanation; for a follower of Jesus, it is speaking what God tells that follower to speak.

Some forget the word they hear instantly; some receive it with joy but lose interest when times are hard; some are so busy with the cares of the world, the lure of money, the desire for other things, that they don’t really pay attention; some are open and ready and take it seriously and act on it.

Jesus says to his disciples then, and to us now, pay attention to what you hear. The more you listen and act on what you hear, the more you will hear; if you don’t act on what God tells you, you’ll lose the little ability to hear that you have. God doesn’t whisper things to you so that you’ll keep them secret, but so you can disclose them to others.

And be encouraged: the kingdom of heaven grows quietly under the surface—your obedience will have results in due time. Trust God to tend the seeds you’ve sown. And the little seed you have sown will grow into a tree. Trust God to make this happen. In other words, make public to people what God has done for you, and then trust God with the results. God has set you free, has given you permission, to tell what you know of God’s love and mercy and to bring healing and freedom and forgiveness to others, just as Jesus did.

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