“Don’t let mishaps in ministry keep you from your Kingdom calling.”

Posted: March 30, 2013 in Mark, Sermon Manuscripts

[Author’s note: Any sermon manuscript found on this blog is written pre-preaching, which means that invariably the content is slightly different than what is actually heard in the sermon. If you’d like to listen to the audio of this sermon, please visit our website here.]
Good morning! Go ahead and turn to Mark chapter six in your copy of God’s Word. Mark chapter six.If you’re new to us, the way that Walt and I preach here is by alternating weekly (usually!) and picking up the text where the other left off the previous week. We began Mark’s gospel back in September, and things are really beginning to pick up speed.

We’ve spent the last couple of months really wrapping our minds around two themes: the kingdom of God, and faith in Christ. As Jesus has spent over a year now investing his life into his followers, he has revolutionized the way they envisioned the Kingdom of God.

In addition to adjusting their theology- and ours!- He has clearly demonstrated His Divinity through His ability to manipulate the weather, cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead to life. As I said last week, there really is no greater object of our faith than the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Things are really beginning to shift now, though, and Jesus’ ministry in Galilee is approaching its end. We’re still a month or two away from this, but even today we’ll begin to see the gears turn.

Up to this point we’ve kinda felt like spectators, haven’t we? I would imagine that the loyal followers of Jesus felt the same way. Follow Jesus, watch Him work. Listen to Him teach, watch the crowd react (both positively and negatively), witness a miracle here and there…it was the easy life, right?

I mean, I could get used that. To just enjoy the presence of Jesus? To let what I see and hear mould my way of thinking? Soaking in knowledge? Ok. Sign me up, right?

Problem is, this wasn’t the end to which Jesus called His followers. And today, this still isn’t the end to which Jesus calls His followers. Is it great that you’re at this Gathering? Absolutely! Is it great that you’re a committed part of our Life Journey family? Of course!

But…if what we’re doing is gathering around God’s Word and seeing the ministry of Jesus come to life and jump off the pages of Scripture, and that’s all we’re doing, then at this point in our spiritual development we’re not much different from Jesus’ followers in their early days- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…but now we’re going to see things change a bit.

Because Jesus didn’t call followers to simply follow. He didn’t call men to leave their lives behind and simply watch. And they knew this. They knew change was coming. What did Jesus say from the very beginning? Follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.

If Roland Martin or Bill Dance or Mike Iaconelli came up to you and said “Hey, come with me- I’ll teach you how to bass fish.” He might let you watch him work for a bit, but you know at some point he’s going to hand you a pole and say “Here, now you do it.”

Or think back a few chapters in Mark 3:13-15, where some year before Mark tells us that “Jesus went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.”

Jesus had always had an end goal in mind when He called His followers to leave everything behind and come be with Him. It was true then…and it’s true now.

So as we look at this new development in the life and ministry of Jesus and His followers, I want us to do so with this idea in mind: we too are followers of Jesus. And while the context has changed, while our culture is different, while we are some 2000 years removed from the actual ministry of Christ…The question for us is this: Are we, today, fulfilling the ministry for which God has called us?

There’s two aspects of our message this morning- two units of thought that are intertwined, that are going to shape our thinking this morning. The first one, a miniature Journey Marker, if you will, is this: “Whatever difficulties Jesus experienced in His ministry…we can expect no less.”

With that in mind let’s look at Mark six, verse one. “He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.” So we find that Jesus has left Capernaum and has travelled the thirty miles or so back to his hometown of Nazareth.

While that sounds simple enough, it was anything but. Remember- Jesus had been baptized some year and a half earlier; that had been the beginning of His preparation period. Before that there’d been no preaching. There’d been no healing. There’d been no declarations of the Kingdom. There’d been no raising from the dead or pronouncing sins forgiven. There’d been no “repent and believe the Gospel.” There was just life as usual in the family trade.

Mark doesn’t go in details about this, but we know from Luke four that this wasn’t Jesus’ first time in Nazareth since beginning His radical ministry. Shortly after beginning His ministry, some year, year and a half ago at this point, Luke tells us that Jesus went to Nazareth and taught in the synagogue.

What Luke recorded may have been Jesus’ first time speaking in the synagogue, but it certainly wasn’t His first time going. He’d been going for years, but on that occasion, standing to read from the scrolls, Luke tells us that Jesus had read from Isaiah, which said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And then Jesus had sat down and begin to teach by saying “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And oh man, did that not go over well! Luke tells us “they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.”

Not the best response to His first message there. Not to mention the awkward tension between Jesus and His family now. Last time we saw them together, they were trying to defend Jesus’ actions by claiming that He was out of His mind!

So now some year after they’d tried to kill Him, Jesus is returning home with His rag-tag band of followers. His first Sabbath there finds Him in the synagogue…and they allow Him to speak. History tells us that any male Jew had the right to speak publicly in the synagogues- the trick was claiming that right first!

Whether through fame or persuasion, Jesus is given the floor. And while Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus preached, we do see the reactions from many in the crowd: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? And how are such mighty works done by His hands? What is going on? I know this guy. He’s that carpenter, right? The son of Mary, and brother to James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?”

These people aren’t in awe of Jesus- they’re ticked! Remember- Jesus taught not  like the scribes, but as one with authority. And these people weren’t about to have their boat rocked by a carpenter, much less one they’d watched grow up.

They knew Jesus. Knew Him well. Nazareth was a tiny town that sat on 50 or so acres of land, probably no more than five or six hundred residents. You know how people are- everyone knew everyone else’s business. They knew Jesus was a carpenter.

They knew Jesus had spent the last couple decades as a builder, a wood-worker. Think about that. Jesus’ humanity was all that He’d demonstrated until the time had come to go public with His power and authority. Until then He had humbled Himself and took up the trade of His earthly father Joseph.

And as Jesus has spent most of His life working with ugly logs and pieces of wood full of knots and discolorations, he knows what they has the potential to become. He knows even as He’s working that one day an outcast woman would reach out to him in faith, and just as that ordinary piece of wood in His hands would be transformed into a work of art, so would this woman- so would all of God’s people.

He knows as he’s working tiredly, that it takes time to craft a work of art. Even still, he knows what the finished product will be. Jesus didn’t see the raw materials- he saw the finished product and very skillfully removed the pieces that weren’t part of that final design.

As he chiseled wood from out of the log, no doubt he was thinking to himself, “Just a few more years, and I will begin doing this to my people. I know what they are. I know who they were created to be. I don’t see the mess on the outside- I see the work of God on the inside and I will lovingly use my chisel to remove from them the pieces that aren’t part of their identity.

Can you appreciate the beauty and irony of Jesus spending His life taking ordinary and perhaps ugly pieces of wood and crafting them into beautiful treasures?

But now declaring the mysteries of the Kingdom, Jesus’ hometown again takes offense to His message. The reference to being “the son of Mary” was pure insult in that culture. Even if a Jewish man’s father was dead- which some speculate to have been the case here- you don’t refer to a Jew as the son of His mother. Not unless you’re wanting to insult him.

Jesus responds with this axiom: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Jesus’ friends, relatives, and neighbors refused to acknowledge that Jesus was anything more than a carpenter.

Mark tells us that “he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”

Only twice in scripture do we see Jesus marveling at people. Both times it’s in conjunction with their faith. The other occasion involves a centurion that believes Jesus can heal his servant without even entering his house. Jesus marvels at so great a faith from the least likely of sources- a gentile soldier of the Roman empire, of all people.

Here He’s astounded at the lack of faith from His own people, those who with their own eyes have experienced His power, have heard His teachings. Yet still he acts in love, healing a few people there inside the town, and then moving around Nazareth, continuing to teach.

Wasn’t that Jesus lacked the power to perform the miracles…but He wasn’t going to continue casting pearls before the swine. Would have been wrong, really- demonstrating His power before such an apathetic crowd. He knew it would have accomplished nothing.

So what are some of the lessons learned by Jesus’ followers as they see all this unfold? Because I can assure you that those lessons are still applicable in our own context.

The first is this: perfect technique does not promise transformation. If Jesus, the Son of God and the greatest preacher, pastor, and theologian that’s ever lived, did not win over everyone He spoke to, we can expect no better results.

Sometimes we’re scared of spreading the word about Christ because we don’t think it’s going to work, that people will not receive it well. And many of them won’t. Happened to Jesus, it will happen to you. Question is, how will rejection shape your behavior?

The second thing Jesus teaches is that “failure” in ministry is no reason to fail to minister. Jesus wasn’t met by a receptive crowd, so what did He do? He continued to minister in the outlying villages. And to those in town who were ready to receive it. His disciples are able to witness the love and perseverance of Jesus as He kept on keeping on.

Now we know that God is sovereign. We know that this rejection of Jesus didn’t catch Him by surprise, it didn’t somehow ruin all of God’s plans. And we also know that everything Jesus did had its purpose, so I’m convinced that Jesus took His followers to Nazareth so that they could get a taste of abysmal rejection, of ministerial failure. Of evangelistic emptiness. They may have then begun to see that outside of the crowds who loved Jesus’ miracle ministry, reception to the Good News might not be so good.

But now the lesson’s over and the homework begins. We already saw how we can expect the same hardships that Jesus faced, but now I want us to hold in our minds for a few minutes our second miniature Journey Marker, which is this: “Where God leads, His people succeed.” Perhaps not in the way we envision or would expect, but you’d better believe that if God calls us to it, He will bring us through it. If we are willing servants, the work of God will be done.

Mark tells us that “He called the twelve and sent them out two by two.” Right off the bat we see that Jesus’ first step in sending people out in ministry is to first call them to himself.

From the very beginning Jesus wants us as His followers to know that He’s there with us. He’s in this thing. He’s not just barking orders and waiting for compliance. He’s authorizing His followers to act on His behalf, which is why he “gave them authority over unclean spirits.”

And Jesus gives them odd instructions: “Take nothing for your journey except a staff, if you have one. Don’t take any food. Don’t take a knapsack to put food in. Don’t take any money. Take the shoes on your feet and go. Don’t even put on an extra tunic. I want you to go as you are and trust God for your provision.”

That’d be a lot funner to try if Jesus was going with them…but He’s not. Jesus is saying to them, “It’s time, guys. Go in pairs. Support each other. Protect each other. Encourage each other. But don’t pack your bags for this one. I want you to trust me. I want you to trust our Father in Heaven. If I am sending you somewhere, if I am calling you to a work, I will take care of you.”

I can tell you from first-hand experience how true this is. In May of last year I visited Life Journey Church for the first time. It wasn’t to make my mind up about joining the leadership team. I was already committed inwardly. It wasn’t to meet Walt and form an opinion- I’d known him for years and respected and loved him greatly. (Wait a minute- I think he hacked my manuscript and put that in there!)

I visited with the mindset that God was going to have to use the trip to change my mind about resigning from a successful position as a student pastor in Indiana to pursue the planting, establishing, and leading of Life Journey Church as one of her elders, along with Walt and whomever else God raises up.

God affirmed my decision, and I went back to Indiana and told my pastor that I was leaving. And when I announced my resignation to the church, I had a guaranteed $200 a month waiting for me. $200 a month for rent, food, gas, bills, clothes. And when Walt pulled the trigger on coming to Crozet and he resigned from his job, he had a guaranteed $0 dollars.

The vision of Life Journey Church was so instilled into Walt that leaving the security of a job was a non-issue. That vision was contagious, as was Walt’s leadership. I remember him telling me, “Richard, if this is where God wants you, the money isn’t an issue.”

And here we are, blessed by God through the generosity of several churches, friends, family, organizations, and yourselves to be able to pour our lives into you.

So as I see Jesus sending His twelve disciples out on this mission, when I see Him telling them, “rely on me- I can meet your needs,” I’m like man…how true is that. He still calls us to trust Him for everything.

He also tells them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.” Look guys, be content with where you are. “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Jewish resentment towards Gentiles was so great that if a Jew had to walk through Gentile territory, upon leaving they would knock the Gentile dust off of their shoes so as to not “taint” Jewish soil.

Jesus is saying, “You guys are going on my behalf, with my message. Rejection of you is rejection of me. And if they want no part of me, if they don’t want to be my people, treat that place as though they’re not my people.”

So now the calling is clear, the mandate is clear, Jesus followers are now in the position to obey Him…or to not. To trust Him…or to not. To embark on this journey of ministry and evangelism…or to not.

Not a whole lot different from us, huh? ‘Cause God’s still at work. God’s still calling His people to do hard things. He’s calling people to leave their jobs and move to Crozet, VA.

Even within our faith family we’ve seen God call families to take in children as their own. To remain in Crozet and plug into our community group ministry. To drive across a mountain to be part of our family. To be baptized publicly as a declaration of faith in Christ. To  share the Gospel with our coworkers, our family, our friends. To reach our neighbors and the nations.

God has got a plan for each of us in a way no different from the plans that He had for His people 2000 years ago. Yes- they make look different for us- but they may not. They may be huge, they may be minor. They may have obvious results, they may have results we’ll never see this side of Heaven. But I know that our mission will not fail with God’s empowerment.

Mark tells us that Jesus’ disciples “went out and proclaimed that people should repent, that they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

God is faithful to His people, but only through obedience were the disciples able to experience the supernatural provision and moving of God. As our band comes up I want us to take a few moments to figure out where we are in this message.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen Jesus stress the importance of faith. He’s also removed any reason to not have faith in Him. Jairus showed it- the nameless woman in the crowd showed it, and now His closest followers are showing it. But what about us? Are we living in faith?

Now I recognize that for many of us, we’re right now living in faith and fulfilling the calling that God has placed on us. Could be long-term, could be something as simple as obeying God’s calling for us to pray for someone. Please don’t think that “God’s calling” is always in reference to something big to us. It’s whatever the Holy Spirit is moving you to do, which is certainly big to Him, even if we don’t see it.

Maybe some of us can’t really put our finger on anything specific that God has called us to do…to which I would say that God has called us all to be witnesses of His. We’ll get to it more in depth at the end of Mark, but we know that Jesus has called for all of His followers to spread the gospel worldwide and to make disciples of all the nations. We can work on that right here in Crozet.

That’s essentially what Jesus commissioned his disciples to do in this text- take this Good News of the Kingdom, and spread it. If you’re looking for what God wants from you, I would encourage you this morning to pray for guidance, and then act. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for God to take the clouds and write in them a specific action plan.

But we can act on what we do know. Whether it’s sharing our faith at work, inviting neighbors to our Gatherings, to Community Groups, to our Easter Celebration- I really don’t know what that looks like for you. But I do know that if we obey, God will provide. If He’s calling us to take risks, He will take care of us.

And then for some of us…the mission is clear. We know what it is that God has impressed upon us to do…and we’re scared. For many reasons. Fear of failure, of rejection, of ridicule. Maybe it’s a matter of financial insecurity. “God wants me to do this with my finances…but man, I’m struggling with trusting that God will take care of me if I do this. He wants me to make this career move, do this with my family, with my time.”

Maybe it’s with joining a volunteer team- who knows; it might have absolutely nothing to do with Life Journey Church. But will you trust God this morning? In our time of response, will you let go of what’s holding you back? Will you step out in faith and trust the results to God?

Our overarching JourneyMarker this week is this: “Don’t let mishaps in ministry keep you from your Kingdom calling.” They didn’t stop Jesus. They didn’t deter His followers. Will you commit today to keep on keeping on?

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