Marks’ Gospel of Jesus
Elf – get off that shelf! It’s time…..
This year has been marked with all kinds of things – illness, elections, pandemic, career changes and family issues. It was like the perfect storm of events—all, very out of our control. In times of chaos we seek stability. Did you know that McDonalds sales grew by 4.6% this last quarter – during the pandemic? I think it’s one of the only places that is—just always there. Each one – standard operating procedures prevail. We expect things. Covid-19 rules affected bars and churches but didn’t touch ol Ronald McDonald. You can count on the arches being lit up, people going thru drive thru and employees in matching uniforms, taking your order. We like being asked what we want. We like having our place in line and getting that warm bag, driving off having our needs satisfied. “I’m loving it” we are programmed to say. Sometimes there’s even an extra nugget or two and we celebrate thinking the odds are in our favor. Don’t judge me, you secretly love those moments also.
Recently I went through a drive-thru in our city. They advertised strawberry pies –a blend of warm strawberry filling and cream cheese. We went through several times only to be switched out with apple pies. It was a dessert scam! Then it switched to “wait ten minutes please or pull ahead”. Seriously? We don’t like to wait; you don’t like to wait ….. I won’t tell you how many times we went back just to accomplish this task. Waiting ten minutes or pulling up to spot # 2 just isn’t McDonalds. Even this small part of our little world had been affected. Fast food was now somehow different. Our expectations had to grow and change. I like pie but I was not ready to shift from tradition and control. We want instant, immediate, we want it NOW.
Think this is just a little left of crazy? Consider the most purchased item on wedding registries today – Instant Pot. When I went to look into this feeding frenzy I was told on the webpage to “hurry up” to get this instant meal maker. I’m on a computer, pulling up the listing on Cyber Monday and they are telling me to “do it faster”! The company doesn’t disclose their financials but did write that each year their sales DOUBLE and they have surpassed the 380 million mark. Americans like fast, urgent, and instant. It is who we are and how we like to roll.
Now just walk through this with me for a minute– consider hospitals all over the country with beds filled with patients. We pray and pray, and people still die. Daily we see situations not changing, circumstances even getting worse, wearing down our resolve and belief, testing our faith in what is possible. Our faith is challenged and instead of resisting we succumb to a silent fear that it won’t happen. While some do not get healed, we lay down our prayer shields and don’t take the “risk” of asking God to intervene. (See the friends of the paralytic in Mk.2). Being safe is important but God does not need a mask. His power has not been unplugged during this crisis. We spend more time investigating consumer reports on things like Instant Pot than how to pray for healing, or comfort or grief. We are fast paced – until it comes to scripture or pressing through in intercession. Jesus waits to be invoked, involved, and introduced but all that is just too time complicated, so we mindlessly scroll Facebook and pretend it’s not real or perhaps not for today or us. There are 27 miracles in Mark. Miracles happen 27 times! That’s awesome. Amazed, blind men saying hallelujah for their sight, paralytics jumping around experiencing the Joy to their world. Miracles did, can and will take place when we make room (time, pray) for them. So, what if we confessed our fears to God? To each other? What if we let science do the possible and ask God to do the impossible? Imagine how much “Joy in the season” would take place if praise reports flooded our lives? What if we pressed into pray for longer than a second? Is our need for speed also an indication of our resistance to waiting on God – for direction, healing, answers? “Lord, help us to respond and give time for you to do what you do.”
Let me share with you our subject (Mark) and his “immediate (Greek Euthus)” family – martyred disciples, Peter the wild evangelist, Matthew a tax collector, a bunch of women with money and passion and a spiritual relative named Barnabus. Oh, and then – Jesus of Nazareth, feeding people, serving people, ministering to people all the while Matthew was connecting Him to be the King of the Everlasting Kingdom. Mark came from wealth; he knew what it was like to be served yet this Jesus guy kept leaving the comfort of His home to hang out with the likes of the “unseemly”. Jesus’ ministry was characterized by 3 things – teaching, preaching (about Gods ways) and compassion. The result was people’s lives being touched, but for Jesus it meant – suffering. While Isaiah told us what it would look like when the suffering servant arrived it caught everyone off guard. It wasn’t what was anticipated. This Messiah served and lifted up others rather than asking them to serve Him. It was a different picture, a new paradigm. The mission model of churches is often “come and join our shiny program” but the biblical model in Mark is the disciples hanging out with Jesus, greatly impacting the lost, building them up and sending them out to reach their world, their sphere of influence. It’s upside down – in the biblical model, the leaders serve the ministers (all followers) who walk thru the door. The Messiah is serving instead of ruling. Sacrifice and servanthood in the book of Mark is different. It shows the leader, the wealthy, the privileged, even poor reaching down and making the demon possessed, lame and leprous GREAT and using all Gods’ resources to see that happen. Teaching becomes an effort in elevating the mamas, preaching becomes an exercise in supporting the papas, compassion means the best event of the week is around sister Berthas table connecting, instead of on a stage or platform. Walking with Christ for Mark meant walking dusty streets, hugging the downcast and blind, resources brought to the disenfranchised and beggarly so GOD would be glorified. Short gospel- large message. (Consider Mark 2:17).
As we studied Mark, we circled every time the word “immediately”, “as soon as” and “suddenly” popped up. The whole book is highlighted. What intrigued me was when the demoniac of Gadarene ran to Jesus. Ran, not sauntered, or walked, ran. I asked my kids when the last time was that they saw someone running to an altar. The youngest mentioned a ministers gathering we were at a year ago which blessed my heart that he had experienced that passion. Jesus did not let the demoniac follow him but instructed him to go and minister in his arena of influence. Contrast that with the other guy in the book that runs to Jesus – the rich young ruler. Same passion but when he is told he needs to lay down his wealth, he turns away. Riches, “stuff” can keep us from the Lord more than demons. That’s a bit frightening. Instantly both of these men recognized Jesus and knew they needed him. One forsook what held him back and the other forsook the One who made him rich. It would seem their speed of running to Jesus was not the point but if they remained with the One they ran to. Continuing to run, continuing to seek, continuing to obey made all the difference in the world. Not just the instant fix or encounter but the long game.
I know we are all looking for happy, comforting Christmas messages as we start Advent. In Mark we don’t get angelic narratives that make for great hymns but we do see many reasons for rejoicing, for joy and God coming to earth to be with His people. I don’t have a Christmas greeting to go with Mark. However, I can tell you my family pulled up stakes and obeyed God this year, setting outside our small ideas. We sold half of everything and moved to actively follow a God we believe still does miracles, still offers forgiveness, still changes lives. We started practicing listening to God and following what He said, and it has been the most exciting journey ever! Talk about peace on earth. The best GIFT you will receive this Christmas may just be
reading LIVING the book of Mark. It truly was a gift at our house. If you listen to Him and practice IMMEDIATELY obeying God, you will experience a brand-new type of journey. It is wild.
I would categorize this Gospel into 2 sections – Obedient servant (Christ and reader) and Responsive King (then and now). For all the times Jesus called them to obey– immediately things took place that were reciprocal. Jesus comes through –like the time he sent them to get a colt or a room for a sacred meal. They co-labored. He actively supported those who were His. When we obey God, He responds. When we step out in His name, He goes with us. He’s not distant, deaf or apathetic towards His children. Most important of all these stories is Mark telling us that any day, hour, minute, second…. The King of the Kingdom would SUDDENLY, IMMEDIATELY return. That is responsive! We can count on that. The Christmas story is filled with all kinds of fulfilled prophecies. Mark points us to the one great reality and prophecy to come – this suffering servant who sacrificed His life is going to return, so get ready!
I challenge you to get a journal and read the book of Mark. Then for the next 31 days ask the Lord to use you in teaching, preaching and compassion. Listen for His direction and follow His leading. Set down your agendas and preconceived ideas of what following Christ means. Servants, take up your towel! Start your engines– for this ride will change the track of your life. Immediately obey, immediately serve, at once, get off the couch and do what you are led to do. Perfunctory, in a rut, Christianity is boring and frankly not worth living. Passionate, vibrant, and relational living with the King who came as a servant – is so much better than any Hallmark story and truly better than a story where a plastic baby god remains in a cradle.
Like our wait at McDonalds, the world is waiting for us to show up. It is expected that we will do and be what our “label” is as Christ–ians and bring the Gospel. Jesus saw those who were captive on the streets, in the jails, in homes. Will we? Not someday, when we have money or when the season is just right but now, today, immediately will we go?
O come, o come Emmanuel
O come, o come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel! Those redeemed, it’s time to see those still in shackles, it’s time to release those still bound. It’s time to go about as Jesus did – releasing compassion, following the Lords directives immediately. Pray and Go tell it in your world — The Savior is waiting to go with you. Emmanuel!
Rejoicing and waiting with you,