Resolved for God's Pleasure (Mark 1:32-45)
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 1:32–1:45
I. Resolved to Change
Whether you wanted one or not, this morning we are going to start with a six month New Year's resolution check-up. So, if you made a resolution back in January...how's it going?In case you're curious, here are the top ten most common New Year's resolutions.
1) Spend More Time with Family & Friends
2) Make Room for Fitness
3) Tame the Bulge
4) Quit Smoking
5) Enjoy Life More
6) Quit Drinking
7) Get Out of Debt
8) Learn Something New
9) Help Others
10) Get Organized
Any of these sound familiar? Now matter how well we did with the follow through, I'm sure all of us have, at some point, committed to at least of one of these goals. But what inspires and informs these kinds of resolutions?
I think you would agree that many, if not all of these resolutions are wholly, or at least partially inspired by
other people's opinions. Even when that doesn't seem to be the case on the surface, pleasing other people is usually lurking somewhere underneath.
Let me give you an example. In many cases, when someone makes a resolution to lose weight and get in shape, they are sincerely wanting to take care of their body. But at the same time, it would be hard to believe that what others think of our appearance is not a factor; that society's opinion about what we should look like had no influence on our decision.
This is an important point to consider. How much of what you do is affected by the opinion's of others? How many of your decisions are primarily driven by a desire to please other people? Think about this as we watch Jesus this morning. Turn to Mark 1:32-45:
II. The Passage: "That is Why I Came Out" (1:32-45)
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34
And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." 38 And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. 40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean." 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them." 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
In terms of the context here, we are right at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, which began back in verse 14. After calling a handful of disciples back in verse 16, we read in verses 21-28 that Jesus gained immediate local notoriety because of an amazing exorcism He performed in the synagogue at Capernaum.
But as we see in our passage this morning, this incident quickly translated into a crowd of people; we read in verse 33 that "the whole city" came to see and be healed by Jesus.
Now if we stop and think about this passage for a minute, it sure seems that Jesus' ministry was off to a great start, right? Look at these verses again:
32 they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons....36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." ...42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. ...45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Jesus is touching lives. And lots of lives. He is defeating the power of the devil as He casts out demons. In keeping with prophecy, He is taking our infirmities as He heals the sick. And the word is spreading. People are telling other people. Jesus is starting a tidal wave of a movement. He is mobilizing people. He is making a difference. Jesus is the big story!
III. Jesus: Resolved for God's Pleasure
But if Jesus himself thought His ministry was as successful as we're making it out to be, He sure has a funny way of showing it. Look at His reaction to this supposed success. In these verses we see Jesus reacting in three distinct ways.
First, we see that Jesus responds to this groundswell with "restraint".
Look at verses 34, 43, 44. In all of these verses, Jesus is making an explicit attempt to restrain others from talking about who He is and what He's doing. He does not allow the demons to speak because they know Him. He tells the man cured of leprosy to keep His miracle under wraps. This sure is a funny way to build a ministry.
His second reaction, in verse 35, could be described as "retreat". At the very moment when His ministry is really picking up speed, Jesus takes off. Only later do Peter and some others find Him out in the middle of nowhere. They have to remind Him that everyone is looking for Him. People are in need. There are customers who want what Jesus is offering! And Jesus left just as things were getting good. Again, a funny way to build a ministry.
His third reaction to this seeming success was "redirection". Notice His reaction to Simon in verse 38. Peter is there to get Him back into the groove, to remind Him that the time to strike is now while the iron is hot! But Jesus says, "No, let's go somewhere else." It is very clear, but still mysterious, that Jesus wants to stay ahead of the crowds. He redirects Peter and the others toward town where there is less of a buzz. Again, this is a funny way to start a movement to change the world.
So what's going on here? Why in the world is Jesus restraining, and retreating, and redirecting? The answer is simple.
Jesus' main objective is not to please men; He is resolved for God's pleasure. Jesus is fully committed to doing, in all things, what pleases God.
So how do these things show us that Jesus was resolute in doing what pleased God? Let's look at His responses again:
First, the fact that Jesus responded with "restraint" was an indication that Jesus wanted to please God by trusting in God's timing and God's plan.
Christ's tendency toward secrecy is described by many scholars as the "Messianic secret". This is because what Jesus was trying to restrain was His identity as the Christ, as the Messiah of Israel. But didn't people need to know and believe Jesus was the Messiah?
Well, the best explanation is twofold: first, if Jesus were to walk around declaring that He was the Messiah, He would simply join the ranks of many who had recently, or who were, declaring themselves to be the Messiah.
Second, if He were declare His 'messiah-ship', along with His miracle working, the groundswell of enthusiasm might quickly get out of hand. The people would most likely rush to make Him King, the Romans would certainly hear about it, and Jesus' fledgling ministry would be coming to an end not long after it began.
But Jesus had things to teach the people about the nature of God's kingdom. He had men to train up to carry on His work. He had to let His actions and His teaching be His calling cards. Sure, if Jesus was simply interested in pleasing people, He would be entering Jerusalem as the Messiah in the next chapter. But Jesus trusted God to show Him how to reveal this in the right way at the right time.
Second, the fact that Jesus responded by "retreating" was an indication that Jesus wanted to please God by demonstrating His desire to hear from and be lead by His Father.
In the midst of so many voices pleading and praising, Jesus knew only one voice must first have His ear.
If Jesus' first priority was to please people, if He ultimately lived for the acceptance and approval of others, He would have stayed right there in Capernaum, and "opened up shop" bright and early. He would have kept His ears right there in the busyness of His ministry.
But Jesus lived to please His Father. And because He did, He knew that He needed to get away and listen to God in quietness, without the clamor of so many voices. He needed to pray and ask God about this ministry 'success'. He needed to get His bearings after the whirlwind day before.
Jesus retreated to be refreshed and to remain focused on His Father's will.
Third, the fact that Jesus responded with "redirection" was an indication that Jesus wanted to please God by fulfilling the mission God had for Him.
Remember what we read before in v. 38 and 39:
And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."
39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I believe that there are many people today who think Jesus' ministry in these verses was the epitome of the kingdom work. For some, all of the healings and the exorcisms would be sure signs of real success. For others the very fact that there was such growth meant that Jesus' strategy was working.
But with His actions and words, Jesus rebukes such conclusions. If things were going just as Jesus' hoped, why the retreat and redirection? No, Jesus knew that He was quickly becoming just another miracle-worker. He knew that many people were coming just to see something interesting, just to get something, just to be with the crowd.
Yes, people had real needs, and the fact that Jesus spends all night meeting those needs shows that He was concerned about these people.
But he knew that there was an even greater need. People needed to be healed, but true
healing would only come through hearing. And so there is redirection...not redirection for Jesus. No, Jesus redirects Peter and the others; He redirects them back to the primary ministry of proclamation.
Remember how Mark sums up Jesus' ministry in verses 14 and 15:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Jesus had a message, and through that message He was calling men and women to repentance and faith. He was calling them to submit to God's reign. And the miracles were ultimately meant to validate that message; to reveal the authority of the messenger.
So Jesus tells His disciples in verse 38, "Let's go these other towns and see if we can share the message there." This is why Jesus was sent. And His redirection shows us that He was not beholden to the praises of the people. He was committed to God's pleasure.
IV. Keeping Jesus' Resolutions
But what about us...right here...this morning? The ministry of Jesus might seem far removed from our daily routines, but like Jesus, all of us have and will find ourselves surrounded by the clamor of many voices. All of us have and will be pressed against, with pleadings and praise. Like Jesus, all of us find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the busyness of human life and the pressures of human need.
And like Jesus, even though we may be involved in very good things, all of us have been and will be tempted to respond to these situations with a desire to first please others.
I think if we're honest with ourselves, a lot of our decisions, a lot of our resolutions are, in fact, inspired and informed by the opinions of others.
But if God is truly God, and God is truly our Maker; if He truly loves us more than we can even imagine; if He is truly the be all and end all of all things, then our greatest desire should be to please Him. We should live for God's pleasure because only God truly has our best interests in mind; only He has the perfect wisdom to really know what is in our best interest.
But we so often struggle with this; we care too much about the opinions of others. So what can we do?
Well, what did Jesus do? What have we seen this morning? Yes...Jesus practiced restraint, retreat, and redirection.
When we talk about "restraint", remember what we saw with Christ. Restraint was holding back from trying to exploit people and being carried away by circumstances, and instead, trusting in God's timing and God's plan.
Sometimes when we are tempted to be merely 'people-pleasers', we will often try to conjure up or coax circumstances in such a way that we end up looking good or we end up being praised. Let me give you and example.
Have you ever delayed doing something because no one important was watching? When I was a kid, I would often wait until one of my parents came around before I'd work on some of my chores. I wanted them to be pleased when they saw me working. Of course, I think they would have been more pleased if I had just done the job I was given when I was given it.
But sometimes it's like this, even when you're older. We position ourselves so that people will see and be impressed and approve of us.
But listen to the principle that's contained in the Apostle Paul's instruction to slaves in Colossians 3:22:
Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Instead of positioning ourselves to receive praise from others, we need to look for ways that God can increase while we decrease. Jesus put it this way om Matthew 6,
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."
And the last part of this instruction reminds us of God's promise when we do this,
"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
And Peter confirms this when He writes in I Peter 5,
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,"
As we see from this passage, our attempts at restraint won't always work. The leper still went out and talked about Jesus. When that happens with us, may God give us the grace to point people back to Him as the One all of us should strive to please.
Another thing we need to do in the midst of a human-centered world is to "retreat". Of course we don't mean retreat like when you run away in battle, but like Jesus, to get away from the voices and the busyness in order to remind ourselves of whose pleasure we're living for and listen to God's guidance.
With Jesus, we see this happening early in the morning. Mark tells us it was so early that it was still dark outside. And we're told that the place He went was a desolate place, that is, there was no one around to distract Him. And what did He do there? He prayed.
Now, if you're like me, then you probably know how important time like this is. But if you're like me, making time like this can be a struggle. It can be a struggle because either we're too scared to sit quietly before God, afraid of what He'll show us, OR, our hearts are just too wrapped up in the busyness of this life that times of retreat like this are not a priority.
Now let's be clear, when I say "retreat", I don't mean periodically leaving the city for some seclusion in the wilderness. That is a very good thing. What we're talking about here is what we see Jesus doing: rising in the morning and making a quiet space for you and God; we're talking about beginning your day listening to the One you're striving to please. Some people do this at night. The point is to have this kind of "retreat" time.
A sure sign of our affections is how we live when no other human being is looking. Listen to what the Christian scholar D.A. Carson says about this idea as it relates to prayer, "The public versus private antithesis is a good test of one's motives; the person who prays more in public than in private reveals he is less interested in God's approval than in human praise."
If we are to be men and women who live to please God, we need to be refreshed and refocused by talking to God in prayer and listening to God through His word. Jesus could have been sucked into the busyness. He wasn't. He broke away because He knew what was important. He knew whose pleasure He was living for.
Finally, the example of Jesus reminds us that if we are to be people living for God's pleasure, we need to be practicing the discipline of "
redirection". Again, what I mean by redirection is staying focused on fulfilling the mission that God has given us.
Jesus had a mission. As we saw earlier, He came to declare the good news of God's reign. He came to proclaim the gospel! Did he also come to meet physical needs? Yes, but all of the healings and exorcisms He performed were ultimately meant to focus people's attention on the message and the messenger. Is our mission any different? No! We want to demonstrate the love of Christ in order to focus people's attention on Christ and the word of the gospel.
It's so easy to get busy, isn't it? But sometimes, one of the most dangerous things is to get busy doing lots of good things, inside and outside the church. Why is doing good things dangerous? Because even though we are doing GOOD things, those good things can often keep us from doing THE thing...and THE thing is sharing the gospel.
And oftentimes, doing lots of "good things" will result in human praise or approval. Sometimes, we are quick to help with needs that we know others will appreciate (e.g. hosting a community event, doing community service, giving money, bringing a meal, offering a class), sometimes we are quick to be involved in these good things, but slow to share the gospel. And sometimes we are slow to share the gospel because we are afraid of what others might think.
But when we come to those crossroads of opportunity, we need to let Jesus redirect us, don't we? We don't give up all of the good things, but we let those good things serve the greater good of the gospel. We fill all those things with the gospel.
If we are resolute in pleasing God, we will stay focused on the mission. We will stay focused individually, as God gives us opportunities to love others, and we will stay focused corporately, as Way of Grace church.
How do people-pleasers like us live for the pleasure of God? By faith...faith in the One who lived not to please Himself, but God his Father... and so much so, that He gave His life to make that kind of life possible for us. Paul puts it this way in II Corinthians 5:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Even though it's not January 1st, all of us need to make this resolution; all of us need to make sure this one is at the top of the list, in big letters, in bold, highlighted, and underlined: number one, live first and foremost for God's pleasure in every area of my life.
Jesus died and rose again to make that resolution possible. Do you believe that? That's exactly what God calls you and me to do: believer. And if we get that resolution right, other ones will work out just as they should.