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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 2
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

Well, I wanna go to the Gospel of Mark since we're reading it together. And I thought maybe a simple way was just to simply start to move through the Gospel of Mark, we can't read the whole thing, that would take us a bit more time than our calendars allow. But we're gonna move through it starting in the 1 chapter, and I want you to help me evaluate this notion of doing the difficult. Did Jesus choose easy? Was the assignment that God gave to his friends and to Jesus's friends easy? Was the pathway that Jesus modeled for us easy?

You see, we have thought of our faith in terms of convenience, comfort, and ease. If it isn't convenient, isn't comfort, somebody's done it wrong. It's supposed to be. We get torqued up if the parking isn't the way we like, or our kids can't go in the classroom we want, or whatever. "I couldn't choose the seat", we change churches, we get aggravated and agitated, because the worship wasn't in the style we wanted. Or, "They read from a translation of the Bible that I don't like". Or, "They intimated something about my pet theological premise and I don't like that". And meanwhile, through the windows of our churches, we see the culture collapsing around us, and we just sing a little more loudly. So I have a question, when the Jesus we know of in our Gospels, did he choose easy? We can decide together.

Mark chapter 1, that's a good place to begin. Verse 1, that's really close to the beginning of the Gospel. Fact, as is, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way a voice of one calling in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight for paths for him".' And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins". Who's that passage about? It's not a trick question. It said, "So John came," which John is it? There's more than one in the New Testament. John the Baptist, good, it's okay. Come on, keep up, we can do this. You being silent will not make me stop earlier.

It's John the Baptist, Jesus's cousin. His ministry preceded Jesus's ministry, Isaiah prophesied about him several hundred years before John's birth. God said, "I will send one ahead of him". I'm intrigued by the description. We usually read it and the emphasis is a little different, "It's the voice of one calling in the desert". But I wanna read it a little differently, "John was a voice of one calling in the desert". A voice of one. John talked enough about current events that it stirred Jerusalem. He talked enough about current events that had brought him to the attention of the Jewish governor. He talked enough about current events that he got him arrested. He talked enough about current events that he was hated. He told the truth, the uncomfortable truth, the awkward truth. He didn't run for office. He didn't advocate for candidates. He wasn't political. He told the truth. A voice of one.

When they came to Jesus and said, "They've arrested John". He said, "Well, what did you expect? What did you go into the desert to see? A reed that was shaken by the wind"? He said, "No, that's not what John was. John stood in the face of the wind. Did you go to see someone dressed in fancy clothes like a king? No, that wasn't John, he wore camel hair and a leather belt and he ate locust," not bugs, something that grows on the trees there. A simple man, a plain man with a simple wardrobe, but a powerful message that brought him to the attention of the governor. And in the midst of a carnal display, indulgent display, worthy of Epstein's attention, John was condemned to death. Could we agree it's not an easy assignment? Jesus said, "Of the men born among women, there was no one greater". No condemnation, no criticism. He didn't say, "Oh, John was always a hothead. I wish he'd just shut up".

He said that to the rest of his disciples on more than one occasion, "Are you really that slow? Are you really that clumsy? Do you not understand? What are you arguing about? What's wrong with you, you have such little faith". None of that about John. Jesus had the highest admiration and respect and praise for John. Can we agree, John did what was difficult? Well, let's not stop there, we're in Mark 1, let's go to verse 9. "At that time Jesus came," at what time? After they dealt with John. "Jesus came from Nazareth and Galilee, he was baptized by John in the Jordan. And Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being opened and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven saying, 'That's my boy, and I like him a lot.'" It's a great beginning. This is the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, he's baptized, God speaks and said, "That's my boy". Very next verse, "At once the Spirit sent him into the desert".

That translation is a little soft. The language says, "The Spirit drove him into the desert". It wasn't like he wandered into the desert, or he wanted a little quiet time, the Spirit that descended upon him and baptized drove him into the desert, and he was in the desert 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals and angels attended him, and Mark doesn't reference that he fasted, so we can leave that out of this discussion for the moment if you want to. "For 40 days, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to have a time of prayer and worship with the Lord; a little quiet time". No, that isn't what it says. "A bit of reflection, so we could do some long range planning now that his ministry was going public. He had a whole section of the desert with white boards. A little strategic planning time with the", no, that's not what it says. It said, "The Spirit drove him into the desert where he was tempted by the devil and he was alone".

The only companionship he had was wild animals and the angels. And the angels are... it's unspecific. It's not like Zechariah, we don't get to hear the message that Gabriel brought. We don't know who attended him, other than the angels. His support group was wild animals and angels. Some of you wish you had better support. I wish I had more people to encourage me, more people to guide me. I had more mentors, more something, more voices. Jesus had wild animals. Could we agree? Is it a stretch to say it was not an easy assignment? And everything being led by the Spirit means led to places of temptation. I think that's being led by your carnal nature, your selfish nature, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. We're not done, verse 14. "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee," so John's in prison now, he's not preaching repentance anymore.

"Jesus goes into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" His cousin is arrested for preaching, so Jesus begins his preaching season. Most of us, I'm thinking, "If they arrested me for what I'm doing, anybody want to pick up my notes and go next week? I thank the general counsel, but, you know, we got to soften this a little bit, we need another approach. Let's change our tact". John's been preaching repentance in the desert, Jesus is gonna preach repentance in the villages, in the synagogues, and ultimately on the temple mount in Jerusalem. He's not unaware, neither are his disciples, they know John's disciples, they understand. His cousin is arrested and Jesus picks up the mantle.

A very similar message, a message of repentance, very similar to what John was saying. Could we agree it's not an easy assignment? There's no reason if you're just reading the text to think it's gonna be an easy assignment. The opposition is already on the record, "We don't like that message! Don't say that! We don't want to hear that, we'll deplatform you. That's misinformation or disinformation," or maybe worse, now we've got malinformation. You know what malinformation is? It's when you say something that may be true, but it contradicts the narrative they're pushing. No, for real. It's out there. Same chapter, Mark 1. Is it easy yet? This is Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, anointed by the Spirit of God. "They went to Capernaum," that's going to be his base of operation, "when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach".

Well, that seems better. We got a little... this is his lane now. We got a synagogue, it's on the Sabbath. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He's gonna teach from the scripture, he's the author of the scripture, I mean, this is, like, push the easy button. We got this. "The people were amazed at his teaching," yeah, that's it. Go Jesus. "Because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law". Yeah, I knew if I could just get him in here. "But just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out," oh jeez. "'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!' And Jesus said sternly, 'Be quiet! Come out of him!' The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek".

First time we know of Jesus in the synagogue. He's in a synagogue in the town that's going to be his base of ministry, he's building his reputation, establishing his friends, looking for support, and a demon begins to scream at him in the synagogue. I think it's a reasonable assumption that the people in the synagogue know this person. He's never screamed at the Rabbi. He's been in their homes, they've done life together, and now he's screaming at Jesus, and Jesus says, "Come out of him"! Oh, do you think there might have been a little tension in the room? Just a little bit, a little nugget there. Just maybe. It's not a great way to begin your ministry in a new synagogue.

Jesus is required to deal with the demonic resistance at the outset of his ministry. The first synagogue we know Jesus visited, he is confronted by a demon that wants to reveal information that is not yet to be revealed. Could we agree, that's just not easy? Imagine you're gonna lead a small group, and the first night your group gets together, and you're gonna meet there first day, whenever the first time your group gathers, and you're gonna meet the, people and you're doing introductions and somebody begins to speak to you with demonic direction. Revealing things about your life you don't intend to be revealed. Then you turn and say, "In Jesus's name come out of them". How many of you think the second gathering in the group might be a little light? I get it. It's not easy. We're still in Mark chapter one, "Very early in the morning," verse 35, "while it was still dark, Jesus got up, he left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed, 'Everyone's looking for you.'"

Very different context, but folks, Jesus got up when it's still dark and went by himself to pray. That's not easy. "Well, maybe he was an early morning person". Stop it. It'd been easier to pray at noon. It would have been easier to pray later in the morning, after all, he doesn't have a day job. He's not working the line at Nissan. He got up while it was still dark, alone. He needed time with the Father to pray. We have a hard time making time, space in our lives to pray, period. We say things like, "Well, I just don't pray". Or, "I don't know how to pray. I've never been one of those praying people". We got all sorts of things we plug in there. Is it just fair to say at this point it's not an easy assignment? Jesus, up early, before everybody else is up. It's dark, he goes off to a solitary place to pray. It's not an easy assignment.

Same chapter, verse 39, "He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons". Apparently, it was required almost every place he went. "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you're willing, you can make me clean.'" Awkward. "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I'm willing, be clean!' Leprosy left him. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell anyone. This is between us, just don't tell anybody. Go show yourself to the priest.' Instead the man went out and began to tell everybody, spreading the news". There's a pattern emerging here, Jesus has consistent, persistent demonic resistance. A leper interrupts him with challenging circumstances, in a very public way. After the healing he says, "Don't tell anybody," and the man tells everyone.

I think we could agree, that's disappointing when you help someone and they ignore whatever direction you gave them. "Yes, I'll give you $100, just don't buy beer and cigarettes". When you're standing in the grocery store and they come by with a cart filled with beer and cigarettes. How many of you think you'd think, "Oh, bless you. Would you like another $100"? Why do you think it's different for us than it would have been in this context? Again, it's Jesus's ministry called by God, anointed by the Spirit of God. It's challenging, it isn't comfortable. "If you're willing, you can make me clean". "But don't tell anybody". It's not an easy assignment. Mark chapter 2, maybe it's gonna get better. Where's my clock? Oh, I got three minutes. I'll stop when the ice thaws. "Some men came, bringing to Jesus a paralytic". Do you wonder if Jesus prayed for anybody with the sniffles? I mean, he's got demonized people and people with uncurable skin diseases and paralytics, do you wonder if anybody just ever said, "Pray for me, my kids are driving me nuts".

So four friends carry him, they couldn't get to Jesus because of the crowds, they made an opening in the roof, you know the story. "They let the man down in front of Jesus from above. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' Now," now is a timing word, it's a change of direction, and this is Mark chapter 2. It's only the second chapter, but they're introducing a new set of antagonists, a new set of problems. We've seen sickness and disease, we've seen the Jewish governor that hated a message of holiness and purity, but now we're being introduced to a new antagonist. Mark says, "Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'"

So now they're going after his message. "Your message is blasphemy! We don't care if you heal the lepers, we don't care if you cast out demons, but you are so far off track, you're illegitimate. You're beyond the pale, you shouldn't be listened to. You should be shut down, you should be deplatformed, you should be canceled. No one should listen to you. We're the leaders, we're the experts, we're the power brokers". All of that is contained in this passage. "Why does this fellow talk like this? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit this is what they were thinking in their hearts, so he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?'"

That would cause most people to feel a little anxious. You might hit the pause button. "'Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"? But that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...' He said to the paralytic, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' And he got up, he took his mat and he walked out in full view of them all. And they were amazed". So the response at this point is amazement. They're startled. "We questioned his authority, we questioned his legitimacy, we questioned his intellect, we questioned his orthodoxy. He doesn't teach like people we've known before. He does things we've never seen. This shouldn't be right, this can't be right, but now this man is healed".

He has influential critics looking for reasons to accuse him, to discount, diminish, or to silence completely Jesus. Rather than look, celebrate the good things that he's doing and the good things that are happening to their constituents, to the people that they have been trained and prepared and have said they will serve, they're looking for flaws in the messenger. Can we say it's not an easy assignment? Is that fair? Let's skip to your last passage of scripture. If you write the notes, you have some latitude. This is Mark chapter 3, we're not past the 3rd chapter yet, in fact, this is just the beginning of the 3rd chapter, but there's an escalation in what's happening. "Another time Jesus went into the synagogue," by now, we know this is habit and routine and often there's demonic resistance. "He goes into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus".

Some went actually to worship. Some went because it was the Sabbath. Some went because they knew Jesus was going, and they were there to watch him to see if he would do anything wrong. That's a difficult way to do ministry. That's a difficult way to do anything. "So they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath," because we certainly don't want you doing that on the Sabbath. "And Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' And Jesus asked him, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent". They knew the answer, but the answer didn't suit them, it didn't help their agenda. We've been spinning the truth for a long time. But if there was a parallel in that 1st century and there's a parallel in the 21st century, it's there was a God opportunity on the table and the hardness of the hearts of the people, they forfeited the God opportunity and they got the judgment of God.

I do not want that to be the outcome for this generation. And so, I believe the message has to be pointed at God's people, we're the difference makers. "So he looked around at them in anger," this is Jesus, "deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, and he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored". You would think at that point there'd be a little celebratory something. "Woo"! Something. "Hallelujah"! Something. And Mark reports in verse 6, "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus". Between chapter 2 and chapter 3 we escalate from their thoughts questioning him saying, "He's a heretic. We gotta make him be quiet".

By the beginning of the 3rd chapter in Mark's Gospel, they're saying, "We gotta kill him. We will shut him down". These are the most powerful people in the story. They're not the lunatic friends, these aren't the crazy people that are being manipulated by somebody else. These are powerful, influential, wealthy people, and they're saying, "We will kill him". So now you understand how we get further in the narrative. We get almost three years into the story, and Jesus is headed back to Jerusalem and his friends are going, "He's crazy. He has taken leave of his senses. We're afraid. We gotta go with him, but we're afraid".

How did we arrive at a gospel that is wrapped in easy believism and comfort and convenience? And if we don't wanna do it, we don't do it. I have an invitation for you. We're beginning a new year, it's a year of turmoil. It's a year when there will be tremendous forces of confusion unleashed. It's a year of great change, and I believe it's a year of almost unprecedented opportunity. So here's the invitation, let's decide this year, more than any year in our lives, in the context of our faith: let's do difficult. Let's do difficult. The only easy day, that was yesterday. We used easy up, now let's go what we need to do. Let's go be a voice of one who we need to be. Let's go to Jerusalem when we need to. Let's go to the synagogue when we know our antagonist will be there. Let's take Jesus.

I brought you a proclamation. Each of the statements were taken from scripture, I didn't bring you all the verses 'cause I was out in space. You can check me. Let's stand together. If you're gonna follow Jesus, you can't just follow him to the covered dish dinner. You can't just follow him to the worship service. If you're gonna follow Jesus, you gotta follow him to Jerusalem. Let's make this set of statements together. Let's begin to put a context to our year. You ready? If you're at home, say 'em with us.

I have decided to follow Jesus. I will take up my cross daily. I will run with perseverance the race marked out for me. I intend to run in such a way as to get the prize. I will throw off every hindrance and any sin which might entangle. I choose to say no to ungodliness and yes to obedience. I offer myself as a living sacrifices for the purposes of Almighty God, amen.

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