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Andy Stanley - What Jesus Meant by Good News


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Andy Stanley - What Jesus Meant by Good News

So one day Jesus is teaching and he was surrounded by religious leaders for the most part, and they're always trying to trick him. We're gonna talk a lot about that, it's so fascinating. This sort of running gun battle between Jesus and the religious leaders, and all four Gospels document this. But on this one particular occasion, as was probably often the case, we just don't know. There was one guy in the audience who was really, really sincere, and was listening hard and Jesus was kind of getting to him. And Jesus had just finished debating with the religious leaders about the feasibility of life after death, because there was a group of religious leaders that said, "We're just here to entertain God, we're here for the goodness of God, and then when you die, it's over".

This teacher was impressed with the mind-bending logic of Jesus as it related life after death. So he's so impressed with Jesus' answer, he raises his hand, he kind of loses himself, and he asked a sincere question, and he asked a question, if you grew up in church, you've heard this before. He said, "Jesus, of all the commands, because there are so many in Torah, which one of the commands do you think is most important"? And this was a question specifically about priorities.

In other words, Jesus, of all the things we could do, of all the values, of all the things that we've been told to do, what's most important because, you know this, when values collide and every single one of us have experienced this season in life or decision in life where our values collide, like this is valuable and this is valuable but I gotta make a decision. And when values collide, we have to prioritize, because everything can't be the most important thing. So he says, "Jesus, of all the commands, of all the things, which one is most important"? And Jesus begins with sort of the Sunday school answer or the church answer to this question, because this was not the first time anyone had asked this question.

And Jesus says back to this gentleman and back to the audience what they've heard so many times, he says, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one", and they knew what was coming next. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. And then Jesus leaves the script, and he says, "And the second", or in some translations, and the second one is like that one, the second one is this, the second one being this isn't second in importance, this is just second in sequence, and the Greek here indicates that Jesus is saying, "What I'm about to tell you next is as important as the first one. You asked for one but there's not one, there's two, and together these two are the one. And the second is this, love your neighbor as yourself".

And then Jesus says this, "There is no greater commandment", singular, even though there's two, there is no greater commandment than these. Now, the teacher's response, the teacher who asked the question, his response is really kind of funny and we miss this, but here's what he says, because he considers Jesus a peer, he doesn't know who he was talking about, to rather, this is just another rabbi who's gotten a big crowd, but he's just a human being. So this teacher says to Jesus, imagine this, "Well said, teacher", the man replied. Good job, what was your name again, Jesus, good job, Jesus, you got it right, we're peers.

Imagine saying to Jesus, "Good job, good answer". This is what he's saying. I think Jesus must have smiled. He said, "Well said, teacher", talking about Jesus. The man replied, "You are right", there it is again, Jesus you're right. Jesus thinking, "Of course I'm right, but I'll go along with this". You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. And then this teacher begins to sort of just emote all these things he's had on his mind and his heart for a long time. He's finally found somebody who agrees with him. "To love God", he says, To love God with all your heart and with all of your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself".

Then he says this, "Even I know", and maybe he's kind of outing himself in front of the audience. He says, "I know that all of those two things are more important than, more important than". In other words, if we have to prioritize things, if everything can't be most important and I have to decide what's most important, Jesus I think you've given us the right answer. Those things are more important than and this teacher agrees with Jesus' priorities. This man in this moment, even though he doesn't know who Jesus is, he actually recognizes and has embraced Jesus' value system. He says, "Those things are more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices".

Now, this guy doesn't know who Jesus is yet, but he's on a trail, he's on a track, he's on a path, and Jesus recognizes if this man will continue to follow this logic, and if this man will continue on this path, and if this man will continue to think the way he's thinking, he is in for the surprise of his life. And he's gonna arrive at a destination that will change his life forever. And the text says that when Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, that he had thought it through, that he put two and two together. And, again, we don't know what happened physically, but I picture in this moment Jesus leaning in, maybe calling him forward out of the crowd, and whispering just to this one gentleman, not everyone in the audience, "You are not far from the kingdom of God". You are not far from the kingdom of God, which means, the kingdom of God is not far from you.

For the next few weeks, I wanna tell you a true story. It's a true story that should have died in Nero's Rome, but it didn't. It is the story of Jesus as narrated by Simon Peter, Jesus' most famous apostle, the Apostle Peter. Now, Peter's story for Peter is an embarrassing story, it's a story that just does not make him look very good over and over and over, and yet he tells this story, and he told this story for 30 years. He followed Jesus for Jesus' entire earthly ministry, and then for the next about 30 years Peter traveled around telling his story, and the reason he told it anyway. And the reason he documented his greatest failures is because Peter's story was part of the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus of Nazareth. And when Peter documents his story, he's in his 50s.

Again, he has followed Jesus when Jesus was on planet earth, and then for the next 30 years he traveled around in and out of trouble, dodging being arrested over and over, suffering for his faith in Jesus, being beaten for his faith in Jesus. So for 30 years he's told his story. Any time he would enter a village or a town, he would be invited into the homes of Christians or curious people or God-fearing Gentiles, who'd say, "What was it like? What did he say? What was he like up close? And tell us your story, tell us about the time when, tell us about the time when, tell us about the time when". And so know he's imprisoned in Rome, he's awaiting a trial, Nero's Rome. And chances are he knows that he will not leave this city alive, and so he decides to tell his story one last time. But not to an audience of many, to an audience of one, his traveling companion John Mark. We know him as Mark, the Gospel writer Mark.

Now, Peter was an uneducated man. He did not have formal education, we know that, and if he was like 90% of the people that lived in rural areas, he could not read or write. It's possible he could read a little bit, but it's virtually impossible to think that he was able to write, because as you know writing takes practice and writing takes time, and in this world that they lived in there was not time to practice, and besides that, writing utensils were expensive, so if he could read at all, he certainly couldn't write. And he was a fisherman, he was a fisherman who became a fisher of men. And in the first century, he was a big fish because he was the leader of the church, and now Nero had him. And Mark knows that the story of Peter, and the experience of Peter with Jesus is not simply a story for his generation, it's a story for every generation.

So one last time, Peter has travel I mean, excuse me, Mark has traveled with Peter for the last year or two, at least, he's heard him tell these stories over and over, perhaps he's written some of them down. But now they're in Rome together, and he coaxes his story out of Peter one last time, and it comes to us as the Gospel of Mark. It's chaotic, it's out of order, in some cases there is excruciating detail, because he's a fisherman. He's a storyteller, he's not a teacher, he's not been trained at teaching, so he just calls up these memories. It's out of order, there's parables, there's conversation, then it skips over, it's chronologically out of order.

But it's just like somebody who's downloading their experience, and Mark is taking it in as fast as he can to make sure that the next generation and the generation after that would know these extraordinary stories from the lips of someone who spent time with Jesus. And Peter, interestingly enough, begins his account with his conclusion. It's almost like he says, "Look, I don't know if we're gonna get to the end so let's eat dessert first". Life is uncertain, begin with dessert. Hey, I don't know how much time I have, Mark. I don't know how long we're gonna have this time together. I don't know how many times we're gonna get to sit down with each other.

So let me just begin with the conclusion. So as I read from the Gospel of Mark coming from the lips of Peter, this is so important, especially if you're not a believer, you're not a Christian, or maybe you used to be, you lost faith, or whatever reason. In fact, if you were to tell us your story of how you lost faith, I think all of us would say, wow, if that had happened to me, if I'd heard that, if that's what I'd been told, I would probably have lost faith as well, so that's not a criticism. But if for whatever reason you're back, or for whatever reason you're curious, what I'm about to say next maybe the most important thing I say to you today.

As I read this text and as we read this text together, please don't hear me reading the Bible. Mark wasn't writing the Bible. Mark was documenting Peter's experience with Jesus, this is two men sitting perhaps in a cell or in a home together. Their time is limited and Mark is like, "Just dump it out and I'll write it down". These are the experiences of someone in the first century who spent two and a half to three years with Jesus, and then spent 30 years recounting these stories even though his life was at risk almost every single day following.

Now, when we get to certain parts of Peter's story and when Mark begins to document some of this, our modern sensibilities, we're gonna kind of roll our eyes at points, and say, "Peter, wait, wait, wait, seriously, you expect me to believe this. Peter, really that happened"? To which Peter would shrug and say, "Hey, look, I'm just telling you what happened". This is not something I read about. This is not something I was told about. This is something I heard myself. This is something I saw with my very own eyes. And the stories I'm telling you, these are the reasons I'm in chains, and it's also the reason I have no fear, and it's also the reason I can say with confidence that God is near, and not only is he near me, he is near you, it is why I've spent my life retelling these stories over and over and over, and I hope my story makes it out of Nero's Rome, and I hope it makes it into the next generation. Little did he know 2000 years later we would be reading the account of his time and his life with Jesus of Nazareth.

So here's how he begins. He begins with the end, he says, "Mark, here it is, here's the best way to say it". The beginning the beginning, the beginning, the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, Mark 1:1. To which again, us modern skeptics would say, "Wait, wait, wait, we have to stop you already Peter, wait. I just wanna make sure we're not reading this incorrectly". You actually believe you actually believe that your rabbi you actually believe this man that you had meals with, you actually believe this man that you spent time with, that you actually believe this man that you saw on his worst days and his best days, you're absolutely convinced all these years later that he was the Son of God? Are you sure, I mean, come on, Peter, you're in Rome, you're awaiting probably execution? Are you so sure you are right about who you believe this man is, and he would just smile, and say, "Am I sure? I was there".

Listen, I was there when I saw this with my own eyes. When they hurled their insults at him, this is something he would write later for Christians, or he'd written earlier for Christians. When they hurled their insults at him, I was there. He didn't even retaliate. Am I sure? When he suffered he made no threats. In fact, I saw this with my eyes over and over and over, he entrusted himself, he entrusted himself. This is what Peter is gonna call us to do later. He entrusted himself to him who judges justly. Peter would say, "Listen, are you kidding, when he was arrested, I resisted his arrest".

He didn't resist his arrest, I resisted his arrest, but he just entrusted himself to the hands and the providence of his heavenly Father. And am I sure, of course, I'm sure, because even though I didn't understand it at the time, as I stood in the back of that crowd with tears streaming down my face, thinking, "I've been deceived, all hope is gone, all hope is lost", I was there, I saw it that he bore our sins. I didn't understand it at the time. Later it all comes together for us, so of course I'm sure. This is why I've spent 30 years talking about it. He bore our sins. Peter would say, "He bore my sin". And I gotta tell ya, there was some times when I was with Jesus, I didn't know that I was such a sinner now.

Now, we met some sinners, in fact, one of the most difficult things about following Jesus were the people he kept inviting to follow us. And I thought I was so much better than many of those people but at the end I realized what a sinner I was, and I was there when he bore my sins in his body on the cross. Am I sure? Absolutely I'm sure because I've experienced over these 30 years that he has given us new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection from the dead. Of course, I'm sure, I had conversations with my living, breathing, resurrected Savior and rabbi, I peered into the empty tomb, so yes I'm confident, and no we haven't lost, actually we're winning.

I've been fishing for men and women for 30 years, and the Gospel is spreading all around the empire, all around the Mediterranean Rim, in provinces, in towns, in villages all over this known world, men and women are gathering in the mornings and the afternoons to worship the resurrected Savior, so yes I'm convinced, and no I wouldn't have chosen this for my end, but I'm not about to give up hope now, I can't, not because of what I believe, it's way better than that, because of what I've seen and what I've experienced. And it's spreading now, he would say.

Let me get back to my story, one of the first times that I actually heard Jesus teach he was sitting next to me on my boat, and then Mark is like, "Okay, we're gonna get the story of how you met Jesus". And then Peter leaves it, he just can't stay with the storyline, again, he's just all over the place. He just tells stories. And instead of describing the incident in detail, he skips it and he goes right to the bottom line of Jesus' message. He goes right to the sort of the big idea, and it's easy for us to miss, because when we read the Gospels we kind of get fascinated with the chaos of the story.

In fact, our challenge in reading the Bible, if you read the Bible is that when you read the Bible we read it devotionally basically, we don't like to follow the storyline unless it's an Old Testament story and it's kind of encapsulated into a couple of chapters. When we read the Bible we go looking for application. What do I do? We read the Bible, we look for inspiration, how can I find hope in the midst of a difficult time? Or we go looking for direction, God I need to make a decision. Pick it up, open it, we're gonna show me what to do.

So we like the story of the prodigal son, because God forgives and God is like the father who took the son back. We don't wanna be like the older brother. We like the story of the woman caught in adultery, because Jesus forgives her and says, "Don't sin anymore". He doesn't allow the religious people to condemn her. We love that story. We love the story of the good Samaritan, because this person shows mercy to someone who may not have shown him mercy, and it's like a great example for all of us. But those are just illustrations of the bigger picture. Those are just illustrations of the overarching message of Jesus pointing to this broader more cohesive message. Those are just illustrations that point to the big idea of the message of Jesus.

And the individual narratives that we love, some of our favorite stories in the New Testament, are all like puzzle pieces that fit into a grand picture or a grand narrative. And at the very outset of his story as he's giving, dumping his story out, and it's being coaxed out of him by Mark, he decides that he wants us to know how all the pieces fit together at the very beginning. There's a sense in which he holds up the lid to the puzzle box to say, "Hey, when I'm finished with my account, this is what it's gonna look like". This is the context for everything that follows.

Now, back to us for a minute. See, when I was growing up, and if you grew up in church like I did, I grew up in a great church. If somebody has asked me growing up, or maybe even in college, "Hey, Andy, what's the big idea of Christianity, what's the big idea of Jesus"? I would've said what many of you would say. Well, the big idea of Christianity is that Jesus died for my sin, and if I put my faith in him I get to go to heaven when I die. Oh yeah, and in the meantime I'm supposed to be a good boy or a good college student, or a good husband, or a good father. So Jesus died for my sin, I mean, that's what it's all about. And then if I put my faith in Jesus I get to go to heaven. In the meantime, I just need to behave myself.

And if we had said to Peter, "Peter, we don't even need you to tell us what the big idea is, we know the big idea. Jesus died for our sin, we put our faith in Jesus, and then when we die we go to heaven, I mean, we got it". And Peter would've looked at you like you're crazy, not because that's not true, but because that's not the point, so right up front Peter let's us know, here is the point, here is the big picture. "If you don't hear anything else I say", Peter would say, "If we get interrupted, if I'm executed before I finish my story, please understand this is what the arrival of Jesus was all about". And yes it's personal, and yes there is an eternal component, but there is something for you in the here and now. You can live every single day of your life with this assurance that God is near. So, he says, "Okay, Mark, let's back up, after John the Baptist, after John the Baptist was put into prison Jesus went into Galilee".

Now real quick, how many of you love maps? Any map lovers, you love maps. My wife loves maps, yeah maps, so we're gonna use a map in this series and here's why, here this is super important. This is kind of the holy land, the way we think about the holy land, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Jordan River, got it, Mediterranean Sea, everything got your bearings. What's so interesting the way that Peter tells this story is he basically takes Jesus after John has been beheaded. John the Baptist baptized somewhere around here. If you got up way early in the morning, you cold walk from Jerusalem to where John was baptizing but you would get there after dark. It was a long way, it's a long walk.

So John the Baptist is baptizing somewhere down here on the Jordan River. He's arrested and he's actually put into one of Herod's prisons, and it's somewhere down here in the desert. When this happens, Jesus begins to make his way all the way back up to Galilee and all the way back into this region right up here above the Sea of Galilee. So after John was put into prison, Jesus makes his way to the top of the Sea of Galilee, and all along the way Peter tells us, "He was proclaiming the good news of God", which is and again here is where we get confused, because if I were to say to you, "What's the good news of God"? We would all give the same answer.

Well, the good news of God is that Jesus came to this earth and died for my sins, and if I put my faith in him I get to go to heaven when I die. But that wasn't Jesus' message, because that hadn't happened yet. In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus, as we're gonna see in this series, that Peter is gonna make it so clear to us. The death and the resurrection of Jesus simply punctuated what Jesus taught throughout his earthly ministry, and what he taught throughout his earthly ministry is to impact the way we live our lives on planet earth, because God is near.

So here's the message, here's the message that Peter heard Jesus preach over and over and over. Here's what Jesus said everywhere he went all the way from the Jordan River Valley all the way up to Galilee and all around the Sea of Galilee, and eventually in the city of Capernaum here was the message that Jesus taught. "The time has come", Jesus said. The time has time, in other words, the world has been waiting for this. The world has been looking for this. Everything in every pagan religion and everything in the Jewish religion actually pointed to this moment in time for what's about to happen on planet earth. Everything before was preparation, everything before was a hint, everything before was foreshadowing. The time has come, are you ready for this? The kingdom of God has come near. The kingdom of God, God's kingship, that's the best way to understand the phrase kingdom of God, God's kingship, his rule, his right to rule.

The kingdom is near because the king is in town. And wherever the king goes, the kingdom goes with him. To which Peter would have stopped and said, "And I'm telling you, the first time I heard Jesus preach this I didn't know what he was about". What do you mean, the kingdom is now, the kingdom is here. I mean, Rome is here. We haven't been an independent state in hundreds of years. I mean, what do mean the kingdom of God is here? I thought the kingdom of God was the kingdom of Israel, and very quickly we understood Jesus is talking about something entirely different. He wasn't talking about a future event. This was no longer something we were to hope for, to look for.

He was saying, "The future is now, this is fulfillment". It's a kingdom without borders. It's a kingdom without a common language or even a common ancestry. We would discover later that the kingdom of God was a kingdom of the heart. It was a kingdom of conscience. It was a kingdom of conscience, informed by the teachings of a king who had come to reverse the order of just about everything. And in fact, Peter is gonna tell us that time after time we sat and listened to Jesus teach, and we would think, "Surely, you don't mean that? Surely, you can't be saying that"? And when we would withdraw from the crowds, we would say, "Jesus, explain that to us, did we hear you right"? And throughout their time with Jesus they had such a difficult time like we do, because they'd grown up with an understanding of what authority was and what a kingdom was about.

And now he was introducing the kingdom of God and they were so different. He was a different kind of king introducing a different kind of kingdom, a kingdom that is now, not in the future, because the king had come to town. A kingdom, as he let that teacher know at the beginning of the message, a kingdom where loving God and loving others was the ultimate priority. And he would say, Peter would say, "This is the picture into which all the pieces fit, including the final piece, the death of a king, the death of a king who came to give his life for his subjects instead of requiring his subjects to give their life for him".

We miss this, but the arrival of Jesus was the beginning of a brand new age, a brand new era, the old was passing away, something new had come, something better had come. It would culminate in a brand new covenant that we'll talk about in the end of this series, a brand new covenant, a new arrangement between God and all of mankind. In fact, one of the shocking things for Peter and the disciples was, when Jesus introduced the new covenant, he didn't say it's a new covenant between God and Israel. He said, "This is a new covenant between God and many, between God and the world".

And, again, they weren't as shocked at the end as they would've been at the beginning, because throughout his time and throughout his teaching, Peter saw Jesus continue to open, open, open, open, open, open the gates of this new kingdom and invite all kinds of people to participate in it. But there's a gotcha. The good news of the arrival of the king who came to establish a brand new kind of kingdom, it required something, and the message that Jesus, we're taught over and over, and the message that Peter heard and teach over and over, the message that Peter puts right up front so we don't miss in case he doesn't get to finish his story, two imperatives, two imperatives or two thou shalts that no one should take seriously, no one should try to apply until you get to the end of the story, because it's just too much without knowing how the story ends.

He said, "Here are the two things that you have to do". The time has come", he said. This is Jesus message, this is his whole sermon reduced down to a few sentences. "The time has come", Jesus said, "The kingdom of God has come near". And what's our response? Peter said, "We heard it over and over and over". Jesus was saying to the audience, "Repent, repent, repent, and believe the good news". Now, when we see the word repent, we immediately hear you see a prophet rattling and shaking and calling thunderbolts out of the sky, repent, repent, you shall not pass, repent. Anybody get that? Anyway, repent, and so we think about repent as turning away from sin.

Peter says, "It can mean that and there were times when it meant that, but that was not the point of Jesus' message". That was John the Baptist's message, get ready, get ready, get ready, something great is coming. The great that was coming was now here, and when Jesus said repent, he was saying, "Look, I want you to change your way of thinking, I want you to change your worldview, I want you to turn in a different direction, I want you to turn in the direction of a brand new kingdom with a brand new kind of king that is establishing itself on planet Earth, because you've been invited to participate in it, and until you change your mind, and until you change your worldview, and until you embrace this, you're gonna miss it".

Embrace this radical new way of viewing the world. Embrace this radical new way of viewing yourself, and embrace this radical new way of understanding and experiencing the presence of God because the kingdom is near and you're not far. Then it uses this interesting Greek word, he says, "And I want you to believe". It means, "I want you", Jesus would say, "Not only do I want you to believe that it has happened and that it has come, I want you to entrust yourself to it and with it. I want you to give yourself to it. I want you to fully surrender and submit to the new worldview, and the new rules of this brand new kingdom led by a brand new king". And what this change of direction and trust entailed was the focus of the rest of Peter's account of his time with Jesus.

But, again, one thing would become abundantly, painfully clear, in fact, what became abundantly, painfully clear may be the best news for you, depending on where you are in your life and what's going on right now. What became abundantly clear and it was so disturbing to Peter, and it was so disturbing to Andrew and to James and to John was that this brand new kingdom, one thing about this brand new kingdom, was that everybody was invited to participate in it. Now, again, Peter is just chaotic, when you read Mark he's kind of all over the place.

So I think Mark is, he's trying to get this down, he's trying to put it is some sort of chronological order. He's like, "Peter, stop with all the introduction, go back, tell everybody how did it happen that you became one of Jesus' disciples. You spent all of your time with him when Jesus was on earth, you spent the last 30 years talking about it, so how did this start"? And I think Peter probably sat back, and said, "Oh yeah, the day that changed everything, here's how it happened". "Jesus was actually walking beside the Sea of Galilee, not too far from where I live", Peter would say. He was walking along beside the Sea of Galilee, and he saw Simon Peter and he saw his brother Andrew casting their nets into the lake. Peter said, "We're casting our nets into the lake, because we were fisherman, and Jesus just walks up to us", according to Peter's synopsis of this occasion, and says, "Hey, come, follow me, and I'm gonna send you out, Peter, to fish for people". And Peter says, "And when Jesus invited us to follow him, we just dropped our nets and followed".

Peter smiled because he knew there was more to this story. But for whatever reason, Peter doesn't wanna focus on Peter, and he skips the details, he skips the details that Luke captures for us that there was more to the story, because before Peter dropped everything to follow Jesus, he actually took Jesus fishing. Peter's like, "That's not important, we gotta get back to the main storyline". And I wasn't the only one, because after we'd walked a little bit further, he saw some friend of mine, and when he had gone a little further he saw James.

And maybe, I don't know, when Peter says, James, maybe he pauses, because about 20 years before Peter gives his account to Mark, James had been executed by Herod, one of Herod the Great's sons. And Peter had to have felt a little bit of remorse, because there was this strange incident where James had been taken prisoner by Herod Agrippa. I think it was Herod Agrippa. And decides to have James executed, one of Jesus' apostles, and then everybody the people who were anti-Christian at the time, anti-this new Nazarene sect were so excited that Herod actually killed one of Jesus' apostles, he has Peter arrested, and Peter, of course, assumes, and all the Christian community assumed that if they took out James they were gonna take out Peter.

And Peter was miraculously freed, and Peter thinks back and he wonders, like you wonder and I wonder, why me, why not him, why him, why not me? And suddenly the normal mystery of the randomness of life, things that don't make any sense they settle in over Peter, and yet it did not undermine his faith, because a king had come and a brand new kingdom had come, and he had not been called to understand it, he had been called to embrace it. And he says, "30 years later, it's still the thing I'm most excited about, 30 years later I'm more confident than ever, 30 years after losing James, 30 years after losing multiple of my friend, 30 years wondering when is the world gonna wake up and realize what's happened, I'm still confident, because of what I saw, because of what I heard".

He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. And without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat, wish we knew more about story, with the hired men and they followed him. And Peter could've added, "And, Mark, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but how could we say no, the king had come". They went to Capernaum, they walked over to this major kind of city right here at the top of the Sea of Galilee, they went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and they went with him, and they'd been to synagogue their whole lives. They knew exactly what the protocol was.

In fact, this was probably their synagogue, because their little town was so small, it probably didn't have one. They show up with this new Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth to the synagogue and they know pretty much everybody there, in fact, they know their families. I used to date her sister. This is like a very small community, everybody knows everybody, and for whatever reason the people who ran that particular synagogue asked Jesus if he would like to speak, he's the new rabbi in town, and Peter says, "It was unbelievable, it was unbelievable". It wasn't just unbelievable to me.

This is what happened, Mark write this down, the people were amazed at his teaching. We'd heard teaching all our life. We had heard Torah all of our life. We've been over and over most of us had memorized so much of this. But when Jesus stood to teach, it was like we were hearing it for the very first time, because he taught not as they did, but as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. And it was so extraordinary that news about him spread quickly, and the whole region, the entire region of Galilee heard about the new rabbi from Nazareth. And so it began.

Now, I don't know what kind of religious home or what kind of religion you were raised in or brought up in, if any, maybe none at all. And, obviously, I don't know what version of Christianity you were raised in, and as you know there are multiple versions and approaches to Christianity, but here's what Peter who spent time with Jesus, and then spent 30 years living it out would have you know and have me know that the arrival of Jesus was good news. So if your version of Christianity is not good news, you don't have Peter's version.

If the version of Christianity was such not good news that you left it a long time ago, or you left it recently, my hunch is this, Peter would say, "If it was that easy to leave, if it was that easy to walk away from, if it was that easy to stop believing, would you just give me one opportunity to let you know what my version looked like, because it's not something I heard about, it's something I experienced". And the reason Peter would say it's such good news is because God came near, which means you are never far, that God came near to establish something here and the here and now, and whether you recognize it or not, realize it or not, feel it or not, you are not far, and if you have doubts, I understand that, but we're just getting started.

And I think Peter would raise his hand, and say, "Can I say something"? I'd say, "Sure, Peter", Peter would say, "Look, if you've had doubts, let me tell you, I had doubts as well. If you've walked away, you need to understand that's part of my story, I walked away as well, and then I experienced the mercy of the king", but that comes later. For now, it's enough to know that the time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. The question for you, the question for me is will we turn in that direction, will be open enough to explore, would we be willing to turn in this direction and repent and believe the good news? And if so, everything changes. And we will pick the storyline up there next time in part two of "You're Not Far".
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