Steven Furtick — Before And After
God does not validate how people validate, because people will validate you based on what you do for them, but God does not validate based on performance. He validates based on relationship. And just in case you haven't heard it in a while, and you feel kinda like you don't belong in the presence of God. I want you to know you're still His child, you're still bought with His blood. Every drop He spilled was on purpose, and one of those drops had your name on it. God will never love you any more.
I decided to preach a series called "Savage Jesus". Why I did it is because I'm tired of us pretending like Jesus is safe, and one reason I wanted to use the term savage Jesus is because I knew that religious people wouldn't like it. We typically like our heroes better safe, and we typically like them better after they're dead. You notice that sometimes don't you? That the way that we present our heroes is that we prefer a certain version of them that is safe, that doesn't offend us. And so when you forget that, when you sanitize somebody down to the point that you try to make them... almost like we make them a mascot.
You ever see those little toys where you pull the string and they have few sayings that they say, and there's like five things that they say. I'm afraid we've done that with Jesus. I'm afraid that we've got it down to the point now where we have a few things that Jesus said, you know, love people, and turn the other cheek, and you know a few little things — images of Jesus. Shepherd Jesus with the pull string and He says nice, comforting things. Just little Jesus that we put on the shelf and He says the things that we wanna hear.
You even hear people sometimes, they'll say, "Well that doesn't sound very much like Jesus". Did you ever read some of the things that Jesus really said? Jesus was more than free hugs, and warm feelings. Jesus was — are you ready? A savage. Jesus walked in church one day, the poor people were being exploited by being sold sacrifices at a marked up price, and they could not afford them, and so they were excluded from worship because the temple had become more about profit and power than it had about the presence of God. Do you know what Jesus did? He prayed about it. Oh, oh, oh. He posted on Pinterest about it. This is not Pinterest Jesus, this Jesus started kicking over tables. He ripped out the ATM machines, He drove out the tax collectors with a whip. Put that on Pinterest.
Woe to you Pharisees, blind guides, strain out a gnat, swallow a camel. You're of your father the devil. I never saw that on a coffee mug. You are of your father — "I am the way, the truth, and the life". We like that Jesus. Jesus was a savage. He answered them not a word because He was the word. He got so mad at death that He decided to overturn it. He got so cramped in His grave that after the price had been paid, after He had done what needed to be done, He kick — watch how savage — He kicked the end off of a borrowed grave. Why borrowed? He wasn't gonna be there long. He was a savage.
When He got up — I gotta show you one thing, and I should save this for Easter, but the Bible says that He folded the linen they had wrapped Him in, He was so savage that He folded it, because when you fold a linen at a meal, it means I will be back. When He comes back He's not coming back like a lamb, He is the lion of the tribe of Judah, and I feel His presence in this place.
So let's get started in this series, Mark 1:1-15 records these words, "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 desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.'" Interesting that Mark does not start with the birth of Jesus Christ. Wonder if he does that so that we will not be so attached to our image of Him as a baby?
Do you remember that movie with the race car driver — do you remember? He said, "I like the baby Jesus the best". A lot of us do. We worship a certain version of Jesus. Well Mark isn't going to give us that portrait of Jesus, and it's correctly called a portrait because scholars say that Mark's gospel is not only the oldest gospel, from which the other gospel writers would take the base information and add their own commentary, but one of the things about Mark's gospel that we will notice because I plan to host our entire study from this gospel account, is that he wrote in terms of action, and you don't get in this gospel a lot of the commentary about what Jesus actually taught. You get more of a picture.
The scholar that I studied said that Mark writes with a paintbrush. He would rather show you than tell you. Because the highest level of proclamation of the gospel is demonstration, not explanation. Some people can explain to you all about propitiation and atonement, but they're so mean to their wife that why would I want a Jesus that can't keep you from treating your family like crap? And so Mark is going to show us portraits of Jesus.
We will be looking at at least five or six in this series. But he starts it off, and he goes to this scene in verse 4, "And so John came..". "And so John came baptizing in the desert region, and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean countryside, and all the people of Jerusalem went out to Him confessing their sins. They were baptized by him in the Jordan River".
John was a savage, he wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild gluten loaded honey. And this was his message, "'After me will come one more powerful than I.'" After me will come one more powerful than I. "'The thongs of whom's sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.' At that time Jesus came from Nazareth and Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw Heaven being torn open, and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, "You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased".
Once the Spirit sent Him out 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. After John was put in prison Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good new of God. "The time has come", he said, "the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news".
I want use this as a construct for this first message, "Before and After". "Before and After". The way that I study scriptures, I was telling Buck the other day, I don't know if he was listening, but I was trying to explain to him between sets how I look for little words and commonalities in a text, and that's a great way for you to study the scripture as well, to observe patterns in the scripture. It'll help you know what to pay attention to, and I was noticing in this passage of scripture, in verse 4 it says, "...John came..". In verse 7 it says, "After me one will come". In verse 9 it says that, "...Jesus came..". And in verse 11 it says, "...a voice came". In verse 13 it says that the angels came. So, John came, one will come, Jesus came, a voice came, angels came.
I guess you could see we're getting a picture here of Jesus Christ on the come up and we start with this very powerful statement of validation where the father says, "You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased". But before that validation happened, there is a preparation that is mentioned. I think preparation is so important, and obviously, so does God, because when He sent His Son into the world, before He performed any miracles, before He raised any dead people, before He opened any blinded eyes, He went through the waters of baptism. And, before he went through the waters of baptism, this man called John, who was an unlikely looking preacher, who did not fit the stereotype of a how a clergyman should dress, was preparing the way for the Lord.
Now, I've broken this introductory message into four sections, the first one is called preparation. Preparation. Now, prepare the way for the Lord. And so John came to prepare the way for Jesus, and Jesus came, verse nine, from Nazareth. And Mark said this is the beginning of the gospel, but it was not the beginning of the life of Christ, the life of Christ, in its early years took place primarily in Nazareth. When I say Nazareth, it means nothing to you other than you associate it perhaps with Jesus, and it meant next to nothing to the people in Jesus' day.
In fact, Nazareth was the kind of place — now I grew up in a place that is famous for its culture and its impact. I grew up in Monks Corner, but some of you grew up in places like Nazareth. Nazareth was a no name place for no name people, so when the Bible says that Jesus came from Nazareth, it means that the Son of God and the savior of the world came from an unexpected place. John the Baptist, who many scholars associate with the tribe of the Essenes, was preparing the way in the wilderness, and Jesus was coming up in Nazareth.
Perhaps you've heard that He was a carpenter, I think it must have been a real trip to be making wood out of trees that you spoke into existence. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to make a table out of a tree that you put in the ground? The Bible says in Colossians that all things were created and sustained by the power of His word.
Yet Jesus met the first 30 in obscurity in Nazareth. Hey, they had a saying. Where are y'all from? Valdosta? Valdosta State? They had a saying about Nazareth. They would say, "Can anything good come from Nazareth"? They said that about Jesus because the authority that He spoke with did not match the background that He came from. And the works that He would do so outstripped the expectations of the people. He taught with authority, and not as one of their teachers of the law. They had a saying, "Can anything good come from Nazareth"? That no name place for no name people. That place that we don't plan our vacations to.
Jesus came from Nazareth. Not from Jerusalem. It would have made sense for Him to come from Jerusalem, the center of the temple cult. It would have made sense for Him to have come from, perhaps a place in the Roman Empire that was more empirically important, but Jesus came from Nazareth. He came from Nazareth, and the people wanted to know, "Can anything good come from Nazareth"? But it was His place of preparation. And when God has a great purpose for your life, He will often involve a season of obscurity.
Let's be honest about it, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. It's not like Jesus needed to learn what He already was, but even Jesus went through a season of obscurity before he fulfilled his purpose, and some of you are in Nazareth right now, and you're wondering the same thing that the people wondered about Jesus, "Can anything good come from Nazareth"? Can anything good come from singleness? Can anything good come from losing my job? Can anything good come from cancer? Can anything good come from middle school? Can anything good come from a broken heart? Can anything good come from depression? Can anything good come from divorce? But I love Him because He takes the most unlikely places and fulfils the greatest purpose.
And I need you to shout right now if you've ever been in Nazareth wondering, "God, what am I doing here"? Jesus came from Nazareth. Great things come from small places. New beginnings come from dead ends. Jesus came from Nazareth, it was His place of preparation. Preparation is kind of the opposite of the primary value of our day. We live in the age of instant validation instead of thinking an issue through, we post it immediately to see if we can get someone to agree or disagree with us just because we want attention.
See how quiet it gets when I preach real good? You see how they were shouting like 47 seconds ago? Did you see how quickly all the shouts dissipated from the room just because I told you the truth. There is nothing off limits, we will stage our kids instead of raising them. We're staging them for the approval of people. Stand here, shut up, smile. Stand here, shut up, smile. Cause I yelled at you all day, but if I can post something that made it look like we had a good day, maybe somebody'll tell me I'm a good mom. If it's too much come get me 'cause I don't wanna tear the church apart on the first week of the series. I was planning to do like six weeks, but I don't know if we're gonna survive the first.
Jesus came from Nazareth, and He was baptized by John. That confused me at first. So, if you're reading this and you're like, "I don't read the Bible much, but that's kinda weird. Don't you get baptized because you need to be forgiven of your sin? And isn't Jesus the one who didn't have any sin? That's what John thought. John was surprised when Jesus came to be baptized, cause you know he's lining 'em up and he's dunking 'em. And John did not — John's baptism was not like ours. You know how our baptism we let you read something and share something. John was such a savage, one time he looked at the crowd and said, "Who told you to come out here you brood of vipers"? What if when you got in the tank? Let's go to Gaston for a baptism.
Can you imagine Ken Hester telling that big boy that was in the tank today? I was so nervous Ken was gonna drop him! Imagine if he called him a snake before he dunked him. And John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He was fighting against the oppression of the system that had made principles more important that people. And so he was rebuking, really, the leaders and he'd say, "You snakes repent. You snakes repent. You snakes repent". He turns around and there's the savior of the world. "You s — Savior of the world. I shouldn't baptize you. I was just telling 'em I'm not fit to tie your shoes. This isn't right".
But Jesus said something and Mark doesn't give it to us because, probably, I really believe this — Hold on, I'm OCD and this thing's crooked. — Probably Mark was writing his recollections not based on his own personal experience. We don't even historically know who Mark was with 100% accuracy, but we have reason to believe that these recollections were based on the memory of Peter. Peter who tried so hard to keep Jesus from the cross. Peter who had an expectation of an earthly kingdom that would overthrow Rome.
And it really matches the style of Peter, that Mark's gospel would include very little detail, it's just really one thing after another, after another. His favorite word that Mark uses and you'll see it over and over again when you come back to church every week of this series, is "immediately" or "suddenly". And it's just Jesus on the move. The thing about it was that for half of Mark's Gospel, Jesus is on the move through Galilee where He did His ministry. The other half He's headed to the cross, the place He came for all along.
Peter did not understand that before, but he did after, and there's a breathlessness of this gospel that comes across because Jesus is headed to the cross, headed to His purpose, headed to redemption which makes possible reconciliation. And he has no time to waste, so we will forgive Mark if he leaves out a lot of the details, he just tells us that Jesus came, and was baptized. But Matthew tells us, because there are four gospel accounts that Jesus told John the reason that He did it, He said, "This must be done to fulfill all righteousness". In other words, it was an act of obedience.
And if there's any word that might be more unpopular than preparation in our culture, it's obedience. Nobody tells me what to do. I pray to Jesus during football games, but nobody tells me what to do. Jesus' power was in His submission to the will of His father. He said, "I've gotta do this in obedience". John said, it doesn't make sense. And Jesus said, "It doesn't have to make sense, it is written, and therefore it must be accomplished". And so John doesn't argue with Him about it, He just does it, and when he does it, the Bible says that a dove came from heaven and descended on Him. The dove is often used to symbolize peace. Here it is a symbolic indication of the presence of the Holy Spirit. And God validates the sonship of Jesus Christ.
This is different than the transfiguration, Holly. In the transfiguration, which happens many chapters later, He will say, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him". Here's it's personal. He says, "You are my son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased". It is a direct validation of Jesus' ministry, and it came after Jesus' obedience. I'm afraid that a lot of times we want validation before obedience, but validation does not come before obedience. It comes... After.
This is a message of before and after. Now, notice what hasn't happened yet. At the moment that God the Father validates His Son. Jesus has not opened the first blinded eye. Jesus has not healed anybody of leprosy or cleansed them of their condition. Jesus has not caused any lame people to walk, not at this point. Jesus has not even taught the crowds in a way that would captivate them to the point that they would stay and skip dinner just to hear what this man has to say. Jesus has not packed out the house to the point that some men will tear off a roof to get their friend in so he can be healed.
He has done none of that yet, and before He ever performs His first miracle, the Heavenly Father speaks a word of validation, and maybe you need to hear that God's love for you is never based on your performance. Before He ever did anything. It's kinda like He got the trophy before He even showed up for practice. It's kind of like God does not validate how people validate, because people will validate you based on what you do for them. People validate you based on the value that your actions carry that will contribute directly to their wellbeing, but God does not validate based on performance. He validates based on relationship. He did not validate what Jesus would do, He validated who He was.
And just in case you haven't heard it in a while, and you feel kinda dirty, and kinda ashamed of yourself, and you feel kinda like you don't belong in the presence of God. And kind of like you're not one of those good church people. I want you to know you're still His child, you're still made in His image, you're still bought with His blood. Every drop He spilled was on purpose, and one of those drops had your name on it. And if the blood was enough for me, it was enough for you. And you don't have to stand here ashamed, and look forward to one day when. God will never love you any more, than He loves you right now! You're free right now! Loved right now! Cleansed right now! Healed right now! I am His child!