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April 14, 2017: Ministry

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Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 6-7Psalm 84Mark 6:1-131 Corinthians 10:1-13

Mark 6:1-13:

A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown—Jesus was to experience this truth in his own hometown of Nazareth. Despite the fact they knew him when he was “knee high to a grass hopper,” knew that he was “the carpenter,” knew his family, instead of concluding then that his “astonishing” teaching meant that he was “more than a carpenter,” they refused to believe the evidence of their eyes or ears. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

None of us are likely to fall into exactly the same trap: Jesus did not grow up in our own hometown. But there can be a real danger of diminishing the majesty of Jesus in our minds by virtue of our proximity and familiarity with him from our growing up years. We have heard teaching about Jesus appropriate for a child’s mind, and it can sometimes be a danger that we assume that Jesus is merely a child-level person. Just because Jesus is familiar to us in some sense (we heard about him from our own childhood) does not mean that we are necessarily growing in our relationship with him, have a biblical view of Jesus in every respect, or perhaps even know Jesus at all as an adult personally. The shock and authority of Jesus’ teaching as the God-Man King is one that needs blow apart the dusty cobwebs of the nursery view of Jesus from our childhood—to see Jesus for the Authority (Loving Authority) that he truly is.

In the second half of the passage, we read how Jesus sent out the twelve to do ministry. There are several parts of this commissioning that are unique to the apostles, but there are other parts that are to be true of our commissioning by Jesus to ministry as Christians, too. While we may not ourselves cast out demons or heal people in a physical sense (though such healing does still happen today when God wills), we are given authority to tell other people about Jesus, and when someone believes in Jesus, it is true that Satan is dethroned and the Kingdom of God is in that person’s heart and life.

Note some of the principles that Jesus teaches here about Christian mission and ministry:

#1 The importance of companionship (and the danger of loneliness). Jesus did not send them out one-by-one, but two-by-two. Rarely will you find a ministry that is long blessed if there is not friendship close to the heart of that ministry. We need fellowship, friendship, someone to do life with.

#2 The importance of simplicity (and the danger of materialism). Note how Jesus specifically limited their material acquisition. Of course, this was for a limited period of time, and there are examples in the Bible of very wealthy and also very godly men and women (think of Abraham, for instance). But the principle of simplicity maintains. We are to streamline our lives so that we can focus not on boats and bridges and bank accounts, but on the gospel and discipleship and caring for those in need of assistance, service and help.
#3 The importance of faithfulness (and the danger of hopping from one place to another). Note how he tells them that if they go to one house and are received there, then they should stay in that house. They are not to get what they can from one place and go on to another in the same village. Of course, there are times when God calls a ministry to move on in some shape or form, but we are to be careful of skipping about from one place to another. It leaves hurt feelings behind.

#4 The importance of clarity (and the danger of fudging the eternal issues at stake). Note Jesus encourages a symbolic act of judgment to make it clear to a village that rejected them that their rejection of the person who sent them was putting them in danger of hell. While we may not perform this particular symbolic act ourselves, there is power in the barriers and words that clearly indicate that eternity is at stake. If the Western church were evidently lacking one aspect of its message, it would surely be this: preaching judgment and hell. We need to reclaim a bold proclamation that nothing less than God’s wrath is at stake if someone rejects the gospel of God.

#5 The importance of expectation (and the danger of expecting nothing to happen when we serve Jesus). Not all of us will see as dramatic results as these, and some of us will serve for many long years and not see what we longed to see. But if there is no power in the Word, the fault cannot be in the Word itself, for God promises that his Word will not return to him empty. We are to believe that his Word will do what God wants it to do. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

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