Mark: What Does That Mean?


We are consumed with the meaning of things. It is highly unlikely that any of us have gone through this entire week without thinking about what something meant.

This week the casualty toll in Iraq passed the 1700 count. What does that mean?

For several weeks, the U.S. Army has not met its goals in recruiting. What does that mean?

This week there were unsanctioned demonstrations in Iran? What does that mean?

This week in Afghanistan there are farmers who think they made a serious mistake changing from poppy crops to wheat crops. What does that mean?

This week some African nations were informed that they have billions of dollars of indebtedness forgiven. What does that mean?

Representatives of this congregation are having some difficulty in locating property to use in the development of the inner city work and the Hispanic work. What does that mean?

If you took a commercial air flight this week, you may have been asked to take your shoes off before you boarded the plane. What does that mean?

This week a young lady changed her tone of voice when she spoke to a young man. What does that mean?

This week a young man deliberately did things to get a young lady's attention. What does that mean?

No matter what your age, not matter what your country, you are always concerned about the meaning of happenings.

  1. Two thousand years ago the gospel of Mark was written some 25 to 40 years after Jesus' resurrection.
    1. Very quickly this writing declares this statement made in chapter 1 and verse l5.
      Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
      1. Jesus made this statement.
      2. The gospel of Mark uses the statement as an explanation of the fact that Jesus was in Galilee preaching the gospel of God--whatever is that?
        1. We toss the two words gospel and God around so freely that we just assume both we and everyone else knows what those two words mean.
        2. Yet, when someone asks us to explain the meaning of the phrase "the gospel of God" we likely find ourselves struggling to explain our assumption.
      3. While Mark's quote of Jesus' statement may have made sense to the original readers of this document, it does not make a whole lot of sense to us.
        1. It contains some very curious instructions.
          1. Repent--from what?
          2. Believe or "put your trust in."
        2. It also includes a very curious motivation: "the kingdom of God is at hand, and that is good news!" (The meaning of the word gospel is good news.)
    2. The context makes it obvious that Jesus is speaking to his own people, the Jews.
      1. He was speaking both to people you and I would call "good people" and to people you and I would call "bad people."
      2. He was speaking both to people in a religious situation and to people in horrible circumstances.
      3. We might understand why he would instruct the "bad people" and the people in "horrible circumstances" to repent and believe.
        1. But why would he tell "good people" to repent and believe in the good news?
        2. Why would he tell people in a religious gathering dedicated to studying scripture and praying to God that they needed to repent and believe?

  2. I want to call your attention to a fact by calling your attention to the sequence of things Jesus did from Mark 1:15 to the middle of Mark 3 when Jesus selects the twelve.
    1. The sequence begins with Jesus inviting Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him.
      1. He asked these men who lived in an area of poverty and few jobs to give up their established occupation and follow him.
      2. If they accepted his invitation, they had no promise of income!
    2. He entered the Capernaum synagogue.
      1. Those in attendance were astounded at the way he taught.
      2. A demon felt completely comfortable being in a synagogue, but completely uncomfortable with Jesus' presence.
      3. The attendees were dumbfounded when Jesus cast the demon out of the possessed man!
    3. Then we are told of Peter's mother-in-law who was sick with a fever.
      1. Jesus instantly healed her.
      2. He also completely healed her--she was immediately able to assume her work.
    4. Then we are told about all the sick in Capernaum who came to him to be healed.
    5. Then we are told Jesus made this statement recorded in 1:38--
      Mark 1:38 He said to them, "Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for."
      1. He went all over Galilee spreading the news.
      2. People came from everywhere to him.
      3. He became so popular he was recognized in most places.
    6. Then he returned to Capernaum and healed the paralyzed man.
      1. He granted the man the largest of all gifts, the gift of forgiveness of sins.
      2. Some of the educated people say, "He cannot do that--only God can forgive sins!"
      3. To prove that he could forgive sins, he healed the paralyzed man.
    7. He then called Levi to leave his occupation of tax collector and follow him.
      1. Levi did.
      2. Jesus then ate with a group of outcasts--tax collectors and sinners.
      3. The religious elite complained, "He cannot do that! He is associating with the wrong people!"
      4. Jesus answered, "These people need the good news!"
      5. More of the religious elite came to Jesus to ask why he was not following "accepted religious practices."
        1. He said something that must have genuinely confused them.
        2. He said, "It would be inappropriate for me to fast."
        3. Then he said, "I did not come to fix things--I came to bring something new into existence. And old ways of doing things cannot contain this new thing I bring."
    8. That was just the beginning of some serious confrontations with the religious elite.

  3. Do you see any connection between all those things? Let me share a connection I see that declares the importance of the kingdom of God and declares the need to repent and believe.
    1. The call of Peter, Andrew, James and John declared the kingdom of God is bigger than the normal pursuits of physical survival.
    2. Casting the demon out of the possessed man declared the kingdom of God is bigger than evil.
    3. Healing the sick, including leprosy declared the kingdom of God is bigger than disease, even impossible disease.
    4. Forgiving the paralyzed man's sins declared God is bigger than Satan.
    5. Eating with tax collectors and sinners declared the kingdom of God is bigger than being an outcast.
    6. Not fasting declared the kingdom of God is bigger than traditional religious practices or religious forms.

  4. So, how is all that relevant to me in my life right now?
    1. The kingdom of God is not about fixing you, about patching you up--it is about making you new.
      1. The two illustrations Jesus used were commonly understood and made his point powerfully.
        1. Those illustrations do not speak as powerfully to us because we are accustomed to sanforized or to preshrunk cloth and we have bottles and cans for our juices.
        2. They did not have sanforized cloth or bottles, and cans and vacuum sealing to store juices in.
        3. Their cloth shrunk, and they stored grape juice in the hides of freshly killed animals made into containers.
          1. So old cloth was patched with old cloth.
          2. You put fresh grape juice in a freshly killed, new animal skin.
          3. Why?
          4. If you used new cloth to patch old cloth, the patch would shrink and make the tear worse.
          5. When fresh grape juice begins to ferment, it produces a gas (carbon dioxide), and fresh skins expand instead of exploding.
      2. Jesus said those people who are willing to see what God is doing in revealing His kingdom will rethink life.
        1. If they understand what God is doing, they will repent--redirect life.
        2. If they understand what God is doing, they will trust God.
        3. They will not be content to be patched up.
        4. They will let God make them new.
        5. Please note: God's unveiling of His kingdom is good news only to those who will repent and believe.

  5. What God did in allowing Jesus the Christ reveal the kingdom of God is bigger than us and bigger than our problems.
    1. God is not about fixing our lives like putting patches on an old inner tube.
      1. God is about making us a steel belted radial tubeless tire!
      2. The purpose of Christ is not to dig out our bad spots--there are no good spots!
      3. The purpose of Christ is to make us a new person who looks at life and self completely differently!
    2. Why should I allow God through Jesus to teach me how to look at my life?
      1. Because Jesus is bigger than death.
      2. Do you have trouble with an addiction--whether pornography, drugs, alcohol, materialism, pleasure, etc.? Anything that controls and possesses your life?
      3. Jesus is not about merely fixing our addiction--he is about teaching us a new way of seeing life, therefore he is about teaching us a new way to look at ourselves.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

In context Paul declared that God through Jesus Christ gave gentile Christians a whole new way to look at themselves and at life.

We are reminded frequently these days that freedom is not free--that it costs. We are equally reminded on a continuing basis that freedom does not mean irresponsibility, but responsibly yielding to an authority higher than selfish desires.

Mark says that the highest of all authorities is God. God through Jesus is bigger than physical survival, bigger than the most potent expressions of evil, bigger than disease, bigger than being an outcast in society, bigger than religious forms and traditions. That is why the revealing of God's kingdom is good news. The revealing of God's kingdom through Jesus Christ declares God is even bigger than our death.

Have you let God rule you and teach you how to look at life and at self differently?


David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 June 2005

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