Friday, March 14, 2014

"Jesus came to preach!"

Day #77:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - March 15th

Scripture Reading:  Mark 1 - 2 …

Mark begins his gospel record of Jesus' ministry in a different place than Matthew and Luke … and John, for that matter.  He begins by quoting from the prophet Isaiah, pointing out the fact that John the Baptist was the one Isaiah (and Malachi) was talking about when he wrote, "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" (Malachi 3:1) … "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him'" (Isaiah 40:3).  Mark immediately points out the difference between John and Jesus:  John preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," while Jesus came to "baptize … with the Holy Spirit" (1:4,8).

Jesus came to DO what John could only point to.  Repentance itself requires the Holy Spirit, so John could call people to repentance, but only Jesus could bring it about, through the work of the Holy Spirit.   Jesus knew that He came to give His life as a ransom, as a payment for the penalty of sin (Matthew 20:28), but He also knew that God had chosen to call people to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel, the good news.  So after John had been put into prison, Jesus began to go around 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!" (1:14-15).

When Jesus came to Capernaum, an evil spirit cried out, "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!" (1:24).  The demons knew that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, but it was not time for all to know who He was.  Jesus knew that there would be much opposition from the Jewish religious leaders if He claimed to be the Messiah, and there was much to do.  He needed to teach the disciples and prepare them for the mission He would give them.  So He told the evil spirit to be quiet and to come out.  The people were amazed that He had authority over the evil spirits and news spread rapidly.

Immediately people began to bring all the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus and the whole town gathered at the door of Peter's mother-in-law, where Jesus had just healed HER!  When He cast out evil spirits, He would not let the demons speak because they knew who He was (1:34).  Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds, but the disciples told Him that all the people were looking for Him.  So Jesus said, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come" (1:38).

It is so interesting today that some focus on healing ministries, when Jesus clearly says that this was not the main reason for His coming.  Jesus can heal everyone.  There is no sickness more powerful than Jesus.  During His ministry, He healed those who came to Him, and He had compassion on those who were sick.   In His time and in His way Jesus still heals and still does miracles.  But it is important to understand that His main purpose in coming, and even His purpose in healing, was to preach the Gospel, to call people to repentance and then to faith in HIM for forgiveness.  It must have frustrated Jesus at times when, as Mark describes at the end of chapter 1 (verse 45), Jesus could no longer enter a town openly because people came from everywhere for healing.  If Jesus had come to heal the body of everyone who was sick, that is what He would have done, as we say, "24/7'.  But even when He sent out His disciples and gave them the power to heal and to cast out demons, it was to confirm that they were bringing this new message into the world:  that there was forgiveness of sins in the name of JESUS!

Jesus confirms this again when he heals the paralytic for the purpose of showing that He had the authority to forgive sins.  He first declared that his sins were forgiven, and when the teachers of the law accused Him of blaspheming, asking, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (2:7) … Jesus declared boldly, "That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins … I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home!" (2:10).  Jesus came to preach the forgiveness of sins in His name, and if we jump ahead to the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus confirms this truth.  It was after His resurrection, and He appeared to the disciples and said, "This is what is written:  The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).

Jesus came to preach the good news of the power of the Holy Spirit to produce repentance and faith in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, leading to the promise of eternal life.  And He has now entrusted that mission to us who believe today!  Pray for wisdom and boldness to be His witness in your daily life, and support the work of those who preach the Gospel in churches and around the world today by various means.  THIS is what Jesus came to do, and it is what WE are here to do!!  "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations … and THEN the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).

"Heavenly Father, it is with joy that we read of the beginning of Jesus' ministry and see the power of Your Spirit at work to prepare for the day of Pentecost, when Your Holy Spirit would be poured out, equipping the disciples to begin the spread of the Gospel throughout all the world.  As we are here at this time in Your plan, may we continue the work of preaching the good news until the time has come for Jesus to return, as we thank You for your grace and forgiveness and for the work of Your Spirit in US!  To YOU be the glory, in Jesus' name,  Amen"

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