The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, January 31, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m.
May the Lord bless and keep us safe in the palm of His hand!
Would you pray with me this morning?
Whatever our circumstances we will start this day giving you the praise and thanks for your Lordship.This morning we pray for our world, our nation, our city, our loved ones, and those in special need.In particular, we pray for those who have lost loved ones due to coronavirus and those who havecontracted the virus. We pray for the security and peace of our nation in an extraordinary time. We thank you for your compassion in a world that often seems dangerous, cold, and unthinking.In Jesus, we choose not to be any of those three designations. We rest secure in you, Lord Jesus!
MOSES HERE SEEMS TO BE SPECIFICALLY ANTICIPATING THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF JESUS OF NAZARETH”…The Lord will raise up for you a Prophet like Me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers…I will put my words in His mouth and He will tell them everything I command Him…” (Deuteronomy 18:15,18)
FEAR OF THE LORD IS UNDERSTOOD AS AWESOME RESPECT FOR HIM”…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…all who follow His precepts have good understanding…” Psalm 111:10
THE LORD CALLS US TO FREEDOM, NOT RELIGION, WHEN HE CALLS US TO RECEIVE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS “…be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak…” 1 Corinthians 8:9
WE ARE READY TO DISCOVER YOUR AUTHORITY, LORD JESUS
“…the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, because He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law…” Mark 1:21-28
Time just seems to slip on by. This morning I was just recalling our family trip to Israel (Palestine). After teaching Bible for over fifty years I could hardly believe I had arrived in the place where Jesus walked, the land Abraham journeyed to four thousand years ago, and the land King David ruled three thousand years ago, followed by King Solomon, who built the Temple. The names of God’s people from Israel’s history flashed through my mind: Sarah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Elijah and Elisha.
It was four years ago now…when we left Jerusalem in the south, and heading up to Galilee…after somereally excellent shawarma…we arrived in Capernaum. From Peter’s house (with a Catholic Church superimposed over the ancient structure) we walked down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I was strangely moved to be standing on the shore where Jesus called out to Peter and Andrew, and then, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, calling them into ministry to be fishers of men.
Finally, I stood in the synagogue there, accompanied by Priscilla, my wife, and Ayesha, my oldest daughter, and David Henkin, my son-in-law. It was like “heaven” to me. Seemingly forever, I had taught Bible, andnow, to be standing in the very place where Rabbi Jesus taught in the synagogue was just too muchfor me. I shared a few insights into Scripture with some young people and their advisors as I stood inthat place…It was an unexpected “highlight” of my life…
From there, we drove to the top of the “mount” overlooking Capernaum and discovered the site of theplace where Jesus delivered the “Beatitudes” of the Sermon on the Mount. David suggested that heread the text from Matthew 5:1-16, so that I would be able to look over the Sea of Galilee as Jesus had done as He preached that sermon, the greatest ever rendered. It was yet another highlight of my life.
Now, as I turn presently, to the text of the Gospel of Mark in my personal Bible, I note the following…from Mark 1:21-27…”They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into thesynagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught themas one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
I pause for just a moment to consider the meaning of the text. Although I am physically in my office in Pacifica, California, my heart and my mind are right there in Capernaum, not in 2021 A.D., but in 26 A.D.,as Jesus speaks (spoke). I have the advantage of the recall knowledge of the text from the eighteenth chapter of Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy and I am riveted…the Prophet to be “raised up” will be… like unto the Lord…and…like those listening to Jesus. He will have the nature of God, the Almighty…and He will have the nature of a human being. I wonder what else Moses could have meant in thetext from Deuteronomy. The suggestion here backs up the theological notion we find in Rabbi Paul’swriting and later Christian theologians that this Prophet, the Lord Jesus, is both human and divine.
The text in Mark’s Gospel continues, “…He taught them as one who had authority…” Jesus didn’t teachlike the “teachers of the law”. I wonder what the so-called “teachers of the law” were teaching. Was the problem according to Mark, (by the way, a student of Saint Paul as a mentor), that they taught simply thatif you do the right thing, you’ll be okay, but if you do bad things, you’ll be punished…and in essence…soto speak…that’s all there was to religion? …maybe it had something to do with plain old boredom…
On one level it makes sense. However, for all of us, to be totally rational about our lives is unreasonable. We fall short of God’s standard. To Saint Paul, that is normal. We sin. And to “continue on in sin” is a self-imposed prison. In like manner, so too, is attempting to be judged trying to live up to God’s perfect standard. The Pharisees thought they could. Was Mark thinking more about the Pharisees when he used the term “teachers of the law”? Was Mark thinking that those teachers taught that “human perfection” was the essence of religion. The question becomes…Isn’t there something more to our spiritural lives? I think so. Grace. G-R-A-C-E. (God’s riches at Christ’s expense.) What about this “amazing” thing called grace?
I like the notion of considering that no perfect people are going to heaven…because there really are no perfect people. I like to put that within the context of the God who loves us as we are, but knowing us well, He wants to make sure we live confidently, and eventually end up living with Him in Eternity. Surely, none of us could live up to the seemingly impossible moral standard of practicing Pharisees, because they were so disciplined in their spiritual lives. The problem of that kind of discipled spirituality is that a person focuses on one’s self. The “down-side” of Pharisaic lifestyle is (was)…you become the prisoner of your imposed morality. Saint Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1,
“…it is for freedom that Christ has set us free…Stand firm, therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…”
What happens imprisoned in a sinful lifestyle happens to one imprisoned by rules and regulations. We have been called by Scripture to live as free men and women under God, fully enjoying our lives…
But…there’s something else to notice in the text we have in Mark’s Gospel. As we read on, Mark 1:23ff,
“…just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed of 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!'”
“Jesus sternly said, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’”
The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”
“The people were all so amazed that they asked each other…“What is this?” (What’s going on here?What are we witnessing?) At this point they did not question…the text includes an exclamation point, rather than a question mark…”A new teaching—and with authority! He (Jesus) gives orders to evilspirits and they obey Him…”
News about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
The text in Mark’s Gospel talks about…A NEW TEACHING AND WITH AUTHORITY…
The idea of religion, faith, spirituality…takes on an entirely different, much more dimensional concept.
What is that idea?
Religion has to do with being a good person. Religion has to do with keeping in line with obligations,regulations, commandments, etc. Religion has to do with personal and group moral standards. Religion has to do with maintaining the “status quo”, traditions, and “what has been and always will be.” In theBible, it is described in Micah 6:8 in this manner, “He has showed you, O Man, what is good. And whatdoes the Lord require of you? To act justly…and to love mercy…and to walk humbly with your God.”
I like it. It blesses me. However, it is nothing more than a moral perspective. The perspective perhapsof the “teachers of the law”…teaching, yes, but without the voice and power of authority…somethingthat takes hold of us…and removes us from the place we’ve been dwelling in securely, but withoutexcitement, amazement, inspiration, hope, and, anticipation of the good things just around the corner…
At this point, we note a departure. We need to move on up from religion…to what is FAITH…
We need to turn to Hebrews 11:1 for the best definition we have of FAITH…
“…now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see…“
I imagine the journey to be like waiting at a train station for the train to come. The name of the train is called “the Gospel Train”…the chief engineer of the train is the Lord Jesus. The platform is in front of us and the platform is Religion. In order to get on the train, we need to stand on the platform. But, in order to reach our destination, we need get off the platform and on the train. The train will take us to our destination. The train is Faith. The destination is Forgiveness, Peace and Joy in daily living, and eventually the Assurance of Everlasting Life. In like manner, Religion is somehow necessary, but we need to find ourselves journeying in Faith and not continuing to stand on Religion. Religion has all the trappings of spirituality, but it falls short, i.e., Christianity and the Crusades, Religion and Segregation. The “teachers of the law” know it well. Faith is the essence of genuine indwelling Spirituality. One eventually discovers the difference, but not “The Uninitiated”. Religion is spirituality we can observe in symbols of faith, buildings, and implements of worship. Faith is spirituality we cannot see, but as, in the case of Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ command over the evil spirit, we see the presence of what is deep within…presence, power, and yes, authority. We need to get off the platform and get on the train.
TWOWe live our practical lives responsibly without thinking our faith lives include elements of the magical.However, on the journey with the chief engineer, Jesus, things start to happen which, at first, surprise us.Later on, incidences involving unexpected intervention, rescue, and shire amazement happen in ourlives. We think to ourselves…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see…and we rediscover as human beings that God is still in the business of intervention and miracles.
If those miracles and interventions don’t happen when we expect them, we trust in an ever watchful,powerful, and compassionate God taking care of business in general, and taking care of us lovinglyin a way that always goes way beyond our understanding. About this, Saint Paul writes:
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I knowwhat it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whetherwell fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength…” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Let’s get on the platform…and…
Let’s get off the platform and on the Gospel Train…
Get us where we need to go, Mr. Engineer, dear Jesus!