By Simon ManchesterSunday 14 Dec 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Conviction and Compassion – Mark 1:35-45
We have prayed for our listening so we won’t say any more. A big welcome again – it’s great to have you with us. I know that for some people you may feel as though you have been dragged along to the Pre-School Service and that the sermon is the price you pay for waiting for your lovely children. But I hope you will think of this as two for the price of one – Something helpful said and something lovely sung.
A lady came up to me after the early Service and said – “I have to confess I fell asleep in your sermon”. Strangely she had a little box of toothpicks in her hand and I sort of pictured her with the toothpicks and they may have failed! It reminded me of a little piece of doggerel which says –
“My pastor’s eyes are of a colour I cannot define –
When he prays he always closes them – when he preaches I close mine”.
So let me tell you my eyes are bloodshot and I want you to listen.
Would you again reach for your Bibles and turn to Mark chapter 1 (page 991) and I want to remind you of a story which is not a joke (and you don’t have to laugh) but it is a story which you will probably have heard before of a fairly large ship which is travelling at night – and there is a big spotlight on top and as it’s travelling,it sees another spotlight in its path about 1 or 2 kms away and so the ship radios ahead and says:-
“WE ARE FAIRLY BIG – GET READY TO CHANGE DIRECTION”.
And the reply comes back ‘YOU GET READY TO CHANGE DIRECTION’.
And the ship says “YOU’LL BE SORRY IF YOU HIT US – WE ARE ABOUT 50,000 TONNES”.
And the reply comes back ‘YOU’LL BE SORRY IF YOU HIT US – THIS IS THE LIGHTHOUSE’.
And it is a good point because you cannot accuse the lighthouse of being inflexible or unkind. It’s there for your good and there for your wellbeing. And I want to say to you that as we have been studying Mark’s Gospel together on Sunday mornings,we’ve been seeing that Jesus Christ is like the lighthouse of the world – Yes he is inflexible and he knows exactly why he is here but he is also incredibly kind and good.
What we have seen so far as we have worked our way through Mark chapter 1 – we are still in Mark chapter 1 – is we have seen him announce the Kingdom. And for those of you,who have heard the word “kingdom” before in relation to Christianity,let me urgently say that you don’t enter the Kingdom after you die. Many people think – O I’ll live my life and then I will wait and see whether I get into the Kingdom. No Jesus comes and says – “The Kingdom is right on your doorstep” – enter into the Kingdom. And the way you do that is by joining Christ the King. And then of course when you join with Christ the King,you’ve joined the Kingdom and when you’ve joined the Kingdom you’ll one day be with him in glory. We’ve seen Jesus announcing the Kingdom.
We’ve also seen him showing himself to be incredibly kind and loving and healing people and the last verses that we saw last Sunday morning – he basically healed most of the sick people of one town. And I just wonder if you can imagine what it would be like for you if you could heal the bulk of people of a town. I don’t know whether we could imagine what pressure Jesus must have been under at this particular point to make healing his life’s work. If I could make my godson well,I think I would cut off my arm and you would cut off an arm if you could make somebody who you loved who was very sick – well.
Jesus spent the whole night healing people,watching the joy and the relief on the faces and now he must be under tremendous pressure to make this his work.
What we are going to see as we have read in our two little readings,is that he turns his back on the whole idea and just as we may then accuse him of being hard-hearted,a sick man comes and stands in his path and he wonderfully cures him.
So I want to look at the two little paragraphs – the first is chapter 1:35-39 and I’ve called this (you won’t remember this) Compassionate Conviction. The next little paragraph is chapter 1:40-45 and I’ve called this Convicted Compassion.
So first of all chapter 1:35-39 – Compassionate Conviction. There has been a whole night of healing. We read in chapter verse 35 that Jesus got up very early the next morning and he went away (literally he went to the desert – we would say he went into the bush) and he spent time praying. Mark in his Gospel only records 3 times that Jesus prayed. Of all the thousands of times he must have prayed,Mark tells us there are 3.
Firstly – here after a night of healing – Chapter 1
Secondly – after a day of feeding – Chapter 6
Thirdly – just before the crucifixion – Chapter 14
The 3 times that Jesus prays look as though they are crisis moments. They are moments where Jesus would be asking –
Should I be doing this? Heavenly Father I am asking you – help me to get a clear head –
Should I be doing this? I love healing people.
Should I be doing this full time? I love feeding people.
Should I be doing this full time? I am about to go to the crucifixion.
Should I be doing this?
Would it be better for me and would it be better for people if I didn’t do this? And every time he emerges from his prayers,he has a very clear head.
He realises after praying in Mark 1 that he should not be healing full time.
He realises in Chapter 6 that he should not be feeding full time.
He realises in Chapter 14 that he should go ahead with the crucifixion and die for sinful people.
Now one of the reasons why Jesus is able to die in our place – we being disobedient – is because he is perfectly obedient and this is one example of this in Mark chapter 1. He has spent a whole night dealing with people (he must be pretty weary) and he gets up the next morning and he could justify himself doing this day after day after day. It would make him incredibly popular. Who would not want to have thousands of people around being helped and maybe loving him – and he gets up early and he goes off to pray and he lays it all before his Heavenly Father and then at great cost to his own popularity and at great cost to many sick people,he decides and he knows and he is convicted and he is convinced that he must do something more important.
So when Simon Peter,the disciple,comes up to him in chapter 1:37 having hunted him down with some others and says “everybody is looking for you!” Jesus says these shocking words in 1:38 – “we are not going backwards – let’s go forwards,let’s go forwards to the next village because I’ve actually come to preach”. You can imagine the watching world saying at that particular point – that’s the last thing we wanted to hear. But Jesus knows what he is talking about as we will see.
Please notice in passing two interesting things – one is Simon Peter becomes a source of unwitting temptation. By coming up to Jesus and saying “they love you back there – please come back with us” it’s very tempting. Simon Peter interestingly is the guy who traditionally was feeding Mark most of the eye witness information that helped Mark to record his Gospel. And Simon Peter is so honest and humble as he feeds information to Mark to write the Gospel. He is basically saying to Mark – ‘you know I completely failed Jesus a number of times. I failed him by coming up in this situation and saying ‘let’s go back and heal people’. And later on we read in chapter 8 that Simon Peter says to Jesus ‘don’t go ahead with the crucifixion,we’ll protection you,don’t get crucified’.
Notice too that this phrase “everybody is looking for you” which looks really popular and wonderful is actually nothing to get excited about. Every time Mark’s Gospel has the little phrase “people were looking for Jesus” which sounds great,it was actually either to milk him for goodies or to do harm to him.
So Jesus is not fooled when he hears that people are looking for him.
This is like saying to a rich man ‘you know everybody loves you’.
Or to a very pretty girl “you know all the boys would like to meet you”.
It’s just got that slightly sinister aspect to it.
Now Jesus you see is not fooled by crowds. He thinks very clearly. We get fooled by crowds. We think crowds – well we’ve made it if we’ve got crowds. Christian leaders often are tempted to just aim for crowds at any expense as if by getting the ‘tick’ of the culture suddenly the church is successful. Jesus is never fooled by crowds. And he is not rocked by small numbers. He knows what he is doing. He knows that all his people,all his sheep will come home.
So although this looks very harsh as Jesus says we are not going back to that town to keep healing people – he actually speaks with perfect conviction and perfect compassion. And I’ll tell you why because if he had pursued a healing ministry day after day after day – on to the next town healing people – on to the next town healing people –
If he had pursued a healing ministry it would have been just a temporary bandage cover up.
He would have been making people well until they got older and they died.
He would not be saving them but he would just be stalling the inevitable.
He would be dealing with the symptoms but not the disease.
He would be fixing people’s bodies but not their souls.
He would not be getting them ready for glory.
And he would therefore be providing no hope for the future – no safe passage way into glory.
He would be popular.
He would be solving immediate problems.
But he would not really be loving people eternally and he would not really be long sighted at all – BUT HE IS.
Now this is the dilemma for Jesus as he has just had this tremendously successful time of healing and then the people come and say “come back and do more of it”.
The dilemma for Jesus is – should I keep going and preach the Gospel so that people know how to be saved and eventually find themselves in glory escaping hell OR should I do something for people which will relieve them from the immediate pain but I’ll provide no delivery into glory and no rescue from hell?
Well you might say -‘why don’t you do both”. And in a sense Jesus did heal and he did preach but he knows that the key to his ministry is to tell the Gospel which is going to be revolving around his death. If he spends all his time healing people and there is no preaching and there is no dying,then there’s no future for people.
So here is the best doctor in the world,Jesus Christ. The world is saying to him – put away your gloomy preaching,put away your scalpel and all your instruments – just tell us that everything is wonderful and Jesus replies – No I must speak the truth so that people know how to be saved and I must die on the cross so that people can be saved and that is what marks a really good doctor – that what marks a really good Saviour. So he is truly compassionate and we must thank God for his conviction in the face of tremendous pressure to do short term superficial work.
I cannot tell you how important this verse is for preachers and for pastors because there are so many things that could be done which if they were all attempted to be done would prevent a lot of things that should be done. And I cannot tell you how important this is for you as well because if Christ is your Saviour and Christ is your Lord – you have an example of one who knew that he could not do everything that he was being told to do or pressured to do but worked out what he had to do and made sure that happened. We need the wisdom of our Master if we are to follow him and do those things that are really eternally worthwhile and not just temporarily popular.
So that’s the first little incident that Jesus is saying “NO” to the pressure to go and be a wonderful and popular healer.
The second little paragraph is where he suddenly comes face to face with a man who is sick – right in his path – and you would think having just read what we’ve read in those last verses – he’s going to walk around him and he’s going to say “No I just said a few minutes ago,I’m not going to be a popular healer”.
But of course here is a man right in his path,great needs and Jesus is full of compassion and we begin to realise that his conviction and his compassion fit beautifully together but the conviction rules the compassion which is exactly how it should be. The conviction doesn’t move the compassion but it rules the compassion – they dance beautifully together.
When Paul Keating turned 70 years he had a birthday party. One of the stories that was told at the birthday party which I’ve read about (but I wasn’t at the party) was where Paul Keating who was then the Treasurer and Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister and Bill Kelty was the ACTU Secretary – the 3 of them went to Keating’s home to spend the day trying to work out how to implement very minimal increases to Union Wages. And of course it was doomed from the start.
They spent the whole day arguing and they couldn’t come to any agreement or progress. After a bit of this,Paul Keating apparently got up and left the room and went out. He came back after a few minutes with a video. Do some of you remember what a video is? It is an old DVD – pushed it into his television and as they say there – onto the screen came Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (black and white picture) dancing.
And Bob Hawke turned to Bill Kelty and said “you know Paul Keating is mad,don’t you?”
What Keating was doing was he wasn’t just breaking the tension – he was actually saying ‘you have to learn to dance together’. ‘You’ve got to work out how to balance and co-operate if there is going to be any progress’.
When we look at this first incident in Mark of this very strong conviction and then we come to the second paragraph which Mark places beautifully after it,we see that conviction and compassion balance and dance perfectly in Jesus’ life. Because if you got to the end of the first paragraph and you said ‘gee he’s very harsh isn’t he?’ – this second paragraph shows us that he’s nothing of the kind.
A leper comes up to Jesus in chapter 1 verse 40 and asks the question “Are you willing to make me clean”? He doesn’t say “Can you make me clean”? He knows that Jesus can make him clean. The question is – are you willing? And Jesus full of compassion with this man right in front of him is never going to walk around him but he reaches out and he heals him.
Now when I think about the Church – the job of telling the gospel – which is not popular in the world,and I think about social action which is much more popular – I am greatly helped by these two paragraphs because we as a church must know exactly what we stand for. Our primary job is to tell the message of Christ so that people will hear it,believe and have eternal life – that’s much more important than short term relief – even though short term relief is wonderful. We’ve got to stay with our primary task which is the eternal gospel.
Having said that,when something presents itself right in our path,we would be very strange people if we were not compassionate.
If this church was in Capetown,South Africa and you know what it is like to drive in Cape town and just head off to work and there are people just sitting by the side of the road waiting for work. I would have thought one of the obvious things for the church is to try and work out how to contribute to that. Multiply the story by thousands and you think of needy cities around the world.
It’s much more difficult for us in North Sydney to try to work out where North Sydney people need social help. Because everything is sort of well covered and there is enough salaries to cover most of the basic problems. But there are many deep underlying problems in North Sydney and we as a church need to work out what is staring us in the face,what is right in our path,where should we be compassionate? But without losing the Gospel which is our primary responsibility.
Now to our second paragraph – (verses 40-45) Convicted Compassion –
So this leper has come up to Jesus making in a way a shock visit because the Old Testament law said a leper could not go near anybody. The leper was not just physically in trouble but he was also socially ostracized and Leviticus chapter 13 said that he was to live alone and outside the community. He was to warn people with very tattered and torn clothes and he was to cry out whenever he saw someone ‘UNCLEAN,UNCLEAN’ so that there was no contamination. This was a very frightening disease in the 1st Century similar to I guess to the Ebola virus today.
This man walking therefore up to Jesus is contravening the Law of the Old Testament and he is engaging in what one writer calls “a provocative and offensive encounter”.
How does Jesus respond (verse 41)? – with compassion. Some of the Bibles say ‘with indignation’. There are two possible words. It’s either compassion or indignation. I suspect both of them would fit. Compassion for the sadness of this man and indignation that here is one of his creation in his world suffering the effects of the Fall.
And the answer to the question that the man asks – “Are you willing to make me well”? – is “I am willing – Be clean”. Immediately the man is clean.
Now we know that Jesus for all his conviction about what he must do and must not sacrifice is still full of compassion.
But in case you think Mark is forgetting the importance of salvation,look very interestingly at what happens after the man is made well. Jesus gives him a very strong message. It says in the original language – he kind of dismissed him like sent him away and he spoke to him very strongly with very great authority and he said ‘tell no one’. I don’t know how the man was expected to keep that command. “But tell nobody – and go to the priest because that’s the Jewish Law”. If you have somehow miraculously become well from leprosy,you must go to the priest.
Now why does Jesus tell the man to go to the priest? For a number of reasons.
1. If the man goes to the priest,the priest will re-instate him into the community. That’s important.
2. If he goes to the priest and shows them that he has become well,the priest must ask “how did this happen?” And he will say to the priest (quietly I guess) “Jesus of Nazareth”. You notice that Jesus says “GO’ (verse 44) and tell the priest as a testimony to them”. So the priests in the Temple will prick up their ears and they will say “who did this?”
When people in the Old Testament had leprosy and got healed,it was always God that healed. There are very rare cases – Miriam and Naaman and now here’s a man and he is being cured and the priests are going to ask the question “who did this?” and the answer is going to come back “Jesus of Nazareth” and they will say “Could this be the Messiah?”.
3. The third reason for going to the priest is because Jesus himself will be helped because if the man goes public and tells everybody,everybody is going to get on the band wagon and they are going to say ‘this is why Jesus came into the world to make people well’. But Jesus has not just come into the world to make people well,he has come into the world to preach the gospel and to die on the cross and if the whole public is swarming around him saying “make me well,make me well”,he cannot move. If the man keeps quiet,Jesus can do his work.
So you see why Jesus tells the man to go to the priest – 3 gospel reasons.
1. The man will be included in the fellowship or the community.
2. The priest will understand who is the great source of power behind the healing.
3. Jesus himself will be able to keep doing his ministry.
But you see (verse 45) the man was disobedient. He did the exact opposite of what he was told – He spread the news.
We say to our people – “spread the news of Christ” and then we keep quiet.
Jesus said “keep quiet” and he goes and spreads the news.
And so Jesus could not enter a town (verse 45) but was forced to stay outside. I wonder if you can see the significance of what is going on.
The outsider (the leper) has become an insider.
The insider (Jesus) has become an outsider.
By giving to this man access to the fellowship of God’s people,Jesus is now paying the price of losing it. And on a much bigger scale,this is exactly how the gospel works.
We are outsiders – through the Gospel – we become insiders in God’s family. But it is at the expense of Jesus (the insider) being driven out. That’s why when he is on the cross with the sins of his people on his back,he says “My God,my God why have you driven me out?”
And the reason is because our sins are on his back and they need to be paid for and Jesus is paying for them and the gift which comes as a result is that you and I are welcomed in. What he provides he suffers to provide.
Now you might say to me today ‘look I am no outsider – I don’t know who you are talking to but I am not an outsider’. What are you saying?
Let me just quickly ask you this. If you had a two-storey house and you decided to lease it – top floor to a lovely tidy girl and bottom floor to a difficult messy boy. And over time you made phone calls and sent letters and you asked for rent and asked for a response,neither the girl nor the boy took any notice of you. They didn’t return your calls,they didn’t reply to your letters and they acted as if you were irrelevant and you were nonexistent and they didn’t pay their rent. Which of the two would you evict?
And you should evict them both. So whether you are a tidy girl or a messy boy,it’s the turning back on Christ and saying to him – you are pretty irrelevant – which deserves eviction and without hearing the Gospel and responding to it – we will be evicted – you will be evicted.
But the Gospel says that Christ has paid to bring you in – paid your pardon – draw you to himself. Is this important? Extremely important.
I reckon most of you will know where you were 17 years ago today. 17 years ago today Princess Dianna died. You will probably know where you were and where you heard the news. And if we could bring her back from the dead and bring her up to the front of this building and say to her – ‘could you tell us what’s really important – is it being in the Royal Family? – is it having a string of boyfriends? – it is solving the problems of landmines?” She would probably say the most important thing in all eternity is to respond well to Christ who with great conviction came into the world and steadfastly went to the cross and with great compassion has carried your sin so that he might bring you in to his family forever.
Well let’s pray and thank him – let’s bow our heads –
Our Father,we thank you this morning for the great,great person of Christ. We thank you for his clear head. We thank you for his keen heart. We thank you for his wonderful work on the cross and we thank you for the Gospel which is everlasting. We thank you for all that he has paid at his expense for our benefit. We pray that you would help each one here this morning and each one who listens to respond with glad and joyful acceptance and enter into the very blessing which you came to bring.
We ask it and we thank you in Jesus’ Name – Amen.