Today’s Scripture – April 4, 2014

Mark 2:1-2 (NIV):  A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.

Jesus was very popular, there was no doubt about that!  Several hundred people showed up at Simon’s house, filling the room, hanging in at the doors and windows, and even filling the narrow street outside the house.  Jesus had made a huge impression on these people, teaching with authority, healing bodies and minds, and casting out demons with a word.  Everybody wanted to be around Him – who knew what was going to happen next!

And while Jesus did heal and cast out demons, that was at most a secondary focus; merely a sign of who He was.  His main focus was always to preach the word to the people.  John had begun the process of preparing the people for Jesus and the work He would do, of helping to turn roving hearts back fully to God.  He had confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to try to get them to repent (Matthew 3:7-12).  And he had baptized Jesus in obedience to God; had even identified Jesus clearly as the Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world.  He even steered some of his own followers to follow Jesus (John 1:29-37).  But John had been thrown into prison by King Herod, and wouldn’t be coming back out again.  There was still a lot of heart preparation work to be done, and Jesus was the one to do it.

So Jesus’ key focus at this stage of His ministry was to continue the work of heart preparation that John had started.  So many of the people had been given a wrong focus by their teachers that would make it difficult for them to receive Jesus for who He truly was – more than a mere prophet; the divine Son of God.  They had been given a national pride that would make it difficult for them to receive God’s mission:  not basking in the glory of being “God’s chosen people,” but reaching outside of their culture to those who didn’t yet belong to God, and growing God’s kingdom by leading them in.  They had been given a false idea of what it took to be a child of God:  not born of a particular line (God could raise up children of Abraham from a pile of rocks, if He wanted to.  Matthew 3:9), but loving God with all that is in you, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:28-31)  And so Jesus preached the word to them, in ways that they had never heard before.  And when the people clamored more for the miracles than for God’s word, He moved on.

Father, we kind of get this wrong, even today.  I hear people say that we need to do “need meeting ministries” in order to get the right to tell people about Jesus.  But when the need is met, all too often the people leave without our ever telling them about Him.  And we comfort ourselves with the idea that we have done some good, and maybe next time they will ask about Jesus.  How different from Jesus’ emphasis, and that of His first disciples!  For them, the message was central – they didn’t ever wait to be asked.  And anything else that they did, helping, healing, casting out demons, was far secondary.  Help us, Lord, to turn our ministries back right side up, and to keep the message about Jesus and Your kingdom front and center always.  Amen.

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