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When tragedies strike, one of our first reactions is to ask, “Why?” We want to have explanations for tragedy—did they leave a note, were there any warning signs that were missed. It’s natural to seek a reason for our experience.
We’ve just come out of the Easter Season when Jesus was crucified, buried, but raised to life. It was one of the most tragic moments in human history. Last week we looked at those who were confident on Easter Saturday but were confused after Sunday. Those who were confused on Easter Saturday became Confident on Easter Sunday and beyond. All of this was due to the conquering power of Jesus—His ability to conquer sin and death, conquer the power of Satan . It was tragic—Jesus was crucified—but also a week of hope—Jesus is Risen.
Why did it ever come to that?
Why was Jesus crucified? What was it about Jesus and His message that so threatened the leaders and so warranted His crucifixion? On a human level, why did their deception cause them such hatred?
There are, I believe some indicators found in Mark 1:9-15.
1. A Message Shared with a Prisoner
a. Mark 1:14—“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee.” Do you hear how scandalous that sounds?
b. The local authorities had just thought that they had taken care another troublemaker responsible for big crowds, insulting local officials. John the Baptist was now in jail, but someone else is right there to step into those shoes—someone who could cause a whole lot more trouble. The leaders, the teachers of the law were already primed to deal with trouble. But they didn’t know what to make of John or his message, just that he was a threat.
c. During Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, He asked these teachers of the law—Mark 11:30--“John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from men? Tell me?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask, ‘then why didn’t you believe him?’ but if we say, ‘from men’… ‘we don’t know,’” they eventually answered.
d. Jesus met with John, was baptized by John, and the first message Jesus gave parallels John’s own message—“Repent and believe the Good News!” sharing that same message doesn’t get Jesus started on the right foot.
e. I can understand this sentiment. What would you think if all of the Presidential candidates started getting their speeches from convicted felons? Would it change the way you view the candidate? I would think so.
f. But this message is the truth—shared with one who was speaking with the inspiration of God. It’s not the first time someone speaking the truth in love ran afoul of the authorities—Jesus is part of a long tradition of rejected spokesmen. It’s no wonder that Jesus is still one of the most divisive figures in the world—dividing history, nations, families, even households. He is not someone you can honestly take a fence riding position on—Jesus offends, Jesus forces a decision—the Kingdom of God is Near—Repent and believe the good news.”
g. In reality—Jesus was the One who was free—free from the curse of sin—while the rest of humanity was imprisoned—held captive in the Kingdom of Darkness—we were ones who have embraced our cage, accepted our prison bars—and Jesus is opening the door and inviting us to leave our captivity—Jesus shared His message with a prisoner, but was truly inviting freedom.
2. A Message of Fulfillment
a. Feeding the great messianic expectation, many had come in the past claiming to be the One promised, but they came and went usually in defeat and death at the hand of the ruling powers, not only for themselves, but also suffering for those who followed them.
b. But Jesus was different—Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of all that John was pointing to. John himself denied being the Christ when he was asked about it in John 1. John said that he was preparing the way for one was coming after him that was greater than he was, one who’s sandals he was not worthy to untie, the One who would baptize, not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit. The Messiah is Coming—as the Scripture has promised. And many of the leaders thought they had the Messiah all figured out.
c. The Messiah of their understanding and expectation was someone they could understand, who had the same goals and someone they could predict or control. They had a Job Description, they had Profile Criteria with 7 areas of Compatibility—they put E-Harmony to Shame in their desire to Match the Messiah with a Candidate.
d. Jesus claimed to be that fulfillment—Luke 4:16-21—“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
LK 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
e. Jesus claimed to be that fulfillment, but He didn’t fit the Profile of what the ones who put John in jail wanted or what they thought He should do. The Actions and Teachings of Jesus did not meet the expectations. What started out as curiosity—soon turned to opposition—this frustration eventually turning to the cross. This is more than just a bad break up—this is a bitter dysfunction and divorce.
f. Has Jesus fulfilled your expectations? Do you have a profile of wants and desires of what you think Jesus is supposed to do in your life? Did you sign up for some miracles, a perfect marriage, a satisfying, well paying job—then you need to know that Jesus is probably not a good match for you. He leads you to count the real cost of following Him, He leads you to the Cross of suffering. Jesus is not the cure-all, Mr. Fix-It—genie in a magic Lamp and He does not come into your life or mine to fulfill your expectations, my expectations—He comes into your life and mind with a Kingdom Agenda—to live fully and completely in and for this Good News and to be about Sharing this Good News with those who are still in prison. One of the first is that of Repentance.
3. A Message of Repentance
a. Mark uses the phrase, the Kingdom of God is near, “at hand” which means to be brought near to you. What’s interesting is that in order to make it into this kingdom, to be set free, you have to change your direction.
b. To repent means to change one’s mind—to turn around—what was once perfectly fine and acceptable is now wrong—the direction in life that was once so right and good needs a course correction.
c. To make it to the Kingdom of God—you need to change the direction of your life—and believe. This is a Road sign to the Kingdom--Detour
d. Imagine on your next flight that as you are coming in for a landing, the pilot comes on to the speaker and tells everyone—“ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our final approach onto runway 476. I just wanted to let you know that the Air Traffic Controllers and the Tower have been hounding me to alter my approach vector for the last 5 minutes—that I’m in danger of missing the runway and crashing in the lake—but they don’t know what they’re talking about—so sit back, relax and enjoy the remainder of the flight.”
e. What kind of confidence would you have at that moment?
f. If you’ve listened to Christian radio lately, you may have heard a commercial for a comedian making light of the bumper sticker that says—“God is my co-pilot” by pointing out that you’ve got to be a great driver if God calls shotgun when you drive.
g. The idea of God being the co-pilot appeals to us b/c it still implies that I’m driving. I’m the one in control, I’m the one choosing the destination and deciding the route to get there.
h. How many of you, when you’re driving, hate constant instruction and criticism of your driving? “you should turn here,” “slow down,” “don’t get so close,” “you’re going the wrong way”
i. You need to understand that is exactly what a message of Repent is—“You’re going the Wrong Way!” God needs to get out of your Co-pilot seat and get into the Driver’s Seat and put you in the back seat! God is offering to be your chauffeur and let you enjoy the ride.
j. As hard as it is for you and me to accept and receive directions from someone else—you may already know this about yourself, but there is little more difficult for a good and decent and committed religious person to hear than “you’re going the wrong way. It’s not just the sinners who need to repent—you need to repent. You’re not as good as you think you are—you don’t have it all together like you think you do.
k. The Kingdom of God is Near—it’s close by—but you’re not going to get their on your own by your own strength or by your own power. You are not good enough—you are going in the wrong direction, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God—still locked in your own prison—the direction of your own life, the strength of your own efforts to earn God’s favor, to earn God’s blessing of eternal life may seem right, but leads only to death.
l. That is not a popular message, but it is the message of Jesus—and the way of the Kingdom of God led Him not to military victory—not to a luxurious palace—not to worldly power, but to the Cross.
m. Repent—turn and believe the Good News
4. A Message of the Good News
a. Jesus’ message and His good news is this—Repent—stop going your own way, Stop trying to earn your way to heaven—stop trying to bear the burden of Sin and let Me bear it for you—stop living in uncertainty, stop living in fear of messing up—stop being afraid that you can never be forgiven—stop trying to hold on to God and let Him hold on to you. The Good News is the Gift of God—the gift of God is eternal life through-because of, by means of, by the power of Jesus Christ our Lord—He is holding you in His hand and no one can take you out..
b. As long as you try to live with God as your co-pilot, you are not trusting and believing and living in the truth of the Good News.
c. Ephesians 2:1-9—“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
d. You may find this hard to believe, but the message of Grace, the Good News was just as responsible for sending Jesus to the Cross as anything else.
e. For those religious authorities who draw their power by insisting that others live your way—perform certain duties under a code of legalism—the last thing you want getting spread around is the doctrine of Grace—that God’s love is Generous and Free—that while the price for forgiveness is High—that God will pay the price with His own blood.
f. They wanted to make the hoops for you to jump through to be right with God—it’s not about your efforts—it’s about His efforts and Work on the Cross. Trying to do it yourself is a form of bondage—trying to free yourself from a straight-jacket you yourself have tied. Grace and Forgiveness set , the Prisoner free.
g. Turn from your own way—believe—actually believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life—and you will be given the forgiveness that invites you into the presence of Almighty God for eternity.