Intentional Ministry

My daughter moved from Denver to the Los Angeles area.

My wife, son and I helped.

After church on Sunday, we left home for Denver pulling a trailer behind our small SUV.  (It has a four-cylinder engine, i.e. small.)  It was midnight when we arrived at her apartment on the campus of Denver Seminary.

It started snowing over-night.  We woke up to several inches of snow covering everything, and no sign of it stopping.  My son and I started carrying stuff down the stairs (thats right, she was on the second floor!), and loading it in the trailer.  It was zero degrees outside (not Celsius).  The extreme cold and snow were our constant companions while we filled the trailer completely full (i.e. every space was stuffed with something.)  We carried stuff through the snow and stuffed her little Ford Taurus as well, even strapping a cargo carrier to the top of the car.

Finally, by 2 Oclock Tuesday afternoon the apartment was clean, everything was packed and we were ready to go.

It was still snowing, but it was now -1 degree Fahrenheit.

My little four-cylinder engine had a difficult time getting the trailer rolling.

The motor in her little Ford had trouble getting started.

However, with a little coaxing and patience both cars were on the road.

This stage lasted about five minutes.  The Ford blew its engine.  Did I mention it was an old Ford Taurus?

-1 degree weather, the car had not had time to warm up and my wife and daughter were sitting beside the road in a freezing, dead car.

We rented the smallest truck U-Haul had, loaded everything from the car into the U-Haul, and hooked the trailer to the back of the U-Haul.  We spent the night in a hotel there in Denver.  The next day we junked the car and were on the road again by about 2 oclock.

After two days of perfect driving weather, we arrived in Pasadena 10 hours after the Rose Bowl parade.  After driving twelve hundred miles, we missed the parade.

After a Sunday morning service, I am usually tired.  However, getting my daughter moved was a higher priority than rest.  Snow and cold are not conducive to packing and loading, but she needed to be in Pasadena to start classes the next Monday.  It was a relief to be rid of the car, but the truck was an unexpected expense.  In any case, we were committed.  We were intent on getting to California.

This trip ended up being a wonderful time for us together as a family.  We had no trouble deciding what to do next throughout the trip because the goal was clear.

Life is full of distractions, good and bad, that can get us off track.  It is possible to travel through life and never get anywhere because the goal is unclear.  It is possible to travel through life and fall short of the goal because of distractions.  It is possible to start out with the goal clearly in mind, but stop short because of obstacles.

The sight of sunny ski slopes tempted me, but we did not even slow down as we zoomed by on our way to California.

In His 33 years, Jesus accomplished what the Father had sent Him to do.

Distractions, obstacles, opposition and temptations did not stop Him.

At the start of His 3-year public ministry, Mark shows that Jesus came with a definite purpose.

In verses 29 through 39, we see how intently Jesus stayed focused on His purpose.

Mark 1:29-39 starts after Synagogue services finish on the Sabbath.  The preceding verses tell how Jesus had taught that morning.  Everybody had been amazed at His teaching.  Jesus had even cast a demon out of a man when the demon had tried to interrupt the teaching.

The synagogue services ended so Jesus, James and John went to Simon and Andrews house.  (Mark 1:29)  Jesus and His four disciples went to spend their Sabbath afternoon with family.  Peters mother-in-law was confined to her bed with a fever.  They immediately let Jesus know about her.  Jesus healed her.  The healing was immediate and complete.  The fact that she was able to wait on them right away shows there were no residual effects of the fever.  No dialogue is reported.  The actions of Jesus are reported.  Later in His ministry, the Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but this time this was a private miracle, witnessed only by the family members.

Verses 32 and 33 say, That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus.  The whole town gathered at the door to watch.[i]  (NLT)

They waited until evening because the work of getting the sick and demon-possessed people to Jesus would be a violation of the Sabbath.  However, they did not wait for the next day.  As soon as it was possible, people flocked to Jesus.  They had heard His teaching in the synagogue.  They had seen Him cast the demons out of the man in the synagogue.

Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus healed many people and cast out many demons.  He did not start until after sunset so it is not hard to imagine that this went on well into the night.

If one continues to read Mark, he or she will find that Jesus gets so busy healing the sick and casting out demons that in chapter 3 His mother and brothers come to try to take Him away.  (Mark 3:20, 30)

Instant success, instant popularity and a huge gathering of people were all there for Jesus.  So, what did He do?

He got away by Himself to pray.  Verse 35 says he got up before daybreak.  I liked how the Greek said it, He departed having risen when it was still very much night and was praying. He got away.  His departure is the emphasis of the sentence.  Why did he do this? 

Peters family probably could have used more help.  Capernaum probably had more sick and demon possessed.  Jesus seems to have seen these things as a possible distraction.

When everyone got up in the morning, they noticed Jesus was missing.  Simon and the others went looking for Him.  When they found Him they said, Everyone is looking for you.  

Jesuss response is the point of all that He has been doing.  Jesus says, We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too.  That is why I came. 

He is giving the reason for what he is doing.

Driving to Denver was not our purpose when we made our trip.  Loading stuff into the trailer was not our purpose.  Getting rid of an old car was not our purpose.  These were steps along the way.

Jesus is stating His purpose.  My own translation of what He says is, Lets be going into the neighboring towns, in order that I might preach because for this purpose I came forth.  His purpose is the preaching.  This verb means to herald or proclaim a message. He had to move on to keep from being distracted from His purpose.

Luke tells the story of Jesus announcing His ministry in Nazareth, His boyhood home.  It goes like this:
16When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.  17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19and that the time of the LORDs favor has come.
20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down.  All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently.  21Then he began to speak to them.  The Scripture youve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!  (Luke 4:16-21, NLT)

Here also, it states that the Lord anointed Him to deliver good news and to proclaim a message.  Everyone was staring at Jesus, because He had stopped in the middle of the passage.  He was not there to establish a political kingdom yet.  Therefore, His statement that this Scripture was fulfilled that very day was referring to the proclaiming of the Good News.

Jesuss purpose according to His statement in Mark 1:38 was to preach.

Casting out demons and healing the sick were the consequences of His preaching.

Demons are representatives of darkness.  John 1:5 says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.  (NLT)  By His very presence, Jesus exposed demons.  In the synagogue, it was His teaching that exposed the demons.  As people brought their troubled family and friends to Jesus for help, the demons troubling them were exposed and cast out.

Jesus is the answer to demon possession and oppression.  Demons are no less active today than they were in Jesuss day.  They may have changed tactics to fit our rational culture, but they are active.  The answer is the gospel.  The name of Jesus carries the authority to cast out demons.  It is not a ceremony, or a certain set of words that carries authority.  It is the person of Jesus.

When disease and sickness confronted Jesus, they had to yield.  Simons mother-in-law could not remain sick in Jesuss presence.  All who were brought to Jesus for healing were healed.  The only thing that ever stopped Him was unbelief, and unbelief only stopped Him because people did not bring the oppressed to Jesus.  If we do not go to Jesus for help, He will not help us.

Throughout Jesuss ministry great crowds gathered around Him.  He healed them.  He cast out demons.  He fed them.  However, these things were not His primary purpose.  These things could have become distractions.  Everybody was looking for Him, but He never hesitated in what to do next because His purpose was clear.  In order to stay on the right course, He took time to be alone with God.  We see it in Mark 1:36 when He got up when it was still very much night and went out to a deserted place to pray.  We see Him doing this throughout His ministry.

We benefit from our relationship with Jesus.  Demons are cast out as we draw near to Him.  Marriages are improved by a relationship with Jesus.  Families are held together by a relationship with Jesus.  Alcoholics are freed, lives are changed and conditions improved.  These are consequences of His presence but they are not the primary purpose.

The gospel is still the purpose.  Jesus said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.[ii]  (John 10:10, ESV)  

John 17:2&3 also address His purpose.  You have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  (ESV)

The Apostle Paul says, Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  (Philippians 3:8, NLT)

Have we become distracted?  Do we focus on the consequences of the Gospel at the expense of the primary purpose?

[i]  Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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