“The Greatest Servant of All”
A number of years ago there was a popular television show called "Get Smart." It featured a man named Maxwell Smart. As a secret agent seeking information, he often made the statement, "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." Oh, Smart did not care about all of the details, interesting bits of information, or even one's own personal opinion. He just wanted the facts. The second gospel story found in the New Testament does something similar. Mark writes about Jesus' life by moving quickly from one episode to the next. Even though it is the shortest of all four Gospels, it includes more of Jesus' miracles than the other three. He emphasizes more of what Jesus did than what He said. No, Mark does not waste his time, he simply tells us the facts surrounding Jesus' ministry. In the midst of those short stories about His miracles and activity, Mark records one of the most important statements Jesus ever made. It goes something like this: "Whoever wants to be great must become a servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all." Jesus wanted His followers, then and still today, to know the importance of serving others. No, Mark did not write a long story about Jesus, he simply gave us the facts; and, they focused on being a servant. Perhaps most importantly, Jesus did not leave it up to us on how to do that. He sets himself as the example. Let us now look at how Mark presents Jesus as the greatest servant of all.
When problems come and tragedies strike, where do you go for help? Do you turn to your most trusted friends and family members? Do you go to a local charity or perhaps the neighborhood church? Oh, in times of our greatest need we turn to those people whom we can trust and rely upon in those difficult times. And yet, when problems come and tragedies strike, do you consider going to Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Do you consider Jesus Christ in your greatest times of need? The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold of a time when the Old Testament Israelites would be taken into captivity. Indeed, that did happen and they were carried away by the Babylonians for a period of some 70 years. And yet, toward the end of that prophecy, Isaiah gave the people some much needed hope. He told them of a time when they would be set free and taken care of and receive some very special blessings from a new King. Yet, in that same prophecy Isaiah also looked to the very distant future and spoke about the coming of Jesus Christ. He would do the very same thing. He would set people free and He would take care of and bless them in some special ways. We find that twofold prophecy in Isaiah chapter 40, verse 3, verse 4, and also verse 9: <A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”> Oh, these words from Isaiah gave those Old Testament people some great hope. They looked forward to the day when they would be set free from captivity and go back to their homeland. Indeed, that happened. And that hope also became a reality for those who welcomed the arrival of the new King, Jesus Christ, here upon this Earth. That is the message behind the Gospel of Mark. Oh, he knew well Isaiah's prophecy. He knew these words which we just read. In fact, that is the way he began his message, the Gospel of Mark, by quoting Isaiah 40, verses 2 and 3. Now, in writing his gospel, Mark presents Jesus in three different ways. He presents Him as a Liberator, a Shepherd, and a King. In the beginning, we find that Jesus does great miracles to liberate and set people free. He does those miracles to bring people out of the pain and the distress and the problems of their life. In the middle of Mark's gospel, we see that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the one who leads His sheep, or the people who follow after Him. And, He invites us to get in line behind Him and to follow Him wherever He will lead us. Then, in the last part of Mark's gospel, He is presented as the Mighty King; that, Jesus conquers death, He is victorious, and He sets up His reign. He is the King and He invites people to become a part of His kingdom. Yes, the coming of Jesus is good news when problems come and tragedies strike. Mark is what we might consider to be a "short story," compared to the gospels of both Matthew and Luke. He moves quickly throughout Jesus' life and ministry and does not focus a great deal on the details of what Jesus said or did. The words "immediately," "at once," and "just then," occur some 47 times, as we indeed see Mark moving quickly from one event to the next. He tells more of Jesus' miracles than the other gospel writers. And, his story was written not from an eyewitness standpoint but rather from a secondhand standpoint. That perhaps is one of the most interesting things about Mark's gospel. He was a good friend of the apostle Peter, and Peter was a firsthand witness to Jesus; to His life; His ministry; His deeds; and, His words. So, we notice that Mark did not write in an exact order of all of the things that happened in Jesus' life and ministry, but he took the words, he took the council from Peter and he recorded those things that are most important and significant, the things that we need to know and understand and appreciate about Jesus' ministry, today. Mark did that, in part, to give hope to those people who were suffering under Roman persecution. He encouraged those readers to endure those difficult times and to follow Jesus as a devoted disciple. Now with that as a background, let's look now at the three ways in which Mark presents Jesus Christ here in his gospel. First of all, he presents Jesus as the Great Liberator. Yes, Jesus demonstrated the power of God wherever He went; and, wherever He went, He gave glory and credit to God. He did not say or do anything that did not come from His Heavenly Father. He healed those who were sick and demon possessed in chapter 1. He cleansed people of leprosy and allowed paralyzed people to walk again in chapter 2. He calmed the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee in chapter 4. He even raised a young girl from the dead in chapter 5. Now, Jesus did these miracles not to amaze the people, and yet they were truly amazed. He did them, primarily, to set people free from the pain and the difficulties in their life. He did these miracles to liberate them and to give them new hope for a better life, as they put their faith and trust in Him. Yes, Jesus was the Great Liberator. And one of the other ways in which He set people free, or liberated them, was through His teaching. The word "teach," or "teacher," is found some 39 times here in Mark's gospel. And that is one of the reasons why He came to this Earth, to teach people a better way to live, to teach people what it means to be His follower and His disciple. We find a beautiful example of Jesus sharing that message, or teaching that message, in the 1st chapter. Notice these words that begin in verse 14: <After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him.> As Jesus came to begin His ministry, He proclaimed the good news from heaven. He proclaimed the good news of God; and, the time was now for people to hear it and respond to it. And there is a threefold message in that good news. We see it there in verse 15 and following. He says, "Repent." That's what He asks people to do. He asks people to change their way, to give up their past way of living, to repent of the sin, and then to believe in Him; believe that He is God's one and only Son; to put their faith and trust in Him as God's Messenger and as the One who will set them free. Then we notice a third part of that good news message is found in the exchange between Simon and Andrew. Jesus invites people to follow Him, and that is exactly what these two men did. They left their fishing business behind and they followed in the footsteps of Jesus and became some of His most valuable and trusted disciples. Yes, Jesus came to share good news. He came to be the Great Liberator of people, to set people free, to give them a new life, and to announce the good news of the kingdom. And, that included those things of repentance, and belief, and following Him, and walking in His footsteps. The second way in which Mark presents to us Jesus, throughout his gospel, is that of a Good Shepherd. It is important to keep in mind how the shepherds of the 1st century took care of their sheep. They did not use their staff, or their rod, to beat, or strike, or discipline the sheep whenever they got out of line. Rather, the shepherd led the sheep. The shepherd was out in front and the sheep would follow along behind. They fully trusted the shepherd to lead them in the right way and to not lead them astray or to get them lost; and, that is the idea behind Jesus being the Good Shepherd. He taught people. He guided people. He led them in the way they were to go. There are at least 3 different ways in which we see Mark presenting Jesus as that shepherd. And in each one, Jesus basically says, "This is what I am doing," or I will do, "Follow me." The first one is found in chapter 8. Notice verses 34 through 38: <Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”> Following Jesus as one's shepherd means, first of all, to lose one's life in order to save it. Oh, that does not make very much sense to most people, today. We want to gain our life. We want to add things to our life by the things we ourselves do. Yet, Jesus teaches just the opposite. To follow Jesus as our Good Shepherd also means that we are not ashamed of Him, but rather we will make some necessary sacrifices in order to live by His words. And then, following Jesus means suffering hardship and enduring problems along the way, as we begin to experience a new life in Jesus Christ. Here is a second way that Mark presents to us Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Notice these words from chapter 9, verses 38 through 41: <“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose His reward."> Jesus leads His disciples by teaching them not to judge others. He welcomes those who do something in His name. And yet, His current disciples did not fully understand that. They could not relate to what Jesus was saying for they believed that they were the most important and significant of all of Jesus' followers and if anyone was not in their group then they were to be cast aside. And yet, Jesus tries to change those attitudes. He tries to teach them that there are other people who are trying to do good things in His name, as well. There is a third short story in the teaching of Jesus that teaches us about following Him as our Good Shepherd. That is found in the 10th chapter, verses 42 through 45: <Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”> Jesus states that those who follow Him will be a slave, or a servant, to other people. That might even include one's enemies; and, those enemies were the Roman authorities, in that day and time. And again, His disciples had a hard time understanding how to do that, so Jesus offers himself as an example. He gives His life as a ransom. He pays the price himself, for one's freedom. Those who truly follow Jesus will live with that same spirit of humility and with that same spirit of serving other people. Yes, to follow Jesus is to possess these same attitudes; it is to be willing to lose one's life in order to save it; it is to not stand in judgment of others; it is also to be a servant to the people God puts before us. The third way in which Jesus is presented here in Mark's gospel is the King, the Mighty King. It is interesting to notice, Mark spends the first ten chapters of his gospel writing about the life and ministry of Jesus, approximately some 30 years in time. Yet, he spends the last six chapters of his gospel message writing about the last one week of Jesus' life. There, his focus is on the significance of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Oh, Jesus has already told His disciples that He would eventually have to suffer and die, and now that time had come. And yet, they did not understand what Jesus was talking about. They did not understand why He would have to leave them so soon, so He tells them one last time what will happen. Listen to these words in the 10th chapter, beginning with verse 32: <They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again He took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.”> After Jesus told His disciples that, He went to Jerusalem and that is what happened. As He entered the city He was falsely accused. He was put on trial and found guilty of crimes He did not commit, and the sentence was death upon the cross. Jesus then died upon the cross of Calvary; after which, two of His disciples took down the body and buried it in a tomb. After that came the resurrection, as God rolled away the stone and brought His Son out alive after only three days. And with those things, we find the opportunity to recognize Jesus as the King and to become a part of His kingdom. Oh, Mark's retelling of Jesus' life and ministry shows God establishing His reign through His son Jesus. And yet again, many did not understand it. Their hearts were hard. They were looking for a Messiah in a different form, and not in God's one and only Son. That is one of the reasons why Mark wrote his gospel, to help us understand how God did establish His reign through His Son. Mark helps us understand Jesus as our Liberator, and our Shepherd, and our King; and when we do that, we will want to submit to and follow Him as our Lord and Savior. There are two statements here in Mark's gospel that perhaps summarizes his message. The first one is at the very beginning. Mark begins his gospel in chapter 1 verse 1 with these words: <The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.> The last one is toward the end, in chapter 15 verse 38, it is spoken by a Roman soldier who actually did put Jesus on the cross. He said, <"Surely this man was the Son of God."> Oh, from the beginning to the end, Mark invites us to see Jesus as God's one and only Son. From His baptism to His resurrection, we are invited to put our faith in Him. Oh, the Kingdom of God is still among us today in the person of Jesus Christ. We are invited to become a part of it, as Jesus invites us to repent, to believe in Him as God's one and only Son, and then to leave our past behind and follow Him as a true disciple, and that was the message we began with, in chapter 1 verses 14 through 18. Oh, the gospel story is not simply a history lesson with a bunch of facts and figures about Jesus we are to commit to memory; yes, that might be a part of it. Yet ultimately, Mark invites us to participate in that story. And, that story calls us to follow Jesus into baptism and into the desert. He invites us to follow Him into ministry to those who are broken hearted and hurting. We follow Him to the cross where we die with Him every day. And eventually, we will follow Him into glory where we will be changed into His likeness for all eternity. As you continue to read and study Mark's gospel, I would invite you to think about Jesus being your Liberator, your Good Shepherd, and your Mighty King; and then, decide to believe in Him and become His disciple.
The Gospel of Mark takes us on a fast-moving journey of Jesus' life and ministry. He highlights His activity in only sixteen chapters. Jesus is presented as the only One who sets us free, who serves us completely, and who invites us to submit to Him as our King. Mark's gospel is a story about freedom, service, and submission. He invites us to make those things a priority in our lives, as well. When that happens, we become a part of Jesus' eternal kingdom; and, Jesus would like that very much. That is why He offered himself as the greatest example of service and sacrifice this world has ever known. That is why Mark shares his story with us, today.
Thank you for studying Mark's gospel with us today. I hope it gave you some things to consider as you decide to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Mark reminds us of the importance to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Walking in His footsteps and learning the importance of serving others is what it is all about. This message, along with many others, can be found on our website, keytothekingdom.com. You can view or listen to it again free of any charge or commitment. A number of other things are found on the site, as well. Previous lessons, two-minute video clips, and a free Bible study are all available. You can also send me a message by e-mail, and I would really like to hear from you. Roku television is another way to access "Key to the Kingdom." We certainly hope you will take advantage of all of these free opportunities. By calling the number on the screen you can request the same free Bible study that is on the website. Leave your name and address and one will be sent to you by mail very shortly. It contains six lessons and they can assist you in knowing more about Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all. Once again, thank you so much for spending some time with us today, as we studied the Gospel of Mark. I invite you to join us again next time, on this same channel and at the same time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."