Sunday, January 30, 2005

Occupied With The Kingdom
Mark 3:7-21

Rev. Greg L. Price

It was observed from the text which we last considered (in Mk.3:1-6) that Christ was anything but inactive on the Sabbath day. The Lord filled his Sabbath day with deeds of worship, deeds of necessity, and deeds ofmercy. It was not a day to be lazy and unprofitable, but rather a day to celebrate the mercy and grace ofGod, a day to feast (spiritually) in joyous communion with God, and a day to advance the Kingdom of God. But what about the other six days of the week? Was the Lord Jesus only occupied with the Kingdom of God on the Sabbath day, but unoccupied with this holy Cause throughout the rest of the week? As we shall observe from our text (in Mk.3:7-21) this Lord's day, Jesus was so busy in furthering the Kingdom of God on the other six days of the week that friends and family members actually thought He had taken leave of his senses (i.e. they thought He was crazy).

His chief end in life was to glorify His Father by promoting the Kingdom of God through His words and His deeds. Nothing was more important to Christ than this goal. He was preoccupied with this grand purpose whether He was teaching, healing, or even sitting down to rest and seeking to quench his thirst (as in the case ofHis speaking to the woman who had come to fetch water out of the well in Samaria, Jn.4). The Lord Jesus was indeed unique in many ways as the God-man, but we should not make Him so altogether different that we easily dismiss His single-mindedness of purpose and mission in life with words like, "Well of course He was single-minded and preoccupied with advancing the Kingdom of God, after all He was the Son of God." There are many things that we cannot in this life imitate in the life of Christ: for example, His miracles, His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His substitutionary death for His people. But dear ones, the pages of Scripture are filled with many footsteps of Christ, footsteps which we are to seek out, footsteps which we are to cherish, footsteps which we are to desire with all of our heart, and footsteps inwhich we are to walk by God's grace (1Pet.2:21).

I submit to you that Christ's desire and drive to promote and advance the righteous Cause of Christ in all that He did (even in the other six days of the week) is one of the paths He has left for us that we should walk therein. Whether you work at home, or whether you work in a trade, or whether you are employed by others, or whether you are self-employed, dear ones, your chief calling in life is to glorify and enjoy the Lord by advancing the Kingdom of Christ in all that you do. There is nothing more important than this. However, we all too often become so preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of this world that we forget and lose sight of this high and holy calling to which all who have embraced Jesus Christ by faith alone have been called.
Dear ones, as those who have received the free grace of Christ, our attitude cannot be, "Yeah, yeah, I know that is what I should do, but.... (you fill in the excuse)." To the contrary our attitude must be, "By God's grace, I earnestly desire and will wholeheartedly endeavor to live my life with Christ's Kingdom ever before myeyes."

Christ was occupied with the Cause of His Father.
This is the path in which the Lord walked, let us follow Him. The main points from our text for this Lord's day are the following:

I. Christ Was Occupied With Mercy(Mk.3:7-12);
II. Christ Was Occupied With Teaching andTraining His Disciples (Mk.3:13-19);
III. Christ Was Occupied More With The Needs Of Others Than With HisOwn Needs (Mk.3:20-21).

I. Christ Was Occupied With Mercy (Mk.3:7-12).

a. Mark 3:6 tells us that after Christ healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day, that the Pharisees conspired with their hated enemies, the Herodians, as to how they might destroy Christ. Whereas the Pharisees despised the Roman occupation ofIsrael while the Herodians supported the Roman occupation of Israel, both groups hated Christ more than they hated one another.
(1) This is an example of the politics of the world,where causes are not so much supported because of the agreement amongst its members, but rather because of the mutual hatred they share for a common enemy. Dear ones, all such political or social causes are ultimately doomed to failure because the members do not share in common a like precious faith and agreement in the truth. When the common enemy is disposed of, the members then turn upon themselves and devour one another so that the cause for which they stood crumbles from dissension within the ranks. Jesus said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Furthermore, the effect upon those who have the truth of God and yet unite with those who do not share the same convictions in such political, ecclesiastical, or social causes is almost always the weakening or softening of the truth rather than the weakening or softening of error. Such alliances are contrary to the Word of God and to our Solemn League and Covenant even if the cause is a just one(Ps.106:35-with the heathen; Ez.22:25-29-with professing believers).

b. Our text in Mk.3:7 states that Jesus withdrew Himself from the immediate plotting of the Pharisees and the Herodians (this is made more clear inMt.12:14,15). It was not because Christ was a coward or because He was unwilling to stand for the truth, or because He was unwilling to be persecuted for the sake of the truth that He withdrew, but in order that He might avoid persecution and might have more time and opportunity to take the gospel to those who desired to hear Him (Mt.10:23). Dear ones, it is not always a sin to avoid direct confrontation with the enemy. In fact, at times it is the wise thing to do so that we might have more opportunities to proclaim the truth subsequently. Although we should not allow our fears to keep from being faithful to Christ and His Word, nevertheless, we must always be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Mt.10:16).

c. Jesus withdrew from the immediate danger that thePharisees and Herodians posed for Him and yet He did not withdraw from advancing the Cause and Kingdom ofGod. When He couldn't advance the Kingdom of God in one area (due to persecution or due the unbelief of the people), He went to another area. He never lost sight of His chief mission in life.

(1) Dear ones, if the door is closed for the present in advancing the Kingdom of Christ with one individual or with one family are you so discouraged or afraid that you take no thought of advancing the Cause ofChrist with others?

d. Great multitudes of people followed the Lord ( Mk.3:7), yet His fleeing the persecution of the Pharisees and Herodians did not distract Him showing mercy to those who followed Him. They came from all regions of Palestine (not just of Israel). They came not only from the Jewish Provinces of Galilee and Judea, but also from the Gentile areas ofTyre, Sidon, and Idumea. They had heard of the wonders He performed and had come to Him because of needs they had. The crowd became so great and the pressing to hear Him and to touch Him so intense that Christ prepared a boat into which He could stand before the people without being forced into the sea.

e. Whether all the people who pressed in upon Christ had genuine saving faith in seeking to touch Christ or not, they, nevertheless, demonstrated the rightm action. For those who earnestly seek the Kingdom ofChrist will take it by force and with violence (in a figurative sense) acc. to Mt.11:12. Are you taking the Kingdom of Christ with ease and comfort or by force? The the Kingdom of Christ should be of so much value to the Christian that he is willing to sell all that he has in order to secure it (The parable of pearl of great price, Mt.13:45,46). Dear ones, if there is no aggressive desire or action on our parts to touch Christ, to be healed of Christ, to grow in Christ, to commune with Christ, we are in a backslidden state. We cannot be apathetic or indifferent in the things of Christ and not be backslidden in our faith and love toward Christ. This sin is so subtle. Let us continually beseech the Lord to search out our hearts for apathy, and to grant us a holy aggressiveness in the things that concern the Cause of Christ.

f. Observe how willing Christ was (even when His own life was in danger) to show mercy to those who were in need. These designed acts of mercy (not random acts of mercy) were freely offered at the expense of His own well-being. It would have been easy for Christ to isolate Himself from all people due to the threat upon His own life (if He were thinking of His own comfort,His own convenience, His own well-being). But He didn't. And because He didn't, you who have received the mercy of Christ. Is not the Kingdom of Christ manifested to us in the undeserved mercy offered to us in Christ? Is not the mercy of Christ the substance of the gospel of Christ? The Lord did not exclude the multitudes who came to Him for help. His undeserved mercy did not draw lines and boundaries, but was extended to all who came to Him. He mercifully healed those who came to Him (not only on the Sabbath, but on the other days of the week). He mercifully cast demons out of those who came to Him (not only on the Sabbath, but on the other days of the week).

(1) Dear ones, the Kingdom of Christ will not advance nor will it flourish apart from a Christianity that is filled with mercy toward others. Nor will we enjoy the blessing of God upon our lives apart from advancing the Kingdom of Christ by designed and repeated acts of mercy even to those whom we judge not deserving of mercy (Mt.5:7; Jms.2:13; Jms. 3:17).

(2) I know of no quicker way for a Christian to incur the holy displeasure of God in his/her life than to withhold mercy from others (the parable of the unmerciful servant, Mt.18:21-35). Remember that we do not have to do someone harm in order to destroy them. According to Christ (in Mk.3:4), we need only withhold acts of mercy to those who have legitimate needs.

(3) Christ advances the Kingdom of God by acts of mercy and so must we. Beloved, mercy begins at home. Men, if we are not characterized by mercy at home in seeking to help and care for our wives in their physical and spiritual needs, we are in a backslidden state of sin. Husbands, wives, and children, if we are more concerned about our own convenience and comfort than we are about those who are need, we are living a life of hypocrisy like the Pharisees (who were more willing to help their animals on the Sabbath to help people with legitimate needs, Mt.12:11,12). Dear ones, being occupied with mercy is something all of us can do regardless of our financial situation or status in life. No one will be able to say to God, I couldn't show mercy to those who were in need. You may not financially be able to help as you would like to help, but you are never prevented from showing mercy to some degree. To show mercy is to extend and advance the Kingdom of Christ.

II. Christ Was Occupied With Teaching and Training HisDisciples (Mk.3:13-19).

a. The second way in which Christ demonstrated that He was occupied with the Cause and Kingdom of God was in His commitment to instruct those who followed Him. Out of the many that closely followed Him, He chose twelve that "they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal the sicknesses, and to cast out demons"(Mk.3:14,15).

b. Apparently, this was the time in which the Lord selected and ordained His twelve disciples, but the actual commissioning of them to go out and minister awaited a period of instruction and training (Mk.6:7). Here we see another extremely important way of advancing the Kingdom of Christ: instructing disciples and followers of Christ. The Lord would not send the disciples out until they had been with Him long enough to be able to teach others concerning theKingdom of God.

c. Dear ones, the Kingdom of Christ will not advance without knowledge of Christ and His truth. Young men may have the necessary zeal to preach the gospel, but without a proficient knowledge of the truth, they will only cause confusion and division within the body of Christ. I would rather see one man adequately trained in the truth and sent out to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ only after that has been achieved than to see one hundred men sent out to preach the gospel before they have been adequately trained in the truth. Certainly God can choose to use even the unprepared minister to bring people to Christ, but the work of lasting reformation and unity amongst the churches of Christ will only be achieved by men who have been diligently prepared to take, promote, and defend the truth of Christ against all false doctrine.

Christ considered the calling of these men to full time Christian ministry that He spent all night in prayer(acc. to Lk.6:12) before selecting them and ordaining them (cf. Acts 13:3). How prayerfully we ought to take such steps as well, before placing any man into the office of minister of Jesus Christ.

d. Men, we are advancing the Kingdom of Christ when we take the time to instruct our wives and our children in the truth. Ladies, you are advancing the Kingdom of Christ, when you homeschool your children and nurture them in the the things of Christ. As with mercy, so with instruction-it must begin in the home. As with mercy, so with instruction-if you are not diligently, patiently, and lovingly instructing your wives or your children, you are not only not advancing the Kingdom of Christ, but you are destroying the Kingdom of Christ. Again, instruction is a means of advancing the Kingdom of Christ that we can each one do regardless of our ordinary calling in life. What we have learned of the mercy and truth of Christ, we can pass on to others.

III. Christ Was Occupied More With The Needs Of OthersThan With His Own Needs (Mk.3:20-21).

a. After the Lord came down from the mountain, having ordained the twelve apostles, the multitude again flocked to Him. The crowd was so persistent and so needy that the Scripture says "they " (i.e. Christ andthe disciples) could not so much as eat bread"(Mk.3:20). The needs of the people were so great that Christ and the disciples had to forego their own bodily needs and comforts. This is the third way in which Christ advanced the Kingdom of God in the passage before us this Lord's day. He was more concerned for the needs of others, than He was concerned for His own bodily needs. He was willing to be deprived of certain bodily needs, He was willing to be inconvenienced, He was willing to be stretched beyond that which was comfortable for Him in order to minister to others.

b. He was so involved in advancing the Kingdom ofChrist and in helping those who came to Him that His"friends" (or more likely his kinsmen) came to layhold on Him by force so that He would take the time at least to eat and care for His bodily needs. Christ was so occupied in advancing the Kingdom of God that He deprived Himself of certain bodily needs, and for that they thought He was out of His mind. Oh that theLord would give to us the grace to be so out of our minds-to be so consumed in promoting and advancing the Kingdom of Christ in our homes, in our extended family, in our neighborhoods, in our city and nation, in our places of employment, and in the Church of Jesus Christ that it would appear that we are out of our minds for the Cause of Jesus Christ. Not out of our minds because we are offending others in the manner in which we advance the Kingdom of Christ, but out of our minds in how we so subdue the flesh, subdue our own desires, are willing to alter our own schedules or our own routines if necessary, so as to care for others in the name of Jesus Christ.

I close with giving you a parable with which you are all familiar-the parable of the talents (Mt.25:14-30). Is it your supreme desire to be used in whatever way possible to advance the Kingdom of Christ? If so we must willing to be spent, to be deprived, to be inconvenienced for the sake of others.

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