Monday, February 9, 2015

Preaching the Kingdom of God

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:29-39 (ESV)
“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
So Jesus answers when everyone is looking for him. They won’t come to him, he will go to them. They won’t find him, he will find them. It is not that we have chosen him, but that he has chosen us.
Everyone is looking for you, the disciples tell him. There is truth to that even today. The only problem is Jesus, the messiah, isn’t always who we want him to be. He doesn’t always do what we want him to do, and he won’t be found in those places where we would like him to be found. Instead he hides amidst a crowd of hypocrites, adulterers, selfish scrooges; murderers, addicts and abusers, a huddled mass of the broken, sick and despairing the world will never understand, but whom the faithful call the church, and the apostles refer to as saints, that Jesus calls disciples.
But what is it the people look for really? The people of Capernaum had seen Jesus cast out a demon, they watched as Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and they crowded the street before his house until well into the night bringing the lame, the crippled, the sick and the blind to be healed. They didn’t want to hear Jesus. They didn’t care for what he had to say about the kingdom of God being near. They no longer even remembered his teaching that came with authority as he expounded on the scriptures, the Old Testament he said spoke of him. They didn’t really care for the kingdom of God, but only that which Jesus used to show that the kingdom of God was near, the miracles, the healings. Like Adam and Eve who wanted to eat of the tree of life after the tree of good and evil, to live forever in this world full of sin. They won’t hear Jesus anymore, and he knows it, it is not the kingdom of God they want, but more of the same, more of this life. So he moves on.
This is what people often expect, often want of Jesus. They don’t so much want the kingdom of God as they want to be healed in this earthly life. Just as we are often more concerned about the pebble in our shoe than we are about what is going on in Washington, we too are most often concerned with our daily problems, our personal dramas, our bank accounts, and maladies than we are with the kingdom of God, salvation and the forgiveness of sins. And Jesus says, seek first the kingdom of God and all this will be given to you. God who has seen to your salvation will take care of these things also, they belong to this life and this world that is passing away, but his word, his death, his resurrection are there to secure for you an eternal weight of glory that makes these tribulations pale in comparison to what we have in store. These proverbial pebbles in our shoes, are as nothing compared to the news he has for us.
No, the world seeks him for all the wrong reasons, and therefore seeks him in all the wrong places. Like the whole town of Capernaum, banging down the door of Peter’s house. It is at times like this, when the world is offering him worldly glory, fame and recognition, that Jesus steals away in the night constantly seeking solitude for prayer and devotion, to intercede before his Father on behalf of those he loves, on behalf of you for whom he died that we would receive the kingdom. What we could learn from that example. Here was a man who practiced what he preached, who sought the kingdom of God, to be with his Father, with our Father first, knowing that all the rest would be taken care of, food, clothing, and everything else a man could want.
The disciples find him. They know him. They know where to look. The whole town is looking for you they say, but Jesus says let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. He came out to preach! It seems so ridiculous to the world, he can heal the sick, but he would preach. He isn’t going to wait in Capernaum for the people to come to him. But he will go to the people to preach, because it is in his preaching that the true gifts of God are brought to the fore. It is in preaching that the kingdom of God comes near, comes to be brought at hand, and takes hold of those who hear. And it is in preaching the word of God that the kingdom of God should be sought first, because Jesus has something to say, he has something to say to the world, something to say to the murderers and adulterers, the selfish scrooges, the mass of sinners for whom he died. “Your sins are forgiven,” he says. This life that you fuss so much for, it passes away, in vain do you toil for your respect, your health, your riches and comforts, for it all passes away, it all returns to dust. But the word of God preached to you, the word of God fulfilled in Christ, the word of God that drowns you and joins you to his death, the word of God poured out for you, for the sins of many. This is the word of God that remains forever, and so do those who remain in him, who remain in his kingdom, who abide in his glory the forgiveness of sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

No comments: