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Amazed But Unrepentant

Miracles in Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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For our devotional this week we looked at a brief introduction to Mark’s gospel. This morning I would like to tell you a little bit about Capernaum before we get into the message. I spent a morning walking the Nazareth to Galilee trail, to Mount of the Beatitudes and then down to the sea and an afternoon in Capernaum in December which is Winter there and I have to say Winter in Galilee at that time was glorious, much like the days we are having at the moment. Cool nights and warm sunny days with temperatures around 24C. no wind to ruffle the surface of Galilee. Picture perfect. Capernaum is located on the waterfront, the North shore of Galilee, just around the corner of the lake from Migdal or Magdala, where we were staying. That was the hometown of Mary Magdalen. When you visit there the site is divided into two halves. The Half owned by the Catholic church has had a fair bit of excavation and you can walk through the fourth century synagogue built on the foundations of the one that Jesus preached in, in this story. It is surprisingly large and very ornate. Only about thirty or so meters away is the site of Simon Peters House. The identity has been pretty well established and there is also the remains of a fourth century Byzantine church built over it. Of course the Catholics had to build a church there, but the church is a stunningly beautiful octagonal building raised up above the ruins of peter’s house but with a large glass floor panel showing the whole ruin beneath the church clearly. So the setting from our story and the next are well known and I enjoyed my visit immensely. The Greek orthodox own the other half of the site and have a small church there but do not allow anyone to walk or explore any of their part of the property. It remains as it has since the time of Jesus. They want their congregation to be allowed to worship in peace without hordes of visitors tramping all over their church grounds. I came to a whole new respect for the Orthodox church while I was in the Holy Land. ( I have attached a link to a video of Capernaum done by a Christian couple living in Israel)
The walk from Nazareth to Galilee is a really tough one and involves a long and gradual ascent up the slopes of the Horns of Hattin, then a terrible traverse along the top of the ridge, completely covered in rocks and very slippery with no visible path through. Then a very steep descent down a similar rocky and slippery track, very dangerous. The idea of Jesus travelling along nice smooth dirt roads was shattered for me there. It was really tough and quite dangerous. And it was the main route from Nazareth to Galilee. From there it is a long slow descent to the sea of Galilee at Tiberius and just about 8 Km from there to Capernaum, passing through Magdala on the way.
Jesus had actually gone past Capernaum a little bit, to the place where the Jordan enters the lake from the north, to be Baptised by John.
He was obviously based at Peter’s place in Capernaum and had chosen his disciples whilst walking along the shore there where the fishing boats would all be dragged up onto the beach and the fishermen mending their nets and doing all the things they need to do to prepare for the nights fishing.
There is a very important word that is a distinctive of Mark’s gospel and that word is ‘immediately’. I mean Matthew spent most of his first chapter of his gospel on a genealogy not getting to Jesus’ ministry until chapter 4. Mark has the first thirty years of Jesus’ life encapsulated in 21 verses and by the time we get to the end of chapter 1, Jesus has healed in the synagogue, healed Peters mother in law of a fever then ministered to the rest of the town that night and gone on to minister all around Galilee. It’s like there is not a moment to waste. Everything has to be done immediately for Mark.
Mark 1:21 (NKJV)
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
There was something different about His teaching. He wasn’t teaching the Torah by saying well Rabbi this said that, but Rabbi the other said the opposite make your own mind up. No Jesus was able to speak the mind of God directly to the people.
Mark 1:15 (NKJV)
15 … “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
He spoke with His own authority. A God given authority. Remember Luke 4 18 -19
Luke 4:18–19 (NKJV)
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
His authority was given by God and backed up by the anointing and empowering by the Holy Spirit. His authority was because whenever He spoke it was the word of God. The Apostle John opens his gospel with the words
John 1:1–5 (NKJV)
The Deity of Christ
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Down to verse 14,
John 1:14 (NKJV)
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The very Word of God himself had walked into that synagogue that Sabbath morning and there was only one group that recognised it. Shall we read on
Mark 1:23–24 (NKJV)
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
Isn’t that amazing the Son of God walks into a synagogue on Shabbat and the only ones who recognise Him are demons. They have read their bibles. They were there before the world began and would have known the pre incarnate Jesus. They fell and they knew their fate when Jesus walked into the room. They just weren’t sure if their end was right now or later.
Jesus would not put up with that for one minute he said our bibles tell us he said “be quiet” sternly. The commentaries tell us that what he actually said was closer to “SHUT UP, COME OUT OF HIM RIGHT NOW’
What happened next was interesting. Even for the Son of God things sometimes look like they are getting worse before they get better.
26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice[1]
It would have looked like he was having a fit or a grand mal seizure. Horrible thing to happen in the middle of a peaceful shabbat by the sea of Galilee.
And then ‘and came out of him with a shriek.’ Says the NIV
Now we don’t have any history on this man. Was he a part of the congregation and had been possessed for years and no one knew it, other than he was a bit weird from time to time. Maybe he was the town crazy person who chose this moment to wander into the synagogue and stir things up a bit.
What was the response of the people in the synagogue? Did they fall on their faces and repent in the presence of Jesus who had just demonstrated absolute power over the powers of darkness?
Not at all, what did they do? They chatted among themselves. No one was convicted of sin no one else said they were sick and asked to be healed. Nothing.
Mark 1:27–28 (NKJV)
27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
But someone in that room had a story to tell didn’t he? He had a testimony. He went around and told everyone what had happened. The people who were not in the synagogue that morning would have known this man and they believed the evidence of their own eyes. The man was healed and delivered of the demons that had possessed him and robbed him of his normal life.
What was the result?
28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
There is the result of a testimony. One big healing and the whole region is talking about it.
What is the moral for us in this story. We need to choose. We need to decide what we are going to do about this Jesus from Nazareth who has come to town and upset the morning service.
Are you just going to talk among yourselves over a cup of coffee, or are you going to tell your friends about the wonderful things that God is doing here in Nambucca Baptist Church.
There are consequences with either choice. You can be a part of growing the kingdom here or you can be like those in Capernaum that morning. Jesus has a few words to say about that choice in Matthew 11.
Matthew 11:23–24 (NKJV)
23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
Answer key: Choose life, and life to the full, that’s what Jesus came to give us, Kingdom life.
Now we are going to move over to the table to share communion. It would be great if you use the break between clips to get your own communion elements together and join us as we share together.
Holy Communion
Having heard the story of that first meeting in the synagogue at Capernaum it would be easy to dismiss it as just a story, about ignorant villagers in a backwards part of a very small country. Surely if Jesus were to walk into church and do the same thing we would recognise Him. Chances are though that we would probably not recognise Him either. We might be a part of the church community that doesn’t believe in evil spirits especially in a believer. There are plenty of references where the disciples themselves did not recognise him. So don’t beat yourselves up if you think you might have missed Him at some point. He understands us and has made a way for us to get back to Him on a regular basis. Remember, we are called to repent and believe. He asked us to remember His sacrifice once and for all time for us. He told us to keep on remembering until He returns.
Even though we may have failed or fallen He is always there to pick us up, comfort us and set us back on the path we should follow. There is both hope and comfort in this. It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that keeps us coming back to Him.
So this morning let us remember, not the unbelievers in Capernaum but Jesus himself. As the song goes He is a Way Maker, a miracle worker, a promise keeper and light in the darkness. No matter how frightened and dark we may think that the world is right now, He is the light in the darkness, and He draws us to himself.
Let us remember that the Lord Jesus Christ on the same night that He was betrayed took the bread and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to his disciples saying "Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me."
Would you now take the bread
Let us eat together: -
The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]
Let us now take the cup
Let us drink together: -
The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Heavenly Father, you have opened to us the Scriptures,
and you have made yourself known to us
in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of the cup.
Abide with us and in us, we pray,
that, blessed by your holy presence,
we may walk with you, that we may be empowered by your Spirit to witness and to serve you as disciples all the days of our life,
and at its end behold you in your glory,
one God for ever and ever.
The Blessing
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.
[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mk 1:26.
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