Study in Mark’s Gospel. Presentation 09. The Companions Of Jesus Chap 1v1-8. Presentation 09. Introduction.
I used to help out at a youth club. Week after week, when teams were being chosen for a variety of sporting activities, the last person to be picked was Ricky. Sometimes neither team wanted her. She would try to save himself this embarrassment by saying at the outset that he did not want to play. Rickywas big and badly co-ordinated. She tended to be a liability to her team.
There are many Ricky’s in the world, people who are made to feel unwanted and who have been persuaded that they've little to offer!
But there is another strand to Ricky 's story! One day she discovered that someone wanted her. She discovered that Jesus wanted to be her friend and use her in his service. Rickybecame renowned for her faithfulness. She came to Sunday worship - both services. She regularly attended the prayer meeting and the church youth fellowship. Whenever the church planned a parish outreach, Rickywas the first to volunteer.
Ricky had discovered something of tremendous importance. Despite what her peers may have thought of her, she was valued highly by Jesus who said, 'Ricky I can use you, even you’.
The passage before us deals with Jesus’ call to a group of men who would be instrumental in turning the tide of human history. They would become Christ's agents, establishing the church on earth.
Our familiarity with this list of names may cause us to miss something of vital importance. In order to build his church Jesus chose a strange mixture of men. Think of the variety of backgrounds, interests, politics and personalities that made up this group. Clearly they all did not fall out of the same mould.
Simon the Zealot was a member of a subversive political party that was committed to overthrowing the Roman authority. In contrast Matthew, a tax collector, had earned his living by working for the Romans - he was viewed by his countrymen as a traitor! If you were planning a peaceful family picnic it was unlikely that you would include James and John nicknamed, ‘The sons of Thunder’! Peter was big impulsive fisherman with a reputation for always forcefully putting forward his point of view…
No one, but Jesus, could bind these unlikely ingredients into a cohesive team, who would lay the foundation for a world-wide church.
We need to break the stereotype picture that many have of the kind of people whom Jesus calls to into his service. Perhaps you are one of the people who think, ‘I do not fit the discipleship mould’. Or,‘I don’t want to be drawn into the heart of the work of the fellowship I attend for I couldn’t work with so and so. How could there be any kind of team spirit given past rivalries and personality conflicts all of which argue against our being able to work together’.
Now the whole point of this passage is to show that Jesus is able to bind the strangest and unlikeliest of people together in order to achieve his purpose!
Mark gives us 3 reasons for Jesus' choice of these men.
The first, is that they might be his companions. Jesus wanted them to be with him v14. Should we be surprised that he longed for the company of others? Jesus humanity was real and man was created a social being. The quest
for companionship is a very natural one. What did God
say when Adam was alone in the garden? 'It is not good
for man to be alone’ Gen 3v18. There was a part of Jesus that wanted and needed friends and these men were chosen to be his human companions. At the close of
his ministry and despite their failures, weaknesses, faithlessness and immaturity, Jesus describes how
much he had benefited from their company...
Of course Jesus wanted their companionship that they too might benefit from it. Only by spending time with him would they get to know what he was like, discover the significance of his ministry and have their lives shaped and equipped for service in the kingdom. The importance of this cannot be over emphasised. Spending time with Jesus is a basic requirement for fruitful Christian service.
After Pentecost, when Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, they were astonished by the wisdom, power and
grace of the apostles and concluded,
“these men have been with Jesus” Acts 4v13.
That was the secret of their fruitfulness.
Many people have ambitions for Christian service and want to accomplish great things for God. But if they're strangers to Jesus, if they’ve not sat at his feet and enrolled in his school, they will accomplish nothing of value. Spending time with Jesus is the way to become like him and that in turn is the way in which to be of value in the service of the kingdom.
You may well ask if the companionship and intimacy that the disciples enjoyed with Jesus in Palestine 2000 years ago is available to you?
I have spoken to a number of people who have said wistfully, "If only we had been alive then to meet and spend time with Jesus." However, our companionship can be as real as that of Jesus' first disciples as we make time to meet with him in his Word. His Holy Spirit makes it alive to us. We hear Jesus speaking to our hearts and that is no less real. Indeed it is one of the benefits of Jesus ascension to heaven. He is accessible to believers all over the world. Do we make time for him? Do we treasure scripture as we ought and expect to find Jesus there as we read it? Our answer will determine, in great measure, the usefulness of our lives.
Secondly, Jesus chose these men in order to send them out to preach. Of course, as preachers the apostles possessed a unique role in history. Their preaching was authenticated by signs and wonders and various miracles [Heb. 2v4] which were the marks of their apostleship [2Cor. 12v2].
Despite the uniqueness of the role of the apostles in proclaiming the gospel, there is nevertheless a pattern here for every believer. Jesus calls us to spend time with him in order to send us out to share with others the good news of the kingdom. Something we will want to do naturally and spontaneously.
Do you remember the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well of Sychar [Jn.4]? He spent time with her. He spoke to her about living water. He make it clear that he placed great value upon her. What happened as a result? She ran excitedly back to the townspeople who had made her life a misery and said, 'Come see a man... Could this be the Christ‘ v29. When Jesus does us good and changes our lives, he expects us to share what he has done for us. Not standing on a soapbox or, cornering our neighbours at every opportunity but naturally and with sensitivity sharing something of the spark of new life which has begun to glow in our hearts.
Samuel Rutherford, the Scottish Covenanter describes this witnessing role writing;
“It is my aim and hearty desire that my furnace which is of the Lord’s kindling may sparkle fire upon standers-by, by the warming of their hearts with God’s love”.
Winning others to Jesus and engaging in kingdom building work is no easy matter and so we come to the third reason Jesus had for calling these men to be with him. It was to give them his authority cf. v15.
The followers of Jesus who heed his command to work with him in building his kingdom will inevitably be confronted by malevolent hostility and opposition.
In v11 we find the demonic world attempting to undermine the success of Jesus’ mission. By acknowledging his identity, 'you are the Son of God‘, they tried to give the impression that Jesus was one of them.
And so the real significance of the exorcism, referred to by Jesus in v15,is that we might recognise that the mission of the church is conducted in an arena of spiritual conflict. Permanent hostility exists between Christ's kingdom and the kingdom of darkness, the latter is determined to keep men in captivity, and deprive them of the blessing of God and of the experience of his love, forgiveness and grace.
The reality of this spiritual conflict is no less real today. Have you ever wondered, given the benefits and blessings that the gospel brings, why people are not queuing up to enter the kingdom. Why do they not see gospel truths that seem so clear to believers? Paul answers, 'the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ 2Cor.4v4.
We must see evangelism and mission in this context. Satan blinds men's minds to the truths of the gospel. But does that not lower our sense of expectation? We need not be disheartened! Why? Jesus has given to his church his authority to engage in a spiritual struggle.
Prior to his ascension into heaven Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me... Therefore go and make disciples of all nations’ Matt.28v18-19.
Jesus has conferred his authority on the church. It is to be employed in expanding his kingdom in what he recognised to be a spiritually alien environment. But how is that authority used? How do we see people, who are presently blinded to the richness of the grace of the gospel, brought into the kingdom? Above all else we pray! The kingdom of God advances on its knees
Do you see the significance of Jesus’ call? First, it is a call to spend time with him, being made into attractive people who will influence others. Then, it is a call to communicate the good news of the gospel. Finally, it is a call to take seriously the spiritual conflict surrounding kingdom expansion.
“We are harmless and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual
pacifists… conscientious objectors in this battle to the death
with principalities and powers in high places. We are
sideliners coaching and criticising the real wrestlers, while
content to sit by and leave the enemies of God
Does this describe us or, dare we believe that we could be
part of God's plan to turn the tide of human history
in our community and beyond.