Feb. 1, 2009
Fourth Sunday After Epiphany (B)
Mark 1:21-28

Jesus has now chosen four men to be His first followers. They were two sets of brothers. Simon Peter and Andrew were casting their net. This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus asked them to do for men. This is the task of the evangelist. The other two brothers were James and John. They were mending their nets.
This is a vivid illustration of the role of the pastor-teacher. Simon and Andrew saw immediate results of their labor. James and John were working at the basics of maintaining and repairing their nets so the work could go forward. With less than a dozen words, Jesus changed their lives. Four fishermen left a vocation to answer a call. Jesus was preparing to invade the world not with soldiers but with evangelists, pastors and teachers.

I. The Presence
The first time Jesus was in the temple at the age of 12 the Scriptures tell us, “…he was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46, God’s Word translation). Eighteen years later Jesus was the pastor-teacher. Rather than asking questions, He was expounding the ancient writings in such a way that cut through the Halacoth, the Mishna, the Gemara, the Midrashim and the Hagada.
Jesus captured the attention of everyone on that Sabbath day in the synagogue. He taught in the language of the common man. He broke it down in such a way that their minds, hearts and wills were drawn to Him. They left the synagogue that day saying, “We’ve never heard a sermon like that before.”
Jesus was not only the author of what He was teaching; He was the incarnation of His teaching. What a service this must have been. The Word teaching the Word and living the Word right in front of them was more than they could grasp.

II. The Proclamation
Exactly what Jesus taught that day we are not certain. Based on other recorded teachings and sermons, He must have expounded about the kingdom that had come, the Law that was being fulfilled even as He spoke, and the need for regeneration. Whatever Jesus preached and taught that day, the people of Capernaum were astonished but not converted.
It wasn’t that they were hostile toward Jesus; they were indifferent. Having heard the Word, they rejected the Word. The result was judgment on the citizens of Capernaum rather than mercy. In Matthew 11:23-24 (NKJV) Jesus declared their destiny by saying, “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. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” There is a high price to be paid for rejecting both the teaching and the Teacher, the preaching and the Pastor.
Too often today, I fear, congregations want to feel approved, affirmed and applauded when they leave the Sunday-morning service. Jesus was not concerned with proclaiming a user-friendly gospel. His proclamations sought to confront men with the truth, convict them of their sins, bring about confession and leave them cleansed.

III. The Pastor
The man with the unclean spirit who was attending the synagogue is like many who sit in worship services every week. Their cry is the same as his, “Let us alone!” Man without Christ is not only alone but lonely. The trappings of the world serve only as a cover of the desperation underneath.
The current economic crisis in our nation should serve as a reminder that only one thing will never lose its value: a personal relationship with Jesus. When riches, power, position and investments have evaporated and left many empty and hopeless, Jesus speaks the same words as He did to the demon masquerading as a self-sufficient man, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
The result of Jesus’ first synagogue sermon triggered two responses. First, some asked, “What is this?” The new always threatens the old. His method of preaching was perhaps different, and His message was plain, simple and-above all-scriptural. The scribes and Pharisees could not get their minds around the truths of this new pastor-teacher who had just delivered this Sabbath message.
Second, others thought Jesus was introducing a new doctrine that they could add to their commentaries known as the Midrashim. However, it was no new doctrine. It was timeless truth expounded by the Eternal Truth, who spoke as never man had spoken.
As the great Bible teacher John Phillips says, “The world is tired of our legalism, ritualism, rationalism, and hypocrisy. It is tired of our sterile teaching, psychological preaching, worn-out clichés, ‘charismatic’ extremism, phony ecumenism, and dead sermons. It is waiting to see the doctrine wedded to Holy Spirit power.” In other words, the world will be amazed once again as were the people in Capernaum when we follow the example of the Master pastor-teacher.

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