Jesus Is Disturbing

Mark 1:21-28

How long had the demon-possessed man been in the synagogue before anyone noticed him?  Years?  Decades?  He had probably been there a long time, but nobody knew he had a demon.  Then “immediately” (there’s Mark’s favorite word again!), Jesus went into the synagogue, which was like a church, and began to teach.  Jesus taught like none other.  

Everyone was astonished, because he taught with authority, unlike the other teachers.  Almost instantaneously, as soon as the man with the unclean spirit heard the teaching of Jesus, the demon surfaced.  It cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?” (1:24).  The demon was threatened by the authoritative teaching of Jesus.  

Then the demon-possessed man made the first public declaration of the true identity of Jesus, saying, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”  This declaration came from a demon-possessed man, rather than a disciple or religious leader!  How did Jesus respond?  “But Jesus rebuked him” (1:25).  Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to exit the man, which it did, convulsing him one last time.  Everyone was amazed, saying, ‘What is this?  A new teaching with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” (28).  Put another way, it’s equally amazing that the unclean spirits did not obey the other religious teachers of the day!

Of Men and Mice

It’s like the mice in my shed.  Since I don’t go into the shed during the long winter, it remains undisturbed.  In the spring, I finally open the doors of the shed and expose the rodents living inside of it.  As the light shines in for the first time in months, I’m able to see their nests, droppings, and terrified eyes!  They immediately scurry out of sight, for they recognize me as an enormous enemy.  I usually shout at them a few times, as if they understood English, “Get out of here, stupid mice!” before I begin to clean up the mess they left.  Then my shed can begin to be used for what it was meant to be used for, rather than a Motel 6 for mice!

Again, how long had this man been sitting in the pews of the synagogue before Jesus showed up?  The demons, like my mice, were quietly gnawing away at him, completely undisturbed.  But before they could devour him altogether, Someone showed up who actually spoke the truth with authority.  The kingdom of God arrived and the kingdom of his world shrieked and fled.

Powerless Churches

Have you ever heard anyone speak with authority?  Maybe it made you want to get up and leave?  Or you got scared?  Or offended?  I wonder how many people there are with unclean spirits in our churches, who remain completely undisturbed because nobody is teaching with authority?  The antonym for authority is “powerlessness,” which makes one wonder about the teaching going on in our churches today.  

If we want to see our inner demons surface and flee, then we have to expose ourselves to the authoritative word of God, not the powerless babbling we’re used to hearing.

“Authority Song” 

What’s more important to you, the veracity of a teaching, or the authority of the person who speaks it?  Don’t answer too quickly, because we’d like to believe we’re objective and are able to measure a teaching on its own merits; but, most often, we decide on a teaching before we even hear it, because of the trustworthiness of the speaker.  Would you rather hear a confusing and difficult message, from someone you trusted completely, or hear a teaching that makes complete sense to you, but it comes from somebody you do not trust at all?  Our present political climate should make this obvious.  The media won’t agree with certain politicians, no matter what they say!  The majority of the time, we listen to people we trust, who speak with authority, even if their messages don’t make complete sense to us yet.  We tend not to listen to those we don’t trust.

Since Jesus spoke with authority, people trusted him and listened to what he said, even if they didn’t understand at first.  

Disagree to Agree

Let’s face it, even though we tend to trust Jesus, he said some pretty crazy things!  In fact, let’s be real here, we would be shocked if you agreed with everything Jesus said.  We’ll go one step further, those who agree with everything Jesus said are completely out of touch with themselves.  After all, some of his words were meant to offend.  His words stir us up.  His words shine a light into our hearts, causing all the rodents in there to scurry.  He wasn’t always easy to listen to.  He said some extreme things.  He condemned really good people and he praised really bad people.  Again, if you agree with everything Jesus said, then you’ve not been paying attention.  He spoke not just to comfort the sinner, but to disturb the self-righteous.  The words of Jesus are like the Ten Commandments, nobody measures up to them!

Expose Yourself

Regularly expose yourself to the teachings of Jesus, in order to get your inner demons to surface.  You might not know they’re there, just like nobody knew about the undetectable demons of the man.  In fact, the better the job the demons do, the less you’ll even notice them. It takes the word of Jesus to expose them.

And maybe this little devotional on Mark 1:21-28  is raising your ire, kindling some furry, because you don’t want to admit that you have demons or darkness or secret places or doubts. Maybe it’s exposing something you really need to see right now.

The most dangerous part about us is not our most wicked thought or disgraceful deed, but it is our unknown one.  

Fully Known

“But,” you protest, “How can I ever know it, if it’s unknown?  How can I ever be conscious of my unconsciousness?”  That’s exactly why we need to expose ourselves to the words of Jesus, because they cause the unknown parts of us to reveal themselves.  You might not know how to fix you, but Jesus does.

Has Jesus disturbed you?  If not, don’t worry, he will!  Don’t think you have any demons?  Just spend some time with him and the demons will come shrieking out of you.  We all have unclean spirits inside of us, hiding in the neglected corners of our being, the parts we don’t like to talk about. 

Yes, Jesus is disturbing, but he has the authority to disturb you. 

And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  —Mark 1:22

The Breakdown

  1. What stood out to you the most from Mark 1:21-28?
  2. What are some of the teachings of Jesus you find difficult to agree with?  
  3. What are some ways you can expose yourself regularly to the word of God?
  4. Are there areas in your life you haven’t addressed in a while?  Spend some time in prayer, asking God’s Spirit to search your life and reveal the neglected parts.  Then ask Jesus to teach you his word about these areas.

You Are a Kingdom

Mark 1:14-15

In the last devotional, we learned the arrival of Jesus (and the exit of John the Baptist) meant the transition of one age to the next.  The former age of the law became the present age of grace, also called the kingdom of God.  Today, we’re going to learn more about the kingdom of God from Mark 1:14-15.  We’ll examine the kingdom of God through the five W’s (and one H), Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.  We can’t wait for you to learn more with us about the kingdom of God!  We hope you will be blown away by what you discover within you! 

Who?

Who gets to be in the kingdom of God? Is the kingdom of God reserved only for angels, spirits, fat cherubs, and the Almighty?  Or do only pastors and priests get to be in the kingdom of God? Absolutely not! The kingdom of God is for greasy swindlers and the unwashed rabble.  It’s for the misfits and malcontents. 

When Jesus spoke these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), he was speaking to those who only had one thing to offer, their sins. He was speaking to those who responded to the call of John the Baptist to confess their sins and repent. These were not holy people, not even close. They were self-declared sinners.  

Most are too embarrassed of the implications of this truth, for they know it means the kingdom of God is for pimps, pedofiles, prostitutes, and prisoners.  This is truly amazing! If you were a king, and could have any kingdom you wanted, which citizens would you choose to be in it? Would you choose you? 

One more thing, it’s not just that the kingdom of God is for sinners, but it is also that sinners are the kingdom of God! Revelation 1:6 says that God made us sinners into a kingdom.  “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom…”  The kingdom of God is a ruined and redeemed people, who contribute their sins and collect his grace.

What?

What is the kingdom of God?  The kingdom of God is not something made up of bricks and mortar.  Fundamentally, the kingdom of God is a relationship between an individual and God.  The kingdom of God is a sinner’s submission to Jesus Christ as his or her King.  It’s the relationship of Creator and creature.  However, the kingdom of God is not the relationship itself, but, more accurately, it is the relating.  

What do we mean by this?  It helps to think of the kingdom of God not as a noun, but as a verb.  It’s the relating of the relationship between you and God.  It’s the sparks, the fire.  You see, it’s not stagnant, like a noun, but it’s living and active.  It’s growing and expanding, getting higher, wider, longer, and deeper.  

Just think of some of the parables Jesus told about the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is like a farmer who went out to sow; the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man planted in a field; it’s like yeast a woman took and mixed in her dough; it’s like a treasure hidden in a field that a man found; it’s like a net that was let down in the water to catch fish; and it’s like a merchant in search of fine pearls.  

Can you see the pattern?  The kingdom of God is action, a verb!  The kingdom of God is not the stuffy, old home you inherit from your granddaddy that reeks of cat urine and mildew.  It’s not a thing, but a movement.  Again, it’s not just the relationship between you and God, but it’s the relating.  Why is this so important?  Because the kingdom of God within you is dynamic, it can grow and shrink.  In other words, it’s not something you inherit from your parents, culture, or church, but it’s a relationship you must pursue and fan.  It’s not a relationship to settle for.  

The formula is simple, God pursues you and you pursue God, like two wild lovers, like the ones we read about in the erotic book of the Bible called Song of Solomon.  Even the Lord’s prayer demonstrates the verbal action of the kingdom of God, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”  Do you see?  When you pray for God’s kingdom, you pray for it to come, advance, and threaten your so-called sovereignty at every moment.  The kingdom of God is the reality of the relationship between you and God that forcibly seeks to express itself through you (yes, sinful you!), into the world, every day of your life, especially the lousy ones.  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).

When?

When does the kingdom of God happen?  By now, you’ve probably realized the kingdom of God, which is also called the kingdom of heaven, does not happen just in the future, but it is happening now.  Actually, as we learned in our last devotional, the kingdom of God began with the arrival of Jesus Christ in this world.  Remember, Jesus clearly said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).  Put another way, the kingdom of God is right at your fingertips.  The past age of the law has given way to the present age of grace.  One day in the future, this present age of grace will give way to the new heaven on earth, which we commonly think of simply as “heaven.”  

Again, the implications of this reality are colossal.  If the kingdom of God is happening right now, then there’s no time to lose.  You must take responsibility for your life today, because you don’t know what the next moment will bring.  You must stop being the pawn of others, pushed around or silenced.  You must let the kingdom of God within you erupt around you.  If you’re waiting for a time when “more of God” will show up, then you are deceived.  You have all the God you need right now.  You have enough kingdom of God within you right now to deal with sin, impact your community, fight the devil, and strengthen your relationships.  

The writer Mark chose his words very carefully when he recorded, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’” (Mark 1:14-15).  When Jesus proclaimed the gospel, the kingdom of God arrived.  And this formula is not just true of Jesus, but of all citizens of the kingdom of God.  Whenever you proclaim the gospel, the kingdom of God shows up.  The more good news of Jesus you share, the more life the kingdom of God will take over.  The more you show and share the love of Christ, the sooner the kingdom of God will come in full.  

Yes, it’s happening right now!  God looks into your searching eyes and tells you to forget the mistakes of the past and stop fearing the future, for the kingdom of God is yours to live in and enjoy right now.  

Where?

Where is the kingdom of God?  Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” which not only shows the timing, but also the location.  The kingdom of God is near both in time and space.  Where is it?  It’s wherever you are.  Jesus boldly said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, NKJV).  Allow those words to settle in your soul for a moment.  The religious leaders of Jesus’s day wanted to know where the kingdom of God was, probably so they could manipulate it, but Jesus refuses to give them something they could twist for their own purposes.  Instead, Jesus tells them the kingdom of God is within each believer.  

Again, the kingdom is not a noun (person, place, or thing) with an address, but it’s an action with an actor, which is you!  Have you ever felt as if you were living too small a life?  Have you ever felt something stirring within you, which you couldn’t quite label, but you knew it wanted out?  Most people walk around in shoes that are too small for them, if you know what I mean.  Most don’t realize the enormous capacity of their souls, big enough to enclose the kingdom of God!  Yet, we continue to feed our souls the breadcrumbs of the kingdoms of this world, when they were meant for the feast at the table of the kingdom of God.  What is the kingdom of God within you demanding of you right now?  It is only as large in you as the decisions you entrust to it.  

Why?

Why the kingdom of God?  Why does the kingdom of God exist how it is today?  Why is it here?  Why is it now?  Why is it in our tired, broken world, rather than in some other kind of shiny, fixed one?  To put it simply, it’s because of you.  You are the “Why.”  To see what we mean, read these two short stories (parables) Jesus told about the kingdom of God in Matthew 14:44-46: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” 

Most likely, when you read those parables, you put yourself as the subject of the action.  Most of the time, this is how these two parables are taught to us.  We’re told something like, “The kingdom of God is worth so much, so you better be willing to sell everything you’ve got in order to get it…Do whatever it takes to make it yours!”  However, there’s another, much better, way to understand Jesus’s two parables.  After all, as we learned above, if the kingdom of God is within you and if you are the “who” of the kingdom of God, then why would you need to go searching for you?  That makes no logical sense!  Instead, the “man” in these parables is Jesus, not you.  And, guess what he’s searching for?  He’s searching for you.  Here are the parables again, but with some clarifications added: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure [YOU!] hidden in a field, which a man [JESUS] found and covered up.  Then in his joy [HEBREWS 12:2] he goes and sells all that he has [ON THE CROSS] and buys that field [IN REDEMPTION].  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant [JESUS] in search of fine pearls [FALLEN HUMANS], who on finding one pearl of great value [YOU!], went and sold all that he had [ON THE CROSS] and bought it [WITH HIS LIFE].”  

Amazing, isn’t it!  Can you see?  You are the treasure; and you are the pearl of great price.  Jesus is the man who sold everything he had to purchase you.  Jesus is the merchant who sold all he had to buy a pearl such as you.  Why?  For the joy of finding you!  You are the reason for the kingdom of God.  “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

How?

Finally, how does the kingdom of God begin in your life?  If the kingdom of God is to be understood as a verb, the action of God relating to you and you relating to God, then Jesus gives us two verbs, perhaps the greatest two verbs in the Bible, repent and believe, with which we are to make it ours.  Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “repent and believe in the gospel.”  So what do we need to repent of?  And what do we need to believe?  

You need to repent of your self-righteousness.  According to Wikipedia, “Self-righteousness is a feeling or display of moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others.”  This may surprise you, but, in a manner of speaking, it’s not really your sins that condemn you, but it’s your self-righteousness.  Do you know how you can tell if you’re self-righteous?  You won’t embrace your flaws, or those of others. You won’t be kind to your faults.  You won’t accept your failure.  You always play it safe.  You can’t let go of your missed opportunities.  For some reason, you act more like a god than a normal human being.  Normal humans fail, but you refuse to accept that reality.  Jesus calls us to repent of our self-righteousness, so that we might depend on his righteousness, which he freely gives to us by faith.  The proof you’ve accepted Christ’s righteousness is that you’ve repented of your self-righteousness and accepted your sinful humanity, warts and all.  Remember, your sins don’t prohibit the kingdom of God from growing in you, but your self-righteousness does.  

What do we need to believe?  Of all the doctrines of the faith, there’s one that’s most important for you to believe in.  When Jesus called us to repent and believe, he called us to believe in the love of God.  You must believe God loves you. The gospel is Christ’s righteousness and love given freely to you.  God is our heavenly Father, whose heart breaks when his children believe he does not love them.  The first thing you must know about the kingdom of God is that it’s a world of his love for you.  His love is behind every stone and in every gust of air in the kingdom of God.  You’ll never be able to repent until you believe in God’s love for you.  You’ll never be able to change, accept yourself, move forward, have hope, or find joy, apart from the love of God.  Sin entered this world, not because Adam and Eve did something wrong, but because they doubted God’s love for them.  Think about it.  If you have trouble seeing the love of God in your life, then look at the cross of Jesus Christ.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).    

There’s a connection between repenting of self-righteousness and believing in God’s love, and it is this.  As you acknowledge and accept your shortcomings and sins, your knowledge of God’s love for you will increase; however, if you hold onto your self-righteousness, then the knowledge of God’s love for you will diminish.  Those who truly realize the greatness of God’s love for them are those who do not depend on their self-righteousness.

The kingdom of God is the doing of the relationship between Creator and creature in the present world that begins within every person who repents of self-righteousness and believes in the love of God in Christ for him or her. 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” —Mark 1:14-15

The Breakdown

  1. When you think of the kingdom of God as a verb, rather than a noun, how is your relationship with God affected?  
  2. Who is it hardest for you to accept?  Why?
  3. In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility?  Why is it a struggle?  Are there fears?  What is the kingdom of God within you asking of you?
  4. Spend two minutes thinking of the ways God has loved you into being (include all the people, events, opportunities, obstacles, and gifts he has put in your life).