Last week we began a journey of examining what “Christianity” is all about. I mentioned how every religious person and non-religious makes exclusive claims—it is unavoidable. Therefore, if someone wants to truly give Christianity a fair hearing then they need to examine its exclusive claims. In order to do that we have to look at its most prominent figure—Jesus Christ. Any good historian will tell you if you want to really understand a historical figure then one must look at the original sources closet to that time period. We believe the Gospels are the closest original sources to the time period of Jesus Christ. If you want to consider how historically reliable the Gospels are then consider reading: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by FF Bruce (a former professor at the University of Manchester), Jesus And the Eyewitness by Richard Bauckham (a professor at the University of St Andrews), or The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel (a former atheist & investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune).
Mark opens His Gospel demonstrating Jesus title, “the Son of God,” and this is meant to establish His authority and power. But much like anyone in our world today, we need to know those we have entrusted with authority and power have our backs. We need to know they CARE about us. Therefore, what I hope we will see today is…
Theme: Jesus’ authority must be coupled with His deep loving care.
1. Jesus Cares About Our Inner Demons—Mark 5.1-20.
In this section of Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus has traveled across the sea after many hours of teaching—pouring his heart to many people. As someone who speaks publically professionally I can tell you He is exhausted. It takes A LOT of you to organize your thoughts in such a way that will help larges groups of people. Once you release those thoughts you are exhausted.
So, here is Jesus stepping out of the boat, and immediately Jesus is approached by an extremely mentally ill man who verbally attacks Him (Mark 5.1-7). How does Jesus respond to this situation? Does He “TURN OFF”? Does He “GO OFF” on him? Doe He say, “I don’t have time for this”? Does He say, “This is not my problem. I have bigger issues to deal with?” No, Jesus does not do any of those things. Jesus confronts the issue. Jesus recognizes this is someone who is being consumed by severe inner demons. We see this most clearly by the verb usage in Mark 5.8, “For he WAS saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.’” Mark tells us why the inner demon starts verbally attacking Jesus and it is because He is trying to draw these inner demons out of Him. When Jesus got off the boat, saw this man, He immediately began dealing with his inner demons.
What we see from this man is what happens with all our inner demons. They isolate us. They destroy our relationships. Outsiders think we are “crazy.” And in extreme cases we might have to be physically restrained because our inner demons have fully consumed us. What Jesus understands is we are always consumed by something. Some are consumed with a desire to succeed. Others are consumed with a desire to be “right.” We can be consumed with desires of money, relationships, or many other things. When those desires become the source of our joy, happiness, and fulfillment, then they become a legion of inner demons—they drive us to be mad. Jesus frees from our inner demons with a “find and replace” mentality. Jesus does not just drive out our inner demons, but He fills up our thoughts and desires with Himself.
Friends it is not just enough to empty ourselves of these demons, but we need to make sure we are being filled with replacements. I am concerned that we have an entire generation Christians who believe the solution to dealing with their inner demons is to “just turn off.” Jesus warns us about the dangers of this type of mentality in Luke 11.24-26. Modern counselors might call this “escapism.” In order to deal with our anxieties or stressors we “turn off,” thinking that is where we will find rest. We escape into fantasy instead of reality. For the Christian we are to escape into reality. We escape into God. We fill our minds with truth. We fill our minds with the attributes of God. We fill our minds with the promises of God.
And when this happens what is the response?—READ Mark 5.18. We begin to “BEG” Jesus to let us be near to Him. But Jesus did not let him did He? But what Jesus did do was give man a redesigned purpose—READ Mark 5.19-20. When this man understood his purpose he went and did it. How did people respond? “Everyone marveled.” Anyone with a true purpose is hard to find, so when we actually see it is captivating. Friends, when Jesus comes He consumes us with Himself, frees us from our inner demons, gives us a renewed purpose, and for those around us that captivating. All of this communicates how much He cares for our inner demons.
2. Jesus Cares About Our External Dangers—Mark 4.35-41.
In Mark 4.35-41 we are told about a time when Jesus and His disciples were traveling across a sea and it tells us “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat” (Mark 4.37). But Jesus is sleeping through the storm (Mark 4.38). Very quickly let me say I think Mark is giving a strong glimpse of Jesus’ humanity here. Jesus gets tired from a long days work just like you and me. Truly understanding the significance of Jesus’ humanity is vitally important to understanding how much He cares.
Now continuing the account Jesus’ disciples wake Him up and ask, “Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing?” Why are these men so stressed out? There were lots of professional fishermen among Jesus’ disciples, who are used to tumultuous weather at sea, so this storm must have been pretty bad. The storm is so bad that they think they are going to die. And underneath all of this they are disturbed that Jesus is still sleeping. They interpret this to mean He does not care about this real external danger they are facing. Now I don’t believe they think Jesus can necessarily do anything about this storm, but they are just upset because he does not share the same level of concern.
There is something very human here described in this experience. We live in a world where the outside dangers are constant. External dangers can be other business competing with ours, economic inflation, a flu bug going around, natural disasters, and many others. When we face these external dangers what is our natural responses? Studies have shown that when we face external dangers a chemical in our body known as cortisol goes up. This chemical is meant to keep us alive—it heightens all our necessary systems and shuts down the unnecessary ones. We are now under immense stress. And in this heighten state of stress and anxiety we look to the “alphas,” the “leaders,” the one’s who we have placed our faith in. The leader is someone who is high in serotonin and oxytocin. These are known as the leadership chemicals. They allow us to feel and know someone has our back. People high in these chemicals demonstrate to us they care about our wellbeing.
So what is happening with Jesus’ disciples? They are high in cortisol right now and they want to know if they have given their trust, their faith, to someone who truly cares about their wellbeing. And what does Jesus do?—READ Mark 4.38-39. Jesus uses His authority and power to address their fears and anxieties. What disciples do?—READ Mark 4.41. They are not sure who Jesus really is. Like many people today they thought Jesus was a leader, an alpha, a gifted teacher, but this is something radically different. Sure they have seen Jesus heal the sick and clinically insane, but now He is telling the wind and sea what to do. And He is doing it to demonstrate He cares.
Let’s not forget Jesus has a question for them too—READ Mark 4.40. In fairness to the disciples, at this point in the history of Jesus Christ they have not seen His greatest display of power yet—His DEATH and RESURRECTION. But today we have those recorded in all the Gospels. One scholar put it like this:
It pains me greatly to see myself in the disciples…Until they see the resurrected Christ and fully understand what He did for them on the cross, they are going to struggle. We in contrast, have no excuse. We know Jesus is all-powerful and all-knowing God. We know He has taken care of all our sin. We know He rose from the dead. We know He can be trusted no matter what! Trials and difficulties are divine appointments to strengthen our faith. So why are we still afraid? Do we still have no faith?—Akin, p. 100-101
Jesus time and time again has proven Himself to be faithful to His people. Romans 8.28 promises us that if we love God, then He will work all things together for our good. When we only think of God as having supreme authority and power He will seem very distant and unsympathetic. But when see God through Jesus Christ we still see His authority and power but it is coupled with His loving care. While the Gospel of Mark opens by telling us Jesus is God, later in Mark 10.45 the author tells us the philosophy that fuels His leadership. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus came as the SUFFERING SERVANT KING—ready to die for His people. This is God’s way of transforming the way we see the world.