Challenges of Ministry
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 3:7-35
October 27, 2019

Life is hard.  Then you die.  Then they throw dirt on your face.  Then the worms eat you.  Just be glad it happens in that order.  (David Gerrold)

Life is hard. You already knew that, I'm guessing.
But life is not impossible.
And life is wonderful—ultimately.
But, still, it is hard

And life can be more wonderful - and more difficult if you are committed to doing what God calls you to do.

Mark chapter three illustrates how Jesus encountered challenges early on in his ministry. And his experiences teach us how to respond to the challenges of ministry faithfully.

Turn with me in your Bible to Mark 3, we will begin reading at 7. Someone asked me why I insist on reading the complete text each Sunday morning. Frankly, it is because I believe the word of God is more important than the words of Steve!

Mark 3:7-35

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.

And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.

He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

This is the word of the Lord.

The first thing to note from our text is this:
If you are seeking to do what God has called you to do, you must remember that it is a spiritual battle you are in.

1. It is a spiritual battle

At the beginning of Mark 3, Jesus has gotten the spiritual elite angry with him for healing on the Sabbath. Now he goes about business as usual for him. Healing and casting out demons. It was the casting out of demons which had sealed his fame in the region of Capernaum. See Mark 1:21-28.

With the developing conspiracy underfoot, Jesus continues to both heal and to cast out demons. Great crowds were coming around him. His fame was certain to alarm the Pharisees and harden their resolve to destroy him. Success often does that.

It brings about opposition. And when seeking to do what God has called you to do, there will be people who will oppose you.

But the real opposition is spiritual.
Today we seldom talk about demons or those who are demon possessed. Yet the Bible is full of situations in which Jesus dealt with demons.

And while we often don’t recognize it - the challenges we face in our ministries to day are essentially spiritual.

They may take the form of and look like other people, but ultimately our opposition is not flesh and blood.

Understanding that the primary opposition to doing the will of God is spiritual helps us prepare for ministry by becoming more committed to pray as a primary weapon against our foe.

When we face ministry challenges, remember that it is a spiritual battle we are in.

A couple of quick points about those demons. They refer to Jesus, saying “You are the Son of God.”

The cries of recognition were designed to control him.

It was thought that they could strip Jesus of his power by the use of the precise name or quality of being the Son of God.

By calling him the Son of God they sought mastery over him, as though saying the name is a magic formula granting control.

In reality you don’t have to know the name of a demon to have control over it - you have to know the name of Jesus.

For it is in the name of Jesus that we have authority over demons.

It is interesting that the text tells us that Jesus told the demons not to tell who he was. He always maintained a steady refusal to accept demonic testimony to who he was.

He wanted men to find out who He was by listening and watching

Demons were hardly appropriate heralds of Christ.
His words and actions spoke to who he was.

And we ought not take our cues from demons to determine who Jesus is!

We are in a spiritual battle as we seek to do God’s will!
The second lesson comes in the choosing of the 12 disciples and particularly with the calling of Judas.
2. Not all your followers remain

From the sea Jesus went to the mountain to appoint disciples who would be called apostles. Some suggest that this is the beginning of the church. The twelve disciples replacing the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke indicates that before choosing the twelve Jesus spent the night in prayer. Mark simply states that Jesus went to a mountain to call disciples. In this act he was making a break with the religious tradition of his time, it was normally the disciples who sought out the teacher. Here the teacher sought out the disciples. That is a pattern that continues to this day!

The choice of the disciples a mystery to the me.
Christ made a decision to call these particular guys!

But why these twelve?
Bottom line is that we don’t know. If we could do it we probably wouldn’t have chosen Judas.

But Isaiah 55:9 reminds us
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

That is certainly true, because my thought is that Judas was the bad choice!

It was a strange group of men whom Jesus chose. Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Six of them we know virtually nothing about. All were laymen.
There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. Yet it was with these men that Jesus established his church and spread the good news to the end of the earth.

The fact that Jesus chose these twelve men indicates the direction he would choose for his life and ministry.

He came for people like us. As He had said in Mark 2:17, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

But here is the strange lesson we need to learn from this list of 12.
Not everyone you invest in will continue in the faith.

Because one of those 12 is Judas, whom Mark tellingly reminds us betrayed Jesus.

It is almost inevitable that someone you invest your life in will betray you.

And it will hurt.
This is a painful lesson of doing God’s will.
Some will appear to be walking with you and suddenly they will turn on you.

Judas wasn’t the wrong choice. His betrayal was predicted.
But Jesus chose him anyway.
And over the course of three years he invested in Judas.
He taught him.
He ate with him.
He prayed with him.
And Judas still betrayed him.

When you are committed to obeying God’s call on your life it is highly likely that someone will betray you. And like Judas, they may regret it right after they do it, but they will betray you nevertheless.

The third lesson is found in verses 20-21 and then again in 31-32

When you are committed to doing what God has called you to do,
3. Your family often doesn’t understand

Now you would think that his family would be his greatest supporters.

Mark records this not once but twice in this passage.

By the way, these particular verses are one reason scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark is authentic.

Given the direction many in the church have taken in response to the mother of Jesus in particular, her opposition is not something you would include if you could avoid it!

The people pressed in around Jesus so that he couldn’t eat. When his family heard that he was so engrossed by his work that he failed to eat, they came to rescue him - to take charge of him.

Used of arresting someone.
Jesus is charged with insanity.
It was time for a family intervention.

They would remove him from the strain of having so many people constantly pressing on him that he didn’t take time to meet his own.

He was meeting everyone else’s needs while ignoring his own.

And so Mary comes with his brothers to rescue him from himself.

Can you imagine that?
Mary had been visited by the angel Gabriel who told her that her son Jesus would do great things.

There are 40 verses in Luke 1 committed to Mary getting the announcement and responding to it.

She heard the angel say:

You are going to have a son, and “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Now she seems to believe that Jesus can’t do it without her help.
She had to save Jesus from the consequences of his vocation.

Like Peter they thought they acted as his friends, but such friends are more dangerous than enemies.

It is unfortunate that many times when we are committed to doing the will of God we encounter opposition from within our family and close friends.

And it leads Jesus to ask the rhetorical question,
Who are my mother and my brothers?
And he tells us.

Whoever does the will of God.
Our family becomes those committed to doing the will of God along side of us.

The will of God matters more than family, it matters more than anything.

The final lesson is that you will find opposition in unlikely places.

4. Opposition comes from unlikely places

When doing the will of God, you would hope that the religious leaders would embrace your labors.

The reputation of Jesus had reached Jerusalem and so the scribes had sent men to check him out. But they didn’t really come to check them out they came lay out charges against him for his deliverance ministry.

Three accusations:
He is raving mad (which actually comes from his family)
He is in collusion with Satan (verse 22)
He is demon possessed (verse 30)

The Jewish leaders could not deny that Jesus had expelled demons from the lives of men.

Yet, running counter to all common sense they attributed this good work to an evil agency.
As though there is a dichotomy of evil.
A civil war within the kingdom of evil.

It was a theological absurdity but they bought it anyway.

Jesus responds by pointing out the absurdity of their position and also pointing out that if he is destroying Satan’s work it means he is stronger than Satan.

Verse 27
This leads to one of the most solemn pronouncements and warnings in the whole of the New Testament.

There is forgiveness with God for every sin and blasphemy except one - that sin which John calls the sin which leads to death.

What is this sin?

The unpardonable sin is the sin of a hardened heart. A heart which is wilfully blind. Blasphemy is an expression of defiant hostility toward God.
Calling the light darkness.
A deliberate distortion of the truth.

When a man so steels his heart against God’s love, there can be no hope for him, for only to a broken and contrite heart can forgiveness come.

Have you committed the unpardonable sin? There is such a thing as a sin which is never forgiven. But those who are troubled about it are most unlikely to have committed it.

But this point about blasphemy isn’t the main lesson for us today.
Today we want to take home these truths:
We are in a spiritual battle.
Not everyone we invest in will remain.
Our family may not understand us.
And opposition will come from unlikely places.

But like Jesus we must remain committed to obeying our call!


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