Ministry Essentials
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 1:35-45
September 29, 2019

In 1599 the poet Christopher Marlowe wrote
“The Passionate Shepherd To His Love”

It begins with this:
Come live with me and be my love,

He then talks of what life will be like as he provides for his love and then says:

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

And ever since people have aspired to a life on a bed of roses
Or they have used the term in contrast to the reality of life.

(A kirtle by the way, is a type of dress.)

I’ve often wondered about that because of popular paraphrase of Shakespeare which my father often quoted:

A rose, by another name would smell as sweet.

Every time my dad would quote that, I thought,
and it would still have thorns!

A bed of roses? Better a bed of rose petals.
Plus, a flower bed of roses is a whole lot of work.

Some people believe that by coming to know Christ and being adopted into the family of God our lives will suddenly be a bed of roses.

But let me assure you, living as a citizen of the kingdom of God is no a bed of roses.

In many ways you might think that the life of Jesus would be a bed of roses.

He is after all God.
He could have chosen to be born anywhere.
He could walk on water.
He could feed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish.
He could turn water into wine....
He could have anything he wanted.

And so far in the book of Mark we have seen him be affirmed by God the Father, defeat the Devil in the wilderness.
Call disciples.
Teach with authority
Cast out demons
And he is popular!
His healing ministry has taken off.
Large crowds are gathering around him.

And what he does next is telling.

Our text lays out three ministry essentials.
Ministry essentials in the life of Jesus and ministry essentials for every citizen of the kingdom of God.

Let’s read our text, Mark 1:35-45

What we see first is:
Prayer is Essential

“Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Now, some people make an issue of the fact that Jesus did that early in the morning.
As though it is the hour of prayer which is important rather than the fact of prayer.

And while it may be beneficial to you to pray early in the morning, there is nothing sacrosanct about the hour.

If you read through the gospels you will find that Jesus is said to have spent as much time praying in the evening or at night as he did early in the morning.

The important thing is that he felt it necessary to pray.

Prayer is essential in ministry.

As a matter of fact, the gospels record at least 25 different times when Jesus spent time in prayer.

We are told that He prays:
alone (Mt 14:23)(Mk 1:35)(Lk 9:18)(Lk 22:39-41),

in public (Jn 11:41-42)(Jn 12:27-30),

before meals (Mt 26:26)(Mk 8:6)(Lk 24:30)(Jn 6:11),

before important decisions (Lk 6:12-13),

before healing (Mk 7:34-35),

after healing (Lk 5:16),

asking to be released from suffering! (Mt 26:36-44).

He also taught on the importance of prayer in our lives and John 17 records what is called his “high priestly prayer” where he prays for us and all citizens of the kingdom of God.

If Jesus, God incarnate, fully God while at the same time fully man felt it essential to spend time in prayer does it not make sense for us to dedicate time to prayer in our ministry?

So Jesus has gone out to pray, but the disciples find him. And Jesus says:

“Let us gon on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” An he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Prayer is essential in ministry, but so is proclamation.

Proclamation is Essential

Jesus said, he needed to preach.
Now, frankly, not many of us aspire to preach.
Many are petrified of the prospect of being asked to stand in front of a group of people and talk, much less preach.

So we take comfort in the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

This has been popularized in the idea that you may be the only Bible some people will ever read.

That we can be silent witnesses for Christ.
Just by living a good, honest, clean life people will know Jesus.

So afraid are we of “preaching” or sharing about Christ that many Christians have gone incognito for Jesus.

It is not enough to merely live out a good life
Many people live good lives.
Many people are kind and considerate.
Many people are honest.
Many people are caring.

A virtuous life is not exclusive to the citizens of the kingdom of God.
Christianity is not the only faith which calls people to virtuous living.
We’re just the only ones who say that a virtuous life is the result of our salvation rather than the means of it.

So living a virtuous life is not enough.

If Jesus could have drawn people to faith in him without preaching then he of all people could have just lived his life as an example of Christlikeness.

He had to proclaim the coming of the kingdom.
He didn’t merely perform acts of kindness.
He didn’t just go in to a city and heal, or cast out demons.
He didn’t just feed the hungry.
He proclaimed the Word of God.

Of course there is some truth the to call to live out our faith in light of the observations of those around us.

The idea is that people form their impressions of Christianity by what Christians do and how Christians treat others.

Unfortunately, a virtuous, kind, compassionate life without mention of our faith in Christ being the motivating factor is meaningless.

The believer should put his words on pause. God forbid.

As Paul declared in Romans 10:14, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” Paul was all about portraying the gospel, but not at the expense of presenting the gospel.

We enhance our impact when our words align with our works.

If we want to make a gospel impact the actions of our lives must correspond to the affirmations of our lips. It’s not either/or. It’s both audio and visual. Audio-visual Christianity provides the greatest impact for our witness.

The proclamation of the gospel is essential in ministry.

Feeding the hungry is great.
Providing for the poor is wonderful.

Proclamation is essential.

Romans 10 makes this clear.

So why do people suggest that our lives may be the only Bible people ever read as though by reading our lives they will know Jesus?

I’ll tell you why. Because it is easy.

It makes no demands upon us.
We can do our secret acts of kindness.
We can pat ourselves on the back with how important our lives are because we’re good Christian people.

Surely those around us will know that we are Christians by our love alone.

I mean, really, didn’t Jesus say that the world will know we are his disciples by our love for one another?

That’s right there in John 13:35

The song says it!

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they'll know we are Christians by our love.

Are there no others who are loving?
Do Christians have a corner on the market of loving one another?

And let me ask you something. Is the reputation of the church a place where people love one another?

Honestly, we fight and bicker about stuff which must seem ridiculous to those outside the church.

And besides that, Jesus didn’t say that people would know HIM by our love for one another but rather that they would know we were his disciples.

They will know we are his disciples because inherent in being a disciple is talking about Jesus. Spreading the good news.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The proof of our discipleship is in the loving.

We must understand Jesus’s statement in John 13 within the larger context of scripture. And the larger context of scripture mandate that we bear witness to Christ - that we tell others about him and that our love for one another flows out of our faith in Christ and is a visible proof of our faith.

Proclamation is essential to ministry.

Romans 10 says this:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

It doesn’t say something like this:
How will they call on him if they haven’t seen your quiet witness of a life well lived? How will they believe if they haven’t seen your love for one another?

They have to actually hear about Jesus.
Yes, live a good, virtuous life.
But don’t forget to proclaim Jesus.

Proclamation is essential to ministry.

Finally Jesus shows us that
Pity is Essential

Look at verse 41 “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him...”

Moved with pity.

It is unfortunate that pity sometimes has a negative connotation.

I suppose that the movie Toy Story is in part to blame for this.

You remember when Woody meets with Buzz Lightyear

You are a sad strange little man, and you have my pity.

It implies some disdain.
Some sense of superiority.

But that is not the way it is used in scripture.

Others translate the word used here as compassion.

Pity is the sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.

In ministry such pity or compassion is essential.

It is especially significant in this situation that Jesus is moved with pity for this leper.

Leprosy was looked upon as a particular mark of God’s displeasure.

Three examples from the Hebrew scriptures:

Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron

In Numbers 12 we read of the rebellion against the leadership of lead by Miriam.
The pillar of smoke covers Moses, Aaron and Miriam as God affirms his choice of Moses to lead the people of Israel.
And when the pillar leaves, Miriam is white with leprosy.

Leprosy was a direct act of God in discipline for challenging his choice.

Gehazi in 2 Kings 5
His greed resulted in leprosy

2Chronicles 26
After years of faithfully ruling over Israel Uzziah grows prideful and seeks to burn incense in the temple.
In his pride, Uzziah is struck with leprosy.

The people believed that leprosy was a result of sin.
It was an act of God upon those who have rebelled against him.

Leprosy was looked upon as a particular mark of God’s displeasure.

For the leper to approach Jesus was significant in itself.
The leper’s faith in the ability of Jesus to heal him is significant.

Since leprosy was supposed to come immediately from the hand of God, is was supposed to be removed by his hand as well.

That is why leprosy was left to the priests rather than doctors for treatment. Leviticus 13-14 tell us that the leper is to be brought to the priest rather than to a doctor.

When Jesus stretched out his hand to touch the leper he broke rules against touching the unclean but proved his deity.

For immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean.

Ministry demands that we have compassion, that we have pity upon those around us.

That we refuse to treat as unclean those who are hurting or different.

I read this story again this week - it may be fanciful but it illustrates how significant it is for us to be moved with compassion as a part of our ministry.

His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college.

He is brilliant. He is kind of profound and very, very bright. He became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church.
They want to develop a ministry to the students but are not sure how to go about it.

One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and his wild hair. The service has already started, so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat.

The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.

Bill gets closer and closer to the pulpit. When he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet.

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill.

Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and is wearing a three-piece suit. He is a godly man – very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane. As he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do.

How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy.

The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing.
The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.

When the deacon finally reaches Bill, the church watches as this elderly man drops his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won’t be alone.

That deacon could have said:
You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity.

Or he could respond with genuine concern and reach out to care for the young man.

Living in as citizens in the kingdom of God isn’t easy.
It is essential that we spend time in prayer.
It is essential that we actually speak of Jesus.
It is essential that we are moved with compassion towards others.