Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 3, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 1:1 - 2:12
"Sometimes he could be too much. They were just discussing this. Tigger's been getting so bouncing nowadays that it's time we taught him a lesson," Rabbit says to Piglet and Pooh Bear in the classic children's book, The House at Pooh Corner, written by A. A. Milne, 1928. It's the second in the series of books about the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood. It's the book that introduces the character Tigger.
Now they had never met anything like a Tigger before. And when they did meet him, he was too much. Eeyore, the donkey, said it best. He said, "I don't mind Tigger being in the forest because it's a large forest, plenty of room to bounce there. But I don't see why he should come into my little corner of it and bounce there." Bouncing is what Eeyore called taking people by surprise. And that's what Tigger did; he was too much. And that's why Rabbit wanted to teach him a lesson.
"I have an idea," he said. "And here it is. We take Tigger out on a long explore—somewhere he's never been. And then, we lose him there. And the next day when we find him, mark my words, he'll be a different Tigger altogether. He'll be a humble Tigger. He'll be a sad Tigger. He'll be a small and a sorry Tigger."
Now Piglet, who was generally fond of everyone, wasn't sure about this idea. Although he did admit to himself privately that however much you like Tigger, you couldn't deny it, he sure did bounce. Sometimes he could be too much. And I feel something similar sometimes when I listen to the opening of the Gospel according to Mark.
The Gospel, the Good News, according to Mark, is one of the ancient biographies of Jesus of Nazareth. It was written 2,000 years ago by a man named Mark who was closely associated with Jesus. And for two millennia, people have been listening to, and reading, studying, and discussing the Good News according to Mark.
And oftentimes, something about it strikes people as too much. See, there's this word that Mark uses, or some would say overuses. It's an adverb, a word that modifies a verb, an action word. It's normally translated as "immediately" or "suddenly" or "at once." My personal favorite is the translation from the Old King James version as "straightway," and right out of the gates, straightway. Mark uses this adverb 13 times in the opening section of the Gospel that I'll share with you in a moment. And then, before the book is over, he's going to use it another 28 times.
Mark breaks all convention and uses this adverb 41 times in the book. That's four times more than all the other New Testament writers put together. And with all this amped-up adverbial action, Mark's book practically bounces and bounds like Tigger.
See what you think. See if you think it's too much.
This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. Just as it stands written in Isaiah the prophet, "Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord. Make His pass straight.'"
John came on the scene, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the people of Judea, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were coming out to John to be baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now, John wore clothing made of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and he was eating locusts and wild honey. And he would preach saying, "The One who comes after me is stronger than I am. I am not even worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of His sandal. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
And in those days it came to pass, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and He was baptized by John in the Jordan River. And straightaway as He was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending into Him. And a voice came from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son. With You, I am well-pleased."
And straightaway, the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan. And He was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him.
Now, after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming, preaching the Good News of God saying, "The time is fulfilled. The rule and reign of God is at hand. Repent now and believe the Good News."
And going on alongside the sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon's brother. They were casting the net into the sea. They were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become people who fish for other people."
And straightaway, they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a bit further, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, sitting in their boat, mending their nets. And straightaway He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him. And they go into Capernaum and straightaway on the Sabbath, upon going into the synagogue, He began to teach. And they were astonished at His teaching because He was teaching them exhibiting authority, not like their scribes.
And straightaway, there was in their synagogue a man in the power of an unclean spirit. And he cried out saying, "Why are You meddling in our affairs, Jesus? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are. The Holy One of God." And Jesus rebuked him and said, "Be muzzled and come out of him." And the unclean spirit, upon convulsing the man a lot and crying out in a loud voice, came out. And they were all thunderstruck.
And they started arguing among themselves saying, "What is this—a new teaching with authority? He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." And straightaway, the report went out everywhere in all the region of Galilee.
And straightaway He left the synagogue and went into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now, Simon's mother-in-law was sick, burning up with a fever. And straightaway they told Him about her, and He came and He took her by the hand and lifted her up. And the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
And that evening at sundown, they began to bring everyone who was sick and those who were being oppressed by demons so that the whole town was gathered together at the door. And Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases. And He drove out many demons, but He would not permit the demons to speak because they knew Him.
And very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place. And there, He began to pray. And Simon, and those who were with Him, hunted Him down, and they said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You. Everyone is looking for You." And Jesus says to them, "Let's go to the next villages so that I may preach there also, because that is why I came out." And He began to go throughout all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
And a man with leprosy, coming up to Him and begging Him, began saying to Him, "If You were willing, You can make me clean." And Jesus, moved with deep, heartfelt compassion, stretched out His hand and touched the man with leprosy. And He said to him, "I am willing. Be clean." And straightaway, the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly warned him at straightway, sent him away saying, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing, the sacrifice Moses commanded as a testimony to them."
But he went out and began to talk freely about it and to spread the news so that Jesus could no longer openly enter into a town. But he was out in the desolate places, but people kept coming to Him from everywhere.
And after some days, when He returned to Capernaum, it was reported that He was at home and a great crowd gathered to Him so that there was no longer any room, not even at the door. And He was openly preaching the Word to them.
And some people came, bringing to Him a paralyzed man carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him. And after they had dug out an opening, they let down the pallet upon which the paralyzed man lay. And Jesus, when He saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, "Child, your sins are forgiven." And there were some scribes sitting there, questioning in their hearts saying, "Why is this Man speaking like this? He's blaspheming. Who can actually forgive sins but God?" And Jesus straightaway, perceiving in His Spirit that they were questioning Him like this in their heart, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Rise, pick up your pallet and walk,' but so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" —He said to the paralyzed man—"I say to you, rise, pick up your pallet and go home." And he arose and straightway picked up his pallet and went out before them all so that they were all astonished. And they glorified God saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
That's just the beginning of the Good News about Jesus. It's just the beginning.
And we'll talk more about that. But first, I want to tell you about what happened with Rabbit's plan to teach Tigger a lesson. The next morning Rabbit convinced Piglet and Pooh Bear to go through with the plan, to lead Tigger out into the forest and to ditch him there. It was a misty morning, which was perfect, Rabbit said, because Tigger was bound to be bounding out in front of everybody. And as soon as he got out of sight, Rabbit said, "We hurry away, and we'll never see him again."
"Well, not never," said Piglet. "Well," said Rabbit. "Until we find him again, tomorrow or whenever that is." Well, sure enough, as they were walking along, Tigger was bounding and bouncing around them in big circles, disappearing out into the mist, and then reappearing a few minutes later. And just when Rabbit had had enough and Tigger disappeared again, he says to Piglet and Pooh Bear, "Now!" And they bolt off the path and hide in the forest, crouch low and wait. And they hear Tigger calling for them. And he's calling for them. He's calling for them, but they don't answer.
Instead, they hurry off in the other direction. And just when everything seemed to be working out according to the plan to make Tigger's too-muchness fit into a rabbit-sized world, it was Rabbit and Piglet and Pooh Bear that ended up getting lost in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Sometimes when I listened to the Gospel of Mark, I wonder if Jesus is too much, if He's too much for my current estimation of Him. A lot of people like Jesus. Even if they don't like organized religion, they might be fond of Jesus. People like to speak of Him as a "wise sage," someone like Confucius or Aristotle—or the Owl from the Hundred Acre Wood.
And Jesus, for sure, is a wise teacher. But if that's all you have to say about Him, it's not enough. You heard the beginning of the Good News about what started happening when the Son of God came among us. And so, Jesus is too much. Jesus is too much for a merely human description of Him. Jesus is too much to be merely human, and He's too much to merely be a ticket to heaven.
Sometimes you hear people speak of Jesus just like that. They say, "Well, I know I'm going to heaven. Jesus died to save my soul." But Jesus is too much just to be the Savior of your soul. He's too much to only be an afterlife insurance policy. Yes, Jesus died for you. And yes, He rose again. And yes, He's coming again to destroy death and put bodies and souls back together again.
And if you've turned to Him and trust in Him, then death will not be the end for you. But that is not the end of Jesus. He's too much for that. If all you're looking for from Jesus is an afterlife insurance policy, He's too much for that. That would be like getting married just so you could be on your spouse's health plan. But a husband, a wife is too much for that. It would be like having children just so you could get the tax benefits that go along with having children. But sons and daughters are too much for that. And if all you're looking for is afterlife insurance, Jesus is too much for that.
And maybe this is why Mark can barely contain himself with all those adverbs. He knows that Jesus is too much for our rabbit-sized versions of Him. He's too much for us to keep out of certain corners of our life. He's too much for you to hide in your heart. He's too much for you to keep to yourself. Jesus is too much. He's nothing less than the Son of God, moved by the deep compassion of God, to become a Man made in the image of God, filled with the Spirit of God, to bring the kingdom of God, to reclaim the whole universe for God.
Jesus is too much for anything less.
When I was in college, I had a professor named Jeff Kozyra. It was a secular school, but Jeff was a deeply devoted follower of Jesus. One day I went into his office to talk to him about a struggle that I was going through, and he gave me some advice that I will never forget. He said, "Michael, this weekend go somewhere where you can be away from all distractions, and set aside about two, two and a half hours of uninterrupted time and read or listen to the entire Gospel of Mark. See what happens."
Reading Mark's Gospel for me that weekend, it was like I was Rabbit. See, it was Rabbit that got lost that day in the woods. Even Piglet and Pooh Bear found their way home eventually, but not Rabbit. He was wandering around in the woods all day and into the night. And he was feeling like a very small and a very lost rabbit, a sad and a sorry rabbit. And then he hears a voice, a voice that straightway turns into a Tigger, a grand Tigger, a large and helpful Tigger, a Tigger who bounced, if he bounced at all, just like a Tigger ought to bounce.
This week—if you were to devote about as much time as you would to watching a movie, to listening to the entire Gospel of Mark—I'm not saying that it would be like bumping into a goofy, stuffed animal out in an imaginary woodland. What I am saying is that if you let Mark's words bounce and bound into you, he will show you someone unlike anyone you've ever met, and Jesus will be too much for you to keep to yourself.
Reflections for January 3, 2021
Title: Too Much
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you Mark. I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Daniel Paavola. He's a seasoned professor at Concordia University in Wisconsin, where he teaches students about the New Testament. He's written several books to include a commentary on the Gospel of Mark, to which we'll be listening over the next several weeks. Welcome, Dr. Paavola.
Daniel Paavola: Hey, thank you so much for letting me come and join you today.
Mike Zeigler: You're a professor and you were a pastor and still are a pastor. Because of that, you've been an avid reader of the Bible for many years, but you've especially focused on the Gospel of Mark. What got you interested in studying the Gospel of Mark?
Daniel Paavola: I took a class from Louis Brighton. Oh my goodness, he made Mark come alive. He had us truly anticipating every day. I'm not kidding. And of course then, in the course of a class, you have to write a paper. And I wrote a paper on the adverb "immediately," euthus. And he was very kind and said, "Gee, there's some merit to this. And why don't you keep thinking about that."
Mike Zeigler: So, what did you learn studying this single word that Mark employs so energetically?
Daniel Paavola: Well, it's a striking word. What struck me was the predominance of use. Of course, it's 40-plus times. Then the gap. Because it stops being used at 11:3 and then isn't used again until 14:43. Well, what's the first use in 1:10, the first use as an adjective, "And as He was going up out of the water, immediately, the heavens broke open." And what follows is then the question of who He is. In Mark 1:10, "Immediately, coming up out of the water, the heavens broke open and the Father declared this is My Son."
In chapter 15, it's a time then, when Jesus is asked who is He. And the text, it reads variably, but in chapter 15, then He has a final appearance before Pilate. And Pilate says, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And Jesus says, "You have said so." The first, the last, the identity of Jesus affirmed by the Father, questioned and then affirmed by Pilate and Jesus.
Mike Zeigler: And those observations that you're speaking of you wouldn't necessarily get those if you only heard little bits of Mark read here and there at church services throughout the year. What would you say are some of the benefits of reading all of Mark's Gospel from start to finish all in one sitting saying about two and a half hours?
Daniel Paavola: I think you catch the excitement that Mark wants to put into this text. I describe Mark as the Gospel of breathless excitement. It gallops forward. Mark often signals that with the word "immediately." And what he's telling us is the effect of Jesus' ministry. You'll be a bit disappointed if you're looking for a Mathew-like Sermon on the Mount, three chapters of teaching—Jesus doesn't have that in the Gospel of Mark. What Mark will do is tell you that Jesus taught, for instance, Mark 1:21, "And He taught them in the synagogue." You and I might want to say, "What did he teach?" Mark is breathlessly excited about telling you, "And you know what happened next!?"
And so go with Mark from piece to piece, person to person. One of the things that really stands out is also a story that has begun, but not finished. Another story started, finished. And then the first one is completed. Chapter 5: Jairus, urgent to have Jesus come and heal his 12-year-old daughter. That's the beginning of a marvelous story. But wait, in the middle of that, we have the woman who had the bleeding for 12 years, touches Jesus; He stops, knows that she's healed, finds her. All the while, Jairus is so urgent, waiting. And now it seems too late for his daughter has died. But don't worry. Jesus continues then with Jairus and raises the daughter from the dead. You will see that pattern many times also, but you need to read whole chapters and sections of Mark to do that.
Mike Zeigler: It's clear that he has something that he can barely contain himself. He wants to tell us this good news, as he says. And it's good news of Jesus, the Christ, as he says at the very beginning. And he wants us to know; he wants everyone to know. As you've read and studied and taught Mark over these years, what have you gotten to know more deeply about Jesus and love about Jesus, as we see Him in the Gospel according to Mark.
Daniel Paavola: Maybe a couple of points that are just so distinctive of Mark. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven has arrived." And then, upon announcing that—the arrival of the kingdom of heaven—"Here it is, He's arrived." His very first thing is to call disciples. And He does it in the briefest way. Mark 1:16-20, he comes up to Peter, Andrew, James and John, and He says, simply, "Follow Me." And they do
I often ask my students, why do we read the New Testament? And they have wonderful answers. And I boil it down, and I said, "There was a Man who walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He looked young men in the eye and said, 'Follow Me.' And they did. And that Man still walks on this earth. He still looks young men and young women in the eye. He still says to them, 'Follow Me.' And we want to hear that voice." That's why we read this Gospel and all of the text, so we could hear Him say those simple words, and respond just as James and John, Peter and Andrew did, "Follow Me."
But not everyone follows perfectly. And then chapter 10, we have the rich young man who comes up to Jesus and says, "What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus says, "The Commandments." The young man says, "Oh, I've done all those all my life." And then, wonderfully, in chapter 10, only in Mark does it say, "And Jesus looked at him and loved him." And then says, 'Go sell all that you have, come and follow Me. And the young man went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.'" Only in Mark does it say, "and he looked at him and loved him." And it's the only time in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus loves a single individual. And He loved this young man whom He knew wasn't going to follow Him.
Now, doesn't that say a tremendous amount about the love of Jesus—that He loves everyone. And to prove it, when He gets to use that phrase in the Gospel of Mark, it's of this man who is going to walk away from Him, wrapped up in his possessions, sorrowful, and yet still leaving. So it's examples like that that point us to Jesus and His power and His love. And Mark does it so well.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Paavola. I am even more eager to walk through the Gospel according to Mark in this series. Would you come back again and visit with us some more?
Daniel Paavola: Oh, I'd love to. This is wonderful and I sure appreciate the chance to be with you and your listeners. They're so kind to spend this time with us. Thank you.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Within the Father's House" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)