"Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise!"#88-20
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 17, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 3
Almighty God, You created all things and You see us as we really are, beset by the problems and feelings of our daily lives. We pray that Your Holy Spirit will bring us together around Jesus and deepen our awe and devotion to Your good and gracious will. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
Charles Wesley wrote some wonderful hymns. His popular hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," ends with this phrase, "Lost in wonder, love, and praise!" I hope these next few minutes will join us with people long ago who were lost in wonder, love, and praise at the loving kindness of God to us. Even before COVID, it struck me how seldom life lifts us up. Too often we are looking down, literally. We look down, down at the phone, down at the bills, downcast because of our problems. And that was before COVID! Let our spirits be raised! Let us know, at least for a moment the awe Jacob felt when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it" (Genesis 28:16). My prayer is that we too will be lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Mark 3 can do that. In one way, it's a mundane chapter. We'll hear stories filled with the things of our own daily lives: illness, anxiety, hatred, you know, "Where's God in my little life?" But Jesus comes. He comes into the real world of real people with loving kindness. Let's listen and picture in our imagination the first scene from Mark 3.
And again, He (Jesus) went into the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they were watching Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, that they might accuse Him. And Jesus says to the man having the withered hand, "Get up; come into the middle." And Jesus says to them, "Is it possible on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. And looking around at them with anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out and his hand was restored. And straightway the Pharisees going out from the synagogue, took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. And Jesus, with His disciples, got out of there.
You and I have the terrible ability to say "no" to God. Jesus brought the loving kindness of God right into the middle of that synagogue, right into the middle of our lives too, but those ancient Pharisees wouldn't have it. "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" Isn't that the will of God? We know so little about the mysterious God, but we do know that God wants us to show loving kindness to others every day of the week. Leviticus 19 says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:18b). And that's what the Ten Commandments are about. But no, those ancient authorities were locked into their own view of religious life. They had a system of man-made rules that went way beyond what the Hebrew Scriptures said. They had their will, not God's will. Because they were turned in on themselves, they said "no" to the "wonder, love, and praise" they should have offered because of Jesus' miracle. Jesus got out of there.
If you look at English translations of Mark, you'll read that Jesus "departed" or "withdrew." It was more than that. Jesus' enemies were turning up the heat. The Greek word here also can convey the sense of "Let's get out of here." That's what Jesus did. Now in the next scene, we see Jesus continue to bring God's loving kindness to people, but we'll also see devilish opponents of Jesus.
And Jesus with His disciples got out of there and departed to the sea. And a great crowd from Galilee, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon followed Him. The great crowd, hearing what He did, came to Him. And He told His disciples that a boat should be prepared for Him because of the crowd, lest they crush Him. For He was healing many, so that whoever had diseases pressed on Him that they might touch Him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they fell before Him and cried, saying, "You are the Son of God." And He spoke strongly to them that they should not make Him publicly known.
Let me make three comments about that passage. First, about unclean spirits. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Mark 1 says the heavens were opened and Jesus saw "the Spirit descending into Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased" (Mark 1:10b-11). Jesus has a good Spirit within Him, the Holy Spirit of God. That put Jesus into conflict with the unclean spirits—demons and devils who say "no" to God's loving kindness. Shortly after Jesus was baptized, He went into a synagogue; this is still in Mark 1. And an unclean spirit cries out, "What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24). Yes, Jesus did come to destroy the forces of evil, those forces trying to pull us away from God and take us down. Getting back now to chapter 3, the unclean spirits cried out, "You are the Son of God." And He spoke strongly to them that they should not make Him publicly known." In no way does Jesus want to be associated with the destructive purposes and dark powers of evil. His mission is to destroy their power. That's the dark side of this scene.
My second comment: the upbeat side is all the people who thronged around Jesus. There's a progression in the Gospel of Mark. The crowds coming to Jesus keep getting bigger. In this scene they came from all over: from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, and even from outside of Israel. Jews and Gentiles came to Jesus. Did he have a PR department? No, just word of mouth. People who had experienced God's loving-kindness through Jesus told others. More and more came because they too yearned to be touched with His loving kindness. Don't we all want loving-kindness? Don't we want our down spirits lifted up? Often it's health where we need hope. That was true for many in this great crowd. For "He was healing many, so that whoever had diseases pressed on Him that they might touch Him."
Third, and this is important, the boat. The crowd was so large that Jesus said to His disciples that a boat should be prepared for Him because of the crowd, lest they crush Him. It wasn't just that the boat would protect Jesus from being crushed by the crowd. Yes, it would do that, but the boat was also a place where He could teach the crowd. In Mark 4, you'll see Jesus teaching from a boat. Jesus was always teaching, but He did not always heal everyone who came to Him. He was very clear about that. Back in Mark 1, the disciples found Jesus early in the morning and said, "Everyone is looking for You." And He said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (Mark 1:37-39).
Jesus healed people to call attention to His teaching. Through His teaching, Jesus taught that God's loving-kindness brings something even more important than physical health. His Word breaks the hold of evil and sin. Jesus' Word brings God's gifts of forgiveness, hope, and eternal salvation. Fast forward from 2,000 years ago to today, Jesus' Word is alive and active today. Yes, the forces of evil and sin took Him down to death, death on a cross, but He arose and is alive now. His Holy Spirit comes to you through His Word, through this word you are hearing now. Unless you say, "no." Oh, please don't! Unless you say no this living Word of Jesus brings God's abundant loving-kindnesses to you here and now. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit in Jesus, whom He gives to us through the Word, this Holy Spirit turns you from lost in yourself and your problems to instead be "lost in wonder, love, and praise" at the goodness of God who cares for you.
Now comes a big section in our chapter. First, we'll hear Jesus appoint twelve apostles. He did that so His Word would reach coming generations, and sure enough, it has come down to you and me today. Then we will hear about Jesus going back home, and there we'll see Jesus confront His human and demonic enemies. Returning now the Mark 3.
And Jesus goes up to the mountain, and He calls to those whom He wanted, and they left to go to Him. And He appointed twelve (whom He named apostles), so that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to cast out demons. And He constituted the Twelve. To Simon He added the name Peter. And on James the son of Zebedee and John, the brother of James, He also added a name, Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder. And Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthaeus and Thomas and James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who even betrayed Him. And He comes home. And again, a crowd gathers, so that they were not able to eat bread. And when His family heard, they set out to seize Him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
And the scribes who were coming down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebub" and "It's by the prince of demons he is casting out demons." And speaking to them with parables, He said to them, "How is it possible that Satan casts out Satan? And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom is not able to stand. And if a house should be divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan is risen up against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand, but is coming to an end. But no one on entering the house of a strong man is able to plunder his goods unless he first bind the strong man, and then he will plunder his whole house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven the sons of men and whatsoever blasphemies they might utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, does not have forgiveness forever, but is guilty of an eternal sin," because they said, "He has an unclean spirit."
You remember when Jesus healed the man with a withered hand. We saw His human enemies, those ancient Pharisees who were aghast that Jesus challenged their legalism. Now we see more human actors, the scribes come down and claim that Jesus is working with Satan. They say Jesus, remember, He's the One who received the Holy Spirit at His Baptism. He's the One who heard God say, "This is My beloved Son." They assert Jesus is one with the devil? Because Jesus died for you and me, all our sins and blasphemies are forgiven, but to say that God and His Son are one with Satan!? Unforgiveable. But listener, don't you fear. Jesus' Word is coming to your heart. His Word frees you from the dominion of sin and evil. Jesus explains how He does this for us. He said if you want to plunder a strong man's house, you first bind him. That's exactly what Jesus is doing, binding the power of Satan so that you and I can be freed from sin and evil, saved now and confident of eternity with Jesus in heaven.
We come to the end of the chapter.
And His mother and His brothers come and standing outside, they sent someone, calling Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You." And answering them, He says, "Who is My mother and My brothers?" And looking around intently at those sitting around Him in a circle, He says, "Look, My mother and My brothers. Whoever would do the will of God—this is My brother and sister and mother."
Do you see yourself in the picture? We are sitting together listening to Jesus' Words. Jesus looks intently at you and me and says that we are His true family: "Love divine, all loves excelling." His Word turns us out from ourselves and our problems to the faith, hope, and love that He brings. How sweet it is to have gathered around Jesus and learn again, or maybe learn for the first time, how He loves you and me. And He promises nothing is ever going to break this circle, "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38b-39).
Dear Lord Jesus, "Finish then Thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be; Let us see Thy great salvation, Perfectly restored in Thee, Changed from glory into glory, Till in heav'n we take our place, Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love, and praise!"
Reflections for January 17, 2021
Title: Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now let's welcome our Lutheran Hour Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Michael Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. I'm visiting with Dr. Dale Meyer. Welcome back to the program, Dale.
Dale Meyer: Thank you, Michael. It's an honor to be with you again,
Michael Zeigler: We are blessed to have you speaking for us today, your message inspired by the life of Jesus recorded in Mark 3. I made sure that you were the one who preached on this part of the Gospel of Mark. You know we hear Jesus say this thing about the unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, and we hear Jesus say this: that someone could commit an unforgivable sin and never have forgiveness. So what do we need to say about that?
Dale Meyer: Well, there's a reason why I didn't dwell on this at the sermon. This is a difficult passage. I'll tell you what a pastor told me long ago, and I've heard it many times since. If you are worried that you have or are committing the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit, then you are not.
The Pharisees, the scribes said that that Holy Spirit that was in Jesus was in league with the devil. It's in that context that He said there is an unforgivable sin. He was aiming it at those whose hearts were not only hard, but believe that He, Jesus, was in league with the devil, and that would mean that as a Son of God, God Himself would be in league with the forces of evil—that He says is the unforgivable sin. But I would round this out by saying if you're concerned that you have committed that, don't worry. You're not. Just keep bringing the Word of Jesus into your heart that liberates you from the dominion of Satan and evil forces.
Michael Zeigler: Let's talk more about the Gospel and its setting in the Bible. You think about with most books, maybe you read them or hear them one time, and then you never pick them up again. Someone mentions the book later, you'd say, "Oh yeah, I read that book; it was a good book." But God's people have a long history of doing something different with the Bible in general, and with the Gospel of Mark specifically. We come to these narratives, these accounts, again and again, over a lifetime. So what has that been like for you, Dale, personally, coming back to the Bible, to Mark's biography specifically, again and again, over a lifetime?
Dale Meyer: There have been any number of times when I as a pastor prepared a sermon, I get into the pulpit, and I read the sermon text, "The Word of God for today is ...." And as I'm reading that, something jumps out at me that I hadn't noticed in all my hours of preparation, and I just let it be. We'll deal with this the next time I preach on this text. That's one of the things about the Word of God. You can find it in some other literature, especially in poetry, but in the Word of God we have an inexhaustible source of thought. As we get older in life, we also experience the Word of God from a different vantage point.
Michael Zeigler: What have you gotten to know more deeply about your Lord Jesus by repeatedly coming back to Mark's story like this, not just in bits that we hear in a formal worship service, but hearing it from start to finish, again and again and again. How has that helped you know Jesus better?
Dale Meyer: There are two things that come to the top of my mind in response to your question. One is patience. The patience of Jesus. These disciples don't get it. Over and over again, Jesus does something spectacular, and the fact is they don't get it until after the resurrection. The Gospel of Mark does not tell us that, but the acts of the apostles and the subsequent history of the church after the resurrection shows us that they finally got it.
Dr. Luther says that we haven't preached the Gospel unless we have also preached the resurrection. So that's one thing, the patience of God, and not so much with them, but with me. I am slow to get it, just as slow as those first disciples were. And yet He is long suffering, patient with me, and slowly trying to bring me more and more to Him, and eventually to my eternal home.
The second thing that strikes me off the top of my head about learning Mark will seem to be a contradiction to what I just said, and that is the anger of Jesus. That that was new for me. Jesus has emotions. They are sanctified emotions. They do not sin. Many a time, our emotion leads us to do something sinful, more often than not. But Jesus has anger, but it's coupled with grief that people oppose the good and gracious will of God. That tells me a number of things, but one is that I have to live my life in fear of God: not in cowardly fear, not in servile fear, like a slave would have before a mean master. But I have to know my sin, and I have to know that I continue to sin. Romans 3 says all have sinned and fall short, still fall short of the glory of God. I have to live my life in awe, reverence, and thorough-going humility that Jesus saves me.
Michael Zeigler: Next week, we're going to get to the parables in chapter 4, and you've also learned these by heart and presented them many times. What could we do to prepare our hearts to receive what Jesus has to say in these parables?
Dale Meyer: Jesus was great about using pictures, great about illustrations, and we call some of them "parables." But in preparation for next Sunday's broadcast, I would say think about how visual life is, and realize that Jesus does not come to us in theological tomes and in propositional statements. And again, there's a place for all of that, but He comes to us common people in pictures of His love, of His kingdom, of His reign and rule in our lives. And we can lean back and enjoy those pictures, but also think about them, mull them over, and see how the picture describes who we are and the goodness of God to us in Jesus.
Michael Zeigler: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Meyer.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"The Only Son from Heaven" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)