Sun, Jul 15, 2018

He liked to listen to him

Mark 6:14-29 by Doug Gunkelman

When we were young, one of the ways we would cause our mother to worry was during the week before the fourth of July. We would make our annual stop at the big tent protecting the rows of church-like folding tables heaped with all sorts of explosives. As small children, we were limited to sparklers, but as we grew older and learned, we were interested in smoke balls, bottle rockets, long strips of firecrackers, and cherry bombs.

The bottle rockets were fun because we were out in the country and didn’t have to worry about one going side ways through a neighbor’s window or onto a roof. But the cherry bombs were really fun because we could experiment with blowing things up. I’m not going to talk about what we blew up because what happens in Valley City stays in Valley City.

Cherry bombs are explosive; so is the gospel. The gospel causes explo­sions so intense that it mangles the kingdom of Satan and unhinges sin's power base. Paul in Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes."

The word "power" comes from the Greek word dynamis, from which we derive the English word dynamite. God has put a stick of dynamite in our hands to obliterate any obstacle to eternal life that the enemy puts in humanity's path. God knows that we cannot impose this type of carnage with a sparkler. Like dynamite, the gospel blows things up. When the gospel is unleashed, it leaves in its wake a "race" of people who have experienced the saving grace of God. Sin's stronghold is diminished, flames of Christ's righteousness (Rom. 1:17) are kindled, and the restoration of God's image is implanted in His creation.

Pentecost inaugurated an unprec­edented season of courageous gospel preaching. That morning found 120 members of the Jerusalem church in earnest prayer. After the Spirit of God poured Himself on the church, the gospel was preached with clarity and, when the dust settled, 3,000 people were added to the church rolls.

I must point out that Peter was not alone in preaching that day. The Holy Spirit fell on everyone in the upper room (Acts 2:2, 3). Verse 4 iterates "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Verse 11 expands this notion when it says, "we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." In a high-octane church, the preacher is not the only one who proclaims the gospel. Everyone is given a treasure chest of gospel dynamite. The gospel was detonated during Pentecost, and 3,000 individuals were extracted from the grip of death. As we ignited our cherry bombs on the Fourth of July, so God's people ignited their explosives on the day of Pentecost, shoved them into sin's abyss, and it was blown off of its foundation.

Every year, we stood waving the sparklers in a circular motion until the fire was extinguished. This was cute but inconsequential. My father gave us the sparklers because they were safe and they did not cause any damage. The bombs, on the other hand, blew things up. There was something that the sparklers and the cherry bombs had in common, however. While the sparklers and the cherry bombs had differing physical make-ups, in order for any effect to take place, both had to be aroused with fire.

The gospel contains capabilities that can annihilate anything in its path, but it needs fire to unpack its destructive nature. Without the flame of Holy Spirit, preaching the gospel is of no effect.

I must make a bold statement – the gospel was designed to be preached! If we look at our high-octane commission, you will notice that the first two parts specifically tell us to preach, whereas the third part tells us to teach. Whenever the Bible discusses the presentation of the gospel, it always does so in the context of preaching. God designed the gospel to be transformational, not just informational.

John the Baptist was a transformational preacher who was put in prison because one of his favorite sermon illustrations was to talk about how wrong it was for King Herod to marry his brother’s wife.

It would be like me preaching over and over again that it is morally wrong for our King to have been married three times and to have had affairs along the way. If I ever say that again from this pulpit, I’ll probably lose my head as well!

But Herod is not who wants John the Baptist beheaded.

Verses 19-29 . . . “And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed and yet he liked to listen to him.” He liked to listen to him preach.

Then Jesus comes along on the heels of John the Baptist and he’s a preacher. Verse 14 . . . “King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18, 19).

When we examine the ministry of Christ, it is easy to notice the clinical aspect of His miracles. He was a der­matologist, because He restored the leper's smoothness of skin. He was an ophthalmologist, because He restored sight to the blind, He was a hematologist, because He cured the woman with the issue of blood. He was an orthopedist, because he healed the paralytic. According to the text, Christ was anointed to preach, and the gospel was tailor-made to address the spiritual, social, and sensational aspects of the human condition as well. God retrofitted the gospel to heal broken hearts, give lib­erty to the captives and the oppressed, counteract spiritual blindness, and offer hope for the future. The gospel paves a highway to salvation.

This is precisely why the gospel is dynamite: because it blasts through rocks and structures that impede the progress of the sinner to have trans­formation. What good is a stick of dynamite if fire is absent to kindle it? What good is the gospel if the preacher is not available to thunder it from the pulpit? As the inferno of preaching burns, it ignites the dynamite of the gospel and shatters all obstacles in the way of the salvation of humanity.

Paul in his letter to the Roman church says, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

According to Scripture, John the Baptist came preaching" (Matt. 3:1); "Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14); the disciples "preached everywhere" (Mark 16:20); the apostles "preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (Acts 4:2); and Jesus told us in the gospel great commissions to preach (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).

A great and unfortunate misconcep­tion that exists in the body of Christ is that the preaching of the gospel can be accomplished only through the words and energy of the pastor. The pulpit stands as the pastor's greatest leadership tool, but the pulpit should not serve as a cage for the gospel. God designed the gospel to leak into the highways and the byways, the streets and the mountaintops.

Take a glimpse at the book of Acts where the prayer assembly mobilizes to pray in chapter 1 verses 13-15. One hun­dred and twenty people pack the upper room with their prayers and supplica­tions. When the sound of the rushing, mighty wind filled the house where they were praying, cloven tongues of fire sat upon each of them in Acts 2:3. Verse 4 continues with the fact that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In verses 8 and 11, every person heard the wonderful works of God in their own tongue. Up to this point, Peter has not stood to preach. The gospel was preached by everyone who was endowed with the Spirit of God.

Allow your holy imagination to picture a moment when every member of Divinity goes looking together for the folks in this community and begins to preach the wonderful works of God to the residents.

All the pastor has to do is welcome them to worship like Peter did and give the invitation to repent, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, to receive remission of sins, and to accept the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

The world does not need another preacher or theologian. The world craves bold individuals who are unafraid to open their mouths and declare the magnificent good news of Jesus the Christ! God needs every hand on deck to accomplish the greatest commission ever given to humanity. The most basic meaning of preaching is proclaiming. Everyone can proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Just ask the leper of Galilee (Mark 1:40-45), one of the ten lepers who was healed between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11-19), the man healed by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-15), and the woman at the well (John 4). Only one prerequisite preceded the preaching of the gospel; each person experienced the goodness of Jesus Christ.

Ask God for holy boldness – and preach the gospel, for there is dynamis in the proclaiming of the good news.