At the end of our Gospel story today Jesus says, "'Let us go into the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do.' And he went throughout Galilee proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons."
Just prior to this scripture passage read today, Jesus casts out an evil spirit and the people "were so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching-and with authority!'"
First, the message Jesus is proclaiming is not what we usually refer to as the Gospel---that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead so that all who believe in him may have eternal life.
Second, Jesus wasn't just telling people something-he wasn't just teaching-he was PROCLAIMING.
Third, it was, as the people recognized, a NEW teaching.
Fourth, Jesus proclaimed this teaching with authority.
So, what was this message, then, that Jesus was proclaiming with authority? And how was he able to connect with people so that they would receive the message?
The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark is loaded-John appears and announces who he is and what his purpose is-to prepare the way for the Lord; Jesus appears on the scene and is baptized and then immediately is compelled to go into the desert for 40 days, where he is tempted by
Satan. Then Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. Again, not the Good News, the Gospel that we know as the basis of our faith-that through Christ our sins are forgiven, that Christ died for our sins, rose from the dead and gives us the promise of eternal life. In
chapter one he also performs healings and starts to call his 12 disciples. It's really a loaded first chapter.
What Jesus proclaims is "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news."
And what is this good news? Jesus says, in Luke 4, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year
of the Lord's favor."
The good news was proclaimed to the poor-that is anyone who had little to hope for, those who had no relationship with God because the Pharisees oppressed the people with their laws and traditions so that the law was void of the spirit in which it was created.
It's the same today-we have God's wonderful Word recorded for us in the Bible, but so many people use the Bible as a collection of rules set in concrete, and they use the Bible to hit you over the head with it and don't use it to open up people's hearts to the story of God's love
for us so that they might receive that love that comes to us through Jesus.
In Mark, in the verses just before our passage we read today, Jesus tells us that the message that he is proclaiming is "The time has come. The kingdom of God (heaven) is near. Repent and believe the good news."
The kingdom of Heaven, of God, is both a new spiritual way of thinking that Jesus teaches that folks are on the brink of hearing and accepting, and it is also embodied in Jesus. So, it is both a physical and spiritual message. It is the age of the Messiah.
The good news is: we can, no matter what our circumstances, live in a full, right relationship with God.
There are evil spirits to cast out. We've opened the door by listening to the devil who constantly tries to get our attention to draw us away from our relationship with Christ. So, we have to repent of any path, any thought or action that might lead us away from Christ, AND we must
head in the direction that draws us closer to God, strengthens our relationship with Christ.
We have to get rid of negative thoughts-about ourselves, about others, about situations or things-cast those things out and fill that void with Jesus' positive, life affirming teachings-a new spiritual way of thinking.
Look at things first from a spiritual viewpoint, and then follow through. To learn to do this you need to study God's word, understand it; you need to begin anything and everything you do with prayer; you need to come to worship, not only to be fed and to feed others by sharing your
gifts-but first and foremost come to worship God.
Get rid of negative attitudes that prevent you from worshipping God while here. Repent of them-just don't ask for forgiveness and continue doing the same thing. No you have to cast out those negative attitudes and strengthen your relationship with Christ by filling your heart and
mind with hope and compassion and a positive outlook and approach to the world.
You need to know what it is that you say you believe as a follower of Christ-know how to use the tools God has given you to strengthen your relationship with Christ. One thing for certain you can do is to attend the BACK TO BASICS series being held here this month: Basic
Christianity, Basic Bible, Basic Prayer. Get a fresh look at the basis of your faith so you can filter out those ideas that aren't true, that which has become tainted by the teachings of the world.
Jesus taught with authority-he proclaimed. In order for us to proclaim the truth we need to make sure we know what that is. Jesus could proclaim with authority because he knew what he was talking about and he connected with people.
He had compassion for us and he asks us to have compassion for one another. The world drives us to dis-connect with each other; it teaches us hate and revenge rather than forgiveness and love and compassion for one another. And that is part of Jesus' new teaching, a new spiritual
way of thinking, of looking at the world around us and a seeing we can interact with it in a spiritual way to start with and then build on that.
This new teaching is a powerful way to connect with Christ and his authority so we ourselves then can proclaim the message.