The Power of the Cross
Text: Mark 2: 13 –22
Proposition: The power of the cross is what Jesus demonstrated in all that He taught, preparing the church to be His bride, His body, His glory.
Introduction: Last week I made a peculiar statement that seemed on the surface to be horribly wrong. That statement was ‘The main purpose for Jesus coming to earth was to preach.’ I said that based on the words of Jesus in Mark 1:38 but what we need to ask is, ‘What was Jesus teaching and preaching about?’ What we find as we listen in on His teaching is that it had to do with what we already believe was His main purpose in coming, namely Redemption and Salvation in the kingdom of God. Jesus was preparing the disciples and the future church not just for the event of the cross but for the power of the cross that was soon to come. So this morning let’s walk along with the disciples and listen in through what Mark recorded for us in Mark 2:13-22.
I. The Power of the Cross Begins With the Power of Acceptance.
Jesus walks along the lake shore of Galilee and the crowds press in to hear what He is saying. Last week we talked about what Messiah meant to the Jewish mind and the contrast of Jesus as He declared Himself as the Messiah, the forgiver of sins and healer of lives. Jesus teaches the people the truth about sin, about God, about God’s kingdom come. Then He turns and begins to walk until they come to a point in the road by the Sea of Galilee just south of Capernaum where there is a toll booth of sorts. The Roman army ran on the funds extracted from the countries they possessed so the Romans would offer the right to collect a tax on all goods to the highest bidder. Quite often that person would then hire others to do the actual collection for them as they became the chief tax collector. The thing is the person collecting the actual taxes knew how much he had to get and anything beyond that would be theirs to keep so the taxation was highly subjective and self-serving. It was said that even the fish being caught would be taxed such that if you caught 30 fish, the tax collector could demand with the authority of Rome that you give him the value of 5 or even 10 of the fish. Make no mistake, the collector of taxes was seen by all Jews as a traitor to Israel. So the disciples watch as they come to the toll booth and they see Jesus encounter Levi the tax collector, the man who had taken food out of their families mouths for years. Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus said if anything at all just that the conversation concluded with an invitation, “Follow Me.” Within hours the disciples with Jesus are in of all places the house of this tax collector, about to have lunch. And who is gathered around them but others that Levi called his friends. The only detail to explain this that we are given is in verse 15, “for there were many, and they followed Him.”. In other words it’s not the first time that Levi has seen or heard Jesus teach and even tax collectors look for hope and acceptance.
Mark tells us what happens immediately after they leave Levi’s house. The Pharisees approach His disciples and ask, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” It’s a simple question, one the disciples would themselves have asked just a day before. Then comes the teaching, the preaching of Jesus about Who He is, what sin is, what God requires. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The power of acceptance is that it is not put off by the sickness no matter what it looks like. It calls them, it receives the opportunity to meet with them in their world, it eats with them, laughs with them, is counted among them and the truth of Christ comes close. Repentance comes close and faith in Jesus leads them to a place of forgiveness of sin and right standing with God in Christ. The power of acceptance is that it also shines a light on the foolishness of any who might call themselves ‘righteous’ because of their morality or conduct or history. The Scripture that says that until you come to Christ, ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’ The power of the acceptance of the cross is that it excludes no one other than the one who excludes themselves because they believe they are okay without Jesus. The power of acceptance brings dignity, ‘Choose this day whom you will serve.’ It brings clarity and questions all at the same time. But most of all it turns my life in a direction I didn’t even know I needed until suddenly by faith, I’m no longer who I was. The power of acceptance is felt between people but its greatest impact is in God’s acceptance of you because of Jesus Christ and your faith in Him. Nothing needs to be cleaned up, fixed up or dressed up, it’s a come just as you are kind of acceptance, Jesus does the difference. Confession is you agreeing with God about what He already knows to be true in you. Repentance is you turning, seek His forgiveness, know His acceptance.
II. The Power of the Cross Brings the Power of a New Life.
I’ve heard that in some of the newer electric cars they actually have to create the noise of an engine so that people can know the car is still working. One of the most iconic commercials that caught peoples’ attention was in 1989 when a hot pink rabbit wearing sunglasses and beating a big bass drum just kept going and going. The ever ready rabbit ran on ever ready batteries, he became a symbol of unending perseverance. Electric cars like electric rabbits run on power that is unseen other than what it produces. But it’s a limited power, one that either needs recharging or replacing., They weren’t really ‘ever ready’ were they? In these next few verses Mark tells of another encounter with the Pharisees. They come to Jesus and ask, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Just to clarify there was only one fast prescribed in the Old Testament, on the Day of Atonement. Many other fasts had been added to the point that the Pharisees claimed to fast twice a week. They thought the power to be righteous came from the rigid routines of doing right in order to be right, an outside in approach to righteousness. Legalism was the ever ready battery that slowly ran out leaving an empty joyless life. Look at how Jesus responds to their question…“Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.”. He describes His relationship in terms of a wedding. It would be ridiculous in not downright inappropriate to look all sorrowful and fast at a wedding. That time ought to be characterized, even powered, by joy. Joy to be near the groom, joy for the bride, joy for the wonder and mystery in every occasion where the two become one. Then Jesus pulls the curtain back just a little, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” It is a glimpse to those days when they couldn’t eat, wouldn’t eat because Jesus had been crucified, His body lay in a tomb, a sad Sabbath. The fasting in that day would not be some form of ritual or legalism to prove righteousness. It would be the grieving for a friend. Then Jesus gives two ordinary life examples that are meant to explain the joy in His disciples that prevented them from fasting in the way that the disciples of John and the Pharisees fasted. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” The new cloth if sewed onto the old garment would shrink when washed and tear the old garment. The new wine would ferment and create a pressure in an old wine skin that it simply could not contain and it would rupture and waste everything. When a person comes to place of agreeing with God about Who He is and who they are and then by faith asks Jesus to forgive their sin, to save them there is a new life that comes into them. The Holy Spirit indwells them, there is a joy of being made alive in Christ, alive in a way that is so different than what I had known before. That new life in Christ is like the new cloth or the new wine and new wine skins. To take that newness of who you are now in Christ and then to try to make it patch up your old life or somehow fill the old ways that you used to get joy just ends up destroying both. The power of the cross brings the power of a new life, one that doesn’t run on your own efforts as if they were always going to be enough. The power of the cross is that it made you alive together with Him. It forgives all trespass, it brings you to a new identity of being righteous before God because of Jesus, it silences the accusations against you. The power of the cross brings the power of new life marked by a resident joy.
This is Christ in you, this is what Jesus preached that we can now listen in on and receive.