This sermon is number 18 in a series of 57
Studies in Mark - Part 18
"The Servant's Servants"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning in our Bibles to Mark's gospel chapter 3. We have been in Mark's gospel Sunday morning by Sunday morning, with the exception of last Sunday when we took a break from it, but last Sunday morning's ministry - providentially - has a lot of bearing on what we will look at this morning as we look at what I have entitled 'The Servant's Servants'. We are introduced to all the disciples, or more correctly the apostles, in our reading today.
Beginning to read at verse 7 of Mark chapter 3: "But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house". We end our reading at verse 19.
R. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Mark's gospel, when he comes to this particular portion and comments on it, entitles his chapter: 'Jesus, Pressured Jesus' - of course it is a parody on the spiritual song that many of you know, 'Jesus, Precious Jesus'. Pressure in Jesus' life came from two sources. First of all, the repeated collisions that He had with the then religious establishment, the Scribes and the Pharisees. A second source of pressure to Him was the popularity He enjoyed among the ordinary people. Now of course, in our recent studies in chapter 2, at the beginning of it right through to verse 6 of this chapter we have been dealing with the collisions that the Lord Jesus had with the Scribes and the Pharisees - and of course it all climaxed in verse 6 of chapter 3 where we see the Pharisees going forth, and straight away they take counsel with the Herodians how they might destroy Him. They're going to kill Him for what they see as transgression of the law which, in effect, was just the transgression of their own tradition and interpretation of God's holy word.
But now the portion we're looking at this morning focuses on another pressure that was in Jesus' ministry: popularity - the other end of the scale, if you like, from opposition. There were great demands upon the ministry of the Saviour because of His success, effectualness and His popularity among ordinary people. We're going to see this morning how this popularity added pressure, and how the Lord Jesus coped with such pressure - in other words, the method that He used to offload, if you like.
Now we see in this portion in verse 10, first of all, that He had pressure from sick folk. Verse 10 says: 'He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues'. Now if you have a marginal reference Bible, the Authorised reference to 'pressed' is that it can also be translated 'rushed'. It literally means 'to fall upon', or 'to jostle'. So the picture here is of many diseased, leprous, afflicted, ill folk falling upon the Lord Jesus; wanting to be healed. Not only were the sick jostling Him, but we find in verse 11 that unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him - now unclean spirits don't have bodies, but they possessed people's bodies, and they most likely forced these people to fall before the Lord Jesus and cried out, 'You are the Son of God' - 'And straitly Jesus charged that they should not make him known'. The reason for that was that He did not want their witness of who He was, He wanted authentic witness from believing people, not from the demon-possessed.
What I want you to catch a glimpse of is the added pressure of not only having all these sick folk pressing in and rushing upon Him, jostling Him, pressurising Him to heal, but all of these supernaturally demon-possessed folk doing the same. Kent Hughes in his commentary captures the scene very well, he says: 'Putting it all together, the ill, the feverish, the crippled were pushing and grabbing at Jesus and falling over Him. The demonised were malevolently seizing Him up with howling His name in futuritive combat. The jaundiced Pharisees were watching His every move, waiting for their chance'. In other words, you can't underestimate the human strain that would have been upon the Lord Jesus in such a situation. It was so great that the Lord ordered for the disciples to get a boat so that He could go out from shore a little and the crowd would not press upon Him in such a manner.
Now I don't want to read too much into such a thought, but the fact of the matter is: one of the greatest 21st-century problems that we have today is that we seem always to be under pressure and experiencing one strain or another. I can identify with Annie Johnson Flint's poem which is called 'Pressed', listen to the first verse:
"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength!
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul;
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends!"
Of course the Lord Jesus was the perfect God-man, and yet He experienced, on a human level, pressure. Isn't it wonderful to know that when we are pressured, He understands what it is to be pressurised? If you're a mother, you know what pressure is, and fathers too, to a lesser extent. A student, perhaps, maybe you're in a professional vocation - and most likely, if you're a Christian worker or involved in some work in the Christian church, you will know all too well what it is to know strain and pressure as you serve the Lord.
Now the bottom line for the Saviour was: the more care He took over people the busier He seemed to get. It's the same in this life: the better you are at your job the more people will be looking for you. It's the same in ministry: the more effective your ministry and service for the Lord, the more people will come to be ministered to and served. This is what happened in the life of the Lord Jesus. Now the question before us today is: how did He cope? What was His method to deal with this pressure, and what should our method be in our day and age? To manage the pressure and the demands of His ministry, the Lord implemented an unfailing method that, if we implement it, will help us greatly.
Here's the first string, if you like, to the bow. The first step of His method was prayer. Now, Mark doesn't deal with this in too much detail, but we know from Luke's account of the same narrative in Luke chapter 6 and verses 12 and 13 that when Mark simply says: 'The Lord Jesus went up to a mountain' in verse 13; Luke expands, telling us, 'And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples'. It would be very easy to skip over this and miss it, but the first way the Lord Jesus coped with this ministerial pressure was to take it to God in prayer, to get alone with God, a quiet time in a quiet place up this mountain. Now I have to say to you that often, when I feel myself pressurised in life in general or specifically in ministry, the tendency is to give up on prayer and to even think that, 'Well, I have more important things and more pressing things to do just at the minute, and prayer is dispensable, I can do it later or tomorrow or again at my convenience'. We see prayer as an extra pressure, an extra strain, when the fact of the matter is - from the example of the Lord - we should be viewing prayer as a pressure release, a way of getting rid of the strain and distress of our lives.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest', and we often apply that to the unbelievers, but it is for us perhaps more even than they. Every moment of every day of our lives we are to keep coming to the Lord to unburden ourselves and to receive grace and mercy to help us in time of need. Paul is explicit in that regard in Philippians 4: we are to be anxious for nothing, pray about everything, and be thankful for anything - but the way we relieve our stresses and anxieties is through prayer.
'O, what peace we often forfeit!
O, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Every thing to God in prayer'.
Now the Lord Jesus never had a needless pain, but what we do see in His life is that His method of dealing with this great influx of demand upon Him was to pray. Not to dispense of it, but to pray even more - and before He chooses His disciples, He prays all night! I think He deserved a rest after a day like the day He had, but He knew that the secret to cope was prayer.
Here's the second secret in His method to coping with the strains of ministry: not just prayer, but share. In verses 13 to 15 we see that the Lord Jesus brings to Him the twelve, choosing them. Mark tells us that there was a threefold purpose behind the call of the twelve. The first is that they might be with Him, verse 14. Then we see also there that the second purpose was that He might send them out to preach. Then the third in verse 15, He wanted to give them power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.
Now I want to look at verse 15 first of all, because this word 'power' is used. It would be easy to misunderstand its meaning, we're so used with the word 'power' in Scripture being the Greek word 'dunamis', which we get 'dynamite' from, the power of God unto salvation - but that is not the Greek word that is used here. Rather the word used here means 'delegated authority'. So what the Lord is doing here is, He is delegating responsibility to His disciples, if you like, to spread the load - but He wanted to do more than that. He was desiring to find a way where He could permanently keep His message among humanity, and ultimately spread His message cross the globe. Of course, the Lord Jesus knew that the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him, but He also knew that He had come into the world to bleed and to die, to be delivered up for the sacrifice for the sins of the world. He knew that He was going to die, three days later rise again, and then 40 days later ascend to heaven, and it would be left to His disciples to propagate the gospel throughout the globe.
So He had to have a strategy so that His message would survive when He was away. So choosing the disciples was not simply to spread the load, but to spread the message, and He did it by choosing these twelve men. Now please note this: this was Christ's method for ministry, twelve men. Now, who were they? Well, they were twelve in number which is not without its significance, twelve sometimes in the Bible indicates the number of governmental perfection. But there were also twelve tribes of Israel, twelve thrones for judgement on the twelve tribes of Israel, the book of Revelation tells us that there are twelve pearly gates in the New Jerusalem, twelve foundations to that same city, and there will be twelve manner of fruits to eat from in the new heaven and the new earth.
Now there are four lists of the apostles that we are given in Scripture, this is only one in Mark's gospel. If you look at the screen, just for your help you will see that one is found in Matthew 10, one is found in Mark 3, one is found in Luke 6, and the other in Acts chapter 1. Now they all, when you're reading them, seem to be the same - but as you glance at them in greater detail you will see that they differ somewhat. For instance, Mark and Matthew have the name 'Thaddeus' in the lists, while Luke in both of his lists - remember he wrote the Acts of the Apostles and Luke's gospel - he has the name 'Judas of James'. Now of course they are the same person, and some think that Judas may have been James's original name, and he changed it later to Thaddeus which means 'warmhearted' to avoid the stigma that had been attached to the name 'Judas', because of Judas Iscariot.
Now all these four lists in Scripture begin with Simon Peter - you can see that, the list is a bit hard to see perhaps, but if you squint you can see Simon at the top of them all. They all end with Judas Iscariot except, that is, Acts, because Judas by that time had killed himself, was deceased. Also you see that these four lists are gathered together and appear in three groups of four names. So Peter, Andrew, James and John are always in the first group, though not always in that order. Philip, Bartholomew - who incidentally is also Nathaniel, who you find in John's gospel - Thomas and Matthew are always in the second group. James, Thaddeus, Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot are always in the third group - of course, except Acts, where Judas is left out. It's interesting. In all four lists given in the scriptures Peter's name always heads the first group, because he always heads the full list of disciples. Philip always heads up the second group as you can see, and James always heads up the third group. It may suggest that Simon Peter, Philip and James were prominent leaders in the early church and among the first Apostles.
Also you can note that the Apostles seem to be listed in the order in which they were converted and called by Jesus, at least that applies to the first four - Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first to be called to follow the Lord. Then, of course, after them came Philip and Nathaniel, in John chapter 1 you can read about that. It's interesting also to note that in Mark's account of these names they are given in twos. Not only are they grouped in these three groups of four each, but they are named in twos. So it's 'Simon Peter and Andrew', 'James and John', and so on and so forth. We know from Mark 6 and verse 7 that this reflects the fact that Jesus sent the twelve out two-by-two to serve the Lord - I'm just encouraging you to look in more detail at Scripture. The Holy Spirit does not arrange things in a haphazard way, everything that is in God's word is ordered and it's there for a reason for our attention.
Let's look at these twelve. There are three things, generally speaking, that I want to say about the Servant's servants. The first is in keeping with what we learnt about last week, and it's simply this: the twelve were young, they were young men. James E. Stewart comments on this: 'Christianity began as a young people's movement. Unfortunately it is a fact which Christian art and Christian preaching have too often obscured, but it is quite certain that the original disciple band was a young men's group. Most of the Apostles were probably still in their twenties when they went out after Jesus'. He also points out in his commentary that the hymn we sang around the Lord's Table, penned by Isaac Watts, 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross', in its original version went like this:
'When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the young Prince of glory died'.
Stewart goes on: 'No one has ever understood the heart of youth in its gaiety and gallantry and generosity and hope, its sudden loneliness and haunting dreams, and hidden conflicts and strong temptations; no one has understood it nearly so well as Jesus. No one ever realised more clearly than Jesus did that the adolescent years of life, when strange dormant thoughts are stirring, and the whole world begins to unfold, are God's best chance with the soul'. What a telling remark. It's wonderful to know, if you're a young person, that Jesus understands what young people go through because He called a band of young people around Him. But the reason why He called young men was that they were teachable, they were receptive, and He knew that God's best chance with the soul is when it is young - like the children, like the young people.
So when we study the story of the first twelve, you've got to realise first of all something that is often missed: this is a young man's adventure. We are studying about a group of young men that Jesus has called, so here's the first characteristic of the Servant's servants: they were young. Here's the second characteristic: not only were they young, they were ordinary. Despite what Christian art through history portrays to us, there were no halos adorning the heads of these twelve men. Indeed Mark seems, more than any other gospel record, throughout his gospel to go out of the way to emphasise the imperfections of these twelve men - especially Peter, and we know that Peter gave him the information for his gospel. In many ways he was the leader of the twelve, and he is set forth to a large extent as a man who kept failing and letting the Lord down. Now Mark does this not to belittle the twelve, but he wants to make the grace of God and the wonder of this gospel all the more wonderful by setting it in contrast to the men Christ called, the men Christ would use.
Second Corinthians puts it so well: 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us'. So these disciples were not supermen, the early Christians were not supermen and superwomen, they were only sinners saved by grace - and that's why we see them, warts and all, to show this. Mark especially, I believe, wants us to see that the servants of the suffering Servant were only men and women like you and I with all our weaknesses, with our same foibles, struggles, temptations, sins. I think it isn't a coincidence, I've told you that the Holy Spirit doesn't put things in here to fill the story out, that these men had nicknames - and some of them were given by Jesus to them. Simon became Peter, 'stone' or 'rock'. Of course 'the sons of thunder', James and John because of their temperament.
Leslie Flynn says something that wonderfully sets forth the ordinariness of these men, this is what he said, quoting a sermon by Peter Marshall called 'Disciples in Clay'. Peter Marshall depicts the disciples appearing before an examining board to be appointed to be Jesus' close associates, and he says: 'Peter stood there smelling of fish, uncouth and uncultured, impulsive and impetuous. Andrew, James and John also reeked of fish oil and lacked refinement. Philip appeared indecisive. Thomas radiated cynicism. Matthew was considered a traitor to his country. The zealot Simon was a dangerous revolutionary. Judas was a thief. Without whitewash', he says, 'the New Testament paints them as they were, a group not most likely to succeed - and it is likely that some of the disciples would not have chosen each other to be members of the same group. Why did Jesus choose these twelve? Simply because His purpose was to show that God can be glorified in using men like these, men and women just as we are: ordinary'.
I hope you know you're ordinary! Paul reflects this: 'For ye see your calling', 1 Corinthians 1, 'how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called' - it doesn't say 'not any', but it does say 'not many', it's not the norm - 'But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence'. He chooses the weak, so that His strength can be made perfect in their weakness. Judging by worldly standards, these twelve had no special qualifications, they weren't wealthy, they had no social position, they had no special education, they were not trained theologians, high ranking churchmen or ecclesiastics - but twelve ordinary men.
The Servant's servants were young, the Servant's servants were ordinary, and thirdly: the Servant's servants were diverse. There are two ways that I want to show you this morning how they were different, but before I look at those two, we see from the outset of their conversion that they were led differently to the Lord Jesus - just as, of course, all of us were. John and Andrew were helped by the preaching of John the Baptist who was the forerunner before the Lord Jesus. They were helped by a preacher, some of you have been saved through the ministry of a man of God who has preached God's word. Peter and Nathaniel were helped by Philip, he was a personal worker, and I think more have been helped through personal work, individual one-to-one conversation about their soul, than through preachers. Then Philip and Matthew were brought to Christ by direct divine intervention, the Lord Jesus Himself - and there are some people who are converted, and no one is near them, God just speaks to them and they come to faith in the Lord Jesus.
What a different group, different even in how they came to know the Lord - but it takes all sorts to serve Him, and that is seen in these two ways, these two aspects of diversity that I want to share with you. The first is: they were different in their personality and their biography. Their personalities were different and their life stories. Peter was the spokesman, and he seems to be the only one that was in this role. He was a strong personality, always to the point, and his strong point was the fact that he spoke out for the Lord - but isn't it interesting, like many of us, his strong point was also his weak point, and often he spoke out when he shouldn't have. James became one of the first Christian martyrs. He had a short life, he died early, and there are some of us here today and some who we remember who died early in a relative sense. We need to face the fact that not all of us have the same amount of time in which to serve the Lord, and most of us don't know how long we have, and it bodes well that we serve Him with all our might in the days that we've got.
John was the opposite with James, he was long living. When all the other brothers were gone, Peter and Andrew had died, and even Philip and Stephen had deceased, John is still living! I wonder, you who could be classified as in old age here this morning, are you still serving the Lord with the days that God has given you? Then there's Andrew, the personal worker, he won his brother to Christ. Then Philip, also a personal worker, won a friend to the Lord Jesus. Nathaniel was the perfectionist, Thomas was the pessimist, Matthew was the secularist, the traitor to the Jewish cause; and Simon was his antithesis, he was a zealot, a terrorist, a separatist. Then we have James of Alphaeus, and he's just called 'James the son of Alphaeus', and you could call him 'so and so's son'. Then there's Thaddeus, or Judas as we have seen, or Lebbaeus, and you could almost name him 'What's his name' - we hardly know what to call him! Then there's Judas, the betrayer.
These last three, in a sense, because of how little we know about them from the scriptures, they could be classed as nobodies. We're not sure what they did, we're not sure how some of them came to Christ, we're not sure exactly of their history, at least from the word of God. This is such a strange team, such a variety, a diversity - but here's the whole point: if the Lord can use such a variation and diversity of personalities and biographies, how can we not work together as God's people? It's interesting that the Pharisees, who the Lord Jesus has been levelled against up to now in Mark's gospel, they were separatists - that's literally what their name meant, separated ones - and yet Jesus, when He calls a band to fight His cause, He calls a company who would be united, unity in diversity.
So the Servant's servants were young, the Servant's servants were ordinary, the Servant's servants were different in personality and life experience. Here's the second thing they were diverse in: they were diverse in spiritual maturity. You see, before they could go with the gospel as missionaries, they had to spend time with the Lord Jesus and learn the pattern of life on His life. They were at different stages in this progression. If you look at the first three names on all of the lists - Peter, James and John - they could be classed as the inner circle of intimacy in the Lord Jesus' Apostles. We know that because they were chosen by the Lord to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter, to see the Transfiguration of the Lord, and to witness the deep agony of the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. So there is this inner circle of intimacy, and then we see in the fourth and fifth names there was also evangelistic practicality, these personal workers. Then we see, as we move down, skipping a few names, in tenth and eleventh there were these people that we don't know much about - James of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus or Judas. We are reading between the lines a bit, but I offer to you the suggestion that they may have been delayed in their maturity regarding the progress that they were meant to have in discipleship with the Lord Jesus.
So the point is this: they were all at different stages, and yet the Lord chose them all, the Lord was discipling them all, the Lord loved them all - and, praise God, they all got there in the end. Is that not encouraging? The goal of the School of Christ was to prepare them for missionary service, and to do that He had to bring them into intimacy with Himself - the Servant's servants were different in their spiritual maturity, but all of them were moving towards greater intimacy. I want you to look just at this diagram, because it's been a help to me in my life, and it shows this progress. These circles, if you look at the outer circle you will see that the little key to it is the number 5000 - you remember that the Lord fed the 5000, and He provided for them; but you know that He said many of them only came for the loaves and fishes, for the provision. Then we see in the Gospels there were 500 men who followed the Lord Jesus by faith, they believed in Him, in other words they were saved. Yet there were 70 who the Lord Jesus called as disciples, and they served the Lord - they went further than just believing in Him, but they became His disciples, His apprentices, His assistants, ones who learned at His feet. But these 12 we're looking at this morning, they were in the place of fellowship that the Lord took to Himself to be with Him, and to take on His cause forever. Yet even within these twelve there were different degrees of maturity and spiritual intimacy, and we see that Peter, James and John had that place of privilege with the Lord on very special occasions, and yet even among those three there was one disciple whom Jesus loved. The Lord Jesus seemed to have a special intimacy with John, the beloved disciple. All at different stages, does that not encourage you? It doesn't mean that because you're maybe not as far on as someone else, and not going at as fast a pace as another Christian you know, that God has no use for you - Christ chose them all, worked with them all, and got to the point of maturity with them all eventually.
The point is this: they were transformed - and if you don't believe that, all you need to do is read the Acts of the Apostles. Someone has put it: 'When their exceptional training with Christ was anointed with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this nondescript, ragtag, dullish, fearful, unlearned gang of throne-climbers and deserters was transformed into a revitalised, united, godly band of flaming and courageous evangelists who', Acts says, 'turned the world upside down against all the odds'. Now we started off this message asking: how did the Lord Jesus cope with the pressure of a broadening ministry, and how did He provide for the witness of His message to succeeding generations? We must answer this question from Scripture, because we have the same challenge: how do we cope when our ministry broadens? How do we provide for witnessing in the generations that are yet to be?
Well, the first thing I want to say to you, if you haven't got the message yet, is: there's a job for everyone in this regard! No one is exempt, no matter how great or little the gift you feel you have to give - even if only you're getting a boat for Jesus, like we see in verse 9 the disciples doing. If you can lend Him a boat, you have something to do. But you see the inference of what we have read together this morning is that if you want to assist the Lord Jesus, the most important thing is that you're with Him. He called the disciples to be with Him. We have to abide in the Lord Jesus, and there is our strength and preparation for anything we do.
But how do we spread the load, and how do we spread the message? Well, we see it in the example of how the Lord makes these twelve ambassadors, these twelve Apostles. He is with them! You can't do this at a distance! He called these men as a small group, and into that small group He invested His time, training, His whole life. He took three, some would say four, years to do it. They lived together for that whole period, and there is more time Jesus spends with these men than any other people in the Gospels put together. He was with them, and if we are going to see God's witness go on to further generations, we have got to be together, discipling each other.
Now those Apostles were ordered to make disciples, apprentices of themselves, and Jesus told the Apostles to get a convert, get someone saved and teach them everything I taught you. Here are the three things, the three directives the Lord Jesus gave the Apostles on how to make disciples. First of all He tells them to evangelise, Mark 16:15: 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature'. It's not enough getting people saved, you've got to disciple them - that's where Matthew 28:19-20 comes in: 'Teaching them all things that I have commanded you'. Not only do you get them saved and disciple them, but you've got to train leaders, 2 Timothy 2:2: 'The things that you've heard of me, Timothy', Paul says, 'among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also'.
There is a method, and I get a little bit tired of this attitude: 'Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. The Spirit of God will do it all, we'll just sit on our hands and do nothing'. It doesn't work like that, it didn't work like that for the Lord Jesus, the Apostles, or the early disciples. There was methodology, biblical - and we might ask: 'Why do we lack converts today? Why are people not developing into disciples of the Lord? Why are we looking everywhere for leaders for another generation?'. Could it be that we have adopted our own methods, or maybe no methods, and this method of Christ has been neglected? Indeed, it's the method of ministry in the church - Ephesians 4, go home and read it, 11-13. Pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets and apostles are gifts to the church that they might equip the church to do works of ministry. There is a shared responsibility as we spread the load and spread the message, and what the Apostles effectively did was they reproduced themselves in ever widening circles of outreach, and in one sense we are the continuing fruit of their service! So there is no telling what can be done, what far-reaching influence we can have if we implement the Master's method.
This was the system that the Servant's servants used to propagate the message. This was how they would carry on the message after His Ascension. My question to you here is: how will you carry it on in the next generation? We must be using this method.
I'm going to close with an old legend, and it is just that, so take it in that light. It's an old legend that imagines the Lord Jesus arriving in heaven after His Ascension, and the angels are there to welcome Him. The Angel Gabriel asks the Lord Jesus: 'Lord, You suffered so much, You died for sins of mankind, does everyone on the earth know about it?'. 'Oh no', replies the Saviour, 'Just a handful of folks in Jerusalem and Galilee know about it'. 'Well Lord', continued Gabriel, 'What's Your plan for everyone in the world to know Your great love?'. The Master replied, 'Well, I asked all my Apostles to carry the message into all the world, and I told them to tell others, who will in turn tell others, until the last person in the farthest corner has heard the story'. The legend goes that Gabriel's face clouds, for he suspects a potential problem with the Lord's plan. He says to the Lord, 'But Lord, what if Peter forgets and goes back to the fishing in Galilee, and James and John and Andrew? Suppose Matthew returns to his tax booth in Capernaum, and all the others lose their zeal and just don't tell others - what then?'. The story goes that after a pause came the calm voice of the Lord Himself, 'Gabriel, I have no other plan'.
That's His plan, for you to take the Gospel, for you to disciple Christians, for you to train leaders who will be the Servant's servants for a day that is yet to be. Are we doing it? Will we do it? Please God, to the glory of the Lord Jesus, we will follow His example.
Father, we thank You that when the Lord Jesus called His Apostles to send them forth, He brought them to be with Himself. Help us to spend time with the Lord Jesus. We thank You also that He gave them a message, and we thank You that by grace we have received it. He gave them power and authority to go out and preach it - and whilst we are not Apostles, we thank You that we have the Holy Spirit, that power that demonstrates the Gospel message to those who receive it. Lord, give us an ability to follow the method of the Master in preaching the gospel to all creatures, making disciples, training leaders; that Your cause may go on in this place. We know it will go on forever until the Lord comes, for the Lord Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Yet Father, we see the churches of Ephesus, and most of them are not there today because they lost the method and the message and the power. May we not lose our candlestick here, Lord, but reignite the flame of every heart - for Christ's sake we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighteenth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "The Servant's Servants" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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