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  • Writer's pictureRev. Joel L. Tolbert

Jesus Sends

Five Marks of Jesus, a New Year sermon series, week 5 of 5, on five key traits of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, preached Feb 11, 2024


This is the final week of our 5 week sermon series, 5 Marks of Jesus. From the early chapters of the oldest Gospel, Mark, we have seen Jesus is one who Forgives, Teaches, Heals, and Raises… Today, we hear the 5th Mark of Jesus, how he SENDS!

Let’s pray, and listen for the word of the Lord from…

Scripture Mark 6:1-29 (NL)

6 Jesus left that place and came (back) to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? How are deeds of power being done by his hands? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and aren’t his sisters here with us too?” And they took offense[b] at him.

4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deeds of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And Jesus was astounded… at their unbelief.

So he went out among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out, two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that place. 11 If any place will not welcome you or they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’s[c] name was becoming known. Some were[d] saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead, and for this reason, these powers are at work in Jesus.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

Sermon Jesus Sends US

My assumption, as I prepare for any Sunday morning, is that some of you know quite a bit about Jesus, or think you do, and some will know a little about Jesus, and some will know almost nothing about him. I’ve myself been in all three of those stages, and even now, I sometimes realize just how little I know even as I learn more and more.

That’s part of the reason we started this new year with this sermon series, 5 Marks of Jesus. What can Caitlan and Bob and I say about Jesus, true things about Jesus, that hold up through a lifetime, and will always be true. In a healthy Christian congregation, we hope and believe we know God best in the person Jesus, and therefore, what we know about Jesus, we can trust about God.

The first mark we know, Jesus forgives.

Now, don’t ruin the good news. Please don’t allow an untrue or twisted message about God’s forgiveness to get into you, or stay there if it already is. Too many Christians have been told and believed that God forgives only WHEN we blank, or God forgives IF I blank, or God forgives AFTER you blank. In the story from Mark that showed us Jesus forgives, some people dig through a roof, and lower another person before Jesus, and Jesus forgives HIM. Jesus’ forgiveness did not depend on the man wanting it, or asking for it, or working for it, or his repentance, or his accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus forgives the man before him on their faith and there is nothing, nothing in the story the man did to earn it or deserve it, but he got it.

This doesn’t mean God forgiveness is cheap, but it does mean God’s forgiveness is free, as in cannot be bought. It doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want, but it does mean God’s forgiveness is not because of what we have or haven’t done to lose it or earn it, but because of who God is, God’s character and this God forgives.

The second mark, Jesus teaches.

In his person and his parables, Jesus is teaching us what God is like, and what God wants. In the story from Mark, Jesus teaches God is like a sower who sows seed, word, truth, life everywhere, radically, generously, abundantly, no matter the condition of where it might land. On some, it may grow nothing, or only a little for a little while, or it may grow plenty buts it’s all tangled up in something else. God doesn’t stop scattering seed, word, truth, life everywhere, on every people, because this God loves all and hopes for all. Jesus teaches us that’s who God is.

Then Jesus teaches us what God wants. Jesus calls it the Kingdom of God, and teaches parable after parable about it. It’s an amazing community, a safe place with no gates or guards, no weapons or wealth, no disease or disaster. It’s already visible, like a tiny little light that isn’t hidden from anyone but up on a lampstand. It’s growing when we work at it, yes, but also when we sleep or rest. It’s not something we can own or keep for ourselves. When we try to do that, we lose it. But when we give it away to others, we have it all the more. It sometimes seems so small, irrelevant, insignificant, like a tiny mustard seed, but one day it will reveal itself in full as a huge healthy homeland for all God’s beloved with abundant shelter and food for everyone, and all creation will be at peace again. Jesus teaches us that’s what God wants.

Please, don’t believe or trust anything more than what Jesus teaches us about who God is and what God wants.

The third mark, Jesus heals.

In these early chapters of Mark, Jesus heals a paralyzed man others brought to him, heals a person with a withered hand who just happens to be in the synagogue, heals a multitude of people by the sea, and heals a man flooded with a legion of personalities. Jesus sees the brokenness, and is responding to it with healing, even now, whether we ask for it like those by the sea or the man with the legion, or whether we don’t, like the paralyzed man, or the one with the withered hand.

Now, please, do not believe sin and suffering are of God. This God is a creator of life and healer. Most of the sin and suffering in the world is us. We carry the sins of those who came before us, instead of confessing them, and unraveling them from our inherited systems and structures. We add our own sin whenever we draw lines between us and others, or allow any culture or community to name winners over losers, accepted versus rejected, allies and enemies. We even pass sin and suffering along to those who come after us, when we teach them our way to succeed or stay safe, instead of living God’s lessons of generously sharing, and radically risking welcoming the neighbor and stranger.

Please, don’t think of God as clueless, or absent, or powerless. This God is ever-present with us, feeling our struggles and suffering, from the tiniest infections to the infections of racism and war. And this God is healing so many things, constantly, whether we ask for it or not. But because we are God’s beloved children, not God’s puppets, we continue to break things almost as fast as God heals.

Then last week, we learned God raises. We heard two stories. In one a woman stretched and reached for healing in her body, and found it. I’m so glad Jesus was walking by that day, and she had the time off work and the will power to reach for the healing she needed, that so many doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. But wrapped around that story of the woman who was healed was the story of the little girl, Jairus’ daughter.

Not all things can be or need to be healed. Sometimes, the better path is not backward so things become again like they once were. Sometimes the better path, the only path, is forward. Jesus did not heal the little girl. She died. The disease took her life and what she used to be, it ended. Then, he raised her to new life. Please fight for healing in your body and your relationships, in our world. But if healing doesn’t come the way we expected, trust anyway, this God can and will raise to new life.

And then today, the 5th Mark of Jesus… Jesus sends.

Please don’t sit and wait for this God to heal, teach, forgive, and raise, as if we are an audience passively observing the God show from our comfy couches. This God will not let us stay spectators. We are invited onto the stage with God. This God will not let us think of ourselves as talentless or powerless. We are gifted and empowered by God. And then, this God sends us out to forgive, teach, heal, and raise. Please, brace yourselves. Just like they did with Jesus, our own family and friends may think us naïve. Stranger may welcome us or may reject us as nuts. And politicians, well, if we really try to cleanse the systems and structure of it greed, and racism, and violence, they just might try to behead us or crucify us. But we are sent. We are sent by the God we know in Jesus to forgive the sins of the world, to teach a path to truth and life, to heal the brokenness that can be healed, and to raise to new life the brokenness that cannot be repaired.

Please, don’t think of God’s forgiveness, or teaching, or healing, or raising as only a personal benefit, but believe we too are empowered and sent by God to forgive, teach, heal, and raise the next growth spurt of God's beloved community, until all the world knows only peace, love, and justice.

Let’s pray…




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