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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:The Prophet Came To Preach
Text:Mark 1:35-39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 98
Psalm 51:1-3
Psalm 40:1-3
Psalm 40:4-7
Hymn 37

Reading: Deut. 18:14-22
Text: Mark 1:35-39
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ our Lord,

On June 27, 1880 a baby girl was born to a well-to-do couple in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She was born in good health and began her childhood normally enough. However, when she was nineteen months, she came down with some kind of illness, usually thought to be either meningitis or scarlet fever. The illness left her deaf and blind. That in itself is nothing unusual. There have been many, many people in the history of the world who have been both deaf and blind. However, Helen Keller was different. We know her name today because she learned to overcome her disability. She learned how to communicate. Had she never learned how to communicate, she would likely have remained an obscure name in rural Alabama history. Having gained a voice, Helen Keller went on to become an influential figure in social and political activism. Even if we don’t agree with some of the causes for which she stood (many of them anti-Christian), we can all recognize that her stature was gained because she learned to communicate despite her handicaps.

Now things were a little bit different with the Lord Jesus. He was not handicapped by deafness or blindness. Speaking was something that he could easily do. But yet the fact remains that if the Lord Jesus had remained silent throughout his life, if he had been the quiet type, we would not know his name today. An essential part of his earthly ministry was his calling to speak and to communicate verbally. He was called to be a prophet and being a prophet involves speaking.

At least that much is clear from the passage we read from Deuteronomy 18. There we find that God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses. God would put his words in that prophet’s mouth and the prophet would speak. In Acts 3:22, the apostle Peter recognized that Deuteronomy 18 was anticipating the prophetic ministry of the Lord Jesus. And in Luke 13:33, the Lord Jesus referred to himself as a prophet, saying, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

We also see Christ revealed in his prophetic office in our text from Mark today. This is not the first time that we’ve looked at Christ as a prophet in Mark – we did that when looking at verses 14-20. And it will not be the last time either. He was anointed to be a prophet and he carried out his calling through his preaching ministry. Today, as God’s Word is preached, we’ll consider Christ’s prophetic office from three different angles. We’ll consider him as Mediator, Messenger, and Messiah. But before we consider those three things, let’s first go through the text and note some important details.

It was very early in the morning, Mark tells us. The sun hadn’t yet come up. The Lord Jesus was still in Capernaum, likely at the house of Simon and Andrew. The crowds from the night before had eventually dispersed, the house had become quiet and its residents could get some rest. But one of them was restless. Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place so that he could pray.

It was “a solitary place.” The original Greek here uses the same word found in verse 12 where Mark says that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. When we looked at that passage, we noted that the desert is always a special place in Scripture. It is the place through which God leads his people to redemption. It is the place of trials and temptations. And so on. Well, here in verse 35, we’re told that Jesus goes into the desert again and he goes to pray. This happens on two other occasions in Mark’s gospel and both of those times are times of crisis, critical moments in Christ’s ministry.

What’s the crisis here in Mark 1? Consider the fact that people have been flocking to Jesus. They’ve been banging down the door of Simon and Andrew. And they weren’t interested in hearing what Jesus had to say. They didn’t want to repent from their sins. They didn’t care about the good news he was preaching. They saw Jesus as a miracle worker and they wanted earthly relief. He gave it to them. We heard last time about his hand of power and his heart of love for God’s people. But the tragedy was that they still remained indifferent to what he was really about. So he steers away from the crowds and heads for the wilderness to pray, to bring all this to his Father in heaven.

It didn’t take long, however, before things started stirring back in the house in Capernaum. As they wiped the sleep from their eyes, Peter and the other disciples realized that Jesus was gone. Verse 36 tells us that they went out to look for him. Literally, it says that they went out to hunt him down, to track him down. Eventually they were successful and they excitedly told him, “Everyone is looking for you!” Like the crowds, the disciples also just didn’t get it. They also misunderstood why the Lord Jesus was among them. They wanted him to come back to Capernaum. By this time the crowds would be gathering in front of the house again – there were people to heal, there were demons to cast out. “Come on Jesus, it’s time to get busy!” They wanted him, but only as a sort of emergency room for Capernaum. They weren’t interested in what he had to say, but only in what he could do for them. Like people so often do, also today, they wanted a Saviour they could manipulate. They would follow him, but only because of what he could do for them. That’s something to think about for ourselves too…Why do we follow him?

Christ was and is not going to be manipulated. In our text, because he knew the Scriptures, including what we read from Deuteronomy 18, because he knew God’s will for him, he knew that his purpose was to preach the gospel. In his person, with his mouth, with his lips, with his tongue and voice, the kingdom of God draws near. His mission was not to be an emergency room, but to call men and women to repent of their sins and to believe the gospel. His mission and calling was to be a prophet.

So, instead of going back to Capernaum where the crowds are lingering and waiting, the Lord Jesus calls his disciples to follow him to the neighbouring towns and villages. He’d spent enough time in Capernaum, now was the time to move along and continue his prophetic preaching ministry. And so, that’s exactly what he did. Verse 39 tells us that he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in the synagogues. As he did so, the preaching was front and centre, but then Mark also adds the detail that he was still casting out demons. Even though preaching was his main task, he also had compassion on the suffering, especially on those who were in Satan’s grip through demon-possession.

So, that’s a broad overview of our text. Let’s now narrow our focus and consider how Christ is revealed as a prophet from the angles of Mediator, Messenger and Messiah. As we do this, we’ll also consider the comfort we receive from seeing our Saviour in this way.

Let’s first consider him as a prophetic Mediator. This is seen most clearly when we reflect on the word that Mark uses to describe Christ’s preaching. The word in Greek is keerusso [pronounced kay-rus-oh]. We’ve come across that word before in Mark. Literally, it means to herald. John Stott has a book of studies on the different words used to describe preaching and the task of a preacher in the New Testament. With this particular word, keerusso, he notes the secular use of the word “herald.” He writes, “A herald had to be a a man of considerable self-control. The proclamation must be delivered exactly as it was received. As the mouthpiece of his master he dare not add his own interpretation.” The herald who would go beyond what he’d been commanded to speak would be severely punished.

Brothers and sisters, the very idea of a herald implies someone going between two parties, in other words: a mediator. The King sends out the herald with a message to another party. The herald has authority to speak on behalf of the King.

With the Lord Jesus here in Mark 1, he is a herald for the coming kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus speaks with authority about the rule of God and what the proper response of the people is to be to this preaching. They were to repent and believe what this prophet proclaimed.

Now you might say that sounds a bit abstract and disconnected from our daily lives. Let me make it more concrete. We weren’t there in the synagogues of Galilee 2000 years ago. But the apostles were! When the Lord Jesus preached and heralded the gospel, when he was being a prophetic Mediator, they were listening! He promised that the Holy Spirit would help them remember his Words and teachings. And the Spirit did. So we have Christ’s inspired Word through which he continues to teach us today. When we open our Bibles, do we hear the voice of Christ our Prophet? He continues to speak with authority, to herald the coming kingdom of God. As God’s herald, he is still calling out to us to repent and believe the gospel. He is not begging us, as if he needs us to do it. He is commanding us and we dare not refuse. Brothers and sisters, hear your prophetic Mediator call you to repent and believe his Word today.

We must also hear him as the prophetic Messenger. A prophet always comes with a message or a teaching. In fact, in the Old Testament, prophecy is not so much predictive (though it is often that), as instructive. Through prophecy, God wants his people to learn something and to be transformed by what they learn. In Isaiah 30, the coming Saviour is described as a teacher who would show the people the way in which to walk.

In other words, he would have a message that would transform them. In the context of Mark 1, we know that the message was the good news of God, the proclamation that the kingdom of God had come near. It looked like the world was out of control – what with the Romans in power and everything. The voice of prophecy had been silent for hundreds of years. It looked like Satan had gained the upper hand – look at all the folks who were demon-possessed. Christ comes and says: there’s good news. It’s not like that at all. The kingdom of God is breaking in and bringing rescue to those who walked in darkness. The message was “Repent and believe this good news!”

And the Lord Jesus himself was the embodiment of this good news. It was in him that the kingdom of God had come near. It was in him that there was good news. Later, in Mark 10:45, the disciples would hear him say, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He was the one whom the people were called to believe. He brings the Word and he is the Word which he brings. He is both the preacher and the preached, he is the teacher and the lesson, the Prophetic messenger and the message. As he was preaching throughout Galilee, he was the good news he was bringing.

Brothers and sisters, he is still the good news for us today and there’s enormous comfort and encouragement in believing that. Here we see a Saviour with good news on his lips and in his person. He speaks and acts and teaches us the true depth of what it means to receive something you don’t deserve. He shows us the meaning of grace. He shows us the height, depth and width of God’s love for us. As you look at our text and you see him preaching, you need to keep the big picture of the gospel in the front of your mind. It’s that message which he is bringing. It’s that message which continues to bring comfort for believers today. Fix your eyes on Jesus – the prophetic messenger and the message!

Finally, he is also revealed as the prophetic Messiah. The Messiah was promised in the Old Testament in numerous places and in some of them he is said to be a prophet. Especially in Isaiah, we also see him revealed as being both human and divine. Taking everything together, we read the Old Testament and we see promises for an Anointed One who will be a prophet and who will somehow be both God and man. He will be God’s faithful servant who will suffer and die for the sins of his people.

In our text, we see these elements as well. Consider the fact that the Lord Jesus was human. He had been healing the crowds. They misunderstood his mission. This was not only a problem for them, it was also a temptation for him. The people would have followed him anywhere and done anything he said. The temptation was there to abandon the path of humiliation and suffering and pursue glory on this earth. The Lord Jesus did not yield to this temptation. Instead, he went to the Father in prayer and was thus strengthened to continue on the Messianic trajectory of suffering and ultimately, death.

Note too that when he preaches, he preaches in the synagogues in Galilee. He doesn’t preach in the town squares, but in the places where God’s covenant people are assembled for worship. This too was prophesied about the Messiah in the Old Testament. We find it for instance in Psalm 40. In verse 9 of that Psalm it says, “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly.” And in verse 10, “I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” He is perfectly obedient in his speaking, following exactly the plan that God had laid out for the Messiah in his Word.

This becomes even more meaningful when we consider the architecture of synagogues in the New Testament era. Synagogues developed because the Jews could not always make their way to Jerusalem. Because of the temple, Jerusalem was really the center of Old Testament worship. But as the Jewish people spread further and further afield, it became less and less practical to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Hence, synagogues developed, not to replace the temple worship, but to supplement it. This was reflected in the fact that the synagogues were always built to face Jerusalem. When you went out the doors of the synagogue, you would be facing in the direction of Jerusalem. And inside the synagogue, the bema or pulpit was also facing Jerusalem. So, whenever the Lord Jesus was inside a synagogue and preaching, he would be facing Jerusalem. When he left the synagogue, he would be facing Jerusalem. In this way, he would constantly be reminded that he had a date with death in the city of God. The cross lay ahead. He recognized that fact and in obedience, he continued on the path set out for him.

These are not dry and dusty facts. Far from it! The gospel is here in Christ as the prophetic Messiah. The one important thing that we need to keep coming back to is our union with Christ by faith. When he was aware of his Messianic calling and when he was obedient to that, when he never yielded to temptation, he was perfectly obedient and he was obedient for you and me. Through our union with him, his obedience is ours. That’s good news! Think of all the times that we’ve failed when we’ve been tempted in one way or another. Think of all the times that we’ve not spoken the truth when we should have. Think of all the times that we’ve said or thought, “Forget about the cross, forget about denying myself, I want the glory and I want it now!” We have been so disobedient, even on our best days. But the good news is that through faith, we are united to this Christ and we are considered righteous in God’s eyes. All of Christ’s obedience has been given to us, including his obedience as the prophetic Messiah. We are right with God as a result. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

The good news is that this Saviour removes not only the curse of sin, but also its slavery, its power. He not only graciously works our justification, but also our sanctification. Through the Holy Spirit who unites to Christ, we are, by God’s grace, being more and more set free from sin each day. As we look to Christ our Saviour, as we fix our eyes on him, we are being transformed and changed into his image. More and more we see victories over our temptations. We speak the truth in love as we ought. We embrace the cross and deny ourselves.

Beloved, let us continue to fix our eyes on the Saviour. He is our chief prophet and teacher. He is our Mediator, our Messenger, our Messiah. Let him be praised through and by us, now and forever, AMEN.

For Further Reflection and Discussion

[this can be inserted in your liturgy sheet or church bulletin]

  1. What is the significance of Christ going off to a “solitary place” to pray?
  2. Why was everyone looking for the Lord Jesus? Did this show a proper understanding of who he was and what he had come to do? Why or why not?
  3. Why did we read from Deuteronomy 18? Why did we sing Psalm 40?
  4. The Greek word for preach in verses 38 and 39 is kerusso. What does this word tell us about Christ our Mediator?
  5. Why did the Lord Jesus choose to preach in the synagogues of Galilee? What would he be reminded of each time he preached in a synagogue?
  6. What comfort do you receive from seeing Christ your Prophet revealed in this passage?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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