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Jesus Appoints the Twelve

Date: Jun. 16, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Mark 3:7-19

Key Verse: Mark 3:14

He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

Happy Father’s Day to all!  This is a special Father’s Day to me, as this is my first as a dad-to-be.  I can hardly believe it.  All my life I have called my dad “Dad,” and soon, someone else is going to call me dad.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I really thank and praise God for hearing our prayers and yours.  Over the past few weeks we are preparing a room for her, Mary is laying out and picking the furniture, and I’m building it.  We are doing this for a baby who has not arrived yet, but will be coming soon.  It reminds me of our Heavenly Father, who is preparing for us a place in heaven, making a room for all of those called to be in His kingdom.  How many of you have built furniture, like those from Ikea? How many of you have made renovations in your house?  How many of you have built homes?  I know a few of our students have over their spring break a couple of years ago.  What was the feeling after you were done? Hopefully, it was one of accomplishment, satisfaction and delight, as you can look forward to enjoying what you have built for yourself or someone else.  In a similar way, God is building His kingdom.  As we sang in the hymn, Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth – The kingdom of love and light.  His kingdom has been expanding and growing ever since Jesus came to earth. And do you know how Jesus started it? He started it with the Twelve Apostles.  In today’s passage we see one of the most important works of Jesus: designating his Twelve Apostles, who would become the foundation of the church that we are a part of today.  To be clear, Jesus is the foundation of the church, He is the chief cornerstone, the most important part of it, but Eph 2:19-21 also tell us the apostles and prophets make up the foundation.  His kingdom continues to expand today through us, his church.

The members of God’s kingdom are members of the church.  We have been learning about Jesus’ relationship to his kingdom and the church in our past few messages in this gospel of Mark.  We learned that Jesus has authority over sickness and disease, and authority on earth to forgive sins.  We learned that Jesus has authority over demons.  We learned that Jesus is the bridegroom of the church. And last week, we learned that Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath.  He is the King who instituted the Law, and that Law was made for people to rest, to do good and not evil, to save life rather than to kill.  He demonstrated all this by doing the good work of healing on the Sabbath.  This angered the teachers of the law so much, who thought they made up the rules.  From that Sabbath day they plotted to kill Jesus. Because of their stubborn hearts they could not see that Jesus was the Son of God who is the Son of Man.

Jesus withdrew himself away from his enemies, not out of fear, but because there was yet more work to do. Look at v.7, “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” Even though the leaders of the people opposed Jesus, he was growing in popularity.  The people heard about all that Jesus was doing – healing the sick, and driving out demons, that they came from all over the place to see him.  They came from as far south as Judea, Jerusalem and Idumea, which was up to 100 miles south of Galilee, and from as far north as Tyre and Sidon, which was maybe around 50 miles to the north-west. Crowds of people would make this journey on foot, taking a 2 to 3 day journey.  People came for many different reasons.  Some were sick.  Some brought sick friends or family.  Some wanted to see miracles.  Others wanted to hear Jesus teach.  The crowds grew so large, and so pushy, that Jesus told his disciples to have a small boat ready to keep the crowds from trampling over him.

Jesus did not run away from the needy crowd, instead he helped them.  Look at v.10, “For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.”  Jesus could use the boat as a place to preach and teach the crowd, and also as a way to move around, perhaps to help other parts of the crowd.  Jesus did not turn the people away, and tell them to go back home.  He was weary from dealing with the stubbornness of the religious leaders, weary from withdrawing away from them, weary from a constant ministry of healing, but he still healed all those who came to him.  It is just as he said in John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”  What a wonderful promise!  Jesus said whoever comes to me I will never drive away. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus says “never,” never will he drive away those who come to him.  Are you weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.

You know who Jesus does drive away?  Evil and impure spirits. Look at v.11-12, “Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’  But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.’”  The demons know who Jesus is, and they shudder.  They were not giving honor to Jesus because they wanted to, but in great fear they fell down before him.  They were terrified of Jesus, who could torture them. Jesus rebuked them very sternly, telling them not to tell anyone about him.  Jesus did not want demons testifying about him, or it would look like he was on their side.  The demons were opposed to everything God did.  Even though they were enemies, they had no choice but to obey what Jesus told them, because Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord and King over everything.

Jesus came to establish his kingdom, now let’s look at how he set the foundations for it.  Look at v.13, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.”  Luke tells us about this same event in Luke 6:12, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” The kingdom of God began in prayer.  Jesus always prayed to God.  He was always sure to do the will of God, so he had to know to will of God, and he learned what it was through prayer.  Jesus prayed to God one time in the presence of his disciples, “Now they know everything you have given me comes from you.(John 17:7)”  Though Jesus was God, he showed his love for God by emptying himself, humbling himself so that he could do exactly what God wanted, and by this set an example for us to come to God in prayer as much and as often as possible.  Now look how much he prayed: all night!  Why did he pray so much?  Because a very important task was at hand.

Let’s look at Jesus’ actions after he prayed.  Can we all please read v.14, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”  Jesus chose 12, but why 12?  12 is a significant number in the Bible, and the thing that might first come to mind are the 12 tribes of Israel.  These 12 tribes established the nation of Israel.  Likewise, these 12 apostles would help establish the kingdom of God. It signified a completeness and a wholeness of God’s authority and government.  It was through their teaching that they would pass down the knowledge of God and his Son Jesus, and what God requires from his people.  Their first responsibility was to be with Jesus. To be with Jesus: that is the definition of a disciple.  From this point on all 12 were to become Jesus’ full time disciples, travelling with him, learning from him in public and in private, eating with him and being trained by him.  They were to follow him day and night to see how he lived and to learn what he taught. We can get an idea of what he taught them from John 15:14-17: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.”  Every nation is bound by certain rules and regulations and laws. In the US, the Constitution is the supreme law of our nation.  In the kingdom of God, God’s word is the supreme law, and this is what the prophets and apostles taught.

To know God and his word is to know the kingdom of God, but how would the kingdom of God grow? That was their second responsibility: to be sent out to preach.  To preach means to publicly proclaim the gospel.  Public does not always mean in an open space with a loud voice.  Public means to share with anyone who will listen, like how Philip taught the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.  Preaching is a great and awesome responsibility.  It is through preaching that people enter into the kingdom of God.  Rom 10:13-15 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  This is the glory and wonder of preaching – when people hear the gospel, God gives them faith and saves them.  To become a citizen of the United States, you have to learn the law of the land and take a test.  But when we preach the kingdom of God, we do not preach the law, rather, we preach the gospel.  The content of our message is the good news about Jesus Christ.  The message is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  He did this by dying on the cross for our sins, and he rose again from the dead to show us that the enormous debt of our sins has been fully paid once and for all. Jesus is our Savior, and everyone who calls on his name will be saved.

Verse 15 tells us their third responsibility: to have authority to drive out demons.  This authority came from Jesus.  They have no authority in and of themselves, but if authority is given to them by Jesus, they were able to drive out demons.  One reason they were given this authority was to prove that they were sent by Jesus.  This was like an action that had Jesus’ signature on it.  This was important, as the kingdom was being established, to distinguish who the true apostles were, and who people should be learning from.  We do acknowledge Satan exists, and demons exist, and they attack the church.  Paul says “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).”  His solution to this is mostly defensive, saying, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  We take the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one, but our one offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.  Jesus will defend his church from Satan and demons, but as for us, let us put on the full armor of God to be able to take our stand against the devil’s schemes, learn the word of God, and pray for all believers.

When we take a look at the twelve, we can be encouraged that the Lord chose for the most part ordinary people.  They were not among the elite of society in terms of intellect, wealth or strength. They were not perfect people, and actually we see many of their flaws throughout the Bible.  They were sinners like you and I, but we can see how the grace of God can transform a sinner into a saint.  We will look at the apostles in 3 groups of 4 people. You will notice in the other gospels, Matthew and Luke, that each group contains the same people, but sometimes in different order.  But in all three gospels, they have this in common: Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last.  Peter is always the first in the first group, Philip is always first in the second group, and James son of Alphaeus is always first in the third group.

The first group of 4 are, from v.16-18a, Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’), Andrew.  These four were fishermen.  Peter once rebuked Jesus, and then he denied him three times.  James and John tried to devise a scheme to rule at Jesus’ right and left hand, which was denied to them.  At one point in the ministry, when a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them (Luke 9:54)?”  This is not becoming of disciples of Jesus.  So Jesus turned and rebuked them.  By the grace of God, Peter was transformed to be the top disciple, and he preached the first sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2 that swept 3,000 into the kingdom of God that day.  James was the first of the apostles to be martyred, and John was the only apostle who was not martyred, though people did attempt to kill him.  John gave us the wonderful gospel of John and his letters, which overflow with love, and he also wrote the book of revelation.  Andrew had faith that Jesus could possible feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

The second group of 4 are in v.18, Philip, Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael), Matthew, and Thomas. Philip could not believe that Jesus could feed 5,000 people, and counted the cost to be more than half a year’s wages to even give them a bite.  Bartholomew, when hearing Jesus was from Nazareth said, “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  Matthew was a sinner and tax collector, and Thomas was a doubter.  By the grace of God, Matthew became the author of the gospel of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament.  Thomas is traditionally known to have brought the gospel to India.

The third group of 4 are James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas, who betrayed him.  Simon the Zealot belonged to a political party called the Zealots, who were a movement that incited rebellion against Rome to try to win independence for the Jews. It’s interesting that among the apostles, there was one man who worked for Rome (Matthew), and one who was a loyalist to Judea (Simon the Zealot), yet they would have to become brothers under Christ.  Not much is known about the first three people in this group, but they were known to have died a martyr’s death for the kingdom.

The last person we know is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.  He ultimately lost his position as an apostle and had to be replaced. A question might arise – why would Jesus pick Judas, even when he knew that he would betray him?  Judas was picked so that Scripture would be fulfilled. Jesus quotes Ps 41:9 when he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:18), “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.”  I believe that Jesus loved Judas, and showed him as much love as he could. He was called into apostleship like the others.  He loved him no different than the other apostles, but Judas lost faith in Jesus, and saw him only as a teacher, and not Lord or God.  This makes Judas’ betrayal even worse.  He did not believe in God’s grace, and therefore he died without repentance, only remorse.  Judas shows us the depth of human sin, and teaches us to be humble, to repent and to really believe in Jesus and his power to save.

The apostles built the foundation for the kingdom of God, and it continues to expand to this day. But what or whom is the kingdom of God being built with?  The kingdom of God is being built with you!  The apostle Peter himself tells us,  “As you come to him, the living Stone [that is, Jesus Christ] – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:4-5)”  We are all building blocks, living stones that make up the kingdom of God, and we are precious to him.  In fact, we all were entrusted with a special gift.  All of us who believe are entrusted with the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.  This treasure, the gospel, is the key to the kingdom, and it is the key to expanding the kingdom.

Jesus was sent into the world, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  Jesus then sent his apostles into the world to preach this gospel.  And wave after wave, generation after generation, people were sent to proclaim the good news.  Not all of us are called to be apostles.  In fact there were only 12, plus Paul.  But all of us were called to do this: to go, and make disciples of every nation.  We all were sent by Jesus in this way.  The kingdom of God expands disciples by disciple.  The Yangs were sent to Rwanda, and the kingdom of God has expanded by 20+ souls, we praise God for his grace!  Not all of us are called to be sent to foreign nations.  If you are compelled to do so, maybe you are.  But in any case, and at least for the present time, we all were sent here: to IIT UBF.  Some of my coworkers had asked me, “Mike, why don’t you move to the suburbs?”  My reply was, I’ll be in Bridgeport indefinitely, so as long as there’s a ministry to serve here.

To serve here at IIT, not all of us need to be preachers or teachers.  But as one body, let us think together, and work together, on how we can together help one another raise disciples here at IIT. What does it mean to make a disciple? It means to make a follower of Jesus Christ, to lead someone to be with Jesus, as the apostles were.  With prayer, let’s think about how we can help one another to raise disciples, according to the different gifts and graces God has given to each of us.  Some might like to be in a role of teacher, or group leader.  Perhaps some can be in more supporting roles, supporting the teacher, or bringing friends.  Our children are part of our ministry too.  Parents can raise their young ones as disciples.  I am also thankful for a children’s ministry that teaches them too. The website ministry helps those who are distant keep in touch and also read our sermons.  There’s lots of ways to help in the effort to make and grow disciples, and many I haven’t mentioned.  Finally, I believe the harvest is plentiful at IIT, so there is no shortage of work we can do to build God’s kingdom.  And just as we delight in improving our own homes, there will also be great joy and reward in building and growing the kingdom of God.

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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