Where Do We Go From Here?

Maybe it's time to pull up stakes and go.

Jackson Snyder

This is Part 2
Go to Part 1 A New Teaching on Authority: Dealing Simply with Demonic Infiltration
Go to Part 3 Open Your Door and They’ll Come
Also see Children, Dogs and Lampreys: Saving Demonized Children 

Mark 1 (literal): 29: And immediately going out of the synagogue, they went into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.  30: Now Simon’s mother-in-law was laid aside fevered and immediately they tell Yahshua about her.  31: Approaching, he raised her, holding the hand, and the fever left her and she served them.  32:  And with evening coming on, when the sun was setting, they brought all those having sickness (kakoV) and being demonized (daimonizomenouV).  33: All the city was being brought together at the door.  34: And he healed many having sickness from various diseases and many demons he cast out, but he did not permit the demons to speak for they knew him.  35: Rising very early at night, he left and went away into a deserted place, and there he prayed.  36: Simon and those with him hunted Yahshua down and found him and said to him that all are looking for you.  38: And Yahshua says to them, Let us go elsewhere, into the nearby towns so that I might preach there also, for I came out for this.  39: And he came preaching and casting out demons in their synagogues throughout all of the Galilee.

Capernaum, Peter's house and synagogue prior to 1989

 

Summary From Last Time

   Last week (Mark 1:21-27) we were surprised to learn that Yahshua started out as a 'lay' pastor in Capernaum, where he preached Sabbath after Sabbath, and that he had a church member who’d been infiltrated by an unclean spirit.  This unclean spirit made a hubbub in the church and was cast out by Yahshua, but only after the demon identified Yahshua through the lips of the poor man whom it had afflicted.  “You are the Holy of Elohim,” the demon screeched.  Yahshua commanded it to be quiet.  This was the first public display of Yahshua's authority over evil.  And although he was the prime minister of his church, no one had yet seen him take authority over unclean spirits. This was all new to them, and perhaps, to him as well.

   After the confrontation with the demon, the people in the church considered Yahshua's words and actions as “a new teaching on authority” and they debated about it, causing more disruption in the service as well as division about Yahshua, his identity and his teaching.  I’m sure that those in the church who were against him as their pastor didn’t see the deliverance of this demonized man as something historic and benevolent, a gift of the Almighty, but as a way to get Yahshua gone. 

 

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A Fever Dissipated

   As the debate rages on in the church, Yahshua doesn’t take part – he lets the result of his ministry speak for itself.  He just leaves church, walking the short distance back to Simon’s house, where he’s staying.  Some follow him out, but the commotion attracts the attention of a lot of people who aren’t affiliated with the church; they come out just to see what’s going on.

  One person who didn’t come out was Simon’s mother-in-law, who’d stayed home sick.  She had a good excuse for not being in church that Sabbath; she probably had cholera.  Simon brings her sickness to Yahshua's attention.  He enters in to visit her because he loves her.  He holds her up and touches her hand.  That’s all he does: no praying, commanding or anointing.  Her fever instantly dissipates and she feels well enough to go fix brunch.  The news of the casting out of the demon, and now the healing of cholera, spread like wildfire in Capernaum. 

 

Yahshua Perplexed

   Yahshua is perplexed about his newfound ability.  He knows his identity in Yahweh; he knows his mission to preach repentance and atonement; he knows his special calling to righteousness and holiness; he knows that he’ll baptize believers in the Spirit; and he knows, at least in theory, that a person who’s sent on a heavenly mission ought to be equipped against the power of evil, sickness and death, obstacles in the pathway of abundant life.  He teaches these things; his people have listened and divided into the camps, one of believers and one of skeptics. 

   But now his “new teaching on authority” begins to take on a life of its own.  A demon is cast out; a disease is cured.  It’s an awesome thing to experience firm evidence, proving one’s teaching is true!  Whenever this happens in our churches, when Yahweh moves in response to our words, and we see supernatural evidence of his grace and power, the ultimate question is, “Where do we go from here?”  This query rolls around in Yahshua's brain as he eats the typical Sabbath meal of coarse bread, cold, pickled sardines and diluted wine.  His answer isn’t forthcoming.

   Yahshua picks at his food and ponders his fate while the debate rages on in the church.  Should Yahshua be retained or dismissed for his unorthodox doctrine and practice?  Outside Simon’s house a crowd is gathering – unbelievers have heard that the local church preacher has performed some miracles this Sabbath and, if it’s true, they want their piece of him too. 

 

Conditions in Galilee

   You see, Capernaum doesn’t have a hospital or a doctor, a mental ward or a psychiatrist.  Capernaum doesn’t have an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, a welfare system, a day care center or a nursing home.  But Capernaum is full of poor and needy people, most of whom are heathens who know about the name of Yahweh but don’t know him as a person.  They’ve never found any relevance within the walls of the church, and they don’t go to Yahweh or to the church now, either.  They go to Simon’s house instead, the place where Yahshua stays, hunting him down.

   Common folks didn’t live long in ancient Galilee.  A quarter of the people born there died before the age of 15.  Life expectancy was thirty years, and fifty was considered venerable old age.  The days of their lives were full of anguish, loss, bereavement and physical and mental torment.  Demonic parasites were drawn into the folks at Capernaum from all over the countryside, finding within the afflicted comfortable lodgings, making iniquities and afflictions all the worse. 

   But in this little town of Capernaum there had just been a tiny breakthrough against these powers of evil and their by-products; a little alarm went forth into the realm of high wickedness that day that would echo down to the farthest reaches of hell in the next two thousand years.  Yahshua's tiny miracles were seeds that grew to change the course of destiny, as we can now clearly see.

 

What If?

   There’s a new book out called The Years of Rice and Salt.  It tells an alternate view of history in which the Black Plague wipes out Europe.  “America” is discovered by China and the Muslim nations are the world’s superpowers.  Imagine that possibility!  Yet such a history could have come to pass had not the power of Yahweh manifested through Yahshua in Capernaum on this, the first day, of his miracle ministry.  Had the demon and the fever remained, we might not be enjoying the Golden Age of the 21st century in Christian nation.  We all might be eking out a miserable existence in a third-world Europe, had we come to be at all.  We magnify the Son of Yahweh who brings blessings to all the nations of the earth!

   But what if recordings of Yahshua's miraculous works of healing had not survived the centuries, having instead been consigned to fires of destruction by religious fanatics, joining so many other great and important, but lost, works?  The grand scientists of the past who sought to alleviate humanity’s struggle with disease in the name of Yahshua would never have been inspired to discover the hidden knowledge that would eventually lead to the great healing institutes of the Christian movement.  And though some say we’re now in a post-Christian world, the names of great saints or committed movements still tenaciously cling to even some of the most secular institutions of healing.  Consider the names of your own local hospitals, for instance.

 

Signs and Wonders

   Sundown that Saturday marked the end of the Sabbath.  The holy day over, Yahshua emerges from Simon’s house to engage the mass of desperate people clamoring for his attention.  Is he all that confident in his newfound ability?  I doubt it, but he cuts his teeth on what will become the mainstay of his ministry for the next three years – confronting the powers of evil in whatever form they happen to take, and performing signs and wonders to confirm Yahweh’s good news to the poor.  Yet signs and wonders also become a serious threat for those children of the devil who would prefer to see this good man stoned for blasphemy.  Such attitudes then and now are proof enough of the existence of a personal devil for me.

   There on the beach of Lake Tiberias in the light of torches, Yahshua establishes an open-air hospital, healing many of diseases and casting out many demons.  His method is not based in science: he’s a faith healing – those without faith in him found no healing there, for, without faith, it’s impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).  But to those who believe, he not only heals and delivers, but he gives power to become children of Abba.

 

On the Way

   Yahshua is on the roof now, exhausted; but he can’t sleep.  People are still clamoring for him to come out, come out, “come out!”  The wonder of the whole thing was rolling around in his head like a bowling ball.   The back of his eyes ached.  Nothing like this had happened in his thirty-some previous years of life, but now it’s all beginning, which means his hour is approaching.  What he had feared all his life is now soon to come.  After all, though he was on a mission from heaven, he was still a man, subject to the frailties of humanity, a target for murder.  Shocked, Yahshua rises up then he steals out the door into the shadows of night.  He passes through, unseen, unnoticed.  Walking for a half-hour in the half-light of the moon, he finds a dark and deserted place to think and maybe sleep, but sleep eludes him still.  Instead he prays.  “Abba, what do I do now?  Where do I go from here?”  (How do I know that these are the words he prayed?  I know because these are the words that every minister of the Gospel prays, and often every day.)  “O Abba, where do I go from here?”

 

The Hunt

   Where?  Although the manifestation of his power will be good news for the people of Israel, it’s not a blessing to him.  For, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  He knows he’ll no longer find any peace until he finds it in the Kingdom of Heaven, because he knows he came to die.  He’ll be hounded by the ill, the poor, the authorities, the Romans, the religious and the pious, from now on.  Multitudes will follow him, with all their afflictions, all their covetous greed, all their desperate need, all their devouring demons.  His heart will break with compassion, and Satan will seek to hunt him out when he is down, to smite, to wound, to afflict, to kill. 

     Simon, James and John are on the hunt even now – they find their prey prostrate in the darkness.  “So there you are!  Everybody’s looking for you!  What are you doing out here?  People need you!”  Yahshua hesitates for a moment before answering to finish his prayer: “Father, not my will but yours. Amen.”  Then he turns to the boys and startles them by saying, “We’re leaving the Capernaum church and going on the road to other towns.  This is what I was sent to do.”   He listens to the words pealing from his mouth and he realizes that he has answered his own question. 

   So for a while, Yahshua becomes a traveling faith healer, moving from church to church, presenting his new teaching on authority over death and hell, healing the sick and casting demons out of them.  And leaving something behind in every single church he visits – controversy!  (For they debated about his new teaching, suzhtein autouV ... didach kainh, Mark 1:27b.)

 

The Crux

   The crux of this episode isn’t the healing, the crowds or the hunt.  It’s what happens in the deserted place.  Yahshua has a decision to make: whether to totally embrace his “new teaching on authority” (Mark 1:27), along with its manifestations of demonic powers and supernatural healings, its controversies and theological debates, or to tone down the message in order to keep harmony in a church that was already in the process of a split.  Was he to stubbornly hang tough for the hometown crowd or was he to pack his knapsack and go on?  Should he stay and conform or should he go and reform?  And what is Abba’s will for his life?  Now that’s the struggle of Yahshua, and our struggle, too.  Where do we go from here?

 

Moving Day 

   And, this is an appropriate text for any Methodist church and preacher at this time of year, because now is when pastors and churches decide whether to continue business as usual together or to part company.  When Yahshua sought the private place of listening prayer, he received his word.  He had to go.  He’d done all he would be permitted at home – one day’s worth, that’s all.  The church would budge no farther.  If he was to teach the truth and expose the evil, he had to move on.

   Let’s talk about us now.  OK?  It looks like we’ll be spending another year together.  Your Pastor-Parish Relations Committee met last week and invited me to stay.  Tomorrow morning I see the District Superintendent to accept your invitation.  But the Committee and the Pastor didn’t make any decisions without finding the deserted place of prayer to ask Abba, “Where do we go from here?”  I believe we did receive our direction from him this week.

   What he told us was that we may no longer simply stay put and do business as usual.  Yahshua, with his radical new ministry, could by no means conform to the status quo.  And neither dare we.  Not any more.  We’re not just any church!  We’re special.  Being special to Him means greater responsibility and accountability.  We must move forward in faith now.  We must take up the mantle of the healer and exorcist of Galilee.  We must now go forth in the new teaching on authority that Yahweh has brought here.  We must make an effort to do what is proper, what is committed, what is obedient to what we’re commanded.  For,

(Mark 16:17,18) “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 

   This instruction must be our pathway for 2003 and beyond.  We’ve rested in Capernaum long enough; now we must follow Yahshua on the road forward.   There is a future to secure, you know!  There are lives at stake!  My friends, fulfilling Yahweh’s will for your future is not my job.  And I’m not the boss here, either.  My job is to facilitate you with gifts of the Word, Order and Sacrament.  This year, every member must take up his or her own JOB, even if that job comes with a cross attached.  There can be no other way but every member involvement – you must all become obedient to The Mission now.  Yahweh is shaking, shaking, shaking the tree of life in our neck of the woods.  Time is running out.  Only the obedient fruit will not fall to the ground. 

   However, if we’ll not fail to be an obedient church, it will be for us as it was for those who heard the message from that deserted place -- and decided to obey it: 

(Mark 16:20) They went forth and preached everywhere, while the L-rd worked with them and confirmed their message by the signs that attended it.

Does everyone here want to signs that attend obedience?  I know you do.

 

PRAYER FOR A FRESH REVELATION

Abba Father Yahweh, we come to you today with thanksgiving and praise.  We know that you gave those who founded this assembly so many years ago A MISSION beyond merely building a church house.  But we’ve never known that vision; it’s been lost down through nearly one hundred fifty years. 

Today we yean to flee the distractions of the world and seek out the deserted place.  We desire a fresh revelation of your direction for our personal ministries and your church.  We need a wider vision and a greater commitment so that we might boldly follow in the footsteps of the Master, Yahshua of the Nazoreans, our Savior.

We have not taken enough time to hear you clearly before.  We have gone our own way.  We have often failed to be the army of faith that you once commissioned in our town.  We repent of our slothfulness.  We repent for putting you and your kingdom far down our to-do list.  We renounce the evil that has kept us from our heavenly employments and engaged us in worthless and childish pursuits and pastimes.  We desire to recommit ourselves to your way and your will for our lives. 

Now, Abba, grant us the desire, the courage and the faithfulness to step forth out of yesterday’s darkness and into the light of the future.  Mold us into the kind of believers who aren’t afraid to confront the evils of our world, enjoin in battle with them and expect to overcome.  Make us to become heroes of the faith; even if this means carrying a cross, so that there might be others who follow after us, so that our future generation might be able to say, El was surely with them.

Spirit of the Living El, fall afresh on me.   

Spirit of the Living El, fall afresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the Living El, fall afresh on me. Amen.

   February 7, 2003