Awesome things we totally didn’t expect
Can you think of a time when you were in a tight or awkward situation and really needed some help? Did anyone come to your rescue? By the time Jesus was old enough to begin his public ministry people’s expectations of what God had promised were pretty high. They had been waiting for a really long time. I think most were hoping for a mighty warrior like David who would drive out all the foreign armies and let them live peacefully again in their own country. Isaiah had done nothing to reduce their expectations when he spoke this promise from God long before:
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known … and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Isaiah 64:1-3
Part of Mark’s job was to show people that what God had given them in Jesus was actually far more awesome (and I really mean AWESOME) than they could have expected in their wildest dreams. Mark writes four stories that give a glimpse of the kind of guy Jesus really was, here they are:
Mark 4:35-41, 5:1-20, 5:21-34, 5:35-43
As you read these, keep in your mind that phrase ‘awesome things we did not expect’. Notice how amazed, confused and even frightened people are when they see Jesus in action. Mark is trying to show them two things about this guy Jesus:
- Who we was
- What life would be like when Jesus is in charge
Take the story about Jesus speaking to the wind and the waves, telling them what to do. Only one person had ever done that before:
- In Genesis 1:9-10 – God shoves the water to one side to create dry land
- In Exodus 14:21-22 – God creates splits the water of the Red Sea to create a pathway for Moses and his people to pass through
- Joshua 3: 9-17 – God stops the river Jordan to again create a dry crossing
And now here’s Jesus saying to the wild water: ‘Quiet! Be still!’ No wonder the disciples were scared out of their boots: ‘who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41) Jesus wasn’t just some guy who could do cool things. He was unlike any other human being who ever lived. Fully human but also fully God. In the next three stories Jesus demonstrates pretty awesome God-like qualities too: the ability to dominate evil spirits; the power to heal; and the ability to bring people back to life. But Jesus is doing something else too. He’s showing people what life is going to be like when he is fully in charge of things. Revelation 21:1-5 tells of what life is going to be like in God’s new Kingdom:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Jesus is beginning to show people what that looks like. The woman who had been bleeding for year, the guy controlled by demons and the little girl who died – all experienced Jesus’ kind of life in a radically new way. The people who looked on had to keep picking their jaws up off the ground. They had never seen anything like this before. Amazing things they never expected. Somewhere Isaiah was quietly smiling to himself.
What are the most obvious signs of the kingdom of darkness in the places you spend the week? Pick one of these stories and spend some time imagining yourself in the place of the person who’s at the center of the story. Try and enter the story in your imagination as much as you can. What’s the strongest thing you might be feeling before and then after Jesus does his thing? Hold on to that afterwards-feeling.
If Jesus’ Kingdom is about experiencing the rule of God … does this help you understand God’s Kingdom better? Which one of the ‘before’ parts of these stories fits most closely with your life right now?
- Feeling swamped and terrified by things that are out of your control that threaten to sink you
- Struggling with the effects of evil or just plain bad stuff around you, not even knowing who to turn to
- Feeling that somehow you are not good enough for other people or for God – you’re ‘unclean’ like the woman – and you can’t seem to shake it. All you can do is reach out and try to touch the hem of Jesus’ coat.
- There’s weeping and mourning around you, or in your life – maybe related to something or someone you’ve lost. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for the future.
Some of the people in these stories had great faith that Jesus could rescue them, others had hardly any faith, one person didn’t even know Jesus existed … Jesus can work with even the tiny little bit of faith we can scrape together and do mighty things in your life – or in the lives of your friends.
Is there anything about the faith you have in Jesus that needs to change?
What are some specific things you can do to grow a more dependent kind of faith?
How does what you’ve encountered today help you pray: ‘Lord, let your Kingdom come in my life’?