Preached by Pastor Jeff Hamling
Sunday, October 25, 2020
What it Looks Like to Build the Kingdom
In the 90s, I was a big fan of the television show Seinfeld. One of my favorite episodes is when Kramer gets a job. He and George are downtown, and Kramer needs to go to the bathroom. Instead of using a public restroom, George encourages Kramer to use the bathroom in a nearby office building. Kramer agrees. When he comes out, a bunch of office workers are headed to a conference meeting and they think Kramer works there since he’s using the bathroom. They tell him to hurry up and come to the meeting. Now that all the workers think Kramer works there, he decides to keep showing up for work every day. He rides the subway, shows up at the office, hangs out at the water cooler, sits at a desk and eats crackers, and after work, he joins the employees for happy hour drinks.
Kramer talks the talk. Wears a suit. Carries a briefcase. Goes through the motions. But he has no clue what it means to work at this job.
Finally, the boss Mr. Leland calls Kramer into his office: “Kramer, I’ve been reviewing your work. Quite frankly, it stinks.”
Kramer responds: “Well, I’ve been havin’ trouble at home and, you know, I’ll work harder, nights, weekends, whatever it takes.”
Leland says, “No, no, I don’t think that’s going to, do it. These reports you handed in. It’s almost as if you have no business training at all. I’m sorry. There’s just no way we can keep you on.”
Kramer says, “But I don’t even really work here!”
To which the boss replies, “That’s what makes this so difficult!”
I share that story because I think a lot of Christians are doing something similar to Kramer. Somehow, they just got whisked away into Christianity. They go through some of the motions. They talk the talk. But they have no clue as to what it means to be a Christian. To be engaged in building the kingdom of God.
Mark 3:7-12 shows us what it looks like. We’ll ask 2 questions:
- • What does it look like for Jesus to build the kingdom?
- • What does it look like for you to build the kingdom?
What does it look like for Jesus to build the kingdom?
1. Jesus brings people to himself from a place a disadvantage.
In v.7 it says: Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake.
Jesus withdraws with his disciples to the countryside along the lake because in the previous section, the Pharisees formed a plan to murder Jesus. He must remain incognito—away from the city centers where most the people are.
This is major disadvantage for Jesus. He wants to tell people about the kingdom of God, but he’s forced to inhabit places where there aren’t very many people.
Today, if you want to get a message out. You need a large social media platform: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, a podcast, Facebook followers. If somehow, you get cancelled and your platform is taken away—you’re at a massive disadvantage!
This is essentially what happens to Jesus. His platform is taken away. He has no way to get his message out.
And yet, notice what happens: In v.7-8: Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed him. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.
The places listed here are Jewish and Gentile regions. One Bible scholar describes these verses this way: “The reader of the Gospel begins to get the impression that the whole world is coming to Jesus.”
In other words, the kingdom of God is not hindered in the face of disadvantage.
That’s important to remember in a day when so many people worry about the direction of the country. God can take the things that we perceive as disadvantages and use them to spread the gospel and build his kingdom beyond our wildest dreams.
#1: Jesus brings people to himself from a place of disadvantage.
2. Jesus brings wholeness to people from a place of vulnerability.
In v.9-10, we learn why so many people are flocking to Jesus: They heard that Jesus might be able to heal them.
These are the sick, the forgotten, the broken. Individuals on the fringe.
Yet, there heard about Jesus. And a glimmer of hope was kindled. Just maybe they might find health and wholeness in him.
What stands out is that these people are so eager to be healed by Jesus that in v.9 it says, “Because of the crowd he told the disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.” That word, “crowding” is a word that is sometimes translated “to press hard” or “to crush.”
We sometimes read about fans who are crushed at a soccer game or a rock concert. Jesus finds himself in a similarly vulnerable situation.
Do you see what’s happening? These people are racked and broken by pain. Their bodies have been crushed by disease. To make them whole again, Jesus puts himself in a situation where he can now be broken and crushed.
#2: What does it look like for Jesus to build the kingdom of God? He brings wholeness to people by placing himself in a vulnerable situation. He risks being broken to bring others wholeness.
3. Jesus demonstrates his power from the place of assault.
Next, in v.11, an impure spirit—a demon—falls before Jesus and cries out, “You are the Son of God.”
In the ancient world, people believed that if you announced someone’s full name over them—you could somehow acquire mastery over them. It’s kind of like the fairytale Rumpelstiltskin where guessing Rumpelstiltskin’s name takes away all his power.
The forces of evil are attempted to assault Jesus and take away his power by pronouncing his name—”the Son of God.”
Whenever you attempt to be light in a dark place or to bring healing to people who are hurting, the forces of darkness will be unveiled and will make every attempt to destroy your work.
And yet, in v.12, here’s what happens: But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
He doesn’t want the demons to reveal who he is. They twist and distort things. Jesus wants to reveal himself to the world himself—in his way and in his time.
Here’s what’s interesting: The demons are trying to hinder and distort the revelation of who Jesus is as the Messiah. But Jesus takes their assault on him and uses it to reveal even more clearly who he is. He has the authority to silence the forces of evil.
#3: What does it look like for Jesus to build the kingdom? He demonstrates his power and glory in the very place where evil assaults him.
What Does it Look like for you to build the kingdom?
I want to show how God calls us to build the kingdom in the same three ways we just saw Jesus build the kingdom. But I want to come at it from a different angle.
Recently, I listened to a podcast called, The Place We Find Ourselves by Adam Young. In one of the episodes, he shares that one of the best ways to identify how God has uniquely called you to build his kingdom is to ask yourself 3 questions: What do I love? What do I hate? How has evil assaulted me?
Ask yourself each of these 3 questions:
1. What do I love?
As you think about all the different things that you do, what gives you the most fulfillment? Another way to ask it is, What makes your heart sing?
When was the last time you did something, and afterward you said to yourself: “I can die now! I feeling I’ve done what I’ve been put here on earth to do.”
God gives each of us particular passions. Just like he gives us particular gifts. One of the ways we build God’s kingdom is by pursuing the things that God has given us a passion for.
Maybe it’s fixing things, building things, teaching students, being present with people who are going through a hard time. Perhaps it’s talking with non-Christians.
You might think, “I don’t have much of a platform for doing what I really love. No one is paying me to do it. And I hardly have the time to pursue it.”
Remember, Jesus builds his kingdom from a place of disadvantage. If Jesus can take a few loaves of bread and a couple fish and use it to feed a multitude—he can certainly do the same with the things you love to do.
Your job is to be faithful—pursue what God has given you a passion for. Then, trust God to multiply your efforts.
Ask yourself, “What do I love?”
2. What do I hate?
As Christians, we sometimes forget the importance role of hate in building the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 8:13 says: To fear the Lord is to hate evil.
Christian counselor Adam Young says the following:
What do YOU hate? I’m not fond of cancer, but I don’t hate it with the same ferocity as my wife does. Which is why I’m not an oncology PA like she is. I’m not fond of crony capitalism, but I don’t hate it with the same ferocity of people who are called to expose corporate greed and bring restored systems in place. Asking what you hate is another way of asking: How do you want to stand against the kingdom of darkness?
In this passage, it’s evident that Jesus hates how evil and disease torment hurting people. His hatred for these things leads him to place himself in a vulnerable position to overcome it.
Asking the question, “What do you hate?” helps you to identify where God has called you to risk some of your comfort and resources to stand against the kingdom of darkness.
3. How has evil assaulted me?
Where have you been wounded?
It’s an important question to ask because evil desires to destroy the part of you that is most intended to reveal the glory of God.
Sometimes we don’t know how God has particularly called us to build his kingdom.
However, if it’s true that evil attempts to destroy you the part of you that is intended to bring the most good and beauty to the word, then it’s helpful to ask: Where has evil assaulted me?
By seeking to destroy our kingdom gifts, evil unwittingly reveals what it is you are called to do.
Let me give you an example. A pastor friend of mine recently shared with me the following story about a woman in his congregation (I’ll call her Jane). Her parents had a tumultuous marriage which ended in divorce while she was in high school. Jane got married in her 20s; however, when she discovered that her husband had cheated on her, the marriage ended in divorce. She eventually remarried, but her second husband physically abused her. That marriage also ended in divorce. Years later, she got engaged again, but just weeks before the wedding, her fiancée left her.
Jane is now in her 60s. She happens to work in a wedding boutique store. Recently, she came across another job opportunity. She wondered why she had chosen to work in a wedding store in the first place. She initially thought that her job was the result of random events: She needed a job, a friend told her about the opening, she applied, and she got the job.
But then she realized: What a second! My parents’ marriage. My marriages. Broken wedding dreams. This is the very place where evil has assaulted me!
Identifying where she had been assaulted, helped her to identify the unique way God had called her.
Her work in the wedding boutique store was not merely a random job. It was a passionate calling. She loved helping women plan beautiful weddings. It was her way to show the grace and beauty of God.
She reveals God’s beauty, power, and glory, from the very area where she herself had been assaulted. Asking, “Where have I been wounded?” Helped her to identify how God had called her to build his kingdom.
What about you? What do you love? What do you hate? Where have you been wounded?
As you ask those questions, not only will they help you identify the way God has specifically called you to build his kingdom, but it will point you to the cross of Christ:
What does God love? He loves you. He sought you and brought you to himself from the place of greatest disadvantage—the cross.
What does God hate? He hates all the evil that plagues the world and torments you—so much so that he willingly allowed himself to be broken so you could be made whole.
Where was God assaulted by evil? Evil attempted to destroy Jesus at the cross—but in doing so, it unwittingly revealed the beauty, love, and glory of God most clearly.