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III. The Manner in which Christ Served.
In order to discover the manner in which Christ served, we must examine closely the details of what the Holy Spirit has recorded here for our learning and profit, and for the benefit of our readers we shall classify those under suitable headings.
1. Christ served with marked Unostentation.
“And Simon and they that were with him followed after Him. And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee. And He said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth” (Mark 1:36–38). This incident occurred near the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry. He had wrought some mighty works, many of the sick had been healed, and His fame had gone abroad. In consequence, great throngs of people sought for Him. He was, for a brief season, the popular Idol of the hour. But what was His response? Instead of remaining where He was to receive the plaudits of a fickle crowd, He moves away to preach in other towns. How unlike many of us today! When we are well received, when we become the center of an admiring crowd, our desire is to remain there. Such a reception is pleasing to the flesh; it panders to our pride. We like to boast of the crowds that attend our ministry. But the perfect Servant of God never courted popularity, He shunned it! And when His disciples came and told Him—no doubt with pleasurable pride—“All men seek for Thee,” His immediate response was, “Let us go”!
At the close of Mark 1 we read of a leper being cleansed by the great Physician, and, dismissing him, He said, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” How utterly unlike many of His servants today, who spare no pains or expense to advertise themselves! How entirely different we are from the One who said, “I receive not honor from men” (John 5:41)! No; He ever wrought with an eye single to God’s glory. Notice, farther, how this comes out again in the sequel to the above miracle. The healed leper heeded not the admonition of his Benefactor, instead, we read, “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter.” How gratifying this would have been to most of us! But not so with Him who sought only the Father’s glory. Instead of following the man who had been healed, to become the Object of the admiring gaze and flattering remarks of the leper’s friends and neighbors, we read, that “Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places”! Are we not to learn from this, that when people begin to “blaze abroad” what God has wrought through us, it is time for us to move on, lest we receive the honor and glory which is due Him alone!
In full harmony with what has just been before us in the closing verses of Mark 1, we read in the first verses of the next chapter, “And again He entered into Capernaum, after some days, and it was noised that He was in the house,” for, evidently, the healed leper belonged to that highly favored town. Hence it was that we here find Him seeking the privacy and quietude of the “house.” So again in 3:19 we read, “And they (Christ and the apostles) went into an house.” His reason for doing this, here, was to escape from the crowd, as is evident from the words which immediately follow, “And the multitude cometh together again.” Again in 7:17 we are told, “And when He was entered into the house from the people.” His life was not lived before the footlights, but quietly and unobtrusively He went about doing the Father’s will. What a word is this—“And when He was entered into the house from the people”! And how different from some of His servants today, whose one great aim seems to be the seeking of the patronage of “the people,” and the soliciting of their favors! So, again in 9:28 we read, “And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, Why could not we cast him out?” (9:28). And once more in 9:33, we read “And He came to Capernaum: and being in the house He asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” Mark, we may add, is the only one of the four Evangelists that makes this repeated reference to “the house.” It is just one of the smaller lines in the picture that serves to bring out the Unostentation of the perfect Servant.
In the closing verses of Mark 7 we have recorded the miracle of Christ restoring one that was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. And in chapter eight is recorded the healing of the blind man, who, at the first touch of the Lord’s hands saw men as trees walking, but who, at the second touch, “saw every man clearly.” Mark is the only one that records either of these miracles. One reason for their inclusion here, is seen in a feature that is common to them both. In 7:36 we are told, “And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it.” Concerning the latter we read, “And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town” (8:26). What a lesson for all of us: perfect service is rendered to God alone, and often is unseen, unappreciated, unthanked by man. The Servant of Jehovah threw a veil over His gracious acts.
2. Christ served with great Tenderness.
This comes out so often in this second Gospel. We single out four examples, and the better to appreciate them, we quote first the parallel references in the other Gospels, before noticing Mark’s account. “And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought Him for her. And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her; and immediately she arose and ministered unto them” (Luke 4:38, 39). “But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them” (Mark 1:30, 31). What a beautiful line in the picture is this! How it shows us that Christ’s service was no mere perfunctory one, performed with mechanical indifference, but that He came near to those to whom He ministered and entered, sympathetically, into their condition.
In Luke 9 we read of the father who sought out the Lord Jesus on behalf of his demon-possessed son, and in healing him we read, “And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father” (9:42). But Mark brings into his picture a characteristic line which Luke omitted, “But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and he arose” (9:27). There was no aloofness about the perfect Servant. How this rebukes the assumed self-superiority of those who think it beneath their dignity to shake hands with those to whom they have ministered the Word! To take some people “by the hand” is to get nearer their hearts. Let us seek to serve as Christ did.
In Matt. 18:2 we read, “And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them; and when He had taken him in His arms, He said unto them” (9:36). Again, in Matt. 19:13–15 we are told, “Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence.” But once more we may observe how that Mark adds a line all his own, “And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them” (10:13–16). What tenderness do these acts display! And what an example He has left us!
3. Christ served encountering great Opposition.
Here we shall take a rapid review of Mark’s reference to this feature of his theme, instead of commenting on each passage, though a remark here and there will, perhaps, not be out of place.
“But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts (there are usually a few such in most congregations), Why does this man thus speak blasphemies?” (2:6, 7). “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?” (2:16). “And the Pharisees said unto Him, behold why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (2:24). The servant of God must expect to be misunderstood and encounter criticism and opposition. “And they watched Him whether He would heal him on the sabbath day” (3:2). And the servant of God is still watched by unfriendly eyes! “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (3:6). Every faction of the peoples was “against” Him. “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the demons casteth He out demons” (3:22). The servant may expect to be called hard names. “And they began to pray Him to depart out of their coasts” (5:17). Christ was not wanted. His testimony condemned His hearers. So will it be now with every servant of God that is faithful. “And they laughed Him to scorn” (5:40). To be sneered and jeered at, then, is nothing new: sufficient for the disciple to suffer what his Master did before him. “And they were offended at Him” (6:3). The Christ of God did not suit everybody; far from it. But let us see to it that we give none other occasion for “offense” than He did! “And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them” (6:5). The servant of God will come to some places which are unfavorable for effective ministry, and where the unbelief of the profest people of the Lord will hinder the Spirit of God.” Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault” (7:1, 2). Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus declined to respect their “traditions,” refusing to allow His disciples to be brought into bondage thus. Well for God’s servants now if they disregard the “touch not, taste not, handle not” of men, yet must they be prepared to be “found fault” with as the result. “And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him” (8:11). So, too, will the emissaries of the Enemy seek now to entangle and ensnare the servants of God. Compare Mark 10:2. “And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy Him: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at His doctrine” (11:18). They were jealous of His influence. And human nature has not changed since then! “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as He was walking in the temple, there came to Him the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders. And say unto Him, By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?” (11:27, 28). How history repeats itself! From what College have you graduated? and in which Seminary were you trained? are the modern form of this query. “And they sent unto Him certain of the Pharisees, and of the Herodians, to catch Him in His words” (12:13). And some of their descendants still survive, and woe be to the man who fails to pronounce their shiboleths! What a list this is! and we have by no means exhausted it; see further 12:18; 12:28; 14:1, etc. All the way through, the perfect Servant of God was dogged by His enemies; at every step He encountered opposition and persecution in some form. And these things are all recorded for our instruction. The Enemy is not dead. God’s servants today are called to tread a similar path.
4. Christ Served with much Self-Sacrifice.
“And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread” (3:20). So thoroughly was He at the disposal of others. How completely did He know what it was to spend and be spent!
“And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over into the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him, even as He was into the ship” (4:35, 36). How touching is this! A study of the context, with the parallel passages in the other Gospel, shows this evening here was the close of a busy and crowded day. From early morn till sunset, the Master had been ministering to others, and now He is so weary and worn from His labors He had to be “taken”—led and lifted—into the ship! “Even as He was”—how much do these words cover? Ah, Christian worker, next time you come to the close of a full day of service for God, and your mind is tired and your nerves are quivering, remember that thy Lord, before thee, knew what it was to lay down (see 4:38) so tired that even the storm awoke Him not!
“And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had NO leisure so much as to eat” (6:31). That is how the perfect Workman of God served. Ever attent in being about His Father’s business: no rest, no leisure, at times so thronged that He went without His meals.
Christ’s service cost Him something. Note how this comes out in the next quotations. “And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (3:5). He was no frigid Stoic. “And looking up to heaven He sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened” (7:34). Christ’s service was not rendered formally and perfunctarily; but He entered, sympathetically, into the condition of the sufferer. “And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (8:12). Thus did He take to heart the sad unbelief of those to whom He ministered. He suffered inwardly as well as outwardly.
“And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself” (3:20, 31). So incapable were they of entering into the thoughts of God. They sought to check Him in the accomplishing of God’s will. Their purpose was well meant, no doubt, but it was a zeal “without knowledge.” What a warning is this for all of God’s servants. Watch out for well intentioned “friends” who, lacking in discernment, may seek to hinder the one who is completely yielded to God, and who, like the apostle Paul, “counts not his life dear unto himself” (Acts 20:24).
5. Christ Served in an Orderly manner.
This comes out, in an incidental way, in several statements which are found only in Mark. We single out but two. In 6:7 we read, “And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two.” Again; when about to feed the hungering multitude, we are told, “And He commanded them to make them all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties” (6:39, 40). What attention to details was this! And how it rebukes much of our slipshod work! If Scripture enjoins, “Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” then, surely our service for God calls for our most careful and prayerful attention! God is never the author of “confusion,” as Christ’s example here plainly shows.
6. Christ’s Service was prompted by Love.
“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, (the leper), and said unto him, I will; be thou clean” (1:41). “And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (6:34). “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat” (8:1). Mark is the only one of the Evangelists that brings this lovely and touching line into the picture. And O how it rebukes the writer for his hardness of heart, and cold indifference to the perishing all around! How little real “compassion” one finds today! “Then Jesus beholding him (the rich young man) loved him” (Mark 10:21). Mark is the only one who tells us this, as though to show that without “love” service is barren.
7. Christ’s Service was preceeded by Prayer.
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (1:35). Mark is the only one that records this. And how significant that this statement is placed in his first chapter, as though to let us into the secret of the uniqueness and perfectness of Christ’s service!
There is much more that is peculiar to this second Gospel which we now pass over. In closing here we would call attention to the manner in which Mark concludes:—“And they (the apostles) went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following. Amen” (16:20). How significant and appropriate! The last view we have here of God’s perfect Servant, He is still “working,” now, not alone, but “with them” His servants.
Our study of this lovely view of Christ will have been in vain, unless it has brought home to our hearts with new power the admonition of God through His apostle, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
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