Friday, June 1, 2012

“The Jesus Miracle-Model of Evangelism” by Garris Elkins

Our primary model for how to do anything is Jesus.  He is our example for how to love. He is our model for leadership.  And He is our method of evangelism.  Whenever you need to find a way to do anything – go to Jesus first and find out how He did it.

I enjoy reading Mark’s gospel account. The Gospel of Mark is a short and compressed revelation of how Jesus ministered.  Mark is to the point.  When I need a quick infusion of the bare essentials of Jesus life and ministry, I find myself reading Mark.  His writing is like a refreshing swim on a hot day.

In the first chapter of Mark, the people of Capernaum were listening to Jesus teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  Verse 22 says, “The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority – quite unlike the teachers of religious law.”

The people of Capernaum came to this conclusion because they saw the difference between a teacher who simply shares facts (the Pharisees) and Jesus who shared revelatory truth from the Father.  The difference between these two forms of teaching is vast. Jesus revealed to His listeners what the Father had just revealed to Him in the moment – it was fresh revelation that brought freedom.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, shared facts about the past and placed impossible burdens on people.

In verse 23 a demon-possessed man suddenly appeared in the synagogue and began shouting.  Jesus cut the demon short and said, “Be quiet! Come out of the man.” With those words the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and came out.  You can almost sense the quiet and stillness in the synagogue in those moments immediately following this man’s deliverance as people were asking themselves the question, “What just happened?”

The break in the silence came in verse 27 with the people excitingly asking this question, “What sort of new teaching is this? – It has such authority!” The news of this event launched out from the synagogue and began to spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

What caught my attention was verse 22 where we are told the people were amazed at His teaching.  This amazement of the people could be interpreted through the lens of our Western concept of academic authority.  In our culture good teaching is seen as the result of diligent study and preparation of factual data presented within a logical development and delivered in an engaging form of communication.  You could come to that conclusion if verse 22 was pulled out of context.

However, moments after the demon-possessed man was set free by the command of Jesus, we are given the fuller understanding of how the people that day understood “teaching with authority”. The question in verse 27 reveals the answer for us, “What sort of new teaching is this? they asked excitedly. It has such authority. Even evil spirits obey his orders!”

For the people in the synagogue, real authority in teaching was linked to the demonstration of what was being taught.  To these people, teaching without demonstration lacked authority.  It was in the demonstration of God’s truth that the authority of Christ was released to do what would be impossible to accomplish without God’s power.  

As soon as the deliverance of the demon-possessed man took place the news about Jesus “spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:28) As this news circulated throughout the region of Galilee the testimony functioned like a net gathering the sick and demon-possessed of that region and bringing them to Jesus.

Mark 1:32 states, “That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch.”

Embedded in this verse is a concept for evangelism that applies to the Church today. The only way that entire cities – “the whole town” - will show up is when Jesus is allowed to teach and demonstrate His truth through us. The Gospel message includes the release of supernatural activity in the form of signs, wonders and miracles.  Our cities will not show up at our doorstep if we are teaching well-crafted messages alone without the actual demonstration of what we just taught. 

People have always come to see what God was doing. On the Day of Pentecost the people of the city of Jerusalem came to that outpouring to see what was taking place. Acts 2:6 tells us, “When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running…”

I think the Church today is rediscovering how to love and serve their cities.  We need to get out of our church buildings and engage our communities with God’s love. This is good, but people don’t usually come running to see something we are doing that a service club can accomplish without God’s help.  These acts of kindness are wonderful, but they are not what happened in the Gospel accounts. The people in the book of Mark came running to see something that could never be accomplished by the best of our good works.  They came running because they heard that Jesus was healing the sick and setting the demon-possessed free. They came running to see the Kingdom of God taking place on earth.

Right after the events of Mark1, chapter 2 opens up with four men tearing open the roof of a house and lowering a paralyzed friend through the opening into a crowded living room where Jesus was waiting. The first words out of Jesus’ mouth were, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” The teachers of religious law got upset with Jesus and questioned His authority to forgive sins. Jesus went on to say in verse 10, “’So, I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.’” It was a dramatic miracle in front of stunned onlookers.

As I read this account, the linkage between healing and evangelism is obvious.   The forgiving of the paralyzed man’s sins, and his subsequent healing, would dramatically change the environment of the entire region.

Healing linked to evangelism was a reoccurring theme in the ministry of Jesus.  The majority of the people in our communities will only be reached when something supernatural begins to interrupt the flow of their naturally limited lives. Good works alone can never do this.

The room that day was crowded, not because a good teacher was conducting a Bible Study.  The room was crowded because as soon as the demon-possessed man from Mark 1 was set free, “The man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.” The healed man, and the testimony about his miracle, spread throughout the area announcing that Jesus was in town.

When Jesus told us in the Great Commission of Matthew 28 to go and make disciples, He said those words right after the sentence in verse 18 where He declared, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”

The authority Jesus was given was for purposes beyond teaching a memorable message.  This is the same authority that demanded a demon to come out of a possessed man and it is the same authority that healed a paralyzed man allowing him to jump up, pick up his mat and walk back home through the stunned crowd who had gathered to see the demonstration of Christ’s authority.

While the Church rediscovers the joy of going out and doing acts of love in our communities, it is important to not forget that people will only come running to see what’s happening when something supernatural is taking place in their midst. Our acts of service are only intended to be vehicles that bring us into contact with broken people who need a miracle. Miracles are what Jesus used to evangelize the world in His day and they are what God wants to use to expand His Kingdom in our world today.

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