Crucifying the Anti-Gospel of White Supremacy

“Jesus settled that all lives matter at the cross.” “What we really need is revival.” “Jesus is the answer.” “It’s a sin problem, not a skin problem.” “They are thinking in terms of the flesh, but we think in terms of the Spirit.” “Abortion kills black lives too.” “Changing laws will not change people’s hearts.” “The Gospel is sufficient.” “This is a heart problem.” “The government cannot fix this.” “Politics cannot provide healing.” “You know, Charles Darwin was also a racist.”

All of these are statements I have heard or read from pastors or church leaders over the last week and a half. Some are just silly. Others are true and even appropriate in the right context. However, when used to turn a blind eye to injustice, they become half-truths and demonic ploys to solidify further the feigned supremacy of the god of this world, a hostile power who appears to blind the eyes of unbelievers and many evangelicals indiscriminately.

The ironic and hard truth is that when Christians use these clichés as an excuse not even to listen to their neighbors, the church not only does not provide a positive solution to progress, we stand in its way. Among the tools we need to curb this is a missional framework and an imagination expanded by better theology and a less superficial reading of the Scriptures. What I outline here is a short summary of one way to approach the issues of biblical justice and the church’s mission along with the doctrine of sin and its relation to human structures/systems. Hopefully, this will help some begin to think more deeply about the issues and lessen fears over the absurd claim that recognizing specific forms of injustice somehow equates to rejecting the gospel.


First, let us consider biblical justice and mission in the context of this question. Does faithfulness to the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus require us to shy away from issues of societal justice to focus only on individual conversions and “spiritual” revival? I think a survey of the biblical witness shows not only that it does not require that we shy away from matters of justice, but that it demands we approach them as ambassadors of the one whom John calls “the ruler of kings on earth.”

When making this case, one of the best places to start is a definition of justice. There are three definitions of biblical justice drawn from the word pairings of justice and righteousness in the Old Testament that I have found helpful as I read God’s word and think through what I believe is a biblical position. First, Peter Gentry, an OT scholar at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that when “justice” and “righteousness” are coordinated in the OT, they form a single idea: social justice. He rightly distinguishes this concept from many forms of modern social justice in this way. He writes: “This word pair becomes a way of summarizing the requirements and stipulations of the Mosaic covenant, which in turn are an expression of the character of Yahweh.” He goes on to say that “practicing social justice is the manner in which Abraham and his family [were] ‘to keep the way of Yahweh’” (Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understand of the Covenants, 282).

Another definition that I find helpful is that of NT scholar Michael J. Gorman. He says something similar, but fleshes it out a bit more. He writes that “justice” and “righteousness” are relational terms having to do with human community and wholeness, the setting right of wrongly configured relationships, the liberation of the oppressed, and attention to the poor and needy. He explains that it is related to the biblical, and I would add creational and eschatological, vision of shalom where all is well in a community regarding its relationship with Yahweh, interpersonal relationships, and creation (See Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission, 215).

I also find the Bible Project’s video on Justice helpful in giving a succinct definition of biblical justice in light of the gospel and the mission of the church. In my Sermon “Let Justice Roll Down” from May 31, I also give my views on biblical justice, the gospel, and discipleship. However, a summarized version is this.

God intends that humans live together in his world and experience shalom as we walk with and worship God, love and care for one another, and steward his creation well. That, of course, was complicated in the Fall. The nations became places of idolatry and injustice in which the powerful often preyed upon the poor and everyone did what was just in their own eyes. God’s penultimate solution to this was the call of Abraham and the people of Israel. His intent was that they be a people who walked with him and practiced justice and righteousness toward one another. The Law was even structured to help them avoid taking advantage of one another. Sabbath years, Jubilee years, and laws governing one’s treatment of the most vulnerable (widows, orphans, and immigrants/refugees) were all designed so that, as Gentry puts it, the family of Abraham might “practice social justice.”

The problem is that Israel did indeed have a heart problem, but this was a heart problem dually affecting without separation their relationship with God AND their missional vocation to be a justice-hungry people. They worshiped idols, their cities became hotbeds of injustice and exploitation, and they mirrored the image of the nations back to the nations rather than the image of Yahweh. For this reason, the prophets, time and again, called for covenant renewal, what we might call revival. They preached that Israel was guilty of the correlated sins of idolatry AND injustice. They called upon the wealthy elites of Israel to turn from their sins through casting off their idols AND through practicing justice for the poor, loving kindness, and walking humbly with their God.

For the prophets, practicing justice and worshiping Yahweh went hand in hand and could not be separated. In fact, many times Israel’s elites attempted to have what we might call a spiritual religion that left their finances and social structures unaffected. They observed Sabbath days, feast days, and professed allegiance to the God of Israel. However, through the prophets, Yahweh declared that he hated their feasts and solemn assemblies. Their empty Sabbath days and their hollow sacrifices made him nauseous. He vowed to hide his eyes from them until they learned to seek justice, correct oppression, and bring relief to the most vulnerable around them.

In a similar way, why should God be pleased with or receive our half-hearted pleas for revival when they are often used as excuses not to acknowledge or engage in seeking justice or in the correction of oppression? Could God be saying to us through the prophets, “I hate your tent meetings and your revival services. Your National Days of Prayer make me sick to my stomach. I loathe your Christian Radio more concerned with partisan politics than the kingdom of God. Turn from evil. Learn to do good. Hear the cries of the broken. Correct oppression. Preach a full gospel that doesn’t allow you callously to ignore human suffering!”

Sadly, ancient Israel never did heed the prophetic warnings, but even though the majority proved faithless, Yahweh proved faithful in the Messiah. He would prove faithful not so that his people could ignore injustice, but so that they could be the kingdom of priests that he had always called them to be.

In the Messiah Jesus, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He lived as the servant-king, full of the Spirit and determined to bring forth justice among the nations. He died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. He will appear again to judge the living and the dead and to make this world the place of shalom that God always intended. However, RIGHT NOW he is working in the world toward shalom through the Spirit-filled community whom the Father has declared just and whom the Spirit is making just.

Jesus is making just a people who, like Israel was supposed to do under the Law, practice justice until he comes. Jesus makes us just/righteous people in the following way. We are declared just through faith in him. We are transformed into just people who look more and more like Jesus as the Spirit works in us to transform us after the image of God’s Son. And, we see what a life of justice looks like in the life and death of Jesus. However, again, Jesus’ goal was not just to make individuals just, but to make a community of believers just, so that they could live out the vocation of the family of Abraham as a kingdom of priests who practice justice in the world. This is our mission as those who have found themselves, through the Spirit, to be equal participants in family of Abraham.

Granted, our context is a bit different than Israel in the Land. We are more like Israel in Babylon. However, our calling to work toward the coming kingdom and to seek the good of our community stands. And, as the church, we work toward justice in the world in at least two ways. First and most importantly, through preaching the gospel, baptizing believers, and making justice-hungry disciples. We are to exist in community as a colony from heaven who centers the needs of the most vulnerable around us and who, as N. T. Wright often says, go in this world to where the pain is the deepest. Secondly, however, God also calls us to work toward justice in our communities through speaking prophetically to the powers that impede justice and shalom. We should call upon them to fix broken structures that perpetuate injustice, and inasmuch as we are in the capacity to do so, use the creative gifts that God has given us to help design more equitable structures. We must do all these things. Israel was called to do both, and as the people of the Age-to-come, we must both preach the gospel and speak prophetically, as an act of obedience to Christ and love for our neighbor.


Along with biblical justice, we as evangelicals must also think more deeply concerning sin and the way it corresponds to human structures/systems. As with the section prior, we may approach this through a couple of questions. Do the problems of our world boil down to the problem of individual sin so that our only response should be to preach a gospel of individual salvation? Or, do the problems of our world require a more robust understanding of sin and human structures, so that a faithful response entails a more variegated solution than a half-gospel of individual salvation? I think if we answer affirmatively to the latter question, we are closer to reality and will be more faithful to the Scriptures.

As people of the word, we should see sin as existing individually (i.e. there is something wrong with us) AND cosmically (i.e. Satan and rebellious powers). To add to this, both individual sin and cosmic Sin make human structures/systems especially vulnerable to abuse. Because of human sin, some structures/systems are designed to exploit other humans. A biblical example is slavery in Egypt. The Egyptians feared the family of Abraham and forced them into hard labor to oppress them. This was a structure purposefully designed to exploit with exceptional results. Billy Graham could have visited ancient Egypt and convinced the entire lot to give their heart to Christ, and it would not have achieved the biblical mandate to correct oppression unless its economic system was uprooted and reworked as well.

A more surprising biblical example of a structure that was used to exclude people is the Law of Moses. This is important, because the Law of Moses is, as Paul says, holy and righteous and good. It did not come from humans so as to be purposefully exploitative. However, it was still vulnerable, because the power of Sin/Satan was working through the Law to draw out evil from fallen humans. In Romans 7, the Law became an occasion for the hypothetical Israelite to covet as Sin worked down through the commandment to draw out greed from the heart. In a similar manner, I think it could be argued that Satan and the rebellious powers also worked through the Law to draw out other ugly sins from the heart of Israel. From the Laws dealing with ceremonial uncleanliness, it led them to push to the margins the sick among Israel. (This is where Mark puts Jesus throughout his ministry, in the desolate places among the lepers, outcasts, and demon-possessed. Even in his death, the Just One was executed outside the camp with the accursed.) Kosher laws became an occasion for Satan to draw out from the people a hatred for the Gentiles and for other Jews who interpreted and applied the Law differently than they did. Paul thought himself as, in many ways, blameless as far as the letter of the Law goes (Phil. 3); however, it still drew out from him a desire to murder Christians. In sum, human structures, even the very best, are highly vulnerable and should be open to criticism and correction, because they have two different intelligent creatures seeking to exploit them from two different directions and for sinful purposes: the human and the non-human/Satan.

The vulnerability of human structures cannot be addressed through easy, one-sided solutions. They must be approached through a message that pierces the heart AND as corporate bodies come together to fix or dismantle and rework structures that have become occasions for oppression. Likewise, a rigid conservatism of any kind is dangerous, because the evil one will search out any hole in a system through which he may draw out our sin. We should always be sensitive to how the Spirit is working toward the good, even through Sin’s ploys, to open our eyes to ways we need to correct and progress in our theology to make it more biblical and honoring to God and in our structures as members of a common society to make them more equitable for all.

One more thing to consider is that Satan and rebellious powers not only work through systems to draw out individual sins from certain persons. Rather, as sin is drawn out by rebellious powers through broken systems, the evil one, empowered by Sin, begins to exercise a dominion upon entire groups of people. Scripture tells us that he is the god of this world, who blinds the minds of unbelievers. He acts as the prince of the power of the air, carrying the masses along to do his bidding. He is the evil one, holding entire peoples within his sway. The power of Sin drawn from individual sins through systems by the evil one is able to get people to do things as a group that they would never do on their own. Sin is able to blind people from their own intentions and the ways in which they participate in the present evil age. Sin is able to get a people to sacrifice their own children to the gods. It is able to get a people who have longed for their king to yell, “Crucify him!” once he has come. Sin is more than the sum of our individual choices; it is a power. This is why Paul says that, as Christians, we must make an active decision not to follow the course of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The reality is that the sins of our fathers and the systems they constructed produce a power over us that is exploited by the prince of darkness. This power is like a flowing body of water that, if its current is unrecognized, will carry us along with it unbeknownst to ourselves. We see this biblical framework at work in our own history as Americans. Something more than individual sins was happening when entire denominations split so that one half of its members could continue to own and treat people like cattle. Something more than individual sin was happening when Southern Christians, so scrupulous to obey the rules that they would shun beer and dancing, went in mass to view a lynching and, like Saul, held the proverbial coats of the executioners. In a similar way, I think more than individual sin is happening when people, whom I know love Jesus and want to do good, use empty religious slogans to perpetuate injustice. Systems are powerful and dangerous, especially those designed with sinful intentions, because they serve as an occasion for the evil one to do more than draw out individual sin. They serve also as an occasion for him to draw out a power to blind and push along entire peoples toward the precipice of destruction. But what happens when systems are corrected by justice-hungry followers of Jesus working alongside like-minded people, who, through a shared conviction or common grace, also long for justice to come? Satan begins to lose some, not all but some, ground because he loses an occasion to draw out sin. In this way, it is actually quite true that laws have the ability, if not to change hearts, then at least to change minds. No one today, for instance, would question women’s suffrage, not because we have all had a come-to-Jesus moment with regard to equity for women, especially since inequality against women still emerges in other ways. Rather, since laws were changed by courageous people unwilling to turn a blind eye to inequality, Satan lost his occasion to subjugate women in that specific area.

Systems are indeed dangerous, but they are not all bad. Like skeletons, they are necessary to order and hold the complex parts of human society. In the Law of Moses, we also see the positive importance of structures/systems. Ancient Israel fell horribly short of their vocation, but they were not as bad as they could have been. The Law of Moses was not an indifferent system that just emerged naturally, as if Israel’s God was only concerned with individual hearts. Rather, the Law that was given through angels was quite advanced in comparison to other Ancient Near Eastern peoples. It had Sabbath years, Jubilee years, Levirate marriage, and many other laws all intended to curb the perpetuation of generational poverty. It had laws that centered the needs of the most vulnerable in that society: widows, orphans, and immigrants/refugees. Often these laws worked. Overall, the power of Sin proved too much and Israel’s leaders sinfully ignored them until Exile resulted. However, I think the point is that, not only is there a biblical precedent for suspicion toward human structures, there is also a biblical precedent for creative, thoughtful structures that work toward the wellbeing of a community. What all this means for us is that we should not just accept the human structures around us as sacred or permanent, nor should we think that our vocation as Christians precludes us from them. Any human constitution, law, or structure should be open to correction, because every human system is vulnerable to corruption. Moreover, we need thoughtful, creative people who love justice and practice mercy to think together about how to craft new structures that allow for human flourishing and point us toward the day of redemption. This does not mean that we do not need the good news. We need the news that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting our trespasses against us. We need, first and foremost, the good news that if anyone is in Christ, then the new creation that is coming is a reality right now in the middle of this present age. As evangelicals, we need to take part in all these things. And, we need to stop thinking in terms of either/or and start thinking in terms of both/and. In other words, vocation is not a choice between an individual gospel or correcting oppression. Rather, our vocation comes from the full gospel of the kingdom that says that Christ liberated a people from the power of Sin so that they may work toward justice and peace until he comes.

Applying these principles to our present context, I think that there is a good case to be made that some structures in our society were purposefully designed with ill-intent and others were designed with good intentions. However, all structures no matter the intent from the human side are vulnerable to exploitation from the cosmic power of Sin. Moreover, some structures in our country were put in place out of a hatred and fear of the other as well as out of a corresponding greed. During Reconstruction, voting laws that required literacy tests and the allowance of white men to stand at polling places and intimidate voters are examples of laws and a voting structure that preyed upon people because of the color of their skin. Black Codes and Convict Leasing formed another structure designed with the sinister intent of the re-enslavement of freed men. Jim Crow laws are a more recent example of laws constructed within a system of oppression. However, the example that gets at some of the issues we see today is the War on Drugs. There is a good case to be made that the War on Drugs was purposefully designed to target minority communities in urban areas to appease and attract political support from Southern whites who were terrified by the turmoil of the Civil Rights Era. Whereas many countries attacked the growing drug epidemic by allocating funds for research and treating root causes of addiction, the powers that be in our country poured resources into policing and incarcerating drug offenders. However, whether intentional or not, the results have been devasting to minority communities. From this movement would come an escalation in the militarization of the police force, stop-and-frisk laws, no-knock warrants, and other overaggressive, dehumanizing policies. This would lead to mass incarceration and would further escalate tensions in urban areas. Most of these policies are still in place. The state-sanctioned murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville was a result of a no-knock warrant. I think you can see from this too, that it really doesn’t matter if an individual is “personally” racist or not. I think most cops are well-intentioned fallen humans, many believers and many not, just like in every other profession. However, most don’t know that the training that they receive, the laws that they are asked to enforce, or the tactics that they use are rooted in a sinister attempt to target certain communities. They do not realize that they can easily get swept up into a spirit of aggression and brutality as they follow along the course of this age. I don’t know if the men who killed George Floyd or Breonna Taylor were personally racist. My hunch is that not all were. However, without knowing it, they took part in a system that was rooted in racist policies. In the same way, many of us who turn a blind eye to these things, may not be personally racist. However, without knowing it, we too share in a system of oppression and can easily follow the course of this world. That this should make us uneasy is an understatement. For, if the prophets tell us anything, it is that willful ignorance will not be an excuse on the Day of Judgment, especially when the cries of those suffering are thundering all around us. Now, of course, it is not just people of color who are affected by the brokenness of our criminal justice system. Poor whites have suffered immensely as well. However, African Americans are especially vulnerable and have historically been the primary targets of such injustices. For that reason, I don’t think it is a rejection of the gospel to point such things out as examples of racial injustice. Furthermore, I don’t think it is overreach to label the simplistic responses that I began this article with as examples of collusion with white supremacy.

As Christians—those who have been declared just, are being made just, and are following the righteous King—we have the responsibility to work toward the correction of systems that are being abused, whether they were created with ill intent or not. Our first responsibility is to preach the good news that Jesus is Lord and invite all to be a part of his kingdom through repentance and faith. However, as those who are in Christ, it is also our duty to warn the powers that be that they will one day stand before King Jesus to give an account for the ways they have executed their power and, most importantly, for what they did with the news that the crucified One is Lord and Judge. When leaders continue to ignore even the reality of racial injustice, then it is our prophetic responsibility to call them out, especially when they continue to fan the flames of division through the thinly coded language of white supremacy. This is our duty and a part of our Christian vocation because the Bible does not allow us to bifurcate between loyalty to Jesus and a hunger for justice.

As far as CRT and Intersectionality go, I honestly don’t know a lot about them. I do know that there are dear brothers and sisters who know a lot more about them than me, who do choose to use them as tools as they take every thought captive to make them obedient to King Jesus. Such folks would also concur with most if not all that I have written above. Others who come at history from a more Marxist worldview have their own thought patterns and language to explain what I would call sin and broken structures. Even if their starting point is off, methods are off, and goals are off, they can point out true things about history and society. It is not a distinctively Christian virtue to be able to see people continually choked out in the streets and recognize it as oppression any more than it is distinctively Christian to be able to look up and see that the sky is blue. It is just a part of being an image-bearer and a part of common grace. The sad truth is that their language dominates the discussion and imagination because, as people suffer underneath the powers of Sin working through structures, Christians are often not a part of the discussion. Rather, many would rather quip that Jesus is the answer while ignoring the many ways in which the people with whom Jesus most identified with are suffering. It is hard to get your vocabulary and worldview out there if you never take your seat at the table. I think this is what Mark Noll gets at when he says that the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind. That is, evangelicals have focused so heavily the last one hundred years on individual sin and individual salvation that we have not even thought carefully, or if at all, about the social issues that affect every one of us in the Western world. As Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith point out in their important work, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, evangelicals who only recognize individual sin are not only left without the tools to combat the deeply-rooted problems in America, they often end up as a part of the problem. Put another way, the problem with many evangelicals is, ironically, not that we take sin too seriously, but that we do not take sin seriously enough. This, again, is evidenced in the opening paragraph of this article in which I share deeply offensive and shallow responses from pastors and church leaders who feel like they must speak into the pain and unrest of our black and brown neighbors rather than listen to them.

For what it’s worth, I do believe Jesus is the answer and the gospel is enough. The good news that God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness, peace and rest has broken into this world through the life, death, crucifixion, and resurrection-enthronement of the man from Galilee and through his life-giving Spirit is the message we need. That every politician, including Republican presidents, and every crooked cop will kneel before the Crucified One for how they use their power should thunder from our lips. We should remind them, in the words of spoken-word artist Jason “Propaganda” Petty, that “it was a crooked system just like this that left the King of Kings bloodless” (See “Gangland” by Lecrae ft. Propaganda). Yes, we need Jesus, because we desperately need the servant-king who has liberated his people in a New Exodus from the powers of Sin and Death, so that we may be a kingdom and priests to our God. Jesus died to fix our heart problem, but he did so to reconcile us to the God of heaven and for a mission in the world. He died and rose again so that in him we may be declared just and transformed into justice-hungry humans who do not except easy solutions. He died and rose again so that we may follow his Spirit and the way of his kingdom rather than the prince of the power of the air. He died and rose so that we may belong to the incarnation of wisdom, who grants us the ability to work alongside others from different walks of life who also long for systems of oppression to be corrected as we await and work toward the kingdom that is coming on earth as it is from heaven. May we, as evangelicals, pray and work toward that end rather than impede it!

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:00 on Sunday mornings.

Social Distancing with Spring Gobblers

Will's JakeThe last eight weeks have been bittersweet at the Cooper house. We are living in the tension of rejoicing in the blessings God has given us and grieving with those for whom the last few months have been a nightmare. We are learning to live according to the advice of St. Paul who counseled us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. On the one hand, we want to be aware of the struggles of those in densely populated areas for whom social distancing is difficult. We do not want to take for granted the fact that working from home and isolating from others is a privilege that not all are afforded. We want the eyes to see how the areas most vulnerable through this pandemic are not random but are often the result of preexisting broken social structures under which people were already suffering. We want to keep this in mind and to listen to those voices when we resume our small parts in rebuilding the world. On the other hand, as a youngish family, we have delighted in the opportunity to hit the pause button from the busyness of life to enjoy one another as well as God’s creation. I know I am not alone when I say that, for us, these past eight weeks have been refreshing. For the rest of our lives, Jess and I will look back at the spring and summer in which we got to spend time together with our little boys without having to be somewhere every night and getting home late. Another thing that we, or at least Will and I, will remember is that the extra time at home also afforded us the occasion to spend many mornings in the woods after spring gobblers. In fact, this turkey season has been by far the most successful season I have been a part of to date!

The season started in early April with youth turkey season. Until this year, Will, who is nine, had not seriously hunted turkey. He had tagged along with me a few times, but he had not been ready to shoulder the gun himself. However, late winter and early spring, Will spent several days around the yard practicing shooting his BB gun, and, from the looks of his shooting form, I decided he was ready to make an ethical shot on a live bird. So, on opening morning, we went to set up at a certain spot on a local WMA where I had heard a bird roosting for three consecutive days. On the way to our spot, however, we heard the bird gobble on the opposite side of the road from where we were walking to set up our blind. At first, I thought about going after it, but I decided it was too late at that point and that we should keep going and set up where I had heard him the days before in hopes that he would head our way at some point over the course of the morning. Sure enough, with Will asleep on my shoulder and about an hour after birds had come off the roost, I heard him gobble on our side of the road. He was still a good piece away, but he was getting closer! Around thirty minutes later, the sleepyhead on my shoulder woke up, and within a minute, the bird gobbled right behind us! It was perfect timing for my little man as things got moving rather quickly at that point. I softly called, and the bird immediately responded. Within a minute, I softly called again and he was even closer. The lonely bird was coming and was coming quickly. Soon, the long-beard ran past the blind and went into full strut about 14 yards away and right in the middle of our decoys. I told Will to shoot when he was ready. He fired off a shot. The bird jumped high in the air and took off in a quick jog. I thought it was over at that point, but the bird stopped, turned back toward our decoys, and strutted straight back toward us as quickly as he had jumped and jogged away! This time, Will put a head-shot on the lovestruck bird that dropped him in his tracks! I thought we would see a bird that morning, but I really did not have high hopes Will would harvest one. I counseled him that it was okay if one came in and it spooked before he got a shot. I told him it would be okay if he missed. I shot at two deer before I ever connected when I was his age, so I told him it was not a big deal. It turns out that I was attempting to soften a blow that would not come as Will was the first one from our household to harvest a spring gobbler!

Again, I was not expecting Will to tag a gobbler, so I really did not envision that he would be tagged out by the end of youth weekend. Normally, he would not even be granted the opportunity with the second and final day falling on a Sunday. However, about 2:00 in the afternoon that Sunday I had already posted my morning sermon on Facebook and had prescheduled my Sunday Night Bible Study to be emailed to my congregants. It was beautiful outside, so there was not really any reason for us not to be in the turkey woods together. This time, we set up about three quarters of a mile away on the same public area where Will had scored the day prior. This was an area in which I had heard two birds for several days in a row as well. I had not hunted that particular area before, but had studied topographical images of where the birds were roosting. I saw a spot on the map that looked like it would be a good travel corridor and strutting zone for the birds, so we set our blind and decoys out with the hopes of seeing another cruising turkey. Within thirty to forty-five minutes, before Will was even able to track down Gus on Tag with Ryan, three jakes made their way up a horse trail upon which we had set our decoys. Whereas the morning before, me and my eager nine-year old fooled the two eyes of an adult bird, we proved no match for the six eyes of three young jakes. Before Will could get off a shot, the birds spotted us, ran into some fairly thick brush, and stopped about 20 yards away. I thought it was over at that point, but, at the same time, I noticed that Will had kept his eye down his barrel and continued to follow one of the birds. He said, “I am on it!” I told him to shoot if he really thought he was, not imagining he would hit the bird, but about that time a shot rang out and the jake went down! Even though this time he had harvested a jake rather than a long-beard, this turned out to be the more enjoyable of two unforgettable hunts. Will had gone from missing point blank to looking like a pro in a day and a half. Before I had even thought about changing the chokes in my own gun, Will had fired off two lethal rounds, tagged out, and provided a fridge full of turkey meat, which happens to be Jess’s favorite!

Two weeks later, my turn finally came. Opening morning, my brother-in-law and I set up together on a private farm. Now, I love turkey hunting public land. On small tracts of private land, if the birds do not act just right, you are locked in place and have to play the waiting game until they make their way onto the property where you have permission to hunt. On public land, it is different. You can hear a bird and go to it. You can move around a bit and try to get one to gobble. You can hunt multiple locations and situations from field edges and creek bottoms to hard timber and slough ridges. If you bump one bird, you can drive down the road and get on another. Again, I love hunting public land in the spring. But, for obvious reasons, I do not love hunting public land on opening morning. Better to let the early morning hunters get their opening day fix in and then try to get on a bird midday. For those reasons, we decided to hunt a private farm that morning, then get after the public birds if the private farm did not produce. That was the plan, and it worked perfectly. That morning, we did get on a gobbler, but as it often goes on small, private tracts, he outsmarted us and ended up on a neighboring property before we could even smell the bacon frying back at the house. So, while it was still early, we came back home, ate, and hooked up to the boat trailer to try and get on a couple of backwater gobblers. For the last few springs, a boat has been a necessary turkey hunting tool around here as high waters have made travel difficult on one of my favorite public areas. Now, before the water had cut off the roads, I had gone on a scouting trip and heard three birds roosting in the same general area. My thought was that we could cross a couple oxbow lakes in our boat and get on that ridge without having to walk several miles to do so. It turns out, the water was just right to get where we needed to be. We started down the ridge that I thought they would be on, and within 15 minutes we heard a bird gobble in the distance and a hen calling for him between where we were standing and where he was coming from. We quickly moved toward the hen, bumped her out the way, and took her place. Justin, my brother-in-law—a much better caller than I am—made a couple soft clucks and yelps, and, sure enough, the gobbler answered not too far away. We quickly readied ourselves behind a huge, fallen oak tree. Within a couple minutes, the gobbler emerged from the dense timber. However, he was not alone! Just a couple steps behind him was another long-beard! Within a minute, they were as close as they were going to get. With each of us on a bird, we shot and, after a quick chase for Justin’s bird, we had killed an opening-day, public-land, backwater double! In the excitement, I told Justin that even if I did not kill my second bird, it had already been my most successful season ever after Will’s two birds and our double. The good Lord would test that assertion as it would be a couple weeks before I got my final long-beard!

Chris's Gobbler

I finally harvested my second bird my eighth morning after him. This was on the same private farm my brother-in-law and I had hunted opening morning, so, each time out, if he was roosting on a neighboring farm or went that way after flying down, then it was game over unless I wanted to sit there all day, which my work responsibilities and patience would not allow me to do. He was also a more educated bird than our 30-minute double on opening day. He had seen his buddy die, had been called up a few times without me having a shot, and was spooked off the roost one morning. He had become call and decoy shy. I finally decided to treat my pursuit of him like a whitetail bow hunt by setting up on a funnel between his roost area and his desired destination. Finally, the third Saturday, without calling or a decoy, he came out of his tree and strutted by close enough for a shot! I had seen exactly where he flew up the night before, so the next morning I went in early and sat against a tree about one hundred yards away and between where he was roosting and where he approached from the day before. When the time came for them to fly down off the roost, hens started flying down within a twenty-yard radius of me from the trees directly adjacent to the one I was sitting against. I was amazed that they had not seen me walk in or picked me out sitting under the tree. I realized, at that point, that had I called or made any kind of seating adjustment in the minutes prior to fly-down, I would have been spotted and they would have flown to the next area code. Since I had not done anything to give up my location, they flew down, softly clucked and purred, and made their way on behind me. With the gobbler somewhere in front of me on the ground, I figured it was only a matter of time before he cruised by in pursuit of those hens. It was not long when I caught a glimpse of him strutting to my left. When I saw his head go behind a tree, I slowly eased my gun toward him, picked him out as he emerged from behind the tree, and squeezed the trigger. In a moment, my eight-day pursuit of this tom was over, and, along with Will, I had punched my second and final tag of the season!

Justin's Gobbler

Dad's GobblerAs the pictures show, it was not just Will and I who had success in the turkey woods this spring. I got to tag along with Justin as he put down his second bird. My dad killed his two birds on public land in two different counties, and to my surprise my niece, Madison, killed the biggest gobbler of all of us at the eleventh hour! The final Saturday of the season, my dad called a little after 7:00 and told me that Madison had killed a big, hooked bird. He said that she wanted me to see and to dress it for her. I figured he was pulling my leg, and she had killed a jake. But sure enough, she killed the biggest bird of all the hunters in my family for the year. In fact, it had better hooks than any of the birds I’ve ever harvested. I was thrilled for her! I thought that there could have been no better way to end the season! In all, over the course of the season, between the five legal hunters at my residence and my dad’s, we harvested nine birds in three different counties and on three different public areas. Generally speaking, the meat supply is short and the stock market is down, but we will be putting wild turkey on the plate and in our bowls for months to come, at least until late summer venison and winter mallards take their place at our table. Now, if I can only get the kids to help me out more in the garden and Jess to take up canning, we will be well on our way, under the Lord’s provision, to food self-sufficiency and sustenance from the local area in which God has placed us. You can pray with me toward that end!

Chris Cooper

No One Will Cry “Fake News” Before Him!

Targum on 2 Cor. 5For we must all stand before the judgment seat of the Messiah, before the One upon whom the Spirit of the LORD rests, before the One whose delight has always been in reverence toward the LORD. This judge shall not have his eyes tricked by the schemers nor his ears bought by the power-brokers, but with righteousness he shall render his judgments on behalf of the earth’s poor and will decide with equity for the meek ones who shall then inherit the earth. When this judge—the Father’s Royal Son—appears to take his seat, he will carry with him the Creator’s own justice and righteousness. He will defend the cause of the poor of the people and will give deliverance to the children of the needy. He will look with compassion upon the children who lost parents and parents who lost children to a Drug War and mass incarceration born from political fear-mongering and racialization. He will decide for the war-torn children ripped from the arms of their mothers for having the audacity to dream of a better life beyond borders. He will lovingly ease the burdens of the children pulled from their beds in middle of the night by child services, children of whom we said from a distance, “They never had a chance.” And, terrifyingly, the oppressor, the unjust, the bribers, the schemers, the ones who, in their privilege, looked the other way, the ones whose only concern was their 401k and the bottom-line—they will stand exposed and ashamed before him. Yes! We shall all stand before that throne to give account for deeds done in the dark. And, when we stand before him who knows all truth, weighs all truth claims, and even measures the motives beneath them, not one of us we be able to cry, “Fake news!” or hyperlink to a Breitbart article or PragerU video before him!

On that day, there will be tears of joy and grief, but here is the astonishing good news. It’s possible for there to be only joy in the end! The King represents a God who abounds in mercy. He’s already appeared once, shared the sorrows of the afflicted, and born the guilt of the transgressors. In fact, God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us. Even now, when a guilty person (who has added to this world’s pain) asks forgiveness, renounces the injustices of the present world order, and responds to the King with believing allegiance, he or she is made new. Right there, the New Creation that’s coming comes already as the Spirit of the Messiah begins to transform that person from a perpetuator of this world’s brokenness into a more equitable and compassionate, God-like servant. Even now, that person is transformed into someone who works toward the coming day of justice by embodying the King’s compassion toward the broken. Even now, the verdict is delivered down through the ages: “Not guilty!” and “This is my beloved child in whom I am well-pleased!”

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

“They Do Not Cry to Me from the Heart”: Looking for Revival in All the Wrong Places

Homecoming Pic 2019Revival comes as God’s response to the acknowledgment, anguish, and action of his people.

My favorite Sunday to preach, over the course of the entire year, is on Homecoming! Normally, I use it as an occasion to preach on the theme of home or place, a very important theme to the story of the Bible. However, today, I want us to think about revival. Homecoming Sunday kicks off our late Summer revival here at Mt. Pleasant, so I want to get us off on the right foot.

However, I also want to preach about revival today, because I think that we all recognize we are a people in need of some sort of revival! In our homes, in our churches, in our communities, and in our public discourse we need a movement of God!

For that reason, I want us to think today about three things needed for revival: (1) acknowledgment of our real problem and need, (2) anguish over our current situation, and (3) action empowered by the Spirit of God! Now, I do want you to know that these things do not exhaust what is needed for us to experience of a movement of God. Obviously, prayer is essential to experience revival in our churches and in our communities. However, I only talk about prayer in a round-about way.

There is one more truth that I want you to understand about renewal before we get started. No one wants revival more than God does! No one—not in this room, not in this county, not in this state, not in this nation, and not in this world—wants the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven as much as God does! May that encourage you as we consider God’s Word today!


Renewal comes when we seek it from the right place—from an acknowledgment of our need for God. To see this, I am going to walk you through a few sections of the book of Hosea.

I want us to think a little bit about the history and plight of Israel in the time of Hosea, because what took place in the days of Hosea among the people of Israel, I think, is analogous to our current situation.

And, the thing that we need to understand about Israel in the days of Hosea is that, like us (I will argue), Israel sought the wrong kind of revival.

Hosea preached and prophesied in a period of Israel’s history in which they desperately needed revival, and no one wanted it more than God did! No one! However, at first Israel could not even see that there was anything wrong. Why? They could not see that there was a problem, because they were blinded by their prosperity. Things were going well!

And, then, when they did realize that something was wrong, they could not see their real problem. Therefore, when they asked God for renewal, they did not ask him because they recognized that they did not truly know him as they needed to or because they desired that, moving forward, God’s kingdom would come from heaven to the earth through them.

Rather, all they wanted was for God to take them back to a previous moment in history—a more prosperous moment. But what they did not realize is that the moment that they wanted to return to was a time in which they were as equally in need for God as they were in the present! Israel sought the wrong kind of revival!

With that, I want to lay out the context for the first verse that we will look at today: Hosea 5:15.

When Hosea began his ministry among the people of Israel—the people of God—they were settled in the land of promise. And, they were in desperate need for a movement of God, but here is the kicker: they didn’t even know it!

Israel was God’s chosen people in God’s chosen place, and for a long time they experienced the blessings of God. For many people, things were going well. They had plenty and felt relatively safe from outside forces. However, beneath the surface, not all was well with Israel’s soul. Some of you may be that way today. When we gather together on Sunday, we all wear our best clothes, right? Women put on their makeup. Men shave and comb their hair. When we gather as a body, we should be transparent and open, so that we can bear each other’s burdens and encourage one another in the Lord. Instead, we put on our proverbial masks, and it is possible, if not probable, that some of us are like Israel. Things look right on the outside, but not all is well with our souls. If that is you, then listen carefully to God’s Word today and open your heart, because no one cares for you soul more than God does!

Israel looked good on the outside, but not all was well. They confessed to be people of the LORD—people of the god who had rescued them from Egypt. They confessed to be the people of the God-of-the-Bible, but, in reality, their trust was in other gods, gods that promised to prolong their prosperity and fertility. Back then they were called Baals. Today, we could call them Mammon and Lord Military, perhaps even Uncle Sam. But the problem, then as today, is that these gods are not like the LORD. They are not compassionate, merciful, and faithful. They did not look at all like Jesus! They are not gods who have a heart for the broken and bruised of this world. Rather, they are gods who consume, and, in this quest for consumption, overlook and oppress the broken and bruised.

And, Israel, as they worshipped these gods, began to become like these gods, which always happens by the way! They began to be shaped into a greedy people who overlooked the vulnerable ones God had called them to embrace, and they began to overlook and oppress the broken and bruised in their midst. Israel was sick, and they didn’t even know it! They were blinded by their prosperity, and their full worship gatherings.

Israel’s focus and delight in other gods shaped them into a greedy, cold-hearted people who sacrificed their poor so that they could gain more and more and feel more and more secure. As a result, they built systems and developed habits that promoted those desires, and the evil one who longs to steal, to kill, and to destroy was at work through it all to draw God’s people and place toward death and destruction.

This is where verse 15 comes in. Verse 15 is God’s response to an idolatrous, but oblivious Israel.

God’s solution to Israel’s problem was to withdraw from them for a time and to hand them over to the consequences of their sins. He would do this in hope—in hope, that they would come to their senses, acknowledge their sin, and come to a place of true repentance, acknowledging their need for God. Look with me at verse 15. There, the LORD says:

15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

 God would withdraw from them and their land to his throne in heaven. He would hand them over to the consequences of their actions. And, without the aid of the God of life in a world under the power of the evil one, they would begin to experience the beginnings of disorder and de-creation—life without God.

And, that is what happened. Their crops began to fail. Their peaceful existence in a world of violence began to appear more fragile. What they thought had been a sure future began to be more uncertain. This brings us to verses 1-3. In these verses, Israel is starting to recognize that something is wrong. So, Israel asks for renewal but from the wrong place.

This is a recurring theme throughout all Hosea and the prophets. Israel asks for help, asks for renewal but they are so blind that they don’t even know what their problem is. They don’t know what they need revival for! And, they won’t listen or look even when it is spelled out in front of them by the prophets. However, you can bet that they expect God, because they are his people and have been given a place of privilege, to restore to them their former prosperity. Look with me at verses 1-3 of Chapter 6. Israel says:

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Israel had finally come to the place in which they saw a need for renewal, but they sought that renewal from the wrong place. They did not seek it from a desire truly to know God and have that change them from the inside out, but they sought it from a desire to go back to the way things were before. That’s what and why they grieved, if you can even call their trite prayers grief at this point!

Israel’s prosperous harvests and sure foundation slowly began to give way to scarcity and uncertainty. But, at first, they didn’t let it bother them too badly. They remembered who they were. They were the LORD’s chosen people! They remembered his promises. The LORD had told Solomon that if things started going South, then they just needed to come together and pray, they just needed to press on to know the LORD, then he would hear from heaven and would heal their land.

So, that is what Israel does in verses 1-3. They come together. They make their sacrifices. They offer their burnt offerings. They say their prayers. They have their “revival” services. They sing their revival songs. But HERE IS THE PROBLEM! They were seeking renewal from the wrong place. They didn’t really acknowledge their problem. They didn’t really acknowledge that they had worshipped other gods and become unjust toward the vulnerable just like the gods of the age.

They didn’t seek really to know the God of the Exodus whose eye is toward the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant. They didn’t really seek to know the God of steadfast love, compassion, and mercy. And, they didn’t really desire his kingdom to come from heaven to earth through them. They just wanted to go through the rituals and to receive the blessings of their former prosperity.

If you don’t believe me, then look with me at God’s response in the following verses. In verses 4-10, God responds in this way:

4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. 8 Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. 9 As robbers like in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy. 10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled.

What’s the LORD’s response to Israel’s half-hearted prayers for revival? Like a parent with a child who just jumped off the bed for the hundredth time after he had just said the ninety-ninth was the last time, the LORD answers: What am I to do with you, my child? What can I do to make you see? What is it going to take? Their love and faithfulness, their prayers for revival, their desire for a change in them and in the world around them, it disappeared as quickly as the morning dew that melted before I even began this sermon.

So, first, the LORD grieves! Remember, he wants their flourishing more than they do!

Then, the LORD told them what he desired even though they would not take it to heart. He didn’t want their sacrifices. He didn’t desire their burnt offerings; those were for their benefit, not his. He didn’t want, as if they were an end in themselves, their protracted services and emotional appeals. He wanted them to know him—truly to know him—as the God who frees the oppressed, and as the God who homes the homeless, and as the God who welcomes refugees. And, as the God who gently mends the hearts of those who have spent too much time away from him.

Some of you have spent too much time away from God, and you need to know God as the one who mends broken hearts. He longs today for you to come and to rescue you!

That’s what he had done for Israel! He wanted a deep relationship with the people he’d made and saved for his glory. And, coming to know him in an intimate way, he wanted them to reflect that compassion and mercy in the way that they treated others around them and in the way that they structured the programs and the systems of their society. That’s what he wanted. He wanted them truly to come to him, to drink from the waters of life, and to allow those living waters to spring forth from them to heal the world around them as well. He wanted them to repent from their lust for more and more things and more and more power and to begin to treat one another fairly and compassionately. But you know what? They still didn’t get it! They didn’t get it! Therefore, the LORD allowed them to experience the consequences of their sins even more fully. As a result, scarcity and the fear of an uncertain future deteriorated into the threat of war and captivity.

This brings us to the last three verses that I want us to look at from Hosea: Hosea 7:14-16. Here, the half-hearted, unserious prayers of 6:1-3 have changed. Israel is no longer heaving up trite mantras for revival, they are crying and wailing for it. They are no longer beginning to get worried; they are literally cutting themselves from emotional distress. However, their desire was still for the wrong kind of revival. It still wasn’t truly to know the God of love and to have their hearts changed to reflect his kindness and mercy. And, as a result, they would be handed over to their enemies and taken again into captivity. Look with me at Hosea 7:14-16:

14 They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. 15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. 16 They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

Israel cried and wailed; they cut themselves for revival! But they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t even understand their problem. They didn’t lament the fact that they had failed to grasp who God truly is. They didn’t lament the fact that they failed to reflect his kindness and compassion to the world around them.

What did they really want revival for? Why did they really grieve? The LORD tells us in verse 14. They did it for grain and for wine! They lamented the fact that their bank accounts were no longer booming, that their fridges were no longer full, and that, in their minds, their borders were no longer secure. They cried, wailed, and cut themselves not because they wanted God’s kingdom to come from heaven to earth nor because they wanted him to heal their hearts, but because they wanted to go back to the prosperity of a previous generation, because they wanted God to Make Ephraim Great Again.

But Israel’s root problem wasn’t that the prosperity of a former era had gone. Israel’s problem was most certainly not the poor and downtrodden in their midst! Their problem was that even though they claimed to worship the God of the Bible, they worshipped the gods of the evil age. And this was clear, abundantly clear, to the LORD and the prophets through Israel’s lack of compassion, through their perverse willingness to arm themselves and shed blood.

What they needed, even though they were too blind to see it, was not to return to a “golden age” that didn’t even really exist. Rather, they needed to move forward toward a renewed knowledge of God as the covenant-keeping LORD who is for the marginalized and oppressed!

Israel sought the wrong kind of revival and from the wrong place, from a place in which they lamented their lost prosperity but not their need for God and his kingdom!

I say all of that because we also seek the wrong kind of renewal! I want to propose to you today that the reason our prayers for renewal are not heard is that we, like Israel, long for the wrong kind of renewal. We, like Israel, need to acknowledge what our real problem is. We come to the LORD with our tent revivals. We come to the LORD with our revival services. We come to the LORD with our National Days of Prayer. We sing our revival songs.

But what is our desire? What is it that we are longing for? What is it that we believe to be the problem?

Is our desire to go back to an era that once was or is it truly to know the God of the Lord Jesus Christ more deeply and to have that knowledge reshape everything else in our lives? Our root problem is not that the jobs of a bygone era have gone. Our root problem is not that kids today have never known the morals of a previous generation. Our root problem is that we do not know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as deeply as we need to. And, I can say that we complete confidence because we lack compassion.

I don’t know about you individually, but corporately speaking, evangelicals in this country have a compassion problem, which is really a knowledge of God problem. And, until we acknowledge that fact, renewal won’t come. Renewal comes when we seek it from the right place, from a place in which we acknowledge our sin and our need for God.


Secondly, I want us to see that revival is born from a place of anguish. The biblical word for this is lament. Renewal for Israel was finally born from a place of deep lament. To see this, I want you to turn back with me a few books to Lamentations 1.

I don’t know if our trip through Hosea inspired you to read the rest of the prophets this afternoon to see if they truly repented and experienced revival, but I am going to just go ahead and tell you anyway! Spoiler Alert: Israel still didn’t get it. After Hosea’s ministry, they were handed over to their enemies, both Israel and Judah—both branches of the Israelite tree. The Assyrians and the Babylonians came in with their armies, destroyed their cities, took their best and brightest young people away into captivity, and left those alive barely to survive, if not slowly starve, in a dystopian environment.

That is where Lamentations comes into the picture. Lamentations is Jeremiah’s record of the survivors who had been left in Jerusalem after the War.

And, what we see is that . . . now they get it. They see their true problem, but it’s almost too late. I say almost, because a remnant would survive the Exile and give birth to Jesus. But they had to go through deep suffering in order to get to a place in which they finally heard God’s cries and calls for them to come to him that he might heal them.

As we read a few verses from Lamentations, I want you to think of these verses sort of like the Christmas Story! In the Christmas Story, a miserable ghost warns Scrooge not to follow in his steps. Think of these verses in that way: the ghost of missed-revivals-past speaking to us Scrooges today! Look with me at Lamentations 1:12, 14-18:

12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger. . . 14 “My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand. 15 The Lord rejected all my mighty men in my midst; he summoned an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah. 16 For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed. 17 Zion stretches out her hands, but there is none to comfort her; the LORD has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should be his foes; Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them. 18 The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity.”

Israel finally recognized her problem and lamented in the midst of her desperate need for God. And, from that sort of lament came the remnant that would one day give birth to Jesus.

Revival is born from a place of lament. Revival, for us, will come from a place of lament. We need to get to the place in which we are in anguish over what our world has become. We need to get to the place in which we are in anguish to know God again and to have him change us into people who are more like Jesus!

But here is my question to you? What will it take for you to come to a place of true lament?—a place in which you truly understand your desperate need for God and for God to reshape your heart?

What’s it going to take? Individually, for you? Will it take the disruption of your home? Will it take the breakdown of your marriage? Will your children be sacrificed to the gods? What will it take?

The people of Jerusalem speak to us from their lament and say, “Do not let it get to that point! Today is the day of salvation and renewal for you, seek him and live. No one wants a new beginning for you more than God does!”

Corporately, as a movement of evangelicals, what is it going to take for us not only to see our need for renewal but also our real problem? How many people must be locked away? How many black and brown bodies must lie dead in the streets? Just how hard must our hearts become? How bad do things have to be for us to see our need truly to come to know the God and Father of the Lord Jesus and for us to come truly to reflect his compassion to one another and into the world. What is going to take for us to cease attacking ourselves and gossiping about ourselves as a body of believers? And, what is it going to take for us to weep over the brokenness outside our walls?

What is it going to take for us to lament? Are you there today? If you are there, then begin to pray for your brothers and sisters. Pray for me. Pray for us a renewed knowledge of God and for him to reshape our hearts and our lives after the image of Jesus.

Revival is born from our anguish and lament.


Renewal comes when we acknowledge our need for God. Renewal comes when we lament our current suffering because we don’t know God as we should. Finally, renewal comes when the Spirit of lament works through his grieving people.

I began by saying that no one—no one—in this room, in this county, or in this world longs for revival, longs for the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven as much as God does. No one! I think we see that in Romans 8. In this passage, Paul talks about how the creation laments for God’s kingdom to come. He talks about how we, at least should, long for God’s kingdom to come in the midst of this dark and broken world.

However, he also says something profound. He says that God, through his Spirit, also laments and groans for the new life of his kingdom to come to life in this dark world. In fact, the Spirit himself groans for the fullness of the kingdom more than we do! And, then in Romans 8:28, Paul says that God is at work to bring the renewal and new creation he desires and groans and laments for to life through his people. Look with me at that verse. Romans 8:28:

28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love God and are called to his purpose. (RSV)

How does God bring renewal and revival and new creation to an area? He does it through people who have acknowledged their sin and need for God. He does it through people who have lamented over their current condition and the condition of the world around them. And, he does it through those who are being transformed after the image of his Son, those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Revival comes when our groans meet the Spirit’s groans, and we are then moved into action!

Paul says that God is working for good in all the things that happen in this world, but he is doing it through the people who love God and who have been called by him for his purpose in this world.

One of the biggest problems with the way that we have always looked at revival is this. We want God in an instant to fix all our problems and all the problems of this world. Sort of like the Israelites, we think if we bring the sacrifices and the burnt offerings of revival services and revival songs to him, then, after just two days, he should give us the return to greatness that we desire and, in a flash, fix all our problems—all our personal problems and all our societal problems.

But that has never been God’s design, not in the beginning when he ordered the creation and not when he gave his life for the world and gave birth to church through His Spirit. Think about it. God made and ordered the world, but he did not fill it. Rather, he created humans as his image, and, in effect, said, “Lets fill this world together! You look to me for wisdom, and I will work with you to fill this world with my glory.” God created a world, but made humans to fill it!

In the same way, when God’s Son came into this world, he didn’t go into all the world. Isn’t that fascinating! He stayed in one small area and preached to one marginalized, messed-up people. He didn’t go into the world and build hospitals or create clinics or preach or start churches. He stayed in one place and preached to one small group of misfits. But he told them this.

He told them that he was going to give his life for them and for the world, and then, empowered by his Spirit, they would go into all the world and they would share and live out the good news. They would start hospitals and clinics and would feed the poor and welcome home the stranger. Jesus even said that, filled with the Spirit and mobilized and set forth as a body, they would even do greater things than he.

That’s how God works. Revival services can be the beginning. They can be the occasion in which we get real and acknowledge our sin and our need for God. They can be the place in which we lament current conditions. But if renewal is really going to come, then it will come as God works through his lament-fueled people to go out into the world sharing and embodying the gospel—embodying the gospel not just in evangelism, but in all things!

God’s desire is to work in all things for God through his Spirit-filled, Jesus-shaped people!

How has God moved in your heart this morning? Have you spent too much time from him away? Perhaps you need to acknowledge your need for God. Are you realizing the pain that exists in our homes and in our communities? Perhaps you need to lament and to pray. Has he opened your eyes today to ways he wants you to go and embody good news? Perhaps you need to ask God to empower and encourage you by his Spirit. However, he is moving you today, be obedient! No one cares for our souls and longs for our flourishing more than he does!

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

The Bridegroom’s Return and the Newness of the Kingdom

Sermon Pic 7.214 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:14-20

Mark’s Gospel announces the best good news that this world has ever heard. God’s saving rule has arrived in the ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. In Jesus, Mark presents to us a life that is more than just compelling and inspiring. It is a life, a person, and a message that demands our souls, our lives, and our all. And, what I want us to see from this passage is that the Kingdom of God that arrived in Jesus and that continues to exist as a reality in this world today was a new movement, a new deal unlike any of the kingdoms of this world.

Unlike opposing world systems and religions, including Old Covenant Judaism, Christ’s kingdom and movement reached out and offered real hope to those suffering beneath the shadow of death.[1]And, the good news is that the same is true today. The world’s systems and religions, governments and programs, even at their best, are not designed to meet humankind’s deepest needs—redemption from enslaving powers, reconciliation with God, and freedom from the fear of death. Only Christ and his saving rule can meet these needs and can restore to people their purpose as God’s image bearers. That is what I want us to continue to see from Mark 2.

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Mark 2:13-22

I want us to see three truths from these verses. I want us to see that (1) in Jesus, Israel’s God visited and displayed his kindness to the world, (2) that Jesus’ kingdom was a new movement that cannot be safely mixed with or contained by this world’s systems or traditions, and (3) that unlike this world’s leaders, systems, and religions, Jesus and his kingdom are uniquely fit to meet humankind’s deepest needs. In fact, I want to make it clear that he offers forgiveness and new life to all those who will turn to him for rest, especially those who have been marginalized, excluded, and let down by the broken systems of this world.


First, I want us to see that, in Jesus, the God of Israel had returned to his people as a bridegroom to a bride. In verses 18-20, we are reminded that one of the great hopes of the last days as proclaimed by the Prophets had come in Jesus. To observe this in this back and forth concerning fasting, we need to understand the Old Testament background behind what Mark and Jesus are doing here.

In the Old Testament, there came a point in the history of Israel in which the LORD God had had enough. He tolerated Israel’s idolatry and flagrant acts of injustice and ungodliness for centuries. He was patient, merciful, longsuffering, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness; however, Israel was habitually unmoved and unfaithful. As a result, the LORD God left them in judgment. He had dwelled with his people since he had rescued them from Egypt and first appeared to them at Sinai. However, at last, he exited the Temple of God and the Land of Promise, and he left them to be attacked and exiled among the nations.

They wanted to be like the nations. They worshipped the gods of the nations, and they practiced the ungodliness that characterized the nations, so God gave them over to their desires and exile resulted. However, the judgment of exile was not God’s final word to his people. Rather, he spoke through the Prophets words of comfort and good news. He promised them that, in the last days, he would return and restore them, forgive and heal them.

One of the images that the prophets used for this reality—the return of the LORD to his people—was that of a bridegroom coming out to meet his bride. Isaiah uses this image in several places. And, as we saw in our Scripture reading, Hosea uses this image as well. In the last days, the LORD, the God of Israel, would return to his people once again as a bridegroom to his bride and would restore her to himself.

With that background in mind, I want you to think with me about verses 18-20. People had noticed that, while John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees fasted as a regular part of their religious observance, Jesus’ disciples did not. As a result, some curious inquirers asked Jesus why his disciples did not fast. Fasting was a regular part of the religious observance for renewal movements within the tent of first century Judaism, so why did Jesus and his disciples not fast?

Jesus answered that for the disciples to fast would be to go against the very purpose of fasting. People fast as a sign of mourning, great sorrow, or penitence. But, while Jesus was with his disciples, it was a time for great festivity. When he was taken away through his approaching death, then they would mourn, but now was a time for celebration. That was essentially Jesus’ answer. However, he didn’t just come out and say it the way I just did. Rather, he said it by identifying himself as Israel’s bridegroom, as the LORD God who had returned in these last days to restore his people.

Think about that for a few moments. Mark, Jesus, Jesus’ most scripturally sensitive listeners, and many of Mark’s original readers would have recognized the background to the bridegroom image and would have recognized the significance of Jesus’ claims. Jesus essentially answered that the disciples had no reason to fast because, in himself, the LORD God had returned to them and was beginning his saving rule among them. What a profound and daring claim!

This reminds us that with the coming of Jesus something extraordinary had happened. The time had been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God was at hand. The good news that Isaiah spoke concerning the restoration of Israel and the salvation of the nations had arrived. Mark and Jesus both are reminding us here that, in Jesus, the LORD—the God of Israel, the Maker of heaven and earth—had returned to his people.

This reminds us of one of the great mysteries and truths of the Gospels. In the face of Jesus, we see the glory and the face of the LORD himself. When Jesus had compassion on the leper and tax collectors and sinners, people who had been cast away from respectable Jewish society, we see the compassion of God himself for such people. When we see Jesus’ anger at the enslaving powers of sin and death, we see the anger of God himself against those things which dehumanize his image-bearers and wreck his world. When we see Jesus’ grief at the tomb of his friend,0 Lazarus, we see the tears of God. When we see Jesus welcoming little children and rebuking the disciples for turning them away, we see the very heart of God.

When we see and hear Jesus calling out to the weary and heavy laden to come to him for rest, we see and we hear the cry of our God inviting the world to be reconciled to himself in Christ Jesus. And perhaps most profoundly of all, when we see Jesus hanging on the cross—the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many—we see the self-giving love and faithfulness of a God who always keeps his promises and fulfills his purposes for his people and for his world.

In Jesus, the LORD, Israel’s God, had returned to his people as a bridegroom to his bride. That’s why it was not a time for sorrow but for exceeding joy.


Second, I want us to see that Christ’s kingdom was a new, distinct movement within the tent of first-century Judaism that could not be mixed with or contained by this world’s systems and religions, governments and programs. We see this in verses 21-22.

Behind the question about fasting lay a larger question that Jesus answers in verses 21-22. That question was this: What was the relationship between Jesus’ teaching and movement to the other renewal groups within first-century Judaism? Jesus, after all, was unlike the Pharisees. The Pharisees kept their distance from those who were unclean—lepers, tax collectors, and sinners. The Pharisees also fasted and carefully observed even oral traditions that governed the Sabbath and other areas of daily life. Jesus did not seem all that interested in such things. Jesus went into the desolate places; he ventured outside the camp and mingled with the unclean and forbidden. He called tax collectors to be his disciples and socialized with known sinners. He said things that seemed to undermine food laws and reinterpreted Sabbath regulations.

All of this was surely weighing on the minds of certain people, so Jesus not only answered the question about fasting in verses 19-20, but he answered the larger question behind it as well in verses 21-22. What exactly was the relationship between Jesus and his movement and other renewal movements within the Judaism of the time?

The answer that Jesus gave was this: He had not come to start another renewal movement within Old Covenant Judaism. Rather, he was ushering in the kingdom of God, the fulfillment and the goal of the Old Covenant and the end of all the false religions and broken systems of this world. Old Covenant Judaism had paradoxically failed to bring lasting hope to people, while at the same time achieving its divinely-intended goal. The place of the Jewish Law in the story of Scripture is complex, but essentially what it did was this.

It successfully diagnosed Israel’s (and, by extension, humanity’s) deepest problems and identified their greatest needs, but it did not offer lasting hope or solutions beyond pointing people to the better covenant that would come when the bridegroom himself returned to restore his people. We catch a glimpse of this in Mark’s gospel. The movements of the Pharisees, the scribes, and even that of John the Baptist and his disciples accurately diagnosed man’s deepest problems.

They pointed out, in their own ways, that each person east of Eden is under the tyranny of sin, has the stain of death upon them, and are unfit for fellowship with God and service in his kingdom. However, instead of offering people redemption from the enslaving powers of sin and death and restoration into the family of God, they excluded and marginalized. They correctly identified lepers and tax collectors and sinners as unfit for the presence of the Holy One of Israel and unfit for his service, but instead of offering them lasting solutions they pushed them to the margins.

The leper was pushed to the desolate places, outside the camp of God’s covenant people. Tax collectors and other notorious sinners were shunned and disassociated from the community and from the practices that the religious elite claimed gave life. To be fair, the Pharisees would have welcomed tax collectors and sinners if they had rejected their pasts and adopted Pharisaic lifestyles, but they didn’t offer the new life that was needed to live genuinely holy lives. Like the false religions of this world that kept God at a distance from his creatures, renewal movements among first-century Jews also became religions of death and tears that could not offer lasting hope and change.[2]

For this reason, Jesus made it clear in verses 21-22 that he had not come to patch up old systems, but he had come as the cornerstone of God’s promised kingdom. He hadn’t come to reform the wheel, but to break it. This is what he meant by the two short parables in verses 21-22. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth onto an old garment, because when the unshrunk piece shrinks away from the old a worse tear results.

Likewise, no puts new wine into old wineskins. Old wineskins had been stretched to the limit and became brittle with age. The purpose of placing new wine in wineskins was to allow it to continue to expand and ferment. But, old wineskins could not continue or contain this process and would burst. That was what it would be like if one tried to mix Jesus’ new movement with the constraints of Old Covenant Judaism. Old Covenant Judaism could not contain it and to mix the two would be to jeopardize them both. Jesus brought an end to the Old Covenant and ushered in the New. The Old Covenant prescribed man’s deepest problems and needs, and the New met them with real hope and solutions.

Before we move on to the final point, I want to point out that what was true concerning the kingdom of God and Old Covenant Judaism is also true concerning the kingdom of God and today’s systems. We should not equate Christ’s kingdom with governments and political parties or with our programs and religious traditions. Christ’s kingdom is something different, and if we try to fit Christ’s kingdom within them we will ruin them both. This doesn’t mean that we should not be concerned with politics and political parties or that we should not respect and follow traditions to a degree.

As Christians, we should rally for just laws and policies and oppose those laws and policies that oppress and deface God’s image-bearers and the creation. But, we must realize that, even at its best, governments and political parties, politicians and policy makers cannot solve humankind’s deepest problems and meet their most pressing needs. They are not designed or equipped for it. Only Christ and the message of the kingdom can do that. Only the tools of the kingdom—self-sacrificial love, service, and the message of the cross—are suited to meet those needs. We need to remember this truth and to be about the fundamental tasks that Christ has called us to as his people. Christ’s kingdom was a new, distinct movement that could not be mixed with or contained by this world’s systems and religions, governments and programs.


Finally, the last truth that I want us to see is this. Christ offers forgiveness and new life to all those who will turn to him for rest, especially those who have been marginalized, excluded, and let down by the broken systems of this world. We see this in verses 13-17 in the call of Levi and in the dinner that Jesus attended filled to capacity with tax collectors and other “sinners”.

In these verses, we see illustrated for us the differences between the movement of the Pharisees and the kingdom of King Jesus. First, we need to think about how the scribes of the Pharisees dealt with tax collectors and sinners. And, the reality is that they treated them with the same contempt and disregard as they did lepers. Just as lepers were unclean and would contaminate those who came into contact with them, so morally bankrupt tax collectors and sinners were also unclean and would contaminate those who associated with them. Therefore, such people were shunned by the pious. The scribes of the Pharisees rightly diagnosed the problem. The morally bankrupt who use and take advantage of the poor are unfit for fellowship with God and service in his kingdom.

That was true of the tax collectors and it was true of other law breakers; however, that is as far as the Pharisees went. They diagnosed their problems, but gave them no lasting solutions other than to warn them to become like them or else be shunned and pushed to the margins of respected society.

That, however, was not the approach of Jesus. He demonstrated this through two shocking actions. First, he actually called a tax collector to leave behind his corrupt business practices to come and follow him. For Jesus to invite a tax collector to follow him was for Jesus to invite contempt from those within the respected ranks of the community. Then, Jesus went even further and had table fellowship with Levi’s tax collector friends and others who were known to be morally ruined. And, this was apparently not the first time Jesus had done something like this. The implication in verse 16 is that associating with sinners was a regular practice of his ministry.

Indeed, when the scribes of the Pharisees grumbled about this, Jesus answered that the very reason he came was to go to the sin-sick and needy and to offer them forgiveness and restoration. Now, it was a big deal to have table fellowship with someone in the first century. And yet, Jesus had table fellowship with sinners. The reason is not that he tolerates or condones sin. The reason is that he brought hope and the possibility for real change to those in desolate places.

While the religion of the Pharisees and even John the Baptist could diagnose their sin problem from a distance, Jesus had the tools and the power to go to them, interact with them, and rather than become unclean himself make them clean and restore them to the family of God. Jesus went to the outcast and marginalized and offered them forgiveness, healing, and restoration into the family and the service of God, if they would find their rest in him.

My friend, if you are here and you are down and out, know that Jesus offers you the same hope. He offers you hope beyond the grave and hope to persevere through life’s trials. He can restore to you the purpose for which he created you! Jesus’ death secured forgiveness and provides cleansing and new life for those who turn to him. He can free you from the enslaving powers of sin to live for him and to make a real, lasting difference in the lives of those you love.

Jesus was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, and has all authority over heaven and earth. He will return to transform our mortal bodies and to give us a share in his inheritance—the world. My friend, if you would find your life and your rest in Jesus, then you would have no reason to fear death or any other earthly or heavenly power that threatens your life or future.

Don’t think that because you have a sketchy past or go unnoticed by others in the community that you are unnoticed by God. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost! He came for and pursues the sick and sinful. God cares, and he is kind. That is who he is. He will gladly rescue you from sin and the fear of death, if you would turn from the path you’re on and believe the good news about Jesus!

Jesus came to those who were sick and to those who were poor because, unlike the kingdoms and religions, programs and politicians of this world, he offers solutions to humanity’s deepest problems. He grants forgiveness of sins, redemption from enslaving powers, and fellowship with God. He gives the Spirit and the power to serve in his kingdom. Find your life in his today.

Finally, for those of us who already claim the name of Jesus, we must ask ourselves if we have traded the revolutionary message of the good news for rules and traditions through which we exclude and keep at a distance those in most need of Christ’s compassion. Jesus was willing to risk his reputation among the religious and the powerful to go to those most in need of the good news. May we be willing to do the same! Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. We can’t apply the medicine of the gospel, if we refuse to see the patients who most need it. Let us be willing to reach out to those who—just like us—are in great need of the hope of Christ.

[1]This is the theme of “The Cross and the Abolition of Religion,” an inspiring chapter in Peter G. Bolt’s The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel in NSBT, Vol. 18 (InterVarsity: Downers Grove: 2004), 18-47.

[2]Ibid., 26. Bolt writes: “Jesus has not come to be absorbed by this religion of tears. He is the bridegroom, bringing the great time of last days’ feasting when the shroud of death is finally cast away once and for all.”

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Where God is King, New Creation Comes

Sermon Pic 24.jpg31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. . . . They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. . . . Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35:1-2, 4-6a

What would it look like for God’s will to be done and for God’s kingdom to come in our families, churches, and communities? We know what things look like now, don’t we? Far too many marriages end in divorce. Even where both parents are involved, many children grow up in homes where violence and abuse affect them from an early age. And, what about our churches? Rather than colonies of heaven, seasoning with salt and providing light in broken communities, our churches are largely just reflections of the surrounding culture. And, our communities, at least here in rural West Kentucky, are run through with poverty and its cruel companion, addiction. We know what things look like now, but what would they look like if God were to step in? We know what it looks like when we are in charge, but what would it look like for Him to have a go at it?

In a sense, that is exactly what Mark’s gospel is about. Mark’s gospel announces the good news that in Jesus, Israel’s God has become Lord and King of this world. As Creator, Israel’s God has always been King in the sense that he sustains the world, sets limits on the harm that we do to one another, and is guiding history toward a fitting conclusion. That has always been true. However, the good news of Mark’s gospel is that, in Jesus, Israel’s God is working in a more intimate way, not just to restrain evil but also to accomplish his good will and establish his gracious reign on earth as it is in heaven! To put it another way, the good news—just as relevant today as it was nearly 2000 years ago—is that in Jesus, God has indeed become King so that, if we would turn to him and allow him to have his way in our homes, churches, and communities, lives would be restored and new creation would result.

That is what this passage and this message are all about. Last week, we saw that, when God ascends as King, racial barriers come down.[1] Today, we see that, when God becomes King, new creation comes and restoration results.[2]

 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mark 7:31-37


The first truth that I want us to see is that, when God becomes King, new creation comes and restoration is the result. Now the key to understanding what Mark wants us to see in this passage is in the two allusions to Old Testament scriptures and episodes that Mark records in verse 37. As I’ve said before, Mark and all the gospel writers make allusions to OT scriptures and events all the time. They throw them at us one after another. It is the stuff out of which the gospels are made. With a word, phrase, or picture, these allusions are meant to remind us of a past scriptural passage or event and to bring all the meaning of that past scripture to bear on the current story that’s being told. Mark does this again twice in this passage.

First, as he records the people saying about Jesus, “He has done all things well,” Mark reminds us of a time when God did reign as king, when his will was being done on earth as it is in heaven, and when it was said of the Creator that all that he had done was very good (Gen. 1:31). That time, of course, was Genesis 1, before humankind fell into sin.

Think about that moment in history for a few moments. In Genesis 1, the Creator’s place overlapped with humankind’s. They walked together and talked together. All was as it should’ve been. All was as it should’ve been with humankind’s relationship with God and Adam’s relationship with Eve. The earth itself served the Creator’s and humankind’s purposes without the frustration of human disease and death. And, the conclusion that the inspired writer comes to in verse 31 of the opening chapter of the Bible is that the Creator had done all things well. It was all very good!

That is what it looks like when the Father’s will is being doing and his saving rule is at work in the world. God ordered things, placed Adam and Eve in charge with him, and as long as they worshipped him and followed his rule—it all went well indeed! Of course, we all know what happened next, don’t we? Adam and Eve decided to go their own way. They decided that they wanted their will to be done rather than God’s will. They chose to follow their own rule and to learn wisdom on their own. The result is that God handed them over to those desires and removed them from the Garden of Eden. They wanted a go at ruling the world on their own, so God placed them outside the garden that surrounded his place and let them have a go at it on their own. And, the result was de-creation—the undoing of the good that God had accomplished for them in Genesis 1.

At that point, things did not turn out well or good at all, did it? Rather, the story after Genesis 3 is a sad one. Apart from God—our source of light and life—we become enslaved to lessor powers and an undoing of creation results. This can be observed in the narrative that follows in Genesis 4-11. But we don’t have to look there to see it, do we? The effects can be observed still today by an honest look at our own families and communities or a glance at the evening news.

De-creation—the undoing of God’s good creation—can be seen in homes where power struggles and manipulation become the norm between husbands and wives who once promised to love one another forever. It can be seen in communities where the powerful prey upon the vulnerable, and where the vulnerable steal in a desperate attempt at survival. The end result of life apart from God and under the powers of darkness is the deformation of human life, the forfeiture of human flourishing, and ultimately death.

In the beginning, the Creator did all things well. The verdict is that it was all very good. But, an undoing of God’s good creation takes place when we go our own ways and demand our own wills be done. Mark intends for us to recall these things as we read this passage about Jesus. Jesus intentionally travelled through Sidon and the region of the Decapolis. The significance of all this is that it was Gentile or non-Jewish territory. Galilee was dark, but at least it was Jewish. This, however, was Gentile country—the very heart of enemy territory, the thick of the darkness and of de-creation.

There Jesus encountered a poor man who was both deaf and suffering from a severe speech impediment. Like the paralytic from chapter 2, this man was so bad off that he had to rely upon others to bring him to Jesus. He couldn’t get there by his own power. Life was terrible for this disabled man. Life is hard for most people in this dark world, but it was especially troublesome for this particular man. However, as he encountered Jesus the King, the Son of God, he encountered someone in whom God was at work once again in the world doing all things well. This is what Mark wants us to see as well!

Just as in the beginning when the Creator spoke out against the void of the deep, disordered darkness and commanded that there be light, and separation, and waters, and vegetation, and animal life, and human life, so now he was speaking out against the darkness of deafness and broken speech and against demonic powers and, as they heeded his command, he was making all things well again. God was becoming King in Jesus, and Mark wants us to see that, when God becomes King, new creation comes and restoration is the result. De-creation—the undoing of the good of God’s original creation—is put right again. That’s what it looks like when God becomes King.

Mark records another allusion to an Old Testament scripture and episode when he records the people saying in verse 37, “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” This is an allusion to Isaiah 35:5-6, and it is meant to remind us of a certain episode in Israel’s history and of the promises made there to God’s people. God’s answer to the terrible results—the de-creation—of the Fall was Israel. He chose Israel and gave them a place. His plan was for his will to be done and his kingdom to come on the earth in them and through them. His plan was that in this one place and in this one people, the world would once again get a glimpse of what it looks like when God is King, when his will is being done and his kingdom has come.

They were to show the world what it looks like when God becomes King. But they failed to worship God and to live faithfully to him and their calling. As a result, God gave them what he gave to Adam and Eve. He gave them what they wanted. They wanted to be like the nations. They wanted to go their own way and wanted their own wills to be done, so God handed them over and they were swallowed up by the nations. Once again de-creation—the undoing of all the good that God had done for them—resulted. Their city was destroyed, their Temple ruined, and their children were taken away as captives.

It’s the same story told again and again. A family goes their own way apart from God, a church wants their own will to be done rather than the Father’s, and a community forges its own path to wisdom—and what is the result? The result is de-creation—an undoing of the good God intends. Disaster, dissatisfaction, and disappointment—those are the results. However, in Israel’s scriptures, God promised that de-creation, undoing, and disaster wouldn’t be the way the story would end for them. Rather, in Isaiah 35, God promised that one day He would return to them; he would restore them; he would become their King again. He would begin to accomplish his will in them and among them, and his kingdom would come around them and in them on earth as it is in heaven. And, as a result, salvation—new creation and restoration—would flow from them into all the nations.

And, most significantly, in the poem of Isaiah 35, what it would look like when God had returned and his kingdom was coming and his will was being done is this: Isaiah said that the deaf would hear again, and the mute would speak again. Where an undoing of the good life God originally intended had resulted in God’s absence, new creation would come. Where human lives had been ruined and broken, restoration would be the result.

What Mark wants us to see in this passage is that these ancient promises had all come together in Jesus. When Jesus went about the Decapolis, the world got a glimpse of the returning King, of the Maker putting his world to right again. They got a glimpse of Eden and what it looks like when the Father’s will is done and his kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. They saw that where the King is present and is at work, new creation comes and restoration results!

Isn’t that the conclusion that the people came to in verse 37? “He has done all things well! He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!” When God becomes King, as he did in Jesus, new creation comes and restoration results. That was true for a deaf mute east of Galilee 2000 years ago, and it’s true for families, churches, and communities today. It’s true for you and your life! Where God is at work accomplishing his will and bringing in his kingdom, new creation comes and restoration is the result.


I want to close today by talking about what all this might look like in individual families, churches, and communities, but first I want to address a question that you may have when it comes to physical and psychological suffering. If physical and psychological suffering are results of the Fall and a picture of de-creation—the undoing of the good that God intends for us—and if de-creation is a picture of Satan’s tyranny and of what the world looks like when we are in charge, then does the fact that I still suffer physically and psychologically mean that Jesus is not my King or that Jesus is not at work in my life?

I need to answer that question, because it is a natural question that results from what this passage teaches, and it is a question that is answered wrongly by many today. Some would say if you suffer physically or psychologically—from depression or other such things, some would say that if things aren’t going well and if you are not healthy and prosperous, then that must mean that God isn’t at work in your life. However, I want you to know that is not at all what the Bible teaches.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will come a day when Jesus will appear again from heaven and shout, “Peace, be still!” and, at that moment, just as the storm obeyed and was calmed, so all our sufferings—cancer, depression, broken hearts, etc.—will cease at once. However, at the present time between the inauguration or beginning of Jesus’ rule as King and the completion of that rule when he appears again, God has called us to share in Christ’s sufferings. In fact, we learn through the New Testament writings that it is often not through our prosperity but through our sufferings that God’s new creation and restorative work in our hearts and in our lives becomes the most obvious to those around us.

There’s much more I could say to this point, and I would love to say more if you ask me later, but for now I’ll just leave you with this. Remember that two of the godliest men in Scripture asked for their suffering to be removed and, for purposes only he knows fully, the Father declined to answer the way they wanted. Jesus himself prayed if it were possible that his coming execution be stayed, but he was not answered in the way that he desired in that moment. Three times the apostle Paul begged God to remove his suffering, but God never did. Instead, he answered that his new creation power at work in Paul was most evident through Paul’s weakness.

So, it is not the case that if Jesus is our Savior and King and if we are following the Father’s will and his kingdom is coming in our hearts and lives we will be healed and spared of all suffering. Rather, it is the case that God is working through it and is working for us an eternal weight of glory that will far outshine our momentary suffering when all is said and done.


Finally, I want us to think about what this passage means today. When God becomes King, as he has in Jesus, new creation comes and restoration results. What does that mean for us? Well, what God is doing through us should be a picture to this world of what new creation and restoration looks like.

And, as a church—as the body of Christ, as the people in whom Jesus is working and reigning as King—we should be a people and a community that restores life to the broken and that brings light to the darkness. Just as those in the Decapolis got a glimpse of new creation in the darkness east of Galilee when they saw Jesus at work, so people should see in us a glimpse of new creation through the way that Christ is at work in us.

So, what does it look like then when Jesus becomes King and the Father’s will is done in our homes, churches, and communities? I don’t have time to go into detail with all three of these, but I will share with you what it has looked like for me and in my home for Jesus to be King.

In my life, there are two ways that I can go and two wills that I can follow as a father and a husband. I can go my own way and follow my own will as Adam did and as Israel did. That, after all, is what comes most natural to me. As a husband, doing what comes naturally to me and following my own will and being my own king looks like this. When I’m hurt or am offended I hurt back, even when Jessica doesn’t intend to hurt or offend me in the first place. When I’m in charge, I quickly see Jessica’s faults and justify and excuse my own. I put a microscope on the ways that she can be self-serving, and I bury my own ways where I can never see them, but where they are still glaringly obvious to everyone else, including my six-year-old son, Will. When I go my own way and seek my own will, I crave power and control. I want to know where Jessica is going, who she will be with, and what she’s doing. I want to know what’s in it for me, and I think of my own needs as most important.

As a father, when I follow my own will and do what is natural, I am quick to yell and hurt when I am annoyed because Will and Jase won’t listen, because they are being, well, little boys. When I follow my own will and my own wisdom, I think of myself first and am offended when they disobey. How dare they disobey me, I think. I am their father and have authority! I crave my precious authority and the honor that I think I deserve and am willing to say harsh words to keep it. I pay no mind to the fact that those I love most may be crushed in the process.

That is what it can look like when I follow my own will and my own way. It’s ugly. It’s a gross form of de-creation—the undoing of all the flourishing that God desires for creatures that he created as his image. And, I’m nothing special. That road is followed by countless husbands and fathers, and it is played out over and over again in our rural culture here in West Kentucky. But, I’ve learned that I don’t have to live that way. Jesus loved me and gave his life for me—to forgive and cleanse me of my sins. He rose from the dead to give me life. He gave me the Holy Spirit free of charge.

His new creation and restoration project is at work in me, not because of any good in me or anything that I have done, but because I have trusted wholly in him to do what I could never do for myself. I’ve learned that I should no longer think of myself as a husband and a father who has to follow his own will and way, but I think of myself in light of who I am in the King. And, through Jesus, the Father’s will is being done and his reign is at work in our home, not perfectly or completely just yet, but enough that it matters, enough that it makes a visible difference in our world.

So, what it has looked like for me and my home for Jesus to be King, for his will to be done, and for his kingdom to come is this. I no longer hurt back as often when I am offended, but I pursue reconciliation and peace. I no longer or at least not as often think of myself and my needs first, but I try to think of where Jessica is coming from and what she needs. More often than before, I think of ways that I can serve her and relieve her stress rather than ways that I think she can be serving me. Instead of craving power, I attempt to sacrifice for her, to show her that I love her and care for her and want what’s best for her rather than attempt to manipulate or control her for what I can receive in return.

As a father, what it has looked like for me to submit to the Father’s will rather than my own is this. I don’t lose my patience as often or yell in hurtful and demeaning ways when my children don’t listen or respond to my directions. I no longer think as much about my own honor or authority, but about what is best for them and about their well-being and how I can best teach them the importance of following directions and learning discipline. I’m more focused now on the goal that they come to flourish as little images of God. Instead of ignoring them and their needs to spend time on my own thing, I take the time to tell them the stories about how God made them and the world and is working to make it all right again through Jesus and through us. I tell them that Jesus loved them and gave his life for them. I don’t always get it right. Often, I get it wrong. It’s easier to go my own way and follow what comes naturally to me as a selfish person. However, I have to remind myself of who I am in the King and that where he is at work new creation comes and restoration results. That is what it has looked like for me for Jesus to be King and for his will to be done in our home.

What if more families did that—turned their lives over to Jesus and his will and his gracious reign? What if more churches and communities did that? What does it look like when Jesus becomes King and the Father’s will is done in a church body? I don’t have time to go into it in as much detail, but surely it would mean that we treat one another with the kind of brotherly love, mutual respect, and forgiveness that Paul outlines in his letters. Surely it would mean less fighting and less seeing the church as a place that meets individual felt needs and desires and more of a place that exists as a flash of new creation in a dark and broken world. Surely it would mean coming together as the people of Jesus to bring restoration to the lost and the broken of this world.

What would it look like for those outside the church to be confronted with the King’s saving rule at work through us as the people of Jesus? Surely it would mean that we would treat every person with dignity and respect as someone created as God’s image, no matter the color of their skin or their economic status, no matter whether they have their lives together or not. Surely it would mean taking a chance on people and opening ourselves up to be vulnerable as we get to know them and open our doors and our lives to them. Surely it would mean learning how we can help others who need it rather than using or receiving from others something in return. Surely, for us as new creation people, it would mean attempting to repair or replace old systems that perpetuate brokenness and helping to restore hurting individuals in whatever ways they’ve been crushed by de-creation.

Jesus came to this world and he purchased a people by his blood, not just so that we could go and be with him when we die but so that right now new creation might come and restoration might result wherever he is at work through us in the world. May we submit to his will and saving reign, and dare to see what it looks like when God is truly King!

[1]The sermon I’m referring to about God’s reign and the problem of racism will be posted in a month or two.

[2]I got the idea to frame the discussion this way (When God becomes King. . .) from N. T. Wright’s outstanding book on Jesus, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Chapter 6 is all about the fact that God is now in charge in Jesus of Nazareth. There, he asks and answers the question of what it looks like now that God’s in charge (57-66).

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Psalm about Our Place and Purpose

Psalm 8 Pic.jpgHave you ever wondered where or if you belonged, or where your place was? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is in this world? If so, this is the psalm for you. This psalm—Psalm 8—is all about our place and our purpose as people created as God’s image. It’s a psalm positioned in the middle of scripture, but its themes reach back to the very beginning and look forward to the very end.

The Bible starts as God orders a world that serves as both a canvas for his glory and a home for human beings. It tells us about our place and our purpose in the created order. In this psalm, the psalmist looks back at that creation account to consider humanity’s place and purpose in light of God’s greatness. And, in spite of many years of setbacks from the events in Genesis 1 to his day, he also looks forward with hope concerning the future of humanity’s place and purpose.

With that said, I hope that you will see the enduring significance of this great psalm and are encouraged by it. I hope that you discover where you belong and what your purpose is in this life.


The first thing I want to do is walk you through the majority of this psalm as the psalmist looks back. He looks back and praises the LORD—Israel’s God—for his greatness as the Creator, and he comments in amazement at the exalted place and purpose that this great God has granted humans in the created order.

However, as the psalmist looks back and thinks upon the creation account, the first thing that he does is step outside and gaze up into the heavens. There, he sees the moon and the stars that have been intimately crafted by the fingers of the LORD God. And, upon seeing his handiwork, he praises the LORD. In verse 1 and verse 9, the beginning and the end of this psalm, the psalmist declares:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

And, in the last part of verse 1, he adds to this the words:

You have set your glory above the heavens.

One of the things that the psalmist does for us here is that he shows us how Genesis 1 ought to be read. Christians and non-Christians today often read Genesis 1—11 in an attempt to figure out what it says about the material origins of this universe. They want to know how old the earth is, exactly how God made the earth, and what all of this means and how or if it correlates with today’s science.

However, what we should do first, when we read Genesis 1 and when we step outside at night to gaze at the heavens, is what the psalmist does here. We should declare, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens!” We should be astounded and stand in amazement of the being who has the power to craft the moon and the stars and set them in place with his fingers.

That is the first thing the psalmist did when he thought about Genesis 1 and looked up into the starry heavens. The second thing that the psalmist did, after standing amazed at God’s greatness and praising God for his glory, is that he comments in astonishment at God’s great care for people. Look with me at vv. 3-4.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

As the psalmist looked at the night’s sky and thought about the greatness of God, he wondered why God cared so greatly for human beings. Who are we compared to the LORD, the one who created the heavens and the earth? And, who are we compared with the heavens that declare God’s glory? The heavens are an infinite display of God’s greatness, and we are tiny specks of dust on one tiny planet in one particular solar system. Yet, the assumption here is that this great God does indeed care for us!

In verves 5-8, the psalmist goes on to talk more about the exalted place and purpose that God has given to humanity in this world. However, before we look at those verses, I first want to take a stab at the question that the psalmist raises in verves 3-4: What is man that God is mindful of him and cares for him?

Now, I realize that this question is a rhetorical question—that it is not intended to be answered. But, I want us to think about it a little more deeply anyway. Why does God care for us in light of his greatness and in light of the vast expanse that is the heavens?

We are like a blade of grass, here one day and gone the next. We are like a vapor that vanishes almost as soon as it appears. There are turtles and trees that live longer than we do! Yet, God cares for us. God cares for you. Did you know that? He does! And, he cares for me. Why? It’s one of the most confounding questions that can be asked or thought, isn’t it?

Well, I think the most that we can say when it comes to answering this question is that he cares because he cares. He loves because he loves. That is who he is. When the LORD revealed his glory to Moses at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34, he revealed some of the most intimate details about himself in all the Bible, and what he said was this:

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.

Exodus 34:6-7a

For whatever reason, the LORD created humans as his image and entered into a covenant, an agreement, with us to be our God. And, when the LORD is your God, he is faithful to you and he cares for you. That is just who God is. Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is just in punishing the guilty, but he also makes provision to acquit those who cry out to him for help. God cares because he cares. He loves because he loves. And, there is really not much more that can be said about it than that.

Now, as we turn back to this psalm, we see that when the psalmist thought about Genesis 1 and looked up at the night sky, he also marveled at humankind’s exalted place and purpose in the created order. Look with me at verses 5-8.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

At this point, the psalmist is reflecting upon Genesis 1:26-28. In those verses, we discover that the LORD God created humankind as his image-bearers and gave his people dominion over the work of his hands. The LORD put everything in the created order under the rule and authority of human beings—all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, and the one who passes along the paths of the seas. I will talk more about the one who “passes along the paths of the seas” in a few moments, but first let us think about what all this means.

God made the earth our place, and he gave us a purpose as people created as his image. The earth is our home. It is God’s place, but it is also our place. God crafted it for the benefit of all his creatures, but he crafted it primarily for our benefit. Why? Again, all we can say is that he cares because cares. He loves because he loves. He created people as his image and has chosen to share dominion of this earth with his people.

The earth is our place; it is our home. You belong here. And, our purpose—every single one of us as people created as God’s image—is to serve as co-rulers with God over the created order. Our purpose is to have dominion—to share in bringing order to this earth—and it is to reflect God’s gracious character throughout the earth through our own action and attitudes and relationships and dealings with other people.

As we work, live, and build toward a better and more peaceful community, we are to reflect the compassion, mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness of the LORD God. That is who he defined himself as to Moses, and that is who he has proven himself to be as our faithful and loving Creator and Redeemer.

I don’t know if you saw the movie Jupiter Ascending or not. Probably not. It didn’t receive great reviews or buzz in the media. But, Jessica and I saw it, and it reminds me a little of these verses.

At the beginning of Jupiter Ascending, we meet this young woman named Jupiter played by Mila Kunis. She is poor and spends her life cleaning toilets for her rich neighbors. However, while Jupiter cleans toilets, she dreams about the stars and cannot get past the fact that she feels as if she were born for something more. What Jupiter soon discovers is that she was right. She discovers that she was really royalty and that the rights to planet earth really belonged to her.

From that point, she and an alien played by Channing Tatum team up in a battle against other aliens to save her birthright! If you are not sold on that plotline, I don’t blame you. It was a silly movie, but the basic idea concerning Jupiter should ring true to you today if you believe God’s word.

If you ever wonder where your place is in this world, if you ever wonder where or if you belong, if you ever wonder what your purpose is, Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 tell us that we were created as God’s image-bearers, that the earth is our place, and that we were created to serve him as earth’s royalty. We were created in rank just below the heavenly beings and our purpose is to share in bringing order to the earth and to reflect God’s gracious character throughout the earth.

Our purpose is to have authority over all—all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, and over the one who passes along the sea. “And the one who passes along the sea,” I want us to think about that for a moment. Now, when you and I think about what passes along the depths of the sea, we may have in mind a shark, a dolphin, or some kind of large whale—none of which strike any particular fear in us as those who spend the majority of our time on land. However, when the ancients thought about the one who passes along the paths of the sea, they envisioned a terrible monster. Such a creature left the ancients spellbound.

The reason is that, for them, the sea monster ultimately didn’t symbolize a sea-dwelling creature at all, but what we would call a supernatural being that brought about great disorder in the universe. We meet a creature like that in Genesis 3 as a crafty serpent. He resurfaces again in Job, the Psalms, and Isaiah as Leviathan, the fiery serpent. In the New Testament, this ancient serpent is called the great dragon, the adversary, and the devil.

Amazingly, the psalmist remarks in verse 8 that even this great one who passes over the paths of the sea is meant be subject to us in the dust beneath our feet. God is glorious. He is eternal. He created the heavens and the earth. His fingers set the moon and the stars in place. And, yet, for some reason, he created us to populate the earth and to serve as his co-rulers with all things beneath our feet. That is what the psalmist saw when he looked back. He thought about our place and our purpose in light of God’s greatness, and he marveled and praised the LORD.


From here, I want to move to a second point. The last point will be what the psalmist looked forward to. But, right now I want to address an obvious fact. All things on this earth are not subject to us, are they? Do we have the dominion that we were created to have? Of course not! How can we be said to have dominion over the dust of this earth when we return to the dust ourselves? What kind of authority do we have—what kind of dominion—when we are subject to heart disease, cancer, aging, strokes, heart attacks, and death? What kind of dominion do we have over this earth when the earth can wreck our lives in a matter of moments through thunderstorms and floods? What kind of authority do we possess to order this earth, when we can’t even get our own lives in order? What kind of power do we have over the devil, when he is able to sift us as wheat?

The obvious answer is that we don’t. We are like Jupiter. We may have been born royalty, but right now we spend our lives on lessor things! I assure you that reality was not lost on the psalmist. For instance, the previous five psalms before this one (Psalms 3—7) all address the fact that God’s enemies, wicked peoples, and distorted justice are what marks this present world. In other words, the world does not appear to be ruled over by God’s obedient people at all, but by their enemies. This world doesn’t appear to be our Father’s world at all, but it appears to belong to the enemy. The world, our place, is not as it should be. It is not subject beneath our feet. And, we are all simultaneously culprits and victims.

The psalmist realizes that our place is not currently as it should be. It has been subjected to the futility of enduring disaster, disease, and death rather than the freedom of the children of God. Our purpose is not being carried out either, is it? Left to ourselves, we are slaves to sin and death, we do not reflect God’s glory on the earth, and we certainly do not exercise dominion as kings. We don’t bring order but are part of earth’s disorder.

Again, these realities were not lost on the Psalmist. However, in the midst of the disorder and chaos of this evil age, the Psalmist could still see the glorious hand of God evident in creation, and he looked forward with great hope to what God would do in the future through the Messiah. And, we see this in this text. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but there is one verse that we have not looked at and that is verse 2.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

The psalmist recognized our current predicament as fallen creatures subject to sin and death. He recognized that we have foes, enemies, and avengers. He recognized that the devil wishes to destroy us all and that on this earth is not his equal. However, he believed God’s promise: that one day a human child from the line of Eve would crush the head of the ancient serpent and restore to us our place and our purpose on this earth. He recognized that through the veiled cries of infants came a profound truth. The human race continues, and the promised child is coming!

I don’t know what you hear when you hear babies cry. You probably have never thought about it before and if you had, you would have probably concluded with most people that they are not saying anything at all. But, the psalmist tells us that they are uttering something profound. When he heard their cries, he was reminded of the promise of Gen. 3:15—that one day a particular infant would be born from the line of Eve and that that infant would grow up to crush humanity’s enemy and avenger, reverse the curse of sin and death, and restore to us our place and purpose in the created order. That’s what he heard coming out of the mouth of babes and infants—the articulate sounds of a God faithful to his promises.

The suffering and wrongs of this world were not lost on the psalmist, but he could stare at the sky in wonder and praise God because he believed the good news of God’s promise and looked forward to its arrival.


This brings us to the last thing that I want us to see. Psalm 8 looks back, but it also looked forward to the time in which our place and purpose as God’s servants and image-bearers would be restored through the promised King. And, when we come to the New Testament, we find that our place and our purpose as people created in God’s image have been restored through the Messiah. We see this most clearly in Hebrews 2:5-11b and in the way that the writer uses Psalm 8.

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.

Hebrews 2:5-11b

I don’t have time to unpack all that’s in these verses for you, but I do want to comment quickly on how our place and purpose are restored through Jesus. Jesus the King is the promised offspring that came from the line of Eve. And, he lived on this earth as our representative. God’s plan from the beginning, as Psalm 8 shows us, has been for this world to be ruled over by his obedient children. Right now that is not the case with us—at least not completely. However, it is so for Jesus, and if we belong to him through faith, then what is his now will be ours when we he stands again on this earth.

Jesus has been crowned with glory and honor as God’s obedient Son. Where we all fail to live in obedience to God’s commands and exercise dominion over the earth, Jesus succeeded. He lived obediently to the Father’s will. He exercised dominion over the winds and the seas. Even demons threw themselves off cliffs at his command. He underwent a showdown with the devil himself for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness and came out on the other side victorious. He took all that the devil and the nations could throw at him at the cross and came through the other side resurrected, vindicated, and glorified. And, for his obedience, the Father exalted him over all powers and has given him all authority over heaven and earth.

He has been given this world as his inheritance. And, when he appears again, he is going to make creation right again. He is going to destroy the devil once and for all, he’s going to remove disease and death, and this world—our place—will finally be all that it was intended to be.

And, the good news is that he shares his victory, he shares his inheritance with all those who belong to him through faith. As it says in verse 10, Jesus underwent suffering not only for himself, but to bring many sons to glory! This means that those of us who trust in Christ are forgiven our sins through Christ’s sacrifice and we are granted eternal life. We were created to have dominion and to share in bringing order to this world. And, Jesus restores to us this purpose and our place by granting us an eternal inheritance.

We were created to serve God through reflecting his character. Jesus restores that purpose to us as well. He frees us from slavery to sin and death. When we come to trust in him, he forgives us, cleanses us, and gives us new life. He gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we can begin to walk in newness of life, so that we can begin to bring order to the world around us, and so that we can live out our divinely-ordained purpose as God’s obedient children and image-bearers. Through Jesus the King, we do have victory over the devil and our place and purpose are being restored!


I want to leave you with a few applications that you can take with you. I have two for Christians and one for those exploring the claims of Christ.

First, to those of us who hope in Jesus, let us praise God! If we should praise God in astonishment that he is our Creator, which is what Psalm 8 does, then how much more should we exclaim in wonder that he is also our Redeemer? Why does God care for us? Why did he exalt us in place and purpose? Those are the questions that the psalmist asked.

But we have new questions to ask, don’t we! Why did he come to restore us when we never got it right to begin with? Why did the Father give his only son to make a wretch his treasure? Why did Christ the mighty Maker die for man the creature’s sin? Why? He cares because he cares. He loves because he loves. He always keeps his promises to his people. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Second, we should live for God. Christ has redeemed us from the curse to restore to us our purpose. And, our purpose is to be God’s obedient children who reflect his gracious character and who help bring order to this world. God cares because he cares. He loves because he loves. He always keeps his promises. That is what we are to strive for as well. That is what the church is to be in its communities.

Everyone loves their friends. Everyone is kind to those from whom they have much to receive in return. Everyone does what they say they will do when it is convenient. But, we are to reflect the character of God. We are to love those who don’t love us back. We are to care for those who cannot give us anything in return. We are to be honest and loyal in our dealings with people even when it is difficult and may cost us something. All that God is toward us in Jesus the King we are to be toward others in this world. God created us to be his obedient children who reflect his glory. Let us seek to live according to that grand design.

Let us also share right now in bringing order to this world. You may be wondering, “How on earth can I share in bringing order to this earth? I can’t calm the seas as Jesus did!” That’s true. We can’t calm the seas. But, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can help bring order and restoration to human relationships and to our communities. We can help bring order when we are quick to forgive, when we seek to make peace with those who offend us and those whom we’ve offended. We can seek to restore the down and out from the margins of society. We can minister to those in need, find help for the addicted, and open our lives and doors to the forgotten. We can love justice and pursue righteousness by holding elected officials accountable when they cater to the rich and powerful and overlook the needs of the poor. We can seek to foster reconciliation between estranged parties, whether separated racially, economically, or politically. We can seek to come to understand, respect, and love those who are different than we are.

Finally, I want to close with a word to those who have not yet hoped in Christ. My friend, in light of what we have seen today from God’s word, you should hope in Jesus. You will never truly know your place or purpose in this world until you have turned your life over to the King. Even if you have all riches and earthly power, you are still on the bottom rung, if you do not belong to the one who made you.

Our idols and sin separate us from our God and keep us from inheriting our place and living out our purpose. But Jesus died to cleanse us from our sins and rose from the dead to rescue us from our idols. He battled the one who passes along the paths of the sea so that through faith in him we could be forgiven and given new life and so that we could be given a place and a purpose in his new creation.

Look to him today. If you have no place and feel as if you have no purpose or story, then find your life and your story in his.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

A New Way of Being Human

Sermon Pic 6.jpgAnd when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark 2:1-12

Mark’s Gospel announces the good news that in Jesus of Nazareth, the God of heaven has begun his saving reign upon the earth. Through Jesus, the Creator has begun to take back this world and its creatures from the enslaving power of idolatry and sin and the destructive powers of evil. And, what I want us to continue to see from this passage is that, on an individual level, this carries with it great news as well. The good news means that, for people enslaved to idolatrous powers, addictions, greed, selfishness, hopelessness, or whatever, Jesus offers a new way of begin human. That is what I desperately want you to realize as we go through Mark.

I don’t just want you to see and understand the grand story that Mark tells us about Jesus, but I want you to see yourself in this story about Jesus. I what you to find your life in the life of Jesus, your story in his. That is why Mark wrote this Gospel. Jesus was not just another compelling figure in the ancient world whose life he thought was worth telling and would make an interesting and inspiring biography. No! Jesus is the key figure in human history. His life changed the world. Unlike any other person who had ever lived, death was not the end of his story but just the beginning as through it he triumphed over the powers that held humanity in their grasp.

Jesus is the central figure of history and, as Lord and King, is still the central figure of the world today. His life and his story demands our souls, our lives, and our all. And, what I desperately want us to see from this passage is that Jesus offers to each one of us a new way of being human! To put it another way, Jesus offers us a way to be truly human, to live life as God intended and created us. What I want us to see is that, when we come to hope in him, Jesus sets us free from enslaving powers, restores us to God, and empowers us to live out our purpose. He includes us in a new people—a new humanity. Along with all his people, we become his royal priesthood and holy nation whose task it is to change lives and the world through the same self-giving love and faithfulness that Jesus himself demonstrated at the cross. That’s what I want us to begin to see as we look at Mark’s story about Jesus and the paralytic.


The first truths that I what us to see from this story concern Jesus. Mark intends to communicate to us a few things about Jesus through the title, “Son of Man,” which Jesus claims for himself in verse 10, and through the fact that, as Son of Man, Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.

First, it is significant that Jesus calls himself the Son of Man. The background of the title, Son of Man, comes from Daniel 7. In Daniel 7, Daniel sees a vision in the heavenly realm in which the Almighty grants one like a Son of Man authority over the entire earth, including all the beast-like kingdoms of this world under the enslaving powers of evil and responsible for much of the violence upon the earth. As this vision is interpreted for Daniel, we come to find out that it is through this Son of Man that the kingdoms of this world are overtaken and given to the people of God as they come to inherit and reign over God’s creation instead of the beasts.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus identifies himself as this kingdom-conquering, history-altering Son of Man. However, he adds to it a fuller meaning than we are first introduced to in Daniel. For instance, we will come to see that, as the Son of Man, Jesus defeats the enslaving powers of this world and overcomes sin and death through giving his own life for others rather than through some brute show of force or through political calculations. But, since I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves or Mark’s story, I want to focus on what Jesus reveals about himself in this passage. And, in this passage, we see that as the Son of Man Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins.

In verse 5, when Jesus saw the faith of the four men who knew no boundaries when it came to getting their paralyzed friend to Jesus—so much so that they dug through the roof of Jesus’ house!—he proclaimed to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now, I want us to think about this for a few moments, because what Jesus did here was extraordinary. I am not sure if the average Joe in the room would have recognized what had just happened when Jesus said, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But the scribes, who knew the Scriptures well, understood exactly what had just happened. And, what Jesus did was this. He took upon himself a divine prerogative. It was God’s business and God’s alone to forgive sins, and the Jews believed that God had chosen to forgive by means of Temple, sacrifice, and priesthood. Therefore, a priest might be able to inform a person that God had forgiven one’s sins through the proper channels, but that is not what Jesus did here. As one author puts it, “Jesus utters no intercessory prayer to God for forgiveness and healing. He completely bypasses any priestly atonement ritual. . . . He is not speaking on behalf of God as if he had ‘God’s power of attorney.’ Jesus remits sin on his own authority as if he were God.”[1]

Jesus takes upon himself God’s prerogative and forgives this person’s sins, and the scribes immediately recognized the biblical and theological significance of what had just happened. These particular scribes, in this particular instance, were good students of Scripture and good theologians, but in their hardness of heart and refusal to see what was right in front of them, they came to a terrible conclusion. They realized that Jesus’ proclamation about this man’s sins meant one of two things: either Jesus was ushering in God’s kingdom, bringing the history of Israel to its climax, or Jesus was a blasphemer of the grossest kind.

The scribes knew that the Prophets had said that God’s saving reign in the last days would come through forgiveness and healing. Therefore, either God’s saving reign had come at last in Jesus, or Jesus was guilty of the worst kind of blasphemy and deserved to die. Even though Jesus proved to them conclusively in verse 11 that the former was the case rather than the latter, the scribes assumed the worst.[2]

Mark, however, does not want us to make the same mistake. Jesus the King, Son of God, and Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins because he is the very embodiment of the LORD, the God of Israel, and through him God’s saving reign that sets captives free has come to this earth. Jesus is the Son of Man. He has authority over heaven and earth. He is the one through whom God’s people come to possess and rule over God’s creation. Through him, the meek shall inherit the earth! And, for the person who has become enslaved to the powers of sin and death, he has the power to forgive sin and restore life. He has the power to forgive your sin and restore your life, if you would turn to him, today!


This brings us to the second truth that I want us to see from this passage. As the Son of Man, Jesus offers us a new way of being human. I want us to see this in the way that he brought healing and forgiveness to the paralytic, and I want to talk about what this means for each one of us today.

First, it may seem strange to us that when four determined men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus that Jesus forgave him his sins. In our minds, the man’s physical condition and his spiritual condition were two separate things. But, for Jesus’ audience and for Mark’s original readers they were connected. They recognized that the reason that people are subject to disease, death, and decay is that humanity has become enslaved to evil powers through sin. Now, at other points, Jesus brings more clarity to this truth by pointing out that one’s physical ailment may not be the direct result of one’s own sin. However, the reason that death and disease had become the rule for humans on the earth is that as a whole the human race turned against God and became enslaved to evil forces in this world. We desired our own way apart from God and God gave us over to the powers our hearts most desired. And, life apart from God inevitably leads to death.

Life in the shadows apart from the light and author of life inevitably leads to death and darkness. Therefore, in their minds, to be restored to God and to God’s family required not only physical healing, but also a solution to the root problem, sin and alienation from God. And, in this story, Jesus, the Son of Man, who has the authority on earth to forgive sin, restored this man completely by first forgiving him his sins and then healing him of his paralysis.

Humans were not meant to be enslaved to sin, to suffer from debilitating physical conditions, and to live in fear of death. Rather, we were meant to rule over the earth in fellowship with God as his image-bearing servants. Through forgiving this man his sins and restoring to him his physical health, Jesus shows us that he came to restore to people what was lost in the Fall. That is what it meant in Daniel 7 for the Son of Man to be the Son of Man. He took control of the kingdoms of this world in order to give them back to those whom they rightfully belonged, those people who had come to belong to the LORD and to reflect his good character to the world around them.

Now, what does all of this mean for us? Well, it means the same for us that it did for those in the house with Jesus almost two thousand years ago. Jesus, the Son of Man, has the authority on earth to forgive sin, and he offers to each of us a new way of being human. Each one of us was created to worship and to know God. We were created to reflect God’s goodness—his steadfast love, compassion, mercy, and faithfulness—in whatever capacity or roles in which we find ourselves. He created us to have dominion over this earth, not to be dominated by addictions, selfishness, greed, oppressive systems, disease, and death. He created us to enjoy his rest and the blessings of his kingdom forever.

And, Jesus came to redeem us from the curse that has robbed us of that purpose. His own resurrection from the dead is the sign of our resurrection and at the time of his appearing when we too will be transformed no longer to suffer from debilitating diseases or the fear of death. Jesus came to redeem us from the curse of the law by bearing in himself our transgressions and sins. He died so that we could be forgiven, cleansed, changed, and empowered finally to live out our purpose in fellowship to God and service in his kingdom.

Through the good news, God calls people everywhere to turn from their sin and to follow Jesus, the Son of Man, the one who has been given all authority over heaven and earth. He makes people whole again and gives us new life and a purpose. He reconciles us to God and empowers us by his Spirit to live lives that are pleasing to God. Jesus offers us all a new way of being human.


This brings us to the last thing that I want us to do today. I want us to think about what it means to be truly human, to live out the new life and purpose that Jesus the King has restored to us as people. I want to talk about a few general ways, and also one specific way that we find right here in this passage.

First, having our sins forgiven and becoming empowered by God’s Spirit means that we have been reconciled to God himself. We have been granted peace with God. The sin that separated us from our God and kept us enslaved to lesser powers has been dealt with once and for all, and we can approach God and worship God in freedom and confidence.

Second, having our sins forgiven and having been granted the Spirit, God calls us to live in service to him in his kingdom. In both the Old and the New Testaments, the image that the inspired writers use to describe God’s people is that of a royal priesthood and a holy nation. The Israelites were to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation. They were to bring order to God’s good creation through spreading justice and righteousness and reflecting God’s good character in all that they did. However, in the Old Testament, the Israelites worshipped idols, were enslaved to sin, and fell short of God’s glory.

In the New Testament, the inspired writers declare that something has fundamentally changed so that God’s people can now live out that purpose. Jesus’ death has freed his people from enslaving powers, forgiven their sin, and empowered them through the gift of the Spirit to live lives pleasing to God. Again, Peter borrows the terms royal priesthood and holy nation and applies them to the church—Israelites and non-Israelites who hope in Jesus the King.

Generally speaking, Jesus has made us whole—has forgiven us and empowered us—so that we can live in justice and righteousness and reflect his good character in all our roles and capacities as people who inhabit this world. God has called us to bring order to our families and communities by living as peacemakers and people who help the down and out. He has called, forgiven, and empowered us as spouses to reflect his good character in the way that we love and serve one another. He has called us as parents, employers, employees, neighbors, and business partners to mirror his patience and trustworthiness, compassion and mercy in the way that we conduct ourselves.

Finally, and this is what I want us to see from this passage as we close, he calls us, forgives us, and empowers us to be his witnesses. He invites us to be witnesses to the fact that through his death the world has changed, to be witnesses to the fact that his resurrection is proof that people can live and look forward to a better life, to be witnesses to the fact that Jesus, the Son of Man, has been given the kingdoms of this world and calls everyone everywhere to repent and believe the good news. We are called to be his witnesses, royal priesthood, and holy nation.

We are called to do what these four friends did here in this story. They demonstrated that they believed in Jesus’ authority to forgive sins and heal by means of the way in which they did not give up hope but were doggedly determined to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Do we really believe that Jesus offers our lost friends, neighbors, and family members a new way of being human? Do we really believe that he can forgive their sins and break the stranglehold of deep-rooted, paralyzing habits in their lives?

If we really believe that, then let’s be his witnesses. Let us not give up hope but continue to work to bring them to Jesus. If we have to climb up on someone’s roof and dig through to the floor, let us do so in faith that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sin, to restore life, and to set the captives free!

[1]David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 284.

[2]Ibid., 112.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.



The Compassion of Jesus the King

Sermon Pic 5.jpg

Photo by Will Cooper

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.


Leviticus 13:45-46

Mark’s gospel announces the best good news that this world has ever heard. It is the good news that God’s saving promises concerning Israel, the nations, and this world are fulfilled through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the King. We have seen that it is an ancient biography but one that is different from other ancient biographies. This is true because Mark was convinced that his subject, Jesus of Nazareth, is the most important person who has ever lived. Mark believed this and writes in this way because Jesus was not defeated by death as were all other great men but instead defeated death and the evil powers behind death, idolatry, and sin through dying. And, the proof of this truth is that he was raised from the dead.

Finally, on an individual level—and I desperately want you to get and see this as we go through Mark—Mark’s gospel announces the good news that through the work of Christ, primarily at the cross, people who turn to him and believe discover what it means to be truly human and to be truly free to live out one’s purpose on this earth—one’s purpose as a creature made in God’s image. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he reconciles people to God. He cleanses their sins, makes them holy, and empowers them by his Spirit. He restores them to fellowship with God and to service in God’s kingdom. That is what the Gospel of Mark is all about.

Now, from this passage, I want us to see an important truth about Jesus. It is that he has compassion for the marginalized. However, he is more than just compassionate. Many people have compassion for the less fortunate, but they do not have the power to do much, if anything, about it. Jesus, however, more than just having compassion, does something about the marginalization of people created in God’s image by restoring them into fellowship in God’s community. That is what I want us to see today as we look at Mark 1:40-45. Jesus demonstrated his great compassion by restoring a person that had been marginalized from Jewish society.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean. Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:40-45


There are a few things that I want to note about this story. The first concerns leprosy. Leprosy was physically shameful and culturally despised, so much so that the afflicted person was driven literally to the margins or to the desolate places of Jewish society. Leprosy was a dreadful disease to have in first century Judaism not just because of the disease itself. That was bad enough. It was a disfiguring skin disease that would have certainly caused great embarrassment, shame, and pain to the individual. However, just as bad as the physical toll that it took on an individual was the social damage that leprosy waged upon its victims.

As we saw from our Scripture reading in Leviticus (see above), the person who had a malignant form of leprosy, as this man did, was not allowed to take part in normal communal life among his fellow Israelites. Rather, he had to live outside the camp or outside the community alone in the desolate places. The reason for this, at the time in which the events of Leviticus took place, is that the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place—the place where heaven and earth met—was located in the center of the Israelite camp. And, in order for God’s people to continue to live around the dwelling place of God, nothing unclean could enter or continue in the camp. Leprosy was one of those things that defiled and caused a person to be ritually unclean. In fact, not only was the person with leprosy unclean, but also all those who came into physical contact with such a person became unclean and unfit for Israelite community as well.

That was a tough position to be in. And yet, that is exactly where this man in Mark’s story found himself. He had a depreciating skin disease, shaming and excruciating, and he had been pushed by his circumstances to the detested fringe of the first century Jewish world. He had been exiled to the desolate places.


This brings us to the next point that I want us to notice from this story. Jesus had gone to a very sketchy place or else he would have never encountered this leper. In short, what I want us to understand at this point is that Jesus goes to the desolate places to redeem marginalized people. Now, at the end of this passage, Jesus had to spend even more time in the desolate places, outside towns and communities and on the fringe because the man he healed went against Jesus’ command and openly told people about what Jesus did for him.

However, even before that occurred, Jesus himself had entered the desolate place where the marginalized and forgotten lived alone. At this point, I want to stop and note a truth that should be comforting to you. Jesus has compassion on the marginalized. We will see that illustrated in this story in just a moment. But, the very fact that the Son of God took upon human flesh and dwelt among us illustrates for us the compassion that God has, that Christ has, for the marginalized. The leper had been marginalized and exiled from Jewish society, but the fact is that all of us, no matter where we stand on the social ladder, have been exiled from God’s presence and from the kingdom of heaven.

All of us, left to ourselves, are unclean and unfit for fellowship with God and the service to God. All of us are on the outside looking into God’s community, because we have all turned to and lived in the service of idols. Let that sink in. This is not just the story about a first century leper. This is the story of each and every one of us. None of us have leprosy but each one of us has sinned and fallen short of reflecting the good character of the Creator to the world around us. Our sin and idolatry makes us unclean and unfit for fellowship with God and service in God’s family.

And yet, God the Son, the Creator of heaven and earth, took upon flesh and identified with us in the sorrow of this desolate, deformed world. He came to us because he cares about the marginalized. He has compassion on those alone and afraid. He is merciful toward those enslaved to various sins, even though the fault of that slavery is our own. In fact, Jesus’ compassion and mercy is illustrated beautifully for us in the next truth that I want you to notice from this text.


When Jesus was approached by this leper and the leper pled with him to be clean, verse 41 says that Jesus was moved with pity and that he stretched out his hand and touched him. What I want you to understand at this point is that Jesus is moved with pity toward the marginalized and is angered by that which grieves the people whom he created in his image. That Jesus was moved with pity and that he actually touched this man are points that we must not miss.

Again, Jesus had pity and compassion when he saw this leprous man. Interestingly, there is scholarly disagreement as to what pity means in this verse. There are textual variants in the available manuscripts so that we are not entirely sure whether Mark intends to say that Jesus was moved with pity or with anger. It doesn’t really matter what Mark intended to say because, on some level, the entire life and ministry of Jesus shows that both were true. Jesus was moved to pity and compassion for the marginalized or else he would not have went to desolate places to minister to lepers and outcasts. Jesus was also angry. We see this as well when Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb. That Jesus wept conveys not just that he was sad, but that he was angry as well. Jesus was angry that there are dehumanizing forces in this world that cause people to suffer and to feel alone.

If you think that God is distant and that he does not care, then realize what this passage and all the gospels are telling us. Realize and understand the uniqueness of the gospel. In Jesus, the Creator himself drew near to us. He approached us in our uncleanliness and brokenness. Heaven and earth touched in an individual, and that individual went into the desolate places. And, one reason that God the Son took upon flesh is that human suffering and a world that reflected something other than his goodness made him angry.

Shootings at airports and night clubs make God angry. Child abuse makes God angry. Death makes God angry. Jesus was angered that we live in a world in which diseases deform his image bearers and in which the people who most need community and compassion are so often driven to the margins and forgotten. Violence, disease, death, dehumanizing sin, and selfishness make God angry, and it made Jesus angry. It should make us angry. In fact, I want you to see that it made Christ angry enough and moved with enough compassion and pity that he did the unthinkable, the unimaginable.


Verse 41 says—it emphases for us so that we will not miss it—that when Jesus was moved with pity, compassion, or anger—that he stretched out his hand and touched the leper. This was strictly forbidden by Jewish law. The reason that this man was driven to live alone in the desolate places was because if someone touched him, they too would become unclean and unfit for Jewish society. You did not touch someone or something that was unclean, or else you would become unclean and unfit for community yourself. And, yet Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Please realize and understand that Jesus didn’t have to do this. We learn in the Gospels that Jesus didn’t even have to be in the same town with a person to heal them. We would say that he didn’t even have to be in the same zip code. By the power of his word, Jesus could grant life to the dead from miles away. Jesus most definitely did not have to touch this leper, but he stretched out his hand and touched him anyway.

There are two things that I want us to take away from this. First, when Jesus touched this leper we see a clear picture of the good news that Mark tells in this gospel. As one commentator puts it, “The whole of the gospel is here in a nutshell: Christ redeems us from the curse by becoming under a curse for our sake (Gal. 3:13).”[1] When Jesus went to the cross, the New Testament tells us that he went as a sacrifice for our sins to cleanse us, to make us holy, and to restore us into fellowship with God and his community. This, as we will see, is exactly what Jesus did for this man as well. Our idolatry and sin make us unclean and unfit for fellowship with God. However, by going to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sins, Jesus makes a way for us to have our sins cancelled and our lives made clean. He makes us fit for fellowship with God and life in God’s family and kingdom. Through faith in Christ and his death for us, we are reconciled to God and we are cleansed of our sin, made holy, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in service to God. We are empowered to go to the desolate places and to the marginalized just as Jesus did to help restore the broken and forgotten.

Second, and connected to the point that I just made, when Jesus touched the man, it did not cause Jesus to become unclean. Rather, it caused the leper to become clean. For any other person to have touched the leper would have caused that person to be unclean and then they both would have been unfit for first century Jewish society. However, Jesus had the opposite effect of making the man clean with his touch. Again, this is what Jesus does for us as those marginalized and exiled from God and his kingdom. For those who hope in him, Jesus restores them into fellowship with God and into God’s family. His touch makes us clean.


Finally, I want us to notice that Jesus restored this once marginalized man to full communal life. We see this in verse 44. Jesus healed him of leprosy and told him to go to the priest to make an offering for cleansing. By going to the priest and making an offering for cleansing, this man would have been restored to full communal life and participation in first century Jewish society. Jesus restored this man physically, spiritually, and socially.

Again, we should see ourselves in this story. Not leprosy, but sin separates us from God’s family and kingdom. However, Jesus restores us through his sacrificial death for us. We were all booted from God’s family and kingdom, driven to the desolate places where we became enslaved to false gods and powers, but Jesus took upon himself our transgressions. He went to the desolate places and bore the full weight of that slavery and was crushed beneath the evil powers of this world.

But, he didn’t remain in the grave. He was bruised but not beaten. Rather, he rose from the dead, proving that he had triumphed over disease, death, and the devil, and proving that he had made a way for us to be restored into fellowship with God and into the fellowship of his family. Jesus has compassion on the marginalized of this world, which in one way or another has included every single one of us!


Now, for a few moments, I want us to think about how this applies to us. First, and foremost, if you have never trusted in Christ and are still in a desolate place, without God and without hope in the world, realize that through turning from the path you are on to Jesus, you can be forgiven and restored into fellowship with God. You can join his family. You can be empowered to live in service to God in this world. You can join Christ in helping those who need the good news of restoration. So, if you’ve never hoped in Christ, my prayer is that this would be the day that you find your life in his.

Second, I want us to see in this message the importance of the church and church fellowship. Just as the leper was able to return to first century Jewish society once he was healed and cleansed, so being redeemed through faith in Christ makes us members of Christ’s family. And Christ’s family, his community, is represented on this earth in local churches. It is vitally important that if we belong to Jesus, that we belong to a local church as well. It is vital that we take part in serving together, loving one another, and bearing each other’s burdens. The church is Christ’s new community filled with people who have been restored to fellowship with God and united together in one family. We represent to this world the joys of the world to come. If you have been restored to God by Christ, then you have also been restored to his family and you need to be involved with and in that family in a local church setting.

Finally, for those of us who hope in Jesus the King, we must realize that just as Jesus restored the marginalized, so we have been called to do the same. We have been called to carry the good news and the compassion of Jesus to those who need it. And, we are not just go take the good news and our compassion to our well-off neighbors either. We are to take it even to the desolate, seemingly shady places of this world. People need the good news that Jesus restores sinners to God and to his family. They need to see the compassion that God has for them in our compassion and in our willingness to meet their needs. May we be about that business in our daily lives! Jesus has compassion on the marginalized, and as those who have been restored from the margins ourselves, we should show compassion to those who have been marginalized in our communities.

People aren’t marginalized and pushed to the edge of our communities because of leprosy but they are for other reasons. Some are pushed to the margins due to their socio-economic condition. Others are pushed to the margins either intentionally or unintentionally because they are in the minority racially from the majority of those in the community. Still, some are on the margins because of unpopular choices that they’ve made morally and socially. However, for whatever reason people find themselves on the fringe of our communities, Jesus calls us to go to them, to befriend them, and to attempt to restore them. He calls upon us to share with them and embody for them the good news—the good news that the Creator has compassion, that their lives matter to him, that he offers forgiveness and new life, and that he has redeemed a new people of compassion and restoration who welcome broken people.

[1]R. Alan Cole, Mark in TNTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1989), 119.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

A Day in the Life of the King

Sermon Pic 4

Photo by Will Cooper

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.


Isaiah 43:15


Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of your favorite celebrity would be like? Or, perhaps what a day would be like in the life of a world leader, like the president of this country or the king of some other great nation or kingdom? Perhaps you wondered what it would be like for someone for whom money is not an issue, or what it would be like for someone who commanded the attention and the respect of all their peers.

Well, in this passage, Mark shows us what a day in the life of Jesus the King looked like during his ministry in the region of Galilee. Remember, Mark’s Gospel is ancient biography similar in style to other ancient biographies but is distinct from other biographies as well. The reason it is different is that Mark was entirely convinced that the subject of his narrative is different from every other person who ever lived. He is different in that he is to be identified in a unique way with the LORD, the god of Israel, and his life demands a response from every single person.

We continue to see the things that were different about Jesus in this portrait of a day in the life of Jesus. In fact, here we see that Jesus has authority, that Jesus is the Holy One of God, and that Jesus must be received on his terms.

With that, I want you to go ahead and look at the verses that make up this passage. And, as you look at it, keep in mind that Mark is telling us about a day in the life of Jesus the Christ. We start out in verses 21-28, early on a Sabbath morning, as Jesus entered a synagogue in Capernaum—a cultural center in the region of Galilee—and began to teach. From there, in verses 29-31, we move immediately from the scene in the synagogue to a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples in a private home. Following on from that, in verses 32-34, we read that many people began to bring their sick and demon-possessed to Jesus. By this point, the Sabbath would have ended, since it only went from sundown to sundown, and people would have no longer been restrained by regulations from approaching Jesus for healing and exorcism. Finally, in verses 35-39 we are back again, 24 hours from where we started, as Jesus rises early on a Sunday morning to pray. Now that we have an idea of the timeline of this day in the life of Jesus, it’s time to look at the passage.

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. and they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everyone throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:21-39

According to Mark, this was a day in the life of Jesus the King, and from this day in the life, we see at least three truths.


First, unlike any other person who has ever lived before or since, Jesus had and has authority. Mark stresses this truth throughout this passage. Mark tells us early on in verse 22 that Jesus had authority to teach and that he taught with authority. That apparently set him apart from the scribes. While they taught the traditions and interpretations of men, Jesus taught a new message, the message that God’s word had been fulfilled in his own life. Jesus’ interpretations of Scripture and history were not the mere traditions or opinions of men, but they were the very words and thoughts of God. Jesus taught with authority.

Jesus also demonstrated authority over unclean spirits. In verses 23-26, Jesus rebuked and exorcised an unclean spirit from a man attending the synagogue, and Jesus did it by the power of his word. He commanded and the unclean spirit obeyed. In fact, the unclean spirit recognized Jesus’ authority. In verse 24, the unclean spirit identified Jesus as the Holy One of God, and he feared that Jesus might use that power to destroy him.

To a degree, the people were also aware that Jesus’ power over unclean spirits was a demonstration of great authority. In verse 27, they questioned among themselves, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Power over demonic spirits would have been significant for the people of the first century, and it is significant for us today. Jesus’ authority over demonic powers means that he has authority over the sources of chaos and disorder that still wreak havoc in this fallen world. This is a dark world with devils filled. Peter says that the devil himself roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. There are many powers that would love nothing more than to steal and kill and destroy from God’s image bearers. However, Mark assures us that Jesus has authority over them all. They can do nothing without his permission, and they are powerless before him. They can try to wreck and destroy, but Jesus can and will turn their evil into good for his people.

Finally, we see in this day in the life of Jesus that Jesus has authority over all kinds of diseases and ailments. We see this in verses 30-31 as Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. We also see this in verses 32-34 as Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases. Mark wants us to see that Jesus has great authority. He spoke the very words of God, he had power over devils, and he has power over disease and, as we will see later, even death. Jesus has authority.

Before we move on, I want us to be encouraged by this reality. We still live in a devil-filled world, don’t we? There is darkness all around us. One glance at the evening news, and it is clear that this world is still a very dangerous place. We also still live in a disease-stricken and death-ridden society. The saying still holds true that the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes! We live our daily lives in a dark world, filled with mischievous powers, harmful diseases, and the perils of death at every corner. However, we can be assured that Jesus has authority over it all.

Are you struggling with certain things right now that are bringing a great deal of stress and heartbreak to you? Are you weighed down with health issues? Are you struggling in ways that no one knows about but you and the Lord? If so, then I want you to realize today, that Jesus has all authority. He has authority over everything in this world and over everything that is going on in your life. He has authority over the strained relationships, the ailments, and the threat of death. He has authority over it, and if we belong to him through faith, then he cares for us greatly as well. For that reason, we can trust him. We can trust him that, whether he heals us or whether it’s his will that we continue to battle against what ails us for a while longer, Jesus is in control and he is working through it all for our eventual good. That may be almost impossible to see and understand now but he promises that our sufferings no matter how great are only light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us when Jesus appears from heaven (2 Corin. 4:17).

Jesus is unlike any other person who has ever lived. He has all power and authority over heaven and earth. And, if we belong to him, we can rest assured and have peace that he has nothing less than our eternal salvation in mind as he exercises his authority over the powers and the troubles in our lives. Jesus has authority!


Second, from this day in the life of Jesus, we also see that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Strangely enough, the ones who recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God were neither the crowds who heard Jesus and saw him heal nor Jesus’ disciples. Rather, it was the demons whom Jesus had come to destroy. Consider, again, verse 24. There the unclean spirit cried out before Jesus, saying, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

Jesus is the Holy One of God. I want us to pause and think for a moment about what this means. That Jesus is the Holy One reflects the idea that I have been talking about for a few sermons. Mark wants us to see that Jesus is different from every other person worthy of a biography in the ancient world. He and his life are set apart; they are holy.

That Jesus is the Holy One also reflects the first point above. Jesus has authority. He is God’s Messiah—the king of heaven and earth. He is distinct and different from all others because he has authority over devils, diseases, winds, seas, and even death.

That Jesus is the Holy One of God also points to the reality that Jesus perfectly reflects the character of the LORD, the god of Israel. In Jesus, we see exactly what it means that the LORD is gracious, compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6-7). Unlike any other person who has ever lived, Jesus reflected the image and the character of God perfectly to the world around him.

Finally, that Jesus is the Holy One of God points us again to the fact that Jesus is to be intimately identified with the LORD, Israel’s God. No other Old Testament book influenced Mark and his gospel like the prophecy of Isaiah. And, in Isaiah, Isaiah’s favorite title, or favorite way to identify the LORD, the god of heaven and earth, is by calling him the Holy One of Israel. This is also how Isaiah described the LORD after he had a vision of him in the Temple. For Isaiah, the LORD is characterized best as someone who is thrice holy (Is. 6). He is the only god, and he alone keeps his promises of salvation to his people and to the world. He plans and carries out those plans without fail.

By pointing out that Jesus is the Holy One of God, Mark is once again identifying Jesus in an intimate way with Israel’s God. He does not spell out for us the distinctions between God the Father and Jesus as the Son of God. He doesn’t give us a systematic explanation of the Trinity, but he does clue us into the fact that Jesus is to be identified intimately with the LORD, and that in Jesus, in some mysterious way, the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, had come to dwell among his creatures. Mark, in his own way declares as would Isaac Watts many centuries later that in Jesus, the mighty maker died for man the creature’s sin!

Now before we move on to the final point, I also want us to pause and think about how this applies. That Jesus is the Holy One of God means that we, as his people, should be holy as well. This was the LORD’s call to his people in the Old Testament. He called them to be holy as he is holy. The same is true for us as followers of Jesus. Peter tells us that God called us, as the church, to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation. He explains that Jesus made us a people of his own possession so that we would reflect his glory in the world (1 Pet. 2:9). And, we most reflect the glory of Christ when we live holy lives—lives set apart from unbelievers. And, we live lives set apart from others in this world, not necessarily by what we don’t do but by what we do.

Christians sometimes have the idea that holiness means not doing certain things, especially in our culture. For many, holiness means abstaining from alcohol, in spite of the fact that Jesus himself enjoyed wine and even turned water into wine at a marriage celebration. For many, holiness means deleting other actions or refusing to hang out in certain places and with certain people.

However, we will see from the life of Jesus that holiness is largely determined not by what we don’t do but by what we do. Being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect manifests itself most profoundly in the way that we treat other people. Jesus calls us to pursue holiness through treating others graciously, compassionately, and patiently and through forgiving people when they wrong us. We imitate Christ best when we abound in steadfast love and faithfulness toward others, especially to those whom we have made commitments and toward those who’ve been overlooked and discarded by the world. Jesus is the Holy One of God, and as his followers, we are to be his holy people.


Finally, the last truth I want us to see in this day in the life of Jesus is that Jesus must be received on his terms. We see this in a number of ways. First, we see it in the strange way in which Jesus made the demons remain silent. Unlike the crowds and even Jesus’ own disciples, the demons knew exactly who Jesus was. They knew that he was the Holy One of God, that he had great authority, and that his mission was to bind the evil one. However, when the unclean spirit began to announce this fact in verses 24-25, Jesus rebuked him and commanded him to be silent.

Later, in verse 34, Mark tells us again that Jesus would not permit the demons to speak because they knew who he was. He wouldn’t let them speak because they would announce this truth to the people. As we go through Mark, we will see that this is not unique to demons. Rather, when Jesus healed someone or someone identified him, he would often command them not to tell anyone.

Now, admittedly this seems strange to us. Southern Baptists encourage telling others who Jesus is, but Jesus commanded people to do the opposite. He commanded them to keep his identity as the Messiah a secret. Scholars have called this strange phenomenon the Messianic secret. Why did Jesus do this? Why was there this Messianic secret? The best explanation seems to be that Jesus kept his identity a secret in certain areas and at certain times because he wanted to correct misconceived ideas about what it meant to be the Messiah.

People in the first century had one idea about what the promised King should be, and Jesus had another. Therefore, Jesus wanted to show them who the Messiah was and what he had come to do rather than announce from the beginning that he was the One. He announced that the time had come and that God’s kingdom had drawn near, but then proceeded to show them what that meant rather than allow them to crown him as king. He wanted them to know that he had come to serve rather than to be served. He wanted them to understand that he had come to suffer the cross before he accepted the crown.

Jesus kept his identity as the Messiah a secret, because he demands to be accepted on his terms rather than on our terms. The disciples learned this the hard way in verses 35-39. There, when they searched and found Jesus, they encouraged him to return to the crowds. The disciples also had misconceptions about what the Messiah would be. They had hopes that following Jesus would reward them with fame, power, and honor, and, to a degree, that was finally happening in Capernaum. News about Jesus’ great authority spread. Crowds were coming out to meet him, not necessarily for the right reasons, but they were coming out to him nonetheless. So the disciples got excited and wanted him to return from the privacy of prayer and back into the limelight of his newfound fame. They wanted Jesus to embrace the spotlight, but Jesus had another plan.

Jesus didn’t come for immediate popularity from people who wanted him on their terms rather than on his. Rather, Jesus came to announce the good news of God’s kingdom and to defeat death and the devil by dying. He came to call true worshippers, who would worship him in spirit and in truth. So, he told the disciples that they would not be returning to Capernaum at that moment, but would go on to the next towns in the region of Galilee.

Again, what all this shows us is that Jesus must be received on his terms. Jesus didn’t come to give us health, wealth, and prosperity in this present age. He came to call us to follow him. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him as we seek to do God’s will in this dangerous world. Then, only after we’ve taken up the cross does he promise us a crown. We must come to Jesus on his terms. We don’t come to Jesus and demand our problems fixed or that he give us immediate health and riches.

Rather, we come to Jesus and we surrender our lives to his. We find our stories in his story. And, for those who do that—who take up the cross—he promises a far greater reward in the end than anything else that we could possibly think or imagine right now. We are not to remake Jesus or demand from Jesus. Rather, we are to receive him on his terms and follows his commands. And, what we will find if we do follow him is that his plans for us are much sweeter in the long run than the plans and hopes that we have for ourselves.

What was a day like in the life of the greatest person who ever lived? It was a little bit of what we might expect. He taught with great authority. He exercised great authority over devils and diseases. People were amazed and flocked to him. However, it was a bit different as well. He did not embrace the spotlight or the crown. Rather, he marched forward toward the cross. He lived to serve, to do the Father’s will, and to sacrifice for the people whom he had come to save. May we trust in him and his authority! And, may we seek to follow him in holiness, service, and love!

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.