31 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.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. . . . They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. . . . 4 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.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 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. Today, we see that, when God becomes King, new creation comes and restoration results.
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.”
WHEN GOD BECOMES KING, NEW CREATION COMES AND RESTORATION RESULTS
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.
IF JESUS IS MY KING, WHY DO I STILL SUFFER?
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.
GOD’S KINGDOM IS TO CONTINUE TO BE SEEN AND FELT TODAY THROUGH HIS PEOPLE
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 restore 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!
The sermon I’m referring to about God’s reign and the problem of racism will be posted in a month or two.
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).
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.