Let me start with an impromptu survey- How many of you belong to a social media site? We tend to be experts in following or being followed, it is a part of our cultural makeup, creating a brave new world- where some are even networking before they know how to tie their own shoes, or posting before they are potty trained. One mom said of her 1 year old’s Instagram account, “I think everything my son does is cute…but, I didn’t want him to hijack my page.” Another mom said that her daughter by 18 months had a solid 72 followers and had over 69 posts on her page.
What’s amazing is how widespread social networking is, right now there are about 2,351,180,025 people who to one degree or another spend part of their existence following the lives of those around them. The stats are surprising, social media crossing over barriers with both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and increasing old—we are all following someone, something, a life defined more and more by tweets and tumblers, pins and posts.
Today, as we continue in our series- MARK MY WORDS, seeing Jesus in action through the Gospel of Mark, we come to the heart of following in Mark 3:7-12. So far in the Gospel, Jesus has done a lot: multiple miracles which have multiplied the crowds, made claims of divinity, and eluded the religious leader intent on killing him. It is as Jesus withdrew from the crowds, that the different ways people followed then are revealed and the best way for us to respond today is made clear..
Let’s jump into our text beginning with the CURIOUS—in verse 7-8, 10: 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon…10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.Maybe we could call these people Twitter-Followers—twitter allows you to follow people you want to, as long as they are funny, engaging, insightful, and captivating, providing tasty morsels to our curious appetite. In the same way, the curious follower of Jesus has heard about the engaging touch which heals the paralyzed or deformed, they have heard rumors of captivating power—some have probably lived their whole live in pain—willing to go anywhere, see anyone—if only it would bring relief and so they came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, but even further from the Gentile world, they were curious if what Jesus did for others could be done for them…they start pushing in on Jesus—wanting a product instead of a person. Most of the people looked at the Messiah as a get out of Jail Free Card over the Romans, when God was offering more than a product; he was offering His very presence!
It reminds me of a website I came across building up to the largest shopping day in the United States: Black Friday. The site has the morbid title: Black Friday Death Count—recounting over the last few years the number of people killed or injured in the hunt for a product: we are up to 7 deaths and 98 serious injuries. Maybe you’ve risked life and limb going out on Black Friday, people camped outside the door as the clock ticks down, people pushing in on the door, like a bomb ready to explode—I remember going to Walmart on Black Friday once with a friend, not to shop, but to watch others shop, and it was intense…little old ladies turn into fire-breathing monsters, carts go from holder to bumper car. The Los Angeles Police Commander went so far as saying, “For some people, shopping is a competitive sport. But it should not be a contact sport.”
The irony is that many of those products we get in the madness, end up forgotten within days, months, or years —but as the people pushed into Jesus they revealed the same truth, we tend to stop thinking when we are pursuing a product (we are on a mission), and we are forced to think when we are pursuing a person. Being curious isn’t bad but when we want a product more than a person we sell ourselves short missing the true prize of relationship with God. A product we just buy, not a ton of thought goes into it, but a relationship we have to develop. Think about some of the crazy stuff you might have done or lengths you might have gone to win over your spouse—you got to know them, you studied them, eventually you came to love them and be loved by them. That is what Jesus desires—more than just knowing who he is and trying to get what he offers, he desires that we come to know love and love God. A personal relationship over a lifeless product— Hebrews 6:20—captures one way Jesus shows his love for us—- “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” As we are in relationship with him, he brings us into relationship with God the Father—as an OT priest made a sacrifice for the sins of the people, Jesus forever allowed himself to be sacrificed for the sins of all people.