When the Work Bell Rings

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

February 7, 2021
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Scripture reading – Mark 1: 29-39

In American culture and in American history, it has been common to use a bell to summon the people for some task.  When the bell rings at a school, students need to be in their classrooms and ready to learn.  When the bell tolls in the church belfry, it is time for worship to begin.  A clanging bell, often done just outside a kitchen door, lets everyone know within earshot that supper is ready (and you have better move it if you want first choice of the good stuff!).  Bells can be used to gather a small town for a meeting or to alert everyone of an emergency.

And, of course, in some places, a work bell is still used to call workers to their daily tasks.

The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark could be considered the work bell ringing for Jesus of Nazareth to begin his ministry.  Look at what has happened in just the first 29 verses:

  • John the Baptist prepped the people;
  • John the Baptist publically baptized Jesus;
  • Jesus was tested in the desert for 40 days;
  • Jesus began preaching in his hometown area of Galilee… sort of a warm-up act, you might say;
  • Jesus lined up his early staff: Peter, Andrew, James, and John;
  • Jesus did his first official preaching in the nearby bigger city of Capernaum, where his work was positively received; casting out that demon while in church may have assisted his message somewhat;
  • Jesus spent some time demonstrating his power over demons and his healing abilities;
  • Jesus went on a mini-retreat alone to prepare himself for the work ahead;
  • Jesus announced to his staff that his work was about to officially begin; he did then when he told them, “…for this is what I came out to do.”

Now the work of Jesus Christ began in earnest.

Once it did, notice how Jesus’ worked and how that same work calls us today…

First of all, Jesus came to do proper work – not to just draw a crowd or to impress anyone.  Note that Jesus’ healings were never done to surprise or amaze the crowds as simple conjuring tricks might do even today; Jesus’ healings were done out of a heartfelt concern for the people and out of an unshakable obedience to the will of the Father.  There was no other motivation present in his miracles.  Also, notice that all of Jesus’ healings and his casting out of demons didn’t just happen; rather, they came out of a personal relationship that Jesus formed with the individual he was helping.  It also occurred because of their faith in him.  Jesus didn’t wave his arms and cure the whole crowd at once…remember all the wonderful, incredible stories of who he healed and more importantly HOW he healed the: one or a few at a time, with personal attention, and faith, of course.

Jesus demonstrated that his work began when he was fully prepared and ready to go.  We have little written in the Gospels about his early life; we can only speculate, except for two birth narratives from Matthew and Luke, and once when he was 12 years old and was accidentally left behind at the Temple in Jerusalem.  What about his teen years?  What about his 20’s?  Did he travel?  Did he study with experts in some far-off place?  At what point did his earthly father, Joseph, die and leave Jesus as the head of his family?  Did Jesus and his mother, Mary, ever plan his future?  We just don’t know – but it’s interesting and challenging to speculate further with any degree of accuracy. 

But whatever Jesus did in his early life, once we was fully prepared, he began his work.

Another aspect of the work of our Lord was the quality in which he worked.  Notice that each time he entered a synagogue to teach, it was written that the people were very impressed – and even amazed – at his skill.  We also get a humorous side note about the rest of the teachers of the Law who were supposedly doing the work of the Lord when they preached; it was said that Jesus taught with “wisdom and authority” and not like the scribes did.  Ouch!  The experts of the day were no match in their teaching ability when compared to the greatest Teacher of all time – Jesus Christ.

Another aspect of the quality of his work is shown in the different healings Jesus performed.  Notice that Jesus wasn’t just good at one type of healing, such as fevers or the mute or blindness or deafness or leprosy or paralysis or even the lame; Jesus didn’t specialize in just one area like our current doctors and healers do today.  Jesus silenced and cast out demons that frightened the people and tortured the ones possessed.  Jesus healed the woman who had bled for 12 years without being aware he had even healed her.  In short, Jesus cured EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that afflicted the people.  This made his work unusual, miraculous, and very, very good.  

This quality work that Jesus did was straightforward because Jesus had the skill, the knowledge, and especially the powerfully faith to do the healings properly.  And through these healings, Jesus revealed the loving, merciful face of God.

Finally, Jesus kept his focus on his primary goal: to bring the Good News to the people, to prepare them for the Kingdom of God, to save them all.  Along the way, we get all the stories of the other work that Jesus also did – his travels, his almost daily confrontations with the religious experts of his day who questioned him at every turn, the miracles of walking on water and raising of Lazarus, the transfiguration, his lessons and parables, his betrayal, arrest, trial, execution, and all the rest.  In fact, because of the content of the four Gospels, today’s theologians are virtually unanimous in their opinion that Jesus Christ came to earth for three reasons:

  1. To heal the sick;
  2. To cast out demons;
  3. And to preach the Good News.

However, those same theologians – and perhaps most of us too – believe that his true work was to preach the Good News.  Jesus never lost that obedience to the Father and remained true to his ultimate goal throughout his entire body of work.

So it can be said that when the work bell rang, Jesus of Nazareth was ready to begin the work his Father in Heaven had called him to do.  And although that same work bell doesn’t ring for any of us, what are we being called to do?

Do you have a skill that could help others?

Do you have an idea that just needs a little energy to get going?

Do you have a call to start something that could truly serve others and not just yourself…or your specific interests?

Is there a bell ringing somewhere deep in your soul compelling you to get up and get to work?

For many Christians, these are questions they wrestle with every day.

For others, the bell rings – and the Master waits to see who will get to work.