During their drug-fueled psychedelic phase, the Beatles recorded an album titled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. One of the songs was “A Day in the Life.”
John Lennon wrote the first and last verses. Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics for the bridge as he recalled his teenage years of being late to school and daydreaming during class.
“Woke up, fell out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head.
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat;
Made the bus in seconds flat; Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”
The song ended with an E-major chord played on four pianos simultaneously—the chord was sustained for 40 seconds by increasing the recording volume.
If someone followed you around for 24 hours, would it be something you could write about? In our passage today, we’re going to follow Jesus for 24 hours. What He did and said in that day was so significant that they wrote a book about it. You could say the Bible is the all-time best-selling book of history, but millions of Bibles are given away. This past year, The Gideons placed two Bibles every second in rooms of hospitals, hotels, schools and prisons. The Gideons don’t want you to steal the towels from the hotel room, but they don’t mind if you take the Bible. They’ll just replace it. The Bible is the most widely distributed book of all history—of where there’s an estimated 6.1 billion copies today.
They all tell the story of Jesus. Let’s look at our text and learn about a day in the life of the Lord (Mark 1:21-35).
What is life all about? One of my favorite movie lines comes from Billy Crystal, who starred in City Slickers in 1991. He played a bored advertising executive who comes to speak to his son’s class about what he does for a living. Instead, he launches into his commentary of a dull life: “Kids, value this time in your life, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your 20s are a blur. Your 30s, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, ‘What happened to my 20s?’
“Your 40s, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your 50s you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your 60s you have a major surgery, the music is still loud, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway.
“Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale; you start eating dinner at 2, lunch around 10, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering, ‘How come the kids don’t call?’ By your 80s, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse, who your wife can’t standm but who you call ‘Mama.’ Any questions?”
Life is more than just moving through the decades. Jesus came so you might have life and live it to the fullest. Let’s follow Him for a day, and you’ll find four points of connection with Him.
Identify with Jesus in Church
The Bible says, “When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.” The Jewish Sabbath began on Friday at sunset. That’s when families gathered for a Shabbat meal. They attended the synagogue on Saturday morning. So we see that on that Saturday morning, Jesus attended the synagogue. The word synagogue means “to gather together.” The Temple still existed in Jerusalem, and that’s where the main worship took place.
There were hundreds of synagogues where Jews could gather to read the Torah and talk about Scripture. I’ve stood many times on the ruins of a synagogue in Capernaum. It was a large building that could have held 200 or 300 people. The men and women were separated. The men sat downstairs and the women sat in a balcony.
By this time, Jesus already had a reputation as a gifted teacher, so it would have been His custom to stand and read a portion of the Old Testament. Then He would sit and proceed to teach. We need to follow Jesus’ example. On the Lord’s Day, we should gather with God’s people to worship and study His Word, as well. There are two ways you can recognize a church where Jesus is present.
Hearing God’s Word Is Essential
The people were amazed that Jesus spoke with such authority. Most rabbis quoted other rabbis who had quoted other rabbis before them. Jesus said, “This is what God says.” He spoke the very Word of God. At His home synagogue, He had opened the scroll of Isaiah, reading about the coming of the Messiah, and said, “Today this teaching is fulfilled in your midst.” Jesus wasn’t just another prophet in a long line of prophets. He was the Messiah. In every church where Jesus is present, the Bible is always the central focus.
Members of Green Acres have visited other churches came back to tell me, “Pastor, nobody even took their Bibles to church there, and the pastor didn’t read a Bible. He quoted a couple of verses during his talk, but he never opened his Bible.”
It is by design that within 60 seconds of standing up I always say these words, “Open your Bibles…” Green Acres is a church built on the Word of God. That is true spiritually, but did you know it is also true physically?
More than 15 years ago, when we were building this worship center, the construction company drilled dozens of deep holes for the concrete pilings that would provide the stability for the foundation of this building. One day, we had a little dedication ceremony in the construction mud. I took my college preaching Bible, a Scofield Reference Bible, and lovingly wrapped it inside a couple of plastic bags. We stood near the hole directly beneath this platform, and we lowered the Scofield Bible into the hole. Then they filled it in with concrete. So this building literally is built on the Word of God. This fellowship is spiritually built on the Word of God.
Seeing God’s Power Is Inspiring
That Saturday, something unusual happened at Jesus’ church. A man under the control of an evil spirit jumped up and started to shout at Jesus. Can you imagine how that disrupted church?
These nice respectable Jewish men and women were accustomed to quiet and reverence in their gatherings. Suddenly a man jumped up and started screaming, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
From the very beginning, demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and they trembled because they knew they would be destroyed. Jesus commanded the demon to be silent and leave the man. The man started shaking, and with a final scream, the demon departed. The people were astonished that Jesus had authority to command evil spirits.
Mark records more demon stories per page than any of the other three gospel writers. Demons are real. There are evil entities at work in our world and can’t be explained simply as sinful human nature.
Dr. Paul Tournier was a famous Swiss physician and author who saw the connection between physical and spiritual in sickness. He wrote: “There are many doctors, who in their struggle against disease, have had, like me, the feeling that they were confronting not something passive, but a clever and resourceful enemy” (A Doctor’s Casebook in the Light of the Bible).
If you haven’t seen the movie The Son of God, I encourage you to see it. It is an expansion of the Bible series that was on the History Channel a couple of years ago. Those who see the movie notice Satan is not seen. When asked about it, producer Roma Downey responded by saying when the miniseries came out, some people claimed the character portraying Satan resembled President Obama. There was a global media response to the character of Satan.
She and her husband, Mark Burnett, had hoped people would be talking about Jesus, but instead they were talking about the character playing Satan. Roma said she thought that was the real Satan’s attempt to draw attention to himself and away from Jesus. So before the movie was released, Roma said, “It gives me great pleasure to tell you the devil is on the cutting room floor. This is now a movie about Jesus, and the devil gets no more screen time, no more distractions.”
Satan is real. He has a mobilized, demonized army to carry out his plan to kill, steal and destroy. However, Jesus defeated the devil at the cross, and we already know the final outcome. We win! Remember, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Invite Jesus into Your Home
What did they do when church was over? They had Sunday lunch, except it was Saturday. The Bible says, “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew…the fever left her and she began to wait on them.” Peter was married, although we never learn his wife’s name. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever, and Jesus healed her. (Some have said that’s why Peter later denied the Lord three times—I’m not one of them.)
The purpose of this visit was to share a meal and have fellowship. Peter and Andrew invited Jesus into their home. It wasn’t a long walk; Capernaum was a small city. The distance from the synagogue to Peter’s house was about 150 feet.
Do you invite Jesus to be the honored Guest in your home? I’ve known some church members who seem to leave Jesus at church when they go home. Six days a week, they have a different attitude and use a different vocabulary; but on Sunday, they dress up and act holy and religious. Sometimes families can be fussing and fighting with each other in the car on the way to church, and then they pull into the parking lot, see other church members, and say, “Oh, good morning! Praise God! Isn’t this a wonderful day? God bless you!” For an hour or two, they wear their Christian masks; but when they get back home, they take off their Christian masks along with their Sunday clothes, and say, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over for another week!”
The Bible has a word for that: hypocrisy. I should know because for several years when I was in high school I was a prime example of a hypocrite. I put on my clip-on tie and attended church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. I sang in the choir, and everybody thought I was a model Christian. During the week, on the football field and in the halls of the high school, I had a different vocabulary and didn’t act very Christian. My faith was as phony as my clip-on tie.
Are you brave enough to invite Jesus into your home and allow Him to be a part of your family? I heard Len Sweet speak at a conference in Orlando. He said the greatest tragedy among Christian families is that we’ve lost the table time. Instead of families sitting down and talking together at a meal, everyone is eating on the run, playing on their devices or watching television. He said that top universities in American have discovered the greatest predictor of academic success for students is: “How many times a week do you eat at home with your family?” For students who say two or more times a week, those students will be the most successful.
Jewish families have a wonderful tradition at Seder, which is Passover. They set an extra place setting for Elijah. There’s silverware, a cup and a plate, but the chair is empty. They believe Elijah one day is going to come to announce the Messiah, so they want to have a place for him to sit if he shows up.
That’s a brilliant idea. Moms and dads, why don’t you set a place for Jesus at your dinner table some night? Pull up and extra chair, and put out a plate and glass. You don’t have to wait for Jesus to show up—He’s already there if you’ve invited Him into your home. Just talk to Jesus naturally as you would any other guest of honor.
Jesus wants you to invite Him into your home. We often misquote this verse to someone who wants to receive Jesus, but it is actually about Jesus entering our church and home to fellowship with us. Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). When you invite Jesus into your home and family, it really makes a difference. It will make a difference in your marriage. Sometimes statistics can be misleading. I’ve often said 72.4 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Yet there are some misleading statistics about divorce among Christian couples. Perhaps you’ve read the divorce rate among Christians is the same as it is among non-Christians. That’s misleading because it depends on how you define a Christian couple. Many people call themselves Christian, but they seldom attend church or take their faith seriously.
Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, dug deeper into this issue. Of those who claim to be Christians but seldom attend church, the divorce rate is roughly 60 percent. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. In families where prayer and Scripture are shared every day, the divorce rate plummets to 19 percent. Invite Him into your home.
Introduce Hurting People to Jesus
The Bible says, “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.” Sunset on Saturday would have been the end of the Sabbath. Of course, nobody had watches, so the people waited until they could count three stars in the sky to know Shabbat had ended. People had heard about the power of Jesus, and they anxiously were waiting for the time when they wouldn’t violate the Sabbath by carrying their loved ones to meet Jesus.
Notice there was a difference between those who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. Those were two different categories. Some people see a demon lurking behind every illness. They think every sniffle, hiccup or illness is the evidence of demonic activity. In college, I knew a guy, who would say, if you hiccupped, “Demon of hiccups, come out of him!” It didn’t work—obviously—he said because I didn’t have enough faith. The last I heard, that guy was no longer in the ministry. Demons are real, but they aren’t the reason for every illness and weakness we face. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons.
In the last message, we talked about Jesus calling Andrew and Peter to follow Him and become fishers of men. They weren’t strangers to Jesus. They already had met Him. In John’s Gospel, we read that it was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus for an initial introduction. “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ), and he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-42). Andrew always was bringing people to Jesus. He was the one who brought the little boy with five loaves and two fish to Jesus. In John 12:20-22, there were some Greeks who asked about Jesus. Andrew took them and introduced them to Jesus.
Andrew wasn’t one of the most important disciples. He was content to be in the background and just introduce people to Jesus. Would you be willing to be an Andrew? Have any of you ever heard of Edward Kimball? In 1855, Edward Kimball walked into a men’s shoe store in Boston and told a young shoe salesmen about Jesus Christ. That shoe salesman gave his heart to Christ. His name was Dwight L. Moody, and he because an evangelist who preached to thousands. Today, there is a Moody Bible Institute, Moody Church and Moody Publishers in Chicago.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Grady Wilson. As a teenager, Grady had a friend who was struggling with what to believe. In 1934, Grady took his friend to hear an evangelist from Kentucky named Mordecai Ham. During that meeting, this lanky teenager from North Carolina gave his heart to Jesus. His name was Billy Graham.
Do you have a friend or loved one who is hurting and struggling? I encourage you to bring him or her to Jesus. You can bring anyone to Jesus in your prayers. You can bring anyone to Jesus by bringing him or her to the body of Christ—the church.
Imitate Jesus in Prayer
So we’re at the 24-hour mark, and it’s before sunrise on the day after the Sabbath. The Bible says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”
Some people think the way you get to heaven is by imitating the life of Jesus, but we can’t imitate every part of Jesus’ life. He was sinless. We can’t replicate that, but there is one area of His life we should try to model—His prayer life.
The disciples heard Jesus preach, but never said, “Lord, teach us to preach.” They saw Him heal, but they never asked, “Lord, teach us to heal.” The one thing they asked was, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus led a busy life. The key word in Mark’s gospel is immediately, which appears more than 40 times. He was always in action. Yet though He was busy redeeming the world, Jesus saw the value of setting aside a time to be alone with His Father in prayer. There are 17 different accounts of Jesus praying in the four gospels. He often sought solitude for His prayers. We read, “Immediately, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone” (Matt. 14:22-23).
The best way to start your day is by spending time alone with God; 90 percent of your personal, spiritual and relational problems would see amazing improvement if you devoted the first 20 or 30 minutes of your day alone with God. Of course, you can pray anywhere at any time. You can pray while you’re driving—just be sure not to close your eyes. You can pray while you’re exercising or working. There is great value in spending time alone with God and doing nothing except communing with Him in His Word and in prayer.
All religions pray; but in most religions, there’s no intimacy, just religious duty. Devout Muslim men kneel and pray five times a day, but their prayers are simply memorized recitations they repeat again and again.
For those of us who know Jesus, prayer is a conversation with our Creator. We speak to Him in prayer, and He speaks to us through His Word. I have used this as a model for my life and ministry since I was in college. I have tried to maintain a consistent quiet time with God in prayer in the morning. There’s nothing wrong with having your quiet time at night before you go to bed, but at the end of the day you may find yourself looking back at the mistakes you made. It’s like studying for a test after you’ve taken it!
I went out to the shore of the Sea of Galilee a few weeks ago to have my quiet time there. I had a strong sense that Jesus had walked on that particular part of the shore. It was an awesome experience. I really sensed His presence there. Yet this week, I went into my study one morning, opened God’s Word, and spent time in prayer. I felt the same presence of Jesus there with me that I did in Israel! Your quiet time isn’t about a place, but about a Person—Jesus.
Years ago, The Imperials recorded a song about the importance of having a morning quiet time. The lyrics were from a poem written by Ralph Cushman titled “The Secret.” I still love the words:
“I met God in the morning, When my day was at its best,
And His presence came like sunrise, Like a glory in my breast.
All day long His presence lingered; All day long He stayed with me;
And we sailed in perfect calmness, O’er a very troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered, Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them, Brought to us a peace and rest.
Then I thought of other mornings, With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings, With His presence left behind.
So I think I know the secret, Learned from many a troubled way;
You must seek Him in the morning, If you want Him through the day.”
Are you following Jesus? Then you’ll be identifying with Him in church, inviting Him into your home, introducing hurting people to Him, and imitating Him in prayer.