The Spousal Love of the Servant King – Mark 2:18-22
Recently Jenny and I had the chance to watch The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins lives a quiet, peaceful life in his comfortable hole at Bag End. Bilbo lives in a hole because he is a hobbit—one of a race of small, plump people about half the size of humans, with furry toes, big bellies and a great love of good food and drink. Bilbo is quite content at Bag End…but one day his comfort is shattered by the arrival of the old wizard Gandalf, who persuades Bilbo to set out on an adventure with a group of thirteen militant dwarves. Together, they embark on a great quest to reclaim their treasure from the greedy dragon Smaug. The dwarves are very skeptical about Gandalf’s choiceand Bilbo is terrified to leave his comfortable life to seek adventure.”
Bilbo ends up experiencing more than he ever hoped to experience. At one point, he’s lost in the tunnels all alone and Bilbo is talking to himself, “‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
This is in essence what it means to be a follower of Christ. Christianity in the early church was never something you signed up for. It was never something you decide to take up one day. It is an adventure that finds you. You don’t take it up. It takes you up. Like Bilbo Baggins, we live in our own comfortable world, a hole really, until we meet Jesus the Great King who just says, “Follow me.” It sounds simple, but what actually ends up happening is a roller coaster ride where everything we knew is blown up, our old ideas about life and people gets shattered, our ideas about who Jesus was gets shaken up and many times we find our hearts going “a patter and a pitter.”
This is what we’ve been seeing in our journey through the Gospel of Mark in our series called “The Servant King.” When He shows up, everything changes! As a King, we have seen His power and authority at work. But as a SERVANT King, we have also seen His love, tenderness and willingness to go to all kinds of lengths to melt our hearts and bring us self-proclaimed mini self-Sovereigns who refuse to bow to Him to come willingly under His rule in our lives. As a King, He comes to rule, but as a Servant, He comes to restore.
Not everyone is happy that the King is here, however. The religious people keep getting angry with the Servant King because this Servant King does not play under their rules. They thought they knew what it meant to have a relationship with God and they had their routines and rituals, only to find this Servant King messing it all up! He’s always hanging out the wrong crowd. He’s always saying things He’s not supposed to (like forgiving sins).
Today we are going to look at what it means to have a relationship with this Servant King. Is this King who is just about obeying and keeping the rules and don’t want you to have any fun? Is this a Master who will cripple you when you fail with a disgusted look on his face? What does it mean to know this Servant King? Only one point to unpack for us. To know the Servant King means:
To experience an all-consuming, deeply joyful spousal love(vv.18-22)
We find in the beginning of this section that we have religious people doing some religious things. These religious people are wondering why this religious so-called Messiah is not doing what their religious things.
The three main pillars of Judaism were prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.The only regular fast prescribed in the OT law is that of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).That was once a year on Yom Kippur. You would confess your sin as you mourned over them in repentance.There were voluntary fasts people could do, if they wanted and most of the time people did it when there was tragedy, crisis or loss of some kind. That’s because how can you eat when that stuff is happening?
However, by Jesus day, the once a year fast turned into twice a week fast (Luke 18:12). The Pharisees would fast every Monday and Thursday from dawn to sunset. And they loved showing people they were fasting. Pastor Kent Hughes adds,“They actually whitened their faces, put ashes on their heads, wore their clothes in shoddy disarray, refused to wash, and looked as [pitiful] as possible. You could not be spiritual unless you were uncomfortable.”Jesus was not anti-fasting. He himself fasted in Luke 4:2. In Matthew 6, He says, “When you fast,” assuming you are fasting. Fasting is good discipline to focus your energies on the Lord and seek the Lord. Piper calls a “hunger of a homesickness for God.”But Jesus was against fasting for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time (like at a wedding feast), like to impress people and impress God.
As they are walking around with growling stomachs and gloomy faces, they notice that Jesus and His disciples are having parties everywhere with the wrong crowd. Author Mark Horne says that Jesus virtually was roaming around Palestine like he had a dinner club in which He was inviting people to attend.
So they go up to Jesus and basically tell him, “ Are you feasting when you should be fasting? Obviously no one should take you seriously because you are definitely not as close to God as we are.” They already saw Him heal on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-28) and now they’re wondering, “Is this rabbi going to reject the traditions of our faith?
In typical Jesus style, He answers their question with a question. He basically says, “Fasting is not appropriate at all times. Who would fast when there’s a wedding? Certainly not the groomsmen when they are with the bridegroom. They should be feasting not fasting!” Weddings usually lasted a week in Jesus day and He’s saying, “It’s like a non-stop wedding feast when you are with me.”
And by saying this Jesus is saying, “I’m the Bridegroom.” The Jews knew in the OT God often talked about Himself being the husband and His people were the bride. Now Jesus shows up and says, “That’s me. If you want to know what this Servant King is like, I’m a bridegroom and if you want to know what it means to be a Christian, it’s like a wedding feast.”
Then Jesus switches metaphors. To help them understand further, he uses images they would understand. He says that it would not be a good idea to take a piece of new cloth and sew it on an old garment. The reason being, “when washed, the new patch will shrink, causing a tear in both the garment and the patch.He uses another example. In those days, skins of goats would be used to store wine because the skins were elastic and strong, perfect for wine that ferments and expands. However, after a while, the wineskins get old and they get dry and brittle having already been stretched to capacity from previous wine. The pressure of the new wine would cause it to burst and the wine and wineskin would be ruined.
The Jewish religion is like an old wineskin or an old garment. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s old and its use is over. John Macarthur says, “Their rituals and ceremonies are a worn-out old garment and you cannot patch the holes in it with a piece of the gospel. It’s not compatible. Jesus didn’t come with a message to patch up the old system. He came with a message to replace it all together.” Similarly, you can’t pour the Gospel into structures that cannot hold it. You need new structures that can hold new life. It’s like trying to install new software that is not compatible with old computers and old operating systems. You’ll end up with a blue screen. Lots of churches have structures where you cannot hold the Gospel anymore. We must continue to be flexible to let the Gospel grow in our church or the same thing will happen to us. Jesus says, “I didn’t come to reform Judaism. I came to revolutionize it.” He didn’t come to fix up old hearts, but to give us brand new ones!What does this mean for us? A relationship with the Servant King is:
This means that God must enter our lives as a spouse or we lose the heart of Christianity. What is God saying, “I don’t want to be an abstract theory to you. I don’t want to be your spare tire when you get in trouble. I don’t want to be your employer, giving you a check for your hard work, but I want to be married to you.”
Jesus wants to be the center of our lives. When I first met Jenny, I was working part-time at Moody Publishers in their warehouse, moving books and carrying boxes all day. We just started getting to know each other. I remember coming home one afternoon from the job, just really tired. I flopped into bed, trying to get in a quick nap when the phone rings.
It was Jenny. Half drowsy, I picked up the phone and she says, “Hi!” and starts going on about her day. I didn’t hear any of it and all I could say was, “Do we have to talk all the time?” I then hear a click and the dial tone. It started hitting me that being married will mean it’s going to take over your whole life. I can’t be married and live like a bachelor. That’s like pouring new wine into old wineskins. But the spousal love of Christ is like new wine that fills and expands and permeates everything!
Marriage affects everything! It’s no longer “me.” It’s now “we.” And when we had our daughter it became “she.” Your spouse ends up living with you and then sharing your bank account, your bathroom and even taking over your bed. You can’t even make decisions without consulting them. That’s exactly what it means to be a Christian. In other words, “There is no part of your life that must not relate to me. Every single part of your life, every area of your life, has to be brought in line with me.”You not only give everything you have. You also give over everything you are.
Jesus would say, “Don’t treat me like a roommate who you see in the mornings and don’t treat me like a secretary whose job is to serve you and get you stuff. I want you to know my spousal love.” The deeper we see His spousal love, the more our prayers are about adoring Him then petition, asking him for things. You pray to get God than to get His stuff because you are amazed at His beauty. As Jonathan Edwards said, religious people find God useful, but Christians find him beautiful for who He is in himself.
Jesus is also teaching us that the Christian life is a life of joy. We are desperately looking for joy. A lot of people think Christianity is anti-joy. You come to church and do a lot of rituals and stuff and your mom flicks you if you are goofing off. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t watch or go with girls who do. So people think if I become a Christian, they’ll wrap me up like a mummy and I won’t be able to breathe. If that’s what you think God is after, you missed it.
It’s fascinating to me that the first miracle Jesus does when He shows up is make wine for sad people at a wedding in John 2. He came bringing joy! Remember on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down in Acts 2, the disciples were accused of drunkenness. I don’t think this means they were acting like fools, but I think a joyful fearlessness took over them.
But we are all deeply looking for joy. There seems to be a joy shortage. Tim Keller says, “When you first fall in love, when you first get married, when you first enter your chosen professional field, when you first taste a little professional success, when you first find that little getaway, when you first think about the possibility of finding a summer place … When you first start these new things, you feel like, “This is going to be it.” It never delivers. The desires, the feelings fade even as you grasp these things. We are like little children chasing bubbles left with a handful of emptiness.
When it fails, we blame. We blame the thing. “The reason I’m not happy is I need a new spouse. I need a new mate. I need new scenery. I need a new psychiatrist. I need a new job. I need a new career.” A lot of people just spend all their time just doing revolving psychiatrists, revolving careers, revolving mates, revolving partners, or revolving businesses. You blame things.” Or you blame yourself and become hopeless or you blame God because He didn’t deliver. We are like people at that wedding feast. Our wine has run out. We are all drinking stale water out of cups with holes when we run to these things.
It’s like eating candy before dinner. There is a buzz you get, but you are full and cannot crave a true feast. Running after these things gives you a similar buzz, but when it runs out, God stands offering us true satisfaction and delight.
So Jesus coming to this feast is announcing, “I am the Lord of the feast! There is a joy shortage and I am here to supply it! I want to make my joy run deep in your heart and when it runs deep, it will overflow and run wide.”
But He’s also saying something else. When God calls Himself a husband in the OT, He’s always sad. Unfortunately, God was always a broken-hearted lover in the OT because His bride was always after other lovers. God often says He feels like a young wife who was deserted by the husband she loves. Have you ever imagined God like that? Being cast off by your spouse is one of the most traumatic, shattering, distressful, and agonizing of experiences. See, when we are pursuing joy in all these other places, that’s how God feels. We are not just breaking God’s law. We are breaking His heart.
Why? As a husband, He has decided to wrap and knit His heart with ours. I know if I am sad about something, it doesn’t matter how great a day Jenny has. She’s sad. This means His own joy is so deeply tied with us such that when he sees something going wrong with our life, He experiences the deepest and most shattering pain possible.
I want you to notice something. In John 2:4, his mother Mary comes to him telling Him the wine ran out. Look at how Jesus responds: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus seems disturbed. It seems like He’s thinking about something else. What is He thinking about?
He says, “My hour has not yet come.” I wonder if people in that culture like ours were like, “Jesus, you’re 30 and still single. When are you getting married?” And it doesn’t help your mom is at this wedding too. Whenever the word “hour” is used in John, it always refers to His death. Notice Jesus thinking about it again in Mark 2:20: “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them.”
With a word, He can command water to change into wine. Here I wonder if Jesus is thinking about what it will take to provide wine for His own wedding? What is it going to cost to win back this wayward bride who constantly chase for joy from other lovers like career, sex, relationships, etc.? Here’s Jesus, sitting in the middle of all these people, and all these people are laughing and singing at the top of their lungs, and sipping the sweet cup of joy, and Jesus Christ knows the only possible way he can actually bring the whole world into this condition is through his hour.Wine is a picture of joy in the Bible, but it is also a picture of drinking the anger of God (“cup of God’s wrath”). Every sin is like a drop into a cup. We pour the sin in. Hell is drinking a bottomless bitter poison drink and never dying.
Jesus says, “If I’m going to raise the cup of festal joy at my wedding feast, I’m going to have to drink the cup of the divine wrath of God, the eternal justice of God. I’m going to have to go through my hour. The wine I’m going to have to provide if I’m ever going to have this spousal love with my bride, with my people, is the cup of my blood.” God filled that awful cupto the brim and Jesus drank it all…until the last drop, drinking the cup of sorrow, so we can sit among the sorrows of this world and sip the cup of joy. And one day, we the bride will fall into His arms. We will not just sip, drink deeply of His love. Do you see how far He went so you can have this new wine? Do you see how much He loved and how deep His heart is entwined with ours so we can have this spousal love? Listen to Isaiah: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come and buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1).
As we prepare to go to the Table, we are reminded that this is like appetizers at a wedding feast. This table should remind you that one day if Jesus is your Bridegroom, you will one day be at the ultimate feast. He’s coming back to take us there. And we will worship Him without sin. So Communion is a time of joy and gladness.
However in order for us wayward bride to sit at this table and drink deeply of the wine of His love, there was a cost to the groom for this joy. Listen to Scripture:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:23-30).
Behold the Son of God, thirsty and dying. We saw Jesus turn water into wine when He showed up. The wine was so good everyone commented on it.“Woman, my time has not yet come,” He told His mother. Now, the time is here, and the wine has gone bad.Jesus is offered sour wine that fails to soothe the pain or delight the tastebuds. He gave us His best and then took our worst.
So let us thank God for going to infinite depths at an infinite cost to give us this spousal joy and love. We are not worthy. Let us repent of always running to other lovers for joy…to make us feel lovable or significant or accepted. Let us also rejoice that we were so bad that Jesus had to die, we are so loved that He was glad to die.
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