Pulling the Ripcord, Mark 3:13-19
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve, Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Mark 3:13-19
When our oldest granddaughter, Abby, turned 10 in 2016, Beverly and I went to Mundelein, Illinois, to participate in the celebratory events of her birthday. A part of our celebration was going to a Six Flags amusement park. While walking through the park, Ginny, our daughter, and Abby’s mother suggested that Abby and I should ride Dare Devil Dive which meant that we would be secured to harnesses and a canvas and plummet 15.5 stories through the air at 60 miles per hour. Abby and I agreed that this was a good idea and soon we were having harnesses attached to us that, in turn, would be attached to the canvas. As the harnesses were being chosen for us, one of the questions asked was who would be responsible for pulling the ripcord that would, in turn, release us for our 15.5 story plummet through the air at 60 miles per hour. Abby and I agreed that I would be the person who would pull the ripcord. I was instructed to pull the ripcord after hearing a countdown and the command to fly.
After having our harnesses checked and re-checked for a secure fit, Abby and I walked up to the boarding deck where we were secured to the canvas that would lift us up. My harness had a ring on the side to which a cord was attached and I was instructed that upon command I was to pull the ripcord that would, in turn, release us for our Dare Devil Dive. We stood on a platform as the canvas was secured and then the floor dropped out from beneath us as we were lifted up to a height of 15.5 stories. Looking down, it was interesting to note how much you can see when you are suspended at a height of about 155 feet. Then, a voice was heard through a loudspeaker and the countdown began: “3, 2, 1. Fly.” I pulled the ripcord and Abby and I began our flight as we descended down and then upward swinging forward and backward like a penduline until we came to a stop.
Pulling the ripcord – an act of practicing faith.
The Bible is full of stories of acts of faith being practiced:
Last week we considered Abram and Sarai setting out in faith to an unknown land
There is Moses obeying a voice from a burning bush and returning to face the Pharaoh.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, trusting in God as she bore a holy child.
Today’s scripture tells of Jesus practicing faith as he called the twelve who would form the community of his disciples. In reviewing Jesus’ appointment of his disciples to be formed into a community of faith it is important to note that his calling was, first of all, an appointment “to be with him.” What a great definition of discipleship: to be with Jesus. Talk about pulling the ripcord! “To be with Jesus” – an act of practicing faith in the incarnate revelation of God’s love.
What did it mean for Jesus’ first followers to practice faith as a community of faith? It meant living in an accountable relationship with Jesus and, in turn, living in an accountable relationship with each other. It meant walking with Jesus as he preached good news to the poor, proclaimed release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who were oppressed, and announcing that the time had come when God would save God’s people. Being with Jesus meant that his disciples would be with their Savior as he healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners. In turn, through the context of being with Jesus and being with each other, they would be empowered to understand the apostolic purpose of their calling: proclaiming the message of right relationship with God through Jesus and taking authority over the powers that seek to destroy the right relationship with God.
To fully understand the context of Jesus’ appointment of his first followers to become an apostolic community of faith in Mark 3:13-19 it is necessary to review the preceding verses of Mark 3:7-12.
Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make Him known.
In these verses, Jesus’ disciples are following him but they have not yet been appointed to become a community of faith by being with Jesus. Equally as important to note is Jesus’ interaction with the unclean spirits as they shouted, “You are the Son of God.” Mark reports that Jesus “sternly ordered them not to make Him known.” While the unclean spirits, or demons, were correct in understanding the identity of Jesus, their proclamation of his identity was not concerned with the right relationship that Jesus as the “Son of God” made possible. To understand Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of God” that was proclaimed by the unclean spirits in Mark 3:11. Practicing faith, Jesus pulled the ripcord and appointed twelve disciples to become a community of faith in Mark 3:14. They often did not fully comprehend Jesus’ identity, what Jesus was teaching or where Jesus was leading, but they pulled the ripcord in a divine act of practicing faith as the identity of Jesus began to define them.
What does it mean for today’s communities of faith to be with Jesus? It means living in an accountable relationship with Jesus and, in turn, in an accountable relationship with each other. It means walking with the risen Christ as we preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, set at liberty those who are oppressed, and announce that the time has come when God will save God’s people. Being with Jesus means that we are willing to pull the ripcord as we practice faith by following Jesus.
What does it mean for today’s communities of faith to be with Jesus? It means the identity of Jesus defines our identity as the sick are healed, the hungry are fed, and as we eat with sinners. In turn, by being with Jesus, we will be empowered to practice faith as we understand the apostolic purpose of our calling: to practice faith as we proclaim the message of being with Jesus and take authority over the powers that seek to destroy the right relationship with God.
In the book Grace Matters, Chris Rice tells of his experiences with a church called Voice of Calvary in Jackson, Mississippi. Voice of Calvary was a Church that sponsored ministries for college interns from around the country. Chris traveled from Vermont to Mississippi to be a 3-month intern in 1981 and left in 1998. During that time he became a friend and yokefellow in ministry with a person named Spencer Perkins. Spencer was the son of John Perkins, a civil rights leader in Mississippi and the founding pastor of Voice of Calvary. Chris was white. Spencer was black. Together, they partnered in a ministry of friendship and reconciliation.
One day, Chris and Spencer spoke to a group of college interns who had traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to share in the ministry of Voice of Calvary Church. Spencer had these words of advice to share about the calling of Jesus Christ upon their lives:
“Christianity ain’t between you and God. It’s about joinin’ in God’s agenda and becomin’ part of a new people—a body that together witnesses God’s truth to the world.”
Grace Matters, Chris P. Rice, Jossey-Bass, 2002, p. 110
The countdown has begun. The ripcord is about to be pulled. It is time to practice faith and witness God’s truth to the world.
Pastor Marc Brown
January 10, 2021