And they (the crowd) were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commends even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)
Ministry (the act of serving) is at the heart of Jesus’ work and even central to his identity. In Mark’s Gospel, from the very beginning, Jesus begins to do God’s work in visible ways that make a difference and change lives. Jesus can’t even avoid it – the demons recognize him and tremble in his presence. He doesn’t confront them – they show themselves to him. They simply can’t help it.
This way of being on the world gets Jesus almost immediate credibility. People haven’t ever seen anything like it. Whatever it is that Jesus seems to have – it is the real thing. Having that kind of street credibility is the base from which Jesus will do his work. The may not know what to make of it (there will be plenty of confusion about who Jesus is in Mark) but they will know there is something very real there.
Our congregational ministry works the same way. As the body of Christ, we continue the ministry of Jesus today. Doing what we do is an essential part of being the church. Being in the streets, serving in the kitchen, mentoring in the schools all show that we are truly serious about being a force for God in the world around us. When people see that we aren’t just sitting around waiting or life to happen but instead we are out being agents of life around us, they give us street credibility as well.
It is out of that kind of street credibility that Jesus can do his work and share his message that as he arrives and works, “the kingdom of God is near.” His deeds elevate his message. His message helps interpret the deeds.
There is a great lesson here for us as we carry on the work of Jesus. Our deeds lift up our message. And our message makes sense of the deeds. Both are important. Do the work without a message and people struggle to make sense of it. Share a message without the deeds and people don’t give you the kind of attention that street credibility provides. Word and deed. Deeds and words. It is out of this two-fold way of being in the world that we live as the body of Christ in this place.