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Pastor Andy Davis preached an expository sermon on Mark 7:14-23 on the issue of human heart defilement and that only through faith in Christ it can be healed. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - This is truly a sobering passage. For in it, the great physician of our souls has summoned us individually into his office. Jesus said it's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners do repentance.” We are sick with sin and the great physician has called us into his office. You think about going to a well-known doctor, a specialist, and as you come in, often the specialist's credentials are up on the wall, their academic credentials, maybe some other credentialing up there. We've walked through six chapters of Jesus' credentialing. Six chapters of miracles that only God in the flesh could do. Driving out demons with a word effortlessly. Healing a paralyzed man with a word, proving his power to forgive sins. The ability to still a storm with a word, saying “Peace be still”, and instantly, the wind and the waves are quiet. Healing a woman who had a bleeding problem for 12 years. Raising a 12-year-old girl from the dead. Walking on water. Feeding 5,000 plus women and children. That's who has summoned us into his office and is sitting us down now to tell us what's going on with us. He sits us down in this text with a grave look on his face and He has the full results of his examination. This is pure internal medicine. He's probing our insides, and we ask him, "Is it serious doctor?" He answers, "It's deadly serious. As a matter of fact, it's fatal, eternally fatal, if it's not treated. This disease has permeated every system within you and it is killing you every day and it will kill you forever if I do not cure it, and I'm the only one who can. But here's the good news, the cure is 100% effective, for as it turns out, I myself am perfectly free from all of these diseases. They have never characterized me, none of them, and they never will. For my heart is perfectly pure and I alone can give you my health. I can impede it to you, I can give it to you directly in an instant. Then along with that, I can clean up all of the filth and manifestations of your internal corruptions that ever has been or ever will be. I can cover up all of that at great cost, which I will pay myself. And then finally, I can give you my own nature, my own perfect heart, and with that heart, you will live forever." Okay, that sounds very serious. But the ordinary human response is to minimize the disease of sin as though it's somehow something external, some trivial thing that has attached itself to us externally from which we can relatively easily be cleansed. When we come to this passage, we're staring into the very heart of darkness, for our world as defiled by the river of evil that Jesus describes here that flows from our corrupted hearts and it characterizes every single person on planet earth, all eight billion that populate this amazing planet. When most people are asked, "Are you basically a good person?" They will inevitably answer, "I am. I consider myself basically a good person." Even when people who have committed heinous crimes are arraigned in court, there's usually some mitigating circumstances that are brought in to explain why something external to that person did the things that they did, some abuse or poverty or other circumstances. They're really not responsible. The Bible addresses this very directly and differently. Indeed, this passage in Mark 7, in harmony with the teachings of all of scripture, makes it plain that true evil flows from within out, starts from inside and goes out, not the other way around. It's not the externals. We are not basically good, pure beings that just somehow need to walk through this externally defiling world. If we could just keep ourselves clean from it in a bubble, we would be fine, and if we occasionally bump into something that defiles us, the cleansing from that is relatively easy. That is not the case. We are deeply stained within. Evil bubbles up from the polluted well of our hearts and it defiles everything from the inside out. Now, lest we think this is the final word of the human heart, I've already given you hope, but I want to speak to it again. We need to understand God's original purpose in creation and then the significance of the fall that came after that and God's purpose in redemption. God's original creation of the human race, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in the image of God, perfectly in His image. At the core of their being was what the Bible calls their “heart”. I don't mean the muscle that pumps blood through you, but the Bible just used that language. The heart, the core of your being, the core of your soul. Given to the heart is the ability to think, to reason, to comprehend, to study, to evaluate, also to love, to be attracted to, to display affections, to be delighted in things, to marvel at them, to choose, to make choices. The heart does all of these things, to plan, to accomplish those plans. That's what the heart does. "We need to understand God's original purpose in creation and then the significance of the fall that came after that and God's purpose in redemption. " All of this was in the original equipment that God gave to Adam and Eve, part of His original design, and it was good, it was very good. The crowning achievement of almighty God, man, male and female, in His image. Two pure hearts, two innocent hearts, Adam's heart and Eve's heart, perfect in every respect, able to know God, able to love God, able to serve God. But sin entered into the hearts of our first parents from outside them through a deeply mysterious corruption that no theologian can ever explain — why there ever was darkness or evil in God's good universe. But it came in and by their disobedience, they were defiled and corrupted deeply. In the wisdom of God, the entire human race, we are told, theologically, the entire human race fell into sin in Adam. One of the great mysteries of theology is this doctrine of original sin. But not only did we sin in Adam, but we received a corrupted nature in Adam. At the core of that corrupted nature is the evil human heart that Jesus exposes in today's passage, and that corrupt human heart is universal. Every human being alive today has the same deep defilement, as we shall see. But thanks be to God, He's not left us without a remedy. The good news of the gospel is of a comprehensive salvation from sin in all respects. God has the power to transform our evil thoughts, our evil hearts, and make them pure and perfect in conformity to Christ. Through faith in Christ, our sick hearts will finally be healed, completely healed, totally conformed to Christ, and we will spend eternity loving what Christ loves, hating what Christ hates, thinking what Christ thinks about everything, feeling what Christ feels, choosing what Christ chooses, rejecting what Christ rejects. We're going to spend eternity with a healthy heart. Praise God for that. Through simple faith in Christ, that is where we're heading. But before we get there, we need to hear this devastating truth about our hearts. We need to understand that the evil we do is not some accident, some minor flaw, some aberration, some insignificant trifle in our basically good nature. Know the evil we do truly, truly flows from our core, the core of our being. "Through faith in Christ, our sick hearts will finally be healed, completely healed, totally conformed to Christ, and we will spend eternity loving what Christ loves, hating what Christ hates." I. The Pharisees Charge Jesus with Uncleanness The context of this is the Pharisees’ charge of Jesus concerning ritual uncleanness. We talked about this last week. The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and they attacked him through his disciples as they stood there watching like a bunch of spiritual police or vultures or whatever, watching them eating, and then noting that they didn't do the ceremonial hand washing that was part of the traditional religion. This tradition did not come from scripture so Jesus deals with it. He addresses them. He addresses their traditionalism, putting their traditions above the word of God, their hypocrisy, presenting themselves as being pure and sinless when they are actually deeply corrupted within. Their legalism, thinking that they could be made right before God by their obedience to the laws of God and that they actually had been doing this. And their fake, false, human, manmade worship. “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Teachings are just rules taught by men." He deals with all that and exposes their religion as corrupt. The issue of worship then is the heart. “These people automated their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” True worship comes from the heart, genuinely loving God with all of your heart, expressing that love in the holy ways that are prescribed by scripture. That is true worship. But these men, they're hypocrites, they're whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside and inside, full of dead men's bones and everything unclean [Matthew 23]. This is the description of what that corruption is in this chapter. That's what we're going to address today, the heart as a source of all human uncleanness in the sight of God. II. Jesus Proclaims the Truth: All Defilement Comes from the Heart So Jesus proclaims the truth, all defilement comes from the heart. Look at verses 14 and 15. “Again, Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.’" Jesus summons the crowd. Last week it was just Jesus and his disciples eating and the Scribes and Pharisees standing there watching. Jesus ups the ante and says, "I want everyone to hear this." He summons the crowd. Who are the crowd? They're the ones that are nearby, never far away from Jesus, probably wanting healing. They're ready at any moment. He's always got a huge crowd. He says, "I want you all to hear this." He summons them. And He wants to deal with this issue of spiritual healing. Again in Luke 5: 31- 32, “ It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” It's a powerful verse for me in understanding the therapeutic or healing nature of our salvation. We are sick with sin, Jesus is the physician. He has the power to heal us, and He does it through repentance. Everyone on earth needs to hear what Jesus stands to proclaim here. He summons everyone to listen. We need to know how sick our true nature is, how evil our hearts are naturally apart from Christ's healing work. Christ's healing work begins when sinners see that true condition, acknowledge that it's true. They're not trying to lie about it anymore. They say it's true. “What you say here in this passage is true of me. And I'm crying out to you, Jesus, heal me, heal me. Save me from this. Save me from myself.” And He will. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, healed. If you think sin is something you occasionally do, like bumping into something dirty and then you just need to go wash from it quickly, this passage says that's not the case. Some external hand washing thing has got nothing to do with it. There's nothing from the outside that can defile you. But if you realize that it flows from inside you, it's not like a piece of lint you flick from your sweater or some gum you stepped in that you scrape off the sole of your shoe, it's coming from inside you, it's who you really are apart from the grace of God, then you can come to the physician of your soul, Jesus, who is the only one that can heal it. Look at verse 15, this is Jesus's statement. “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.” That would've been shocking to the Jewish nation. Their basic approach is you have the bad people, the notorious tax collectors and sinners, they call them sinners, meaning everyone else is not a sinner. Those are the serious ones. If you're not in that category, you're fine. If you're a Jewish person, you're fine. You're in the chosen nation and you are generally pure. You're fine as long as you don't do any of these big things, and you just need to make it through the world like you're walking through a minefield without getting defiled. If you could just do that, and you do that just by keeping the commandments, and that's not that hard to do. You just need to keep them from childhood. Remember the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and says, "Good teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" He says, "Why do you ask me about what is good? No one is good except God alone." And then He gives him the commandments, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. "Teacher," he said, "All those I have kept since I was a boy." “Whoa. Really? I'm going to summon your parents and ask how that whole honor your father and mother thing went.” But that's what they thought. It's like, I've done this. That was the norm. Therefore, defilement was something that happened on the outside. It was a trivial matter and just some ritual cleansing, some hand washing, would be symbolic of how easy it is to get clean from that. You've got all this idea of defilement and you want all of the defiled people staying away from you, the lepers. They just need to call out “Unclean, unclean”, so we don't bump into them. The woman with the bleeding problem, she just needs to stay away so that we don't get defiled by her corruption. We just need to move through. But Jesus is saying, "Look, nothing from the outside can make you unclean in God's sight. Rather, it's what comes from inside you that makes you unclean." Now, here, we're bumping into the Levitical holiness code. The Jews had a whole bunch of clean and unclean designations. It started with food itself. There were foods that they considered clean, and there were foods that they considered unclean. These were written right into the law of Moses. They didn't make it up, it’s something God said. This is such a huge issue that I've decided to deal with it next week in a whole sermon on verse 19 and saying that Jesus declared all foods clean. But the distinction between clean and unclean went far beyond food. As I said, it has to do with skin diseases and whole rules about people with leprosy and things like that. If you touch the dead body of an animal, for example, you were unclean until evening, you had to wash yourself with water. If you went into a house where there was a leper or there was mold on the wall, you were unclean until evening, you had to wash yourself. This kind of thing. If you had a bodily discharge, you had to wash yourself, you’re unclean until evening. These are the Levitical holiness codes, the cleanliness codes. They have all these rules. Women that give birth were unclean for one to two weeks. This whole idea of ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness is established in the law of Moses. Jesus wasn't denying that. It was to give a picture of the pervasiveness of defilement from sin and the call of the Jewish nation from God to be a holy people. Why did God do this? If what Jesus is saying is true, nothing outside can make you unclean, including bumping into a leper or having some blood touch your hands, why do they even do that? I think it was like God's picture book, like picture books you have for little kids, and you're looking at pictures and it's just a simple summary of what's on the page. These were external pictures getting ready for the true salvation that's coming, and Jesus, the author of the Hebrews, tells us they were. [Hebrews 9-10] All of these laws are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings, external regulations applying until the time of the New Order. That is until the time of the real salvation that's coming, the New Covenant, through the blood of Jesus. That's what the author's saying. God set them up as a picture, but they didn't bring actual cleansing from sin. They were just a picture. Again, Colossians 2:17, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come.” The reality is in Christ. But even in the Old Covenant, this does not mean God was saying back then that sin was external. It's very clear again and again that God has always looked at the heart. First Samuel 16:7, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Psalm 24:3-4, “ Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Psalm 51:5-6, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.”Later in that same psalm, verse 10, “Create in me a pure heart, oh God.” In Jeremiah 4:14, God cries out through His prophet, "Oh Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved." Do you hear that? Wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts? It is clear that all along in every era of redemptive history, God has searched our minds and our hearts. It's never been a matter of external washings. He wants us to have a clean and pure heart in order to be in His presence. But friends, that the one thing we do not have. The fundamental problem of the human heart was established in the Old Testament in many places, but probably no more famously than in Jeremiah 17, nine and 10 where the prophet says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jesus is not teaching some unheard of doctrine here, some new idea. Not at all. God has always searched the heart and mind of man. But the Lord made it plain in Jeremiah 17 what He found. The heart of man is deceitful above all things, meaning it's a corrupt, lying heart. Deceptive. Not loving the truth, and He says it's beyond cure. It's desperately sick, meaning we can't cure ourselves. We don't have the ability to do this. We can't change our core nature. Jesus is the physician of the soul. It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. “I didn't come to call a bunch of righteous people to admire their own purity. That's not why I came into the world. I came because there was no other way for a race of corrupt, heartsick people like us to cure ourselves.” We couldn't do it. There was no other way. “I didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Repentance starts with us agreeing that what Jesus says in Mark 7 and what other texts say similarly is true of us. It's who I am. That's where repentance unto salvation starts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, we do not understand the heart. It's beyond understanding. We don't understand why we do what we do. Is that not true? Sin is essentially irrational, it’s insane, it’s craziness, no explanation. Jesus is saying these things and it must have fallen like a bombshell on these people. But there was all kinds of preparations that they should have listened to. Jesus was saying their righteousness was a sham. All the hand washing in the world could never transform their wicked hearts. III. Jesus Explains the Truth: A River of Evil Flow from the Heart Now Jesus explains the truth. A river of evils flows from the heart. Look at verse 17, “After he'd left the crowd and entered the house, the disciples asked him about this parable.” The disciples are deeply troubled here. They didn't understand what He was saying. They didn't understand the full ramification. They thought, maybe it's another one of those parables like some kind of a rough play on words. Explain the parable to us. In Matthew's Gospel, the disciples are very concerned about what the Pharisees are saying. In Matthew 15 they say, "Do you know the Pharisees were very offended at what you said?" So in Matthew 15: 13-14 Jesus has to address them. He says, "Every plant that my heavenly father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them. They are blind guides. If a blind leads a blind, they're both going to fall into the pit. So you should stop worrying what those false teachers are teaching. Forget about them. God's going to deal with them. Like in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, He's going to weed them out. They're sons of the devil. Don't follow them anymore. Don't worry about them.” So the disciples ask for an explanation. Peter, in Matthew's Gospel, speaks up for them, but they're all saying, "Well, explain the parable to us." I don't think any of them expected the answer they're about to get from Jesus. The NIV has this translation: “Are you so dull?” I love that. It's so blunt. ESV is a little sweeter: “Are you without understanding?”Or Let's sharpen it a bit: “Could you really be this stupid? What's wrong with your minds? Do you not see how clear this should be to you?” So I want to say, “Yes Lord, I really am this dull. I don't get it. Would you just say it in small words and slowly for me because I get confused sometimes.” To some degree we’re all a bit slow on the uptake spiritually. We have to have things said to us again and again. Sin clouds the mind. It makes perception hard for us. Here's the good news. When you are done being saved, when you're in heaven, that problem will be gone. You'll get everything immediately and you won't forget anything. You'll have a perfect mind and be able to comprehend. But in the meantime, here we are, so you have to listen to me this morning, and we walk through texts like this. It's hard for us to understand. So yes, we're this dull, we are without understanding. So then Jesus then goes into an explanation of food. Verse 18-19, “Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean, for it doesn't go into his heart, but into his stomach and then out of the body.” In other words, food is just food. You put it in your mouth, you chew it, you swallow it, and then you eliminate it. That physical stuff that you've taken in and that you've chewed and swallowed cannot do anything to your soul. It cannot do anything to what the Bible calls your heart, the core of your being. It doesn't touch you. Nothing that you chew and swallow can make you unclean. At that moment, Mark gives us an editorial comment that's worthy of an entire sermon next week. In saying this, Jesus has declared all foods clean. I don't know that anybody understood that at that moment, but it was true. So we'll get into that next week. But the true lesson here is the true state of the heart, which has been the home base of this entire sermon. Look now at the wickedness that comes from the heart as Jesus describes it. Verse 23:23, “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean, for from within, out of men's hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” This is the source of all the trouble on planet Earth. This is it. It's not the only articulation of it, but it's pretty clear. This is why we're having the troubles we're having. Every sin begins within this corrupted human heart all over the world. The water that flows metaphorically from the wellspring of our hearts is deeply polluted. Proverb 4:23 says, above all, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Too late, friends. It's already polluted. It's already corrupted. I'm not saying the verse doesn't have something to say to us, but the fact is, the damage is done. The well has been polluted. It's defiled already. It's beyond cure. [Jeremiah 17]. Nothing of ourselves can cleanse this internal fountain. Jesus is alluding to the filth that comes out when we eat. The true filth of the human being is not physical, however, but spiritual. It is the river of sins that flows from inside out our corrupt and rebellious hearts. "Every sin begins within this corrupted human heart all over the world. The water that flows metaphorically from the wellspring of our hearts is deeply polluted." The first word here is “evil thoughts.” The Greek term is for the word “dialogue.” But it's the inner reasoning, perception, thinking. The word-based conceptions that are evil. Jesus calls these evil, deeply dark, man's inner musings, ponderings, plans, assessments, fantasies, purposes, intentions, schemes, devices. All the tangle of our thoughts are polluted by evil. The heart loves wicked things and causes the body to act wickedly in accordance with what we love first, and it's not some accident. It's the wicked nature of our true selves. Out of that corrupt thinking flows twelve specific corruptions listed by Jesus; six evil actions and six evil attitudes behind them. All of these defile us, making us unclean spiritually in the sight of a holy God.The twelve listed here is not a comprehensive list. There's others beside. There are many other sin lists in the Bible, but this is pretty thorough. He starts with six evil actions. What's interesting is these are all plural. Most translations don't bring the plural over because it's weird. So the ESV singularizes it, NIV singularizes it, the NAS has it in plural. But it is plural. What do I mean? Fornications, thefts, murders. What's the significance of the plurals? We do these again and again and again and again and again, and we didn't know we did that many of them. We didn't know that our sins were as numerous as the hairs of our head and worse. We underestimated. We forget the record, how many times we've done these things. But Jesus doesn't forget. Everything's recorded. Plural. He starts with fornications, from the Greek word “porneia”, from which we get pornography. It’s a general term in the Bible for all sexual sin, it is the king of all corruptions. A staggering percentage of all internet queries are sexual in nature. All sexual sin flows from inside. This of course includes fornication in the standard sense of sex between unmarried persons. It is amazing and tragic how the statistics in evangelical churches like ours aren't much different than the world on fornication. God has never changed His standard. Marital relations is for marriage. Sex is for marriage. It's not for unmarried persons. And it's wickedness. But this is a more general term for all sexual immorality. Then thefts; taking something that belongs to someone else; a possession that's theirs and you take it. Murders: the wicked act of taking another human life. Now, for me, as I read this list, I understand that God is looking beyond whether you actually murdered somebody to whether you were angry enough to murder them in your heart, but you just restrained for other reasons. Or you had a heart of adultery but you never saw it through, but you committed adultery in your heart. Jesus talks about this as well. So there's no excusing us for any of these things. The nature's in our heart. Adulteries: sex between people who are married but not to each other, violating the marriage covenant. Then the deeds of covenanting: the desires and behaviors that come from greed. These would've all been clear to any reader of the Ten Commandments. They're very clearly forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Then there's this word malice, which is wickedness, a general catch-all term for all manner of evil actions, but specifically dark feelings of hatred toward other people. So those six actions. Then you've got six evil attitudes that underline these evil deeds. The first six were plural, now these are all singular. Deceit: craftiness, lying, misrepresentation, or treachery. Scripture says all people are liars. Lewdness: the lust that comes from having a dirty mind, just a lewd mind, a sexually corrupt mind. Then envy, the greed that underlines the materialistic life, the endless drive for money and possessions, and then attitudes of jealousy and coveting toward other people's success. Then there's slander, which is using your mouth to assassinate somebody else's character in somebody else's hearing. You're just laying them low through your harsh reflecting of their sins, slander. Then there's pride. Theologians say the root of many of our sins, not all of them, but many of them comes from pride. That feeling of superiority, feeling of arrogance, of dominance, pushing yourself forward. My agenda is what matters the most. Just self worship that flows out. Then there's foolishness, just stupid stuff that's just a waste of time. Frivolous language and actions and foolish things. All of these things are describing the human heart. Then verse 23, the final statement: all these evils come from inside and this is what makes a person unclean. So that's the diagnosis. That's what the physician of the soul is saying about all of us. IV. The Only Solution: Heart Transformation by Christ The only solution is heart transformation that Christ alone can give. This is a devastating list. None of us can look at that list and not see ourselves exposed. All genuine Christians have known this about ourselves. This is why we came to Christ to begin with. Maybe some of you have never done that. Maybe you've never come to Christ. You didn't realize how bad this problem was and that this man who's saying these things is the judge of all the earth. In Revelation 1, He's portrayed as having “a head and hair white like wool, as white as snow and wearing a white robe with a golden sash around his chest, and his eyes were like blazing fire and his feet like burnished bronze, and a sharp double edged sword comes out of his mouth.” It's a terrifying image of Jesus as the judge of all the earth. And He sees right through us. But this is the savior. When John, in Revelation 1 saw Jesus, he fell at his feet as one dead, and then Jesus reached out his right hand and touched him and said, "Do not be afraid." Whereas it says in another place, “I have not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.” He could have condemned the world from heaven like Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead, He came into the world to live a sinless life and to die in an atoning death, to shed his blood on the cross, that sinners like us might be forgiven. That's what He's offering, so we have to flee to the great physician. We have to flee to the one who understands our deceitful heart and who can cure it, and we have to repent. The promise of the New Covenant is that He has the power to create in us a clean heart, oh God. He has that power. He has the power, as Ezekiel 36 says, to give us a new heart. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. And I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I'll put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” He has the power to transform our hearts, to make us new. He has the power to cleanse us from all of the river of defilement that's come out from us. Not the hand washing ritual of the Pharisees. But as Titus 3 says, “God saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” The washing that comes through the blood of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to clean us up. That's the cleansing we need. Now, if you read that list, you know we have an ongoing problem. Salvation comes to us in stages, justification, sanctification, glorification. Justification: the moment you trust in Christ, you know that this is true, this is your true heart state, you flee to the cross, you flee to Christ, you receive full forgiveness, past, present, and future, and the perfect health of Jesus's heart imputed to you as though that were yours. That's incredible. Almighty God looks on you as though you are as clean as Jesus, positionally, instantly by faith. That's justification. Now we're all set, right? We don't need to read this list again? You know, if you have been walking with the Lord carefully over these years, you know you need to read this list because this is the problem you're having even still. Roman 7, “The very thing I hate, I do. And the good things I want to do, I do not do.” That's Roman 7. I have the same problem with this river of evils. "Salvation comes to us in stages, justification, sanctification, glorification. " Paul cries out in Roman 7: 24-25, “What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” So you have to read this list and say these things are still a threat for me now. “I'm threatened by this. I need your help. Would you please cleanse me and heal me and work this in me?" And that crying out against yourself, that fleshly nature, that internal nature, enables you to go to war against the manifestations of these tendencies, these categories. They put out acts of the flesh. Those are the very things Romans 8:13-14 tells us we are to mortify or kill by the spirit, “If you by the spirit do put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live.” You can't finally kill any of these tendencies so that you know that tendency will never bother you again, you'll never be covetous again, or you'll never lie again, or you'll never be lustful again. That cannot be you. You got to be on guard the rest of your life and you got to be in good churches that'll preach the truth like I'm trying to do to you today and get all the help you can get from brothers and sisters. You need to be in home fellowship and have people in accountability relationship praying for you and all. You need all the help you can get while we walk through this dangerous world. Praise God for brothers and sisters that want a covenant with a church that'll help them do that. We're going to watch over one another in brotherly love and pray for each other because while we live, we're in danger. But thanks be to God, the final act is glorification. Aren't you looking forward to that? Brothers and sisters, glorification. When in an instant these things will never be true of you again, ever, and you'll be conformed to Christ forever and ever. Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the good news of the gospel. We thank you for the truth that Jesus, as the physician of our souls, tells us here in this text. It is a shameful thing to read these dirty words and know that they do characterize us even still. All the years that we have walked with you, we still struggle with these kinds of corruptions. Thank you for telling us the truth. Thank you that you, Lord Jesus, are sufficient, your bloodshed on the cross, sufficient to forgive us the confession of our sins. If we confess our sins, you are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all new defilements. You have the power to do that. And you have the power through the spirit to cause us to wage war against the deeds of the flesh and to be successful in weakening them and slaughtering them day by day. And then the good news that someday this warfare will end and we'll be free at last. Lord, give us hope. Fill us with the power of the spirit to fight this battle, to fight the good fight, to finish the race and keep the faith. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preached on Mark 7:1-13 exploring the genuine purpose of worship and its three enemies: legalism, traditionalism, and hypocrisy. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles this morning as we continue our study in the gospel of Mark. We're in chapter 7 now looking at verses 1-13, exposing vain worship and espousing heart worship. One of the greatest issues of the human soul stands in front of us this morning in this text, and that is of genuine worship. Worship from a pure heart, worship that engulfs your soul, worship that is a fragrant offering to your Creator, your God, the lover of your soul—true heartfelt worship. That's what's in front of us here. It's not difficult to make the case that establishing that worship in human hearts is the entire purpose of scripture, of the gospel, of the work of God, and in the original creation and the work of Christ in redemption, the work of the Holy Spirit and regeneration that we human beings created in the image of God, would genuinely worship God from our hearts for all eternity. That's it. And against this precious thing, are three of its greatest enemies, legalism, traditionalism and hypocrisy. Legalism, the belief that God accepts our worship based on how well we keep a set of rules and regulations. In that case, our focus is on ourself and our own performance. Traditionalism, the belief that true worship of God consists in manmade patterns, crafted by human beings generations ago and handed down unchanged from generation to generation. Keeping that tradition, that's the essence of worship. Then there's hypocrisy, putting on a show, a show for God and others when our hearts are actually far from God. The whole thing is false. It's a lie. Hypocrisy. These are the issues in front of us in Mark 7:1-13. "It's not difficult to make the case that establishing that worship in human hearts is the entire purpose of scripture, of the gospel, of the work of God, … And against this precious thing, are three of its greatest enemies, legalism, traditionalism and hypocrisy." Now the setting in Mark's gospel - Jesus has just fed the 5,000 plus women in children. He's walked on water, and then we get a quick summary at the end of chapter 6 of a healing ministry that's comprehensive and mind boggling. But it's just a summary of perhaps as many as thousands of miracles that were done. Miracles mostly of healings, even of people that just touched the hem of his garment who were instantly healed by his power. Jesus, at this moment, it could be argued is at the pinnacle of his temporary popularity. The crowds are swelling with anticipation. In John 6, after the feeding of the 5,000 some of them want to take Him by force and make Him king. They don't really understand who He is or what His kingdom is, but they want to do that. Jesus is a threat to the religious establishment, and a delegation of religious police is sent. Self-appointed investigators, scribes and Pharisees come to observe Jesus and not friendly at all, but to try to find fault with him and shut him down if they can. We see right away in this outline, the legalist charge against Jesus, ceremonial defilement. Look at verses 1-5. The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were unclean, that is "unwashed!" Mark gives his Gentile audience, probably Romans who didn't understand these things, this explanation. The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash and they observe many other traditions such as the washing of "cups, pitchers, kettles”. So the Pharisees and Scribes ask Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands"? They're making a charge against Jesus by means of his disciples breaking tradition through this ceremonial defilement. Who are these Scribes and Pharisees? These were professional legalists. This is a great escalation of conflict with the Jewish authorities. As I said, a delegation is sent from Jerusalem to check Jesus's rising influence and find fault with him if they can to try and find a way to put a stop to Jesus. The Pharisees were a religious party, a group of religious leaders, who had maneuvered their way in Jewish society to the top pinnacle of esteem in terms of their spirituality in their religion. They made the meticulous study of the Law of Moses their top priority and then dispensing rulings and judgements based on that. The Scribes were priests from the temple area whose day-to-day work was that of copying the Law of Moses letter by letter. There weren't printing presses back then, it was all done by hand, and these Scribes were entrusted with the task. But beyond that, they were teachers of the laws that they read and they taught their interpretation of scripture to the people. So Scribes and Pharisees are the religious leaders of the Jewish nation. Both of them are legalists who think that their right standing with God is based on how well they keep the laws of God. They generally thought they kept them just fine. “All these commands I have kept from my youth.” They would say something like that. Furthermore, they accepted the trappings of honor in Jewish society, whether at banquets or in the marketplace or other places. They love that kind of thing. They love to be honored and to have the most important seats of the banquets. That's who they were. What is the origin of their religious legalism? Where did all that come from? We could start with the exile to Babylon. In the exile, the remnant that was exiled was made aware, very plainly, by the ministry of Ezekiel and Jeremiah that it is because they have violated the laws of God for generations that this exile has come. They have broken God's laws and have gone over into idolatry and wickedness. And for this reason, most of them were killed by sword, famine, and plague. A small remnant was exiled to Babylon. Daniel, a godly man, is very aware of this and prays in Daniel 9:11, this prayer, "All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away refusing to obey you. Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you". Well, they got it. They got the message. At least Daniel did. And godly exiled Jews like him, understood. When in the course of time under the rule of Cyrus the Great of Persia, a small remnant, 42,000 was allowed to come back and repopulate the Promised Land, Jerusalem. They were committed to the law of God. Even if within a short amount of time there were some of them that intermarried. Ezra and Nehemiah pulled out their hair and were zealous that they would not fall into the same patterns of wickedness that their ancestors had fallen into. Ezra 7:10, it says, "Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees in laws in Israel". That all sounds good, right? Ezra was a godly man studying God's Word. But in the course of time, patterns of legalism and traditionalism emerged that were very corrupt based on this initial zeal. Schools of religious lawyers developed who spent their full time debating this or that law, trying to nail down exactly what they're supposed to do in every case in life. Scribes and Pharisees were in that heritage. They arose and studied the law more carefully than anyone else and appointed themselves ethical police over to the daily life actions of others. That's a simple answer to the origin of their legalism. Let's go broader and deeper. There's a deeper answer to the origin of legalism. It's just in the wicked, sinful heart of man. We, sinners, want to fix our problems ourselves. We want to save ourselves. Most of us aren't denying there's a problem. Vertically with God, horizontally with others, but we want to solve it. We want to make up our own religion that'll solve it. We want to follow our own rules. We want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own souls. Spiritually, we want to save ourselves, and this is true all over the world. Every religion except Christianity is codified self -salvation. Self -salvation, that's what we want to do. Look at Mark 7:7, "They worship me in vain. Their teachings are but rules taught by men". It's a manmade religion. That's the origin of legalism. That's where it's coming from. For Scribes and Pharisees, their highest value is conformity to legal tradition. By the time of Jesus there are well developed schools of rabbis who spent their full time discussing and teaching minutia of the law. A key issue here is that the law of God itself was deemed too complicated for average ordinary people to understand. There's clear evidence of this that these elitists considered the common group of people to be an untrained rebel who could not just read and hear God's law, and get it right. So they needed the Scribes and Pharisees to interpret it. They began to give additional insights, rules and regulations that were beyond the scripture. And so it went, rabbi so and so commenting on rabbi such and such who made observations saying this and that and therefore the other. And it was all written down, this heritage of rabbi this and rabbi that and all this kind of thing. These verbal traditions were erected like a safety fence around the law of God, keeping a safe zone around God's law with the idea being if you keep the tradition of the elders, you're certain to be acceptable to God because we're going beyond what God requires and therefore He must accept you if you just follow our traditions. In the second century AD, the second century after Christ, a Rabbi Yehuda organized the rabbinic teachings that have been passed on into a book called the Mishnah. In time there arose more and more traditions and disputations and statements based on the Mishnah itself, course. Those additional disputations and wranglings over the Mishnah were organized into another book called the Gemara. The Mishnah plus the Gemara together is called the Talmud. Twelve centuries of Jewish rabbis wrangling over originally the Word of God, but mostly over their own traditions. That's the Talmud and it's the authority for most Jews in the world that are religious. They are Talmudic scholars. Now, do you not see behind all of this an astonishingly disparaging attitude toward the Word of God? I. Legalists’ Charge Against Jesus: Ceremonial Defilement What we see in Mark 7 in Jesus' accusation against them came true concerning the Talmud. The Talmud came to be put above the Word of God, far above it. The traditions of men totally supplanted the laws of God. Listen to these statements from the Talmud itself. "The sacred scriptures is like water. The Mishnah is like wine, but the Gemara is aromatic wine". That's a clear hierarchy. The lowest level is the Word of God. What you want to get up is to that beautiful level of the Gemara, or again, "My son give heed to the words of the Scribes rather than to the words of the law". And again, this one, "He who transgresses the words of the Scribes sins more gravely than the transgressors of the words of the law". That's from the Talmud. It's astonishing that the opinions of human beings can take the place of the perfect Word of God. The accusation by the Pharisees and Scribes of Christ is ceremonial defilement. They stood around Jesus and watched him and his disciples eating their meal and they accused him. That’s creepy. They're just standing watching them eat. Verse 5, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands"? Mark, as we said, gives us this detailed backstory about these comprehensive traditions. Let's read again, verse 3-4, “The Pharisees and all the Jews. . .”, see that? Everybody's doing this stuff. The Pharisees have won the day. Everybody's following this. The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash, and they observe many other traditions such as the wash and cups, pitchers, kettles, et cetera. This is an elaborate, carefully developed system of ritual washings that covered almost every area of life mandated by the elders in their traditions. Notice clearly their accusation is not that Jesus and his disciples are violating the law of God. They're not even thinking about that because it's not stated anywhere in the Law of Moses. You're not going to find it. There are not these washings laid out in the Law of Moses. This is all human tradition. Now don't misunderstand. This has nothing to do with germs. It's not like if only they had that hand cleanser stuff that kills 99.99% of all the germs. If they had that, we wouldn't have this problem. It has nothing to do with germ theory, which didn't come until Louis Pasteur and all that. That's not what we're dealing with here. Not at all. This is about religion. If you don't wash like this, you're not acceptable vertically to God. That's their charge. II. Jesus’ Charge Against Legalists: Arrogance over God’s Word What's Jesus' charge against the legalists? Now it goes back. Arrogance over God's Word. Let's reverse the order that Jesus takes. Let's not walk through it in the order in the text. Let's go later and then work back. Let's address their arrogance over God's Word and then get to the deeper issue of worship. First, their arrogance concerning God's Word. Verse 7, "Their teachings are but rules taught by men, manmade rules concocted from the imaginations and morals and thoughts of men without the Holy Spirit”. Verse 9, "And he said to them, you have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions". In other words, you make a regular habit of doing this. You are continually doing this. You're setting aside God's Word to observe your own manmade traditions. This is a habit you have. I believe Jesus is being sarcastic here. The Greek word kalos is, "Well, you're really good at this. You're fine at this. You have developed this skill to a high level. There's a level of sarcasm here you're really good at. You do this well. You're experts at this evil thing of setting aside God's Word to favor your traditions.” Then Jesus gives a case study, a clear example. Look at verses 10-13, "For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother and anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death’. But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is corban,’ that is a gift devoted to God, then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus, you nullify the Word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Then He expands it in verse 13, the very end of the phrase of today's reading, "And you do many things like that". In other words, this is just one case. You do this all the time. This is a serious attack on the Word of God. Notice how Jesus clearly contrasts tradition with God's Word. Matthew's account makes it even sharper. Matthew 15:5, "For God said, honor your father and mother and anyone who curses his father and mother must be put to death". But you say . . ..” I mean, that's about as clear as it gets, “ for God said, but you say.”That's the whole system that we're dealing with here. The whole system of legalism and traditionalism was a serious attack in the Word of God. Legalism is fundamentally adding to and subtracting from the Word of God because you think there's something wrong with it. They added requirements that God did not give and thereby they overturned the requirements that God did give. What is this case study about the practice of corban? It has to do with the habit or the practice of corban, a gift devoted to God. Sometime before Jesus, generation before, the rabbis decided that if any Jewish man, let's say had a sum of money or a possession or even all of his money or all of his possessions, and he put somewhat of a fence around it and called it corban, he still owns it, it’s still his, but he designates it a gift devoted to God. Then it's off limits for anything else, including using it to help aging parents in their old age, caring for them financially. This concept became a nasty loophole through which people drove huge ox carts.It is nowhere found in scripture, but just something they made up. The fundamental issue here when it comes to the Word of God is the sufficiency and the clarity of scripture. The legalist is adding new laws because he feels God's laws are insufficient to get the job done for a good life on earth. “We need some additional help here. God missed some things and furthermore , it’s not clear. So you need us, the expert teachers, to explain stuff to you. You'll never get it because you're an unwashed rebel. You need us.” It's impugning the clarity of God's Word. Either way, do you not see the breathtaking arrogance towards scripture, toward the Word of God? This is exactly why God condemned this very practice before it ever came. Many times in Deuteronomy 4:2, "Do not add to what I command to you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God, that I give you". That couldn't be clearer. Don't do this thing. Don't add to, don't subtract from. By the way, what does that imply God saying about his Word? It's perfect. You can't make it better by adding or subtracting. Again, Proverbs 35 and 36, it says, "Every word of God is flawless. Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you as a liar". That couldn't be clearer. The whole Bible ends with a warning to not add to or take away from anything in the Book of Revelation, and by extension the whole 66 books of the Bible. Don't add to it. Don't take away from it. Christ in this case study perfectly upholds the law of God as it is written. The example Christ cites is the fifth command of the 10 commandments. 10 commandments came down from on high, came down from the mouth of God, written by the finger of God when God descended in fire on Mount Sinai, and he gave the 10 commandments to the Jewish nation. They come in two tables, a vertical table, the first four commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength sums it up vertically. Then you got horizontally. Love your neighbors as yourself. The first of the horizontal table, other people, is honor your father and mother. The concept here is a child born into a family must learn to submit gladly to parental authority. Honoring is something you do in your heart. And out of that heart flow is a pattern of obedience, a pattern of delighted obedience from child to parent that is foundational to all the other horizontal relationships they'll live in the rest of their lives. They've got to learn this from the start. The two commandments specifically to children are honor and obey. Honor your father and mother, treat them with respect in your heart, and then obey [Ephesian 6:4]. That's it. Now honoring, it goes far beyond lip service and all that. It's just a state of heart. It's giving esteem a high place in your mind and heart to your parents. Christ upholds the authority of parents over their children, and He even goes so far as to cite the death penalty concerning parents. He said, "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death”[ Exodus 21:17]. When new parents bring home a little child, an infant from the hospital, being instruments of God that they will at the right time, understand this commandment and live it out, that's central to parenting. It's not because you're so great, I'm a parent, you're not so great. But it's because they need to understand God is behind this and saying it to them and they must. There's so much disrespect from child to parent and God doesn't coddle it at all. Jesus says it's worthy of death. Thanks be to God that Jesus died on the cross to take away the death penalty for us sinners.This is a serious matter. So Christ is extremely distressed with the Scribes and Pharisees, their arrogant handling of the perfect Word of God. III. Jesus’ Deeper Charge: Hypocrisy in Worship But let's get to the deeper charge. The deeper charge is hypocrisy in worship. You have to go back in the text for that. Look at verse 6-7, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written, these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Their teachings are but rules taught by men” [ Isaiah 29:13]. These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Isaiah in his day, exposed a problem among his own countrymen that's still with us today, hypocrisy in worship. Seven centuries before Jesus was born, Isaiah begins his prophecy with an expose on the Jewish hypocrisy and formalism in their religious machinery. It was running like a machine, talking about the animal sacrificial system and the temple and the cycle of three festivals and daily animal sacrifice. It was a big machine going on in Isaiah's day and in Isaiah 1:11-14, this is what God says about it, "The multitude of your sacrifices, what are they me, says the Lord. I have more than enough of burn offerings of rams and of the fat of fated animals. I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts. Stop bringing meaningless offerings. Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations, I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feast my soul hates. They become a burden to me. I'm weary of bearing them”. And yet they're all commanded in the Law of Moses to be done. What's the problem? Hypocrisy. They don't feel it in their hearts. It's just a machine that's running week after week, year after year, as in Isaiah's day, so in Christ's day with the Scribes and Pharisees and may I say, as in Christ's day, so in our day. We're a very religious country. We drive by so many churches to get to this church. Many of them are filled with people, very religious. But here's the question, is it possible that the scathing critique Jesus gave, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain" is true of us today. So what is this issue of hypocrisy? What is hypocrisy? A hypocrite is a person who acts righteous when they're not, let's say, or a person who says one thing and does another. They don't practice what they preach. Claiming to have moral standards to which they don't actually conform. The word “hypocrite” is literally a Greek word brought straight over pretty much letter for letter into the English. It means “an actor”. The Greek word meant an actor. You remember the symbol of dramatic arts? You have the two masks, the smiley mask and the sad mask. That symbol, those masks were things that those Greek actors would hold in front of their faces, happy or sad, that kind of thing. They're actors in a drama. They play this role, but they don't feel any of it. It's just a show which they do for the audience. Now in our culture, we give a very high place to actors and actresses. We ask their opinions on the economy. It's incredible, these people, we can well applaud their talents and skills at acting. It's really quite remarkable. You can watch the same individual in multiple movies and the same person is playing a, I don't know, a homeless street person in one movie and a Nobel Prize winning physicist in another and a president in another, and then a captain of a sailing vessel in another. You may say,”Wow, how do they do it"? Their range as actors is incredible. I've often wondered what it would be like to be married to a really skillful actor. I mean, in real life. You see all their movies and all the same faces that they're giving you when they're expressing love or whatever they've given to other people in a movie. Would you ever be secure in that relationship? I mean, do you really love me or is this just like that scene in that movie back then? I don't know what you're doing. Maybe that's why so many of those marriages don't last very long. Is any of it real? The Scribes and Pharisees played at being righteous. They played at it, but their hearts were far from God. God was never their audience. Jesus said it plainly. Matthew 23, "Everything they do is done for others to see". He said in Matthew 23, "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but inside they're full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but inside you're full of hypocrisy and wickedness”. What is hypocrisy in worship? It's acting reverent when you're not. So what is it? What is true worship? What are we talking about? Is it not a heart aflame with the glory of God? A mind captivated by God's nature, captivated by God's great actions and history? God's nature, his power, his compassion, his tenderness, his mercies, his holiness, his righteousness? And all of his great achievements in creation and in the Exodus and the history of Israel and then especially in Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection? Is this not true worship? But a hypocrite doesn't feel any of this. It's not genuine. None of that moves the needle really. "What is true worship? … Is it not a heart aflame with the glory of God? A mind captivated by God's nature, captivated by God's great actions and history?" Now along with this issue of hypocrisy comes the problem of traditionalism. Look at verse 3, "The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands the ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders". Again, verse 5, "The Pharisees and teachers of the law ask Jesus, ‘Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?’” And then again, verse 7, "They worship me in vain, their teaching are but rules taught by men". Three different times it's tradition, tradition, tradition. Traditionalism. What is traditionalism? How is it different than traditions? Are they related? Traditionalism I believe, is elevating a past pattern to a level of religious permanence equal to or even superior to the Word of God. That's traditionalism. It's belief in the traditions, and that they can never be changed. I think somewhat, it's like trying to recapture a beautiful spiritual moment for all time by the outward trappings that were around it at the time, like some things happened and that was awesome. And from then on, we'll do those some things like it's a scientific experiment and then you'll get the spiritual moment that way. I remember hearing a story of a one local church that decades and decades ago had an amazing Sunday. The word of God was preached powerfully.The spirit of God is poured out in power and a revival broke out in that church. Many people were weeping, falling down, crying out and genuine work happened in their lives. The closing hymn that day was “Spirit of God Descend upon my Heart.” It’s a great hymn. So for the next 50 years, they played that song at the end of every worship service in that church. One day a courageous worship leader changed it and played a different song. It took incredible courage. That's traditionalism. It's like there's this beautiful butterfly and then you capture it in acrylic like a paperweight and just put it down there heavily and it's not going to move. It's not alive. That's traditionalism, imposing that moment as a rule for future generations to follow. Now, there is an essential place for tradition. Tradition means just that which is handed on. We need a respect for church history. We need a respect for the past. We need to know we are not the first generation of Christians. Lots of stuff was worked out before us and has been passed on and we're not reinventing the wheel every time. We Americans, we love what's hot and cutting edge and trending and all that sort of stuff. Often that's poured over into our worship over the last 25 years. What's hot and trendy is what we’re looking for, and there isn't a respect for a tradition. IV. True Worship versus Traditionalism But there's a difference between tradition and traditionalism. Doctrines have been handed down to us from the apostolic era. Paul says very plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, "What I received, I passed onto you as a first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures". The word “I passed on” in the Latin is “traditio”. That's where we get the English for “tradition.” It's handed down. There’s nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with a lot of things being handed down, but there are manmade rituals and patterns that get encrusted and then are given equal if not greater authority to the Word of God. Now that's traditionalism and that's what's going on here. What then is true worship? Three key observations. Number one, it's not manmade, but it's initiated by God. It's revelation and response. God reveals, we respond. Remember Peter's confession of Jesus. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". And Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my father in heaven". Do you hear that? Revealed by God, Peter responds. That's all. Worship is that way. It starts with God, He reveals and then we respond. Secondly, it's not based on human rules and regulations, but based on the Word of God. Where is the record of God's revelation? Only one place, here in the Bible. Our job is to study the scriptures and then worship flows from our understanding of God is revealed in the scripture. That's where it comes from. So it's based on the Word of God. Thirdly, it's not hypocritical, but it's a reflection of a heart that's truly drawn after God. Drawn close to God. Verse 6, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me". True worship is a heart drawn close to God based on the Word of God, and it involves awe, reverence, fear, wonder, amazement, tears, shouts of joy, exaltation, surprise, astonishment. It's a rich array of feelings. But before any of them is truth. Truth first, then the feelings and then the outward actions. That's what true worship is. That's not hypocrisy. IV. Application Now, as we close today, I want to just focus on this one statement, this one key issue. Look at verse 6, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me". I want to ask you, is that true of you today or not? "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me". Let me turn it around and let's say I hope for a large percentage of you it's not true today. If it’s not true as you sat here, as you stood here for worship, then you ought to thank God for your salvation. You ought to thank God for the work done in you by the Holy Spirit of God. He worked in you to take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh that is sensitive and responsive to God. No, not perfectly, but you do love him and you do yearn to please him. You can't wait to go to heaven and you're hungry to know more about him. That's who you are. If that's all true of you, praise God. God has saved you through the work of Christ and the cross and by the Holy Spirit. But let's turn it back. What if it is true? What if it's true that you're honoring God with your lips, with your outward behavior, but your heart is actually far from God? One of two things is true. One is that you may not be a Christian, you’re not born again. Could be that you could say to me, "I'm actually not claiming to be a Christian. I came here today because a friend invited me". The point is your heart, is far from God. That's why Jesus came. He came to seek and to save lost people like you and like I was. He came to go get us and bring us to God. To bring us to God. He came to shed his blood on the cross for all of the many transgressions you've committed while your heart was far from God, to pay for it all in his own blood. And God raised him from the dead to show that that payment was accepted. I'm just crying out to you, and I'm saying don't let it be the case even later today or next week, that your heart is far from God. Suppose that this is a true statement of you, but you actually are a Christian. It happens to all of us. What's gone on is you become distracted by earthly circumstances. Could be physical pain on your part or a loved one. It could be a financial difficulty. It could be that the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things is alluring and distracting you and your heart are from God, and maybe even you've been in a habit of playing at your Christianity. The text is standing over you today to plead with you to repent, to acknowledge that you're not loving Jesus with the same love you used to have, that your heart's been drifting from him, and the Lord is standing in front of you now, pleading with you to repent and to come back to God and to live openly and honestly and passionately for him. Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time we've had to listen to these words. Thank you for Jesus courage and boldness in telling the truth. Lord, as the psalmist said very plainly in Psalm 1:39, "Search me oh God, and know my heart. Try me and show me if there's any offensive way in me, show it to me and lead me in the way of everlasting". God, we don't want to be hypocrites. We want to be genuine followers of Christ. So please work in us by your redeeming grace. We love you. We praise you. We thank you. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preached on Mark 6:45-56, the account of Jesus walking on water that inspires the journey from unbelieving hearts to faith-filled worship. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles to Mark 6. This morning we're going to be looking at one of the most famous miracles of Jesus's life. Oftentimes, we hear that expression about somebody walking on water, and we speak of it maybe a little sarcastically- “It's not like he walks on water or anything like that.” We use that expression, so it's well-known. Somebody who thinks too highly of themself or others or ascribing too great things to an individual, but with Jesus it's exactly the opposite. We think too little of him. We don't understand who He is. This miracle account is written to remedy that. I ask this every time I get up to preach. I think about this as we make our way through this incredible Gospel of Mark. Why did the Holy Spirit give us this account? What does He want us to get out of it? Again and again, I have presented before you not just the Gospel of Mark, but all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as working together to feed us what we need for the salvation of our souls. "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in. . .” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, " but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and by believing may have life in His name." These accounts are written for our faith, that we might believe in Jesus and have eternal life, the forgiveness of sins. But what is the nature of that faith? Can it grow and develop? Yes, it must grow and develop. There is an initial faith that saves, that justifies, and it begins our life in Christ, but it needs to grow and develop. None of us are done being saved. We need to believe ever more in Jesus. I. The Disciples’ Hardened Hearts We have a sense of that in the disciples' condition that's recorded for us in verse 52. Look at it. You can see the disciples' hardened hearts being reflected. This is a key for me to answer the question, “Why is this text here? “ What do we, First Baptist Church, what do we need to get out of it today? Look at it. Look at verse 52, ”They [the disciples, the apostles] "had not understood about the loaves. Their hearts were hardened." What does that mean? What does it mean they hadn't understood about the loaves? What does it mean that their hearts were hardened? Could that be our condition too? We haven't really fully understood what we've been reading, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We haven't fully understood the ramifications of Jesus, the lesson of the loaves. Why? Because our hearts are hardened too. Again and again, I've said it's very dangerous to come to any text in which some deficiencies of people are recorded, sins or conditions, and say, "I thank you, God, that I'm not like the people down here in this text." Rather it should be, “How am I like these people? How am I like the disciples? How is it that I haven't understood the lesson of the loaves? How is it that my heart is hardened toward Jesus?” What does that mean? What is a hardened heart? I think it means spiritually resistant, fighting against what the word of God is doing. God's pulling you or moving you in a direction, and you're digging in your heels and not going the direction that the word of God wants to take you. That's what it means, like the parable of the seed and the soils, the hardened path. The seed comes and bounces. It doesn't penetrate, and so you're resisting, you're fighting. It's the nature of our sinful hearts. This condition refers to the condition of the disciples. They hadn't understood the lesson about the loaves. What is that? That's the context here, the feeding of the 5,000, this most recent miracle that they went through that we looked at last time, the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish. The disciples had been directly involved in that process. They had brought the problem to Jesus. Jesus put it back on them. They couldn't solve it. Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and the fish and gave them to the disciples, who then distributed them to the crowd with their own hands. They were involved. They saw matter, material being created out of nothing, out of thin air. They saw it and distributed it to as many as 20,000 or more people. The people kept eating and eating and eating and eating until they were gorged. They were full. They couldn't eat another bite. Incredible. Then they were involved in picking up the broken pieces that were left over, "Let nothing be wasted." They did all that work. They filled twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. They were involved in all of that. But the text says, the Holy Spirit tells us, they hadn't understood the lesson because their hearts were hardened. What is the lesson? What could it be? That Jesus is the Son of God? There is nothing that is too difficult for him. There's nothing he cannot do. Therefore, they should trust him fully for every condition in their lives. That doesn't sound like anything new. I'm not up here to say new things. I'm up here to say that we need to learn the lesson of the loaves, and indeed the lesson of every miracle: Jesus is almighty God in the flesh who came to earth to save you. He will save you. He will not finish working in you until you are glorified in heaven. Every circumstance of your life has been carefully crafted to that end, and he's ruling over all of it. That's the lesson of the loaves. We need to learn it too. "Jesus is almighty God in the flesh who came to earth to save you. He will save you. He will not finish working in you until you are glorified in heaven. Every circumstance of your life has been carefully crafted to that end, and he's ruling over all of it. " Their hearts were hard. They hadn't understood the lesson of the loaves or the earlier stilling of the storm or the driving out of the legion of demons or the woman with the problem, the bleeding problem, for twelve years who touched the hem of his garment and was instantly healed. They hadn't understood that. They hadn't understood the raising of Jairus' dead daughter to life. They hadn't understood all of these things like they should. They could make a confession, a testimony, "You are the Son of God." They could say those words. We all who are claiming to be Christians can make that same kind of testimony, but we don't really understand it. That's the nature of the lesson here. Their hearts were hard so that God still has to draw them to Christ in a deeper way. That's the context of the situation we're looking at here. Remember the feeding of the 5,000 had just happened. Before that, they had been sent out, the twelve had been sent out on their first mission, their first practice mission trip. They went out two by two, and Jesus had empowered them with a wonder-working, miracle-working power themselves. They were able to drive out demons. They were able to anoint sick people with oil and heal them. They were able to preach that people should repent. They went on that mission, and then they came back and reported to Jesus all the things they had done. But because the crowds were huge, they continued to be huge, and they couldn't even address any of their physical needs, they couldn't get enough rest or eat or anything, Jesus said to them, "Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went. Also, the context, as we said, was John the Baptist's death, the only account in Mark's gospel that doesn't have anything directly to do with Jesus, but it's important. John the Baptist had been beheaded at the order of wicked King Herod, because he was incited by the lustful dance of a young girl. So John the Baptist was dead. All of these things had come together. They cross the lake to get alone, to get to a quiet place, but they couldn't escape the crowd. A huge crowd was there. When Jesus landed, He had compassion on them, the text tells us, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He met all their needs. He taught them many things. He healed their sick, and He fed them. He filled their empty stomachs. He did all of that. “Your needs are met. You're fine. Go home.” So He does that. He sends them away vigorously. Look at verse 45, "Immediately, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him. Then he dismissed the crowds." They're going to Bethsaida. He dismissed the crowd. This is a place where people aren't usually. There's nobody usually here. “You shouldn't be here. It's time to go home. Go. Go away.” So they did. That crowd that He dismissed, we find out in John 6 was carnal and faithless. By the end of the next day, most of them would leave Jesus and never follow him again because their understanding of the kingdom was purely physical. They wanted another meal. They wanted to take him by force and make him king so He could whip up on the Romans. They had very a carnal attitude toward the kingdom of God. They did not want the spiritual kingdom Jesus came to bring in, a right relationship with almighty God by the forgiveness of their sins through the shedding of his blood on the cross. They didn't want any of that, so they're gone.Jesus sends his disciples away, sends the faithless crowd away, and finally the time has come for Jesus himself to be alone and he's finally alone. He goes up on a mountainside to pray. II. Jesus’ Powerful Ministry for His Disciples Part two, we see Jesus's powerful ministry for his disciples. Now he's going to start ministering on behalf of his disciples. Putting Matthew's account together with this account in Mark and the account in John, if you put the three accounts together, there actually are six miracles that Jesus does here on behalf of his disciples. Six of them. We'll walk through them. There are six amazing things that Jesus does to strengthen the faith of his disciples. We're going to see Jesus's supernatural vision of his disciples in their plight. We're going to see, obviously, the central miracle, the one we know about, Jesus walking on the water. In Matthew's account, Peter comes out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus, doing something he could never physically do if Jesus did not give him power to do it. Then when he, through unbelief, starts to sink, Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and saves him. Then when He climbs back into the boat, immediately the wind and the waves die down just like earlier. But He doesn't say anything, they just die down. It's pretty obvious though that He has ended the storm. Then make note of this, John 6:21. You can already start flipping ahead there. Put a bookmark because we're going to go over there, a miracle probably most of you have never seen before. We'll get there. Six miracles, an amazing array of the powers of Jesus. Not just one, but six. The one is amazing enough, people just don't walk on water. We're going to get to that in due time. All of this though, I want to couch in context of Jesus's ministry to the spiritual condition of his disciples. Yes, they have immediate physical needs. They're in danger again. They're in a storm in the lake, in the sea, and the wind is against them. They're not making progress. There is definitely danger. This time, He's not in the boat with them, so they're in great danger. He's going to care for them, but the text tells us to look above the immediate physical circumstances to their spiritual condition, the hardness of their hearts. Jesus is going to be ministering to their hardened hearts, bringing them to a higher level of faith in Jesus than they'd ever known before, moving from faithless fear to faith-filled adoration. That's the movement of this passage, and hopefully that will happen for us. It begins with Jesus's prayer time. We don't know what He prayed for or about. We don't have any content of Jesus's prayer, but I do believe that central to it always was the concern that Jesus had for his sheep, for his people, so He would be praying for them, interceding for them. Look at verses 45 - 47. "Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake and he was alone on land." Now, Jesus had his own reasons to be alone, to strengthen himself. He loved, as we learned in Mark 1, to go to solitary places and pray, to get away from everyone and be alone and pray. That was his regular habit. He wanted that vertical communion with his Father. He loved to pray. He enjoyed his prayer times, and He got renewed in strength by praying to his Father. Undoubtedly, He was pouring out his grief before his Father over the death of John the Baptist, his cousin, his forerunner, the one predicted in Isaiah the prophet, "A voice of one calling in the desert." This is the one who had been frivolously beheaded by wicked King Herod, and so He wants to pour out that grief. Undoubtedly, also hearing from the Father what He was to do going forward. Jesus made it very plain again and again, "I don't do anything except what the Father has told me to do. I don't speak any words except what the Father's told me to say." We have to imagine a lot of Jesus's daily prayer times were, "What do you want me to do today, Father?" As the servant of the Lord, He listened to his Father and then did what his Father told him to do. So He's doing all of that. But, as I said, we must imagine the centerpiece of his prayer time was the heart condition of his disciples. He must have been asking the Father to soften his disciples' hardened hearts, that they would understand not merely the lesson of the loaves, but all the lessons He was trying to teach them. Jesus is our great high priest. Hebrews 7:24-25 says that Jesus has a permanent priesthood, "Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost," [or to finish the salvation] "of everyone who comes to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father, and that includes especially the gifts of our salvation. Jesus is at the right hand of God and is interceding for you right now and praying for you that your faith will not fail, and that you will get everything you need for the sustaining and growth and development of your faith. More than anything, that's the ministry of the word. He's praying for you at the right hand of God. He is our Great High Priest and is interceding. We could well imagine Jesus is up there on the mountain praying to the Father for his disciples. "Father, work in these men. Work in them. Their hearts are hardened. They've seen all of these miracles and they have a little faith, but it needs to grow. Father, would you develop their faith? Would you expand it? Enable me now to show my greatness to them that they will trust in me more fully." Something like that.. But then miracle number one, Jesus saw his disciples' danger. Look again, verse 47-48, "When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them." Now, you have to understand what's going on. By the time He actually walks out to them, we'll talk about this in a minute, it's somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 AM. It's the middle of the night. It's dark and it's stormy. There are clouds. There's rain, perhaps. There's wind, certainly. They are miles away from him. He's up on a mountain, but it says He saw them. How do you explain that? How do you explain that He sees that the wind is powerfully against them and that they're trying to row to land but they can't make any headway? You have to realize, at that moment in time, that moment in redemptive history, those twelve apostles were the kingdom of God on earth. They represented where this whole thing was going, and they're in the middle of a sea in a storm in great danger. Jesus sees them. He saw them straining at their oars. How? Well, Jesus is our Good Shepherd. It says in John 10:14, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." Prophets just know things supernaturally. I was reading recently the account of the life of Elisha. I don't know if you remember how that time the account in 2 Kings 5, I think it is, where he heals Naaman the Syrian. He's a very powerful, wealthy man who has leprosy. He hears that there's a prophet in Israel, Elisha, who can do amazing things. So he goes, and Elisha tells him to wash seven times in the Jordan River. He eventually does, and he's cured. He tries to pay Elisha for the healing, and Elisha doesn't want anything to do with that. He's on his way back when Elisha's servant Gehazi says, "What do we do?" This is a missed opportunity, a missed business opportunity. So what does Gehazi do? He leaves Elisha and goes running after Naaman the Syrian, catches up with him. Naaman gets down out of his chariot and says, "What can I do for you?" He says, "Well, it turns out some of the prophets have come and they have some needs and all." "Oh," he said, "well, do you need some money?" "Yeah, maybe a talent of silver." He said, "Take two, and take a bunch of clothes." So he gives him all this stuff. Here is Gehazi trucking all this stuff back, hides it all away, and then goes back into the presence of Elisha.Now comes an interesting moment. Elisha, I always picture him not looking at Gehazi as he comes back in the room. He's doing something, over his shoulder he says, "Where did you go, Gehazi?" "Oh, I didn't go anywhere. Stop right there. Do you understand who you're talking to? You're talking to a prophet of God. You don't lie to a prophet of God, you shouldn't lie any time anyway. But this is what Elisha said, "Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from the chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or accept clothes or olive groves or vineyards, flocks, herds, menservants, maidservants? Well, therefore Naaman's leprosy is going to cling to you and to your descendants forever.' And Gehazi went out leprous, white as snow." Now, "Was not my spirit with you when that guy got down out of the chariot? I could see it." It's prophetic vision. Jesus is the King of all prophets. He just knows what's going on in your life. He sees everything. It's a miracle. He knows what you're going through right now. He knows what you're thinking right now. He knows everything. He knows the circumstances of your life. That's the first miracle. "Jesus is the King of all prophets. He just knows what's going on in your life. He sees everything." Then Jesus goes out to his disciples, verse 48, "About the fourth watch of the night, he went out to them walking on the sea." He knows the incredible danger they're in and He will be with them. Again and again, God says this. He says to Isaac, "I will be with you." He says to Jacob, "I will be with you." He says to Moses, "I will be with you when you go to Pharaoh." After Moses died and Joshua took over, he said, "I will be with you." God said to Gideon, "I will be with you." Jesus said to his disciples, "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. "I will be with you." He says it in the Great Commission. "And surely I will be with you even to the end of the age." So his coming out physically ,to physically be with them is ... we're supposed to read it also spiritually. He is with you. He comes out to you. But as He does, He displays his power over the sea. He's walking on the sea. This is an astonishing miracle of miracles. It's an amazing stormy night, the fourth watch of the night, that’s Roman designation. It seems Mark was writing for a Roman audience. That's somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 AM. There is no other explanation for this other than a supernatural suspension of the laws of nature. Some unbelieving commentators on this say that Jesus had actually found a floating chunk of ice and was ... I mean, really. Or there was a hidden sandbar all the way out miles out into the middle of the ... I mean, the things that people do. No, Jesus walked on the water. If I can just tell you something, stuff sinks. Have you ever dived into a pool? You went down. The very next chapter after that whole Elisha and Gehazi thing, some of the guys there are chopping wood with an ax, and the ax head flies off and falls into a lake. They say to Elisha, "It was borrowed." He goes over and he shaves a stick and puts it in there and makes the ax head float. That's a miracle. Ax heads don't float. This is the nature of God. He creates a world that runs by what we generally call the laws of science or the laws of nature. It's why science works because God has established the earth. It can never be moved. What that means is the way things were yesterday is the way things will be today and tomorrow. That's how science works. The experiment you did two weeks ago, if you just set everything up exactly the same way, it'll happen again. That's why we can build a body of knowledge. That is the world we live in. We're used to it. We're not reinventing the wheel like every day ,who knows what's going to happen? You guys are very familiar with the law of gravity. You feel it. You're feeling it right now. It's like, pastor, please don't go over the obvious. The Earth wants to pull you to its center and something stops you called the floor. When you're on water, things are a little different, but you're still heading down that way. There's that buoyancy thing, but buoyancy's different than walking across the water. Jesus does this incredible miracle. Jesus has the power to toggle on and off laws of nature any time. He's above it, He walks above the laws of nature. He usually, I would say almost always, in his incarnation submitted to them like everyone else. What did Jesus do once he finally arrived at his disciples? He got in the boat. What did he use the boat for? Not because he needed it, but that's our normal way of living, and so He steps in and He uses it. But in this particular case, He suspends the law of gravity to walk on water. Now, He's going to do it again at the end of his time on earth. Remember, after his resurrection. He's going to go outside the city of Jerusalem. He's going to go to the Mount of Olives with his apostles, and they're going to watch him soar up from the surface of the earth higher and higher and higher, until finally a cloud hides him from their sight. Again, He suspended the laws of nature at the ascension. Jesus is over every law. Now, as He does this,He calms their faithless fears. He's about to pass by them. It says, "But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately, he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage. It is I. Don't be afraid.’" Or, "Take heart. It is I. Don't be afraid." I must tell you, sometimes it's good for a pastor just to say, I don't know because here in the text, I don't know why the text says He meant to pass by them. I find that interesting. If any of you have any theories, come tell me. I basically punted on it. Maybe it's just how He appeared to them, but the text seems to talk about his own intentions. He's intending to pass by them, but when He hears them crying out, He goes to be with them. It's pretty obvious he wants to interact with them. In any case, when they saw him walking on the water, they were overwhelmed with terror. They know that human beings cannot walk on water, and so they resorted to a common myth of ghosts, of spirit beings, apparitions. Jesus at his bodily resurrection is going to have to drive this same misconception out. He said, "I'm not a ghost. Ghosts don't have flesh and bones as you see I have. Touch me. Touch my body." He ate some broiled fish in front of them because ghosts don't do that either. He has to deal with that, and that's what they're thinking, so He calls out to them. They recognize his face in his voice. He literally says, "Take heart, I am." In the Greek it says “I am.’ All the English translations are going to say, "It is I." But I like” I am” better. Why? That's God's name. That's the lesson of the loaves. Jesus is “I am.” He is almighty God in the flesh. That's who He is. So He says, "Take heart, I am. I am God. Don't be afraid." Now, in Mark's gospel account, Jesus just gets into the boat at that point. He climbed into the boat with them. Oddly, Mark omits the whole Peter venture. Scholars believe that Mark is Peter's mouthpiece, the number one human source of Mark's information was the Apostle Peter. That may well be. It could be that Peter at that point having been deeply humbled by God over those years, didn't want to present himself as one who also walked on the water. I don't know. I'm just saying it's not in Mark, but it is over in Matthew. So if you want, you can turn over to Matthew 14 and look at 28-31 or just listen. As Jesus is still out there on the sea and says, "Take heart, I am," or, "It is I. Don't be afraid," Peter calls out to him from the boat and says, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the waves, on the water." He doesn't take it on himself to do that. But this idea pops in his mind. It's a remarkable idea. Then Jesus gives him a command that he could not follow except that the supernatural power of God came upon Peter. "Come," He said, "Come." If God gives you a command, then God must empower you to do it. It's no different than Revelation 4, where John sees a doorway open in heaven, and the voice says to John, "Come up here." They're equally miraculous. "Come, Peter, walk on the water. Come John, float up from the surface of the earth and see the future." Those are commands that only God can empower us to do. Peter gets out of the boat, and by the supernatural power of Christ, begins to walk on the water. But the problem is, as he begins the journey out to Jesus, he looks around at the wind and the waves and begins to doubt, and being afraid, he begins to sink and cries out three word prayer, "Lord, save me." Those are effective prayers, by the way. There's no flourishing language here. There's a sense of urgency and need, "Lord, save me." Immediately, Jesus reaches out his hand and grabs hold of him and lifts him up, again by supernatural power. But then He rebukes him and he says, "You of little faith. Why did you doubt?" That's an amazing sub-story in the midst of all of that, and that seems to be the whole work right now at that moment in all of the apostles. "You of little faith. Why did you doubt?" "If God gives you a command, then God must empower you to do it." I think it's good for all of us to stand under the same rebuke or correction, to say, “I am of little faith. Now, I'm not of no faith. I'm a Christian, but I am of little faith. Help me not to doubt. Help my unbelief. Help me grow in my understanding of who Jesus is.” But there's still two more miracles to go. Jesus calmed the storm immediately, verse 51. "Then he climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down." Jesus doesn't say anything to the wind and the waves. The disciples must have understood, however, it was Jesus's power that ended that storm. He just thought it, and the storm's over, instantly done as soon as He gets in the boat. Now, the final miracle’ is in John 6:21. In that account, we have this one statement. By the way, I've shared this with, I think, five people this week. All five of them said the same thing to me, "I've never seen that before." So here you go. Maybe you have. John 6:21, "Then they were willing to take him," [being Jesus], "into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore to which they were heading." Wait, what? What just happened? I don't know. What do you think happened? What happened to the boat? What does the word immediately mean? I looked into it. John doesn't use this word very much. It always means instantly or the very next thing. They were in the middle of the sea, miles from shore, and then suddenly they're not. Does Jesus have that kind of power? Jesus has more power than you can possibly imagine. Does He have the power to move a boat from miles offshore to the shore? Yes, He does. Do you remember the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch? He's there out in the desert and he shares the gospel with him. Then the eunuch gets baptized. What happened next to Philip? He disappeared. Really? Where did he end up? A place called Azotus, miles away. Now, if you'd been in that boat, wouldn't you be looking around like, wait, what just happened? How did we get here? It's incredible. Jesus has this kind of power over wind, over waves, over the law of gravity, buoyancy. He has this kind of power over every condition on earth. Those are the lessons of the six miracles. III. The Disciples Moved to Worship Jesus The disciples then are moved to worship Jesus. Their hearts had been hard, but now they worship. Verse 51- 52. "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves. Their hearts were hardened." The phrase “completely amazed” means literally “beside themselves.” They're beside themselves with wonder. Matthew tells us what they said. They said, "Truly, you are the Son of God." That's the whole destination of all four gospels. "These miracle accounts are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God and by believing may have life in his name." They're worshiping him. I do believe that this may have been the basis of their strength and faith in Jesus, which was really shining at the end of the next day. I told you about that faithless crowd that was there for another meal the next day and they wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king and all of those things? He has a long discussion in John 6, and then weeds out the crowd saying, "You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. If you don't eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you." He says these things that are hard to accept and they all leave. Jesus turns to his apostles and says, "You don't want to leave too, do you?" He said that to the twelve. "Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the holy one of God.'" Jesus said, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? And one of you is a devil." But I think the 11 who genuinely believed, it was this experience that strengthened them and moved them ahead a quantum leap in their understanding of the greatness of Jesus. IV. Jesus Resumes His Ministry to the Crowds The account ends with Jesus resuming his ministry to the crowds. "When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages, towns or countryside, they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch the edge of his cloak. And all who touched him were healed." So this is just, again, a summary statement of a vast number of miracles. John tells us, "I didn't write them all. Frankly, if all of them were written down, the world couldn't contain all the books that would be written." So this is one of those summaries of hundreds, maybe even thousands of miracles. I also think it's interesting about the hem and the garment. I think it was that woman with the bleeding problem that first did that and maybe news got out, hey, that's a way to get some of that power from Jesus. But it worked. "All those who touched the hem of his garment were healed," it says. V. Application What applications and lessons can we take from this? The Bible is written, as I said, to bring us to saving faith. There is initial saving faith when you finally realize who Jesus is and why He came to earth. He is almighty God in the flesh who was born of the virgin Mary, who lived a sinless life and did all these incredible miracles and taught all these great teachings. Why? Because you needed a Savior. Because you're a sinner. You've broken God's laws daily, hourly, and you stand under the wrath of God. Apart from his saving work, you'll be condemned to hell. God saw that you couldn't save yourself. There was no way you could save yourself, and so He sent his Son to live this sinless, righteous, perfect life and weave a perfect garment of righteousness that he offers you as a gift to tell you to put on. If you wear that righteousness, that imputed righteousness of Christ, you will survive judgment day and no other way. Conversely, all of your wickedness and sins and all the things you've done, of which there's a perfect record in heaven, every careless word we have ever spoken is recorded and written down, and you stand under the wrath of God, all of that, Jesus was willing to drink that cup on the cross to die in your place. You trust in him and your sins will be forgiven. Your sins will be forgiven. If that happens to you, you will never be, can never be, more righteous, more forgiven than you are at that first instant. But then the next part starts, what we call that journey, that voyage of sanctification, of living out your Christian faith in this physical world. That's where these six miracles help us out. First of all, realize Jesus sees you and knows what you're going through all the time. As Isaiah 40 says, "Why do you say, O Israel, and complain, O Jacob, 'My way is hidden from my God?'" It isn't. He sees everything. He knows what you're going through, and He wants you not to be afraid. He wants you not to be anxious. He says, "Fear not. Take heart. I am. I am God." He sees you, and He comes out to you walking on the water. What does that mean? He's orchestrating this whole thing. Even the laws of nature are subservient to Jesus in his desire to save you. Everything is under his feet. He's walking above all of it. He's sovereign and in control of all of the trials of your life. Thirdly, Peter walks on water. Jesus calls on us to do supernaturally, eternally consequential things, maybe not anointing sick people with oil and healing them or driving out demons. That record was established to show the validity of the apostles' ministry. We don't need to do all those things now, but we can do something even greater. We can share the gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Sometimes it feels like it takes as much courage for us to do that as to get out of the boat and walk to Jesus. But what supernatural power is at work in your life to do great things of eternal consequence? So walk on whatever water God has for you to walk on to do the good works he has ordained for you to do by the power of Christ. Then fourthly, as you're going through that and you start to sink in life through unbelief because you're looking too much at the wind and the waves and you're forgetting Jesus, He has the power to reach out and draw you up. I like that just three word prayer. Pray it as often as you need. "Lord, save me. I'm drowning, I'm sinking, I'm struggling,” and He'll reach out his hand and save you and pull you up. Fifthly, the storm ends like that. All storms end. You know that any trouble you're having in your life is temporary? Anything that's causing you distress, anything that's crossing you and making you sad or scared or fearful, all of those things, if you're a child of God, all of those things are temporary. They are light and momentary. That's what momentary means. They're not going to go on. You are going to a world where there'll be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. They're all temporary. At some point when they have done their work in you, the Lord will bring those trials to an end. He will end that storm. Just like that, it'll be over. Then six, what do I make about this transmutation, this quantum leap of the boat? I'm going to venture out of the boat of sound exegesis here for a minute. It's possible that the rowing against the tide may picture your efforts at sanctification. How's it going? How's your rowing going as you're trying to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ? Making good progress? Some days better than others. Is there a quantum leap coming for you? There actually is. Whether that's what John 6:21 is talking about or not, I know this, the moment you die, your spirit will be instantly made perfect in conformity to Christ, and you will never sin again with your mind or heart. You will forever love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you will love your neighbor perfectly. You won't have your resurrection body yet if the Lord hasn't come, but you will be perfected in an instant. Then the second instant that's coming, resurrection. You're going to get a glorified body that will shine forever. The quantum leap is coming. So whatever rowing you're doing, keep doing it. Whatever fighting against wind and tide, it is hard to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, the Lord has power to enable you. We have to battle temptations and lusts and struggles, it's true. But that quantum leap is coming. Trust in it. Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for the things that we've learned today. These six miracles Jesus did are encouraging to us. We pray that you would sustain us as we struggle. Sustain us as we serve. Help us not to give into faithless fear. Help us not to give into anxiety. Help us, oh Lord, to trust in you, to look to you, constantly look to you. Feed our faith by ministry of the word of God. Sustain us and strengthen us. We pray this in Jesus's name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Mark 5:35-43. In the account of Jesus’ interaction with the bleeding woman and Jarius, we see both Jesus’ power over death and his great tenderness and desire for intimacy with his people. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 5. We're going to continue our study in the Gospel of Mark with this incredible account. I want to preach today on the infinite power and the intimate tenderness that Jesus Christ displays. I've meditated on those themes in God for a long time. Two verses in Isaiah 40 capture the staggering combination of God's infinite power with his gentle tenderness for his people. Isaiah 40:11-12, “He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, over with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” The same God that measures the waters of the oceans and the seven seas in the hollow of his hand. And who, later in that chapter, marks off the dimensions of the heavens with the breadth of his hand? It also says, "Carries the lambs, tenderly in his arms and gently leads those that have young." The same God. I. God Majestic Over Us, Yet Close to Us Now, in our text today, we're going to see Jesus Christ picturing both aspects of God. We're going to see him displaying infinite immeasurable power in raising this little 12-year-old girl from the clutches of the monster known as death. But he does it with the gentle touch of his hand, an intimate tenderness. As he touched her, he spoke these words, "Talitha koum." Talitha, as I'll discuss later, the etymology of it as “little lamb.” Little lamb. Jesus, just in saying that, fulfills these marvelous words of Isaiah 40, “He tends his flock like a shepherd, and he gathers the little lambs in his arms.” We're pondering a God who is infinitely majestic over us and yet desires intimate closeness with us. The infinite majesty of God is taught in the Bible from the very first verse of the Bible. In the beginning, “God created the heavens in the earth.” Almighty God is infinitely beyond. He soars beyond anything we can possibly comprehend. The boundless scope of the nature that he has created confirms this, the ocean, which stretches out to the horizon as far as the eye can see, unfathomably deep roaring with power. God made it. The towering mountain ranges peak after peak, dwarfing us, looming over us with their brooding magnificence, the limitless reaches of outer space, which has no boundary, stretches to infinity in every direction from our tiny planet. It is the power of God, creating all of that saying, "Let there be," and there is. It's the majesty of God. And yet, the intimate closeness of God, the Bible reveals a God that is closer to us than we can possibly imagine. We are dependent on him every moment for our very existence as Paul said in Acts 17, God is not far from each one of us “for in him, we live and move and have our being.” More than that, God yearns to have a close relationship with us, a love relationship with us. He wants to love us. He wants us to love him moment by moment. He created humanity in his image with the capability to do that, the capacity to have a relationship, a love relationship with God. Therefore, this intimate relationship with God is truly what life is all about. As Jesus said in his prayer to his heavenly Father in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” But sin ruptured that intimacy. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, if you read the account, they immediately sought to hide from God. With sin, a terrible barrier has been erected between us and God. And in our sin and in our misery, we live our lives distant from God. "The intimate closeness of God, the Bible reveals a God that is closer to us than we can possibly imagine. We are dependent on him every moment for our very existence..." God seems distant. To some, he seems literally non-existent. Suffering people cry out to God for relief, and they seem to get no answer. They thought that the lack of an answer proved that God doesn't exist or that God doesn't care. But the problem is sin. The problem between us and God is sin. As Isaiah 59 says, verse 1-2, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” Because of our sins, our intimate relationship with God is severed, destroyed. God is distant from us relationally, ready to judge us for our sins, not seeking intimacy with us, apart from atonement for our sins. The incarnation of the Son of God is God's answer to that problem that we cannot solve. In Christ, we have God drawing near to us. Christ is Immanuel, God with us. By his incarnation, Christ has come to live among us in very close intimacy. John, 1:14, “The word, Jesus Christ, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory. Glory is of the only son from the Father full of grace and truth.” The Greek says he literally “pitched his tent among us,” hearkening back to the days of the patriarchs, their tent dwelling days. He came in our midst and pitched his tent right in the middle of us. God, in Jesus, came to draw near to us seeking an intimate relationship with us. He is near to us in our misery, in our sin, in our alienation from God, in our suffering, our diseases, even in our death. All of Christ's ministry is to achieve one end, a reconciled relationship between us and God, between a Holy God and sinful humanity.The restoration, the perfection of intimate closeness, as it says in I Peter 3:18, “for Christ died for sins, once for all the righteous, for the unrighteous to bring you to God.” Meditate on those words. That's the work of atonement, to bring us to God. Therefore, in II Corinthians 5:20, we are told that we have been given a message and a ministry of reconciliation,"We are, therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf be reconciled to God.” Reconciliation is a restored relationship with God, intimacy with God. I think Jesus's parable of the Prodigal Son perfectly gives me a picture of that from the father's point of view. As this sinful son comes back, trying to get a job on his father's plantation working with him, it ends with [Luke 15:20], “but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”We sinners should meditate on that much. That is our father running to us, throwing his arms around us and kissing us while we're still stinking of pig manure and covered with filth, just recently come out of rebellion. This is what our father does. Jesus's ministry is all designed to repair the breach between sinful human beings and a Holy God. In Christ, therefore, we have the perfection of intimate tenderness but also infinite power. He was compassionate toward broken sinners. He showed them astonishing tenderness. He also displayed stunning power to heal their diseases and even to raise the dead. Let's talk about the context of today's account. We're spending two weeks on one lengthy account, two encounters that Jesus has with two desperate people, a desperate father with a dying daughter, and then a desperate woman with an incurable illness. They're united together in Jesus' display of tenderness and power. It began last week as we saw and continues this week with a man named Jairus, a synagogue ruler, a powerful man, well connected with a Jewish religious leaders of the day, but a desperate man whose precious little daughter is dying, his only daughter. He has nowhere else to turn. Abandoning all restraint and all decorum, he comes and throws himself down on the ground before Jesus and begs him. Verse 23, “My little daughter is dying. Please, come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Now, we know from other accounts, Jesus could easily have healed her from a distance. Occasionally, he did that, but generally not. He wanted intimacy. He wanted relationship. So in humility, he gets up and goes with this sorrowing man, surrounded by a crushing crowd. On route, the second desperate person approaches him, a woman suffering from a chronic bleeding problem, heard about Jesus's healing power, a kindled hope and faith in her heart. Mark tells us her sad story of seeking healing. Verse 26, “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had. Yet, instead of getting better, she only grew worse.” She sought to be healed from Jesus without any interaction at all. I don't mean to disparage her at all. But she seems to be a miracle shoplifter, like kind of a smash and grab job. Come up behind, touch the hem of the garment, and get out of there quick. Verse 27- 28, “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’" Her healing was instantaneous. She felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. But Jesus felt in his body that the power of God had flowed through him to someone in that crushing crowd, someone different than all the others. Verse 30, “At once, Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” As we have noted, Jesus had come into the world, not merely to be a dispenser of miracles, like a miracle-vending machine, a pipeline of impersonal blessings. You need to know that God and his goodness does that every day. He causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil. In his goodness, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous to unbelievers, atheists, whoever. He's an impersonal goodness vending machine, and they never think to thank him. Jesus didn't come to do that. He wanted an interaction with this woman. Verse 32, “Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.” The surging massive humanity was not his focus at that moment. One person in that crushing crowd was his focus, one desperate sinner. He wanted to do more than just heal her body, He wanted to save her soul. Verse 33:34, “then the woman knowing what had happened to her came, fell at his feet, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. And he said to her daughter, ‘Your faith has saved you.’" The Greek said “saved you” though healing is involved. “Go and peace and be freed from your suffering.” But in the intervening time that Jesus spent with this woman, Jairus's daughter died. The flickering candle of her life went out. II. The Terrible Crisis of Faith This brings us to this man's terrible crisis of faith. It begins with the faithless bearers of bad news, verse 35, “While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. Why bother the teacher anymore?” These messengers are curt, they’re unfeeling. They crush Jairus with this devastating news, with the delicacy of a sledgehammer, "Your daughter is dead.” Behind this blunt news is a significant measure of unbelief. Why bother the teacher anymore? In other words, there's nothing he can do. Everyone knows death is final. It's the end of the line. In our technologically advanced world, we have the advantage here in the Raleigh, Durham area of being surrounded by some of the best doctors, nurses, medical practitioners in the world, state of the art. You could picture them working in an emergency room on a person who comes in right on the edge of death. You can imagine all of the frantic activity and the commands and the energy and people running in and out of the room and bringing equipment or medicines or techniques, whatever's needed to try to save this person's life. But when the physician in charge declares that the individual is dead, all of that stops. Time of death is noted. All that activity, then people slow down. They walk. There's nothing more that can be done. We know that. It's finished. That's how these messengers were. That's how it is in almost every case. They believe there is nothing Jesus can do. Death is the final enemy, the monster no one can defeat. Along with this is the great sorrow of a dead child. Few things are sadder than the funeral of a child. Death is hard in any case, but the agony is greater when someone's young, a teenager or younger child. It's a sense of rage, a sense of injustice and fairness, like something was stolen. In 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon for a young teenager named Billy Sheldon who died in their community. The name of the sermon and the funeral sermon was “Youth Is Like a Flower Cut Down.” Later with many tears, Edwards revised that same sermon and used it to preach the funeral of his own beloved daughter, Jerusha. The message said, in part these words, "Youth maybe liken to a beautiful wildflower growing in a field. And their death is like the sudden cutting of the flower in the stem. Youth is an age wherein people are commonly full of hopes and promises to themselves of the good and the prosperity that they shall see in this world. They're just entering upon the stage of this world. And they promise themselves much that they shall see and enjoy afterwards. And their parents and their friends are also ready to promise themselves much future comfort in them and are full of hope in seeing them settled.” He told the young people at the funeral to come and look on the face, the dead face of this young boy, Billy Sheldon, "Come and look at him. Do you see how cold and gray is his power, how stripped of color his cheeks, like when a wildflower is cut and soon droops and withers and loses all of its beauty in its vitality, how instantly this happens.” So it was with Jairus's daughter, the end of the account. We're told that she's 12 years old. You picture her happy, energetic, promising life and joy to her parents, still happily hugging her beloved father, kissing his cheek with tender affection. He imagined the years ahead. Soon, she would be of an age to be married, bear them grandchildren, perhaps even a beautiful little granddaughter to kind of take her place and then jump up in his arms and kiss his cheeks. He's imagining this. But suddenly, sickness gripped her, and it just got worse. We don't know much about the sickness, maybe she had a fever or something like that burning up. As the days passed, she only got worse, not better. Her mother nursing her, caring for her, patting her, fevered brow with a cloth. Not much anyone could do. Parents crying out to God for healing, but to no avail. Instead of getting better, she grew worse. But Jairus had one hope. He'd heard about this healer, Jesus, and he went to find him. It's a last hope for his daughter, Jesus wasn't there. He'd gone across the Sea of Galilee. There was no no telling when he was going to come back. It seems he just stood there and waited by the shore, waited for Jesus to come because in the account, as soon as he has got back from the gatherings, he's there right away. With urgent anguish, he comes and throws himself on the ground before him and Jesus gets up and humbly goes with him. But on route, we have this encounter with the woman and the bleeding and all of that. And that must have taken some time because by the time they get back to Jairus's home, the funeral rituals are well on. They're well established, so it must have been a while. Then the messengers come with that cold blunt message, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?" Now, what did Jairus feel? We don't know, but it's not hard to imagine, waves of dark grief, sorrow. What he dreaded has now happened. And perhaps some anger at the crowd. Jesus could have gone faster. If it weren't for the crowd. Maybe he's even frustrated with the woman, perhaps questioning Jesus in his priority structure. And like the men who brought the message, it doesn't seem like his faith is much beyond theirs, “There’s probably nothing more Jesus can do.” His faith in Jesus had reached a crisis level, so Jesus addresses Jairus's faith right away. Verse 36, “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don't be afraid. Just believe.’" In all of the accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all of his encounters with people, Jesus never coddled unbelief. He never excused unbelief. It was never okay to not believe, ever. Even the most extreme circumstance, like a raging hurricane, professional fishermen in the boat seeing their boat filled with water. Matthew 8: 26, he said, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid? You shouldn't be." Now, we know in the economy of God and salvation and the gospel work, we are justified, forgiven of our sins by faith in Jesus, by simple faith in Christ, not by works. By trusting in Jesus are our sins forgiven. Jesus knew that. So when any disciple doubts or begins to doubt, it is a big deal. It is a bigger crisis than any fever or any bleeding problem, so he addresses the problem. He speaks directly to Jairus's soul. Literally in the Greek, it's this, “stop being afraid and keep believing.” Stop being afraid and keep believing. Fear and faith are often opposites in the Bible. Jairus needs to beat back his fear by trusting in Jesus. He did believe, but he needs to keep believing through this, even in the face of our greatest and our final enemy, death itself. Jesus gives an additional promise to help him. Faith feeds on the promises of God. That's where faith comes from, the promises of God. In Luke's gospel, Jesus gives Jairus an additional promise to help feed his faith. In Luke, 8:50,”Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don't be afraid. Just believe, and she will be healed.’" She will be healed. "Faith feeds on the promises of God." So it is with us. In our greatest trials, God has the power to speak directly to our souls based on the scripture and remind us of things maybe that we had forgotten so that our faith can be fed and strengthened in the midst of the suffering to renew our faith in Christ. Notice also, and isn't it beautiful again, and again, how beautiful, the serenity, the leadership of Jesus, the majesty of his person, never flustered, never distressed, never not knowing what to do, always in command of the situation. So beautiful. He is the captain of our salvation. That's Jesus. III. The Commotion of Unbelieving Grief So now, we see the commotion of unbelieving grief in the account. First, Jesus weeds out the crowd, whittles them down quickly, he doesn't want them coming. He filters out his own apostles, nine of them and the disciples, the huge crowd that's following him. Then, just the hangers on, all of them, weeded out. It doesn't let any of them follow, verse 37, “He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James,” the inner three. The inner circle of the 12 apostles was Peter, James, and John, the rest of the apostles are excluded. The disciples are excluded. The huge crowd is excluded. No one else can come. Then, Jesus arrives at Jairus's house. He's confronted by another crowd. But this time, a crowd of noisy mourners, verse 38, “When he came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw commotion with people crying and wailing loudly.” Jewish funerals back then very different than what we are accustomed to, very different. If you go to a funeral home now for the visitation, everyone there speaks in hush tones. Everybody's whispering and go up quietly and say to the grieving family, "Praying for you," expressing condolences, this kind of thing. I've been to lots of them. That's how it is. It would not be appropriate for me to wail loudly and express grief at the funeral home. People would be thinking I was out of my mind. But in the first century, this is what they did. People were actually expected to give loud and boisterous voice to their grief and anguish. The more they did, the more they were connected with the family and showing the anguish that they have in reference to this death. They're also expected to tear their clothing in displays of grief. Now, along with this apparently, there was a class of professional mourns who did this for a living. They would show up and they would do some wailing and grieving for a fee. Hard to believe but there it is. They would bring along musicians, flute players who would play in loud discordant notes to kind of represent in musical tones, the anguish everybody's feeling. That's what's going on as Jesus comes. Now, these professional mourners are merely actors. They don't have any genuine compassion for the people. They felt no appropriate level of grief for Jairus and his wife. Why do I say that? Well, look at the account. In a short time, they are instantly laughing at Jesus. Where did all the grief go? Where was all the grief? It was fake. It wasn't genuine. Even worse though, they're unbelieving toward Jesus. Verse 39, “He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’" IV. The Tender Touch of Infinite Power Jesus is about to show his infinite power in the greatest possible context. Our ultimate enemy, death, will be defeated effortlessly. But he's not going to do it in front of these unbelieving people, so he has to rebuke these fake mourns. He makes this clearest assertion, "She is not dead. The child is not dead, but asleep." Death is like sleep. It's only temporary. In other words, it is no more difficult for Jesus to raise this girl from the dead than it would be for her parents to wake her up from an afternoon nap. Jesus' resurrection is going to prove this for all time. But the mourner's reaction is pure faithlessness and mockery, verse 40, “They all laughed at him.” They laughed at him, so Jesus clears them all out. After He'd put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was. So picture this, our powerful commander, the master of our souls, going down into the valley of the shadow of death alone to defeat the foe for us. Now, picture that. I know that there's people with him, but in terms of who's going forth to do the battle, it's Jesus. Now we see the tender touch of infinite power. As I've said, everything Jesus did was for relationship. He could have healed this girl from a distance, no problem, but instead, he wanted to touch her hand with his own hand. He wanted to reach out his hand and take her by the hand. He wanted to display his power nestled in his astonishing tenderness in gentle mercy. "He wanted to display his power nestled in his astonishing tenderness in gentle mercy." Verse 41, “He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, “little girl”, I say to you, get up.” You have the touch and the word. It's beautiful. In Franco Zeffirelli's classic Jesus of Nazareth, it films this encounter with tremendous sensitivity. Jesus goes into her room. There's three square windows, way up high. She's laying flat on the ground on a palette, and sunlight is streaming in through these three little kind of portholes, but mostly the room is shrouded and shadow. Jesus goes over and kneels down near her. The camera zeros in on Jesus's face. Look on his face and then down on his hand. The hand, just the way it's shot, is covered with light, but there's darkness all around it. Then, he reaches down and takes her by the hand. Instantly, she just sits up and puts her arms around his neck. He hugs her and picks her up. That's how Zeffirelli pictured it. Probably something like that. Along with that are the words that he spoke, which I've already noted. Only Mark's gospel gives us the Aramaic, “Talitha koum.” Now the word Talitha's translated for us “little girl,” but like I said, etymologically, it means “little lamb.” It's definitely a term of endearment, tender affection for a little girl. Though she was 12 years old and would soon be entering into the duties of adulthood, of motherhood, of marriage and motherhood, still to her parents, probably, especially to her dad, she's a little lamb, but so, it is with him. That's the way it is for Jesus. This scene is why Christii and I named our daughter Daphne Talitha, because we trusted that Jesus would raise her from the dead spiritually while she lived, which he has through faith in Christ and that he would raise her from the dead physically at the end of the world, which he will. Talitha koum, “little girl,” arise. Instantaneous healing. Jesus has absolute effortless power over death. Verse 42, “Immediately, the girl stood up and walked around.” She was 12 years old. As with all of Jesus's healings, there's no need for convalescence, no need for rehab or long process of recovering her strength. Her body is as healed as it was before the sickness came. This dark enemy, this powerful implacable, undefeatable foe of the human race, death, Jesus defeats with effortless power. After his own resurrection, Jesus will claim absolute power forever over death for all of his people. Then comes worship, verse 42, “At this, they were completely astonished.” Jesus's awesome power is breathtaking. We're going to spend eternity in heaven, completely astonished in wave upon wave upon wave of astonishment. It's never going to end. As he keeps telling you and teaching you things he did, you never knew he did, you'll be on the ground praising, worshipping. Then you'll get up ready for the next wave, completely astonished. This is the essence of worship. V. “Don’t Tell Anyone” But then comes this strange command, “Don't tell anyone.” In verse 43, he gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this. Again and again, we see this restriction in these gospel accounts. We must acknowledge this is obviously temporary. How do you know that? Well, it's in the Bible. The Bible's a very famous book. The Holy Spirit inspired this account to be written. Clearly, God wants this story published abroad. There is no restriction now. There's no strict command, “Don't tell anyone.” Actually, we have strict commands to tell everyone. So I just charge all of you this week. Tell this story in the workplace. You're free to do it. Then, why did he restrict them? Why this Messianic secret? Why this command? I think it really just comes down to crowd control. They had misunderstandings of the kingdom. So, it's already crazy. Remember that the whole woman with the bleeding problem, Jesus can't even breathe just because of the healings, but this knowledge would make it more difficult. That's probably the reason. Another interpreter says it's also because Jesus hasn't finished his work over death yet, so the message isn't complete yet. He wants to finish the message by his resurrection from the dead. Then this can get out. That's possible. After Jesus rose from the dead, he appears to the apostle John in the island of Patmos and in Revelation 1:17-18, he says, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one. I was dead and behold, I am alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys of death and the grave." Isn't that awesome? The message has been completed by Jesus' historical bodily resurrection from the dead. He also gives one final practical command. Did you notice? He told her parents to give her something to eat. I love that. “Give her something. She hasn't eaten in a while.” I just love it, this show of tender care. He cares for every aspect of life. VI. Lessons What lessons can we take from this? First, the way I couched this entire sermon was infinite power and intimate tenderness. Ponder that. Ponder both sides. It is vital for us to realize how powerful Jesus is. There is nothing he cannot do. There is no enemy we face that he cannot defeat. There is no need we have that he cannot meet. He created the universe by the word of his power and sustains it by the word of his power. That's who Jesus is. He rules the win and the waves. But instead of that making us terrified of him and distant from him, we need to see how tender he is with sinners and with little girls and with women and with weak people. He's so tender with them. “The bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” He is skillfully tender with broken people, perfectly gentle. All of his power, his ministry, his miracles, his teachings, his atonement on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, all of it is toward one end, to bring us to God. Do you know him today? Do you know him? Have you trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? Have you realized he shed his blood on the cross so that you would not have to burn in hell forever and ever as you would deserve to do? So would I if it weren't for the blood shed. He died the death we deserve so that we could live a life with him forever. Do you trust him? Have you trusted in him? Secondly, this theme of faith versus fear, there is a category of faithless fears that we're all plagued by in life. I've seen it a lot in COVID. I still see it sometimes. I worry about some folks. I can't judge him. I don't know. But I wonder if they're enslaved to some faithless fears. If it wasn't just COVID, it’s just in general. We're all plagued by faithless fears by that, I mean fears, we should not have, fears that faith in the word of God and Jesus should drive out. There are some fears we should have, fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom, fear of what sin might do to my life. There are certain things we should fear. But there are faithless fears, usually having to do with circumstances, things that go on in life. Are you suffering from any faithless fears today? Jesus says right in this text, "Don't be afraid. Keep on believing. Stop being afraid. Keep on believing. Bring your faith into that fear." The big lesson of this text must be Jesus' power to raise the dead. That must be the big lesson here. Death is the final enemy, and we have no answer to it. There is no pharmaceutical company, there’s no research hospital that's working on this problem of death. They may be working on not dying in this way or that way or the other way. But death itself stands over all of us. It is the final enemy. Jesus has absolute power over it. "That must be the big lesson here. Death is the final enemy, and we have no answer to it. ... It is the final enemy. Jesus has absolute power over it." Think about Revelation 1, “I hold the keys of death and the grave. I was dead, and behold, I'm alive.”Jesus claims to be able to give that power to us. He is going to raise us from the grave. As John 5 28 says, "Do not be amazed at this. A time is coming when all are in their graves will hear his voice and come out,” just like Talitha koum. He won't say that to you. But he'll say like, "Lazarus come forth," something like that. Only you'll come forth in a resurrection body never to die again. He has that power. In John 11, he says, "I am the resurrection in the life. He who believes in me will live. Even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." Like he said to Martha, "Do you believe this? If you believe in Christ, he is resurrection in life.” Finally, we have a responsibility to liberate people in this area, this geographical region, from their fear of death. We have the power to do that. Jesus by his death, Hebrews 2 tells us, destroyed him who holds the power of death, the devil, so that he might liberate or set free those who all their lives are held in slavery by their fear of death. I want to say it comes in two steps. First, if they are lost, if they're dead in their transgressions and sins while they live, they ought to fear death because if they die in that condition, they will spend eternity apart from God in hell. So I want them to be afraid and then flee to Christ. As Newton said in Amazing Grace, "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." We get to do that with people. We get to help them to fear like they should and then say, "Jesus will relieve those fears through the gospel.” Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the time we've had to walk through incredible account. Thank you for the infinite power and the tenderness of Jesus. I pray that you'd help us to understand what this teaches us about Jesus to draw close to him. I pray for brothers and sisters who have been trusting in Christ for years, but are going through trials that they would be able to draw near to you and allow your words to drive out faithless fears. I pray, Lord, that you would strengthen each of us to be faithful to share this gospel message with people who are lost in our community, lost who need to hear of Christ. And we pray these in Jesus's name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Mark 5: 21-43. Christ's miraculous healings were meant to bring sinners into a reconciled, personal, intimate relationship with the Almighty God. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - I. “We Are Weak, But He Is Strong” Turning your Bibles to Mark 5, we continue our incredible journey through this gospel of Mark. When our kids were little, Christi and I would put them to bed using bedtime rituals, and we would sing them songs. For a while, one of the songs that we sang, of course is Jesus Loves Me, which you know very well. “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.” “They are weak, but he is strong.” Friends this is a message for everyone. For all of us. To some degree, we all have to become like little children in order to be saved. Jesus said this in Matthew 18:3, , "Truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." All of us underestimates both sides of that statement, how weak we are and how strong He is. We all have to come to understand both sides of that, how weak we are, how strong Jesus is, but we tend to think of ourselves as so very powerful, don't we? The tower of Babel, for example, displayed man arrogant because of his technological inventiveness, the ability now to make bricks that could be stacked higher than ever before, and build a tower that reached up to heaven. If anything, the human race is even more arrogant now. We actually have built a rocket and flown to the moon less than seven decades after Orville and Wilbur built the first airplane. So we tend to think that we are powerful. We have ridden the coattails of modern science to defeat countless diseases like polio and smallpox. We think we are powerful. We have flexed our muscles to build ever more devastating weapons, even harnessing the power of the atom to build thermonuclear weapons that can erase whole cities in an instant. We think that we are powerful. We probe the mysteries of the genetic code of nature and develop seeds and genetically engineered living organisms. We think we are powerful. We have unleashed the power of the electron and digital technologies and developed stunningly powerful computers that perform astonishing feats. We think we are powerful, but friends, we are weak. We have not conquered nature. The wind still blows wherever it wishes, and we cannot stop it. We don't even know where it's going. We have not conquered space, for the distance of the nearest star will forever mock our insignificant achievement of going to the moon and back. We've not conquered disease for people still suffer daily of diseases, which continue to defy medical science. We have not conquered sin for people still lust and rage and defraud and wage war against one another daily. We have not conquered death for the death rate continues 100%. In the face of this overwhelming weakness, in the face of this, Jesus came to save us and to show us that though we are weak, He is strong, and He is strong for us on our behalf. We see the awesome power of Jesus displayed in these gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in his miracles. The miracles of Jesus put on plain display his awesome power in ways that absolutely boggle the mind. We've seen his power over the wind in the waves simply saying to raging storm, a hurricane, “peace be still” and instantly the wind stopped, the sea became as calm and placid as a mill pond, just at his word. We saw him deal last week with a wretched maniac, I think the most wretched human being in biblical history. No one, I think, was more wretched, more powerless tormented by a legion of demons, maybe as many as 6,000 demons. Despite their overwhelming supernatural power, they knew clearly that they were no match for Jesus. They were terrified of him. They caused the man that they had dominated to run and fall on his knees before Jesus and confess Jesus to be the son of the most high God. Jesus effortlessly commanded those demons with the single word, “Go”, and they went.Tthe 2,000 pigs rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned. Jesus' power was absolute, complete, effortless. He's the absolute master over all demons, over every disease, even over nature itself. But what about death? Our final and greatest enemy. What about death? In the account that we will begin this week and finish next week, God willing, we're going to see Jesus's absolute power over death in raising a little girl, Jairus' daughter, from the dead. We are all weak before the power of death, but Jesus rules over death. He rules absolutely over death. He says in Revelation 1:18, "I am the living one. I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the key of death in the grave." Jesus claims absolute mastery in power over death. He did that by his own death and his own resurrection. But in the midst of all this awesome power of Jesus, we also see his tender mercies. We see his relational tenderness, his desire for intimacy with us, the basic promise of the gospel and the most important verse in the Bible for me is Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." I think that word “poor” means “beggars”, so I translated it in my mind. “Blessed are the spiritual beggars for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To enter the kingdom of heaven, you have to acknowledge that you are a spiritual beggar. You are weak, powerless, destitute, actually even repulsive. To come to Christ, you have to see him as powerful and capable of saving you, but you also have to see Jesus as tender and compassionate, willing to receive you. This account that we are following today and will again, God willing next week shows two spiritual beggars who have absolutely nothing to offer to Jesus. They're both desperate and they know it. "To enter the kingdom of heaven, you have to acknowledge that you are a spiritual beggar. You are weak, powerless, destitute, actually even repulsive." First, we have a father, Jairus, whose little 12 year old daughter is dying, and his heart is being torn to shreds. He casts all dignity aside and falls down before Jesus to beg for his help on her behalf. Second, we have a woman with a bleeding problem which has lasted as long as that little girl has been alive, 12 years. She's physically defiled, she's spiritually outcast. She is effectively no better than a leper in that society. She's desperate. She has done everything she could to be healed and has nowhere else left to turn. It's two spiritual beggars who know that they're weak and who believe that Jesus is strong, but they're also going to find out how tender Jesus is in his affections, his mercies toward weak spiritual beggars. What's the context of this account in Mark's gospel? The central message of Mark’s Gospel is declared right at the very beginning, Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” The word “gospel” means “good news”, so that Jesus is the son of God is our good news. That's the gospel. Jesus is the gospel. The attributes of Jesus are put on display so that by reading these accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, by reading them all, we come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and that by believing, we may have eternal life in his name, full forgiveness of sins. Now, we have just read the most astonishing day of Jesus' life in terms of spectacular displays of his power. It's not going to get more spectacular than what we've seen. The stilling of the storm or hurricane with a word, I mean that's spectacular. Then the driving out of the most spectacular exorcism recorded in the Word, the gospels in the New Testament, the driving out of a legion of demons. That wretched man has now been saved from the demons, but not just saved from the demons, he's saved. Like we understand, his sins are forgiven. He wants a relationship with Jesus. He wants to spend the rest of his life with Jesus. Jesus does not let him, but sends him home to his family. He sends him on mission to go to his family and tell them how much God has done for him, and how He has had mercy on him. So the man goes off on his mission. Tragically, however, we saw also the people of that region, of the Gerasenes, are more afraid of Jesus than they were of this demon possessed, man. They could live with him. They were putting up, they just stayed away from that area, but they didn't want Jesus there, they ask him to go. Jesus never forces himself on any unwilling people, the demons do that. Jesus never forces himself. Instead, what he does is He makes people willing to have him through the spirit. That's the transformation of our inner nature. The heart of stone removed, the heart of flesh given, and central to it is, "I want Jesus in my life." He doesn't ever force himself. And now He just gets in the boat and leaves and crosses back across the Sea of Galilee. In this account that you heard read, you have effectively a double account. It's like one of those wooden Russian dolls. You know those nested dolls, where you take one out and then the next one pops in. You get a miracle within a miracle going on here. Just in my judgment as a preacher, I was like, "There's no way I want to run through this," so we're going to focus on the beginning of the story with Jairus, but we're going to interrupt it. Then as Jesus was interrupted, we have that second miracle, the healing of this woman, the bleeding woman. Then, God willing, we will finish the account of Jairus, the resurrection of Jairus' daughter next week. II. The First Beggar: A Desperate Father We start with the first beggar, this desperate father. Look at verses 21- 24. “When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers named Jairus came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please, come and put your hands on her so that she'll be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him.” The account begins with something that we should recognize by now as a reality in Jesus' life, the constant crush of the crowd. This has been a regular feature of Jesus's ministry. Every day of Jesus's public life at this point, his life, there are literally thousands of people who want to be around him. The reason for this is his astonishing healing ministry. His reputation as a healer has gone out far and wide. There was no disease or sickness He could not heal. He did it effortlessly. So people came, thousands came. Beyond this, to some degree, they came because of his reputation as a teacher. There were some people there who just wanted to hear him teach. Mark 1:22 says, "The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law." Later in John's Gospel, John 7:46, "No one ever spoke the way this man does." They wanted to hear him give the words of life, so some of them were there for that. Remember how Jesus had to sit out in a boat to get away from the crush of the crowd so they could hear him and enable him to teach? There was a huge crowd, and, in the midst of this crowd is this man, Jairus. He's a powerful man, a leader in the community, he's called the synagogue ruler. The synagogue was the center of Jewish life out in the communities, outside of Jerusalem. So out in the hinterlands, you've got synagogue, the place where the Jews would gather together every week on the Sabbath to hear the word of God. The Old Testament, we know it's the Old Testament read and taught now to be a synagogue. To be a ruler meant to be a leading man of the community, a man of power, a man of piety. Almost certainly. He would've been a Pharisee because they really controlled the religious life of Israel. But the Pharisees have already blacklisted Jesus to some degree. We don't know how official this is at this point, but they are against him because He's violating their understanding of the Sabbath. He's already doing things they consider to be blasphemous, declaring people's sins forgiven, calling himself the Lord of the Sabbath. That'll do it right there, so already there against him. And I think most significantly, psychologically, they are against him because He rejected their piety. He said, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you're not going to heaven." So He's saying they're not going to heaven as they are. Their righteous is not enough, and they took offense to that. Later, by the time we get the healing of the man born blind in John's gospel, John chapter 9, it's clear that the Jewish authorities had already decided that if anyone said that Jesus was the Messiah, they would be put out of the synagogue, blacklisted from Jewish life. So we're on the way to there if we're not already there. But Jairus was not thinking about any of that, was he? There was one thing on his mind and only one thing, his little girl. She's dying, and despite all of his power and all of his piety, he knows he's weak in the face of this. There's nothing he can do to save her. Her life is like a flickering candle. It's about to be snuffed out at any moment. Indeed, it was while Jesus was on route. That's how close to death she was. Now, Jairus knows Jesus reputation. He's convinced that Jesus can heal his daughter if only he can come there in time, so he comes and makes a desperate request. Look at verse 22, 23, "He fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him. My little daughter is dying, please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." He throws himself on the ground prostrate before the feet of Jesus, and in doing this, he has officially thrown his reputation out the window with the Pharisees. They hate Jesus. He doesn't care about that at all. He's treating Jesus like a king, perhaps even like the son of God, though I'm sure he doesn't really understand what that means. The Greek verb here in verse 23 speaks of “desperate treaties.” "He beseeches him greatly," the text says, "I'm begging you, Jesus, come. She's at the point of death, right at the edge. She's been getting worse and worse." And that was whenever he saw her last. I get the feeling, he was waiting for Jesus to come back from the region of the Gadarenes. He's right there on the shore waiting for him. Remember that messengers have to come and tell him what's going on, that she's died. I picture him waiting there for Jesus to get back. Jairus knows that Jesus is the only one that can save her life. It's interesting to ponder, if the people of the Gadarenes had asked Jesus to stay, instead of demanded that He left, and if He had yielded to their desires, she would've died, the moment where the window would've passed. Everything is orchestrated by the mighty perfect plan of God here. Jesus leaves the Garasenes, goes across and hears Jairus waiting for him. Jairus knows he cannot demand anything from Jesus. He's a beggar with nothing to offer. His power, his position, his wealth, his piety mean nothing. If Jesus doesn't come and save her, she will die. There's nothing that Jairus can do to force Jesus to come if He doesn't want to come. So just, I want to say to all of you that are listening to me, stop right there. Put yourself in that position. Do you see yourself as a beggar with nothing to offer God. You have nothing in your hands that you're bringing that's of any interest to him. No way to beguile him, to turn his attention toward you. Do you see that if Jesus were not willing to die in your place under the wrath of God, you could never persuade him to do it? "Would you please drink the cup of God's wrath against me? Would you please shed your blood on the cross for me? So I can go to heaven and not hell, would you do that for me?" There's nothing you could do to make him do that. If He’s not willing. We are truly beggars. "Do you see yourself as a beggar with nothing to offer God? ... Do you see that if Jesus were not willing to die in your place under the wrath of God, you could never persuade him to do it?" One of the most moving moments when I was studying the life of Martin Luther was the words of his death. He was dying, he knew it. His final words were in two languages, first German, and then Latin.” We are all beggars. This is true.” Those are his final words, and then he died. Do you see yourself that way? Do you see yourself as a sinner saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ? That's our gospel. That's what we're hoping in. We are all beggars. Jairus comes with a limited faith. Now faith is not all of one kind. It's not static, it can grow, it can develop. We can be those of little faith and grow into greater faith. There's little doubt at the beginning of their encounter, Jairus believes Jesus can heal his daughters. There's no doubt actually about that. If only can get there in time to place his hand on her, he does not imagine that Jesus can heal her remotely. He doesn't think about that. He's got to get there. He's not thinking at this point that He's going to raise her from the dead. It's not on his mind. Jesus is going to work on this man's faith during their time together. By the end of the entire encounter, his faith will be far beyond what it was at the beginning of the encounter. We also see in this, Jesus's availability in his humility.Ttime and time again, people come in and treat of Jesus and He just yields to them, He just does what they want. Jairus comes and begs, he just gets up and goes. Jesus came to be, as Mark 9:35 says, a servant of all. Other people's needs were more important to him than his own. He never refused. He never said, "Can't you see I'm busy here?" Or thought himself too important for others or sighed and said, "I really think I've done enough for one day." Never. It's not his attitude. We are so selfish, aren't we? We pass every request, every opportunity to serve or whatever through the grid of what's pleasing to us or whether we're willing or not. Jesus just wasn't that way. He was serving of all. Now, the crowd came along too. They're going everywhere Jesus goes. Look at verse 24, "So Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed and pressed around him." This crowd was literally crushing him physically. When Christii and I were missionaries in Japan, I had the opportunity one weekday morning, somewhere around 8:15 in the morning to take a local train from Cobe to Osaka in Japan. What was I thinking? Some of you will know how ridiculous and foolish that is because that local train made four stops. The first, when we all got on in Cobe was the most crowded train I've ever been on. Those four stops, not a single person got off, but about... It seemed that same number of people got on. There are these Japanese officials with white gloves on whose job is to shove people physically into the train. I don't have claustrophobia, except I did that day. I was standing there and all of these people are crushing in on me so that I could not expand my rib cage to get the air that apparently my cells needed to stay alive, so I was breathing like I had emphysema. I was panting at the top of my breath, just hoping that ride would continue and then we'd get to the next local stop, but then more people are getting on. Unbelievable. The Greek gives us a sense that that's kind of what's going on here. In Luke 8:42, it says, "As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him." The Greek is literally “choking him.” They're depriving him of air, He's crushed by these people. III. The Second Beggar: A Desperate Woman On route, we see the second beggar, a desperate woman. Look at verse 25, "And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years." Let's talk about her condition. The bleeding problem was almost certainly a female problem, a gynecological problem. It tells us that she'd been suffering in this condition for an incredible twelve years. Clearly, the bleeding was not life threatening, she was not bleeding out, but her condition was life altering in that Jewish context. She was considered to be spiritually defiled because of the blood. In the law of Moses, such a condition rendered her spiritually unclean, unable to participate in Jewish life, Leviticus 15:25, "When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period, or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge." Long as it goes, she's unclean. She could not go to the synagogue. Anyone who touched her would be unclean. That's what made her effectively a leper, not a lot of difference actually. These laws were not just meant for the hygiene of the Jewish people, but also to teach a spiritual lesson. One of the more famous verses in Isaiah, Isaiah 64:6 says, "All of us, all of us have become like one who is unclean. And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." The Hebrew related to the rags as used for such a flow of blood. All of our most righteous acts are defiled in the sight of God. People who think that they're going to save themselves by their good works, hoping their good works outweigh their bad, they don't have any good works. Romans 3 makes it plain, “There is no one who does good.” All of our righteous acts are defiled like that. It's a picture of that. So this woman was desperate, and she had had desperate measures for years and years. Look at verse 26. I talked to Daphne, me daughter, about this verse driving in. Ponder this story locked up in verse 26, it's hard to read without emotion what it was like, what her life was like. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. It's wave upon wave of sorrow for this woman. It's a quick sketch of what those twelve years have been like for her. It's hard to imagine what she's gone through. The text says, "She had suffered a great deal under the therapies of the primitive doctors of the time." Their therapies, had caused suffering for her. Physically invasive, humiliating, painful, she'd suffered these treatments. The cures were bizarre, invasive, disgusting and ineffective, and they were costly. What a contrast to the words I've given already many times for Jesus' healings. Effortless, effective instantaneous, and free. He didn't charge anything for his healings, but these doctors did. The text says the woman had spent all the money she had on these cures, and they were ineffective. Instead of getting better, she just got worse. Can you sense the desperation she must have had? “There's nothing for me.” She spent all the money she had, she had no money left. Now, she heard the reports about Jesus and that gave her faith. Faith comes by hearing the word. The reports gave her faith. Look at verse 27, 28, "When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’" The reports had reached her ears of Jesus's amazing healings. She'd heard of his tenderness toward women in particular; many of Jesus's most affecting and tender encounters were with women. He treated them with dignity. He treated them with respect, treated them as created in the image of God, treated them with absolute purity. So her faith, when she heard of these accounts was kindled within her, and she made her way to where Jesus was. The text tells us of her faith in his healing power. Her plan was based on Matthew 9:20, to touch the fringe of his garment, the tassel on his garment. These would be down near the ground. Jewish men were required to wear tassels on the edge of their cloaks as constant reminders to keep the law of God. this woman felt all she had to do was get to the hem of his garment, the tassels on his garment, touch them and she'd be healed. She also clearly wanted to avoid the embarrassment of an interaction, so she came in physically low. The fringe of Jesus' robe would've been down near the ground. Picture Jesus, unable to breathe because of the crowd, and she's down near the ground, trampled. She forces her way through the throng, gets down near the ground and reaches her hand out. Verse 29 speaks of the healing, "Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering." Oh, hallelujah, the power of Jesus to bring about this instantaneous healing. Pain was gone instantly. "She could feel," the text says, "In her body, I'm healed." After 12 years. The Greek word translated “suffering”. She was freed from her. Suffering is very strong. “Mastigos”, the same word that would later be used of the flogging that Jesus would undergo for our salvation. John 19:1 uses the same, the flogging, she'd been flogged by this problem, and now it was done. Effectively, Jesus had taken the flogging, her flogging onto himself. It says very beautifully in first Peter 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his body, on the tree, on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds." You have been healed. So he takes it into himself. "Many of Jesus's most affecting and tender encounters were with women. He treated them with dignity. He treated them with respect, treated them as created in the image of God, treated them with absolute purity. " But now, the text just goes off into infinite mystery. I believe as a theologian, as a pastor, there is no harder, higher mystery in theology than that of the incarnation. We'll never get done thinking about it. The rest of this account has the power to trip the circuit breakers of your mind. Just like, I don't know. I don't understand this. How is it? Look at verse 30 -34. "At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked,”Who touched my clothes?’ "You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘Yet you can ask who touched me?’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her came and fell at his feet and trembling with fear told him the whole truth. ‘He said to her daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” There are different ways to read it, but I just really believe the text reads most naturally that he truly did not know who touched him. It wasn't a trick question. He realized that power had gone through, so something hit him. It wasn't voluntary on his part. Power had gone through him and He realized that. it came into his mind, "Power has gone through me," and he was trying to find out who touched him. So here's the thing, the central message is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the second person in the Trinity. The incarnate son of God. That means God in the flesh. As God in the flesh, he has godlike nature powers. Powers over nature, such as controlling the wind and the waves. As God in the flesh, he has godlike healing powers, such as driving out demons and healing, every disease and sickness. As God in the flesh, he has godlike knowledge. He has the ability to read people's minds. He knows what's happened far away even if no messengers have come to tell him. He can tell people what's happened in some remote distant location. He knows in detail what's about to happen when he goes into the city of Jerusalem, who's going to be carrying something at a certain moment, amazing. He knows the distant future things that still haven't even happened about the second coming and about the end of the world. Supernatural knowledge. As God in the flesh, he has godlike authority. He has ability to declare to a sinner, "All your sins are forgiven." He has the right to interpret the Sabbath, godlike power to interpret the Sabbath. He has all of that. But clearly, as a man, he's limited physically, He can only be in one place at one time. And as a man, he's limited mentally in some mysterious way. What do I mean by that? God, the first person in the Trinity, God, the Father, has never learned anything and He never will. But when Jesus was growing up, it says in Luke 2:52, that He increased in wisdom. That means He was more wise on day X than He was day X minus 10 or something like that. He learned stuff. He also openly says concerning the events of the Second Coming, "No one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the father." Wow. So the most natural way to read this is this among the things that Jesus didn't know and had to learn was who had touched him. Then what happened? The power of almighty God went through Jesus to this woman. It's incredible. Then Jesus stands and begins this inquiry. Put yourself in the disciples place. Jesus is getting crushed, He can't breathe, and He just stops, and He's like, "Wait a minute. Who touched me?" This is an interesting moment. Do you not imagine his disciples? They don't want to say it, but it's like, "What a dumb question." They are thinking disparaging thoughts of Jesus, they did it many times. Five minutes later however, after the encounter happened, it's like, "Oh, something did happen." But initially, just initially it's a cautionary tale for all of us, don't ever question Jesus. He always knows what he's doing, always. Never doubt him. Never think low thoughts of him. There was a kind of touch that Jesus had experienced. Unlike all the jostling random crushing actions that was going on, this was different. He said, "Power went through me." As if in our 21st century understanding, He was an electric cable and electric power went through him or some kind of conduit. Now, we've been saying again and again, that all of Jesus' miracles were done only at the will of his Father. He did nothing apart from the will of his Father. He was never on his own thinking of something. He was always in response to what the Father wanted him to do. He sent him out to do the works of the Father. We also have said that Jesus did not do any miracles except from the power of the Spirit. It says in Acts 10:38, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and power and how he went around doing good and healing, all who are under the power of the devil, because God was with him by the power of the spirit were all the miracles done." Why would half of them be done by the spirit? Does Jesus says to the Spirit, “You can take the day off. I've got this day, but come back on Wednesday, I'll need you then.” It's ludicrous. He always did his miracles at the leading of the Father by the power of the Spirit. This time, however, He didn't know. It didn't pass through his conscious awareness. So we have this inquiry and this encounter. So why does He do it? Why does He stop and say, "Who touched me?" That's a powerful question, isn't it? And the answer to me is clear. He wanted a face to face encounter with this woman. I don't mean to disparage her, but she seems a little bit like a miracle shoplifter. I can understand it, but it seemed like a smash and grab job here; come and get the miracle and go. She wants out. She does not want any interaction. She's had all that. The doctors, all that. She doesn't want that, she just wants to get well and be gone. But Jesus wanted a relationship with her. She came up behind him. What does He do physically? Turns around and says, "Who touched me," right? He wanted face to face with her. He did not come merely to dispense power, healings. He could have done that from heaven. He came to reconcile us to God that we would have an intimate, close friendship with God.Look at the text, 32-34, Jesus has kept looking around to see who had done it. After his disciples said, "What are you talking about? You see all the people crushing it," Jesus kept looking to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet, and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed. You go in peace and be freed from your suffering." The woman did not want this at all. But I would say, don't you think when she looked back on this day the rest of her life, the best part was this encounter, and not the healing. The look on his face, the tenderness with which He spoke to her. The way He called her daughter. The text doesn't say, but I picture him lifting her up to her feet, face to face. He wants that interaction with her and He called her daughter. And it doesn't just say... In one translation, your faith has healed you. But the word is the Greek word for “saved.” Your faith has saved you. The healing's temporary. We're going to die. Our bodies are going to mold in the grave. IV. Healed for a Personal Relationship with Jesus All of the healings are temporary, they're all temporary. But this saving work, now that's eternal, and that's what He wanted. So he calls her daughter. I love John 1:12, it says, "As many has received him to those who believed in his name. He gave the right to become whatchildren of God." We are healed for a personal relationship with Jesus. Sin has estranged us from God. Jesus came to bring about that reconciliation, aright relationship with God. That means an intimate, personal relationship with a loving, tender God, and with Christ who died for us individually. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says that the son of God loved me and gave himself from me personalized. At one time, we were enemies, but now beloved children of God. And he knows us intimately, Isaiah 43:1, "Fear not, for I've redeemed you. I've summoned you by name, you are mine." Think about that. The intimacy that I've summoned you by name, you are mine. John 10:03, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." So do you know that intimate love? Do you know the closeness that Jesus wants with you? Have you felt yourself, a weak defiled, polluted sinner who Jesus came to die for, and that he did die for. He shed his blood so that we might have eternal life. Do you know that? Do you have that sense of intimacy? Do you know that your sins are forgiven by him? Next week, God willing, we will have the chance to finish the miracle concerning the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. "Do you know the closeness that Jesus wants with you? Have you felt yourself, a weak defiled, polluted sinner who Jesus came to die for, and that he did die for. He shed his blood so that we might have eternal life." Now we have a chance to celebrate the Lord's supper. I'm going to close our preaching time and prayer. And as I do, I want you to consider that what's going on with the Lord's Supper is a for-taste of a heavenly banquet that we're going to actually sit, God and man at table. We're going to sit down and feast with God at the table. And this Lord supper is a for-taste of that. Now, we would ask, this is for believers who have testified to their faith in Christ, by repentance and faith and by water baptism. If you've not, we ask that you refrain, but if you have welcome and come to the feast. Let's close in prayer. Father, thank you for the ministry of the word, for the things that we've learned from Mark's Gospel. Thank you for the intimacy you seek with each one of us. Thank you, Lord Jesus for your incredible power, but also for your tenderness and compassion and your love. We thank you for all of these things, and we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Mark 5:1-20, and an account about a demon-possessed man freed by Jesus. We see that demons may have power over humans, but no chance against God. - SERMON Transcript - Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 5. This morning we have the joy of resuming our study in this awesome gospel of Mark. We're right in the middle of two spectacular miracles back-to-back, the stilling of the storm at the end of Mark chapter 4 and now the driving out of the legion of demons in Mark 5. I said last time, a couple of months ago now, that the stilling of the storm is the most visually spectacular miracle Jesus ever did. How amazing is it then that immediately after that He does his most spectacular exorcism? That's exactly what this account reveals. There is no other account of an exorcism that even comes close to this one, the driving out of demons from a human being. Nothing else even comes close, just for the magnitude of the power that it reveals and the stunning transformation in one man revealed in Mark's gospel and the effect on the pigs, 2,000 of them perishing in one moment. There's no other power encounter with a demonized human being that even comes close. In terms of preaching, oftentimes at the very beginning of a sermon, a preacher has to speak some words of introduction to ensnare or beguile his congregation into being interested in the text. I don't have to do that this time. I would hope you're interested in what you've heard. I would hope you'd realize that all I need to do as a preacher is get out of the way of the text and just point to the Jesus that it reveals. Some time ago, I was meditating on the juxtaposition of Mark 4 and Mark 5, the stealing of the storm and the driving out of the Legion demon in Mark's gospel. The way it's written here, it's really astonishing because you could see Jesus at the end of Mark 4 standing on one side of the Sea of Galilee and perhaps in a visionary sense as a prophet, looking ahead to what's about to happen. He has to go through a hurricane and drive out an army of demons in Mark's Gospel to save one man. That's it. He saves that one man and comes back; He goes over and back for one man. And that's encouraging. Some of you are thinking, in Matthew's Gospel, there's two guys. I'm not talking about the two guys today. In Mark's gospel, there's a focus on that one individual. I think we're supposed to understand, in the Galatians 2:20 sense, that Christ loved me and gave himself for me. He did that for me. He was willing to go through a hurricane and drive out an army of demons to save me. So we need to just step aside and let the text do its work in us. And what is that work? Remember that the theme of the gospel of Mark is stated right from the beginning, Mark 1:1, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, the Son of God, that's the theme, Jesus as the Son of God. In the spirit of the Gospel of John, as I've said many times, actually all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they all have this same purpose, though only John's Gospel says it so openly and directly. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” That's the purpose of the Gospel of John, and it's also the purpose of the Gospel of Mark: to bring you to the point where you can confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Promised one. That He is more than just that, the Son of the living God, and that by confessing that from your heart, you might receive full forgiveness of sins and live forever in heaven and not die forever in hell. That's the reason this Gospel of Mark was written, and that's the purpose of all of the accounts in it. Not only that, not just that we would be able to make in a slogan sort of sense, “Who is Jesus? the Son of God.” That phrase, that we would have expounded before us, really means the infinite majesty of the second person of the Trinity, the infinite majesty of Jesus. It means that we'll be spending eternity finding out how glorious and majestic Jesus is. We've only just begun the greatness of Jesus, the Son of God. That's what we have before us. It's not enough to just have the slogan, “Who's Jesus? Son of God.” Remember how, when on the way to the villages around Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and Peter replied, “You are the Messiah,” and then a few minutes later he's taking Jesus aside and rebuking him. Now that's a bad look, friends. Peter was underestimating Jesus, the Son of God, all of us do. The ministry of the word through the power of the Spirit is to get us not to underestimate Jesus and to see the infinite greatness of Christ. The infinite greatness of Jesus is what we're seeing here. The effortless power that Jesus has, that He displays here, power that only almighty God could have, effortless stilling of a hurricane and the turbulent sea immediately after that, effortless, just a word and it's done. And then effortless power over 6,000 demons, saying in Matthew's gospel, a single word, "Go," and they're gone. No effort at all, they instantly obey. "The ministry of the word through the power of the Spirit is to get us not to underestimate Jesus and to see the infinite greatness of Christ. " Sadly in the account that we're studying today, we also see mixed reaction. We see many who saw the effects, even the miracle with their own eyes, and responded in faithless fear, driving Jesus away because they didn't want the implications of what it would mean to have Jesus in their region. The unreasoning unbelief was so strong they would rather have, it seems in the end, this demon-possessed, stark-raving homicidal maniac in their region, rather than Jesus, peaceful Jesus, loving Jesus staying in their region. The gospels all make it clear that many people will see the evidence for Jesus and reject. It ends up dividing people into two categories. I. A Demon-Possessed Maniac Terrorizes a Region Let's walk through the text now. It begins with a demon-possessed maniac who terrorizes a region. What is the context? Jesus and his disciples had left the huge crowds to get away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps the disciples thought a time of R&R was coming, a little bit of relaxation, getting away from all of that. Little did they know what was awaiting them as they got into the boat, this raging hurricane in which they thought they were going to die. Then once that's done, as they land on the other side, they're confronted by a demon-possessed maniac of terrifying power. Look at verse 1-2, “They went across the sea to the region of the Gerasenes” and verse 2, “when Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” The region of the Gerasenes or Gadarenes, a little village near there was called Gerasa from which we get Mark's term, Gerasenes. There's a larger city nearby called Gadara, which also gave its name to the region, Gadarene. That's why you end up with two different names in the gospel. The demon-possessed maniac is described in verse 2 as “a man with an unclean spirit”. This is a demon, an unclean spirit is a demon. Demons are angels, spirit beings that rebelled long ago with Satan and were evicted from heaven as described in Revelation 12. They're called unclean because their thoughts and their works were pure evil. The encounter begins with Jesus and his disciples getting out of the boat. The demon-possessed man sees them from a distance and comes from the tombs down to the shoreline. This man is an absolute monster. His human personality has been swallowed alive by the demons inside him. Look at verse 3 through 5, the description of his plight. This man lived in the tombs and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been chained hand in foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones. I believe those words describe the most wretched human being on the surface of the earth in history. I can't imagine a more wretched condition to be in than this, worse than Nebuchadnezzar turned into an animal for seven years eating grass, worse than any tortured individual in a prison, worse than anyone suffering from a malady. This is the most wretched human being ever described in the pages of history, I believe. Look at the text, it says he lived in the tombs. No one in their right mind would live out in the tombs of dead people. These are often caves blocked up with boulders or big stones. At best, they would offer rudimentary protection from the elements, they would be cold, they would be dark, they would be hard, no place in which to live. This man is absolutely severed from all human society. He has a family as we see at the end of the account, but his condition has cut himself off from all interactions with them. It says no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.The account gives a sense of history with this man. He had originally been bound, or actually many times been bound with chains and even shackles, maybe fetters or manacles, large flat pieces of iron that would be heated up and then pounded by a blacksmith into curved pieces to fit around his wrists or his ankles. The chains would have large strong links in them, sizable links to restrain a powerful man, but this man had broken every chain ever put on him and shattered every shackle, verse 4, “for he had often been chained hand and foot,” but he tore the chains apart, he broke the irons on his feet. Demons gave this man supernatural power. They are vastly more powerful than we people are, physically. They can do amazing physical things. Remember at the resurrection account after Jesus had risen from the dead and the tomb was empty, a single angel came down and rolled back the boulder that was in front of Jesus's tomb and sat on it. So imagine the kind of supernatural power these evil angels give this man. It says no one could bind him anymore, in verse 4, “no one was strong enough to subdue him.” The Greek word here means “to tame” as if he's a wild beast. This implies many efforts to take this man down, perhaps four or five grown men, or more trying to work with this guy. One grabbing an arm, another grabbing another arm, one grabbing a leg, the other maybe coming up behind him and hitting him on the head to knock him unconscious so they could put the chains on him. It's horrible the circumstance here. Then once he's conscious again, if that's indeed what they did, he then in a rage, tears them off and they're all running for the hills. Finally, the people in that region had given up. He's not chained now. There's nothing they can do. They just stayed away from that area. His lifestyle is stunningly sad. It's a human being created in the image of God, but he's rendered to an almost animal-like existence. Luke tells us that he had, for a long time, gone without clothing. He didn't wear any clothing. He was naked with no shame at all like an animal. But furthermore, he rarely slept and he was immersed in self-harm, verse 5, “night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones,” roaming restlessly as demons do, seeking rest but not finding it, yearning for rest, going from tomb to tomb, from hill to hill night and day, crying out as if for deliverance. But who could ever set this man free? The most wretched human being I think in history. He is terrorizing that region. II. The Son of God Terrorizes the Demons Point two, then the Son of God comes to terrorize the demons. That's pretty exciting, isn't it? Now who's afraid of who here? The encounter with Jesus is initiated, this demon-possessed monster sees people landing from a distance and comes down to the shoreline, and what he did is really astonishing. Look at verse 6, “when he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.” Now here's the fascinating thing. The more you study this, the more amazing this gets. These terrified demons, and they are terrified, we're going to make that case plainly in the scripture, they are afraid of Jesus, but instead of running away from him of whom they are terrified, they run to him to get closer to him, that's counterintuitive. Why are the demons running to Jesus? Do they want an encounter with Jesus? Oh no, not at all. They are pure darkness, he is pure light. They hate him with every fiber of their being. They do not want to be near pure light, they who are pure darkness. Why then are they coming closer? Furthermore, they make the man fall down on his knees in a display of humble submission, even of worship before Jesus. Think about that text that says “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.” So that's what these demons are doing, falling down in front of Jesus. Why do they draw near? It's very obvious, they know exactly who Jesus is. Verse 7, “he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the most high God?’” They are terrified of him, and yet they run toward him. This is my theory on why. What else can they do? They understand Jesus's power in ways we don't. They understand omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence in ways we don't. And the demons understood, Psalm 1:39, “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I go down to the depths, you are there.” Or again, as God says about his enemies in Amos 9:1-4, these are physical human enemies, but we can apply it here to demons as well, Amos 9, this is God speaking about his enemies, "Not one will get away. None will escape. Though they dig into the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves at the top of Carmel, there I'll hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good." Oh, it is a dreadful thing to have God as your enemy. Where can you go? There is nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide for these demons, and they know it in ways we don't. So they come to Jesus and in Mark 7, He drives out the demon of the Syrophoenician, the Canaanite woman from her daughter, and the daughter is not even there, and Jesus says to this Syrophoenician woman, "You may go home. The demon has left your daughter." "When did that happen?" "Oh, a second ago." "You didn't even go, you didn't lay hands on her." "Not needed." "You didn't say anything." "Not needed. I just thought it." And the demon got its eviction notice. That's the power of Jesus and the demons know it. "It is a dreadful thing to have God as your enemy. Where can you go? There is nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide for these demons, and they know it in ways we don't. " They come toward Jesus because they have a request to make of him. The demons come to Jesus, making the man shout at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the most high God?" The demons are utterly unruly, they frequently make their human hosts scream or shriek or foam at the mouth. This one's shouting at the top of his voice, clearly they are terrified of Jesus. The reason for the terror is they did not understand Jesus, the Son of God, the incarnate Son of God invading their dark realm. They literally say, "What business have we with each other, son of the most high God? What business do we have? What are you here to do?" The reason for their terror is the power of almighty God and of his perfect and holy son, Jesus. Now you have to understand, demons have very accurate theology. They got the theological stuff right, better than us. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there's one God, good, even the demons believe that, and they shudder.” They get all the facts right, but they're just in an absolute wrong relationship with the God behind the facts. They hate him, but they know the truth about him. And furthermore, demons know their future. Matthew 25:41, “Jesus, the judge of all the earth, the judge of heaven and earth will say to the goats, ‘Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” The lake of fire was made for Satan and demons, and that's where they're going, and there's no salvation plan for them. Also, in Revelation 12:12, the devil is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. We must imagine the demons know this, but now Jesus, in his incarnation and now in his public ministries which have been going on a year or two, this assault of the son of God on their earthly territory is unprecedented. For all redemptive history, demons have been operating in secret, in the darkness, in the shadows of the spiritual realm, doing absolutely whatever they wanted to make life utterly miserable for human beings and to fight against God at every point. That's what demons do and they're still doing it today. But now Jesus has invaded, the Son of God, the Son of Light, pure light, into this realm of darkness and they're terrified. They want to know, what is the purpose? They want to know about timing. In Matthew 8:29, the demon says, "What do you want with us, son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" They are well aware that there's a pit of torture ready now, before they even get to the lake of fire, there is a place of demon incarceration, short of the lake of fire. As far as I read scripture, there are no demons now in the lake of fires, a not-yet situation. Most of the demons are roaming and causing trouble in a hidden way on earth, but there are some that are incarcerated. They've been arrested by the power of God. It says in Luke 8:31, in the same account, they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the “abyss.” It's a Greek word, meaning “bottomless.” It's a pit. But the demons in Matthew 8:29 speak of torture, of torture in the pit, as does our text. Look at verse 7, “Swear to God that you won't torture me.” Do you see now the fear that demons have of him? They are afraid of incarceration and torture now, right now, and they don't want it. They're afraid of it, so they come to Jesus to make this request of him. This torture implies demonic agony of which they're clearly terrified. Peter speaks in his epistle of a temporary place of restraint and torture for demons, [2 Peter 2:4]. God didn't spare angels who sin but threw them down into “Tartarus” that's the Greek word there for “the pit” and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment. Those chains cannot break, they're restrained and held. They're very aware that Jesus can instantly do this to them at any moment. He has overwhelming power over all demons. The demons are also afraid of losing their jurisdiction. Look at verse 10, “He begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.” Not only do they not want to lose their freedom, but they want to stay right there in their area. They've got a geographical area that they're working. The Greek says that they're begging him earnestly, or again and again, they're pleading with Jesus because they want to stay there. This demon-possessed man is the greatest nightmare of that entire region, a murderous, powerful maniac who threatens them all. But it is also clear that the Son of the most high God is the demon's greatest nightmare, if we could use that language. They are terrified. They are as terrified of Jesus as that region would've been terrified of that man. III. The Son of God Drives Out the Legion Third point, the Son of God drives out the Legion. Jesus commands him to leave and he will soon. He doesn't leave immediately, but in verse 8 it says, “Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you evil spirit.’” I think He stated his intention, "I'm going to drive you out," but they're going to have this conversation first, and Jesus wants to have that conversation with him. He demands the demon's name [verse 9]. “Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘For we are many.’” The demons have no desire to reveal anything about themselves, they want to stay hidden. They want to stay in the darkness just like these days. They don't want to reveal anything, but they have no choice. When Jesus says, "What is your name?" They must give it, they must answer his questions, so He demands their name. Angels have names, we know two of them in the Bible, Michael and Gabriel. Demons must have names as well, but here they use a human term, “legion”. And the reason they gave is, "We are many." Legion was a division of the Roman Empire's world-conquering army, a little bit larger than a modern day brigade, which would be about 3,000 soldiers. A legion is about 5,000 to 6,000 Roman soldiers. They had conquered that part of the world. So first of all, it shows theologically multiple demons can inhabit one person. We get that from this, but it also shows something of the demon's personality and mind. Though the demons might ordinarily have been boastful about their cumulative might, they would never have dreamed of boasting in front of Jesus. We are mighty and we are powerful, they're saying, but they're not doing that in front of Jesus, no way. I want you to picture the spectacle in the spiritual realm, the spectacle of Jesus against an army of demons. In 1960, there was a movie called Spartacus, which was about a slave revolt in the Roman era, and the climactic scene is a battle between the slave army and multiple, multiple Roman Legions. It's really quite a spectacular scene over a wide field. You get a sense of the machine-like efficiency of the Roman legions as they come down in formation and then quickly spread out into battle line and come relentlessly toward the slave army. You know as you're looking, you're going to lose. There's no way you can defeat the legions, they're just that powerful. But picture that, all that's unfolding and one man goes out across the field by himself with no weapons in his hand, and that man is Jesus. As he takes a stand and raises his hand and says, "Begone," they turn and drop their weapons and flee and He's left alone on the battlefield. That's the picture I get. If you didn't see that movie," don't worry about it, just know that it’s a massive army, one man goes forward, and who's afraid of whom. Again, just like the storm, do you not see effortless power? Effortless, that's what we've got. The demons come, they throw themselves in front of Jesus and they make this request, a demonic request. [Verses 11-12], “A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside, the demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs, allow us to go into them.’” So I would say this clearly shows this is a gentile dominated region. No Jews would be raising pigs, because it was unclean for them to eat. These pig herders are there looking at this and this huge herd of pigs is there, 2,000 in number. The demons continue their begging, their pleading, their groveling to Jesus. In Matthew's Gospel, as I mentioned, it's a single word. Go to Matthew's account, in Matthew 8, you're going to see in the middle of a bunch of black letters, if you have a red letter edition, you're going to see one red 2 letter word. It's all Jesus says in Matthew's account, "Go,” and they go."Go,” and they're gone. One word. It reminds me of Luther's A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. "The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth.” That's the power of Jesus's word. When He says go, they've got to go. Awesome. That's the supreme power of Jesus Christ. He draws out the name Legion so that we can be amazed, because we can't see it. You can't see the demons, but you have a sense of what Legion means. What happens next is a display of the power as well—the death of the pigs [verse 13]. He gave them permission and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about 2,000 in number, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned. This is to show visibly the scope of the demonic defeat, to make it obvious in the physical realm what Jesus was dealing with here, the death of the pigs, the sheer destructiveness of these demons. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” That's what these demons do. Some of you have sympathy for the animal owners there, the pig farmers who look like they lost all of that, they didn't lose anything. The harvest came early. They went pig fishing. That's kind of an interesting thing when you think about it. I know the text doesn't say they went pig fishing, but if you're the owner of the pigs, the market price is going to be a little low because there's a big influx of pig meat, but they’ll be fine. So don't think that way economically, et cetera. But again, it wasn't Jesus that destroyed the pigs, it was the demons. Now here's the question, a very significant question. Why does he give permission to the demons to do what they want to do? Why doesn't he send them into the pit? Why doesn't he incarcerate them? We bumped into the same question in the Book of Job, if you remember, why does he allow the demons to roam? Why does he allow them to do damage? It's vital for us to understand what Satan reveals in the Book of Job, that hedge of protection. I look on it as a whole matrix, like a maze of walls of protection that they can't go through. God is controlling the demonic activities, and they're running rough shot where they're permitted to run, and then mysteriously, some gate opens and they flood in like a plague of locusts and do the damage, and then suddenly the gate comes down and they're stopped and that's it. That's what's going on every day by the mysterious purpose of God. They are God's lackeys, though they are not trying to serve God, they are doing his will in some very complex way. When we get to heaven, we'll understand why God let the demons do what they do, et cetera, but that's it. Don't think for a moment it's because he couldn't have stopped them. He could have collected all of the demons in an instant, they'd be in the lake of fire now, but He's using them for his own mysterious purposes. When the time is right, He will send out his angels and they will collect all the demons and they will be in the lake of fire, and there'll be no escape. IV. Two Opposite Human Responses Fourth point, two opposite human responses. The report spreads in the Gadarenes, and the people rejected Jesus. Look at verses 14-17, “Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the Legion of demons sitting there dressed and in his right mind and they were afraid. They were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” This is tragic. Instead of, as they should have done, falling in front of Jesus in wonder and worship, and say as the Philippian jailer said in Act 16, “What must I do to be saved?”, instead they beg him to leave. I suppose it's the same terror that comes on people who really don't understand Jesus's goodness, they're afraid of what he's going to do in their lives, they're afraid of becoming Christians because they don't know what is going to happen. They're afraid, and they drive him out, they don't want him. They're just afraid because they don't understand his goodness. You see how meek and mild Jesus is, He just accedes to their wishes. "Okay, I'll leave." He walks away and gets back in the boat. We need to understand the infinite power of Jesus, but also the incredible gentleness, as we sang earlier, "Come into me, come into me." That's him. He's so gentle. I don't think you ever get a better text juxtaposing the infinite power of Jesus and his gentleness as in Isaiah 40, which talks about how He has all of the stars in the palm of his hand, this kind of thing, the infinite majesty, the nations are a drop in the bucket and dust on the scales and all that. But right in the middle of that, Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young.” That's who Jesus is. Why do they want him to leave? Along with that, we get the previously possessed man, and he has the exact opposite response. He doesn't ever want to leave Jesus again. He wants to be by Jesus's side forever, forever. Look at verse 18-20, “But as Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.’” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and all the people were amazed. This formerly demon-possessed man's a different story altogether, isn't he? I believe more things happened than is recorded here. I think once the demons were out, Jesus preached the gospel to him, explained to him about the kingdom of God, the need for repentance so that his sins could be forgiven, and the man listened and believed. The text says in verse 15 that, “they saw him there dressed in his right mind.” Isn't that beautiful? It's kind of like the prodigal son coming to himself. It's like, "What am I doing here? Slopping pigs when I could be in my father's house." This man comes to his right mind, and again, supports that therapeutic view of salvation. He saves you by healing you, healing your mind so that you can see Jesus properly, you can see his beauty and his power and his love and you want him. He's dressed in his right mind, his sins are covered, that's a metaphor, the “dressing”. I think it's just an account, he's dressed now, he's not naked, but also the covering. His sins are forgiven and he's in his right mind and wants to be with Jesus forever. He sees Jesus properly, he loves him, he cherishes him. All he wants is to know him and be with him. He pleads with Jesus to stay with him. "He saves you by ... healing mind so that you can see Jesus properly, you can see his beauty and his power and his love." Now, three entities plead with Jesus for something. The demons begged to not be driven out of the area and stay in the area and go in the pigs. The unbelieving people asked Jesus to leave their area, and He does it. This man says, "I want to go with you." He says no. Isn't it true that God's ways are not our ways? But instead he has a mission for this man. He sends him out with a mission to do, verse 19, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you." “Go win your family. You kind of put them through a hard time. Now go home and show them that you've been healed and win them. Tell your family how God has had mercy on you, how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” I wonder what that was like when he walked through the threshold the first time, it's like, "Uh-oh, here comes trouble." "No, no, I'm different now." His job is to tell them the mercy of Jesus in his life and to win them. So it says in verse 20, “The man went away and began to tell the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him and all the people were amazed.” The Decapolis just literally means 10 cities, it's just a region there of 10 cities together. Apparently this man was effective because Jesus is going to return to the Decapolis in Mark 7:31 and there'll be many people waiting there for him to do healings. It's the fruit of this man's ministry. What a testimony this man must have had. I don't know how it began. How would you begin? "I used to be a demon-possessed raving maniac. And now I'm not. Now I'm healed." Imagine the joy of talking about Jesus that he must have had. V. Lessons What are some lessons and applications? First of all, I just want to ask you a question: Do you think demons are less active in our world than they were in Jesus' world? I hope you're saying no, because if you're saying no, you don't understand how much they have deceived you. They're every bit as active now as they ever were then. We Americans are naturalists, materialists, and I don't mean by that shopaholics, I mean we tend to think of things in a scientific material way. We tend to think of stories about demons and angels as a little weird, almost medieval. We definitely believe in the most high God, and then we believe in science, and we don't tend to do much in that middle realm with angels and demons, but they are every bit as active in 21st century America as they were in first century Palestine. They are deceptive and they're powerful, and they are around us at every moment. We need to be aware of them and understand the destructive power of demons. They are there to steal and kill and destroy. I wonder how many of the convicted serial killers or individuals that are incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals or asylums or prisons, I wonder if anyone is diagnosing them based on this. Or are they trying to get the chemical balances right and talk about their childhood or do other things? I’m not minimizing those sciences, but I'm just saying, is there a whole realm of possibility that's unthinkable in 21st-century treatment of individuals like this? For us Christians, let it not be so. We need to be aware that they're around and they're trying to make our lives miserable. We need to say then that demons are every bit as active. They're still here. They're still powerful. They still hate us, et cetera, but they're still terrified of Jesus. They are terrified of him. His power is infinite. He is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion. They are controlled by him, channeled by him. Hedges of protection and walls of protection everywhere, or else they'd run amok on the surface of the earth. We need to be thankful. We need to be aware of how demons could be assaulting you, annoying you, irritating you, making you susceptible to sin, alluring you, feeding you with depression, feeding you with hopelessness, feeding you with ideas of ways of acting out on the flesh. Put on your spiritual armor. Put it on every day, every moment. Be mindful, be not unaware of his schemes. Beyond that, see that the real issue here is worship Christ. Worship of Jesus. The name that is above every name, worship him, have a sense of his infinite power. Just fall down before him, not like this demon-possessed man did an abject terror, but fall down before him because you love him and want to tell him how much you love him for dying for you and rising again. Finally, what reaction do you have to the Jesus in this account? Like this healed man, do you want to spend the rest of your life with him? Do you want to spend eternity learning him? I do. Friends, it is the greatest honor of my life to stand up in front of you week after week and exalt Jesus. There's nothing in my life with more honor than that. I hope that your esteem of Jesus has gone up because we studied Mark 5:1-20 today. So I'm asking you, is that you? Do you love him? Do you know you're a sinner? His bloodshed for you is sufficient for your sins, are you trusting in that? Or like these townspeople, do you want him to go away? Just leave you alone? That's the question you have to ask. Use your testimony with your family. I want to tell my family how much Jesus has done for me and how He has been kind to me. Can I tell you what the Lord has done for me and how He has had mercy? I mean what a great phrase, “what He has done for me and how He has had mercy. I mean He could have mercy on you too.” Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time we've had to study in Mark 5:1-20. Thank you for what the text shows us about your infinite power and thank you for your kindness to us, weak sinners. I thank you for your gentleness and meekness and humbly acceding to the wishes of unbelieving townspeople who want you to leave. But I thank you for your wisdom in sending this single man out in Mark's gospel, this single man to go win his family. Lord, give us opportunities to share the gospel this week, help us to be bold, perhaps even tell this story and see what people think. But Lord give us opportunities to win the lost in Jesus name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis unfolds an episode of Jesus' life that expands our comprehension of him as the Son of God and alerts us to not underestimate him. - Sermon TRANSCRIPT - Turn in your Bibles to Mark 4:35-41. We continue this incredible study in the Gospel of Mark. There's something deeply unsettling to most of us when it comes to the sea, a primordial fear of its power, and its unpredictability, and its mystery. We cannot see below the surface or beyond the horizon, and we can never know for sure what's coming at us. There is, of course, the simple fear of drowning that can seizes us all. The fact is, we cannot survive for long underwater, and death by drowning is a terrifying way to go. Beyond that is the fear of the weather, a sudden storm that can turn the once placid sea into a raging inferno of power, mighty white-capped breakers coming at us, and wave upon wave, utterly beyond our ability to withstand or subdue. Then there's the irrational terror of creatures of the deep. The summer of 1975, the summer that Jaws came out, I was in Lake Winnipesaukee. I was on an Astroturf-covered floating raft, unwilling to dive into the lake and swim back to shore for fear of a great white shark. Having no idea that that was a saltwater creature, and I was in fresh water, and there was zero chance of being eaten by a shark. That didn't matter, I was terrified. We read the accounts of the sailors that sailed with Columbus, and they were afraid of the terrifying monsters of the deep, of great whales with their immense size, and their powerful tails and their powerful mouths, or even a giant squid with their long undulating tentacles. All of these things are terrors. The sea represents the darkest side of man's terrors, and it can quickly reduce even the most courageous man to a trembling child. That's why this account of Jesus' effortless power over the wind and the waves is so compelling. It asks the fundamental question that's before us, when we read all four of the Gospels, “Who is this man?” The fundamental answer, that's so clear, only Almighty God can control the wind and the waves with the simple word of His command. This story adds more vital information to the quest of our faith, to understand the basic thesis of the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. What does that mean? What does that mean that He's the Son of God? What does that mean for each of us individually, personally? Beyond this, this amazing account gives us a sense of the total control of Jesus over the hardest moments of our lives, and His ability to speak peace to our souls when we need it the most. That's what we're looking at today. "Only Almighty God can control the wind and the waves with the simple word of His command." I. The Setting for the Storm, and Its Sudden Severety Now, we need to set this storm, the setting of the storm and its sudden severity, and the personal setting, Jesus' ongoing, amazing ministry, his overwhelming ministry. Jesus had had a very long day of ministry just like every day. So in Mark 4:1-2, it says, “Jesus began to teach by the sea. The crowd that gathered around Him was so large that He got into a boat and sat in it out on the sea while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables.” Though Mark 4 doesn't mention any healings or demon possessed people being set free, that was of course the norm, the huge crowd that was there almost certainly were there to be healed as well as taught. So it was that same busy day, it was the end of a very overwhelming, busy day, in verse 35-36, “That day, when evening came, He said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along just as He was in the boat. There were also other boats with Him,” so it was absolutely exhausting, long day. The text says that they left the crowd and took Jesus along just as He was. What does that mean? He didn't have the chance to change his clothes or refresh himself in any way, it's just there it is. It's time to go to get into the boat and go across the lake, right on the heels of a very hard day. The boat that they were in seemed to have been powered by wind and sail, not by oar. These boats generally could hold about 15 people. So we would imagine, and the text confirms, a kind of a flotilla of boats, not just one, but a group of boats going across, carrying the twelve apostles and other disciples that were following Jesus. Now, we need to look at the physical setting, which is the Sea of Galilee. Mark 4:1 mentions the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is one of the most fascinating bodies of water in the world. It's a freshwater lake that is, at the lowest altitude of any such lake in the world, approximately 690 feet below sea level. It measures about 13 miles long, 7 miles wide, about 150 feet deep at its deepest point. It's fed partially by underwater springs, but mostly by the Jordan River, which flows north to south from Mount Hermon, which stands 9,200 feet above sea level. It's a marvelous source of fresh water, supplying, even today, much of the nation of Israel with drinking water. Over the centuries, it provided an amazingly, abundant supply of fish. Although fishing is now banned in the Sea of Galilee because the stocks got to a dangerously low level, but even in our lifetime, it still was a source of sardines that were caught there every year. The biggest issues with the Sea of Galilee are the geography and the weather. The lake is in the center of a deep geological rift that cuts a gash in the surface of the Earth, running 4,500 miles long down through Africa, as far south as Mozambique. I myself have been in that rift in the nation of Kenya, I was in the Rift Valley Academy, the same gash. It makes that area vulnerable to earthquakes, seismic activity. The rift causes steep hills and cliffs on each side of the Sea of Galilee, making it effectively sit down in a deep bowl. It is therefore vulnerable to high winds, which can cause staggeringly dramatic storms to rise up. The narrow confines of the lake multiply exponentially the effect of these winds and storms, making the Sea of Galilee, a very dangerous place in a storm. The record shows in March of 1992, one storm in the Sea of Galilee generated a 10-foot wave that overwhelmed and flooded the city of Tiberius. The storm comes up with sudden severity, look at verse 37, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.” The suddenness of the storm is more clear from the Gospel of Matthew, as if the storm just came up out of nowhere, without any warning at all. Matthew 8:24 says, "And behold there are arose a great tempest in the sea.” The Greek word for the storm used here is also used for a hurricane, an overpowering wind of gale force, maybe as high as 80 miles an hour. The word is intensified by the additional Greek word “megale”, a mega storm, a great storm. This is a great hurricane. Matthew 8:24 uses the Greek word “seismos”, from which we get seismic, like a seismic event, an earthquake. Luke 8:24 says the waters were raging, dashing and pummeling the boat. The effect of this hurricane wind and these raging, thrashing waves was that the boat was quickly filling with water. These men, we need to understand are professional fishermen who grew up on the Sea of Galilee. In their professional opinion, their boat was about to go down — it was going down. Those conditions meant certain death for them all. II. Jesus' Perfect Humanity vs. the Disciples'Faithless Terror We see Jesus in this account, Jesus' perfect humanity contrasted with the disciples' faithless terror. Jesus' humanity is on display in that He was physically exhausted and asleep on a cushion, Jesus was fully man and fully God. This is the great mystery of theology, the mystery of the incarnation. His attributes as both fully human and fully God are on full display in this amazing account. First, we see the humanity of Jesus in His physical exhaustion. Verse 38, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” Jesus' physical limitations are part of the mystery. He got tired, just like the rest of us. He got very little rest. The needs of the crowd were relentless, and so also was His compassion on the crowd, relentless. It's fascinating that Mark alone gives us the detail of the cushion, Jesus sleeping on a cushion. You may ask, why did Jesus sleep on a cushion, and I would answer because it's more comfortable. There's no great mystery here. What it shows is that Jesus is no ascetic, seeking out intentionally harsh treatment for his body. If there was a cushion around, He's going to use it and support his head, it's just more comfortable. So He's not an ascetic, but at the same time, He was willing to live a very difficult physical life. He said to one man who wanted to follow Him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” [Matthew 8:20], so He was used to a difficult life. But in this particular case, He found a place to lay His head on a cushion. He must have been extremely tired because the wind and the waves, and the boat filling with water don't wake Him. That's Jesus in His humanity. We know that Almighty God needs no rest at all, ever. It says in Psalm 121: 3-4, "He who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." Or again, Isaiah 40:28, it says, "God's power is limitless. The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, he will not grow tired or weary." But Jesus in His humanity did grow tired and did get weary. We also see Jesus' perfect humanity in His complete trust in His heavenly Father. Here, by his sleep in the storm, He is commending a life of faith to each one of us. He was perfectly at rest in His Father's hands. He knew there was literally no chance whatsoever He was going to die by drowning in the Sea of Galilee. Imagine the heavenly newspaper with the headline, "Son of God dies tragically in a boating accident. All of heaven, shocked prophecy's not fulfilled.” You know about piercing hands and feet and things like that, Psalm 22. Impossible. So Jesus thought it was a good chance for a nap. Jesus lived out every moment of His life in complete trust in His Father. Psalm 22, that same Psalm says, "You brought me out of the womb. You made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth, I was cast upon you, from my mother's womb you have been my God." So He knew He could sleep, and God would watch over Him. I love Psalm 4:8 on this very matter, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety." Wouldn't you love to live your life like that? In the midst of the deepest troubles of your life, just be able to go to sleep and know that God is going to take care of you, He's going to protect you. This is what the disciples had to learn to do, to so trust in their heavenly Father, that there's never any cause for mindless, unreasoning terror. So that's Jesus' humanity. "Jesus lived out every moment of His life in complete trust in His Father." We also see Jesus' infinite majesty as the incarnate Son of God. We have a combination, therefore, of normal weakness and infinite power. In one passage, we have Jesus' weakness and His weariness and His fatigue, but we also have Him give the display of, I would say arguably, the most physically powerful thing that any human being has ever done on Planet Earth. We have, by contrast, the disciples' faithless terror. Jesus gives us the plain example of a man completely trusting in His heavenly Father. But by contrast, the disciples are wild with terror, they're out of their minds. They wake him, verse 38, and say to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we perish?" Big picture is that Jesus came into the world because He cared that we were perishing, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] So He cares. No one has cared more than Jesus. The disciples' faith needs to be strengthened so that they would not ever doubt Jesus' love or power, and they must also trust God's plan. They must lose their fear of dying, and Christ's resurrection will do that for them. Now, the question comes, why did they wake Jesus at all? What were they thinking when they woke Him? They certainly weren't expecting Him to do what He got up and did. They were stunned by it. Maybe they just thought it was good manners, "If we're going down, it'd be good that Jesus were awake when it happens." Or maybe they felt that He had, which He clearly did, a specific “in” with God, and that God would affect some kind of protection for them though they didn't know how. The Old Testament actually speaks much of God's protection in the midst of storms, perhaps the clearest is Psalm 107:23-29 which says, "Others went out on the sea in ships, they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep. For He spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens, they went down to the depths. In their peril, their courage melted away, they reeled and staggered like drunken men. They were at their wits' end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed.” So God spoke and the storm came, and then God spoke and the storm went away. He brings it, then He ends it. So perhaps they thought, in waking Jesus up, that He would call on His Father and that God would deliver them in the same pattern. I don't know what they were thinking, they certainly didn't expect what was about to happen. Now, as I'm walking through the account, I also want to ask, what did the disciples do wrong? They're professional fishermen who are bred and raised on this very sea. They knew it like the back of their hands. They saw the magnitude of the wind, the size of the waves, the swamping of the boat, they were bailing, they were trying to save their lives. In their expert opinion, they're going down, they're all going to drown. They didn't wake Jesus immediately, but sought to use all of their skills to survive. At the last moment, they went to Jesus and woke Him up, and He rebuked them. So why did He rebuke them? What did they do wrong? We'll get to that at the end of the sermon. Hold on to that thought. III. Jesus’ Stunning Power Over Creation Now, I want to talk about Jesus' stunning power over creation. Now we know the wind is beyond all human control. No one can control the wind. As a matter of fact, scripture says it openly. Ecclesiastes 8:8, "No man has power over the wind to contain it." Or again, John 3:8, "The wind blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it's going." That's the wind. But Jesus, Jesus is the master of all creation. John 1:3, "Through Him, all things were made, and without Him, nothing was made that has been made." And again, Hebrews 1:3, "He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word." He made it and He sustains it, that's Jesus. Again, He has effortless power over the wind and the waves, verse 39, "He got up, rebuked the wind, and said of the waves, 'Peace be still.'" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm, by the Word of the Lord alone. No striving, no effort, just sheer power, absolute authority. The power of the Word of Jesus. Now that's the miracle. It's a simple matter of cause and effect. There's nothing miraculous about a storm ending, all storms end, eventually, thank God. But the circumstances here directly link the end of the storm, the sudden end of the storm with Jesus' Word — cause and effect. It was because He said 'Peace be still' that everything was completely calm. That's the miracle. Note both aspects, the wind and the waves died down instantly. This is a miracle beyond all description. The wind instantly stopped this gale force, hurricane wind stops, a staggering amount of power ,just stopped in its tracks. In the text, there's not even a breeze or a gentle zephyr at the end, nothing, it's done. But for me, being more kind of mechanically engineering minded, the stilling of the waves is even more remarkable. How long would that take? The undulating white-capped waves crashing back and forth instantly leveled. Ordinarily, they would've undulated for hours, but it became as flat as a millpond on a still day, all of that at the Word of Jesus' power. Why the word “rebuke” in Matthew and Luke? Why does He rebuke the wind and the waves? Matthew 8:26, "He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm." Luke 8:24, "He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, the storms subsided and always gone." Why this word “rebuke”? As if the wind and the waves were living beings who were doing something wrong rather than inanimate objects, air molecules or water molecules just doing what physics was telling them to do. There is a sense in which that storm, that devastating hurricane storm is part of this sin-cursed world. It's part of the cursing of nature, that's part of man's sin. And Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, and He came, we're told in Ephesians 1, as the plan of God for the consummation of the ages to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. So they represent evil and curse, and He came to put it to an end. I think that's why it says “rebuke”. Unruly, wild nature will be subdued, brought into peaceful order in the New Heavens, in the New Earth — more on that at the very end of the sermon. I believe this is the most visually stunning miracle of Jesus' life. No other miracle is as spectacular as this. It's similar to the Red Sea crossing, it's just simply spectacular. Most of Jesus' miracles are quiet, subtle healings, they're not really much to look at. I do not say that the distilling of the storm is His most significant miracle, that's His own resurrection, far more significant than the distilling of the storm. But I'm just saying it was the most spectacular. The healings are just subtle. You think about the paralyzed man. There's nothing spectacular about a paralyzed man getting up off of His pallet and walking home. There's nothing spectacular about a blind man, a man born blind, washing mud off His eyes. Now, it's very significant for those who knew Him, or for those men themselves, it’s very significant, it's just not spectacular. This would've been spectacular, this is entirely different. If you had been there, the sheer spectacle would've taken your breath away. Then Jesus rebuked His disciples. He turns to them and rebukes them. He rebukes their lack of faith. He said to His disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" I mean, this is the whole point of the miracle, and indeed of all miracles. It's the point of having the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit having Mark write this down. The lesson is that we, the readers, we who hear about this would have faith in Christ, that we would believe in Jesus as the Son of God. That's the reason for the miracle and the account. The rebuke of His disciples' lack of faith is sharp. He never coddled unbelief, He never said, "It's okay to not believe in me." Notice also the clear contrast in this account. We'll see it again with Jairus, and at other times, the clear contrast between faith and fear. Faith and fear often seem to be opposites in the Bible. Faith drives out fear. If there is this kind of fear, it's because there's a lack of faith. "Faith and fear often seem to be opposites in the Bible. Faith drives out fear. If there is this kind of fear, it's because there's a lack of faith." Now, after the rebuke, the disciples have another reaction, and what is it? Fear. But it's even greater now. They seem to be more afraid of Jesus in the boat than they were of the storm outside of the boat, and with good reason. This is the presence of Almighty God, the incarnate God in the boat with you. Look at verse 41, “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind in the waves obey Him.’” Fear is the constant right reaction to the display of the omnipotent Holy God, to us as sinners, as creatures. For example, Elijah and his contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah prayed a simple prayer and fire fell from heaven, and burned up the sacrifice and the alter and everything there. And when the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God." There's a fear that was filling them at that moment, and so it was with these disciples, fear of the Lord. IV. Two Lasting Questions The text ends with these two lasting questions that just kind of stand over, and they're timeless questions. Jesus, to His disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The questioning of Jesus to us and our faith, and then the disciples, to one another, and to the world, "Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey Him." So we take those questions and we translate this account into our lives. The point of the Gospel of Mark is to answer the question, “Who is this man?” He is the Son of God, He is your savior. That's who He is, He and no other. Along with that is the constant expansion of our comprehension of what that means. So what does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? It means this, He can speak to the wind and the waves and they obey Him, that's what it means. He can drive out any demon and they're terrified of Him. He's not afraid of them, they're afraid of Him. There's no disease or sickness He cannot cure instantly with a Word or a touch. He can raise the dead, He can raise you from the dead. That's what it means that Jesus is the Son of God. He can look at you and tell you, based on your faith in Him, your sins are forgiven, and they are. That's who this is, that's who Jesus is. But even more is to apply that faith directly to our lives, and to drive out faithless fears, wherever they may be. Many people readily connect with this account, speaking metaphorically of the storms of our lives. I think that's right actually. All of us have challenges, deeply distressing issues that cause us to writhe and roll and churn like we're being tossed about in a storm. But when we have those storms, we can turn to Christ, the one who stilled the storm to quiet this storm around us, and even more importantly, inside of us. Many songs and hymns capture the sense of Christ's power over the storms of life. I like this one by Casting Crowns, Praise You In This Storm. The lyrics go like this, "I was sure by now, God, you would've reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day. And once again, I say, 'Amen,' and it's still raining. But as the thunder rolls, I barely hear your whisper through the rain, 'I'm with you.' And as your mercy falls, I'll raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away. And I'll praise you in this storm. And I will lift my hands, for you are who you are, no matter where I am. And every tear I've cried, you hold in your hand, you never left my side. And though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm." Or this one, It Is Well With My Soul. "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul." Or one of my favorites, Be Still, My Soul. "Be still, my soul” [second stanza], "Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past, thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below." Oh, I could multiply these songs. What kind of storm are you going through? I don't know. Maybe you've been through some, or you're just getting ready for the one that's coming and you don't even know what's coming. I don't have a problem with this storms of life approach at all. In fact, it's normal biblical speech. The Bible often uses metaphors to speak of painful trials we endure, of the saving work that God has for His people. Isaiah 4:6 says this, "That saving work will be a shelter and a shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and a hiding place from the storm and rain." Of the trials we endure in life, the metaphor of passing through water, river, fire, Isaiah 43:1- 2 begins with the simple command, "Fear not. Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine. And when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." This seems to be a lasting image, this storms of life approach. Yes, Jesus' miracle was physical, absolutely. I believe that, the account says it. But His ability to bring a peaceful end to our trials is taught again and again, as well as His ability to give us peace in the middle of the storm. So the lasting lesson of this miracle is to trust Jesus and not give way to fear when you're going through a storm. So what are the storms of life? It's anything that buffets you and causes you pain, anything. Any trial that rocks your world, knocks you around, maybe even threatens your life itself. We think about the three trials we walk through with Job again and again, remember? Loss of possessions, loss of loved ones, loss of health, those three. To expand, it could be for you a chronic illness. And the treatment, it's just not responding to the treatment. It could be the loss of a child through death, it could be the long goodbye of Alzheimer's with a beloved parent or spouse. It could be a wayward, grown child that just will not submit to Christ. Any news that rocks your world and staggers you and brings you to your knees and brings tears to your eyes and causes you to cry out to God, "Why, Oh Lord?" And then all the more, if that news causes a significant change in the way you have to live your life from that point on, it’s permanent, that's a storm. This text tells us Jesus controls that storm. He wisely brings it, decides how long it's going to last and how severe it will be, and then He is able to bring it to an end. He's telling you, in the middle of that storm, He is with you. He's speaking to you in the midst of the storm, just like Job, “and God appearing in a whirlwind and speaking in the midst of the storm” to Job, saying, "I'm right in the middle of whatever storm is buffeting you." When He says, "Peace, be still," He's not first and foremost, speaking to your circumstances, He's speaking first and foremost to your soul. Philippians 4:6 and 7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That's Him saying, "Peace, be still," to your soul. God has the power to bring supernatural peace to your heart in the midst of the worst storms of your life. Now, the question I want to ask you is, how are you displaying faithless fear in your life? Where is the faithless fear? I don't know where that is, you have to answer that yourself. Be honest with yourself, where am I displaying a faithless fear? The whole world just went through this COVID pandemic. I wonder if it's possible that there's some people that have been scarred by the experience, and have developed a faithless fear in the midst of it. I don't know, I'm not judging people, I just am asking for people to judge themselves. Where is there an inappropriate fear of death, or fear of disease, or fear of pain or loss that is gripping your soul? Jesus would say, "Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?" And if that's not it, there are other places. We're susceptible to faithless fears everywhere. He wants us to use our faith to drive away our fear. Now, let's circle back on this question. How could the disciples have done better? I mean, it’s a little hard on these guys; the boat's filling with water, what did you want them to do? They didn't know what they're talking about. Yes, they did. They knew better than you, that boat's going down. So why does Jesus rebuke them? Should they have waited longer to wake Jesus? Was God pushing them right to the very brink? I mean, they'd done everything they could, the bailing, all of that. I don't know what they did, but no, God wasn't pushing them to the brink. First of all, they should not been afraid that God would let Jesus drown. I mean, that's not going to happen. By extension, he's not going to let His apostles drown either. Beyond that, they should not have been terrified of death at all, but that won't really come until He conquers death with His resurrection. From then on, they would be delivered a fear of death. But this is where I'm going to land on this one. I think they should have woken Jesus earlier. Why do I say that? They tried everything they knew to do, everything in their own strength, and at the last resort, they bring Jesus in. I think that's a bad model for the storm. What do you say? “I’ll do everything I can, and when all else fails, as my last resort, I'm going to bring Jesus in.” Don't do that. Get Him up immediately. "Looking like a storm's brewing, Lord, what do you think?” I think that's what they should have done. We're going to end with Jesus' final and eternal power over creation. This awesome miracle shows Jesus' power over all creation. By that power, He's going to bring in a new heaven and a new earth, and the turbulent world of evil will finally be subdued. I want you to contrast these two statements in Isaiah. Isaiah 17:12, "Oh the raging of many nations, they rage like the raging sea. Oh the uproar of the peoples, they roar like the roaring of great waters," along with Isaiah 57:20-21, "The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace says my God for the wicked." That, with Revelation 4:6, the vision of the throne of God, Almighty God, “Before the throne of God, there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” A placid sea, there's no hurricanes, no storms in heaven. Jesus, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control will transform the universe and get rid of all storms. You can look forward to that. In the meantime, if He wills to bring you through a storm, He does it because He loves you and because He's wise, and He knows how long to make it last. Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time that we've had to look at your Word. And we thank you for the power of your Word, and we thank you for your power over every storm. And now, Lord, as we turn to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, we pray that you would bless us with your presence through the Holy Spirit. Lord, we pray, Lord, that you would minister in this room through this ordinance. We know that there's nothing special about the bread or the juice, but there's something powerful about the combination of these elements, and the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, and the people of God. So be in our midst now, as we observe this ordinance of the Lord's Supper, in Jesus name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Mark 4:30-34, and unfolds Jesus’ developed manifesto for his plan of worldwide gospel advance. - SERMON TRANSCRIPT - Prayer: Father, we thank you for the life that we have together, the life that we share. I thank you for the way that we are a family of families and singles who know and love you. And we are involved in each other's lives. I thank you for the Monteros and just the things that we just heard. I'm grateful for their example, role models on how we can use our home as a basis for the gospel. I'm grateful for that. Lord, we thank you for this opportunity in our secular society, this is a designated Father's Day, but we know what a rich, full, beautiful theme fatherhood is. And the fatherhood of God is in the Bible. And Lord, for me, I always think about the father of the prodigal son, who is so filled with love and delight at his sinful son, repenting and coming back and wanting to be with his father. In this cycle of parables that Jesus told of the joy in heaven, over one sinner who repents. Lord, I pray that we who are fathers would be that kind of a father, a loving, merciful, strong, godly man pointing to the fatherhood of God. God, who is a loving and tender hearted father, who is the perfect father. And I pray Lord that we who are fathers would be recommitted to that powerful ministry. Lord, we know that we can't be perfect, but as Jesus himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And Jesus' whole ministry is to bring people to the Father. We also know that the sign of the new covenant is the spirit of adoption by which we cry out “Abba Father” within us. And we look forward more and more to the delight of that relationship with you, our heavenly Father. And now Lord, we ask that you would send forth that same spirit who ministers to us, testifying with our spirits, that we are children of God. But I pray that now that specific ministry would be in the illumination of the Scripture, the enlightenment, that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened so that we would understand this parable of the mustard seed, and that we'd be able to understand how it applies to the growing kingdom of God around the world. I pray that you give me special insight and special clarity and special ability to speak in a way that brings about that illumination, that enlightenment. So Lord, speak to us by the Spirit. May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to understand this passage. And Lord, help us to put into practice the things that we can do in terms of the spreading of the gospel. You've given us a role to play in this cycle of parables in Mark four helps prepare us for that, to help us today to understand. In Jesus' name, amen. I. The Fruit of the Mustard Seed Remembered Turn in your Bibles to Mark 4. What an incredible journey we're making through the Gospel of Mark. It's the great privilege of my life to be able to get up here week after week and exalt Jesus Christ in front of you, to speak of the greatness of our savior of Jesus Christ based on the words of the Gospel of Mark. It's just a great privilege of my life and I'm delighted to do it. Today we're going to look at this Parable of the Mustard Seed. Think in your mind, go back in time to a day, I don't know what month it would've been, maybe April, maybe May, 1989 years ago, maybe almost 2000 years ago, to the most powerful man on earth, the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Imagine him having a meal with some of his close friends or maybe family members. Suddenly, a messenger comes rushing in breathlessly and begs for immediate attention. The room becomes eerily silent. The guests apprehensively put down their goblets to listen to this vital message. Tiberius Caesar Augustus beckons the man forward. The man bows and says, "I have news, almighty Caesar. A Jewish carpenter was crucified in Judea. Furthermore, a small group of 120 Jews who were following him are praying in a small upper room in the city of Jerusalem." Imagine the mighty emperor staring blankly at him. That's it? His Roman empire was the largest the world had ever seen, almost 2 million square miles; as much as one quarter of the world's population, perhaps as many as 60 million people under his daily domination. He commanded the mightiest and most dominant military the world had ever seen, over 300,000 Roman legions that kept a forced peace and Roman rule on all those conquered territories. At Tiberius' slightest word, the world trembled. His policy shaped the lives of all the people who lived under his crushing domination. Why would he possibly care about something so insignificant as the death of a single Jewish man in one of his smaller provinces 1,450 miles away from Rome? Why would he have any interest at all in some tiny band of 120 Jewish fanatics who were praying and waiting in some shabby, second story room in a dusty city of the far east? Why would he possibly care about that? Yet, from that tiny beginning, from a small black granule called a mustard seed, He has spread a mighty kingdom that will outlast every human empire. It came from a microscopic beginning and has come into vast immeasurable glory. That's what today's parable is all about. Jesus' death was the mustard seed, as were the sacrifices of all his courageous servants to advance the gospel step by step from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria to the Gentile worlds north, south, east, west from Jerusalem, so that's my approach to this parable. Centrally, it is about Jesus and his death and his growing kingdom. But secondarily, also as a pattern that Christianity follows again and again and again, of small seeds planted that start out insignificantly and grow explosively. Mustard seed after mustard seed dying and causing growth, all of that mysteriously building a spiritual kingdom of genuinely converted souls so vast you can scarcely imagine it. Within three short centuries, and the world moved a lot more slowly back then than it does now, Christianity would explode from the upper room in Jerusalem and conquer, spiritually conquer the mighty Roman empire. So vast and powerful and rapid was that spread that a Roman emperor, Constantine, declared himself to be a worshiper of that Jewish carpenter three short centuries later. Now that would've been inconceivable to Tiberius, but Constantine, whatever he actually believes saw it beneficial. But King Jesus had much bigger designs than the confines of the Roman empire and the limits of just a few centuries. The kingdom of God has grown in every generation, vast, hidden, powerful, eternal life and growth surging through it, so vast it's almost inconceivable how big his kingdom really is. We can't even picture what a multitude greater than anyone could count would look like from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Today's parable predicted that staggering, stunning, glorious earth-shaking growth, the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Simply put, the lesson of this parable is this, the kingdom of God starts small and grows large. In the words of Zechariah 4:10, “we should not despise the day of small things.” Before I go on into the rest of the sermon, I just wonder if we could take a poll worldwide of 7 billion people plus. How many do you think know Tiberius today? How many people know Jesus Christ today? How would you compare the fame on those two? Just an interesting question. You ought to do that this week. Ask 20, or 30 people that you know, and say, "Have you ever heard of Tiberius", and see what they say. Come back and give me some stories on those conversations. It'd be interesting where they lead. The context here in Mark 4 is a series of parables. At the end of the section that you just heard read, this was a strategy that Jesus gave of teaching in parables. He did not say anything without using a parable, but when He was alone with his disciples, He would explain everything. So again, as with all the gospels, we're only getting a small sampling of Jesus' teaching, ministry, and of his works. John said that he didn't share everything in his writing because if he did the whole world couldn't contain the books that would be written. So we just have a small sampling of Jesus' teaching ministry and much smaller in Mark than in Matthew and Luke and John. Less of the verbiage of Mark's gospel is given to Jesus's teachings than to any of the other gospels. But we have this in Mark 4, this cycle of parables. In Mark 1-3, we have the growing spread of the kingdom of God through the ministry of Jesus Christ resulting in huge crowds, overwhelming crowds, crushing, pressing in on him. They're attracted by Jesus' message, but especially by his stunning power over demons and disease and death. But very few of that huge crowd are genuinely converted, very few were there for the true food of the word with hearts and fire for Christ, entering the kingdom of God by faith. Very few. To make matters worse, the official Jewish religious leaders position on him was that He was doing all of these amazing signs by the power of Satan, that He was a blasphemer and a fraud. Jesus says this is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The authorities hated Jesus. He certainly was not winning them as friends or influencing them as people, not at all. As an act of judgment then, Jesus taught the crowds in parables that He never explains, then He withdraws in secret with his tiny band of followers. The parables themselves were not the judgment, the lack of explanation of the parables, that was the judgment, just giving the parable and walking away. Along with this was the seeming failure of Jesus' kingdom to take genuine root in very many hearts. Jesus didn't seem to be winning, the kingdom didn't seem to be working. Jesus' disciples, reading various key passages in the Old Testament, had every reason to expect a vast worldwide messianic domain. Isaiah 9:7 spoke of a kingdom that would last forever, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord almighty will accomplish this, an eternal kingdom.” Isaiah 49 speaks of a worldwide dominion that would extend to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6, God says to Christ, “It is too smaller thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” —so to the end of time, Isaiah 9:7, to the ends of the earth, Isaiah 49:6. Isaiah 60 also speaks in glowing terms of the wealth, the richness of the worldwide dominion of Messiah. In Isaiah 60: 3-5, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around you. All assemble and come to you. Your sons come from afar. Your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant. Your heart will throb and swell with joy. The wealth on the seas will be brought to you. To you, the riches of the nations will come.” Solomon's majestic Psalm 72, a messianic Psalm, exults in the eternal glorious reign of the Messiah. In Psalm 72: 5-11, speaking of the Messiah, the Christ, “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. In his days, the righteous will flourish. Prosperity will abound until the moon is no more. He will rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. The desert tribes will bow down before him. His enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him. The kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.” These are just some of the Old Testament prophecies that gave the Jews a very powerful expectation of what the messianic kingdom would be like. There are many others I could read. But instead of this glorious kingdom, most of the Jews at that time, led by their unbelieving jealous, power-hungry leaders were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus responds by telling these parables with no explanation, leading many of his enemies to say He was demon possessed or out of his mind since these unexplained stories made no sense. Now, privately his disciples were probably wondering similar things. If we just boil it down to, “Is this really it? Is this it? I mean us?” In Luke 13:23, “Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’” Think about that question. What's behind that question? “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved? Is it going to be a real small kind of ragged band here? Even John the Baptist at the end of his life, wondered the same thing. He's in prison waiting to die, and “When John heard in prison, what Christ was doing [Matthew 11:2-3] he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” What is motivating that question? A number of things. But some of it must have been a sense of disappointment at what was happening. It didn't seem like it was big. It didn't seem glorious. Jesus is in some house surrounded by a small, weak band of common people who loved his teachings, and those were the best of the vast crowd that surrounded him and mobbed him day after day for healings. This hardly seemed like the beginning of a vast, glorious Davidic kingdom, a messianic kingdom in which the Gentiles would come and bow down before him. In Mark 4, all of the parables taken together are a glorious, very efficient manifesto on what's going to happen with the kingdom and with the gospel. It includes explanations for people's rejection of the gospel, as well as their acceptance of it. It begins with the parable, the seed and the soils, which we went through. In this most important parable, Jesus gives indications that it's really a gateway parable, that if you understand that parable, you'll understand them all. If you don't understand this parable, you won't understand any of them. So the kingdom of God is like seed that's spread on different soils. Three of the soils produce no final harvest at all. The path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, they produce no final harvest. Three of the soils produce a harvest of varying levels, 30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown, so do not despise the day of small things, we're getting to that with the mustard seed, instead be very careful what kind of soil, your own soul, your own heart is. That's what matters. Be very careful what kind of soil your heart is. Jesus says the explanations are for the insiders, not for the outsiders at the present time. But the day will come, when the light of the word of God will shine brightly for all to see. Jesus is the light of the world and God did not bring that light into the world to hide under a bowl or a bed. Look at verses 22-23, “Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out in the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, for now, in the context of Mark 4, “for now, my teachings are secret and hidden, but they're not meant to be that way ultimately. We're going to bring them out and it's going to be shining throughout the world. So the real issue is, you better look after yourself. Look after how you hear the word of God. You better be very careful what's going on inside of you when you hear the gospel.” Verse 24-25, “Consider carefully how you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you and even more. Whoever has, will be given more. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” If you receive the word of God, the gospel, if you grow in it, you're going to accelerate in that growth, you're going to produce more and more fruit. The measure you use will be measured to you and even more. But for those who hear and do nothing with the word, even what they have is going to be taken from them. So they may have some early understanding of the gospel, some basic understanding but after a while, their hearts will be so hard they won't get anything out of it. Last week again, in verses 26-29, we had an agricultural parable and there the sower is scattering seed everywhere. We end up focusing on one plant and the dynamics of the growth of that one plant, this was last week. He said this is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scattered seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows though, he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces grain. First, the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. Then as soon as the grain is right, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come. The basic idea is this, people are responsible to spread the word of God, but God alone can make it grow. They can't do anything to the actual individual inside their heart to bring them to faith in Christ. They can't save them. They can't bring about life. They don't know how that happens, they can't make it happen. They're limited in knowledge, they don't understand the process. They're limited in power. They can't make it happen. But what they can do is they can scatter the seed and then they can take part in the harvest of bringing somebody to Christ. So that was last week. Now in today's parable, Jesus is saying, no matter how apparently small the beginnings, the kingdom of God in the end will be immense and spectacular. Wait for it. Don't give up on it just because it appears small. So that's what we're getting to now. Let's dig in and look at it, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, verses 30- 32. Again, He said, what should we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It's like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of garden plants with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch its shade. So what is a parable? What does that mean? The Greek word means “to lay alongside,” simply put, it's “this is like that.” We're taking the invisible, mysterious, difficult to understand kingdom of God and we're explaining some aspect of it by something in everyday life that you are very familiar with. So it means to “lay alongside”, the kingdom is like this thing. Jesus was fond of agricultural parables. He used a lot of them. They weren't the only type, but they were the most dominant type, seeds and soils and plants and things growing. In general, in terms of interpretation of scripture, parables are best when you focus on the main idea and don't go down rabbit trails of details. Although, I think we can even take that idea too far and say the details are in no way important. You still want to be careful with the details. Don't allegorize, them something like that. So the details are important, but really you want to start with the main idea. And what's the main idea of the parable of the mustard seed? It starts small and gets big. That's the basic idea. Don't worry about the apparent failure of the gospel. The kingdom of God has a small beginning, but in a measurably, glorious and big way, it's going to be really big. Friends, this thing's going to be big. I'm trying to picture. Can you picture what hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of genuine born again people look like in radiant robes? What's the biggest crowd you've ever seen? It's not hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions. So it's going to be really big, but there's going to be a temptation to be discouraged, because it so frequently looks so small and unimpressive. That's what we're getting at here. “The kingdom of God has a small beginning, but in a measurably, glorious and big way, it's going to be really big.” Now we have a problem with this whole mustard seed thing. R.C. Sproul spoke of his involvement with the Council for Biblical Inerrancy and he said in that process, he interacted with a former evangelical scholar who is no longer evangelical. He had abandoned his commitment to biblical inerrancy, specifically on the issue of the mustard seed. Jesus was wrong about the mustard seed, so He must be wrong about everything else. I'm like, “oh my goodness.” All seeds are small, but they weren't impressively, staggeringly small. So I get it. I get the problem.However, I think we should be astounded that an scholar would give up his commitment to inerrancy on this issue. Would you agree with me on that? First of all, what Sproul says is we should not take Jesus' words and extend them to some universal laser accurate statement in every case. They don't work like that. Jesus' statements don't work like that. The gospels don't work like that. For example, in Mark 1:45, it says people came to him from everywhere. Stop right there. Did anybody come from Durham, North Carolina? How about Antarctica? Anybody from the moon? There, that's a place. Look, nobody reads it like that. It says people came to him from everywhere, we kind of just know what that means, from wide areas around. It wasn't just that one town. I think we get it. Secondly, we don't actually know for sure what species of mustard seed he was talking about. We don't know that the seeds in my wife's spice cabinet are the same as what he was dealing with. They probably weren't. Maybe a completely different genetic category. An expert on YouTube was saying that there are different types of mustard plants, and he actually had in his hand, a cluster of black mustard seeds. They were unbelievably tiny. They look like black powder. They would be the smallest seeds I've ever seen. They didn't look like seeds. Like I said, they just looked like black powder. He pulled a seed off to the side or a little cluster of them because you couldn't get just one. And the camera zoomed in and I'm telling you, these seeds were smaller than the tip of a pin. It was not smaller than the head of the pin, it was smaller than the pointy tip. That's how small the seed was. So I'm going with that. Thirdly, we need to understand in Jewish rabbinic speech, this was a common aphorism. It's like “small as a mustard seed.” It was actually known, Jesus wasn't the first to use it, it’s something really small. So there's like small, smaller and smallest and the mustard seed was how the rabbis talked about smallest, so this was actually common. The point here is it starts small and grows, the growth of the seed. Jesus says it grows and becomes a small tree, the largest of all garden plants. So no, it does not get as big as a Cedar of Lebanon, but it gets really big. We're talking about the kind of plants that a family would have in a family garden. You can imagine something like that. Research shows that these types of mustard plants would grow as tall as a man, or taller. That's very big for a small garden patch. Jesus says that they become a tree with such big branches that the birds of the air can settle down perhaps or nest or at least perch in the shade. So they're very big, strong branches. Translated, the kingdom of God is going to start very small, almost microscopic, very small and grow to something vast and broad and dramatic and amazing. In my mind, I connect this to the story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 4. What happens is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has a dream. Let me read Daniel 4:10- 12, “I looked and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land, its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky. It was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant. And on it was food for all. Under it, the beasts of the field found shelter and the birds of the air lived in its branches. From it, every creature was fed.” It's a dream, a vast fruit tree, but very tall, very strong, with big branches and lots of shade. Animals were coming in the shade on the ground, birds on the branches, people eating from the fruit of the tree. Daniel then interpreted the dream. Daniel 4:20- 22, “The tree you saw,” [he's speaking to King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire], which grew large and strong with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beast of the field and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air. You, oh king, are that tree. You have become great and strong and your greatness is grown until it reaches the sky. And your dominion extends to the distant parts of the earth.” So Nebuchadnezzar as the head or the king of the Babylonian empire is represented by a vast fruitful, huge leafy tree and everything is clustered around it. In the dream, that tree is condemned to be chopped down, its branches stripped off, the fruits stripped off. The whole thing's laid to waste in that dream. But the tree of the kingdom of God will never be chopped down, it'll never be stripped or laid to waste. Going back two chapters before that in Daniel 2, a different image of the statue with the head of gold, and chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron feet, that whole thing represents a series of empires. Then a stone comes, cut out, but not by human hands, strikes that statue, crushes it, and then it becomes a mountain that fills a whole earth, the kingdom of God. It says in Daniel 2:44, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed nor will it be left to another people.” Or as Nebuchadnezzar would say himself, as he wrote chapter 4, as he gave his testimony in Daniel 4, speaking of the kingdom of God, “His dominion is an eternal dominion, his kingdom endures from generation and generation.” So here's the thing, back to the mustard seed. The kingdom of God will be a mighty tree with a vast root system with innumerable leafy fruitful branches that will last forever. It represents people who come together and bring all of their riches and their glories and all of their salvation stories and all that together in one place, the kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem, the new heaven, new earth. That's what we're talking about here. II. What is the Mustard Seed? Now, what is the mustard seed? I believe we'll start with Jesus. Jesus is the first mustard seed, his life, his death, his resurrection represents that. We see this again and again with the lamp. Jesus is the lamp, and then we are the lamp. And so again, my approach on this parable is Jesus is the mustard seed, then we are the mustard seed. But first and foremost, we start with Jesus. We see that with the lamp in Mark 4:21, “Do you bring in a lamp and put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it up on its stand?” What's the lamp? Jesus is the lamp. He says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Or again, Isaiah 9:2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and those living the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” But then Jesus said, we are the light of the world. So He's the light of the world, and we’re the light of the world. Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. City on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” So Jesus is the first great light of the world. Then we, following his example, we are also are light to the world. Same thing with the seed, the mustard seed. Or again in John 12:24-26, Jesus said this. “I tell you the truth. Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” What is the seed that falls in the ground and dies, and if it dies, it brings forth much fruit? Jesus' own death is the first fulfillment of that. But you know this is a pattern that He is commending, that we would all follow going forward. He makes that plain by the next few verses in John 12. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. The man who loves his life will lose it while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” That's pretty obvious. He's calling us to be seeds that fall in the ground and die. If you're willing to do that, if you're willing to fall into the ground and die, you're going to bear much fruit. I'm thinking about hospitality. You say, "But Pastor, I'm an introvert." Well, just practice saying that to Jesus on Judgment Day. “Jesus, you know I'm an introvert. I couldn't do that hospitality thing.” Just picture how that will wash on that day. Once you conclude that will not wash on that day, then be hospitable. “It feels like death to walk across the street and meet my neighbor.” We’ve got to talk about that at a lot of levels. I understand that feeling, but the fact of the matter is I believe John 12:24-26 is talking first about Jesus and then about all of us. It's pretty obvious. He died and rose again and look at all the fruit that's come from that. Therefore, if we die, fall into the ground and die, look at the fruit that'll come from our lives. Let's bring that back to the mustard seed. Jesus lived a life, very short ministry time, could have easily never been noticed, falls in the ground and dies, rises again from the dead and establishes the beginning of the kingdom. One hundred twenty believers, a little mustard seed. Then he is calling on us to do the same thing. Guess what's going to happen? We're going to go and minister and the stuff we do is not going to be very impressive initially. But don't be disappointed, don't be discouraged, don't despise the day of small things. Those things start small, but they can get really big. Jesus is going to use the mustard seed analogy later to talk about small acts of faith. They come to him and say, “Oh Lord, increase our faith.” Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” The smallest things we do can have an eternal impact. Church history's full of seemingly minor movements and moments that end up having a massive impact even for all eternity. We can easily become discouraged and say what difference does anything I do make at all. We can despise the day of small things[ Zachariah 4:10]. The Jews had come back after the exile, they're in rubble-filled Jerusalem. They got to rebuild the wall, but they also have to rebuild the temple. It's the center of the Jewish religion, the old covenant religion. They eventually do rebuild the temple, but the old timers remembered Solomon's temple in all of its glory, and they weeped and moaned and lamented over this small shabby looking substitute temple. Zachariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise the day of small things. God has the power to take small acts of obedience and make something great of it.” “Don't be disappointed, don't be discouraged, don't despise the day of small things. Those things start small, but they can get really big. … The smallest things we do can have an eternal impact." What are some examples of mustard seeds that we can plant? I think about the daily work of a mother singing, “Jesus Loves Me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” to her baby, and just doing that night after night, after night, after night, singing that song. Then all the other things that the mom does to pour the gospel into the growing child over the years. I'm telling you, she has some hard days. It doesn't look like the kingdom of God is growing inside this child. But don't despise the day of small things, the little beginning, you don't know what that child's going to grow to become. Or imagine a man who just makes it a habit to go to a certain coffee shop and get to know the baristas there and has a particular relationship with one of the baristas and feels led to just keep saturating that relationship, that conversation with gospel things like something we heard in church, or I'm praying for you or just different things. You can imagine one time making a comment and you don't have any idea that comment reminds that person of something that was said to them by a Christian relative or by a Christian roommate or friend years ago. You had no way of knowing what that comment would do. You had no way of knowing that they couldn't get to sleep that night because they knew something was up and the person comes to faith in Christ. But it's just some comment you made, you didn't even know the power of it, the impact of it. Little moments of faithful service, write an encouraging note on the bill and leave a good tip. You can leave a generous tip with something that you write to encourage the person. You never know if that comes at precisely at a time somebody's hurting for cash. You follow an inner-prompting from the Spirit, calling a lost friend from college, just to say hi, and you didn't realize that she was sliding toward suicide, toward depression. You had no idea. You didn't know what was going on. You just wanted to call and say, hello. A little thing, a little act of obedience. Or secret patterns of prayer for missionaries. We have missionaries that are serving on the field. You could just say on that day, I'm going to pray for this missionary family. We're going to lift them up and pray for them. You don't know, but that is exactly the moment they needed prayer, where there's something going on in their city, something with the security. Maybe their position's compromised or they're in some danger from persecution, or it could be just an opportunity like coffee shop or a person that they're meeting., and that's the time that you are praying for them. Like the widow giving her two tiny copper coins and then together make up a fraction of a penny. How many children put in money in the offering plates going by? You don't have any idea what that pattern of giving is going to grow to in their lives, how generous they're going to be when they're adults, because they early on had that pattern of giving. The mustard seeds of faith, mustard seeds of sacrificial service, growing into big things later. A word, a prayer, a gift, an act of kindness, a gesture, encouraging note, or a Bible study you start and there's two people that show up. Don't worry about the numbers, just be faithful and teach God's word to the people that show up. Don't despise the day of small things. How big is this thing going to get? Really big. The glorious consummation of Christ kingdom. Of course, there's this famous verse Revelation 7:9-10, “After this, I looked and there before me was a multitude greater than anyone could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne in front of the lamb wearing white robes and they're holding palm branches in their hands. And they were saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb.’” Awesome. Picture it. It started shabby and small, one hundred twenty people in an upper room. That's it. Look how big it's going to be. In the language of Daniel 4 and Nebuchadnezzar's dream, “these are the fruit and the animals and the birds from the ends of the earth that come to live under the shade of Christ forever.” You know what I think? It's never going to stop growing. I think procreation will end, there won't be new people added to the kingdom, but it does say in Isaiah 97 of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. So just go with increase that never ends. How is that? In the estimation of the greatness of Christ in what he did to build his kingdom forever, that's a dynamic heaven. That's what I would commend to you. From Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, the death of one man, Jesus Christ, changed all of human history. So also the tiny cluster of ordinary people, twelve apostles, and a few other people there in the upper room. Then the Holy Spirit poured out on them in the day of Pentecost, and they poured out in the streets to change the world. They moved out in Jerusalem. They spread out boldly from there through Judea. Philip and some others brought the gospel to the Samaritans and they won the Samaritans to Christ. Then Philip was led by the Spirit to go talk to an Ethiopian eunuch and led him to faith in Christ. He goes down the Nile river, the upper Nile and lives out his Christian life there in Ethiopia. Merchants and tradesmen and travelers and caravans and soldiers posted to different places in the distant places in the Roman empire, going along ancient trade routes, coastal traders poking along the inlets and cliffs and coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea and the east coast of Africa. Apostles took the gospel as far as India and probably as far west as Spain. The tiny mustard seed of one hundred twenty believers began to turn the world upside down for Christ, and this amazing pattern has continued to our day. You got Moravians that have the idea of winning slaves on plantations. In the early 18th century, they began the Protestant missions movement. William Carey, a Baptist, took the gospel to India. Just one man, Adoniram Judson, and his wife, Nancy brought the gospel to Burma, and led tens of thousands of Burmese Christians. Just one person getting off a boat, starting small. Hudson Taylor, going to the inland regions of China. By the end of his life, the China inland mission was responsible for 50,000 -75,000 Chinese believers. Just the vision of one individual. David Livingston in the heart of the dark continent, an explorer and missionary. Christianity claims hundreds of millions of converts from every nation on earth. The church of Jesus Christ is bigger than you think it is. And it's not just famous missionaries, unnamed evangelists have walked courageously across the street or across the office space. You're like, “Man, that takes courage. You don't know my boss.” No, I don't know your boss, but I had one of those bosses, and you feel led by the Lord to go share your faith with your boss. It takes courage, but the Lord can bless it. “From Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, the death of one man, Jesus Christ, changed all of human history.” III. Application So what lessons, first and foremost, come to Christ. If you don't know Christ, if you haven't trusted in him, just let me tell you simply, your sins can be forgiven right now. All you have to do is call on the name of the Lord. Jesus. You've heard the basic facts of the gospel. Jesus died. He rose again. If you repent and believe, your sins are forgiven. So come to Christ, let the gospel start in your life and then spread and take over. What about you Christians? Don't despise the day of small things here in Durham. As we look at our city of Durham, it's easy to get discouraged. I mean, we're greatly outnumbered. Have you noticed? We are greatly outnumbered here, but it's an opportunity. People are pouring in. God's bringing them here. They're living, they're putting up apartments and houses and condos and they're pouring in. Don't you want our church to be part of God's solution to that? Don't you want us to be among the answers that He knows we are going to not just have people come here and they'll hear the gospel, but that we pour out like they did in Pentecost, out into the streets and they'll hear it from us. Let's not despise the day of small things. Finally, look forward to the consummation of the kingdom, feed your heart. Read Revelation 21 and 22, read it regularly. Feed your heart with how big this whole thing's going to get. Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the power of the word of God. We thank you for the Gospel of Mark for what it teaches us about Jesus as the son of God and the kingdom of the son of God. And I pray that we would learn this parable of the mustard seed, that though the seed was so tiny, you could barely see it, it had an amazing impact in the end. I pray that we would trust you for big things, that we would pray that you would work big things in our midst. Give us courage to be hospitable, courage to share the gospel at work, at home, in different places. And we pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a sermon on Mark 4: 26-29 and explains what Christians can and cannot do for the advance of the gospel of Christ. - SERMON Transcript - I. A Crushing Burden That No One Can Bear Turn in your Bibles to Mark 4. We're going to be looking at this incredible little parable, a parable only found in the Gospel of Mark, not found in Matthew or Luke or John. I'm going to begin with a story from church history which I find fascinating. Luke Short was a healthy farmer who lived in colonial New England had reached his hundredth year. He was a hundred years old, but as yet he had not been converted, he had not trusted in Christ for the salvation of his soul. One afternoon, there in Colonial New England, he sat in a field and his mind went back over his long life, back to his boyhood years in Dartmouth, England, before he sailed for America. At the age of 15, he heard a sermon preached by the great puritan preacher, John Flavel. He was preaching on the text, "If any man loved not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be a cursed." [1 Corinthians 16:22]. Flavel focused on the horror of dying under God's curse. Eighty-five years later, Luke Short, sitting in that field under a tree, felt the fear of God come on him and repented and trusted in Christ; he found forgiveness. I wonder what was going on for those 85 years, don't you? I feel that in part this little parable that we're going to study today, addresses that, a secret working of the Spirit of God within the hearts of individuals, after they have received the seed of the gospel, that eventually produces the harvest of salvation in that person's life. A secret working of God that we cannot understand, and we cannot affect, we cannot bring it about, but only God can. That's what this parable is about. Now in this, I believe that the Lord Jesus is alleviating from us a crushing burden that none of us can bear. Mark 4 is an incredible chapter. It begins with the parable of the seed and the soils, various soil types and various outcomes. Then he continues to teach other aspects of the spreading of the seed and of the spread of the gospel. At that point, the Twelve apostles did not know that they were going to be given the responsibility of the great commission and through them also, we, all of us, every generation of Christian, the responsibility of the great commission, given in each of the four gospels and also in the Book of Acts. That we are to take the gospel and go to the ends of the Earth and spread the gospel everywhere and make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit and then teach them to obey everything that Christ has commanded. We are given that responsibility. But in the midst of that, we must understand our limitations, our limited role. Jesus would lift from us a crushing burden that we cannot bear. Matthew 23 talks about the Scribes and Pharisees in many ways, their judgmental ways. One of the first things Jesus says about the Scribes and Pharisees is that they lay crushing burdens on people and they are not willing to lift a finger to move them [Matthew 23:4]. In Acts 15, Peter talks about a yolk, or a burden, that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear, a crushing burden. What is the burden here? Suppose that you believe that the eternal destiny of specific people, or a specific person, was completely up to you. You had to devise a way to win a person or a set of lost people. You had to pick the locks of their personalities, of their particular perspectives and their culture, so that the locked gates of their hearts would swing open to Christ. You had to figure that out and that if you failed, they would spend eternity in hell, wailing and gnashing their teeth, crying in agony, ultimately, because you failed to deliver the gospel, the perfect work of Christ. You failed to deliver it to them and find a way to win them to Christ. That I tell you is a crushing burden that no one can bear. Getting more specific, imagine if the Lord pointed to some coworker, or a neighbor, or a group of neighbors, or for a missionary, let's say an unreached people group assigned to you. You're the only missionary unit working on that unreached people group or a massive city in Asia with 20 million people, and the Lord were to say to you, "Their eternal destiny depends on you finding a way to actually bring them to Christ. I have done my part, shed my blood. Now it's up to you to do your part." Well, if that doesn't crush your spirit, I don't know what would. Perhaps just as bad would be somebody that says, "I can do that." You rise to the occasion, and you do find a way and you do bring in someone to Christ, and then you arrogantly boast as though somehow you had achieved some great thing. That you are in some way, just as responsible for their salvation as Jesus was. That would be insufferable to listen to that for all eternity up in heaven. Both sides are bad, as with any faithless self-reliance, it brings you to either despair or arrogance, depending on whether you think you can meet the challenge. To cut all of that off, Jesus gives us this little parable, this beautiful little parable. It's extremely humbling actually, but it's also incredibly encouraging. If you look at it properly, listen to the words again. Mark 4:26-29, "He also said, this is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed in the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces grain. First, the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come." This is kind of a simple restatement of the parable. As evangelists, as spreaders of the word of God, as farmers of the gospel, we have a limited role, we scatter the seed on the ground. Then we do nothing else within this parable. We cannot give life. Life comes apart from anything we possibly can do. Whether we are awake or asleep, the word of God does it all. All by itself, the soil produces grain. But we, who have scattered the seed, have no idea how it happens. It has nothing to do with our power or our knowledge. It is God alone that gives life. God alone that gives spiritual growth. We get to scatter the seed and then we get to go to bed and sleep. God does everything else. What really matters? God gives life. We cannot. “We cannot give life. Life comes apart from anything we possibly can do. Whether we are awake or asleep, the word of God does it all.” God's reason, it seems to me for all of this, is very plain. He alone gets the glory for this salvation of souls, that He alone takes responsibility for the condemnation of souls. God is everything. He's absolutely sovereign in salvation, as I Corinthians 1:31 says, "As it is written, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." We are humbled by this. We're also greatly encouraged as well. We're going to talk now about what we gospel farmers can do and what we cannot do. Then I'm just going to go over the same thing again and just intensify it and speak about what we gospel farmers must do and what we must not do. II. What Gospel Farmers Can Do Let's begin with what gospel farmers can do. One of the key interpretation principles for me for this parable is the insight that the one who sows the seed here is not Christ. It's not Jesus here. It is true in the parable of the wheat and the tares. The one who sows the wheat and the weeds is Jesus. The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [Matthew 13:37]. But here, this man who sowed knows nothing about how the seed grows. Friends, that's not Jesus. Jesus knows everything about how the seed grows. But this man doesn't know anything about it and he can do nothing about it. He cannot make it grow and he sleeps. The gospel farmer is anyone who scatters the word. So, what can ordinary gospel farmers like you and me do? First, they can scatter the seed of the word. Look at verse 26, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scattered seed in the ground." Jesus began most of his parables with this kind of introduction. Like, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Or, "This is what the kingdom of God is like," something like that. What does that mean? The kingdom of heaven in Matthew, the kingdom of God in Mark and Luke, the same thing, is this spiritual domain where God rules over subjects who are delighted to have him ruling over them. We enter the kingdom of God by repentance and faith in Christ. That's what the kingdom of God is like. When Jesus is telling parables, he's saying, "This is how the king does his business. This is how the kingdom works. This is an aspect of the way that the king does his work in his kingdom. That's how the parables work." He begins by saying, “A man scatter seed on the ground.” We already talked about the seed and the soils. The seed is the word of God, more specifically, especially the Gospel. It could be any teaching from scripture but I think especially it focuses on the Gospel, the pinnacle of scripture teaching. So the seed is the word of God. There is almost nothing said about the person who scatters the seed. It could be a man, could be a woman, could be a boy, could be a girl. It doesn't matter, it’s not really addressed. He or she is unremarkable. There's nothing special about this person at all and the role is simple, scatter the seed on the ground. There's no plowing mentioned. There's no preparation of the soil here. There's no building of a protective wall or a watch tower or a wine press or any of that equipment. Those are mentioned in other parables, not here. Simply put, this sower speaks the word of God to another human being. They just speak the Gospel to another person. It could be a pastor preaching a sermon like I am right now, or it could be a neighbor speaking the gospel to another neighbor over tea, some hospitality and chance to share the gospel. It could be a passenger sitting in next to another passenger on a plane and talking about the gospel. It could be a coworker with another coworker at a coffee break, speaking the gospel. It could be a mother speaking the gospel to her growing children in their home. Gospel workers can do this as much as they like, and I will exhort you at the end of the sermon to do it more than you've ever done it before. But Jesus makes very little of the process. There's nothing simpler than scattering seed on the ground. So picture yourself within the parable. You're walking through the field, you have a bag slung across, crosswise on your chest, and a bag of seed on your hip and you reach in and you pull a fist full of seed and you just scatter it. I mean, if you have any intelligence, you're going to go in an organized pattern through the field. You don't want to dump it all in one area. That wouldn't take long, but that would be pretty stupid. So there'd be an intelligence moving through, but you're just reaching in throwing seed. Reaching in, scattering seed. You do it again and again. You go through and scatter the seed, and then you've sown the entire field. This is the first thing that the parable says that we gospel farmers can do. Next, it says a gospel farmer can harvest the crop. Verse 29 for me is a very important key to this parable, so listen carefully here. "As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come." So the same one that scattered the seed and the parable does the harvesting too. When the grain is right, it is ready to be harvested. What is that harvest? That's the important question here. What is the harvest? It's one of two possibilities. The growth and development of the seed could be the entire Christian life, including all of the fruitfulness that comes through that entire life, like in the parable of the seed and the soils in the 30, 60, a hundred times, what was sown, that kind of thing. Full life. Full fruit. Full growth, whatever. But if that's true, what is the harvest? That would be death, or the second coming. Can I just tell you simply, you're not going to do that, you're not the grim reaper. You don't have any role in ending someone else's life. You're not the Lord coming in the clouds. So the harvest must be something else, and it's the other option which is the bringing of a person to an initial clear profession of faith in Christ. They are now a Christian. They've come into the kingdom. This is the exact kind of language that Jesus uses in John 4. You remember the conversation he had with the Samaritan woman. They have an incredible conversation, just the two of them, and she finally concludes that Jesus is the Messiah that they've been waiting for all those centuries. He's the one. So she leaves her water jar there and runs into the Samaritan village and she rouses all of her fellow villagers to come out and see Jesus, come out and see this man that I've been talking to, told me everything I've ever done. Could this be the Christ? She is effective in bringing them all out. Meanwhile, the disciples who are in the Samaritan village had been buying lunch to go. They brought lunch, to go out to Jesus. They said, "It's time to eat,” and Jesus said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." Could somebody have brought him lunch? What's going on in the minds of the disciples? They're in this whole Samaritan village with a bunch of lost people and all they do is buy food. Jesus, I think, effectively rebukes them. "I have food to eat you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and finish his work. Do you not say four months more and then comes the harvest? I tell you, lift up your fields and look at them. They're ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages. Even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together, thus the saying, one sows and another reaps is true. I sent you to reap, what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work and you reaped the benefit of their labor.” [John 4:35-38] We have a reaping we can do in this life, and what is that reaping? It is to be present when that person crosses over from death to life. You've done all that work, they're at the response, and you're pleading with them to repent and believe and they do. They become Christians and you get to do the reaping in that sense. The Samaritans say[John 4], talking to this woman who says because of Jesus’ words, many more became believers, they said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said. We have now heard for ourselves and we know, we know that this man is the Savior of the world." They have been reaped. They've been brought into the barn spiritually, they're Christians. Who did the reaping that day? Jesus did, in that sense, but we have the possibility also of doing some reaping. Wouldn't you love to be part of that reaping? When you confirm that a person who has heard the word of the Gospel, the word of Christ, and has believed it as it says in John 5:24, "Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life." When you're there watching them cross over and they get to the other side and like, "Did I make it? Am I on the other side?" You get to say, "You are. You are now alive. Your sins are forgiven. Hallelujah. You are a Christian." As it says in John 20, "If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive, they're not forgiven." That's messenger language. We're not the God of all the world, but we get to declare to people, “You are forgiven. You're a Christian. Welcome to the kingdom of God.” That's the reaping. Soon after that, I think as Christians, we would call for water baptism, make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey. That'd be part of confirming the reaping. As it says, in Acts 2:40-41, "With many other words, you warn them and pleaded with them, save yourselves from this corrupt generation." That's Peter on the day of Pentecost. He's warning them, pleading with them. Three thousand accepted his message and were baptized and became members of the church that day. Gospel farmers can scatter the seed of the word, and they can reap. They can bring in the harvest. What else can they do? They can sleep, and they can get up. It's like, do we really have permission to sleep? You do. That's what this guy in the parable does. After he scattered the seed, he went to bed. In verse 27, "Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." In other words, they can live their ordinary lives. They can go about their business. They can lie down knowing they've done their job and not be panicked about the outcome. The weight of their eternity does not rest on them. They can rest confidently, they can wake up, and they can get up and make breakfast and go about their work and maybe they'll do more seed sewing that next day. But the secret growth belongs to God. That's what the gospel farmers can do. III. What Gospel Farmers Cannot Do What can the gospel farmers not do? They cannot give life, they cannot give growth. In verse 27-28, "Night and day, that whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces grain. First, the stalk, then the head then the full kernel in the head." Life itself may be the greatest mystery in this physical world. The most skilled farmer has no idea how the apparently lifeless seed germinates, puts forth the first shoot in the soil, the root. He doesn't have any idea how that happens. Even the most brilliant botanist or biologist who has spent hundreds, thousands of hours studying the germination of seeds and can describe with interesting terminology step-by-step what happens, but doesn't know really, because life is a mystery. It's a mystery of life. We cannot create life, only God can do that. The farmer, once he's scattered the seed all over the field, takes off the bag. He hangs it up in his barn. He washes up and eats dinner with his wife and kids. He goes to bed, wakes up the next morning, and he knows enough to leave the seed alone because there's nothing he can do to make the seeds grow, to germinate, to do all the amazing things that seeds do in the ground. He can't give that initial life, he can't make it grow. Imagine he goes out later, and there's all these little shiny green things coming up, row upon row. He's like, "Come on. Come on. Grow." He gets down and starts tugging on it. Leave it alone, you can't make it grow. He can do nothing. The man can do nothing. He knows nothing. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. The farmer's power and skill contribute nothing to the life. He does not understand the process. The soil does everything. Look at verse 28. "All by itself, the soil produces grain. First the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” It's automatic or by itself. The same word is used in Acts 12:10, when Peter is rescued miraculously from prison and from being killed. “They passed through the first and second guards and they came to the iron gate, leading to the city. It opened for them automatically, just by itself, and they went through it.” The use of the word by Jesus here means the farmer contributes nothing to the life and growth of the seed. The soil seems to do it by itself. That's actually not true. We know the real truth is God gives the growth. Here is the humbling parallel passage. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 the apostle Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church, "I planted the seed. Apollos watered. But God made it grow. So neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow." What does it mean if we are not anything? It means we are nothing. God is everything. That's humbling, isn't it? But it's also encouraging. God makes things grow. God is everything. Let's connect this to gospel work. Romans 1:16 says, "The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." But that's only true if God adds the secret work of the Spirit to those who hear it. You know it's true. It's not all by itself, automatic. Many people hear the gospel and never repent and believe. But it's when God adds the second, the secret work of the Spirit within the heart of the individual, that life comes. How does that happen? If the harvest is the person's coming to Christ and if the planting of the seed is their first hearing of the gospel, that's the process between those two moments. That's very interesting. Look what it says, verse 28, "First the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head, then that harvest comes." That must mean that there are unconverted, elect people, who have heard the word, have not yet trusted in Christ and stuff's going on inside them. They're thinking about it. I planted the seed and Apollos watered. There's things going on in the secret of their heart in the recesses of their heart. Like what? Conviction of sin starts to grow. Fear of hell starts to grow. A yearning for heaven starts to grow. Most importantly, the beauty of Christ and the sufficiency of Christ death on the cross and his resurrection starts to grow. Christ becomes more and more meaningful, but the person is still not yet converted. That sense of the beauty and a yearning for heaven and a rising terror of the judgment of God, all of that, is part of it. There are secret inducements, secret persuasions, coming to the mind, maybe even some sleepless nights. Now to back this up, there's a lot of verses I could use, but you remember the third telling of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in the book of Acts, adds a piece of information the other two didn't give us and that's where you remember the light strikes Saul of Tarsus to the ground, and from heaven comes a voice [Acts 26:14], "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And then He says, "This is Jesus. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." That's interesting. What are goads? They are sharpened stakes, put behind a beast of burden that's yolked up and pulling a plow, let's say, to keep it from kicking back at the master. They're sharp and the animal learns not to do that. Saul, pre-conversion Saul, was kicking against the goads. What are they? Secret inducements, persuasions, maybe some of the doctrine of Stephen. How Stephen died, how his face looked like the face of an angel and Saul was there giving consent to his death. But one preacher said Stephen's doctrine, his persuasions, his sermon and his manner of death, put a ticking time bomb inside the mind of Saul of Tarsus that went off on the Road to Damascus, in a good way, bringing him to salvation. That's the stalk the head, the full kernel. There's a process going on inside them, and yet amazingly there's still dead in their transgressions and sins, even while they live. So it's just not that simple. There are things that are going on inside that will eventually lead them to faith in Christ. We can't do it. We cannot affect that conversion. Like it says in John 1: 12-13, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Children that were born not of the blood or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but born of God." That means that you can't do it. Only God can do it. Also, a few chapters later in John 3 Jesus says to Nicodemus, verses 6-8, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit." It’s interesting. He's telling those words to an unconverted man. To the end, he would be converted. There's internal truth and processes going on, so the Spirit moves wherever He chooses. People scatter the seed of the word but it is the Spirit that gives life. Two people could be sitting side by side, hearing the same message. One is converted and the other is not. There is nothing the evangelist can do to make it happen. He must simply deliver the word and leave the rest to the secret inner working of the spirit of God. IV. What Gospel Farmers Must Do What gospel farmers must do. We must diligently, diligently scatter the seed. Though the parable is meant to humble us and put us in our place, to give all praise and glory to God for all spiritual life and growth, yet we have a vital role to play. We must scatter the seed. We must preach the gospel to lost people. We must do this more than we have ever done it before. Some have one role, some have another. I'm called on to preach in this manner. Most people aren't. But others can share in the workplace, in the neighborhood, at family gatherings, at supermarkets, at your kids' little league games, at the doctor's office, at coffee shops. We have the ability to do this. We have the calling to do this. What some called “broadcast seed sowing.” What does that mean? Scattering it widely, lots of seed. I have a broadcast seed sower in my crawl space. I bring it out at certain times to scatter seed on my lawn. It's got a little hopper and you walk and it just spews them everywhere, so it saves me from having doing this, by hand, like the guy in the parable. I don't mean when I say broadcast using radio or the internet or social media. You can do all that, but that's not what I mean now. I mean lots and lots and lots of gospel encounters, not one or two. That it actually would be an odd day in which you don't say something to a lost person about Christ. Wouldn't you love to get to that point where you're just consistently saying something about Christ? Ask the Lord to work it in you. We must do this, for God is committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:20, "As though God himself, we're making his appeal through us, we implore you, we beg you be reconciled to God." Can you imagine saying that to someone this week, “I’m an ambassador of heaven. I want you to know Christ, ”? Find the best words but we are called on for this role, more than ever before. “We must scatter the seed. We must preach the gospel to lost people. We must do this more than we have ever done it before.” Charles Spurgeon talking about this, saying, "The seed should be sown often. Sow again and again, for many of the foes of the wheat, and if you repeat not your sowing, you may never see a harvest." If you have this one seed and you're just once a week, there it is. I did my job. That's not it. He says, "Sow and sow and sow. Lots. No tribe of man, no peculiar constitution of the human mind may be neglected by us. Not the highly educated or the uneducated, not the rich or the poor. There's no one we can leave out." Then Spurgeon said, "Whenever Captain Cook, the celebrated explorer, landed in whatever part of the earth it might be, he took with him a little packet of English seeds and he was observed to scatter them in suitable places. He would leave the boat and wander up from the shore, go a little inland. He said nothing to anybody, but quietly scattered English seeds, wherever he went, so that he belted the world with flowers and herbs of his native land. So imitate him wherever you go. Sow spiritual seed in every place that your foot shall tread upon. Some of you, before long will be at holiday.” That's vacation at the seaside. I guess this was right before the summer in England. I don't know. “Some of you before long, will be at on holiday at the seaside or amidst the mountains of Switzerland. If that's you, talk to me. At least show me the pictures when you get back. The mountains of Switzerland or some other regions of the earth, in search of the variety and beauty of the world, carry the heavenly seeds with you and be not satisfied unless in every place, you let fall a grain or two that may bring forth fruit onto your God. So we can, we must, scatter seed, broadcast seed.” Secondly, we must expect God for results. Expect God to bring in a harvest. In the parable, the man sleeps peacefully knowing he's going to have a harvest. He doesn't think, "Gee, I hope we have a harvest." No. I mean, he's a farmer. His family depends on it. He's been a farmer for many years. He's expecting a harvest. Spurgeon said, "I fear that many Christians work without faith. If you have a garden or a field and you sow seed in it, you would be very greatly surprised and grieved if it did not come up at all. But many Christian people seem quite content to work on and they never reckon upon results, so much as to look for it expectantly. This is a pitiful kind of working. Pulling up empty buckets, year after year. Surely I must either see a result for my labor and be glad, or else failing to see it, I must be ready to break my heart." We ought to expect results. If we had expected more, we should have seen more. But a lack of expectation has been a great cause of failure in God's workers. I think they go together. If you really expect to harvest you're going to sow more seed. If you really don't expect to harvest, you're not going to sow much. V. What Gospel Farmers Must Never Do Now, what gospel farmers must never do. We covered this a few weeks ago, but I'm going to say it again. We must never re-engineer the seed if it doesn't give the harvest we think it should give. That's not for us to do. If we take the seed of the gospel and do a feedback loop with audience reaction and we start taking out offensive elements like the blood, the atoning blood, or the exclusivity of Christ, the need for repentance and faith in Jesus, the law with its moral stipulations condemning us, apart from the work of Christ to hell. If we take out things like that and make the message more popular. If we re-engineer the seed and make a manmade gospel, Paul tells us in Galatians, "That is no gospel at all. It'd be better for you to be condemned than to preach a manmade gospel." We must never re-engineer the seed. Secondly, we must not question the approach. I'm not saying that we can't do better, make certain that we didn't give offense where we should. I'm not saying that, but I mean the general approach of evangelism. Some people think to come up with techniques like within a church service, if you get the lighting right, and the music right, and the whole experience right, and the architecture right and all that, you set up all that things, you can get the response. Like they're engineering the whole thing. Or the prosperity gospel that seeks to bribe converts. We don't have enough money in our budget to bribe converts here in the Raleigh-Durham area—$500 for each convert. It's not just that they won't be genuine converts. They were called “rice bowl Christians” in other ages. They're coming for different reasons. That's the prosperity gospel. That's not the true gospel. We're not called on to do that. We must never re-engineer the gospel message or question the basic simple approach of evangelism. Thirdly, we must not sleep, the sleep of the lazy. Yes, this man sleeps after he has done his work—after he is done his work. There is a confident, holy sleep that we can take when we have done the work God's called on us to do. As Ecclesiastes, 5:12 says, "The sleep of a labor is sweet, whether he eats little or much.” But there is also the sleep of the gospel sluggard in which we are asleep to the perishing all around us, sinfully asleep to their condition. As it says in Proverbs 10:5, "He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son." Let's not sleep during the harvest, now is the harvest time. VI. A Final Appeal Let me make a final appeal and then we'll be done. Really the whole sermon's been an appeal, but I must conclude by appealing directly to you who came to church this morning, lost. You came to church this morning, knowing yourself to be unconverted. You've heard the gospel, multiple times today. There it was, A to Z, the gospel. Wes had the gospel, a simple summary of the gospel when he introduced one of the songs. The gospel is simple and straightforward. The God of heaven is king of all the earth, created all things, and gives us laws by which we are to govern our life. We have broken those laws. We have violated his commands. We are sinners, and we cannot save ourselves. So God sent his son, who lived a sinless life, died in our place under the wrath of God, the punishment we deserve was laid on him. He died for us and He was risen from the dead on the third day and if we repent and believe in him, we'll be forgiven. You've heard it. The danger of me giving you that Luke Short story, remember that guy that waited 85 years to be converted, is that you don't know that you have 85 days or 85 minutes. You don't know how much longer you have. While there's time, if today you hear his voice, don't harden your heart, come to Christ. And you Christians who came in here, and you are Christians, and you know that you're Christians, I'm just going to ask you, what are your habits of seed sowing? Are you scattering seed or not? And if not, ask the Lord to transform. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to reach your hand into the bag and start scattering seed. I want to say a final word to Christian parents. This is a fascinating parable for Christian parents. You sowed the seed in your kids a long time ago, and now something's going on inside them and it's mysterious, isn’t it? The stalk is growing up. Then the head, then the full kernel in the head. At some point, you get the privilege of harvesting. I don't know when that is. It might be when they are very young, or it might be a little bit older. But that secret working of the gospel, going on, trust in that. Pray for God to do that working and then go to sleep at night. It's not up to you to save your kids. It is something only God can do, so saturate them with the gospel, pray for them, and then let God do that secret work in their hearts. Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the time we've had in your word today. Thank you for this incredible parable, how beautiful it is, how insightful. Whereas the parable the seed and the soils talked about all of the different outcomes and the whole big picture, this focused on one individual plant and I thank you for what we learned today that we don't know how that growth comes. It comes no matter what we do, after we've sewn the seed. Lord, thank you for humbling us, but also thank you for encouraging us that if we are faithful and if we scatter the seed, you're going to do this incredible work and we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Mark 4:21-25 and the fact that people's eternal destiny hangs on how they hear God's word, also their eternal health and daily fruitfulness of their souls depends on how they consider it. - SERMON Transcript - I. The Key Moment in Life: Hearing the Word of God Turn in your Bibles now to Mark chapter 4. We continue our study in this glorious G ospel of Mark. And as we do every week, we come to the key moment in life, the hearing of the word of God. But today we get to study what Jesus said about that moment in a very focused way. Verse 24 of chapter 4, Jesus said, “Consider carefully what you hear”, or literally in the Greek, “See what you hear, see what you hear”. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing God's word. It is by faith that our sins are forgiven. It is by faith that we live and move and have our spiritual being before almighty God. So Jesus is saying be very careful that you understand and accept and believe and obey what you hear from me. When I speak the word of God to you, your soul literally hangs in the balance, Jesus is the saying. Everything comes down to the moment of hearing God's word. Do you hear God's word in such a way that you are alive spiritually, that you're in a reconciled relationship with God as a result, and that you then bear abundant fruit as a result of how you hear God's word? Or is the word having little or no effect on you at all? Your eternal destiny hangs on how you hear God's word. “Do you hear God's word in such a way that you are alive spiritually, that you're in a reconciled relationship with God as a result, and that you then bear abundant fruit as a result of how you hear God's word?” Your daily spiritual health, your continued spiritual fruitfulness depend on the same, the moment of hearing God's word. So in every Christian worship service, the most significant thing is the ministry of the word. The most significant moment for each person sitting in the pews all over the world, wherever they sit to hear is what happens after your eardrums vibrate with the sound of the word of God. What happens then? Now if you come to church and you're evaluating the church architecturally. You like the carpet, you like the lighting, you like the comfort of the pews or you like the parking. We have good parking here, lots of parking. People were friendly. Coffee was excellent. Thank you, Bill, grateful. The donuts or whatever pastries were, they were your favorite flavors. What a great church. Even if you're evaluating the music offerings, whether this or that song was your favorite, or the bass guitar was too loud, James, or the drums were just what you like, acoustic guitar too soft. Listen, as important as many of those things are, all of them shrink into absolute insignificance compared to this one thing: see how you listen, watch what you hear, consider carefully the word of God. The eternal health and fruitfulness of your soul does not depend on any of those things or others like them that I've listed. Frankly the same is true of details of my preaching. The sound of my voice, the cadence I use, the grammar, the illustrations, whether I use humor or not, illustrations or not, whether you like my flow or not. Ultimately all that matters is did the preacher preach the pure word of God to you or not? And then if that happened, did I consider carefully the word that was preached to me? What did I do with it? The eternal health and daily fruitfulness of your soul depends on that. Consider carefully what you hear. Now, the context of this statement is the parable of the seed in the soils. The seed is the word of God as we've been saying, the soils represent different human responses to the word of God. The seed hits the soil. In the first three cases, it produces no fruit at all ultimately, no harvest. In the last case, it produces an amazing abundant harvest, a varying sizes, 30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown. But the key moment is the soil's reception of the seed, that is the heart response to the word of God. Jesus concludes this with a challenge, verse 23 to all to hear, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”. In private, Jesus explains his parables to his disciples. Look at verses 10-12, “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others gathered around him and asked him about the parables.” So he's alone, he's got his inner circle with him and “he told them the secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything said in parables, so that ‘they may be ever seeing, but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding, otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!’” So the parables given in general without any explanation whatsoever to the teaming crowd was Jesus is saying a form of judgment on them. The parables without explanation seemed to many of them like gibberish. But they actually were brilliant articulations of kingdom truth if you had ears to hear and got the explanation, they could understand it. Now those ears to hear, that's a spiritual capacity to understand spiritual truth about Christ and his kingdom. And it has worked in the hearts of the children of God by the secret working, the powerful working of the Holy Spirit of God. Now Jesus underscored that this parable, this parable of the seed in the various soil types was a gateway parable by which you could understand his whole body of doctrine, all of his parables, all of his teachings. Verse 13, Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?" He then went on to explain that parable in clear terms to them. Verse 14-20, “The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and snatches away the word that was sown in them. Others like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others like seed sown among the thorns, hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others like seed sown on good soil hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop 30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown.” So the key moment in life is how you listen to the Lord when he speaks by his word. 1 Thessalonians chapter 1:4-5, Paul talked about that moment for the Thessalonians when he came to town and preached the word to them, “For we know brothers love by God that he has chosen you because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” And then in the next chapter, that same epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, he says, "And we also thank God continually because when you heard the word of truth, the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." That's the essence of it. This is not merely the words of a man, this is the word of God for me. Jesus himself said in John 5:24-25, he said, "I tell you the truth. Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, the time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God and those who hear will live." Well, that's at that moment of hearing the word. In the parable of the Good Shepherd which he told in John chapter 10, he uses the same hearing moment again and again, and again, this idea of hearing him speaking to you. John 10:3, “the sheep listened to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” And “when he is brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” In the end, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Verse 16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” And then finally, John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” “My sheep listen to my voice, they hear me speaking and they follow me.” That's the key moment. The good shepherd, Jesus is speaking to your soul and he's going out and leading out and you're following him all the way to heaven because you hear his voice. Well, that happens. How does that happen? It happens when you hear the word of God being preached to you. And you know this is not just a human moment, but this is actually God talking to you. You know that by the Holy Spirit. So what I want to do now is draw out elements from this brief part of Mark chapter 4, elements of how to hear Jesus speaking to you based on these words. There's far more I could say about this moment from the entire New Testament, but I'm just going to zero in on what he says here. If we are being commanded to be very careful how we listen to God's word, what do these verses in particular teach us about that? II. Listening so we may shine brightly So first, listening so we may shine brightly. Look at verses 21-22, “He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever's concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.’” Now, this is very interesting, you need to listen carefully to this section, so you'll know how I'm handling the word of God here. Be very careful how you handle it. Jesus' own teachings are meant to shine. That's what he's saying here. He's talking about his own teachings. They are meant to shine and not be hidden. So Jesus in the Sermon in the Mount uses the light on a stand image to talk about us. And I'm going to get to that, I will talk about that in a minute, but that's not what he's talking about here in Mark. In this context, he is talking about his own intentions in teaching these parables and more broadly, all of his teachings, Jesus's own purpose in his teaching ministry in general. True, he is concealing the truth behind tricky parable language. That is true. And true, he's doing this as an act of judgment to his unbelieving Jewish Nation, that is true, he says that. Verse 11-12, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside, everything said in parables so that ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven.’” But ultimately, it is not his desire that the truths of the kingdom of God remains secret and hidden. He didn't come into the world to start a mystery religion, a secret cult of insiders, a secret society in which a few select people know all the code language and come in behind closed doors and no one else sees and you've got all these secret passwords and all that. That's not what he came to do. This is not some secret mystery religion being started here. Jesus entered the world as the light of the world. John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." And again, the next chapter, John 9:5, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” So Jesus did not enter the world to keep hidden, not at all. It is God's purpose that Jesus would shine on people walking in darkness all over the world. Isaiah 9:2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” That's Jesus. Or again, as God the father said to God the son before he was ever incarnate telling him what his mission would be. Isaiah 49:6, “[God the father said to God the son] ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel that I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’” That's not some secret mystery religion. That's the light shining for people all over the world. Furthermore, God's word itself is meant to be the light for the world. As the psalmist says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” So while the speaking of these parables is indeed a form of judgment, he does not intend that they remain a secret. So in this context, that's what these teachings mean. Verse 21-22, he said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." Do you see it there in Mark's gospel, just Mark's gospel, that's the context here? These teachings are going to be everywhere. It's meant for everyone. So in the course of time, the Holy Spirit ordained that Mark would write these words down in scripture. And also not just the parables, but the explanation of the parables which he gave in secret to the inner circle that day. He wrote that down too. And now I don't know if you noticed, but they're published for all the world to read. I know you've noticed. Yes, they're out and abroad, full access, God intends for this teaching to be made clear, to shine in this present darkness, in this devilish darkness, as a clear light of truth, bringing God's salvation to the ends of the earth. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl or a bed. That makes no sense whatsoever. Whenever anyone back then went to the expense and trouble of filling up a lamp with expensive olive oil and trimming the wick and igniting it, they did it for a reason, to give light to people in the house. So it is with the incarnation, with Jesus coming, empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the truth, he wanted it published widely and broadly. He wanted everyone to hear it. Practically speaking, this amazing gospel of Mark is part of a worldwide effort to get these truths to the ends of the earth. Start with Bible translation. The Bible, the whole Bible has been translated into 2300+ languages. Portions including Gospel of Mark which would be a top priority for New Testament translators, they are going to go right to it, are well over 3000 languages. Reaching, accessible to 7 billion people on earth. Meanwhile, Bible distribution has been staggering. Do you have any idea how widespread the Bible is? Print media, electronic media, in India, they're using SIM cards with the whole Bible on it plus other teachings besides. The technology is amazing. Everybody's got a smartphone all over the world. And on these SIM cards, you got whole Bibles in the Hindi language or in other languages that are appropriate to them. It's amazing. But how many paper Bibles are there? How many actual books are there? How could anyone know that? But Google knows. Five billion plus copies of the Bible, think about that, five billion Bibles. So that means Jesus's “secret” explanation of the parables are available and by means of those five billion Bibles. Furthermore, you should know the Bible's public domain. So you can just search online and get the text of the Bible easily. It's out there. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl. It's not God's intention, it's not the Holy Spirit's intention. He wants everyone to have this. So while Jesus initially hit his explanation to the insiders, his intent was to publish these explanations to the ends of the earth. He then goes on to speak of the apparent mysteries of these doctrines, look at verse 22 “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out in the open.” Now again, you have to stick with me just here in Mark 4. These words are used to one purpose here, but similar words are used to very different purposes elsewhere. In other places, Jesus used this to speak a warning against thinking you can hide your sins from the holy eyes of God. You can't. So a clear example of that is Luke 12, every sin you have ever committed will someday be known far and wide. There will be no secrets on judgment day. Don't be deceived. So Luke 12:1-3 is saying that, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”, putting on a show of religiosity and there's no truth behind it, corruption, don't do that. This is Luke 12:2- 3, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” Same words, different application, different purpose at that point. “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner room will be proclaimed from the roofs.” There he's talking about your words, not his word. But here in Mark, he's talking about his word and the apparent mysteries connected with it. So your secrets will be fully exposed on judgment day. Romans 2:16 says that, “On that day when according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of people by Christ Jesus.” So don't say that it's good to know that, just good to know. There are going to be no secrets on judgment day so live accordingly. Paul says, "I strive always because of judgment day to keep my conscience clear before God and man." But that's not what he's talking about here. In this context, he's talking about his own teachings, his parables which seem so dark and mysterious. The secrets of the kingdom of God are actually meant for people all over the earth. The hidden words of Christ, so obscure initially will be made clear ultimately, that's what he's saying. Bottom line is Jesus intends all his words, his teachings to be understood, fully understood, by people all over the world. There is no point whatsoever for Jesus to open his mouth and teach dark mysterious things that literally no person on earth can understand or ever will understand. That's foolish. He knows that. The purpose of his speaking is to be clear, to teach. “The secrets of the kingdom of God are actually meant for people all over the earth.” All right, so practical application for us is this. We should expect to be able to understand everything in the Bible. We should expect to be able to understand everything in the Bible. Jesus did not speak his words so that no one could understand him. Now I know some teachings are hard to understand. Peter said that about Paul's writings. And Peter wrote some of the hardest passages to interpret the New Testament! Peter! So he wrote some things that are hard to understand too. That doesn't mean you can't ultimately understand them. What would be the point of giving doctrines like that? Some of them are so clear they're like milk, a child can know them old them. But there are harder teachings. However, everything is ultimately meant to be clear. Now having said that, that's true of the teachings, that's where it starts. The question is next, what does that teaching do to you? How does that teaching, Jesus's beautiful teaching transform you? What does it do in your life? Now, here we go to the Sermon on the Mount for the same language, but now applied to you. Matthew 5:14:16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” So once we have come to Christ, we have been rescued from darkness and brought into light and we become light ourselves, Colossians 1:13, you have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought over to the kingdom of the beloved sun. That's you, Colossians 1:13. And then it says in Ephesians 5:8-9, “For you were one's darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)” and find out what pleases the Lord. So now we are no longer darkness, we are light, we are the light of the world. And he's not going to ignite you with the truth of the gospel and hide you under a bowl or under bed, he's going to put you up on a stand and you're going to give light to everyone in the house, he's saying. Philippians 2:14-16 says “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold forth the word of life.” You're shining and you're holding out the gospel. So we listen to Christ's clear teachings, we look at Christ's beautiful radiant light, and then we ourselves are made beautiful, we ourselves are made glorious. Our lives shine, God puts us up on a lamp stand to give light to everyone in the world. And we do this as we share Jesus's teachings, especially the gospel. III. Listening with a hungry heart Secondly, listening with a hungry heart, a hungry heart. Look at verse 24 and25, “Consider carefully what you hear”, that's what we began with, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you –– and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” So in this context, Jesus wants his disciples hungry for the word, hungry for the word. The measure that we use is the measure we'll receive. What this means is the more of God's word that we hungrily take in and understand and live out, the more he's going to show us. Remember how Jesus spoke of the good soil producing some 30, some 60, some 100 times what was sown. Christ wants his people burning with a holy ambition. You should be hungry for more. You should be hungry for more. That's what he's saying. Don't ever be satisfied. Hungry for more of God's word, hungry to have more return on God's investment in your life, a bigger harvest. I'm hungry for that. I think about the Bereans remember in Acts 17:11, it says of them, they “were of more noble character than Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Hungry. They had a holy ambition to know more and more and more and more of God's word. Perhaps the greatest articulation of this hunger for the word is in Psalm 119. Psalm 119, what a great Psalm that is. I'm just so hungry for God's word. So Psalm 119:10-11, “I seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” I would just commend scripture memorization to you. Memorize God's word, hide it in your heart so that you won't sin against God. Or again, Psalm 119:14, “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” I'm hungry, I want to be as rich as I can in God's word. There's no limit to it. Psalm 119:20, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” Now the psalmist considered carefully the word that he was reading through meditation. So going back to the whole opening concept, consider carefully how you listen. Meditation, the psalmist said, meditate on it, think deeply on it. Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” You should pray that. Open my eyes, I want to see wonderful things in your word, God. Show me new things. Again, Psalm 119:97, “Oh how I love your law. I meditate on it all day long.” Or again, verse 99, “I have more insight than all my teachers for I meditate on your statutes.” So the measure the psalmist uses for God's word is to be hungry for it, meditate on it, searching out evermore truth in it what can it tell me? That's what I think it means to consider carefully what you hear. Some truth I've found come immediately, got it right away. Others don't come right away. Basically this whole sermon and how I'm approaching Mark 4 has come as a result of my own meditations. I didn't just quickly jump over to the Sermon on the Mount and say, "Oh, we're the light of the world." That's not what's happening in Mark 4. So I meditate, it's like, that's interesting the Holy Spirit would do that with these same words. It was just meditation on God's word and then new insights come. Beyond that, is the scriptures urging the measure of obedience. The measure of obedience. You hear God's word, but do you obey it, do you put it into practice? The more we hear and obey God's word, the more he will entrust to us. John 7:17, “If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Jesus is saying, "You want to know who I am? Then get ready to do God's will. Get ready to obey, then you'll know who I am." Or even better, John 14:21, which is a prime verse, I love this verse. I recommend it to you for memorization, “Whoever has my commands,” plus, “and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my father and I too will love him and we will manifest ourselves to him.” We will disclose ourselves to him. In other words, if you hear and obey God's word, you'll get to know God better, he will reveal himself to you. And it all comes down to hearing and obeying. If you hear and don't obey, you won't know God very well. So that's the measure you use, is the measure you'll receive. If we hungrily study God's word eager to put into practice the things we've learned, God will reveal more and more of himself and his purposes to us. Guess what? Your harvest will be bigger on judgment day. You'll know what God's doing and you won't waste your time on things that are going to be destroyed. “If we hungrily study God's word eager to put into practice the things we've learned, God will reveal more and more of himself and his purposes to us.” The measure you use is the measure you receive. Now with this comes a pretty dire warning of judgment, and I would be remiss if I didn't zero in on it. “Whoever has, will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” What does that mean? Well, there could be individuals that start out with great excitement in the word of God. Like the stony ground here, they start out with some joy, they're into it, they think it's great coming to church, listening to God's word, they have a basic understanding of it. But if they don't continue in God's word and they don't mix it with faith and they don't mix it with obedience, even what they have will be taken from them, Jesus is saying. What does that mean? Fast forward a year, five years, 10 years, they don't care about God's word anymore. It's like they never heard it at all. What they had for that little while got taken from them and now it's nothing to them. Their hearts have gotten hard. So Hebrews 3:7-8, it says “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart’.” It's a warning here. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Now this text in another place speaks of the measure you use toward other people. There's a measure you use toward the poor and lost people of the world, and that will be the measure you get rewarded with on judgment day. So you want to have that big judgment day reward, then be generous to other people, be lavish toward other people. We're so stingy. Be lavish. Luke 6:38 says, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap for what the measure you use will be measured to you.” So that's horizontal. You take in God's word, you're hungry for it, it comes in and then it starts pouring out. Yes, in teaching, and evangelism, but also in finances, caring for the poor and needy, just serving people. The measure you use is the measure you get on judgment day. IV. Lessons All right, lessons. Let me just ask some questions of you as we close. How would you characterize your hearing of God's word? Consider carefully what you hear, how would you characterize it? Do you understand that the hearing of God's word with a faith filled, submissive, obedient heart is the key to your eternal life and your spiritual health? Do you understand that? It's the key to everything? Are you in a regular pattern of Bible intake in your life? Are you feeding on God's word daily? Do you have a quiet time? Do you feed your soul on the word of God? I'm not asking, do you think a quiet time is a good idea? I didn't ask you that. I asked, do you have one? Is this your regular habit? That's what I'm asking. Do you expect that Christ will reveal his secrets to you if you meditate on it and go after it? If you come up to a hard text, do you work on it and ask him to reveal it to you? Do you expect that Christ's word will shine brightly like a light shining in your heart and in this present dark world? Do you expect that? Do you listen to God's words so that you yourself can shine brightly in this age? Lord, make me a better person, so that I can shine in this dark world. Are you holding forth, Philippians 2:16, holding forth the word of truth to people like you're a star shining in a dark place? Is that what you're doing? Do you boldly share the gospel to lost neighbors, coworkers, family members, even total strangers? So I was on a plane this week and every seat in the plane was taken but the one next to me. That was odd because I like doing plane evangelism. I thought, "Okay, I'll be reading a book or something like that." An older woman had come and I knew the seat next to me, I knew its number and she said that number was hers and then promptly sat in the wrong seat. I wasn't going to get involved. But then came, as the last person on the plane, a very large man. I mean, significantly large, and my heart sank. I'm being honest with you. I can be a little selfish when it comes to these things. I feel like I've been assigned by the airline a certain zone that's mine. You guys know what I'm talking about? And this guy he didn't ask, but he wanted to use some of my zone. And to make matters worse, he had a wallet in his pocket here in the side which just definitely it was like, if there were an alarm system, it would be going off. That's my area. However, we had the richest gospel conversation I've had in a long time. He was the one. Do you understand? He was the one that was chosen for me, not the older woman who was much smaller than he was. But that was the guy. His name was Pete, lived in Western Massachusetts, works for a record company, was coming from a weekend in Las Vegas. He needed the Lord. And I'm not saying he came to Christ. I'm saying we talked about it for about 45 minutes. I asked him to read the gospel of Mark, he said he would get it, he would read it with his mother, she's religious. So all right, great, the two of them can read it together. I'm just telling you there's a selfishness inside my heart that fights against that but God can use us even as selfish as we are. Are we willing to do that? Do you have a hungry heart toward God's word? Do you show that in your life? Are you meditating on it? Are you memorizing it? Do you see that? And in your private life, would you say how are you responding to the word? How would you characterize your spiritual state right now? Are you plateaued? Are you growing? Are you declining? Are you regressing? Are you bored? Are you dormant? Are you growing? What? What's happening? Now, the most important of all of God's words is the milk of the gospel, the simplicity of the gospel. “For what I received”, 1 Corinthians 15, “I passed on to you as a first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” There is nothing more important than that for you. Have you believed in that for the forgiveness of your sins? It's everything. Your eternity depends on that. Have you? Have you trusted in Christ? 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolve to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” “The most important of all of God's words is the milk of the gospel, the simplicity of the gospel.” Now I make a pledge to you, a promise that as long as I live and I have this role to be the regular preacher of the word from this pulpit, I am determined to preach the word of God to you week after week. I have nothing else to offer you. And like Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20, "I have not hesitated to proclaim anything that would be helpful to you." Or in Acts 20:27, I've not shrunk back from proclaiming the whole council of God, everything in God's word. My call is to do what Jesus called Peter to do, feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep, John 21. That's what I want to do. And I'm committed that all of the men who get up here to preach, I'll be on a study leave as I do in the summer to work on a couple of books and there'll be men here preaching to you, all of them are committed to the same thing or they wouldn't preach here. And then when my time comes and I'm not here anymore, you as a congregation are responsible for this pulpit to make certain that the person who stands here does the same, your souls depend on it. Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for this clear message on the vital significance of hearing the word of God, consider carefully what you hear, how you hear. God work this in us now by the Spirit. Thank you for Jesus, thank you for his teaching, thank you for the word of God. Thank you that it's come to us pure, ready for us to feed on. Thank you for all these things in Jesus's name. Amen.