Monthly Archives: May 2016

Mark 4.35-41

Title: Following Jesus

Text: Mark 4.35-41

Introduction: Thank you, Tony for reading Scripture for us this morning.

Our story begins with Jesus finishing his teaching through parables. As the evening moves in, Jesus encourages the disciples to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. We were told by Mark, up in 3.23, that Jesus began teaching them in parables. And, in Ch. 4 we learn that it is mainly because there are those who have rejected Christ. All of the signs were there, but these people hardened their hearts toward Christ and rejected what they had seen with their own eyes. On this particular day, as outlined in chapter four, Jesus teaches in parables from a boat.

I don’t suppose by any stretch of the imagination that these three parables in chapter four compose all of his parables and all of his teaching that day.

In his teaching, however, it is apparent that his teaching is about the Kingdom of God – who will receive and reject it; how it grows as God determines; and, how it will grow way beyond their wildest imaginations.

When we get to chapter 5, we’ll see Jesus performing miracles to demonstrate that he is Lord over everything. He has authority over everything. He is the promised Messiah. He alone has authority over nature, the physical and spiritual realms.

Here is my fear: I worry that something so familiar might cause us to miss something beautiful – that you might get drowsy and nod off while moving through familiar waters. You’ve heard this story before – maybe have taught it – maybe have preached it. Today’s message can sound a bit devotionalistic. That’s a word I made up – meaning: Instead of good, sound, biblical preaching, you might feel a bit like you got your devotional thought for the day. That isn’t my goal and I’ll do my best not to make it seem that way.

Story: This past Thursday night to Friday morning, I woke up in the middle of the night and began to contemplate God. I was praying and just trying to wrap my mind around how big God is. I tried defining or understanding the trinity. That alone took me to depths of humility that are hard to explain. I think this can be a good exercise, but mostly leads to futility and frustration. The truth is that no mind can conceive the height and depth and breadth and width of God’s existence. He cannot be explained, contained or imagined.

Rev 4.2 simply describes this scene: At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. V4 describes the 24 elders and v 5 comes back to the throne: From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

Even with this description, my mind cannot begin to imagine God. Thankfully, God in his infinite mercy has given us Jesus so that we can begin somewhere – a starting point to understanding who God is. This in itself is no easy task. But, it is for us a starting point.

Who is this man Jesus? Who is this man who summons us, and calls us and commissions us to go with his message? The disciples think they know. At this point, they’re considered insiders, as opposed to the outsiders – the Scribes, the crowds following just looking to be fed or clothed. The disciples feel special. They’re hand picked. But do they really know what it means to follow after Jesus?

In today’s passage we’ll find six principles to following Christ as demonstrated through their actions. The 1st is found in v 35-36; rd v 35-36;

Principle #1:

I.     Following Jesus means you can’t go with Jesus and stay with the crowd, too (35-36).

exp.: His command is a subj; translated as a command; it softens the command (i.e.: why don’t you take the garbage out to the trash can as you’re going; Let’s pick up your toys before we put the movie on. Both you and the child know that there is a command in the form of an encouragement. Rd v 36; just as he was (ESV) Gk – Lit.: as he was in the boat. HCSB – since he was already in the boat.

app.: so following Jesus means you obey. He says go and you go.

t.s.: following Jesus means you can’t go with Jesus and stay with the crowd, too. 2nd Principle:

II.    Following Jesus doesn’t mean you will never have any problems (37)

exp.: there is a myth that we find way too many preachers pushing in their preaching which says give Jesus your life and your troubles will fly away. They say something like: God has a wonderful plan for your life; I don’t see that in the Scriptures. Think of Christ who died on the Cross, after being tortured. Think of Peter, James, Paul. Did God have a ‘wonderful plan’ for them? The truth is, when you choose to follow Jesus, that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. Notice 1st: Jesus told them to go. Being God, do you think He knew there would come a storm? Yes! Now, Going, in obedience, they experienced this storm.

Catch this: it isn’t because they disobeyed Christ that storms arose. That is what some preachers preach: you’re in this mess because of sin. No, They were doing as they were told!

Trials and tribulation comes our way and people ask what sin caused this struggle. The answer: Adam’s sin! It has affected us all. And it affects the world!

  • Windstorm
  • Big waves crashing into the boat – those are big waves!
  • The boat is filling up with water! What happens when a boat fills with water?

These guys got problems. Here is what gets me: these guys are experts when it comes to handling boats. This ain’t their 1st rodeo. But they’re not responding like Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump! They’re scared! And I think I know why they’re scared. Ready for this? They’re scared because they’re not in control. They were just fine when they were in control. But now, they’re not in control anymore. Things have gotten out of hand.

app.: Listen, Following Jesus doesn’t mean you won’t have any problems anymore.

t.s.: So what will they do? That leads us to our next principle, #3:

III.   Following Jesus means you’re following someone who understands your need (38)

exp.: I love how Peter has recalled this story so vividly. He remembers small details. He remembers the cushion. He remembers Jesus was sleeping while they were at death’s door. But I get this. And, here’s what I want you to take from this verse: Jesus was 100% fully human – minus the sin part! He was asleep! In the stern; He’s human. You probably don’t realize the physical stamina it takes to preach, but it does. Exhausted from the day’s activity of preaching and teaching, his body needed rest. So, he curls up on a cushion.

app.: When you’re life seems out of control – or at least you come to the conclusion that you’re really not in control of things – there is one who can intercede for you because he understands your need. He understands your need for rest. He understands hunger, thirst. Hebrews 4 teaches us…

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

t.s.: There is no one better equipped to handle your problems, than Jesus. Principle #4:

IV.    Following Jesus doesn’t make you immune to questioning God (38)

exp.: I changed this and made it more palatable from: Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’re immune to asking stupid questions. I liked that one better, but I know it isn’t politically correct anymore to say the word stupid. I don’t know why that word gets canned and so many other words of dubious distinction get a pass. But, stupid is a word – it means lacking intelligence or common sense. It is the common sense part I’d like to focus on. Seriously, I’ve asked this question of Jesus: Don’t you care! And I already know the answer. Have you ever asked a question you know the answer to?

Does Jesus care? Yes!

When you’re in a pickle, does Jesus care? When someone in your family gets sick or hurt, does Jesus care? Does Jesus care who wins the Stanley Cup or the NBA finals? No! But he does care about your life. You know that. The Disciples know that…

app.: But, following Jesus doesn’t make you immune to questioning God.

t.s.: Principle #5:

V.      Following Jesus means watching him work in amazing, inexplicable ways. (39)

exp.: rd v 39; rebuked the wind! Have you ever rebuked the wind? Possibly. What good did it do? He spoke to the sea! Peace; like shalom? No. This word is more like Be Quiet. Jesus wouldn’t say shut up, so I’m sure it was Be Quiet. Silence! Continue reading: And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

ill.: Paul White (Tall Paul) used to invite me down each year to be a teacher at his Disciple Now weekends. Paul always hosted the best DNows. One year, he brought us all down to Corpus Christi a day early. As a part of the training, he took us out on a sailboat in the Corpus Christi Bay. It was a big sailboat. The problem was – there was no wind. So we just sat there. We had a motor and so we cruised around for a little while, but it wasn’t really that fun.

app.: the disciple had no motor. With no wind now, Christ having answered their prayers, they’ve got some major rowing to do!

t.s.: Finally, principle #6:

VI.    Following Jesus through the storms of life will give us a proper perspective of who Christ really is (40-41).

exp.: I worry about this point. I think too often people use this story as a metaphor for life: Jesus will speak peace to the storms of your life. He can. He might. But he might not. But that isn’t the point. The point is that Christ can speak peace to your storm. The point is that He is Lord and he has authority. And even more, the point here, the emphasis of Mark’s story is to show you that Christ is Lord over Nature. Remember, Christ is Lord over

  • The natural
  • The spiritual
  • The physical
    • And even death (which seems to me to be a combo of all three.)

Now, these verses identify that the disciples fear the wrong things. In v 40-41 we find one word that appears twice. Fear. However, that is not the case in the Gk text. The first word translated afraid, appears three times in the NT and it means cowardly, timid. Read it this way: Why are you such cowards? Let me ask you: Does that change your understanding of what Christ is saying to these disciples? Why are you such cowards!

ill.: Do you ever feel that way? Problems arise, struggles occur and you find yourself acting like a sissy? God, don’t you care? I have to say that I’m amazed at how many of us respond to life’s struggles with fear and in trepidation. I watch people fall apart over some of the simplest of life’s problems.

I think this goes back to the problems the disciples are having: their problem is they’re no longer in control. Maybe that is the root of your problem: you’re no longer in control – and you want to be. And it causes you to act like a coward who has no faith.

What are we really saying to God as he works in our lives and we respond like this? We’re saying that we don’t really trust him. Not really…

app.: Here, in our text, we see the disciples learn what to fear and what not to fear… or maybe I should say who to fear – and what not to fear; rd v 41a; rd 41b;

t.s.: Who is this? This is the Lord. This is God.

Conclusion:

  1. This is the very One who created the wind and the sea!
  2. This is the One who sends us into storms and knows what he is doing.
  3. This is the One who has power to stop those storms with just a rebuke and a word.
  4. This is the One who knows our needs and cares.
  5. This is the One who is patient with us, in spite of our sinful condition and desire to be in control.
  6. This is God in the flesh.

Invitation: if you don’t know this God – Jesus, I offer you the chance to meet him today. Come and find forgiveness of sins and purpose for your life.

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Mark 4.21-34

Title: Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God

Text: Mark 4.21-34

Introduction: Farmers have always amazed me. I must say Farmers and Ranchers. My grandpa was a farmer – a share cropper. Mr. Wade owned the property and my grandpa would farm his land. The produce paid his rent, helped him make a living. As far as I know, my grandpa worked the land until he died at the age of 75 in 1978. Farmers are hard working people. They rise early and work all day. I suppose there might be lazy farmers out there, but I’m guessing they don’t remain farmers.

I think it is the work ethic that amazes me. Usually there is always something to be done. When that work is done, attention is put somewhere else. Something needs tending. Something else needs repair. There are errands to run, equipment to maintain, etc. etc. etc.

The life of a farmer is hard. He must work like all of the everything depends on him, but in the end, he must pray like everything depends on God. The farmer has no power or control over the weather. He can’t make it rain; He can’t cool off the hot summer days; he can’t stop a freeze from hitting. He works, He prays, He waits.

I think often times the Christian life compares to the life of a farmer. For sure, the life of a pastor does. We works the soil of the soul, but we cannot produce a single convert. There are so many adversities we face – and we have no power or control over them. We simply work like it all depends on us, and pray like it all depends on God.

It is William Carey who said: Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. He was an amazing man, the father of the modern missionary movement. He did just what he preached: He expected God to do great things and he attempted to do great things for God.

You have a survey in your bulletin today. I’m asking you to fill that out. Circle three areas of passion or giftedness that you’d like to serve. It fits well with the message today. God has brought you here and placed you here in this body to function. The deacons are tasked with the responsibility of service in the church and they’re always looking for people to help them on their committees and teams. You don’t have to be a member to work. You can wipe tables and vacuum floors and mow and sweep and paint and not have to be a member. There are so many areas of service and we need workers to expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

We’re in Mark 4 this morning. Mark 4 contains three parables concerning the Kingdom of God. I call them: the soils, the seed, and the size. The three parables deal with seed in some context. This seed is the Word of God as brought by Jesus, the sower. More specifically, the 1st parable is about the responses to the Kingdom of God as seen in the soils. The hard heart never receives it. The rocky ground and the thorny plants never allow it to take root and it easily gets chocked out. The 4th type of soil is receptive and fertile. It produces fruit some 30, 60 and 100 fold. These next two parables deal with the nature of the Kingdom of God. Having covered the 1st parable already, we’ll cover the next two in this section.

A Note about triplets: Mark seems to like them. There are three types of soil that are non-receptive and non-productive; and, there are the three results of the fertile soil. There are three parables concerning the seed. In chapter five, there are three miraculous healings. And the list goes on…

Our focal passage (4.21-34) is broken down into three parts: Part one has two sayings by Jesus, analogies, if you will (21-25) and parts two and three contain two parables concerning the seed (4.26-34). The two parables are a continuation of what he started up in 4.1. The three parables are the seed being sown, the seed being grown and the results being shown.

There are two different audiences being addressed in chapter 4. The chapter moves between the public speaking by the sea to a huge crowd and the small, more intimate conversations of Christ with his disciples (cf.: 4.1a, 10; 21-25 is still in this small group; v 26 and following are back to the larger crowd by the sea. Note v 11, 13, 21, 24 – And he said to them. However, in v 26, it changes.

What we have when we break this passage down is a word of encouragement – an exhortation. The Light of Christ isn’t to be hidden. God himself, will bring the growth and that growth will be exponential in degree. Let’s look first at the analogies he offers his disciples in v 21 and v 24 and find encouragement as we work toward building God’s Kingdom. #1:

I.     The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. (21-25)

Exp. Jesus is continuing his private teaching with his disciples. Their work will be to carry on what he has begun. In chapters 1-3 we see Christ is the sower, sowing the seed, the word of God. Some receive it and some reject it. He makes that clear for us in the 1st parable. However, when Christ is gone, these disciples will be given the same task and they will see similar results. They’re watching their master be rejected by the religious leaders – they will receive much of the same treatment.

Now, in this analogy, he’s telling them that his message isn’t to be hidden. That’s not the purpose. It isn’t the purpose of this message to remain hidden anymore than a light is to be hidden when it comes into a darkened room.

The beauty of this passage is seen in its original language. V 21 literally reads: The lamp does not come in order that it might be set under the bushel. That is odd, isn’t it? The English has been changed in order to work, but it isn’t so in the Gk. A lamp doesn’t come into a room; it is brought into a room. A lamp is simply passive to the will of another. But, in our case, the Lamp is a person. The lamp is Jesus. Note:

  • The lamp isn’t passive.
  • The lamp has a definite article.

Remember, and be encouraged: The Light of Christ is not to be hidden.

A word of caution: if you’re hiding the light of Christ, you’re not using it the right way. A lamp isn’t hidden under a basket, or under a bed. No, it is to be set upon a stand.

Notice what the lamp does in the next verse: it reveals. Rd v 22; fut. Tense: there may be a brief time where this light is concealed by some; however, in the future, all will see.

Now, if you don’t understand the analogy, Christ offers a 2nd analogy to heighten and strengthen his teaching. And he links them with this call to hear. He ends with it in v 23 and begins with it in v 24; If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And v 24, lit.: Watch out to what you hear! Lets keep reading: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. The word measure is used three times in the Gk; the measure with which you measure will be measured to you. Rd v 25;

Ill.: When I was a Youth pastor our kids had a skit they would do for whatever activity we were involved in…i.e.: youth camp, revivals, retreats, choir tour, etc.

Application – Moral: love isn’t love unless you give it away. And, if you don’t give it away, you don’t really have it. And these two analogies are teaching us that this message of light is something that isn’t to be hidden, but rather to be shared. If it isn’t shared, it isn’t really light. And, it must be shared in abundance. It matches the 1st parable. Where it isn’t sown, it isn’t grown; however, we’re commanded to go and sow, in order that we might reap 30, 60, even 100 fold!

Transition: So this 1st word of encouragement Jesus shares with his disciples is The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. Now Jesus moves back to the parables and to the larger crowd or audience. Here, Jesus offers us a 2nd word of encouragement:

II.   God Brings Growth to His Kingdom (26-29)

exp.: I’ll never forget traveling to the Shepherd’s Conference in California some years ago and hearing Dr. John MacArthur preach this text (v26-29). Did you know that this parable is contained in no other gospels? You’ll find it only here in Mark. In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the different types of soil the seed is sown in, among, or upon. That parable taught of the different types of soils and their receptivity to the seed. Here, Christ teaches of the seed and its innate ability to germinate and develop on its own.

The teaching is straightforward and simple: The Word of God (seed) has the ability all on its own to bring about growth and success. The Word of God is powerful and effective. It can accomplish so much on its own. It is the Word that is heard and it, all on it’s own, brings about the change, the growth, and the fruit. Two Truths we learn about the Kingdom’s growth.

Truth #1: There is a mystery to this growth. Only God knows what he is doing.

app.: We’re told a man scatters seed. Then, he works; night and day, he sleeps, he rises, he works, he sleeps, he rises – he goes about his life. The seed sprouts and grows – and the man knows not how. The man sows, he works – but what we learn here is that the results are not up to the man. There is a mystery surrounding the process. The results belong to God. And here we learn a 2nd Truth.

Truth #2: There is a certainty to this growth.

The 1st word in v 28 is the Gk word for which we get our English word automatic: αὐτομάτη. Lit.: Automatically the earth bears fruit. It isn’t up to you to make the seed germinate. It isn’t up to you to make it sprout. It isn’t up to you to produce a blade, a stalk, a stem, the grain. Your job is simply to sow the Word and let it do its work in the soil of another’s soul. And v 29 tells us that there will be a harvest: that sown seed will grow and bring about a tremendous harvest.

I think there is an apocalyptic feel to this verse. V 29 sounds very much like the book of Revelation. Revelation 14.15f: 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

I must stop here and say I believe this day is close. I also believe that many who are here will experience this in our lifetime. I know, I know, I must sound foolish to many. Thousands of years have past and it hasn’t happened. This past week, Israel celebrated it 68th birthday! It was in May of 1948 that Israel became a nation…again. After nearly 2000 years of non-existence, Israel came home and declared her independence. If I understand the Word correctly, within that generation, these things will come to fruition. If a generation is 70 years, then things will take place within the next two years. If a generation is 100 years – which I get from Genesis 15, then these things will take place in the next 32 years.

In one sense, yes, this sounds singular. You sow the seed of God into a person’s heart. They hear and all on it’s own, by its own work, the person is saved. The seed reaps fruit. But in another sense, the kingdom of God is sown among a people – and all on it’s own it grows. It starts with a man from Nazareth. He is homeless and simple. He picks a few followers – a rag tag group of men: a zealot, a tax collector, a traitor, a kid, and some fishermen. It grows – and we don’t know how, but it will grow into something tremendous and huge.

t.s.: And that really is the lesson of this last parable in v 30-33; Our 1st Word of encouragement is: To let the Light of Christ Shine. The 2nd word of encouragement is to know w/ certainty that God will bring the growth. #3…

III.   Growth of the Kingdom will be Exponentially Incomparable (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30; rd v 31-32; now, there are those who have said the Bible can be disclaimed at this point, the mustard seed, is not the smallest seed in the world. Let me note for you that Christ’s goal here isn’t botany. It isn’t to teach agricultural principles. Christ’s purpose here is to teach on the Kingdom and to illustrate these truths from what the people already know. Here, Christ takes a proverb that was very common to them. He takes them from where they are and what they know to where he wants them to be. That’s what every good teacher does. In their ancient sayings, in one of their own proverbs, they knew of this mustard seed and how small it was compared to the tree it would become. It was in many common gardens. It looks like shaking pepper into your hand. And yet it becomes this tree. Amazing! But don’t miss the point: a very little becomes tremendously huge.

We see that for the individual. We see that for the Kingdom.

When Christ came the 1st time, he taught and preached and healed. It was small at first, but his 2nd coming will be different by far. He will come in power and glory. One day, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, people group will be gathered around the throne. Myriads upon myriads of people will be worshipping around the throne of God. How small it once was. How magnificent it will be.

Conclusion: What a great word for us today. You may be struggling today in your walk, in your faith. You’ve worked long and hard and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. It may feel like you’ve failed even. Listen, don’t give up and don’t give in. I’m reminded of how Paul encouraged the Galatian believers:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Therefore, let your light shine before men. Don’t hide it! God will use it to bring growth and an eventual magnificent harvest. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

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Mark 4.1-20

Title: The Parable of the Sower

Text: Mark 4.1-20; Isaiah 6.1-13

Introduction: Note – there are two chapters; bookmark them both;

  • Mark introduced us to the subject of his book in the 1st 15 verses of chapter 1. There, we meet Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah.
  • Mark then tells us that Jesus calls his first 4 disciples and of his early ministry and the great success he has. By the end of chapter one, Jesus is so popular he can’t even go into a town or village because of the crowds, but his forced out into the desolate areas.
  • In chapter two, he calls his 5th disciple, Levi, and continues his ministry. However, the opposition begins to rear its ugly head by asking questions that imply their disapproval. By chapter 3.6, these religious leaders conspire with their political enemies to destroy Jesus.
  • In Chapter three, the opposition becomes public as the religious leaders, and his family members, accuse him falsely. They say he is demon possessed and out of his right mind. His family comes to ‘seize’ him and take him away. But Jesus clarifies for us just who his family is.
  • Mark tells us at this stage that Jesus begins to teach in parables. We see this in 3.22f: 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables… Our story picks up in Mark 4.1 with the parable of the sower. Jesus is in a boat by the shore – a natural amphitheater.

If you look out in the crowd you see all kinds of people. I picture too many to draw. The religious leaders are there. You can see how they stick out because of their religious garb. They stick out to me because of the look on their faces. In the crowd are the rich and the poor, young and old. They represent all in society who are in need. Money can’t buy what the rich need – so they’ve come. They understand the phrase: if money can fix it, it ain’t a problem. There are young men and old; children, teens, young adults, older adults, married, single… they’re all there on the shore.

Jesus tells them the parable of the sower. Mark has told us that Jesus taught the people with many parables. We get the idea that there are many more that we don’t know about. Most of you this morning could have volunteered to retell this story for us without using your bible. It is one of the most popular parables in Scripture. Maybe it is so well known because Jesus explains it for us. It is like a key to understanding all parables.

Now, Jesus isn’t just a great storyteller and he is so much more than just another great teacher. He is different than any teacher these people have ever encountered. His stories are not just lessons to amplify a particular moral or ethic. Kim Riddlebarger says: Rather, in Jesus’ parables there are two critical perspectives. On one level (the surface), Jesus speaks of the natural order of things and of daily life in terms quite familiar to the people of that age and that culture. That is why the parables are so effective as a means of communication. We can all understand and relate to what is going on in the story. But on another level (a deeper, spiritual level), Jesus speaks of God’s redemptive purposes in these same parables. Because God is the author of both nature and redemption, these two things fit very easily together. Thus when Jesus calls attention to the one (a certain man . . .), this can easily illumine the other (the kingdom of God). This is why parables are such a profound and powerful way to teach and why those who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ have trouble grasping our Lord’s deeper meaning.

I’ve divided this passage up into its natural sections:

  • The Parable of the Sower
  • The Purpose of Parables
  • The Explanation of this Parable

Transition: let’s begin with a look at the parable itself…

I.      The Parable of the Sower (3-9)

exp.: Let me highlight a couple of important features of this parable.

  1. The parable begins and ends w/ the same word – ἀκούω: Hear ye, Hear ye; Listen! And, Listen! The difference? When he says Listen! He is addressing everyone (2nd per. Pl.). And when he finishes with hear, he is speaking to individuals (3rd per. sg.). Remember this…More on this in a moment…
  2. The same Sower sows the seed. There aren’t different sowers in this story. There is only one. And, as he sows, some seed fell here, some seed fell there, here a seed, there a seed, everywhere a seed, seed.
  3. The parable is designed with two sets of three. This isn’t apparent in the English as well as in the Greek. This comes out in the fact that the word seed doesn’t really even appear. It is understood in the words: some, other and other. What draws our attention to this is the fact that all three of these are singular, not plural. However, in v 8, the word other is plural (hence, other seeds) – which draws our attention to the 2nd set of three’s: thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold.

app.:

  1. There is a call for all to listen, but only some can actually hear what is being said.
  2. The sower represents one person, not a group of people. You don’t apply this to you and someone else and someone else. One sower.
  3. There is only one type of soil where fruit can be produced. The other types of soil are fruitless.

t.s.: v 35, let’s us know that he is still in the boat as he is teaching the other parables. But, v 10 let’s us in on the private world of the disciples that happens at a later time. So, let’s go to the time when they were alone. Rd v 10

II.    The Parable’s Purpose (10-12)

exp.: v 10 tells us they asked; not just the 12, but the others who are with them; this is quite interesting to me because they appear to be a part of those of whom the mystery is concealed. But, Jesus says…to you. Rd v 11; secret is μυστήριον. The secret has been revealed to you; but, not so for the outsiders. And then something very interesting happens in v 12; Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6. This is a tremendous blessing to us because this gives us context to understand Mark 4. If you’re not familiar w/ Isaiah 6, let me just tell you that it is Isaiah’s calling. He comes to the Temple after the death of the King. I suppose, he is seeking a new king to take over. But what he finds is the one true King of Israel. It is a holy vision. He sees God on his throne… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

                        “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

                        the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Well, Isaiah is filled with woe – he is overwhelmed with his sin as he sees God in all of his…holiness: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” The Lord then atones for his sin by sending a seraph with tongs from the altar… And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

At this point, Isaiah volunteers to go to the people of Israel with a message from God. And the message is harsh. Flip back to Mark; Rd v 12; 12 so that

                        “they may indeed see but not perceive,

and may indeed hear but not understand,

                        lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

This is harsh because it God communicates very clearly that He is going to harden them in such a way that they will be blind to seeing and deaf to hearing what Isaiah is saying. The Israelites of the Northern Kingdom will be hardened to the message of God. Isaiah asks how long this will go on and God says until they’re destroyed.

This is a hard passage for it doesn’t say that God knows this about them, but that God hardens their hearts. To be fair, Matthew and Luke soften the language. But do you remember I told you we don’t want to use those guys? I want you to feel Mark’s message. I want to get what Mark is teaching us without the filters of the other Gospels. I want us to look for Mark’s emphasis, his goal, his purpose. And Mark is pretty straight-forward here.

Do you see in v 12 the first two words are so that? In Gk this is called a ἵνα clause. It is a clause of causation. You heard that right: Mark is saying God causes the hardness of heart, the spiritual blindness, the spiritual deafness. And, he is quoting Jesus here. This ἵνα clause makes this passage one of the most difficult in the NT, since Jesus is saying that he teaches in parables in order to blind the eyes of those on the outside. Many scholars jump through all kinds of linguistic hoops to soften this statement – to take away the harshness of God’s actions; to remove his sovereignty. This is a good question: why would a loving God intentionally blind the eyes of some people? In order to soften this doctrine, many say that God just allows people the right to choose not to follow or see or hear or obey. The hardness of their heart comes from their own choosing. Makes sense, doesn’t it. It becomes calloused through years of rejection. That’s great. But that isn’t what this verse says.

So, to soften this because it makes me or you uncomfortable would be wrong. That would mean I’m going to see this verse and intentionally change a character trait described of God because I’m afraid of what you’ll think. That is why I want to be very careful here. So, I’m just going to lay this out as it is in Scripture: God is totally in charge here. He is the agent by which all things happen. He is the one creating all of the action. But that still leaves the question of why God would do this unanswered. Let me try to answer that…

I think the answer lies in understanding the context of Isaiah. You see, Isaiah 5 presents the context of a judicial and final pronouncement of coming judgment on Israel. In the story of the vineyard (5:1–7), God is presented as a farmer who has a vineyard. He loved and cared for that vineyard, but it was a fruitless vineyard. Israel, of course is the vineyard and their failure to produce fruit brings judgment from the owner. That judgment is to remove their protection. Hence, Assyria will come and destroy them. God tells Isaiah that he will go to them with this message, but he is also told that his warning to them will fall on deaf ears. They are never going to listen to him.

Jesus is quoting from Isaiah to say that his purpose for teaching in parables is to blind the eyes and make deaf the ears of those who are on the “outside” – those who are identified in chapter three as having rejected Christ. The negative function of this parable must be understood within the narrative context of Isaiah.

So, in keeping with the context of Mark and Isaiah, we see that Jesus is describing a judgment that is coming and these people’s hearts will be hardened. They will be like the Israelites who… seeing see, but never perceive and hearing hear but never understanding.

app.: Do you remember I told you that the 1st and last word of the parable is ‘Hear’? And I told you that the 1st word hear is to the crowd, but the last word hear is to individuals? That’s where this comes into play. So, when you put this all together now, it makes more sense:

  • 1st and last word – to everyone, but only certain insiders will see and hear.
  • Insiders and outsiders, a clear delineation of the two groups.
  • A quote from Isaiah declaring this to be so.

t.s.: Now with this in mind, he explains the parable.

III.   The Parable Explained (13-20)

exp.: The Sower sows the Word of God – that’s Jesus. I think this can only be Jesus in this context. In the previous chapters of Mark, he is the one who has been sowing the seed – the Word of God. And, there are various receptions to his teaching of God’s word. rd v 15; We’ve seen the work of Satan already in Mark. The Demons, who Jesus instructs to keep his identity quiet. In 1.13 where he tempts Christ out in the wilderness; in 3.23 where the religious leaders accuse Jesus of being one of Satan’s cohorts. I think this group is represented by the religious leaders – probably not them alone, but they are included here for sure.

rd v 16-17; I would think that these are represented here, too; these are the people who’ve come out to have a need met – to be healed or fed, and then, face persecution from the 1st group – the religious leaders; then, they fall away. Rd v 18-19; this would be more of the same; people who come to Jesus and use him as an ER, only to return to their life of lush when they get back to the real world and what they experienced gets chocked out.

This parable had me thinking this week: how many times have I used Jesus for my own needs? A healing; A need? How many times have I used Him selfishly – only to retreat back into the world once my selfishness had been slaked?

I’m guessing you’ve probably been taught to understand this parable with the following explanation:

  • The sower is an evangelist – you, a preacher, someone who shares Christ.
  • The Seed is the gospel
  • The different soils represent the different types of people:
    • Hard hearts represented by the heavily trodden path. It just never really takes root
    • Weak roots among the rocky soil represent people who accept Christ with words, but quickly fall away.
    • Those sown among the thorns are those who fall back with their old crowds and their faith gets chocked out.
    • The last group is the real Christian – and he produces fruit as evidence that he’s saved.

I think you’ll find this to be true. There are those who never accept the gospel because their hearts are hard. And, there are those who do accept Christ with their words, but quickly fall away. Others who start this journey but fall back into the world. But, I’m not so sure that is what Christ is saying to these disciples. I think he’s telling them a parable about the current situation of Mark chapter 4, in light of chapters 1-3.

Conclusion:

app.: In light of what is being taught here, I think this would be a great way to apply this message to us:

  • As Christians, where is our heart hardened toward the word Christ speaks to us? Ex.: elders
  • Where do we find our lives rooted in such a shallow way that we have no depth in Christ? The boulders of this world prevent us from digging our roots down deep. Ex.: I think of when I was younger and bold and loud. I remember being a John the Baptist personality, until persecution hit. Then I ran like Peter.
  • And what about those of us who allow so many things of the world to choke out the word of God – the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things? We boldly live for Jesus until tragedy strikes – then we blame God for the trouble in our lives. The pursuit of that raise, that promotion steals our time with him.
  • Maybe we need to do some work on our hearts – removing the rocks, pulling the weeds, tilling the soil and preparing ourselves to accept the Word of God. What a great illustration, because we all know how hard it is to do that work.

Application: Are you ready to start that work in your lives?

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Filed under Evangelism, Isaiah, Mark, Scripture

Mark 3.7-35

Title: Two Families

Text: Mark 3.7-35

Introduction:             With the Religious leaders plotting his death, Jesus flees to the sea (of Galilee). Undeterred, the crowds from everywhere follow him there. So great are these crowds, that Jesus has a boat ready so that he can get away from them lest they crush him. As David fled Saul, many followed him out into the desolate places. So, also many more will follow Jesus (7-12).

 Jesus leaves the seaside and goes up on a mountainside where he picks his 12 disciples. He calls those he desires and appoints 12 to the service of following him closely, preaching and having authority to cast out demons (13-19). In this listing, we meet Judas who is identified as the one who would betray Jesus. This is a reminder of the conspiracy the Pharisees and the Herodians are hatching.

Jesus will leave there and make his way home with his new family. We see them in stark contrast to his birth family who comes to ‘seize’ him. He is evidently an embarrassment to them, for they think he has lost his mind. (20-21)

In this last section we will see the opposition to Christ become public. Mark began with an introduction of Christ and citing multiple witnesses to who Christ is – The Messiah, the Promised Son of God. The 1st chapter continued with the beginning of Christ’s ministry. He picks his 1st 4 disciples and begins doing the work he was sent here to accomplish: preaching, teaching, and healing. And, His popularity explodes. People come from all over to see and hear him. Chapter two transitions to confrontation. The Religious leaders question Christ and all that he is doing. He is doing good works, but he is breaking their rules and this infuriates them. The 2nd chapter reaches it’s climax in the beginning of chapter 3 where the Pharisees conspire with the Herodians to kill Christ.

In our passage today, Mark will draw a firm line in the text to identify those who belong to Christ and those who are against him. First, his family claims he is out of his mind. Then, the scribes claim he is demon possessed – a man with an unclean spirit. His family then makes another attempt to get him; standing outside, they call for him. But Jesus clarifies for us in the final verse who his family really is. (22-35)

This story can be broken down into three movements:

  1. He withdraws to the Sea of Galilee (7) where he continues to have great success in ministry.
  2. He takes his disciples up on a mountain (13) where he selects his 12 disciples to walk with him, preach his message and have authority to cast out demons.
  3. He returns home (20) I suppose to Capernaum, where his family and the religious leaders will confront him. This last section is in the form of what we’d call a Markan Sandwich – family/leaders/family.

Chapter three will establish two groups for us:

  1. The Insiders, those who accept Christ’s authority.
  2. The Outsiders, those who reject Christ’s authority. (3.31-32, 4.11)

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll follow the following outline:

  1. His Success in Ministry
  2. His Successors to his Ministry
  3. Public Opposition to his Ministry

Transition: Let’s take a closer look at…

I.     His Success (7-12)

exp.: I think it is easy to miss where Mark is taking us when we get bogged down in a story; rd v 7; withdrew; Matthew 2.14; Joseph taking his family and fleeing Herod; 1 Samuel 19.10; David fleeing Saul’s missed throw of his spear. Joshua 8.15; a fleeing army; It sounds like Jesus is escaping danger. He goes to the sea; People from everywhere follow him there; So great are the crowds it describes him as possibly being crushed; the messianic secret

ill.: David flees Saul and many go out to him – the riff raff; 1 Samuel 22.2: And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

app.: I’m not sure we would catch this, but those of his readers, familiar with the OT stories of David and Saul might catch this. Many more go out to Christ; many more who are in distress and debt and bitter in soul.

t.s.: So, we see his tremendous success in spite of the fact that he is out and away from the towns and villages; next, we see his successors.

II.    His Successors (13-19)

exp.: rd v 13; He goes up a mountain; They are called to him; I understand this to be a much larger number than just the 12; from this group, he will select the 12; The 12 then, are appointed to three functions:

  1. They might be with him – this is discipleship, pure and simple. We must get younger believers to walk with us to learn what it means to be a Christian. They ate with him, watched him pray, read the Scriptures and explain them; they observed his life.
  2. They might preach his message – κηρύσσω; Proclaimed, announced, made known; We see John the Baptist doing this in chapter one and Jesus, also. 1.14-15; 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  3. Have authority to cast out demons – I equate this w/ healing and restoration. They’re going to do what he has been doing through these first couple of chapters.

app.: these men will go out in 6.7ff and so just as they’ve been taught.

t.s.: In this 1st section we’ve seen his followers, both the larger group and the smaller group (the 12); in this next section, we’ll see the opposition publicly malign Christ.

III.   His Accusers and Their Accusations (20-34)

exp.: This is where those opposed to him speak out against him publically; rd v 20; He goes home; lit.: a house; must be Capernaum; This is the home base, as we’ve seen, of his early ministry. **The crowd gathers so thick, that Jesus and his disciples can’t even eat – they can’t break bread together. This is due to his popularity and the great need of the people. But this is a reminder to me of all the negative information we get in this section. Check it out:

  • A Conspiracy to destroy Jesus (6)
  • Jesus flees to the desolate places in (7);
  • So thick is the crowd and so desperate for Jesus are they that he orders a boat to be nearby lest he ‘crushed’ (9)
  • Judas is identified as the betrayer in (19), I’m guessing this means the readers this book was intended for know what that means. Judas will join this conspiracy and play a major part in the death of Christ.
  • His family claims he is out of his mind (21)
  • The Pharisees accuse him of being demon possessed (22, 30)

Now in v. 22-34, we see a famous Markan Sandwich; of accusations:

  • His Family rejects his authority; rd v 21; Lunatic
  • The Pharisees reject his authority; rd v 22; Demon possession; possessed by Beelzebul; I think of the father of lies; Liar; I read in one commentary that this is where C.S. Lewis gets his argument for Liar, Lunatic, Lord. I could find no evidence of that.

Jesus then teaches in parables; rd 23a. He calls the Pharisees to himself and tells them parables, explaining the Kingdom of God and those who are outside and those who are inside. He warns them of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

  • His Family comes to retrieve their member, but are publicly rejected by Jesus;

t.s.: this raises another question; there are a few concerning these troublesome passages.

Conclusion: Troublesome passages:

  • The question of the Messianic Secret – Why did Jesus command demons and people to keep quiet about who he was? Things were moving way too fast. His time had not yet come and his hour to be revealed was still in the future. But there is probably more here:
    • Jesus demonstrates his authority over demons and unclean spirits by silencing them. Yes, he casts them out, but they must be obedient to his authority as well.
    • Jesus for some reason has not chosen to use the dark world to reveal who he is. He reserves the right to disclose that. There are times when that is done 1.15, 8.29;
  • What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? And, Can it be evidenced or experienced today
    • The passage I’m referring to is: 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit I think is pretty simple: The Holy Spirit is the agent by which someone is drawn to God. The H.S. draws us through presenting evidence of God’s Work in our lives. He reveals truth – and the rejection of that truth and worse, attributing it to darkness is blasphemy. Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can be defined as defiant, willful rejection of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. It is unforgiveable. Here, the religious leaders are warned of what they’re doing.

As we draw to a conclusion in the book of Mark, the religious leaders clearly demonstrate their understanding of who Christ claims to be. They say in 15.32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” That is blasphemy. He will demonstrate further for them, but it would never be enough.

  • The 2nd part of this question deals with today. Can this still happen? Yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is still wooing, drawing people to Christ. The evidence is there; however, people still turn away. One day, he will stop this work and that person will stand before God condemned, because they did not believe in the Son of God.
  • One more word: for those who wrestle with this question (have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit?) I have a word of encouragement. The fact that your conscience bothers you is evidence that the Holy Spirit is still at work. Don’t turn him away. Repent and believe. His family here in chapter 3 is a perfect illustration of those who rejected Jesus at first, but later repented.
  • Let me address how Jesus rejects his family and how awkward that feels. Some folks have a tough time with what Jesus does here. It just seems too disrespectful. Some would quote the 5th commandment (honor parents); Others would say Mary should have known better considering her experience with the birth of the Savior. But, to be fair, Mark hasn’t shared any of that with his readers. I think it is fair to say that his family was deeply concerned for him. In keeping all of this within the context and the framework of Mark’s narrative, his theological purpose is twofold:
  1. To show that even Jesus’ own people did not understand him or his mission (a prelude to his rejection by Israel, i.e., the conspiracy of v6).
  2. To reveal the ultimate priority of spiritual relationships over physical ones (a prelude to the Gentile mission that will follow his resurrection).

App.: I’ve said before and place great emphasis on this once again today: I’m not sure there is anything more important in the church than our relationships. Nothing. We’re family. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 Tim 5 Paul encouraged: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Application:

  1. It is important to connect yourself to Christ and his spiritual family.

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Filed under Leadership, Mark, Scripture, Sermon