Title: Busyness or Business
Text: Mark 7.31-8.26
Introduction: The Back Story of the NYTimes Daily Briefing on Friday reads:
Fifteen major league baseball games will be contested tonight, in 15 North American cities. With just over a month of the regular season remaining, about a dozen teams are jockeying for position in the standings. Fans can follow every move from anywhere there’s a cell phone signal, with stats, push notifications and high-definition broadcasts.
Things were different 77 years ago today, when M.L.B. televised its first game. Two games, actually, with the Brooklyn Dodgers hosting the Cincinnati Reds in a split doubleheader. (The Reds won, then the Dodgers.) The first broadcast of a collegiate baseball game had happened already, in May, as Columbia played Princeton. All the signals were sent from the tower at the Empire State Building. As the Times dispatch that day in 1939 reported — under the subhead “Major League Baseball Makes Its Radio Camera Debut”: “Over the video-sound channels of the station, television-set owners as far away as fifty miles viewed the action and heard the roar of the crowd, according to the National Broadcasting Company.”
HD this was not: “At times it was possible to catch a fleeting glimpse of the ball,” the article noted, “as it sped from the pitcher’s hand toward home plate.”
I can almost picture in my mind the static-like, black and white, picture. If the shot was from too far away, you’d not be able to make out the ball coming from the pitcher hand. Nor, would you be able to follow a hit ball with any real accuracy.
When watching a baseball game, you like the cameras to switch around. You like to be pulled out and back so you can see that the outfield is shifted in one direction or the other. Or maybe the team is floating the shortstop so far back he looks like the roaming position in a softball game. At other times you like to zoom in real close so you can see the signals of the catcher or see the intensity of the batter’s face. That’s the thing about being there that is so cool. You do all of that naturally with your own eyes. Some of you probably remember when TV was in black and white and you couldn’t get a good picture – you couldn’t make out the ball sometimes, especially when the picture was from far away. This story resonates with me because we got our first color TV when I was in the 4th grade. Then, in about a year’s time, we moved to Europe where AFRTS was still only available in B&W. I was in the 8th grade when Color Television became a regular thing in our home.
Well, sometimes you want a wide-angle look. Sometimes you want to see the entire field of play. So much of my preaching is done in digging deep into a text. I like zooming in close and placing my focus upon specific items. I like to take a few verses and zoom in. That’s more my style. I’ve explained in this series, that I’ve wanted to take the Gospel of Mark at a much faster pace. My desire is to cover more ground. Sure, I’ll slow down and take one small section at certain times. I did that last week. However, this morning I’d like to pull away once again – to fly over Mark at about 15,000 ft to gain a better understanding of what he’s been doing. I think when we’re done this morning, it’ll make more sense to you.
With that being said, here’s what I intend to do this morning:
- An Outline of the Texte., I’m going to hit all 5 stories here.
- A Comparison of the Texts, we’re going to see similarities in other passages.
- The Theology in Application sure, there are teaching points in each small story, but I’m looking for the melodic line of the overall passage. That is what we’ll find in the Theology in Application section.
Transition: let’s begin with this 1st task…
I. An Outline of the Text
exp.: This particular pericope is bookended by two miracles of healing (7.31-37; 8.22-26). These miracles are similar in their presentation. Take your Bible and put these passages side by side. Maybe your friend, your spouse, your sibling, whoever is sitting next to you will take one passage, say 7.31-37 and you take 8.22-26; Now that we’re set up, let’s compare the two passages. 6 Similarities:
- ‘They brought’ someone needing a miracle. (7.32; 8.22)
- ‘They begged’ Jesus to intercede. (7.32; 8.22)
- Jesus dealt with these needs privately. (7.33; 8.23)
- Both miracles were accomplished in 2 stages. (7.33-34; 8.23-25)
- Both miracles display the use of saliva (7.33; 8.23)
- Messianic Secret. Jesus encouraged them to remain silent. (7.36; 8.26)
The middle sections continue with the theme: Jesus, the Bread of Life.
- Jesus feeds 4,000 with bread and fish. (8.1-10) This miracle is set in two stages as well. rd v 5-6; but it doesn’t end there – look at v 7- 8a; So, we have the bread and then, the fish.
Now, before I leave this section, some people have asked if this is the same story as chapter 6 or is it a different story altogether. It’s different. This is something you could talk about in your Bible study groups. What differences are there between these two? I say there are so many differences, that they must be two separate accounts. Next,
- The Pharisees fail to see and understand that Jesus is who he says he is, the Bread of life. (8.11-13)
exp.: in 8.11-13 the Pharisees demand a sign;
- Don’t mistake this for a miracle. To the Jews, Signs are indeed miraculous, but miracles are necessarily signs. They’ve seen miracles. My guess is they’ve seen lots of ‘miracles’. The key for us is to see that the sign they demand of Jesus is from “Heaven” (11). They want him to do something with God stamped on it. You could read this to mean a sign up in the heavens – (you know, make it rain, make the sun stop shinning, or maybe something to do with the stars). But, I think it means a sign that demonstrates God’s approval.
- To be sure, the word sign never means miracle in Mark (w/ the exception of the last chapter).
- Test is the same word as Mark 1.13; tempted; They’re doing the same thing Satan did – and they’ll fail, like Satan did. Here, I think, is Mark’s teaching – the motive of these guys is no different than that of their father, the Devil.
When we consider what to do and what to be a part of, there are two questions we ask ourselves:
- What is the family business? Developing passionate followers of Christ.
- How’s business? Pretty good, for the most part. A struggle in others.
Each ministry can ask itself this Question and gauge its production by it. It is what we did Thursday night.
- What is the family business? Developing passionate followers of Christ. Some of you might be thinking: But we’re a church, not a business. Let me ask you, is this not our Father’s business? When Mary and Joseph sought their little son who had gone missing, they found him in the Temple. What did he tell them? “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” That purpose drove him. So, let me ask you again: What is the family business?
- How’s is this request going to help our business? 2 x’s in our elders mtg we moved quickly through the requests because the answer was obvious: it doesn’t help us reach our goal. It isn’t necessarily good for business. So, the answer was obvious. No.
app.: Jesus is dialed in on his work. Their request is busyness to keep him from his Father’s business. We must respond in like fashion: is this busyness or business? We’ve got to be about our Father’s business.
- The disciples fail to see and understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life. (8.14-21) This is important! Don’t miss this. We’ve actually seen this before? Rd v 16-21; Don’t you get this guys? Uh, no, sir.
t.s.: Now, I’d like to move from this section, and do a comparison. You know how I said, we’ve actually seen this before? It was just after Jesus had fed the 5,000 up in 6.50-52; rd 6.50-52; That got me to thinking, we’ve seen others similar stories and activities already in Mark.
II. A Comparison of The Previous Text
|Feeding the multitude
|Crossing the sea and landing
|6.50-52||Their hearts are hardened and they do not understand.||8.18-21|
|Conflict with the Pharisees
|A negative discussion about bread
|Healing (Blind & Deaf)
app.: Through these two sections, there are similarities. Is this a coincidence? Well, Leroy Jethro Gibbs says there are no coincidences. And, that’s good advice for us as we look at these texts. Mark is up to something. I think he’s wanting to show us a bigger picture. I think he wants us to see the miracles in two stages. Jesus is doing those miracles in stages on purpose. I think he wants us also to identify that the disciples are dull both times Jesus talks about the bread. And, that there is a point he is making: Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Transition: So, we’ve looked at the Outline, We’ve noted the comparison of this big outline to the previous section. Now, let’s look at the Theology being taught.
III. Theology in Application
exp.: So, we’ve answered the question that Mark is up to something – something larger than just story telling. But just what is he up to? 1st, Mark is wanting us to see:
- In Christ we are seeing the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy in 35.5-6; rd Isaiah 35.1-6; there is a dual fulfillment here – the physical and the spiritual. And we see that is exactly what Mark is doing for us in this passage. The blind do see (i.e.: physically) and the deaf do hear (i.e.: physically); however, there is the spiritual side to this as well. The Pharisees are blinded and they go on in their blindness, but the disciples, though they are not perceiving, they will! Though they are not hearing – they will! And, though it is just a little at first, it will grow, it will progress and they will see and hear.
Transition: Which brings me to the 2nd Theological Application…
- Seeing is Believing; Perceiving is believing; Rd 8.17-18; the answer here is, ‘no, we don’t.’ So, how do we know they will? I think this is given to us in the physical miracles. Note: the deaf, the blind, and the bread – these miracles appear to take place in two stages.
a. Deaf: 1. He put his fingers in his ears, spit and touched his tongue. 2. He looked up into heaven, sighed and spoke.
b. Bread: 1. He distributed the bread. 2. And then, separately, he distributed the fish.
c. Blind: 1. spit on his eyes, and laid his hands on him. But people looked like trees moving around. 2. So, He laid his hands on his eyes again.
Transition: Which is a great segue for our 3rd Theological Application…
- Faith is a progressive experience… think: process and progress. Do you see our miracles in the physical realm? Here is another question we must ask ourselves: Does the God of this Universe, the One who spoke our world into order and existence, Is He Insufficient in any way that he would need to conduct his miracles in stages? It isn’t like Jesus said: “Oh, you still can’t see? Well, let me do a little more… there!” In modern medicine, yes, you take your antibiotics for 10 days to three weeks. It’s a slow process.
Not so with God. We’ve seen him perform miracles without even lifting a hand. He just thinks it and it is done. Remember the Syrophoenician woman? Rd 7.29: 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” Perfect tense – a state of being because of a past action! She’s already free from the Demon. The answer to this question is “no”. And yet, Jesus repeats this 2-stage process again. Listen to Mark Strauss, professor of NT at Bethel Seminary in San Diego. In his commentary on Mark he writes: The two stages of these miracles represent the disciples’ gradual progression toward spiritual understanding. Faith is a progressive experience. The gradual healing of the blind man illustrates the gradual progress of faith in the life of the disciples. Though they have begun their journey by choosing to follow Jesus, they have much to learn. There is a long and challenging road ahead, and it will be full of fits and starts.
- These sections of Scripture are in two different geographical locations and to two different groups of people. 1. The Jews. and 2. The Gentiles. I think Mark is reminding us that the Gospel is universal in nature. Yes, it is focused up on the Jews in the beginning, but shortly, the gospel will spread to the World.
So, where do we go from here. Well, 1st, if you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ – let today be that day. Is it possible your heart has been hardened to Christ? You’ve demanded signs or your way in some venture, but Christ was focused on his mission. Have you ever thought, my friend, that Christ is more concerned for your soul, than he is for your flesh. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and yet loses his soul? Don’t let this moment pass you buy if you’ve never committed your life to Christ.
2ndly, Maybe today you’re just filled with questions and you want to talk with someone. I’m going to ask some men to come down to the front and just sit on the front row. You can come and pray at the altar, or you can ask one of them to pray with you. You can ask them questions.
3rdly, Maybe there is a decision you’ve made and you need to make it public. You’ve accepted Christ recently or maybe God has called you into the ministry. I’m not sure what your needs are, but I know that God does. So, you respond as He leads you this morning.