Category Archives: Purpose

Mark 7:31 – 8:26

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:

  1. An Outline of the Texte., I’m going to hit all 5 stories here.
  2. A Comparison of the Texts, we’re going to see similarities in other passages.
  3. 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:

  1. ‘They brought’ someone needing a miracle. (7.32; 8.22)
  2. ‘They begged’ Jesus to intercede. (7.32; 8.22)
  3. Jesus dealt with these needs privately. (7.33; 8.23)
  4. Both miracles were accomplished in 2 stages. (7.33-34; 8.23-25)
  5. Both miracles display the use of saliva (7.33; 8.23)
  6. Messianic Secret. Jesus encouraged them to remain silent. (7.36; 8.26)

The middle sections continue with the theme: Jesus, the Bread of Life.

  1. 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,

  1. 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;

  1. 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.
  2. To be sure, the word sign never means miracle in Mark (w/ the exception of the last chapter).
  3. 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:

  1. What is the family business? Developing passionate followers of Christ.
  2. 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

  1. 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

exp.:

 

6:31–44

 

Feeding the multitude

 

8:1–9

 

6:45–56

 

Crossing the sea and landing

 

8:10

 

6.50-52 Their hearts are hardened and they do not understand. 8.18-21
7:1–23

 

Conflict with the Pharisees

 

8:11–13

 

7:24–30

 

A negative discussion about bread

 

8:14–21

 

7:31–36

 

Healing (Blind & Deaf)

 

8:22–26

 

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:

  1. 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…

  1. 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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Conclusion:

            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.

 

 

 

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Filed under Mark, Mission Statement, Purpose, Sermon, Sermons, Uncategorized

SENT Conference: David & Goliath

Title: Becoming something greater than yourself!

Text: 1 Samuel 17

CIT: God’s faithfulness to David gave him the faith to stand, fight and defeat Goliath.

CIS: We can place our faith in Christ because he has conquered sin and death.

Introduction: Today’s story is a story you’re probably pretty familiar with. I’m guessing you’ve heard this story dozens and dozens of times. The story is about a kid and a giant. The kid’s name is David. The Giant – Goliath. The story is located in 1 Samuel 17; Turn there with me.

Most days I receive a NYTimes briefing. The idea is that I’ll find stories I wish to follow up on and read them. It works, by the way. At the conclusion of each briefing there is a Back Story. The following story was taken from the briefing.

Cracker Jack… The 87th Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played this week in San Diego. It was nice to see the American League win. I’m hoping it pays dividends when the Texas Rangers make it to the World Series – that is if they can bounce back for their last 13 ugly games. The All-Star game is a fine summer tradition, but here’s one that goes back even further: Eating Cracker Jack at the ballpark. The gooey treat’s origins go back to 1872, when F. W. Rueckheim, a German immigrant, began selling candy and popcorn in Chicago. By the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Rueckheim and his brother, Louis, created a confection of molasses, peanuts and popcorn that millions of fairgoers gobbled up.

They perfected their recipe by 1896 when — legend has it — a salesman tasted a sample and shouted, “That’s crackerjack!” If you google Cracker Jack online, you’ll find the definition: exceptionally good; an exceptionally good person or thing. Translation for this man: it was fantastic. A name and a brand (it’s singular, not plural) were born, and the brothers began packaging and advertising the concoction.

Just to add to the story, the company first issued coupons in the boxes that could be redeemed for household items at a store in Chicago. It switched to “A Prize in Every Box” in 1912. The prizes went digital this spring, after billions of trinkets were distributed.

But I think the coolest part of the story is that Cracker Jack’s timelessness is wrapped up in one of the best-known songs in history:

Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,

I don’t care if I never get back,

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don’t win it’s a shame.

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,

At the old ball game.

Now, that’s pretty cool for Frito-Lay, who owns Cracker Jack. There aren’t too many mlb games where that song isn’t heard. That’s free publicity for Cracker Jack. No wonder they’ve been around so long! Now, Cracker Jack is a small thing compared with major league baseball. A really small thing! How cool it must be for them to be a part of something so much larger.

As we look at 1 Samuel 17 and review the story of David and Goliath, I’m hoping you’ll desire to be a part of something so much larger than yourself.

Dr. Viktor Frankl is credited with saying: He who has a why can bear any how. I think what he meant by that statement is that purpose can give someone meaning. A purpose to life can empower someone to face the most difficult of circumstances.

Now, just how do these come together: purpose & meaning? Being a part of something so much greater than your self? We don’t have time read all of the verses in 1 Samuel 17, so with your permission, I’d like to present an outline of the story. It moves as follows:

  1. In v. 1-11, we meet the Philistines. They are Israel’s enemy.
  2. In v. 12-18 we meet David and his family and find out a little of what they do. They are some of the main players in this story.
  3. In v. 19-30, David is tasked by his father with the job of taking food to his brothers at the front where battle lines have been drawn up between the two armies. He is then to return and give a report to his father. So David takes supplies to them. It is here at the front David learns of Goliath, the fear the Israelite men have toward Goliath and the reward for the man who would face and defeat him. David said, “I’ll do it. I’ll take him on.”
  4. Here then, is where we pick up the story (31-50). I’ve entitled this section:

 

I.      David’s Faith: David Intercedes for the Fearful Israelites (31-50)

We note first His Confidence. Rd v 31-32

  • His Confidence: Now where does someone get such confidence? If you break this word down into two parts, you’ve got con – which means “with” and fide, which means “faith”; most literally then it means to have full faith and trust with… someone, something. For David, He tells us clearly where his faith is: rd v 37; 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” – Saul doesn’t say: Go and your faith be with you. Or go in this confidence you have. He says: Go, and the Lord (all caps) be with you. David’s confidence was in the LORD and only in him. Now, why? Why was this so? He tells us in this same verse: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear; David says: Saul, come here, check this out. Let me show you my game room. Do you know what a game room is? For a hunter, it is the place he displays his trophies.

Ill.: Down south of Austin, my in-laws have a ranch. My father-in-law built a cabin on that ranch. In the cabin is a trophy wall mount of an elk I shot in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Hunters love to tell stories of their trophies. I love to tell the story of how I shot that elk. What it was like field dressing the huge animal. Getting it down the mountain. It was the experience of a lifetime. I love it when someone sees it hanging over the fireplace and asks, “who shot that?” They always want to know more.

App.: David is like: Saul, let me show you my game room. See that lion? That lion came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And when he rose up against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him down and killed him.

Come over here. See that bear? That bear came into camp all hungry and grumpy. He tried to have his way by getting a free meal, but I struck him down. Now, he’s just that sweet throw rug.

Confidence comes in the Lord and in his work in and through you. How are you able to stand? Because I’ve been here before. This ain’t my first rodeo!

T.S.: So, note 1st his confidence in the Lord and what the Lord has done through David. 2ndly, we notice his …

  • His Strategy:

Rd v 38; Saul is thinking to himself that this kid is in deep trouble. Who has better armor than the King? So, let’s get him geared up! Rd v 39; Here is an application that I’m not sure we can teach. David senses that this isn’t going to work. This is called discernment. This armor has served the king well. It is probably the best armor in the kingdom. But, David knows this isn’t for him. Discernment is a gift from the Lord. But I think there is a great application for us here: Go with what you know! That’s what David does; rd v 40;

Transition: So, David gears up and makes his way toward Goliath. This is the third point:

  • His Actions:
  1. You might expect Goliath to laugh, but he doesn’t. Read 41-44; Goliath disdains David and defies God by putting his trust in his gods and in his weapons.; David recognizes his failure and points it out; rd v 45; what a sharp contrast; Goliath in his ‘things’ – even his gods are things;
  2. David, however, puts his faith in God alone for God’s glory alone; rd 46-47; Goliath makes his move toward David, and David doesn’t hesitate; rd v 48;
  3. David runs to the battle line. Rd 49a;

Ill.: I love to run; I carry a ‘fanny pack’; it’s not really that, but it is similar; It has a water carrier and bottle and it has a pouch for my phone and keys; I can carry money. Can I just say it aint easy to run and put your hand into your pouch. 2nd, From time to time, I take off my shirt and swing it around to get rid of some pesky flies that are trying to land on me. I sling it around and around, taking out any bees, wasps, or giant flies that are trying to land on my. I’m thinking that David had done this before. Only because I know this isn’t easy.

  1. But, David hits Goliath with the perfect shot. (49-50) Keep reading; rd v 51;
  2. David took his own sword and cut off the giant’s head. He said he was going to do that when he didn’t even have a sword (cf.: v 46). When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. I have a vivid imagination: I picture the people, especially the Philistines screaming at the top of the lungs: Kill that kid! Hah! Rip his head off! Teach him a lesson! Then, puff, just like that, it is over and their champion lies on the ground. I’ll bet it got quiet real quick like. David runs and stands over the giant – taking his sword and cutting off his head. The roar of the Israelites rises quickly as David picks up the Giant’s head by the hair and shows his people! The Philistines, though, their jaws drop – their eyes just about pop out with disbelief. And then they take off running! When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Transition: Well, you know the rest of the story. It’s the conclusion to the story: The Collapse of the Philistine Army (51-53)

Conclusion: V. The Collapse of the Philistine Army (51-53)

  1. Israel’s Pursuit of the Philistines (51-52)
  2. Israel Plunders the Philistines (53)
  3. Post Remarks: David’s Victory with the Giant’s head in his hands. (54-58)

Transition: So Fred, how does this apply to missions? I’ve come here to learn about missions!

Yesterday, I stopped in to see a friend. 8 years ago, he and his wife sold everything to return home to missionaries to his family for one year. That was a big deal because he from Austria. Their goal was to spend the year with family, live the Christian life and share Christ with the people they love.

While they were there they searched hard for a church. They found a house church and became a part of it. It wasn’t easy. They made friends, they found jobs – his wife learned the language. But after a year they returned to Tyler and started their lives back up. As far as they could tell, they had made some friends in a house church, but none in his family came to Christ.

Since returning they’ve had two beautiful little girls. The youngest has yet to return to the homeland to meet family. A few weeks ago, my friend got a phone call that his father came home from work and fell over dead. No warning. No sickness. No nothing.

What hurts so bad is that my friend has tickets to return to Austria next week. He had planned a 2 week vacation with the sole purpose that his daddy might see his little girl face to face. They called the airline and tried to get things changed, but the airline would only do it for fee – a fee too large for my friend and his family to pay.

So he bought a ticket home for himself. That’s why I stopped in to see him. Losing your dad at 62 is hard. Losing your dad at any age is hard. I wanted to know how he was doing. Well, it’s been hard. His parents were divorced years ago. There is a will from the 80’s. Other people are a part of the family now. It goes on and on and if you’ve ever dealt with that stuff you know the struggle.

But in this process, He was able to sit down with his mom for a long visit. As he talked she told him he sounded like this guy she met who works with her. Some months ago she started selling Tupperware and met a young man in their group who is a Christian. It just so happens that this man was a friend of my friend. They met in a house church 8 years ago. He told his mom why they sound so much alike – why they sound so positive, even in hard times – He told his mom about Christ. And after presenting the gospel to her – 8 years after living there and not seeing any fruit from his labor, she prayed with him to receive Christ.

Transition: Becoming a part of something so much larger than yourself isn’t quick and easy. It isn’t something you can script. It means surrendering yourself to God’s will, even when you don’t understand it. So let me offer a couple of take-a-ways…

Application:

  1. The author wants to demonstrate the Glory of God over Israel’s enemies by taking what seems like certain defeat and bringing about his victory through the young man, David. Listen up, Missions in your church and in your life is much the same: God wants to demonstrate his glory through you. If the task looks too big for you, it probably is, but it isn’t for God! Your mission endeavor isn’t so much about you and your church. No, not really – It’s about God’s Glory. I feel confident in saying that God’s more concerned about His glory than just about anything else.
  2. Let your faith develop by trusting God in the small matters. Begin your mission work around your house, around your city. David did what he did and he did it the way he knew how because of his success in the smaller things. Grow from where you are. As God builds and strengthens your faith, move out from there. Start with what you know. God will teach you more as he grows you.
  3. We’ve got to stop thinking of the Gospel as transforming lives only through perfect vessels. God uses the weak to confound the wise. Saul’s armor was probably the best in the land, but it wasn’t what David needed nor what God was going to use. Here’s another application that fits with this idea: The sins of our past can be testimonies to the grace and forgiveness of God. That was my friend’s message to his mother. Sinners need to know they can be forgiven. We may not be the best speaker, we may not be the prettiest or the sharpest. But, if we’re a tool in the hands of God, watch out! 2 Corinthians 12.10: 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  4. We can trust God to bring about victory in our mission through Christ who has come to redeem us from our enemy. God accomplished this by sending his Son to die a criminal’s death on a cross – a symbol of weakness. If you’ve never experienced the grace and compassion of God, I offer that Grace and compassion to you right now. Today is the day of Salvation. Today is the day of forgiveness. We’re going to dismiss shortly, but if you want to accept Christ this morning – come find me. I’d like to tell you how.
  5. You can be a part of something larger than you. You can become Cracker Jack missionary. Once you realize that God is working through you to Glorify himself – it becomes so much easier. You’re not worried about you. You’re not worried about your church. Your concern for God’s glory gives you the why – and you can face any how!

 

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Filed under 1 Samuel, Calling, Faith, missions, Purpose, Scripture, Uncategorized

Mark 6.1-34

Title: What does it mean to follow Christ?

Text: Mark 6.1-34

What does it mean to follow Christ? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Is the call of God different for everyone? Is the call different for anyone? What does Christ mean here: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Most of us read the passage and we identify these remarks as being for someone else: someone who is called to a special ministry. We don’t normally associate these words with becoming a Christian. Do you agree?

Oh wait! We do – like when we witness to someone. But once someone becomes a Christian, we don’t think it really applies anymore. Do we?

Do we? Really?

This morning we’ll take a look at some different ‘ministries’ in Mark. These stories are similar and yet, very different.

  1. We have Jesus – the ultimate authority on ministry – and the rejection of those who knew him as he tried to minister to them.
  2. We’ll look at his disciples who go and expand his ministry.
  3. And we’ll look at John. John demonstrates for us someone who was called and suffered for his ministry.
  4. Finally, we’ll look back at the report of the disciples and the attempt for rest after ministry.

Transition: let’s begin with a quick review of last week’s message.

I.      The Ministry of Jesus (1-6)

exp.: We don’t need to repeat this message, but I wanted to include it here because it seems to clearly fit the emphasis of the cost of discipleship. Even Christ was rejected when he did ministry.

  • The Pharisees rejected him earlier (3.1-6).
  • His family rejected him, too (later in ch. 3).
  • His hometown rejected him, as well.

Isaiah said of him: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

app.: The summary of his ministry there is found in v 5: And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And, in this we find a warning: no student is above his teacher, no servant above his master. We must remember this as we move into v7.

t.s.: with this experience of rejection fresh in the minds of his disciples, Jesus sends them out…

II.     The Ministry of the Apostles (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7;

  • He summons: called them to him (προσκαλέω; Summoned them, called them to himself)
  • He sends: began to send them out two by two; to send is the Gk word for which we get apostle: it means commissioned or sent with a mission. And this mission comes out in giving them authority.
  • He gave them authority over unclean spirits; You’ll see them exercise this authority when we get down to v 13.
  • He charged them to trust God for their provision: their orders; rd v 8-9;
    • Basic necessities – food, clothes, money.
    • Basic etiquette rd v 10;
    • Knowing when it’s time to go; rd 11

app.: They did what Jesus sent them to do; rd v 12-13; this was the purpose all along: Mk 3.14-15 – 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

t.s: Now these twelve have gone out by the authority of Jesus. We come to this interlude and we hear of another ministry.

III.   The Ministry of John (14-29)

exp.: i.e.: John the Baptizer; This story of John is born out of a need for explanation. Herod is questioning who Jesus might be. Maybe this arises from the Apostle’s who’ve been commissioned by Jesus through his authority. Who is this Jesus? Maybe they are asked by what authority they do these things. Their answer of course would be: Jesus. Herod seems to be thinking something similar: Who is this Jesus? Herod thinks he could be John, the baptizer whom he had put to death earlier. This would not make sense to the reader because nothing has been said about John since chapter one. So, Mark educates us with his story:

Now listen carefully, I’m going to make this simple: Verse 16 says Herod had John beheaded. Herod didn’t really want to kill him. He did it at the request of Salome – But she probably didn’t want it either. You see, it was really her mother, Herodias, who was Philip’s wife. Well, she was his wife, but now she was Philip’s brother’s wife. Evidently there was some shady stuff going on there. So, The reason is because his step-daughter, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, his new wife, or she was his niece because she was the daughter of his half brother Philip who was at one time married to Herodias, or maybe we should say Salome was his grandniece because Herodias, his wife, was also his half brother Aristobolus’s daughter. Anyway, that lady, she’s the one who had asked for John’s head on a platter. Clear?

Listen, this is a tangled web of men named Herod. These guys all were all related to each other by their father. Their actions were sinful and John’s call was to call them to repentance. John does just what Jesus has called others to do…he calls Herod and Herodias to repent of their sinful behavior. People don’t like that. People don’t like to have their sin called out.

  • If you are meeting up with a woman who isn’t your wife – that’s adultery!
  • If this person you’re hooking up with is of the same gender – that’s Homosexuality and according to Scripture, it is sinful behavior!
  • If you were born with a certain genitalia, then you’re a man. If not, you’re a woman. If you have trouble with this, get some help. Pretending to be something you’re not is sinful and harmful.
  • If you feel like you are a cat or a dog – that’s not natural. You need help.

When you call people to repentance, it is offensive. People don’t want to repent. Ok, John is standing under their balcony calling them to repent. I’m assuming others can hear this preaching of repentance. If someone is in sin and doesn’t want to repent, he or she will get angry and defensive. That’s exactly what happens to Herodias. And we’re just like she is: We all want others to embrace us in our sin. Tell us it is ok, so we can keep doing it.

John will die because he refuses to back down from the calling of his ministry. He gives us a foretaste of what Jesus will endure because he will not back down from his ministry.

Before we leave John, I’d like to look at some parallels between Jesus and John. In these 1st three points we have the ministries of Jesus, the disciples, and John. John, however, isn’t to be compared with the disciples, but rather with Jesus.

ill.: There are many parallels between Jesus and John.

John is not just a model “follower” of Jesus. He’s different than the disciples who go in Christ’s authority. These are baby steps for the disciples. In a couple of years, the mantle will be laid upon them and they’ll go pro. But, for now, they still have training wheels on. John is in the Big Leagues. Listen to Craig Blomberg, how he parallels the ministry of John w/ Jesus’: John is the forerunner of the Messiah, and his death serves as a foreshadowing and preview of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Both Jesus and John are arrested for challenging the powers that be. Both are put to death by self-seeking rulers who know their victims are innocent but vacillate under pressure and choose expediency over justice. The bodies of both are taken and buried by sympathetic followers. After John’s death, rumors arise that he has risen from the dead. But Jesus actually does rise from the dead!

These implicit parallels between John and Jesus in Mark find similar expression in the other gospels. In Luke, for example, the births of Jesus and John are paralleled, heralded by angelic announcements and miraculous conceptions (Luke 1). Yet in this parallelism, Jesus is shown to be the superior. John’s birth to a barren woman is a miracle (like similar births in the OT), but Jesus’ birth to a virgin is unprecedented. While John is “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76; cf. 1:17), Jesus is the “Son of the Most High” (1:32). John’s role is to prepare the way for the Lord (1:17, 76); Jesus is that Lord—the Savior, who is Messiah and Lord (2:11; cf. 1:43).

This theme is carried forward in John’s public ministry. John says that the one who will come after him is so much greater than he that John is not worthy to unlatch his sandals. While John baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:7–8). Jesus must increase, while John must decrease (John 3:3). Here we find the true essence of discipleship. It is following Christ’s model, but always in service to him. It is a willingness to give up one’s life, not for our own glory, but for the glory of Christ.

app.: that’s what we se in v 27ff; rd 27-29; as we read v 27-29 we are saddened. Jesus was, too. In each of the Gospels Jesus seeks to get away after the story of John is told. It isn’t as clear in Mark as it is in Matthew and Luke and John.

t.s: But even then, as Jesus tries to get his disciples the rest and refreshing they need, even as he tries to get the rest and refreshing he needs…they keep coming.

IV.    The Call to Ministry Persists (30-34)

exp.: Read v 30-34; His compassion compels him to care for their needs.

app.: Sometimes as a servant, you’re pushed. Maybe I should say often times. You may want to get away, but you can’t. The calendar won’t cooperate. People have things for you to do. They need you. This doesn’t diminish the need for rest and refreshment, but it might need to wait. My guess is the Christ is teaching his disciples of this important part of ministry: retreat, refresh, and repair.

So, what are the applications for us? I have chosen four.

Application:

  1. Summons to Ministry: this is different for each one called. No one is called to sit on the sidelines. If you are a believer, then you’re called to be a witness for Christ. But, your call is different. You must seek out God’s will for your life and follow in obedience. You can’t live out someone else’s call. And, BTW: you can’t just go…you must be sent out in his You don’t just think to yourself: ah, I want to see the world. You must be summoned by Christ and sent out in his authority.
  2. Service in Ministry: Each of us is called to different types of service. No one is called to exactly the same thing. I think of even my wife, whose calling is very similar to mine; however, it differs greatly. As for you, I can’t tell you what that is. I think you discover your area of service by trial and error. You sense a desire to serve here or there and you follow that passion. God opens and closes doors. Consider your unique position. Retired individuals have more time – not being held down by a job. Young people have energy, stamina and health on their side. And, BTW: don’t consider your area of service based on money or supplies. You don’t just think: well, I don’t have the money so I guess I can’t go. The charge is the same: don’t worry about food, clothes or money. God will provide for you as he sees fit. I can’t say this is always the case, but I see God wants you to learn to trust him to provide for you in miraculous ways. That is how you learn to trust him in the ministry.
  3. Sacrifice in Ministry: You can’t surrender to ministry without offering a sacrifice at some level. Some, however, give more than others. John demonstrates for us a willingness to remain faithful to his calling. The spiritual gift of Martyrdom is a one-time gift. The call of God on your life might mean leaving the place you live and work. It might mean leaving your family and friends. The call of God on your life means you must sacrifice your desires and follow His. It might mean being educated. It might mean changing professions. I don’t know what God has in store for you. But, I know from experience: your life is no longer your own. You are bought at a price. You now belong to him – and what he says for your life – that is what you must now do.
  4. Success in Ministry: I hate that we (and I include myself in this) judge people in their ministry as successful or as a failure. We see larger churches, bigger youth ministries, larger and more dynamic worship programs and we measure all others by that standard. I wonder how many ministries we would label as success and try to emulate, when Christ would label that ministry a failure. Was John’s ministry a success? How so? His final place of ministry was a prison cell and from there, he was beheaded. How do you measure success? Is the pastor who works in a small church his whole life unsuccessful? What if he remains bi-vocational his whole ministry? Ultimately, success is measured through obedience.

What is your ministry? What has God called you to do? What does it mean to follow Christ?

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Filed under Church Membership, Mark, missions, Purpose, Scripture, Sermons, Uncategorized

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 2.1-3.6

Title: Q & A

Text: Mark 2.13-3.6

Introduction: For our guests, let me give a general overview of how we got to our text for today.             Chapter one begins with a declaration of who Christ is and then presents the beginning of his ministry. His popularity explodes as he preaches, teaches and heals those who come to see him and eventually forces him to the desolate places because he can no longer enter into the towns and villages. And yet, the people still come out to him.

In Chapter two we have five conspiracy/conflict stories. We’ll look at them all today. This section reaches its climax with the religious leaders plotting Christ’s death in 3.6.

Chapter three is a set of stories that contrast Jesus’ new family of believers against his biological family that has rejected his claims. Jesus will pick his 12 disciples and his band of followers grows. His brothers, sisters and mom will come to get him – thinking he’s mad. This section will show them in direct contrast to his new family.

So, let’s look at our passage today (2.1-3.6) In our text today, we find five conspiracy/conflict stories. Here’s how they’re broken up:

The 1st conflict is in v 1-12 where the religious leaders can’t believe their ears when Jesus declares a man’s sins are forgiven him. Who does this man think he is? God? We looked closely at that passage last week and will only refer to it in passing.

The 2nd conflict begins with the calling of Levi (Matthew), a Tax Collector. His calling inclines him to celebrate and invite all of his friends, both old and new (13-17). The religious leaders are a bit disturbed that this religious man, Jesus, eats and drinks with such sinners – outcasts. Their questioning is loud enough that Jesus hears.

In the next section (18-22) the religious leaders question Jesus as to why his disciples don’t fast, while their disciples and the disciples of John fast. He then gives them three analogies to identify his presence as the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation. What he’s communicating is that his coming isn’t just something that will reform Judaism, but will radically transform it into something new. In other words, Jesus did come to put a patch on Judaism, but to bring something new!

The last two sections (23-28; 1-6) deal with the Sabbath. I want to mention them, because they are a large part of this whole section, but I plan to cover them next week. In these two stories, Jesus teaches that the Sabbath was created for the man and not vise versa. The way Jesus confronts their hard hearts only hardens them more and more and then moves them to plot for his destruction. For me, what is most interesting to note is that their actions answer his question (3.4): Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” He chooses to save a life; however, the Religious leaders will choose to take a life – and it is here that they begin to plot and plan for his destruction.

Pause: I understand why preachers limit their texts to small groups of Scripture. There is way too much information to cover in such a large section. But, that is what I’ve felt led to do. The question is: What is Mark doing in this passage. Are these stories meant to stand alone, or is he telling a larger story in them. Well, obviously, I think there is a larger story within the groups. I’d love to just focus on 2.13-17 for 30 minutes. There are three great points:

  1. The Calling of Matthew (13-14)
  2. The Celebration of this Calling (15)
  3. The Confrontation with the Religious leaders (16-17)

Added to this, each of these stories stands alone with wonderful application. But let’s pull away from them and take a bird’s eye view. Each is a destination on a map, like a town or a city. Instead of searching each city out, I’d like to look at the longer journey. So, what is Mark doing? What is he trying to communicate?

To answer this question, I’d like to highlight a couple of actions on the part of Mark. I’ve divided each section into two main parts:

  1. Questions
  2. Answers

Let’s begin w/ the questions.

I.   The Questions (7, 16, 18, 24, 3.2,4)

exp.: In each smaller story, the religious leaders are found questioning Jesus and his practices:

  1. 7“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
  2. 16 “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
  3. 18“Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
  4. 24“Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
  5. 2they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

Do you notice that the three internal stories all deal with eating? Mark Horne, in his book, The Victory According to Mark, makes note that eating socially was an important part of Israel’s history. The people practice it because it is a practice of God. Three times in the Law, Israel was commanded to celebrate with eating and drinking. We saw that a few weeks ago in Nehemiah when the people began to mourn sorrowfully for their actions. They saw their failure to keep God’s Law; however, the leadership noted the date according to the Jewish calendar and declared a celebration because God had commanded it. And celebrate they did!

Have you thought about this eating and drinking with sinners? For the most part, the church has pulled away from the world and we have isolated ourselves. We’ve created cliques and clubs to keep ourselves from having to ‘fellowship’ with tax collectors and sinners. We’ve really missed our calling in this.

Paul confronted Peter in front of all their friends because he was behaving like Jesus – eating and drinking with Gentiles. Then, when he around his Jewish friends, he stopped and withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul basically called him a hypocrite and rebuked him publically.

Later in Paul’s ministry, he sees that the church in Corinth was getting this all mixed up, too. Paul also encourages the church at Corinth to stop eating and drinking with Christians who were living in sin, but not to stop fellowshipping with those who were lost. In 1 Cor 5.9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

app.: Somehow, we’ve got it backward through the years. The church is supposed to keep itself pure. We have an identity to protect before the world. We’re to be distinct. But in doing so, we’ve pulled away from the world – the very place we’re supposed to be salt and light. Here’s what I mean:

  • We’ll have a women’s fellowship and invite a lost woman to come…
  • We’ll have a men’s fellowship – a beast feast – a wild game cook-off and invite lost men
  • We’ll have youth fellowships – bring in a big name, cool, youthful looking guest speaker; we’ll bring in a band that appeals to the younger generation and then ask the teens to invite a lost youth with the hopes that they’ll hear the gospel and get saved.

These have become the practice. And, they can be effective. Yes, people do get saved in such programs and activities. But, nowhere do we see Jesus pulling the disciples together and saying: Hey guys, we’re going to have a large fellowship. We’re going to go fishing and catch a bunch of fish and have a big fish fry. You invite a lost friend to come along and I’ll share the gospel with them after we’ve eaten.

That story isn’t in the Bible. And if you hear Paul, he says don’t fellowship with the hypocrite – the person who claims the name of Christ and lives like hell. But instead, hang out with lost people. Don’t judge them. Win them over by your lifestyle. You be salt and light in their worlds.

Christ and his followers are eating and drinking with the lost so much, it sparks another question from the religious leaders: Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast? And I love this question at the end of the chapter: why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath? That is by plucking heads of grain and eating them as they walk through the field.

Breaking the Sabbath is bad. No doubt. So, we have to look closer to see if the accusation is correct. Actually, it isn’t. Jesus is leading his men to do exactly what was commanded in Deut. 23.24-25: 24 “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. 25 If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.

Where do these guys then get this ‘law’? Are you ready for this? They made it up. The Law states that no one is to reap a harvest on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are the ones who defined what reaping was. From what I can gather, the Mishnah has outlined 39 separate violations for reaping – and this is the infraction, to which they’re referring. They started with a desire to keep the Sabbath day holy, but somehow turned it into a long list of do’s and don’ts. And then, they become the judges for these violations.

Jesus responds to these guys by reminding them of a story. I’ll cover this story next week, but for now, let me just clarify that what Christ tells them in effect is that their laws have become…in the words of William Lane…unduly stringent and exceed the intention of the Law.

That sounds like us as Baptists. We have God’s Word, but we add so much to it that we become ineffective at reaching the lost. Instead of going out to them, we invite them here – to our purified gatherings so that they might get saved.

Here’s my fear: I wonder if as Baptists, we’re more like the Pharisees than we are Jesus and the disciples. Have we put up such strict guidelines and rules that we’re no longer effective in our witness? The only effective way is to invite people here with the hopes of them getting saved, when all along Jesus is screaming for us to go out into the fields. He is calling us to go eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners. You know who these people are. They’re our neighbors and co-workers. They’re our family members who feel more judged than loved.

In our story this morning, these guys – the Pharisees, are asking questions because Jesus isn’t following their guidelines.

App.: Are the rules you’ve structured for your life from God’s Word or are they traditions that have simply been passed along?

It’s time we acted more like Jesus and less like the Pharisees.

t.s.: Note 1st the questions. Note 2nd, the answers Jesus gives.

II.    The Responses (10, 17, 20, 25, 28)

exp.: It is also interesting to note the different titles Jesus ascribes to himself throughout chapter two:

  1. Son of Man (10),
  2. Physician (17),
  3. Bridegroom (20),
  4. David (25), and
  5. Son of Man again (28).

exp.: it would be fun to isolate each of these and do in depth research as to where these terms come from – I’d like to look at this a little deeper on Wednesday night, during our WEBS. For now, let me give a summation: Jesus is saying to these leaders, in response to their questions, that he has the authority to do these things because he is the Promised One of God.

We spoke of references to the Son of Man from Daniel last week. Jesus is clearly communicating his understanding that he is the promised Messiah of God. And, as the Messiah, he has been given the authority to heal and forgive. I’m not sure they’re getting this, but according to 3.6, I think they just might be. And for the way his family will respond in chapter 3 – they think he is out of his mind – folks must be coming to an understanding that Jesus is making this outrageous claim.

And, added to this outrageousness, for Jesus to call the unrighteous and not the righteous is offensive to the religious leaders. They would have a big problem that he isn’t submitting to them and that the people, their people are chasing after him.

Kim Riddlebarger: Jesus is using the term “righteous” in a rhetorical sense–those who think themselves to be righteous and therefore unable to consider the fact that they needed to humble themselves before God, acknowledge that they are sinners, and then obey Jesus’ summons to repent and believe. In other words, Jesus is saying that he did not come to call the “self-righteous,” or those who think of themselves as better off than the sinners.

This is precisely the point Jesus makes in Luke 18:9-14. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisees and scribes were mad that Jesus didn’t submit to them and they were jealous of the crowds that followed Jesus.

We’ve already discussed how eating and drinking and celebrating with sinners was what God did. It was characteristic of him in the OT. The very fact that Israel’s Messiah would sit and eat with sinners points us back to the OT and ahead to the end of the age where the marriage supper of the lamb takes place (Revelation 19:9). In a very real sense, when we take communion, we do so at his table.

His reference to being the Bridegroom is even more blatant. The presence of the Messiah is to be celebrated. When Jesus talks about patches and wineskins, he is saying that he has not come to simply patch up Judaism, but has come to usher in the Kingdom of God – a new creation.

These last two stories deal with the Sabbath. Again, I want to focus on these two passages next week as I talk about the Sabbath and the Sabbath rest. For now, let me just clarify that Jesus is declaring his authority over the Sabbath and his great displeasure with the religious leaders for making the Sabbath something God never intended it to be.

Conclusion: This past week another mega-church pastor stepped aside to deal with his sin. And I’ve been reminded that we all are sinful and prone to chase after fruitless things. I’m reminded that leaders aren’t perfect. And our stories this morning remind us that failure isn’t just for those whose morals are loose, but for anyone who breathes and has a heartbeat – even the most legalistic. Failure attacks the liberal and the fundamentalist alike.

So we must ask ourselves:

  1. Are we living by man-made traditions or Biblical mandates?
    1. Holding on to traditions over mandates is sinful and makes one no different than the Pharisee.
    2. The scary thing about traditions, is that they are so valued, one confuses it w/ commands.
  2. Are we practicing our evangelism the way Christ did and commanded of us? Or, are we adopting the latest new way to evangelize?
    1. Are we unattractive to the world because they see us as a bunch of hypocrites? We expect them to come here to hear? There must be a way to love the people of the world and not condone sinful behavior. For me, in some instances – it is very clear what I am comfortable with and what bothers me. But, in others, I’m not sure.

If Jesus came to Tyler, would he hang out with us? Or, would we be critical of him because he’s hanging out with people – people we would never be seen with? Would we be mad at him because he didn’t come to our church?

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Filed under Authenticity, Evangelism, Mark, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon

Mark 2.1-12

Title: An Empty Shell

Text: Mark 2.1-12

Introduction: Henry, thank you for reading Scripture this morning; Our story this morning is the 1st in a string of stories that reflect the religious leaders’ animosity toward Christ and his growing popularity. Let me show you how we got to chapter two.

  1. The opening section (1.1-15) gives us the witnesses to who Jesus really is:
    1. Mark
    2. Malachi
    3. Isaiah
    4. John
    5. God – The Holy Spirit, the Father: here we see the Trinity
    6. Satan, Angels
  2. Last week we looked at the 2nd set of stories which emphasizes the start of his ministry – and his popularity growing so quickly that he is forced out to the desolate places away from people. The people then go out looking for him to meet their needs. It appears to me that Mark’s aim in this 2nd section is to present Christ’s growing popularity and the authority he demonstrates through preaching, teaching, and healing – something not seen in the religious leaders.
  3. In chapter 2 and into chapter 3, we’ll see the religious leaders begin to question him about what he’s doing and by what authority he preaches and teaches and even heals. This angst within the religious leaders climaxes with their plot to destroy him in 3.6: The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

So, this story is the first of a few stories that involve the religious leaders and their growing resentment and animosity toward Jesus. Here’s how I’ll break it down today:

  1. The Setting: Jesus is back ‘at home’ preaching the Word (1-2)
  2. The Conflict:
    1. The Men w/ the Crowd: a paralyzed man and his four friends of faith tear through the roof to get their friend into the presence of Jesus. (3-4)
    2. The Scribes w/ their theology: Jesus rewards the faith of the man’s friends by forgiving the man his sins. The religious authorities couldn’t believe their ears and in their hearts, they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. (5-7)
  3. The Climax: Jesus, in order to demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, heals the man of his paralysis. (8-11)
  4. The Resolution: the man is healed and demonstrates it by getting up, taking up his mat and walking out the door. The people are truly amazed and God is glorified. (12)

Transition: Let’s look at each of these steps in order:

The Setting (1-2)

exp.: Jesus is back ‘at home’ preaching the Word (1-2); Capernaum: City of Nahum; the 1st HQ of the Christians; Capernaum was the nearest village to the river Jordan on the NW shores of the Sea of Galilee; Word gets out – ἀκούω; it was heard NASB; lit.: it was heard that he is in the house. Rd v 2; so they come; Boy, do they come; So thick are they, no one can get in the house. And what do we find Jesus doing? lit.: he was speaking to them the word. He’s preaching, he’s teaching.

app.: if you go back to 1.38, you’ll see that Jesus is doing exactly what he came to do: 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

t.s.: this lays a foundation – it gives us the setting for the storyline. And we see this in…

The Conflict (3-7)

exp.: actually, there are two; rd v 3; And they came – this is great story telling; who came? 4 men, carrying a paralytic. And here is the 1st conflict: rd v 4a;

  1. They couldn’t get in the door! 4 men who’ve come to bring their friend to see Jesus in hopes that he would do what they’ve been hearing about – that he would heal their friend – but they can’t get in the door; the Gk is more colorful – lit.: and not being able to offer to him; same word in Mt 2.11 where the wise men offered their gifts to the child; and in 23 where Jesus says 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. See what I mean by more colorful?

exp: they need to get their friend to Jesus – Mark could have used a different word to describe being carried. They’re not just carrying their friend around – they’re bringing him to Jesus. And look what Mark says to explain their thinking; rd 4; And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, – and when they couldn’t offer him to Jesus because of the crowd… they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

ill.: can you imagine the conversation of these guys with their buddy? Do you know of someone who needs Jesus this bad? Maybe he or she isn’t suffering this kind of paralysis, but maybe a different kind of illness, need, and struggle? What lengths would you go to get them to him? Response: Man, you can’t just go and tear open the man’s roof. Oh, yeah, just watch me!

ill.: Have you seen Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Gardner? There is a scene where she is in the hospital ER for like the 4th time and the doctor says she has acid reflux. Jennifer, this little girl’s momma just looses it! the Dr. starts walking away and She grabs him by the collar, as if to say: don’t you walk away from me. We aren’t done here! Either find what’s wrong with my little girl or go get another doctor, but the status quo isn’t going to cut it. Something is wrong with my daughter and I want answers!

Show the trailer…

App.: that is these friends! I don’t care if there’s a crowd… I don’t care if there is a roof… I’ve got to get my friend Jesus and the crowd isn’t letting us in! So off with the roof it is!

Exp.: so they lower their friend down through the roof to the feet of Jesus. Mission accomplished! Rd v 5; And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” I don’t know about you, but that wasn’t the response from Jesus I was expecting. But nonetheless, that is the healing Jesus offers. My guess is that is what the man’s needs the most. So that is what Jesus gives.

But that brings us to the 2nd conflict:

  1. The Scribes hear something that doesn’t sound quite right to them. I was going to say their conflict is with Jesus. But something just doesn’t feel right about that. If you have a problem with Jesus, then the problem is yours! So let me say that these religious leaders have a problem with their theology. Rd v 6-7; basically, they’re saying: who does this man think he is? God?

exp.: I’ve got a problem with this, too. Not the same one they do. I know he’s God. That’s Mark’s point. Look closely at v 5; he forgives this man’s sins, because of their faith. Ok – so, what is happening here is that I’m in conflict with this theology. I’m like the religious leaders here. I’m on their side.

app.: if you’re on the side of the religious leaders – your on the wrong side! Here’s another app.: Jesus ain’t never wrong! Bad English – good theology. If you’re like me, on the wrong side of the argument, then we gotta make this right. Here are a few principles I’ve learned about what Jesus says in Scripture:

  1. Jesus says what that person (or people) needs to hear. That’s important. He knows their heart. We don’t He knows their struggles, their weaknesses. We think we know what is going on – but not really. He knows what to say to hit them where they live. He says what that person needs to hear.
  2. What I think needs to happen isn’t necessarily what is best. Jesus knows what needs to happen. He sees a much larger picture than I take in. Time and again, we’re faced with what seems to be good answers and good solutions to our problems and the problems of others. God is probably up to something a lot bigger than the minor, insignificant thing in front of us.
  3. God isn’t interested in my glory as much as he is his own glory. Isaiah 48 is a beautiful passage where God tells his people that he is doing things he said he would do long ago, so that no one could say my idol did this for me. Furthermore, he says there are things going to happen soon that will blow you away. Also, so you know that it only could have come from God. Then he says this: 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. God isn’t interested in my glory as much as he is his own glory. We’ll see this when we finish up today.

t.s.: So here are these two conflicts: the men and their friend not being able to get to Jesus because of the crowd and, the religious leaders not getting their theology to align w/ what Jesus is doing. Now, we reach the climax of the story.

The Climax (8-11)

exp.: v 8 tells us that Jesus perceived their thoughts and then questioned them. This is an easy one for me.

ill.: my mother-in-law has this problem with letting others know how she feels without saying a word. It’s her eye brows. I’ve learned to read her thoughts of displeasure with me by noting the height her eyebrows reach. Let me show you what I mean. (raise my eyebrows in displeasure).

ill.: Now, my wife does this with me. I don’t know how, but she does this almost daily. She perceives my thoughts – without using my eyebrows. There is this intuitive nature about her.

app.: Can I just say that, this is not what Mark is telling us; Jn 2.25; 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

app.: So, the problem is with them – not Jesus. Remember: He knows what that person needs to hear; He knows the whole story; and he’s most interested in glorifying his father, not them.

t.s.: So, he asks them a question – … – knowing just what they need to hear;

exp.: rd v 9; let me ask you – which is easier to say? My guess is that these guys couldn’t say either! Oh, they could say rise up. But, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen any quicker than them forgiving a man his sins and making him pure. So, to be clear, Jesus tells them; rd v 10; 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”; Something incredible is happening here!

You and I know that the Son of Man is a reference to Christ. But, these guys – they see it quit differently. This would be a fun discussion question for your small groups. These scribes know that this is a reference to the Messiah – the one sent from God. As far as they’re concerned, they only see a unique, really smart fellow in front of them. But when he calls himself the Son of Man – images from the O.T. must pop up in their minds. They’re scribes, remember?

They know Psalm 80 – of course they see themselves as the Son of man in that passage. They are also familiar with Daniel 7 – The one who comes to the Ancient of Days (God, the Father) is the son of man – and he has the dominion – the authority to rule and reign and pass judgment. These guys get it. That’s why they say in v 7 – He is blaspheming. They don’t see him as having the authority to forgive sins. So, Jesus tells them like it is. V 10 again – 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” Not only am I going to show you that I have the authority to forgive sins – which no man can do. I’m also going to show you that I have the authority to heal – like no one else can do. The Climax: rd v 10b-11;

I’m sure everyone held their breath as Christ demonstrates his power over all things. Here is the result…

The Resolution (12)

exp.: the man is healed, the people are amazed and God is glorified!

t.s.: remember I told you earlier that God is interested in his glory. Christ accomplished just that.

Conclusion: Did you see this article, this past week in the National Review? Professor says: if you’re reading to your kids, you’re ‘unfairly disadvantaging’ others. That’s right. Parents, you’re being unfair and putting other kids at a disadvantage if you read to your children. Kathyrn Timpf writes in her article: At one point, Professor Adam Swift even flirted with the idea of “simply abolishing the family” as a way of “solving the social justice problem” because “there would be a more level playing field” if we did…

Um, I am continually amazed at the asinine and obtuse reactions by the left-winged nuts out there. I think well, that’s about as foolish as a person could ever be – and then someone tops it…again!

app.: I wonder if the religious leaders have the same problem this professor has… what I mean by this is: For this professor, he should see that the best way to give a kid a chance is to provide him a home, a family and nurture him, but instead, this professor wants to lower the playing field for all. Get rid of the family. Why not instead, try to find a home for every child.

I wonder if the Scribes have a similar logic. They’ve got their theology in a box. It is nice and neat. They have pre-conceived ideas about sin and its effect on people. This professor, he wants ‘what is fair’ and he has his own ideas about what that means. The Scribes, they’re not thinking from the perspective that God brings, but rather they start with themselves and move out from there. They’re not approaching the problem from the right angle.

Application: What about you…from where you sit this morning? Sure, you’re probably conservative and think the professor is nuts, but, what about the Scribes in our story? Or, are you more like the 4 men who bring their friend to Christ and are willing to think outside the box to accomplish that feat?

Can I give you an easy question to answer that might give you perspective? Do you struggle with some of the things Jesus says? Like when he says to the Canaanite woman, it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and feed it to the dogs. Do you find yourself not liking certain passages because they make you uncomfortable?

I think we all do this at some level: Peter when he told Jesus not to be so negative and talk about dying. Get behind me Satan.

Here is my take-away today:

  1. When you come to Christ – come empty handed. What I mean by this is not to come with your theology in a box. Come empty, ready to be filled. Come ready to learn. Know it alls need not apply.

Poem by Thomas Edward Brown: He was walking along the shore and found a shell. The story goes that he picked it up and put it to his ear to listen to the sound of the sea. But something frightening happened… a crab came out of the shell. This poem was born out of that experience.

“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,

Like to a shell dishabited,

Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,

And say “This is not dead,”

And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou

And hast such shrewd activity,

That when He comes He says, “This is enow

Unto itself-’twere better let it be,

It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”

When you come to Jesus – come empty, ready to be filled…

Oh, Christ – empty us of all that hinders you from filling us. And, fill us up with you. May you find us empty of ‘self’ and ready to be filled with all things considered ‘you’…

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Filed under Leadership, Mark, Purpose, Sermon

Mark 1.16-45

Title: The Work of the Master: the start of his ministry

Text: Mark 1.16-45

Introduction: we’re in Mark 1.16-45; repeat; let me begin with some context; we began last week with an introduction to Mark; in the opening section…

  1. The opening section (1.1-15) gives us the witnesses to who Jesus really is:
    1. Mark
    2. Malachi
    3. Isaiah
    4. John
    5. God – The Holy Spirit, the Father: here we see the Trinity
    6. Satan, Angels
  2. The 2nd section is the start of his ministry –his popularity grows so quickly that he is forced to the desolate places away from people. But that doesn’t matter – they go out looking for him to meet their needs. His ministry demonstrates his incredible authority: preaching, teaching, and healing – all with an authority not seen in their religious leaders.
  3. In chapter two, we’ll see the religious leaders begin to question him about what he’s doing and by what authority he preaches and teaches and even heals. This angst within the religious leaders climaxes with their plot to destroy him in 3.6: The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

For now, I’ve outline this long passage into 4 parts:

His ministry begins…

  1. With the calling of his first 4 disciples
  2. Through preaching, teaching, and healing w/ authority that the religious leaders don’t have
  3. And is sustained by a powerful prayer life
  4. And is so successful, he must retreat from public life.

I.     With the calling his first disciples (16-20)

exp.: The 4 men are Simon & Andrew; James & John – two sets of two brothers. Five common actions:

  1. Jesus is passing by them
  2. He sees them
  3. He calls them
  4. They left their nets (father)
  5. They followed Jesus

ill.: the closest OT parallel to this narrative is the calling of Elisha to follow Elijah. We could spend the rest of the morning doing comparisons here; however, let me just say that in 1 Kings 19, Elijah calls Elisha and Elisha leaves everything to follow him and be his disciple.

app.: May I offer an application here: to be a disciple is costly. It will call you to leave all you know to follow in obedience to Jesus. Just where that leads, I don’t know. It is different for everyone. But the call is nevertheless costly. Have you accurately counted the costs?

My problem: distinguishing between being a disciple and being called into full-time vocational service. Maybe the problem is more for me – and what I do – to be paid a wage to be your pastor. I’m not asking you to stop paying me a salary.

I am not calling in to question Lyle’s service of being a pastor for 40 years. I’m not being critical of Tracy and his calling to the gospel ministry. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t see a difference in Scripture with those called to be Christ’s disciples and the leadership. I don’t see people being saved to just go to church on Sunday. The calling to discipleship – is costly.

Can you be saved to nothing? Let’s flesh that out over the next few months as we observe the disciples we encounter. Are they called to sit around?

t.s.: so, these men, who I’m assuming don’t really know Jesus that well, leave their livelihood to study under this new rabbi. 2ndly, His ministry begins…

II.    Through teaching, preaching and healing w/ authority that the religious leaders don’t have (21-34)

exp.: location: Capernaum; In this section of growing popularity, Mark describes three miracles:

  • An exorcism in the synagogue of Capernaum (1:21–28),
  • The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and a summary of other healings (1:29–34),
  • The healing of a man with a skin disease (1:40–45), and
  • There is a 4th story of the healing of a paralyzed man (2:1–12). But, I think this story is related to the question of authority – and by what authority Jesus does what he does.

In these episodes, Mark emphasizes not only Jesus’ power to heal, but also his growing popularity, his intimate prayer life with God that sustains the life of this man being pursued by the people.

Let’s look at these three as listed here; the episode is structured similarly to other gospel exorcisms:

  • A statement of the problem (v. 23),
  • The challenge to Jesus from the unclean spirit (v. 24),
  • The authority of Jesus through his command to “be silent and come out” (v. 25),
  • Immediate obedience by the unclean spirit (v. 26) and
  • The crowd’s response of amazement, first to the teaching, then to the exorcism (v. 27).

What is unique to Mark’s account, is the amazement of the crowd to His authority rather than the power Jesus wields through exorcism. The people are first amazed that his teaching goes way beyond that of what they’re used to hearing (v. 22). An exorcism would be attention grabbing; arresting, even. And yet, even after Jesus has cast out this unclean spirit, the people speak first about the “new teaching with authority” and only then about the exorcism (v. 27).

app.: I think Mark is placing his emphasis on the authority of Jesus to do everything he does. And the exorcism is simply validation of that authority. That’s why he can proclaim what he preaches and do what he does in accomplishing the mission he was sent to finish: the proclamation and inauguration of the kingdom of God (The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel).

2ndly, the conflict here is between Jesus and the spiritual realms of darkness. He is beating back the front line of Satan. This is where the conflict should be. But Satan, in the coming chapters, will do his best to make the authorities will feel threatened and become enraged to where they’ll plot his death. Maybe there is more here: Jesus is casting out an unclean spirit of a man in the synagogue. He is not in a brothel. He’s not in a bar. He’s at church – synagogue. His ministry begins in the religious institution.

We’re seeing two applications that hit home this morning:

  1. Discipleship is costly and I’m not seeing the overwhelming majority of the church paying a price.
  2. The Kingdom of God comes first to his own house… let the listener beware!

exp.: in v 29ff – the ministry continues in the city at Simon & Andrew’s home; His mother-in-law is healed; then ‘the whole city’ comes to the door; rd v 33; The timing: it’s the same day – only at sundown, so the Sabbath is over. Can you imagine, hearing Peter tell this story: A day in the life of Jesus. Peter and his brother and the Sons of Thunder are seeing and hearing what is going on. Peter is able to relay this eyewitness account to Mark. I love this. But Mark’s focus isn’t on Peter – nor to impress us that he worked with Peter.

app.: Mark is pointing us to the fact that Christ is fulfilling what was spoken of him from of old;         Isaiah 35.4-6

Say to those who have an anxious heart,

“Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God

will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God.

He will come and save you.”

        Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

        then shall the lame man leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy: What was destroyed by sin shall be made new: A new creation, if you will or a re-creation. Eden was lost, but now is being restored. These people see it – and it’s the closest thing to heaven they can get. They want it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we were offering the Garden of Eden to the lost of the world – they would be at our door. I think people want heaven – and we offer it, but when they come – they don’t find Jesus.

So, what do we offer?

t.s.: His ministry begins by calling the first 4 disciples, by teaching, preaching and healing with authority that the religious leaders have never displayed; and, 3rd, His ministry begins

III.   And is sustained through a private prayer life (35-39)

exp.: rd v 35; to be sure, this is only telling us of this moment. The passage doesn’t communicate what I’ve just said. I’m borrowing from the so many other passages in the other gospels that inform us of the fact that this isn’t the only time – indeed, it was a common practice of his. So much has been said about this; Luke 5.16; But, I think what Mark is focusing on here is what happens next; rd v 36-37;

ill.: looking is ζητέω lit.: seeking, searching; However, the word search in v 36, is only used here in the NT and in the OT Greek text, it is used to describe what Saul was doing to David. It is the word used in 1 Samuel to describe Saul’s pursuit of David; Lit.: he was hunting for David; In my Gk Lexicon it says of this word: nearly always ‘pursue’ in a hostile sense) search for eagerly, hunt for τινά someone; that’s what Saul did of David and that is the word used by Mark. We’re talking a diligent, urgent search to find him.

app.: No wonder he needed time alone – isolation; So he says of this – let’s get out of here; rd v 38-39

t.s.: And that’s what leads us to this last section in this particular passage:

IV.    And is so successful, He must retreat from public life (40-45)

exp.: Another such instance of compassion and healing takes place when a leper comes to Jesus and appeals to him for healing. Jesus, moved with pity and compassion, does just that; but warns the man to keep this to himself. He is told to tell no one, but the priest alone when going to do as the Law required for him to be declared clean. But, the man couldn’t keep it to himself. This man’s actions – talking freely and spreading the word of Jesus everywhere he went – causes Jesus to no longer be able to appear openly. Instead, he is forced into the desolate regions (45); however, the people seek his help there, too (40-45). Rd v 45b – Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

ill.: don’t you just want to grab this man and say: Dude! He told you to keep your mouth shut!

app.: Scholars call this the Messianic Secret. And can you blame the guy! Dude, I didn’t recognize you! What happened – you’re skin fungus is gone! What is he going to say: I dunno. He’s got to be pretty excited!

t.s.: why? Would he be excited?

Conclusion: Because he was an outcast. He hadn’t lived with his family or near friends in…who knows how long? He hadn’t been to the Temple to worship in … well, since the same amount of time. Unclean! Unclean! are the words he’s heard since this happened to him. Maybe years!

Now, with the touch of a hand and some simple words: be clean! – this man is whole again. When was the last time he felt the touch of a human hand? When was the last time he felt a hug from his wife, his kids, his momma? Who could blame him for speaking out?

I’ll bet he sang: Since I met the blessed Savior; Since he cleansed and made me whole; I will never cease to praise him; I’ll shout it while eternity rolls. He touched me; Oh, He touched me; Oh, the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know – He touched me and made me whole!

You know what strikes me about this little encounter? Everything changes for this man, and it’s good! But, things change for Jesus, too. This man’s previous life, becomes the life of the master. Look at those words again in v 45: Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places… What was the leper’s life, now become what Jesus knows. That man – he’s clean now, he can enter the Temple and worship in God’s presence. He can openly move about the city – go in and out of any village he wants. But not Jesus.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s what substitutionary atonement is. All of our sin and sickness and imperfection is cleansed and all of Christ’s perfection is placed on us.

Application:

NYT – Morning Briefing: The weather forecasts we rely on are themselves dependent on meteorological satellites, of which the first successful launch was April fools day, 1960 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Tiros-1 for Television Infrared Observation Satellite, was only 42 inches wide and 19 inches tall, but it was a game-changer for meteorology in 1960. From its vantage point 400 miles up, the satellite let forecasters track wide cloud movements for the first time. And within its first 10 days aloft, it transmitted a fuzzy picture of a typhoon churning about 1,000 miles off Australia.

Before Tiros-1, weather observations had been available for only a small part of the planet, drawn from the scattered reports of balloons and surface stations. Suddenly, meteorologists possessed a world of new data, and the accuracy of their forecasts soared. Successive satellites carried increasingly advanced instruments, providing greater detail and enabling the five-day forecasts we’ve come to rely on. Of course, they contribute far more than a heads-up to grab an umbrella. Their early warnings can be credited with saving millions of lives and avoiding billions in property damage.

Before Christ, understanding the Bible and the message of God was rather limited. Devotion to God was determined by a set of rules: do’s and don’ts; thou shalt’s and thou shalt not’s. But just as satellite technology offers a better vantage point for weather, so Christ has given us a better understanding of who we are – and what we need. Of who he is – And what he can do for us.

If that describes your life – if you’re unclean – a filthy sinner, I offer Christ to you today. Let him touch you and make you whole!

 

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Filed under Evangelism, Mark, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon

Mark 1.1-15

Title: He is not here! He is Risen, just as he said!

Text: Mk 1.1-15; 15.33-16.8

Introduction: Thank you Christoph for reading our text this morning; Today we begin our study in Mark. Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. I’ve usually run to the other three gospels when I’m looking for stories. Mt 28.18-20; Luke 23 and the thief on the Cross; John and his alternate perspective. When I was in college, Dr. Martin had us translate from Mark’s Gospel. Matthew and John were disciples. Luke had done thorough research. Mark always seemed to me to be thrown together and condensed. However, now that I am much older and have had time to study the beauty of Mark’s story, I see it much clearer. I understand that Mark had a purpose in mind. He didn’t have Mt, Lk and Jn to lean on.

No, as a matter of fact, I see that a great debt of gratitude is owed to Mark. He learned what he recorded here from Peter. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas both and learned from them. His goal and purpose was different than that of Matthew or Luke or even John. He was a trailblazer who saw the need to get this story down in book form for future generations because there wasn’t anything to pass along. He saw the need and rose to the occasion.

Rd Mk 1.1; an incomplete sentence. There is no verb! That tells us that it was probably the Title of this little book. Your title probably reads: Mark or the Gospel according to Mark. That Title was added later. This is probably Mark’s title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now, before we look at this title, let’s look at this person, Mark. It would be fun to outline for you all of the evidence pointing us toward John Mark, the helper to Barnabas and Paul. But, we just don’t have time. You’ll have to trust that for nearly 2,000 years, the church has understood John Mark to be the writer. Here is what we’re confident of:

This Mark is the same John Mark who worked with Barnabas and Paul. And, he also worked with Peter. That’s right, that Simon Peter: the one who denied Christ three times; the one who continually put his foot in his mouth. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that John Mark got his information for this gospel from Peter and his testimony of these things. He wrote this shortly after Peter’s death. Maybe he realized there was a deep need for such a book as he watched one of the eyewitnesses to Christ pass from this earth. Wednesday night, during our Bible Study hour, I plan to look at the evidence for this and other topics we just don’t have time to address. So, consider this your invitation.

As we make our way through Mark I want to point out to you, and this is important, that I want to focus just on what Mark shares. When it was written, there were no others with which to compare it. I want you to get that feeling. Sure, I’ll mention the other gospels and relate what you probably already know, but for the most part – we will stick to Mark’s storyline. I want to sort of pretend we don’t have the ‘extras’ in the other Gospels.

Mark was most likely writing this book for the Christians in Rome – and he’s writing from Rome, where he had been working with Peter before Peter’s death.

So, let’s break his title down:

  • The Beginning: not like John’s gospel – not that far back. Not like Genesis – that’s not his starting point. His starting point is clarified in the next couple of verses. Malachi and Isaiah talked about this Messiah’s coming. That’s his starting point. He points back to the prophets as the starting point.
  • Gospel: εὐαγγέλιον – transliterated is evangelism. εὐ – means well or good. αγγέλοs – is the word for which we get angel – or messenger. αγγέλιον means message. So we have good message or good news. Mark here is the 1st one to use this word this way. His is the 1st gospel.
  • Jesus – the gospel, the message of Jesus can be understood in two ways:
    • as the message about Jesus. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you about him.
    • the message Jesus proclaimed. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you what he preached. Both work here, for they are the same.
  • Christanointed one or Messiah. Your translation could read: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
  • Son of God – I think Mark is up to something here:
    • Jesus, his earthly name, He was human.
    • Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people, and the world. These messianic implications would go all the way back to the Davidic covenant.
    • Son of God – a theological delineation. Yes, fully human, but also – fully God. We’ll see more of that in a moment. We’ll see this is an important element that flows through this book, and is a part of the climax to the story at the end.

Mark affirms for us that this beginning was foretold of by the prophets. He mentions Isaiah here (as it is written in), but he quotes from Malachi and Isaiah. Let’s look at these quotes:

Malachi 3.1 – “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. He clearly tells us of someone who will come proclaiming, announcing, and heralding the coming of the Lord.

Mark, then quotes from Isaiah to clarify for us this: 40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries:  “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

John is this ‘voice crying in the wilderness’; we meet him in v. 4; Jesus is the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God mentioned here; we meet him in v 9; let’s do that; rd v 4-8; rd v 9-11;

At this stage of the introduction, I think it would be interesting to note the different witnesses proclaiming this gospel – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I think that is more of Mark’s focus than telling us the whole story – like we see in other gospels. Note:

  1. Isaiah tells us in v 3.
  2. Malachi tells us in v 2.
  3. Mark tells us in his Title, v 1.
  4. John tells us in v 4-8. This Messiah is mightier than I, his sandals I’m not worthy to even stoop down and tie! John is pointing us to Jesus. And then…
  5. The Trinity appears to validate this for us in v 9-11.
    • The Son comes to be baptized
    • The Spirit the heavens are torn open (the clouds don’t just part) and the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a witness
    • The Father himself testifies: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

This might appear to be the end of the introduction – v 1 – the son of God; v 11 – the Father proclaims him to be his son. But I think there is more here; I think that Satan and the angels also declare who he is by their actions:

  1. There is Satan’s validation of who he is as he tries to test him – trying to trip him up; rd v 12-13
  2. He is with the wild beasts – this is unusual; Wild beast don’t usually act this way;
  3. The angels were ministering to him, giving their validation of who He is.

Listen, while no single testimony stands alone as valid in some eyes, the weight of these combined all scream at us: Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

1.14-15 tell us that Jesus begins his ministry, even before he picks his disciples (1.16-20); rd v 14a; we won’t hear of John again in Mark, (we hear of John’s disciples in 2.18) but we won’t hear from the Baptizer again until we learn of his death in chapter 6. As John records in his gospel – this is something John the Baptist knew was coming – He must increase, but I must decrease.

And the increase of Christ’s popularity is what we see as he begins his ministry. Let’s continue – 1.14b-15; we see this word gospel again – a nice bookend to this section. Maybe this is the end of the Introduction.

This is common for Mark: bookends to sections where he is focusing on something important. Some scholars call this the top and the tail. They bring the story back to the beginning – in a way. I’ll do my best to point them out along the way.

Turn to 15.33-37; Mark is making reference to the O.T. again. Here it is a reference to Psalm 22.1-18; And at his death something happens: rd 15.3838 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This is the 2nd time we’ve seen this word torn in Mark. Do you know it doesn’t appear at any other time in this book than the two we’ve seen? Mark uses this word torn only twice: Once when the heaven’s were being torn open and the Spirit descends upon the Messiah and here, when the curtain that separated the people from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom.

No man can make either one of those tears. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think Mark’s goal here is to communicate to the reader that a way into the presence of God has been made. He came from heaven to earth and lived the perfect and sinless life, that he might make the payment of death on our behalf. His death opened a way into the holy of holies – the most holy place, that you and I might have access to God.

And if you’ve missed it somehow, look at v 39; Do you know in Mark, only one human makes this remark? The Centurion. God said it back in 1.15; Angels and Demons will declare it. But it isn’t until this moment that a person says it. The message of Mark is clear: Jesus, is the Christ, the promised messiah, Son of God.

From here, Mark seems to end his gospel very abruptly, especially when we consider Matthew, Luke and John. But let me reiterate: Mark’s purpose isn’t to tell stories for our entertainment, but rather to tell this one story. Jesus, the Christ, was crucified, dead and buried. And, when the women came to the tomb three days later, they find that he has risen, just as he has promised.

In v40-41, the women are watching and observing and v 47 informs the reader that they are there with him until he is laid in the tomb.

When the Sabbath has ended, they come. The Sabbath ends at sun down on Saturday, but they can’t see at night. So, rd v 2-4; The synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) all use the same word here for roll away. But John uses a different word. You remember he was an eyewitness with Peter. He says the stone was rolled up and away. Rd v 5-6

He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. And this is Mark’s story as passed down from Peter. As he told us in his title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Conclusion: Have you noticed how the world has captured the Christmas holiday and commercialized it – even to the point removing Christ from Christmas, but keeping many of the traditions and adding others? And yet, for the most part, the world has left Easter alone? Listen Dr. R. Albert Mohler: The secular world has done its best to make a mess of Christmas, but it has largely ignored our celebration of the Resurrection. Where commercialism intrudes, it comes in the form of eggs and chicks and rabbits–none of which claim any connection with the Resurrection. The fact is, the secular world will attempt to domesticate, commercialize, and tame the babe in the manger–but it will run at breakneck speed from the cross and the empty tomb.

That cross stands as condemnation on all human attempts at self-righteousness, and the fallen world will do all within its power to hide the cross from sight. The empty tomb is the seal and confirmation of the cross, and the world will shield its eyes.

The Truth is, people do not want to be confronted about their sin. And the cross does just that! The empty tomb does just that.

But for Christians, we have a far greater understanding of this message. And this is our application – our take-aways:

Application:

  1. The Worst that can happen to us has already happened for us in Christ Jesus. I’m talking about for the person who has committed his life to Christ and found the forgiveness of sins. Paul says: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. Christ paid that horrible punishment on our behalf. As believers, the worst thing that could happen to us has already happened in Christ. The wages of our sin is death and Christ paid that penalty on our behalf!
  2. The Best thing that can happen for us has already happened, too.
    • His resurrection means so much more for us. In this life, we have been raised with Christ, and seated with him in the heavenlies. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2.4-7 Paul also said: 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    • His resurrection gives us hope of our future resurrection.

Invitation: Listen, if you don’t have that hope…

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Filed under Authenticity, Easter, Mark, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon, Uncategorized

Nehemiah 6-7

Title: The Call to Perseverance

Text: Nehemiah 6.1-7.73

CIT: The author wants the people to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.

CIS: We are called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because there is something grander beyond this moment.

Introduction: Fear doesn’t always cause Fight or Flight responses. Sometimes it just causes a breakdown. It can be crippling. Paralyzing, even. Fear isolates people and causes them to go into hiding. It can arrest a community, a people – stop them dead in their tracks. And, it can come from anywhere…at anytime…from anyone – even from those you would not expect.

Today we’re going to study a man who was attacked again and again. The tactic was to strike fear in this man and halt his work. The goal was to intimidate him to the point that he would stop the work of God and give in to their demands. The enemies of God and His people wanted to bring an end to this rebuilding of their wall and the strengthening of their community.

But, Nehemiah was prepared. He had set it in his heart to accomplish this work because God had called him to this work. Besides, he had faith that the One who had called him to this work, would see it through to completion. He would bring it to completion because Nehemiah knew the bigger picture. Nehemiah was called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because he was certain that there was something much grander beyond this moment in which he was serving and living.

Let me ask you this morning to think about fear. What do you fear? Of what are you afraid? Do you ever get scared? What scares you? I ain’t scairt!

I’ve outlined the passage like this:

The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

  1. Privately
  2. Publicly
  3. Persistently
  4. Because God is at work – there is a bigger picture.

Transition: let’s begin in the 1st section of chapter 6, The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

I.     Privately (6.1-4)

exp.: for Nehemiah, it was with letters of invitation: come, let us meet together. Where? Hakkephirim; we don’t honestly know where this is, but he gives us a little more detail: in the plain of Ono.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think that sounds too encouraging: Oh, No! In Neh.11.35, it is called the valley of craftsmen – but that doesn’t help us much either. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where this place was. What matters for us is what Nehemiah knew. He knew where it was and he knew it was only a ploy to make him stop working. Here’s a great place to make our first application of the morning.

app.: Don’t go there! Too often we’re invited into danger or trouble that will stop the work of God. Don’t go there. Lisa says: Don’t borrow trouble! Leave it where it is. You keep working on the task at hand. Do you need some help with this? Look at how Nehemiah handles it (Nehemiah’s response): Rd v 3: And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

t.s.: the enemy attacks privately, but when that doesn’t work – he’ll up the ante and attack you

II.    Publicly (6.5-9)

exp.: in our passage, they do it with accusations of embarrassment; rd v 6-7 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” “Look, we’re just trying to save you from yourselves.” The request to fix this looks simple enough. It is for all intents and purposes the same request as before. You see it there in v 7: let us take counsel together. There is a pattern here is found in v4:

  • The Request from the enemies
  • The Response from Nehemiah, and it is after this 2nd rotation, that Nehemiah tells us of his insight into this matter. You see the request in v 7; the response in v 8; and the purpose of the enemy revealed in v 9;
  • The Reason: They wanted to frighten us into quitting! The purpose is to instill fear.

ill.: why fear? Listen to this – Why do the enemies of God want you to be afraid? Why scare tactics? You ready for this? Because it is really all they’ve got. In our story: Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the people who follow them have no physical power to stop the work. They’ve taunted them, laughed at them, said that if a fox climbed up on the wall it would simply topple over. They’ve made fun of them and threatened them. But when it all came down to it – they were just a bunch of noise.

app.: Consider your work now – your calling to complete the work God has called you to do. Is God limited in accomplishing his work through you? He is where you focus should be. Scare tactics are used to divert your attention away from your Master and His Work. Scare tactics are meant to get you to look away from God and see the enemy.

t.s.: We will see this pattern again in the next set of verses, 15-19 as the enemy ups the ante and doesn’t relent of its attacks – they are private, they are public and they are, 3rd, persistent.

III.   Persistently (6.10-19)

exp.: The enemy has been straight forward and that didn’t work. So, they change things up a little: they then attack through his passion for the things of God – the temple, and prophets. In v 10 it tells us he is invited to the house of Shemaiah. Let us meet together in the house of God. Sounds harmless. Rd v 10;

ill.: There are two possibilities here on what this means:

First, This ‘man of God’ is warning Nehemiah of a death threat and that he can run into the rebuilt Temple and find sanctuary. There, he’ll be safe. He can run to the altar and hold on to the horn of the altar and be safe.

2ndly, he could be telling him to go into the deepest part of the Temple, the holy of holies or the holiest place. The enemies of God can’t follow him in there.

Answer: Nehemiah’s response is appropriate in either case. He says: “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?

Either one, Nehemiah knows that if he runs into the holy of holies he’ll die.

Or two, he is saying: I’m not that kind of man – I’m not the kind of man who would abandon his people. Sure, for anyone who is threatened with death, he can flee those seeking his life and find asylum in the Temple. But, that also means the work on the wall will stop. And, his people will be left out there without their leader.

app.: Nehemiah knows the full counsel of God. He knows this person is perverting the Word of God. Either way, Nehemiah is fully aware of the result that either of these two options would bring – the work on the wall would stop. And that – as far as he is concerned – is no option. He knows what they’re really trying to do is scare him.

So the enemies are persistent by attacking him in using the things of God. Next, the enemies will use the people of God.

  1. The Things of God.
  2. The People of God.

Look at v 14; We expect this from Sanballet and Tobiah. But from the prophets of God? Skip down to v 17: rd 17-19; Man, These guys are relentless. You’d think that Nehemiah would become paranoid! Now, he’ll use his own people against him;

App.: Well, in spite of all this we read in v 15; the wall is done – it is finished; in just over 7 weeks. Their goal was to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of God’s people – so that they would abandon their work. But look at what really happens. Rd v 16; Look what God has done! Do you see the irony in this – they’ve been hoping to strike fear in Nehemiah and Israel; But it backfires!

t.s.: Why does Nehemiah keep up the fight? Why does he keep going? I propose to you that his persistence is born out of a knowledge of greater things. That is: he sees the bigger picture. And that’s our last section this morning: The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

IV.    Because God is at work. There is a bigger picture. (7.1-73)

exp.: rd 1-4; he posts an even larger guard within the city. Rd v 5; God puts it in his heart to put the people of God in the City of God. This is genius at work. The goal was never just the wall. The goal was never just the Temple. There is a bigger picture that Nehemiah understood. He assembles the people of God through their genealogy. Rd v 66-67; rd v 73-8.1.

app.: At this point in Salvation History – God has been true to his people. He had promised to return a remnant – and here they are. The story of God has come full circle. But, you know there is more to come: there is a Messiah who has been promised – and all of this is just one small part of the Bigger picture.

t.s.: So, how does this apply to you?

Application:

  1. The author wants the people of God to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.
  2. You can read this and see how attacks come and know how to recognize them. Basically, attacks come in the form of fear tactics and the purpose is to get you to stop the work of the ministry.
  3. The promises of God are still with us this morning.
    1. Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age.
    2. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
    3. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
    4. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
    5. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
    6. Three times in Revelation 22 Jesus says: I am coming soon. That’s a promise.
  4. In v 17 of Revelation 22 it says: 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Why? Because the price has already been paid.

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Filed under Ezra-Nehemiah, Faithfulness, Leadership, Persecution, Purpose, Sermon

Nehemiah 5.1-19

Title: Leaders Who Care

Text: Nehemiah 5.1-19

Introduction: I want to talk to you today about Leaders Who Care. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey isn’t able to go to war on account of his ear – he’s deaf in his left ear. He had fallen into an icy pond saving his brother and never heard from that ear again (except for a short period of time where he gets to experience what life would have been like if he’d never been born. During the war, there are some scenes of George working in the community. He prays during D-Day and VJ-Day; He wept and prayed. He participates in the rubber drive. At one point he hollers out at the people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on.

The point was that there were can drives, rubber drives, rations, keeping the lights off at night. People in times past were expected to live at a certain level during the war. We’ve not experienced that in our lifetimes – those of us 50 and under. But our seniors, when they were little – did without during the war.

App.: Ladies & Gentlemen, Don’t you know there’s a war going on? It’s a spiritual war and we can’t be living like we’re at peace with the devil.

This morning we’re in Nehemiah ch. 5; As we began Nehemiah, we looked at his calling and his leadership. Today, we’ll look at how he cares for his people. Ch. 5 is a chapter that feels like it doesn’t fit. Here these folks are working away on the wall, facing opposition and then this…interruption. Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, the following takes place.

  1. The Setting: (1-6) The Outcry of the People – against interest/taxes/famine
  2. The Conflict: (7-10) Nehemiah confronts his brothers (and himself)
  3. The Climax: (11) Return these to your brothers
  4. The Resolution: (12-13) commitment & Oath; imagery;
  5. Post-Script: (14-19) as Governor, Nehemiah chose not to be a burden to his brothers, but rather took care of his own needs and the needs of his people at his own expense.

This is how I’ve outlined it:

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)
  2. Nehemiah Confronts his Brothers (7-13)
  3. Nehemiah Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

Transition: So, let’s begin ch. 5 w/

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)

exp.: rd v 1; Now, over the next 3 verses we see the groups and their struggles: rd v 2;

  1. We’ve not enough grain. Maybe they worked on the wall and left their fields untended. We don’t know, we’ll read about a famine in a moment – maybe the drought has hit their crops, too. Rd v 3;
  2. We’ve mortgaged our fields, vineyards and homes to buy grain. Another group has entered into debt to cover the costs brought about by the famine. They need food to eat. Rd v 4
  3. We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes. And what’s more – these actions, these predicaments have hurt us; rd v 5-6

The Result: (v 5-6): This debt has forced their children into slavery; it seems a particularly desperate situation for their girls. The power these Jewish brothers have over their own kin is destructive and putting them in a powerless, helpless position. It is an endless vicious cycle.

app.: I believe this is a principle that Christians often forget. Preying upon the poor is something God detests. We’ll see that more in a moment. For now, we apply this portion of Scripture to our lives by recognizing the error of preying upon the poor. And we can do that in so many ways – pushing the poor into deeper poverty and into greater dependence upon the government or the church.

t.s.: Nehemiah recognizes what has happened and becomes angry at the situation. And so he…

  1. Nehemiah Confronts His Brothers (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7a; note how Nehemiah levels 1st a charge against them and then 2nd, he offers a solution to the problem. He said: I took counsel w/ myself and I brought charges.

  • Nehemiah’s Charge: rd v 7b-8a
    1. In this great assembly he says:
      1. We’ve brought back our brothers from slavery, only to enslave them ourselves. Note 8b – silence; rd 9;
      2. He says: This isn’t Biblical and it’s a poor witness to the Nations! And he add to that in v 10; Where is he getting this from? Why does he think this is wrong?

Q.: How is it that we can ever say anything is wrong? Who sets the standard for right and wrong?

Ill.: I’ve been quizzing our girls at home: How do you know something is wrong and something is right? A.: God’s Word, the Bible. Well, that’s where Nehemiah gets this bit of information, that what they’re doing is wrong – namely,

  • Leviticus 25.35-38; 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

It’s here in the last part of v 10 that Nehemiah offers a solution; rd 10b-11:

  • Nehemiah’s Solution:
  1. Let’s abandon this practice. App.: When you’re doing something wrong – abandon the practice!
  2. Let’s return their stuff to them. i.e.: their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.

The Brother’s Respond in v 12; rd v 12; note their points of action:

  1. We will Restore these
  2. We will Require nothing (except to payback what is borrowed)
  3. We will do as you say
  4. A verbal commitment – he made them swear…raise your right hand. There is something interesting that takes place here – something like a covenant. Rd v 13;

ill.: Their Commitment Demonstrated: the shaking out of the garment. So may he be shaken out and emptied.

app.: And all the congregation said: Amen.

t.s.: Now, really, that is the end of that story, but Nehemiah gives us a sort of post script. Why? I’m not sure of his purpose. Some people might think it’s narcissistic. Woo-who! Look at me. Not me.

  1. Nehemiah’s Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

exp.: rd v 14; Governor for 12 years; I wonder if this is the amount of time he asked the King for back in chapter 2; During his 12 year tenure, he:

  • Did not burden the people; as was the practice of his predecessors.
  • He finished the work on the wall;
  • He provided for his servants and workers; out of his own pocket…
  • Remember me, O God – 6x’s; 5.19; 6.14; 13.14, 22, 29, 31;

app.: Nehemiah changes his lifestyle and begins to live like his country is at war. And he’s telling his wealthy brothers who’ve enslaved their own people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on? This implies sacrifice, it implies service, and it implies giving. Nehemiah demonstrated his understanding of this with his life.

Here’s what we’ve seen today:

  1. Leaders who care see the injustice being done to their people.
  2. Leaders who care confront the injustice of their people.
  3. Leaders who care set the example by living a godly life toward their brothers.

t.s.: so, how does this apply to us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. We should be cognizant of the way we treat the poor. Are we hurting them with our policies? Are we enslaving them to a life under the burden of debt? Are we cashing in on their desperate situations? Are we exploiting their despair for our betterment.

Nehemiah is the govt. He sees what they are doing to the poor. Ladies and Gentlemen, as the time comes for us to vote – vote for someone who is going to stop exploiting the poor.

  1. How do you use the money God has blessed you with? Are you faithful to tithe? Are you faithful to give to ministry needs as they arise? Do you live with a wartime mentality when it comes to your finances?
  2. If God is your God – and not money, if you’re a good steward of the resources He has blessed you with, if you’re looking out for the poor and those in need – then enjoy the blessings of God. There is no need to feel guilty for being rich. God has made you that way because you have shown yourself faithful. Continue in that blessing…
    1. Listen to James Hamilton: Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty about being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give an account to him for the way that we stewarded what he gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that he has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. If he has lavished largesse upon you, praise him.

Let’s pray

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