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Entries in Jesus (152)

Monday
Aug122019

His Own Did Not Receive Him

Mark 6:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday August 11, 2019.

In John 1:10-12, we are told that Jesus came into the world that he created, but the world did not know him.  It also says that he came to his own [people] and his own did not know him.  However, as many as received, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name.  Now, it is proper to see the story of Jesus and his Church as something that started small, but has become a large thing over time.  This may give us a misunderstanding about its popularity.  The overall testimony of Scripture is that the world has not received Jesus as a whole.  He is a rejected savior.  Even within the ranks of Christianity, there are many who will not accept Jesus as he is presented in the Scriptures.  Instead, they use him as an inspiring idea that can be a springboard for the philosophy and wisdom of man that they love.

Yes, the true story of Jesus is one of rejection.  We will see in our story today that Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth in order to minister there.  What he experiences there is rejection, the same rejection that God has experienced from mankind from the beginning.  Adam and Eve followed the serpent and rejected God’s wisdom, which led mankind into sin and death.  As a world, we cried out for help and a savior.  Eventually God sent Jesus, but most rejected him.  In his mercy, God has left the door of grace open for the last two millennia.  However, eventually his judgment will come.  So the question is this.  Am I ready?

Today I pray that we will all search our hearts and recognize any unbelief and resistance that we may have towards the true Jesus of the Scriptures.  I pray that we will fully embrace Jesus, the one who was rejected by men, but accepted by God the Father.

Jesus teaches in Nazareth

Though Nazareth is not stated explicitly in the text (regardless of the NLT), it is the clear intention.  Some versions say “his own country,” and others use the word “hometown.”  The word literally means “fatherland,” and can be interpreted differently depending on the scope of the context.  In this passage the scope is viewing one particular town in Israel versus all the others.  Thus, hometown would be a good interpretation.  If this word was used in the context of one nation among many then “his own country” would be a good interpretation. So, we are clearly talking about Nazareth, a village on a small hill halfway between the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and the shores of the Mediterranean.  This is approximately 30 miles from Capernaum.

Quickly let me remind the reader that Jesus did spend most of his first two years in Bethlehem where he was born.  When King Herod sent the soldiers to kill the babies in that village, the family of Jesus escaped to Egypt and spent at most two years there and maybe only several months.  This makes Jesus somewhere between 4 years old and 2 years old when they move back to Joseph and Mary’s home in Nazareth.  Jesus grows up there and doesn’t begin his ministry until he is about 30 years old.  This gives Jesus 26-28 years of history with the people in this story, it is his hometown.

Let me also state that Luke 4:16-30 is a parallel passage (telling the same story) and it gives us much more detail about this event than Mark does.  So, I will refer to Luke’s passage quite a bit throughout this sermon.

We are told that Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath.  This was the gathering day, but it is tough to say how many were there that day.  Although we do not know the population of Nazareth at this time, we do know that it was not a large city.  It was a service community for the nearby provincial capital named Sepphoris.

Mark only tells us that Jesus teaches, but does not give any detail on what he said.  Luke 4 gives us some of the details here.  Either Jesus volunteers to read or he is asked to read.  They would have heard stories and rumors of the kinds of things that Jesus had been doing over in the Galilee.  Apparently they hand him the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it to the part that we call chapter 61 and he reads the opening lines.  Here is the passage:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,”

At this point Jesus hands the scroll back and sits down.  With every eye looking at him, he then states, ““Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  It seems likely that he had taught some on the passage before he sits down because it says they were astonished at his teaching and wisdom.  Of course that last statement is the clincher.  Who does Jesus think he is?

For our purposes, it is interesting to note that Jesus cuts off his quote in mid-sentence.  The verse at the end states, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Jesus had come to offer grace to God’s people and ultimately to the whole world.  This part of the passage wasn’t being fulfilled that day.  No, this was a day of grace and Jesus had come to offer God’s peace to whosoever would take hold of it.

We should also note that Isaiah contrasts the acceptable year of the Lord (or the year of his favor) with the day of his vengeance.   All throughout Scripture, it emphasizes the grace of God lasting a long time and the wrath or vengeance of God being short.  Ultimately God is far more gracious than his is wrathful.  In fact, the wrath is proportionally very small.  The world has had almost 2,000 years of God’s grace and withholding of the judgment of the nations.  During this time, he has offered peace to all people.  We must not take God’s grace for granted.  He gives us grace because he is good and he offers it for a long time because he is good, but eventually he will judge because he is good.

The astonishment of the people is expressed in a series of questions.  Where did he get this wisdom to teach and this ability to do powerful works (healing, exorcisms, etc.)?  Isn’t this the carpenter who is the son of Mary?  (Note:  It is here that we are told that Jesus definitely learned Joseph’s trade and had practiced it until he was 30 and began to minister).  They also mention his brothers (they would be half-brothers) James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  Plus, it mentions “sisters” plural, so we know that there are at least two of them.  To me, this passage throws a wet blanket on the idea that Jesus did miracles throughout his childhood.  They are astonished at what they hear about him.  Behind all of these questions is the idea that Jesus is just another person from Nazareth.  He seems too common to be something as great as the Messiah.

We are told that they are “offended” by Jesus (end of verse 3).  This does not mean that Jesus was being insensitive and hurt their feelings.  The word means to be made to stumble.  This is meant metaphorically.  God had sent Jesus for Israel and the whole world to embrace as the Messiah, Lord and Savior.  Yet, they are rejecting this decree because they can’t conceive of this local boy becoming something great.  They are caused to stumble by their own stubbornness and unwillingness to accept what Jesus was.  We can see this same principle when a person changes from a bad life, and yet, people continue to hold their past against them.  God has given them the thing, for which they have been praying, but it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions and so they stumble over him.  He is the stumbling stone. 

He is rejected by his hometown

In Mark we have a proverb that Jesus quotes.  However, Luke adds another proverb previous to it.  Jesus sees their incredulous looks and responds by saying, “Surely you will say this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself.  Whatever you have done in Capernaum, do here in your hometown.’”  This may sound like people were open to believing, but it is not coming from such a place.  Rather, it is coming from a skeptical, unbelieving attitude.  Instead of saying that they believe and want to be healed, it is more like “show us what you got.”

Jesus then reminds them that a prophet generally is not honored in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home.  No doubt the brothers of Jesus were there that day.  They were probably in their 20’s and late teens.  We know that they were just as resistant to this new, older brother of theirs as the towns people were.  Luke adds some further dialogue.  Jesus reminds them that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet, but he was sent to a widow in Zarephath of Sidon in Lebanon.  He also reminds them that there were many lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha the prophet, and yet only Namaan the Syrian general was cleansed.  Both examples beg the question.  Why were these gentiles healed and not the Israelites?  His implication is that the problem back then is the same problem now.  In the days of Elijah and Elisha, the wicked king Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel were leading the people to worship the foreign god Baal.  People had quit believing in Yahweh, the God of Israel.    They refused to worship and serve the God of Israel and so they went after idols of their own making and the gods of the nations around them.  Nazareth was going to miss out, not because God didn’t care and didn’t provide, but because they would not believe and receive Jesus as God’s answer for them.

We are then told by Mark that Jesus was unable to do miracles, other than healing a couple of sick people because of their unbelief.  This statement is made after the fact and is a general statement, so it is unclear when Jesus healed these people.  It doesn’t seem likely that a whole bunch of sick people came forward to be healed, but when Jesus prayed for them, only two were healed.  More likely, Jesus offered to heal people and only two came forward.  The key is that they do not believe as a whole.  This unbelief is not because there is no evidence, but rather it is in the face of the evidence.  They do not believe because they will not believe.  They cannot accept Jesus as Lord and Savior because they are too familiar with him.

Others today refuse to believe in Jesus because he is too gracious, or some because he is not gracious enough.  Some do not believe because he does not stroke their ego in the way that they believe it should be.  Some resist because he came in an age that was not nearly as enlightened as our age.  There are many more besides these.  Let me challenge you today.  Unbelief is powerful, but it is also easily conquered when we see the flimsy nature of the objections that we make and the things about Jesus that cause us to stumble.  Jesus is a challenge from God, a stumbling block to our flesh.  Will I let go of my pride and believe, or will I stumble?

Mark ends the story here with Jesus leaving and going to other villages to teach, but Luke tells us more.  There we find that the people became so filled with wrath that they rose up to push Jesus out of the city and off a cliff next to the town.  They were going to kill him, but it wasn’t the time.  We are simply told that Jesus passed through the middle of them and went his own way.  Were they paralyzed by the power of God in him?  Or, did he hide himself from them by the same power?  We are not told.  It is bad enough not to believe in Jesus.  This is much worse.  They are actively rejecting him and trying to remove him from before them.  You cannot run from Jesus.  God has set him before the whole world and demands a verdict from us.  Will you embrace him and live, or will you reject him and die?  I pray that you will choose life with me!

His Own audio

Tuesday
Aug062019

Only Believe

Mark 5:35-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, August 04, 2019.

In our story today, we have a little girl who has been sick and is on her death-bed.  However, Jesus was headed to her house to heal her.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that, between the crowd pressing in on Jesus and a sick woman being healed by touching him, Jesus does not get to her house soon enough to heal her before she dies.

Do you ever feel like God is taking too long to get around to your situation and your need?  Our story teaches us to trust the Lord Jesus, rather than letting fear drive us into a bitter, hard place where we ridicule those who trust God.

Jesus is going to give us the simple phrase, “Do not fear; only believe.”  This is easier said than done, but it is necessary nonetheless.  This life is filled with things that will stir up fear in our hearts and minds.  May God help us to walk with faith, trusting his heart for us and his power over what ails us.

They receive news about the sick daughter

Just as Jesus is telling the woman who had been healed of her flow of blood that she can go in peace, someone from Jairus’ house arrives and tells him the news about his daughter.  She has died.  They were too late.  You can imagine how such news hit Jairus.  No doubt, his heart sunk and fear rose up within him.  He had risked everything in going to get Jesus and it had failed.  It is a reality in life that certain events can shake us to our core.  Perhaps we need to experience such times.  It is in such times that we can learn just how much God cares about us and has humbled his self in order to save us.  God understands the heart of a father who loses a little daughter or anyone who has lost a loved one to sickness or evil in any form.  He too has experienced the pain of seeing those whom he created to enjoy him forever then falling to the lies of the devil.  Whatever your grief, know this.  God understands and experiences your pain far more than you know.

The person who brought the bad news asks, “Why trouble the teacher any further?”  His counsel is for Jairus to slink away from the group, go home, and bury his daughter.  However, we should ask a different question.  Was Jairus “troubling” Jesus?  Are we a “trouble” to God?  Sure our choices have brought a lot of trouble and pain into the relationship between us and God.  In that sense we are a trouble.  However, God has chosen to go with us through this choice.  He did not abandon us after the fall in the Garden, but pursued us with a love that paid the price for our sins and made a place for us at his side.  We can sometimes let our ideas of God, and “the holy prophet,” create a surreal world where they are too great to be bothered with our puny issues.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find God angry that the lowest people might ask him for the smallest of things.  It is quite the opposite.  Everywhere He calls to us to trust him, believe him, and bring our troubles to him.  It is we in our hurts and pains who develop such odd notions that God shouldn’t be troubled with our troubles.  It is misguided “holy men” who act like that and allow sycophants around them to push others aside.  If one thing can be said about Jesus, it is that he didn’t mind being troubled by the troubles of anyone who simply believed in him.  So, why trouble Jesus any further?  We should “trouble” him because he is the only one who understands our situation and can help us.  That’s why!

Jesus graciously steps in and gives Jairus the words that he needs to hear.  The first part is not to be afraid.  This is a very common phrase in the Bible.  We see it everywhere that God is challenging people to follow him into tough places.  Fear is very powerful in whipping up our imagination, but its worst effect is to neutralize our faith in God.  We don’t have to fear because God is with us.

The second part of what Jesus tells him is to “only believe.”  An old song within the church says it this way.

"Only believe; only believe.

All things are possible; only believe."

With man, so many things are impossible.  Even today within our modern, technologically advanced world, we find ourselves in impossible situations, but with God, all things are possible.  Why would I fear and doubt when I serve the God of the resurrection?  Even fretting and trying to make spiritual sense out of our situation can mislead us.  What I am talking about goes beyond trying to get a healing.  The little girl in this story is going to be healed, but she will go on to grow old and die.  Jesus will not show up then to keep her from dying.  Eventually we must all leave this world.  The question is not why didn’t God heal me, or keep me from growing old.  The question is, “Do I still believe, or have I let fear rob me of my faith in a God who can do anything?”  Jesus tells us not to fear and to simply believe God.  Trust him.

At this point Jesus instructs the crowd not to follow.  We are not told why, but this passage continually emphasizes faith over the top of those who don’t believe.  So, this could be in the interest of shedding the crowd that is filled with those who do not believe.  However, in verse 43, after he has healed the girl, Jesus tells them not to let people know what he has done.  Most likely, Jesus knew that this miraculous resurrection would push up the time schedule for his crucifixion.  So, he seems to be narrowing down the potential pool of witnesses.

They arrive at the house of Jairus

When they get to the house, they are met with a scene of great sorrow.  There is a loud uproar of weeping and wailing because the girl has died.  Perhaps they had been expecting Jesus to show up and heal her, and thus, were caught off guard.  We just don’t know if they were all aware of Jairus’ attempt to get Jesus.  We are told in the story that the little girl is twelve years old.  Watching a young child become sick, grow weak, and then die can be one of the hardest things to endure in this world. 

Yet, when Jesus arrives he asks why they are making such a commotion.  Even for those who know God, death is something to weep over, especially for any young person.  However, their weeping has gone into something beyond the grief and sorrow of the righteous.  As believers in God, we grieve over the fact that we will not have them in our life anymore, but we also know that this life is not all that there will be.  There is no reason for hysterical wailing and plunging into despair for the believer.

On top of this question, Jesus adds the statement that she is not dead, but sleeping.  What is Jesus actually trying to say?  I don’t thing Jesus is trying to make a literal point that they are wrong about her death and that she is actually only sleeping.  Sleep was often used as a euphemism for death, and just as we can envision a person waking from sleep, so a person can “wake” from death.  It is not the same thing, but it is a picture of what can be.  He is not trying to create a doctrine that souls actually sleep after a person dies.  Rather, he is reminding them of the biblical truth about what happens to people when they die or sleep.  They go into the grave, which Daniel had prophesied in Daniel chapter 12 that “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Jesus is merely going to “wake” her up from the grave. 

The wailing appears to stop at this point and it is replaced with ridicule and scorn against Jesus.  We can imagine a kind of bitter venom that we humans vent when we think another person is mocking our pain.  They clearly do not get what Jesus is saying, or do not believe that he can do anything about the girl’s death, and so they become angry at his words.

Jesus responds by restricting who goes into the room where the little girl is laying.  We are told that Jairus and his wife, the three disciples (Peter, James and John), and Jesus are the only ones who go into the room where the dead girl was.  Again, this seems to be partly about removing those who don’t believe and are caught up in the throes of unbelief.  Remember, unbelief is not a neutral absence of faith.  It is positively something that goes in the opposite direction of faith.  It produces such things as: anger, venting, raging, ridicule, scorn, persecution, and many other things.

If you are praying for God to do something in your life, you should not only challenge yourself to believe, but you will also need to get away from those who feed unbelief and its fruit into your heart and mind.  I am not saying cut off the relationship, but rather go in the direction of faith without them.  In this passage, Jesus gets alone with those that will believe and the girl who needs a miracle.

The healing scene is quite tender.  Jesus takes the girl’s hand and simply commands her to rise up.  Mark lets us know that Jesus was actually speaking Aramaic, which was the local language for the time.  There is good evidence that Jesus may have spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  He would use one or the other depending on the context.  Here he is speaking to fellow Jews and so uses Aramaic.  “Talitha” means that you are addressing a little girl.  “Cumi” is a simple command to rise.

The power of the command of Christ does not come from him raising his voice loudly.  His simple command is enough to bring the girl back from the dead, back to life.  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 tells us, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Praise God, he will raise all the dead in the future.  It has been humorously stated that, when Jesus resurrected Lazarus, it was important that he said “Lazarus, come forth.”  Otherwise, everyone would have come out of the grave!  Clearly, this is tongue in cheek, but it states the truth.  Jesus has the power to raise the dead, in fact, all the dead.  Here he restores the girl to a mortal life, but the day is coming when all the righteous will be raised with immortal bodies and eternal life. 

This is the power of Christ and the promise of God.  He cares about us.  We are to him like little children who have contracted a deadly disease called sin.  He will heal us; he will restore us; and he will make us fully whole again, if we will only believe!

Only Believe audio

Tuesday
Jul232019

The Power & Authority of Jesus

Mark 5:1-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Many scientists do not believe there is such a thing as a spirit realm. They hold to a materialism world-view and they would not accept that a human has a true spirit, much less that there are spiritual entities other than human.  The basic line of thought is that ancient humans couldn’t explain disease and mental illness and so they came up with the idea of spirits, both good and bad (the bad being demons).  The problem with this is that is presents the false idea that we now understand everything about the human body and mind. 

As advanced as our technologies are, the human mind still presents a difficult puzzle to scientists.  There are clinically trained psychiatrists who have come to the conclusion that some cases that they have encountered cannot be explained by a problem within a person’s mind.  Things such as: the knowledge of individuals and things outside of the person’s ability (even very private things), speaking languages not learned or even encountered,  and especially aggravation at talk about and the person and work of Jesus.

Of course the opposite error does exist.  Some religious people treat all strange activity as demonic.  Many “exorcisms” gone awry have resulted in the death of people, and I am not just talking about within Christianity.  As believers in the One who is Truth, we must not cast aside the recognition that demons are real.  Yet, we also must not let fear rule our hearts and label every mental illness or strange sickness as demonic activity.

Today we will look at a passage that makes it clear that though demons do exist, they must flee before the power and authority of Jesus Christ.

A demon-possessed man approaches Jesus

Our story begins with a demon-possessed man that meets Jesus and his disciples at the shore as they get out of their boat.  We should remember that, at the end of chapter 4, Jesus and his disciples were boating across the Sea of Galilee from the Galilee region (NW part of the sea).  During this trip a huge storm occurred threatening to destroy the boat and them.  This story is what happened after that scene.  Another point to recognize is that all three synoptic gospels have these stories back to back.  They are integrally linked in the minds of the apostles.  This has caused some to see a supernatural aspect to the storm scene. 

The Scriptures do not state that this is the case.  However, it is quite possible.  In the story of Job, Satan is allowed to “touch” Job.  Of the several catastrophes that occur two seem to be natural disasters:  fire falls from heaven upon the sheep and shepherds, and a great wind destroys the house in which his adult children are feasting, killing them all.  Regardless of whether or not the above conjecture is correct, the message is the same.  Jesus is greater than anything that may come upon us in this life, whether natural or supernatural, period.

So, just where are they landing with their boat?  If you look at all three gospel accounts (Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8), you find a difference in the name of the area in which they land.  On top of this, there are also some textual differences within the manuscript evidence.  Is it the area of the Gadarenes, Gergasenes, or the Gerasenes?  It is most likely that these are variant terms of the same or overlapping areas.  The Gadara area would include all of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee.  So that gives us a rough estimate of where they were.

Immediately upon their beaching f the boat, they are met by the demon-possessed man.  This guy is in a terrible condition of which we are told about up front in the story.  Not all demon-possession manifests in a way that is so violent and socially adverse as this guy.  This man represents the “crazy person” picture of possession.  We are told initially that he has an unclean spirit, which is a synonym for a demon.  Notice that the term “demons” is used in verse 12.  He lived among the tombs rather than in a regular house of that time, most likely due to being driven out of town.  He was out of his mind crying out, cutting himself with stones and naked.  When it talks about crying out here, it is not talking about tears, but rather loud screams and words that may or may not have made sense.  The people of the area have often tried to restrain him with shackles and chains.  However, he would break these chains and tear off the shackles.

The strength he demonstrated could be called super-human.  However, it is unclear how much of the power is simply the demons pushing him to exert more energy than a person would normally push themselves.  Also, I’m sure the strength of the metals in that place and at that time are very weak compared to what we would have today.  However, we should also recognize that these people had restrained many others before.  This guy was unrestrainable in a day that knew how to restrain some pretty strong guys.  The overall picture is that this guy is a menace to the area and has been driven out of the city and into the tombs, or at least has gone there of his own accord.  Also, we see that he is a very tortured individual.  The demons are not his friends.  They have brought him to a horrible and low state.

The demons resist leaving the man

The writing of this scene is a bit choppy, but one can follow it.  It seems the man approaches Jesus and Jesus first commands the spirit to come out of the man.  It is then that the demon begins to speak.

Now we must deal with an unfortunate translation in verse 6.  The man is not worshipping Jesus as the English in the KJV, NKJV, and RSV states.  The word most of the time does mean to worship. However, at its base it means to prostrate one’s self before another as if to kiss their hand in obeisance.  Thus, the better picture is that the man has ran up and fallen down in front of Jesus, looking like a fiend (no clothing, cuts all over his body, not in his right mind, hair probably a knotted mess, etc.).  Jesus recognizes the unclean spirit and commands it to come out. 

At this point, the demon has some protests, or at least, a short dialogue takes place.  The first statement of the demon is really a question.  It essentially means what do you want with me, or why are you bothering me.  This area is not considered part of Israel at the time.  No Jew worth his salt would be caught dead there, and so, the people in this scene are most likely gentiles.  The question is on the order of asking why Jesus is “out of his territory.”  Secondly, the demon demonstrates the knowledge of who Jesus is.  He addresses him as Jesus, Son of the Most High God.  Notice that Jesus normally would not let demons talk, at least when he was in Israel.  However, here we see that Jesus interacts to some degree with the spirits.  Why would he do so here, but not in Israel?  When he was in Israel, Jesus didn’t want demons for his P. R. speakers.  I would think that here in this Gentile land the only Israelites are his disciples and they are already convinced that he is the Messiah.  These Gentiles are not thinking to themselves that Jesus could be the Messiah.  Most likely, they are not even aware of what that is.  Yet, Satan and his spirits knew exactly who Jesus was, but they did not know what he was there to do.

This demon asks Jesus if he is there to torment him.  Matthew 8 adds the phrase “before the time.”  So, what is this about?  The book of Revelation speaks of a time when Satan is to be cast into the bottomless pit.  Perhaps the demons will also have that fate.  Regardless, we know that all evil beings will be cast into the Lake of Fire when the New Heavens and the New Earth are created by God.

These spirits have clear knowledge of this coming judgment. However, they also seem to have the idea that it isn’t time yet for their judgment.  To them, Jesus is here early.  This adds to the fear of these demons.  What is he doing?  Is he throwing us into the bottomless pit/Lake of Fire early? 

Jesus asks the spirit what its name is and is told that it is “Legion.”  This is clearly not a proper name, but rather a nick-name, or better a nom de guerre.  He is possessed by many demons, whether that literally means thousands or not is irrelevant.  The demons protest that they do not want to be sent out of the region (vs. 10).  We are not told why.  Most likely they believe they have a sweet deal in this area and are able to have their way.

However, they suggest an alternative.  In their fear, they beg Jesus to give them leave to enter a herd of pigs that are nearby.  We are told that there are 2,000 pigs.  It is unclear why they ask this, and also why Jesus permits it.  It would probably be foolish to speculate too much.  However, several things are clear.  The spirits demonstrate the same violence and torment in the pigs as in the demoniac.  The pigs “go crazy” and stampede down the hill into the sea and drown.  Thus, the spirits are released into the area desperate to find another person to inhabit and have gotten away from Jesus.  Later, the disciples of Jesus would come back into this area and most likely have to deal with them again.

The people of the region are afraid

The swine-herders become the heralds of what happened.  We are not told into what city they go, but it is most likely a nearby small village.  Eventually a crowd from the area gathers at shore in order to see this spectacle.  Then the story is recounted for them about Jesus freeing the demon-possessed man and the death of the pigs.

Alongside of this story, is the reality of the man himself.  He is clearly the same man they had feared in the past, most likely with cuts still visible on parts of his body.  However, he is not ranting and stark raving naked.  He is fully clothed and in his right mind.  These evidences powerfully testify to these first century people, but it also powerfully testifies to us 21st century people.  If our psychiatrists had an one ounce of the ability Jesus had, we would not see nearly as much mental illness in our society.  I am not saying all mental illness is the result of demonic possession.  It is often just the natural result of sin, both ours and that of others.  However, Jesus healed people as well as casting out demons.  We should learn from the only one who demonstrated mastery of both, instead of scoffing at the testimony of these eye-witnesses.

There are two responses recorded here.  The first is from the people of the region.  No doubt, they can appreciate the freeing of the demon-possessed man.  However, they also may see Jesus as just another spiritual threat.  If he is stronger than a legion of evil spirits than what would he do to them?  Also, the destruction of 2,000 pigs was a heavy economic hit.  Can we afford any more actions of such a man in our country?  Regardless of all their thoughts, they plead with Jesus to leave. 

It is easy to be fearful and afraid of spiritual things because we don’t understand them and can’t control them.  However, this is the point.  Evil spirits are fearful, but the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than them.  When we believe in Christ and have his Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we have nothing to fear from such spirits, even a legion of them. 

The Holy Spirit is pure and clean.  He does not control people, torment them, and abuse them.  He works gently and kindly within us to encourage us in the right direction.  He enables and empowers us as we act in faith and trust in God’s Word.  You have nothing to fear from the Holy Spirit, and, when He is living within you, you have nothing to fear from those evil spirits that roam this world looking for people to inhabit and torment.

The second response is that of the man, which is quite different from the people.  The man wants to follow Jesus and become one of his disciples.  However, Jesus gives him a different mission.  This Gentile man is not who God has to become an apostle in Israel.  Rather, he is to tell that Gentile region his story and how Jesus set him free from a legion of demons.  Imagine what it was like when a decade or two later the disciples of Jesus came into that area.  They would find many people open to the gospel because of what they had heard from this man years earlier.  His activity would be a kind of “pre-evangelism” that would prepare the inhabitants of the region to receive the Gospel later.

As we leave this story, I pray that, instead of being freaked out about spiritual things and pushing Jesus away, you will become excited about the one who has complete authority and power over all spiritual beings.  We need not fear the demons of darkness when the Lord of the Light has come. 

Power & Authority audio

Tuesday
Jul162019

More Parables II

Mark 4:30-41.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

Today we will continue in Mark 4 looking at another parable that Jesus told.  In it we will see that Jesus knew that his Church would become a large thing and that the devil would take advantage of that to hide his servants among the branches.  Ultimately God is in control and he is not afraid of the things that we fear.

We must learn to pray and to trust his final decisions regarding the difficulties allowed in our life and in his Church.  God always has a way through for us that leads to him and his glory.

The parable of the Mustard Seed

In this parable, Jesus employs the planted seed metaphor again.  We are also told that this is a picture of the “Kingdom of God.”  This parable is also in Matthew and Luke.  In Matthew 13 we told that this is a picture of the “Kingdom of Heaven.”  I only point this out because some try to force a technical difference upon these phrases.  However, at least in this case, it is extremely stretched to think that Jesus means anything other than that these phrases are basically synonymous.  Though the Kingdom of Heaven includes the spirit realm and the earthly realm, the parables are generally focused on the earthly realm. 

This parable is short and makes a clear and simple message that is basically about the size of the plant that grows from the seed.  Since the plant represents the whole Church (geographically and chronologically), the seed here represents the deposit of the Gospel into the earth.  What looks like the smallest of seeds grows into a plant that is larger than the other garden plants.  Historically, we can see that this is very true.  The Church began as a small group compared to the other religions of the world, but grows to become a very large concern, even to the point that there are over 2 billion people today who have some connection to Christianity.

Some point to this parable as an illustration of Jesus being in error.  They state that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the earth.  However, in the context, Jesus is talking about seeds that a 1st century Judean would be sowing in their garden.  In fact, the term “on earth” is literally upon the earth and is used in the same way that we would call dirt “earth.”  Matthew doesn’t even use the phrase, “upon the earth.”  There it says of the seed, “which a man took and sowed in his field.”  Jesus is not claiming that the mustard seed is the smallest seed of all the seeds upon the entire planet.  He is not at an International Botany Convention presenting his scientific research on the mustard seed.  When we are intellectually honest with what Jesus is saying, it is clear that he means the mustard seed was smaller than the seeds they would have been planting in Israel at that point in time.  People who make this objection are being bull-headed and attempt to force the words of Jesus to mean something other than what he intended.

Another area people like to pick on is the size of the mustard plant.  They will say that a mustard plant doesn’t get big enough for birds to nest.  However, some mustard plants can get up to 12 feet tall.  The point Jesus makes is not that all mustard seeds will end up big enough that birds will build nests in them.  The main point that it will be larger than the other plants who started with bigger seeds.  Also, that this particular mustard plan will be large enough that birds would nest in it.  The emphasis is its largeness, not that all mustard plants have bird nests.  Thus, the Kingdom of God, or the Church, starts out small, but ends up being larger than the other plants (religions).

In light of the parable of the sower, we must deal with the phrase, “birds of the air.”  There it had a sinister interpretation, and it pointed to the work of Satan and his evil spirits to remove God’s Word from our life.  Though there does not seem to be a need for a sinister interpretation in this parable (due to the fact that it emphasizes the large size of the plant), it makes sense in light of the countless other places where Christ warns that Satan would sow tares among his field, false teachers and prophets would arise, and that deception would be prevalent especially in the last days.  Thus, the Church would become so big that false spirits and leaders would be set up in particular branches without being ran away.

Verses 33-34 tell us that Jesus told many such parables to the crowds, and yet explained the meaning to his disciples later, when they were alone.

To sum up, the parable of the sower emphasizes the importance of the condition of our heart and mind when we hear the word of God.  The parable of the Lamp under a Bushel emphasizes the purpose that God has in giving light, and our responsibility in receiving it.  The parable of the Growing Seed emphasizes that God’s plan is inevitable.  His Word will build the Kingdom of God, until it is ready to be harvested, and then God will harvest it.  Likewise, the mustard seed emphasizes that the Church would become quite large.

Let us remember that Jesus was not contemplating nature and coming up with spiritual knowledge.  He is operating the other direction.  It is his knowledge of spiritual truth that allows him to pick out illustrations from the world around him.  We must be careful of taking these or other natural analogies and attempting to press them into further truths that the Bible does not reveal.  Truth opens our eyes to the world around us.  However, trying to discover new truth by studying nature leads to countless false ideas and false religions of our own making.

Jesus calms the storm

At verse 35, Mark turns back to the narrative of events that Jesus and his disciples encountered.  The next situation starts out with a simple task.  They are clearly on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus instructs his disciples to take them to the other side via a boat.  At least 4 of the disciples had extensive experience boating on this sea, so this is not hard thing.  In comparison, Christ gives us a very simple thing to do.  Quit living life for self, pick up your cross, and follow him.  Essentially, we trust him as the way to peace with God and we share that message with those we encounter.  Simple.  These are not difficult things in and of themselves.

However, the disciples encounter difficulty along the way of accomplishing the simple task.  A storm rises up and begins to swamp the boat.  It is clearly worse than any they have seen before and are unable to bail or, at least, keep up with the water coming into the boat.  They sense it is going to sink and they with it.  It is unlikely that they would be able to swim to shore in such a turbulent storm.  It is amazing how even simple things can quickly be complicated by difficulties.  Raising your children for the Lord is a simple thing, but the difficulties we encounter from our culture and from within our own children can sometimes make us feel like we are going under and have failed.  Our mind knows that God allows difficulty, but our heart continually says, “Surely, if God was in it, there would be little difficulty.”  However, without difficulty, we would not be aware that God is truly with us, and we would not become likely him, overcoming adversity.

The difficulty of the storm and their impending death causes the disciples to question whether Jesus cares about them.  Doubt rises in their hearts.  Jesus is sleeping in the stern of the boat.  Why does he not care that we are perishing?  We often judge God’s actions, or more precisely his lack of action, as if he were us.  Things in life often become difficult and threatening.  However, Scripture is abundantly clear on this point.  God cares about us more than we can imagine. He has provided everything that we need, and, when we were without help and hopeless, while we were yet sinners, he stepped in and died in our place in a cruel and horrible death.  The disciples had not seen Jesus on the cross at this point, but we have.  How can we doubt his love when he has shown us by the cross just how much he loves us?  Yes, he cares for you.  Even though it appears that he is doing nothing, or is asleep in the back seat.

Jesus wakes up and rebukes the storm.  “Peace, be still!”  At that point, the winds stopped and it says there was a “great calm.”  He didn’t just turn the storm down enough that they could make it.  He commanded the wind to completely stop and suddenly it was Lake Place, or for our neck of the woods, Lake Serene.

Notice that Jesus had a question for his disciples.  For every question that we have for God in this life, we should remember that he has questions of his own, and we are far less prepared to answer his than he is ours.  Why are you so fearful?  How is it you have no faith?  If I really am a child of God, so loved by him that he would come and die on the cross for me, then what do I have to fear?  Clearly the answer is nothing.  For us, death on a cross or death on the seas are horrible things that we would seek to avoid at all costs.  However, for God these are not problems.   He can “fix” them in a second.  So, if he allows them to continue, he must have a reason.  God’s plans are different than our because even death cannot stop the purpose of the God of the Resurrection.  He can immediately end our difficulty and sometimes does, as we cry out to him in prayer.  Other times, when we cry out to God, he brings just enough relief to help us through the difficulty.  However, sometimes the difficulty, even the death, may be his plan.

Thus, Jesus shows us the way on the night in which he was betrayed and handed over to be executed.  He prayed, “Father, if possible, may this cup pass from me.  Nevertheless, your will be done.”  God knows our fears and has purposed to help us in life as we pray to him.  Yet, sometimes there are things that he will not remove, not because he doesn’t love us, but precisely because he does love us.

The powerful display of speaking to nature and it responding shocks the disciples.  Please…it would shock us today.  Our scientists have enough trouble telling us what the weather is going to do today, much less control it.  Sure, there are projects around the world that seek to use directed energy to affect weather, but such things are child’s play compared to what Jesus did and can still do.  It was pure, raw, and undeniably the power of the Creator.  He spoke, “Let there be peace, and there was peace.”  The disciples went from questioning if Jesus cared for them to questioning just who this guy was.  The answer to that question is that he is the Son of God who has all power and authority over heaven and earth.  If you are on the side of such a being, what have you to fear?  Nothing.  What is there not to trust?  Nothing.  May God strengthen our faith and may all our fears be cast at the feet of the one who is greater than even death itself.

More Parables II audio