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Entries in Jesus (153)

Tuesday
Oct152019

Jesus Feeds 5,000 People

We will have the audio up Tuesday around noon.

Mark 6:30-44.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner, October 13, 2019.

We pick back up in the Gospel according to Mark where we left off.  As we look at this passage, we are going to recognize that God has ministry for us to do, but He also wants us to have rest.  It is not always easy to find that balance, and no one does it perfectly. 

In our story today, the time of rest for the disciples is interrupted by the crowds who want to see Jesus.

Jesus seeks rest for his disciples

Verses 30 through 33 focus on a reunion scene with Jesus and his disciples.  In verses 7-12 of this chapter, we were told that Jesus had sent them out in pairs to go through the towns of Israel.  They were to preach that people should repent because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  They also were to cast out any evil spirits, and heal those who were sick.  We are not told how long they were gone, but here we have their return, and the excitement that they had as they tell their stories to Jesus.

Meanwhile there are other people who keep coming and going who want to interact with Jesus as well.  We are told that it was so hectic that the disciples didn’t even have time to eat.

At this point, Jesus recognizes that they need to go to a place where there aren’t any people, so that he can spend some time with The Twelve.  They then get in a boat and head towards an area that Jesus has in mind where they could fellowship and rest.

There is an interesting interplay surrounding the concept of rest in the Bible.  It is clear that we physically need rest every day, and that we also need rest in others ways: emotional rest, rest from activity (even if it is ministry), and especially spiritual rest.  In this case, they needed a physical break from ministry and attending to the needs of other people.  If we are always helping others, and never taking time to get alone with God, then we will come to a point of emotional and spiritual exhaustion.  We need rest and relationship with Jesus in order to recharge.  Even just sharing with Jesus and having him encourage them would be a powerful rest or refreshing of their souls.

Ask yourself, do I take time to be refreshed by Jesus?  If we will take the time to talk with Jesus about our day and ask his help, we will find a source of power that cannot come any other way.  In fact, this helps us to understand the fourth commandment of The Ten Commandments.  In the days of Moses, it was normal to work seven days a week.  However, God tells his people to take one day off from trying to make it by their own labor and trust God to bless the other six days of labor.  It is not intended to be a harsh command, but rather a blessing from God.  Part of resting is being able to trust that God will take care of things if I take a break.  Isn’t that amazing?  The universe won’t fall apart if I take a break.  The Gospel won’t fail if I take a break. 

Yet, there is a caveat.  Our flesh can come to love taking a break.  Just as a good rest can turn into laziness and lethargy, so we can be lazy about the work of God in our lives.  We can be spiritually sleeping when it is time to work.  This is where we need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit.  If He is moving then we need to be moving.  Moreover, if He is telling us to stand still then we should do so even if there are other people telling us to move.

The crowds see Jesus and his disciples leaving and figure out where they are headed.  We are told that they ran by foot around the lake to go where they believed Jesus and the disciples were going.  No doubt, they were spreading the word as they went.  Thus, by the boat arrives, there is quite a large crowd awaiting Jesus.

At this point, it would be easy to see crowds as a bad thing.  However, these people are just desperate people who sense in Jesus something that can help them.  The group is mixed with many who just want a miracle, some who want to see the man who may be the Messiah, and others who are working as spies for the Pharisees.  Remember that the crowd is always a mixed bag, and therefore it can be a good thing or a bad thing.  The people within the crowd are not thinking about the disciples need of rest.  They are only thinking about their own desire for Jesus.

Jesus has compassion on the crowds

In our flesh, we would probably disperse the crowds with some choice words, but we are told that Jesus was moved with compassion for them.  He saw them like one who sees sheep who have no shepherd.  Their religious leaders were not feeding them the truth and the spiritual food that God had supplied.  Instead, they were being abused and used as a means to an end.  Sheep without a shepherd would have all kinds of wounds and diseases from all the harassing predators.

Do you believe that God’s heart is moved with compassion when he looks upon the crowds of this world?  Sure, crowds can be capable of quite evil things.  It was a crowd that day that chanted, “Crucify him!”  Even the mobs of rioting youth, that we see in our cities, are only lost people who are hopeless in a world that sees them as a means to an end.  I do not want to romanticize the crowd in any way.  It can be a dangerous tool in the hands of evil people and the devil.  Yet, it is filled with people who don’t know their right hand from their left spiritually.  Otherwise, why would they be standing in a crowd?  May we first understand God’s compassion for us, so that we can then see His compassion for others, not because they are good or even doing good, but because often they are just sheep without a good shepherd.

We are told that Jesus takes time to teach them many things.  Probably it was something like the Sermon on the Mount.  We are not told of any healing, but that may only be due to their location in a remote place.  Sick people are not often able to travel to remote places.  However, the teaching of Christ is far more important than the healing of Christ.  A person may be healed and yet never learn from Christ what they need for spiritual life.  Make sure in your own life that you are not failing the accusation that Satan made against Job.  He accused Job of only serving God because God blessed him materially and protected him. 

At some point, the disciples recognize that they should send the people away, so that they will have enough time to go into the villages around there in order to find food for the night.  Yet, Jesus tells the disciples to give the people something to eat.  Believe it or not, God does care about your material needs.  He does supply for us both physically and spiritually.  Our problem is that we often neglect the spiritual in pursuit of material things, and this highlights the folly of our understanding.  It is better to lack material things and have God then to have material things and yet lack God.  Without God, no amount of provisions and possessions can satisfy and protect us.  However, with God, I can be destitute in the desert and still be filled by His provision.  Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Jesus miraculously feeds the people

It is clear that Jesus has decided to do a miracle.  Just as Israel wandered in the desert and God miraculously fed them with Manna, so Jesus would miraculously provide bread for multitudes in a deserted place.  Yet, he does so by asking his disciples to feed the people, knowing full well that this is beyond their ability.

The disciples complain that the request is unreasonable.  Do you expect us to go into the villages and buy up food for everybody?  Now, a denarion was equivalent to a day’s wage for the average laborer.  So, 200 denarii would be just over half a year’s income.  Most likely they were not carrying 200 denarii along with them.  Their point is that Jesus is asking them to do something that is ludicrous.  Have you ever felt yourself in this place?

Jesus then tells the disciples to check their inventory of food items.  They only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish.  Instead of saying, “Wow, that is not nearly enough!” Jesus moves forward like they are going to feed all of these people with this small amount.  The people are instructed to sit down in groups to make it easier to serve and thus we are told that there were groups of 50 and groups of 100. 

Have you ever neglected to serve others for God because you could only see what you were lacking?  Yet, Jesus instructs them to take the five loaves and 2 fish and proceed to feed the multitude.  What is the worst that can happen here?  They would feed a couple of people and there would be no more food.  Why not just step out in faith and obey the Lord?

Now, the point of this story is not about how we can get a miracle when we want.  Rather, it is about how to change your mindset from one that can only see what you can’t do to one that is faithful to respond to the Lord with what little you have.

Before they serve, Jesus takes the bread and the fish, and he blesses them.  This is clearly a prayer of blessing over the food, which most likely involves thanks to God for His provision.  This is important because it shows to the disciples and to the crowd just who actually be serving this crowd of people.  Without the blessing of God, the disciples and their small amount of food are not at all enough, but with God it is enough.  Yes, it will be the hands and feet of the disciples that bring the food to the people, but it is God who will be providing the increase and the blessing.

Now, the blessing is not solely about the amount.  It is even more about the strength that we gain from it.  What will I do with this strength that God has given me?  Will I use it to do the works of God, or will I use it for my own fleshly ends?  As we eat the bread of heaven, we should then use that strength for the purposes of God and not just for ourselves.  The disciples probably felt pretty sheepish (pun intended) as Jesus broke the food into pieces and gave it to them to hand out.

Yet, as they obeyed, God supernaturally added to what they lacked.  The mechanics of how God supplied so much food from such little amount is not explained, most likely because no one knew how it happened.  It just did!  As one person received and passed on to the other, there continued to be more to pass on.  The same God who can form man from the dust of the earth and breathe the breath of life into him is able to cause bread and fish to appear as well. 

We are told two things to help us see the magnitude of this miracle.  First, there are actually 12 baskets of leftovers when they are done.  There is probably 12 because Jesus is reminding the tribes of Israel that God has not forgotten them.  There shouldn’t even have been enough to feed The Twelve, much less the crowds.

Second, we are told that there were about 5,000 men in the crowd.  This was a typical way of counting crowds in those days.  This means with women and children there were more than that.  Now, we get a sense of what the disciples were thinking as they approached the crowds with the little food that they had.

Jesus is called the bread of heaven who is sent down from heaven to feed the souls of men.  Here the people are miraculously fed natural bread and natural fish, but the true needs of the people are much deeper and much greater than this.  It would be a tragedy to feed people’s bellies and yet leave them destitute of the truth of salvation.  Jesus cared for both.  We must learn to care for people’s natural needs, but not lose sight of their spiritual needs, and our spiritual needs.  We must quit looking at what little we have and simply pray this prayer.  “Lord, bless this little that I have so that it may accomplish the work that you intend it to do.”  May we learn to quickly say, “Yes!” to our Lord’s command to serve (even when we are tired), and trust Him to provide the increase.  Do you believe that little is much when God is in it?

You might be interested in meditating on the lyrics of the old song found here: https://hymnary.org/text/in_the_harvest_field_now_ripened.

Jesus Feeds audio

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