This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
What do you do with troubled people in your life, especially children? Have you had any trouble with people this week? How about your kids? Did they give you any trouble this week? I’m a dad so one of things I could put on my resume is that I’ve had trouble. “Trouble” began 12 years ago when our daughter decided she wanted to come into this world two months earlier than her due date. We woke up on a Sunday morning and Lori’s water broke. We thought we better get to the hospital and so I quickly informed the church where we were serving in Geneseo, Illinois to pray for us. Lori labored all day and then the doctor said, “We need to do an emergency Caesarian section because the baby is breach and in distress.” We didn’t know it at the time, but the umbilical cord was also wrapped around her neck so if she would have gone full-term, most likely she would have been gone to be with Jesus and we would never have gotten to know her here on earth. However, God’s people were praying. We figure at least 1000 people across the globe were asking God to save her. God hears the prayers of His people, especially those interceding for children. Jesus has special compassion for children in need! God even provided for the $6000 in medical bills and we were able to pay it off without going into debt because of an unexpected $2000 award from my graduate school for writing a paper on the devotional life. ALWAYS REMEMBER, God never lacks the power and resources to help you with your impossibility! Not only do I know this because I have seen this in my own life, and we saw it in the life of our Academy with an amazing $115,000 raised in 8 days but more importantly, we witness it in the life of Christ. If you have your Bibles today, please turn to Mark 9:14-29 to see how a father brought his troubled son to Jesus and Christ did the impossible. And He can do the impossible in your life! Read Mark 9:14-29!
The first step you should make when someone you love is in trouble, especially your children is to bring them to Christ’s followers. In other words, we should bring them to the church. Notice I didn’t say bring them to church but to the church. Bringing them to church might convey that you have the mindset that I am bringing my kid to a spiritual rehabilitation program. You might think, “I’ll send them to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, the Academy or Day Camp so that they can fix my kid and teach them about Christ and spirituality.” It doesn’t work that way. We as parents are responsible for the spiritual direction of our children. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 commands, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons (children) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” The onus is on us as parents to teach our children the way to follow Christ by looking for opportunities in every life situation that points them to God and His truth.
So why did I say that we should take our troubled children to the church? The church is the people you need when a burden is too large for you to carry yourself. Galatians 6:5 instructs us by saying, “For each one will bear his own load.” That word for “load” is equivalent to a backpack size load – something we are capable of carrying. However, Galatians 6:2 commands, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” In this case, the word for burden is equivalent to a grand piano load, which none of us can carry by ourselves. We need others and God’s Word teaches us that we should seek that help from His church. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you can handle your mammoth problem on your own, or that God’s people will think less of you or that they don’t really care. Temple we care about when others are hurting. You as a church gave nearly $50,000 of the $115,000 to our Academy fundraising effort. However, there are some here today who are weighted down by trouble and you have added a few more pounds by thinking people won’t care about you. Drop the burden! Even come up after the service for prayer with the Pastors and Elders. We can’t help unless we know!
The father in story in Mark 9 had “grand-piano size” trouble and he was willing to drop his burden for others to carry. This is why he brought his son to Jesus’ followers. In fact, from the father’s perspective, when he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, he thought he was bringing him to Jesus. Notice what it says in verse 17, “Teacher, I brought You my son.” But wait a minute! Jesus wasn’t there. Where was He? He was up on the mountain showing His glory to Peter, James and John. This is instructive and relevant for us today! Where is Jesus now? He is in His glory up on Mount Zion! (Hebrews 12:2) Do you realize that when people come to you with their troubles they are expecting to meet Jesus? Do they meet Him? How are we doing as the middlemen – the representatives of Jesus to our family, neighbours, co-workers, friends and our community?
How did Jesus’ disciples do? They got an “F” on their report card under the subject, “Representing Jesus!” I’ll explain why in a moment but I first want to emphasize something really important to those who have been disappointed when meeting Jesus’ representatives rather than Him. Sort of like meeting the butler at the King’s house! Remember, Jesus will show up and make up for His follower’s shortcomings! Verse 14-15 describes, “When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.” I don’t believe Jesus will let our shortcomings be an insurmountable obstacle to others following Him. He will show up and represent Himself when we don’t do it well. In fact, He may come in power! Where had Jesus just been? Being transfigured before His favourite disciples’ eyes! The people were attracted to Him when He came off that mountain! In fact, it says in the New International Version that when the people saw Jesus, “they were overwhelmed with wonder!” What did the people see? Robert Gundry even proposes, “Mark has not indicated that Jesus’ clothes, that were whiter than any Tide® could make them, have dimmed.” I think this is important because though Christ charges us to be His witnesses and the heralds of His Gospel message, He will not let His message be lost by our shortcomings. There is none who will have an excuse when they stand in judgment before Christ and say, “Your followers were false witnesses and so I ask that you dismiss the charges against me.” Everyone seeking Jesus will find Him despite His followers’ failures. And those who only see hypocrisy in the church need to know that those who would set themselves up as judge must meet the standard of perfection themselves. Who is perfect but Christ alone? I doubt there are many more here than myself who have seen the shadow side of the Church. Growing up as pastor’s kid and then as a pastor for the last 17 years, I have seen a lot and it’s not always pretty. What I have learned is that our focus was never meant to be on the Bride but on the Bridegroom! I love the Church so much. Why? Because she belongs to Christ! Therefore, I appeal to all those with grievances against God’s people, the Church, to come back and you will find Jesus here in the midst of the messiness. We ask your forgiveness and not fully communicating the Gospel of grace in word and deed, but come back and give us a second chance like God has given us.
The second step you should make when your loved one is in trouble, especially your children is don’t fight with rule-makers. Notice what Mark describes at the end of verse 14, “some scribes were arguing with them (the disciples.)” I gained this insight from the outstanding Bible teacher Beth Moore. She was teaching on this passage and said something that stuck out in my mind. “You might be spiritually impotent because you are fighting with legalists.” Whoa! When Jesus comes back and the father explains the situation of his demonized boy to Jesus, “I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” (v. 18), the father was essentially saying they were “spiritual wimps.” David Garland remarks that the words could be translated this way, “they were not strong enough to do so.” Spending your energy dickering over the rules will drain you of spiritual power! Besides, quarreling not only exhausts you physically but spiritually. Were the nine disciples left behind to be Christ’s witnesses jealous of Jesus’ “Fab Three”? Did that slight cause them to pick a fight with the scribes? Sometimes a slight at work or school results in a brawl at home! Often trying to keep score results in getting lasered in on the rules so that nobody gets grace! I saw this during Board Game night at my house this week!
We don’t know what precipitated the fight between the Scribes and the 9 disciples. What we do know is that the disciples could not cast out the demon from the boy. The disciples were empowered by Jesus and His authority to cast out demons as Matthew 10:1 declares, “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” Maybe “the disciples had been tempted to believe that the gift they had received from Jesus (6:7) was in their control and could be exercised at their disposal.” But as William Lane reminds us, “Expelling demons provided no guarantee of continued power. The power of God must be asked for on each occasion.” Maybe the disciples also started to rely in their own abilities? In verse 28, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why could we not drive it out?” Notice, “The question places an emphasis on ‘we’ and betrays a longing to rely on their own professional skill and power.” Do we do that? When you enter into a new situation, you tend to be more reliant upon God but as time and experience goes on, do you seek Him as much for answers? Do you pray and read your Bible as much as you did when you were a new Christian, a new parent, in a new ministry assignment? Ministry is not about your gifts, abilities or anointing but about Jesus and His grace! It is all about Christ and He alone gets the credit!
In the story we discover that the disciples had lost that focus and their passion for prayer. The result was spiritual impotence, continued suffering for a tormented son and his father and an increase of doubt so that the father was discouraged in his faith in Jesus. And the scariest part is “only when the disciples are caught up short do they learn that they do not possess Jesus’ power.” Yikes! The father says to Jesus after lodging a complaint with His followers’ service department, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v. 22) Jesus immediately fixates on the father’s words, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” INSUFFICENT PRAYER RESULTS IN DEFICIENT FAITH!
In contrast, a third step to take when you have a trouble loved one, especially children is to pray to Jesus for the impossible. The father had come with his persistently desperate situation. His son was demonized since childhood (v. 21). The demons were trying to kill the son by throwing him in the fire and drown in the water. This must have brought more grief to Jesus. “Jesus’ lament expresses urgency. ‘O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?’ does not convey a wish to be rid of inept disciples but refers to how little time he has left to soften their hard heartedness and to acquaint them more fully with the power that can expel evil.” That power comes through seeking God in prayer! Prayer is the hook to evict demons. We find out in Luke 9:28 that Jesus Himself had been praying up on the mount of Transfiguration. He knew where His power came from – His Father! When Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer”, he was not teaching that “exorcisms require secret lore, techniques or incantations. The disciples cannot take courses to learn the ins and outs of exorcism or hone their skills in some kind of exorcism lab.” No, prayer not does change anything! God changes things through prayer!
Also, some of your versions say prayer and fasting. You know how much I encourage fasting. However, the fasting is not in the original text but was added later. This is not to say that we should not add fasting to our spiritual warfare arsenal as Tertullian teaches, “Fasting is the weapon of choice for battling the more dreadful demons.” I must teach you that fasting and prayer is not the key to overcoming evil. What God says about Jesus is the key to overcoming the Evil One! Both at Jesus’ baptism and then again at the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son!” This is a total grace-filled statement. The Father loved Jesus for who He was not what He did! And then notice this immediately caused a fight after both declarations about Jesus from the Father in heaven. Jesus was tempted by the devil after being baptized and being sent out into the desert for 40 days to pray and fast. And then after receiving approval once again from Heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus gets into a spiritual UFC brawl with the demon. However, demons are more bark than bite because Jesus defeated them at the Cross! They love to make a spectacle, even playing dead! Jesus just came and took the boy by the hand and raised him up.
Does this not remind us of the Heavenly Father who took His Son by the hand after He died and raised His son from the grave and thus conquered evil. Trust Jesus to conquer all evil in your family! Trouble in your loved one’s life; especially your children will turn into triumph for Christ! With Christ, all things are possible. He never lacks the resources and power to deliver you from your troubles. So will you trust Him? Jesus provided the money needed for our Academy. He always provides the means for rescue by even giving Himself to us. And yet we didn’t get the students. It is always this way. We have studied the Book of Mark and seen time and again how Jesus did miracles, everyone was amazed but yet only a few followed Him. Will you be one who is just amazed or will you follow Him?
 Robert Gundry, Mark – A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), 488.
 David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 354.
 Garland, 359.
 William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 335.
 Garland, 358.
 Garland, 359.
 Garland, 355.
 Garland, 359.
 Tertullian “On Fasting”, Greg Ogden ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Mark (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 125.
This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
How many of you would like a miracle? All of you would! But are you looking in the right direction for a miracle? Looking in the wrong direction is not just a lack of judgment but can be costly. How many of you have ever been in accident because somebody did not see you or you did not see them? I still remember being in the back seat of a car when our driver decided to all of a sudden make a U-turn on a four-lane road. Well, you can guess what happened as she turned. The car that had been driving parallel to us suddenly plowed into us. Smash! God did a miracle in that I was not sitting in the opposite side of the car when it got hit because normally I would have been kitty corner to my wife who was sitting in the front. We try to sit on opposite sides in case something happens to one of us, at least one of us will hopefully be around to take care of our kids. But this time we were both on the passenger side of the car. We were all shaken up but nobody was hurt. This accident is a perfect illustration of why we often find ourselves hurt in life and missing out on where God wants us to go. The driver forgot to look behind her, she forgot to look around her and therefore she was blindsided by an on-coming force. These same principles make the difference to whether we find the miracle that we desperately need. In fact, we can find the stages of receiving a miracle as we follow Jesus’ travels in Mark 8:1-26. I am going to include Mark 8:14-21 but only allude to it this week and then next Sunday morning, Lord willing, we will study it more in-depth during our Communion service. Read Mark 8:1-26!
The story starts out with another large crowd following Jesus to hear him teach. Mark tells us in verse 10 about 4000 were there. The ministry had grown to megachurch status. And these people were dedicated because they spent three days with Jesus (v. 2). “Jesus was three days in the neighbourhood.” Can you imagine spending three days camping with Jesus? It would be better than any of those summer festivals. However, all the concession stands had run out of food. Jesus had fed them with His Word but He was now concerned about feeding with physical food. This is important. We must start with feeding people spiritually but also not neglect their physical needs. It is not either/or but both/and! They can’t “just live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Eating bread presupposes that people will be alive physically to given spiritual nourishment. Our gospel ministry needs to be robust enough to take care of spiritual and physical needs, “to give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.” (Mark 9:41) This is why Jesus said, “I have compassion for the multitude because they have remained with Me now three days and they have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their home, they will faint on the way and some of them have come from a great distance.” (v. 3) Notice that these people were not what we call “rice Christians” – the kind of people who simply respond to the gospel message in order to get a handout. William Lane reminds us, “The people chose to be fed spiritually over physically.” Or to put it another way, they chose Jesus’ word over bread! Many of us fasted for a day last Sunday to hear from Jesus. Imagine three days! Jesus was concerned that going home might result in some 911 calls with ambulances being called to carry off the faint. Jesus was even aware that “some of them had travelled from great distances.” Can you sense the set up for a miracle? Recall Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
So are the disciples rubbing their hands in eager expectation of Jesus pulling off another mass feeding? Remember, not too long ago we read in Mark 6:33-44 that Jesus fed a group of 5000 people. You would think Andrew would be saying to Bartholomew, “Bart, watch what Jesus does this time. There are only 4000 people here this time with nothing to eat. I hope we can find a cow and watch how Jesus multiplies that into some amazing burgers.” But that is not what they thought. They totally forgot about the miraculous feeding of the 5000. This is often the first stage people find themselves in before receiving a miracle – FORGETTING THE MIRACLE-MAKER! Mark 8:4 describes, “And His disciples answered Him, ‘Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place (desert) to satisfy these people?’” Scholars have tried to say that the disciples’ dense question shows that there was only one miraculous mass feeding, not two. However, Jesus won’t allow us to think that. He states in Mark 8:18-20, “And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up. They said to Him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?’ And they said to Him, ‘Seven.’” They saw Jesus feed 9000 people with only 12 loaves and a few fish.
Lest you are too hard on the disciples, remember they suffered from a syndrome that all of us suffer from time to time – VISION AMNESIA! As Andy Stanley says, “Vision leaks!” The syndrome comes on when a present crisis blocks your rear-view mirror of God’s past provision. Deserts are prime places for vision amnesia. The Children of Israel didn’t have to travel very far out of Egypt under the scorching sun to be locked in on two things – food and water and the lack of it. My family has camped in the deserts of the southwestern United States and know a little bit what it is like to be thirsty and hungry in the wilderness heat with no one around. You don’t remember that steak God provided for you two weeks ago. You don’t remember how God provided the trip to Wendy’s the day before. You are only thinking about what you desperately need right now. My friends, are you presently in that stage? Are you in a desperate situation where you are lasered in on taking care of a massive need? Maybe a loved one is dying? Maybe you don’t know where the money is going to come from? Maybe a family member is far from Jesus? Maybe there is a chasm between you and a dear friend? Maybe you, like our church, face a mountain of debt and deficit? Are you forgetting how Jesus provided in the past? Just look around. Look at the person you came with. Remember, how you were once alone and now you have a spouse, a family or best of all, a church family. Look at these pews and the walls. One time this church started out with a few people and no building. Remember what Jesus has done beloved! You are primed for a phenomenal present from the Prince of Peace.
You just have hand over what you have. Yeah, the last little bit. The seven loaves you were rationing. That is what Jesus asks, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5) They had seven! Seven often represents perfection in the Bible. I don’t want to overstate the importance of the number but could it be that Jesus had kept the people there until they only had seven loaves left so He could in effect say, “Perfect! There will be another three days in the future when you have to wait for another miracle – the one when you will be made perfect!” Scholar David Garland seems to think so, “Reading the Gospel after the cross and resurrection, we might connect these three days to another three-day wait, to relieve the hunger of humanity after Jesus’ crucifixion.” Mark 8:8 records, “And they ate and were satisfied, and the picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces.” One cannot help but picture in the future how the disciples found their satisfaction in the salvation of Christ and how they carried His message of Christ’s broken body for you and me to this lost world and it has changed out lives. (1 Corinthians 11:24)
So you would think that this is the end of the story? They received the miracle they were all waiting for. However, the miracle beneath the other miracles is discovered through a process not a performance. Jesus is not about one trick wonders! Most people just want the performance without the process. We see this next as the Pharisees enter from stage right. They begin to argue with Jesus. Do you argue with Jesus? Jesus, I need you to do this for me. The Pharisees wanted a sign from heaven. Mark reveals their true intentions, “to test or tempt Him.” (8:11) Satan’s back … just now disguised in the religious garb of the Pharisees. Be careful my friends! You may never get past the second stage of receiving a miracle, which is WRESTLING WITH THE MIRACLE-MAKER! It is okay to wrestle with God over a desire in your life but maybe the devil will take that desire and use you to try to tempt others. In the case of the Pharisees, they led a whole generation of the nation of Israel to miss their Messiah.
Maybe you and I are pointing people in the wrong direction, especially the next generation? I saw this in my own life this week. God revealed to me how I have wanted my son to excel at sports so that I can live my glory days through him. (Sports are still an idol in my life, a shrunken idol, but still an idol.) And so I asked God to give him more opportunities couched in missional language, “You know Lord, let him make the rep team so we can witness to those privileged families.” All the while, it has put undue stress on my family having to run here and there and everywhere. I call this VISION MISDIRECTION, which is when you demand a custom-made sign when God has already posted Billboard signs all around pointing to what He wants to do. Glory days, precious memories of the past, cause us to look back. Looking back always slows you down. The Pharisees wanted a sign from heaven, like in the days of Moses. They were looking up when they should have looked right in front of them. Heaven had already come down! Asking for a sign is not faith, but attempting to live by sight! The Bread of Life had already fed the 5000, the 4000, cast out many demons, healed the sick, mute and deaf. Maybe you have been demanding something from Christ? If God has spoken, as much as we want otherwise, we better listen! Otherwise, the sigh of Christ might be heard echoing the words, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation” (8:12). The haunting words follow, “Leaving them.” Jesus left!
Where did He go? He went for a cruise with the disciples to warn them about that the yeast of the Pharisees. Just a little bit of vision misdirection is contagious and can affect the whole batch. Jesus comes down hard on His disciples because He lovingly wants to cut them off with a stern warning before they head in the wrong direction. Mark 8:17-18 records Jesus’ warning, “Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” In order to remember, Jesus takes them back to Bethsaida, literally “House of Fishing” or what I like to call “Fish Camp.” Recall this is where they were to go after the first feeding of the 5000 but they needed a lesson on how to recognize Jesus in the midst of self-struggle. They needed to be turned around. Now, they finally make it to “fish camp” to see how Jesus was ready to be that great fisher of men. The “fish” were hungry! Mark writes, “they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him.” (8:22) The man wanted to see again. He once had eyes to see. Warren Wiersbe insightfully remarks, “The fact that the man recognized men and trees suggests that he had not been born blind but had been blinded by accident or disease.” Don’t miss this! Jesus gave a sign to the ones not seeking it. He heals the blind man who has eyes to see as a sign to the disciples. “The story of the blind man at Bethsaida can be read as symbolic of a deep level of cure.” David Garland writes, “Several dangers arise when we become, like the disciples, focused on concerns for material well-being. 1) We begin to doubt the power of Jesus to provide enough and may be tempted to look to other sources. 2) We begin to vent anxiety by quarrelling with others, which undermines community. 3) The never-ending pursuit for daily bread distracts us from obeying God’s will.” The disciples and religious leaders couldn’t see clearly just like the blind man. Why? Gilbert Bilezikian comments, “The kind of messiah they wanted will never come. They are determined to find a compliant superman who is endowed with heavenly powers and will fulfill their own earthly program. The Messiah of their dreams! Theirs is a messiah of empty dreams, who will throw out the tyrants of the world and install them as the new tyrants.”
Maybe this is why Jesus heals the blind man in a weird way, while still using the most common of materials – spittle? I dealt with this issue two Sundays ago but many of you were away so I think it bears repeating since Jesus is spitting again. He is not spitting mad but spitting medicine. The last time Jesus used His saliva to heal a man’s ears and tongue and now He is applying spittle to a blind man’s eyes. Some of you are grossed out by this, but think about when you were little. Remember when you couldn’t clean out your nose and your parents would have to help you. They were rather intrusive at times. Then think about your mom! You have had lots of her spittle on your face. She was always cleaning the parts you missed with her saliva and maybe she still does that today to you. She didn’t hawk a “loogie”; she just used some saliva to loosen up what was stuck on your face. She did it because she loves you. I’m just saying that it isn’t as weird as you think. Besides, animals use their saliva to “lick their wounds” because it is believed to be a natural disinfectant. Certainly Jesus wouldn’t have passed on any disease or germs.
I believe Jesus healed in this unconventional way using the most basic of materials, spittle, to help His disciples and the blind man reach the last stage of receiving a miracle – SEEING THE MIRACLE-MAKER! The miracle of healing the blind man was a process. It wasn’t instantaneous. After Jesus applied the spitting medicine, He asked Him like any good doctor, “Do you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I see dead people!” No, he said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” (Mark 8:24) I think it was because Jesus was trying to teach that miracles were to have the same function as spectacles. Eyeglasses are intended to correct over time. The disciples needed VISION CORRECTION! I know somebody who was so used to their poor vision that when they finally got glasses, they explicitly remarked to others, “Wow! Did you know you have lines on your fingers?” She couldn’t see the creases in her palms. The glasses started to allow her to see clearly. In the same way, verse 25 is instructive, “Then again Jesus laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.” Notice the man had to look before he was restored. The final stage of receiving a miracle is looking at Jesus! When you look at Him all things became clear.
My friends, today could be either considered a day where you don’t get the sign you were looking for or a day when you get the ultimate miracle of seeing Jesus. Which is it going to be?
Isaiah 42:16 (ESV) declares the promise of God, “I will lead the blind ion a way they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
 R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 379.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 273.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 305.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 138.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark – NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 323.
 Garland, 317.
 Garland, 315.
This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca.
What would you go out of your way to do? Would you go out of your way to purchase something you really want? Would you drive at least an hour or more just to go visit a famous store? Raise your hand if you have done that. Would you go out of your way to visit an amazing restaurant? We’ll our family has. I can recall that we heard about this BBQ place in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and so we purposely fought traffic, drove down little side streets, got turned around more than once, all to finally pull up to a little dive that had people lined up outside the door. Was it worth it? Yes! The ribs were amazing! What would you go out of your way to do? Would you go out of your way to help a friend in need? I wonder what Jesus would go of His way to do. We don’t have to wonder because we find out in Mark 7:31-37. Read Mark 7:31-37!
Jesus will go out of His way to open up your ears to His message. What do I mean that Jesus will go out of His way? Notice that Mark 7:31 describes Jesus’ travels, “Again He went out from the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis.” If you look at a map, you will find that Jesus went the opposite direction than one would normally go to get to Galilee. Alfred Plummer has calculated that it was probably “20-30 miles northward to Sidon” whereas Galilee was southeast. This would be like us leaving our parking lot and going to north Waterloo, Ontario then across to Guelph on our way to Hamilton, Ontario. Why would Jesus do that? Plummer believes it was for giving His disciples rest, “to gain the retirement necessary for the training of the Twelve.” Remember, the disciples had been trying to get some rest for some time now (6:31), but everybody kept chasing them with another need. Instead of rest, Jesus miraculously fed the 5000, walked on water to calm the disciples’ all night struggle against the waves on the Sea of Galilee, performed a miracle mania at Gennesaret, fought with the legalists over traditions and then healed a demonized girl. Jesus and His disciples needed a break. To put it in our terms, they couldn’t wait for the May long weekend. However, rest wasn’t the ultimate goal for Jesus. He didn’t take a holiday up to Sidon to see the sights, not even the glassmaking and purple dye that Sidon was famous for. Jesus’ version of a holiday wasn’t just a different pace or place but going to a different person. Meeting somebody new can be refreshing and Jesus came into this region and then the Decapolis (10 Gentile Cities) to refresh a man. Mark’s Gentile readers would have especially taken note that Jesus was going to these well-known Gentile towns. Warren Wiersbe believes that Mark’s readers would have considered these areas as “Rome away from Rome.”
Two lessons we learn from Jesus’ travels. 1) He likes you so much that He will go out of His way to open up your ears to His message; and 2) When Jesus refreshes and heals people, God gets the glory. Matthew 16:30-31 summarizes Jesus’ work at this time, “And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those were lame, crippled, blind, mute and many others, and they laid them down at His feet, and He healed them. So the crowd marvelled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they glorified the God of Israel.” Jesus’ “vacation” resulted in glorification of God. Will our vacations? Will our holidays and vacations result in God getting more glory from the people we interact with? This question will redefine vacations and more importantly, align our expectations to God’s expectations. I know in my life that holidays and vacations can be one of most disappointing and sinful seasons in my life. Why? Because I get focused on what I want to do! I have bought into McDonald’s deceptive motto, “I deserve a break today” and then because my expectations are interrupted due to living in a world with other people’s expectations, the collision of expectations results in a messy clean-up of disappointments and running to find comfort in lesser gods. However, when you start your vacation and pray, “God, you be in charge and Christ, you live your life through me,” then you might still have to go on some detours and minister to some different people but God will be glorified. In fact, you will find yourself refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 promises in the NLT, “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” I challenge you tomorrow on Victoria Day to go out of your way to refresh others, especially those different from you and see if on Tuesday you wake up refreshed.
Let’s go back to the first lesson. Jesus likes you so much that He will go out of His way to open up your ears to His message. Did you know that Jesus doesn’t just love you but He likes you? He is willing to go out of His way to spend time with you. We know this to be true because Jesus wants to spend time with a deaf and mute man. Spending time with a deaf and mute person would require extra work. I had a friend named Meagan who was mute and though she could hear me when we conversed, I would need to face her and make eye contact and she would need to write down her answer to my questions. The conversations always took longer than normal but they were precious. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Jesus took the man aside and touched his ears and tongue? Some commentators believe that Jesus was using a form of “sign language. He comes into the man’s cognitive world and uses terms – nonverbal speech – that he can understand.” Such sign language meant communication would be personal and profound.
This is also true for those who have speech impediments, which is what this man may have had. The word translated “mute” could mean, “thick-voiced.” You know what I am talking about. A hearing-impaired person’s words seem thicker. This is because our earing affects our speech and how we pronounce words. Due to a couple of my own children having difficulty with speech, I recently learned from a book by Carol Kranowitz entitled The Out of Sync Child how our sensory integration often starts in the inner ear. In other words, our coordination and being able to control our bodily functions is dependent on having the inner ear providing the right impulses to the brain. And I have watched in my own home how frustrating it is to a person when they can’t communicate and the words just won’t come. And this is why I love what Jesus does here. Jesus pulls the deaf and mute man aside from the crowd. Jesus was compassionate and wanted to help the man privately. Jesus care was highly personal and intimate. “Healing in the ancient world was a hands-on activity.” Today, not enough caretakers and healers in the medical field take the time to provide that appropriate touch. Jesus took the time to touch the man. “He didn’t want the man to be a part of a miracle show.” Taking the time to minister privately to somebody will always check our motives. “We should always ask whether we do ministry to win publicity for ourselves or to do good to others.”
Jesus taking the time to do good and personally touch the man is instructive for us because many of us read this story and think it is weird. Jesus puts His fingers in a man’s ear and then spits on His hands and touches His tongue. Think about that! In our culture, the only time people put their fingers in another’s ears is to give them a “wet-willy.” Nobody likes that! And then to spit and put it on the tongue of another, this grosses us out. However, remember first of all that the people in Jesus’ day wouldn’t have thought this as strange. They actually brought the man to Jesus and implored or begged Him to lay His hands on the man (v. 32). We must also realize that “spittle was regarded as an important curative force in Judaism and Hellenism.” “The ancient historian Tacitus tells the story of how a blind man in Alexandria was cured by the saliva of the emperor Vespasian (to Vespasian’s own surprise).” Even though Vespasian’s supposed healing spit incident happened after Jesus ascended into heaven, it proves that the concept of saliva as a healing agent was accepted in the first century. Maybe Satan used Vespasian to mimic Jesus’ miracle as anti-Christ tactic? Remember as well, Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:6 using spittle to make mud to be put on the man’s eyes. Still not buying it? Now, let’s think about when you were little. Remember when you couldn’t clean out your nose and your parents would have to help you. They were rather intrusive at times. Then think about your mom! You have had lots of her spittle on your face. She was always cleaning the parts you missed with her saliva and maybe she still does that today to you. She didn’t hawk a “loogie”; she just used some saliva to loosen up what was stuck on your face. She did it because she loves you. I’m just saying that it isn’t as weird as you think. Besides, animals use their saliva to “lick their wounds” because it is believed to be a natural disinfectant. Certainly Jesus wouldn’t have passed on any disease or germs.
Couldn’t Jesus be doing this same thing in healing the wounds of this man? Jesus saw this deaf and mute man like one of His little sons and He pulls him aside like we have to do with our kids sometimes. How do I know? Mark 7:34 describes Jesus “looking up to heaven with a deep sigh.” Literally, “Jesus moaned. A moan is an expression of pain.” This is the same word that the Apostle Paul used in Romans 8:23-27 to describe how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to do and how to pray. Maybe this is why Gregory the Great commented on this passage, “The Spirit of God is called the finger of God (Luke 11:20). When the Lord put His fingers into the ears of the deaf-mute He was opening the soul of the man to faith through…the Holy Spirit.” I find it comforting that Jesus would lift up a wordless prayer to intercede for a man who struggled to utter a word. Why? Because both Jesus and the Holy Spirit feel our pain when we can’t communicate to God. Maybe you are struggling right now in talking to God? You don’t know what to say. May I remind you that Jesus can relate? On the Cross Jesus groaned and experienced the silence from Heaven.
But Jesus can’t just relate to your silence, He can do something about it. In fact, only Jesus can open what others can’t (Revelation 3:7). Mark 7:34 describes Jesus telling the man, “Ephphatha!” that is “Be opened.” The Aramaic word “ephphatha” even sounds like one is slurring his or her words but Jesus, as He often does, takes what appears to be the problem and redeems it. The slur word becomes better than a secret word like “Open sesame.” Jesus is opening up the man like a skilled surgeon. You may have heard about T.D. Jakes book which was turned into a movie entitled, “Woman, thou art loosed.” This is Jesus saying, “Man, thou art loosed.” The man’s ears and tongues were opened but more important his heart. The man immediately was able to speak plainly. I love it! Jesus healed in a different way than He had before. He surprised people unlike Vespasian who he himself was surprised at the healing. Jesus also used an agent for his healing, which is why it is wrong for some to advocate that we should never go to a doctor, or a chiropractor or take a pill but just believe. Jesus used other means to heal and overcame all obstacles. Remember rebuking the sickness wouldn’t have worked because the man was deaf. As Warren Wiersbe states, “The man did not hear Jesus speak, but the creation heard the Creator, and the man was healed.”
Now, I am pretty sure that there is something or somebody in your life that needs to be opened to the message of Jesus. Jesus is coming to open up your ears to His message. How do I know? Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah 35:3-6, “Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance, the recompense of God will come but He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.” “Jesus unleashes the creative and salvific power of God.” Jesus came to free us from what has been holding us back from hearing Him and then declaring His message. He came to encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble. He came to save you and me.
Save us from what? Way beyond deafness and speech impediments! Jesus wants to save us from spiritual deafness and not being able to communicate with Him. Do you understand that our hearts are supposed to hear the message of Christ? Do you understand that there is something often blocking us from hearing that message? Lest you think that this is a problem only for the world, it is for us as well. Repeatedly, Mark says that the disciples’ hearts “were hardened” (Mark 6:52; 8:18). Even when they were doing good, their hearts were still hard such as when they fed the 4000. It is a common problem to think that we are good by doing good. Notice what the people did even though Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about this man’s healing, “the more widely they proclaimed it. They were utterly astonished, saying, ‘He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf and mute to speak.” (Mark 7:36-37) The warning is that we can be worshipping Jesus in disobedience. Admiration and astonishment of Jesus never trumps obedience. These things evidence the depravity of our hearts. We are disabled by sin! But the Cross changed that! Jesus went far out of His way by leaving Heaven to come to earth to die for us. He came to open up our hearts to His message. Instead of a private healing, Jesus was spat upon and went through a public shameful death for you. Now, He wants to give you “melt-in-your-mouth-sweet” salvation. Will you trust Him and His touch in your life today?
 Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915), 91.
 Plummer, 91.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 136.
 Timothy Keller, King’s Cross (New York: Dutton 2011), 93.
 R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 309.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 300.
 Garland, 303
 Garland, 303.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 267.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark – NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 298.
 Keller, 93.
 Gregory the Great, “Homilies on Ezekiel,” Thomas Oden, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 103.
 Wiersbe, 136.
 Garland, 301.
 Keller, 92.
This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
There are some regrets you’ll never have. Today I want to talk to about the greatest regret you will never have… saving children from evil. So my question is: what would you do to save your child? Imagine your child was sick or in trouble or if you don’t have children but there is a child in your life that you love: Would you go to your accountant and ask whether it fits in the budget to help them? Would you take out your calendar and try to schedule them in? Would you abandon your child? Sadly, there are some parents who would do these things. Maybe one of your parents did think you were too costly in time or resources? Maybe they abandoned you? But I am guessing you have determined to act differently toward your child. You would do almost anything to save him or her. My own mom did that for me. It took 8.5 years to get me as my parents struggled to have children. Towards the end of her pregnancy with me my mother developed preeclampsia. She had to spend time in the hospital even being confined there during her birthday to get the rest she needed to give birth to me. Sorry about the trouble I caused you mom. On behalf of all children everywhere, sorry about the trouble we caused you moms at times.
I know of another mother whose child was in trouble. Her daughter was deeply troubled. However, taking her to the doctor or psychiatrist didn’t help. Counselling didn’t work. Sending her to her favourite aunt wasn’t the fix. Her daughter was broken and living in torment. I know many of you would do almost anything to save your child, but what do you do when you have given all that you have, put them in the right school, paid for the extras, been there for them, but they still seem to be enslaved by something that is destroying them? You have tried everything. Kept them from bad influences. Put stricter rules on them. Tried to fill their life with better distractions like sports or music lessons. However, there is an undercurrent, like a riptide, that seems to be taking them further away from you and all that is good. Parents, do you know what I am talking about?
This is what it must have felt like for the mother who heard Jesus was in town. Some think that Jesus was there on mini-vacation. He had finished one of those prophetic messages showing that evil comes from within or as I put it last week, “sin is cancerous before it is contagious.” People thought that being clean was about hanging around with the right people and staying in the right places. Jesus taught that sin begins in the heart. He actually left the “clean” place to go to the “unclean” place to prove it. Jesus left Israel and went to the region of Tyre. Tyre was up north where the Gentiles lived. Jesus went up there to practice what He preached. Mark 7:24 describes Jesus entering a house secretively. I think of one of those celebrities who have to rush into buildings before the paparazzo sees them. Jesus was “incognito, but Jesus’ presence can never remain secret for long.” The woman realized Jesus was in town and she had come to her wit’s end so she turned to Jesus. Why Jesus? Well, what do you do when you have something broken that you can’t fix? You return it to the manufacturer. Who is the manufacturer of our children? Psalm 127:3 declares, “Children are a gift from the Lord.” This woman recognized that the designer of her daughter was in town. You take what’s broken to its Creator! Let’s read about what this mother did to save her daughter in Mark 7:24-37. Read Mark 7:24-30!
How did the mother know it was an evil spirit? She was discerning. Mothers know when something is wrong with their child! Also, “Many people in Jesus’ day would see an exorcist rather than a doctor. However, exorcists in the first century could make money as a sort of travelling carnival show. The traveling exorcists preyed on people who were hurting and in need.” Remember as we learned from the very beginning in Mark, Jesus was different. He cast out demons and wasn’t trying to make a profit. Mark 1:27, one of our memory verses, describes after healing the demonized man in the synagogue, “They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” We know that Jesus’ fame spread to the region of Tyre (Mark 3:8). So maybe this woman had gone to the false exorcists and now she was bringing her daughter to the only One who could truly free her – Jesus. What would you do to save your child? As Timothy Keller reminds us, “You don’t think twice, you do what it takes as a parent. You see, there are cowards, there are regular people, there are heroes, and then there are parents. Parents are not really on the spectrum from cowardice to courage, because if your child is in jeopardy, you simply do what it takes to save her.”
Nowadays, if we see somebody acting weird or depressed we immediately turn to medicine. I am certainly not denying that our minds can get sick just like our bodies can. However, there are some things science can’t explain as Neil Anderson points out, “How can a chemical produce a personal thought? And “How can our neurotransmitters involuntarily and randomly fire in ways that create thoughts we are opposed to thinking?” Atheists and agnostics need to wrestle with these questions. And for the Christian, I don’t think all evil thoughts are caused by sin welling up from our sinful nature. Why do you get a wicked thought that comes out of nowhere? It is like an outside force planted the thoughts there! Maybe they did? Satan doesn’t know all that you think and feel. Only God does! But your skin does not stop Satan and his minions. He can plant evil thoughts in your mind and feelings in your heart to tempt you.
We don’t know all the symptoms of the little girl but we do know that she was demonized. We also don’t know how she became demonized. Did she give the devil a foothold in her life? (Ephesians 4:27) Was she wounded and the devil exploited her wound? There is no mention of the girl’s father. Where is he? Did he die and this caused the evil spirit to gain some ground in the little girl’s life? Note: there is no mention of the little girl sinning or having a lack of faith. I have observed in my life and in others that early childhood wounds are what John Bevere calls, “the bait of Satan – offenses or wounds are a tool of the devil to bring people into captivity.” Satan loves to prey on the weakest member of the family. Who does Satan go after first in your family? The most innocent! Remember, Eve was deceived first (1 Timothy 2:14). I have witnessed how the kingdom of darkness in an effort to get to me has attacked my children. I have started to become wise to the devil’s schemes and know that when I am seeing God make spiritual progress in my life or in our church, the devil will attack my kids. They will act out! I’m not making excuses for PKs (Pastor’s Kids). I don’t let my children off with their bad behaviour because they are still responsible, but I have more compassion on them. I also realize that I can pray for them and bring them to Jesus, just like this mother did. Remember, “we as parents have spiritual authority over our children.” Our first step in saving our children is to bring them to Jesus!
I witnessed this first hand one year ago this Tuesday, May 14. I have permission to tell this story. A woman came to me with a desperate situation. Her young adult daughter was into substance abuse, had been involved in occultic activity, and had been in trouble with the law. She was cutting herself, had spent time in the psychiatric hospital and had even tried to commit suicide. She was experiencing what has become all too common, “For troubled minds have become the great plague of our day.” When I met with this mother and her troubled daughter in my office, I asked them if Jesus was their king? The mother wasn’t sure, even though she had some church background. As I was talking with them the daughter felt the urge to leave and suddenly got up and ran out of my office. She got half way back to her house when strangely enough she was swarmed by flies. She knew, as her mother knew, that if something didn’t change, she would soon give in to the temptation to murder herself. She came back and we prayed for a couple of hours through all that she needed to repent of and by the end she surrendered her life to Jesus as her king and the devil was evicted from her life as well as her mom and her sister who just happened to show up as well. One household saved in one night! A few weeks later all three were baptized. Soon afterwards, the sister’s boyfriend was saved as well. This family has been radically changed and following hard after their King. Will you bring your children and grandchildren and all your descendants to Jesus? Will you commit to praying for the salvation of the generations to come? Both the women in my office and the woman in the story fell at the feet of Jesus (Mark 7:25).
But some of you might be saying, I have done that and Jesus seems to be putting me off. This story is also instructive for you. Mark 7:26 says that the woman “kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” This is a present progressive tense and implies that we must keep bringing our children to Jesus through prayer. Matthew’s account describes that the woman was so persistent that it was annoying the disciples and they once again wanted to send a seeker of Jesus away from Him (Matthew 15:23). You know those people who only pray for “one request.” They don’t want anything else but God to act in a certain way. You might find them annoying when they keep asking for their loved one to be healed but if it were you who were sick, wouldn’t you want somebody to intercede for you? That is what mothers do when they are desperate! If you have prayed about your family or any desperate situation you are facing, don’t give up. Don’t stop until God says to stop asking! (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:9) Jesus might be delaying the answer you want for something greater that He wants. If you will persist and submit to what He wants, you will gain something better. As Warren Wiersbe explains, “Great faith is faith that takes God at His Word and will not let go until God meets the need. Great faith can lay hold of even the slightest encouragement and turn it into a full promise.” Persistence in claiming God’s promises will build your trust in Him and teach others to do likewise. How do you know that the delay from God is not to discipline and teach others?
That might not seem fair for you to have to be delayed and suffer, but the Lord has the best plan for you. The great 4th Century preacher John Chrysostom proclaimed, “By the constancy of her entreaty, she elicited the Lord’s compassion.” The Lord will still give you the most compassionate answer. I promise you that today!
But you might ask me, “Jon, what about how Jesus seemed to discriminate against this Gentile woman?” Jesus told the woman, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to dogs.” (Mark 7:27) Imagine hearing that from Jesus. Wouldn’t you want to say, “Jesus, you talk about children being satisfied first, what about my child being satisfied?” Not this woman! She recognized she had no place at the table and she was not too proud to accept her unworthiness. She caught what Jesus was saying and more importantly who He was. As William Lane explains, “The table has been set and the family has gathered. Remember, Jesus is at the home of another where He is the guest. It would be inappropriate to interrupt the meal and allow the household dogs to carry off the children’s bread.” Jesus was following His own instructions that He gave His disciples in Matthew 10:5-6, 11, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of Israel…and whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.” Jesus was not calling her a dog, even a pet one, Jesus was ministering to the family He was staying with. This why Jesus uses the word “first” in the hyperbaton position for emphasis in the original Greek. As Robert Gundry points out, “’First’, implies that the woman may receive the salvific benefits of the Kingdom at a later date.” Jesus is never in a hurry! He doesn’t have to rush away from one family to care for another. You never see Him do so in the Gospels. He will take care of each family in His own time. This is helpful for those who think Jesus is too busy for you and needs to take care of bigger problems.
But notice the woman humbly responds to Jesus. “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” She essentially says, “You still feed your pet dog.” Remember there was no Purina brand dog food in those days; the dogs were allowed to eat the table scraps while the dinner took place. In this case, the dogs (think of the puppies or your pet dog) still needed to be fed. And she was kindly and respectfully replying to His parable, “It wouldn’t be too much trouble Lord or disrupt what you are doing with this family to help my family.” It wasn’t the cleverness that saved her daughter but her faith and understanding of who Jesus was. In fact, “her witty reply to Jesus indicates a degree of understanding, which puts the disciples to shame.” The disciples had failed to have ears to hear (Mark 7:16, 18). Jesus spoke in a parable to not offend His host but also instruct the spiritually discerning. Remember what I taught you about parables when we studied Mark 4, “Parables instructed real disciples, without harming the careless and without giving openings to hostile criticisms.” Jesus’ delay and her response taught the disciples that He could care for and save all peoples at once. Jesus didn’t even have to leave the table to evict the demon plaguing the mother’s daughter (Mark 7:29-30). As Lane reminds, “The authority invested in Jesus knows no regional frontiers.” Distance is no problem for Jesus to save a person for “the arm of the Lord is not too short to save.” (Isaiah 59:1)
I believe this is the point of the whole story. You see, I asked you at the beginning what you would do to save your child? Your answer is most likely ANYTHING! And this is exactly the heart of Jesus towards you and everyone else in this world. Jesus was willing to prove that unclean isn’t a person or place by going to the region of Tyre to save a Gentile woman. Jesus was willing to leave heaven and come and save you. He was willing to die for you and He did so that you could eat with Him at His table. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are welcome to sit at His table as His family. His grace ensures that we will never have to beg for scraps or leftovers. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of this truth. With its small portions, you are reminded of how you, like this woman, were once a beggar but now you have been fully freed from the torment of the Evil One and are welcome at the King’s Table. If you believe in Him, come and eat today.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 287.
 Jerry Johnston, Christians and Demons (Burlington: Crossroads, 2013), 21.
 Timothy Keller, King’s Cross (New York: Dutton 2011), 86.
 Neil Anderson, Spiritual Protection for Our Children (Ventura: Regal Books, 1996), 19.
 John Bevere, The Bait of Satan (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2004), 7.
 Neil Anderson, Spiritual Protection for Our Children (Ventura: Regal Books, 1996), 61.
 Johnston, 58.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 136.
 Thomas Oden, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 101.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 262.
 This interpretation is different from the commentators I studied and I haven’t heard this interpretation before. Some would question it as Matthew’s account records Jesus replying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), thus implying that Jesus was prioritizing Jews over Gentiles. However, Jesus is specifically replying to the disciples who wanted to send her away and not the woman’s request. He remained silent to her request (Matt. 15:23). The woman demonstrated that she was part of “the house of Israel” by faith as we discover from the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:27-29.
 Robert Gundry, Mark – A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 373.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark – NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 298.
 Lane, 259.
 Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915), 43.
 Lane, 263.
I have always hated admitting when I was wrong! Call it perfectionism or stubborn pride or low self esteem. Maybe I could even claim emotional scarring as a kid growing up because my sisters, knowing me all too well would taunt, “Come on Lori, just admit it! Say you were wrong!” And even when it was obvious I was wrong, I just couldn’t bring myself to say it.” I believe that I thought it would cost me too much to admit that I had failed to live up to my own perfectionistic standards. Call it whatever you will but I had a problem and pride prevented me from confessing it was no one’s fault but my own.
All of this made growing up in a Christian home a bit difficult. For a Christian, admitting that you are wrong and have sinned is pretty much foundational, this is called repentance. If you’ve ever picked up a Bible and read it you will probably come across this word repentance and nowadays we’ve made it a very old-fashioned and negative word. Maybe when you hear the word you get a picture of some old-time preacher yelling, “Repent you sinner! Come back to God or he will smite you with his wrath!” (And they always had to use the word smite because it was so effective), but it sounds so harsh and negative! Repentance is actually a very misunderstood word, even by many Christians. So what is this repentance thing and what is the purpose of it?
Recently I was asked to speak to a group of women, who I love dearly, at Calvary Baptist church in Oshawa Ontario, where my husband and I used to serve in ministry before coming to our present church in Cambridge, Ontario just a little over 8 months ago. As I sought the Lord and asked him what he wanted me to speak on, the whole idea of repentance kept coming back to me again and again. At first I resisted the idea thinking, “Really? Really God, you want me to speak to them about repentance? Isn’t that a little heavy? Can’t I speak on something a little more encouraging?” But as I was studying on this, one Bible commentator I read actually put it this way, “Repentance from the beginning of time to this present hour has been, and remains the most positive Word from the heart of God.” Positive? Obviously we’re missing something. And when Martin Luther set off the Reformation of the church in the 16th century by nailing his “Ninety-five Theses” to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, did you know that the very first of the theses stated that “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ… willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Tim Keller comments on this by saying, “On the surface this looks a little bleak. Luther seems to be saying Christians will never make much progress in life. That of course, wasn’t Luther’s point at all. He was saying that repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life. Indeed, pervasive, all of life repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus.”
Wow! Now I know that I have really missed something, because most of my Christian life I have done everything I can to avoid having to repent! Why? Well, I’m finally coming to the place in my life where I am so tired of dealing with the same issues over and over again that I’m ready to take the blinders off and be honest about my sin. So as I look over my life and see this pattern of pride, I realize that I couldn’t admit my wrongs because I thought it would cost me too much. One of the ladies in my discipleship group said it so well, “I guess we find it hard when others point out our wrongs because we’ve worked so hard to build ourselves into the person we are and we really want to like ourselves.” That’s so true, we desperately want to assure ourselves that we’re good people. And being made to deal with our failures is just too traumatic!
Well guess what, I’ve got good news! The gospel, which literally is the good news, has something to say about this. Let’s read Matthew 3:1-12, grab your Bible or look it up on your smart phone and as we do there are three things I want us to discover… the way of repentance, the power of repentance and the gift of repentance. The way of repentance- that is, what repentance looks like, the power of repentance- what are its affects on our lives and the gift of repentance- what does repentance bring us to. You ready? Okay let’s look at Matt. 3:1-12, but before you begin reading let me give you a little context. Up to this point Matthew has recorded all of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Not much is said of Jesus’ childhood or his early adulthood before he started his ministry. So in chapter 3 we jump several years ahead and John the Baptist enters the scene. Here’s where we pick up the story…
Okay,first we need to define the word repentance. This word is not necessarily a feelings word as much as it is an action word. To repent means that I am going in one direction and now I am turning away from that and going in a completely new direction! The thing I want you to know is that the whole concept of repentance is all throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament God is continually drawing the people of Israel back to himself through repentance. He sends his prophets to them telling them to repent of following their idols and come back to him. Again in the New Testament we see this same pattern. So it makes sense that before Jesus begins his ministry as their Messiah- come to save them and draw them back to his Father- a message of repentance again must be preached! Repentance was the way that the people’s hearts would be ready for the work of Christ in their lives. So, we could ask is repentance what we have to do before we can come to God? Well, commentator David Guzik explains it like this, “Repentance does not describe something we must do before we come to God, it describes what coming to God is like.” He uses an illustration to picture this and I’m going to change it up a little bit for our context. Suppose I say to you, “I want you to come to Cambridge,” I don’t really need to say, “Leave Oshawa and come to Cambridge”, to come to Cambridge is to leave Oshawa. If you haven’t left Oshawa you certainly haven’t come to Cambridge. Do you see what I’m saying, we can’t really come to God if we haven’t left our sin and our self-life. Repentance is what coming to Jesus looks like. You cannot come to him and experience his work in your life if you haven’t left behind the things you thought were saving you!
Repentance is the pathway to receiving the grace of Christ.
Think of it like a pathway or a road and the neat thing is that road image is right here in the text! Look at the language used of John the Baptist in verse 3. “A voice of one calling in the desert,’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” And the Luke chapter 3 account of John the Baptist includes a further description of what this road looks like…”Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.” -Luke 3:5-6
This never made sense to me why the gospel writers in explaining John the Baptist’s call to repentance would refer back to this Isaiah passage which describes a road? But the image is that of a highway being prepared and smoothed out for the arrival of the King, and repentance does that! Repentance removes the obstacles of our sin and false thinking and smooths a path to our hearts for the King to come and do his work. This is the way of repentance! Repentance is the pathway to receiving the grace of Christ!
In my next blog we’ll look at the power of repentance. We’ll discover that there are two ways to go about repenting in our lives, one that is very superficial and ineffective and the other that goes much deeper and leads us to Christ’s freeing power in our lives.
This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca.
This sermon might be one of those church-emptying ones. It is kind of getting crowded in our auditorium so I am going to pray and if anybody wants to leave, you can make your escape with all of our heads bowed and eyes closed. Actually, you wouldn’t mind if I left as well because this sermon has been convicting to me too as I had to live it these past couple of weeks. PRAY!
Are you contagious? I am not trying to freak out the hypochondriacs in the audience, but there is a lot of sickness going around. Nowadays, we have those alcohol-based hand-sanitizing dispensers that try to curtail the spread of germs, yet we can’t eliminate all “bugs.” I think we make great efforts to avoid these little nasties we can’t see that make life miserable and try to kill us. However, I am less concerned about bacteria and viruses in my body and more concerned about the real nasty that makes life miserable and that will kill my soul. These nasties can be summed up in one word: sin. Here is why I am so concerned about sin in my life and yours. Sin is less out there and more in here – inside. In other words, sin is cancerous before it is contagious! That is unnerving. It is shocking because many of us have understood sin as a place or a person to avoid when it is a parasite living inside us. It was like what happened to me a few weeks ago. When I went out to our van in the morning in order to leave for work, I noticed that the van door was open. I looked inside and somebody had rummaged through the van and taken all the loose change they could find. It must have been a kid because our GPS was left behind or as my discipleship group reminded me yesterday, maybe our GPS wasn’t worth stealing. Now whose fault was it for the theft? The thief is responsible but mostly the problem was my family and I. We left the door open, it was like a welcome sign! We let the robber inside! My friends, this is exactly what happened to us and our human family. Our first parents, Adam and Eve when they sinned, let the Robber, Satan, inside. They left the door open for him to come and “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) when they broke God’s commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, sin is contagious and infects other people. What you and I do ALWAYS has a ripple effect! But you will never deal with sin unless you look in the mirror and not just out the window. Let’s get to the diagnosis so we can find the treatment for sin. In order to find the diagnosis and treatment for sin, we need to look to Jesus. Jesus clearly explains the diagnosis in Mark 7:14-23. Read Mark 7:14-23!
In the context, Jesus had just been confronted by some religious people and leaders who were very concerned that He wasn’t making His disciples use the alcohol dispensers on their hands before entering the worship sanctuary. They weren’t working hard enough with elbow grease to get rid of what was polluting their society. Jesus called these religious rule-keepers hypocrites and quoted them Scripture. By the way, it is always a good strategy to use God’s law to deal with the religious rule-keepers. Only God’s Word will convict the religious and soften their hard hearts. Jesus has done this on many occasions with the hypocrite standing before you today. The Scripture Jesus quoted to the religious leaders was from Isaiah, “This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Mark 7:6-7) In other words, Jesus was saying that these religious people’s love and worship for God was only “tongue deep” as someone has said. Why was their love only “tongue deep”? As Jesus explained in our memory verse last week, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:8) They literally “let go” of the commandment of God, which could be summed up as loving God and loving others, and instead tried to protect God with their rules and traditions. “The Jews called tradition ‘the fence of the law.’ It was not the Law that protected the tradition, but the tradition that protected the Law,” like a moat does a castle. However, does God and His Word need protecting with our rules? He is big enough to take care of Himself, so why do we try to help Him out with our rules? I think it is because the same fence we erect to try and protect God also is an attempt to protect us from God. A wall keeps people out but also in. We find ourselves trapped. In our self-effort to become holy we have become less holy. You see a wall doesn’t work when the criminal is already inside. We wanted to be like God and found ourselves further from Him. Remember, in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed and hid. They had nowhere to run. We can’t ever outrun God. So when cornered, we try to blame others or things. Think about how we try to avoid food, or that computer, or that TV screen or that person, thinking then we will be okay. However, I taught you a few weeks ago, when we ate the forbidden fruit, sin came into us. It infected every part of us. It became a part of us, as food always does after digestion. This is why Jesus teaches the crowd, “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him, if it goes into him, but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” (Mark 7:14) I needed to give you the background going all the way to Genesis and the Fall of our first parents, so that this makes sense. Our problem is that we think human nature is basically good. But then bombings during marathons show otherwise. As Tim Keller says, “According to Jesus, in our natural state we’re unfit for the presence of God.” This is because we fall short of the glory of God, which is absolute perfection. (Romans 3:23) We may do good often enough to make ourselves feel good, but we certainly don’t do good all the time.
Let me take a time-out for a second. Some of you might be thinking, but what about drugs, alcohol, pornography or even unhealthy food? They all go into our bodies and defile us. In order to combat this defilement, people detox or go through a “cleansing.” Aren’t there bad things out there that we need to avoid? Of course, but you wouldn’t put bad things in your body, if your heart didn’t crave what is bad for you. I heard some of the young people in our church at our Drop-in on Wednesdays talking about a cleansing of their bodies through a special diet. Meanwhile, they were cooking French Fries. Do think I wanted the fries or the special diet? I am coming to the realization by hanging around people who eat healthy that I love dessert so much not just because it tastes good, but also because it is my comfort food. You know what the Bible calls comfort food – an idol! An idol is anything that replaces God. We make idols in attempt to gain control but they end up controlling us and cause others to stumble, especially those we influence. If I go to food for comfort rather than God, I need to say that it is an idol in my life. I see how it affects my kids who love sugar. They always need a bedtime snack and crave the sugary cereals. But then we take a trip to the dentist and the bill last month came to around $2000 with all the repairs for cavities.
The Apostle Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:13, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” and then in Romans 14:20, “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.” Food is to sustain life but it may bring death if we rely on it or use it to love ourselves and not others. As one of the early Christians Origen once said, “We are made unclean by what comes out of our lips, not by what goes into our mouth.” But I don’t want to just pick on food. Food is just one of many idols. Our idols are often moored to our desires. There is the desire to control, the desire for approval, the desire for security, the desire of amassing things. As John Calvin writes, “Our heart is a perpetual idol-making factory.” Or as the prophet Jeremiah declares, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “Jesus reveals what a cesspool the human heart is.” And if “’heart’ is the term most commonly used in biblical literature for the essential personality,” this means everybody has personality issues … not just those weird people. Everybody is sick at some level. It is not only the people on the prayer list who need healing but all of us. Sin is cancerous before it is contagious. We have cancer of the soul and it metastasizes in our behaviours!
This is why avoiding evil is next to impossible unless the evil in us has been dealt with. We work so hard to create safe environments for our families to protect them from the evil out there when we really should be praying, “Lord, protect them from themselves and the evil within!” Lord David Cecil declared after the Holocaust, “Barbarism is not behind us, it is within us.” Jesus describes this barbarism as “evil thoughts, fornications (includes “all forms of sexual immorality”), thefts, murderers, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy (lit. “The evil eye”), slander, pride and foolishness.” G. Campbell Morgan says, “Some of these sins are in good standing in the church.” Some of them are apparent and some are non-detectable. Some of these are the biggies and others we tend to gloss over as not so bad. We all agree theft is wrong but what if by slandering someone you stole their reputation. Having an evil eye towards somebody through envy means you can’t lovingly look at them. We may say that we never murdered anybody but if you have an evil thought and are “angry with your brother” as Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:22, then you are “guilty before the court” – God’s courtroom. You know this to be true. None of us stands perfect before God. It isn’t externals that will save us, but the Eternal Saviour and His internal work in us.
But we still try! Our own disciplines and traditions won’t save us. In fact, they might end up entrapping us. As David Garland explains, “One can compare tradition to the shell of the blue crab. To live and grow it must shed its shell from time to time. Until it creates a new shell, the crab is extremely vulnerable. But if the shell becomes so strong and rigid that the crab cannot escape, that is the shell in which it dies. Losing traditions that make one feel safe and comfortable can cause great anxiety. But hanging on to traditions so that one becomes ‘hard-shelled’ is fatal.” This is the diagnosis. Sin is terminal. Proverbs 14:12 declares, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
So if the diagnosis is that sin is fatal then what is the solution? We know “outside in doesn’t work.” Religion and purity will not make us perfect. So that eliminates Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and every other “ism.” We need an inside out solution. So what inside out solutions are there? Some try spirit guides. Beloved, spirit guides are evil spirits “masquerading as light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) They can never save you. Don’t invite them in. Another common inside out solution is through psychology and trying to figure out who you are from your past. In other words, “Know yourself!” However, the Bible warns “not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.” (Romans 12:3) I have taken graduate level courses where I had to assess myself and taken many psychological tests. I found that more I studied myself and focused on knowing who I was, I would get depressed for two reasons. The first reason is that knowing yourself fully is impossible. We have blinders. Too much self-study is depressing, whereas being in community lifts the fog. One of the ways to stop depression is to stop thinking about yourself and serve somebody else. Besides, we need others to help us reveal who we are. The second reason is that when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like all that I saw. As we already learned from Jesus, “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:23)
None of these solutions heal the cancer of the soul. However, what if we went for treatment from our designer – the One who knows every last part of us? Jesus understands our problem exactly. But in order for us to have an inside-out solution, it would mean that He would have to be one of us without being defiled inside or outside. And this is exactly what happened. Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life. Jesus was the only human ever to life soul-cancer-free. Sin radicals never entered His soul. He always loved purely.
Some might be saying, “Okay Jon, Jesus was never sick with sin but how does that help me in my soul-sickness.” What if the One who knew no sin, became sin for us? He became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) That sounds good! But what about the stuff inside? Well, after Jesus died and rose again, He promised that He would leave His Holy Spirit who would come inside us and clean us up from the inside out. Listen to Titus 3:5-6, “He (God) saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Do you have the only inside-out solution? Do you know Jesus? He is the only one who will change you from the inside out! But Jesus just doesn’t want to change you; He wants to change the world. Did you catch the parenthetical note that Mark makes in verse 19, “Thus He declared all foods clean”? This declaration was later fully realized after Jesus died and rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. It came true after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit birthed the Church. The Apostle Peter in Acts 10 received a vision with all the sorts of animals on a great sheet from heaven, both clean and unclean animals, both holy cows and dirty pigs and Peter was told “Get up, Peter, kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13 – which is one of the verses we hunters use to justify harvesting animals.) When Peter was told to kill and eat the animals, he argued, but a voice said, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” (Acts 10:15) The purpose in Peter receiving this vision was not so he could finally have some bacon. It was for extending Christ’s kingdom and mission to the Gentiles. Peter was to go and proclaim the Good News to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile and Roman Centurion. Cornelius and his household then trusted in Christ and were saved. The inside-out work of God done at the Cross and then through the Holy Spirit was not just for you but for you to carry on His mission. In other words, our freedom that was won at the Cross to no longer be a rule-driven person is not just for ourselves to avoid sin but to win freedom for others with soul cancer. Our freedom should not lead to legalism or license, but light-bearing. The call to come out and be separate is to be salt and light. We live different to make a difference in others’ lives. You and I are not to be in partnership with the world but get close enough to infect it with good.
How? We let Jesus change us from the inside out. This can be painful as Jesus kills the evil desires inside us and replaces it with His own. Spiritual chemotherapy will mean that the idol that you have tried to find comfort in will need to be eliminated. You will be restricted but in a good way. Jesus will place loving limits on you. Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God states, “In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions.” Think about that, you who are married limited your love to one person and have experienced a greater love. You who have limited your time to focus on practicing have learned to play an instrument or become a better athlete. Jesus now has given you freedom so that you can properly channel your restrictions for good, not bad.
Do we see how we are reaping the benefits of Jesus’ declaration that all foods are now considered clean doesn’t mean you should eat all the chocolate cake you want but it means that you are free to live out of the Gospel? Jesus’ plan of saving us was revealed in this passage. By declaring that outside things aren’t the problem, these 12 Jewish disciples were able to be saved and bring salvation to the world, including you and me. Bad News turns to Good News. Soul cancer is cured and replaced with the contagious life-saving message of Jesus Christ. Is sin contagious? Yes, but the Gospel is more contagious. Will you be contagious with good? The inside-out solution is to bring those outside of Christ inside.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 134.
 Timothy Keller, King’s Cross (New York: Dutton 2011), 72.
 Thomas Oden, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 97.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Battles Edition, Book 1, Chapter XI, Section 8 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 108.
 R.G.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946), 300.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark – NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 291.
 William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 297.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 277.
 Keller, The King’s Cross, 79.
 Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 47.
This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
Has Jesus ever changed your direction? Have you ever been heading toward a place, a goal, or a promotion and Jesus makes you do a hard right or hard left? Have you found yourself in a different place than you planned? Some of the folks in Boston this past week have experienced a radical change of direction in their lives due to the Boston Marathon bombing. Some of you might be saying that right now, I also am experiencing a new direction. If you had told me that I was going to be here at Temple Baptist Church a year ago, I would have thought you were crazy. But you’re here today! Hey, you know what. I thought that too! If you would have told me 18 months ago that I was going to be one of the pastors at Temple Baptist Church in Cambridge, I would have thought you were crazy. I was happy at the church I was serving. But Jesus does that! You may have been heading in one direction, Jesus shows up and now you are going with Him to a totally different place than you expected. This is what happened to the disciples in Mark 6:53-56! Let’s read about and discover how God’s hard rights or hard lefts, those 90 degree turns bring us to places where Jesus wants you to join Him in the movement of people coming to salvation. Read Mark 6:53-56!
In order for us to understand a little bit better what I meant when I said that Jesus caused the disciples to head in a different direction, I have a map to show us where the disciples were. Mark 6:45 describes that Jesus sent the disciples in the direction of Bethsaida. You can see it up on the map. Bethsaida was a small desolate place that meant “House of Fishing.” This would have been like going to the fishing cabin. However, I wonder if Jesus was trying to get the disciples’ attention once again by sending them to the House of Fishing. We must be careful not to read too much into the text, but I find it interesting that Jesus miraculously feeds the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and two fishes and Jesus tells them to go to the house of fishing. Could have this been a reminder that they were to be “fishers of men”? (Luke 5:10)
I think there is something to this, because after Jesus appears walking on the water, we find that Jesus immediately puts the boat on overdrive and the disciples find themselves in Gennesaret – a place where there were lots of people (v. 53). In other words, “After reaching the middle of the sea in an easterly direction, the disciples headed back west and arrive with Jesus at Gennesaret.” Why did Jesus not continue crossing the sea in the original direction? Why go west young men? Some interpret this symbolically and considered the trip on the lake as “an aborted voyage to Bethsaida; a failure of Jewish disciples to carry out a mission to the Gentiles.” Now that is reading way too much into the text. Instead, the lesson is simply this: when hardened hearts have an encounter with Jesus the result is usually a direction change (v. 52). Has Christ softened your heart and turned you around? Have you gained a new understanding of Him and He has pointed you in a different direction than you were going?
We must use the Bible to interpret the Bible to find this truth. The disciples gained a deeper understanding of who Jesus was as we discover in Matthew 14:32-33, “When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind stopped and those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You certainly are God’s Son!” The disciples’ mistaken identity of Jesus turned into praise and proclamation that He was God’s Son. Yahweh had shown up.
And when Yahweh shows up, it has a ripple effect! When you come to a deeper understanding of Jesus and what He can do for you, He often takes you to a place to minister to others. John 6:21 alludes to this truth, “So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Receiving Jesus means you are no longer striving for your own rescue and salvation. Receiving Jesus brings you from danger to safety! Receiving Jesus carries you to where He wants you to go. Receiving Jesus carries you to a place where you can witness God’s work. Receiving Jesus refocuses and repurposes you to fishing for men with Jesus’ new message. And receiving Jesus means that He will take you through a journey of former places of serenity which have become new places of terror to finally seeing who He is. Remember the disciples would have felt safe on the lake they grew up on and then a storm came and threatened their lives. The sea of calm became the sea of calamity. But then Jesus shows up. I believe that this is what Bostonians could be experiencing. Their famous marathon run on Patriot’s Day was a symbol of celebration and it became a place of terror. Now if the people will turn to Jesus, He can calm their inner storms.
Please know Jesus is working miracles all around you. If you have eyes to see, you could experience a “miracle mania.” I feel Jesus has done this in my life. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have understood the Gospel and how Jesus is carrying me every second of life. I don’t have to struggle and strive to live life on my own in my strength anymore. Jesus has become my life. Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” I used to pray Jesus help me to do this or help me to do that. Now, I pray, “Jesus just live your life fully through me!” And the help automatically comes. But it is more than help! Jesus starts to do miracles all around you. I am not saying life becomes easy or you don’t get tired, but Jesus starts to make a difference in ways that will blow you away. I see these miracles all around me at Temple Baptist Church. People who have been diagnosed with cancer have had their lives prolonged. People are getting saved and baptized. There are more commitments to the church. We are sending out missionaries across the globe. The next generation is showing up and even asking to receive training. God is entrusting us with His people! All of this is happening just because Jesus has shown up with a fresh start and called us to a powerful new way. We haven’t even launched any major outreach campaigns or shepherded the community yet, like I hope we will. In fact, I feel like I have played more defense than offense but Jesus is winning people. It is awesome! He gets all the credit!
I hope this encourages you! If not, then I need to lovingly ask you, are you recognizing Jesus? The people at Gennesaret did! Mark 6:54 records that “when they had come out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him.” Contrast this to a few hours earlier in Mark 6:49 when the disciples thought He was a ghost. How could the disciples who hung around Jesus all the time, mistake Him for a ghost while the crowd, of whom many had never even seen Jesus, knew who He was immediately? I believe it was because the people were hungry for more of what Jesus was providing. Feeding 5000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish would cause word to spread rapidly that a miracle-worker was in their midst. We know from John 6:22-25 that even the ones who had been fed wanted more: “The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” In other words, “We saw you Jesus send Your disciples away and disperse the crowd so how did You get over here to Gennesaret so quickly? You would have had to go through Capernaum. How did you get by us?” It would be interesting to know when the disciples chose to tell the story of Jesus walking on the water. Was it now or later? We are only left to guess but that it is one of those things that you would want to tell right away. “Hey, last night Jesus sent us across the lake to Bethsaida. We were about 3 or 4 miles out when a storm came up that threatened out lives. We struggled most of the night but then Jesus, who had been praying, came to our rescue by walking on the water.” No wonder the multitude that was fed wanted more of Jesus. They were seeking Jesus. They literally ran to Him. Maybe Jesus has provided for you and now you want more? Maybe He has done a miracle in your life and you want more? Maybe you are exploring Christ? Maybe you feel like running to see what Jesus is going to do next? If that describes you here today, we are thrilled you are here. We hope that you do what those early seekers of Christ did – tell others about Jesus. The people at Gennesaret “carried the sick on their mats to the place where Jesus was.” (Mark 6:55) Today, I hope that you will carry the hurting, whether physically, emotionally, relationally or spiritually to Jesus. But where will you find Him? Here! At Temple! We are the Body of Christ! I have Good News! Christ is here through the Holy Spirit. Who are you bringing to Jesus?
However, it just isn’t at church that we should bring people to Jesus. Notice that the people brought their loved ones to Jesus in the marketplaces. Are you bringing people to Jesus in the marketplaces of life? I love markets. I usually don’t like huge crowds but there is something exciting about markets with all the activity. I have been to the Iron Market in Port au Prince, Haiti, the market in Jerusalem, the market in Kolkata, India and even the farmer’s market in St. Jacob’s and Cambridge. There are usually lots of people with lots of money. They have come to buy and sell, to barter but to also meet others. It’s a fascinating place of human interaction. The sick would have been brought to the marketplace. Some maybe came to beg for money! If their illnesses were contagious, the marketplace would have been off-limits because they made others unclean for worship. We do know that many had to be carried there so they were in pretty bad shape. Now Jesus shows up and Jesus starts to work miracles very openly. The disciples had earlier wanted the people to go and find food in such marketplaces. Jesus had them stay and fed them and now He was going to market Himself to offer up “Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to set free those who were oppressed.” (Luke 4:18) This was happening wherever Jesus went. As Robert Gundry explains, “all the verbs in the passage are in the imperfect tense…these things take place time after time in place after place.” It really was miracle mania! Just touching the fringe of His cloak meant healing. (Mark 6:56)
Doesn’t this remind you of earlier episodes in Jesus’ ministry? The man carried by his friends and lowered through a roof! (Mark 2:3-4) And then remember, when Jesus was going to heal Jarius’ daughter and He shocks everyone when He stops to speak to a woman who suffered from continual menstruation and who stealthily touched the fringe of His garment (Mark 5:27-28). The woman was healed but Jesus still called her out on it. Why? Because He wanted to restore her to honour! She had lived with shame. Everybody was focused on Jarius’ daughter when Jesus wanted to establish the woman as His daughter who He would take care of. Now, word had gotten around that just touching Jesus brought healing. However, “what was involved was not simply material contact with Jesus’ clothing, but the touch of faith.” This wasn’t magic. This was faith! It was people who believe in Him that Jesus sought. Jesus wasn’t trying to become a food bank. Jesus wasn’t trying to be a doctor. Jesus was seeking those with faith! Do you need to reach out to Him in faith?
Yesterday, I just happened meet an old friend and her family who reached out to God in faith and God rescued her. She had to tell me this story and gave me permission to pass it onto you. She and her husband recently moved in with her daughter and husband in one of the those houses with an in-law suite. Her husband was out running errands and she was at home knitting. However, the yarn got away from her and she got up to fetch it. When she did, she tripped on the yarn and the knitting needle went right throw her neck. She yelled and her son-in-law came down, and had the presence of mind to call 911. She was rushed to the hospital and they could extract the needle so she was rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto where their best trauma surgeon just happened to be there and was able to surgically remove the needle. Three weeks later she was sharing a Happy Meal with her 1-year-old grandson and the rest of her family. Two millimetres more and the needle would have punctured her carotid artery. Jesus protected her and healed her. As an aside, this is why I don’t knit. It is way too dangerous. I’ll stick to hockey and an occasional white-water rafting trip.
Back to the story in Mark! A problem arose with all these healings! Many were only going to Jesus for their physical needs. They couldn’t find a family doctor so they went to the Emergency Room to find Jesus. Others were looking for more free Filet o’ Fishes.™ We know this because in John 6:26-27, Jesus said to the seekers, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” That doesn’t sound like the best sales strategy. Jesus didn’t seal the deal. This is not how to evangelize. Or maybe Jesus does evangelism different than we do? Jesus wanted to do more than meet their personal needs. Jesus was using a net to catch men. He wanted to see if these fish were keepers. He had already taught the crowds that the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that catches all sorts of fish but only the good fish are kept in the end. (Matthew 13:47-49) Those who are good would be the ones who came for the gift of Him. This is why in John 6:53 it says, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” We read soon after, “as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” (John 6:66) I have seen this as a pastor. People will come to Jesus when He blesses them with what they think they want most, but leave Him when He only offers them what they need most! Can I just speak to all of you who are seeking Jesus but are holding back from fully following Him … from letting Him be your life? “Procrastination tends to breed passivity.” I want to create a sense of urgency because if Jesus is calling you to follow Him and you say no now, it will be easier to say no the next time. “A survey of 250,000 people from a 1000 different churches revealed that 40% of those exploring Christ after 5 years felt stalled.” In other words, the longer people sat comfortably in church without ever making a decision to follow Jesus, the more likely they never would. Too many people check out Jesus without ever checking in! I am calling you to believe in salvation by grace that you can do nothing to earn salvation but instead to trust Christ alone for your salvation. I am calling you to believe in the Trinity – one God in three persons. I am calling you to serve in the church at least once a month. I am calling you to pray for guidance frequently. I am calling you to reflect on Scripture and how it impacts your life.
Jesus is the Messiah. He has shown up. Do you recognize Him? Are you running to Him and whom are you bringing with you? Do you need to reach out to Him? The last word in verse 56 translated “healed” could also be translated “saved. Jesus has come to save. He reached out to you when He stretched out His arms on a Cross for you. Reach out to him and be saved, every last one of you and every last part of you. This is the new direction for your life!
 Robert Gundry, Mark – A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 346.
 Gundry, 347.
 Gundry, 347.
 Gundry, 345.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark – NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 236.
 Greg Hawkins & Cally Parkinson, Move (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 38.