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.
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.
This sermon can be watched or listened at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
Have you ever felt like you are working so hard and getting nowhere? Does it feel like you are running on the treadmill of life? I recently starting going to the gym and running on a treadmill. The benefits are that you get to see easily how many calories you have burned up but what is funny to watch is the distance meter and see how far you have supposedly run. This is a modern phenomenon. Imagine a person from the Ancient World watching you run on the spot for 25 minutes and then you tell them that you just ran two miles. They would think you are crazy. They would think you didn’t run one meter let alone two miles. I wonder if that is how God sees our lives. You are running on the spot but getting nowhere! You are trying so hard to be the best spouse, the best child, the best student, the best parent, the best worker, the best citizen, and the best Christian you can be. Nevertheless, you aren’t accomplishing that much. You’re stuck in a rut. You do okay for a while and then mess up once again. Maybe you are even becoming aware of your lack of progress despite all your efforts and struggle? If that is you today, Jesus wants to come and show a miracle. However, you are going to have to stop what you are doing so you don’t miss it. In fact, I am wondering if you are missing THE MIRACLE in your efforts? The disciples in Jesus’ day almost missed THE MIRACLE. Let’s read about the miracle they almost missed in Mark 6:45-52 and how if we don’t stop, we could also miss the miracle. Read Mark 6:45-52!
If you recall from last week, or if you weren’t here just look at Mark 6:33-44, and you will find that Jesus’ math is different from yours. His multiplication table is unique. In fact, His tables are different. When it comes to feeding us, He satisfies us fully, especially feeding our souls. Jesus is the “one who has compassion on those without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He feeds the sheep what they really need. He leads them to lie down in green pastures. Did you feed on His soul-nourishing Word this week?
Now Jesus wants to “lead you beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:2) This might look different from what you expect. In the story in Mark 6:45-52, it doesn’t look like Jesus is leading His disciples besides quiet waters. In fact, it looks like Jesus sends His disciples to rough and dangerous waters. You might even feel that today! Instead of sending you into quiet waters, you think that Jesus has sent you into rough ones. You are experiencing trouble at home, trouble at work or trouble out in the community. May I suggest to you that you don’t see the big picture like Jesus does? Jesus saw the bigger picture for the disciples. He went to the mountain while they were down below. As soon as the disciples had finished putting away all the leftovers from the miraculous feeding of the 5000, “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.” Why would Jesus do that? Wasn’t this the time to push forward with expansion plans? Finally, a Messiah who will provide everything out of nothing! And this is exactly why Jesus sends the disciples away. Jesus made them go which implies they didn’t want to leave. Remember, the disciples originally went with Jesus in the boat to be alone with Him for some rest (v. 32) and a crowd rushes ahead to a place where they thought they could find some quiet solitude. It would be like going to your cottage and all these people show up that you need to serve. Jesus has compassion on them and teaches them. But since it is getting late, the disciples instruct Jesus to send the crowd away. Jesus doesn’t and asks the disciples to feed the multitude. They can’t so Jesus multiplies the little food there is and everyone is fed until their bellies are full. Now instead of sending the crowd away so they can finally be alone with Jesus, Jesus has the audacity to send the disciples away. What is going on here? Maybe Jesus is sending His followers into a storm they could survive to avoid the one that they couldn’t survive spiritually – believing in a lesser king? Alfred Plummer gives great insight into this puzzling action of Jesus, “The disciples might have been induced to join the movement of making Jesus an earthly conqueror.” What am I talking about? Was there a movement to make Jesus an earthly conqueror? We find clues to this in John’s account of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5000. John 6:14-15 records, “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ So Jesus, perceiving that they intended to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” I love this on so many levels! Jesus is amazing.
First, Jesus doesn’t need His disciples to be His bodyguards and disperse the crowd like any earthly king, prime minister or president would need. It is just Jesus vs. a forceful crowd of 5000 strong. Who wins? Jesus! Jesus really is the Shepherd King! Today know this, if a lot of people are against you, Jesus can take care of the crowd. We just need to obey Him. Who are you afraid of? Jesus is stronger. The only one that we should fear is the Lord and not obeying Him. What is Jesus calling you to obey today?
Second, Jesus doesn’t seek fame, just the Father! Most leaders ride the wave of popularity to power! Not Jesus! What does Jesus choose instead of popularity and power? PRAYER! (Mark 6:46) Jesus went to be with His Father to get perspective and to stay on mission. Oh how people’s desires can distract us from God’s mission. It didn’t with Jesus. He stayed focused on His mission. What was the mission? To save the crowd from empty souls, not empty bellies! In order to stay on that mission, Jesus went to be alone with His Father. This is the secret to sticking to God’s purpose for your life. Spend time alone with the Father! German pastor and martyr under the Nazi Regime Dietrich Bonheoffer taught, “You are not ready for community until you have been alone with God.” This was the regular practice of Jesus. After His glorious baptism, He went out into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). After He healed many people at Capernaum, Jesus went to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). Jesus sought the greatest work, which was to pray for His disciples. Giving food to 5000 would only last a few hours. Jesus wanted to change the world so He prayed for those who would not only disperse His Bread but His Word – His Gospel. You know the ones back in the boat, who were striving in their own strength! We don’t know what He prayed but I think it was for His disciples. This was a labour of love long into the night. Jesus sent the disciples off in the evening and didn’t go to them until the fourth watch (3-6 AM). Jesus laboured for His disciples while they were in their own labour. SEEK THE FATHER, NOT FAME! LABOUR IN PRAYER AND YOU WILL SEE PROGRESS!
Third, Jesus will save you from making Him something less. There is such a temptation in our lives to make Christ into somebody who will meet all of our personal desires. Think about it! Jesus – the One who fashioned the sun, the moon and the stars and set them in the sky; the One who spoke galaxies into existence; who made man out of the dust of the ground for His own glory. Jesus – who holds your very next breath and you want to make Him…your personal assistant? He’s overqualified for the job! In fact, Jesus won’t let you do it! Jesus won’t let you be king. You see when so-called leaders start to act in order to please people; they are no longer leading but following the will of the people. The people become king! Jesus loves you enough to be your King and do what is best for you even if you don’t see it at the time. Do you want Jesus to be your King or do you want Him to serve you on your temporary throne?
Fourth, Jesus knew that His young apprentices would get caught up in the glamour of celebrity and so He sent them away. As Warren Wiersbe says, “Being on a spiritual high is always dangerous. It is good to be on the mountaintop if you don’t get careless and step off a cliff.” I have found this to be true. Whether in sports or even in church, you can so easily start to believe your own press. The crowd is all clamouring for you. I can still recall being only 6 years old, winning a baseball game on a home run and hearing a woman say, “Kid, you are going to be star.” Those words were injected into my soul and poisoned me for many years. They became my secret identity and so I drove myself in sports, in academics, in work and even in church to prove her prophesy. Maybe a lot of our actions are to try to accomplish self-fulfilling prophesies? But what I have discovered is that bigger is not better.
Peter discovered this too! Who? Peter, Jesus’ chief disciple! But if you read carefully, Peter isn’t even mentioned in this passage. Other Gospel writers describe how Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and asked if he could join Him on His lake walk and Peter actually walked on water. But Mark leaves this whole account out. Why? We can’t be certain but you need to remember that Mark was writing on behalf of or was at least heavily influenced by Peter. Therefore, Peter probably wanted Mark to leave out his feat of walking on water. Why? Was it because Peter was embarrassed about losing sight of Jesus and almost drowned. I don’t think so. Peter would have been more embarrassed about denying Christ on the night before He died and Mark tells that whole story in Mark 14. I think Peter wanted Mark to leave out his water-walking escapade because Peter wanted the focus to be on Jesus. The way to overcome the poison of pride is to point everybody to Jesus.
Friends, we have only covered two verses and do see how wonderful Jesus is. But there’s more. Jesus is on the land and disciples are where? In the middle of the sea! John says they were 3 or 4 miles out (John 6:19) just to make sure nobody thinks that Jesus was walking close to shore or was on a sand bar. And even though the disciples were straining and Jesus was up on the mountain, He could see them struggling. I take great comfort in this! “We are meant to be frustrated when we are trying to produce something that we are incapable of producing. It’s the goodness of God to let us be frustrated.” Jesus right now might be up on Mount Zion, but He sees me struggling in the midst of the wind and waves of life and He will come. Being away from Jesus always means straining. As William Lane explains, “the disciples were wearing themselves out.” You can picture these strong fishermen rowing all night and getting nowhere. R.T. France puts it this way, “the disciples were experiencing the inability to make progress.” Does that sum up your life? Without Jesus, you will not be able to make progress. You might know Jesus. You might have recently spent time with Him. You might have experienced Him doing a miracle in your life or in others. You might have listened to His voice and obeyed. You might have gone or are going right now on mission to the other side of the sea or just the other side of the road. Jesus might not even be too far from you. But Jesus is not in the boat with you! He is coming! The question is will you miss Him? Will you miss the miracle? The miracle is Jesus! However, you might mistake Him for something else. Mistaking Jesus’ identity will petrify your heart. Your fear will make you like a stone. The disciples almost missed Jesus in the midst of their struggle. Verse 48 describes, “He was about to pass them by.” Boy, that sounds kind of mean! Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals. You set off across the lake because Jesus told you to. You have been straining all night because of a storm. You know already that Jesus can calm the storm from a previous time when He took a nap and woke up to calm the storm with one word (Mark 4:35-41). But Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Maybe you even start to think that though Jesus can feed 5000 people, He leaves you to struggle here in a storm? WHERE IS JESUS WHEN YOU NEED HIM MOST? He has worked in other’s lives, what about yours?
Then you discover that Jesus walks 3 or 4 miles out on a lake and is about to pass you by. That’s crazy! Where was Jesus going? Thomas Oden answers, “A different direction so they were like strangers.” How could they miss Him? How could Jesus who they were just with a few hours earlier be a stranger? How can we spend time with Jesus here at church or even reading His word this week and miss Him coming to the rescue? I believe it is because we do not recognize Him. It could be because we soon get too busy with life and its storms. We are straining at life. It could be because we are in the place of our strength. Remember, the disciples are experts on this Sea of Galilee. Four of them are fishermen who make their livelihood on this lake. Jesus loves to show His power in our place of strength – a place that at one time you were so good at and now you are failing. In our weakness He will be shown strong. What we need to believe and hold fast to is that Jesus is coming to the rescue. Don’t give up. Jesus will show up in power. In fact, Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise to Moses in Exodus 33:19, 22, “I Myself will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” The disciples knew the story of Moses and their ancestors in the wilderness and God’s provision of manna but forgot it. They forgot that Jesus would be that shepherd who showed compassion on whom He wanted. Remember what Mark said about Jesus in 6:34! The disciples mistook Jesus’ identity. But in His grace, Jesus came to them. His passing by was not cruel but compassionate. “The verb parechomai translated to ‘to pass by’ when connected to divinity refers to a theophany.” A theophany is where God reveals Himself. God literally shows up. He manifests Himself in the person of Jesus. All of the fullness of deity dwells in Christ in bodily form. (Col. 2:9) This was Yahweh coming to the rescue. “It was not a stunt to amaze His friends, but God Himself was visiting in the flesh.” Jesus seemingly passing you by is not to make you suffer more but call you to attention to who He really is!
Right now you might be afraid! I believe that there is something that each one of us is afraid of in this room. It is your core fear! It could be a fear of rejection, a fear of failure, a fear of being alone or you fill in the blank. Jesus has come to the rescue but He is not quite in the boat and He hasn’t quite stilled the storm because He wants you to not mistake His identity. He says, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:51) Jesus literally says I AM is here. The Greek “ego eimi” translated “It is I” refers to the Great I AM! This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 41:1-3, “Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, and let the peoples gain new strength; let them come forward, then let them speak; let us come together for judgment. Who has aroused one from the east? Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before Him and subdues kings. He makes them like dust with His sword, as the wind-driven chaff with his bow. He pursues them, passing on in safety, by a way he had not been traversing with his feet.” Now if the Great I AM has shown up then we need to take courage and not be afraid. We need to stop struggling and then He will calm both our fears and storms alike.
Jesus wants to come. He wants to soften your hearts. Notice, how the disciples’ hearts were hard because they didn’t understand about the loaves (Mark 6:52). The commentator Lenski calls this, “the process of petrifaction.” Our hearts become hard when we don’t realize that Jesus has compassion for all. This was demonstrated at the Cross when the Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. Will you trust Him alone for your rescue not just from your sin but to also rescue you from yourself?
“Often believers do not see that what they are going through is the way God is going to give them what they really want: Him!” Christ wants you to get off the treadmill of life. He wants you to walk… but not on water! Jesus wants you to walk with Him! The miracle was not walking on water. The miracle was that Christ comes in your struggle and rescues you. Jesus did this on the Cross! Your struggle is finished. You think you need to keep pushing at the oars of life. No! In John’s account we read, “So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:21) Will you receive Jesus into your boat – into your life? He will carry you to where you need to go. He will carry you to the other side. Receive Him! Don’t miss the miracle!
 Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915), 81.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 132.
 Dan Stone and David Gregory, The Rest of the Gospel (Corvallis: One Press, 2000), 122.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark – NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 236.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark – NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 271.
 Thomas C. Oden ed., Ancient Christian Commentary – Mark (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 94.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 263.
 Garland, 266.
 R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 277.
 Stone and Gregory, 135.
When I met with the family they described Edna with certain terms. Would you like to know what they said? Edna grew up on a farm, actually on the site where the Toyota plant is, just north of the 401. At times that was hard for her but one of the ways she loved to remember the past was that she collected dolls, plates and figurines. She didn’t complain much but was a thankful and peaceful person. This despite having the hardship of mental ups and downs. Edna loved some of the simpler things in life such a playing cribbage and was quite competitive. She enjoyed visiting her granddaughter and her family at their cottage. Apparently, Pat and her enjoyed an occasional polka dance. What was most important to Edna was family. The girls in the family remember how when Princess Di and Charles got married and then when Kate Middleton and William got married they all got up early and wore tiaras and crowns and watched the whole wedding ceremony. She watched ordinary women become royalty. Edna pretended to be queen for the day. The truth is that Edna was not just royalty for a day. She is now been adopted as daughter of the King of Universe. She belongs to His Kingdom. This was a recent adoption. In fact, it only happened two weeks ago when I went to visit her in her hospital room. Would you like to hear about the adoption? It is actually the most important story of her life and the one that she wants every one of you to hear. How do I know this? Edna has met her Maker and Creator God and wants you to know about what happens after death. She wants you to know why you are here on earth. In a sense, she is still being a mother in her care for us despite the fact that she is gone.
Her message really comes from her Creator, the Lord Jesus as He interacted with a woman in John 4. This was the actual story that prompted Edna’s adoption into the Royal Family of God. I read it to her on that day in the hospital: 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Notice that Jesus came and met the woman where she was at in life. He always does that. He comes to meet you where you are in life. Today, we are grieving. We are confronted with our own mortality. Jesus is here. The Bible calls Him the Man of Sorrows. He can relate to losing loved ones. His cousin John was killed. He wept when His friend Lazarus died. He knows you might feel abandoned, just as He knew that the woman felt abandoned. She had been shunned because all the other townspeople didn’t like her lifestyle. Maybe she had taken one of their husbands? Jesus doesn’t speak condemning words. He only asks for a drink of water. That would have been odd because men, especially Jewish Rabbis in that day didn’t talk to women to whom they weren’t married. And certainly Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. However, Jesus didn’t let societal barriers dictate how He would care for people. Jesus saw past the physical need to the spiritual need. He does with you as well. He is concerned about your physical well-being but knows that it all starts in the heart, so Jesus offers the woman living water. We might think we have much to offer Jesus – our talents, our money, or our good works, but ultimately those are temporary. This is really important to understand. Jesus offers us eternal life. Something we could not earn on our own.
However, the woman got hung up on religion. Jesus quickly teaches her that God transcends religion and ritual. He is Spirit and Truth. To prove it, Jesus reveals He knows the truth of her life. She has been through so many men and the man she was living with was not her husband. Whether you are religious or rebellious, Jesus shows you need Him. In fact, He is the long-awaited one – the Messiah. He is the One that will satisfy your soul. He comes with His offer.
My friends, do you realize that Jesus is offering you salvation today? He gave it to Edna two weeks ago. I asked Edna whether she wanted to have this same living water and receive Christ as her Saviour of her sins and the Satisfaction of her soul. She did. She prayed for forgiveness on the day when for some reason she was very lucid, despite having previous days that were cloudy in her mind. The Son broke through!
What Edna wants for you is not to wait until the last two weeks of your life to become adopted as God’s child. She wants you to know that Jesus came to die and raise to life so that you can have a new life now. We just celebrated that this past weekend. Good Friday, the day Jesus died and the day that Edna died. The day Jesus conquered death. He promised the thief on the Cross next to Him when he asked Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus despite the fact that the man a few hours earlier had rejected Him a few hours earlier, promised, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Will you trust in Jesus? Will you join Him in His Kingdom? Is Jesus your King? He will transform you from an ordinary citizen into being adopted into His royal family? You just need to follow Him!
This sermon can we watched or listened at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
Are you looking for Jesus? I suspect you are here because you want to have an encounter with Jesus today or you’re here with somebody who wants to have an encounter with Jesus. Either way you are in the right place. Why? Jesus is going to show up and meet you if you seek Him or not. HE IS ON THE MOVE! I have found this to be true in my life. 34 years ago today, God moved the heart of a lady by the name of Donna Waggott. Donna Waggott taught Sunday School to little squirmy boys. Most of the boys were into sports, tormenting their siblings, or running around getting into all sorts of mischief. Most Sundays, the boys didn’t pay attention to what Donna taught, they were too busy goofing off. But this Sunday, God moved and a miracle took place. One of the little boys heard that Jesus had died for him to forgive his sins, his lying, his dishonouring his parents, his laziness, and his fighting with others. Those sins might seem small in your eyes but not in God’s. The consequences might make a greater impact the older we get, but sin is sin and it cost Jesus the same – His own life. The miracle was that this little boy finally understood the message of Easter that Jesus died on a Cross and raised to new life for him. That very day with his father, this little boy asked Christ to forgive him of his sins and trusted in Jesus as Saviour. That little boy was me. I’m a miracle! That could be you! Are looking for Jesus?
There are three miracles that we find in Mark 16:1-16! Read Mark 16:1-16! The first miracle is that the immovable gets moved. Notice that the women are coming to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body with spices. They didn’t have embalming fluid like we do nowadays, so they tried to preserve the body by placing spices on the outside of the body. This reminds me of how we try so hard to preserve what is precious to us, things that don’t last – externals. Maybe you have been working hard at protecting your assets and possessions, but they are a moving target? Your stocks go down and your expenses go up! Your house or car needs lots of repairs. Or maybe you are trying to protect a person? The problem is that they keep making bad decisions and they hurt themselves. The story of the women coming to the tomb shows that Jesus wants to refocus your preservation efforts of the temporary to the pursuit of the eternal. I believe this first happens when you start to look for Jesus, even if your motivations and actions are not what God ultimately wants. Maybe you are looking for Jesus to get you out of your problem; the problem that you were trying to fix? Maybe you are afraid of death and you’re looking for Jesus to save you from death? Your motivation and need is legitimate but I think Jesus wants to do something more than just fix your financial or health problem. “It’s easy to feel as if this money is the only wealth we’ll ever have, as if this body is the only body we’ll ever have.” But Resurrection Sunday shows there is more. In our pursuit of the temporary, we often come up against a wall; an immovable object. Something is blocking you from getting where you want to go. The women experienced an obstacle. The tomb was covered by a huge stone! The women couldn’t get to Jesus even though they were looking for Him. So what does God do? The Gospel writer Matthew records that God sent an angel to move the stone away (Matthew 28:2). God is on the only one who can move the seemingly immovable. What I discovered when I was little and have continued to discover my whole life is that God is still moving the immovable in our lives. The biggest barrier in my life and in your life to Jesus is that my heart is like a stone sometimes. It is like my son who told me when he knew that God was prompting him to share the Timbits he was given with his siblings, “I know I should but I don’t want to.” So he hoarded them and kept them in his room. The next week we cleaned out his room and the Timbits were an illustration of his heart the week before; they were hard as stones. He preserved the temporary to find out that he lost it. However, if he and you and I come to Jesus, God will move the immovable.
I must mention one more aspect to God moving the immovable. You might have missed it when reading the text. It is hinted at in verse 6 and comes fully to the light in verse 8. The angel tells them, “Do not to be alarmed (NIV).” Note the NASB uses “amazed,” which is not a good translation. In verse 8, that the women “went out and fled the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Fear can make you immovable. You are afraid to go forward. What I find so liberating from the paralysis of fear is that Jesus is on the move. He goes first. This is the second miracle in the passage – the dead Jesus is now alive and on the move. He wants to meet us but we need to follow. Jesus has risen and gone on to the place where He told us His followers where He would meet them. For the first disciples, that was going ahead into Galilee (v. 7). For today’s disciples of Christ, Jesus promised that He would go and prepare a place for us. In John 14:2-6 we read the promise of Jesus, “’In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’” Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus is alive and on the move and wants to meet with you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants to restore you to fellowship like He did with Peter who denied knowing Him on the night before Jesus died (John 21). Jesus wants to teach you what it means to follow Him now as your King. He wants to teach you how to live out His kingdom values and proclaim His Kingdom message. David Garland comments, “If we ask where the Christ is, Mark’s answer is that He is always on ahead of us, leading us on to new lands.” Or as another writer says, “God did not disclose the Resurrection fact except to enlist in a task” of proclaiming it!
What do we proclaim? The answer to that question also leads us to the third miracle seen in the passage – we are to reverse the curse. What do I mean that we are to reverse the curse? The evil in this world began when the serpent tempted Eve and placed doubts in her mind as to whether God and His Word were really true. Genesis 3 describes the scene of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and the consequences and curses that resulted, they experienced shame as they discovered their nakedness, there would now be enmity and strife between humans and the serpent – who is Satan, and women would now endure pain in child-bearing (which I have witnessed first hand four times with my wife and once with a woman in Haiti and it looks like it hurts). The curse has also has infected man’s work. Not even the ground would readily yield its crops. Instead, man would be made to battle against thorns and thistles to provide for his family! For those of you who aren’t farmers (which is almost everyone here), you are not excluded from this part of the curse. God originally created work to bring man pleasure and result in glory to God, but you know what I’m saying that many days work is a daily grind. This universe which, God created good, has suffered under man who has abdicated his role as viceroy and steward of this earth and now is under the control of a usurping ruler the Devil (1 John 5:19). No wonder the universe longs to be redeemed. It wants to be free from its tyranny and have God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. This is why Jesus came to extend His Kingdom on earth and why He is fighting for earth. As one theologian writes, “The goodness of creation is portrayed as something to be fought for.” The Apostle Paul writes it this way, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
In light of the evil and chaos in this world that God created good to be whole and ordered and good, Jesus gives us these final instructions in Mark 16:15-16. Now I need to tell you that after verse 8 there is some speculation whether Mark actually wrote the last verses in the chapter. My view is that Mark didn’t finish his Gospel at verse 8 because it seems incomplete and cut off. Nevertheless, though verses 9-20 may not be written by Mark, they do show ancient teaching of the Early Church and every verse aligns with Scripture. Since the longer ending is compatible with Scripture, I wrestled with this enough to confidently preach this message as God’s Truth. In summary, Jesus’ last words are found in verse 15:
PREACH the GOSPEL …
1) To reverse the Curse. (v. 9, 15) Let me explain further by asking the question, why would Jesus first appear to a woman who had been formerly demonized and give her the responsibility of proclaiming the message of the Resurrection? Wouldn’t her message be suspect? I think it is because Jesus is the Great Redeemer. The seventh century scholar Bede known as “The Father of English History” wrote “A woman was first to taste the Fall and the first to behold the resurrection.” Eve was deceived by Satan in the form of a serpent and Mary Magdalene was rescued from Satan and given life. This has both universal and personal implications. First the universal implication! Often we think that Jesus died to save ME from my sins. This is true but not the whole picture. As Matt Chandler says in his excellent book The Explicit Gospel, “The gospel does not terminate on individual salvation. Its aim is bigger, broader…the designation kingdom itself tells us that the gospel is God’s plan not just to restore mankind, but to restore ‘all things’ for mankind’s enjoyment, Christ’s lordship and his triune self’s glory.” The gospel is not just good news for you but for this whole universe. One scholar puts it this way, “Under the rule of God, things shall be as they were always intended to be.” And as J.R.R. Tolkien writes, “Everything sad will come untrue.” All of God’s creation longs for this, even the angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). The earth is yearning for redemption where it is stewarded well by people who reign with Christ. This is way beyond a message the “tree-huggers” can say Amen to! It is a message proclaiming that the world wants to be released from Satan’s grip. No, we are not supposed to preach to the birds, the fish and animals. Some like St. Francis of Assisi even preached to the flowers as you see in this picture. I have to confess that I have seen my wife and other gardeners talking to their flowers. Our first crocus bloomed on Good Friday and Lori kneeled down and welcomed it to our world. Gardeners not crazy to remind the plants of their Creator as Jesus said that the rocks will cry out to if we fail to give God praise (Luke 19:40). All creation declares the glory of the Lord. This is why our message to this world is that Jesus died on a Cross and has risen from the grave to make all things new (2 Peter 3:13). And this has personal implications for you and me. What has been lost in the curse, will be redeemed by Christ if we will believe and be baptized in His name (v. 16) What I have noticed in my life and in others’ lives is that in the very spots where Satan came to kill, steal and destroy, Christ has taken the trauma and turned it into a triumph. Jesus did that with Mary Magdalene and He can do that with you too. Maybe you are under the attack of the Evil One? Jesus wants you to experience His resurrection, and victorious power over the place where you have been hurt most! You too can have a message like Mary did to those who are mourning and weeping. BUT there will be times that you will PREACH the GOSPEL and people will doubt. They won’t believe you; maybe you used to be under Satan’s grip. They doubt you because they knew you before believing in the Resurrected Christ. That is not how Christ sees you. Mary was given prominence above the other women. (Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1) If people doubt you, you are still called to PREACH the GOSPEL…
2) …to those who doubt (v. 11, 13) Twice in this passage we find the phrase, “they did not believe” The disciples did not initially believe Mary that she had seen the resurrected Lord Jesus. Then they didn’t believe their comrades (v. 13; cf. Luke 24:13-35). When you go into all the world and preach the gospel, you will encounter resistance, especially from those who should believe, because Jesus has been working in their lives. And some of you right now are deciding that you won’t preach the gospel because of this resistance. My encouragement to you is that Jesus Himself faced resistance even though He was the resurrected Son of God; and yet He kept preaching the Gospel so that you and I would be saved. Some of you may be surprised that I’m even asking you to preach the gospel. Isn’t that for people who have been trained, who go to seminary, people who are pastors and missionaries? I mean I just came out to church one Sunday and you are telling me go tell others about Jesus. YES! We are to proclaim what we have seen and heard Jesus do in our lives. The apostles training came from spending time with Jesus. You are required to be a student of Jesus if you believe in Him. And you are required to train or disciple the nations. Everybody who is a follower of Christ can and must do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. Okay, some of you right now are making up your mind that you will “preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” You are volunteering for silent preaching. That is not Biblical. Romans 10:14-15 declares, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Yes, we are to live out the gospel but we also must preach it; otherwise it is just good works and not good NEWS! And just to be clear, the good news is that Jesus died on a Cross and rose again to give you a new life that lasts forever. Keep living and preaching this and some, not all, will come to faith in Christ. This was true in the passage. The disciples didn’t initially believe like most of you in this room. None of you had a love at first sight conversion. No, God through the Holy Spirit wrestled you down until there was tap out and you declared Him the victor in your life. The only true conversions are where you see the depth of your sin at the Cross, and what it cost Jesus and you recognize that He did it for you. If we keep preaching such a gospel, we will start to see people’s doubts overcome. The immovable will be moved because Jesus is on the move and we are to go with Him to reverse the curse. Now if you have been moved by all that Jesus has done for you, I’m giving you an opportunity to respond.
Last week, if you were here, I challenged you commit to following for:
- believer’s baptism
- joining Temple Baptist Church in membership
- giving what the Lord has impressed upon me
- serving using my gifts God has given me
- sharing the Gospel with
Which one is it going to be for you? What miracle is Jesus going to do in and through you today? Is He going to move the immovable sin and stubbornness of your heart through salvation and baptism? Is Jesus on the move and He has told you to join Him and His Church in giving, serving and sharing the Gospel to reverse the curse? Today, Jesus has risen to give a new life. He wants to live powerfully through you. Come, you’ve finally found what you were looking for!
 Timothy Keller, The King’s Cross (New York: Dutton, 2011), 222.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 624.
 Paul Sevier Minear, The Gospel According to Mark (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1960), 134.
 Greg Boyd, God at War (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1997), 100.
 According to scholar Bruce Metzger there are three possible explanations: a) the evangelist intended to close his Gospel at verse 8; or b) the Gospel was never finished; or, as seems most probable, c) the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription.” A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994), 105.
 Bede, “Homilies on the Gospels” Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scripture – Volume 11 (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 247.
 Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 106-107.
 Boyd, 210.
 J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
This sermon can be watched or listened to www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
Have you ever had you someone try to bait you into doing something? Maybe your sibling antagonized you when you were little and they would bug you until finally you couldn’t take it anymore and you acted out? Maybe somebody got under your skin on the sports field and they goaded you into a penalty? Maybe that annoying co-worker finally caused you to lose your cool? Or sadly maybe your spouse knows how to push your buttons and get you to react so that the real issue is never resolved? Maybe they are actually deflecting the root problem away from them onto you? Now why would I bring up such a subject on a Good Friday? You’re home from school and work and you took your holiday to come and have me stir things up. No, that is not my intent. The reason why I bring this up is because being offended puts you at a crossroad. You can choose to strike back and that often leads to greater strife in others’ life and yours. You end up getting two extra minutes in the penalty box. The fight not only escalates but there are usually damages on all sides. Being wounded is often the motivation for much of our behavior. Think about it. “It is only those you care about that can really hurt you.” And so when somebody hurts you, you say to yourself, “I will never let that happen to me again” and you become guarded and don’t let anybody discover the interior of your life.
However those walls that we construct to protect us from hurt, also block out the Holy Spirit as well and numb us to His Voice. Maybe you were poor growing up because your parents mismanaged money or wasted it on foolish things? Maybe they even wasted it on alcohol, drugs or gambling? Now you are determining to have financial security so you work really long hours. One author identifies being offended as The Bait of Satan. Jesus calls these offenses “stumbling blocks.” He once said to His disciples in Luke 17:1, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through they come!” “Offense” or “stumbling block” is the Greek word “skandalon” in the New Testament. We get our word scandal from it. Most of us know that we should not offend others and cause scandals in their lives. However, how do we handle it when we are offended? The answer to that question is found in Mark 15:27-38. As I read this verses again, please notice that the only way to overcome an offense is to let Jesus defend you. Read Mark 15:27-38!
So we read that Jesus is hanging there on the Cross and the crowd was “hurling abuse at Him” (v. 29). Without realizing it, they were criticizing their Creator. They were trying to goad God! They wanted Jesus to show His power. They were antagonizing Jesus to show off by coming down from the Cross so they would believe. This still happens today. A lot of skeptics still cry out to God to show Himself, to show His power. But what if the ultimate display of power is choosing not to use it? Or maybe I could say it another way, what if you showed your strength through weakness? For the most part, we understand power as “might makes right.” Your boss may be more powerful than you so you do what he or she says. Your parents may tell you to do something with the tagline, “Because I said so.” Your spouse may outmatch you with their words. Normally, the powerful dominate! However, there is something inside of us that longs for the weak to win. David vs. Goliath! University of Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown and then San Diego State. Bilbo Baggins, a little hobbit, defeating the Pale Orc. What if real power comes from relinquishing power? Jesus demonstrated such strength through weakness; such power through powerlessness! He stayed on the Cross so people could actually believe not in a Houdini or escape artist from His problems but in a resurrected Lord who dealt with their sin problem.
What is utterly amazing is that Jesus is on the Cross and He cries out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have your forsaken Me?” (v. 35) Jesus took their offense to His Heavenly Father but what was even more devastating to Jesus was the agonizing silence of His Father. As John Bevere insightfully observes, “It is one thing to experience rejection and malice from a brother or sister, but it is entirely different to experience rejection from a father.” I am not sure if there are greater words than these in regard to a true understanding of power and how to handle an offense. The words speak to one of the greatest dilemmas that humans wrestle with, if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop evil? You may be wrestling with that right now. Why was this person’s life cut so short? Why do the innocent get abused? Why such violence? Where is God? May I tell you that the Cross speaks to all those questions? Jesus’ life was cut off in His prime. Jesus was innocent and yet he was horribly abused. Jesus experienced terrible violence against Him. And Jesus experienced abandonment and separation from God. I have said this before to you but I think it is worth repeating, Jesus experienced the state of hell so we don’t have to. This is the only answer to the seeming weakness on God’s part towards Jesus. I know that if I saw one of my children being beat up, I would do everything in my power to stop it. But not God! He let His Son be arrested, go through a kangaroo court, be spat on, punched, scourged, mocked, stripped naked, and ultimately crucified. God appeared weak in the sense that He didn’t rescue His Son and God appeared overly strong in the sense that His wrath came upon His Son. The apparent weakness and the awesome wrath of God were both demonstrated at once at the Cross, as were God’s mercy and justice. “Weakness is a sign of power. Death is a means to life. God’s forsakenness leads to reconciliation with God.” Jesus was silent and God the Father were silent to those offending them while at the same showing power to save. All this happened to show that God’s ultimate power was directed toward saving the powerless – you and me.
But how were you and I powerlessness? The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Who are the ungodly? Break that word down – un-godly. To be godly is to be like God. Have you tried to be like God? Have you tried to be in control? The problem is that we don’t have the right character to be in control. Self-leadership doesn’t ultimately work. We strive to benefit ourselves. We are either too merciful or too full of justice. For us, Good Friday would be Bad Friday. We wouldn’t send our beloved child to the Cross to be a sacrifice for rebels. We would strike back. This is why we needed a substitute. God directed His wrath on the only one who could take it – His divine Son.
This explains why Jesus Himself is called a skandalon, an offense to people who can’t embrace this truth. Peter describes Jesus in 1 Peter 2:8 as “’a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word and to this doom they were also appointed.” Coming full circle to my main question, how do we handle being offended? We let Jesus defend us. The crowd jeering Jesus missed this point. They were offended at Jesus when they were actually offending him. Their insults were part of the reason why He was choosing to stay on that Cross. Jesus showed His greatest power by staying on the Cross and surrendering His life.
Today we observe this amazing act of power and restraint. When we hold an offense against someone it separates relationships. But Christ bore the offense and the punishment for it, and in doing so He demolishes the separation in our relationship to God. Look at Mark 15:37-38. The innocent Lamb of God is bearing the ultimate injustice, a punishment that He didn’t deserve, payment for sins He didn’t commit and rather than take offense at it, He accepted it as God’s will. Verse 37 describes, “He uttered a loud cry and breathed His last.” And at that very moment the veil in the Temple that kept the Jews from entering the Holy presence of God was torn from top to bottom. Notice that the veil being ripped from top to bottom is evidence of God’s work. The veil was a curtain and “Josephus, a historian writing a few years after the death of Christ, reported that the veil was 4 inches thick, was renewed every year, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.” Besides the fact that priests were the only ones allowed near the Holy of Holies, it would have been impossible for one person or even a few to rip the veil from top to bottom. The significance is great! The Jews could never come before God without bringing the proper sacrifices for their sins. A veil hung in the Temple to keep people from the Holy of Holies. But now God was saying, “That’s over, it is finished! The perfect sacrifice has been made! Because of my Son you can now come to me whenever you like!” And now we as believers live in the reality of this astonishing truth!
The torn veil symbolizes that Christ has eliminated the barrier between you and God and it should also be the motivation to tear down the barrier between you and others. When others offend us, we know that Jesus died for those hurtful acts. Jesus defends against the offenses committed against us. More importantly, Jesus defends against the offenses we committed against God. 1 John 2:1 declares Jesus to be our Defense: “And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and He Himself is the propitiation (the satisfaction of the wrath of God) for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
And this brings us to the Communion table. When we come we must fully embrace that Jesus has taken our offenses against God and satisfied them. However, we must also take the offenses that were committed against us and put them forward for Jesus’ sacrifice to satisfy them as well. This is Communion with God and with each other. Today, the Cross of Jesus is the defense against all offense. Will give over your Defense to Him? His weakness powerfully won you!
 John Bevere, The Bait of Satan (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2004), 6.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 598.
 Charles Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible.
This sermon can be watched or listen to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca.
Have you ever been in desperate need of something? You might be thinking, “Jon, yeah I’m in that situation right now!” Your need is not just a desire, but this need is the difference maker in your life. If you had that need met, your life would radically change. I recall when I was finishing college and was about to get married. I had a job lined up that would pay the bills, but barely. I was about to marry this gorgeous, dark-haired girl but I had little to take care of her with. A couple of weeks ago, I told you how I spent all my money on buying her a ring. As many young grooms feel, I was feeling the weight of being responsible for somebody other than myself. Then I got a call from Geneseo Evangelical Free Church asking me to interview for the role of Assistant Pastor. The problem was that I didn’t have a car to make it to the interview about an hour and half away. I was only 22 and could not legally rent a car so I explained the situation to the Search Committee from the church that I couldn’t make the interview unless I was able to find transportation. So, I called my dad and do you know what he did? Your Teaching Pastor decided that he would drive from London, Ontario to Chicago and lend me his extra car and then fly back to Detroit just so Lori and I could make it to the interview. My father provided. Today, I want to tell you that you have a Heavenly Father that will come when you call and provide that desperate need. How do I know? I have seen it my life but more importantly, we find that the Heavenly Father did it for His Son Jesus. In Mark 11:1-11, we find the only story in the Bible where Jesus is described as needing something. What did He need? Transportation! He needed a ride! Jesus needed to get somewhere. Let’s read where Jesus was going and how He got there. Read Mark 11:1-11!
Last week, we were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. Now we need to hit the rewind button and understand the background story. However, some of you might still be stuck on what I just said that we were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. How were you and I in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus? You might think it was only Peter, James and John. No, you were there when they crucified the Lord. Jesus was praying for you, when He said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36) He bowed His immediate desire to be spared to the Father’s ultimate desire to spare us. Jesus was willing to lay down his desire and life for you. One of things that probably reassured Jesus was that His Heavenly Father had already provided for His need. God had supplied the ride into Jerusalem and it was on this road that Jesus was declared King. God literally was going to carry Him through to glory! I’ll explain this further in a minute. But I think it is insightful that in the midst of difficulty, God will encourage you enough to take the next step with Him. Have you found that to be true? I can recall numerous times in my life when I felt abandoned or discouraged and then God would bring an encouraging word from somebody, or a timely sermon or provision for me. Sometimes He would give me the privilege of leading somebody to the Lord, which greatly lifted my spirits. He helped me keep going! I believe this is partially what God was doing by providing the colt for Jesus to ride on. Remember, God will never give you more than what you can bear! (1 Corinthians 10:13)
We see this in the life of Jesus. The time is drawing close to His execution. However, nobody knew it. They didn’t see an execution; only an exaltation. They were climbing a mountain – Mount Zion. Bethany was going to base camp. It was where Mary and Martha were, and Lazarus and Simon the Leper. Finally, it seemed that Jesus was going to ascend to the top. At least this is how I picture it when Jesus told two of His disciples to “go into the next village of Bethphage and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one yet had ever sat; untie it and bring it here.” (Mark 11:2) To the disciples who knew their Bibles, this could mean only thing. After walking around for three years with their Messiah, He was going to be inaugurated. You see they knew that this was going to fulfill prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (cf. Matthew 21:4-5) Their Teacher and Hero was now going to be recognized as king. The disciples from the time they were young boys had heard that the Messiah would someday come. They had heard about the kings of old like the great Solomon who was put on his father David’s mule and anointed king. (1 Kings 1:33-40) Now David’s greatest son Jesus was going to be put on a mule that God Himself had prepared, for there would be no other explanation for Jesus having an unbroken mule ready and waiting for Him. The disciples must have been excited. Jesus was going to be anointed king or so they thought.
Let me unpack this a little further so we don’t miss the significance. First, notice that Jesus knew about the mule. That shows Jesus’ ability to know the future. He knows your future and is prepared for it. Second, when the disciples come to borrow the mule, Jesus instructs them to say to anybody, including the “owner”: “The Lord has need of it; and will send it back shortly.” (v. 3) Mark says the people gave them permission (v. 6). That seems like a miracle in itself. If somebody came to you and saw your brand new car in your driveway that had never been ridden and said, “The Lord has need of it and I’ll bring it back shortly,” would you give them the keys? The disciples would have been surprised to get the keys. Jesus had already been preparing hearts of generosity. I believe Jesus is doing that with you as well. Third, notice that the mule is not a stallion like Mel Gibson would ride into battle in Braveheart. “He didn’t ride in on a powerful war-horse the way a king would; he was mounted on a poulos, a colt or a small donkey. Here was Jesus the King of authoritative miraculous power riding into town on a steed fit for a child or a hobbit.” Many scholars down through the centuries comment on this spectacle. Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th Century wrote, “Jesus began with a manger and finished with a donkey; in Bethlehem with a manger, in Jerusalem with a donkey.” In other words, both the manger and the donkey were implements of humility; from beginning to end Jesus was humble. The Apostle Paul recognized this about Jesus in Philippians 2:8, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient, even death on a cross.” Jesus didn’t come charging in like a warlord. “God does not win by sending armies into bloody battles but by sending His Son to the Cross.”
As evidence of this Jesus promises in verse 3, He will send it back shortly. “Unlike plundering kings, Jesus will return the animal immediately.” This is instructive because Jesus isn’t like your neighbor who borrows your stuff and never gives it back. Instead, it reveals that when Jesus asks us to give something, He will give it back to us better than before. The mule that Jesus “borrowed” was unbroken. I read a little bit about breaking mules. It is very difficult. This comes from an excerpt of The Mule – A Treatise on the Breeding, Training and Uses to Which He May Be Put written by Harvey Riley in 1867 when mules were used a lot more commonly in labour and warfare: “In breaking the mule, most persons are apt to get out of patience with him. I have got out of patience with him myself. But patience is the great essential in breaking, and in the use of it you will find that you get along much better. The mule is an unnatural animal, and hence more timid of man than the horse.” Mules don’t just become instantly broken, not even for their masters. You can’t just buy an unbroken mule and ride it, unless you are its Ultimate Master and Owner. Don’t you see? Jesus can overcome any stubborn habit or problem, even that person in your life who may be as “stubborn as a mule!” But don’t look at the person next to you right now. In all seriousness, Jesus may be asking you to give up your child to Him. Do you trust Him that He can give you a better child because He knows and loves the child more than you do? Jesus may be asking you to give up a loved one. Do you believe He can give you a better loved one in the life to come? Jesus may be asking you to give up your treasure here on earth. Do you believe that He can give you better treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20)?
Jesus is simply saying, “The Lord has need of it.” Pause there! Does God need anything or is He all-sufficient in Himself? Friends, I have heard people say that God created human beings because He was lonely and He needed to have a relationship with us. He wanted people to choose Him freely. This is false! God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is complete and sufficient in Himself. He chose us! He loves us but He wasn’t in need of anything. This is why the phrase, “The Lord has need of it” is so peculiar and so unique in the Scriptures. What does Jesus mean? The clue again is that Jesus gives the mule back. He could have bought a mule but instead we see the humility of Jesus as He identifies with us humans. Everything you and I have is borrowed; it is on loan from God. Jesus was at once showing He was the Lord, the rightful Owner of the mule by immediately breaking it, but at the same time showing He was a good steward of what belonged to others. Are you being a good steward of what you have been given? All that you have belongs to God and God lets us take care of His stuff!
The securing of a mule carries us to the main point of the story – Jesus is King over earth and heaven! As Jesus gets on the mule, the people start to place their coats on the donkey and leafy branches on the road almost like rolling out the red carpet today. The people were acting out what they read in 2 Kings 9:13, “Then they hurried and each man took his garment and placed it under him on the bare steps, and blew the trumpet saying, ‘Jehu is king!’” They were declaring Jesus as king and giving evidence of that by singing a phrase from one of the Psalms of Ascent that the pilgrims would sing on their way up to Jerusalem. They specifically sing Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” However, they also add the word Hosanna. “’Hosanna’ is properly a prayer invoking God’s saving action and means ‘save us.’”  This begs the question, save us from what? The disciples and the throng of worshippers wanted Jesus to save them from Roman occupation, from their poverty, from their problems. We know this because they reveal the true motives of their hearts in verse 10, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest.” They wanted to go back to the glory days when David was king and Israel was victorious and expanding. They wanted success. “They wanted salvation from their political enemies.” We should pause and ask ourselves, What do we want Jesus to save us from?
Do we want Jesus to save us from our problems and establish a lesser kingdom? A kingdom that suit us! Jesus’ kingdom transcends this world! (John 19:36) He is the King of Heaven who has humbled Himself to extend His kingdom on earth. He is the High King, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords! Jesus did not go to Rome to take Caesar’s throne or to Herod’s quasi-throne or to Pilate’s judgment seat but to the Temple! Jesus goes to the Temple to inspect what is going on in the ultimate place of worship. The Temple was the conduit between heaven and earth at the time. The Temple would reveal the throne of people’s hearts, for He once declared, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) What Jesus finds is instead of worship and prayer, is wickedness and price gouging. He drives the robbers, thieves of His glory, out of His throne of prayer (Mark 11:17). What would Jesus find as He inspects this Temple? This Temple is to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is no longer about a building or a set of religious rituals but a people who house the Holy Spirit. Temple Baptist Church is to be a people who have the Holy Spirit live through them that they act as a conduit between heaven and earth. What would Jesus find as He inspects this Temple?
To answer that question, we need to examine whether we want Jesus to be king over our heartaches or king over our hearts. Do we want him to take the problem away or take over? Will we try to fix our financial problems through promotion of commerce or through prayer? The only way I know to answer these questions is through action. For the first six months, I have tried to preach the Gospel to you but I haven’t called you to anything tangible. I am now calling you to action because Jesus is saying, “The Lord has need of it.” This is ultimately for your benefit, not His! His Kingdom deals with our ultimate problem of settling for a lesser kingdom when Jesus wants to give you a new heart. A new heart desires to store up treasure in heaven.
Each one of you today is being called. I have put in your bulletins the following:
THE LORD HAS NEED OF IT
I’m committing myself to following Christ for:
_ believer’s baptism
_ joining Temple Baptist Church in membership
_ giving what the Lord has impressed upon me
_ serving using my gifts God has given me
_ sharing the Gospel with
Let me emphasize that this commitment should be an act of worship motivated out of a heart of love for our great Saviour and King. Not as an obligation or a means of earning favour with God. Jesus is calling you to commit to following Him as King for one or more of these actions. You can commit right now and that would be fantastic by coming up after the service and placing this commitment card in the box. However, Jesus once said that we should consider the cost of following Him (Luke 14:28). This is like the “5 minute rule” when you walk away for 5 minutes before purchasing something. You will never experience “buyer’s remorse” with Jesus but I don’t want you to make a decision based just on your emotions. Therefore, next Sunday we celebrate Jesus rising to new life after dying for you and me. We celebrate Jesus becoming the king, not by climbing Mt. Zion but by climbing Mt. Calvary. Because your King has come into your life I am asking you to pray and fill these out this week. If you are going to give, then be prepared to do so by giving above your regularly giving.
I believe committing yourself to the Lord and trusting the Lord when He says He has need of it will result in Him giving you back a better you. More importantly, Jesus will show Himself King in the hardest place to reign – the human heart. Then you will be truly be able to sing, Hosanna, Jesus saves!
 Timothy Keller, The King’s Cross (New York: Dutton, 2011), 154.
 Thomas Oden ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture – Mark (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 155.
 David Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 431.
 Garland, 427.
. Accessed March 21, 2013.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 397.
 Garland, 430.
You can listen to or watch this sermon at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
What is your ultimate desire? One of the times that I discovered my ultimate desire in life was when I was a teenager. I loved baseball. I collected baseball cards. I avidly listened to the Toronto Blue Jays on the radio. But most of all I played baseball. Everyday after school I would call my dad to come home from work around 4:30 PM and he would don the catcher’s equipment before supper and I would throw 100 pitches to him. My goal was to be able to throw it to his glove consistently without him having to move it. Our chain link fence became curled giving evidence that I missed his glove many times. But after a while if you do something enough times you eventually get the hang of it. It wasn’t long after playing in house-league that I got the invite to try out for the travel team, which nowadays is called the rep team. I made the cut and soon found myself in the starting rotation. We had a great team and I had a great defense behind me. We ended up winning the Ontario Championship and I had a record of 22-1 with numerous saves, an ERA of 0.96 and was the winning pitcher for the championship game. (I hate bragging about that time in my life but I have to tell you what happened to me.) When it came to the year-end awards banquet and the announcement of the Fergie Jenkins award for the most outstanding baseball player in Chatham, Ontario I fully expected my name to be announced, partly because a coach who begged me to go in one more inning when my arm was hurting promised it to me. However, another player on my team received the award. I was devastated, but I learned that only going through devastation and loss do we find what is really important. I thought my ultimate desire was for my team to win a championship when in all honesty my real desire was to win honour for myself. Often our ultimate desires are masked by ones that seem so noble and focused on the good of others. We might even deceive ourselves until the time comes for God to reveal what our ultimate desire should be. I believe God is probably doing this in your life right now. We certainly know He did it with His own Son! In Mark 14:32-42, we find Jesus’ immediate desire takes a back seat to His ultimate one. Let’s read to learn how to have our ultimate desire align with God’s ultimate desire for us. Read Mark 14:32-42!
After preparing and eating supper with His disciples, where He predicted their denial and desertion of Him, Jesus takes them to His favourite place. The Gospel writer Luke tells us in Luke 22:39, “And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives.” Think of your favourite place. It could be that rare place where you have been able to find solitude and serenity. Maybe it has a fortress of family or childhood memories? For me, that is Magaguadavic Lake in New Brunswick where our family would visit every summer. My grandfather built this rustic cabin in the 1940s before there were roads into that section of lake so the cabin is located in the middle of some dense woods. There is no running water and electricity in the cabin, and so we spent our days outside swimming, climbing on the rocks, building sand castles and fishing. Our nights concluded by listening to the loons lull us to sleep. Jesus had his favourite place too and He took His disciples, the very ones who would soon deny and desert Him, to that cherished place. It was called the Garden of Gethsemane, which in Hebrew means, “Oil press.” Olives were pressed together in this Garden until the precious oil was squeezed out. This image evokes a foreshadowing of how Jesus was going to be pressed between two great desires. Which desire would come out? I think the fact that Jesus took His disciples to His intimate place, which would become the place of arrest and betrayal, hints at what Jesus was willing to give up. Are you willing to give up that place that is so special to you? I ask because this is one clue in discovering your ultimate desire.
In fact, your ultimate desire will be discovered through three ways in life. The first way of discovering your ultimate desire is during your losses. These losses are defined by anything that causes you grief. There are a lot of things that you lose every day. Some of you may have lost money in the stock market this week but they were just paper losses and you are not terribly bothered by the loss. Others of you lost out on the opportunity to do something that you planned on. You recovered from your loss. However, the greatest losses are ones that cause grief to the point that you seek the help of others. You lose a loved one; you invite others to their funeral and seek their comfort to help you through your loss. Jesus was experiencing a loss and so He took His favourite disciples, Peter, James and John, to be with Him. Jesus knew that He was going to die but it was the waiting that was the killer. The waiting period can be the toughest before a surgery or before a trial. Waiting apparently is especially difficult before an execution, as some have remarked about death row. “In 1978, when he was 27, Manuel Valle killed a police officer in Coral Gables, Fla. In September 2011, when he was 61, Mr. Valle was put to death for his crime. A couple of hours earlier, the Supreme Court of the United States had refused to stay his execution – with one dissent. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the 33 years Mr. Valle had spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Foreign courts have ruled that living for decades under the threat of imminent execution is a form of psychological torment. ‘There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years,’ the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is based in London and hears appeals from former British colonies, wrote in a 1993 ruling in favor of two inmates who had spent more than five years on death row in Jamaica, commuting their sentences to life in prison.” Jesus Himself had for 33 years been on death row. He lived his whole life under an execution sentence, but now on the night before His execution, He starts to feel the weight of this loss. He was being pressed! Mark describes Jesus as being very distressed and troubled (Mark 14:33). He even quotes Jesus as saying, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34) Jesus was walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). He didn’t fear evil! Indeed, He seemed resigned to His purpose, telling Judas after Satan had entered Judas, “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:27) What Jesus feared was that the Rod and Staff that was supposed to comfort Him would now be used against Him. He was becoming the Enemy of God! 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” All of the wickedness that you and I have done along with the trillions of sin that have piled up in human history was placed on Christ. Jesus feared God and He had good reason to do so because He was about to be smote by the full weight of God’s crushing wrath.
Now I need to stop for a minute because here is one of the major questions that people wrestle with in life. Why would God be angry with people who choose their own way? Tim Keller addresses this question, “The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God.” You are only angry about things you care about that are wrong. Apathy, or not caring, is a sign of not loving. If I came and told one of you that your children were going to hurt themselves by breaking one of your rules, would you be apathetic or would you be angry about it? What if one of your friends decided to start cutting themselves? Would that you bother you? Of course it would, because you care about them, you love them. Anger can be an expression of protective love. However, anger that is expressed due to self-love – my goals and my desires being blocked – is not healthy but harmful. I say this to show that God can be loving and angry at the same time because His love is directed toward protecting us. God is holy! He is different and even His love is holy because He sacrificially thinks about others! And this explains why a loving God would be angry with Jesus who became sin for us! God was not apathetic about our sin for that would be unloving. God was angry about our sin and so He had to do something about it. He did something loving by sending His Son to take the blast of His anger. God wasn’t abusing His Son as some argue! God the Son as One with God the Father meant God was taking the anger upon Himself! Only God could handle divine wrath!
We can’t fathom the pain of omni-wrath coming down on God Himself. In the Garden, Jesus was starting to feel for the first time in all of eternity, God the Father withdrawing from Him! William Lane describes it this way, “Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before His betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before Him and He staggered.” God sent Jesus to a state of hell in the sense that He experienced separation from God (which is what hell is ultimately.) Jesus experienced hell so you wouldn’t have to. This would have felt like an almost unbearable loss to Jesus but it was meant to reveal His ultimate desire. What are your losses revealing about your ultimate desire? God is trying to show you what your ultimate desire is to be!
In this process of discovering your ultimate desire, God is gracious. Jesus knew this and so Jesus makes His appeal for a stay of execution to the Supreme Judge of the Universe. Perhaps He could find mercy in His time of need! Perhaps there was another way! You see after you start to feel a loss, you will seek the help of somebody who has the power to do something about the loss. Here is the great crisis point in almost every human’s life. I’m sure it has been for you. If you not it will be! At the point of a person’s most significant loss, even supposed atheists, will cry out to God or what they believe to be God, for relief. It is probably during the loss of the person most dear to you that you seek God. We call this prayer. Prayer is the second way you will discover the ultimate desire in your life! However, I need to caution you about prayer. Prayer is not something to be played with. You shouldn’t ask God for something unless you mean it. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:2 warns, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” Since God sees the whole picture and you and I only a part, if we ask for something from God and it is not what is best from His vantage point, you might graciously get the best answer, “No.” We can be like children, who ask for something that seems so right to them but the parent sees that this is not what is best for them. God will give us delayed gratification. M. Scott Peck defines delayed gratification as “the process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.” Yet, we don’t understand delayed gratification that God is giving us nor do we want it. Many have left the church or worse left God because God didn’t give them what they wanted at the time. My only answer to you struggling with such feelings is to look to Jesus. Hebrew 12:2 declares Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.” How did Jesus endure the Cup of Suffering? How did Jesus endure the Cross and its shame? He prays! Four times the word prayer, which means to “turn your face towards,” is used in these eleven verses to emphasize the importance of prayer. Three times Jesus turns His face toward His Father and prays the same thing (Mark 14:36, 39): “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” You will not discover your ultimate desire until you are willing to go to God with what you already have and ask Him not to take it from you. Nevertheless, you are still willing to give it up. Jesus wanted to skip this part of the suffering as we read, “Jesus began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” (Mark 14:35) The process of aligning our ultimate desire can’t bypass the voluntarily giving up of what we already hold in our hand. We must have sincere sacrificial surrender! If you want to know what is your ultimate desire, then be honest with what you are asking God for! Someone one has said that you know what is most important to somebody by checking his or her calendar and checkbook. These two objects are great indicators of your priorities, but what you are asking God for reveals your ultimate desire. And if you have stop daring to ask God for your deepest desire to be fulfilled, then that reveals whether your ultimate desire matches up with God’s ultimate desire.
Jesus matched up His ultimate desire with God’s. Jesus didn’t just give God an out when He said, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus’ sincere submission meant serving God to the point of sacrifice in fulfilling God’s ultimate desire. “As horrible as the cup is, Jesus knows that His immediate desire (to be spared) must bow before His ultimate one (to spare us).”
And yet, what would have been the final straw was that while Jesus was praying to have the strength to save people and He finds the very ones that He was in the process of saving, asleep. Here is the third way we may discover our ultimate desire: when others abandon us. Jesus asked his closest friends to “keep watch” with Him. Three times Jesus uses this word “watch.” Watch and pray! Jesus had taught that prayer was a defense against temptation. Remember the last phrase in the Lord’s Prayer “and deliver us from the Evil One.” (Matthew 6:13) Instead, Jesus catches them napping! I’m afraid that Jesus has caught me sleeping when I should have been praying. In the case of the disciples, they didn’t know what to say (Mark 14:40). Jesus is now experiencing abandonment from all sides – 360 degrees of silence. First, Jesus turned His face toward His Father but the Father turned His back on His Son! “In Gethsemane, Jesus meets the dreadful silence of heaven.” Now, Jesus turned to His friends for help and all they gave Him was snores and after waking up from their slumber, shameful stares. Do you realize that at Jesus’ darkest hour, in his deepest anguish, He asked others to pray for him and no one did! I don’t think that you and I can comprehend what that’s like. We’ve always had the comfort or support of turning to others for prayer. And even when we don’t Jesus is praying for us because “He always lives to make intercession for us.” (Hebrews 7:25) But Jesus did not even have that small comfort in His grief. Beloved, you will discover your ultimate desire in the midst of silence. The silence of heaven will speak volumes. God is saying that your immediate desire must bow to His ultimate one.
Have you discovered what your ultimate desire is yet? If not, maybe it is more important just to know what God’s ultimate desire is for you. God’s ultimate desire is for you to embrace the Cross where all the important things became possible for you. Your apathy, your sleepiness and your sin could mean that you are living for a lesser desire. The disciples went from falling asleep to falling away. There are parts of your life where you have come to a stop sign. However, because Jesus surrendered His immediate desire to spare Himself, you and I are spared. The impossible has become possible for you through Christ! Now, if you align your ultimate desire to God’s, your losses will eventually become wins. If you align your ultimate desire to God’s the silence of heaven will speak loudly to you and to this lost world of God’s better plan. And if you align your ultimate desire to God’s, the abandonment of others in your life will result in rescuing them with the Gospel! Think of Saint Patrick who we celebrate today. “Despite being captured in Great Britain by Irish raiders and serving as a slave in Ireland, he was able to escape his captors. However, he had a vision calling him as a missionary to his former captors and though he met various perils, eventually his success was great and the inhabitants were baptized in droves.”
Following Jesus will teach you about God’s ultimate desire for your life. I learned on the baseball field through loss, through prayer and through the abandonment of others that I was living for myself. Now, my life has changed. In fact, I wouldn’t be here before you today preaching unless God had given me a better desire than pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Christ is living for and through me! He is becoming my ultimate desire. What is your ultimate desire?
. Accessed March 14, 2013.
 Timothy Keller, The King’s Cross (New York: Dutton, 2011), 176.
 William Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 516.
 M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978), 19.
 Keller, 180.
 David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 541.
 Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity – Volume 1 (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1984), 235.