Month: March 2016

The Reality of the Resurrection

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A very happy Resurrection Sunday to you! On this Resurrection Sunday morning, I would like to ask you a question. Just how important to the Christian faith, is Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead?

If archaeologists were to discover the bones of Jesus tomorrow, would you walk away from Christianity? What difference would it make if Christ were not raised from the dead?

Some Christians claim that if it could be proved to them beyond any doubt that Jesus did not rise from the read, their faith would nonetheless remain intact, that they would continue to love and serve Christ, knowing that he had never risen from the dead.

Other Christians understand that our faith is not some mystical experience but that it is rooted in history, that Jesus lived a real human life and died a real human death and was raised from the death with a real human, though glorified, body.

On several occasions, Jesus not only predicted his imminent death; he also predicted his resurrection.

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 9:31-32 ESV for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Mark 10:33-34 ESV saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has said,

If Jesus had been a fake, he would have said that he would rise again spiritually, and they would never be able to falsify it. But he did not. He said that he would bodily rise from the dead. That is empirically falsifiable. All they would have had to do was to show the body.

Christianity is unique. No other religion claims that its founder was not only a man, but also God. No other religion claims that its founder not only died, but was also resurrected. And no other religion stakes everything on the historical resurrection of its founder. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Christ.

The Apostle Paul said it like this,

…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV).

…if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless (1Co 15:14 NLT).

What does it matter if Christ was not raised from the dead? Christianity stakes everything on the literal physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Disprove the resurrection of Christ, and you have disproved Christianity.

1.        The Reality of the Crucifixion

But before the resurrection, there is the fact of Christ’s death.

The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the best-attested facts of history. No serious historian doubts the existence and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Islam denies the death of Christ by crucifixion. Coming along 600 years after Christ’s death, Muhammad said, “That can’t be! I don’t believe that God would allow his prophet to die such an awful death.” And so, he denied Christ’s death by crucifixion. Muslims don’t believe Jesus actually died on the cross; they believe that it only appeared that he died.

However, those who were much closer to the historical setting than Muhammad, affirmed that Jesus did indeed die by crucifixion.

It is to be noted that the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ were public events. His death and resurrection were not private affairs. His death and resurrection were not done in a corner somewhere and proclaimed elsewhere. He died for all the world to see, and his resurrection was well attested by hundreds of witnesses.

Eyewitnesses verified the facts of Christ’s death:

  • Roman soldiers who specialized in putting criminals to death attested that Jesus was dead (Matthew 27:27, 36, 54).
  • The chief priests, scribes, and elders watched him die (Matthew 27:41).
  • The mother of Jesus, her sister, Mary Magdalene, and the wife of Clopas were witnesses.
  • The apostles including Matthew and John witnessed his death.
  • Mark was also a likely witness, and Luke carefully researched his gospel so that his readers would know the certainty of all that was reported.
  • Roman historian Tacitus (55-120 A.D.) wrote that “Christus… suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”[1]
  • Lucian of Samosata (115-200 A.D.) refers to early Christians as those “who worship the man in Palestine who was crucified…”[2]

Yes, the crucifixion of Christ is one of the best-attested facts of history. One historian wrote, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus … agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”[3]

As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3 ESV).

Christianity is a religion that is rooted in history. It is not rooted in anyone’s dreams or visions or imagination. Its claims can be investigated historically. It is not necessary for the historian, in coming to the New Testament writings, to regard them as inspired. He may merely regard the New Testament as a collection of Greek documents that serve as sources of ancient history. The majority of New Testament critics, even those teaching at secular universities and non-evangelical seminaries, accept the central facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christian apologist William Lane Craig gives a number of historical facts about the resurrection of Jesus that are accepted by most historians.

FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

This means that Jesus was buried at a site that was known to both those who followed Christ and those who did not. The disciples could never have proclaimed the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty. Not only did the disciples know where Jesus was buried, the enemies of Jesus knew where he was buried. In fact, they sealed the tomb and posted a guard of soldiers at the tomb of Jesus.

According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”1

FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

This is significant. Again, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV).

To state that a dead man was buried and that he was raised implies that his grave was left empty. The reference to the third day — he was raised on the third day — refers to the visit of the women and others who went to the tomb on the third day and found it empty.

In reading the accounts of the empty tomb, we find that they are told with simplicity and without embellishment — without additional elements. In other words, the four Gospels simply tell the story without adding anything to what happened. This is quite different from the wild legendary stories found in apocryphal gospels that were written in the second century, a hundred years later. For example, one so-called gospel (the Gospel of Peter) has Jesus coming out of the tomb with his head reaching up above the clouds. He is followed by a talking cross! That is what a legend looks like! But the New Testament accounts of the resurrection are told with simplicity: nothing but the facts.

It is important to note that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women. The Jews considered the testimony of women to be worthless and would not allow it to be admitted into a Jewish court of law. The only reason that the Gospels tell us that the first witnesses were women is because that is how it must have happened. The Gospel writers would never have invented such a story that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women. If the Gospel writers were inventing the story, they would have had some prominent and well respected person being the first witness to the resurrection.

It is interesting to note that the Jewish authorities themselves acknowledged that the tomb was empty. When the disciples proclaimed that Jesus was risen from the dead, the authorities did not point to his tomb and say, “Look! What do you mean, he’s risen from the dead? There’s his body!” They could not, for the tomb was indeed empty. Instead, they paid the guards to say that the disciples had stolen the body. They thus admitted that the tomb was empty.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

The Apostle Paul gives a list of witnesses to the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8,

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 ESV).

Paul is writing this in the early 50s, about 20 years or so after the resurrection of Christ. He tells the Corinthians that the risen Christ was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, and that most of those witnesses are still alive. Paul says, in effect, “You can check this out. The witnesses are still alive. Hundreds of them. They will tell you that Christ was raised from the dead. He is indeed alive.”

Some have said that the disciples hallucinated. But no serious historian accepts that theory. Hundreds of people don’t have the same hallucination at the same time.

One of the cults operating in Vanuatu today claims that Christ was not raised from the dead with a real body, but that he evaporated! But that is not what the records say. When Jesus first appeared to the disciples in the upper room that first Sunday night of the resurrection, the disciples could not believe their eyes and wondered at first thought that they were seeing a spirit, but Jesus told them,

“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them (Luke 24:38-43 ESV).

Evaporations don’t have scars, eat fish, or have flesh and bones.

John tells us that before the resurrection, even the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him (John 7:5). There would be no reason to invent such a story. But after the resurrection, James became a believer and a leader in the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late A.D. 60s. What would have convinced him to die for his belief in his brother? Paul tells us, “Then he appeared to James” (1 Corinthians 15:7).

Even Gert Lüdemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

  1. Their leader was dead.
  2. He died the horrible death of crucifixion.
  3. He was executed as a criminal.
  4. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “that is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”5

 

2.        The Reality of the Resurrection

What about the resurrection? Does it really matter? What difference does it make?

This is what the Apostle Paul says about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15,

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (1 Corinthians 15:14-19 NLT).

If Christ was not raised from the dead,[4]

2.1.        We Worship a Dead Man

If there is no resurrection, then Jesus Christ has not risen from the dead. We worship a dead man. Jesus went to the cross, he died, he was buried, and his body decayed to dust just like everyone else’s. Christians are followers of a dead man.

If Christ did not rise from the dead, Christianity is hardly different from any other religion. We have put our hope in a spiritual leader, a guru, who lived and died. We may try to follow some of his teachings, but we would have to reject much of what he said about himself and about why he came.

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.2.        We Preach a Useless Message

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless… (1 Corinthians 15:14 NLT).

We are wasting everyone’s time. This is nothing but idle talk, worthless myths and legends.

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.3.        Our Faith Is Empty.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV).

We have faith in a Christ who is dead.

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.4.        We Misrepresent God

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised (1 Corinthians 15:15 ESV).

We are false witnesses.

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.5.        We are lost in sin.

17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.

We are still dead in our trespasses and sins.

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.6.        We have no hope beyond this life.

We have hope only in this life:

19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life…(1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT).

If Christ was not raised from the dead,

2.7.        We are pitiful.

we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (1 Corinthians 15:19, NLT).

We are living an illusion.

All this is to say that the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ really matters.

Pastor Timothy Keller said,

If Jesus rose from the dead, you have to accept all he said, if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about anything he said…. If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything.[5]

  1. It is not a dead man that we worship, but the living Lord of Life!
  2. It is not a useless message that we preach, but the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.
  3. Our faith is not empty, but rooted in the foundation of historical reality and directed to the One who has a name that is above every other name, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  4. We do not misrepresent God, but bear witness to the truth of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
  5. We are not lost in sin, but are saved by the One who was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification.
  6. We are not among those who have no hope, but have in Christ’s resurrection the guarantee of our own resurrection on the day that he shall raise our mortal bodies and this mortal will put on immortality.
  7. We are not pitiful but hugely blessed of God with many great and precious promises.

3.        The Importance of the Resurrection

Christ is risen. His resurrection is one of the best-attested facts of ancient history. So what?

Don’t we have to ask ourselves what implications this has? Why does it matter? Or is this some dry, dusty old piece of history that has no relevance to our lives? I believe that the resurrection is the most important truth in the world. It has far reaching implications on our lives.

Matt Perman sums up the importance of the resurrection of Christ:[6]

3.1.           First, the resurrection proves that the claims Jesus made about himself are true.

What did Jesus claim? He claimed to be God. One might say, “I don’t believe that He claimed to be God, because I don’t believe the Bible.” But the fact is that even if we take only the passages which skeptical scholars admit as authentic, it can still be shown that Jesus claimed to be God.

3.2.           Second, have you ever wondered what reasons there are to believe in the Bible?

Is there good reason to believe that it was inspired by God, or is it simply a bunch of interesting myths and legends? The resurrection of Jesus answers the question. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we have seen this validates His claim to be God. If He is God, He speaks with absolute certainty and final authority. Therefore, what Jesus said about the Bible must be true. Surely you are going to accept the testimony of one who rose from the dead over the testimony of a skeptical scholar who will one day die himself—without being able to raise himself on the third day. What did Jesus say about the Bible? He said that it was inspired by God and that it cannot error.

3.3.           Third, many people are confused by the many different religions in the world.

Are they all from God? But on a closer examination we see that they cannot all be from God, because they all contradict each other. Jesus is the only religious leader who has risen from the dead. All other religious leaders are still in their tombs. Who would you believe? Some dead prophet or prophetess, or the Living Lord of Life who died but rose again and showed himself to be alive to hundreds of people over a period of 40 days before returning to heaven as his disciples watched him ascend. I think the answer is clear: Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates that what He said is true. Therefore, we must accept his statement to be the only way to God: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6).

3.4.           Fourth, the resurrection of Christ proves that God will judge the world one day.

The apostle Paul said, “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The resurrection of Christ proves something very personal and significant to each of us—we will have to give an account of ourselves to a holy God. And if we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we do not measure up to his standard. We are sinful, and therefore deserve to be condemned at His judgment.

3.5.           Which leads to our fifth point. The resurrection of Christ provides genuine hope for eternal life.

Why? Because Jesus says that by trusting in Him, we will be forgiven of our sins and thereby escape being condemned at the judgment. The New Testament doesn’t just tell us that Christ rose from the dead and leave us wondering why He did this. It answers that He did this because we are sinners. And because we have sinned, we are deserving of God’s judgment. Since God is just, He cannot simply let our sins go. The penalty for our sins must be paid.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 4:25 that ”He was delivered up because of our sins.” But Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.”

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus looked beyond the cross to his resurrection and told the disciples, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19 ESV).

3.6.           Let me close with the sixth reason why the resurrection is significant.

The Bible says that Christ’s resurrection is the pattern that those who believe in Him will follow. In other words, those who believe in Christ will one day be resurrected by God just as He was. The resurrection proves that those who trust in Christ will not be subject in eternity to a half-human existence in just their souls. It proves that our bodies will be resurrected one day. Because of the resurrection of Christ, believers will one day experience, forever, the freedom of having a glorified soul and body.

Is the resurrection of Christ important? Nothing could be more important. Unbelievers will face Christ as their judge on the Day when God will judge the world through the One that He has raised from the dead. Believers will be invited to enter into the eternal life that we have already begun to experience because Christ is alive.

Sign-Off

This Resurrection Day, and every Sunday, I urge you to turn to Christ the Savior. Find a church where the Bible and only the Bible is taught, preached, and lived. Walk with Christ in the power of the resurrection.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107 and listening to the Joyful News Broadcast. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

10 SIGN-OFF JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE THEE

 

[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-great-offense-was-jesus-really-crucified?utm_source=Desiring+God&utm_campaign=9b080eac96-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da5f8315b-9b080eac96-99525301

[2] http://radicaltruth.net/index.php/learn/radical-truth-christianity/117-was-jesus-crucified

[3] Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. p. 145. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#cite_note-fox-6

[4] http://www.challies.com/articles/if-dead-men-dont-rise

[5] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, 202, quoted by Adrian Warnock, Raise with Christ, 27.

[6] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection

Isaiah 53, “Why Did Christ Suffer?”

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1456053183_thumb.pngWe are coming up on Good Friday this week when the Church gives special attention to the sufferings of Christ. Actually we remember his death every time we partake of Holy Communion. The Scriptures tell us that as we break the bread and drink the cup, we remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood — we remember Christ’s death until he comes again. Furthermore, our message is Christ and him crucified. We preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.

Today we want to think of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find an astonishing description of his suffering in Isaiah 52 and 53. I say “astonishing” because this description of Christ’s sufferings was given by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of our Lord.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-12 ESV).

Interpretation

The Jewish religion, Judaism, has always been at odds with Christianity over the interpretation of Isaiah 53 and many other passages that point to Jesus Christ. But we read in Luke 24, that after his resurrection, Christ himself went through the Scriptures with his apostles and showed them how the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to him.

Several passages in the New Testament confirm that Isaiah was speaking of the suffering of Christ. For example, in Acts 8, we read that Philip met up an Ethiopian eunuch, the Minister of Finances for Ethiopia; he was reading Isaiah 53.

Acts 8:32-35 ESV Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

So the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53, but did not know who Isaiah was talking about. Philip told him that Isaiah was talking about Jesus.

John tells us that the unbelief of the Jews was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1,

John 12:37-38 ESV Though he [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Peter also quotes Isaiah 53, telling us that Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps.

But why did he suffer?

We were created in the image of God. We are creatures who seek to understand. We naturally look for meaning. And so we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why did Christ suffer?

When we speak of the sufferings of Christ, we stand before mystery; we stand on holy ground:

1 Timothy 3:16 ESV Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

“He was manifested in the flesh.” This is the incarnation. The Word became flesh, the Son of God became the Son of Man. God took upon himself humanity. Isaiah describes Christ on earth growing up before the Father as a young plant, tender, vulnerable. He is threatened as an infant by a hostile King Herod. As an adult, he is subject to all the weaknesses of humanity: he is weary, he sleeps, he thirsts, he bleeds, he dies.

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (53:2). Jesus was not what the Jews were hoping for in the Messiah. They wanted someone who would overthrow the Romans, someone who would guarantee them prominence, prestige, and power. They wanted to make him king; they wanted him to wear a crown; he came to bear a cross. So as Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:3a ESV He was despised and rejected by men;

Matthew 27:39-44 ESV And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Isaiah describes him as

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

Isaiah writes of Christ’s appearance on the cross.

Isaiah 52:14 ESV As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

As we consider suffering, we often attempt to establish cause. Why is this person suffering? Why is another sick? Is it a failure to look after their health?

Job had been the richest man of the East, but lost everything including his health. His three friends — miserable comforters — were certain that there was sin in his life that had brought on the judgment of God. But they were wrong.

In John 9, Jesus comes up on a man who was born blind. The disciples seek to establish blame. “Who sinned?” they ask, “this man or his parents that he would be born blind?”

Looking at Christ on the cross, what are we to think? Isaiah says,

“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4c-d ESV).

Stricken, smitten, afflicted — by God! We are tempted to ask, “What did he do to deserve this treatment? What did he do to deserve such a horrible death?”

Why did He suffer? Isaiah gives us the answer.

1. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE OF OUR SINS (4-6)!

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).

Why did he suffer? For what sins did the Crucified One suffer? He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. It was not for himself or his sins that he suffered. Our griefs, our sorrows — what we merited, what we deserved, he took upon himself.

  • He was pierced for our
  • He was crushed for our
  • The chastisement upon him brought us peace with God.
  • His wounds bring about our healing.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

We are wandering sheep. We have followed our ways rather than God’s ways. We do our own thing. We do it our way. We follow our own inclinations.

1 Peter 2:24 ESV He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Application: See him there, on the cross? Do you realize that Christ suffered because of your sins? My sins and yours, nailed him to the cross. Christ suffered because of our sins.

Why did He suffer? He suffered because of our sins. But secondly,

2. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE HE ACCEPTED TO SUFFER (7-9).

Isaiah 53:7 ESV He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

He was a voluntary victim. He is the great high priest who presented himself.

Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

At any moment he could have put a stop to it all. As they spit in his face, and struck him, and ripped the beard from his face, and lacerated his back with a whip, and drove the crown of thorns into this brow, and nailed him to the cross — at any moment he could have called it off. But he was a voluntary victim. He gave himself for us.

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Heb 9:11-14 ESV “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Christ gave himself for us.

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Tit 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

He accepted to suffer and give himself for us, and he did it because he loved us.

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Application: Christ accepted to suffer in your place, in your stead, because he loved you.

3. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE IT WAS THE WILL OF THE LORD TO CRUSH HIM WITH SUFFERING (10).

We may be tempted to think that the cross was a tragic accident. That something went terribly wrong. John tells us that Christ came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him. But this was no accident. This was the plan of God.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached,

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Two chapters later, the believers prayed,

Acts 4:27-28 ESV for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

We are all implicated in the death of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. But it was the Father’s plan and a demonstration of His love as well as the love of the Son.

1 John 4:9-10 ESV In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

John 3:16 ESV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Propitiation is the satisfaction of justice. God could not simply overlook our sins and still be righteous. If it is proved in a court of law that a man is guilty of murder, we expect the judge to pass sentence on the murderer rather than let him off. And if the judge simply excuses the crime, we would say that the judge is corrupt.

God cannot simply let us off the hook. He is righteous and just. The penalty must be paid, but our sins and iniquities are too great. We cannot pay for our own deliverance. God Himself paid the penalty. The Word became flesh. The Son of God became the Son of Man that he might stand in our place, and pay the penalty for our sins. The death of Christ on the cross was no accident. It was the plan of God. The Father gave His Son. The Son gave himself.

Application: Christ suffered because that was the only way that God could save us.

4. CHRIST SUFFERED TO JUSTIFY MANY (11-12).

“Many… many… many”

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV).

Christ died not for a few, but for all. John tells us that Christ is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). Christ died for your sins. Christ died that you might be justified.

Psalm 2:8 ESV Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Revelation 5:9-10 ESV And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Application: Are you one of the many who have been justified?

II.   Christ suffered

  1. Because of our sins
  2. Because he accepted to suffer: it was voluntary.
  3. Because it was the will of the lord to crush him with suffering
  4. To justify many.

Redemption’s Song

© J. Gary Ellison, April 4, 2012

See Him there upon the cross
As He dies in shame?
We are the ones who nailed Him there,
We are the ones to blame.

It was for crimes He had not done,
Our sins that caused His pain.
He knew no sin, the Righteous One,
For sinners He was slain.

O Lamb of God on sacred tree
Twas there You died for me
To take away my sin and shame
That righteous I might be.

That Holy One did bear our sin
No other one could do.
He is the Lamb, the spotless One,
Who died for me and you.

Holy, innocent, undefiled,
On Him our sins were laid,
To cleanse us from our awful deeds
The penalty He paid.

O Righteous One, I hear you now,
“It’s finished! It is done!”—
The work on Calvary’s bloody cross—
The victory’s been won!

They laid Him in a borrowed grave
He would not use it long.
God raised Him up that He might save,
This is Redemption’s song.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:11-12 ESV).

You can receive Christ right where you are by confessing you sin to him and asking him to be your Lord and Savior.

 

Mark 08:01-21, “Do you not yet understand?”

Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes

Christians of the early Byzantine period built monasteries, churches and shrines in Galilee and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to commemorate the ministry of Jesus and the miracles ascribed to him. Mosaics that is preserved from the Byzantine period at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes July 23, 2009. Photo by Rishwanth Jayapaul/FLASH90

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat does remembering have to do with understanding and faith? Today we want to consider an event in the life of Christ and his encouragement to remember and consider the things that he has done, and how that impacts our faith.

Quick quiz:

  1. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, how many loaves were there? Five or seven?
  2. How many fish were there? Two or a few?
  3. How many people were fed? Five thousand or four thousand?

A number of years ago, one of my students suggested that there was a contradiction in the Gospels. In one place we read that Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand men, not including the women and children. In another place, we read that he fed four thousand. One passage said five thousand while another passage said four thousand. So the student concluded that there was a contradiction.

Was he right? Well, some scholars would think so. Some scholars tell us that within just a few pages of the Gospel of Mark, the author has repeated the same story using different details. Now this would be amazing because there are only 49 verses with separate the two stories. The feeding of the five thousand takes place in Mark 6 and the feeding of the four thousand is told in Mark 8. Only one chapter out of 16 chapters stands between the two stories. For Mark to accidentally tell the same story twice so close to each other would be an amazing lapse of memory.

So what are we to say about these stories?

One of my purposes is to encourage your confidence and trust in the Bible as the error-free Word of God. That is a big claim to make today when skeptics abound. But most people who claim that the Bible contains errors have never read it themselves. They simply parrot what they’ve heard someone else say. They dismiss the Bible without any serious consideration of what they are dismissing: the very Word of God.

The Bible is trustworthy. The questions that liberal scholars ask have repeatedly been answered by conservative scholars. There is abundant evidence pointing to the truthfulness of the Bible.

So when we come to the question of Jesus feeding the multitude in Mark 6 and again in Mark 8, we need to look carefully at the details. We need to understand that Mark, the author, is writing with intention. He has a purpose. And we need to read at a deeper level to understand that purpose.

That means that we are not simply reading isolated stories. The Bible is not a book of short stories. The Bible is what scholars call a “meta-narrative.” It is THE BIG STORY from the creation of the heavens and the earth in the Book of Genesis to the new creation of the new heavens and the new earth in the final pages of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. Everything else fits in that big story. It is the story of God. It is God’s story. It is HiStory.

1.        The Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-10)

Let’s look at the text:

Mark 8:1-10 ESV In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

1.1.     Two Stories Compared

Mark starts this story of the feeding of the four thousand with the words “In those days.” This tells us immediately that this miracle took place in the region of the Decapolis where we find Jesus at the end of chapter 7 (see 7:31).

CHAPTER 6 CHAPTER 8
Feeding of the 5,000 Feeding of the 4,000
Mark 6:44 ESV And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

The term for “men” (ἄνδρες, andres) is gender specific. It means men or husbands. That means that there were 5,000 men plus women and children. Most commentators estimate that there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people who were fed.

Mark 8:9 ESV And there were about four thousand people.

The text simply says that there were about 4,000 people. This crowd was much smaller.

The people in chapter 6 had been in the wilderness for only one day. In chapter 8, the people had been in the wilderness for three days.
Jesus began with five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied seven loaves and a few small fish.
Jesus blessed the food one time. Jesus blessed the bread and distributed it, then he blessed the fish.
There were 12 basketfulls of leftovers. There were 7 basketfulls of leftovers.
In the first feeding, the multitude was mostly Jews. In the second feeding, the multitude was mostly Gentiles.[1]

The main objection against the feeding of the 4,000 is the argument that since the disciples had already seen Jesus feed more than 5,000, they should not have asked, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” But that is to misunderstand the disciples.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had told them to give the multitude something to eat. They wonder how they are to do it.

In the feeding of the 4,000, they simply confess that they are powerless to meet the need and left the solution to Jesus.

William Lane says: “It would have been presumptuous for the disciples to have assumed that Jesus would, as a matter of course, multiple a few loaves as he had done on an earlier occasion.”[2]

Most importantly, Jesus refers to both miracles when probing the understanding of his disciples.

1.2.     Mark’s Purpose: Gentiles Are Included!

We need to consider Mark’s purpose in including this story. Remember that the authors of the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not tell us everything that Jesus ever did. John tells us that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that he does not include in his Gospel. He tells us that he chose certain signs so that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that through believing, we would have life in his name.

Each of the authors of the Gospels write to a particular group of readers and they chose from an abundance of events in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to accomplish their purpose.

Mark is writing for Romans. He is writing for non Jewish people. That means that he is writing for most of us. Mark is showing us that Jesus came not only for the Jews; he also came for Gentiles like you and me.

In the previous chapter (chapter 7), Jesus leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentiles territory. There the Syrophoenician woman asks him to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that the Jews have priority because the promises were made to Abraham that through his descendant — that is through Jesus Christ, the many times great grandson of Abraham — all the families of the earth would be blessed. The bread, Jesus said, must first be given to the Jews. But this Gentile woman has faith. She asks for the crumb of bread that fall from the table. Jesus marveled at her faith and healed her daughter.

Then we read that Jesus went to the Decapolis, again, Gentile territory. The Gentiles bring to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Once again, Jesus heals this man so that he hears and speaks plainly. The Gentiles declare that Jesus “has done all things well, He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37).

Jesus is still in Gentile territory when he feeds the 4,000. He has already fed the multitude of Jews. The children of Abraham were served first, but the rest of the world is waiting. In this eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus feeds the Gentiles and points to the time with the gospel will be taken to Gentiles all around the world. “They will not have to scrounge for crumbs that might fall from the table, but they will receive food in abundance and also will be satisfied.”[3]

Jesus and his disciples are freely moving among the Gentiles. Jesus has already “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:31). It does not matter what you eat, and it does not even matter who you eat with under normal circumstances (but compare 1 Corinthians 5:11; 10:21).

Here Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by Gentiles. For three days they have been with Jesus and they have nothing to eat. Jesus has compassion on them and tells his disciples,

Mark 8:3 ESV And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

The disciples do not ask, “How can we eat with these people?” Instead, they ask, “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (8:4).[4]

Jesus himself is the answer. Jesus is able to meet the great need. He is moved with compassion and that compassion is not limited by ethnic boundaries. He is not only the Savior of the Jews. He is also the Savior of the World, even as the Samaritans declare in John 4:42.

Later in Mark 14, when Mary anoints Jesus for his burial, Jesus says,

Mark 14:9 ESV And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus tells his disciples,

Mark 16:15 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

The feeding of the 4,000 is not the same as the feeding of the 5,000, and it is good news for us. Jesus is the bread of life, not only for the Jews, but also for us Gentiles.

Here are three reasons why Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish on two separate occasions:[5]

  1. Jesus wants everyone to understand that he is the bread of life, the “bread from heaven” (Exodus 16:4). John tells us that following the first miracle, Jesus gave his great discourse on the bread of life.

John 6:48-51 ESV I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

  1. Christ wants us to understand that he is not just Bread for the Jews. He is the bread of life for us Gentiles as well. We are tempted to think the life is having things: a new phone or a new truck. But “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  2. Jesus wants us to understand that “the supply always meets and exceeds the demand.” There is always more than enough.

Mark 8:8 ESV And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Christ is more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the world.

2.        The Blindness of Those Who Will Not See (8:11-13)

In the following verses, Jesus and his disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee back into Jewish territory. There he is accosted by the Pharisees.

Mark 8:11 ESV The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.

There is a certain combative attitude that will receive nothing from God. The Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus. They question him. They test him. But their minds are already made up.

  • They no doubt knew of the leper that he had cleansed (1:42).
  • They knew about the paralyzed man who had been let down through the roof. Jesus forgave his sins and restored his health so that he rose up and carried his bed home (2:11-12).
  • They had seen him heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). It was then that they made up their minds to destroy him (3:6).
  • They attributed his power to Satan and said that he cast out demons by the power of Satan (3:22).

They had heard of many of his miracles, but they found ways to explain them away. They are asking him here for a sign from heaven. A sign from above that would leave no room for any possible doubt about the source of his power.

What kind of sign are you waiting for? There are people who are always looking for one more sign. One more piece of evidence. They say they would follow Jesus if they could only believe.

The great atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’”[6]

Not enough for what? To force you to believe? That God will not do. He will not force you into a relationship with him. But there is plenty of evidence for those who are willing to see.

When it comes to the biggest truth of all, people who are normally reasonable and rational become totally unreasonable and irrational. Ask them, “Why is there something rather than nothing at all? Why does the universe exist?”

“Well, it just happened,” they say. “There was a big bang and it happened.”

Really? What caused the big bang?

“Nothing. It just happened.”

So there was nothing, and everything came out of nothing, and nothing caused everything to come out of nothing, it just did it by itself even though it did not exist to do anything by itself. And now we have this orderly universe with the one place in the entire universe that supports life, and everything is perfectly balanced with all its amazing complexity and beauty, and it just happened?! And it all came from nothing and was caused by nothing? If you believe that, you believe in magic. Do not pretend that it’s science or scientific. It is not. It is a worldview that refuses to see the evidence.

Mark 8:12 ESV And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

No gat! Jesus says. He is grieved and angry at the hardness of heart. Matthew tells us that Jesus said,

Matthew 16:4 ESV An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The only sign they would get was that signified by Jonah — the Resurrection![7]

Mark 8:13 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

What a terrible thing it is to have Christ turn his back on you and sail away. But that is ultimately what he does to those who continually refuse his revelation. There comes a time when he gives no more signs, no more help in understanding.[8]

The Pharisees turn and walk away; the disciples follow Jesus into the boat. Eduard Schweizer draws an insightful conclusion from this closing description: “faith comes when one steps into the boat with Jesus and does not prefer to remain in safety on the shore.”[9]

3.        The Danger of Being an Unbelieving Believer (8:14-21)

Mark 8:13-15 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Jesus is in the boat with his disciples. They have left the unbelieving Pharisees behind. But how much better off are the disciples? They have seen the miracles, but have the understood? Have they understood the signs? Have they understood the miracles and the message of Jesus? The conversation in the boat indicates that unbelief is in the boat with them.

Jesus gives them a strong warning: “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Leaven or yeast is almost always understood in a negative sense in the Bible. It has to do with corruption, unholiness, and danger. It infiltrates, penetrates, and infects everything that it touches. The Pharisees are seeking to find any explanation for the miracles that Jesus performs — any explanation except the truth. They refuse to believe that he is the Son of God.

What have the disciples understood? They’ve seen the miracles, but they have been slow to understand. They had not understood his parable about the sower:

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

When Jesus came walking on the water…

Mark 6:51-52 ESV And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

They had not understood what Jesus taught about food not being a source of defilement:

Mark 7:18-19 ESV And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

He is warning them not to allow the hardness of heart of the Pharisees to influence them.

But they have missed the point.

Mark 8:14 ESV Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.

Mark 8:16 ESV And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.

Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and they think that he is rebuking them for not bringing enough bread with them!

Jesus was aware that once again, they had missed the point! He hits them with a series of questions:

Mark 8:17-21 ESV And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,

  • “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?
  • Do you not yet perceive or understand?
  • Are your hearts hardened?
  • 18 Having eyes do you not see,
  • and having ears do you not hear?
  • And do you not remember?
  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”
  • 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

That is a powerful rebuke, but in the midst of that correction, Jesus gives us instruction: Remember. “Do you not remember?” (8:18). And now he mentions both occasions when he fed the multitudes, the 5,000 and the 4,000.

  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”

Remembering what God has done is the best defense against spiritual weakness and unbelief. That is why we are to break bread and drink the cup together at the Lord’s Table:

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 ESV and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus is telling the disciples to remember what he has done. He multiplied the loaves and fish and fed 5,000 plus women and children. Again, he multiplied the loaves and a few fish and fed 4,000 Gentiles.

We are prone to forget. The psalmist David tells us not to forget:

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

He forgives, he heals, he redeems, he satisfies, he renews!

We are to remember what Christ has done and we are to consider what that means. The Israelites in the desert did not remember or consider:

Psalm 106:7 ESV Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

The Pharisees in the Gospels did not consider the works of Christ. The disciples who were with Christ had not adequately considered who they were following.

Who is this man?

From the beginning of this Gospel, Mark has told us what he wants us to understand. This is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Jesus rebukes his disciples because they have not yet understood. Who is this man who

  • Casts out demons with a simple command (1:25)?
  • Cleanses lepers (1:42)?
  • Forgives sins (2:7)?
  • Heals the sick (1:34)?
  • Raises the dead (5:42)?
  • Commands the wind and the sea (4:41)?
  • Walks on the sea (6:48)?

Who is this Jesus of Nazareth who like God can abundantly feed the multitudes miraculously in the wilderness? Truly, he must be the Christ, the Son of God![10]

That is why you need to find a Bible-believing church where Christ is exalted and worshiped, and the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107 and listening to the Joyful News Broadcast. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.


 

[1] Akin, Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[2] Quoted by Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 185.

[3] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[5] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 186-188.

[6] http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity

[7] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[8] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4472-4474). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[10] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). (Kindle Locations 10024-10026). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.


 

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 07v31-37 “He does all things well!”

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.23.34 PMIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngSome studies have found that men speak an average of 7,000 words a day. They may seem like a lot, but this radio broadcast averages about 4,000 words each week. So 7,000 words would be like a man talking nonstop for close to an hour. Those same studies say that women speak on average 20,000 words a day. There you go! Nearly three times as much as men. But you always knew that, didn’t you?

One cartoon pictures a man holding a newspaper with the headline “Females Speak 13,000 More Words a Day.” The man exclaims, “Good grief! Is that all?!”

Sorry ladies! But that might be more of a compliment than you think. It would be hard to overestimate the importance of communication, and we must not forget that it is the very nature of God to communicate, as John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word…”

Those statistics that women speak 13,000 more per day than men… those statistics have been contested. With many words, no doubt, they have been contested! And we have all met men who talk a lot and women who are rather economical with their words.

But what if we could not communicate through the spoken word? What if we could not hear one another? Imagine being in the deaf world. Hearing nothing… Radio stations do not like dead air time. You probably wondered what happened just then. Did the station go off the air? Was there an electrical power outage? That’s the way it is for deaf people. The only sound they hear is “the sound of silence.” No noise. No sound of wind, or music, or babies crying, or people laughing, or birds singing, or waves splashing. Our world is made up of sounds, but for the deaf, it is a silent world.

It is through sounds, vibrations formed in larynx — the voice box — sounds shaped and produced by the entire vocal apparatus including the tongue, teeth, palate, lips — the entire mouth — it is through these sounds that we communicate to one another.

But that is only one side of the process. That is the transmission side by which words are transmitted. The science of communication involves both transmission and reception. The words are transmitted by mouth, but they are received by the ear. The ear includes not only the external ear that we see, but a whole complex of funnels and bones and fluid-filled semicircular canals and the auditory nerve that make it possible to hear the world around us.

As the Scripture says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But what if you could not hear the words that others were speaking to you? What if you saw the movement of someone’s mouth but could hear nothing?

Have you ever tried to read someone’s lips? Your wife is across a crowded room and she wants to tell you something. She mouths her message to you. If you are like I am, you don’t have a clue what she wants to say. You might as well be deaf.

Enter the world of the deaf. A driver honks his horn, but the deaf person hears nothing. Thunder claps and the deaf person may feel the change in atmospheric pressure, but he hears nothing.

The man in our story today was not only deaf; he had a speaking impairment. He had a speech difficulty and could not communicate properly.

We find our story in Mark 7:31-37.

Mark 7:31-37 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus (still) among the Gentiles

We find in the previous verses of Mark that it was there in the region of Tyre and Sidon, that Jesus cast the demon out of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.

In Mark 7, Jesus is facing increasingly hostile opposition from the Pharisees and from Herod Antipas, so he leaves Jewish territory and enters Gentile territory in the region of Tyre and Sidon, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But there is another reason why Jesus has gone into Gentile territory: he purposefully includes the non-Jewish world in his ministry.

Jesus shows that while the Jews have priority in terms of receiving the gospel, the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. There is more than enough grace for everyone. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

In this story of the healing of the deaf man, we see that Jesus continues to avoid the Jewish territory and returns to the region of the Decapolis, the region of ten Gentiles:

Mark 7:31 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus had been in the region of the Decapolis in Mark 5. There he had been met by the demon-possessed man of the tombs. That man had many demons that Jesus cast out and allowed to enter a herd of pigs. Some two thousand pigs “rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13 ESV).

But the people of the region cared more about their pigs than they did about the man, so they begged Jesus to leave. The man who had been set free wanted to come with Jesus, but

Mark 5:19 ESV …[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

This man became the first Gentile missionary.

Mark 5:20 ESV And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Now Jesus has returned to the Decapolis, and it seems that the witness of this first Gentile missionary had been fruitful. Jesus returns to the Decapolis, the region that had asked him to leave before, but this time he is warmly welcomed.

Mark 7:32 ESV And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

Doing What the Man Could Not Do For Himself

Here is a deaf man who had difficulty speaking. He could not hear, and he could hardly talk.

Now right away, we understand that this “man’s malady made it impossible for him to have heard about Jesus or to ask him for healing had he learned about him. Others must intervene on his behalf.”[1] So he is deaf and cannot have “heard” about Jesus. If he has somehow learned about Jesus, he cannot even ask him for help because he cannot talk. This man is totally dependent on others for the help that he needs.

There is no mention that this man had any faith. It seems that he did not even know why he was being brought to Jesus. What could he have heard about Jesus? Nothing. He was deaf. What did he know? He does not seem to know much.

Romans 10:17 ESV So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The deaf man had heard nothing. What he might have learned we do not know.

But notice that the people are bringing this man to Jesus. These Gentiles are begging Jesus to lay his hand on the deaf man. Immediately, two things seem clear:

  1. These Gentiles are doing a loving act of kindness toward the deaf man. No doubt they sometimes felt frustrated at their inability to communicate with him, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: They are showing compassion on him. They want to help him, but they are limited. They cannot restore the man’s hearing and they cannot loosen his tongue to enable him to talk.
  2. Second, in their limited ability, they turn to Jesus. While they can do nothing to heal this man, they believe that Jesus can do something for their deaf friend. They have a certain level of faith in Jesus. They have seen or heard of what Jesus can do. Perhaps they knew the man of the tombs that Jesus had delivered or had heard his testimony. Perhaps they had heard of other miracles that Jesus had done in Galilee. We can only guess, but two things are clear: (1) they knew that they could not help the deaf man, and (2) they believed that Jesus could.

We frequently come to the end of our resources. We are stopped by our limitations. We come to an end of ourselves and must turn to God. Perhaps we may be concerned for our own children but we realize that while we may have done our best, our best was not good enough. Our best cannot bring about the best results. And so we must turn to Jesus and ask him to do what we cannot do. We beg him to lay his hand on their lives, to change their hearts, to do what he alone can do.

These Gentiles demonstrated compassion toward the deaf man and faith toward Jesus.

The Act of Healing

Mark 7:33-34 ESV And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

A Private Encounter with Jesus

Jesus led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone. Why does Jesus do that? Wouldn’t he want everyone to see what he was going to do?

Well, imagine this man as he grew up. He’s always been a spectacle. He’s deaf, and therefore he can’t produce proper speech. Just imagine the way people made fun of him all his life. Jesus knows this, and refuses to make a spectacle of him now. He is identifying with him emotionally.[2]

Jesus shows that this man is not simply one of the crowd. He is not simply a problem. He is a unique individual.

But now we find something quite unusual in Jesus’ method of healing:

  • Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears.
  • He spit.
  • He touched the man’s tongue.
  • He looked up to heaven.
  • He sighed.
  • He said, “Ephphata.”

What’s this all about? Is Jesus doing some kind of a ritual to bring about the healing?

No, Jesus does not need to perform any rituals to summon his power. This is different from every other miracle that we have seen so far.

  • Jesus calmed the storm by a simple command: “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39).
  • He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by telling her to get up (Mark 5:41).
  • He healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter simply by willing it to be so (Mark 7:29-30).

[T]here was no arm-waving, no incantation, no mumbo-jumbo. Jesus obviously does not need to perform a ritual in order to summon his power. Which means Jesus is doing all this not because he needs it but because the man needs it.[3]

This healing is different because this man’s need is different. This man is deaf. This deaf man had been shut out of the world of sound. He had certainly not heard anything about Jesus with his ears. He may not have even known why the people had brought him to Jesus. Jesus cannot speak to him as he would speak to someone else, so he identifies with the man by entering his world of silence and speaking to him in a language that the deaf man can understand. Jesus speaks to him in a kind of sign language.

Jesus placed his fingers in the man’s ears and removed them. He was telling the man, “I am going to remove the blockage in your hearing.” He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He was telling him, “I am going to remove the blockage in your mouth.” He looked up toward heaven to tell the man, “It is God alone who is able to do this for you.” “Jesus wanted the man to understand that it was not magic but God’s grace that healed him.”[4]

Then Jesus sighed. This could be translated that Jesus groaned. He groaned because of the pain. He identifies with us and feels our pain.

Hebrews 4:15 NIVO For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

This man had suffered the pain of silence, the pain of trying to communicate, yet being unable to talk. Jesus felt the pain. He felt the pain of our sin and the terrible consequences that sin has brought upon the world. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Jesus would go to the cross to bear the pain of our sin. Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

As he looked up to heaven to let the man know that it was God alone who was doing this for him, Jesus spoke the first words that this man heard: “Ephphatha.”

Mark 7:34 ESV And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

“Ephphatha” was not a magic word. This was simply the Aramaic that Jesus was speaking. In chapter four, he had said in Aramaic to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” Now he says to the ears of this deaf man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.”

Mark 7:35 ESV And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Immediately, the silence ceased. Sounds filled the void. The auditory nerves suddenly experienced intense activity. The man could hear!

Not only could he hear, he could also speak. The impairment was gone. Literally, the text says that the shackle (chain) on his tongue was broken. Not only could he speak, but he spoke plainly.

We can only imagine the first words that came from this man’s mouth. His tongue is loosed and for the first time he speaks clearly. “No doubt he was praising and glorifying God.”[5]

Perhaps it was this miracle that inspired Charles Wesley to write the hymn

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Text: Charles Wesley

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
    my great Redeemer’s praise,
    the glories of my God and King,
    the triumphs of his grace!
  2. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
    your loosened tongues employ;
    ye blind, behold your savior come,
    and leap, ye lame, for joy.
  3. My gracious Master and my God,
    assist me to proclaim,
    to spread through all the earth abroad
    the honors of thy name.

The Command to Be Silent

Mark 7:36 ESV And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

Jesus tells the people to tell no one! You will remember that when he healed the man of the tombs, he told him,

Mark 5:19 ESV …”Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Now he tells the people to keep quiet. What’s going on here?

The first time that Jesus went to the Decapolis, the people rejected him. They asked him to leave. So he left, but he left the man who had been set free to be a witness to the people.

Now he is strictly charging the people to tell no one. Why?

This is not the first time that Jesus ordered people to be quiet.

  • Jesus told the leper that he had cleansed to “say nothing to any man” (Mark 1:44).
  • When he raised the little girl from the dead, “he strictly charged them that no one should know this” (Mark 5:43).

Now among the Gentiles, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.

“The command to silence to both Jew and Gentile is a reminder that knowledge of Jesus by his wonders alone is inadequate knowledge… The great differences between Jews and Gentiles on points of law, purity, and [ethnic identity] fade before the truly human question and most significant issue of all, which is the question of faith in Jesus.”[6]

It is not enough to know that Jesus works miracles. It is not enough to believe in his miracle working power. We must come to an understanding of who he is and why he came. We must understand the truly human problem of sin and our need of a Savior. It is not until we come face to face with Christ on the cross bearing our sin and shame — it is not until then that we arrive at saving faith.

Earlier in chapter 7, Jesus had called on the people to “Hear me, all of you, and understand” (7:14). His own disciples are slow to understand. Again and again, Jesus asks them why they do not yet understand:

  • “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (4:13).
  • “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (6:52).
  • He will yet ask them again, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (8:17, 21).

James Edwards comments that…

The hearing and understanding commanded by Jesus are made possible only by Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a difficult matter; indeed, it is the most difficult matter in all the world. Some, like the disciples, are in close and constant contact with Jesus but still cannot see. Others like the Syrophoenician woman and this speech- and hearing-impaired man are in dark and distant lands… What does it mean for all these to hear and understand (7: 14)? It means that whether Jew or Gentile, near or far, knowledgeable or [new disciple], only the touch of Jesus can enable true hearing, seeing, understanding, and witness.[7]

The One Who Does All Things Well

Mark 7:37 ESV And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus does all things well. The Bible tells us that Christ was the agent of creation.

Colossians 1:16 ESV For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

When God created the world, day by day through the six days of creation, he saw that “it was good.” He does all things well.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the region of the Gentiles and of the time when God will come:

Isaiah 35:4-6 ESV Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

The word for mute (μογιλάλων) in this passage is only used one more time in the Bible and that is here in Mark 7:32, “a speech impediment.” The people are declaring that Jesus “has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” But Isaiah says that this is what God will do: “the ears of the deaf are unstopped… the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

“Salvation thus comes to the Gentile world in Jesus… the only categories adequate for Mark to describe the person and work of Jesus are ultimately the categories of God.”[8]

Has Jesus done all things well for you?

a.         Given you rest for your soul?

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

b.         Saved you from you sins? – Mk 16:15-16

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

c.         Given you the peace the world cannot give?

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Come to Jesus. Let him open your ears that you may hear and understand what he has done for you. Your tongue will be loosed to give praise to God. You, too, will be…

Mark 7:37 ESV …astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


 

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 464.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] Ferguson, Mark, 116 in Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (pp. 161-162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4297-4298). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4308-4312). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4267). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”: