Mark 09v14-29, “Weak Faith and a Strong Savior”

27757-Jesus-healing-stainedglass.1200w.tn.jpgIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat would you do if you have a big bill that was due, but not enough money in the bank to cover the expense? You might be out of luck.

What if you needed a miracle from God, but did not have enough faith to cover it? That’s the story that we will consider today, the story of the man and his boy and the unclean spirit in Mark 9. As we pick up the story in Mark 9:14, we find the scribes arguing with some of Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus was not on the best of terms with the scribes. Things had gotten off to a rocky start when Jesus, this thirty-something young prophet who had not gone through the training that they had had, turned out to be a vastly superior teacher than they were. The common people had been astonished at Jesus’ teaching

Mark 1:22 ESV … for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes [Mark tells us].

No doubt, this comparison that the people made between Jesus and the scribes had not gone unnoticed by the scribes themselves. They would not have appreciated being unfavorably compared to a carpenter’s son. Jealous as they were of people’s approval and praise, they tried to discredit Jesus before the people at every opportunity.

  • When Jesus forgave sins, the scribes thought that he was guilty of blasphemy (Mark 2:6-7).
  • Trying to undermine his influence, the scribes asked people why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:16).
  • When Jesus cast out demons, the scribes accused him of being possessed by Satan, and acting as an agent of Satan and using the power of Satan to cast out demons (Mark 3:22).

In another attempt to smear Jesus, the scribes asked him publicly,

Mark 7:5 ESV …”Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled [unwashed] hands?”

Now in Mark 9, Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter and James and John to find the scribes arguing with his disciples. Just one week before, Jesus had told his disciples what the scribes were going to do to him:

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.

Now Jesus comes down from the mountain where he had been transfigured before three of his disciples, and talked with Moses and Elijah. You might say that it was a mountaintop experience, a spiritual high, especially for the disciples, but now they are returning to the valley below.

How often we would like to stay on the mountaintop! To experience only the highs of life, the wonderful times whether of spiritual delight or relaxation in God’s beautiful creation. That was certainly Peter’s idea when he suggested that they stay on the mountain: “Let’s build three tabernacles,” he said, “one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”

That’s when a cloud covered them, Moses and Elijah disappeared, they they heard the voice of His Father declare to Peter and James and John,

Mark 9:7 ESV … “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

As Solomon wrote,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

There is a time for the mountaintop, and there is a time to come back down to the valley,

  • a time to be in the presence of God, and a time to do the work of God,
  • a time to be alone with God, and a time to do good to people wherever we find them.

Mountaintops are beautiful places. They change our perspective. And the valley can be messy, because lives can be messy, but Jesus came to clean up our messy lives.

We can divide this story in to four scenes:

SCENE ONE

As Jesus and his three closest disciples come down the mountain, they find that a great crowd has gathered around his other disciples and the scribes are arguing with them. The scribes had no doubt come looking for Jesus to find evidence to discredit him.

But there was also a man, a father, who had come looking for Jesus for a very different reason. This father had a son who was demon possessed. He came seeking deliverance for his boy. Not finding Jesus, he turned to the nine disciples who had not gone up the mountain with Jesus. He asked the disciples to cast the demon out of his son, but they could not.

Now the scribes get involved. They had come to discredit Jesus, but not finding him, they will discredit his disciples. The disciples had failed to cast out the demon, so it is very probable that the scribes were asking the disciples what right they had to try to cast out demons. Note that the scribes made no attempt to cast out the demon. They will argue and condemn, but they do not even attempt to help those in need.

When Jesus came down from the mountain, he found the scribes arguing with his disciples.

Mark 9:14-16 ESV And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

SCENE TWO

Mark 9:17-18 ESV And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

Now this is a terrible condition and we need to be very clear about the condition of this boy. We need to have a clear biblical understanding of sickness and afflictions. We live in a Genesis 3 world. The world that God created was a perfect world, but in Genesis 3, sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam. Sin bring its consequences. The world was cursed with thorns and thistles, and the eventual payoff of sin is death.

Sickness is part of the world in which we live. The common cold, malaria, AIDS, birth defects, and epilepsy are all the result of Adam’s sin. As descendants of Adam, we all share in the consequences of his great fall. We are all subject to sickness, and unless Jesus Christ returns before too long, we will all surely die.

Sickness may or may not be the result of personal sin. There are other passages in the Bible that indicate that sometimes sickness is the result of sin (1 Corinthians 11:30), but that is generally NOT the case:

  • We read about a man who was born blind in John 9. The disciples thought that somehow he or his parents had sinned so that he was born blind. Jesus plainly says,

John 9:3 ESV Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

  • The prophet Elisha died of a sickness (2 Kings 13:14) but his dead bones raised a man from the dead (2 Kings 13:21).
  • Timothy had frequent stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).
  • The Apostle Paul’s associate Trophimus was sick (2 Timothy 4:20).
  • Another associate names Epaphroditus nearly died of a sickness, but God had mercy on him and Paul (Philippians 2:5-27).

So we should not make the mistake of blaming the sick person for his sickness.

A second principle should be noted here. As we read through the New Testament, we see Jesus healing many sick people of various diseases. We also see him casting out demons. Sometimes the demons have caused a severe handicap such as blindness or deafness. But at other times, and we should say most of the time, the handicap is simply physical and is not at all caused by demons.

So let us NOT make the mistake of thinking that a severe handicap is the result of demon possession. That was not the case of

  • Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever (1:31)
  • The leper who was cleansed (1:41)
  • The lame man who took up his bed and walked (2:12)
  • The man with the withered hand (3:5)
  • The woman with the issue of blood (5:29)
  • The man who was deaf and had a speech impediment (7:32-35)

To that we can add the case of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes a person to have seizures. It is a terrible affliction and in most cases is purely physiological. I had a friend in Bible college who suffered from epilepsy. He was studying for the ministry. I simply mention this to say that we must not conclude that epilepsy is a spiritual condition.

  1. Sickness and dying is part of our human condition. Christians and non-Christians alike get sick and die. Let us not think that sickness is necessarily the result of personal sin. It is part of human existence.
  2. Severe disorders and handicaps should not be attributed to evil spirits. While demons can cause certain terrible conditions such as deafness, it would be a terrible mistake and a terrible injustice to assume that such conditions are the result of demonic activity.

Now, I have said all that because this boy had an unclean spirit that caused him to be mute and deaf and epileptic. Let us be quick to hear and slow to speak before such conditions. Let us not jump to conclusions about the cause and thereby inflict more pain on the person who suffers.

Let’s look at the text again:

Mark 9:17-18 ESV And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

The boy has suffered greatly. The father is crushed over his condition, and in desperation came looking for Jesus. When he could not find Jesus, he turned to the disciples for help: “I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

SCENE THREE

Mark 9:19 ESV And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”

The failure of the disciples to cast out the demon is associated with a lack of faith. And yet, Jesus does not single out his disciples; he speaks of the “faithless generation.” But how does one have faith for such a need?

Everyone was overwhelmed by the problem. The boy was powerless to resist the attacks of the unclean spirit. The father could do nothing to stop the convulsions. The disciples were unable to cast out the demon. What to do?

“Bring him to me,” Jesus said.

Mark 9:20 ESV And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

Things do not always get better the moment you come to Jesus.

The initial result of the effective presence of Jesus is not peace, however, but conflict; not resurrection, but suffering. Eduard Schweizer’s insight is correct: “This indicates how the presence of God can produce storm and stress before anything constructive is accomplished.”[1]

What the father has described, Jesus now sees. They bring the boy to Jesus, but the moment the evil spirit saw Jesus,

Mark 9:20 NLT … it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

Out of compassion for the boy and his father, Jesus asked,

Mark 9:21 ESV … “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.

The father further explains,

Mark 9:22 ESV And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him…

Make no mistake about it. Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He comes to destroy and pervert the image of God in each of us. But Jesus “came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The question allows the father to tell his story that the boy has been afflicted since childhood, with near fatal effect. But it also allows the father to declare his heart. The question of Jesus invites the father to come to him as a total person, with hard facts and with human hopes.[2]

The boy’s father had come in hope of finding Jesus. Instead, he found the disciples. It mattered not to him whether it was Jesus or his disciples who cast out the demon; he was desperate for help. But when the disciples were unable to cast out the demon, the father’s faith and hope were shaken.

Mark 9:22 ESV And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him [the man said]. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can do anything,” the man says! The problem is not what Jesus can do. Jesus can expel demons with a word, but producing faith is a much harder matter![3] Lack of faith in Jesus Christ is a greater obstacle than demons. We are not simply talking about having faith, or more faith, or great faith as if faith were some power that we could acquire and direct. True faith is simply trusting in God. True faith has an object and that object is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:23 ESV And Jesus said to him, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

God is not limited to do his work in us except by our lack of belief that he can do it. In his hometown, Nazareth,

Mark 6:5-6 ESV … he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief…

Jesus calls the man to put his faith in him. He had said to the hemorrhaging woman,

Mark 5:34 ESV … “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus had said to Jairus, who had just learned that his daughter was dead,

Mark 5:36 ESV …Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Now Jesus calls upon this father with faltering faith to put what faith he has in an all-sufficient Savior. You may have weak faith, but you have a strong Savior. The only bridge between human weakness and our omnipotent God is faith. The authority and power of Jesus becomes effective in human life by faith.[4]

Mark 9:23 ESV And Jesus said to him, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

This must seem impossible to the father. He does not seem to have the faith he thinks he needs:

Mark 9:24 ESV Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

True faith does not make a display of itself. It does not talk about itself. True faith does not boast. True faith realizes how small and insufficient it is. True faith looks beyond itself to the all-sufficiency of Jesus: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus could have told the man, “I am the glory of God in human form. Purify your heart, confess all your sins, get rid of all your doubts and your double-mindedness. Once you have surrendered to me totally and can come before me with a pure heart, then you can ask for the healing you need.” But Jesus doesn’t say that— not at all.[5]

Jesus takes the man where he is and leads him to where he wants him to be. If we will come to him, he will lead us to greater faith in Christ as we walk with him on the road of discipleship.

The Deliverance

Jesus often tried to shelter certain individuals from the sightseeing crowds. Jesus had compassion on people. He never used them to draw crowds to himself. He never used them for his own benefit. So when he saw a crowd running toward him, he wanted to quickly deliver this boy of the unclean spirit.

Mark 9:25 ESV And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Once again, it was by his word and in his own name that he cast out demons. Jesus did not appeal to heaven to expel the evil spirit. “I command you,” he said, “come out of him and never enter him again!”

The boy has been rolling on the ground, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth. Jesus has now commanded the demon, which he identifies as a “mute and deaf spirit,” to come out.

Mark 9:26-27 ESV And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Christ our Savior is greater than any demon, any unclean spirit, any situation. This is not about your faith; it’s about his power to save. Forget about your faith. Focus on our great Savior who is mighty to deliver.

SCENE FOUR

In scene four, we find Jesus and his disciples in a house where they ask him what went wrong:

Mark 9:28 ESV And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

It was an embarrassing failure. They had tried and failed to cast out the unclean spirit. The boy’s father had seen them fail. The crowd had seen them fail. And the hostile scribes had seen them fail.

“Why could we not cast it out?”

There seems to be an emphasis on “we” in the text. Their failure had actually come as quite a shock to them. Jesus had given them authority to expel demonic spirits:

Mark 6:7 ESV And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

They had gone out and had been successful. But now, they came up against a stronger demon.

Mark 9:29 ESV And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Did the disciples think that they knew how to do it? Were they depending upon themselves and their ability and their experience rather than depending upon Christ alone? Should they have been praying rather than arguing with the scribes?

Why do we fail so often in overcoming the demons and the sins that plague us? Are we trusting in ourselves rather than in God?

1 Corinthians 10:12 CSBO Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!

Are we trusting in our methods and strength. The Apostle Paul says,

Philippians 3:3 NLT …We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,

Jesus is talking about a continual relationship of prayer to God. We text God and think we have prayed. We send a quick message to God, asking for help, but do not give him the time of day.

How can we overcome the evil in our own hearts and lives?

  1. Come to Jesus. This deliverance was a hard case, but Jesus told them, “Bring the boy to me.” Bring your sin, bring your problem, bring your situation to Jesus.
  2. Believe that Jesus can deliver you. Your faith does not have to be perfect. Act on the faith that you have. The boy’s father told Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
  3. Pray.

Jeremiah 33:3 ESV Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Isaiah 55:6 ESV “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;

  1. Read good portions of your Bible every day.

Romans 10:17 NLT So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

In daily reading God’s Word, the Bible, your faith will grow and you will know what God wants to do in your life.

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Nothing is too hard for God! Our God is mighty to save!


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5178-5180). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5185-5187). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[4] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 119). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

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Mark 08:38-09:13, “A Risk Worth Taking”

Transfiguration-Hagopian copy-2.jpgIntroduction

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

1456053183_thumb.pngJim Elliot had dedicated his life to Jesus Christ when he was six years old. In October of 1949, at the age of 22, Jim Elliot wrote the words in his dairy by which he would always be remembered:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (October 28, 1949)

Jim became a missionary to Ecuador in South America and married Elizabeth on his 26th birthday (October 8, 1953). Less than three years later, in January 1956, Jim and four missionary companions were killed by the Auca Indians, when Jim was just 28 years old. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Elliot, and a child not yet one year old.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Did he lose everything? Or did he gain what cannot be lost? Jim Elliot staked his life, and his death, on these words of Jesus:

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

Follow Me!

Jesus had called the disciples to follow him. They followed him through his ministry. They saw him heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind, cause the lame to walk, make the deaf to hear, and enable the mute to speak. Jesus’ disciples followed him as he taught, and forgave sins, and cast out demons, and calmed the storms, and fed the multitudes. It was an amazing experience to follow Jesus.

Everyone was talking about Jesus and trying to figure out exactly who he was and how he fit into God’s great plan. Was he Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets? Was he John the Baptist raised from the dead? Jesus had not said. He simply called himself the Son of Man.

But the disciples needed to know who he was. Jesus needed for them to know who he was. And yet, whatever they thought of him, they certainly had no idea of his mission. They had walked with Jesus for many months. He shared his ministry and authority with them. The disciples knew Jesus, but did they really know who he was?

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked.

“You are the Christ,” Peter answered.

Exact. Jesus was the Christ. The Christ-Messiah. That means that he was the anointed one, the chosen one, the one whom God had promised to send. And he had come.

The only problem was that the people including the disciples, thought that the Christ-Messiah would be a freedom-fighter to set Israel free from the domination of the Roman Empire.

The Christ had indeed come to set men free, but the freedom that he offered was not political in nature. It was freedom from the slavery of sin. But to set men free, the Christ would have to pay the penalty for sin and break the power of sin by going to the cross. The Christ-Messiah would be crucified. That was a scandal for the Jews. That was not the kind of Messiah that they had expected or wanted.

As soon as the disciples declared that Jesus was the Christ,

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them [the disciples] 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.

The death of the Christ was not on the disciples’ radar screen. But they and everyone who would follow Christ, had to know that the way of Christ was the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34-35 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The message was incomprehensible. The disciples could not understand. What kind of talk was that? Was Jesus talking in parables? What kind of mystery was this? Jesus will tell them two more times (Mark 9:31; 10:34) that he is going to be killed and after three days rise again,

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

This is not what they expected. This is not what they had signed up for. But then again, they had not chosen him; he had chosen them (John 15:16). “Follow me!” he had said. And so they did.

But now things were becoming clear. Or rather, they were more confused. Before, the disciples thought that they understood, but they had not. Now that they were beginning to understand, it seemed all too confusing. Jesus had talked about a kingdom, the kingdom of God. That sounded great. But now he was talking about suffering, and rejection, and dying, and rising. What did that have to do with the kingdom of God? Denying yourself? Taking up your cross? Losing your life in order to save it? Really? What was that all about?!

Was Jesus really worth the risk?

1. The Three Disciples

Mark 9:2 ESV And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves….

We sometimes have the idea that God loves us all the same, that there are no favorites with God. That seems to be a nice idea, but it flies in the face of the facts. There were the multitudes that followed Jesus. Within the multitudes, there were 72 disciples that Jesus sent out (Luke 10:1,17). Of the 72, there were 12 that followed him more closely and whom he appointed “so that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14). And of those 12 disciples, there were three who were the closest to him. These three disciples, Peter and James and John, were the inner circle. They saw things and experienced things that the other disciples did not experience.

  • Jesus had only allowed Peter and James and John to be with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37).
  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus took Peter and James and John to be with him while he prayed, telling the other disciples to wait and “Sit here while I pray” (Mark 14:32).
  • And here in Mark 9, just one week after telling the disciples that he would suffer and be rejected and die and on the third day rise again, Jesus takes Peter and James and John, the inner circle, to the top of a high mountain, leaving the other disciples below.

These disciples were the core within the core. They were the inner group. Jesus would show them things that he would not show the others. Peter and James and John would be the ones who would help to keep the other disciples together.

1.1. The Transfiguration

Jesus led Peter and James and John

“up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2).

Notice that the text says that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” Now before we consider the meaning of the transfiguration, we should note that it did not take place for Jesus. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Jesus was transfigured “before them,” Mark tells us

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what his mission was. He knew why the Father had sent him. He knew before ever creating the universe, that he was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV).

In coming into the world, he said to his Father, “A body you have prepared for me” so that we might be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5, 10).

John 6:38 ESV For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what he was doing. He knew where he had come from. He knew what he had to do. And he knew where he was going.

But the disciples did not understand it. They were in great confusion about the matter. Jesus was not turning out to be the kind of Messiah that they were expecting or had hoped for. Even John the Baptist had asked,

Matthew 11:3 ESV … ”Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Now the disciples were wondering if they should look for another.

The transfiguration was not for Jesus; it was for the disciples. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Again, Mark tells us that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” It was for the benefit of the inner three. It was for the benefit of Peter and James and John. The transfiguration was to strengthen their faith. The message of the transfiguration for the disciples was that though Jesus and his disciples would take the way of the cross, following Jesus was a risk worth taking. Whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel, will save it.

1.2. Jesus Was Transfigured

Mark 9:2-3 ESV …And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.

Luke tells us that

Luke 9:29 ESV And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.

Matthew tells us

Matthew 17:2 ESV And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

John, who was one of the three with Jesus on that mountain — John sees something of Christ that he will see again when the resurrected and glorified Christ appears to him in the Book of Revelation:

Rev 1:16 ESV and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John saw something of the glory of Christ that was his before the foundation of the world. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed,

John 17:5 ESV And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Luke tells us

Luke 9:32 ESV Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory

These three disciples are seeing the glory of Christ, both his past glory before coming into the world, and his future glory.

The Apostle Paul says of him,

Philippians 2:6-8 NLT Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

But now, temporarily on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John are allowed to see the glory of Christ. They are given a vision of his majesty.

It was before these three disciples, Peter and James and John, that Jesus was transfigured, so that they might see the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, so that they would realize that following Christ on the way of the cross was a risk worth taking.

First we see the three disciples. Then we see the two prophets:

2. The Two Prophets

Mark 9:4 ESV And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Now this is most remarkable! For what reason do Moses and Elijah need to appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus? Once again, just like the transfiguration of Jesus was for the sake of the disciples, the appearance of Moses and Elijah was for the disciples.

Moses was the famed Law-giver. Moses had climbed up Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. He had received the Law and had given it to the nation of Israel. But Moses had never entered the promised land before. Because of his sin of failing to obey God and honor God before the people, God had not allowed him to enter with the people that he had led for forty years through the wilderness. Moses had climbed Mount Nebo and looked over into the land, but there he died on the mountain, and God buried him. Centuries passed, and now by the grace of God, Moses stands in the land of promise with the very Son of God who had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Elijah was the bold prophet who had called the people back to the Law. Moses had died, but Elijah did not die. Elijah was carried into the presence of God by a whirlwind. Now Elijah who had not died is back on earth talking with the one who would die for the sins of the world.

2.1. Passing Prophets

It is important that the appearance of Moses and Elijah was temporary. They appear with Jesus on the mountain, but soon disappear. They were not permanent figures. Their work pointing to the coming One, Jesus himself. Their presence on the mountain with Jesus shows the continuity between the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus. Their presence show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

After his resurrection, Jesus would appear to two of his disciples…

Luke 24:27 ESV And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus would tell his disciples,

Luke 24:44 ESV … ”These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Peter would preach at the house of Cornelius,

Acts 10:43 ESV To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Here on the Mount of Transfiguration appear Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. But their appearance is temporary. Just as the Apostle Paul would say in Galatians, now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the Law (Galatians 3:23-25), Moses and Elijah will disappear. Their purpose was fulfilled with Christ. Christ has come.

Romans 10:4 ESV For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Campbell Morgan comments,

Moses’ presence signified that in Jesus the shadows of the law were all fulfilled and now withdrawn. In Jerusalem men were still fighting, not merely for the law of Moses, but for the traditions of the elders, and priests and leaders were still arguing about the tithe of mint and cummin, while here upon the mount was the great law-giver himself, by his presence acknowledging that this glorified One, Who should presently be crucified in the name of the law, did in Himself gather up all that was hinted at, suggested, included in the economy of the past.[1]

Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. But then, a cloud of glory overshadowed them and Moses and Elijah were removed. Their work was completed in Jesus Christ. “There was no further need for Moses, nor yet for Elijah.”[2]

2.2. A Message from Heaven

In this appearance of Moses and Elijah, we see not only the temporary provisional nature of the Law and the Prophets pointing to Christ, we also see something of the nature of our future heavenly existence.

  1. We do not become angels.

Let’s also note that Moses and Elijah did not have wings. Only Luke spells this out so clearly:

Luke 9:30 ESV And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,

Moses and Elijah are still men. We will ever remain human beings. God did not create us to become angels or gods. There is no evolution from one form to another. God created us to be men and women and thus we will ever be.

  1. Moses and Elijah are in a conscious state. They are not unconscious. They are not asleep. They are not dead, though Moses had died. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8,

2 Corinthians 5:8 NAU to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord.

Jesus told the Sadducees that…

Matthew 22:32 ESV …the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

The presence of these men suggested not merely existence after life, but conscious existence, and not conscious existence only, but the continuity of the same existence with enlarged powers.[3]

Peter, James, and John knew Moses and Elijah. Our existence and identity and personality on the other side of this life is not absorbed into a state of nothingness or nirvana. We will know believers that we have known and believers that we have never met before. And we will be known. Our personality and identity will continue in the world to come.

We have seen the three disciples, and the two prophets. Now we turn to the one and only Son.

3. The One and Only Son

Mark 9:5 ESV And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Peter frequently put his mouth in gear before engaging his brain. His method was to act now, think later. One week earlier, he had rebuked Jesus for saying that he would suffer and be rejected and be killed and after three days, rise again.

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Now, as the three disciples see the glory of Christ, Peter suggests that they make three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Immediately, Mark tells us,

Mark 9:6 ESV For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Peter had misspoken. In his attempt to honor Christ and Moses and Elijah, he had dishonored Christ. By suggesting that they make three tents or tabernacles for them, Peter had put his Master on the same level these men of the past.

Today, people are still attempting to put up tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Buddha, one for Confucius, one for Muhammad, one for the Bahá’u’lláh. Some religious leaders are calling for unity. Unity is an important value for the Christian. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one. The Apostle Paul tells us to make every effort to maintain the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:3). God’s purpose is “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

But that is where some religious leaders have it so wrong. These leaders want the various religions to deny their distinctives. They call on Christians to deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. They say that if we can deny what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, what Jesus said about himself as the only way to the Father, and what God has said about his one and only Son as the one that we must listen to and obey, then and only then, can we have unity. They tell us that only if we deny the teachings of Christ, can we be united. That is blasphemous.

Christ is the only one who is great enough to save and unite people from every nation, as Revelation 7:9-10 tells us he will, people

from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Peter was absolutely wrong. No one compares with Jesus. God the Father would rebuke Peter.

3.1. The Father Speaks

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.1. The Identification of the Son

First, God says, “This is my beloved Son.” Moses and Elijah were servants, but Jesus was the Son of God.

Hebrews 3:5-6 ESV Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.”

3.1.2. The Statement of Divine Satisfaction

In Matthew’s account, we read that God said,

Matthew 17:5 ESV … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…”

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he is baptized by John the Baptist and his private life draws to a close, God declares from heaven,

Mark 1:11 ESV … ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Now as he approaches the end of his public ministry, again, the Father expresses his divine approval of his Son, but this time God adds, “Listen to him.”

3.1.3. The Father’s Command

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Build no tabernacles to Moses or Elijah. Their work is finished.

The message of the Book of Hebrews is the supremacy of the Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

No other voice is needed. Let all others be silent. No one supersedes the Son of God. No one replaces the Son. Not Muhammad, not Joseph Smith, or Ellen G. White, or the Bahá’u’lláh.

No further prophets will be sent by God to add to his message or modify it or abrogate it or take away from his message. False prophets will come. But what further need have we of prophets when God has spoken by his Son and has told us to listen to him: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.4. Jesus Only

Mark 9:8 ESV And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Peter, James, and John look, but Moses is gone. Elijah is gone. The Law and the Prophets had pointed to Christ, but their work is finished. Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He alone remains. “They no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”

“Jesus only” churches will use this verse while forgetting the previous verse. The voice from heaven did not say, “I am my beloved Son; listen to me.” The Father clearly drew a distinction between himself and the Son: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Father makes a distinction between himself and the Son who because he is the Son is of the same nature as the Father. He is not a god, but is “very God of very God.”

Nonetheless, the message of the Transfiguration is “Jesus only.” Peter understood that. He boldly told the religious authorities of Jerusalem:

Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

John understood the message of the Transfiguration:

1 John 5:11-12 ESV And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Jesus leaves no room for another other way to God:

John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The testimony of the Word of God is this:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all…

3.2. The Testimony of the Three

Is following Jesus worth the risk? Peter and James and John certainly believed that it was. Seeing the Lord transfigured before the eyes with the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, convinced them that if they lost their lives for Christ sake, they would save them.

James would seal his testimony with his blood. He would be beheaded by Herod.

John would live a long life, but he would testify,

John 1:14 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Peter speaks of this experience in his second epistle:

2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Do not ask for a vision. Do not ask for special revelations. Jesus only takes who he wants to take. In the next verse, Peter tells us,

2 Peter 1:19 ESV And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

The glory of Christ convinced them that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

The Transfiguration tells us that following Jesus is a risk worth taking.


 

[1] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 238-239.

[2] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 241.

[3] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 243.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

Mark 08v34-9:1, “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”

Bearing the cross detail

Painting by Andrei Nikolaevich Mironova

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngAre you a follower of Jesus? Or are you just a Christian? Hmm. What does it mean to be a true follower of Jesus? Today we want to look at what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We hear on a regular basis that Vanuatu is a Christian nation. That may be a very good thing. When we consider the history of Vanuatu, we must certainly understand that early Christian missionaries gave their lives for the sake of the people of these islands.

  • In 1839, John Williams and John Harris gave their lives at Dillon’s Bay on Erromango.
  • In 1848, John Geddie and Thomas Powell went to Aneityum and eventually translated the New Testament with the help of an islander named Williamu.
  • Other Christian missionaries such as George Gordon and his wife and brother gave their lives for the gospel on Erromango.
  • Christian missionary John G. Paton brought the good news of the gospel to the islands of Tanna and Aniwa.
  • Many others came and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins as had been prophesied, that he was buried, and that he rose again from the dead that we might be declared just before God, just as the Scriptures had promised.

Christian foundations were laid. The gospel of Jesus Christ changed lives and with the changed lives, there were new values. The old practices such as cannibalism, infanticide, and the sacrifice of the wives after the death of their husbands were abandoned. For many, Christianity brought a new life of love and joy, of hope and peace. The foundation was laid so that the politicians who forged independence chose the national motto: Long God yumi stanap. Every time you pass a 1000vt bill, you pass the message “long God yumi stanap.”

But Christianity cannot simply be written into constitutions, or our monetary notes, or other important documents. Christianity must be written into the hearts of every individual. Declaring that Vanuatu is a Christian nation may call us back to Christian values which recognize the worth, value, and dignity of every human life, whether boy or girl, child or adult, young of old, born or unborn. That means that we will not kill widows, nor the aged, nor the unborn. And it means that we will love our enemies. But declaring that the nation is a Christian nation will not make us love our enemies. There has to be a change of heart for that to take place.

And so, we must not think that we are Christians simply because we have a Christian heritage. We must not think that we are Christians simply because our parents were Christians, or that we are deacons in the church, or that we are in a Christian nation. Jesus said to one of the most religious men of his day, “You must be born again.”

As so we ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Or better yet, “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ?”

1. The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark

We have been walking our way through the Gospel of Mark. In this eighth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a turning point. Up to this point, Jesus has not revealed his identity as the Christ.

  • Mark has told us that he is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
  • God Himself has declared at Jesus’ baptism that Jesus is “my beloved Son in him I am well pleased” (1:11).

The demons have identified Jesus as

  • The Holy One of God (1:24),
  • The Son of God (3:11), and
  • The Son of the Most High God (5:7)

Jesus has spoken of himself as

  • The Son of Man (2:10, 28), and
  • The Lord of the Sabbath (2:28).

But the people have failed to grasp who Jesus actually is. They have had different ideas. The Jewish scribes, who were enemies of Jesus, said that he got his power from Satan. Some others, who thought more favorable about Jesus, thought that he was empowered by the spirit of John the Baptist who had been beheaded by King Herod. Some thought that Jesus was the one that the prophet Malachi had promised would come in the spirit and the power of Elijah. Still others thought that he was one of the Old Testament prophets.

All of those designations were woefully short of who Jesus was. Just as today, some people say that he was a great teacher and some say that he was even a god, the Bible reveals that he is much more than a great teacher or a prophet or even a god.

Jesus asks his own disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

In Luke’s version, we read,

Luke 9:20 ESV …And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Matthew’s version is the fullest:

Matthew 16:16 ESV Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but he had no idea that the Christ would have to suffer. He only saw Christ as a conqueror, one who had great power and who would liberate the nation of Israel from Roman rule.

Only when Peter had made his confession that Jesus was the Christ, did Jesus begin to tell his disciples about his mission as the Christ:

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.

This mission of suffering and rejection and death comes as a complete shock to Peter and the disciples. Peter rebukes Jesus for such a thought, but Jesus in turn rebuked Peter in the strongest of terms for seeing things from a merely human point of view rather than from God’s point of view.

Jesus uses the word “must.” The word “must” implies that it was a divine necessity. The word “must” controls and modifies the entire sentence: the Son of Man must suffer, he must be rejected, he must die, and he must rise again. Jesus is not simply saying, “I have come to die.” He is saying, “I have to die.” “It’s absolutely necessary that I die.”[1] This was absolutely shocking to the disciples who thought that evil would be overcome by power, not by suffering and death.

No one knew that Jesus came to give his life away.

2. The Mission of the Christ

The Christ was the one promised by the Old Testament prophets, even beginning in the third chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, God himself provided a covering for them and promised that a many times great grandson of Eve would crush the serpent’s head.

Abraham offered his son Isaac as a picture of God offering His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins, and yet the God who provides provided a ram in place of Isaac.

The whole Old Testament system of sacrifices pointed to the one who would end all sacrifices, offering his own blood as a sacrifice for us.

Why can God not simply forgive? Why does there need to be a sacrifice? Why did Jesus say that he “must” die?

Suppose you come to my house and accidentally sit on my iPhone and crack the screen so that it does not work. I say to you, “That will be 100,000vt please.” Or, I can say, “That’s okay. I forgive you.” In that case, what happened to the 100,000vt? If I forgive you for breaking my iPhone, I bear the cost of buying a new iPhone, or I do without. But I am the one who suffers. But someone has to bear the cost. Either you bear the cost, or I bear the cost. When I forgive you, I bear the cost.[2]

We have all sinned against God. The price of sin is eternal death, eternal separation from God. But if we come to God with hearts that are broken over our sin and if we repent of our sins, he will forgive us. But how does he forgive us? He bears the cost. That is why the eternal Son of God went to the cross. He went to bear our sins and the pay the price, to bear the cost and the penalty for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God and brought back into fellowship with him both now and for eternity.

The Jews had failed to see this in the Scriptures. The trusted in their animal sacrifices, but the sacrifice of animals cannot remove our sins. Animals are not created in the image of God as we are. Animals are not voluntary victims. The writer to the Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 10:4 ESV For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

There were Old Testament passages about the Christ, that is, the Messiah. There were also Old Testament passages about the Suffering Servant such as Isaiah 53 which says that he would bear our sins and iniquities. The Jews had failed to see that the Christ, the Messiah, would also be the Suffering Servant. The Apostle Peter explains that even the Old Testament prophets tried to understand how the prophecies fit together:

1 Peter 1:10-11 NLT This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

3. The Terms of Discipleship

Once the disciples recognized that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus began to teach them what that meant. He began to teach them about the true nature of his mission, that he would suffer, and be rejected, and die, and after three days rise again.

If Jesus goes to the cross, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? If Jesus chooses the way of the cross, what does it mean to follow him?

Beginning in Mark 8:34, Jesus calls crowd and spells out the terms of discipleship.

Mark 8:34-9:1 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

9:1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

We are looking at the question of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what it means to be a true Christian. Jesus very clearly lays down the terms, the conditions of following him. He is not talking to a special elite group of people. What he says is not limited to his 12 disciples. Mark very clearly tells us that Jesus “called the crowd to him with his disciples.” The conditions for being a Christian are laid down not only for the 12 disciples, but also for the crowd. In fact, in addressing the crowd, Jesus uses the word “anyone.”

Mark 8:34 ESV … ”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

That means you. That means me. Jesus spells out the cost of discipleship for you and me. He tells us what it will cost to follow him. He tells us what it will cost each of us to be a Christian.

A Christian is not one who is born of Christian parents, or raised in a Christian church, or born in a Christian nation. A Christian is one who follows in the footsteps of Christ.

4. Self-Denial and the Way of the Cross

The way of Jesus was the way of the cross. It was the way of self-denial. The Jesus way is the way of death to self. Just as Jesus took the way of self-denial and the way of the cross, he tells us that anyone who would come after him must also deny themselves and take the way of the cross. We find this throughout the New Testament:

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father,

Luke 22:42 ESV saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus explains why we must deny ourselves:

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The instinct of self-preservation is ultimately self-defeating. Timothy Keller explains,

Jesus is not saying, “I want you to lose your sense of being an individual self.” That’s a teaching of Eastern philosophy, and if he meant that, he would have said, “You must lose yourself to lose yourself.”[2]

This is not eastern mysticism or the loss of our personhood. It is not our absorption into the nothingness of nirvana.

Rather it is laying down our rights of self-determination at the feet of the king. We no longer sing, I did it my way.

We no longer claim to be masters of our own fate.

Rather we come to recognize that God is on a mission of redemption and he has graciously invited us to join him in that mission. We lay aside our petty agendas to embrace something infinitely greater than ourselves : the agenda of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

We lose ourselves for the sake of Christ and in losing ourselves, we find ourselves in Christ and discover who we were created to be.

Jim Elliot was a missionary to the Auca Indians in South America. Before losing his life at the end of a spear, he wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”[3]

Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Jesus tells us that the way to save our lives, is to lose our lives for Christ’s sake.

When Jesus speaks here of saving our lives, he is speaking of more than mere physical existence. He is speaking of the core of our existence, our “personhood,” our identity.

So many people are trying to find themselves. They are trying to find their identity. They do not know who they are and they are continually searching and trying to identify themselves or to carve out an identity for themselves.

Never before in the history of the world has there been so much confusion about identity. Today people wrestle with sexual orientation and gender identity. In some cultures, boys are taught to wonder if they are girls, and girls are taught to wonder if they are boys. These are questions that our grandparents would not even have understood.

At the hospital when a baby is delivered, the doctor never wonders what kind of a baby it is. If it’s a boy, the attending physician will declare, “It’s a boy!” If it’s a girl, he will declare, “It’s a girl!” No one is confused about that.

Accepting your maleness or your femaleness is recognizing God’s sovereignty in your life. He has created us male or female according to his own good will for us. And it is not hard to figure out what he created us to be.

Beyond that, some people are constantly trying to find themselves, to “discover” who they are. They may focus an inordinate amount of attention on their own selves to the point of idolizing themselves, making an idol out of their own bodies, worshiping themselves, abusing themselves, and doing all that they can to draw attention to themselves.

Others try to build their identity on gaining a place in the world.

Every culture points to certain things and says, “If you gain [these things], if you acquire or achieve [these things], then you’ll have a self, you’ll know you’re valuable.” Traditional cultures would say you’re nobody unless you gain the respectability and legacy of family and children. In individualistic cultures it’s different; the culture says you’re nobody unless you gain a fulfilling career that brings money, reputation, and status. Regardless of such differences, though, every culture says identity is performance-based, achievement-based.[4]

To that, Jesus says,

Mark 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

We focus on our success and will take whatever measures are necessary to achieve it. We have our agenda, our plans for our success. We may be pursuing wealth or fame, but we have our aspirations and our goals. We have our eyes fixed on some prize that will win us the applause of others, and we think that when we achieve that, we will be happy. We will have found ourselves. We will be somebody.

Perhaps we try to find our identity in our relationships. One popular song proclaimed, “You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you.” Well, someone has loved you.

Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We have a hard time understanding how people who have reached the pinnacle of success will end it all. We learn of the tragic endings of people like Robin Williams or Whitney Houston and wonder why.

For all their searching, they did not find life.

“Learning to love yourself” is not “the greatest love of all.” The greatest love of all is loving the “Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind,” Jesus said (Mark 12:30).

Mark 8:35 NLT If you try to hang on to your life, [Jesus said,] you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.

We were created for God. We were created to serve his purpose. We were created to know him, and to love him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever.

But this is not simply some abstract notion of God. Jesus said that if we give up our lives for his sake and for the sake of the gospel, we will save it. We find ourselves in serving others, in loving others, in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.

Whether you are a father or mother, or carpenter or plumber, or secretary or company executive, you will find your life in letting Christ set your agenda. Let him be the King of your home, your work, your community service. Let his principles dictate how you conduct your business for then your business will be the King’s business. Certain activities will stop. You will no longer be engaged in those activities which destroy lives. You will give yourself to those things which promote good rather than evil, righteousness rather than wickedness.

If your agenda is the end, then Jesus is just the means; you’re using him. But if Jesus is the King, you cannot make him a means to your end. You can’t come to a king negotiating. You lay your sword at a king’s feet and say, “Command me.” If you try to negotiate instead, if you say, “I’ll obey you if . . . ,” you aren’t recognizing him as a king. But don’t forget this: Jesus is not just a king; he’s a king on a cross. If he were only a king on a throne, you’d submit to him just because you have to. But he’s a king who went to the cross for you. Therefore you can submit to him out of love and trust. This means coming to him not negotiating but saying, “Lord, whatever you ask I will do, whatever you send I will accept.” When someone gave himself utterly for you, how can you not give yourself utterly to him? Taking up your cross means for you to die to self-determination, die to control of your own life, die to using him for your agenda.[5]

5. The Infinite Value of Your Soul

Mark 8:36-37 NLT And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

Jesus tells us that the man who has traded his soul to gain the world, has made a poor bargain indeed. Nothing compares to the value of your eternal soul. Nothing but God himself. Lose your soul for his sake, entrust your personhood, your identity, your eternal existence to him. Lose it all for him. He will preserve it for you. It is in denying ourselves, dying to ourselves, and following him, that we find out who we were really meant to be. It is in dying to ourselves, and living for Christ, that we find life.

The Apostle Paul said it like this,

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.

C. S. Lewis closes his book Mere Christianity with this:

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, the death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and the death of your whole body in the end: Submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.[6]

Jesus invites you to follow him on the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34 NIVO … “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.


[1] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 95). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 10585-10587). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 104-105). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 106). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

Mark 08v27-38, “Who do you say that I am?”

Detail of  Mosaic in Hagia Sophia

2001 — Detail of Mosaic in Hagia Sophia — Image by © Hanan Isachar/CORBIS

1456053183_thumb.pngThe most important question that you can ever answer is the one that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

What you believe about a person determines your relationship to that person. What you believe about Jesus determines your relationship with him. It determines your relationship with God, and it determines your eternal destiny.

This passage begins with a question: Who do you say that I am?

1. Some Already Know Who Jesus Is.

1.1. The Reader of Mark’s Gospel Knows Who Jesus Is.

This passage is a crucial turning point in Mark’s Gospel. The question of Jesus’ identity was raised from the first chapter of this gospel. The reader of Mark’s Gospel already knows what he is to understand about Jesus because Mark has told us in the very first verse, what we are to understand about Jesus. This is…

Mark 1:1 ESV The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark begins by telling us that Jesus is the Christ, and that he is the Son of God. Those are two different things. Jesus is at one and the same time both the Christ and the Son of God.

The next verses introduce John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Christ. John’s ministry as the forerunner of Christ was announced by Isaiah the prophet, more than 700 years before Christ’s birth:

Mark 1:2-3 ESV As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

This is how we read it in Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:3 ESV A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

When Isaiah writes, “…prepare the way of the LORD,” he uses the very name of God: Yahweh. Translated into English, it is written capital L O R D. Isaiah says that the messenger who is John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the coming of Yahweh. Then he says the same thing another way: “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” So when Mark quotes Isaiah, he is telling his readers that they are to understand that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is Yahweh, God in the flesh.

Then just a few verses later in Mark 1, Jesus is baptized,

Mark 1:11 ESV And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

So the readers of Mark’s Gospel already know who Jesus is.

1.2. The Demons Know Who He Is.

Mark 1:23-24 ESV …there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.”

When Jesus rebuked the demon and cast him out simply by commanding him, the people

Mark 1:27 ESV …were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Again in,

Mark 1:34 ESV And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 3:11 ESV And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

Again in chapter 5, the man with a legion of demons cried out

Mark 5:7 ESV …with a loud voice…, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?…”

1.3. The People Do Not Yet Know Who Jesus Is.

The demons know who Jesus is, but the people do not seem to have understood the scream of the demons; they do they know who Jesus is.

Mark keeps bringing us back to this question through this Gospel. Who is this Jesus?

1.3.1. The Scribes Do Not Know Who Jesus Is.

When Jesus tells the lame man that his sins are forgiven, the scribes complained,

Mark 2:7 ESV “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Yes, who but God can forgive sins? And since Jesus claims the right to forgive sins, Mark is showing the reader who Jesus is, but the people have not yet understood that.

Mark 6:14 ESV King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”

1.3.2. King Herod Does Not Know Who Jesus Is.

In chapter 6, King Herod Antipas is trying to figure who Jesus is and where he gets his power to heal.

It is one thing for the scribes and the Pharisees and King Herod and others to be confused about the identity of Jesus, but what about his disciples?

Up to this point, Jesus has not said that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one that the prophets had promised. He has claimed to be the Son of Man who has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10. And he has claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath with the right to interpret its meaning (2:28), but after the very first verse where Mark tells us that Jesus is the Christ until we get to the end of chapter 8, the word Christ has not been used again.

1.3.3. What about the disciples?

We have seen that up to this point, the disciples did not get it. They are with the Lord. They have heard his teaching but do not understand it.

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

At the end of chapter 4, the disciples are in danger of perishing in a storm tossed sea, but Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, saying, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:41 ESV And [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Who is this, indeed?

They failed to understand his teaching and the failed to comprehend his miracles. They were astounded to see him walking on the sea,

Mark 6:52 ESV for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Over and over again, they just do not get it. They have have failed to understand his teaching. They have seen his miracles but have not been able to discern the meaning of the signs they have witnessed.[1] Jesus asks them,

Mark 8:18 NLT ‘You have eyes– can’t you see? You have ears– can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?

Yet, Jesus does not give up on them. Even as he opened the ears of the deaf mute, he will open the ears of his disciples. Just as he opened the eyes of the blind man who at first saw men as trees walking, before receiving a second healing touch, so the disciples will yet see, though at first not so clearly, as we will see!

2. Some Think They Know Who Jesus Is.

2.1. Public Opinion: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mark 8:27 ESV And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi…

This is pagan territory. Caesarea Philippi was

famous for its sanctuary to [the god] Pan… Half man and half goat, [the god] Pan was revered as the guardian of flocks and nature…[2] It is here in the outer regions of paganism and even hostility to Judaism that Jesus is first proclaimed Messiah!

Mark 8:27-28 ESV…And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

Jesus, the Master Teacher, is beginning to open the eyes of the disciples. Up to this point, they have failed to look beyond the signs. He wants them to think about what the signs signify, what they mean. But before asking who they think he is, Jesus asks them who others say that he is. He is provoking them to think about his identity.

Just like today, people had different opinions about Jesus. Some, like King Herod, thought that he was John the Baptist returned to life. Others thought that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. The idea was not that Jesus was simply a prophet, but that he was one of the prophets of the Old Covenant.

Moses had foretold that God would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). The Jews were waiting for that prophet. When they compared Jesus to John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the famous prophets of the Old Covenant, they believed that Jesus was a prophet of great rank.

And yet, these comparisons showed that the people had also completely failed to understand who Jesus was. Jesus was not a recycled prophet. He was not another prophet of the Old Order, the Old Covenant. Just like today, people will say that Jesus was “the greatest teacher or moral example who ever lived.” That “may seem like an honor and compliment,” but it is a case of mistaken identity. It robs Jesus of his absolute uniqueness as the Christ, the Son of God. Mark is showing us that Jesus can only be defined in terms of “himself and his relationship with the Father.”[3] He cannot be compared to anyone else. He is the incomparable Christ.

2.2. Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus is the Christ

Jesus is not really interested in opinion polls. His primary concern is not what others say about him. His primary concern is about his disciples, those to whom he will entrust his mission. The others—the outsiders—have their various opinions about Jesus. But the disciples—the insiders—to them “has been given the secret of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). It is essential that these men who will carry on the work, it is essential that they know who he is.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” …

That is the ultimate question. It is the question that Jesus asks his disciples. It is the question that he asks you and me: “But who do you say that I am?”

Mark 8:29 BSN …”?Be yufala, yufala i stap tokbaot mi, se mi hu?”

Your answer is crucial. Who do you say that Jesus is?

This is a question that you must get right. Your answer will not change who he is. He does not change and adapt himself to your opinion of him. But your answer to that question will determine your relationship to him which will determine your eternal destiny. Your relationship to Jesus impacts not only your life now in the present; your understanding of who Jesus is and your relationship to him determines your eternity. This is a question that matters. This is one that you must get right or all is lost.

If I call you by the wrong name, you will be quick to correct because no one likes to be called by someone else’s name. If I mistake the head of state for someone else and address him with the wrong title, that will show that I do not really know him. How much more is that true of the One of the Highest possible rank? If we do not know who Jesus is, we will not be able to worship him in spirit and truth.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

 

This is the first time since the very first verse of this Gospel that the word Christ has been used. People had wondered and guessed at who Jesus was, but no one had gotten it right. At no time in this Gospel does Jesus state that he is the Christ or accept that title, until now.

This had been a long time coming. The disciples had not understood his teaching or his miracles. They had been blind to the fact that Jesus was the Christ. But now, ever so slowly, their eyes are being opened. Their vision is not yet clear as the following verses will show, but this is a beginning and it is the promise that they will yet see clearly.

Mark 8:29-30 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

2.3. The Order of Silence

We may wonder why Jesus so strongly charged the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. The answer lies in the misunderstanding of what the Christ would do.

The Jews had gone through difficult times. For nearly 600 years they have been under the Babylonians, then under the Persians, then under the Greeks, and finally under the Romans. There was a period when they threw off the bonds of oppression under the Greeks, notably the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, but that period of self-rule had not gone well either.

The Jews were waiting for the promised Messiah, the Christ. The one who would be the Son of David the king. The one who would set up his throne and restore the kingdom to Israel. The Jews were looking for a Christ who would overthrow the Romans, but they had failed to see that the Messiah, the Christ, would first be the Suffering Servant, the one who would take our sins upon himself, bearing the iniquities of many, as Isaiah had prophesied. Jesus did come to bring liberation and peace, but not with military power and rule.

Jesus will don the servant’s towel rather than the warrior’s sword; he will practice sacrifice above vengeance. He will not inflict suffering, but suffer himself as a “ransom for many” (10:45). As God’s servant, Jesus must remain hidden if he is to complete God’s appointment (Isa 49:1-6).[4]

In declaring Jesus as the Christ, Peter has supplied the proper title, but he has the wrong understanding.[5]

Jesus orders the disciples to tell no one that he is the Christ because the Jewish people had misunderstood their own Scriptures and failed to see that the Christ would fulfill the Old Covenant of the Law and enact the New Covenant in his own blood.

This now, Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly.

Mark 8:31-32 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. 32 And he said this plainly…

This is the first of three times when Jesus will tell the disciples of his death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). From this point on, Jesus tells his disciples “plainly” that this is his mission. He is going to suffer many things, and be rejected, and be killed, and after three days, rise again.

This is absolutely shocking! This is not what the Jews believed that the Messiah would do. This is not what the disciples thought they were getting into!

The meaning of his life and mission is not about victory and success, but about rejection, suffering, and death. When Jesus finally speaks to the issue of his identity and mission it is summed up in [this phrase:] “The Son of Man must suffer many things.”[6]

The word must means that his sufferings are necessary to fulfill the will of God. James Edwards remarks in his excellent commentary:

The prediction of Jesus’ passion conceals a great irony, for the suffering and death of the Son of Man will not come, as we would expect, at the hands of godless and wicked people. The suffering of the Son of Man comes rather at the hands of “the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.” It is not humanity at its worst that will crucify the Son of God but humanity at its absolute best. The death of Jesus will not be the result of a momentary lapse or aberration of human nature, but rather the result of careful deliberations from respected religious leaders who will justify their actions by the highest standards of law and morality, even believing them to render service to God (John 16: 2). Jesus will not be lynched by an enraged mob or beaten to death in a criminal act. He will be arrested with official warrants, and tried and executed by the world’s envy of jurisprudence — the Jewish Sanhedrin and the principia iuris Romanorum [the principles of Roman law].[7]

3. “You are the Christ” — Right Title, Wrong Idea

3.1. Peter Rebukes Jesus

Mark 8:32 ESV And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us,

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is not Peter’s understanding of what the Messiah would come to do! He is expecting a triumphant Messiah, one who will conquer, one who will sit upon the throne of his father David, one who will restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). So Peter pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him: Do not say such a thing! That’s never going to happen! How can you say that? You are the Christ!

This word for “rebuke” is the same word that is used when Jesus rebuked demons (1:25; 3:12). Peter rebukes Jesus strongly, believing that this talk of suffering and rejection and death must be silenced.

Peter had used the correct title, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, but he has misunderstood it. He is beginning to see, but does not yet see clearly.

3.2. Jesus Rebukes Peter

Peter has expressed not only his own misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding of all the disciples.

Mark 8:33 ESV But turning and seeing his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus turns and sees his disciples. They had the same thoughts as Peter. They must hear him as he rebukes Peter.

Just as Satan had tried to turn Jesus away from the cross by offering him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow down and worship him, Peter has attempted to turn Jesus aside from suffering. In Peter’s mind, Jesus must not choose the path of suffering, but the path of glory. In ways that he cannot understand, Peter has opposed “a deep mystery of God, for suffering is the only way to destroy the stronghold of Satan…”[8]

Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil (Mark 1:24; 3:27; 1 John 3:8). This was the purpose of the Incarnation.

Peter is thinking in human terms. He is thinking as men think and not as God thinks. To think as men think is to “no longer be [a] disciple of Jesus but a disciple of Satan.” Jesus turns the rebuke on Peter and says exactly what he had said to Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness: “Get behind me, Satan!”

It is not Jesus’ concept of the Messiah that is satanic. Rather, Peter’s attempt to turn Jesus aside from the cross was satanic. Jesus rebukes him strongly. This rebuke is stronger than the series of questions Jesus had asked in 8:14-21,

  • Don’t you know or understand even yet?
  • Are your hearts too hard to take it in?
  • You have eyes– can’t you see?
  • You have ears– can’t you hear?
  • Don’t you remember anything at all?
  • Don’t you understand yet?

3.3. Non-Understanding and Misunderstanding

Failing to understand is not as bad as misunderstanding. Peter has the right word, but the wrong idea. He has the right title, but he has not understood it. This stronger rebuke “suggests that a near-truth is more dangerous than an obvious error, since a partial truth is more believable.”[9]

Liberal Theology and the Cults

This is the grave error and danger of both liberal theology and the cults. Both liberal theology and the cults use biblical terms, but they twist them to mean something else. They redefine the biblical terms. They give them a meaning that is different from what the authors meant. Liberal theologians will talk about faith and the divinity of Christ, but they mean something quite different from what the Bible means.

The cults that we have here in Vanuatu will use biblical terms. They will say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they do not mean that Jesus is of the same nature as God. Or they will say that they believe in God the Father, but they may actually believe in many gods while saying that they only worship one of them. Or they will say that Jesus was only a man who was anointed by the Spirit. They will use terms like faith, and salvation, and Savior, but they have their own special definitions and special teachings and perhaps even their own special translation of the Bible that says things that no other translation says. These cults are most dangerous because they appear to be Christian but they preach a different Jesus. There is one thing that all cults and false religions and liberal theology have in common: they diminish Jesus. They make him smaller than he really is.

Is there any hope for them? Yes there is. Just as there was hope for the disciples. If they will put away their other books and carefully read the Word of God to discern the intention of the authors of the Bible, they too can have their eyes opened and come to the knowledge of the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

Peter had said that Jesus was the Christ, but he meant something very different from what Jesus meant. Now Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship.

4. The Way of the Discipleship

Mark 8:34 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“A wrong view of Messiahship leads to a wrong view of discipleship.”[10] Jesus will take the way of the cross and so must his disciples. But this word is not just for the Twelve. Jesus called the crowd to him with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Jesus said that if we are to come after him,

  1. we must deny ourselves. This does not mean the denial of things, but the denial of ourselves. We surrender the right to determine our own goals, aspirations, and desires.[11]
  2. We must take up our cross. The cross is an instrument of death. It means putting to death the old way, the old habits, the old customs.

Romans 8:13 ESV For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

  1. We must follow Christ. It means that Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives.

Luke 6:46 ESV “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Jesus asks you, “Who do you say that I am?” He calls you to understand that he is the Christ, the one that was promised from the first book to the last book of the Old Testament. He calls to you understand that he is the Son of God, the one who by his very nature is God in the flesh. He calls you to understand that he became a man so that he might take your sins upon himself and pay the price for your sins. He calls you to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and to follow him in living a life of obedience to his commands. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 414.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4610-4613). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4646-4649). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4716-4717). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4714-4715). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4737-4739). 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 4747-4754). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4774-4775). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[11] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 08v22-26, “Men As Trees, Walking”

20160411

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngHave you ever felt like you could see something, but you could not see it clearly? If you have had good eyesight and are in your mid-forties, you may have noticed that things are not as clear as they once were. You probably need glasses.

When I was about 40 years old, my father told me that I would soon need glasses because at about that age, eyesight begins to change and it becomes harder to read. I somehow thought that I would beat the odds and would not need glasses, but by the time I was 45, I was having a hard time reading. I wanted to pretend that the words on the page were clear, but I could not see them very clearly. My arms did not quite seem long enough to hold the book in a place where I could see the text. Reading increasingly gave me a headache. I finally gave in and got a pair of glasses. Once again, I could see clearly.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, we find a man who went from being blind, to seeing but not seeing clearly, and finally to seeing everything clearly. It is one of the most remarkable miracles ever performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and it has great lessons for all of us.

Mark 8:22-26 NLT When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

1. The Miracle

The healing of this blind man is quite unlike any other healing that took place during the earthly ministry of Jesus. It seems that this healing of the blind man took place in stages. At first he could not see at all. Then he saw men that looked like trees. And finally, he saw clearly.

1.1. The Healing in Two Parts

We have to ask ourselves what is going on here. This is not the way that Jesus normally healed people. When Jesus healed people, the healings were normally instantaneous.

For example, when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law,

Mark 1:31 ESV And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Mark 1:40-42 ESV And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

In chapter 2, we read that four men lowered a paralytic down through the roof because they could not get through the door because of the crowd of people. Jesus said to the paralytic,

Mark 2:11-12 ESV “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

In chapter 3, Jesus said to a man with a withered hand,

Mark 3:5 ESV … “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

In chapter 5, a woman who had suffered with a discharge of blood for twelve years pushed her way to Jesus through a great crowd of people,

Mark 5:28-29 ESV For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Now, in chapter 8, we have a blind man that some people brought to Jesus. They begged Jesus to touch the man. But this time, the healing was not instantaneous. He did not recover his sight immediately. Jesus touched the man, but when he looked up he said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Mark 8:25 ESV Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Since this healing took place in two stages, so unlike any of the other healings of Jesus, we have to ask ourselves why the man was not completely healed the first time. Why was his vision so unclear after the first touch? Why did he need Jesus to touch him a second time?

Was the healing of a blind man that much more difficult than

  • the cleansing of a leper,
  • or the healing of a paralyzed man,
  • or the restoration of a withered hand?

We will find later in Mark 10, that Jesus said to blind Bartimaeus,

Mark 10:52 ESV …”Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Why was this blind man of Bethsaida not healed immediately? Did Jesus fail the first time and have to try again?

1.2. Reading the Bible

This story shows the importance of reading the Bible in context, and of reading entire books of the Bible. We cannot understand this story in the Gospel of Mark if we are not reading the entire Gospel of Mark. When we look at our Bibles we see them divided into chapters and verses, but we need to understand that none of the books of the Bible were written that way. All 66 books of the Bible — 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament — all 66 books were written as books or letters and were meant to be read from the beginning to the end. Everything must be understood in its context.

The Bible is not a magic dipping well that we dip a bucket into to pull out a verse or two.

  • Every verse has to be read in the context of its chapter.
  • And every chapter has to be read in the context of the book.
  • And every book has to be read in the context of the entire Bible.

The divisions that we find in the Bible were not part of the original text. The 40 authors of the Bible did not write verses and chapters; they wrote books and letters. The chapter divisions were added to the Bible by Professor Stephen Langton of the University of Paris in A.D. 1227. The verse divisions were by the French printer Robert Estienne (Stephanus) in 1551. The chapter and verse divisions help us to find the same passage, but they were not part of the original text.

So the Bible is not to be read by picking verses here and there. It is to be read as any other book. Everything has to be read in context. The big difference between reading the Bible and other books is that the Bible is the Word of God. We read it to know how to obey God. How much more we should be careful to read God’s Word in its context so that we do not misinterpret what God is saying to us through His Word.

This is where we have to be very careful not to be fooled by false cults and false religions that take verses out of context and try to prove their false teachings. The one thing that all the false teachers have in common is that they take verses out of context to try to make the Lord Jesus Christ smaller than he really is.

The Bible warns us in…

Colossians 2:8-9 NLT Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

So if all the fullness of God lives in Christ, then the healing of this blind man in two stages was not because Jesus had to try again to get it right! Something else is going on here.

1.3. Understanding the Context: The Context of Understanding

Remember that some of the people of Bethsaida brought this blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.

Jesus never made a show of his miracles. He never put up posters about holding a miracle meeting somewhere. The focus of his ministry was teaching and preaching the Word of God.

And yet in his compassion, he did the works of the Messiah, healing the sick, opening blinded eyes, and preaching the good news to the poor.

Jesus has compassion for this blind man and wants to deal with him privately.

Mark 8:23-24 ESV And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

He saw, but he could not see clearly.

One of the important themes in the Gospel of Mark is that of seeing clearly, the importance of understanding.

In Mark 4, Jesus told the parable of the man who went forth sowing the seed. Some of it fell on the pathway, some on stony ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil. But even the disciples of Jesus failed to understand the parable:

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

Jesus then explained to them that the seed was the Word of God. The good soil represents those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit.

In Mark 6, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and fed a multitude of 5,000. But the disciples completely failed to understand what the miracle indicated about Jesus himself. So when Jesus came walking on the Sea of Galilee that night, they were, as we say, “blown away.”

Mark 6:51-52 NLT Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

In chapter 7, Jesus had told the Pharisees that people are not made unclean by what they eat; they are made unclean by what is in their heart. When the disciples asked him about this,

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.)

Now we come to chapter 8. It is here in chapter 8 that we find the story of the progressive healing of the blind man. Just immediately before this story, we read that Jesus and the disciples had just left the Pharisees who

Mark 8:11 NLT …demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

Jesus and his disciples are now in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when Jesus warns them to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

But the disciples completely missed the point.

Mark 8:17-18 NIVO Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? … 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see…?

Mark 8:21 NIVO He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

In the very next verse, they arrive at Bethsaida and the blind man is brought to Jesus. Jesus could have healed the blind man instantly by simply saying, “Receive your sight.” Our Lord had that power. Nothing is impossible for him.

But Jesus did not heal the man that way. It was no accident that Jesus healed this blind man in two stages. He is quite deliberate in what he does. He spits in the eyes of the blind man and lays his hands on him. Then he does something that he never does at any other time. He asks the man a question: “Do you see anything?”

Jesus never asks the deaf if they can hear, or the lame if they can walk. But he asks this man, “Do you see anything” (v. 23).

Mark 8:24 ESV And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Jesus had asked the man, “Do you see anything?” Just a few verses before, in verses 17 and 18, as Jesus and his disciples were arriving in the boat, Jesus had asked his disciples,

Mark 8:17-18 NET …Do you still not see…? … 18 Though you have eyes, don’t you see? …

Jesus now performs a parable. Yes, it is a miracle, but he heals this man in a way to demonstrate a parable to his own disciples. Just as Jesus begins a process of enabling this blind man to see, he will begin the process of moving his own disciples from blindness to sight.[1]

The disciples have not understood who Jesus is or what he came to do. ***In the verses following this story, Peter will make his confession that Jesus is the Christ of God, but he does not understand what that means. He has moved from non-understanding to misunderstanding. Only after the cross and resurrection will Peter and the disciples arrive at complete understanding, seeing “everything clearly” (8:25).[2]

2. The Message

2.1. Not As Things Should Be

So many people are at this first stage. It is hard to describe their spiritual condition. Jesus asked the man, “Do you see anything?” He responded, “Yes, I do see, but I see men as trees, walking.”

Do you understand the position? It is difficult to describe this man. You cannot say that he is blind any longer. You cannot say that he can see because he sees men as trees, walking. What then—is he or is he not blind? You feel that you have to say at one and the same time that he is blind and that he is not blind. He is neither one thing nor the other.[3]

Now there are people like that. You may meet them and think, “Yes, that person is a Christian.” But the next time you are with them, they say something or do something, and you wonder how a Christian could do such a thing.

These people are rather unhappy with themselves. On Sunday they will believe the preaching of the Word and believe themselves to be Christians, but then something happens and everything is put in doubt.

There is a positive element to their condition: just as the blind man recognized that he should not see men as trees, walking, they realize that things are not as they should be. They see something. They see that something is not quite right. They are on the path to seeing clearly, but they have not yet arrived. Things are not yet clear for them.

These people have come to recognize the truth of the Scriptures. They see that if everyone lived according to the principles in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this world would truly be a paradise.

They may have come to see that Jesus is the only hope for the world. They may have seen that he is somehow the Savior, though they do not understand exactly how he is the Savior or why they need a Savior. But they are interested in him and believe that somehow they need him.

These people have not clearly seen the biblical teaching about justification by faith. They are trying to put themselves right with God. They are trying to be good enough to be accepted by God. But they see that it is not working. They have set a standard, but they cannot live up to that standard. They are trying to save themselves but they see that they cannot.

These people see, but they do not see clearly. They see as this blind man saw: they see men as trees, walking.

Let’s look at a few areas where these people do not see clearly.

2.1.1.  First, they do not clearly see their need for a Savior.

They do not understand that Jesus had to take our sins upon himself and to die in our place. They do not see that he had to take the punishment of our sin for us in order for us to be declared just before God. They do not understand that the cross is the demonstration of the love, the grace, and the righteousness of God.

They are not clear about the biblical teaching about the new birth. They say that they do not see it, and they are right! They do not see it! They are in a state of confusion and they are quite unsatisfied with their own lives. They “are troubled and unhappy and miserable.”[4] They see, but they do not see.

2.1.2.  Second, their heart is divided.

They are not fully committed to Christ. They are somewhere between complete darkness and the light. They are in the grey area. Their heart is not fully engaged. They do not find their joy in Jesus; they are continually trying to find joy, but it is always elusive, just beyond their reach.

2.1.3.  Third, their will is divided.

They do not understand the biblical teaching of repentance. They want to hold on to the pleasures of this world. They do not understand why they should do certain things and stop doing other things. They will argue about what they think a Christian should or should not do. They always want to know if it is okay for a Christian to engage in this or that activity. When it comes down to it, they are rebellious. While acknowledge in general that the old life needs to go and the new should come, they do not want to let go of the old and they are not ready to embrace the new. They do not see clearly.

2.2. Diagnosing the Cause

In the verses leading up to this miracle, Jesus had asked his disciples a series of eight questions such as:

  • Do you still not see or understand?
  • Have your hearts been hardened?
  • Though you have eyes, don’t you see?
  • And though you have ears, can’t you hear?
  • Don’t you remember?

2.2.1.  These questions require clear-cut answers.

But many people today do not like clarity. They do not like black and white answers. They want the “50 shades of grey.” But there is not grey with God. We live in a world today where we see men as trees walking and want to pretend that we see clearly. They want to believe that that is how things ought to be.

As someone said, “When Moses came down from the mountain, he did not give us the Ten Suggestions.” But today we do not even want suggestions. In the name of tolerance, anything goes. You need not worry too much about terrorists destroying civilization. We are doing a very good job of destroying it without their help.

2.2.2.  The real trouble with people who do not see clearly, is that “they never fully accept the teaching and the authority of the Scriptures.”[5]

There are churches in the world today that give lip service to the Word of God but believe that it has to be modified and adapted to the modern world. The Bible may be a guide, but the principles have to be updated to keep up with the changing pace of our world today. “The world is changing,” they say, so they modify and reinterpret the Scriptures here and there to suit their own desires.

But God is not out of date, no matter what the world says. God’s Word is timeless and we must submit to it, or bear the consequences of our disobedience.

2.2.3.  Another cause of this lack of clarity is that people do not want clarity.

They do not want the clear teaching of the Word of God. They want an experience, a warm fuzzy feeling, but not teaching. You see, the teaching of the Word of God is clear. As the psalmist said,

Psalm 19:8 ESV the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

2.3. What Is the Cure?

2.3.1.  First, when we see men as trees walking,

we must not say that we see clearly. This blind man had enough wisdom to realize that though he saw, he did not yet see as he should see.

When God begins to open our eyes and to give us understanding, we must not think that we have arrived. We are tempted to announce that we can see, and often we encourage others to announce that they see when they do not yet see clearly. Let us not stop the Savior’s healing work before we see clearly.

2.3.2.  Second, we must never lose hope. 

While we must not prematurely claim to see clearly, neither should we give up hope when we realize that we do not see clearly. Recognizing that things are not yet clear, we must not despair. We must not stop reading the Bible. We must not stop praying and seeking the face of God. The devil would want to stop you in your progress, but you must not listen to him.

2.3.3.  So what do we do? We must be honest

and answer the Lord truthfully. “Do you see anything?” “Yes, Lord, but I do not yet see as I ought to see.” The man did not make some kind of false faith claim: “Yes, I see by faith.” No, he was completely honest with the Lord.

Where do you stand? What is your condition with God? Do you see clearly or are you still confused about things? Are you full of joy, or still bothered with doubts and fears? Do you know God? Not simply believe in him, but do you know him? Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

2.3.4.  Finally, submit yourself to Christ

just as this man did. Jesus touched him once and he touched him again. The man did not object to the second touch but rather rejoiced in it. And had Jesus not touched this man a second time, I believe that this man would have asked him to.

You can do the same. You can ask the Lord to touch you again, to continue his work in you. Tell him, “I want the truth, whatever it costs me.” Submit yourself fully to him. Let him be the Lord of your life, all your life. Plead with him to give you clear sight, perfect vision. He will do it.

Ask him in the words of the hymn:

Holy Spirit, Truth Divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine,
Word of God, and inward Light,
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.

If you will do that, then as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:6,

Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4576-4577). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4594).

[3] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 39.

[4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 43.

[5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 44.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

The Reality of the Resurrection

Christ Raised cropped.jpg1456053183_thumb.png

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?”

Grunewald's crucifixion3.png

 

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”:

Mark 07v24-30 “Jesus among the Gentiles”

canaanitewoman_drouais cropped.jpg

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are we to think about stories about Jesus among the Gentiles? People have always been fascinated with Jesus. People have tried to explain him. Some cultures have claimed him. Some have told stories about him growing up in Great Britain or India, trekking across Tibet, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Egypt. According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in the early 20th century, Jesus went to India and Kashmir after his crucifixion.[1] Some even believe that Jesus visited native Americans after his resurrection. What are we to think of these stories?

Simply this: these stories are pure fiction — nothing but fantasy. They have no historical or archaeological foundation at all. No world class historian takes these stories seriously.

Then we have to ask, What makes the New Testament accounts of Jesus any different from these other stories about Jesus going to India or America? The answer in one word is “eyewitnesses.” The Gospels were not written 18 or 19 centuries later — not 1,800 or 1,900 years after the life of Christ by people who had visions or imagined that Jesus did the things that they claim he did.

No, the Gospels were not written hundreds or thousands of years after the life of Christ; they were written by eyewitnesses like Matthew and John, disciples of Jesus Christ who lived and walked and talked with him for three years. The Gospels were written by people like Mark and Luke who knew the eyewitnesses and who as careful historians documented the facts of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Paula F. Fredriksen who “earned a Ph.D in the history of religion from Princeton University and diploma in theology from Oxford University”[2] “states that no serious scholarly work places Jesus outside the backdrop of 1st century Palestinian Judaism.”[3] In other words, serious historians know that all the earthly ministry of Jesus took place in the Middle East, not in India, or Great Britain, or America.

That is one of the reason why our passage in Mark 7 today is so interesting. Besides the healing of the man of the tombs in Mark 5, this is the only passage in the ministry of Jesus when he leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentile territory. Here in Mark 7, we read about Jesus among the Gentiles.

Mark 7:24 ESV And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

1.    Jesus Among the Gentiles

1.1. The Place

Jesus has gone into the region of Tyre and Sidon. This is far north of Israel. This is the region of modern day Lebanon. This was Gentile territory! This is not the first time that he has gone into Gentile territory, for we saw in Mark 5 that he went to the region of the Gerasenes, east of the Sea of Galilee, where he was greeted by a naked man with an unclean spirit.

But once again, Jesus has left Jewish territory and is among the Gentiles.

Tyre was a seat of ungodly paganism. Centuries before, Jezebel had come from Tyre and had corrupted the “Northern Kingdom with her pagan prophets and practices (1 Kgs 16:31-32).” More recently, Tyre had fought against the Jews, siding with the Syrian oppressors. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, claimed that the inhabitants of Tyre were “notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Ag. Ap. 1.13).[4]

1.2. The Motive

So why in the world would Jesus go to the region of Tyre and Sidon? Why would he leave his home territory to go into Gentile territory?

1.2.1.        Opposition

The first reason is opposition. We have seen over and over again how the Jewish religious authorities are increasingly hostile to Jesus. They are opposed to

  • his authoritative teaching,
  • his claim to forgive sins (2:7),
  • his healing on the Sabbath (3:2),
  • his refusal to submit to their traditions (7:5) to name just a few items on their list!

The first 23 verses of this chapter 7 show the most intense conflict with the scribes and Pharisees up to this point.

The point of contention had been the tradition of the elders. The Jews maintained that there could be no salvation apart from the Law. They had put the emphasis on external appearances, on external cleanliness, on clean and “unclean” foods. But Jesus declared that all foods were clean (Mark 7:19), that we are not defiled by the food that we eat but by what is in our hearts. Jesus shows by going among the Gentiles not only that there are no unclean foods, but that there are no unclean people. We were all created in the image of God. We were all created to know him and love him. He also shows that the Law is not our Savior; Jesus Christ himself is our only Lord and Savior.

1.2.2.        Rest and relaxation

Secondly, Jesus needed to rest. Already in chapter 6, Jesus had tried to get away with his disciples to “rest a while” (6:31). But they had been unsuccessful. The people followed Jesus into the wilderness where he taught them and feed the five thousand.

In Tyre, Jesus “entered a house and did not want anyone to know” (Mark 7:24). Jesus and his disciples have been going 24/7, so to speak, and it was time for a rest, so they go to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and enter a house, not wanting anyone to know that they were there. But the plan did not work. “He could not be hidden.”

1.2.3.        Teaching of his disciples

Another reason why Jesus was trying to get away, was so that he could have some private teaching time with his disciples. Up to the point, the disciples have failed to understand who he is and what he came to do.

  • They had not understood the parable about the sower (4:13).

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

  • The disciples had been astounded when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee because they had failed to understand the significance of the feeding of the five thousand (6:52).
  • The disciples had not understood that food entering the body does not make us unclean, but that it is the evil that comes from the heart that makes us unclean (7:17-23).

Jesus probably wanted time with his disciples to teach them things that they were slow to learn.

1.3. No Place to Hide

Jesus had “entered a house and did not want anyone to know,” but there was no place to hide. Mark tells us, “yet he could not be hidden” (7:24). Back in chapter 3:8, people from Tyre and Sidon had already come as far as the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus. They had no doubt taken back reports of his teaching and his miracles. It was not only in Judea and Galilee that people were talking about Jesus. The news of his wonderful works had preceded him to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now Jesus has come and though he is in a house, he cannot be hidden.

1.3.1.        Enter the Woman

Mark 7:25-26 ESV But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

This woman hears that Jesus has come and boldly makes her way to him. This woman is not a Jew; she is a Canaanite (Matthew 15:22). She exemplifies what Paul said of the Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:12 NIVO remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

Yet she comes. She is a woman who knows better. She knows all about Jewish customs. As Tim Keller explains,

She knows that she has none of the religious, moral, and cultural credentials necessary to approach a Jewish rabbi—she is a Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. She knows that in every way, according to the standards of the day, she is unclean and therefore disqualified to approach any devout Jew, let alone a rabbi. But she doesn’t care. She enters the house without an invitation, falls down and begins begging Jesus to exorcise a demon from her daughter.[5]

Matthew tells us in his Gospel,

Matthew 15:22-23 NIVO A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

She knows that Jesus is Lord, that he is the Son of David, and she begs for mercy. Jesus does not answer her, so she keeps begging so much so that the disciples want Jesus to send her away.

But she will not be sent away. Nothing can stop her. This woman will not take no for an answer. She knows what she needs and she intends to get it.

Again Tim Keller says,

You know why she has this burst of boldness, don’t you? 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. It doesn’t matter whether you’re normally timid or brazen—your personality is irrelevant. You don’t think twice; you do what it takes. So it’s not all that surprising that this desperate mother is willing to push past all the barriers.[6]

She will not be denied.

1.3.2.        A Glimmer of Hope

Mark 7:27 ESV And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus’ response is startling to us. It is “one of the most shocking and controversial statements He ever made.”[7]

The Jews referred to the Gentiles as dogs. It was not a term of endearment. In another place, Jesus tells us not to give that which is holy to dogs (Matthew 7:6). The Apostle Paul turned the term back on the Judaizers, those who insisted that Christians must follow the Law to be saved: “Look out for the dogs,” he said, “look out for the evil doers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).

But Jesus is not using the ordinary term for dogs (κύνας, kunas). He is using κυναρίοις (kunariois) which means “little dogs.” It refers to small dogs that were permitted in the house. It is the word that was used for puppies.

Jesus is giving a parable here:

Mark 7:27 NIV “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Jesus is speaking to a mother, and mothers know that the children must be fed first. Notice the word “first.” In the word “first” is a glimmer of hope. First, let the children eat all they want.

The children of Abraham, the Jews, were the first ones to receive the gospel.

Romans 1:16 ESV For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Why should the Jews be the first to receive the gospel? The Apostle Paul explains,

Romans 9:4-5 ESV They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The Word would become flesh. God would take upon himself humanity. The Eternal Word would be born of the virgin and that means that he would be born as a babe.

Galatians 4:4 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Christ was not only the son of Adam (Luke 3:38), he was also the son of Abraham and the son of David to whom the promises had been made (Matthew 1:1).

Throughout the Book of Acts, as the Apostle Paul spreads the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ, Paul always goes to the Jews first to let them know that the promises have been fulfilled in Jesus who is the Messiah.

Jesus concentrated his ministry on Israel, for all sorts of reasons. He was sent to show Israel that he was the fulfillment of all Scripture’s promises, the fulfillment of all the prophets, priests, and kings, the fulfillment of the temple. But after he was resurrected, he immediately said to the disciples, “Go to all the nations.” His words, then, are not the insult they appear to be. What he’s saying to the Syrophoenician woman is, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I’m going to Israel first, then the Gentiles (the other nations) later.”[8]

While Jesus does mighty works of exorcism (5:1-20; 7:24-30), healing (7:31-37) and feeding the hungry (8:1-10), …he does not teach and evangelize.”[9]

The priority of the Jews in Jesus’ mission does not mean that the Gentiles will be excluded. Jesus responded that the bread must first be given to the children of Abraham. The word “first” gave the woman hope that there would be enough bread to go around.

1.3.3.        An Audacious Argument

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

This woman understands Israel’s priority. “I’m okay with that,” she says. “I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that.”[10]

She is not offended. She does not accuse Jesus of unfairness. She does not say that Jesus owed her anything. She does not demand equal rights with the Jews. She does not claim to deserve anything. In the most respectful way, she wrestles with Jesus while refusing to take no for an answer.

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

She’s not saying, “Lord, give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness.” She’s saying, “Give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of your goodness— and I need it now.”[11]

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, there were 12 basketfuls left over. There was more than enough. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” This woman is arguing her case that with Jesus, there is more than enough.

Is not this what Jesus was suggesting she do by telling her that the children must be fed first? We read that Jacob wrestled with God, but first we read that God wrestled with Jacob. God wrestles with us. He wants us to be moved with compassion as he is moved with compassion, but far too often we are passive. We do not really want what we are asking for. We pray for the lost to be saved, but there is no strong desire, no passion, no power. We pray prayers that cost us nothing.

This Syrophoenician woman was put to the test. She continued to intercede for her daughter.

1.3.4.        Faith Comes by Understanding

Mark 7:29 CSB Then He told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”

This woman understood the parable. She is the first person in this gospel to really understand.

“For such a reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

James Edwards has a beautiful comment on this verse:

This believing woman submits her cause entirely to Jesus, and she is not disappointed. “’ For such a reply, you may go,’” says Jesus, “’ the demon has left your daughter.’” What an irony! Jesus seeks desperately to teach his chosen disciples — yet they are dull and uncomprehending; Jesus is reluctant even to speak to a walk-on pagan woman — and after one sentence she understands his mission and receives his unambiguous commendation (loftier yet in Matt 15:28: “ ‘Woman, you have great faith!’”). How is this possible? The answer is that the woman is the first person in Mark to hear and understand a parable of Jesus. The brief parable of the children and dogs at the table has disclosed to her the mystery of the kingdom of God. She is not distant and aloof, attempting to maintain her position and control. She does what Jesus commands of those who would receive the kingdom and experience the word of God: she enters the parable and allows herself to be claimed by it. That she answers Jesus from “within” the parable, that is, in the terms by which Jesus addressed her, indicates that she is the first person in the Gospel to hear the word of Jesus to her.[12]

Did you know that Jesus wants to walk into your town? He wants to walk into your home. He wants to walk into your life.

2.    Theological Insights

This story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman is packed with biblical truth.

2.1. The Authority of the Son of God

This story reveals the amazing authority and power of the Son of God.

Mark 7:29-30 ESV And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Jesus was not present when the healing took place. He did not lay his hands on the child to heal her. He spoke no words to cast out the demon. He simply willed the child’s healing and it took place. The Son of God possesses such complete power and authority over demons that he does not need to be present or to even speak a word. From a distance, he wills, and it happens.[13]

2.2. One Plan of Salvation for All

Why did Jesus go to the Gentiles? We considered several reasons why Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory. But there is another reason that I did not mention. Jesus put an end to the distinction between clean and unclean (Mark 7:1-23). He then went to the Gentiles to show that the Church, as the Body of Christ in the world, the Church would also take the gospel to all nations. At the end of Mark’s Gospel, we read the final command of Christ:

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.

God does not have different plans of salvation for different peoples. There is only one God and only one plan of salvation for all men. There is only one Son of God and he is the one and only Savior. The Samaritans also recognized that Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). The Syrophoenician woman recognized the priority of Israel in the plan of God and the sufficiency of God’s salvation for all.

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.

1 John 4:14 ESV And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 17:30-31 NLT “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

1 Timothy 2:5 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

2.3. How about you? Has Christ walked into your life?

By all standards of Jewish culture and reason, this woman was unclean. A Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. But Jesus came to town. Christ walked into her life. Has Christ walked into your life?

I know a man in this town who says that he is too unclean to come to Jesus. He claims that he is too much of a pagan. There is a lot of pride and arrogance in such a statement. You degrade the work of Christ by saying that he is not powerful enough to clean an unclean sinner like you. You think that you are the greatest pagan of all time? Jesus Christ came into the world to save pagans like you and me.

Old man John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound,” said this, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Jesus came into the world to save great sinners like you and me.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Fredriksen

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

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

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 84). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 84-85). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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

[8] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 85-86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 86-87). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4208-4216). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[13] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”: