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Mark 04v01-24, The Parable of the Sower

Mark 04:01-24, The Parable of the Sower

Text: Mark 4:1-13

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” 13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

1. The Parable

This is an amazing parable. It is perhaps one of Jesus’ best known parables. It is a parable that many of us have heard many times. It is a favorite parable and it is a foundational parable. And yet, we have heard it so many times, that perhaps we have never heard it as we ought to hear it.

As we read this parable, we are a bit surprised at the reaction of the disciples. They did not understand it. We read the parable and think that it is easy to understand. What’s so hard about this parable? Yet, the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant. In verse 10, they came to Jesus to ask him what it meant. Jesus responds to them in verse 13,

Mark 4:13 NLT … “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?

We read the parable and wonder why they did not understand it. What’s so difficult about understanding this parable? But the very fact that we seem to have no difficulty understanding this parable, while the disciples did not understand it, — that fact indicates that we have missed something that they saw. So we want to look at this parable more closely.

In fact, this story is rather shocking. Anyone who knows anything about farming — and you don’t have to know much — but anyone who knows anything about farming knows that this is no way to run a farm. This is not the way to plant seeds. No farmer worth his salt treats his seed with such little concern. No farmer simply throws his seed in every direction. Seed is too precious, too costly, and the harvest too important to sow seeds in places where they are guaranteed not to produce fruit.

(1) Seed on the Footpath

Mark 4:4 NLT As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.

The sower in this parable throws some of his seeds on the footpath. Now any real farmer would know that you do not throw precious in every direction. You do not throw it on the footpath. This is where people walk. This is hard packed ground. There is no chance that the seeds that fall on the footpath will penetrate the ground and sprout. Even if by some miracle they were to sprout, they would be trampled on by people walking on the path. But there is no chance of these seeds taking root: the birds swoop down and eat the seeds. This is a very good way to feed birds, but it is no way to plant seeds.

(2) Seed on Rocky Ground

Mark 4:5-6 NLT Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.

Again, this sower does not seem to know what he is doing. What kind of farmer sows seed like this? The work of preparing the soil must come first. Rocks and coral must be removed before planting. The seed is wasted when the soil is not prepared. Obstacles to growth must be removed if you want a harvest.

The initial results are most deceptive. Here the seeds sprout quickly. Nice green shoots spring up and the promise of harvest presents itself to the farmer. In this, the farmer no doubt rejoices, but he will soon be disappointed. The sun rises and the plant soon wilts under the hot sun because it has no deep roots and cannot draw enough water to withstand the heat. It withers and dies.

(3) Seed among Thorns

Mark 4:7 NLT Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.

What’s this? The sower does not bother to clear the weeds and thorns?! He just tosses the seed in the middle of the thorns and hopes that it will grow. He might have failed to note that the footpath and the rocky ground would not produce a good crop, but how could he possibly ignore the thorns. He must have known that the thorns would win out and choke out the tender plants so that they would not produce any grain.

(4) Seed on Fertile Soil

Mark 4:8 NLT Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Finally, and it seems to be by chance, some of the seeds fell on good soil. This is not due to the planning and preparation of the farmer. Jesus simply says that the seeds “fell” into good soil. The farmer went out, scattered the seed in all directions. Some fell on the path. Some fell on rocky ground. Some fell among thorns. And some fell into good soil. There was no planning. No preparation of the soil. Just a sower who throws the seed in every direction. Then Jesus says,

Mark 4:9 ESV… “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark 4:9 NET … “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”

2. The Purpose of the Parable

When we realize how foolish this farmer is, wasting precious seed by throwing it in every direction, we have to wonder what this parable is all about. When we begin to understand what Jesus is actually saying, we find ourselves in the same situation as the disciples. We do not understand this parable.

We often think that Jesus told parables to make truths clear or to illustrate important truths, but that does not seem to be the case. That is not what Jesus explains:

Mark 4:10-12 ESV And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Isaiah 6

Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah received the call of God. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah has a vision of the sovereign Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The Lord’s glory filled the temple, and seraphim called out to one another, “Holy, holy holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Next Isaiah had a vision of himself: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah is then cleansed and has a vision of the people, and hears the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Then we find the words of the LORD, quoted by Jesus:

Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

So Jesus says that he speaks in parables so that those outside “may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (4:12).

Mark 4:12 BSN Nao long fasin ya ‘bambae olgeta oli save luk, luk, luk, be oli no save luksave mining long hem, oli save harem, harem, harem, be oli no save haremsave…

Yes, those who were close to him and who followed him with the disciples were “on the inside.” They gathered around him in verse 10 and asked him about the parables.

Mark 4:11 ESV And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,

Those “outside” were those who had opposed him. Hostility toward Jesus was rising.

  • The questioned his ability to forgive sin: “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
  • “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
  • “Why do … your disciples not fast?”
  • “Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
  • In 3:6, the Pharisees and the Herodians joins ranks to destroy Jesus.
  • The scribes accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan.
  • Even his own family tried to stop him, saying that he was out of his mind (3:21).
  • Ten verses later we read that his mother and brothers are “outside” seeking him. Jesus then declares that his true brother and sister and mother — the insiders — are those who do will of God (3:35).

Those who are “in” are given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those “outside” everything is in parables.

  1. The more we read the Bible, the more we should gain a sense of wonder at what God has put together. This Book is not a collection of verses; it is an integrated piece of tapestry from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. We should grow in thanksgiving to God for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and the gospel. Knowing the truth is not a result of our intelligence and our ability to grasp spiritual truths; it is the result of the grace of God in our lives.
  3. We should also understand that we need to be clear yet discreet in witnessing when in a hostile environment. There were times when Jesus pushed the envelope, so to speak, but there were also times when he spoke in parables so that the outsiders would see but not perceive, hear but not understand.

Disciples in the Dark

Yet the disciples seem to be in the dark as much as the outsiders.

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 did not know what this parable meant. And how could they? On the one hand, the meaning seems so obvious, but how is one to understand a farmer who casts his seed on foot-trodden pathways and stony ground and among the thorns? What kind of a farmer throws his seed all about? It is no wonder they marveled at the parable and wondered exactly what Jesus wanted to teach them.

3. Jesus Interprets His Parable

So Jesus interprets his parable. His first clue is the key to the rest of the parable:

Mark 4:14 ESV The sower sows the word.

So the seed is the word. That is the key to understanding this parable.

Principles of the Parable

If the seed is the word, then it is the word that is heard. The pathway, the rocky ground, the thorns, and the good soil all represent different responses to the word. And therein lies the mystery of the crazy farmer. The farmer has failed to respect the most fundamental principles of farming. Every farmer knows that there are many places where the seed simply cannot grow. Every farmer knows that the field must be plowed, rocks and weeds must be removed. In short, if you want a good harvest, you must start with a good soil. You must prepare the soil.

  1. And yet, that is exactly what the sower of the word cannot do. That brings us to the first principle of the sower:

The sower of the Word never knows what kind of soil he is dealing with. He is absolutely blind to the conditions of the soil. The sower does not know what kind of ground is fertile and what kind is not. We cannot tell by looking at people whether or not there will be a response. We cannot tell whether or not a person will be receptive to the gospel. So the sowers of the Word must be more generous, than strategic, in casting the seed. We must scatter the seed everywhere, tossing it in all directions because we cannot know what kind of soil we are dealing with.

Many commentaries suggest that this would be better called the parable of the soils, but Jesus himself calls it the “parable of the sower” (Matthew 13:18). On the one hand, he tells us to be careful how we hear. On the other hand, he is telling his disciples that they cannot know the kind of soil they are dealing with. They are to be like the sower who sows the seed in all directions.

The people we share the gospel with may or may not be open to Christ. We look on the outward appearance, but the outward appearance is deceptive. God looks on the heart, but that we cannot do. So we cannot be like the farmer who carefully measures out his seed, plots his ground, breaks up the fallow ground, clears the land of rocks and weeds, plows the field, and sows in good soil. No, we are like the sower who scatters his seed in every direction, announcing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to young and old, to the rich and to the poor, to the broken and to the unbroken because we cannot possibly predict the results of sharing the Word.

That is why we are charged to…

2 Timothy 4:2 NET Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

The Apostle Paul sowed the seed of God’s Word in many directions. He preached to Jews and Gentiles, to freemen and slaves, to the weak and to the strong:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NIVO Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

Paul did so that he might save “some.” There are never guarantees as to what kind of harvest there will be in response to sowing the Word.

2. So that brings us to the second principle: There were no guarantees of great success in Jesus’ commands to go. He only told us how we are to respond to positive and negative responses.

Matthew 10:11-14 NIVO “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

Paul faithfully sowed the seed of the Word. He was kicked out of synagogues, whipped, beaten with rods, imprisoned, chased out of town, and stoned and left for dead. But synagogue rulers were sometimes saved, the families of jailers converted, and even people in Caesar’s courts came to Christ.

3. The third principle is this: The effectiveness of the sowing depends more on the soil than on the sower or the seed. That is what Jesus shows in his explanation of the parable.

Responses to the Word

There are three responses to the Word of God that are ultimately unfruitful.

1. First there is the footpath.

Mark 4:15 ESV And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

This is the hardened footpath. People constantly walk on the path so that the soil is packed down and hardened. When the seed lands on it, it just stays on top. It does not penetrate the soil. And no sooner than the seeds land on it, the birds swoop down and devour the seeds.

This is the path that is frequented by the greatest number of people. This is the road that most people take. For most people, the Word of God goes in one ear and out the other. As soon as they hear the Word, Satan comes and takes it away. They give no thought or consideration to what God says. They are too busy. They are in a hurry to get on with life as they see it. They are in a headlong rush toward hell.

Matthew 7:13-14 NLT “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

These people hear the word but Satan immediately comes and removes it so that it is unfruitful in them.

2. There is also the rocky ground.

Mark 4:16-17 ESV And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

These are the short-termers. Jesus says that they hear the word. They receive it, and they rejoice. These hearts are not fully hard, but there is no depth. They are like seeds that spring up quickly. They have beautiful tender green shoots and seem to be full of life, and they endure for a while. From all appearances the word is growing in their lives, but the only growth is up, not down. The word does not take root. It is superficial; it is not deep. Hard times come. When the sun gets hot, they wither. They seem to have had joy in Jesus, but they have no perseverance when persecuted, no endurance in difficult times. They are fair weather people. They are momentary Christians. They are seasonal Christians.

3. Then there is the thorny ground.

Mark 4:18-19 ESV And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Three things happen to the seed sown on thorny ground. These are people who allow other things to choke out the word.

  1. The Word is choked out by the cares of this world. These people are distracted and pre-occupied with concerns about food and clothing. That is the focus of their life. Jesus said that those who do not know God, live for these things. But he told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to us” (Matthew 6:33).
  2. The Word is choked out by the deceitfulness of riches. These people chase money. They are seduced by money. How horrible it is when preachers preach that being a Christian is a way to get rich! The Bible teaches us to be godly and content; that is true wealth.
  3. The Word is choked out by the desire for other things. These people pursue things rather than God. These distractions and desires choke out the word so that it is unfruitful.

4. The seed finally finds good soil.

Mark 4:20 ESV But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

These people are not casual hearers of the Word of God. They continue to hear it and to accept it and to bear fruit. God wants us to be fruitful, but fruitful is not about finances. It is not about money. It is about the life of Christ in us. The Apostle Paul said,

Galatians 4:19 ESV my little children, … I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Each one heard the Word.

Mark 4:23-24 ESV If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.

Jesus is telling us to be careful how we hear.

Mark 4:9 NET And he said, “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”

Again in verse 23,

Mark 4:23 NET If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!”

Mark 4:24-25 NLT Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given– and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

The command to be careful how we hear shows that each one of us determines what kind of soil we will be. Each of us determine whether or not our lives will be fruitful for Christ

  1. The message for us as hearers is that not all hearing is the same. Not all ears hear in a way that is fruitful. We must be careful how we hear. Jesus addresses the will. He tells us to hear. So how is your hearing? Are you listening? Are you obeying? Are listening to learn and to put God’s word into practice in your life? Be careful how you hear so that the Word of God may prove to be fruitful in your life.
  2. The message for us as sowers is that if we keep sowing the seed, in spite of resistance and disappointments, some of the seed that is sown will prove to be fruitful. For some, the word will produce marvelous results in their lives as they become not only hearers, but doers of the word.

Galatians 6:9 ESV And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

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The Bible and Mythology

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What are we to think of the Bible? What are we to think of Christianity? Is it truth or fiction? Is it myth or reality? Did someone dream all this up, or is the Bible the record of things that actually happened in the course of human history? What are we to think of the Bible? Who is telling the truth? Who are you going to believe?

1.  Myths

The world is full of myths, and Vanuatu has its own rich collection of myths. Myths are stories that people make up to explain various aspects of life and to express worldview, how we see and interpret the world. There are myths about the world and the creation of the sea. There are myths to explain where man and woman came from. Some myths are about the islands and how they came to be populated. There are myths that try to explain good and evil. Other myths have to do with how man and woman are to relate to one another and to each other’s families. There are myths about children and the consequences of disobedience. There are myths about the afterlife, what happens to a person and where he goes when he dies.

So myths are stories which attempt to explain life and its meaning. They often share wisdom as to how we should live and relate to others and to the world around us. Myths are meant for teaching so that the wisdom can be transmitted from one generation to another.

All cultures have their myths or their folklore. We could talk about the gods of Greek mythology, or Roman mythology, or Hindu or Chinese mythology. Various cultures interpret life with myths and symbols. All peoples everywhere have their stories that have been told and passed down as they search for meaning and try to explain the meaning of life.

1.1.              The Search for Meaning

Why is there this universal attempt on the part of all peoples everywhere to explain the meaning of life? Why do we search for meaning?

The Christian worldview not only explains the meaning of life and existence. It also tells us why we search for meaning and significance. The Bible tells us that we were created in the image of God with the capacity to know Him. God has placed in our hearts a longing for meaning and significance. Look around at the animal kingdom. Animals do not search the heavens to try to understand life and its meaning. They do not contemplate the universe or try to gain understanding. But the book of Ecclesiastes says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV). Saint Augustine lived in the fourth century after Christ. In his famous book Confessions, he prayed to God, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” There is a huge vacuum in the heart of everyone, an emptiness that must be filled.

People everywhere search for meaning. So all cultures have their myths, their stories, their attempts to explain ultimate meaning.

1.2.               Christianity and Mythology

So how is Christianity any different from the mythologies of the world? The Bible is full of stories, so how is it different from the stories of any other culture?

Precisely in this: Christianity is not based on myths but on reality. The Bible is not based on someone’s philosophy about the meaning of life. It is not based on someone’s enlightenment or revelation. Christianity did not come out of someone’s dream or visions. In fact, the Bible specifically warns us about people who through their visions would lead us away from Christ:

 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it (Colossians 2:18-19 NLT).

The Bible is not based on someone’s ideas or dreams or visions or revelations about God. It is based on events that actually happened in human history. Christianity is based on the firm conviction that everything in the Bible including

  • the creation of the universe
  • the worldwide Flood
  • the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land by the Israelites
  • the miracles of Elijah and Elisha
  • the virgin birth of Jesus Christ
  • his miracles such as walking on water
  • his resurrection
  • and his ascension

The Bible is recorded history. All of these stories are literally and completely true. They really happened in the course of human history. They took place in time and space.

This is what the Apostle Peter, an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus Christ said,

2 Peter 1:16 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.

Peter insists that Christianity is not based on myths, stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, but on actual events that were verified by human eyewitnesses. The Bible is not the story of gods and goddesses and their activities in the heavens. It is the story of what God has done in human history here on earth.

2.  The Bible and Mythology

2.1.               The Bible Is the Story of God

At the risk of being repetitive, the Bible is God’s story. It is the story of God creating the entire vast universe and the earth in six days by his infinite wisdom, intelligence, and power. God created the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul. God took a rib from Adam’s side and fashioned Eve, the mother of all people everywhere.

God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and when they sinned, God drove them out of the garden, but promised that he would send a Savior who would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5). God dealt with Cain when Cain killed his brother Abel. Sixteen hundred years after the creation, when the earth became so full of violence that God could tolerate it no longer, he sent the Flood and destroyed sinful humanity with the exception of Noah and his family who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. When Noah’s descendants refused to populate the earth but decided to make a name for themselves by building a city to the heavens, God confused their languages at Babel so that even today we have 115 languages here in Vanuatu alone.

God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and renewed the promise that his many times great-grandson, who would be Jesus Christ, would be the source of blessing for all peoples everywhere. God sent the descendants of Jacob into Egypt and later delivered them from slavery by the hand of Moses in the Exodus. God opened the Red Sea so that six million Israelites crossed over on dry land. God drowned the Egyptian army in their attempt to recapture the Israelites. God made a covenant with the Israelites when he gave them the Law. God gave them manna in the wilderness and water from the Rock. God led them into the promised land of Canaan and made the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the trumpets and the shout of the people. God raised up judges to deliver his people from their enemies. God sent prophets and set up kings. God renewed his promises of the coming Messiah and promised a new covenant. God judged his people for their sin and sent them into exile in Babylon. God raised up Cyrus, the Persian emperor, who allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem.

Galatians 4:4-5 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

We read in Acts 2:23-24 that when

this Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, [and the Jews] crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

The Bible is not the story of gods or of God doing imaginary things in the heavens. It is the story of God doing great things on earth. Human history is God’s story. History is his-story.

  • The Exodus
  • The Conquest of Canaan
  • The Exile
  • The Return
  • The Incarnation of Christ
  • The Death of Christ
  • The Resurrection of Christ

2.2.               The Historicity of the Bible

Over and over again, the Bible insists on the historical reality of these events. So once again, Peter says,

2 Peter 1:16 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.

The New Living Translation puts it this way in…

2 Peter 1:16-18 NLT For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

The Apostle John, another disciple of Jesus, the one who leaned on Jesus the night before the crucifixion, wrote this:

1 John 1:1-4 NLT We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

On that fateful night before the crucifixion, Jesus said this to his apostles,

John 15:27 ESV And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Luke tells us in his Gospel, in the opening verses of Luke,

Luke 1:1-4 NLT Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke tells us again, in his second volume, the Book of Acts,

Acts 1:3 NLT During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive…

When the religious authorities were disturbed that the apostles were preaching about the resurrection, they threatened them and warned “them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again” (Acts 4:17).

Acts 4:19-20 NLT But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

These men who had lived with Jesus Christ for three years, these men who had walked the roads of Israel with the Master, who had seen him

  • Make the deaf to hear
  • Make the dumb to speak
  • Make the blind to see
  • Make the lame to walk
  • Raise the dead to life again
  • Calm the storm and cast out demons with a word

They all insist on the absolute reality of these events.

The Apostle Paul insisted that the Christian faith is verifiable and falsifiable. He insisted that you could prove it true or false based on one single event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a list of people who had witnessed the resurrection of Christ: Peter, James, and the other apostles. But his most interesting reference is to other followers:

1 Corinthians 15:6 NLT After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

Paul is writing less than 25 years after the resurrection of Christ. Some scholars think that this was the appearance in Galilee that had been announced ahead of time on three different occasions by angels and by Jesus himself (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28). Now, less than 25 years after the resurrection, Paul tells us that more than 500 people saw the resurrected Christ at one time and he adds this very interesting remark: “most of whom are still alive.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, most of the witnesses to the resurrection were still alive. Paul is telling the Corinthians that the facts of the resurrection could still be verified by living witnesses. Paul says in effect, “If you have any doubts about this, check with the living witnesses. Hundreds of them are still alive and they will tell you that Jesus was really raised from the dead.”

Now this is utterly important in Christianity. Our faith stands or falls on the literal reality of this event. Paul goes on to say this to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:14-19 NLT 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… 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.

This is no myth, Paul says. This is not a “kastom” story. This is absolutely and utterly true.

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.”

2.3.               Real People, Real Places, Real Events

As we read through the Bible, we read of real people and real places. Archaeological evidence has identified many of the people mentioned in the Bible. We could list the names of 50 rulers mentioned in the Old Testament: Egyptian Pharaohs, kings if the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, and the emperors of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. In the same way, archaeological research has found extra-biblical evidence (evidence outside the Bible) for the existence of the Caesars of Rome, the Herods of Israel, governors, and many other people mentioned in the New Testament. The Bible itself is archaeological evidence that has been preserved and passed down through the centuries. The Bible is history.

Besides the historical figures that populate the Bible, there are the places: Ur, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and literally hundreds of important places in the Bible. We know where they are. We can point to them on the map. Archaeologists have excavated these places and found evidence that the biblical record pointed to.

A number of years ago I had the privilege of going to the Middle East. I visited many of the places mentioned in the Bible. I stood by the Sea of Galilee and read the Beatitudes. I swam in the Jordan River. I visited places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Jacob’s well in Samaria. Outside of Israel we went to Egypt, Baalbek, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Rome. I stood on Mars Hill in Athens where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. We visited five of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, located in modern day Turkey. These are real places.

The Bible is not the product of someone’s vivid imagination. It did not come out of someone’s dream or vision. The Bible is about real people in real places. But it is more than that.

2.4.               Meta-Narrative

The Bible is not simply a collection of stories. The Bible is one great story with a beginning and an end. When we approach the Bible, we might wonder if it is possible to make any sense out of it. It was written by more than 30 different authors over a period of some 1,600 years, people living at different times in different contexts and cultures from Rome to the Euphrates River. How could there be anything coherent in such a collection of 66 books?

This is one thing that makes the Bible unique. It was not written by one man like the Quran or the Book of Mormon, but the different authors, from Moses to Matthew, from Jeremiah to John, were all inspired by the same Holy Spirit who was writing according to His plan.

If we compare the Bible with the scriptures of other religions, we see that the Quran, for example is a strange collection of disjointed pieces. It is impossible to find any order, progress or arrangement. The 114 Suras or chapters of the Quran are arranged according to length. The longer Suras are first and the shorter ones last. It is the same with the Zoroastrian and Buddhist Scriptures. There is no beginning, middle or end. They are collections of different materials that are loosely placed together.

The Bible is completely different.

From Genesis to Revelation we feel that this book is in a real sense a unity. It is not a collection of fragments, but has, as we say, an organic character. It has one connected story to tell from beginning to end; as we see something growing before our eyes; there is plan, purpose, progress; the end folds back on the beginning, and, when the whole is finished, we feel that here again… God has finished all his works, and behold, they are very good.[1]

The Bible has four great movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation.

1.   Creation

God created everything from nothing. In six days God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. He created man to know God and to enjoy him forever.

2.   Fall

But man fell and with the Fall came the terrible consequences of sin and death. We live today with the consequences of our action in Adam. When Adam sinned, we all sinned. The image of God in us has not been destroyed, but just as Adam and Eve hid from God after their rebellion, we hide and want to go our own way.

3.    Redemption

God is the searching God. He came into the Garden in search of Adam. Jesus tells us that God is still searching for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. It is a terrible thing when mythology creeps into our worship of the one true God. It is terrible when someone introduces dreams and visions rather than holding to what God has revealed about himself in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. We must fact the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. He is holy, righteous, loving, compassionate, all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere.

The story of Redemption begins when God himself comes seeking for man in the Garden. He promises a Savior. He calls Abraham and promises that the Savior would be his many times great grandson. He raised up the nation of Israel. He gave the Law which would be fulfilled by the Savior. He sent the prophets who told the people to get ready for the Savior. He sent the Savior who died and rose again to save us from our sins. That is the story of redemption.

4.   New Creation

The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming back to make a new heavens and a new earth. What was lost in Eden, will be restored in the new earth.

This is not mythology. It is not someone’s wild dream. It is the message of nearly 40 different writers that God moved to write over a period of 1,600 years the precious Bible that has been entrusted to the Church of the Living God.

Conclusion

You can trust the Bible because you can trust the God of the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. But there comes a warning with the biblical text: because it is the Word of God, you must not take from it; you must not add to it. The Bible concludes with this warning:

Revelation 22:18-19 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 


[1]Daniel P. Fuller quoting James Orr in The Unity of the Bible, p. 22.