Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Family or Man Does Not Understand - Mark 3:20-35

When Family or Man Does Not Understand - Mark 3:20-35
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2009 AM

During a Youth Camp I was directing one young teenage girl was deliberately creating personal drama all around her. Because of her self-centeredness and total self-absorption in boys, she was keeping the whole camp in turmoil. Of course, being the Camp Director, I had to be the one to confront her. At first she got really angry and tried yelling at me that I “just did not understand her and what she was going through.” So, I patiently asked her to explain it to me. As she got into her lengthy dissertation on why she was being a pill, she realized how totally selfish she was and how the whole camp had begun to not want to be around her. All of a sudden she went kind of pale, began to cry, and apologized.

We have all seen in situation comedies, or have experienced for ourselves, a pouting child that storms off into the next room while shouting to their bewildered parents, “You just do not understand me! NO one UNDERSTANDS ME!” The age old conflict of parents not understanding their children is nothing new. What can be just as difficult is when we think that the world does not understand us either. Surprisingly, we find these “misunderstandings” in the life of Jesus as well. Jesus’ ministry and his fame were beginning to grow. As it did, his teachings and his life began to threaten the powers that be and perhaps embarrass his family. Not only does his mother and siblings begin thinking he has lost all sense of reality, but those who considered themselves the teachers of all things regarding God also view Jesus as blasphemous. Why? Because Jesus was misunderstood. Let’s find out what happens, shall we?

READ: Mark 3:20-35

Last week we talked about the crowds that formed around Jesus and again we find another crowd forming. In fact, so much so “that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.” In this crowd were those who deliberately misunderstood Jesus’ ministry. In how he responds to their pettiness we discover…

I. How to respond when the world does not understand our faith!

1. Use the truth to confront and confound your accusers! Proverbs reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1), and sometimes you have to confront your attackers head on as Jesus does here in Mark. Notice, however, how he does this. The “teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem” were deliberately confrontational. They immediately accuse Jesus of being “possessed by Beelzebub!” (The spelling “Beelzebub” comes from the Latin Vulgate which derived it from the Hebrew “Baalzebub” meaning “Lord of the flies,” an ancient Canaanite deity.) So they are bluntly stating that Jesus is possessed “By the prince of demons” and that he was “driving out demons” using by his own supposed Satanic power! Can you imagine? Now some misguided souls in the 21st century may struggle with the concept of Satan and demons, but Jesus, God’s Son, knew them to be very real. He therefore meets their accusation head on and asks, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” The answer of course is that he could not and the reason is obvious: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Or “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” And so, “if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; [therefore] his end has come.” If Jesus were Satanic, then by driving out demons, Satan’s kingdom is divided from within and it has already fallen! Well duh! Then Jesus does an interesting thing, he focuses on who he truly is. He does this by telling them that “In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.” Jesus has entered the “strong man’s house,” Satan’s realm, and literally seized or plundered his household! Jesus had come and taken those whom Satan had captured right out of his own household! Mark relates that “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’” When those in the world did not understand who he was, Jesus met them head on with the truth. And so should all believers. This is how to respond when the world does not understand your faith.

EXAMPLE: Often when people first become Christians, their faith is questioned by those they work with, go to school with, or they consider as friends. Are you in a situation where you are misunderstood for your faith in Christ? Are you surrounded by co-workers, fellow classmates, or friends with a critical spirit concerning your faith? Do you get little or no credit for the work you do and then those around you criticize your Christianity? What would be the proper response for the believer? Jesus often responded in a gentle and humble way, but there were also times when he was willing to take a very definite head on stand. The proper response of course is to die to self as Jesus did throughout His life. However, while he was willing to die to self daily he was also quite willing to meet head on any question about his ministry, his sovereignty, or the grace of God. Jesus was willing to be misunderstood and maligned, to give up home and comforts, to take the role of a servant, and he was willing to meet head on anyone with the truth who would question his ministry. We must be willing to die in that way as well. We should use the truth to confront and confound our accusers.

We often can handle it when those in the world do not understand our walk in Christ, but we can really struggle when it is those we are closest to that misunderstand our faith. Should not those who claim to love us most, support us in our faith the most? You would think so and it can be difficult when they do not. We can then take it personally, but we should not do so. In fact, Jesus’ own family misunderstood his ministry and how he responds teaches us…

II. How to respond when our family does not understand our faith!

1. We should let our faith and honesty display what we truly believe! Jesus’ own family should have understood who he was from the very first, especially his mother! Wasn’t she surprised at the angel’s announcement and her own pregnancy? Didn’t she praise God for using her as an instrument of his will? Wasn’t it her home where the Wisemen came to worship the boy Jesus? Didn’t she “ponder” all these miraculous things surrounding Jesus? Yet even in the best of families we can find misunderstanding. Mark tells us that “When [Jesus’] family heard about” the crowds and his ministry, “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” The Greek expression is that of family members and not “friends” like is translated in the KJV. And this holds to be true because we discover that when “Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him” out so they could speak with Jesus directly. Remember Jesus knew that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If his own family could not understand his ministry, it would be a tough road for him to travel. It was at this time that the “crowd was sitting around him… told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’” Jesus then rhetorically asks those around him, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus’ question was not being disrespectful of his family, but rather he was illustrating the deeper issue of a person’s relationship to him. That’s what Jesus always did throughout his ministry, he pointed people to their relationship with God. He never took people’s misunderstanding as a personal slight, instead he would invite them into the family of God. Mark relates that Jesus “looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’” Jesus responds with the gospel truth that “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Anyone becomes part of God’s family when they place their faith in his Son. As John would state, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13) When his family did not understand, Jesus responded with faith and honesty to display what he believed. We should do the same.

EXAMPLE: One of the hardest things a new Christian can do is to share their faith with their own family members. Often it is because we fear what they already know everything about us. Every embarrassing detail. All of our dirty little secrets. The way we were before the Lord came into our lives. The only thing that can quell our fears is to share our faith the same way Jesus did. I still remember how tough it was for me to share with my own family and how difficult it still is to share with those whom I love the most that know me the best. However, when Jesus’ family did not understand, he responded with faith and honesty to display what he believed. We should do the same.

Conclusion:
We learned today two important truths when we are misunderstood for our faith: We learned 1) How to respond when the world does not understand our faith, and 2) How to respond when our family does not understand our faith! What about you, how will you respond from now on?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Gathering Crowds -- Mark 3:7-19

The Gathering Crowds -- Mark 3:7-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 18, 2009 AM

Crowds and their dynamics are very interesting and have been studied by sociologists and pubic bystanders for centuries. Crowds can be mobs, crowds can be audiences, crowds can be steered and directed, or they can become mindless and panicked. And they can form for a myriad of reasons, everything from the looky-loos of a horrible accident to the gathered listeners of a vibrant speaker or musician. In fact, gathering crowds can become like storm clouds that gather on the horizon. They can become threatening and uncontrollable. I was a witness to such crowd dynamics in Vancouver BC during a Christian conference put on by the late speaker John Wimber. A convert to Quakerism, who was the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, that has spawned much of the emergent church theology of today. He also was a founding member of the music group, The Righteous Brothers and he began the neo-Pentecostal Vineyard movement. It was amazing to watch him hype up the crowd and then to direct them to do whatever he wanted. Including falling on the floor whimpering mindless drivel.

We find gathering crowds during Jesus’ ministry. We also discover that he discourages it because of the “sheep factor” which involves getting large groups to respond the way a speaker desires. We find the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin doing this during Jesus’ trail. We see it on film footage taken of Hitler’s mass rallies or on TV today from the raggedy crowds that gather and chant mindless slogans that always begin with the intellectually pithy: “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!” As we look closely at Jesus’ ministry here in Mark’s gospel we discover an interesting thing occurring. We actually get to see how Jesus related to the gathering crowds. Let’s discover this morning what Jesus did and why…

READ: Mark 3:7-19

This begins the second major part of Mark’s gospel. Here we find Jesus’ ministry again by the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd forms in order to hear and see Jesus. Perhaps they came just to see the show that may or may not occur? Crowds often do just that. However, there can be a danger in crowds that form for these reasons. They can quickly turn ugly and unruly. Here…

I. We discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds! (Vv. 7-10)

1. Uncontrollable crowds come only for what they can get out of the spectacle, the show, or the day’s entertainment. Offer free samples and people will show up, give away free services and people will beat down your door, or give the folks a free show and they will come in droves. Modern day marketing schemes know that these kinds of things attract crowds. Many a mega church movement has been marketed by this means. The people of Jesus’ day were no different. The crowd was attracted by what they could get out of Jesus. Mark infers that because of who Jesus was and what he had been doing he “withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” They wanted more from Jesus and all he wanted was to withdraw for a period of time, perhaps to reflect and relax, to be spiritually renewed. However, we find that “When they”, the crowd, “heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.” A multitude shows up! And, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him,” just in case, “to keep the people from crowding him.” Jesus knew crowds often want more than a person can sometimes give. Mobs only care for themselves. Medical care was almost non-existent then and what was available was often useless. A mild cold or even a minor scratch could often kill you. If someone suffered from a life debilitating disease, people often placed their faith in superstitious cures or bogus faith healers. Therefore, if someone showed up offering a cure or hope, the pressure to see him or to touch him would be great. In fact, Mark tells us that Jesus “had healed many,” and the crowd had gathered, “so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.” The mob could get ugly fast. Jesus could heal and the crowds came to be healed! We discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds!

EXAMPLE: We have seen uncontrollable crowds during rock concerts, soccer matches, or during rallies and marches. When people are deliberately riled up as a group there can take place a mob mentality whereby normal inhibitions are done away with and the mob mentality can take over. It is found in the ungodly behavior of drunken mobs during Spring break at the beach. It can also take place during political rallies or religious crusades. When we participated as a church during the last Billy Graham Crusade they warned of folks coming down because everyone else came down to the front. They therefore trained us to ask specific questions in order to try and sort out those who came forward and why they did. An uncontrollable mob mentality can take hold even during a time of responding to the gospel. I have seen this occur during youth camps or youth conventions. Young people will respond because their friends responded, or because they want to be part of what everyone else was part of, or they get excited about what is happening. During our last NW Baptist Youth Convention I counseled a dozen young people who came down, and only two knew why they had. The others got up and came forward because “everyone else was.” Here, in Mark, we discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds, even for the right reasons.

Jesus knew that crowds can become uncontrollable, but he also knew that God is not the author of confusion. He never works that way. God is not some big game show host in the sky wanting you to try and guess the right answer for your life. That is why He has supplied the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide those who trust Jesus with their lives. However there is one source of confusion that just loves to use the crowd mentality: Satan loves to use crowds as well. He loves to confuse and muck things up. But God has supplied an answer in those whom he calls into service for his kingdom. Therefore…

II. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason! (Vv. 11-19)

1. God uses those he chooses to establish his kingdom here on earth. Notice that Satan does not rest in stirring up trouble the lives of mankind. He is continually attacking and denouncing God in the lives of believers and slandering God’s people before the throne of God. In fact, we discover that the demons of darkness had caused such havoc in Jesus’ day that many of the ailments that befell folks were caused by their corruption. In the crowds were demoniacs, people whose speech and behavior were dominated by evil spirits and ungodly living. They recognized Jesus’ true status as the “Son of God” and were greatly threatened by His presence. Jesus did not accept their repeated cries of recognition, “But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.” This could bring up a couple of interesting questions: 1) Can crowds be more susceptible to demonic influence simply because of their very nature? And, 2) can individuals be easily swayed by Satanic influence by being part of a large uncontrollable crowd? Perhaps both are true. We find it is true historically from the mob mentality of the Salem Witch Trials to the French Revolution or Hitler’s rise to power. Notice however what Jesus does to thwart this spiritual threat. Jesus, instead of heading to the beach, “went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” The crowds of the day needed to be directed or guided, one-on-one, by those who follow the Lord. So, Jesus “called” and “appointed twelve—designating them apostles.” Notice the three areas they were to work: 1) “that they might be with him” and 2) “that he might send them out to preach” and 3) “to have authority to drive out demons.” Where the Spirit of the Lord is, Satan and his minions have no authority. Interestingly, we learn that “nearly all major ancient Greek manuscripts and most early versions omit the phrase, ‘designating them apostles.’” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) However, Jesus appoints 12 men. Some who would question his ministry, some who would abandon him, and one who would betray him, but Jesus personally handpicked everyone of them for a specific purpose! We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason!

EXAMPLE: Jesus would spend the next three years training these twelve men. Not all would learn the lessons he would give them. And we wonder why folks in our day and age sometimes cannot learn to follow Jesus correctly! If Jesus could not sway and train all of his followers, we will also struggle in this area as well. However, Jesus shows us that just as he handpicked certain men and called them to himself, we too are to make sure those who come to him are guided and discipled. Jesus has called us to call others and to train them up to be his disciples. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason! This is where many of today’s mega movements fail. While the masses come through the door, not all come for salvation, those who are saved can be quickly lost in the shuffle of the crowd and are never discipled properly and live a weak anemic faith. Add to this mixture the fact that many churches do not place an emphasis on Sunday School or Bible Study and you have a concoction for spiritual failure that does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. This is why we have fewer and fewer people witnessing or standing for the Lord in our day and age. Jesus called his disciples for a purpose because out of them would come the future church, his body in the world, that was to reach the world with his gospel message. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason.

Conclusion:
We have learned two important things form this section of Mark: 1) There can be uncontrollable crowds, and 2) there can be handpicked crowds that Jesus chooses. Which crowd are you part of this morning?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shriveled Hand and Hearts – Mark 3:1-6

Shriveled Hand and Hearts – Mark 3:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 11, 2009 AM

Have you ever met someone who suffers from a “shriveled” personality? I have. They have become mentally “shriveled” because they are so into themselves that they do not allow anyone or anything to affect their lives. Shriveled personalities can be displayed by those who are angry at the world because of some emotional or physical hurt; those who are emotionally or materially selfish and self-centered; those who only think they have the correct answers for everyone else; or by those who are so spiritually blinded they do not see their saintly shallowness. I knew a man who was so shriveled up inside, because he had lost his first wife to cancer, that he found very little emotional time or empathy for his second wife. And, of course, like many do who are emotionally shriveled up inside, he blamed God for his predicament. People can indeed have shriveled hearts.

Jesus saw this disease around him daily but one day he ministers to a man whose hand was physically shriveled. It was through no fault of his own that this man suffered from his deformity. His hand was probably malformed from birth although the text does not specifically say so. Sadly, there were those in Jesus’ day who actually thought that a physical condition like this was God’s judgment on either the man or his family or both! In trying to minister to this man’s physical abnormality Jesus was confronted by those who suffered from shriveled hearts. How did Jesus handle the situation and can we in our day suffer from shriveled hands and hearts? Let’s find out together…

READ: Mark 3:1-6

Bad things happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people. That is the way of the universe. When we get caught up in judging all of creation by what does or does not happen to us, we are walking on faulty ground. It is the same convoluted thinking that goes something like this: “God must not love me because this bad thing happened to me!” We would do well to remember that sin exists and everything in all of creation is tainted by its stain. From the sweetest newborn baby to the gnarled old walnut tree out by our parking lot. The Pharisees, here in these verses, and some of us this morning, suffer from this kind of odd theology. In fact…

I. We discover that shriveled hearts come from faulty thinking!

1. Faulty thinking about God leads to a false belief about Jesus! We find Jesus going to worship in a local synagogue. We often find Jesus headed off to “church,” because that’s what godly men do, they go to worship with other godly men. Jesus knew that it is in worship where we as his people find community, encouragement, and strength to be the men of God we are supposed to be. So, as a real man, Jesus is headed to worship, “and a man with a shriveled hand was there.” However, “Some of them” who were there at the local synagogue were there for the wrong reasons. Instead of worshiping God, as real men should, they “were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.” Now, isn’t that simply manly? Sadly, a lot of folks go to worship for the wrong reasons, even today! These men came in order to trap Jesus! Can you imagine doing this? They came with preconceived notions about who Jesus was and were only there in order to get the goods on Jesus in some way. Their whole thought process about God was completely wrong! God to them was a “law-giver” and not full of compassion. So, instead of coming to praise God and worship him for who he is and to see if Jesus was who he said he was, they came instead so they could watch “him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath!” How ungodly is that? A lot of men today have faulty thinking concerning God. Some think that Jesus is everybody’s buddy, kind of like He is the “good old boy” of heaven. Others think that God is some kind of genie in a bottle that grants wishes if you are on his good side, or that he will grant you something if he likes you enough. Then there are those who think that they can dictate how God can relate to them, as if they were in charge! Wow, kind of mind boggling isn’t it? And, we see the same thing occurring here with Jesus! We discover that shriveled hearts come from faulty thinking!

EXAMPLE: Many people get mad at God or deny his existence simply because at some time someone hurt them or they did not get from God what they expected in life. I’ve heard the excuses before, perhaps you have as well: “I used to go to church, but they did this to me!” “God never did anything for me, so why should I believe in him!” “If there really was a God why did he let so-and-so die?” “If God is a good God, why does he allow all this evil in the world?” People get these convoluted views of God because they begin to view God from their perspective of the world instead of from what is true about God. On the surface, these excuses may sound good to us, however, if we will step back and look at them from heaven’s perspective, they sound, well, kind of spiritually stupid. These Pharisees permitted healing on the Sabbath only if a person’s life was in danger. They had taken the commandments to remember the Sabbath day, not work on the Sabbath, and had adjusted and tweaked them to their own idea of what God should be like! You see, to their way of thinking this man’s problem was not life-threatening and could wait until tomorrow; so if Jesus healed him on the Sabbath, they could accuse Jesus of being a “Sabbath-violator!” An offense punishable by death! God, in Jesus, was standing right there in front of them but their hearts were so spiritually shriveled because of their own preconceived notions about God, they could not see him! We discover that shriveled hearts come from faulty thinking! How about you this morning? How do you view God?

The Apostle Paul, having come out of this kind of thinking in his own life, understood deeply the grace of God in our lives. He would reflect, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He would go on to relate, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16) And, in fact as Jesus ministers…

II. We discover that Jesus is willing to heal shriveled hearts and hands!

1. We are “shriveled” when we dismiss the love of God in our lives! I find it humorous that there are folks who actually think Jesus never got angry, nor used sarcasm to teach narrow-minded people the truth. Right here in these verse we see Jesus doing both! In fact, Jesus does an in-your-face kind of example to those who were “watching” his every move! “Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’” (v. 3) Jesus was going to show these shriveled hearts how God could heal a shriveled hand, because God was the God of compassion and not the God of narrow-minded thinking. Jesus bluntly, and rather sarcastically, asks them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Notice that “they remained silent.” Now they were caught in their convoluted thinking. Now they were exposed for who they were and what they actually believed about God! Now they had to face their stupid spirituality concerning God and their view of Jesus! Would they change? No. Why? They were blind legalists with shriveled hearts that wanted God placed in their own bottle to work the way they wanted him to work. This is why Jesus “looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” These men were so hardened to the human misery around them, they were willing to justify their own ungodliness by trying to trap Jesus who was showing the compassion and mercy of God. Jesus’ look was penetrating, it was full of deep sorrow and indignation, at their shriveled spirituality. I believe that if these Pharisees had praised God instead of seeking to trap Jesus, he would have forgiven them as well. Jesus desired to. He desired his people, especially those who claimed spiritual leadership, to heal their shriveled hearts. He heals the man because he is willing but can do nothing with those who were blinded by their own ignorance. We discover that Jesus is willing to heal shriveled hearts and hands.

EXAMPLE: We find Jesus almost beside himself when later he is speaking to the people. He cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Literally: “You would have none of it!” (Matthew 23:37) Can you imagine? Here is the Savior of the world, who has come to show the Jewish people God in human flesh, to die for their sins, and to show the power of God through his resurrection, and they would not believe. Not even those who claimed spiritual authority would accept him. They had shriveled hearts. I remember speaking to a man about the love of God and he responded, “You have no idea what God has done to me.” So I asked him to explain. He related that he had cried out day and night to God for an answer to his predicament but got no answer. “Why?,” he asked, “Why would God do that?” I related that in the midst of our pain we often do not see God at work because we are so blinded by the hurt involved. As we spoke he admitted that even his children had found comfort in his wife’s faith but he had not. All he could see was the problem. He soon realized that his heart had become shriveled because of the hurt he experienced and that it had clouded his view of God. It was then he wept openly and confessed his sin and returned to the Lord. He confessed that he had wasted too many years to his hurt rather than seeking how God could have used him. I have always found that Jesus is willing to heal shriveled hearts and hands.

Conclusion:
Now, what about you? Is a physical or spiritual deformity keeping you from coming to faith in Christ? We discover that shriveled hearts come from faulty thinking! We discover that Jesus is willing to heal shriveled hearts and hands! He is willing that you be healed today. Will you?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Lord of the Sabbath – Mark 2:23-28

Lord of the Sabbath – Mark 2:23-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 4, 2009 AM

I was in a discussion with one of our area’s ministry directors when he grandly announced that he did not agree with “organized religion.” I was stunned and immediately asked him, “Why then do we pay your salary?” He could not answer me. I then followed this by telling him, “If you have placed your faith in Christ, you are now part of an ‘organized religion’ that was prearranged by God Himself, centered on the foundation of the gospel message of salvation through His One and Only Son!” In being a Christian, you have submitted yourself to membership in the body of Christ.

There is a foolish discussion going on in some circles today about the importance of church membership in the life of the Christian. It has come about because of universalism creeping back into Christian theology from sources like the emergent church. It is not a new heresy. It is the notion that the church and thereby worship should center spirituality around the individual instead of the worship of God and the establishment of his kingdom through Jesus Christ. I find this blasphemous because this scheme focuses on the profane notion that church is not really important, only a relationship with Jesus is. Too many equate worship with being part of a church, and worse -- a relationship with Jesus! And while faith in Christ is primary, we are deliberately leaving out a whole lot of what Jesus taught about his church, what it meant to be a member, and the sanctity of the Sabbath when we dismiss it so carelessly. What then did Jesus mean when He related that he was “Lord of the Sabbath”? Let’s find out, shall we?

READ: Mark 2:23-28

Invariably someone will quote the verses we just read to justify their not joining a church or not being in worship regularly. As I stated before, it is heresy. Why would I say this? Because we as independent cusses do not like it when someone tells we should do something, especially when it concerns “our worship.” We have this flawed notion way in the back of our heads that has been implanted by someone at sometime that sooths our prideful spirit that says we do not need “organized religion,” and we lump our worship or church membership into that category. We are wrong if we do and we are just as wrong if we use today’s passage of Scripture to justify that notion. Let’s discover why Jesus said He was “Lord of the Sabbath.” First…

I. Let’s remind ourselves whom the Sabbath was made for!

1. The Sabbath is for God’s children! Jesus defended why his disciples’ actions. Why? It was a pretty pathetic breakfast Jesus’ followers had on that Sabbath: Just a few miserable grain heads that they rubbed the chaff off and then ate dry. (Yum!?) However, even this meager meal was begrudged them by the legalistic Pharisees: “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” they ask Jesus. Their concocted religious code could not condone labor on the Sabbath and what Jesus’ disciples were doing was considered by them as WORK! (They were picking and threshing grain!) Jesus immediately queries: “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” This story comes from 1 Samuel 21:1-9, where David flees for his life when he learns that King Saul is seeking to kill him. David knew that his men were starving and that God would not begrudge them the bread from his own altar to feed those he had created. The Apostle John would rejoice, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) It’s true because John knew that “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Jesus instructs these Pharisees that the Sabbath, while a sacred institution, was “made for man.” God’s day of respite followed after man was made for our spiritual rest. It is to be a sacred day whereby God’s children come and worship Him. “Man” here means those whom God knows, not all mankind. Therefore, for the believer the Sabbath should not be a day whereby we excuse anything we do as honoring to God. It is to be a day of corporate spiritual rest. This is why Hebrews scolds Christians to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Yes, the Sabbath was made for man, but it was made for those who loved God to come and worship Him!

EXAMPLE: I can still remember my father telling me to “sit still” during the worship service. Being a little boy I got easily bored, but my father would have none of it. When I whined that the pews were hard, the service was WAY TOO LONG, and the priest BORING, he tersely informed me, “Lee, this is not about you. This is about worshipping God.” He was correct. We live in a day and age where we have misplaced the sacred, thinking that church and worship should revolve around us, our children, or that it is there to make us feel good about ourselves. We wait for the pastor to pump us up for another week and the music to ascend us to the throne of God, forgetting that the focus of our worship is not about us, but it is to be completely about Christ. When it is not, is it ungodly. God only inhabits the praise of his people as they have totally given themselves to him. Too many come to worship in order to be personally revived, when what they need is to be resurrected! This is why Jesus warned, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”(Matthew 15:7-9) Certainly the Sabbath was made for us, but it was made for us to worship him and not ourselves.

The Bible teaches us that it was Jesus who made the Sabbath and we are to realize its importance for our spiritual health. In fact we need to get reacquainted with the old fashioned ideal that Sunday is the Lord’s day for the believer. We discover that believers began to meet early, on the “first day of the week”, to worship Jesus. (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10) It honored his resurrection and reminded them of their new life in Christ. It also set them apart from the Jews and their legalism. Christians would do well to remember who established our day of worship. Therefore…

II. Let’s discover whom the Sabbath was made by!

1. God created the Sabbath! We learned that Jesus argued for His disciples because of what they needed, but also because of how God loved them. The Sabbath was important, but they were hungry. Was it therefore more important to follow a rather obscure manmade legalistic interpretation to not pick grain on the Sabbath or to feed one’s self? We know that “ritual observances must always give way to moral obligations.” We know this from Jesus relating about the Samaritan helping a man who was robbed and left for dead! (Luke 10:30-37) or to the legalist who came and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” and Jesus responded, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-22) Jesus told the Pharisaic Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) So we know that it is not through a legalistic adherence to a set of manmade laws that we are saved, but by faith in Jesus alone. As Paul would shout, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!” (Ephesians 2:8) Jesus states that “the Son of Man is Lord of even of the Sabbath!” Jesus was therefore reminding these Pharisees about Who made the Sabbath! But we dare not use these examples to excuse our rather lackadaisical attitude concerning our church or our worship. Why? God’s church is sacred to him. He made for us a day of worship and bought the church with the price of his Son’s blood on a cruel cross. His church represents Jesus’ “body” in the world whereby Christians are to worship and serve him! This is why Paul would remind the Corinthians that “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27) We would do well to remember that Jesus is the Lord of even the Sabbath and that it was God who made the Sabbath for his body the church!

EXAMPLE: We live in a country of Constitutional freedoms whereby we equate individual freedom in the same vein as spiritual freedom. We would do well to remember that they are not the same at all. Just because we live in a land where we can do almost anything we want whenever we want to, it does not justify our neglect of coming together as believers to worship the Lord our God. We are to come together as a church, the body of Christ, and worship Jesus. Christians should be in church on Sunday, our Sabbath, to worship God with other believers. Paul reminds us: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) Jesus created the Sabbath and He had a right to have his followers pick and eat grain. God did not begrudge his children eating what he has created on the day he created for them! However, that does not excuse us from doing whatever we desire on the day we should set aside for worship. Believers are to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) not because of legalism, but because it honors and glorifies God and his Son Jesus whom created it for our benefit.

Conclusion:
Today we have learned two things about the Sabbath: 1) The Sabbath is for God’s children, and 2) God created the Sabbath. Now, how will you spend your coming Sundays? Waiting for God to “bless you” or worshipping him as you are supposed to?
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This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission to use the entire article.