Sunday, January 31, 2010

Feeding the People - Mark 6:30-44

Feeding the People - Mark 6:30-44
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 31, 2010 AM

There is an old joke that asks, “How many southern Baptist does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is, “Nine. Seven to form a committee on ‘finding the right price for light bulbs’, one to change it, and one to bring a casserole for the potluck afterwards.” Then of course, Southern Baptists are the only Christians who want to be buried with their favorite casserole dish – just in case. Do you know what the right of passage is for a Southern Baptist church member? To be able to name all the past potluck dishes served since New Years. Of course, you know you are a Southern Baptist when you watch the Food Channel and wonder how many of the exotic foods would taste in a casserole.

We often take food for granted. It is reasonable that we do because we live in a country where food is readily available and cheap. During Jesus’ day, there was not a great variety of foods. Even those who could afford something different were limited in what they could eat. Except perhaps where food prices are concerned, we should not long for the “good-old-days,” because we enjoy a greater variety, quality, and abundance of food. Recently, an article stated that the United States alone could easily feed the entire world if needed because of the advancements in agricultural science and the use of farmland. In Jesus’ time food was hard to come by and the search of obtaining it a daily activity. This is one reason why feeding the people takes on such significance for Jesus. However, within the context of feeding the hungry Jesus also uses it as a means to teach spiritual truth. Let’s see what Jesus does in feeding the people...

READ: Mark 6:30-44

Jesus’ disciples had just returned from their delegated mission work. They come back excited and exhausted from their exertions of ministering to others and confrontation of demonic manipulation. Jesus sees that his followers are worn out and in need of rest both spiritually and physically. The unrelenting demands of the crowd can have that effect. We discover that in...

I. Feeding the people, Jesus displays compassion! (Vv. 30-34)

1. Compassion is more than a feeling it is a choice! Jesus first displays his compassion for his own weary disciples by realizing their needs. They were both hungry and tired. Jesus sees that “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.” He then invites them to relax by saying, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The place where they sailed, though unnamed by Mark, Luke relates was near Bethsaida Julias, a city across the Jordan River on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. (Luke 9:10) There was just one small minor problem: “many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them!” The mob is relentless. Instead of being annoyed at them, as we would, Jesus instead shows his followers his true character. In seeing the large crowd, “he had compassion on them.” Mark gives us the reason as well: “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” The crowd was made up of the country folk who had practically nothing and who lived from day to day. Even their spiritual diet suffered because of where they lived and who they were. Mark relates, “So he began teaching them many things.” Luke tells us that, “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” That is just like Jesus. Whether it is his own disciples or those who clamor for his attention, he finds within himself the compassion of God. In feeding people, Jesus displays his compassion.

EXAMPLE: The crowds Jesus saw had already been harassed by the wolves of the day. The ravaging wolves of physical and spiritual hunger, poverty, and enslavement had thinned their ranks. Pharisaic judgmentalism, Sadducee corruption, and Roman occupation had taken their toll from the flock of Jesus’ countrymen. The burden of self-righteous myopic judgmental religiosity was a millstone tied to the necks of the people. Jesus wanted his countrymen to know God on a deeper level than they had ever experienced him before. Jesus wanted them to know that God loved them so much that he had sent his own Son into the world. The disciples were tired and hungry after their spiritual ministry, but the crowd also needed Jesus’ attention and he immediately has compassion on them as well. In feeding people, Jesus displayed his compassion. Jesus’ compassion has not changed in two thousand years. He still sees the spiritually hungry crowds and has compassion on them. His compassion is now displayed through his disciples in his body the church. How are you displaying Jesus’ compassion for the spiritually hungry crowd?

We can often be so myopic when it comes to ministering to others. We think we do not have the time, the money, or the knowhow but Jesus has given us everything we need just as he did with his disciples. After they returned from doing some the greatest things they had ever done in their lives, they now cannot see past the difficulties involved in feed the multitude. In fact, we discover that in...

II. Feeding the people, Jesus saw possibilities where the disciples saw obstacles! (Vv. 35-38)

1. A good heart is better than all the heads in the world! -- Edward Bulwer-Lytton Here we find this to be true as far as Jesus and his men are concerned. The remote place Jesus sought to be alone with his disciples became a burden for the hungry crowd. Being “late in the day,” his disciples were not without compassion themselves, and they come to Jesus, and ask him to “Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” However, they see only the problem and not the solution. Those who had been casting out demons just a few days before were now at a loss as to what to do with such a large crowd. In fact, they had seen Jesus cast out demons, heal folks, and walk on water, could he not feed a few thousand folks. However,, the unasked question is, “Why could they not feed them?” We find Jesus telling them, “You give them something to eat.” Their sardonic reply displays they are still focused on the obstacles instead of the possibilities God provides: “That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” John writes Philip is the one who responds. However, we discover that Jesus “asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” (John 6:5-6) Jesus was about to do something truly marvelous that is found in al four gospels. It carried an impact. Instead of asking how many in the crowd, Jesus asks, “How many loaves do you have?” John relates that it was a little boy’s lunch that Andrew had found. (John 6:9) There are “five small barley loaves and two small fish” according to John. I am sure the disciples thought what we would have immediately thought, “Impossible! Look at the crowd! Look at the pathetic provisions! How can we feed all of these people with five small fish and two small barley loaves?” And, if we do, our eyes are just as spiritually blinded to the potential of God as theirs were. Therefore, we discover in feeding people, Jesus saw possibilities where the disciples saw obstacles.

EXAMPLE: I must confess to you that when Denise and I first came to Grace Baptist we did not see the possibilities that God did. We did not see all the people who would walk this aisle to accept Christ for the first time. We did not see the families that would find peace, comfort, and friendship within these walls. We did not see the young people who would grow to be fine Christian men and women serving the Lord all over the world. We did not hear the wonderful music of voices lifted to exalt the Lord, the sounds of children’s laughter in the halls, nor the cry of babies coming to church for the first time. We did not hear the sound of the prayers of the saints as they bowed their heads and hearts to seek the will of the Lord. But then God did a curious thing, he allowed us to see and hear and wonder at the miracle that he was performing right before our eyes. Where we often saw obstacles, Jesus reminded us of the possibilities. What about you this morning as you sit here in worship? Are you still looking at the obstacles in your life or the possibilities that God could use? If five small barley loaves and two small fish could be used to feed five thousand, think of what God could do with little old you!

Do you remember the TV series MacGyver? The series revolved around Angus MacGyver (known to his friends as MacGyver or "Mac"). MacGyver's main asset was his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. The clever solutions, often in life-or-death situations, required him to improvise complex devices from everyday materials in a matter of minutes. In a sense, you could say that Jesus was a spiritual MacGyver! We discover Jesus’ resourcefulness in...

III. Feeding the people, Jesus supplies abundantly! (Vv. 39-44)

1. When God provides the meal, we all are filled! Instead of sending the crowd away, Jesus tells them to “be seated.” Can you imagine! I wonder what went through the minds of the crowd and the disciples. Yet, calmly “Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.” Interestingly, the words “in groups” is literally, “garden plot by garden plot” and is used figuratively, perhaps picturing well-arranged plots of people, colorfully dressed, seated on the grass. The command was a challenge of faith for both the disciples and the crowd. Jesus then serves as host for the crowd, his guests. Jesus takes “the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” It is a traditional Jewish blessing for a meal. It is a poignant moment. There in the countryside, surrounded by thousands of sitting folk in a field, Jesus stands and blesses the small portion of food. Every eye was on him as he blessed the food. Every ear heard him give thanks and “Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” He gives God the glory for supplying and the disciples the duty of serving. What occurs is astounding. The provision was immediately miraculous and abundant. A simple meal for one small boy became a feast for thousands! Mark emphasized that all ate and were fully satisfied. This was confirmed by the fact that the disciples collected 12 basketfuls of leftovers, probably a basket for each disciple. Curiously, what happened to the little boy and his lunch afterwards, we are never told. Whatever did occur we know that the entire crowd “ate and were satisfied.” That is the way it is when Jesus serves us. We go away satisfied because we find that in feeding people, Jesus supplies abundantly!

EXAMPLE: How often have you, child of God, in the midst of the roaring waves of life, wondered if God could calm the storm? How often have you cried out in the night of your shadows to ask him for a little light to see your way through the darkness? How often have you wondered if God would supply your need and he has turned and given you more than you could have ever imagined! We look at the ledger and say there is not enough money, we look at the larder and say there is not enough food, we look at the clock and say there is not enough time, but God looks at the need and always supplies abundantly! He always supplies more than we need. Far too often, we think that our life should be like Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. Life does not work that way. For Jesus’ listeners it was merely another day to exist, but he desired to show them the fullness of God to supply their needs abundantly if they would let him. Now, let me ask you “Have you allowed God to supply your needs abundantly?” Remember, in feeding people, Jesus supplies abundantly.

Conclusion:
A potluck is a gathering of people where each participant is expected to bring a dish of food to be shared among the group. A Baptist Potluck is where everyone hopes that there is not an overabundance of green bean casserole. Here in Mark’s Gospel we find that an impromptu potluck of a few fish and loaves is used to convey spiritual truth. In feeding people, Jesus displays compassion; Jesus saw possibilities where the disciples saw obstacles; and Jesus supplies abundantly.
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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 © 2010 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...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Losing Your Head for God - Mark 6:14-29

Losing Your Head for God - Mark 6:14-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 24, 2010 AM

It is humorous that when some folks try and share their faith today, they end up endorsing what amounts to neo-paganistic superstition. From walking spiritual mazes to Christian chanting has become the latest in fashionable religious practice in some circles. Quasi forms of spirituality have always been used by those who feel guilt over their lack of sincere faith since the Garden of Eden. Take for instance one recent public service announcement where one starlet grandly announces that she believes in many differing forms of spirituality. What she is tacitly confessing is her lack of any kind of concrete faith. One wonders why. It could be a shallow attempt to excuse a life of ungodliness. Often, those who are caught up in a lack of faith desire to make excuses by trying to convince others that their own brand of spiritual superstition is just as valid as Biblical Christianity.

Here in Mark’s gospel we find the very same kind of thing occurring between John the Baptist and King Herod. We should not be surprised because in the battle of good verses evil there has always existed a tension between those who stand tall for the Lord and those who want to hide behind their superstitions. When God’s people do decide to take a stand for him, they will face persecution by those who become uncomfortable being confronted by their own lack of faith. Let’s look at what occurs when one loses his head for God.

READ: Mark 6:14-29

The activity of Jesus and his disciples had attracted the attention of Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. He was not actually a “king” but rather a tetrarch (a ruler of a fourth part of his father’s kingdom) of Galilee and Perea under the auspices of Rome from 4 BC to 39 BC. Herod was not only interested in what Jesus was doing but he also had an odd fixation to John the Baptist. John ends up suffering for his stand of righteousness when Herod’s superstition belies his faith. So, it isn’t surprising that here in Mark’s gospel we discover that in losing your head for God…

I. We find superstition confronted by righteousness! (Vv. 14-16)

1. Godly living makes ungodly people uncomfortable! Interestingly, we discover three popular superstitious opinions about Jesus’ activity: 1) “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead,” 2) that Jesus was “Elijah,” and that 3) Jesus was “a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” Despite other opinions Herod, troubled by his own guilty conscience, remained convinced that Jesus was the man he had beheaded. Herod believed John the Baptist had risen from the dead and was using miraculous powers! Herod’s guilt causes him to confess, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” It is a classic example of superstition being confronted by righteousness. We find the same kind of confusion with the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate’s wife concerning Jesus’ trial: “While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”(Matthew 27:19) Romans put a big emphasis on dreams. We also find superstition later with several of the disciples and “a man named Simon (whom) had practiced sorcery.” Simon believes,

but still holds onto his own greedy superstition, and “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 8:18-19) Peter and John rebuked him and his superstitious faith. We find in Mark that John ultimately loses his head because of Herod’s superstition. It is the sad fact that one can lose their head for God when we find superstition confronted by righteousness.

EXAMPLE: People of Jesus’ day were extremely superstitious, including many of the religious Jews of the time. We would like to think otherwise but we discover this to be true when Jesus confronts his disciples as he walks across the Sea of Galilee and they immediately think he is a ghost. We find it with the disciple Thomas when he offhandedly alludes to the popular mystery religions of the day and Lazarus’ death when he “tells the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (John 11:16) Nowadays we find it portrayed in TV shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Whisperer, and Medium which feed people’s superstitious appetites. From New Age mumbo jumbo to apocalyptic scenarios of the earth ending in 2012, we find a smorgasbord of superstition. Interestingly when people’s favorite superstitions are confronted with the gospel truth, folks get angry. People like their superstitions instead of righteousness. John the Baptist found this to be true with Herod. Herod liked John as long as he served to feed his own convoluted superstitions. Tragically, John loses his head when Herod’s superstition is confronted by John’s loud-mouthed righteousness.

Why would normal people with good educations, in good financial situations, and seemingly to have it all in life want to give credence to superstitions? Yet we find this to be true repeatedly, especially today in our world of “easy believism” that if we just think about Jesus we are okay. The reasons for this have not changed from Jesus’ day. In fact, we find that one can lose their head for God when…

II. We find pride confronted by personal sin! (Vv. 17-20)

1. Personal pride often motivates people to continue in and justify their immorality! In kind of a Jezebel vs. Elijah narrative, Mark draws a parallel with John the Baptist and Herodias, Herod’s ungodly and immoral wife. Mark explains that, “For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his Brother Philip's wife, whom he had married.” (Mark 6:17) What had occurred was the fact that John had confronted Herodias’ personal sin and therefore her pride. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian of that era, Herod had first married a daughter of the Arabian king, Aretas IV. Then he became enamored with his half-niece Herodias (daughter of his half-brother, Aristobulus) who was married to Herod’s other half-brother Philip. She divorced Philip and Herod divorced his wife so that they could marry one another. John, being John and a righteous man, continually reminded the people and the ungodly couple of their immoral behavior by repeatedly denouncing their marriage as unlawful and carnal. Which, it was by Jewish standards. We find the same kind of anger in our day when people are confronted with their ungodly standards of living together outside of marriage, divorce, and premarital sex. Pride often pops up when personal sin is confronted. “So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.” However, Herod’s superstition, as we mentioned before, “protected” John. Herod both “feared” and “was greatly puzzled” by John. Herod almost sees John as some kind of mystical talisman. Herodias was under no such delusions. Her anger was directed at John and her pride flared up over the exposure of her personal sin. “Herod’s conflict between his passion for Herodias and his respect for John showed his vacillating moral weakness.” (BKC) We should not therefore be surprised that we could lose our heads when our faith confronts others and exposes their personal sin just as John did!

EXAMPLE: Recently we watched as Tiger Woods’ life and marriage fell apart because of his own personal sin and pride. The politician John Edwards’ marriage has suffered because of his personal sin and pride in trying to cover up an illicit extramarital love affair that resulted in an illegitimate birth. Edwards even tried to get a close friend to say the resulting child of the affair was his instead of Edwards! Edwards refused to tell the truth because of his pride and confess his own sin. The Cardinal’s slugger Mark McGwire tearfully admitted to his personal use of steroids in setting his homerun record, and even more “common folk” can get caught up in the pride of personal sin. Mayumi Heene, a Colorado housewife, admitted that she and her husband Richard faked their son’s runaway hot air balloon flight simply for media attention. Here in Mark, we find Herod’s pride confronted by personal sin and John ends up losing their head over it.

When we read the pages of Scripture, we find that those who stand tall for the Lord are immediately confronted by evil. The same holds true for all great Christian missionaries, preachers, and servants of Jesus Christ. In fact, as soon as we give our lives to Christ, whether we like it or not we become foes to evil. This is what happened with John the Baptist when he lost his head for God. He was confronted by the wily wickedness of a wanton woman. Here, in John’s predicament, we discover that one will lose his head for God…

III. When evil is confronted by sacrifice! (Vv. 21-29)

1. Evil is always vigilant and it never sleeps! Like a lion waiting for its prey, evil always waits for the right time to strike and devour its prey. Here in Mark’s gospel we discover that Herodias did as well: “Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday, Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders, and the leading men of Galilee.” (Mark 6:21) Herodias knew Herod would not only be in a good mood, but he would also be forced to go through with whatever plot she concocted because of the audience he had. She is truly the epitome of immorality because she uses Herod’s own lust. She also uses her own daughter Salome to dance suggestively in front of Herod and his male guests. Salome’s skillful and provocative dance pleased Herod so much that it led him to make the girl a grandiose and rather rash offer as a reward. He arrogantly promised her anything she wanted and sealed it with his personal oath: “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom!” Herod had no kingdom to give and it was all drunken braggadocios on his part. However, he could not back down in front of his men. Being the immature teenager Salome immediately inquires of her wicked stepmother, “What shall I ask for?” The trap was set and sprung, Herodias’ moment had arrived and she knows what she wants. She wants “the head of John the Baptist.” Mark tells us, “The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.” His distress was not deep enough to keep him from an ungodly act: The sacrifice of John. The executioner is called and John’s head is delivered on a platter. Evil seems to have won, however, later when Agrippa, Herod’s brother becomes king, Herod is falsely accused of treason by Agrippa in Rome and both he and Herodias are banished to Lyons in Gaul where they end their days. Evil is rewarded by more evil because a righteous man is sacrificed. In John the Baptist, we find evil being confronted by sacrifice.

EXAMPLE: A statue of a man displayed at the Holocaust Museum, in Israel, many are surprised to find it there. In fact, few have ever heard the tale concerning the person it represents. It is of a Japanese diplomat from WWII named Chiune Sugihara. Consul-General Sugihara was stationed in Kaunas, Lithuania in March of 1939. In July 1940, as the Germans advanced on Lithuania, all diplomats were instructed to leave their embassies. Only a Dutch consul and Sugihara remained behind. The Jews of Kaunas and the surrounding areas were desperate for passports to leave the country, but obtaining visas proved almost impossible. Eventually, they sought help from Sugihara. Seeing their

desperate situation, Sugihara had to probe his conscience. He asked permission from Japan to issue visas three times and was refused. At the end of July, against the expressed commands from his superiors in Tokyo, Sugihara and his wife spent four long weeks writing visas by hand almost day and night, totaling nearly three hundred a day! Of the almost 6,000 Jews with Sugihara visas, most ended up in Kobe, Japan until after the war. Sugihara was a rarity in his country, a Christian, and one who valued human life. He was fond of saying, “I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't I would be disobeying God.” When he was finally ordered out of the country by Japan he literally threw hand-written visas out of the window of the train as he left. Fifty-four years after their decision, Mrs. Sugihara said, “human life is very important, and being virtuous in life is important as well.” This was a decision that would ultimately save the second largest number of Jews in World War II but Sugihara lost everything because of his decision. It is a story about when evil was confronted by sacrifice.

Conclusion:
We find superstition confronted by righteousness; we find pride confronted by personal sin; and we find evil being confronted by sacrifice. John the Baptist’s life and death should encourage all of us to live our lives first and foremost for the glory of God without concern for the consequences. Beware though; you just might lose your head for the Lord!
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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 © 2010 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...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Men With A Mission - Mark 6:7-13

Men With A Mission - Mark 6:7-13
January 17, 2010 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

More than ever before God is calling men to minister in his name. Sadly, fewer men are responding to the call of God in their lives. Fewer men are man enough to sacrifice their time, talent, and treasure for the cause of Christ. The church has created a whole cadre of chaps that are weak-willed and willing to allow others to go in their stead. However, this has not always been the case. In fact, we discover that Jesus used men almost exclusively to do ministry while he walked this earth. Why would Jesus do that? Did he think that men could do a better job? Honestly, I do not believe so, but I do believe Jesus did have specific reasons why he empowered and sent out his men with a mission.

From fishermen to tax collectors and even common laborers Jesus makes his chosen men into the apostles his church would need to spread the good news. They become men with a mission. We find that Jesus did several things before sending out his apostles and each was important for them in order for them to understand their ministry and mission not only now, but also later when Jesus would no longer be with them. Let’s therefore discover what Jesus does and why it is important for us today as we look at men with a mission…

READ: Mark 6:7-13

We live in a day and age where instead of being encouraged to be loyal to a single place of work, people are actually encouraged to jump from job to job. The same holds true for relationships and even marriage. We live in an age where we think that anything that may tie us down is a form of personal restriction that should be avoided at all cost. This has infected people’s thinking about service in the church, ministry and mission work as well. Few men want to be constrained to a life of doing one task, yet we find…

I. Jesus calls out his disciples for a specific purpose! (V. 7)

1. God has a purpose for our lives! Jesus first called his men to him in order to give them specific instructions, secondly Jesus gave them authority over evil spirits, and finally, he sends them out. Back in Mark’s gospel, we learned that Jesus “appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15) These men Jesus chose were to be his “sent out ones,” his Apostles. They would become known as “the twelve.” In Matthew’s gospel, we discover their names were “Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:2-4) We can also realize that when Jesus calls, we are to respond immediately -- as his Apostles did. Point in fact Jesus would relate that no one who put anything between his calling and responding would ever be considered a disciple of his! Here we see him sending them out in twos. This was not only for legal purposes, because it took two witnesses to testify to the truth, but it was also for their own encouragement and spiritual strength. Where two or more were gathered, Jesus’ presence was with them -- as it always is with his church. (Matthew 18:20) But Jesus had a particular task for them to do. He sent them out with “authority over evil spirits.” The kingdom of God was at hand. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, his followers would display his authority just as Jesus’ did. Their testimony would be both legal and carry impact with those they witnessed to because of whom they represented – Jesus. Jesus called out his disciples for a specific purpose: To testify to who he was – the Messiah -- and to display his authority.

EXAMPLE: God is calling men to his specific purposes today as well. Many are called but few are willing to follow. It should give us pause to consider what would occur if men were as willing to be sent of Christ today? We get too caught up in such silliness as “open and closed doors,” when in fact we find no such proposition within the pages of Scripture. We discover that when God calls, he usually calls with a specified purpose and with specific instructions. There is never guesswork involved by either those people who are called of God nor in the instruction, he gives them. Repeatedly we find that those who in fact question God are the ones who are out of the will of God. Remember God got peeved with both Moses and Gideon for continually questioning his calling of them. The men Jesus called he called for a specific purpose. What has God called you to do?

Just as single-mindedness has become a dirty concept in many lives today, we find that giving instructions and expecting them to be followed has gone out of vogue as well. Instead, people want to reinterpret for themselves the gospel message. They also want to reinterpret God’s instructions to suit their own desires. However, we find here in Mark’s gospel that…

II. Jesus gives them specific instructions for the task! (Vv. 8-11)

1. God’s instructions are made to be followed! The urgency of their mission required that they travel lightly. They were to take only an ordinary walking stick and to wear simple sandals. But they were not to take bread, a traveler’s bag (they were not beggars, as some would have you believe), money, or even an extra tunic like an inner garment used as a covering at night. To us this seems rather odd and kind of restricting, even kind of cultish. However, they were to depend on God to provide food and shelter through the hospitality of their fellow Jews. Jesus wanted them to remain focused. Interestingly, the wording in Matthew relates that they were not to take money to purchase extra sandals or staffs. (Matthew 10:9-10) Whenever the disciples entered a house as invited guests, they were to stay there making it their base of operations until they left the town. They were not to impose on the hospitality of many people or accept offers that are more attractive once they were settled. They should also expect rejection. If any place (a household, synagogue, or village) would not offer hospitality or listen to their message, they were to leave there and to shake the dust off their feet. Devout Jews did this when they left Gentile (non-Jewish) territory to show that they were dissociating themselves from it. This would tell their Jewish listeners they were acting just like pagans in rejecting the disciples’ message. And, here is the crux of the task given the disciples: They were to tell the message that Jesus was the Messiah, that the kingdom of God had arrived. This is not the message of eternal salvation because Jesus had not yet been crucified but rather one of preparation. They were to make their listeners ready for the Messiah by having them repent and asking for forgiveness of their sins. Both healing and hearing would come when they had prepared themselves to listen and respond. The Apostles’ specific instructions related that they were to rely totally on God and to go and proclaim the kingdom had come because of Jesus the Messiah!

EXAMPLE: What do you do when you receive instructions with the products you buy? Do you read them or throw them away? There is an old joke that asks, “When putting something together, what are the instructions good for? Answer: Starting a good fire!” When I used to work for a bicycle shop, we would get a huge amount of paperwork on how to put together different bicycles. We all laughed when one of the European models came in with this caution printed on the inside of the bicycle box: “Now that you have taken your bicycle out of its container, find the paperwork and read it. Yes, we know you do not like to read instruction manuals, but the first question we will ask you when you call us to gripe about missing a certain part or that your bike is not going together properly is this: Did you read the instruction manual first? Your warranty is void if you do not do so and we may hang up on you.” Instructions are important and Jesus gives his followers specific instructions for the task. God has done this for us as well. He instructed us to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

What do you suppose would have happened if Jesus’ disciples had gone to him and said, “We do not want to go and do what you have asked to do, instead we want to do it the way we see fit.” Perhaps he would have looked for other disciples or perhaps he would have given them a well-deserved lecture on what it means to be obedient. We see very quickly that…

III. Obedience to the task God calls us to produces results! (Vv. 12-13)

1. Obedience proves our walk with God! We read that because the Apostles “went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” In following Jesus’ instructions, the Apostles learn a couple of important things concerning Jesus and their relationship to him. They learn that Jesus’ power extended beyond his presence, that when Jesus gives you authority to do something, you have his authority completely! As do all Christians. Of course, Jesus’ authority here was only given for the specific task he had given the Apostles at that time. Later, Jesus would give all believers the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to give all who believed in him the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and that “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:16-17, 20) He told his followers “’As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23) Jesus’ Apostles also learned that the kingdom of God had indeed come! Sadly, one would still desire to mold Jesus into someone he wanted to control and saw Jesus as something else. He would betray Jesus at the first opportunity because he loved money more than the message. Far too many today have forgotten the importance of the message of the Gospel and its impact for the lost and spiritually ignorant of the world. They desire to mold Jesus into a message that is more palatable to a spiritually irreverent world. They bring Jesus down in order to lift themselves up. They have become modern-day Judases. In contrast, we discover that obedience to the task God calls us to produces results!

EXAMPLE: We later read that, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.” (Mark 6:30) We find the disciples had obediently followed Jesus instructions and they were blessed because they had done what he had asked them to do. This is exactly what every parent in the world desires from their children! Sadly, few Christians are being obedient to the instructions God has already given them. If they were, we would see the blessed results. Instead, we measure what we are supposed to do for the Lord by our standards of: 1) Is the task God has given me convenient for me to do? 2) Will I like doing it? Or, 3) Does it fit within my own personal parameters? Jesus told his disciples to go out the way he did in order to see if they would be obedient or not. They learned that ministry and sacrifice go hand-in-hand, but the results were well worth the effort. Obedience to the task God calls us to produces results.

Conclusion:

We learned today that Jesus calls out his disciples for a specific purpose; that Jesus gives them specific instructions for the task; and that obedience to the task God calls us to produces results.
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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 permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You Cannot Always Go Home - Mark 6:1-6

You Cannot Always Go Home - Mark 6:1-6
January 10, 2010 AM
Pastor Lee Hemen

Isn’t it funny how we often have fond memories of experiences that could have been quite awful, especially when it comes to our growing up years? I know I do. Here is what I mean: We could have had a very difficult time of growing up, say like being raised poor or facing some severe trials, but in retrospect we believe they were the best times of our lives! However, it can be a real shock when we try and “go home,” so-to-speak. We often find that going home can mean coming face-to-face with how people and places actually were and not how we fondly remember them to be. There have been numerous movies, plays, and books written, telling the tale of someone going home only to face the reality of their emotional, psychological, and spiritual past.

One would think that the Son of God would be exempt from such self-examination, scrutiny, or emotional or personal confrontation that can come from going back home. However, we find, here in the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus discovered this was not true for himself. Jesus learns that you cannot always go home…

READ: Mark 6:1-6

What was Jesus thinking when he turned to head home? Perhaps he thought he would find love, acceptance, and understanding from those who had watched him grow up in their midst. Maybe some personal peace and quiet in the arms of those he considered friends. What therefore did Jesus find? Let’s discover together that sometimes you cannot always go home. We first discover that…

I. Jesus found that familiarity breeds contempt!

1. Going home often means facing your personally appointed pundits! Jesus did. We wonder at the hardly hidden hostility directed toward Jesus from his hometown folks. Luke kind of gives a fuller explanation as to why they seem so antagonistic towards Jesus. He relates that when Jesus visited the synagogue he stood up to read from Isaiah the Prophet, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) Which was great because everyone loved this piece of Scripture, especially the part about “good news to the poor” and “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and them being “oppressed.” I mean who in that day and age of Roman occupation would not love this, right. Then Jesus does one thing more. He tells them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” They were not open-minded folk. Who did he think he was the Messiah or something? Jesus responds by telling them that their hearts were not in the correct frame of mind to hear this prophecy from the Lord. God only sent the prophets to people like widows and gentile lepers! Luke says that, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff!” Wow! Mark only relates that the hometown crowd becomes derogatory. They question Jesus’ heritage and remind him of whom he really is by bringing him down to their spiritual and economic level. They angrily state, “Where did this man get these things?” “What's this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son?” It is the old argument of “Who do you think you are? Do you think you are better than us?” What happens to Jesus in Nazareth reminds us that you always cannot go home. Why? Familiarity breeds contempt. Far too often people think they know whom you are because of where you grew up.

EXAMPLE: Do not use this incident to excuse your lackluster willingness to witness to your own “homies.” We often think we can excuse our own rejection by our friends, neighbors, and co-workers by citing, “Well, Jesus was rejected by his own hometown!” What we forget is that the rejection of Jesus was not because he was witnessing, but because he openly proclaimed himself as the Messiah to those who were not spiritually ready. Your witness is not that you are the Messiah, but rather that Jesus is. Jesus was not being rejected for the same reason you are. Few folks truly reject people because of their sincere faith, unless your neighborhood is full of radical Islamofascists or something. This should give you a sense of freedom in sharing your faith! Here is what I mean: If you are not being rejected for what you are, then you are being rejected for another reason: Are you presenting the gospel in an in-your-face way; has your jaded past caught up to you; is your personal testimony clear; or are you are simply making folks feel uncomfortable because they are in sin? None of these is truly a rejection of you, but rather of what has occurred in your life. It is a rejection of the gospel message. Remember, familiarity breeds contempt and that may be the one thing you have to overcome. Jesus did when he went home and he discovered that you couldn’t always go home!

Family is always forgiving right. They are the ones who will accept their loved ones back into their arms with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Not true! We have all learned life’s lesson that family can be the toughest audience we may ever face in our lives. We find that some of Jesus’ toughest critics were his own family. When Jesus gets home, after being threatened by the synagogue crowd, he desires understanding from home and hearth but he does not find it in the arms of his own family! In fact, in going home, we find that…

II. Jesus discovered that family could be relative!

1. If a man's character is to be abused, there's nobody like a relative to do the business! (Alexander Pope) Mark relates that Jesus’ mother Mary was there as well as his brothers James, Joseph, Judas and Simon as well as his sisters! We often do not think about it, but Jesus had siblings! There is no other way to interpret this passage except that Mary had other children after Jesus was born. The Greek used here is the masculine adelphos (brothers) and the feminine adelphe (sisters). Contrary to what some would have you believe, Mary did not remain a perpetual virgin all her life. In fact, the early church understood quite well it was Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, who wrote their perspective letters. Besides this would have also been kind of an anathema for a Hebrew family to have only one child, and finally, Scripture makes it very plain Jesus had brothers and sisters. Numerous passages back this up (Matthew 12:46-50 & 13:55; Mark 3:31-32 & 6:3; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12 & 7:3-5; Acts 1:14 and Galatians 1:19)! Note that the wording and name usage here of the crowd using Jesus’ mother’s name “Mary” was derogatory, as I mentioned before. It was a backhanded reference to local gossip that Jesus’ mother may have had him out of wedlock and later bore his brothers and sisters. That Jesus was a… well; you get the idea. However, this is not the first time Jesus’ family has shown they had problems with his ministry. If you remember back in Mark 3:31 his family shows up all of sudden and wanted to see him. The idea is that they were worried about him. In fact, we learn that in John 7:3-5 Jesus’ “own brothers did not believe in him.” We find that his family had a hard time at first accepting Jesus’ ministry and feared for his health in Mark 3:21. Jesus’ family heard that he was not eating properly and that there were huge crowds following him, “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Literally, that Jesus was not thinking clearly and they wanted to make sure he was resting and eating regularly. At this point during his ministry Jesus may have well thought, “I wish I could relate to the people I am related to!”

EXAMPLE: Ministering to family can be tough. I know I have found this out to be true as well. Jacques Delille stated that, “Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.” Yet, Ethel Watts Mumford remarked, “God gives us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends!” As humorous as these quotes are, they also contain some truth for our lives that we would do well to remember as we study this portion of Mark’s Gospel. Not all of Jesus family fully understood his ministry or his mission. Even though Mary often “pondered these things in her heart,” she also did not fully understand who Jesus was. It was not until after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that his family finally fully comprehended Jesus. In fact, I would venture to guess that they still struggled with Jesus being the Messiah because we find both James and Jude marveling at the atonement of Jesus for us. Is it any wonder Jesus found that his family could be so relative? Never fear, what your family may not understand now, some day they will. Be patient, be in prayer, and remember Jesus and his own family and take heart from his example. Never forget that on the cross Jesus looks down on his beloved mother and in his death throws provides for her to be taken care of by John.

Conclusion:
We learned that you cannot always go home because familiarity breeds contempt and family can often be so relative - spiritually speaking of course!
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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 permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Wonder-working Power - Mark 5:21-43

The Wonder-working Power - Mark 5:21-43
Pastor Lee Hemen
January 3, 2010

According to a recent AP story, a Colorado woman says a Christmas miracle brought her and her newborn son back from the brink of death after her heart stopped beating during childbirth and the baby was delivered showing no signs of life. “I got a second chance in life,” Tracy Hermanstorfer said. She was being prepped for childbirth at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. Her 37-year-old husband was by her side when she began to feel sleepy and lay back in her bed. Tracy's husband Mike was clutching his pregnant wife's hand when her life slipped away on Christmas Eve, and then he cradled his newborn son's limp body seconds after a medical team delivered the baby by Cesarean section. Minutes later, he saw his son come to life in his arms under the feverish attention of doctors, and soon he learned his wife had inexplicably come back to life. The couple both credits it to the wonder-working power of God.

What loving father would do anything in order to heal their sick child? What person would travel to far places in order to be healed of a debilitating disease? We read or hear about a tragic accident or fatal diagnosis and feel empathy for those involved. When we hear about these kinds of situations, we are often moved by them and we sometimes wonder at the justice of it all. Therefore, when we read these two accounts from Mark’s Gospel of Jesus and his healing of the young girl and the woman that suffered so much we are amazed at God’s wonder working power…

READ: Mark 5:21-43

“I wonder if this new Rabbi can heal my beautiful daughter. I have heard so much about him and his teachings are changing people’s lives. They say he can heal and perhaps even raise the dead! Oh, Almighty God who has created everything, please hear my pleading cry and let your servant not be disappointed! Hear my humble prayer for my little girl and heal her before she dies!” Would God hear the prayers of a frantic father? A family that is struck by tragedy can find comfort when they least expect it, even when obstacles are place in our way. We discover here in Mark’s Gospel…

I. The wonder-working power of God in the life of a family! (Vv. 21-24, 35-43)

1. In our depths of despair, God’s power is available! Jesus and His disciples returned to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, probably near Capernaum. Another large crowd gathers around Jesus while He was still by the lake. On this occasion, Jairus, one of the synagogue rulers came to Him. Jairus was a lay official responsible for the synagogue building, the worship services, and a respected leader in the community. However, something was different in Jairus’ life today. We discover that Jairus’ little daughter (His only daughter, Luke 8:42) was dying. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel indicates that the girl may have already died! In humility, Jairus pleads earnestly with Jesus to come and put His hands on her so that she might be healed and live. The “laying on of hands” symbolized the transfer of vitality and was often associated with Jesus’ healings. Evidently, Jairus, learning about Jesus’ wonder-working power, was convinced that only Jesus could save his daughter’s life. Jesus was his final hope. We find that as Jesus left, a great crowd followed pressing around Him. A frustrating delay ensues caused by a woman’s healing and I imagine became a severe test of a father’s faith. Jairus’ fears that his little daughter would die before Jesus got there were sadly confirmed by the report from his household that she had died. The messengers erroneously concluded that it was futile to bother the Teacher any further. Jesus overhears the message and he (parakousas) “refused to listen”. Jesus’ reassuring words to Jairus could be rendered: “Stop fearing; just keep on believing.” He had already exercised faith in coming to Jesus and he had seen the relationship between faith and Jesus’ wonder-working power; now he was exhorted to believe that Jesus could restore his lifeless daughter. At Jairus’ home, they had already begun the traditional Jewish ritual of morning. Jesus seeing the hullabaloo of people crying and wailing loudly enters and bluntly asks, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” The mourner’s response is natural, they laugh at Jesus, but he kicks them all out except for the parents and a few of his disciples. Jesus immediately takes the child “by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’” (Aramaic meaning, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) “Immediately the girl stood up and walked around!” At this all present were “completely astonished.” They saw for themselves the wonder-working power of God in the life of a family!

EXAMPLE: Life has a way of exerting itself on us. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, and really awful things happen to everyone all the time. That is the way of the world. We would all like only good things to happen to us but we forget that we live in a sin-fallen universe. This year Denise and I have had several friends that have experienced tragedy, both through automobile accidents. However, the interesting thing is how both families have reacted to their situations. How they have responded is in direct proportion to their faith. While both went through very tough times, one has found strength, compassion, and encouragement through their close relationship with Christ. While, the other family is barely existing day-to-day and living in fear of what the future may have in store for their family. Here in Marks’ Gospel we find a father beside himself over his little girl who is dying. While along the way in looking for an answer to his dilemma life throws what he sees as an obstacle, turns out to be the complete restoration of his child. He finds for himself the wonder-working power of God.

“Who am I that God should hear my cry? I have long sought relief from my humility and no one has been able to help me. My faith is waning and my money is gone. Even my family turns away from me and no one cares about a poor woman without family or friends. Oh, Lord, my hope is in you alone. Only your Messiah can heal me and perhaps Lord if you would hear the prayers of this one who seeks your face one last time…” Would God hear the prayer of someone like this woman? Poor, alone, and a societal outcast to everyone she meets? Here in Mark’s Gospel we see…

II. The wonder-working power of God in the life of an unknown! (Vv. 24-34)

1. No one is unknown to the Lord! This section has a “sandwich” structure. The account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead is divided by this incident of an unknown woman with a hemorrhage. What appeared to be a disastrous delay actually served as a reassurance for the restoration of Jairus’ 12 year-old daughter. A nameless woman with an incurable condition is part of the crowd. She had been bleeding for 12 years! Her humiliating condition made her ritually unclean, excluding her from society since any who encountered her would also be “unclean.” “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” However, there was hope. She had heard about Jesus’ wonder-working power. She did the unthinkable! She came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His cloak. She kept telling herself: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Notice that “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt (she knew without a doubt) in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” Jesus realizes that “at once… power had gone out from him.” He turns “around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” I believe Jesus was honoring the woman’s faith, and he willingly extended His wonder-working power to her. The touch of the garment had no magical or mystical effect. Jesus emphasized his ability to distinguish the touch of one who in faith expected deliverance from the accidental touch of the unbelieving crowd. His disciples were incredulous: “You see the people crowding against you and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” Jesus kept looking (penetratingly) around at the crowd in order to see who had touched Him in faith. The woman, the only one who understood Jesus’ question, came in humility and fear because she knew what had happened to her. Courageously she confesses everything. Jesus compassionately responds, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” The affectionate title, “Daughter” (its only recorded use by Jesus) signified her new relationship with Him. She was no longer just one of the unbelieving crowd, but one of his own. This assured her that her healing was complete and permanent. In her extreme personal need as a living “dead” person for 12 years had come to a permanent end because of the wonder-working power of God!

EXAMPLE: I have seen wonderfully faithful folks experience the heartbreak of being told a loved one has an incurable disease. When I first started ministering here at Grace an older couple found one another after experiencing death of their perspective spouses. I had the wonderful experience of leading both of them to the Lord and later marrying them. They had only been married a short time when the husband learned that he had aggressive cancer. Everything was done that could be done by doctors and those who loved them. He even asked the deacons to come anoint him with oil and pray for him, which they did at the time, to no avail. The grace and humility he showed during his illness caused a lot of his family to realize that they did not have the faith he had recently acquired. Some struggled with the idea of why would God allow this to happen to him? Having counseled couples who faced the loss of young children because if SIDS, I related what I have learned about faith and life in general: God loves and holds precious every life, whether it is 9 minutes old or 90 years old. For God there are no unknowns. His wonder-working power is available to any who come to him in faith. Does he heal all who come to him? No. However, he willing accepts, loves and comforts everyone who does. And that is the most wonderful part of his wonder-working power.

Conclusion:

We have learned about the wonder-working power of God in the life of a family; and we discovered the wonder-working power in the life of an unknown, now, let me ask you: “What about your life? Have you personally experienced the wonder-working power of God?”
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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 permission. You now have my permission...