Sunday, April 25, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs! - Mark 8:11-21

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs! - Mark 8:11-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 25, 2010 AM

UFO Hunters, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, and River Monsters are just a few of the new reality shows to hit TV. All of them deal with the paranormal, unreal, or supernatural. Why folks are so interested in these things is beyond me, but the truth is we always have been. People flock to see the weird, wacky, and the unusual. They did it in the past with sideshows, traveling circuses, mystics and palm readers. We have an unquenchable bent towards the unexplainable.

However, here in Mark’s gospel, we find the religious leaders of Jesus’ day wanting to see “a sign” from Jesus. Like a trained pet, they come demanding from him a sign so that they might see for themselves who Jesus was. But was this their true reason for demanding a sign from Jesus? I do not believe so. Let’s find out this morning as we take a closer look at signs, signs, everywhere signs – shall we?

READ: Mark 8:11-21


In our world today, we can often treat Jesus in the same manner as he was being treated by the Pharisees in this section of Mark. We can unreasonably demand from Jesus that he perform some kind of miracle for others or us. By doing so, we are guilty of trying to make Jesus into some kind of sideshow freak that should perform for us at our whim. We want to be careful because…

I. We can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign”! (Vv. 11-13)

1. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign? This is how the Pharisees had lived their whole lives, following the laid out “signs” from God, his law. Now comes along this man, named Jesus, who begins to shake everything up they had held to be true for so long. We find that “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.” (Mark 8:11) The word used for “question” here means to debate. They came to argue with Jesus. They had something else in mind all along. In fact, we learn that they wanted to “test” him, as in entice him into making a mistake concerning the Mosaic Law. They were demanding from Him “a sign from heaven,” one with divine authority. A “sign” was not so much a demonstration of power as evidence that a person’s prophetic utterance or action was authentic. The Pharisees did not demand a spectacular miracle, but that Jesus would give them unmistakable proof that he and his mission were authorized by God. They believed quite the opposite and wanted a proof only they would agree to. Back in Mark 3:22 we found out that “the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’” Like an exasperated schoolteacher, Jesus “sighed deeply” and replies, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth; no sign will be given to it.” They, in fact, already had one right in front of them. Matthew adds “except the sign of Jonah,” which referred to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Mark teaches us that there is a difference in asking for a miracle by faith and demanding a sign in unbelief. The latter is an illegitimate demand and if we do so, when we truly do not believe Jesus can or will do it, we can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign.”

EXAMPLE: Faith, by biblical definition, is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). It is first “being sure”—unrestricted, unreserved, unconditional assent. It is the unrestricted certainty of that in which we believe. For instance, I know that it is sunny outside by looking at the windows. I know it is true because I can see it for myself. However, if I were to ask if it was raining outside, one of you would have to go out and look and come back and tell me that either it was or was not raining outside. Then I would have to take your word for it. That’s faith. It is a conviction based on “what we do not see.” Faith does not rest on observed, firsthand evidence but on the basis of someone else’s explanation. A believer, in the strictest sense of the word, accepts as real and true, the testimony of someone else. When we have seen something for ourselves, we no longer believe; we know. Therefore, belief has to do with things not seen. Christians do not need “signs” from Jesus in their lives to believe he is there, exists, or acts on our prayers. We know he does because others have told us he does. That is the essence of faith. When we ask for a “sign”, we can be guilty of trying to “test” Jesus just as the Pharisees were.

Little things can become very big things in a hurry. Puppies with big feet, pygmy pigs, or baby calves can all start out small, fuzzy, and kind of cute but end up being big problems that eat you out of house and home! Sin can be like that as well. It can begin with the best intentions, self-justifications, infatuations, and end up in a lot of lamentations! This is what Jesus warned his disciples against here, if they would only listen. We learn that in asking for a “sign”…

II. We can be allowing sin to infect our faith! (Vv. 14-21)

1. If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man, you're some kind of sinner! The disciples were just like the crowd in a sense. They looked at what they had instead of relying on God. Notice that Mark states, “The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.” Jesus tries to pull them back into spiritual thinking by warning them, “Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod!” Yeast was often used in Jewish teaching to denote corrupt spiritual worldly thinking. They were in danger of being gradually sucked back into the world’s way of faith. All the dense disciples heard from Jesus’ explanation was the word “yeast” and immediately thought again of their stomachs! Jesus rebukes them for their failure to understand his presence in their midst. He asks them five successive penetrating questions to develop their understanding of what had just occurred: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?” (Mark 8:17-18) WOW! Jesus moves them from the moment, to the method, and focuses them on the means! He then reminds them of the two feedings and how much was left over after each one. He finally asks them, “Do you still not understand?” Literally, “Have you not put it all together yet?” Jesus wanted them to be aware of the fact that if they did not begin to comprehend who he was and what he came to do, they would be infected with the lackluster corrupt faith of the world, just as the crowd was by the kind of faith the Pharisees or Herod offered. I believe people in the world have become cynical of God because they do not see Christians living by faith. Far too many believers today demand from Jesus a personal sign everyday and expect him to perform for them instead of living by faith. When we continually ask Jesus for a “sign” in our lives, we can be allowing sin to infect our faith!

EXAMPLE: It has always been amazing to me to listen to what people say after a sermon or a seminar I have given. Different folks take away differing things from them every time. There is nothing wrong with this, unless we have already formed an opinion, refuse to listen, and do not care to be change by what we have heard. I can remember teaching a certain passage of Scripture during a seminar and having a lady afterwards come up and challenge me over something, I had not said. I looked at my notes, showed her the PowerPoint slides, and we even went over the verses in question, but she had already formed her own opinion on the issue and was “not about to change.” It was one of those proverbial, “it was good enough for Paul and Silas” moments. Later, I learned that she believed the way she did because she was trying to justify her lifestyle, instead of relying on what Scripture truly said. She had allowed sin to infect her faith. Both Herod and the Pharisees had done so as well. In fact, they had infected what the crowds felt and believed about God. Now, the disciples were in a dangerous place. They could either follow their stomachs, continue to “test” Jesus themselves by their lack of faith, or trust in who he was and what he was doing in their midst. What about you this morning, are you allowing yourself to test Jesus by continually asking him for “signs?” Has a little bit of worldly yeast begun to influence your faith?

Conclusion:
We learned today that we can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign” and we can be allowing sin to infect our faith by doing so!
----
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...

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs! - Mark 8:11-21

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs! - Mark 8:11-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 25, 2010 AM

UFO Hunters, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, and River Monsters are just a few of the new reality shows to hit TV. All of them deal with the paranormal, unreal, or supernatural. Why folks are so interested in these things is beyond me, but the truth is we always have been. People flock to see the weird, wacky, and the unusual. They did it in the past with sideshows, traveling circuses, mystics and palm readers. We have an unquenchable bent towards the unexplainable.

However, here in Mark’s gospel, we find the religious leaders of Jesus’ day wanting to see “a sign” from Jesus. Like a trained pet, they come demanding from him a sign so that they might see for themselves who Jesus was. But was this their true reason for demanding a sign from Jesus? I do not believe so. Let’s find out this morning as we take a closer look at signs, signs, everywhere signs – shall we?

READ: Mark 8:11-21


In our world today, we can often treat Jesus in the same manner as he was being treated by the Pharisees in this section of Mark. We can unreasonably demand from Jesus that he perform some kind of miracle for others or us. By doing so, we are guilty of trying to make Jesus into some kind of sideshow freak that should perform for us at our whim. We want to be careful because…

I. We can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign”! (Vv. 11-13)

1. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign? This is how the Pharisees had lived their whole lives, following the laid out “signs” from God, his law. Now comes along this man, named Jesus, who begins to shake everything up they had held to be true for so long. We find that “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.” (Mark 8:11) The word used for “question” here means to debate. They came to argue with Jesus. They had something else in mind all along. In fact, we learn that they wanted to “test” him, as in entice him into making a mistake concerning the Mosaic Law. They were demanding from Him “a sign from heaven,” one with divine authority. A “sign” was not so much a demonstration of power as evidence that a person’s prophetic utterance or action was authentic. The Pharisees did not demand a spectacular miracle, but that Jesus would give them unmistakable proof that he and his mission were authorized by God. They believed quite the opposite and wanted a proof only they would agree to. Back in Mark 3:22 we found out that “the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’” Like an exasperated schoolteacher, Jesus “sighed deeply” and replies, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth; no sign will be given to it.” They, in fact, already had one right in front of them. Matthew adds “except the sign of Jonah,” which referred to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Mark teaches us that there is a difference in asking for a miracle by faith and demanding a sign in unbelief. The latter is an illegitimate demand and if we do so, when we truly do not believe Jesus can or will do it, we can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign.”

EXAMPLE: Faith, by biblical definition, is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). It is first “being sure”—unrestricted, unreserved, unconditional assent. It is the unrestricted certainty of that in which we believe. For instance, I know that it is sunny outside by looking at the windows. I know it is true because I can see it for myself. However, if I were to ask if it was raining outside, one of you would have to go out and look and come back and tell me that either it was or was not raining outside. Then I would have to take your word for it. That’s faith. It is a conviction based on “what we do not see.” Faith does not rest on observed, firsthand evidence but on the basis of someone else’s explanation. A believer, in the strictest sense of the word, accepts as real and true, the testimony of someone else. When we have seen something for ourselves, we no longer believe; we know. Therefore, belief has to do with things not seen. Christians do not need “signs” from Jesus in their lives to believe he is there, exists, or acts on our prayers. We know he does because others have told us he does. That is the essence of faith. When we ask for a “sign”, we can be guilty of trying to “test” Jesus just as the Pharisees were.

Little things can become very big things in a hurry. Puppies with big feet, pygmy pigs, or baby calves can all start out small, fuzzy, and kind of cute but end up being big problems that eat you out of house and home! Sin can be like that as well. It can begin with the best intentions, self-justifications, infatuations, and end up in a lot of lamentations! This is what Jesus warned his disciples against here, if they would only listen. We learn that in asking for a “sign”…

II. We can be allowing sin to infect our faith! (Vv. 14-21)

1. If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man, you're some kind of sinner! The disciples were just like the crowd in a sense. They looked at what they had instead of relying on God. Notice that Mark states, “The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.” Jesus tries to pull them back into spiritual thinking by warning them, “Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod!” Yeast was often used in Jewish teaching to denote corrupt spiritual worldly thinking. They were in danger of being gradually sucked back into the world’s way of faith. All the dense disciples heard from Jesus’ explanation was the word “yeast” and immediately thought again of their stomachs! Jesus rebukes them for their failure to understand his presence in their midst. He asks them five successive penetrating questions to develop their understanding of what had just occurred: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?” (Mark 8:17-18) WOW! Jesus moves them from the moment, to the method, and focuses them on the means! He then reminds them of the two feedings and how much was left over after each one. He finally asks them, “Do you still not understand?” Literally, “Have you not put it all together yet?” Jesus wanted them to be aware of the fact that if they did not begin to comprehend who he was and what he came to do, they would be infected with the lackluster corrupt faith of the world, just as the crowd was by the kind of faith the Pharisees or Herod offered. I believe people in the world have become cynical of God because they do not see Christians living by faith. Far too many believers today demand from Jesus a personal sign everyday and expect him to perform for them instead of living by faith. When we continually ask Jesus for a “sign” in our lives, we can be allowing sin to infect our faith!

EXAMPLE: It has always been amazing to me to listen to what people say after a sermon or a seminar I have given. Different folks take away differing things from them every time. There is nothing wrong with this, unless we have already formed an opinion, refuse to listen, and do not care to be change by what we have heard. I can remember teaching a certain passage of Scripture during a seminar and having a lady afterwards come up and challenge me over something, I had not said. I looked at my notes, showed her the PowerPoint slides, and we even went over the verses in question, but she had already formed her own opinion on the issue and was “not about to change.” It was one of those proverbial, “it was good enough for Paul and Silas” moments. Later, I learned that she believed the way she did because she was trying to justify her lifestyle, instead of relying on what Scripture truly said. She had allowed sin to infect her faith. Both Herod and the Pharisees had done so as well. In fact, they had infected what the crowds felt and believed about God. Now, the disciples were in a dangerous place. They could either follow their stomachs, continue to “test” Jesus themselves by their lack of faith, or trust in who he was and what he was doing in their midst. What about you this morning, are you allowing yourself to test Jesus by continually asking him for “signs?” Has a little bit of worldly yeast begun to influence your faith?

Conclusion:
We learned today that we can be guilty of testing Jesus by asking for a “sign” and we can be allowing sin to infect our faith by doing so!
----
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, April 18, 2010

Another Hungry Crowd - Mark 8:1-10

Another Hungry Crowd - Mark 8:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 18, 2010 AM

The crowd is not often long satisfied. It demands attention and food for its hunger. And when a crowd does not get fed regularly, it can quickly become very unruly. This is nothing new. We have seen what a mob mentality can do, whether it is an unruly mob at a soccer game, a hyped up political rally, or even an emotionally charged religious venue. A crowd can create huge demands that have to be met immediately by those it focuses its attention on.

Here in Mark’s gospel we find another hungry crowd. Like the words of the old rock tune by The Rolling Stones, the hungry crowd of the world “can’t get no satisfaction.” The crowd found in Mark is representative of the sin-lost crowd of the world. It has a mob mentality that continually searches for satisfaction, but finds little. Sadly, we as believers hold in our hearts what the hungry world longs for, the good news of Jesus Christ. I say, “Sadly,” because like greedy street urchins who hide their daily ration of bread away only for themselves, Christians are guilty of the very same thing. Greedily hiding the gospel and keeping it only for our sated selves. As we look into Mark’s gospel, we discover the compassion of Christ in handling another hungry crowd.

READ: Mark 8:1-10

Recently, a young girl in Florida wandered off into the swamp. She was miraculously found several days later. Cold, mosquito-bitten, and hungry she was glad to be rescued. That’s the way it is when most folks are lost in the wilderness. They come out overexposed, tired, and hungry. However, a much deeper hunger exists in the world today, a spiritual hunger that will not go away. We learn from Mark’s account that…

I. The hungry crowd of the world is starving in the wilderness!

1. We can have more of everything and still have nothing! We live in a world of abundance, yet people all around us are starving to death both physically and spiritually! Notice the entire focus of the crowd was trying to get out of Jesus anything free they could. Crowds have not changed much. People still want something for nothing. And, like the grasshopper from Aesop’s Fables, there are those who think the rest of the world owes them a living. They wanted to be healed, they wanted to be fed, and they wanted Jesus to confront the authorities and be their earthly king. It wasn’t because there was a lack of food, water for crops, or land to grow them on that people went hungry during Jesus’ day. It was a society where everyone, rich or poor had to go out each day, earn a wage, and find food. As soon as you stepped out your door, you were in a veritable wilderness on your own. Life was cheap. Yet the crowds also followed Jesus because they were spiritually malnourished. They had the Law of Moses piled on them from birth by the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. Every waking moment was dictated by their adherence to a written code that had over time become perverted. No one measured up. All fell “short of the glory of God” and there was “none righteous.” Then Jesus came offering a new way, a new contract, a new testament. When a spiritually starving person finds food for their weary soul, they long for nothing else. Nothing has changed. The hungry crowd of the world is still starving in the wilderness.

EXAMPLE: Notice Jesus asks his disciples how they will provide for the crowd. “How many loaves do you have?” he asks. The physical provision was pathetic by the world’s standard, but with God, nothing is impossible. They should have known better after being challenged before. Seven loaves and a few small fish was all there was. The same meager meal as before, yet, when a crowd is hungry, anything is a feast. You may think you have little to offer the world in the way of spiritual comfort, but you have everything God has provided. The hungry crowd of the world is starving in the wilderness of sin, are you willing to allow God to use the provisions he has supplied you with to feed them? A hungry crowd is starving in the wilderness for the bread of life.

The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have brought about an outpouring of compassion from the entire world. True to form, the United States has borne the brunt of all the aid given. In fact, because of the USA’s giving in the past, it has the rest of the world nervously wondering what will happen when the US citizens no longer give. Higher taxes, unemployment, and our horrendous national debt have caused cutbacks in people’s giving. Yet, we learn from Mark’s description that…

II. The hungry crowd of the world needs our compassion!

1. Compassion is not measured by the words one uses, but by their actions! The disciples had not been concerned by the crowds until Jesus makes them aware of their need. Jesus tells them, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:2-3) Jesus understands the crowd’s basic need is sustenance. Matthew, in relating the same incident states that the number of people “was four thousand, besides women and children.” How could Jesus allow them to starve? He could not. We live in a day and age and in a nation whereby no one needs to go to bed hungry. Certainly, there are those who do, but that is usually because of a history of making bad choices, ignorance, or pride. In Jesus’ day, food was prepared for that day, excepting for the Sabbath, and completely consumed. It was the height of luxury to have enough food left over for the following day. Hunger followed a person from sunup to sundown, as did the threat of disease, enslavement, or death from any multitude of reasons. Compassion was a luxury that few could afford, and the world had lost its ability to have compassion. Perhaps Christians suffer from the same cynicism today in that we have lost our compassion for a dying world. While the sin of the world is to be avoided, the people caught in sin are not. The hungry crowd will only be fed when we have the broken-hearted compassion to give them Jesus. The hungry crowd of the world needs our compassion!

EXAMPLE: I think I have shared with you before that John Stossel interviewed a medical researcher who has invented a means by which folks who suffer from macular degeneration can have a special chip implanted at the back of their eye that will restore their eyesight. It is extremely effective, but did not go past the second of three stages for FDA approval. The reason -- Cost vs. profitability. The inventor related the frustration he felt because he had the cure but could not get his product to market in order to heal folks. How awful to know you have something that could effectively help people, but because of governmental restrictions by the FDA, you could not heal them! How sad is it then when Christians have the eternal answer for people’s sin condition, yet due to their lack of compassion, folks will suffer for eternity! It is time for believers to be brokenhearted for the lost. The hungry crowd of the world needs our compassion!

After decades of touting how wonderful vitamins are, we are now being bombarded with how awful and ineffective they are. I remember when the debate was between manmade and natural vitamins. Isn’t that the way it is for almost everything. Some things that are too good to be true usually are, and there are always those who want to convince you that they have exactly what you need. However, we know as believers and from Jesus’ example here in Mark’s gospel that…

III. We have what the hungry crowd of the world needs!

1. If ignorance is bliss, then the world is merrily spiritually starving to death! Without realizing it, the disciples had exactly what the hungry crowd needed. You would have thought that after the experience of feeding 5,000 people, that feeding 4,000 now would have been a snap. Or, that the disciples would have immediately come and said, “Jesus, we fed 5,000 before with a few fish and loaves, we believe God can do it again!” However, we find no such expression of faith from his followers. In fact, “His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’” It makes me wonder why. Yes, it was “remote,” but again they had fed 5,000 folks before. I believe the disciples were just the same as many of us are this morning. Here is what I mean: We only see what is right in front of our eyes and fail to focus our spiritual sight with faith. Right here, right now, we have everything God has provided us to reach our community for Jesus Christ, yet we fail to see that we do. Perhaps we suffer from a lack of spiritual sustenance. The Apostle Paul finishes his letter to the Philippians by confidently telling them that, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) How could Paul say that? Paul knew what it meant to have plenty and to be in need, but he had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12) Paul had learned, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Many of us have what the hungry crowd needs, because we have Jesus, but we have not yet learned that we can do everything through him. If you have Jesus, you not only have what you need; you have what the hungry crowd needs.

EXAMPLE: Amazingly, the disciples had Jesus standing right there in front of them and they still forgot who he was and what he could do! We might argue that if we had been there it would have been different, but I doubt it. I say this because we are guilty of looking into the face of Jesus, realizing our sin, having our heart broken, coming to him by faith, and then forgetting the image of Christ in our lives. We are “like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23-24) However, there is hope for the hungry world and for us as well, because “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom (Jesus), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does!” There will always be another hungry crowd.

Conclusion:
The hungry crowd of the world is starving in the wilderness! The hungry crowd of the world needs our compassion! We have what the hungry crowd of the world needs!
----
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, April 11, 2010

Are We Deaf and Dumb? - Mark 7:31-37

Are We Deaf and Dumb? - Mark 7:31-37
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 11, 2010 AM

When I was younger, I used to think that my folks suffered from a kind of a parental tone-deafness that all adults suffer from when they have children. Not only did they not hear me but also they did not understand me. Many of Christians tacitly believe this about God as well, that he does not hear or understand. In fact, we think it is so true that it has become ingrained in our spiritual psych and in how we relate to the gospel. Let me explain: The Israelites suffered from this malady during Isaiah’s time. They felt God was not listening to their constant cries and did not understand their particular predicament. Isaiah would remind them, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28) God was not the one who was deaf and dumb, they were!

Deafness and muteness to the gospel message often begins with the believer. Why would I say that? Christians are supposed to be about loving God totally and others as themselves. We have forgotten that it is a matter of proclaiming the good news of the Lord! Christians have become deaf, not only to its message, but to also to what it means for a sin-fallen world. After looking at what Mark relates concerning Jesus we must ask ourselves: Are we deaf and dumb? Let’s find out the answer to this…

READ: Mark 7:31-37

I remember times when going for a ride in the car with my siblings. Dad would direly warn us that under no certain terms that we were not to be so noisy in the backseat that it distracted him. We would get the time-honored threat, “If I have to stop this car!” Silence may be golden when it refers to a carload of kids, but it is horrendous when it refers to the believer sharing the gospel. We discover here in Mark that…

I. There is none so deaf, as those who cannot hear!

1. We should ask ourselves, “Am I willing to touch people when it is inconvenient or repulsive for me?” People will only hear the gospel, when we are willing to touch their ears! The reason many in our neighborhood, community, and world do not listen to the gospel is because they have not heard the gospel from our lips. Christians have become deliberately mute in proclaiming the good news. God did not use megaphones, mega churches, or mega campaigns to spread his simple message. He used individuals, beginning with Jesus. And notice that Jesus still has not found the respite he needed. He had tried to get away from the crowds, but they followed him to a hillside, he had tried to get away by himself, but they still followed him around the lake. He even went to the beach, but they came inside his seaside retreat and begged at his dinner table, and now they confront him as he is journeying “through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis,” a surreptitious route at best. Ministry is inconvenient. It demands our time and requires we become God’s servants on his time schedule. But then again we are reminded of Jesus’ own words when he taught that, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) The problem is not with a deaf hard of hearing world. The problem is there are too many Christians who want a Sunday morning ministry, while the world gropes in sinful silence. Let me ask you, “Are you listening to what this story is telling you or are you still deaf to the cries of the lost?” Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are those outside these doors that need to hear the message of Jesus and you alone are the only means by which they will hear it. There is none so deaf, as those who do not hear – are you listening?

EXAMPLE: My nephew is an exceptional musician. He used to play in a hard rock band, and when I say “hard rock,” I mean screamer. He jokingly told me, “Uncle Lee, you probably do not understand my kind of music.” I replied, “It is not that I do not understand it, it is so loud I cannot hear it.” At first, he was perplexed by my answer, but then he smiled in understanding. Christianity today suffers from the same kind of volume. There are too many Christians in our day and age that continually want a personal message from God. They are bombarded with Christian radio, books, seminars, and Sunday morning experiences. Daily they seek some kind of spiritual euphoria, a miracle moment, a radio message, a special delivery from the Lord all the while ignoring the blaring message right in front of them. If your quiet time has not moved you to move your lips to speak the good news to others around you, then you are completely deaf to the words of God. You need a hearing aid, a miracle ear! You heed the words of the Lord as you hear the words of the Lord. The sin-deaf world cannot hear a message of hope from the lips of those who are spiritually tone deaf. God has not called his church, his people, each of us to a life of seeking after personal godly moments. He has called us to share the good news, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

The other night on a TV show “In Plain Sight,” the main character Mary, a US Marshall who works for Witness Protection, told an annoying detainee, “Shut up now, shut up later, and shut up forever!” Of course, we are all told not to say, “Shut up,” but it was appropriate in this circumstance. However, far too often Christians practice a self-imposed muteness. A friend, family member, or neighbor can be going to eternal damnation but we “Shut up now, shut up later, and shut up forever.” We learn from Jesus here in Mark that…

II. There is none so silent, as those who do not speak!

1. We should ask ourselves, “Am I willing to be worthless as spit?” Why would I say that? Notice that Jesus often used the “common” things of the world to heal people’s lives. Common things like the dirt from the ground, water from a well, and even his spit. And, like these common things of the earth, he wants to use us common folk to heal the lives of others with his message. Some Christians want God to use others instead of themselves to minister. Mark relates that Jesus “took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue.” Again, it was a one-on-one experience. Jesus does not pull a “Benny Hinn” moment here. Ministry requires that we be willing to be used of God anytime and anywhere away from the crowds. Far too many Christians want recognition for the ministry God has called them to do. Ministry is not about the crowds, it is not about personal recognition, and it is not about you. It is totally about God and sharing his good news! Notice too that Jesus did not need to roll in the dirt of the world in order to heal the man. He did not join in people’s sin, but was willing to go where they were. And, icky, he was willing to put his fingers in the man’s ears and touch his tongue with his spit! Jesus was willing to be as worthless as spit for the gospel message. He was willing to be used of God! Notice also what happens after Jesus heals the man’s speaking problem: he cannot shut up! In fact, the whole region cannot keep quiet about it. “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.” Why, why in the world would they not shut up after being warned to do so by Jesus? Mark tells us that it was because “People were overwhelmed with amazement!” They knew it was Jesus who “makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” When the good news is spoken and lives are changed, people cannot shut up about it.

EXAMPLE: Don’t you hate it when politicians say one thing, and yet do another? Don’t you hate it when they are so wishy-washy they do not stand for anything and will never give you a straight answer for what they believe or do? I know I do. Yet, much of Christianity has become just like that. The world disdains Christianity today not because of its proclamation of the gospel message, but because of its witness. The world has become deaf and the church has become mute! The church is resoundingly silent. The reason the church, the individual believer, and so many Christians are silent in speaking the gospel is because they are willfully mute and spiritually lazy. Jesus is called “the Word” in John’s gospel for a reason. Jesus was the total embodiment of God’s message to mankind. He was the actual physical representation of the spoken Word of God for us! We, as his followers, are the actual representation of the Word of God in our world today. I fear that the message of the cross has become a seminar for the saints. The word of God is more than a book for personal devotions; it should move us to ministry and mission. If we try to sooth the world with a soft-spoken message of the moment, rather than confront it with the heart wrenching life-changing, sound-restoring message of the cross it will not give us an ear! It will not listen.

Conclusion:
There is none so deaf, as they cannot hear and that there is none so silent, as those who do not speak! Put your spiritual finger in someone’s ear this week. Tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. Stop being deaf and dumb about the gospel message.
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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...