Proverbs 30:18-19 18 "There are three things that are too amazing for me,four that I do not understand: 19 the way of an eagle in the sky,the way of a snake on a rock,the way of a ship on the high seas,and the way of a man with a maiden.
How was Agur was open to admitting his lack of understanding in four areas--the physical mysteries of how such a large bird can fly, how a snake adheres and transverses smooth stone, or a heavy boat actually floats, and the relationship issues between men and women.
What is your understanding of these four areas?
What is it about Jesus that the disciples did not understand?
Can we acknowledge our need to admit what we don't understand?
Are we open to learning spiritual truth about Jesus?
What has God done for you in years past? Has God forgiven your sins and given you eternal life? Has God met your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)? Has God prospered you and given you a future (Jer. 29:11)? Can God not do in this new year all he did in the year now gone?
2010 “January” is named for the Greek god Janus. He was the god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings. He is depicted in ancient mythology with two faces, one able to see the past and the other able to peer into the future. As we begin this new year, we should wish to be so wise. What will happen to our economy in the year at hand? Will the subprime banking crisis affect other financial sectors? What will transpire in Iraq and Afghanistan? Where is the nation going? We all wish we had answers to what is going to happen this year.
1. Can you think of examples of people today who seem to need something spectacular in their religious experiences to hold their attention and level of commitment? 2. In what way is it possible for Christians to experience life changing, miraculous events without experiencing an increase in their faith development? 3. What evidence do we have in the world today that many Christians, especially in America, may not be experiencing some of the same revelations from God that others seem to be receiving? Faith or fear?
Faith Comes in Stages Mark's Gospel tells us is that faith comes in stages. This truth is especially helpful in dealing with the ups and downs of our spiritual lives. We see the disciples' gradual growth in faith, both in the sense of more firm commitment to Jesus and in the sense of understanding of what faith in Jesus implies. The disciples' development in faith suggests that we, too, grow in faith. The pattern of faith-learning narrated by Mark is likely to be repeated in our lives, leading us upward in a spiral from our first religious experience to ever more profound ones.
Main Idea We must open our eyes and overcome our blind spots if we are to see Jesus clearly and respond accordingly. Question to Explore What would we be able to see and understand about Jesus, about ourselves, and about other people if we would open our eyes and overcome our blind spots?
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. (Mk 7:8) In Mark, faith is a gift of God; characters in the narrative either have it or they don’t.
THE SEARCH FOR PRIVACY Both Tyre and Sidon are ancient cities along the coast of what now is Lebanon 1. Jesus had travelled about 40 miles from Capernaum 2. He came to the region of Tyre and Sidon, also known as Syro-Phoenecia - Mk 7:24 3. He sought privacy, probably needing rest - cf. Mk 6:31-32
THE REQUEST FOR A MIRACLE 1. A woman with a daughter possessed by an unclean spirit came to Him - Mk 7:25 2. She was a Greek (Gentile), a Syro-Phoenician by birth - Mk 7:26 3. She "kept asking" Jesus to cast out the demon - Mk 7:26 4. She even acknowledged Jesus as "O Lord, Son of David!" - cf. Mt 15:22 5. Matthew reveals that initially Jesus did not speak to her - cf. Mt 15:23 6. That she began pestering His disciples - cf. Mt 15:23
THE REFUSAL TO HEAL 1. Matthew's account explains Jesus' thinking - cf. Mt 15:24 a. "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." b. Compare His charge regarding the "Limited Commission" - cf. Mt 10:5-6 c. His mission was to fulfill prophecy concerning Israel's Messiah d. He would later expand His ministry to the world - cf. Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15 2. Jesus' response to her suggested as much - Mk 7:27 a. "Let the children be filled first..." b. There were promises to Israel that needed to be filled before those to the Gentiles
THE RESPONSE TO FAITH 1. The woman's response to Jesus shows her faith - Mk 7:28 a. "Yes, Lord..." - she acknowledge the right for Him to refuse her request b. "...yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs.." - she would be happy with "crumbs" left over from His ministry to the Jews 2. Jesus admired her faith and healed her daughter - Mk 7:29-30 a. Matthew adds that Jesus said, "O woman, great is your faith!" - cf. Mt 15:28 b. And that her daughter "was healed instantly" - cf. Mt 15:28
Mark 7:24-30 we see Jesus reaches out to the outsider, to those who are classed as irrelevant or enemies of the Kingdom of God. 1) She is a gentile (note the double emphasis on this in v26) 2) She is a woman (In the cultural context women were often despised) 3) Her daughter has a demon (She is unclean)
Gentiles are now blessed by faith Many Christians today take their faith and its privileges for granted. Perhaps it is the old adage, "familiarity breeds contempt" Gentile Christians in particular should never lose sight of the grace shown them. Gentiles have been granted privileges that were long bestowed on the Israelites including a covenant relationship with God and all the blessings that accompany such a relationship are now available to all who come to God with faith in Christ
We are no longer: a. Without Christ b. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel c. Strangers from the covenants of promise d. Having no hope and without God in the world - Ep 2:11-12
We are now: a. Brought near by the blood of Christ - Ep 2:13 b. Reconciled as one body in Christ - Ep 2:14-17 c. With access by one Spirit to the Father - Ep 2:18 d. Fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God - Ep 2:19-22 True to Jesus' promise (Mt 8:11-12), Gentiles can now sit at the table!
Instead of focusing on boundary markers Jesus focused on what lies at the center of faith and religion. For instance, when asked about the heart of the law, Jesus' immediate response was, "Love God above all; love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk 12:29). Likewise, when He was asked why His disciples did not follow the ritual hand washing customs of the Pharisees, Jesus pointed out that what makes a man unclean is what arises out of the heart (Mk 7:20-22). Another time the Scribes and Pharisees indicated that their boundary markers and blood-line made them children of Abraham. In contrast, Jesus says that Abraham's children "would do the things Abraham did" (Jn 8:39). What he meant was that true children of Abraham have Abraham's faith and righteousness. Do We Have Boundary Markers?
Gentiles were often seen as being dogs v27 To refer to a human being as a ‘dog’ is deliberately offensive or dismissive (cf. 2 Sa. 16:9; Ps. 22:16; Phil. 3:2); Jews typically referred to Gentiles as dogs. The diminutive form (used in biblical literature only in this pericope), perhaps indicates the status of the dogs in Jesus’ image as dogs of the house rather than of the yard, but it does not remove the harshness of picturing Gentiles en masse as ‘dogs’ as opposed to ‘children’. It is the sort of language a Gentile might expect from a Jew, but to find it in a saying of Jesus is shocking.
Chapter 8 of Mark presents a great study of the middle stages of discipleship. By this point in his ministry, Jesus expected his disciples to apply themselves personally to their spiritual development. Early in the chapter, the outcome seems doubtful, but later in the chapter, Peter’s great declaration of Jesus’ identity carries the day. Even so, progress seems to regress in the confusion following Jesus’ first passion prediction. Chapter 8 holds strong insights into the ways God develops faith for the Bible student anxious to deepen his or her walk with Christ.
Little hope (Mark 8:11-13) Chapter 8 begins with the story of the feeding of the 4,000, which for some seems to be a needless repeat of the feeding of the 5,000. Nevertheless, the story reemphasizes Jesus’ compassion for the crowds following him and his willingness to provide for human need, points that cannot be overstated.
Seeing is believing Unfortunately, our culture has been dominated for centuries by a naturalistic, materialistic worldview that claims that seeing is believing. So a truth claim can be believed if it can be proven. Therefore, we will follow God into the future as long as we know what God is doing and where we are going. If we can see God’s hand, we will trust God’s heart.
In contrast to the notion that we must see to believe, God doesn’t limit himself to what our finite, fallen minds can understand of him. Is God asking you to share your faith, whatever the risk or sacrifice? to surrender your plans and ambitions to his will, whatever it is? Abraham followed the call of God “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). Moses returned to Egypt at the risk of his life, even though he did not know how God would protect him. The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea and the Jordan River even though they had no physical proof that they would be safe. Jesus’ disciples left their boats and nets to follow him wherever he led, whatever he asked, whatever the cost.
The Pharisees The story also shows people were thinking about the identity of Jesus. In this case, it was the Pharisees who were working on their understanding of Jesus. (Mark says that the Pharisees started to “question” Jesus. The word means to debate or argue. The Greek tense indicates ongoing action. They began to argue with Jesus and kept it up).
They likely thought they were clarifying the meaning of the phenomena at work in Jesus’ life.
The desire to understand Jesus better is an activity expected of disciples. Curiously, it was the Pharisees who sought to clarify Jesus’ identity. Nothing is said of similar deliberations among the disciples, though Peter’s statement in verse 29 shows they had been contemplating the same topic.
The inquiry of the Pharisees was meant to test Jesus. Therefore Jesus refused to cooperate. The feeding of the 4,000 and Jesus’ other miracles actually presented the Pharisees with plenty of signs from heaven to evaluate.
Verse 11 states the Pharisees came to inquire of Jesus.
(NOTE: Matthew adds “and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:1), the first time the two rival parties joined forces against Jesus (the Herodians had already joined the Pharisees, 3:6). The fact that these authorities went to such an obscure place and confronted Jesus so quickly shows their intense desire to defeat his movement before it gained further momentum.)
The miracles of Jesus werealways for a purpose 1. They were questioning Jesus so that they could justify their own refusal to accept Him as the Son of God. (“They were not looking for validation of Christ’s deity but for evidence to the contrary.” “They were not asking simply for a miracle. Miracles they had already seen. They were asking for a heavenly manifestation of some sort. They demanded divine proof.”) 2. They had already witnessed a number of signs. (“Mark’s Gospel records more than a dozen instances of public miracles prior to this plea for yet another sign.” Their refusal to believe what they had already seen caused Jesus to “sigh deeply”.) 3. Their request was filled with contradictions. (Earlier they indicated that Jesus’ miracles were from Satan, rather than from God. Now they were asking him to prove his divinity by performing a sign according to their schedule, rather than God’s.) 4. They were trying to delay Jesus from his divine task for that day which was yet to come. (“There was no dialogue. He had better things to do than argue with the enemy. Jesus knew his mission, and he stayed on track.” Jesus said he would perform no more miracles for them and left them to their own evil schemes. Through his miracles, Jesus relieved human need and revealed God. Jesus would not perform a miracle just to satisfy an investigative committee.
“Sign from heaven” They specifically “asked him for a sign from heaven” (Mark 8:11). “Sign” (semeion) in the Synoptic Gospels is never used for a miracle or miraculous event as an end in itself. The Pharisees knew of Jesus’ repeated miracles (at one point they even attributed them to Satan; Matt. 12:24). In fact, a very public feeding miracle immediately preceded this debate (Mark 8:1-9). The Pharisees sought a “sign” in the sense that the Old Testament required authentication of a prophet’s divine authority. As a lawyer cites legal precedents and a scientist references successful experiments, so they were asking to see Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah. “A sign from heaven” can mean an apocalyptic sign, an end times event that occurs in the heavens to prove God is at work. But the phrase more likely refers to a “sign” from God, proof that God sent Jesus with divine authority. This request may seem strange to us, but its Old Testament background is significant and casts much light on this debate.
“Who is like the Lord” A disciple of Jesus could follow a time honored line of questioning as follows: “Who but the Creator can multiply loaves and fish?” Or “Who but the Lord can heal things like blindness or leprosy?” Or “Who but God is powerful enough to command demons?” In fact, the Bible has a number of “who is like the Lord” questions, which shows that such a line of questioning was known to the faithful ones of Israel and answered by God. An example is found in Exodus 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”
Some hope (Mark 8:16-21) After leaving the Pharisees, Jesus warned the disciples to be wary of the Pharisees. Jesus used the word “yeast” or “leaven” to describe the ways of the Pharisees. Often the word “yeast” referred to a corrupting influence. In this case, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees’ tactic of testing Jesus while ignoring all the evidence that pointed to his divine identity. What the Pharisees had done was to misuse a good line of inquiry for followers of Jesus.
The disciples did not understand Jesus’ warning. They associated yeast with bread and thought Jesus was chastising them for not bringing bread or food. In response, Jesus referred to the two miraculous feedings of the crowds (showing that a greater lesson was to be gained by contemplating the two feedings). Jesus’ point was he was fully capable of making bread and furthermore, this capability revealed something about him—something the Pharisees were pursuing in the wrong way. But Jesus was not about to hand over this something and spoil the lesson for the disciples. They would have to work on it themselves and by verse 29, the answer had been found.What we as students need to understand from this episode is not all spiritual learning or faith development comes through being told. The middle stages of growth feature personal interaction. Growth depends on the determination of the individual to make progress. We can come away from this story thinking Jesus’ disciples didn’t get the point, but the core lesson here is not the point about Jesus’ true identity, but how the Jesus’ disciples were to discover his identity.
Notice the disciples mistakes 1. The disciples failed to bring enough bread for their journey. (They failed to recognize the fact that Jesus could provide all the bread they would ever need. Had he not previously proven this through the miracles of feeding the multitudes?) 2. The disciples failed to understand the teaching of Jesus regarding the “yeast”. (He was referring to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and to the spirit of secularism of Herod. “The leaven of Herod was bad politics, while the leaven of the Pharisees was bad theology.” Both wanted an earthly kingdom with them in charge. Jesus was concerned about the disciples because “their hearts were so hardened they did not have the spiritual insight to understand Jesus.” They were showing susceptibility to the false teachings of the Pharisees.) 3. They disciples failed to understand the true nature and powers of Jesus as revealed in the miracles of feeding the multitudes. (They witnessed these miracles first hand but failed to see what Jesus was teaching through these miraculous events. “The application of this passage is clear. The disciples- who ate, walked, and enjoyed life by Jesus’ side- had no real vision of who he was.”)
Mark 8:22-26 What mistakes were made by the people involved in this miracle? 1. The people seemed to desire a public spectacle. (Jesus showed his reluctance to perform this miracle in the village by leading the man outside the city gates. At least they did indicate a degree of faith in the ability of Jesus to heal the man.) 2. For some reason, Jesus performed a two step process to complete this miracle. (It could be that Jesus was reminding the disciples of their failure to understand the first time they saw the miracles previous mentioned. “This two-phase miracle would stand as the only one of its kind in all of Jesus’ ministry.” “On the symbolic front, the disciples needed a second touch from Jesus before they could recognize who and what he was.”) 3. The village people were not ready to receive this miracle. (This happened at other times during the ministry of Jesus when he knew that people were not ready to receive the full revelation of who He was and what he had come to do. Only the man’s family would receive the blessings related to this miracle.)
More hope (Mark 8:27-33) One of the most puzzling miracles of Jesus is told in verses 22-26. A blind man was healed, yet the healing occurred in two stages. The miracle story comes as something of an illustration of the growth process in Jesus’ disciples. They were growing in their faith, but it had to be guided by Jesus, though divine intervention was necessary in several stages of their growth. Progress was being made, but only because God was actively involved with the complexities of their faith development.Nevertheless, God’s assistance, and the disciples’ personal participation, yielded the landmark confession of Peter in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. Strategically, Jesus asked an indirect question in verse 27 to start the conversation. Jesus really was after the disciples’ understanding of him, but he asked about what others were saying first to set the topic in motion.
The answers fielded from the masses show the tremendous insight of the people. Many identified Jesus with John the Baptist, meaning they saw John’s type of ministry in Jesus. This was Herod’s opinion (see Mark 6:14-16) and his assessment was not off base. Like John, Jesus preached repentance. They both operated as prophets and were followed by masses of people. God intended for John’s ministry to lead into Jesus’ ministry, so the association of the two actually showed that God’s purpose had been satisfied. Others identified Jesus with Elijah, a prophet whose ministry was accompanied by miracles. Still others were certain that the prophetic office was at work in the life Jesus. These answers were good so far as they went and showed the people were trying to work out Jesus’ identity—again a demonstration of an attempt at a disciples’ line of inquiry.
Jesus asked his disciples their opinion. Peter unequivocally answered Jesus was the Christ (v. 29). The word “Christ” renders the Hebrew word “messiah” which means “anointed one” and was associated with deliverance. Peter’s ready, short and clear answer shows the conviction and certainty with which he held his understanding of Jesus. It also shows the product of the self-discipline God looks for in his followers.The famous confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry and the beginning of his movement out of Galilee to his passion in Jerusalem. It also marks the literary halfway point in the Gospel of Mark.
The Meaning of the Son of Man8:31,38 Daniel 7 – apocalyptic figure Jesus seems to use it to focus his humanity It involves humiliation (31, no use of Christ by Jesus) It involves exaltation (31, 38, 9:1) These are not mutually exclusive to Jesus It explains God’s will and the atonement
principle of spiritual growth Verses 31-33 demonstrate a principle of spiritual growth. As certain levels of growth are mastered, God reveals himself in more intimate ways. In this case, the confession of Peter indicated a certain level of maturity of faith had been achieved by the disciples. Therefore Jesus revealed to them his approaching crucifixion and resurrection.Notice that verse 32 states Jesus talked plainly about his coming passion. He spoke directly, not cryptically as in verses 17-20. The disciples had earned this direct revelation and Jesus also wanted to be clear on a matter that had no background in the disciples’ development. Peter, the immediate past star pupil, challenged Jesus’ revelation and earned Jesus’ rebuke.
The answer then to Peter’s false step, stated in verses 34-38, becomes the core lesson for all Jesus’ disciples. Verse 34 describes the type of discipleship God desires. Christian discipleship involves two parts: self-denial and following Jesus. This then is the official call to discipleship. Notice that leading up to this point Jesus had called his followers to observe his ways and learn from his teaching. He disclosed his identity through personal discovery. Finally he revealed his coming crucifixion and resurrection. Once all the essential “facts” about Jesus were known by his disciples, Jesus extended the main call to discipleship.We see God’s way of developing the faith of his followers: pressing followers to advance in faith under self-motivation and rewarding their progress with further revelations about himself.
God is seeking modern day followers today. Like the disciples, He wants us to respond and serve AND sacrifice without physical proof. Let’s learn from the Pharisees and the disciples how not to miss the call of God.
Avoiding Mistakes We must learn to avoid the mistakes of the Pharisees, the disciples and the people. 10 APPLICATIONS: 1. Approach unusual religious manifestations with a desire to believe rather than a desire to disprove the validity of the experience. We can still determine the validity of the experience before accepting it as a God-given manifestation, but approach the experience with an openness to discover the truth rather than with a closed mind.
2. Refuse to have your faith development driven by signs. “When we are driven by signs, we always need more.” God has already performed the greatest sign we should ever need through the cross and our conversion. 3. Be careful to discount miraculous events as always being from some source other than God. Never demand a sign from God at any time, especially when you demand it right now! 4. Never expect God to perform a sign for you just to satisfy your curiosity about something. The miracles of God will always be connected to meeting human needs and revealing God to the world.
5. Look for opportunities to trust God to meet your needs even when there seems to be no way that could happen. 6. Participate in regular times of Bible study and worship and remain sensitive to the teachings of the Holy Spirit during these times of spiritual instruction. 7. We need to remember regularly the miracles we have already witnessed and experienced in our lives. We have seen enough to help develop a stronger and stronger faith in the power and work of God in our lives.
8. The greatest miracles we will ever experience will be those that occur during personal times of prayer and worship. 9. We should always remember that Jesus expects us to not only see Him at work but really see through eyes of understanding what He is trying to teach us. 10. We must remain sensitive to those whose hearts have been prepared for our witness. We should only go to those places of evangelistic opportunity that are in keeping with God’s will.
The next time you question your Father’s word and will for your future, remember the ways God has kept his promises and already led you with purpose. Then say with Paul: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Application Faith is not a once-and-for-all event. Faith must be renewed daily in prayer. Faith grows in incremental stages. Faith in action…God still looks at our heart. The way we see Jesus, our concept of Him, will have far-reaching implications to our growth and power.
Do you have Jericho faith? God already said to Joshua, “I have given you the city.” Faith is just agreeing with the word of God. There must be times of exuberant faith. There was no wavering or hesitation in that shout. There are no walls of sin strong enough to resist faith’s shout, when God says our shouting time has come.
The Wonder of Faith (Joshua 6:20) God works wonders when His people believe in Him. The God that we serve is a God of wonders and miracles. There is no wall too high or too wide that withstand the wonder-working power of God’s hands. The walls fell not because of Joshua, or the trumpets, or the loud shout of the people. The walls fell as a result of the people’s faith. By Faith the walls of Jericho fell down. Hebrews 11:30 All of us at times face walls of impossibility. But the same God that brought down the walls of Jericho can bring down any wall that you and I face if we will just believe. "According to your faith be it unto you." Matthew 9:29
God is not moved by the walls you face, but He is moved by the faith that you put in Him when you face those walls. It’s our faith that touches God’s heart. All through life we will face obstacles of some kind standing in our way of progress. These obstacles often stand between us and God’s best for our lives. We cannot ignore it. We must confront it. We must conquer it to possess the promise. Walking God’s way. The only way to conquer the Jericho's in our lives is God’s way and that is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in God’s word, in the blood of cavalry’s cross, the finished work of Jesus.
Develop Your Faith In 2010 Don’t close your mind to the truth about Jesus Focusing on material issues limits openness to spiritual truth Challenge yourself to understand more about Jesus Make an ongoing investment to grow spiritually
Five Closing Thoughts 1. Jesus sees the future better than we can see the present. 2. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 3. He created time and transcends it. 4. When we learn to trust Jesus’ heart, we will see Jesus’ hand and follow him into his “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). 5. We cannot see what the future holds, but we can learn to see the One who holds the future.