The Gathering Church/ Pastor Barry Bruce Gospel of Mark/ naked runner series #11
Understanding God Isaiah 55:8-9, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
Many people are quick to discredit something because they don’t understand it, but that is ignorance. I may not fully understand the scientific reasoning behind a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake or an atom bomb but I certainly believe in them and their destructive power. “You don’t have to understand everything to believe in something.” So how foolish it is to say “I don’t believe in God” because I don’t understand him and his ways. God tells us in his word that his thoughts are far beyond ours (even if you are a scientist).
As human beings, we are created – we don’t have our origins within ourselves. We are finite, whereas he is infinite. We are in time; he exists outside of it. In contrast, I can’t even prevent myself from doing the very things I know in my heart I don’t want to do (Romans 7:15). To say that humans and God are different is the ultimate understatement. No wonder we have a hard time understanding Him. Thankfully, he has overcome our limitations by revealing himself to us in his word and in the person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14); nonetheless, sometimes even Jesus can be hard to understand without an explanation. In today’s study we will look at a several stories where Jesus made comments that were difficult to understand both then and now.
“Dogs” and “Sheep” Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28
At this point in his ministry Jesus was being sought after by crowds constantly. The more he healed the more people flocked to him. It is important to note here that Jesus’ primary purpose for coming to earth was not to feed the hungry, heal the infirmed or cast out demons. We know that Jesus didn’t feed and heal everybody. In his own home town “he did no mighty work there” (Mark 6:5-6). He also told those he healed not to tell anyone, and he looked to get away from the crowds and their endless requests often. We must remember, the main reason Jesus came (in his own words) was to “preach” (Mark 1:37-38) “for that is why he came out”. Jesus’ miracles illustrated the spiritual healing he truly came to give. This is also the main thing that Jesus commands Christians to do today (Matthew 28:19-20). Without the gospel people will die in their sins rather healed, delivered and fed or not! With this thought in mind let us consider Jesus’ rough response to the Syro-phoenician woman (Canaanite women), who begged Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. Reading Matthew’s gospel adds to the drama. The woman was actually following after Jesus all day and repeating her request while Jesus said nothing! To make matters worse, Jesus’ disciples urged Him to ‘send her away, for she cries after us” (Matthew 15:23).
The disciples, acted prejudicially towards the Canaanite/ Gentile woman. She was an unbeliever and worshiped false gods. Likely the demon her daughter was possessed with came into her as a result of her families spiritual practices. Furthermore, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who came for the “lost sheep of Israel”. He was Israel’s promised “Bread of life” (John 6:32-33). A promise the Gentiles mocked! When Jesus referred to her as a “dog”(unholy) it was not his title for the woman but the title the Jews used in reference to her people and their practices. In one phrase Jesus laid out the irony of the woman’s request. It was as if he said: “are you really coming to the table of the Jews for help?” Jesus was trying her faith and the “genuineness of [her] faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, [was] found to [give] praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:7) She humbly accepted the harsh truth of the implications of the word and begged for mercy. In her response Jesus saw her faith in him and healed her daughter. In the same way, we must accept the harsh truth and judgment of our sin and plead to God for mercy. We Gentiles are “dirty dogs” without the Christ just as the Jews are stupid “lost sheep” without him. The bottom line is that we are all a bunch of animals without the Shepherd of our souls. Stop being offended and repent and be saved!
“Signs!” Mark 7:31-8:21, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Jesus had been traveling from town to town doing many miracles. In these passages he heals a deaf-mute man and later feeds 4,000(men) in the same way he fed the 5,000 (men) earlier (Mark 6:30-44). Word about him had spread everywhere and the testimonials abounded, yet still the hard-hearted Pharisees asked Jesus for yet another “sign from heaven.” Jesus refused them and did no miracles! He got into the boat and went to the other side! On the way to the other side, Jesus reflected on the sin of the Pharisees and Herod (willful unbelief). The disciples on the other hand were concerned with the fact that they forgot to bring enough bread to eat…again. The disciples were so caught up in their superficial dilemma that they failed to see the spiritual lesson that Jesus tried to teach them: “Watch out for the yeast (sin) of the Pharisees and Herod”. How often do we fail to see what Jesus wants to teach us because we are busy majoring on the minors?
The disciples were concerned about food which Jesus had clearly shown that he could amply supply and thereby clearly demonstrated that they were also caught up in willful disbelief. The Jews demanded signs and Greeks looked for wisdom but Jesus was the power and wisdom of God provided for those who would believe. We too must believe to be saved. Asking for continual signs or always looking for reasonable explanations will keep one from saving faith. We must also “beware”.
Understand and Believe! Romans 1: 16-22, 10:8-13
Do we still not understand and believe? We have no excuse before God. He has made himself clear. We must get over ourselves, admit we are animals without the Savior, beg for mercy and repent! We must also stop asking God for more signs. The gospel road has been well marked and documented by the word and testimony of believers. “The word is near you.” Beware of the expanding sin (Yeast) of disbelief. Jesus is Lord. Declare it and be saved!