Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Let's pray. Father, we have decided that breaking up our week with its work, responsibilities, its hardships, its joys, to break it up with a gathering together where we meet with one another, sing to you, and in fellowship together share the mutual truths of the written revelation, the Word of God through the author Mark.
Father, we pray that as we do that, that your Holy Spirit who is the ultimate teacher, and the One who brings unity in body of Christ would not only instruct us, but that he would not only inspire us, encourage us, but motivate us to be the kinds of people that would be classified as disciples, apostles, ones who follow, learn, and are sent out.
Because we're reading the life of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Mark, and we're seeing how enemies dealt with him, the establishment handled him, but also how those who were with him and followed him, how they responded, how they learned, how they became great leaders eventually. And so we can relate to these guys, and, Father, I pray that though we're separated by a couple of thousand years, that the truth would bring us ever closer, not only to them, but to the Christ whom we serve. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Erma Bombeck was quite an author; very clever with a pen. She once wrote that she was in church one Sunday morning, and sitting in front of her was a little child, a little girl who turned around and just started smiling, grinning. She was in the pew turned backward looking at her and everybody else and just started grinning, made no noise, just smiling.
Her mother noticed that and gave her a swat and said, "Stop that grinning—you're in church!" [laughter] And when the girl straightened up, she said, "That's better!" Erma Bombeck went away from church that Sunday morning and she said, she wrote, after the experience that: "Some people come to church looking like they've just read the will of their dead aunt who gave everything to her pet hamster." [laughter] That's how they live their lives, like: "I can't believe what just happened. What a bummer! I'm in church, I gotta look miserable."
Well, I share that story because there was a group of religious legalists who were known as the Pharisees whose religion was all in negatives: "What I don't do. It was a solemn affair. It was a drab affair." And we even told you in past studies in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that in church history there was a time when the worse you looked, the holier people thought you were. If you wore black clothes and you never smiled: "Oh, you must be a religious person."
And I remember the reaction of my friends when I told them I'm now a Christian, and it was just like pity for me: "I'm so sorry. What happened to you? What trauma in your life brought you to this point?" And so Jesus has this discussion, we read last week, with these leaders in the gospel of Mark. And they were a little bit miffed that the disciples of Jesus didn't quite fast or observe days of fasting like they did.
And Jesus' response was classic. "Why should they?" he said, "This is time for them to rejoice. I'm the bridegroom in the midst of the bride. Just like a bride and a groom celebrate, they're not in mourning, they're experiencing joy. As long as the bridegroom is with the bride, these are the days of rejoicing for my followers. The time will come when they'll be able to fast and mourn." That would be speaking of his crucifixion, his death. "There will be plenty of sorrowful days ahead, but now is a time for them to not only learn, but to rejoice." So we covered that last time; now Jesus goes deeper to a deeper truth, the truth behind the truth by use of an analogy in verse 21.
"No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse." This analogy, this illustration, this parable would be known to all. It would be easily understood that you wash your clothing—it shrinks. If you have a tear in it, you don't put something unshrunk, something brand-new over the tear, because it's going to shrink causing the place where you have made the stitches, the sewing area, to also pull and you'll make the tear bigger than the original tear itself. So you would use preshrunk cloth.
"No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment." What's he getting at? He's getting at the truth behind the whole argument of fasting and the previous discussion; and that is that the new fabric of faith in Jesus Christ can't be interwoven with the tired threads of the old religious system.
He gives another analogy, "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins." In those days wine was stored in animal skins. In fact, when they would kill a goat and skin a goat, they would try to pull off the skin almost in one whole piece, and tan the hide slightly sewing it up, and they would place the wine inside of that.
Because of the strength and the elasticity of a new skin, it would be able to handle the fermentation process that would take place within it. It's going to move, it's going to expand, it's going to stretch. And so the elasticity of the skin was needed to handle the fermentation process of the wine.
However, after a while, after you stretch that skin a bit, it becomes brittle. So you don't—after the old wine has fermented and stretched the skin, you don't put new wine back into that old bottle, that old wineskin, because now it's lost its ability to stretch. It loses elasticity. It becomes unyielding. It becomes brittle, inflexible.
And so what Jesus is talking about in this truth behind the truth of the conversation their having about fasting is the system of Judaism: "I didn't come to polish up the old system." Even though Jesus did go to the synagogue, even though Jesus honored the Torah, honored the Sabbath day according to the law of Moses, he didn't come to do anything except to fulfill the law.
And part of the law said that a new covenant is coming that God would make with the house of Israel. The old is passing away; he's going to do a whole new thing. You don't pour the new wine of the life of Christ into an old system; it'll break, it's too brittle, it's too hard, and it's too set in its ways.
Now, I find that analogy not only to be applied like this institutionally, but also personally. You see, when, when Jesus comes inside of you, and there is the new life of Christ that you're experiencing as a believer, your life is expanded. The Lord wants to stretch you beyond your otherwise futile limitations, but you can become hardened.
You can also become brittle, just like any church or any religious system. In this case, ancient Judaism, have become too brittle. People individually refuse to expand: "Well, we've never done it that way before." And they become hardened when the Lord my want to do some new revolutionary thing in their lives.
"Now it happened," verse 23, "that he went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him,"—evidently they must have, like, secretly followed him and ducked down below the grainfields. And then as their walking and talking on the Sabbath, and plucking the grain—Pop! Up pop the Pharisees: "I saw that!"
"And said to him, 'Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?' " Now we have noted before that the Sabbath was a huge deal to them, and so some people, even to some Christians today it's a huge deal. There were two things that really marked, that denoted Judaism, that set them apart: one was circumcision, and the other was the Sabbath. Those were outward observances that were to be kept from generation to generation.
So they were very guarded about how they kept the Sabbath. Now, here's what you need to know: according to the law, according to God's Book, Deuteronomy chapter 23 verses 25 and following, it said it's okay for a person to walk out in the grainfields and pluck heads of grain, as long as they don't bring a sickle into the field and start cutting down the heads of the grain, because that's, that's work. You don't do that on the Sabbath day. You can pluck it for yourself and satisfy your own personal need, but you can't bring a sickle in, because that denotes you're taking home more for later; you're not just eating what you need at the moment.
Also in the same passage you could walk into a vineyard and you could take grapes as long as you don't bring a basket with you to carry some home with you. But this was a Sabbath day, and this was what the problem was all about. Any other day they would not have engendered this kind of a complaint, but it was the Sabbath day, and at that time the Sabbath law was very, very complicated and very detailed.
Not God's law, not in the Bible itself, not in the first five books of Moses, not in the Torah—but as Judaism went on they picked up certain traditions and they wrote certain rulings. And in their law the Mishnah was books that were written about the law. In the Mishnah there are no less than twelve tractates with thirty-nine different prohibitions, thirty-nine different things you can't do on the Sabbath day.
Among those things which couldn't be done on the Sabbath day, there were four in particular that deal with this situation. Number one, you could not reap on the Sabbath day. Number two, you could not thresh on the Sabbath day. Number three, you could not winnow on the Sabbath day. And number four, you couldn't prepare a meal.
In the thinking of the Pharisee the disciples had just technically broken all four. In plucking with their hands the ears of grain, they were reaping; in rubbing the grain with their hands like this, they were threshing; in going [blows], so that the chaff would go away from the wheat, they were winnowing. And all of those three things together constituted they were preparing a meal, because then they ate it afterwards.
See, this is how insane keeping—it was harder to keep the Sabbath, I mean, you needed a day after the Sabbath just to rest from keeping the Sabbath. It was work keeping a day of rest. So they had become so bogged down with this thing, "Jesus said to them," verse 25, " 'Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those that were with him?' "
By the way, did you know that nine times in the New Testament it is recorded that Jesus said to his enemies, "Have you never read . . . ? Didn't you read this? Don't you read that?" And the fact that it's mentioned that many times shows me how important Jesus thought it was for leaders to know what the Bible actually says, to know the Word of God. "Uh, don't you religious leaders ever read the Bible? Be great if you did."
" 'Have you never read what David did?' " Verse 26, " 'How he went into the house of God,' " that's when the tabernacle was erected, " 'in the days of Abiathar, the high priest, and ate the showbread which is not lawful to eat except for the priest, and also gave some to those who were with him?' And he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.' "
I think I told you before when we we're going (several months ago or a year ago) through the gospel of Matthew how this verse of Scripture in particular gave me great comfort, because I remember the days when I was raised a Catholic boy and went to Catholic school. And it was the month of May where we were having mass every day in the school auditorium, and one day I forget my lunch. Either I forgot to bring it, or my mom forgot to pack it, but I'd carry a little lunch box. I didn't bring it with me that day, and I was hungry, and nobody would share.
So I remember sneaking into the auditorium where mass was said and finding a plastic bag of the hosts, which would be like equivalent of the showbread, though I didn't know that at the time. And, you know, having enough guilt as a young Catholic boy was a dilemma for me because I thought, "I'm so hungry, but this is, like, the hosts. You know, this is what people take for communion." But again I thought, "But it hasn't been consecrated yet. So technically it's just bread, and certainly God would be okay with me just satisfying my need." So I took a handful, like chips, and just started eating on it, like half a bag of hosts.
And I remember feeling for days, for weeks, for months, just so guilty. I mean, and how do you go to confession and like say that? [laughter] You know, you think that the FBI is going to come. You know, it's like: "You did what?" [click, click] But I went on and I lived my life. And I remember reading this right after I'd become a believer in Christ, around age eighteen.
And I was reading through the New Testament and I found this and I went, "Wow! This is awesome! This is Jesus saying, 'Yeah, David had to eat showbread which is only lawful for the priests to eat, but he did it to satisfy his need.' " So anyway, I read this passage and I just closed the Bible, "Thank you, Lord!" I felt so relieved after years of—well, it was meaningful to me. [laughter]
Here's the story in the Old Testament in the book of First Samuel, um yeah First Samuel chapter 21, David is running from King Saul. King Saul has his eye on him. David has been anointed as the next king. Samuel has already said, "The kingdom has departed from you, Saul, and gone to another." "A man after my own heart," the Lord said through that prophet.
But when David was running from Saul, he went to a little village just a couple miles north of Jerusalem, the village of Nob. And he was there with a priest by the name of Ahimelech. And Ahimelech saw David and he got worried, like: "What are you doing here?" And David said, "Well, I'm on a special assignment from King Saul. He sent me here." "Well, what kind of assignment?" "Well, I can't tell you, it's secret, and nobody knows about it. But I got my men with me and we have a need, and we're really hungry, and could you give us some bread?"
And the priest said, "Well, there is no bread except the holy bread, the showbread, which is only lawful for the priest to eat." David said, "Well, technically it hasn't been consecrated yet, so it's really not all that holy yet. So technically we can eat it." And the priest said, "Well, you're right about that David, but you have to at least be sure that you have gone through certain things; like you've kept yourselves from women." And he said, "We have done that for three days. We've been on march for three days." So the priest gave him the food, the bread.
Now, David was not a priest. None of his men were in the priesthood. He simply had a physical need that at that point superseded any of the ritual, any of the ceremonial law; that was the point that Jesus was making.
But I think there's another point to be made. David was in exile, and it wasn't his fault that he was in exile. David was the next king of Israel, anointed by the prophet as the next king of Israel, but he was not recognized by the nation because of its wicked leader Saul as the next king. Had he been recognized as God's choice, he wouldn't have needed to have been in exile and eaten the showbread. You get the parallel?
Jesus was the authentic king of Israel and one day the King of kings and Lord of lords. But the nation didn't also recognize the Son of David, Jesus Christ, who was in effect being exiled by the leadership. So the parallel is being drawn between David and Jesus; they didn't acknowledge him. Jesus said, and notice it, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man [Jesus] is the Lord of the Sabbath."
Jesus Christ has more authority than the authority of the Sabbath law over the Jewish people. That's quite a statement. What he is saying is that compassion must come first: compassion before custom, relief before ritual. How many of your traditions have you found it difficult to overturn after you became a Christian?
I can only speak for myself. When I became a believer, there was a process of undoing all the things that I had learned simply by tradition. And I find that traditions are some of the most difficult things for people to break. They believe in it because: "I was raised that way." Okay, fair enough. But were you raised according to Scripture? Is this a scriptural directive, and scriptural principle, or is it simply something that you are tethered to by your tradition? So Jesus' authority always supersedes tradition.
As people, and I will even say as believers, even solid Christian believers, we have a tendency to strain at gnats and swallow camels, to put it in Jesus' vernacular. We make it about the outward, not the inward.
There was a time in church history, it still may be prevalent now, where to get into certain churches you had to sign a promise, a pledge—that you wouldn't drink alcohol, you wouldn't smoke cigarettes, you wouldn't go to movies, you wouldn't dance. There was a list of things, you had to sign and promise that. It was all outward.
Yes, there are certain prohibitions that the Bible is clear about, but what the Bible is most clear about is that you come to Jesus just like you are, warts and all, sin and all, and he changes you from the inside first, changes the heart first. He forgives you of your sin first. Not like: "Well, if you want to join and be one of my disciples, you gotta sign this little card." No, "Just come. Matthew the tax collector, just come, follow me. Peter, John, follow me, I'll make you become fishers of men."
So Jesus fishes, and he always cleans his fish after he catches them. But he doesn't make the fish come to him cleaned up. You come just as you are, and he works and changes the heart.
And sometimes people will write me notes and say, "You need to make announcement from the pulpit and tell young ladies how they ought to dress in church because they dress very risqué." And fair enough, but that's not my job to give a dress code; my job is to give out the gospel. Let that person be challenged and changed from the heart, from the inside, and then you will start seeing changes on the outside. [applause] You will chase the rabbit if you try to make it all about the outward, so Jesus didn't.
Mark, chapter 3, "He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand." The word is xéros for withered, xéros. We get the word, you'll recognize it, xeriscaping, from this word in Greek. It means dry. It's spoken in this instance of a limb, an appendage on a human body that appeared to be without its natural bodily fluids; so it appeared withered, smaller than rest, dried out.
"And so they watched him closely, whether would heal him on the Sabbath, so they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Step forward.' And he said to them, 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. And when he looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other."
Now, stop here for a moment. It would appear, I would say to the uninitiated or the untrained eye, to be a discrepancy here between what Matthew writes and what Mark writes. And I want to bring this up because if you don't bring these things up, then some nut case is going to try to bring it up in a college class, or in a conversation you have with somebody at the mall: "You know, the Bible is full of errors and discrepancies," and they might bring this up.
And what I mean by that is if you look at the gospel of Matthew, it says that "they"—that is, the Pharisees said to him—Jesus, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to heal or to kill?" Here it says that "[Jesus] said to them," asked the question, " 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to heal or to kill?' " So people like to go, "Aha! See, we have a, we have a discrepancy in the Bible." Do you really? Why can't both be true?
Perfectly natural for both to be true, and I believe both are true. We notice the chapter begins by saying that "[Jesus] entered the synagogue again, and a man was there with a withered hand." Verse 2, they watched closely, "They watched him closely." They saw the man with the withered hand. Could it be, in fact, that they planted the man who had this condition in the synagogue? They knew that Jesus frequented the synagogue, they knew he was Jewish, they knew he kept the Sabbath, he was always in the synagogue on Sabbath, they knew that, and they knew that Jesus was restless around human suffering. He just couldn't ignore it; they knew that.
So putting Matthew and Mark together, they said to him first, "Hey," like looking at this guy, "is it lawful on the Sabbath to kill or to heal, to save life or to kill it?" And then Jesus would have repeated the question to them, "Is it lawful on Sabbath to do good or to do evil?" He would repeat the question like, "Well, is it?"
"And then he said to them or to the man, 'Come here, stretch out your hand.' "So I don't see a discrepancy at all. They asked the question, Jesus repeated the question to bring focus to it, "Is it lawful? Come here, stretch out your hand."
Now here's what is happening: According to the Jews, on the Sabbath day you couldn't do—what? Work, you couldn't do work. What if a man is sick? What if a man broke an arm? What do you with a guy who is in a serious medical condition on the Sabbath? Well, according to their law, you could only do enough to save the person's life. You couldn't set a limb in a cast, but if he was going to die you could prevent him from dying. You couldn't put a poultice on a wound on the Sabbath day.
So there was this big debate: what can you get away with or not do? They knew that Jesus had a propensity to heal people, so they planted a guy in there: "Hey, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus said, "Well, is it?"
Now in Matthew, Jesus says more, "Which of you, if you had an ox that fell into the ditch on the Sabbath wouldn't help it out?" You help out a stupid animal because you own it and it's your livelihood, it will bring you a profit, but you won't help out a human being made in the image of God?"
And so, "He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand,' " Now can you picture it? He has a withered hand, a xéros hand. I don't know if it looked something like this, I'm just guessing. It was withered, it was hardened. He had a hardened hand; they had hardened hearts which was far worse. He has a hand, he hadn't been able to move the hand because of its physical condition.
Then Jesus says something really weird, "Stretch out your hand." What do you think the Pharisees thought when he said that? They thought—or anybody else in the synagogue? "How cruel is that? To make fun of a guy—don't you think that if he could have stretched out his hand he would have done it long ago, and here you are saying, 'Stretch out your hand.' " It's like telling somebody in a wheelchair, "Let's go for a jog." That's what it would sound like to their ears. "He's making fun of the poor fellow."
But he wasn't, Jesus gave an impossible command, and whenever he gives a command, he gives the power to fulfill the command. Jesus' commandments are always Jesus' enablements.
Remember when Jesus said to Peter, "Peter, you want to walk on the water? Come on, dude. Come on out. Do it." Peter did it. Now, we all know it's impossible for water to displace the natural erect weight of a human being, but it worked; with the command came an enablement. "Stretch out your hand," he did it. He was able to do it because there was power in his command, power in his word.
"And he stretched it out, and the hand was restored as whole as the other." Man, what a great church service. "Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him." Now, all of the gospels describe this collision course that Jesus is on with the religious elite, these Pharisees. They want to kill him.
And they don't want to kill him just because he heals people on the Sabbath day, they want kill him because of the all the things so far he has claimed to be—Lord of the Sabbath, "The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Last week we saw that he claimed to forgive sins. He said to the paralytic who was let down into Peter's house from those four corners by his friends, "Son, you're sins are forgiven, be of good cheer." He claimed to forgive sins.
He called that despicable tax collector named Matthew to follow him, and Jesus even went over and hung out at his house for dinner with the riffraff of the town. This bothered them. They saw Jesus as a dangerous person, not as a teacher come from God, but a real threat to Judaism. "We got to kill him, gotta get rid of him, bad news."
Verse 7, "But Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things he was doing, came to him."
Galilee was densely populated, more so than it is today in that area. And so he would have had just a crowd of locals, most scholars believe thousands of people thick. Thousands of people around just locally, as well as, no doubt, hundreds of visitors from Jerusalem a hundred miles away; Idumea, a hundred and seventy-five miles away; from Tyre, eighty-five miles away.
People made long treks, long journeys because they heard: "This is different. This is new. Who is this man?" So they came intent to get something from him—all of those people, all of those crowds. Lots of people with lots of needs equals lots of pressure. So what does Jesus do? Well, it's interesting that from time to time Jesus did what we are seeing here, he withdrew himself. He got away from the crowd to get recharged in prayer with his Father.
Verse 9, "He told his disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for him because of the multitude, lest they should crush him." So I want you to picture the scene. Most of the towns dotted the shoreline of the Lake of Galilee which is thirteen miles long by about seven miles wide. And so Jesus makes it from wherever he was at toward the lake.
Now having the lake on one side was good because there weren't crowds of people on them. But there were crowds of people from him on all the other sides, so keep a boat ready just in case. It would be like saying, "Keep, keep a car nearby with the engine running," in case he needed to get out, lest he would be crushed. It's matter of pragmatics; it's practical.
"For he healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about him to touch him. Yet the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, fell down before him and cried out, saying, 'You are the Son of God.' " So Jesus has two sources of pressure: one is natural, one is supernatural. The natural—the crowds of people. They have needs. They want him. They want to hear from him. They want him to do something. People naturally gravitated toward him.
But he had pressure from the supernatural. There's an increase of demonic activity when we get to the New Testament. We read the Old Testament, we don't see much of it. We come to the New Testament, suddenly we find demon-possessed, demon-oppressed people everywhere, which makes perfect sense. Jesus Christ is the long-awaited Messiah.
The promise was made back in Genesis, chapter 3, that the seed of the woman will eventually be born who will crush the head, the kingdom, the dominion of Satan, and so there was reaction in the demonic world. And we comb through the Gospels and we find people who were severely demonized, physically contorted, spiritually isolated, emotionally torn apart.
We don't see, perhaps, as much demon possession today as we read about in the gospels. I say "we don't see it, perhaps," because it doesn't mean it's not around us, but it could be the way we relegate it or deal with it, or avoid it, or diagnose it. I know that if you go to other countries that are much simpler than we are, you do see many instances of demon possession. I have encountered legitimate, what I believe to be legitimate cases of demon possession.
It's interesting, I was reading what a commentator Ray Stedman wrote (he was a pastor in California), that he met a girl who had been possessed with a demon. And he knew her and in a conversation with her she was introduced to the demon world by Ouija boards, by asking questions and getting information, and the movement of the—I forget what it's called again, the little thing on the board. And she said that from that point on she started hearing voices, demonic voices in her head.
And that she couldn't go to sleep at night until these voices were commanding her to write down something on paper. And every night it was like blasphemies, filthy language, the worse kind of words, sometimes several pages of these obscenities. Until finally the voices stopped and she was able to go to sleep; that was her nightly routine until she was delivered from demons.
So these men and women in the New Testament they recognize: "Here is our conqueror, the one who is going to conquer us." And so there was that outburst of demonic activity.
"He went," verse 13, "up on the mountain and called to him those he himself wanted." I find it interesting that Jesus now wants certain people who are following him to be selected as leaders, as apostles. And he has the right to want and to choose whom he wants, and he makes the choice. "He appointed twelve, that they might be with him," number one, "and that he might send them out to preach."
So before he sends them out to preach as apostles, they are to be with him as disciples. Disciple means learner. You're going to learn from him. You're going to watch him. You're going to hear what he has to say. But then eventually, and it was only after three years—isn't that fascinating? Just three years, but what a graduate school that would be, to hang around with Jesus Christ for three years.
And then after three years Jesus said, "Okay, it's done. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone, to everybody you find." And they became apostles, he sent them out to preach, "and to have power to heal sickness and to cast out demons."
Now we're going to read this list and just make a couple of notes. The list of "the twelve" as they are called, appears four places in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, those are the three synoptic Gospels; not in the Gospel of John, but they appear again in the book of Acts. When they appear there are some similarities: there always seems to be three groups of four men, Peter is always mentioned first, Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last because he betrayed Jesus, and James always appears before John, they were brothers—those are the three things you notice in all of the lists.
So verse 16, "Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter." Now we know Peter to be impetuous. He didn't wait for things to happen; he liked to make things happen. He didn't have a lot of patience at first. Peter was the guy who gets in trouble after he says, "I know who you are, you're the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And then Jesus says, "Oh, by the way, I'm going to Jerusalem. And the plan is I'm going to be killed, and then I'm going to rise from the dead." And then Peter steps in and goes, "Not gonna happen. Far be that from you, Lord, we're not going to let that happen. Like, I'm your God bodyguard. I am Peter. I'm going to protect God." It's just a dumb thought. So Jesus puts Peter in his place, "Get behind me, Satan!" "Whoa! Okay."
Peter was the guy in the garden who took out the sword and went after Malchus the servant of the high priest and cut his ear off. And Jesus had to say, "Put your sword away, Peter. If you live by the sword, you'll die by the sword." Peter eventually denies his Lord, but eventually is restored by his Lord, and went on to be a great leader.
So I just—I smile every time I read this section of the people he picked, and that Peter is first. It just gives he encouragement. Peter's first on the list in all four lists. Of all the people he wanted and picked from, Peter's first on the list. It gives me great encouragement because it shows me kind of patience the Lord has and insight he has into what he's going to do with that person. And Peter was so broken after they denied the Lord, and eventually he became a great witness, and he wrote a couple books, First and Second Peter.
Verse 17, "James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges," that's an Aramaic term, "that is, "Sons of Thunder." So they're sons of Zebedee, Jesus renames them "Sons of Thunder," Thunder Boys. Now we're not told exactly why, but it's hinted at that because they were so outspoken. And on one hand when the Samaritan village they were passing through didn't want to receive Jesus as the Messiah because he was Jewish and not Samaritan, these two boys said, "Would you like us to call fire down from heaven and consume them?"
So these are followers, these are leaders of Jesus: "Lord, is it your will that we nuke them in Jesus' name?" These were the kind of guys that would wear black leather robes if they could and spiked bracelets. Or they look like I did when I first came out here tonight. Sons of Thunder he named them, "Boys, I'm not going to call you sons of Zebedee, but Sons of Thunder."
There was another occasion when they came to him, these two boys, these two brothers came to Jesus and said, "We have found people who are casting out demons in your name, and they're not following us, and so we told them to stop." Jesus said, "Don't tell them to stop. If they're not against us, they're on our side." Outspoken, Sons of Thunder.
John the oldest of the two brothers will be designated with a special designation as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Of course, he's the one that wrote that about himself. [laughter] But he will go on to write five books: the gospel of John, First John, Second John, Third John, and the book of Revelation. James will become the first martyr of the church, Acts, chapter 12; Herod killed him with a sword and was going to kill Peter.
Verse 18, Andrew is mentioned, that Peter's brother who was once a disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew was the one who brought his brother Peter to Jesus. He evangelized his own brother.
Then Philip is listed. Now, Philip was one of the disciples that was just—I picture him as an observant disciple, but slow. Slow to get it. Slow to comprehend truth. So when Jesus said—when the crowd came around him and Jesus said, "Hey, bring those few loaves and fish to me that that kid has. Bring that lunch to me." It was this guy Philip who said, "Uh, two hundred denari worth isn't enough to buy lunch for everybody."
He starts calculating, you know: "How many—Okay I figured out like two-hundred-days' wage for a normal labor wouldn't pay for this." He had a calculator for a brain. He didn't understand—forget the calculation, watch what Jesus can do.
Then there's Bartholomew, also called Nathanael in the Gospels. He was the first to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. They came to him and said, "We have found Jesus of Nazareth." He said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" So he doubted at first.
Matthew, he's Levi the tax collector, we saw last time.
Thomas the pessimist. He'd be like the Eeyore donkey of the bunch, but very loyal. I don't want to ditz Thomas too much, because we refer to him as "doubting Thomas." I like to think of Thomas as "loyal Thomas." Remember in John, chapter 11, when Jesus' friend Lazarus died and a note came to him by his sisters Mary and Martha? "The one whom you love is sick."
And Jesus said, "Let's go up to Jerusalem. Let's go up to Judea." And disciples said, "Lord, they wanted to kill you last time." Thomas said, "Let's go with him that we may die with him." Now however dour that sounds and fatalistic that may sound, that's a loyal statement. "If he's going to die, let's go with him and we'll die with him." Loyal to the end.
Then, "James the son of Alphaeus," also known as "James the less," not because he was less of a man, less of a person, or less important, simply because he was younger than James the son Zebedee who was older.
Thaddaeus is next on the list. Matthew calls him Labbaeus. Luke calls him Judas the son of James. Don't know a lot about him.
Simon the Canaanite, we know about this guy. Luke calls him Simon the zealot. Zealots were a religious political group sworn to assassinate enemies of Judaism, like Romans and tax collectors. Isn't it interesting that Jesus put on the same team a zealot and a tax collector? That's the body of Christ.
"And Judas Iscariot." People ask, "What does Iscariot mean?" Now, listen to the word—ish-Kerioth. Ish means man in Hebrew; Kerioth was a little village a few miles away from Jerusalem. That's where he was from, Judas who was from Kerioth the Judean town.
"And they went into a house," the verse says, or better yet, they went home back to Capernaum. "Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when his own people heard about this, they went out the lay hold of him, for they said, 'He's out of his mind.' "
Now that phrase, "his own people," could refer, and sometimes does, to one's friends, one's associates, or one's family. It would seem that it refers to his own family. They were trying to rescue Jesus, probably his stepbrothers, from the delusions that Jesus had, the claims that he was making that he was the Son of God, the Son of Man, able to forgive sins. They misunderstood him, which would be very humiliating. You have the enemies of state against you, you have your own family against you, and it's tough to get against that kind of press, to fight against it.
So, "His own people heard about this, they went to lay hold of him, for they said, 'He's out of his mind,' " he's nuts. "And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He has Beelzebub,' and," they said, " 'by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.' "
Beelzebub, Beelzebub is a word that comes to us from the Old Testament book of Second Kings, chapter 1. He was the Canaan god who was the god over the Philistine town of Ekron. Here's the story: The king of Samaria, the king of Israel who lived in Samaria fell down from the upper lattice in his upstairs room and he got severely hurt. So he sent his men down to Ekron to "inquire," he said, "of Beelzebub, the god of Ekron," to see if he's going to live, if he's going to make it through this horrible injury.
He was met by the prophet Elijah who asked this question: "Is there no God in Israel that you have to inquire of the false god Beelzebub, the god of Ekron?" Now, the term Beelzebub eventually—because the original word is Baal-Zebub. Baal was an Ugaritic term that simply was the generic term for god or deity of some kind—Ba'al, Baal. But it eventually became known, Beelzebub, as sort of this derogatory term to refer to the devil, the powers of darkness, Satan.
So his enemies said, "He has Beelzebub," a code name for the devil, "and, 'By the ruler of demons he casts out demons.' So he called them to himself." I like this. Jesus heard his enemies say that and he said, "Come here." You know, like, kind of chews them out. "Come here. Come over here, I want to talk about to you about this."
"And he said to them in parables," or an analogy, " 'How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. If Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but he has an end.' " Notice the clear, logical thinking of Jesus Christ laying it out for them. Their accusation, Jesus said, is absurd.
If Satan is casting out Satan's demons, what's happening to his kingdom? It's deteriorating. If Jesus was in league with the devil and he's out casting out the devil's demons, he's fighting against himself. A civil war weakens any nation.
It's absurd to think this way, and so he says, "No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house." The strong man is Satan. The house is the sphere or area in which he holds sway. Jesus, he is saying, is stronger than the strong man. He's saying in other words, "One must be stronger than Satan to enter his domain, bind him, and set free those who are bound by him."
Now, I think it's fair to say that the binding of Satan came in stages, and is still happening in stages. It was announced that the kingdom of God was at hand when Jesus same on the scene. Jesus' ministry introduced this announcement as One who has come on the scene to bind Satan during Jesus' public ministry.
That binding was guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That binding will be experienced for a thousand years when the Bible says he is bound and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years while the millennium happens on the earth, Revelation, chapter 20. And then the final phase of that binding will be when he is eternally tossed into the lake of fire, bound by that angel with a strong chain.
So that binding comes in stages, and you have to know that because you would say, "If Satan is like totally bound, sure seems like he has a long chain, because we're still feeling the effects now." And that's true, we are. Satan fell from heaven. And when Satan fell from God's presence as a holy angel, Lucifer, light bearer, became the devil. He was kicked out of heaven as a resident, but he still has access as a visitor, even to the realm of heaven itself where God dwells.
Job, chapter 1, "The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was among them." And he had to give an account for himself. Revelation, chapter 12, Satan is called "the accuser of"—what? "The brethren who accuses them before God day and night." So he still has access as a visitor, though not as a resident. But there is coming a day when he will be absolutely and totally bound. The binding was announced, and then guaranteed by the death and resurrection, will take effect during the millennium, and it will be eternal during the eternal state after the millennial kingdom.
Well, three minutes to finish up. I think we can do it. "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men." No, sorry, I'll slow down. " 'Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation'—because they said, 'He has an unclean spirit.' "
Now, there are some who believe this sin cannot be committed anymore because Jesus was referring in context only to his public ministry. And since Jesus doesn't have a public ministry anymore, he's not bodily here performing miracles, that no one could ever commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I don't think, I don't think that's true.
Understand what's happening: The Pharisees have seen the unmistakable power of God in the life of Jesus, but they are quick to relegate the power of Christ to the work of the devil: "Oh, he does those miracles by the devil." It doesn't have much to do with the words they say as much as the attitude of their heart, which is manifest by their words. The fact that they could relegate an obvious miracle of God to the work of the devil shows where their heart is at; that it is so hardened that they could now ascribe something that is of God to the devil.
Isaiah, chapter 5, "Woe unto those who call evil good, and good evil; and put darkness for light, and light for darkness; and bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" They turned everything completely around.
Now, what is the role of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, and righteousness, and judgment: of sin, because they don't believe in me." So the role of the Spirit of God is to convince people—you need Jesus Christ. So when a person says no to Jesus, no to Jesus, no to Jesus, he is resisting, and if he dies resisting, he dies blaspheming the work that the Holy Spirit is trying to do in bringing that person to Jesus Christ.
So I believe the deliberate, perpetual, lifelong shunning and rejecting of Christ is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. And the fact that the Pharisees would say that what Jesus did miraculously was the work of the devil, shows that their hearts were there, or dangerously close to that.
Now, let me just say that some people get worried. I've had people come up to me and say in tears, "I think I've committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." And it's so sweet that they would be so torn up about that. And I don't know exactly what they've done, it could be heinous, could be horrendous.
However, I tell them quickly, "The fact that you're torn up about that shows that you haven't committed that. If you had committed that, you wouldn't care that you committed that. The fact that you still have a tender conscience that you may have done it, proves you haven't done it like these Pharisees who would say, 'You're doing that by the devil,' " That's how hardened their hearts were; had no feeling about that.
"Then his brothers and his mother came, and standing outside they sent to him, calling him. And a multitude was sitting around; and they said to him, 'Look, your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you.' "Now, I find this fascinating. Did Jesus get up and go, "Gasp! My mother? The "Blessed Mother"? Wait a minute, did you say my brothers? You mean I have brothers?"
Now, I'm sorry, I'm not really trying to poke fun at this. I grew up being taught in the perpetual virginity of Mary, that Mary birthed Jesus, and then she stayed a virgin her whole life, and was assumed into heaven. She also was raised into heaven as a virgin, so she is called the "Virgin Mary"; she's still a virgin.
This strikes a blow to that because the brothers and sisters of Jesus are named in the New Testament, they're giving the names. So these half brothers, half sisters were named. So his mother and brothers come: "Look, they're out there to see you."
"He answered them, and said, 'Who is my mother?' " Whoa! " 'or my brothers?' And he looked around in a circle at those who sat about him, and he said, 'Here—here are my mother and my brothers!' " No mention of his father. First of all, Joseph wasn't his father. Second, Joseph probably by this time had died. And most scholars believe he died young, and so his half brothers and mother are there.
For he says, verse 35, " 'Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.' " This speaks to me of the priority of spiritual relationships over any other relationship. Not meaning that you would disregard your mother, or your brothers, or your sister, or your father on earth; you are to honor them, that's part of the law. Even Jesus from the cross honored his mother and made sure she was taken care of by placing her under the care of John.
But have you noticed that sometimes you have a relationship with your Christian brothers and sisters that goes deeper than your physical brothers or sisters? Simply because you share something in common with your spiritual brothers and sisters you may not with your physical brothers and sisters. I love my brothers. I don't share Christ in common, a relationship of Christ in common with them like I do with you. So the spiritual goes even deeper than the filial relationships, the familial relationships.
"My mother, my brothers are those who do the will of God." Are you doing the will of God? He didn't say, "Those who listen to the will of God, those who come to Bible study and underline or write notes about the will of God—they do the will of God. Those are my mothers and my brothers, and my sisters. There is a relationship that is there, whereby they are my disciples, my followers, my apostles—that's my family."
"Those who do the will of God." What is the will of God? Well, first of all, that you have a relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. If you don't have a personal relationship, you're not doing the will of God—that's the will of God 101. You come into relationship with him, you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, and you step through that door of faith and have your sins forgiven. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you how that when we come to Jesus Christ our life is stretched, it's expanded. We never imagined before we came how filled and fulfilled our life could become until the new wine was poured in, and in walking with you as followers, learners, disciples, and sent-out ones, apostles. We learn what it is, Lord, to grant through Jesus Christ forgiveness to those who will receive that forgiveness. You've sent us out to do that. We know the power of the Gospel.
Lord, I pray that we would never become a group that turns inward, but that appreciates the fellowship, and appreciates the learning, but then turns outward to see those friends and family members and community members come to a relationship with your Son Jesus Christ, and you through your Son.
Lord, I can't help but wonder if some who are here even tonight have heard and heard and heard and heard, politely so, but their hearts are growing ever harder. So much so that they can hear appeals, see altar calls, watch friends or family members come to Jesus Christ—all the while they have learned so well to say, "Not yet; not now. Don't really want that. Don't feel like I need that." And it can become dangerous to where they become without feeling, or what Paul called reprobate.
So, Father, if any have gathered here who are feeling the tug, sensing, and they have been for some time, the sense to come to Christ, or to come back to Jesus Christ after running away and playing in the camp of the world for too long, to receive your love and forgiveness, I pray they would do so even right now.
If you've come tonight, in looking at your life you have to admit, "I'm not sure that I am saved. If I died right now, I'm not absolutely sure that I would go to heaven. But I want to be sure. I want a do-over, I want a clean slate, I want hope, I want forgiveness, and I'm willing to put my faith in Jesus Christ, and I'm willing to do it now. I'm willing to turn from my past and turn to Christ. Or for some, I'm willing to come back home to him. I'm sick of wandering. I'm sick of backsliding.
As our heads are bowed, as our eyes are closed, if you're gathered here tonight, if you're one of those that I just described, and you're willing to put your faith and trust in Christ and come to him, I want you to slip your hand up in the air as we close. Just raise it up so I can see it. I'll acknowledge your hand and I'll pray for you and give you instructions in a moment.
God bless you, just a few rows from the front; yes, sir. Anyone else? Raise your hand up. Anybody else? Slip it up, say, "Yes, pray for me." God bless you, toward the back. Anybody else? Yes, ma'am.
If you raised your hand, would you just stand to your feet for just a moment? Just stand to your feet, I'm going to have you just right where you are, just pray in the quietness of your own heart, or out loud if you want. Just stand up and say these words to the Lord right where you're at.
Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I put my trust in him, that he died in my place on a cross, that he shed his blood for my sin, that he rose from the dead to conquer. I turn from my sin; I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to live for him as my Lord. Fill me with your Holy Spirit; help me to live for you, in Jesus' name, amen.