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: Heavenly Father, we do thank you for the privilege of gathering together and in what is our house. It's not really your house; the church has been called the house of the Lord. We're your house; our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. But this is our spiritual gathering place, and we're so thankful for the brothers and sisters that are with us.
Thank you, Lord, for the worship that lifted our soul and reminded us of how great you are, and how worthy you are, and how our countenance, our soul, our outlook is lifted with great songs of jubilation and praise. We now pray, Father, as we continue in our worship by reading and applying your Word to our lives, our situations, our hearts, I pray that we would grow.
I thank you that I've had the privilege to teach this Book for years and years, and to read through it, and teach it on many occasions, every verse, and I'm still amazed every time I get the opportunity to behold something old or something new that I haven't seen before.
Lord, no matter who we are--some of us are here in this house, some of us are watching in Santa Fe, some of us are online watching, or listening by radio, but no matter who we are, we have room to grow. And I believe you have an appointment with us, and there's areas in our lives that you want to get at, you want to work in, you want to change from where we are now to be more and more into the image of your Son, and grow from glory to glory into that same image. So, may there be a transformation, in Jesus' name, amen.
One of the things you may have noticed is that the Gospel of Mark is a Gospel of action; it's faster paced than the other Gospels. Now, that doesn't mean I'm fast paced in teaching the Gospel of Mark, but the Gospel of Mark in reading, in its rendering is faster paced. And there's certain words that Mark uses that are a little bit different than other people like Luke or Matthew or John.
And it gives us the impression that he's trying to take us quickly through the story, and that's because each of the Gospel writers have a particular emphasis that the other ones don't share. And one of the things I love about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is we're studying the same personality from four different angles. It's like listening to a string quartet with two violins, a viola, and a cello.
And you might look at Matthew and Mark holding the violin section, Luke does that little viola and hits some different high notes, and John just gives us that wider-bodied, deep, deity look at Jesus Christ, but they're all in harmony together. Or if you prefer a different analogy, it's like the Holy Spirit is a movie director, and he sets four different cameras in different locations. And each camera will pick up a different nuance, a different expression of the one speaking, or a different facial body-language expression of the crowd and each one has a different emphasis.
So, Matthew, for example, was written primarily for the Jew; it had a Jewish audience in mind. That's why Matthew uses terminology like: "So that it might be fulfilled which was written by the prophets." He always points us backward to the old covenant, the Old Testament, and how Jesus fulfilled the promises to the Jewish nation.
But Mark is a different emphasis. Mark is more action oriented. Mark has written for the Romans, a Roman audience. Matthew will put more emphasis on what Jesus said; Mark will put more emphasis on what Jesus did. So, in Matthew, for instance, you have some of the great discourses; five, they say, all together. But a few that jump out: Sermon on the Mount is included, the kingdom parables of Matthew 13, the Olivet Discourse in greater detail than Mark.
But Mark will emphasize the action, the activity, because he's wanting to portray Jesus as an obedient Servant always on the move. So, as an example, if you were to look back with your Bible open, and you'll notice in chapter 5, for example, I just flipped back a page to notice in verse 42 he uses the word "immediately." He does that a lot—immediately. Chapter 6, verse 1, "then"; chapter 6, verse 2, "and"; verse 7, "and"; verse 14, "Now King Herod"; verse 21, "then"; verse 25, "immediately"--and that is sort of the flow, if you have noticed, throughout the entire book of Mark.
And that's a good introduction for the first word in the verse that we want to look at in kind of reaching backward into chapter 6, verse 45. Notice the first word: "Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he sent the multitude away." We've been noticing that Jesus' ministry is growing in both popularity and opposition. There's a buzz going on. Jesus is now on his third tour of the Galilee region where he has made his headquarters. With each tour he's gathering more steam, you might say. Everyone is hearing about him.
He then went on to take his ministry and invest it in the lives of twelve men. So, he took his ministry and made it times twelve. He gave them the power to preach, teach, and heal, and cast out demons. And it was an incredible success. It was so successful that in John, chapter 6, saying of Jesus' ministry after he fed the multitude--which is what we read about last time and we left off.
It says in John, chapter 6, they wanted to take him by force and make him their king, and Jesus slipped out of the crowd, because it wasn't his time. There was such a fever pitch, such a fervor for his ministry, and people were thinking, "If this is the Messiah, we want to be part of him setting up his kingdom now."
And keep in mind for these disciples for the first time they've had power to heal. They've had power to cast out demons, as well as preach and teach. They came back just blown away and excited for more. So, there's going to be a dramatic change now, and that comes in verse 45. Notice it says, "He made"; "constrained" some translations say; "compelled" other translations put it. Ours just said, "He made his disciples." It wasn't a suggestion; they had no choice. "Get in the boat. Get in the boat, now."
I'm sure it was a temptation for them to be in ministry with this kind of success. Not just Jesus' success, but they have shared a modicum of that success. And ministry, though it can be hard and it can be grueling, it can also be very intoxicating. Imagine what people would have thought as Matthew or James or John stretched out their hand and somebody was healed. People would look to them as if they were the one and the source, rather than just being the instrument with power invested in them.
And it's always a temptation for those in any ministry, especially if it's successful, to go, "Well, you know what? They did say I'm pretty amazing. It must be because I am pretty amazing." No, the truth is you serve an amazing God. He's amazing, he's doing the work, and the fact that he has chosen you or I to be his vessels shows you how low God is willing to go. [laughter]
My life verse; you've heard it many times. "For you see your calling brethren, not many mighty, not many noble, after the flesh are called. But God as chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." So, the Lord wants to get them out of there quickly before, perhaps, it could get to their heads. So, he makes them get into the boat.
Last week I was speaking in Southern California at a friend's fellowship, and it was a Tuesday night. The auditorium was packed to capacity, standing room only. There were people in the overflow rooms; it was packed. And they had put it on radio; we've been on the radio there for some time. And afterwards they were these just crowds of people.
One guy said, "I've wanted to meet you for twelve years. I came to Christ by listening to your radio broadcast." These other two gals said, "We've drove each of us from different directions, for two and a half hours each to come here." Well, you have to walk away from those encounters and just going, "Lord, I know, really, I'm just an idiot, but this just shows that you choose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Thank you that you let me get in the way."
And that's the deal: God is moving, get in his way and become his instrument, become his vessel, and always point people back. I've had people say, "Oh, I've wanted to meet you. You saved me." No, I didn't save you; I can't save you. I can't save anybody. Jesus saved you. You might have heard something I said, I was an instrument at the time, but it is the Lord.
I think that perhaps some of that temptation was happening to the disciples; they were young in the ministry. And so it says, "He made them get in the boat, go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, and he," that is, Jesus personally, "sent the multitude away. And when he had sent them away, he departed to the mountain to pray."
I wish we were standing right now at the Sea of Galilee. I'd love to show you the geography. If we were standing in the old city of Capernaum where Jesus had his ministry, you could look just up the shore toward the east and north, and you would see the inlet of the Jordan River coming into the Sea of Galilee. That's where Bethsaida was just on the other side of the opening. So, this boat was on the shore going toward the northeast section of the lake. Some of the disciples were from that town. Jesus sent them on ahead after the miracle.
"And when he had sent them away, he departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and he was alone on the land." Keep in mind from reading last time that the sun was already starting to set. It was springtime. The sun was starting to set and some of disciples got a little bit upset with Jesus. "Jesus, send these people away now. They need to get something to eat. It's getting dark." And Jesus said, "You give them something to eat." And then he performed that great miracle and they distributed it.
So, the sun was setting; it was probably now just nightfall. He puts the disciples in the boat. They're going close to the shore; you don't want to get too far away. And he sends them toward the northeast skirting the Sea of Galilee toward Bethsaida. It's important that you pick up on what the language says and apply it to your own life. "He made them get in the boat." Now they're about to hit a storm of gale forces that will shake even these seasoned fisherman.
But it's important to realize this, because you're going to go through some storms, and you're going to wonder, "Does God love me? Did he leave me alone? Am I out of God's will? Is there sin in my life? Why am I experiencing difficulty?" The disciples were in the will of God. They hit a storm not because they didn't have enough faith, not because there were issues or problems or doubts; they were perfectly in the will of God going through a horrible storm.
This will revolutionize your periods of pain when you realize, just like we sang tonight, the Lord is with you, he's walking with you, he has his grip on you, he's not letting you go. And sometimes he wants to send you into a storm. Now, they're on cloud nine; they've had success in the ministry. But sometimes our blessings need to be balanced with some buffetings. It keeps us grounded. It keeps us praying. It keeps us dependent upon the Lord.
I don't know where some Christians have gotten the idea that if their life is in tune with God, and they're living an obedient life, and they're worshiping God, that God owes it to them to give them smooth sailing throughout life. You would be worthless if your life was filled with smooth sailing. You need some trials, man. You need some buffeting. You want some character? You want some reality and authenticity to your life? You need to go through some storms. "Get in the boat," he said, "and he sent them on their way."
Now, you notice there's a storm, because it says the boat was in the middle of the lake. So the wind, which does happen—the Sea of Galilee, it's an interesting geographical spot on the earth this whole Jordan River Valley from the Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, the Dead Sea. And you have a map in your Bible so you can see it, but it's all below sea level. It's a typographical, geographical part of what's called the Syrio-African Rift or the Syrian-African Rift.
You know that the earth has tectonic plates, and the African and the Arabian plates moved in such a way, probably during the flood, that it created this deep depression that includes the Sea of Galilee. It's the lowest fresh-water lake in the world; 700 feet below sea level is the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River goes down, it's all submerged, I mean it's under, below sea level, to the Dead Sea which is 1,290 feet, almost 1,300 feet below sea level.
Now, because of its location at 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee is susceptible to an unusual type of storm that begins on the Mediterranean Coast. The air there is cool. It's like what happens in California when you have cool Pacific air that rushes toward the desert at a lower altitude, but it's much lower over in Israel. And you can get those ferocious winds along Highway 111, if you're familiar with sand pitting your windshield.
So, as the cool air moves in from the Mediterranean and rushes toward the valleys, toward that Sea of Galilee, and then rushes downward and hits the hot air rising--I've watched perfectly placid days, no wake, no movement on the Sea of Galilee, within minutes it would tip a boat over. Just crazy storms that is blowing this boat that the disciples are in. It's always called "the boat." Evidently they had, like, one boat for all of them to get in. And the boat was now away from shore toward the middle of the lake that, remember, is thirteen miles long by about seven miles wide. So it has moved it quite a bit throughout the evening.
Jesus is alone on the land, "Then he saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them." I have a question for you: how could he see that? It's completely dark. The boat is at least five miles away, maybe, okay, let's say three miles away. There are no lights on the lake; it's pitch black. You couldn't see a boat in broad daylight, but it says, "He saw them," and not only did he see them, "he saw them straining at the rowing." That's the details of it. How could he see them?
Well, it's the same way God sees any of us, anything, any time, any problem we have. He sees it all. He knows it all. It's a statement of his deity. There's more miracles here than just walking on the water or calming a storm. He can see them straining at the rowing. He knows everything they're going through. Our Lord always does. Your struggle—some of you are struggling right now in deep issues and questions of your life. He sees every time you strain at the oars; hasn't escaped his gaze. He may not come when you want. You might be angry that he chooses the time he does to deliver you, but he'll show up. Now, you might say, "God, you're late!" No, you're early. God's timing is perfect.
Notice something it says, "He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by." The Romans divided the nights into four, what they called watches: the first watch, from six in the evening till nine o'clock night; second watch, from nine till midnight; third watch, from midnight till three a.m.; fourth watch, from three in the morning till six in the morning.
Do you know what that means? That they were straining at fighting that storm for perhaps about eight hours. Why didn't Jesus come the first watch of the night? Make it a little bit easier on them. Okay, second watch—the fourth watch, you might say, in the nick of time he showed up. Well, there's a very important answer to that question. It wasn't he goes, "Well, I want to see them suffer a while."
Jesus has just performed a miracle, a feeding of the five thousand. Something so amazing it should have totally convinced these disciples who they're dealing with, who they're following, who this is—this is God in a human body. But they didn't get it, they needed something else, and Jesus is going to give that to them. In fact, you'll see that in the text.
So, he's walking out to them. "Walking on the sea, and would have passed them by." Now, it's not like Jesus just sort of, like, is walking by them; it appeared to them like he was walking passed them, because he wanted them to see him. "And when they saw him walking on the sea, they supposed that was a"—phantom, that's the Greek word, "a ghost, and they cried out; for they all saw him and they were troubled. But immediately he talked with them and said to them, 'Cheer up! Be of good cheer!' "
Now, they're freaking out. And some of them had been around the Sea of Galilee their whole life. That's what they did for a living; they were fisherman. They've seen storms before. There was something about this; they were sure they were going down. It's just like the last time we saw them in a boat.
And then Jesus comes by and goes, "Cheer up, boys! Be of good cheer! It is I." He didn't say, "It's Jesus," didn't say his name—"It is I." They could recognize the vocal pattern, the tone of his voice. "'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.' "
Now, I can't read this verse without thinking of somebody that was always dear to my heart, Dr. J. Vernon McGee. Some of you have heard of him. Some of you have heard him on the radio. I kind of grew up as a Christian listening to Dr. J. Vernon McGee with that deep, Southern accent. "Well, I say to you, my beloved . . ." You know the guy I'm talking about? Well, several years ago before he went to heaven, he came and he spoke here at our church.
And I'm six foot five, so my podium then was, well, perfect for me. But for somebody of average height, let alone somebody of short stature, it looked ridiculous. And I didn't even think about that piece. Dr. McGee was not tall, and so he came up to the pulpit, and it was pretty high. So, he looks at it and he goes, "This is a tall pulpit for a tall feller." And then he says, "It reminds me of the text, 'Be not afraid,' " and he got down behind the pulpit, " 'It is I.' " [laughter] I thought, "Okay, here's an old guy with a great sense of humor." It has nothing to do with our text; it's just something I'm reminded of.
"Then he went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and they marveled,"—notice this—"for they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened," mark that. It's possible to be a follower of Jesus and have your heart hardened—mark that well—to not fully respond and fully grasp, to live in doubt, to live in unbelief, to live in looking downward instead of with the positivity that comes from a life in Christ. You can be a follower of Christ, but you can be like Eeyore the donkey.
There's some people, church people, followers of Christ who have perfected, like the ancient children of Israel, the art of complaining. And, again, you're around them and it's like: "I don't even want to be around you. You're going to infect people with this. Let's deal with this; let's deal with this issue in your life." But you're following Jesus. They had just seen him perform an incredible miracle, but their hearts were hardened, they weren't responding correctly to it. He needed to go deeper to show them more—so, this miracle.
I have a question for you: why did Jesus need to walk on the water in the storm? Well, it's interesting the very thing they feared were the waves. The very thing they were afraid of was the storm. Jesus came to them on the thing they feared the most. The waves, the storm was the footpath for the presence of Jesus. How many times have you looked at a storm that you're facing—a possible surgery, a disease or a death of a loved one, and you just shudder at the thought only to find in the darkest moment that the Lord has used that experience to draw closer to you? It's become the footpath. He came to you on the thing you feared the most. "Be not afraid; it is I. Cheer up!"
So, now the twelve disciples and Jesus are in the boat, the boat. Think what's in that boat. The entire future of the kingdom of God is in a boat that measured about twenty-seven feet long by about seven and a half feet wide. We know this because archaeologists found one and it's on display over in Galilee today. The whole future of Gospel ministry around the world is in that boat—Jesus, and those twelve. They're not going anywhere.
"When they crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there." Now, Gennesaret is a plain. If you have a Bible map and you look on the left side of the page or the western shore of the Sea of Galilee was a fertile, flattened area still called Gennesaret. It was a village and a farming area. In the Scriptures in the New Testament this little lake is given three names: Sea of Galilee; Sea of Tiberias, named after the chief Gentile city; and the Lake of Gennesaret, named after that plain or that city. In fact, there's a kibbutz called Nof Ginosar today named after the Plain of Gennesaret.
"And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized him." No matter where they went, they saw: "Oh, this is Jesus, these are his boys." "They ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard that he was. Wherever he entered into villages, cities, or in the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might just touch the hem of his garment. And as many as touched Him were made well."
From this we know that Jesus was an observant Jew. Judaism held that men should wear on their robes four tassels or corners of their robes. They called it the hem of the garment, literally the tassels of the garment robe. And so from this and other Scriptures we know that Jesus, like any male adult Jew, would have worn that kind of a robe with those kind of tassels that marked him as someone under the covenant.
But much like that woman who said, we already read about it, "If I just touch the hem of his garment, I know that I'll be healed," and they were. So, just let the scene soak in. Wherever he goes there are throngs of people pressing in on him, bringing their sick to him.
And you gotta know something, not everybody in those crowds were real worshipers, right? Many of the people that were going after Jesus saw him as a free lunch, hoping for breakfast the next day. "You gave us dinner last night; what's on the menu for breakfast and lunch today?" They saw him as their ticket, the one who could heal. Those aren't bad motivations; I think we all want something from him and depend on him for many things. But keep in mind that "the Lord knows those who are his", Paul writes to Timothy. And not everyone who names the name of Christ is a disciple.
I'm going to read something to you. You can maybe mark and look at it later. John, chapter 2, this is Jesus in Jerusalem, listen to this, it sort of dovetails so well: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men, and he had no need that anyone should testify of man, for he knew what was in man."
It says, "many believed in his name." The Amplified Bible says, "many identified themselves with his party." They want to join that bandwagon. "I like that guy. He does cool stuff. He gives out free food. He heals people who are sick." This group and the group that we just read about in the Gospel of Mark is what Warren Wiersbe calls "unsaved believers."
It puts a different twist on: Have you accepted the Lord? Have you received the Lord? Do you believe in him? To ask another question: has he accepted you? It says, "Jesus did not commit himself to them." Have you committed yourself to Christ? The real issue is has he committed himself to me? Is my faith saving faith? Am I trusting in him? Is there a reality or is it just: "Well, it's cool to be around him. He gives cool stuff." It says Jesus "knew all men." So, we have different people following Jesus for different reasons.
"Then," verse 1, chapter 7, "the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches." Kosher law according to the oral law.
"And then the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?' "Fair question; Mark how Jesus answers it."He answered and said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—and the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.' "
Evidently, the Pharisees and the scribes decided to send a delegation of representatives from Jerusalem up to Galilee ninety miles away. Now, can I just say, that's a long way to go to ask somebody why they don't wash their hands before dinner. My mom was a stickler about washing my hands, but this is, like, ridiculous. So, you gotta ask, "What's up? What's going on? Why this delegation? Why travel so far?"
The Pharisees and the scribes were two groups that represented the conservative arm of Judaism. You know, every religion has liberals and conservatives in the belief system. There are liberal Christians who don't believe the Bible's the Word of God. They just think, "Let's sing "Kumbaya" together and feel good every now and then and kind of do social things. But Jesus isn't God, and the Bible isn't the Word of God." That would be the liberal branch; I am not one of them.
There's a conservative branch that holds in the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the vicarious atonement, the bodily resurrection, the second coming as being literal. Judaism also had a liberal arm and a conserve arm. The liberal arm were the Sadducees; we'll get to them later. The two branches that form the one branch of conservatism were Pharisees and scribes.
I know when you hear the word "Pharisee" you go, "Bad, bad, bad." They didn't start out bad; they started out great. They started out really good. They started out as a response to the Babylonian captivity when they came back after Ezra and Nehemiah into the land of Israel. They said, "Never again. We're cured of idolatry. We're going to form a movement of devotion to God. We're going to be separated from the world."
That's what Pharisee means; parashim/parash is a Hebrew word that means set apart, separate, holy. "We're going to be the holy group, the Holy Rollers." And, so, they were sticklers about keeping not only the Law, but the oral law. I'll get to that in a second.
Then there's the scribes. You know who started the scribes? Ezra in the Old Testament; he was the first scribe. He was the scribal scholar. He was the Bible expositor. He expounded the Scriptures to the people of Israel to apply the law of God to their own hearts, much like we're doing now. That's a scribe.
What started off really good became over time really bad. What happened is famous rabbis got together and they discussed the Bible, the laws, and they developed a whole system of thought that to them was equal authority with the Book, the Bible, the Law, the Old Testament. That's called the oral law, the sayings of the rabbis. So, the Bible says, "You shall not work on the Sabbath"; what do the rabbis say "work" means? Well, there's chapter after chapter after chapter, and the Talmud, the Mishnah. The Talmud, for example, you can find it thirty-some different books in eighteen volumes. It's the oral law. It's telling you what this means. They held the oral law to be as reliable as the Bible itself.
One of the famous rabbis in Judaism was called Rabbi Akiva. Some of you have heard that name. Rabbi Akiva said the oral law is the fence around the Law to protect it, so we make sure that we don't transgress it. So, if you do these things in the oral law, you'll be sure not to break the written law of God. And some of it had to do with washings. It has nothing to do with hygiene, by the way. It's not like: "You didn't wash your hands before a meal." It was all about ceremony.
So, here was the deal: to wash properly before a meal, you had to keep your hands up like this, first of all. Water was poured on the fingers, it would run down the hands, and run off at the elbows. You then took a fist and you would wipe it in one hand, wipe it in the other hand. Then you were told to put your hands in the reverse direction and pour the water from the elbow draining off the tip of the fingers. It had to be done that way. If you didn't, you were breaking the law, the tradition of the elders, the oral law.
Strict Jews, strict observers of the law didn't just do that before every meal, they did it before every course in the meal. If they went into a marketplace where Gentiles were—you know, people like us, scum of the earth—they didn't just wash their hands, they washed their bodies in a pool called mikveh. A mikveh, a baptismal pool. They got, like, baptized all over again, and went through a ceremonial cleansing. The disciples didn't do that. "You're breaking the tradition of the elders." Jesus said, "You're breaking the law of God by your stupid traditions." I'm paraphrasing a little bit. [laughter]
He quotes Isaiah, chapter 29, he calls them hypocrites in verse 6. Twenty-three times in the Gospels Jesus uses the word hypocrite. Twenty-one of the twenty-three times he's speaking to religious leaders. He reserves that term, that scathing, biting term for religious folks, legalistic religious folks. If you haven't guessed yet, I'm not into legalistic people.
Jesus didn't tolerate them. He got in their grill, man. He got in their face. "Hypocrite" was a Greek word. Hupokrités were actors on a stage. They wore a mask. They played a part. They played a role. They really weren't that person; they acted like that person. He's calling them stage actors. "You put on the religious show, you put on the religious mask, but you are so corrupt underneath that mask," that's what a hypocrite is. So, he gets on them. People who preach by the yard but practice by the inch should be dealt with by the foot. [laughter] Jesus was first in line to apply that reasoning.
"'For laying aside,' " verse 8, " 'the commandment of God, you hold to tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.' "This isn't an anomaly; this is irregularity."He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, "Honor your father and mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death."
" 'But you say, "If a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban' " ' "—a Hebrew word that means an offering or dedicated." '(That is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.' "
What does the fifth commandment say? Honor your father and your mother—plain and simple. Honor them, love them, respect them. When they're old, take care of them. They figured out a way around that commandment by saying, "Mom, Dad, I know I should honor you and take care of you, and I do have the financial wherewithal, but I have dedicated my bank account to the Lord. And I know I have six chariots and horses and camels, a six-camel garage right here, but I know you need a chariot and a few camels, but I've dedicated them all to the Lord. So, I'd love to take care of you, but it's all an offering to God."
Anything that they dedicated to God, they didn't have to let people in need use, even their own parents. They got around the commandment of God by a stupid, lame, weird, human tradition. It's an equivalent of sort of like a will. You know, somebody could make a will and decide to donate their property to a benevolent organization when they die. But while they're alive they still have full use of it until they die; nothing wrong with that. They did that with their parents so they didn't have to take care of them.
Now, they're keeping the law, not God's law, but their "fence around the law" as Rabbi Akiva calls it. They're keeping the fence. They're protecting the law. They're not going to break the law. But while they're doing it they're breaking God's law; they're not honoring their father or their mother.
People's traditions are very interesting I found. I've talked to people that I would consider fairly logical, fairly reasonable. They're able to process propositional truth and go from A to B, and make logical steps, until their traditions are touched. Once you mess with people's status quo or their tradition—"Well, we've always done it this way," or "I grew up this way." Okay, but have you ever examined that maybe it was a weird thing to be taught? Maybe it's not right. Maybe it's not biblical. That you can actually break a commandment by a traditional law.
I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith. We had an interesting thing with marriages called an annulment. They wouldn't call it a divorce, because according to Roman Catholic theology you cannot divorce. So, if there were unseemly circumstances at the time of marriage, you can go have the marriage nullified according to Roman Catholic law. And they will say, "Well, the marriage never really existed. It's not a real marriage, so it's not divorce. It's just an annulment allowing a couple to get a divorce under a different name, because you can't divorce. Traditions can break God's law, and we have to be careful that we don't form our own.
"'Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition; and many such things you do.' When he called the multitude to himself, he said to them, 'hear me, every one of you, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!' When he entered a house away from the crowd," this is classic, "his disciples asked him concerning the parable."
They didn't want to say anything publicly because it's like: "We don't want to admit that we don't understand what you're saying. You know, when you say these things, we're going like this, 'Amen! Amen!' And then we're going, 'I have no idea what he means.' "So, now they're in a house away from the crowds and they can be candid, be real, be honest."What did you mean by that?"
"So he said, 'Are you thus without understanding also?' "You're in trouble when the clergy doesn't understand spiritual things. You know you're in trouble. I read an article, interesting article, about unchurched people and the reasons they didn't go to church. And they felt that many churches they tried were more concerned about everything except what church ought to be about. They're not concerned about spiritual issues, doctrinal issues, biblical issues; they're concerned about finances, and building programs, and this, and about everything except biblical truth. Now you know you're in trouble when the church is being told by the world to be spiritual.
"Jesus, what does that mean?" "'Are you without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?' And he said, 'Whatever comes out of a man that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts' "—notice what else is on the list, " 'covetousness.' "That's wanting what you don't have; earnestly, lustfully, desiring after it.
"'Wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye' "—wow! A look? Mm-hmm. [laughter] Have you ever had someone give you the stink eye? I mean a brother and sister, a brother in Christ here at church? I just want to go up to them and give them a big hug, kiss them on the cheek, flip them out.
"'Blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man' "—now stop right here. According to the Levitical law, which we studied the book of Leviticus, there were certain things, according to the law, that the Jews were taught were defiling: certain animals that they couldn't eat, you couldn't have fish that didn't have scales or that didn't have fins; you couldn't eat animals with cloven hooves. There was a list of things we saw in Leviticus, things that would defile.
Now, the reason God did that was to protect his people from certain diseases. At the time they didn't have the technology that we have today, so God said stay away from eating certain things, and that was what is called kosher law. So, it had an upside, but it also had a downside. The downside is people could become ceremonially pure—"Oh, I don't do this, and I don't eat that, and I don't eat or drink that," but morally impure.
Here's the problem with religion: it sets an external bar so that when a person keeps those things, does those things, keep the bar, they feel very smug and self-satisfied. "I'm a righteous person." You might be so corrupt on the inside in your heart; that's the point Jesus is make here. He's concerned about what's inward first, before what's outward.
So many of us are hung up on the outward, the outward. Remember in the Sermon on the Mount how Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said by those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, if you look on a woman to lust, you've committed adultery. It has been said in the Old Testament, and you know this," he said," 'You shall not murder,' but if you hate your brother without a cause, you're a murderer." That's what he was getting at. You can outwardly say, "I don't murder. I don't commit adultery," but the thoughts of your heart are murderous and adulterous. He's always concerned with the inward before the outward.
So he goes, "Boys, don't you understand, those foods won't defile a person? What defiles a person is what comes up from their own heart." Now, the heart is the mind, the will, the thoughts. "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" Jesus said.
There's a lot of talk in this past couple decades about pollution: air pollution, bad; light pollution, bad; water pollution, bad; food pollution, bad. The worst pollution is heart pollution; worse than any other type of defilement in the world. It's defiling God's special, highest creation—the heart of man—by what you expose yourself to and what comes up from you and from me.
You see, when a person eats food, it goes into the stomach, it's assimilated into the small intestine, the ileum, the cecum, the large bowel, and the residue is eliminated. What comes up from the heart is far worse many times than what goes into the sewer, that's what he's saying. It's a radical statement. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.
I've had a lot of discussions with people, some believers, some who call themselves believers, some that are very devoted to their cause making a huge deal about diet. Now, I have no qualms with diets in general, but I do have qualms with people saying you are more spiritual as a child of God if you eat a certain way.
You can be a vegan, a carnivore, or a junk-food junkie, and it doesn't matter a lick in your relationship with God. First Corinthians, chapter 8, it was a huge deal, right, to the early church eating meats sacrificed to idols? And Paul said, "Eating food doesn't commend you to God at all." Now, I've been told by the Seventh Day Adventists that I have to keep a biblical, Old Testament diet. Yet I'm told by Paul in First Corinthians 8, and by Jesus here that it's not what goes into a man that defiles him. He's fulfilled the law for me and for you.
You want to go out tonight and have a deep-fried ice cream sandwich with whipped cream on top and—now, it might make you fat. It might give you diseases. It certainly will give you heartburn. But it won't draw you away from God or send you off to some lower place in eternity because you ate it. You might die a little younger, but in the end, not all bad.
"From there he arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but he could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him, and she came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, 'Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.'
"And she answered and said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' And he said to her, 'For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.' And when she had come out to her house, she found the demon gone, and her daughter lying on the bed."
Why would Jesus say what he just said? Well, and once again, times up, so we're going to have to uncover the mystery of why Jesus would say to somebody in great need, "Why would I give the children's bread and throw it to the dogs?" We're going to have to wait for that next time when we gather together.
Lord, how impressed I am at Jesus' style. So protective of his disciples. So unleashing at religious hypocrites who focus on the outward rather than the inward, who make a big deal out of their own agendas, and their own needs being met, or their own view of things rather than what you have plainly said in your Word. Lord, that's possible at every single level. It's possible for ancient Jews, as well as contemporary Christians. It's possible for us to fall under the same weight of blindness, and to be in our outlook pharisaical and hairsplitting and legalistic. Lord, save us from that.
And, Father, I pray that you would help us not to tolerate that Spirit of legalism within our own midst, but to live under the grace that we hear and see displayed in the wonderful example of our Lord Jesus Christ. What these religious leaders cared about and what you care about were completely the opposite. And it leads me to believe that so many times what we think is important really isn't all that important. So purify our hearts; forgive us for being myopic.
Lord, come to those in a special way who are dealing with tragedy or hardship or heartache, whatever storm they're going through. I pray, Lord, that you would come to them on that and in that experience.
I pray for anyone who's gathered here tonight, Lord, who may be like one of these religious people. These religious people were probably very well meaning in their own intent, in their own motivation. They thought themselves good, noble, law-abiding citizens, but they were far from the heart of God. They lacked the relationship that comes through the grace of Jesus Christ freely given. They were religious, but they were under the bondage and captivity of their own sin.
The good news is that Jesus is the Savior from sin. And whoever comes to you, Jesus, you said you would in no wise cast out. And for anyone who's gathered here in this house, in this place of worship who doesn't know you personally, I pray you'd save them right here. For those who have wandered away from you and have settled, Lord, into areas of just rule keeping, or legalism, or church attendance, or tradition, bring them into vital relationship, bring them back into fellowship with you.
We're about to close this service and dismiss, but if you're here tonight, if you don't personally know Jesus, if you've wandered away from him and you want to come back home to him as your Savior and be forgiven and walk with him, as our heads are bowed, I want you to raise your hand up. Your raising of the hand just says, "Here I am. Pray for me as you close this service." I'd love to pray for you as I close.
I need to know who I'm praying for, so raise your hand up if you want to give your life to Christ tonight or come back to him. God bless you and you and you toward the back, on my left. Anybody else? Raise the hand up. Yes, sir. Yes, ma'am. Back there; right here. Yes. Anyone else? On my right, on my right on the aisle, on my left.
Father, thank you for so many that have raised these hands, and they indicate a desire to get right with you, to enjoy fellowship with you, to have a whole new start, to be forgiven by you. Give them strength to walk with you, in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand to your feet. Really quickly as we sing this last song, if you raised your hands, I saw a bunch of you do it, I want you now to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and stand right up here. I'm going to lead you right now in a prayer. Let's not put this off; give your life to Christ. Jesus called people publicly; I'm calling you out right now publicly. Just where you're standing, just come right up here. We're all friendly. We've all been there. We've all done this. Come right up here and stand on the floor. I saw hands go up on my left, on my right; this means you as well. [worship music plays]
If you need God's resources, if you want to come back to the Lord or come to Christ, I don't want you just to raise a hand and then bolt out the door. This isn't to embarrass you, it's to help you, to settle things inside your heart with this commitment that you're making. Jesus also commits resources to you. You're part of a family. He wants you to be part of a family.
If you raised your hand, find the nearest aisle and come up right here. We've people running down the aisles. [applause] Come and stand right here. Seriously, we'll wait for you. Okay, for those of you who have come forward, I want to lead you in a prayer right now. I want you to say this out loud from your heart to the Lord. Let's pray.
Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner; forgive me. I believe in Jesus, that he died on the cross and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I turn from my past, I turn to you as my Savior. I want to live for you as my Lord, in Jesus' name, amen. [applause]