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: Mark, let's turn to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, as we finish off that chapter and launch into chapter 9 of Mark before we take the Lord's Supper together. Mark, chapter 8, and we begin with prayer; let's do that.
Father, it's always good to settle our hearts in prayer before we open up the inspired written Word of God, and how we love these stories of the life of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, and how he is presented to us, for us, by the uniqueness of the four Gospel writers.
And Mark gives us that interesting twist because we believe that Peter was giving him the information, and Mark was writing it down and conveying it in a very different manner than Matthew, Luke, or John. So, Father, we pray that as we do open our hearts and settle them before you that more than just helping us to learn new things, we pray that you'd inspire us at a deeper level than just acquiring knowledge, but we would be inspired to follow you, to trust you, to obey you, in Jesus' name, amen.
After the services this last Sunday, I got on an airplane and flew to Costa Mesa, California, to my home church where Pastor Chuck Smith has pastored for many years, and I did Chuck's Sunday night Bible study in the book of Acts. That's what he's currently in, so I took the next two chapters; I did Acts 10 and 11 out in Southern California. And it's a great text of Scripture because it's about Peter going to a Gentile named Cornelius with the Gospel.
And I share that with you because that really, at least in my mind, interfaces well with where we're going to start tonight. Because Peter had to live where you and I are about to read where Jesus told the disciples, "If you're going to follow me, you need to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." And Peter discovered that he had to deny himself and really get reprogrammed by the Lord so that he would be open in embracing the kind of people that God wanted in the church; not just people like Peter, Jewish people, but Roman citizens, Corneliuses, Gentiles.
Jesus said, "Other sheep I have that you don't know of," and the Lord's embrace was so wide; but Peter had to deny himself first. Well, he was part of the group that first heard when Jesus spoke those words, and those are the words we begin with in verse 34 of Mark, chapter 8.
"When he had called the people to himself, with his disciples also, he said to them, 'Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires the save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.' "
Jesus presents in these words two different approaches to life: either you deny yourself, or you live for yourself; either you embrace the cross, or you ignore the cross; either you save your own life for your sake and the world's sake, or you lose your life for his sake and the Gospel's sake—two completely different ways of doing life. He's talking about discipleship here. "If you're going to follow me"—that's what a disciple is. A disciple of Jesus is more than just a churchgoer. A discipleship is one who learns and follows on a personal level the Lord Jesus Christ by obeying what Jesus said.
We love every week seeing people come forward and give their lives to Christ. One of the great joys of being at this fellowship is to see how many people you bring, or come out of people who come out of curiosity, and at the end of the services, sometimes in the book of Leviticus, will walk forward and give their lives to Jesus Christ every week. And while we love that and we applaud that, once a person believes, they now need to follow, they now need to thrive and grow, or else you'll have a bunch of believers with stunted spiritual growth.
And so Jesus gives the directives, if you're going to follow after him, there's a few things you need to do: dethrone, die, decide. You need to dethrone yourself, or as Jesus put it, "deny yourself." Now, when you hear that little phrase "deny yourself," don't think it means deny things for yourself; that's really not the original meaning.
I remember ever year when I was growing up in the religion system that I grew up in, we had Lent. And my mom would say, "Boys, you need to think about now what you're going to give up for Lent." And I hated Lent because I didn't want to give up anything. And then I got to thinking, "Why does God want me to give something up for a month, if I'm only going to do it again a month later." The idea isn't denying things for yourself, it's simply denying yourself, dethroning yourself, not living for yourself anymore.
Along with that is dying, "take up your cross." What does it mean to bear your cross? I've had somebody say, "I'm married to this husband of mine; he's my cross to bear." [laughter] That's not the idea. The idea of taking your cross is death. The cross meant death. It's the end of self-ambition; it's the beginning of serving the Lord.
Third thing to do is to decide, or as Jesus put it, "And follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will find it." Our Lord is speaking to disciples who will need to make a decision whom their going to follow and how they're going to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because they're facing, or they will be facing intense persecution. You better decide now, because when the heat is turned up and it's hard to follow, it's hard to believe, you need to make sure that you've denied yourself, you've taken up your cross, and you've lost your life for the glory of Jesus Christ—that's the idea here.
And then he says, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses your own soul." This is how I like to think about it: You can decide right here, right now, tonight, whether you're going to merely exist, or you're going to really live. There's a big difference between breathing air, and having a job, and just existing, or entering into real life, going on an adventure.
Following Jesus Christ is the ultimate adventure, because when you lose your life, and you serve him, and you deny yourself, and you've died to your own ambition, you're basically saying, "Okay, Lord, I'm yours. I don't know where this road is going to take me, but I'm up for the adventure. You're in charge; you're driving. I've given to you my pink slip. You're behind the wheel."
Remember that little bumper sticker: "Jesus is my copilot"? Tear that off your car. [laughter] Don't let him be your copilot, let him be your pilot, and you get in the backseat, and don't be a backseat driver. "Lord turn there, turn there. What are doing? You're going too fast." Just let him drive, man. Go on an adventure, deny yourself, take up your cross, and really start living.
"And he said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God present with power.' Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart from themselves; and he was transfigured before them." So, verse 1 is the promise; verse 2 is the fulfillment of the promise. Some of you aren't going to taste death until they see the kingdom of God come presently, and, verse 2, he is transfigured before them.
So, they get to see something that the other nine disciples didn't see. When it says that Jesus took them up to a high mountain, people have tried to guess which mountain is that. The first guess, and it was the site, the traditional site for many years was the place known as Mount Tabor, a kind of a conically-shaped hill, a rounded shape hill up in the Galilee region, in the east Galilee region. It's 1,900 feet from the bottom of the floor up to the very top. Now, if you're standing below it, it looks like a high mountain. The only problem is there are other high mountains all around it, even higher, like mountain Gilboa, right on the other side of it. It's a mountainous area.
The one that I think fits the description the best is a little further north called Mount Hermon, H E R M O N. We say herman, but that reminds me of Herman Munster, so the Hebrew pronunciation would be hur mōwn (kher mone'), Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is indeed a high mountain. It's the highest mountain in the Middle East. It's 9,232 feet above sea level, 11,000 feet above the valley below it, because the valley below it is below sea level. So, it's a high mountain.
The reason I believe that's the mountain that Jesus took his disciples up on is back in chapter 8 in verse 27 they were already moving north in the area of Caesarea Philippi, which is right at the base of Mount Hermon. That's where they were; they were already up in that area. The high mountain that everyone would know as the "high mountain" would be Mount Hermon.
But more than that it says in verse 2, "And he was transfigured before them." Very interesting word. What does transfigured mean? The Greek word is metamorphoó. Does that sound familiar? Metamorphosis comes from that. He was "metamorphosed" before them. A metamorphosis is more than a change of appearance; it's a change of essential form.
It's like when a caterpillar is in a cocoon and gets "transfigured" into a butterfly. Its essential form changes, that's a metamorphosis, a total, essential change of form itself. So, the way I like to look at it is that Jesus is breaking the cocoon of the Son of Man and they're seeing him in that butterfly state as the Son of God in glory, like a postresurrected body, a preview of his postresurrected form.
Now, a lot of people read this and go, "Man, what a miracle to behold—Jesus glowing." You'll read it because it says he was brighter than any laundry soap could make something white. And people go, "What a miracle that Jesus was glowing." I see it a little bit differently. The miracle isn't that Jesus was glowing at this time; the miracle is that Jesus wasn't glowing the rest of the time.
Like the song, the hymn, the Christmas song we sing: "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail incarnate Deity." Jesus the glorious Son of God was veiled in flesh, and the veil is opened at this time, and Peter, James, and John get the preview, the sneak preview, the trailer to the coming movie to see him glorified. Verse 3, "His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them." The best laundromat you could take that white garment to and make it so bright and shiny and starched—brighter than that.
"And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus." If you're taking notes, a couple of places you want to write down and look at later: Daniel, chapter 10, which we have already read a couple weeks back on Sunday morning; Revelation, chapter 1. It's as if these disciples are getting transported into a time tunnel to see the glorified state of the Son of God like Daniel saw in preview form in chapter 10, and like John wrote about in his vision when he saw the hair of Jesus and the head white like wool, and his eyes were a flame of fire, and his feet were like burnish bronze—just this bright, glorious, emanating form. These three were able to see it here.
Here's the question: Moses and Elijah pop in for the party, they see Jesus—"Wow, that's amazing"—but then they see Moses and Elijah. Why Moses? Why Elijah? I mean, there's lots of great Old Testament dudes that could show up. Why not Abraham? Why not David? Why not Joseph? Why not Daniel? Why Moses and Elijah?
Well, Moses was lawgiver, he represents the law. Elijah was considered the greatest prophet in the Old Testament, trying to bring the children of Israel back to God, many miracles at his hands. He was considered the pinnacle of the prophets. So, one who represented the law, and one who represented the prophets. It's as if the law and the prophets are bringing testimony to Jesus the Messiah. It's a beautiful picture.
Moses also in Deuteronomy, chapter 18, predicted that God would raise up another Prophet like himself for the people. And scholars since that time, Old and New Testament, have believed that that is a reference to the coming Messiah, and the New Testament even attests to that. Then Elijah the prophet it's predicted in the Old Testament that he's going to show up before the coming of the Lord. Remember it says in the book of Malachi, the last couple of verses of the Old Testament, "Behold, I send you Elijah who will come to turn the fathers' hearts to the children, and the children back to the fathers. Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse"?
"I'm sending you Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord," God said through that prophet. So, it was predicted that Elijah would come, so it makes sense that Moses and Elijah would show up here. Both Moses and Elijah had a vision of God's glory on Mount Sinai, same mountain. Both Moses and Elijah were rejected by the children of Israel during one stage in their ministry. Both Moses and Elijah had interesting—I was going to say deaths, but I should say endings, because one of them didn't die.
Who didn't die? Elijah, right. Second Kings tells us that he was taken up into heaven in a chariot, so he didn't face death, which is an interesting thing in and of itself, because it's appointed unto man once to die; seems to be an exception, but hold that thought. Moses died but the New Testament book of Jude, that little book right before Revelation, in verse 9 of Jude—now get this—tells us "Michael the archangel, in contending with Satan, disputed over the body of Moses." Okay, that's weird.
What is Michael being sent by God to argue with the devil about the body of the Moses? Well, evidently, Satan wanted to get rid of or desecrate the body of Moses. For some reason it would seem that God, and he ensured Michael's involvement, wanted to preserve the body of Moses for something. So, it's just an interesting thought. Moses and Elijah: Moses was taken up into heaven, didn't die—that was Elijah. Moses died but his body had this controversial argument.
I believe—and this is my opinion, this is my conjecture—that God will save Moses and Elijah for future ministry. Now, I'll read something to you, and that is, Revelation, chapter 11. Just listen to these things. Revelation 11, " 'And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.' These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies." That'd be a little handy little trick to have; wouldn't it? Some of you are going, "I'd like to have a power." [laughter] "If anyone wants to harm them, they must be killed in this manner."
Wow! Somebody comes against them and they go, haaaaaaaa. Now, sometimes our breath can slay some people, but I mean this is the real deal." [laughter] "They have power"—listen to this description—"They have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy." Now, they prophesy for three and a half years. It's interesting that Elijah commanded the rain to stop in the Old Testament and it stopped for three and a half years. The same description of what Elijah did, one of these two witnesses will be able to do.
But listen to the rest, "And they had the power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire." Who was able to do that in the Old Testament? Moses with the Nile River. So, it certainly would be a powerful witness to the Jewish nation in the tribulation period to have Moses and Elijah, the Law and prophets, show up. And I believe, indeed, they will show up. Because, again, the prophet Malachi predicted Elijah will come before the great and terrible day of the Lord, before the great tribulation reaches its pinnacle, its zenith.
Verse 5, "Then Peter answered," oh, oh, "and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.' " I guess that would be an understatement. In fact, I would say, "Peter, you have a keen eye for the obvious." "It's really cool to be here." Okay. He continues, " 'Let us make three tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' "
I like Peter because I relate to Peter. Peter was a doer; didn't like the sit still. Hard for me to sit still. Hard for—ask anybody who knows me, hard for me to take days off. Peter was a doer. He wanted to do something, and he wanted to make some kind of temporary shelter like they do every year in Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles. "Let's make three tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah."
Why tabernacles? Well, it's interesting, chronologists who look at the flow of the New Testament believe that this incident takes place about six months before the crucifixion. The crucifixion takes place at Passover, so that's the springtime of the year; this places this event that you and I are reading in the month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar or our October, the very month that the Feast of Tabernacles takes place.
The Feast of Tabernacles did two things: it looked backward to God's provision in the wilderness; it looked forward to kingdom age when Israel would live in peace. It looked back; it looked forward. They celebrated what God did; they're anticipating what God will do. Why is that important? Well, let me throw something out at you. Do you know that one day you're going to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem every year?
Zechariah, chapter 14, describing a part of the coming kingdom age talks about the residue of those nations of the world going up every year to Jerusalem during the kingdom age, during the thousand-year millennial reign of Christ to keep the Festival of Tabernacles. So, listen, this is good news if you've always wanted to go to Israel but you couldn't afford it, it just didn't fall at the right time, or there were family complications: "Always been a dream. I want to see Israel." You'll get there. You'll get there in the kingdom age, and you'll be able to go there every fall to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.
Having said that, I do think it's nice to have a before and after experience. Because if you've been to Israel, and then you see in its reconditioned state in the millennium, you can go, "Oh, man, remember what it used to look like? Boy, this is just so much better." Of course, if you haven't seen it before, you wouldn't know what you're missing anyway, so not a big deal. [laughter]
So, "Three tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." I don't blame Peter for saying this. I know a lot of pastors—and I've even bad-mouthed Peter. I think Peter's going to have a long line of preachers in heaven standing in line to apologize to Peter for all the stupid things we've said about him. And we've all said dumb things about Peter—self included, I admit that. I don't blame Peter for this because who wouldn't want to hold on to this experience? "This is so cool, Lord. We don't want to leave here. Let's just live here a while."
But we have a problem, two mistakes Peter made. Mistake number one: wanting to study on the mountain and sit when the Lord wants you to go back to the valley and serve. "Oh, this is so cool, let's just stay here." "No, you can enjoy it for a moment, but you need to go back down into the valley with me. I'm going to the cross and you need to be prepared to serve". That's mistake number one.
Mistake number two: by saying "Let's build three tabernacles: one for you, Moses, and Elijah," essentially Peter is putting Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah. "Two great men of the Old Testament, you're like them." The writer of Hebrews in chapter 1 says, "God, who at different times and in different ways spoke in times past to our fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son."
That's why in the other Gospels of these accounts the Lord says, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." "You've listened to Moses and Elijah your whole life, Peter. My Son is my final word. You now need to tune in and listen to him. You can't put him at the same par." So when people say, "Yes, I believe in God, but I have a problem with Jesus being God. We think that Jesus was a wonderful person, and a great teacher, and an enlightened master," you're making the same mistake that Peter made. They're not at the same level. They're not on a par with one another. Jesus is the exalted Lord.
But verse 6 kind of explains what's happening: "Because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid." And you know, when you are afraid, you do just sort of say dumb things. He didn't know what to say. So, there's a general rule: when you don't know what so say, say—what? Nothing. A closed mouth gathers no feet. [laughter] That's the rule; that's the principle. Peter stuck his sandal, his foot in his mouth, and I've done the same thing many times, so I relate to Peter and I love him.
"And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my beloved Son. Hear him! 'Suddenly, when they looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves." Now, Matthew tells us another interesting detail that the disciples, Peter, James, and John, when they saw this, they fell backwards to the ground because they were greatly afraid. And Jesus came and he touched them and brought them back up to their feet.
"Now as they came down from the mountain, he commanded them that they should tell no one the things that they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. And so they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising of the dead meant."
If you want to have a little fun later on, go read 2 Peter, chapter 1, where Peter in his own words describes this event. "We were with him on the holy mount. When he spoke that voice came from heaven, and said, 'This is my beloved Son. Hear him!' And we were there, we saw it, we heard it, we experienced it." But then he says, "We have a more sure word of prophecy." So, it's Peter own words about that experience in that letter.
"So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising of the dead meant. And they asked him, saying, 'Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' And then he answered and said, 'Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things,' " like the prophet Malachi predicted. " 'And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that he must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.' "
It would seem—not that it would seem, it is that the coming of Elijah is in two phases: phase number one, past tense, he's already come; phase number two, he's still coming. What Jesus meant here when he said, "But he's already come, and they did to him whatever they wanted," this is a reference to whom? John the Baptist. When John the Baptist was being dedicated in the temple, the priest Zechariah said, "This is the one who comes in the spirit and the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the hearts of the children back to the fathers. Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
He quoted Malachi, saying, "This is the guy who's coming in the spirit and power of Elijah." So, John the Baptist was an Elijah-like forerunner of Jesus, but the prophet Elijah will come, according to Malachi 4, in the end of days "before the great and terrible day of the Lord."
"Then when he came to the disciples, he saw a great multitude around them, and the scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw him, all the people were greatly amazed, running to him, greeted him. And he asked the scribes, 'What are you discussing with them?' "
I love Jesus. He knew what they were discussing with them. But he comes in and like a Good Shepherd, like a good pastor would, when he senses that there's false teaching, aberrant theology going on by these religious legalists talking to the disciples, he calls them into account. He makes them publicly accountable. "What are you talking to them about?" and he get it out in the open.
Now, we have a shift in scenery here. They've been up on the mountain; they're going back now toward the valley. They're going down back into Galilee. And the scene shifts from a preview of the second coming, this transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, to a purview of the first coming. He's back doing ministry in Galilee and then Judea ministering to those who are suffering, needing teaching, needing comfort. He's there for that.
"Then one of the crowd answered and said, 'Teacher, I brought you my son, who has a mute spirit.' " Now, Matthew when he gives the same account, calls the boy an epileptic. Mark calls it a mute spirit. Matthew gets more descriptive saying he has epilepsy; he's an epileptic. The King James Version says, "My son's a lunatic."
The word lunatic comes from the moon—luna—the moon. And the idea of a lunatic, they believe that somebody who stared at the moon long enough would go crazy and then have physical problems because of it. So, a lunatic meant somebody who was moonstruck. "My son's moonstruck; he's a lunatic." Mark describes it as one who has a mute spirit.
"And wherever," verse 18, "it seizes him, it throws him down; and he foams at the mouth, gnashing his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not." I love this dad. Now, I'm sure the disciples didn't at this point. They're going, "Oh, man, that guy again? And he's just showing us up, man, our weakness. We tried to do this, we couldn't pull it off." And here he comes, he goes, "My son has this issue; I took him to your disciples, they couldn't fix it."
So, the disciples probably didn't like this guy, but I like this guy because he loves his son so much that his primary goal is to get his son to Jesus. Every father's goal should be: "I want to get my son, my daughter, as close to Jesus as I can." Even if the disciples of Jesus aren't able to help, don't let that stop you from bringing them to Jesus. Don't let an excuse: "Oh, I've been to that church. I was burned by that church. That pastor let me down." People will let you down. Now, bring them to Jesus.
"And so he answered," an interesting answer, " 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me,' " perhaps saying that to his disciples who were faithless. They were unable to perform what that father asked him to even though Jesus had conferred power previously.
"And then they brought him to him. And when he saw him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. And so he asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.' " If? "Lord, if you could help me . . ."
Now, that sounds foolish to us, doesn't it? Saying to God, "If you can do anything." But you know when somebody has been suffering a while and they haven't seen change—and they have gone from disciple to disciple, and no change; they've worked on him and prayed for him and nothing has happened—then you start second-guessing and doubting and waffling—"Lord, if . . ."
"Jesus said," puts it right back at him, " 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.' " "Lord, if you can do anything"—"Well, if you can believe—I put it back in your court. Do you believe?" I love his answer, it's so honest. "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!' "
Can you relate to that? There's a part of you that believes; there's a part of you that doesn't believe. "Lord, I believe you, but I do bounce back from faith to doubt depending on my experience, depending on the time of day, depending on my physiology, depending on what I've eaten, depending on who I've talked to. Help my unbelief." I think it's a beautiful prayer. I think it's a fair prayer.
And I would denounce those of the Faith movement that say, "It requires your perfect faith in order to have a healing from God, and if you're not healed, it's because you don't have enough faith. Your faith has fallen short, and it's your problem. You would be healed or your daughter or son would be healed if only you had enough faith." What a horrible thing to say to someone. Because if that were true, then Jesus would have said to this man, "Well, come back when your faith is way up here. It sounds to me like it's maybe halfway." "Yeah, I believe, but help my unbelief." "That's not perfect faith; I can't deal with that."
"Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!' And the spirit cried out, and convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, 'He is dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand," again, the touch, the touch of Jesus, "and lifted him up, and he arose.
"And when he had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' " See, they're still living in that whole guilt thing. Dad came and said, "I brought this boy to them, they couldn't do anything, so I'm bringing him to you." They've been chewing on that for a while. So their question is: "Well, how come we couldn't do it?" He said to them, 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting,' " prayer and fasting.
It would seem that faith to see the extraordinary done is produced by two disciplines: prayer and fasting. I'm not going to ask for a show of hands how many pray and fast regularly, but just let this verse haunt you a little bit as you go home—in a good way. The faith to do extraordinary—to tap into God, to go from the wavering of unbelief to faith and belief—"God can do it"—as a disciple, as a coworker with Christ.
"This kind comes by prayer and fasting." And this kind does not come out, this kind of oppression and demon that held this kid doesn't come out except by prayer and fasting. Now, prayer attaches me to God; fasting detaches me from the flesh. I'm saying no to the flesh; I'm saying yes to God. And God honors that—the simple act of obedience. I say simple, it's not that easy to pull it off, a day without eating and spent in prayer.
"Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and he did not want anyone to know it. For they taught his disciples and said to them, 'The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And after he is killed, he will rise the third day.' But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask him. Then he came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, 'What was it,' " that you disciples, " 'you disputed among yourselves on the road?' "
Walking from the north back down toward the south from Caesarea Philippi, Mount Hermon, back down into the valley, twenty-five miles toward the lowlands of the Sea of Galilee, now in Capernaum, they had a dispute, an argument. "What was it?" Jesus said. Now, again, he knew what it was. This is confession time; this is accountability time. "Cough it up boys. Get it out."
"But they kept silent." He asked for—"Tell me what it is." It's like a little kid. "What did you do? What were you boys arguing about?" "They kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest." They are still thinking in their minds politically about the Messiah. As men of a Jewish background they expected Messiah will come as a political ruler, overcome our enemies, at that time being the Roman Empire, bring in a messianic age.
That's what Peter's whole idea of the building of tabernacles is. Evidently, this is the inauguration of the messianic age in which the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated—"Let's build tabernacles." They're still thinking politically: "Our Messiah isn't going to die on a cross." So when he said, "I'm going to Jerusalem to die," they went, "Huh? I don't get it." Foom—right over their heads. And they kept going, thinking that their Messiah will not suffer and die but rule the world. So, since he's going to rule the world, and this is the inauguration of the messianic age, we want the best seat in the house.
"Who's going to be the greatest in the kingdom?" Now, why did the argument happen then? Think back a few verses. Jesus took whom up with him on the mountain? Peter, James, John—he isolated three and left the other nine. Now, if you were one of nine and the other three came back after a few days and—"What happened?" "I can't say." Because Jesus said, "Don't tell anybody."
Now, they're feeling a little bit slighted, like, "Gosh, those guys always get, like, top billing. They get to go into the house when Jesus heals somebody. They get to go on the mountain, and that's cool, we don't." So the argument would naturally develop. "Who's going to be the greatest in the kingdom?" Well, you know Peter, James, and John were going, "Pfft, no-brainer. We're, like, always the guys."
And by the way, it's not going to end here. Mrs. Zebedee will come to Jesus a little bit later within this six month period leading up to the cross, the mother of James and John, and say, "Jesus, I have just, like, one little request to ask, that my two boys Jimmy and Johnny, that they could sit right next to you when you rule and reign forever and forever in your kingdom. Could they be, like, on your right hand and left hand?"
Now, the other disciples are going to find out that mom, their mom came to Jesus and asked that, and they're blacklisted from that time on. It's, like—"You guys are not cool." But it will not stop there. When they get to the upper room and Jesus washes their feet and breaks the bread of Passover, they're still arguing—"Who's going to be the greatest; who's going to be the greatest?" And, again, Peter, James, and John are going, "Pfft, no-brainer."
"And he sat down, and he called the twelve, and he said to them, 'If anyone desires to be first, let him be the last of all and a servant of all.' And he took a little child," again, here's the touch of Jesus, he takes this child, "and set him in the midst of them. And when he had taken him in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.' " A little child, a little toddler; paidion is the Greek word: a little, helpless, dependent child who loves to be held.
"Now, John answered him, saying, 'Teacher, we saw someone who doesn't follow us casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he doesn't follow us.' " Now, if he's doing it in the name of Jesus, he has some attachment to Christ in his faith system. But because he's not part of that gang, like a lot of churches they'd say, "Well, they don't go to our church, so they can't be cool."
"Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name could soon afterward speak evil of me. For he who is not against us is on our side.' " Now, Jesus said previously, "If you're not for me, you're against me." Now he says, "If they're not against us, our work," a whole different context here, "they're for us."
" 'Whoever gives a cup of cold water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose a reward.' " Again we see the touch of Jesus throughout both of these chapters: touching a blind man in the previous chapter and healing him; touching the disciples to bring them up; touching the little boy by holding him in his arms. That touch of Jesus so often we see, and that's what makes the difference in a person's life.
I've always loved that poem:
'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, so he held it up with a smile. "What am I bid, good folks?" he cried. "Who will start the bidding for me? A dollar, a dollar, two dollars, two dollars, who will make it three?
Three dollars once, three dollars twice"—but no! From the room far back a gray-haired man stepped forward and picked up the bow and wiping the dust from the old violin and tightening up the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet, as sweet as the angels sing.
When the music stopped, the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low said, "Now what am I bid for the old violin?" as he held it up with a bow. "A thousand dollars, two thousand, who will make it three? Three thousand once, three thousand twice, going and gone," said he.
And the people cheered, but some of them said, "We do not quite understand. What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply, "The touch of the master's hand." And many a man with his life out of tune, battered and scarred by sin, are auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine, a song, and he travels on. He's going once, he's going twice, he's going and he's almost gone. But the Master comes. And the thoughtless crowd can never quite understand the worth of a soul, and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master's hand.
The Master walked among the people, walked among his disciples, walked among the blind, the lame, and touched, and healed, and what God can do touching any life and making it new. And so we celebrate the Lord's Supper. Why? Because he touched our lives by his death on the cross, shedding of his blood, breaking of his body, and then resurrection from the dead. He touched our lives, and we're made whole, and so we celebrate that tonight.
I'm going to ask our two campus pastors to come up in the closing five minutes and have us break the elements or the bread, and then take the juice. So, Jarrett Petero our Nob Hill campus pastor, and Victor our outgoing Santa Fe pastor, they're going to come up and they're going to share these elements.
If you don't know the Lord tonight, we recommend that you don't take the elements, because the Bible says you are drinking and eating condemnation. You're just sort of adding to that. So, don't take it if you're not a believer, if it's not personal to you. Notice I didn't say, "If you're a struggling Christian. If you've fallen short this week, and you blew it, and you sinned," and you say, "Well, I don't feel worthy." Doesn't matter how you feel. If you belong to Jesus, he made you worthy, you take it with boldness.
But if you've never personalized the Gospel and received Christ as your Savior to begin with, you don't take it, or better yet, you give your life to Christ. You say to him right now: Lord, I receive Jesus as my Master. I want his touch in my life. I believe he died on the cross and rose from the dead for me personally, and I turn from my sin, and I turn to you, Lord, as my Savior in this moment. I pray that you'd change me. I believe in you. If you made that simple, simple statement of faith, then you also take the elements. I'm going to let these guys take it from here, and then we'll close it.
Pastor Jarrett Petero: As we take the bread and hold it up before the Lord, just remember what Pastor Skip mentioned there when we began the study tonight about how Jesus said, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." As we take this bread, too, I'm reminded about the fact that Jesus would even say at this Last Supper, "With fervent desire I've desired to partake of this with you before I suffer."
And as he took the bread, and then he blessed it, and it was broken, and given to his disciples, he told them to "take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you," and he said, "Remember me." to think about a joy in his heart as he pronounced that new covenant in his body. No more works. With that desire that he has for us, may we continue to have the desire to follow him and be empowered by his Spirit. Let's pray together.
Father, as we hold this bread in our hand and think about your body that was broken for us through your Son Jesus Christ, we rejoice in the fact that his body was given in place of ours that we could have new life. Lord, our prayer is that we would have a continued desire inspired and empowered by your Holy Spirit this evening. Refresh us as believers this evening with the outpouring of your Holy Spirit upon our lives. Lord, and, again, as we partake of this bread as a symbol of your body, we do proclaim the Lord's death and also his return, and so we remember you, Jesus, as you declared, "Remember me." Let's partake together.
Pastor Victor Lucero: Mark's Gospel says that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to be a ransom for many. And many of us in this room have been ransomed from the bondage of sin, but that ransom came at a price, and the price was the spilling of Jesus' blood. You see, it wasn't enough that a sacrifice of the blood of bulls or goats would be sufficient for that reconciliation to be made in a right relationship to a holy God, but rather the precious blood of Christ; as John would call him the sinless Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, and so that's what we celebrate.
We celebrate Jesus' broken body and the blood that he shed for you and I so that we could be made to a right relationship with him, but also that we would have a desire for many to come to that place of reconciliation.
So, Father, as we remember what Jesus did for us on Calvary's cross for the joy that was set before him, Lord, we thank you that your Word gives us the promise that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. So, thank you, Lord, that you gave your best, you gave us your Son. He was pierced with nails, he was beaten and bruised, and he died so that we could live. And so, Lord, we remember the cross, we remember Calvary; we remember the spilled blood of Christ. Let's take the cup.