Good evening my friends welcome to Simple Faith, and I am your host Cathy Merritt.
I am taking the scriptures and showing you how simple the bible is if you put everything in the right framework. God is good and he created this book for us to understand. Not to be confused and uncertain.
I told you last week we will see more stories of the Pharisees trying to wipe out Jesus. We begin in Mark 7:1-23
Parallel Texts: Matthew 15:1-20; John 7:1
This is a great story… we could spend a week going over it piece by piece! A group of Pharisees have come up from Jerusalem and in our first glimpse of them; they are looking for a fight. They approach Jesus complaining that His disciples are eating before they have gone through the proper hand washing ceremony… of all things. Jesus is having none of that:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
It didn’t take Jesus very long to come to the point; He calls them hypocrites in the first sentence! The point is that they, who are such great law keepers, just ask them and they’ll tell you, are pushing customs and traditions that aren’t in the Law. First He quotes Isaiah 29:13 to set up His counter-charge, and then goes right to the point:
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Here he quotes the commandment, and then reminds the nice Pharisees of their tradition. A man could set aside part of his property as a gift to God and be relieved of his obligations to his elderly parents… and the Pharisees are perfectly fine with that, which of course defeats the purpose of the commandment. And here they were, trying to use one of these idiotic traditions to condemn His disciples!
Well, now… we’re making friends today aren’t we?
Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
It didn’t make any difference whether His disciples did the traditional hand washing before eating their meal; what good is a ritual? The food would not make them unclean in any way, they would swallow it and nature would take its course. It’s what comes out of a person that makes them unclean, for what comes out of us reveals the condition of our hearts.
If a man sees a beautiful woman, the sight of her does not make him a sex-crazed maniac… unless a sex-crazed manic was already inside of him. If a person performs all of the right rituals and ceremonies and goes through all of the perfect motions on Sunday morning… so what? Those will not cause anyone to love God and love their neighbor unless the love of God was already within their hearts.
Oh, sorry, did I make this about us instead of about those shameful Pharisees?
But my friend, all too often, we are the Pharisees!
So let’s see, what do we have here?
Not only was Jesus some kind of a revolutionary preacher, about this new kingdom of His, not only was He healing the sick and lame, making the blind see, chasing out demons, forgiving sins and even raising the dead, and not only did He give out free food to his fans, now He was attacking the status quo by which the elites kept everyone in line!
Here’s another report back to Jerusalem that I wish we could read together!
Yep, those Pharisees were looking for a fight, and Jesus didn’t disappoint them.
Parallel Text: Matthew 15_21-28
A quick reading of this text will tell us that Jesus heals someone’s daughter, but quick readings don’t always yield the whole story,
for there are those times when we are better off slowing down just a bit; this is one of those times.
This is the first time that Jesus has entirely left the country, as we would say today, for He is in Lebanon. It would seem that He has withdrawn entirely from Galilee with His disciples after more than a year of frantic activity and ever-growing crowds. It is to be a time of rest, and can I say it?
A vacation or “retreat” of sorts.
Yet He has become famous, and even in this Gentile land, His presence will not be a secret for very long. Mark goes to great lengths here to make it clear that the woman who approaches Jesus for help is a Gentile. He tells us that she is a Syrian of Phoenician extraction, rather more personal information than is really necessary, but he does so because her being a Gentile is the point of the story.
She asks Jesus to help her daughter, for her daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus responds to her plea with a strange remark:
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
So is He telling the woman that He can only help the girl if she’s just eaten? No, I don’t think so. The woman sure had a comeback…
“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
It was not uncommon in those days for people to have dogs as pets and as workers in the fields. In those days, they didn’t have a special aisle in the grocery stores for all of the various kinds of dog food, and so the dogs ate table scraps. After a meal was finished, they would feed the leftovers to the dogs. During the meals, the dogs would have to wait, but if crumbs fell from the table, the dogs would snatch them up. Jesus and the woman were using a metaphor.
Jesus is telling the woman that He has come to preach the Kingdom to the Jews (children) and the Gentiles would receive the message after the Jews have had the first opportunity for salvation, for this is what God had promised them. The woman, being a Gentile, would have to wait. This was one sharp lady who fully comprehending what Jesus was telling her,
expanded His metaphor to the dogs snapping up crumbs that fall from the table, as she begs Him to help her child.
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
This Gentile woman demonstrated more faith and understanding
than the religious leaders of the Jews ever did! As a result of her faith, she was able to snatch up a “crumb” from the table, and the demon was gone from her child… and the child wasn’t even there!
An amazing story. Jesus demonstrated another aspect of the Kingdom He was preaching: The Good News would be preached first to the Jews and after a time, it would be taken with power and authority to the Gentiles, for all Nations would be blessed by the seed of Abraham, as God had promised so long before.
Parallel Text: Matthew 15:29-31
After some days in the region of Tirer, Jesus and the disciples moved on in the direction of Sidon, crossing into modern-day Syria, making their way finally to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee where they were confronted by large crowds; many were healed. Mark tells the story of the healing of one man in particular, a man who was both deaf and nearly unable to speak.
Jesus took the man aside, away from the commotion, and began His work. In so many cases, just touching Jesus’ garment brought about healing, in others, Jesus spoke and the job was complete, but in this case, the recipient of the healing was deaf, so Jesus made plain to the man what He was doing in other ways. First Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, picture in your mind what this would look like. Then Jesus spit! Apparently, this was a sign for the man to stick out his tongue, because Jesus was able to touch it. If you have the picture in your mind, Jesus has a finger from each hand in the guy’s ears, and probably one or both thumbs on his tongue.
At this point, Jesus looks to heaven, sighs deeply and says in Aramaic, “Be opened” and the man can hear and speak; he is healed.
Let he who has an ear hear, let him who has a tongue praise God.
It would be a matter of conjecture for me to explain why Jesus sighed deeply or why He didn’t just say “So ordered” when He was asked to heal this man, for the text itself does not say. It could be that Jesus thought of all of those who were deaf and mute who would not be healed that day. It might be that He took the effort to use his hands so that the man would be aware of exactly what was going on so that he would know that Jesus had done this… maybe.
Then Jesus once again goes the next step and asks the man not to tell anybody what happened. Of course, that people would see this man hearing and talking would make the question of what had happened inevitable, and it would be pretty much impossible for him not to say. Why did Jesus make this request?
Earlier in Mark, we were told that He wanted to keep the numbers in crowd under control, but it was a little late for that at this point. The text doesn’t tell us, so I don’t know. Yet, I can offer an observation: Jesus had become a rock star at that point, but He wasn’t like the rock stars we might think of. Jesus was our role model, or better put, Jesus IS our role model! He was not healing and restoring people to wholeness to get His picture in the papers, He was fulfilling God’s will on earth.
What are we supposed to be doing? Aren’t we supposed to be leading people to Jesus so they might be made whole again? Are we supposed to be self-promoting in the process, or are we called upon to be humble as He was humble?
If nothing else, it’s something to ponder I should think.
In John’s account of Jesus feeding the five thousand in chapter six, those same people, on the very next day ask Him for a sign. here, in Mark’s account of His feeding of the four thousand, the Pharisees ask Him for a sign. I’m reminded of a story; you’ve probably heard it too:
A man heard that a great flood was coming, so he went up to the roof of his house. As the waters began to rise, his neighbor comes along in a boat and tells the man to get in, but the man declines saying that he knows God will save him. A few hours later, with the waters several feet higher, someone else comes along in a boat, but the man gives the same reply. Still later, with the waters creeping up the roofline, a helicopter comes by with a lifeline to pull him aboard, but the man maintains his position that God will save him. Finally, with the floodwaters waist-high and standing at the very highest point of the roof, in desperation the man calls out: “Oh Lord, I have faith that you will save me, when will you delivers me?”
Suddenly, the man hears a loud and booming voice from above the clouds saying unto him, “Man I have sent you two boats and a helicopter already. What do you want from me!?”
After all of the miracles and miraculous signs that Jesus has provided, and after just having fed four thousand people miraculously, the Pharisees ask for a sign… as if one more would make any difference!
Gee whiz, this reminds me of another story; lucky you!
There’s a scene in Herman Wouk’s book War and Remembrance in which a group of men are sitting around a table in occupied Europe during the Second World War. These men have all seen and heard things, enough for them to understand what the Nazis are up to and they have been trying to get word out about the Holocaust, but nobody will listen to them. Why? Why won’t anybody listen or look at the evidence? One of them utters what is possibly the most brilliant line I’ve ever read in modern literature: “They have the will to not know.”
Did you catch that? It’s very subtle… the will “to not know.” It isn’t that they don’t understand, it isn’t just that they don’t want to be bothered, it’s that they want to remain ignorant. Jesus was there because God so loved the world that He was preparing to sacrifice His one and only Son, and Jesus was willing to be that sacrifice; He wanted all men to be saved by it. Thus, we must conclude that if one more sign would save these Pharisees, he would have given them a sign. He knew, however that they wanted to not know who He was, and as a result no amount of miracles would change anything for them because they didn’t want it. These Pharisees were not confused or unconvinced, they were working for the other side.
Jesus left them where they stood and got back into the boat.
What do you suppose God is showing us in this passage?
Parallel Texts: Matthew 15:32-16:4
Once again, we are near the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, the disciples and a very large crowd of people. Apparently they have all been there for quite a while, because Jesus feels that the people need to be fed. As He says, some have come from a long distance and need nourishment before they head home. In this, He shows His compassion for these people who have come to hear His teaching, and yet as the disciples point out, there was simply not enough food for such a large crowd; there’s four thousand people out there!
Have they forgotten that Jesus had no problem with five thousand?
As He did before, Jesus had the disciples gather up their supplies and directed it be distributed to the crowd, and when their provisions were passed, everyone had their fill and they had more leftovers than they had started with. After they had eaten, Jesus sent the people home, and He and the disciples crossed the Sea again. Note that Mark doesn’t record any conversation between them at this point.
Later, Mark doesn’t specify exactly when, Jesus is chatting with some Pharisees.
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Parallel Text: Matthew 16:5-12
Jesus talked with some Pharisees; they demanded a sign and Jesus refused to give them, and went back to the boat. In this passage, they are out in the boat when Jesus who, apparently out of the blue, tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. (Matthew recalls it as “Pharisees and Sadducees”)
The disciples have no idea what he is talking about, and assume He is referring to the fact that they only had one loaf of bread. Jesus reminds them of the fact that He can make that one loaf into thousands if he wants to and seems cynical at their lack of understanding. By now, you should see that there is a pattern here: Jesus has an entirely different point of view than everybody else. He isn’t concerned about the merely physical, about the things of this world. The disciples, on the other hand, see things the way everybody else sees them; physical, practical, earthly, here and now. They don’t understand where Jesus is coming from most of the time, and frankly who can blame them?
Don’t most Christians think the same way the disciples were thinking?
“Of course Jesus is at the center of my life, yes I am following Him wherever he leads, absolutely I would do anything to help build His Kingdom… but right now I’m too busy.” “Well, I don’t think He means I should have to do that!”
No, they didn’t understand what He was talking about.
Matthew tells us that Jesus was referring to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees in 16:12.
The disciples might have stopped to think about what yeast represents in Scripture: SIN!
But Mark mentions Herod, was Herod a teacher? In a way he was, just like President Obama is in a sense a teacher. He was their political leader, and held great influence with many people, as does President Obama (or whoever might hold office). We have already seen how the Pharisees and Herod viewed Jesus as a threat to their positions, and the Sadducees would be right there with them… this guy needs to go away!
Think about the conversation Jesus has just had: After feeding the 4,000 by a miracle, the Pharisees wanted a sign. That demand was itself a sign, for it announced in a clear and unambiguous way that they were going to oppose Jesus and the Kingdom everywhere they encountered it. They would use their influence, along with that of Herod (strange bedfellows indeed) to stop Jesus at all costs. Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod!
It’s time to get a clue boys!
Parallel Texts: Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21
After Jesus restores sight to a blind man in 8:22-26, Mark cuts to a new scene. Jesus and the disciples are walking toward Sesareeda Philippi, and along the way Jesus asks them who people say that He is.’ They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”’ (v. 28) Then Jesus drops the big question:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Matthew has it this way:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Some refer to this as “The Great Confession” for it is upon this confession that the church stands. As Matthew makes clear in 16:17-20, not only does the church stand upon this foundation, but also our hope of overcoming death itself rests here, for it is only through the belief that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Living God that that anyone will receive eternal life.
Sadly, there is much controversy on this passage, but I must remind myself that we are studying Mark, not Matthew! Suffice it say that the rock is the acknowledgement of the truth of Jesus’ identity and not the poor vessel who first stated it, for in the very next section, Peter will demonstrate his lack of understanding of the totality of what he has said!
Mark finishes this part of the scene by simply stating that Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about this. He does not give a reason for this warning. Maybe we should wait and see if anything will shed light on this as Mark continues.
You might be detecting a subtle shift in Mark’s tone, for while his presentation remains choppy with short scenes moving quickly along, from this point, the tone of Mark’s writing will become more and more serious. He has already begun to provide us with more details more often, and that trend will continue, and though he never provides the amount of in-depth coverage that Matthew and John will provide in parallel texts, Mark will be filling in more details from here on out than he has previously about certain things.
Well, Peter has attained a spiritual high in this text, being the first to say who Jesus is
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Parallel Texts: Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 9:22-27
Let’s get the timing right: Jesus asks the disciples who people say that He is, and they mention some of the buzz going around. Then He asks them who they say He is and Peter boldly announces that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus asks them to keep that to themselves and then proceeds to tell them He must be rejected, suffer and die… and that He will rise from the grave on the third day, whereupon Peter takes Him aside to rebuke Him!
That’s right dear reader, only moments after acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Peter is taking Him aside to straighten Him out! I can be pretty bold myself, but I’ve got nothing on old Peter!
“Get thee behind me Satan!” How many times have you heard someone repeat this famous line? Maybe you’ve used it yourself a time or two… as I have. Commentators write page after page about the finer points of meaning that they draw from this statement, preachers preach sermons on it…
That statement is not the point. Speculations about Satan is not the point. How many times do we quote His next remark? “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Merely human concerns; yep, the stuff we always think about. Jesus explains this further:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Most of the time, this is in a different sermon, but it is Jesus’s reply to Peter telling Him He must allow Himself to be killed; it is the explanation of “Get thee behind me Satan,” Jesus is on the earth for a reason, to accomplish a mission, to do His Father’s bidding, not to live long and prosper; so are you and me. How much time we waste being concerned about our own comfort, how much time we waste being entertained! Is that all there is to life?
In our time, the idea of denying oneself is entirely foreign, counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Do people make money selling books about self-denial?
Do politicians get elected to office by promising that the government will stop handing out money and benefits? Seems we are all waiting for a handout… one way or another.
My friends – sometimes I get discouraged by seeing the lack of faith in people and today I was overwhelmed with people saying more about traditions and rules then about the Commandments of God. I pray that you have understood my words and that I pray we’ll come back next week for another edition of Simple Faith.
I pray that God will continue to encourage this radio program
This is Cathy Merritt
Signing out – firstname.lastname@example.org