Sunday April 22nd
We live in a nation governed by laws. But some of those laws might leave you wondering who thought them up. Here are 12 of the strangest laws on the books:
In Alabama - residents are committing “unlawful bear exploitation” if they train a bear for the purpose of bear wrestling.In California - Any frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest can't be eaten.In Iowa - Anyone trying to pass off margarine as real butter is guilty of a misdemeanor. (I can’t believe it’s not butter! I can’t believe I’m going to jail for saying that!)In Minnesota, any game in which participants attempt to capture a greased pig is illegal.
In New Hampshire -It's illegal to collect seaweed at nightIn New Mexico - "idiots" can't vote in state elections.In North Carolina, bingo games can last only up to five hours.
In Oregon - Leaving a container of urine on the side of the road is a Class A misdemeanor.In South Carolina - A male over the age of 16 can't falsely promise to marry a woman.
In Utah, no one may hurl a missile at a bus — except "elected or appointed peace officers"
In West Virginia - Anyone who hunts with a ferret will face a fine of $100 and 10 days in jail.In Wyoming, you can't "detach" more than one-half of a sheep's ear.
As we look at Exodus chapter 22, which is collection of various additional laws for the people of Israel, we may find that some of these could strike us as odd also!
Verse 1 says:
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”
That one makes a lot of sense, because paying back five times more than you stole should help to discourage thievery. But this next one might seem a bit trickier:
2 “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
Here’s what’s being expressed by this law - The killing of a burglar at night did not incur guilt on the home owner, since confronting the burglar in the dark could endanger the homeowner’s life. But a daytime thief was easier to identify and stop, therefore killing him was not justified.
Now verse 4 I can’t quite understand, if it’s connected to verse 3:
4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
Do you see why I’m confused? Who has to repay double, the dead thief? (I never realized that there were zombies in the Bible!)
There must be something in Hebrew grammar that I just can’t figure out. So let’s simplify this one to something simple: “Don’t steal stuff because someone might kill you!”
Verses 5 through 15 are all about property rights regarding fields, animals, fire, accidents, and lending stuff out:
5 “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
So if your goat eats my crops, you owe me your crops!
6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.
I’m sure that Smokey the Bear liked that one!
7 “If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.
So if you lend me your hammer and I tell you “someone stole it from me” when you ask for it back, but you see it in my toolbox, then I owe you two hammers!
10 “If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, 11 an oath before the Lord shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces.
One time my roommate asked me to watch his cat, and it got hit by a car because I let it outside near a busy street.
It wasn’t “torn to pieces” but it was definitely flattened, and I had some “splaining” to do when my friend got back from his trip!
14 “If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make restitution; if it is hired, it came for its hire.
This one seems to say that if you and I are together, and I’m throwing a Frisbee with your dog, and he run into a tree and dies, that’s not my fault, because you were there and you didn’t tell me to stop.
I think we can see why these laws were important for the people of Israel, because in a farming culture, crops and animals were very crucial to their survival.
And if there weren’t laws regarding how to handle property disputes, then chaos could occur, possibly leading to violence.
Even in our court system today, there are 2 distinct types of courts – criminal courts, which are for law-breakers, and civil courts to settle property issues and other personal matters.
Then verse 16 deals with a very sensitive kind of interpersonal issue:
“If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.”
This verse was probably the origin of what came to be known as “shotgun weddings”. You got the girl pregnant, so now you need to “do the right thing” and marry her. That is, unless her Daddy says “get lost, you loser!” In that case, just make sure that you pay your child support!”
The next three verses list different reasons why people might deserve capital punishment:
18 “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.
20 “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.
Those are three very different crimes, but each one was considered to be a justifiable cause for the death penalty!
The next section, from verses 21-24, has to do with how to treat widows and orphans, and those who are foreigners:
21 “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
God expected the people of Israel to be kind to strangers, since they had been strangers in Egypt. And that last verse surely shows us how serious God is about the treatment of widows and orphans!
If we look at James 1:27 we can see that this concern remained important to God all the way through the New Testament:
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
God’s concern for those who are weak and vulnerable has never changed.
God continues to show his concern for the treatment of the poor in verses 25-27:
25 “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
Do you see what those verses are saying? You can’t take away what little a poor person has and claim that its the interest on what they owe you.
Verse 28 equates God’s authority with those whom He has placed in positions of authority:
28 “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
This verse is actually quoted by Paul in Acts 23:1-5
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
You see, Paul didn’t realize that Ananias, who had ordered the guards to smack him, was the High Priest.
As terrible as his actions were, Paul knew that he must still respect the authority of his position.
And it was Paul who wrote in Romans 13:1 “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
The next two verses are a reminder not to withhold tithes and offerings from God:
29 “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
In our PBI course on Theology and Life we talked about how God doesn’t “need” out tithes, but we “need” to tithe in order to be in a correct relationship with God.
And the final verse in this chapter is what I like to call “The Vegetarian Verse”!
31 “You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh.”
Actually, it says more than that, which is why we always tell you to read every verse in its full context!
The complete verse says:
31 “You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
Or a more modern translation might be – “Don’t eat roadkill – it might make you sick!”
When we look at this list of laws, we can understand that God was trying to guide His people towards holy, healthy, righteous living. These rules were for their good, not just to frustrate them.
As New Testament followers of Jesus, we also are being asked to not only know God’s ways, but to do them.
We see this in James 1:22-25
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
It’s not enough to hear God’s Word or to know God’s Word – we are called to DO what God’s Word says!
I want you to think about what verse 25 says about “the perfect law, the law of liberty”
Liberty means freedom. And laws tend to limit or restrict my freedom. So how can there be such a thing as “the law of liberty”?
I believe it means this:
God gave me a free will. I can use it to obey Him or to disobey Him.
If I use my will to disobey God, I may feel that I am walking in freedom, but I am actually walking in bondage to my own selfish desires.
The only way that I can walk in true freedom is to take my free will and turn it back over to God – to submit my will and my ways to the higher calling of His will and His ways!
When I am able to say “Not my will, but yours” then I become truly free – Free from selfishness and self-centeredness – free to serve – free to truly live!
That’s why James describes the law of liberty as “the Perfect Law”
I don’t know about you, but God’s law suits me perfectly!
Sunday April 8th
Well, you know that there are all kinds of Top 10 lists these days, even different kinds of 10 Commandments lists. I recently came across this list of 10 Commandments for Car Collectors
1. Thou shalt not store thy cars out-of-doors.
2. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's battery charger.
3. Thou shalt not love thy cars more than thy wife and thy children; thou may love thy cars as much as thy family, but not more.
4. Thou shalt not read thy car magazines while at work, lest thy employer make it impossible for thee to continue making thy car payments.
5. Thou shalt not despise thy neighbor's Edsel.
6. Thou shalt not allow thy daughters nor thy sons to get married during the holy days of car shows.
7. Thou shalt not deceive thy wife into thinking that thou art taking her for a romantic Sunday drive when, indeed, thou art actually going to look at another car.
8. Thou shalt not tell thy spouse the entire cost of thy latest car restoration, at least not all of it at the same time.
9. Thou shalt not promise thy wife a new addition to the house and then use it thine money to build a bigger garage to store more cars.
10. Thou shalt not buy thy wife a floor jack or engine lift for Christmas!
So now in Exodus chapter 20 we are going to finally hear the issuing of the REAL 10 commandments to Moses:
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The first four commandments essentially describe how people are supposed to relate to God, and the other six commandments describe how God’s people are supposed to relate to each other.
Let’s look at some specific elements of these commandments.
In verse 3, when God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, that phrase literally means “before My face” or “in My presence.” God doesn’t want us in His presence if we’re inviting other gods to come along with us! He doesn’t want them “in His face”!
The prohibition in verse 4 against engraved or carved images means something that was made from wood or stone. One commentary points out that “Israel was to be distinguished from the nations by her imageless worship.”
Why were images forbidden in worship? Because God had already made mankind in His own image!
Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”
Do you want an image of God? Look at each other!
Of course, God did provide His own exact image in the flesh—Jesus Christ!
Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”.
When we think about the third commandment – taking God’s name in vain – we need to remember that God’s name was a special gift to Israel. By using His name, Israel had access to God. God’s name is therefore to be revered.
This commandment forbids the use of God’s name not only in the form of cursing, but also for attesting to things that aren’t true by using expressions such as “I swear to God”!
Deuteronomy 28:58 says “to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God”.
Jesus taught us to pray “hallowed be thy name.”
And Jesus honored His Father’s name while hanging on the Cross in John 12:28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
The commandment about the Sabbath sometimes causes confusion, because it was originally defined as lasting from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
The Hebrew word (shabbat) derives from a verb meaning “to cease”—so the Sabbath was the day that all work had to cease. God’s decision to rest on the seventh day of creation was the basis for the commandment.
But we also need to understand that the original Sabbath rest was only intended to lead us to a greater rest, as explained in Hebrews 4:3-4
“For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”
although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”
Just like the Old Testament animal sacrifices were intended to lead the people to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, so the Sabbath was meant to prepare the people for the ultimate rest of forgiveness through Jesus.
In Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
And in Colossians 2:16-17 we are told,
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
So as New Testament followers of Jesus, we don’t have to get hung up on the exact hours of the Sabbath, because we find our rest in Jesus.
That’s why Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
So those first 4 commandments show us how to relate to God, with reverence and respect.
The rest of the commandments are intended to help us relate to each other.
And that starts with commandment number 5 in verse 12:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
Here’s how a commentary describes this shift:
“With this fifth commandment, the Decalogue turns to human relations, beginning with the family. Honor toward parents anchors society, and binds children to parents in the community of faith. The promise and warning of this commandment are unique. Disrespect for parents was a serious matter, for it also dishonored the Lord.
The fact that this commandment contains a promise is emphasized in Ephesians 6:2
Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)
What is the promise? You will have a long life in the land that God has given you.
Is it always easy to honor our parents? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending on the kind of parents that you have. But God doesn’t specify here that we only need to honor parents who have earned our respect, and the promise is available to anyone who fulfills the commandment, no matter who their parents were.
The last five commandments also deal with how we treat others, and they all start with “You shall not’!
This includes murder, cheating, stealing, lying, and coveting.
When it comes to murder, the law distinguishes between manslaughter, which is accidental, and murder, which is premeditated. The word used here is also never applied to soldiers at war, or law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
Of course, Jesus ups the ante on both murder and the next commandment, which is adultery, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5:
21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So although most people would say, “I’ve broken a few of the commandments, but not those two”! Jesus might say, “Not so fast, brother. There’s more here than meets the eye.”
When it comes to coveting stuff, it’s interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church lists verse 17 as two separate commandments:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is listed as number 9 and
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” is listed as number 10.
How can they do that without ending up with eleven commandments? They simply ignore verses 4-6 about worshipping idols as a separate commandment. They kind of blend it in with number one and skip directly to number three. So their first two commandments are:
This reordering of the 2nd commandment changes the numbering all the way down the line, plus it creates a need to split verse 17 in order to still have ten.
This has also allowed to Catholic Church to encourage people to pray to various statues and paintings of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, which would be a clear violation of the real second commandment!
In order to demonstrate just how serious these commandments were, God put on quite a display of power on the mountain, and the people took notice:
18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
I’m sure that you’ve heard that what God is truly looking for is reverence, not the kind of fear that would cause us to avoid Him. But in the case of these Israelites, they were “scared” of God! They told Moses, “We’ll talk to you and you can talk to Him, but we aren’t talking to Him! He might kill us!
I think that’s one reason why Jesus taught us to relate to God as “Abba”, “daddy”, the loving Father.
These last few verses of this chapter might remind you of this famous movie clip:
(Show Mel Brook’s 15 Commandments clip)
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.23 You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. 24 You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it.’
Verse 23 is a recap of the first 2 commandments, and the next few verses are instructions regarding building an altar. These aren’t additional commandments.
The reason for the prohibition against using cut stones for building an altar were probably designed to keep the Israelites from using any altars that they might come across at Canaanite holy places when they entered the promised land, because those were typically built with cut stones.
And that last little line about not going up steps to get to the altar had to do with the fact that the Hebrew men, as well as the women, wore robes, not pants, which meant that people down below might be able to peek up their “skirts” if they were walking up a set of steps!
That’s why the instructions for the priests’ garments in Exodus 28:42 includes a reminder to put on underwear!“You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs.”
God has it all covered, doesn’t he?
The fact is that God is really good at covering things – and we should be very glad that He is – because as Proverbs 10:12 reminds us:
“Love covers all transgressions.”
And in the wonderful promise of Romans 5:8
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God gave us the 10 Commandments knowing very well that we would break them!
In Galatians 3:24 the Apostle Paul explains that:
“The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ.”
So when you think of the 10 Commandments, instead of thinking how hard they are to keep, try thinking of them this way:
“Thank you God that you gave us the commandments to show us how impossible it is to keep them on our own, and why we so desperately need a savior! Thank you that through faith in Jesus I can be completely forgiven for every time that I broke any of the commandments. And thank you that by the power of the Holy Spirit within me I CAN live a holy and righteous life in accordance with what your commandments ask of me.”
Sunday March 4th
Here’s a little story to show you how men and women communicate differently:
A certain man’s wife sent him to the grocery store with these instructions, “Honey, please get one loaf of bread, and if they have eggs, get a dozen.” So he comes home with a dozen loaves of bread. She just stares at him and says, “Why in the world would you buy 12 loaves of bread?” So he tells her, “They had eggs. And you said ‘get one loaf of bread, but if they have eggs, get a dozen!”
So the people of Israel were hungry for bread too! And God was going to provide for them in a very unique way.
Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Did you notice that phrase “the wilderness of Sin”? This was apparently an actual name of a place that was located in the southwest region of the Sinai desert, but how true is that statement about where sin leaves us – in the wilderness! Lost, wandering, and with no way out.
And sin won’t just leave you lost, it will leave you hungry! Which is what the Hebrews began to find out.
2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Ah—yeah---but you were slaves! Did you forget that?
Remember, this isn't the first time the Israelites grumbled. In Exodus 14:11, right before God parted the Red Sea, they said to Moses “was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”
And notice where they are grumbling - “In the desert” People don’t complain when things are going their way. It’s when things aren't going the way that we want them to that we have a tendency to complain. We grumble because of the circumstances we’re in. We quickly forget the many times that God has rescued us and blessed us and provided for us in the past.
Let’s face it, the desert isn’t flowing with milk and honey. It’s dry and it’s hot. The people of Israel weren’t in the Promised Land yet, they were on a journey to the Promised Land. In the same way, our journey through life isn't always filled with ease, comfort, and pleasure. We sometimes go through desert times of trials and hardships because we live in a fallen world.
But the good news is that God makes sure to provide for us all along our journey.
And even though the Israelites should have known that by now, it didn't stop them from doubting and grumbling.
In fact after God gave them exactly what they grumbled for they grumbled about it again in Numbers 11:4-6
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
God's grace is truly amazing, isn’t it? Even when the Israelites were so ungrateful, He fed them. God could have rained down fire and brimstone on them for complaining but instead he rained down bread from heaven.
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”
8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.’”10 It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
The people cried for both bread and meat back in verse 3, and God gave them both. The Manna from heaven is actually called the “bread of the angels” in Psalm 78:25 “Man did eat the bread of angels;
He sent them food in abundance.”
The meat came in the form of quails:
13 So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.
Quail are small migratory game birds that are connected to the partridge family (not the singing group)
In the original Hebrew the word that we say as manna is simply mon. So what does mon mean? Well, mon is actually Egyptian for “what.” Over the years that they had lived in Egypt, a fair amount of the Egyptian language had seeped into the Hebrew vocabulary. So when they called it “manna” what they were saying was literally, “What is it?”
Do you remember back in verse 4 where God told Moses, “I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction”?
Now we’re going to see exactly what instructions they were given regarding the manna:
16 This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. 19 Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.”20 But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. 21 They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise, knowing what we’ve already seen of the Israelites, and knowing what we’ve already seen of ourselves, that the people can’t obey even the simplest of instructions. God says, “Just take as much as you need for today, and don’t try to save any for tomorrow. I’ll give you more tomorrow.”
But what do the people try to do? They try to hoard some for the next day. Just in case. The question is, just in case what? Just in case God didn’t keep His promise tomorrow!
That’s what it really comes down to. Are we going to trust God to take care of us tomorrow the same way He did today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and every day of our lives?
And what was the end result of not trusting God? Wormy, stinky bread!
Do you want to try to live your life without fully trusting in and depending on God? Well then don’t be surprised when things end up wormy and stinky!
So God gives them plenty for each day and for good measure God gave them extra Sabbath grace:
22 Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”
27 It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? 29 See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Do you see what I mean about Sabbath grace? On any of the other days, trying to save some manna for tomorrow won’t work, but on the day before the Sabbath it will. Why?
Because God wants His people to be free of their worldly cares to be able to spend time with Him.
And the same thing is true for us. In the hustle and bustle and struggle of life, God wants us to be able to take time just to be with Him. And He will take care of the burdens and the distractions that might be keeping us from being with Him, if we will just trust Him and do things the way that He has shown us. Time with God doesn’t just matter to us, it matters to HIM!
The people of Israel would spend 40 years in that wilderness journey. And every single day, without fail, God would provide for their needs.
Anyone here today who is at least 40 years old can say the same thing – that God has been there for you every single day of your life. We should never forget that.
In fact, Moses told the people to do a very specific thing so that they wouldn’t forget what God had done for them:
31 The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. 32 Then Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept.35 The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)
It doesn’t help too much to say that “an omer is a tenth of an ephah” if you don’t know what an ephah is! But scholars say that an omer was about two quarts of manna so everyone had plenty to eat each day.
In verse 33 Moses tells them to take some of the manna and put it in a jar. Hebrews 9:4 points out that this jar of manna was kept within the Ark of the Covenant:
“having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant”
How does all of this apply to us today? Let’s start with this:
Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
Can we be just as easily led to grumble and complain as the people of Israel were? Unfortunately yes, because that’s the tendency of our old nature.
But the apostle Paul specifically warns us in 1st Corinthians 10:6-11
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
Does that mean that God will send serpents to destroy us if we complain? Probably not, but what can end up happening is that we might end up missing out on some of our blessings because we’re complaining so much.
That’s what ended up happening to this group of Israelites. They were complaining so much on the journey that they never made it to their destination!
They missed out on the Promised Land!
Look at Numbers 14:22 where God declares:
“not one of the men who saw my glory and miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times. Not one of them will see the land I promised them...”
And our Promised Land is even better than the one that was promised to them.
Theirs was just a place – ours is a person!
They were being led to Israel – we are being led to Jesus!
In John 6:48, Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life”.
Then He goes on to say in verses 49-51 “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
That’s what we were proclaiming this morning when we shared in communion. Jesus is all the bread we will ever need. Do you have needs? Jesus can meet those needs!
It doesn’t matter what kind of need. It doesn’t matter how big or how small.
Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s choose to trust God today to meet whatever need we are facing through the abundant riches of Jesus, the true manna from heaven!
Sunday October 22nd
Mark 16 (Baptism)
I guess you’ve noticed that the Rolling Stones aren't as young as they used to be.
Rumor has it that they're working on a new album.
The tracks include:
Hey! You! Get Offa My Lawn!
Let’s Take a Nap Together
I Can’t Get No Circulation
I know it’s Only Dulcolax but I Like It
Limpin' Jack Flash, he has gas, gas, gas
You Can't Always Chew What You Want
But of course we know that the most important rolling stone was the stone that was rolled away when Jesus rose from the grave! Let’s look at that story today as we wrap up the Gospel of Mark with chapter 16:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
The Sabbath was technically over at sunset on Saturday evening, which meant that buying and selling things was allowed again. That’s when the women went to buy the spices to anoint Jesus’ body, but actually they didn’t go to visit the tomb until early on Sunday morning.
They were wondering how they were going to roll away the stone to get to his body, because they had been there when he was buried and they had seen the large stone put in place to seal the tomb.
But they didn’t have to worry about that for long!
4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
When they approached the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved, they entered the burial chamber, and they saw the slab or bench where Jesus’ body had been laid.
Mark says that they saw a young man dressed in white sitting there. Matthew 28:2 identifies the young man as an angel. And this angel informs them that he knows why they are there, but that they shouldn’t be alarmed or even surprised. Because although they saw Jesus crucified and buried…
He has risen.
He says, “You can see for yourself that this is where his body was placed, but he is no longer here!”
Then he gives them some instructions:
Go tell the disciples, and in particular tell Peter that Jesus is alive again (because Peter is still probably upset about denying knowing Jesus). And tell them to go to Galilee because Jesus is going to meet them there.
So that’s their orders – directly from an angel!
But do they follow their orders?
Verse 8 says “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
What was their job? Tell Peter and the other disciples the good news, and that they need to head to Galilee to see him alive again.
What was their reaction? They said nothing to anyone!
Now obviously at some point somebody told someone something or we wouldn’t be reading this today.
In fact, verses 9 through 20 are considered by many bible scholars to be verses that were added later, possibly as a way of completing the story. Because if somebody doesn’t tell someone else that Jesus is alive, how will anyone ever get saved?
That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Romans 10:13-14
13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
So let’s look at these last verses to see how the gospel began to spread:
9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
So of all of the ladies who went to the tomb, it seems as though Mary Magdalene was the one who felt compelled to share the good news, even though nobody believed her!
12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
This is a reference to the two men who were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus started walking along with them. The story is told in Luke 24:13–35.
Finally Jesus appears to the disciples directly:
14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
The instruction to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” is essentially the same Great Commission that is found in Matthew 28:19. And here in Mark 16:20 it says that “they went out and preached everywhere”.
So here’s what it all comes down to – the angel tells the women to go spread the good news, but they are afraid so they don’t tell anyone, at least not at first. Then Jesus tells the disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel, and they do it.
Those are the same two possible choices that each one of us can make – tell people about Jesus or keep it to ourselves.
The people who are getting baptized today are making the choice to let the world know what Jesus has done for them.
They understand what Paul meant in Romans 6:3-5
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”
Let’s celebrate with these brothers and sisters today!
Sunday September 24th
I heard a story about these two olives, one black olive, and one green olive, who were best friends, One day they were walking together down the street. They started to cross the street when a speeding car came around the corner and ran over the green olive. The black olive called 911 and helped care for his injured friend as best he could until the ambulance arrived. The injured green olive was taken to the emergency room at the hospital and rushed into surgery. After a long and agonizing wait, a doctor finally appeared. He told the black olive, "I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through." "The bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life".
This chapter includes Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives, where he speaks prophetically about three things: the coming destruction of the Jerusalem temple; future persecutions that his disciples will face; and the events that will precede his second coming. Look at verses 1-2:
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
This temple was really quite magnificent. Herod the Great had rebuilt the temple using marble and gold. The outer court measured five hundred by three hundred yards, and it was bordered by walls of massive white stones, some of which were sixteen feet long.
But Jesus predicts that a day is coming when not one stone will be left stacked on top of another stone. And this is exactly what happened when Jerusalem was attacked and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman general Titus, less than 50 years after Jesus prophesied it.
But to the disciples, this kind of talk was way too incredible to be true, so they ask Jesus to explain how and when this is going to happen:
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
So the disciples ask Jesus “when will these things be”. Their question is mainly related to Jesus’ prediction regarding the destruction of the temple, but Jesus’ reply seems to include both that event and also the end time events leading to up to his second coming.
In verse 6, Jesus warns that “Many will come saying, ‘I am He!’. And in fact, many men like Bar Kochba, the leader of a Jewish rebellion against the Romans, claimed to be the messiah. Even in our generation we have had men like Rev. Sun Young Moon and other cult leaders who have claimed to be the messiah.
Jesus also warned that we can expect wars and rumors of wars, along with earthquakes and famines, but He says that we shouldn’t be afraid.
He refers to these signs as simply “birth pains”.
The Apostle Paul used similar words in Romans 8:22
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
What does this childbirth analogy tell us? We know that birth pains increase in frequency and intensity as the time of birth approaches (so I’ve been told).
Therefore we can expect wars, earthquakes and famines to get more intense and more frequent before the return of Jesus.
Then there is more bad news as well:
9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
So as believers we can certainly expect various levels of persecution before Jesus returns, and so we shouldn’t be surprised if and when it happens. Jesus also tells us that the gospel must be preached to all the nations before he returns, which should cause us to get serious about supporting missionaries!
One commentary compares those two things this way:
“The time between the resurrection of Christ and His Second Coming is not simply a time of suffering and persecution, but a time of grace and of evangelism throughout the earth.”
By the way, Jesus’ statement that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” doesn’t mean that salvation is something that is earned by our faithfulness, (I endured, so now I’m saved) but rather that our faithfulness is proof that we are truly saved!
Then Jesus describes an event that was definitely connected to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, but might also be connected to His second coming:
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.
Okay, so for starters, who or what is the “abomination of desolation”?
Daniel 11:31 says:
“Forces from him (a king from the North) will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”
This verse raises an interesting concept which is sometimes referred to as multiple fulfillments.
Daniel’s prophecy was clearly fulfilled in 168 b.c. when a man named Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan altar and sacrificed a pig in the Jewish temple. But Jesus couldn’t have been referring to that episode, because it had already happened when he was speaking this to his disciples. Then in a.d. 70 that same prophecy was definitely fulfilled again when Titus, the Roman general who later became the emperor, sacked and desecrated the temple.
If Jesus was only prophesying about the destruction of the temple, then we don’t need to worry about a third fulfillment, but some people believe that this was also an end-times prophesy, which means that if the temple ever gets rebuilt again, we may see one more “abomination of desolation”, perhaps even the antichrist!
So just in case it happens in our lifetimes, let’s look at the instructions that Jesus gave his followers:
The first thing he tells them is to “flee to the mountains”. When the Romans were on their way to attack Jerusalem, the members of a certain Jewish community hid their precious documents in caves high up in the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea. We now refer to those papers as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many Christians also left Jerusalem prior to that time, probably because Jesus had warned them to, and they founded a church fifty miles north of Jerusalem in a safer area.
Should we also be prepared to flee to the mountains? Well if you ask Barbara Mooney, she will tell you that she, and others as well, are making plans on heading to the high country if things get bad!
How bad could it get? How bad did things get back in Jerusalem? In verse 19 Jesus says “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.”
The Jewish historian Josephus described the destruction of the temple as a catastrophe of supernatural dimensions. According to Josephus the suffering in Jerusalem was unparalleled in human history.
In verse 22 Jesus predicts that there will be signs and wonders, but not the good kind.
Even the enemy can create counterfeit signs, so we must be on guard because these false signs are designed: “to lead astray, if possible, the elect”. And the elect means us as believers. Not all signs and wonders are from God. Make sure you are listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and using the gift of discernment to reveal the source!
Those verses are all part of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question about the coming destruction of the temple. In these next verses Jesus seems to again be referring to his second coming:
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”
The fact that Jesus will be sending angels to gather his people from the four corners of the earth sounds like a description of the rapture. What else might happen around that same time? Several things, including:
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.”
28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’
In referring to the “fig tree” Jesus is simply saying that just as there are signs of what is about to come in the natural realm (such as fig trees blossoming near the start of summer) so too there are signs that we should be able to discern in the spiritual realm. If you can tell when summer is drawing near, then you also should be able to sense when the return of Christ is getting closer.
But knowing that we are getting closer isn’t the same as knowing exactly when Jesus will return. In fact, he tells us very clearly that the “day or hour no one knows”. This means we must always be ready, always be living our lives in such a way that when he returns he won’t find us asleep on the job! So what does Jesus say to close out his teaching?
What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’
Sunday September 10th
Here’s a little knock-knock joke to start off your Sunday morning:
Figs the doorbell, it’s broken!
Chapter 11 of the Gospel of Mark has several references to figs, including in the very first verse. See if you can catch it as I read verses 1-3:
As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.”
Did you catch the reference to figs? Probably not, but that’s okay.
You see the name of the town of Bethphage in Hebrew means “house of unripe figs.”
The prefix “Beth” in Hebrew means “house”. Bethlehem was actually the “House of Bread” and Bethany meant “house of sadness”, but Bethphage was known as the “house of unripe figs” which will have a significant meaning as this chapter unfolds.
Jesus tells two of his disciples to go ahead into town and there “you will find” a donkey colt. This simple statement is an example of the supernatural prophetic knowledge of Jesus. He is already aware that a donkey will be waiting.
The Old Testament had prophesied about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry in Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
These verses clearly identify this donkey-riding king as the Messiah, coming to bring salvation to Israel.
But a prophet is only recognized if his words come true. Here we see that both Zechariah’s words and Jesus’ words were being fulfilled:
4 They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
The idea of throwing palm branches and coats on the road ahead of the donkey was a recognition of Jesus’ royalty.
The word Hosanna is a Greek translation of the Hebrew words for “Save us . . . O Lord” The crowd is basically shouting phrases from Psalm 118:25-26
“O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.”
Okay, so now let’s get back to the figs!
12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
It’s interesting that one writer described two events as a couple of Jesus’s most misunderstood actions:
(1) cursing the fig tree
(2) driving out the money changers from the temple (which comes next)
But Mark apparently tells us these two stories back to back because these two events help explain each other. It has been said that Mark used a sandwich technique to tell these stories, where he starts with the one story, goes to a different story, and then comes back to the original story. Mark starts out telling the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, then interrupt that story to describe Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple and then he returns to the story of the fig tree. This is Mark’s way of telling us that these two events are connected to each other, and that if we understand the fig tree thing, we’ll understand the meaning of the cleansing of the temple as well.
Many people have wondered why Jesus even cursed this particular fig tree. This is Jesus’ last recorded miracle in Mark’s gospel, and it seems a bit odd that it’s kind of a miracle of destruction. Since Mark tells us that it wasn’t even the season for figs, the fact that Jesus is expecting to find figs on this tree seems unreasonable to us at first.
But fig trees are unique from most other trees because they sometimes produce fruit before they produce leaves. So the fact that this tree had leaves on it does suggest that some kind of fruit might still be left over on it. So it wasn’t all that unreasonable after all for Jesus to expect to find some figs on this tree.
Jesus’ actions here with the fig tree, just like the action of cleansing the Temple which is coming next, are pointing to a greater, deeper meaning, concerning what will soon happen to Jerusalem, Israel and the Temple itself.
The Old Testament prophets spoke about fig trees as referring to Israel’s status before God:
The destruction of the fig tree is associated with God’s judgment in Hosea 2:12 “I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them.”
Jesus curses this fig tree for making a display of being alive but having no fruit, just as He will now judge the temple and predict its destruction for the same reason.
Remember that Jesus is on his way to the temple, and what happens here with the fig tree is symbolic of what Jesus is about to do in the temple. There’s a passage from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah that’s especially relevant to what’s happening here. This passage is found in Jeremiah chapter 8, verses 11-13.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD. I will take away their harvest…There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.
The people of Jeremiah’s day were minimizing the seriousness of their sins. So God says he’ll judge Israel, and that like a fig tree with no figs, Israel will wither.
Now Jesus is going to use that same image from Jeremiah and he is applying it to the temple in his own generation over five hundred years later. By having lots and lots of leaves on it the fig tree showed promise to be fruitful, but in the end it didn’t produce anything. This was also true of the temple. There was a lot of image, but no substance.
The Jewish temple at that time looked quite impressive. The temple courts were five football fields long. During the Passover celebration well over 200,000 sacrificial lambs were sacrificed on the altar of this incredible temple. But the temple wasn’t producing the fruit of godly people. The temple had become all leaves and no fruit (all show and no go).
Okay so let’s see what happens next:
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” 18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
So, as I said, sandwiched in the middle of the story of the cursing of the fig tree is this cleansing of the temple.
Jesus was judging the temple because of the dishonesty of the people who were selling sacrificial animals and exchanging coins there. Jesus is upset because they’ve commercialized the act of worship at the temple for profit. So in his anger, Jesus calls the temple "a den of thieves," because of these salesmen and money changers peddling their wares for a profit.
But if the fig tree symbolizes the temple, then it’s important to recognize that Jesus isn’t just cleansing the temple, he’s actually condemning it. In fact, two chapters later Jesus is going to tell his followers plainly that this temple is going to be destroyed soon. Remember, Jesus didn’t cleanse the fig tree, he cursed it. He’s doing the same thing here to the temple by pronouncing judgment on what it has become.
The key to understanding Jesus’ action here are the two passages from the Old Testament that he quotes in verse 17. The first Old Testament passage he quotes is Isaiah 56:6-7, which promises a future time when people formerly excluded from temple worship will be welcomed.
“And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD and serve him, to live the name of the LORD and to worship him…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations"
God wanted the temple to be a house of prayer for all nations, but the Jewish temple excluded all foreigners.
The other text Jesus quotes here comes from Jeremiah chapter 7:
Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!"…Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods…and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? (Jeremiah 7:4, 9-11 NIV).
In Jeremiah’s day, the people were living like heathens throughout the week, and then believing that they were safe from God’s judgment because they went to the temple on the Sabbath. They were trusting in the temple for their safety, rather than trusting in God.
Jesus is saying that the temple of his generation has degenerated into the same sorry state of affairs that it had in Jeremiah’s generation. Instead of being a place of prayer for all peoples, it was turned into a place where disobedient people thought they could hide safely from the wrath of God.
They no longer worshiped God in the temple, they worshiped the temple itself. The temple had the same problem that the fig tree had: it looked all leafy and alive from a distance but there was no fruit inside its walls. Jesus didn’t go there just to reform or cleanse the temple. He went there to pronounce a final judgment on it.
Jesus is there to declare that this temple is doomed and there’s now a new temple for God’s people. Jesus himself is that new temple; he’s the place where people can find forgiveness and cleansing from their sins. And ultimately we ourselves have become the temple of God’s presence by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
Okay, are you ready to see the other half of the sandwich? Here comes the fig tree again!
19 When evening came, they would go out of the city.
20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.
24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”
So let’s review this “story sandwich”:
First, we have the start of the fig tree story. Jesus sees a fig tree that has no figs so he curses it. He wants to make it absolutely clear to his disciples what he is about to do in the temple. Jesus was basically giving them an object lesson about fruitfulness. If something wasn’t going to produce the fruit it was supposed to, it was going to be destroyed.
Next, Jesus declares God’s judgment that the temple has become a den of thieves. Essentially, because the people of Israel did not repent, God was going to destroy the temple for its unfruitfulness.
Then when they leave the temple, they see that the fig tree has already withered and died, which is a prophetic statement about what is going to happen to the temple in the near future.
Jesus tells his disciples that if they tell this mountain to throw itself into the sea then it will be done. Notice that he says “this mountain”.
Jesus was obviously pointing at a particular mountain. There is only one mountain he could possibly be referring to; the mountain that the temple was built on. This was soon going to end up destroyed, or “cast into the sea”.
So given all of this what we might say is that Jesus was acting out a prophetic parable in these two events. By turning over the tables, Jesus was stopping the temple from functioning temporarily. For a brief period of time no one could buy or sell anything, and therefore the sacrifices would have to stop. Without the sacrifices the temple had no purpose to exist. Jesus was acting out what would happen after the destruction of the temple because it no longer had any purpose in the New Covenant. Jesus’ sacrifice would put an end to the need for temple sacrifices and even the temple itself.
And ironically it was probably this very act that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Why? Because the temple was also the power base of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was essentially condemning their whole system, not just the temple. And this obviously did not go over too well with them!
Jesus was not just talking about the destruction of the temple but God’s plan to replace the temple with him.
We can see the confrontation building in the last few verses of this chapter:
27 They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
By asking whether John the Baptist received his authority from heaven or from man, Jesus perfectly silences the claims of the chief priests that He needed to get His “official” authority from them.
Look at what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ answer to the chief priests is actually a way of asking them this ultimate question:
“Why don’t you recognize and submit to My authority?”
That’s what we all need to ask ourselves once in a while, isn’t it? Are we walking in obedience to the authority of Jesus as the true Lord of our lives? Am I living according to the truth that he has revealed to me about who he is and who I am in him?
When I am living in complete submission to his will and plan for my life, then I will be fruitful for his purposes.
In John 15:4-5 Jesus tells us:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
We abide in Jesus when we yield our lives totally to his authority. That’s when we learn to produce more than just leaves – not just the appearance of Christianity, but the real thing – we have figs!
Sunday August 13th
For those who are watching their weight, I found this helpful list of 5 Dieting Rules:
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
In the Old Testament there were at least 613 laws or rules that applied to the Jewish people’s lives. The Pharisees believed that God had given them exclusive knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be interpreted and applied by everyone else. This made them very judgmental!
In verse 2 we are told “they saw some of his disciples eat bread with impure, that is to say, with unwashed, hands”
The Pharisees had been looking for reasons to find fault with Jesus, and now they noticed something that wasn’t right in their eyes. Jesus’ disciples were not washing their hands before eating.
But the Law of Moses really had no rule that every person had to wash their hands before every meal. As was typical for them, the Pharisees had extended the biblical instructions for priestly hand washing in preparation for the temple sacrifices (Ex. 30:19; 40:12) to include the eating of any food by any Jews at any time.
That’s what legalism tends to do…it keeps spreading further and further in the reach of its rules. If A originally used to be off limits, pretty soon B and C will be off limits too! (These are sometimes called fence laws)
One strange reason the Pharisees were so adamant about the washing of hands is because they believed that the washing of hands got rid of Shibta, which was an evil spirit which supposedly got upon the hands at night. Sounds like some strange superstition doesn’t it? There was no biblical grounds for this belief, only their own traditions.
But their religious rituals were so important to them that their rules, “the tradition of elders” were practically on the same level as God’s laws in their eyes.
Let’s look at how Jesus answered their concerns over the breaking of the tradition of the Elders:
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
That word “neglecting” the commandment of God can also mean “canceling,” or “abandoning”.
Jesus says, “You are so concerned about your own doctrines and commandments because you think your way is better than God’s way. Your tradition means more to you than what God says.”
Jesus points out to them that they completely fulfil the prophesy from Isaiah about people who give lip-service to God, but whose hearts are turned away from God.
Then Jesus gives a specific example:
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
Corban was a Hebrew and Aramaic word, indicating something as dedicated for a religious purpose.
So if I saw that you had $20 and asked if I could borrow it, you might say, “Sorry, I can’t lend it to you, it’s Corban. I’m planning on putting it into the offering box this Sunday.” And I would have to accept that. So just by simply saying a vow to reserve their possessions as a gift to God, these Pharisees could avoid their responsibility for supporting their elderly parents.
“Sorry you have to live in that dilapidated old trailer, Mom and Dad, but I kind of promised to make a big donation to the temple this week, so any help I could’ve given you is already corban!”
By allowing people to declare things as corban, the Pharisees were actually encouraging them to break God’s commandment about honoring fathers and mothers.
I think what Jesus does next is really powerful. He calls the crowd over and publically makes it clear that the Pharisees rules are totally backwards:
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now that seems pretty plain, doesn’t it? Forget what these Pharisees are telling you. Hand-washing isn’t that important, but speaking foolish talk about God’s law is.
As usual the disciples are a little dense, so Jesus has to break it down for them even more clearly:
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
So Jesus gives them a basic biology lesson. Food goes into the digestive system, not into the heart. The heart is more affected by bad attitudes than by bad food. The Pharisees were all wrapped up in preventing a little dirt from entering into a person’s mouth, while Jesus is much more focused on the filth that comes out of a person’s mouth, because our words reflect what’s going on in our hearts and in our minds.
Uncleanness of the heart, not the food we eat, is the real source of our sin problem.
The next little encounter that Jesus has also revolves around bread, but this is a different kind of bread:
24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.
It certainly seems shocking to most of us when Jesus refers to this woman and her poor sick daughter as dogs. We saw in Philippians chapter 3 that this term was a derogatory way that Jews commonly referred to gentiles. But Jesus is simply using this term to explain the complete plan, namely, that “salvation is for the Jews first”, and then it would be offered to the gentiles.
The children of Israel had to receive their bread first before it would be made available to the gentiles, or dogs. We can actually see that the woman understands exactly what Jesus means. Her reply indicates that she totally gets it. She knows that as a non-Jew she has no right to take away the bread that was intended for the people of Israel. She only wants a few crumbs of this salvation bread, not enough to rob the children of their blessing.
Jesus honors her humble acceptance of God’s plan and gives her the “crumbs” of healing bread that her daughter needs.
Keep in mind that all of us, whether Jews or gentiles, are true children of God by our faith in Jesus. We don’t ever have to settle for crumbs from the table. Jesus wants us to partake fully of the bread of life, which includes both our salvation and our healing.
To show that healing is included in the power of Christ, Mark includes one more miracle to finish this chapter:
31 Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
The prophet Isaiah had spoken words of encouragement from God to the people of Israel. In chapter 35 he says:
The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
2 It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
4 Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
The people had been waiting for signs that God was fulfilling his promise to save and to restore them. One of those signs was deaf ears being opened. So when the people see Jesus demonstrating this power it really gets their attention.
In fact, when John the Baptist was in prison, he started to wonder whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, even though he had called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
In Luke 7:19-22 we see this:
Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” 20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
The miracles that he performed were one of the greatest proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
Here’s an interesting passage, because it compares John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus with the testimony of his miracles – It’s found in John Chapter 5, verses 33-36, where Jesus is answering those who were questioning whether he was the true Messiah:
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
Yes, John had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Lamb of God, but that was just the testimony of a man. The true testimony of Jesus was found in the miracles that he was working by the power of God – those were the ultimate proof that he had been sent by the Father!
Think about it this way – what is the true proof in each of our lives that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Isn’t it the miraculous power that has changed our lives? Isn’t that the ultimate reality of who Jesus is? If it were not for his power to save us and change us, where would our lives be today? Thank God for the miracle-working power of Jesus!
Sunday July 23rd
A man was driving through a small town in the South, when he got pulled over by a redneck deputy. The deputy approached the window of the man’s car and asked,
“Do you know how fast y’all were going?”
The man responded, “I actually don’t have a clue and I really don’t care!”
The deputy looked the man in the eyes and said “What the heck did you just say to me?”
The man quickly apologized, saying “I’m sorry officer, but you see it’s Lent and I’ve been fasting all week. It’s a part of my religion and all this fasting has me on edge.”
The deputy wrote the man a ticket and looked down at him, saying “The first thing is, your religion don’t give you the right to disregard the law, and number two, around here it ain’t called fastin. It’s called speedin.”
I don’t know if you realize this or not, but Jesus was from a little hick town called Nazareth. Nazareth was so backwoods that when Phillip told Nathanael that they had met the Messiah and he was from Nazareth, “Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
Here in Mark chapter 6 Jesus returns to Nazareth:
Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” 5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He wondered at their unbelief.
So welcome home Jesus! The people of Nazareth had a hard time seeing Jesus as anything other than a local carpenter who grew up in their small town. They can’t comprehend how Jesus could be teaching such “wisdom” and working miracles if he is only a common construction worker without any religious training or credentials.
This group of skeptics actually included people from Jesus’ own family. We saw this in Mark 3:21 “And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”
That’s another way of saying “he’s out of his mind” or “he has lost his marbles”!
In verse 4 Jesus sums up the situation with this phrase: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”
Some of you might have experienced a similar thing, where people in your family or friends from your past can’t acknowledge the “born again” person that you are, because they knew the “old” you. At least you can take comfort in the fact that they did the same thing to Jesus!
When verse 5 says that “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” this is not necessarily an indication that Jesus’ power was somehow weakened by their unbelief.
It may simply reveal that these unbelieving neighbors didn’t even bother to ask Jesus to heal them.
After having such limited success in Nazareth, Jesus and his disciples went back out onto the road starting in the second part of verse 6:
And He was going around the villages teaching.
7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
So the Twelve disciples are about to become the twelve apostles. Why do I say that? Because when it says that Jesus began to “send them out”, that verb “send” has the same root word as the noun apostle, which means “ones who are sent”. Disciples are followers, but apostles are followers who get sent out to do the master’s work.
We might also notice that Jesus specifically sent them out “two by two”. There is a biblical principle that any true testimony must be established by at least two witnesses and this principle was also applied to missionary activity. The early church continued to follow this principle in the ministry pairs of Peter and John, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, and Paul and Timothy – always two by two.
In verse 8 Jesus tells them to take no bread and no money, which was his way of making them completely dependent on God for their provision and for their power.
Jesus knew that godly people would receive these apostles into their homes and feed them, but that if some of the people rejected them, they should just “shake off the dust” of that rejection. This was a practice that these disciples would have been familiar with, because Jewish people always shook the dust off their feet after traveling through pagan areas, so that the ungodly pagan influence would not affect them or stick with them.
We don’t have to follow that practice literally, but we can still “shake the dust off” of our hearts when we face rejection from unbelievers for trying to spread the gospel.
And speaking of how to handle unbelieving pagans, Israel’s supposed king was nothing more than a pagan puppet-ruler who had been put in place to rule over them by their Roman conquerors.
His name was King Herod, and we meet him in verse 14:
14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”
Apparently there was a lot of talk among the people about who Jesus really was. In Mark 8:27-28 we see this:
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
So Herod was hearing these same rumors, but one rumor in particular had him very freaked out – the one about Jesus possibly being John the Baptist raised from the dead. Why did this idea in particular cause Herod to worry? Because he was the one who had John the Baptist killed!
This is how it all happened, starting in verse 17:
17 For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.
This King Herod’s name was Herod Antipas.
He was the son of Herod the Great, the one who killed all of the baby boys in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. In these verses we will find out how sinful Herod the son really was.
This was a case of –“like father, like son”! The dad killed the babies – the son killed John the Baptist.
A key player in this soap opera is Herodias, who was actually Herod’s brother Philip’s wife. Herodias was also Philip’s niece, in case you thought this family couldn’t get any weirder! After she married her Uncle Philip, Herodias left him to start an adulterous relationship with Philip’s brother, her uncle Herod Antipas. This was exactly the kind of immoral living that John the Baptist was preaching against, and John didn’t really care that Herod was the king. He still declared that what Herod and Herodias were doing was wrong in God’s eyes.
Herod didn’t seem to pay much attention to John, but Herodias was ticked! She forced Herod to arrest John.
But even after John was arrested, Herod didn’t plan to do John any harm. In fact, verse 20 says that “Herod was afraid of John…but he used to enjoy listening to him.”
Herodias, on the other hand, found nothing about John that she liked. Her anger wouldn’t be satisfied until John was dead. So she hatched an evil plan with the help of her equally wicked daughter:
21 A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.”
I think we can safely assume that this banquet had plenty of wine flowing and that Herod, the birthday boy, was probably already pretty drunk by the time Salome, Herodias’ daughter, performed her dance. While the guests were clapping, Herod, wanting some of that attention for himself, makes this bold promise to give Salome whatever she wants as a reward for such a wonderful performance. He says that he will give her up to half of what he owns. It’s now up to her to tell him what she wants. But it’s not what Herod was expecting:
24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.
How’s that for a gruesome way to spoil a birthday party? The moral of the story from Herod’s perspective is this – don’t make foolish promises – you may end up having to keep them!
Around this same time, the disciples returned from their first evangelistic mission:
30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
When the 12 apostles returned, Jesus had them take some time to rest. Perhaps he was more aware than they were that most of them would eventually be martyred for their faith, like what had just happened to John the Baptist. Perhaps he also needed to remind them that what they just experienced was a result of God’s power, not theirs.
We get a more complete picture of the importance of this lesson when we compare the sending out of the original twelve with the sending out of the 70 in Luke chapter 10:
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’
We can see how similar those instructions were to the ones Jesus gave to the twelve when he sent them out – go two by two, take nothing for the journey. Let God provide for you, stay with nice people, and shake off the dust off of your feet when unbelieving people reject you.
Now let’s look at the conversation that happens when this group of 70 returns. This is from Luke 10:17-20
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
Just like the first twelve, these 70 “sent ones” are blown away by the power that they have experienced by using Jesus’ name to cast out demons and heal the sick.
Jesus tells them “Oh yeah, I watched Satan come crashing down while you were out there proclaiming the Kingdom of God! In fact, I’ve given you more power than you are even aware of yet – over ALL the power of the enemy!”
But notice what Jesus says next – “Don’t rejoice so much about the power that you’ve been given – rejoice over the fact that you have this power because your names are written in heaven’s Book of Life!”
The Message version puts verse 20 like this:
“The great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”
Let’s remember to rejoice this morning over the fact that God is doing a great work both In us and Through us!