Mark 6:1-29

David cried and it explains in Psalm 34, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." We had that on the little cookies we gave out to the fathers last week. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." Do you believe that? Do you believe that 'Blessed, happy, a life of blessing is the man or woman who trusts in the Lord? I do. You know at times it's been a challenge for me to accept that. I've been learning over time that indeed "blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." There was a time, I was working in ministry, a man came across my path. This particular man had a financial need. He'd come to the ministry I was a part of and asked if we could help him a little bit. I said, "You know we love to help people who are in need. But let me pray with you." I've learned that giving financially to somebody isn't always helping the need. So I said, "Let's pray together, and I want to talk to your pastor who's attending another church." And I said, "I'll get back to you in a day or so and let you know if we can help. I'd like to, but let me just pray and seek the Lord on it." So I prayed about it, and was saying how the Lord provides for his kids, and then talked to his pastor. And his pastor explained to me and said, "You know there's a genuine need, I'm sure, in his life. He's not one of these guys who's just trying to take advantage of people." But he said, "I am concerned for him because there's been a cycle in his life. He seems to have a job for a season and then for some reason he no longer does, and then goes through a time of unemployment, and then bills stack up and then he needs help and then eventually he gets a job again. But it's a cycle that just continues to repeat itself. So a number of times he's asked for assistance from us and he's a brother and we love him...for that reason...he's gone to you to ask for assistance." Well anyway I went back to this person and I said, "The Lord I think has led us to help you, but we're only going to give you help with your immediate need, because I feel the Lord has a greater work he wants to do in your life. You know I talked to your pastor and he's just concerned for you because of this cycle that's going on. And that says to me that there's something that God wants to do in your life." When I was taught to council at the headquarters of our fellowship in San Diego I was taught right up front to ask three things. Ask the person if they're in the Word, regularly. Ask them if they're in prayer. And determine if they're attending a church that teaches the Word. If those aren't in line, forget about what the problem is. Deal with that, because the problem may actually be related to that. And I believe, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." And this particular gentleman that came across my life that one time, you couldn't say that about his life. There was a cycle going on, even though he was a believer. Evidently he wasn't trusting in God and was in this cycle. And God wanted to show him that 'blessed is the man, blessed is the woman who trusts in the Lord.'

Jesus said in Matthew, as is recorded in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Seek first the kingdom of God and all the things--he says 'don't worry, don't be anxious, God will take care of you.' Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:5-8, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord, for he shall be like a shrub in the desert and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness and the salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its root by the river and will not fear when heat comes. But its leaf will be green and will not be anxious in years of drought nor will cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah contrasts the two types of people, like the shrubs in the desert, one struggling, starving, but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Blessed is that [other] man, he's going to be like a shrub in the nice watered, well tapped into life, even when it's a drought he'll be tapped into the good stuff and be yielding fruit. You know David said in Psalm 37, he said, "I've been young and I've been old, yet I've not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." Indeed, blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Do you believe it? I believe it. Sometimes it's more of a challenge than others, but it's always true I believe. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. I had the privilege this morning, somebody gave me a check, said, "Hey, I'd like so and so to go to Israel." I said, "Cool, I'll go tell 'em" So I went to this person. This person is really just seeking God and I said, "Hey, are you going to Israel? Would you like to go to Israel?" He said, "I'm not going to Israel, I can't afford it." I said, "Yes you can. Somebody's paid your way, man, and was just able to extend that blessing." But I believe blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Without a doubt we experience that blessing of God as we trust him and as we walk by faith. And as we seek his kingdom, Jesus said all these things will be added to us [read Matthew 6:25-33]. Of course that's a life of obedience, obedience to his Word. And Jeremiah said though, for those who don't trust, for those whose hearts are departed from God, who do not obey his Word, they're going to reap the things of the life of unbelief. And the reason why I say that is, that's kind of a backdrop for this Mark chapter 6, as we look at it, that blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. We're going to be able to contrast the life of belief, the fruit of the life of belief and against the life of unbelief as we go through this chapter. So consider that, consider David's words as we look at this chapter.

You know I was thinking about my wife recently. And when we moved here, you know it was easy for me to do. God had called me and put a passion in my heart, I was getting what I desired. But with my wife it was a bit more of a challenge. She didn't get the vision and her family is very close, so it was a challenge for her to leave her family and move here. My family was here so it was easy for me. And when we got here the Bible studies started, you know God has blessed this church with a lot of children and just continues to do that. So because of that, being the pastor's wife, she seems to be on Sundays serving the children and only now and then gets to be part of the worship service. She loves to worship the Lord. And I'm not trying to exalt her in any way. I'm just trying to make a point, because I was thinking about this recently. My wife, whose close [to her family], every now and then, between six months to a year it seems she really begins to miss her family. And her family is very close. They're not Christians, necessarily, and this thing just starts to happen. And every single time she gets to that point, somewhere or other a free ticket comes in the mail or something. It's yet not to happen. We've been here five years. I won't tell you the number of times she's been to San Diego--but every time, every time. Now trusting the Lord doesn't mean you're going to get an airline ticket. I've given you two examples of God giving airline tickets to people. That's not necessarily the case, but I do believe 'blessed is the man who trust's in the Lord.' One time my wife was wanting to go to California and see her family, and I was like, "You know, Paula, it's not the time--but we'll pray." And we began to pray and somebody gave my wife a free ticket. Then my wife got on the airplane and disappointed that I wasn't going with her. I said, "Hey, just be happy you're going." But believe it or not, before she got to San Diego she stopped at a city, somebody else got on the plane and gave her a ticket for me, so I could go out and join her in San Diego. Recently she was in the same place, just at a point missing her family. They're very close. And I told her this time, "The Lord has blessed you so much with these airline tickets." I said, "Not this time, you know, we've got Noah, he needs a ticket now and it's just financially no do-able." But she was just having a difficult time. So finally I said, "All right, I'll pray with you." So I pray, "Lord, if you want her to go, it seems one of these times you're not going to do it Lord, but if you want her to go, you know, please provide the way." Well, I was coming up the stairs in our house a week later and I heard her on the telephone and I just knew what was going on. One of her family members had called. Didn't know where we were at or anything, and said, "Hey, a couple of us have been thinking and we'd like to fly you out to San Diego, and pay for Noah too." And I do believe, very much, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." Now there's a false doctrine that's going around. It's very prevalent, that if you have enough faith and you want something, you'll get it. That's heresy. That makes a mockery of God. But where God comes to you and says, "I promise you this", where God comes to you [in Scripture] and says "I will do this."--blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. When God says he's going to do something you believe him for what he says he's going to do. There are many things God has said to you in his Word that he wants to do in your life. "Seek first his kingdom and all these things shall be added unto you [Matthew 6:33]."

Abraham, when God appeared to him, God said to him, "This is what I am going to do." It said Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness. It's a life of blessing to believe God and to trust in the Lord. So we're going to use that as our backdrop this morning as we look at Mark chapter 6. Let's say a word of prayer. "Lord indeed you tell us 'Blessed is the man who trusts in you, blessed is the woman who trusts in you.' I would pray by your power through you Holy Spirit, your mercy and grace as we study your Word this morning that we would leave, all of us, with a greater faith in our hearts toward you. Indeed that we would trust you for the things that you've told us you want to do in our lives--that we'd trust you Lord for the things you want to do in our families--that we trust you Lord even for the things you want to do in our community. So I pray that we would leave as men and women that trust you Lord, seeking first your kingdom. I pray in Jesus name, Amen."

Mark 6:1-6, "Then he came out from there and came to his own country. And his disciples followed him. And when the Sabbath had come he began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing him were astonished, saying 'Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to him that such mighty works are performed by his hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simeon? And are not his sisters here with us?' And they were offended at him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.' Now he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. Then he went about the villages in a circuit, teaching." [The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God use this as one of their proof texts for believing the Sabbath command has not been abrogated or transferred to Sunday.  To learn why, log onto:
http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Has%20the%20Sabbath%20Been%20Abrogated.htm ]


When we lack faith, we don't trust in God, trust him for his word, don't believe in him, we're not going to see God do many works in our lives and through our lives. Jesus has gone back to his hometown with his disciples, back to the city of Nazareth. And as is his custom, has gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath and is teaching. Those hearing him and others are astonished. They're astonished by his wisdom. They're astonished by the mighty miracles he's performed. He's healed a few sick and they've heard of the things he's done before. They're absolutely amazed, just at the power that's working in him. They attest to the fact that there's power in his life, wisdom in his words--power and miracles that he's done. But as you read there, sadly those that have known him, known him when he was growing up, they take offense to him. Admittedly they're amazed by his power, the power of God working in him, but they can't seem to get beyond his humanness. They grew up with Jesus, they saw him when he was a young boy, played with him on the playground, went to school with him. As his neighbor they saw Jesus as a young boy growing up, and they saw he was very man, very human. Indeed he was, but they didn't accept the Divine, they couldn't accept that he was the Son of God. So here, very sadly you realize, they rejected him. They saw him as this carpenter's son, that's all they could see him as. They saw that something was going on in his life, yet refused to put their belief in him. And as a result, you read there in those verses, that Jesus could not do any mighty work among them because of their unbelief. And that is a truth that you see in Scripture. Faith, faith pleases God. Without faith it's impossible to please God. Faith is the requirement to release the power of God--to release the power of God in salvation to us--but also just the power of God in our lives. There's a relationship there with faith. God will not work in our lives if we refuse to believe him for that work. Here, those that knew Jesus when he was young, they see his power, they see something is going on in him. They attest to that, and yet they refuse to accept him as the son of God, and for that he doesn't do many miracles as a result, and even marvels at their unbelief. Only twice in Scripture do you see Jesus marveling, once here and another time he marvels at the belief of the Centurion. But Jesus didn't do much mighty works there because there was no belief in their hearts. To not place our trust in God, to not believe Jesus, is to not see the power, his power work in our lives. Again that includes his power in bringing us salvation, but also just in working in certain areas of our life. Do you want to see the power of God manifested in your life? Well, blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Believe him. Believe him for what he said he'll do in your life. Accept it in faith. Maybe you don't see it today. Abraham didn't see it at that moment, but he took God at his word and it was counted to him as righteousness. But he trusted God for his word. But if you don't want to see the power, if you want to miss out on the power of God, then don't believe, don't trust.

Has Jesus done a mighty work in your life? Or maybe you're caught in some kind of cycle, some kind of thing that just continues to spin around. Has Jesus done a mighty work in your home? Maybe there's a cycle that goes on, round and round in your home too. Could it be because you're not trusting God for what he wants to do?--not believing in him for what he can do? Maybe you're trusting in man instead and if you are, I'd exhort you, Jeremiah said, 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man, he's going to be like a starving shrub out in the desert if his trust is ultimately in man.' But blessed is the man who trusts in God. When we lack faith, when we lack belief in God, when we don't put our trust in him, we're just not going to see many mighty things take place in our life, as a result. Faith releases the power of God. God wants to work, but yet he's pleased by faith, and without faith he's not pleased.

You know, I've had the privilege of spending some time with a friend yesterday, a friend and his wife. They were part of our home fellowship (out in San Diego). And this man was just on a rocketship of spiritual growth when I got to know him. His name means 'man of God' and he really is a man of God. As a young believer when I got to know him, in a short time he just grew in the Lord and became part of the staff out there and was given the job of being the principle of the church's school out there, which is about 1500 students, and just a big part of the ministry out there. Well he and his wife, a year ago--I was surprised to hear it--but they felt called by God, and God worked them through a situation to take them to the east coast and to work with a school, a Christian school on the east coast. Well he didn't quite know what he was getting into. But he went to this school that was supposed to be this Christian school and he said "Our motto is basically this, and this is going to be how I lead this school, but our motto is this: "Just Jesus."" We're going to teach these kids and we're going to teach them academics and all that, but the heart and the thrust of what we're going to do is "Just Jesus." Well, believe it or not, people got very upset. A lot of teachers and staff were very upset. In fact they had a 25 percent reduction in the staff of this school that had hundreds of students. And as time went on, some of the local churches had trouble with that too and started to teach about him on the pulpits. It turned out to be a real challenge initially. This motto of 'Just Jesus.' But in time, folks began to leave, things began to transition (there was even a lesbian affair going on in the staff in this supposedly Christian school). The school, it was about 330 students I think, but the next year there was over 580 attending. That's significant growth for a school. But not only that, they had a $250,000 debt when they started and they ended up the year $15,000 in the plus. And by the end of the year 85 people--students and staff--had accepted Christ. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He went on to tell me stories of getting there and the step of faith and just knowing God was going to provide and how they lived the first six months in a 2500 square foot home, but they only paid $300 (a month) for it--"but seek first his kingdom"--and God will just work in your life. It's a truth, it'll happen. I could tell you many stories, I'm sure you've seen many stories.

So maybe there's a cycle of something going on in your life and maybe you're even questioning the mighty work of God. God will do what he said he will do. He's true to his promises, but he wants you to walk by faith. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.

Mark 6:7-13, "And he called the twelve to himself and he began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts--but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also he said to them, 'In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you, depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!' So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them." To walk by faith is to see God do mighty works as you read there in that passage. But in contrast--you see a contrast in that passage we just read--to reject Jesus is to bring judgment upon our lives. Here Jesus calls together the twelve disciples and he sends them out on a short-term mission project, you could say--pairs them up, gives them the power that is needed to go out to do this ministry for him. But also he says in there, he says, "Take nothing with you except for your staff and the clothing you're wearing, just take that." Now why did he instruct them to do that? Well I believe that he wanted them to learn what it is to walk by faith and to step out in faith so he told them, "Just take a staff and your clothing and I'll take care of the rest." (I knew some missionaries that did that in India. They had really neat stories of what God did.) He wanted to show them that if they seek his kingdom first, they're not going to lack any good thing. He wanted to show them that ultimately he--he was their provider. He was Jehovah God, the provider. He might use some people there, some homes, as an instrument, but he was ultimately the provider. If you're seeking first the kingdom of God, God will provide for you--he will provide, without a doubt. I believe it wholeheartedly. God has, a number of times, shown me, and I'm sure he's shown you. But when you seek him and his kingdom, he provides and takes care of his kids. I shared a story two years ago, and I've since learned the other part of the story, so for those that haven't heard the whole thing, I'll tell you the whole thing this morning. But this is just an example. There was one particular time the first two years my wife and I were ministering here, where God was just challenging us to trust him. And our income wasn't enough to pay for our bills, and we had a small stipend. Well anyway, this one particular day money ran out, bills stacked up, refrigerator was empty, and it was a challenging day, a challenging week, I don't remember how it all worked out. But I remember, eventually this one day we were just really struggling with trusting God for his provision. And the whole day went by and we were just pretty much with a bad attitude and it got to that point where we were just out of faith and out of trust and just having a hard time. Well at the end of the day, it was early evening, I finally said to my wife, you know just feeling all yucky from just my heart, I said "Let's go pray and just go before the Lord. Why are we in this rut?" "Let's just go before the Lord." So we went to an office that was in our apartment at the time, got on our knees and you know I said to my wife, I said, "You know we don't need to pray for food and clothing, we just need to pray for faith." So we got down and began to pray. I said, "Lord, you do provide, I know you do. Please give us the faith to trust you for it." And as I was praying...Someone came to our front door. My reaction was to get frustrated, of course, because I had a yucky heart and I was trying to get clean and now I was getting interrupted as I was trying to get clean, so I was just frustrated, you know. So I went to the door frustrated and I opened the door and there's this man standing there at the door and he's got a box on his shoulder. He says, "Hey, you don't necessarily know me, I've met you before, but my name is so and so." And he says, "Here." And he gives me this box. So I said, "Alright." He says, "I gotta go, my wife's in the vehicle." So he ran back to the vehicle and they drove off. And here I had this box. So I went back into the office and lay this box on the floor, and of course it was filled with food, right to the top. My wife even admitted, she says earlier in the day as we were talking about it, "I prayed that God would even bless us with a voucher to go shopping." And there was an envelope on the top of this box, with a little voucher to go shopping at Market Basket. Well, I've since learned the other side of that story. And this is how God works...that person a couple of years later, I got to know a little bit. We crossed paths again and somehow we were talking and that story came out and we started to talk a little about it. He said, "This is what happened on my end. I was part of this church" and he said, "we had this little route we were going to do that day and went out shopping and got all this stuff we were going to provide for certain families in our church that had financial and physical needs. So we went out shopping and got all these things and got all these boxes. And we had a little route we were taking throughout these two towns and giving food to folks." He says, "So I went out the door of the church and had all these boxes packed up, and as I was getting ready to leave I just thought, there was a few pieces of food left, and different things and even a voucher, they had an extra voucher." And he says, "Well, we don't really have need of it, we've got enough here to provide for the families so he says, well I'll go back anyway and put this stuff into a box and take it with me. Who knows what I'll do with it, but I'll take it with me." So they did. And they had to drive around the little route and stop at the different families and gave them the food and things that they needed, and blessed these families. And when they got done, he says "Here I've got this extra box of stuff we threw in there, of different things and this voucher. What'll I do with it, Lord?" Well I don't know if he was listening to the to the radio station or what (our local Christian radio station), but suddenly he got this thought "Why not the people that run the radio station?" So he went around and somehow determined were we lived and happened to show up at the door while I was on my knees with my wife. And our refrigerator was empty, and we were praying "God give us more faith to trust you." And it's true, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." It's true, if you trust him. If you're not seeing the blessing maybe it's because there's a lack of trust in your life. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. And indeed, seek first his kingdom, God will provide for you. Now maybe there are exceptions, I know often we can come up with, and God does test us and yes, the life of blessing is also a life of trial and challenges and fire as God builds up our faith to our good.

But it's true man, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, blessed is the woman who trusts in the Lord." If you've not been seeing that blessing and provision of God in your life, maybe it's because you've not been seeking his kingdom first and foremost. Maybe you're not trusting him and therefore not seeing the result in blessing. Well, here in the verses we read, the disciples are really given a project of faith in a sense, to step out in faith. And they step out in faith, later they come back and as we go on a little bit more in Mark next week, they come back excited about what God had done in and through them. They stepped out in faith and man, God just blessed. And they just had exciting stories to share of blessing when they came back. And indeed it's exciting to step out in faith and walk by faith and see God do mighty works.

But here in this passage we see a contrast, a different type of heart. Jesus said, "as you go to different houses and different villages, those that do not receive you and those that do not hear you, depart from there. Just depart from there. And not only that, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." And then he says in the New King James, it's not in the NIV, but it is in other accounts of this in other gospels, but he did say this, "Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." That's what God thinks of belief. It's amazing that he would say it. It would be more tolerable for those who did those wicked things in Sodom and Gomorrah than those who reject Jesus. That is what he says. To reject when he comes knocking on the door of your heart is to bring judgment upon your life. In fact, if you've been told about Jesus and still deny him, Jesus says, Sodom and Gomorrah, those folks will be better off than you in judgment day. And the reason why, and you may wonder, "Why would he say such a thing?" I guess the best I can tell you is, Light creates responsibility. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah had light, light enough to be judged for their sins, as you read in Romans, but they didn't know about Jesus. They knew a little about God through seeing creation and God speaking to them through the creation and a little bit through the Old Testament [which they probably didn't have much access to, since this was the time of Abraham, what, some generations from Noah or something like that. As a matter of fact, Noah's son Shem was still alive when Abram was born if you trace out the genealogy.] All those apart from Christ will be judged for their sin, but those who have been given a lot of light, it appears there may even be a varying degree of judgment. [Differing Christian denominations have differing beliefs on the final judgment, the Great White throne judgment and the disposition of the "unsaved dead." Much of this is prophecy where, as Paul said, we see through a darkened glass. Jesus upon his return will clear up all the differences in interpretation on this subject. For unity's sake, it's better to wait than speculate.] Those who have been given more light are more responsible for that light. What a contrast. The life of faith and blessing, yet the life of unbelief and rejection is a life of judgment.

Let's look at verse 14-29, "Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well-known. And he said, 'John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.' Others said, 'It is Elijah.' And others said, 'It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.' But when Herod heard, he said, 'This is John whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!' For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. For John had said to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.' Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias's daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, 'Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.' He also swore to her, 'Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.' So she went out and said to her mother, 'What shall I ask?' And she said, 'The head of John the Baptist!' Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.' And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb."

Here is definitely a warning about unbelief. And here in this passage there's unbelief because of a man's heart, because he loves the world and the things of the world more than he desires to know God. And that love of the world is a great love in his heart. And what a warning to you and I when the world begins to beckon us and passions begin to flair up and we begin to fulfill those passions. And here you see Herod, a man that loved the things of the world and yet God began to speak to move him, and yet he still loved the world so much more. And you see the fruit of that, the fruit of this life of unbelief too. Unbelief because he refused to take John at his word and put his faith in those words. And this fruit that he saw was predominantly about guilt and shame. When Herod hears about Jesus, he's like, 'Oh man! That's John the Baptist! He's come back to life!' This guy must have been ridden with a lot of guilt and shame because he had taken off John the Baptist's head, so here he believes upon hearing Jesus, that a headless man has come back to life. And the reason why he believes that and is just in fear of that is just because of tremendous shame and guilt is in his heart for what he did, and it's just plagued him day in and day out. When he had John the Baptist beheaded it just consumed his heart, and the shame and guilt day in and day out gnawed at him. And eventually when he heard about Jesus, man, he's like, 'Wow!, John the Baptist has come back to life!' Because he knew what he'd done was wrong, and he knew that he'd be judged for what he had done. You read in these verses that Herod feared John and in these verses you see that he knew that John was a just and holy man. Evidently, initially he wanted to kill John, as you read in the other gospels, then he feared the people, so he didn't do that because they thought he was a prophet [Herod was well tuned into public opinion, just like our modern politicians of today--no different.], but he did have him arrested. He had him arrested because of his relationship with Herodias who was his brother's wife. And he had him put in prison, but then in prison, evidently, he must have gone down and visited John. John being a straight shooter began to share with him. You get a sense that there was probably a lot of meetings because he listened and began to say, 'Wow, this guy is a holy and just man.' He was really infatuated and drawn to these words and what this man was saying to him and then began to protect him. But he made some compromises, he was a man of lust for the world, and because of that he allowed Herodias to come into his life, his brother's wife. And what a wicked woman this was, Herodias you see what she does. She actually takes her daughter and lets her daughter really play the part of a prostitute. Her daughter dances before Herod. That's what prostitutes did. Just a wicked woman. But he allowed that woman into his life, you know he lusted after her and marries her, and John begins to address that but then he's convinced of that, yet he's got this woman in his life. Really opened up his heart to a foothold of Satan and eventually, still having lust in his heart, began to lust after Herodias' daughter, she danced, and then he made an oath, and with that, man, Herodias just went for the throat, and really brought a hard thing into his life and eventually John the Baptist's head came out on a platter before him because of it. What a warning. If you have a love for the world, there's a lust in your heart for the world and the things of the world, and if you're a Christian, be warned, man. Because I tell you, if you play with fire you get burned. You open your life up to a Herodias or some sort or another, then you're gonna feel the pain of it later. Jesus said, 'Better to pluck out your eye, if you struggle, better to pluck it out, then bear the fruit of that lustful eye. And he gave us other parables like that. I wouldn't encourage you to take out your eye if you struggle with lust. But it would probably be less painful to take that eye out then to bear the shame and the guilt and the fruit of the sin that eye is going to make you, if you have a lustful heart. And that's what happens here with Herod because of just a lust and love for the world. He just gets into situations he ultimately didn't want to be in. But Satan, he gave him a foothold, and Satan went for it. But what a warning to you, if you are struggling with the world, you're a believer, and yet the world is calling you and you've got this area of your life, I encourage you, man, take heed to the Word of God and take measures if necessary. If you struggle with lust of the eyes, get rid of the T.V. if that is what's necessary. To keep you from stumbling get rid of the Internet if that's what's necessary. Get rid of the magazines, whatever it is. Get radical if you need to do it, because you can go down a road and really regret it later, if you let that desire and passion get started, and fulfill that desire and passion. Man, the enemy wants to get a foothold in your life, and he does here to Herod. So just a warning. And maybe you have another struggle in your life in another area, and you're doing a "Lot" thing and got your tent pitched toward Sodom. And you know Lot ended up in Sodom later. I encourage you to let the power of God work in your life, and go to the cross and pluck out your eye [symbolically] or whatever it is, spiritually speaking. Well, Herod loved the world more than he was interested in the things of God. There was a stirring in his heart, but he rejected that to continue to fulfill his flesh. And let's look to Luke chapter 23. "When Pilate heard of Galilee," (this is when Jesus had been handed over to Pontius Pilate) "he asked if the man [Jesus] were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction he sent him to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now when Herod saw Jesus he was exceeding glad for he had desired for a long time to see him because he had heard many things about him and hoped to see some miracle done by him. Then he questioned him with many words, but he answered him with nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated him with contempt and mocked him, arrayed him in a gorgeous robe and sent him back to Pilate. That very day, Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other." Here you see the ultimate fruit of unbelief.

Herod, you could maybe say, came close, confronted with the truth of God's word, it began to move his heart, yet he said, 'Now--the world.' He kept going back to the world, and eventually you see that life of denying God and denying Christ, where it leads--it leads to blasphemy. That's the ultimate fruit of unbelief. And there in Luke you see a Herod later on with just a seared conscience as he's standing before Jesus. Definitely he seems to have a different heart and different mind than when he was with John because he stands before Jesus and really wants to see a magician work and cast spells and things, and then he just begins to mock Jesus and ridicule Jesus and you just see a change in heart. For a moment there he seemed to have a soft heart and a soft conscience, at least to a degree. But he didn't, he didn't respond in faith, he rejected, rejected the Word of God, and that's where he ended up.

And my encouragement to you, as Jesus speaks to your heart, as the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart this morning, the ultimate fruit of unbelief is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and that's the only sin that God won't forgive. If you reject Jesus, when the end comes, the Bible said as we read, it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you in the day of judgment because you've been given a lot of opportunity, and heard the Word of God and Jesus has spoken to you and has called to you and yet you continue to reject him, and a life of rejection, of rejecting Jesus is a life of standing in judgment alone without the Advocate, Jesus, and then having to endure the fruit of your sin which is death, spiritual death. Well, blessed is the man [or woman] who trusts in God, as David said in Psalm 34, verses 8-10. "O taste to see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts him. O fear the Lord you his saints, there is no want to those who fear him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." David said, 'Ah, blessed is the man who seeks the Lord, blessed is the man who puts his faith in him, blessed is the man who trusts in him. He doesn't lack a thing.' Sure there might be some challenges, some testings, some trials, but he's blessed. It's a good life to walk with the Lord, it's a good life to walk in faith. Well that's where we're going to end our study this morning. That's where I ended the first service, so we'll end right there."

"Five Loaves and Two Fish"

Mark 6:30-56

Beginning with verse 30 of Mark chapter 6, "Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And he said to them, 'Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.' For there were many coming and going and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. But the multitudes saw them departing and many knew him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came to him and said, 'This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat.' But he answered and said to them, 'You give them something to eat.' And they said to him, 'Shall we go and buy two hundred denari worth of bread and give them something to eat?' But he said to them, 'How many loaves do you have? Go and see.' And when they found out they said, 'Five, and two fish.' Then he commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them, and the two fish he divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men" (Mark 6:30-44).

Here you read, the apostles, disciples gathered to Jesus. And as we studied last week, the disciples were sent out sort of on their first missionary journey. They'd been spending time with Jesus, and for the first time he sends them out on their own. And now they've gathered back to him after some time and they began to just share with him all the things they had done and all the things they had seen and the things they had taught. And no doubt it was an awesome experience for them to go out and just see God work as you'd read there before and earlier in chapter six, they went out and they healed the sick as God gave them power to heal the sick. And the saw demons cast out of people. So they took this step of faith. And now they've seen God do a great work. So they've come back to Jesus and certainly it's been an awesome experience as they share the great stories and reports. And in verse 31, Jesus tells the disciples--we don't know how long it's been, it's been some amount of time--but he says, "Go and get some rest. Go to a deserted place." Because the people just kept coming. As Jesus has been ministering, we're at least at the mid-point of Jesus' ministry, people from all around, from far away, as we continue into Mark chapter 7, have heard about him, and heard about the great work that he's doing. Not only is he teaching the Word of God, but also he's performing great miracles. Paralytics have been healed and blind have been healed so they've gone back to their communities and they're all amazed from what they see, so multitudes and multitudes just continue to come. And Jesus knows that and sees just the toll it's taking and just the--it's taken a lot upon the disciples. He says to the disciples, "Let's get in the boat and go and get some rest." And the people just keep coming and coming. So in verse 32, they get in the boat and depart to a deserted place. As you see there and as you see in other parts of the Bible, no doubt it's important for us to get rest as we minister. It's important for us to go and get refreshed and get renewed. It's important to Jesus, he tells the disciples to go and get refreshed. It's without a doubt, you and I can become weary and burned out if we don't go and get some rest, sometimes due to the never-ending need. You know, I shared earlier in the first service, man, there's great need around us, our communities and our families and with our friends. And no doubt as we continue to meet needs you can get spent out and get tired. And sometimes pressured, you know, to go 24-7, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because there's just so much need and you feel you just can't stop. I don't know about you, but when I sit down, there's times when I feel guilty for sitting down and taking a moment to rest. I know my wife does when it comes to doing things around the house. But that's not what God desires for us. He desires for us to rest. He wants us to work hard, but he wants us to take a break, get refreshed and get renewed. In fact, in Exodus 23 when God instituted the Sabbath, he instructed the Israelites, he said, 'Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, the son of your servant and the stranger may be refreshed.' God instructed his people to go and get some rest--take some time out and get some rest, but not only for themselves but also for those that are around them, even for their animals. He says 'Hey, take a break.' 'Give the ox a rest and give your wife a rest and your kids.' You know for some of the guys here this morning, they're just work-aholics. You need to take some rest now and then--if not for yourself, at least for your wife and kids and family, they need rest. It's good to rest and get renewed. It's good to rest indeed, but at the same time it's important to know that we need to be cautious about idleness. Rest is important, but also we need to know that idleness is not good. We know that David, king David, when he had some extended downtime, it was at that time when he was on the roof of the palace and lusting after another man's wife, and it was at that time when he really fell pretty hard. And if you allow a lot of idleness in your life, you're going to find that at times you're up to no good because you just had a lot of time on you hands and the enemy came in there and tempted you and you did some things you wish you hadn't done. And a good guard, and we can set a guard, is to just get busy doing God's work. Get busy just doing his work and letting that consume your thoughts and your time. Take the time to rest for sure, but don't be idle. Idleness results in low productivity, physical productivity, spiritual productivity--and Solomon told us in Proverbs, and he said, "The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing, but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." So indeed, the Bible exhorts us to work hard and to be diligent. But yet at the same time, to take a break and to rest and be renewed.

Jesus in verse 33, "And the disciples headed to a deserted place to get some rest." But by the time they get there it isn't deserted anymore. In fact, there's another large multitude waiting for them when they get there--a multitude waiting for them when they get there--a multitude of thousands. As they depart, some of the folks that they're ministering to see where they head, see the direction where they're going, so they decided to run along the shoreline. And as they're running along the shoreline, they stop by some villages and cities and other people get excited and by the time the boat finally gets to the point of docking there's now a huge multitude, maybe bigger than the one they left. And I don't know about you--the disciples were weary--I don't know about you, but if I were on that boat I probably would have gotten annoyed at this time. I'd start to get a little frustrated, perturbed. You know, these people, man, how inconsiderate. They decided to get in the boat to be alone a little bit so we could get some rest and here they are running around the shoreline and they're back now waiting for us when we get there. I'd be a little annoyed. I don't know about you. But Jesus, seeing this multitude, is not annoyed at all. [And don't forget, he just lost his cousin John, who was beheaded by Herod]. Neither is he perturbed, as you read there in those verses. In fact, it says, he was moved with compassion as he sees these people. He's tired, no doubt. But yet he's moved with compassion. The Greek for the word there--it says that he's moved with compassion--indicates that the emotion that he was experiencing was so deep that it was even rooted in his stomach. He could feel it in his stomach, a very deep heart for the people as they gathered there. He was moved because of their helplessness. He saw their desperate need and it's recorded there. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. They wanted answers, they had needs, but there wasn't really anyone there to help them. Of course, he came to help them, to bring life to them.

You know, I've been reading through the book of Exodus this past week, and I noted the deep compassion of God as I was reading in Exodus chapter 22. But if you remember those chapters, you may not, it's the time where God appears on Sinai to the people of Israel, as they've come out of the Red Sea. And he appears to them and begins to give to them the Law through Moses. But in the middle of the Law he made this note, and I thought it was really interesting. And I said, 'Man, God, you're so compassionate.' But God instructed the Israelites, he said this, "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way and they cry out at all to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword. Your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless." God's instructing in this time about sharing all about the Law and about things he wanted the people of Israel to do and in the middle of this he just makes this point. 'Don't ever harm a widow and don't ever harm an orphan, and if you harm an orphan, and if you harm a widow' he says, 'I'm gonna come and kill you and your wife will be a widow and your kids will be orphaned.' Now as I read that, I said, "Wow! The compassion of God that he feels so strongly for orphans--you know, you think of an orphan, maybe in another country, as you watch on T.V. You know the different commercials, they're easy prey to somebody who wants to take advantage of them. Or a widow, a widow you know, that is struggling with children and just has great need. And God said to the people of Israel when he gave to them the Law, he says, "Don't ever harm a widow, and don't ever harm an orphan." My heart goes out to them. "And I tell you, you want to see my wrath, take advantage of an orphan or widow and I'll take care of you" is what he says. You know, I read that, and said, 'Wow! The compassion of God. And here Jesus [who was YHVH, the 2nd member of the Trinity who was the God-personage of the Old Testament] stands there, he finally is tired, it's been, we've read, day in and day out, of all that he's done, and now he's there and there's a great multitude of thousands. And yet he's moved with compassion for them, seeing they have needs, great needs. As I think of Exodus 22, you know I'm thankful as I see the pictures on the cartons today of missing children and different posters posted in different places, I'm thankful that God sees all that and that it doesn't go without notice, he's certainly going to take care of those who harm the orphan and the widow.

You may wonder this morning if God understands your need. You say, "I've got a need in my life. I wonder if God really understands?" You may wonder if the situation in your life that maybe you find yourself in, that God really understands or even sees the situation. But you know as you read these verses here, it's clear that God has a compassion for us, and sees the needs and the situation that we find ourselves in. In fact, Jesus is tired but he sees all these needy people and his heart is so moved with compassion for them. Well, seeing them as a sheep without a shepherd, Jesus begins to teach them. And what is the greatest need of a sheep without a shepherd? The greatest need is truth. So Jesus begins to teach them. But you know by teaching these people the truth, that's going to protect them from false teachers and having others take advantage of them. It's going to protect them and give them wisdom in making decisions and going down the right course and heading into situations that are good for them rather than bad for them. So Jesus sees their need, sheep without a shepherd, so he begins to teach them, and just gives them truth, the Word of God. Solomon exhorted his son, in Proverbs chapter 3. He said, "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days are in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her." Solomon said, you know man, wisdom is better than rubies. Happy are those who have wisdom and gain understanding. It's just such a profit to them, that nothing else compares.

So Jesus, seeing these people who have just such great need, just need for direction--he just begins to teach them wisdom. And indeed there's nothing better than to know the truth.

Well it's now late, as you read in verse 35-37. It's late in the day. And the disciples come to Jesus and they exhort him to dismiss this crowd of people. Because it's been a long day and they're hungry. They haven't had a meal in awhile, so the disciples say, 'Hey Jesus, you know, get rid of this crowd for awhile so they can go to the villages and go to the stores and get something to eat.' I mean, these people are so desperate that they're in the wilderness. Evidently you know, the Sea of Galilee was about four miles across at this point, and about eight miles along the shore, so they've had an eight mile run anyway. And then they're standing there with Jesus. They're tired and hungry in the heat of the day, and it's getting late in the day, so the disciples do what you and I would probably do and say, "Hey Jesus, let these people go and eat. I mean, they just want to hear your words, but send 'em away, dismiss them so they can get some food." Well Jesus gives a very interesting response. In response to his disciples he says, "You give 'em something to eat." "You feed 'em." "You feed this group of 5, 8, 10 thousand people." Well, the disciples respond, maybe as I would respond, they basically say, "WHAT!?! That would cost 200 dinari to feed all these people. Hey boss, you know how much we get paid, it would take about eight month's wage to feed all these people. Come on, we don't have that kind of money to feed these people. That's impossible, too big of a task." Well Jesus is getting at a point. He then asks them, he says, "Go and see how many loaves you have." Well, when you put all the gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together, you kind of get the whole picture. All four accounts share about this situation. But taking from the gospel of John, Andrew then brings a small boy to Jesus who has five small barley loaves and two fish, and he says to Jesus, "Well, this is all we found, five loaves and two fish." And that ain't gonna do it either. He says that in the book of John. This can't take care of this crowd. It could give 'em a little teaser maybe. Well Jesus then commands the disciples to make all the people sit down in groups. The people are organized then in groups of 100's and 50's. You could just picture them on the green grass in colored clothing, it looked like a flower garden as they're all sitting in little circles, 5, 8, 10 thousand people. And with that, Jesus then takes the loaves, five loaves, two fish, looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks the loaves and he gives them to the disciples and then they take the pieces and they give them to different people. Incredibly you read in verse 42 that all the people eat and they're all satisfied. The Greek would actually suggest, in the tense of the Greek, that they're full, I mean, they've had plenty to eat. And so Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and breaks them, gives them pieces, gives them a piece and just keeps giving them out. It isn't like these people had a little nibble. The people have eaten a lot, all from five loaves and two fish. Well Jesus wants to make sure the disciples understand the point. Then we read in John, he says to them, "Get some baskets and go gather up the fragments." So they gather up the fragments and amazingly there's one basket for every disciple. There's twelve baskets, full to the top, of fragments left over. Not only did eight thousand, ten thousand people eat from these five loaves and two fish, but when you get the fragments, they've got twelve baskets of fragments of just the overflow of the stuff left over.

Why do you think Jesus decided to perform this miracle in this manner? You know, he could have just ordered McDonalds truck to show up or something, or a caravan of produce people to show up and feed the people or something. Or he could have just given them a ton of money. Why did he go about it this way? Why do you think? Well John I think gives us the answer in John's account, the gospel of John. Jesus is recorded there, as the multitude began to come towards them, Jesus actually turns to Phillip. And we don't have it here, but we have it in the other account, he says directly to Phillip, he says, "Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?" He actually begins to tease Phillip a little bit. He knows what they're kind of thinking and where they're at, but he's trying to make a point. Then John records for us in verse 6 of chapter 6, "But this he said," that is Jesus said to him, "said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do." He was just testing the disciples, testing their heart, testing their faith, that's why he did it this way. The disciples, you know, have come back from this missionary journey. They've seen Jesus do some great miracles, they've seen Jesus work through them to heal the sick. I mean, it would be amazing to pray for some guy that's a paralytic and see him walk. They've seen Jesus work through them to cast out demons out of people. So they've come back, they're excited, they've seen all these miracles. Certainly they've been learning that Jesus isn't just a prophet, he isn't just a teacher, he isn't just a guy with a philosophy--that he also has the ability to do miracles, has tremendous power. But they still don't fully understand the truth of who he is. That he's the Son of God, that he's Divine, that he's come from heaven, that he's God's Son. So they don't understand that yet. So Jesus is still testing them, to teach them who he is. So he just continues to test them. The better answer I think Phillip could have given, that Jesus was trying to get at, an answer like this, and that would be, "Hey Phillip, how are we going to get some food for these folks?" Phillip could have just said to him, "Hey, you're the Son of God, you're the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Jesus, man, we've seen you raise the dead, we've seen you heal the sick. Hey, you can feed these people. Hey, you can even use me, you used me to pray for some guy the other day and he couldn't talk and then he was talking or he was demon possessed and was delivered. Hey, you used me before. You could even use me to feed these people, Jesus. Certainly you're the Son of God." Well, that wasn't the understanding completely yet of the disciples. So Jesus is testing them. You know when he sent them out on the last missionary journey, he said, "Take just a staff, don't take clothes, don't take food, because I want to show you that as you go out from day to day to community to community, I'm going to provide for you." And they've had that experience too. Yet when it comes to feeding a multitude, they don't quite understand how it can be done. They don't believe that Jesus can do it I guess. You know, personally, I'm not interested in any man's philosophy. I'm not going to invest my time in some guy's cute or clever teaching about life. But I do want to serve God with my life. I do want to serve my Creator. And Jesus is showing the disciples that 'Hey, I'm not just some Mohammed, or Buddha that's come just to teach this or that. I've come because I'm the Son of God. I've come to give life and give hope. So he's showing, he's teaching them about his power and about why he's come, and what he can do. He didn't just come with some warm and fuzzy teaching. He came to give life.

The disciples counted everything up. Jesus said, "Hey, how are you going to feed these guys?" and "Why don't you do it?" and they counted it all up and they forgot to include Jesus. I guess you could say they forgot to include the J-factor, you know. They added it all up, "You've got five dinari, you've got five fish, we've got a couple other little coins, we've got some juice over here. Well we've got eight thousand people over here--we can't do it. Added it all up, not possible." But they forgot to include Jesus. In fact, the presence of Jesus with them seemed not to make a difference to them when they considered the solution here to this problem. Maybe today you find yourself in a similar situation. You've got five loaves, you've got two fish, whatever that might mean in your life, and you've got this great big need in front of you. And maybe you're in a situation in your life, like you know "Five loaves and two fish doesn't add up. This need is too big for me, I can't, I don't know what I'm gonna do. It's kind of desperate." Have you counted it all up? Maybe you've looked in the bank, maybe consulted all of man's methods, and you're in despair because the situation is too big. Maybe you forgot to include Jesus in the whole calculation. You know with God -mathematics, one plus one is not two with Jesus, that's for sure. When God created the heavens and the earth, he created the order that's here. He's outside of mathematics. He's outside of time. He's not constrained by any of those elements. Are you in a situation and Jesus is there with you and you just haven't included him in the whole solution? I believe God has got you right where he wants you. He's put you in a situation to test you so that you'd learn about the character of God. So that you'd learn that Jesus is real. You know what, when I first became a Christian, indeed, it took a step of faith. I had to, you know, you can't see God. The Bible says this. I've never heard God's voice audibly. So I had to take a step of faith. But in being a Christian now, for the years I've been a Christian, especially in ministering here in New England, I am so certain of the existence of God, I don't need to see Jesus, I am so sure he's close to me, I don't doubt it for a moment. Just because of all the power he's worked in my life and in the situation around me. He's just so real, I don't doubt it for a moment. And God has brought me through difficult situations to test me too, to show me that, "Hey, you're in a situation that man can't handle. But are you going to trust me to deal with this environment or situation?" and I've seen God do it. And I know he's real. I don't doubt it for a moment. And it's just beautiful to see the things that he has done.

You know you look here at Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand, and you can't help but think of God and the Israelites. You know the Israelites, they saw the plagues. As God brought the Israelites out of Egypt they saw all those plagues, saw even Moses take his staff and it became a serpent. All these things, they saw all these miracles that God said he would do, and he indeed did. And then they come out of Egypt and then they come to the Red Sea and God divides the Red Sea, and they go through the Red Sea, and there's walls of water. And they walk through and they're looking at walls of water. And there's a cloud around them and they get through the Red Sea and they see the Red Sea cave in on the largest army in the world and destroy all these great chariots--600 chariots and all these great army men--saw all that and they get to this body of water and they see God make this body of water sweet so they could drink, then they go a little bit further, and in Exodus chapter 16, verse 22--this is what we read: "Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full. For you brought us into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." I mean, they go there a little bit more and it's been a day or two and they're hungry and they're like, "Oh God, how could you do this to us? You know you brought us out here, you're going to starve us." And you know, God has been doing all these miracles in their lives. And they've seen them, they don't doubt it, and yet they can't seem to trust God for the meal that they needed at that moment, in Exodus 16. Have you ever been there before? God's working answer to prayer and then when it comes to the next little test you just lose it? You know, "Oh, what am I going to do? Oh Lord, Lord" --you know. "God, you've failed me" or whatever. We're people of little faith. Well as you read in Exodus, God responds by raining bread from heaven. Basically the manna comes, covers the ground for forty years. God feeds millions of Israelites for forty years in the desert. Certainly, he can provide for you. In whatever situation you find yourself in, certainly he can do it. Fed for forty years, two million Israelites in the desert.

Jesus, I think he included his disciples to see how he distributes the food, and you get a better picture as you put all the accounts together. He actually does, he takes the bread, he takes the fish and breaks it and then he gives the pieces to the disciples and the disciples give to the people. Jesus doesn't give directly to them, he just continues to hand it to the disciples so that the disciples are right in the midst of this whole miracle that's transpiring. "Something's going on here. You know, I know he only has five loaves, but we've made a lot of trips already, and he keeps just giving me bread. And he keeps giving me fish. And I thought there were only two fish, but I think that I've counted at least a hundred that I've distributed." It just keeps happening, they keep going back and he just keeps doing it and doing it. But he had them feel every piece, had them feel every fish, look at every piece of bread so that they would certainly see and get a sense of what's going on as he did this. Yet as God works, it happened very naturally. When I was studying last night, you know the fireworks were going off in our neighborhood, you know, the big booms and the bright lights. And so often that's what we want to see. "God, I want to hear the big boom" you know. "I want to see the flashing light." But yet Jesus and God, works supernaturally and yet very naturally. It's happening right under your nose. The fish are multiplying, the bread is multiplying--just so naturally it's happening. And the disciples kind of miss some of it. They know a miracle's happened, but things still don't register as you go on in the text. God doesn't always choose the method that we desire. He's not some little slot-machine for us to come up and push his buttons and you know--I want this, I want that. He doesn't work that way. But he does choose the method that will clearly show you and I that he is God and that he is our Provider. He's working to teach us to trust him. He's testing our faith. With the Israelites he rained bread from heaven, he provided manna, and he told them, if you remember, you know, "Gather manna, but don't gather any extra for the next day because when you get up the next morning it's gonna spoil." And of course the Israelites, just like us, what do they do? They go get extra. He told them not to, but they do, and the very next day it spoils, there's worms, it's just all gross and there's a stench. So they learned, all right. But then he says, "I'm gonna change the rules here a little on you, on the sixth day--I've told you to rest on the seventh day--so on the sixth day I want you to go out in the morning when the dew goes away and the manna's there, the supernatural manna, on the ground. I want you to gather twice as much. And on the seventh day there's not going to be any. So you need to gather twice as much, you need to rest, and you need to provide for the following day." So what do the Israelites do? They don't gather enough, they go out on the seventh day and there's not any there, just as God told them. And God is just teaching them, but God even changed the rules on them. And with the Israelites he was making it so clear to them--"I AM THE PROVIDER. Not only am I going to rain bread from heaven, you can't pick up more than you need, but on the sixth day I want you to pick up twice as much because there won't be any on the seventh." He's just showing them that he is the provider. He fed them that way for forty years. Yet so often they still weren't getting it.

You know today there are many needs about us in the community, many needs about us even in this church and our families and our friends. I guess you could say, as Jesus said, there are many sheep without shepherds. Can you and I, can we trust God to use us, our five loaves and our two fish, to meet the many needs that we see? Can we trust God? I was in a meeting recently, with a school system. There's a particular young man that just was struggling and because of that his grades were struggling so there was this meeting. I was asked to be a part of it. The family met with the principle of the local school and vice principle and a counselor. So I was part of this meeting and we were just discussing this person's situation as he was struggling through school, and what we're going to do. And as this meeting was transpiring I asked the counselor of all this town school system, and he seemed like a neat man, but I asked him this question I said, "You know, I'm 33 years of age, but when I was in High School it seemed to me kids could read better than they can today. As a pastor and my interaction with kids it seems that there are a lot of kids that can't read today. What's up with that? Why can't kids read today?" Well this man responded, he said, "You know, when you went to High School there were 20 students per teacher in the school." He said, "Today there's 30 students per teacher." He said the problem is bigger than us. We can only do what we can do. So the teaching environment isn't as effective as it was." He just told me that the problem's too big. Well then as this meeting continued I sat there quietly. I listened to the parents tell the school, you know, that they were concerned that the school was failing, then I listened to the school tell the parents that they were failing. And both of them began to talk about it. I just sat there and watched as they talked. You know, they were talking about the videos, they were talking about the T.V., they were talking about all these things. "You know, we can only do what we can do, but our society is just so influential and it's just influencing the kids. And they all were admitting--I just listened--that the problem was too big for them. And the truth is, the problem is too big. There's no doubt that in some of America the family structure is just coming apart--the dumbing down of America. We've got kids today who can't read. But you know, I believe it's opportunity for the Church, because God is still God. God still takes five loaves and two fish and he still multiplies them...

...You know, you just take love and give love to a young person today--how it impacts their life. Today young people are being ripped off in many ways. They're not hearing about God, they're not hearing about hope, and they're not even getting educated today. You know, as Christians God has given us love, his power, we can go out, man, and just love some kids and watch the loaves multiply and fish multiply. God can take five loaves and two fish and multiply them. Are you willing and able to take the faith and trust and to do it? Because God will test you in it.

Paul remarked about Jesus. He said, "And Jesus said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities and reproaches and needs and persecutions and distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul said, "I don't have much, but man, the power of God will work through me." Again Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter four, verse seven, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, our bodies, that the essence of the power may be of God and not of us." People look at you and say, "Man, you don't have a whole lot, but look at what's going on." And they give glory to God because it's a God-thing and there's nothing else that can explain it, the work of God. I'm not interested in some philosophical system. I'm not interested in somebody's clever ideas. But I'm interested in serving my God and my Creator. And Jesus over and over shows us in the gospel and his Word that he is God. He didn't just teach, his Word is transforming, it's life...he raised the dead, he multiplied the five loaves and two fish so his disciples would know that he'd come to give life and to give hope.

Verses 45-56, "Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side to Bethsaida, while he sent the multitude away. And when he had sent them away, he departed to the mountain to pray. Now, when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and he was alone on the land. Then he saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw him and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them and said to them, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.' Then he went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

[the pastor stopped short of expounding on what follows] When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized him, ran through that whole surrounding region and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard he was. Wherever he entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might just touch the border of his garment. And as many as touched him were made well." Now this is an interesting story. They go from the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus, immediately, it says, disperses the crowd and immediately and emphatically gets the disciples into the boat and has them set sail. And the reason why he does that, we're told in John that Jesus understood that these men ran out after he did this miracle and fed them, that they wanted to make him king. The Israelites [Jews] were looking for a king, a Messiah. And Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus came initially as a servant to save, and [he will come] later as the King to reign. But they wanted this king, kind of a political thing. They had an agenda, to get this guy here that is performing miracles and meeting needs and he a compassionate guy. 'Why don't we make him king? He can help us with our agenda and the things we want.' And Jesus knew that, and that's not why he came. So he put the disciples in the boat and immediately said "Let's set sail, man." Well he himself went up upon the mountain that was behind them there--just beautiful mountains around the Sea of Galilee--and went up there to pray. As the disciples set sail he told them to go to Bethsaida. And as they were rowing--they left at early evening--we find them in this verse here, about eight hours have gone by, it's now between 3 to 6 am in the morning, and the disciples are still out there rowing. The reason why they're rowing [and not sailing] is because there's a strong headwind and they're rowing and they're rowing, and they're rowing, and they haven't got very far. In fact, they've only made it about three to three and a half miles. Kind of frustrating. But you've got to hand it to the disciples for their determination. Jesus just said, "Go over there" and they got in there and just continued to row and row and row to get over there. And, I guess the road of disobedience would have been a little easier, to go back and find a warm bed and kick back, but they just kept rowing, and here they are in these waves and wind. Jesus said to go over to the other side, so they're going to get to the other side.

With that I think of Paul. Paul said, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, I set for that goal, I keep on pressing on." I've been thinking about that. That thought has been stirring in my mind for a few weeks, of just pressing on, resting in the grace and power of God, yet pressing on and pressing on. Not attaining the goal (yet) but I'm going to keep working at it and setting my life for the goal.

Well Jesus is up on the mountain, these disciples are in this boat, they're straining and not making a lot of progress and in the many hours that have gone by they must be real tired by now. Yet Jesus sees them. His eye's upon them, can see them out there on the water, a few miles out, just straining and straining. And maybe you feel like that this morning. God has told you to do such and such, take such a path, whatever it might be, and you've tried it and you find yourself struggling and straining and it just isn't easy. Yet God led you to go this way and that way and you're just having the hardest time of it. [It's interesting to be typing this, knowing this very web site I'm typing this for is the assignment the Lord's put on my heart to do, and is being talked about right here in the last sentence! It hasn't been easy, but it has been exciting.] Well you can be encouraged, no doubt, as you read in Psalm 139 too, and see that God knows right where you're at, his eye's upon you. He hasn't forgotten you for a moment. In fact, he's got you in the best place you could be. Well, Jesus then, steps onto the water and amazingly walks on the water out to the disciples as they're on the boat. I can just picture what it was like, as one of the disciples looked out and saw this person on the water as the waves are going up and down. You know that would freak me out, and probably freaked that person out. You know Peter or whoever, grabbed Andrew and said, "Andrew! Check this out! I think I can see somebody out on the water. Looks like a ghost or something." And he goes, "You know, I think it is too!" Well, you know, you've got 12 disciples on one side of the boat going "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT OVER THERE!?" and they start to scream and holler, you know. I don't know if God has a sense of humor, but it must have been amusing anyway for Jesus to hear these disciples as they were screaming and freaking out there on the boat. Reminds me when I was young, I was on my bike one day, it was night time. I had stayed over my friend's too late. And we were in southern Maine and I had to go from my friend's house to our house and it was through the woods, three miles, and there weren't any houses on this road and it was night time and I was like, "Oh man, I can't believe I stayed this late, and it's dark." I got on my ten-speed and started heading down this road and I don't know why, but there was a lady dressed in black walking down the middle of the road, middle of the night, you know. I'm peddling my bike and look up and see this lady, and you know, being a young teenager--like--"There's a witch!"--or--"A ghost!!" or something. I still remember that. And I started peddling as fast as I could. I was so scared. I don't know what this lady was doing, or what was going on. All I know was I was scared as I hit hyper-warp-drive on my ten-speed to get home. But the disciples are in this boat and this Jesus, which has never happened before, it's not a human thing, that's the point that Jesus is showing the disciples--he's not a man [he's both God and man, God in flesh, but having all the power of God at his beck and call, obviously]. Man can't solve all the problems of man. But here's Jesus walking on the water to them. And when he walks to the boat, he then begins to turn at an angle and acts as is he's going to walk by them. And they are just in great fear and troubled. But then he says, "Be of good cheer, it is I. Do not be afraid."

Turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 43. (We're just about done here.) I found this Scripture before. Maybe you believe you're in the right place where God wants you, and yet there's waves and struggle, there's straining. It's not easy. Be encouraged to know that God sees where you're at. But not only that, Jesus is with you. And I believe he says the same to you today. He says, "Be of good cheer, it's I, don't be afraid. I'm with you." This verse in Isaiah has been an encouragement to me at times when I find myself in difficult waters. Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, nor shall the flames scorch you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour." And God said, he said, "I am your saviour. When you go through the troubled waters know that I am with you. You're not going to be consumed by the waters, you're not going to drown in the waters of life, when you go through the fires of life, you're not going to be consumed and burned." And there you see a great picture of that in Mark chapter six, as Jesus is right there with these disciples at a very straining time, one of those troubled waters times of life.

Well, he gets on the boat, and immediately the winds cease and they're in just great amazement and just marvel at what's taken place. But it says in verse 52 that they don't understand about the loaves because their heart was hardened. It's kind of a strange little note, but they didn't understand that Jesus was the Son of God. When he multiplied those fish and loaves they didn't understand exactly what was going on. But now with the walking on the water they're in just complete awe. And turn to Matthew chapter 14. Matthew writes about this account too. Verse 32, "And when they got into the boat the wind ceased." It says "they" there because Peter, you remember, in John and here in Matthew, Peter stepped off the boat, and says, "Hey Jesus, I'd like to walk out on the water." And he actually was the second person to walk on water for a moment before he got scared and sank. And sometimes the storms of life will do that to us too. We'll be in a time of despair but then as we see Christ, man, we'll find strength and even faith to do things that we didn't do before. But here, Peter and Jesus now get back into the boat, verse 32, and then verse 33, "Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped him saying, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.'" And it just began to really sink in at this point, who was with them--not just a great prophet, not just a miracle worker, not just a guy who had great teaching, but God himself had stepped off his throne to become a man who was in their boat. And they were like, "You are the Son of God." "You are Divine." It began to really sink in. Jesus tested them to show them about his character and Jesus does the same to you. He takes you through times of testing so that he can reveal his character to you as you get to that point of despair, going, "I don't understand, this is not right, I don't get it, how is this going to work out?" Well then he works it out. And you're like, "Wow! God you're real!! You're amazing! I can't believe--it was impossible for that situation to work out!" You see that's happened to me multiple times since I've been here. And that's why today I just don't need to see God. I don't need to physically see him. I see what he does in my life and how he's around me. And he's so real. You know there's times when I've been in despair and said, "How can it ever work out? I can't believe this situation. This is impossible." And God, testing my faith, says, "Don't forget, I'm here." And he works out the situation. Jesus, you're real, man. We learn about Christ and his character, as we venture into those troubled waters. You know, the disciples were the only ones to see this miracle, Jesus walking on the water, and maybe you're in a place where God is going to reveal himself to you in a very special way to teach you about his character--and the result is always that you just worship God--you worship him in awe.

Well, my conclusion is from John chapter six, verse 26. "Jesus answered them and said, 'Most assuredly I say to you, you seek me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled..." This is a little bit later. John gives us an account where people are at Jesus' feet again, he says, "You seek me, you're like a dog, you give food to a homeless dog and you'll never get rid of him. You give food to a cat in your neighborhood, a stray cat, and that cat will be at your door everyday." He says, "You guys are like that. I fed you some bread and now you won't leave me alone. But that's the reason why, because I fed you--you've got physical desires, but no spiritual desires." He says, "Do not labor for food that perishes, but for food which endures to everlasting life which the Son of Man will give you because God the Father has set his seal upon him.' And they said to him, 'What shall we do that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.' Therefore they said to him, 'What sign will you perform then that we may see it and believe you? What work will you do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert as it is written, 'He gave bread from heaven to eat.' And Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true Bread from heaven, for the Bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' And they said to him, 'Lord, give us this Bread always.' And Jesus said to them, 'I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me. And the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out...'"(John 6:27-37). Jesus kind of ties it all together a little later as he says, "You know, all this is going on, I'm trying to show you that I am the Bread of life. I'm not the means to the end, I am the end. I am the destination. You know you've gathered around me because you're seen me feed you, perform some miracles." He says, "That's not the point. What you need, is you need me, I am the Bread of life. I've come to give life. You're a sinner and the wages of sin is death. God is a righteous God, but I've come that you can be forgiven of your sin and you can know God, and have a relationship with him, and have life, abundant life, and have hope." So says Jesus, "I am the Bread of life. He who comes to me shall never be hungry, will truly be satisfied, deep in their hearts, never thirst spiritually, he says, "all you that come to me I'll by no means cast out."

Mark 7:1-37

"Turn in your Bibles if you would to Mark chapter 7. Let's say one more word of prayer as we read God's Word and look at God's Word together. 'Father we know your Word goes out and it doesn't return void. So give us hearts to receive your Word. Give us ears to hear. Give us understanding God, I pray, in Jesus name. And please speak to us Lord, and for those that maybe have never heard your voice before, I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that they would clearly hear you this morning. But Lord, thank you, and just please Holy Spirit move amongst us, speak to us. We certainly desperately need you. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.'

I was speaking with a Calvary Chapel pastor recently, and this particular pastor pastors a large church, and he was sharing with me just his heart, how he feels so unworthy to do what he does. Not that being a pastor is necessarily anything special. But he was just explaining how he feels very unworthy. And expressing concern with some ministers, at least from his perspective, but best that he can tell, that they don't seem to, well they, they seem to think anyway, by the way they appear, that they deserve the blessing of God and that they deserve or they've accomplished with their church or something. And he says, "You know, I feel so unworthy. And I'm just concerned for these other folks who don't really seem that way." And you know in my life there's times where God just reminds me how unworthy I am, just of His love and of His blessing. I really haven't accomplished anything good in and of myself. I don't deserve anything. Yet God for some reason, all because of his love has blessed my life, and certainly our lives here this morning.

I've been reading through the book of Exodus, and you know, you come, as you're reading through the book of Exodus, you come with the Israelites from Egypt and through the Red Sea and you come into the wilderness. And early on God begins to set up his methods of dealing with his people. He set these people apart, the Israelites. And early on in the wilderness, it's only been a short time, God appears to them in Mount Sinai and he is showing the people that he is the true and living God. So he appears, and there is smoke and there's fire, and there's thundering on top of this Mount Sinai, and the people are in the wilderness below and they are in great fear as you remember the story. They even say to Moses, "Hey, Moses. We don't want to have God speak to us directly, because it's fearful to even hear his voice. We want you to speak with him, and we want you to come and tell us all the things he's told you." We also see there that Moses goes up and spends some time with God, and God begins to just give him the Law, and this is right in the very beginning, just a few weeks out of the Red Sea.

I was reading this last week in the part of the Law, that first experience with Moses up on Mount Sinai with God where God even begins to institute the sacrifices, you know, the sacrifices of the lambs, and the bulls--all these sacrifices, and even makes a comment that they're going to be a continual thing forever with his people, of course pointing ultimately to Jesus Christ. You know, I was reading that, and as you do sometimes, you like--'man this is gory stuff'--and it seems kind of bizarre sometimes. You read, you know, here's the worship of God, and here's all this blood and all these dead animals. I was thinking about the priests, all they had to go through, all these days of just going in and taking these animals and killing them and pulling out their insides as God had commanded, and taking the fat off from the liver and fat from different parts and burning it. And I was like, 'That's just gory, you know.' Maybe you would think the same, I don't know. Maybe you enjoy that stuff. I thought it was gory. You know, worship for us is a lot different. On the other side of the Cross we come and sit comfortably with air conditioning, bagels and coffee upstairs, and great worship songs to worship God with. And there's a reason for that. But you know, you ask, 'Why such the gory scene, why the gory sacrifices?' And as you think about that and you read that, you're like, 'Wow.' It really speaks of the holiness of God--how holy God is. In order for him to set apart these Israelites as his people it required that all these bulls, all these animals continuously to be sacrificed because of their sin. God is just so far above them, he is so holy, yet they're sinners, we are sinners. And, as you read through that you consider that you're just like in awe of what was required, fellowshipping with God. Now when God had communion with the people of Israel, they still had the veil. You know the last song we sang this morning, 'God, we want to enter the Holy of Holies.' We want to go right through, past that veil, right to your presence, past the brazen altar. But you read, with the people of Israel, they weren't able to do that. Only the priests could do that. But God was so Holy and he was showing them how Holy he was, and how far they were from that, just the distance between God and man, and what was required temporarily, to have that type of relationship with him, ultimately pointing to the Cross--and the work that ultimately God had to do for you and I to have a relationship with him. And, you know, I was reading that, and I was like, 'Lord, I'm just so unworthy. I see all the gore, I see all the blood, and I know that's required for me too, just the blood of your Son because of who I am and what I've done. You're a Holy God, a Holy and awesome God.' You know, there's a passage that's repeated multiple times in the Bible. Whenever something is repeated multiple times, God is emphasizing a truth he wants us to know. His truth, of course, is throughout the Bible. But these specific words are repeated three times, summarized another time, in Psalm 14, Psalm 53, I don't know if you've noticed--it's like the same psalm. You're like 'Wait a minute here. Did someone just copy this Psalm a second time?' Almost verbatim, I think they are the same Psalm. And then Paul quotes that, those Psalms written by David. He quotes that in Romans chapter 3, he says, "There is none righteous, no not one. There is none righteous, not a single one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside, they have all together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no not one." The Bible says very clearly, there's not a man or a woman, child that has ever lived that has ever done good, because of our condition. And you read through the book of Exodus, and you see the gore and the blood and that just says that God is Holy, and we are far from that. We are so unworthy as people. Now I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. But there is a truth as we go to Mark chapter seven that we will see. Solomon declared the same. He said "And there's not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." There's not a just man, we are all unworthy before a Holy and Righteous God. You know, you read through the book of Exodus, you consider all this, but then you look at America today [this sermon given 07.11.99], you look even at the church today in America. It seems there is a very different attitude, there's a very different understanding. I'm amazed to see how highly people think of themselves, especially in America as we stand on our successes and our achievements and our wealth, as if we've achieved something, as if we have some kind of favor before God, as if we've something special. I think we need to consider the Psalmist in Psalm chapter 49. The Psalmist wrote this. "Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of the souls is costly." He says, 'You know, the rich, those that have all this accomplishment, those that trust in their own works, and their accomplishment, what are they going to do about the grave?'--is what the psalmist says. What are they going to do to redeem their own soul or soul of their brother. They can't do anything, because it's too costly for any man to pay for that, to redeem the soul from the grave. Today, many people boast of wealth and accomplishment, but you know, the grave is still right around the corner, still waiting. Not a whole lot they can do about the grave, not a whole lot man can do about the grave. "Who can pay the price to redeem their own soul or their brother's soul?"--the Psalmist says. He says, "No one, it's too costly." Well then, the Psalmist goes a little bit further. He says, "This is the way of those who are foolish, and of their posterity who approve their sayings." The N.I.V. says "This is the way of those that trust in themselves. Like sheep they've laid in the grave. Death shall feed on them. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their beauty shall be consumed in the grave far from their dwelling." He says, 'That's where it's going.' All those that trust in themselves today that look one way, the grave is still there, just waiting, waiting for them. I was, a couple weeks ago, was in a graveyard, as I was invited to go to a funeral in New York. And I went to this funeral service, and this service was in a church of course. And there was a good crowd of people, and at the end of that--I had to run to the boys room, and I went to the boys room--and all of the cars had left to go to the graveside, you know, the little service there in the cemetery. And because I had to make that special little trip I was left behind and I went on my own to go to the cemetery, and got there late. And you know how cemeteries are, they got the little tote-road that goes through it, and with all the cars that went, that little road was backed up for quite a ways. So I had to park behind a long line of cars quite a ways from the graveside. And you know funerals, they kind of get you thinking about things, about the reality of the situation. So I was walking through this cemetery looking at these tombstones and reading the names, some of the dates. Some of the dates were old, some weren't so old. Some had the birth date and didn't have the death date, evidently because the person hadn't died yet. And just considering that, and on the way back I was able to do the same, as they buried this person. As I was walking I was just thinking, you know, "Lord, this is where I'm going if Jesus tarries, if he tarries for another X-number of years, this is where I'm going, as far as life today the way I know it." I know I have eternal life in Christ. But as far as the body, this George right here today, this is where I'm going, I'm returning to dust. I'm going to be seen, basically, if Jesus tarries, as just a name on a tombstone. In some cases the tombstones say a little bit more about the individual and in some cases they don't. And as I was walking and thinking that, I just said a prayer, a prayer I've said before. I said, 'You know Lord, I don't want to be remembered for something foolish that I've done, I don't want to be remembered for worldly achievements. There's only one thing that matters, and it's serving you, you're the only thing that matters. This is clear, look at the tombstones. The only thing that matters in life is God. I want to be remembered as a man--if anybody does remember me, if there's anything extra on the tombstone--as a man that walked with you, that was used in your hand as an instrument.' But that's the reality of the situation, isn't it? That's where we're all going. Not to many people have gotten out of that one yet. If Jesus tarries much longer that's where we all go, every one of us, to the grave, to the tomb. And what are we gonna live for? What are we going to do with our lives? What are we going to be remembered for? You know, time is short, it's so short.

Well, I considered these things, I considered 'Lord, you've blessed my life so much, I don't deserve a single thing I have. I am so unworthy. I considered the things that I've done, the sin that I've committed all through my life, what I get and I've gotten from you God I just don't deserve. What I deserve I'm very glad I don't get, that you're not giving it to me some of the things I deserve for what I've done.' But I am unworthy. You know, if I got what I deserved, I would be there in that graveyard in that cemetery that I was in a couple weeks ago--I would be there in fear, considering what was ahead of me. But fortunately because of the grace of God... You know, Psalm 49 that Psalmist continues and I can shout out with the Psalmist in Psalm 49:15, he says, all that about those who trust in themselves and then he says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave...for he shall receive me." That's what he says. He says, "And God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave." And that is the only way any of us are gonna get beyond the grave, by the power of God. You look in Exodus, you read about the sacrifices, you see a Holy God and you see a sinful man. But the Psalmist cries out, 'Im gonna get past the grave because of God.' And so, I can say that this morning, and so can many of us here. You know, we're going to be reminded a little bit later in Mark chapter 10, verse 45, "For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many." You know the Psalmist in Psalm 49 says, you know, 'Who can pay the ransom?' Nobody can pay the ransom for themselves. But Jesus came and he paid that price to redeem us. He paid that ransom, we were captive. He came to set us free, captive to the grave. All that says to you and I, God is a God of incredible love. The height to God, the depth to us, the distance between the two is so great. God is a God of incredible love, incredible compassion, incredible mercy, incredible grace. Truly understanding his love, truly understanding that has an effect on our attitude. Understanding how God loves me, understanding how far he had to go to save me. And Paul says something about that attitude that you and I should have in Philippeans chapter 2, he says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. But each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God [cf. John 1:1-11] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross."

We're going to see in Mark chapter 7, as we look this week, and this is kind of the backdrop for these things that I've talked about. Mark 7:1-24. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?' He answered and said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.' And He said to them, 'All to well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 'But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban (that is, dedicated to the temple)'; 'and you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.'

And when he had called the multitude to Him, He said to them, 'Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 'There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!'

And when He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, 'Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him. Because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods.' And He said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'"


Two types of people come to God with two different attitudes. And you're going to see how God receives these people with different attitudes. But Paul exhorts us, 'May this attitude be in you'--and that's the attitude of who you really are, and in that understanding, incredible love and understanding of God, it's an attitude, a mind of humility, as Christ was. But the two attitudes, these two groups come to God, one of them experiences the power of God and one of them misses out on the power of God. And we're going to look at that in Mark 7. Let's begin with verse 1. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to him having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches. And the Pharisees and scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?'" Here you see the group of religious leaders that have come to check out Jesus, and they've come quite a ways. They've come from Jerusalem. Maybe they're sent out as a delegation from the mother church, you know, the temple back in Jerusalem, and they're gonna check out Jesus to see what this guy's really about. You see the perspective that they come with, they come to inspect, they come to determine the legitimacy of this ministry of Jesus. Now, in their eyes, in these men's eyes, in the eyes of many in the world today, these men would be seen as those accurately able to determine the spirituality of another. These guys are the religious pro's. They're the guys that are well trained in the Law and spiritual matters. Certainly in the eyes of many men, these men could determine who's a fake, who's not legit', who's a phony and who's the real thing. They could determine that. So these guys come to inspect. 'We're gonna see if this guy's really all he's about, if he really is a religious man.' They watch Jesus intently and they are amazed. I would say they are even horrified by what they see. As you read there they see Jesus' disciples eating bread, partaking in food without going through a certain process of washing their hands. Now what does that mean? Well, obviously it's important for you and I to wash our hands before we eat, that's not a bad idea. I was actually reading in "Our Daily Bread" this week by Martin D. Han, you know that little devotional, he has a devotional in there for one of the days of this week--he told of a health teacher that wanted to teach his students the importance of washing their hands before they eat, so he had them take a little instrument and had them scrape their fingers and scrape under their nails and they put it in an environment that would cultivate any bacteria. I guess it was a little petrie dish or something, and they put it in there and they came back a couple days later, and these students were horrified at what they saw. They saw these little critters that grow off their fingernails and off their hands. He was showing them, you know, you wash your hands because if you don't there's things there that potentially can make you sick. So it's important to wash our hands.

But that is not the reason why these men have come and now are upset, to what Jesus is doing and the fact these disciples of Jesus are eating with dirty hands. That has nothing to do with it. They're concerned because the disciples are not abiding by a tradition, a ceremony that had been established by the religious leaders. In the Old Testament God specifically laid out to the Jews [Israelites] how they could be ceremonially clean. He laid out how they could be defiled if they did certain things and also how they could become clean again. He made it very clear. But over the years the Pharisees, the Sadducees, these religious leaders began to interpret that [those ceremonial laws of God], and add on other types and ways that you could become defiled ceremonially, other ways you could get clean again. Initially, the heart of that, as you read the Mishna and things, that the heart of that was in a sense to build a fence around the Word of God, it was to protect the Word of God. But over the centuries these men's teachings began to be elevated, and elevated. In time it was elevated above the Word of God. And people began to seek man's wisdom, man's tradition, man's religion, and that's what we see here. They had gone pretty far with it. They believed that even the dust from the road that a Gentile past over, just the dust, if it got on you--you know somebody yesterday walked down the road, got some dust on him, a Gentile, and you walked out and that dust got on you--that you would be defiled. They taught that. Now that is really, you really got to work hard to not get defiled under that teaching, I mean, just dust from somebody else, you know. As you read here, it talks about the marketplace that they, as they went out in the marketplace and they would come back they would wash for that reason. Maybe you touched a coin that a Gentile had used. They also went further, they got a little bizarre. Some taught the demon Shibna, whoever that is, sounds like a guy in a cartoon, but Shibna, would often come and sit on a man's hands as he slept, making your hands therefore unclean, I mean you have a demon sitting on your hands. You'd better do something about that. That's what they taught. So you go to bed, your hands open, you got this demon hangin' out on your hand, you know. If you later eat with these hands the demon could enter through the food and take control of you. That's what they taught. They had people in bondage with this teaching. So they had this ceremony they instituted where you would wash your hands. The way you would do that, before every course of every meal you had to do this. You put your hands like this, you'd take an eggshell and a half of water and pour it down your finger and it would drip down your hands and then off your wrists. It was important to drip off your wrists. Then you would take your hands and put your hands like this and would take an eggshell and a half of water and pour it down your hands and off your fingertips. And then you would take one of the hands, put it over the fist like that and you would rub it and then you would reverse that and go like that. You would do that before every course of every meal, to be ceremonially clean. Nothing to do with bacteria, all to do with what they considered clean. If you didn't do that you were eating with defiled hands. They got pretty radical. They would teach that if a rabbi was ever caught eating bread and hadn't gone through that, he would be excommunicated. There is a story of one particular rabbi that was imprisoned by the Roman government. And he nearly died and the reason why he nearly died was because they gave him a ration of water every day, but instead of drinking the water, he would use it to do this, so he would be undefiled. I mean, being in a prison cell with rats would be considered being defiled, so he made sure he was cleansed every day from his glass of water rather than drinking it to stay alive. [And the Romans probably gave him just enough water to do one or the other, knowing the Jewish customs, out of a sick sense of humor, to see if they could get devout Jews to kill themselves.] That's how far this got with these people, how far they were from the truth and the heart of God.

With all that, the scribes and Pharisees are disturbed. Jesus' disciples were eating bread and they didn't do that. So they are disturbed, they come to question him on that matter. You know, Jesus' answer to them is to anybody with that type of heart. But you know it's amazing, as you go back to the book of Exodus, you see man where he's at, you see God where he's at, a Holy God, an unholy man, that we would even begin to think that there's things we can do in and of ourselves to make ourselves clean before God. I remember hearing a psychologist once talk about a person that had committed a sin. I don't remember what the sin was, but this behavior happens now and then because of our guilt. But this one particular individual this psychologist was counseling, because of repeatedly, all day long, he would wash his hands. He felt dirty, he committed a sin. And the very strange way, I mean he almost rubbed the flesh off his hands--wash his hands all the time, trying to get them clean, trying to get clean of his sin, rid himself of his sin, and he couldn't do it. And day in and day out washing his hands, washing his hands. So they were trying to counsel this guy because he was just going crazy, washing his hands. And you know we read in the Scripture Pontius Pilate tried to do that with Jesus, wash my hands, take some water, rid myself of that. But you know, we're so far from a Holy God, what is a little handwashing gonna do for our sin in our heart? Not a whole lot. Well, Jesus, he doesn't like where these guys are at. You see his response. He answers them, verse 6, and he says to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" He says, 'You guys are hypocrites and God cannot stand a hypocrite.' You know, people today don't come to church because they say the church is hypocritical. And you know, if people can't stand hypocrites, God really can't stand hypocrites. But we're all hypocrites to one degree or another. You know, a hypocrite, that word originates with the Greek, the Greek actors would go do their plays and they would put on a different mask to do a different part, so they are called hypocrites, you know, you'd be somebody you're not. And that's what Jesus says, 'You guys are just actors man, you're acting like one thing, coming to inspect me as a spiritual little delegation here that knows what you're doing. But you guys are hypocrites.' He says, 'Isaiah, what Isaiah said about people, he said about you for sure.' He says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." He's talking about vain worship. He's saying that you can worship and go through ceremonies and be religious and be zealous, but be doing something that is completely in vain because it's just missing the mark. And that's what God says, and that's what Jesus says of these people. Jesus has no patience when it comes to the religion of man, he has no interest, zero interest in the religious observances of man. I, when I went to Israel, I was watching the Orthodox Jews, it was interesting being on the plane for a day and seeing as the sun rose on the plane, that these Orthodox Jews would get up, they would put on their prayer shawls, and they would go right at it. It was interesting, I would just kind of watch them there on the plane, both times. Coming back they did the same thing. Sun rose, they got up, even though they've only had a half hour's sleep on the plane, they'd get up and they'd stand there right in the aisle, they'd start bobbing up and down and start doing the little things with their phylacteries, right there in the aisle, on the plane--just watching them do it. And then going around Jerusalem, going to the Wailing Wall, you know, this place that's pretty intense to go to. But just watching these guys. And I guess there's some kind of correlation, the faster you bob up and down, the more energy you do that with, truly determines there's more faith in his prayer. So you go up to the Wall and they're going really fast, really jerking, and they do it for awhile. And it's like a really intense prayer. And ultimately, I don't know their hearts, so I'm not trying to belittle them, but that does say to me a picture of vain worship. Because you may be doing this really fast bobbing up and down, and people are like, this person is really praying. But your heart is far from it. Your heart isn't there at all. And that's what Isaiah said, Isaiah said, 'You people, you go through this worship, you go through all this ritual, all this ceremony, all this praying (as we're gonna see in other Scriptures), and yet your heart is far from me. It's in vain. Well, can God say to you, that your heart is far from him? Can God say to you, maybe even today, that you're worship often is just in vain because there's no heart. God is concerned about the heart. He's not concerned about the clothes you wear to church or how you pray or what you say. He's concerned mostly about your heart. He sees the heart, and that's what Jesus gets at. God desires a people who love him. God desires a people who love him. You can usually tell when somebody's putting on an act, you know. You get insecure around those kind of people. 'Oh, this person says they love you.' But I question if they do. And God just can't stand it. But God wants people that love him, love him with all their heart, all their soul. David said, "Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, my ears you have opened, for an offering and sin offering you do not require." And God instituted that and then David saying, 'You don't require that.' "Then I said, 'Behold I come, in the Scroll of the Book it is written of me, 'I delight to do your will O my God, and your law is within my heart.'" David said, 'I delight to do your will.' Can God say that of you, or can you say that? 'I delight to do the will of God. I delight to do his will.' Can you say too that God's law is within your heart?--in your heart?--not just on the bookshelf at home--you pull it out for Sunday morning. It's got to be in your heart, man, deep in your heart, his law.

You know, in Exodus we see that God is so Holy. We see that man is so sinful. That gap is so high, that's how far God had to go to redeem us, to pay that ransom through Christ. Our ceremonial cleansings, our little baths that we try to take, our little procedures we like to go through, don't mean anything if there's no heart. They don't mean a thing to God, because of that gap, we can't bridge it on our own. We just can't. It is impossible. Sadly, today, you look in the church, the history of the church, and it's gotten focussed on the outside, on the ceremony, on the religion, on the conduct, on the appearance, and neglected the heart. [i.e. concentrating on outward forms of worship instead of substance--nothing can spiritually kill, starve a congregation to death faster than setting your priorities on outward forms of worship rather than the substance of sound teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Promoting outward forms of worship and ceremonies in place of instituting the sound teaching of the Word of God is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic--you're still going down.] It [outward ceremony] is a big priority in church today.

You know, I was looking in Exodus 33, at the priest in the Old Testament, and he has this beautiful garment, all the different things that God commanded them to make, and use the finest, as so many parts of the clothing was in gold, and then he even had the priest set aside, had to be bathed and actually had sacrifices, bulls and things, to be done for them, just to set them apart to be priests. All the things they had to go through. And I was looking at that, and it says in Exodus 33 that it's beautiful to God, the priests, his garments and the gold, it was all done, the beauty of that was to show that a man set apart, holiness, a holy life is beautiful before God. But unfortunately, so many get wrapped up in the garments, you know. They look at their clothing, and they stay right there and forget what God is trying to say, it's that a holy life is beautiful to God, someone set apart for the Lord. Unfortunately some get caught up in the turban and the belt and how it looks. And that's because they want to look a certain way, and they miss the whole truth of the matter. Maybe this morning you put your trust in the garments of religion. You put your trust in that, and you can do pretty good at it, getting people to think you're pretty religious. These Pharisees and scribes man, people think as they come to Jesus, 'These guys are the top dogs.' You can look pretty good in front of people if you want. You can put your trust in the tradition of man and his teaching and look good in front of man, and miss the whole truth of the matter. And as we're gonna see, God, as we already read, sees these people very differently than they think. Well Jesus continues, "For laying aside the commandment of God" he says, I mean, they even lay aside the commandment of God, "you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pitchers and cups and many other such things you do." He said to them, "all too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said 'honor your father and your mother, and he who curses father and mother let him be put to death.' But you say if a man says to his father or mother 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is, a gift to God', then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. When he had called the multitudes to himself he said to them, 'Hear me everyone and understand, there is nothing which enters a man from the outside which can defile him, but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.' When he had entered a house away from the crowd his disciples asked him concerning the parable, so he said to them, 'Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach and is eliminated thus purifying all foods.' And he said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man for from within, out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness, all these evil things come from within and defile a man.'" (Mark 7:8-23.) Jesus set the matter straight. He said, 'You guys have these traditions above the Word of God. You've even put the Word of God aside to hold these traditions.' And he gives us one example. He says there's many but as an example he says, 'You've got this Corban tradition where a young man can say 'All my things are Corban, devoted as a gift to God' and when he says that, now when Mom and Dad comes to him later and says 'Hey, you know, we're getting old, our social security is run out and we need a place to stay.' He says, 'Hey, I've devoted all my stuff to God, sorry, it's his, you can't have it.' And Jesus says, 'That is just hypocritical, God's Word said, one of the Big Ten, Honor your father and mother. If you don't, whoever curses his father or mother will be put to death.' And you've come up with this handy little tradition.' In fact it did allow the young man to use some of it for himself. But no way could Mom and Dad have access to that. He says, 'You come up with these little extra ceremonies, just to sidestep the Law of God. And you know the church does that today. There's many examples we've come up with. "Well, you know, God says that, but hey listen, we've learned a little bit more with our science and we've learned a little bit more with this, and there's exceptions to the rule." Or, "Hey, you know, this is acceptable in our culture today. It wasn't acceptable then, but it's acceptable today, it's no problem with God." We come up with all these exceptions to just the simple law of God. And, you know, I think of tithing, and I hardly ever teach on tithing but I feel I can say this. I don't know what you guys give. You guys give a lot. Well some people will say, "I don't need to tithe because I give my time." Things like that, "I'm not going to give to God financially because, well, I can't afford it, and I give all my time." But that's not the same. Read the book of Malachi if you think that's the same. God wants the firstfruits, the giving of all of our life, the giving from our finances, the giving from our time, he wants the firstfruits of it all. He deserves it. I mean, look what he's done in your life to save you. Yet some will say, "Hey, I give my time, I give my time. That's good enough." I wonder what God thinks. Now I don't know what you guys give, I don't teach on tithing, rarely. But that's just an example, today, where we come with exceptions to the rule, to meet our own, what we form as our standard of righteousness and not the standard that God has.

Well, verse 15, God says, 'Nothing that enters a man from the outside could defile him, what defiles him comes out of his heart.' When he said that it was like a, you know, like some of those big fireworks that went off last week at the lake, somebody had some serious bucks and bought some serious fireworks. I'm sure the police were hunting this guy down, but he was making some serious explosions. And that was kind of what this was like when Jesus said this, because up to this point, there's a certain religious understanding that the people have now gotten to. And he just completely blew it out of the water. They had a certain understanding that "Well, we have to clean up the outside." "We have to look good on the outside in order to be godly holy people"--and Jesus says "No, what's going on in your heart, that is what defiles you." Maybe your buddy doesn't know your thoughts, maybe you neighbor doesn't know what you're doing in the dark, but that is what defiles you, that is what defiles you before God. Not the fact that you can wash your hands and take a bath or whatever it might be. He completely changes it, what's on the inside is what's important not what's on the outside. Now that doesn't mean we don't monitor what comes from the outside. We have to monitor what comes from the outside too, because sometimes what comes from the outside can effect what's on the inside. So sometimes we can tell that what's coming from the outside that's spiritually harmful, defiling is based on what's going from the inside out. You follow what I'm saying? There are some things [influences, pornography for example] I don't know if I said it right, but if you struggle with gluttony you need to monitor what you eat. If you don't, maybe you don't need to monitor it as closely. If something that is coming from without is gonna stumble you from within, you need to monitor it. But, what causes me to be defiled is right here, right here in my head.

He says in verses 18-23, he says 'Evil thoughts, those are what defile a man.' You know, I was thinking about that. You know, we can play such a good game, look so religious, but just be a cesspool between our ears. You really can be. And you look at the priests in the Old Testament, the priests were given this garment, and on part of the garment they were given a gold plate. I thought this was real interesting, it was inscribed--God is instructing this to Moses--'take this gold plate and write on it "Holiness to the Lord", and have them attach it to the front of their turban, and have that plate rest on their forehead.' So when the priest was going about the temple and tabernacle business he had it right there, "Holiness to the Lord", "Holiness to the Lord", just to remind him that his mind and his heart was to be focussed on God, and God is very Holy. Everything is focussed on God, it's not so much on the ritual, it's God and he's Holy. But also just there on the forehead it's a holiness thing through and through. It's not just the garment and the practice. And you know, to be honest with you, I read that and I was like, 'God, man give me a holy mind.' I wrote in my journal, I said, "God, a holy mind means a holy life. And that is powerful living." A holy mind, a plate, "Holiness to the Lord", my thoughts focussed on God, that's gonna produce a holy life. And that is powerful living. [Look up Exodus 28:36 and 39:30 to see where this command about the gold plate "Holiness to the Lord" appears.]

Well, you read the last verses, I don't know if you're guilty of any of those. I could check off a couple of them anyway. And if you really look at the spirit of what's being said, not necessarily the act, I'm sure I could check off every one, 'cause I've committed every possible sin in my heart [mind], and that's what's important. We are defiled as men. Our methods, our ceremonies, ain't gonna make a difference because of who we are. We can't just wash here or there or do this or that and think it's gonna make a difference before a Holy and Righteous and Awesome God. There's only one way to get clean, only one way. And that's what the Psalmist said. Let's look in Isaiah chapter 1. [But first in] Psalm 49 he said, "God, you've redeemed me from the grave." Mark chapter 10, verse 45 'He came to serve, Jesus did, and to be a ransom for many.' 1 Timothy, the same thing, "to be a ransom for all". Isaiah chapter 1, God says to the people of Israel a long time later, he says this to them many times. He says it to you and I, too, he says--Isaiah 1, verse 11, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?' says the Lord. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls or lamb or goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this from your hand to trample my courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices. Incense is an abomination to me. The new moons and the sabbaths and the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure iniquity in the sacred meeting. Your new moons and appointed feasts my soul hates. They're a trouble to me. I'm weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands I will hide my eyes from you. Even though you will make many prayers I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice to rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. 'Come now and let us reason together' says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you're willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.'" He says to them, 'You know, I gave you all this to show you that I'm a Holy God and I want your heart and what I have to do to even commune with you--ultimately pointing to what he was going to have to do on the cross--Jesus Christ. But they got all wrapped up in being religious and saying, "Hey, look at the good we're doing, look how pompous and religious I am." They come to the feasts and they come to the church [or in their time, the synagogues] with this attitude that they've accomplished something and he says 'You know, it just doesn't mean anything to me, it's completely vain the way you go about it, your heart is so far from me.' [And in Isaiah, the Lord was referring to sacrifices and Holy Day observances he had commanded in the book of the law, the Torah, not the added washings Jesus was referring to. The Torah law wasn't bad, but what the Lord is pointing out in Isaiah was that their worship even while doing what the Lord commanded with these days and sacrifices was purely vain because of what was going on between their ears and in their lives, pure and simple.] And then he says, in the real truth of why, he says [in Isaiah] 'Wash yourselves, yourselves, you guys are defiled. You're dirty. You look religious, but look at the things that you think. You look religious, but look at the things you do. You look religious, but look at the things you say, to your spouse or to your children in private.' He says, 'You come and you want to look a certain way. You come acting as if you're on top of it, spiritually, but you're so far from it...' He says, 'Learn to do what's right, cease to do the evil.' 'If you're really a person after my heart, that's gonna by your heart, to just turn away from evil and turn to what is right.' And then he says, 'Come now, let us reason together. You are just stained in your sin, but I have the power to make you as white as snow.' And of course, we know that's through the Cross and through Jesus Christ and through the salvation he's given to us.

I'm gonna go through to the end of this fairly quickly, 'cause we finished it in the first service...Mark 7:24-30. "And from there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, 'Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.' And she answered and said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs.' Then He said to her, 'For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.' And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed." You know, Jesus said to these hypocrites that trusted in their own ways, he said, 'Man, you guys are hypocrites. I don't even want to be around you.' But now, you see a very different person. The religious leaders looked good to the people, but they looked a very different way to God. Here is the exact opposite. Here's a lady, she was born probably in the land of Canaan, so she's a Syro-Phoenician by birth, but she's a Greek, so she's a part of the Greek culture. She knows the Greek language, she's living in the Greek culture as the Greek empire was large at one time [and spanned across the Middle East all the way to the border of India]. So that is who she is, and she represents a lot in that because the Greeks would despise her because she's a woman, the Jews to the south--Jesus had just gone outside of the kingdom of Israel, 20 miles to Tyre and Sidon--the Jews would also despise this lady, for one, she's a woman, and in their religion they said a dog was better than a woman. You know, you remember the prayer. A [Jewish] man would get up and say "Thank God that I'm not a woman or a dog, Lord, a Gentile, a dog or a woman Lord." That's what he would say when he got up in the morning. Now I don't say I believe that. And that's just twisted, that's just the heart of man. But that's how one of these scribes would see this lady. She's a Gentile and she's a woman. I mean, she was just a low-life in the eyes of one of these religious leaders. But how does God see this lady? A lot differently than the people do. She comes, and man does she come to the feet of Jesus with just a desperate heart. In Matthew we read, she says, "Lord, son of David, I have this daughter that's demon possessed." She cries that out, she says repeatedly, "Lord, son of David." Now the Pharisees never said "Son of David", they just thought he was out-to-lunch. They were threatened by him. But here's this Greek lady saying, "Lord, son of David", saying that he's the Messiah, the Messiah the Jews were supposed to seek after. And then she said, "Lord, help me", and Jesus is ignoring her. In fact, in Matthew, the disciples come to her and say, "Hey, listen, get out of here. You're bothering Jesus." They come to Jesus and say, "This lady's bothering us, let's get rid of her." She kept saying, "Lord help me, Lord son of David, I have this little girl that's demon possessed, Lord help me.' Well, Jesus knows this lady's heart, and does faith ever please God, so he just takes this little jewel of faith and he's gonna show us the depth of her faith, and he tests her, so you and I can read about it. But he says to her, well, finally, ignoring her for awhile, finally he says, 'Let the children be filled first Mame, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.' Now, the Jewish children when they eat, a Jewish person, they would, they didn't have handkerchiefs and napkins. They would eat, but at the end they would save one piece of bread to clean their hands with. They would wash the oils and the particles of food with a piece of bread, and then they would just toss it to the dog. And that seems to be what Jesus is referring to here, and he's trying to get at a point. The little dog did get some bread, but it was the left-over bread, thrown to the little puppies. And Jesus is just so blessed by her answer. She says, "Yes Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 'Yeah, you say that children should get the bread first, but those little puppies, man, they get some crumbs. They get some left-over that's thrown down to them.' And with that, Jesus says, "Woman, for this saying, go your way, the demon has gone out of your daughter." Now that's a beautiful heart. Let's look at Psalm 51. Psalm 51, verse 5. You know, as I was studying, it's amazing if you teach the Word, and whenever you do, that God just leads you. And everywhere I went this Psalm 51:5 was before me, in my commentaries and my journal. And this is what the Lord wants to say to us, "Behold," David says, "I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness that the bones you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:5-17).

You have those that come to Jesus in Mark chapter 7, and come with the ceremonies and religious clout and he doesn't want anything to do with it, he doesn't desire it. But this lady comes with a broken and desperate heart on her knees, 'Jesus, help me, Jesus, help me', and Jesus says, 'That's a jewel of faith.' 'You go home, your daughter is well, the demon has left her.' Can this be said in your heart too? You know, you look at this lady's faith, faith in action, she knows that Jesus is the only way to help her daughter's condition. She's persistent in her cries, she's persistent in her pleas, she's not gonna leave until Jesus answers [and this is how we should pray: ask--keep on asking; seek--keep on seeking; knock--keep on knocking.] and that is beautiful desperate faith. And that's the heart that God wants, that's the heart God wants when we come here on Sunday mornings, in reverence of God, in desperate need of him, for we're not worthy for wanting his power and love in our life. In desperation when we get up, every day in his Word and in prayer, 'God, please help me, God son of David, please bless me, God son of David, please lead me.' That is the heart that God will not despise. That is the life that God would bless. Can that be said of your heart today? Can that be said of my heart today?--is the question.

Well, as we read the very end of chapter 7 of Mark--Mark 7:31-37. "And again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'" Once more Jesus has come back from Tyre and Sidon, he's come back to the area of Israel, this time on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the Decapolis region. This was the region where the man with the demon Legion was cast out of him. And the people, if you remember, in that community said, 'Hey, Jesus, get outa here.' But Jesus had told this man, 'Go and tell people.' [The only guy he's told to do this at this point.] 'Go and tell people the great thing that God has done in your life.' Everyone else he's quieted, but evidently that man was faithful in doing it, did a pretty good job, because now Jesus comes back and there's a multitude around him as you read in Matthew 15. And in this multitude there's this one particular guy who's deaf and he can't speak. So Jesus does something a little different this time. Possibly because the guy can't hear him as to why he does it, to give him a point of contact for his faith. He puts his fingers in his ears and actually puts siliva on his tongue. And with that the man is healed. And that just says to you and I, there's no method in the Work of God. God just uses whatever way he chooses to use, you know. You can't make a method out of siliva and putting fingers in people's ears. Jesus doesn't do it that way every time. He does it differently. But just to make note as we conclude, they begged him to put his hand on him, again they came desperate, 'Please touch this man, please touch this man, I know you can do it Jesus, I know you can heal him.' And he did. I was talking to someone after the first service, this particular gentleman, has just been struggling for a long time, in bondage. And sometimes the enemy can get a real deep hook in you. And I just kept reminding him and telling him--Jesus is the answer. You can try all sorts of methods, all sorts of things, but when you get to the point where you know--if I keep grabbing onto Jesus--maybe I'll stumble today, maybe I'll struggle tomorrow, but if I keep getting up and grabbing onto him, he is my answer--he will deliver me, he will set me free and he will do the work in my life. And there's no doubt that Jesus wants to do that in all our lives."