Jesus The Servant

Paul said, "Be imitators of God." In this book, we are about to watch God in action as a man--God the Son--God himself in action. If we can learn Christ, we can imitate God. As you look upon Christ, learning him, you become sanctified.

There are four beginnings mentioned in the Bible. We know that God created the angels, and that they are created beings. God doesn't say when this was, but makes reference to it in Ezekiel 28:12-17 in the creation and subsequent fall of Lucifer. Three of these beginnings have to do with man:

The beginning of space and time, John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1.

The recreation of earth after the fall and subsequent destruction of earth (often called the Gap Theory). (Isaiah 14:12-17 describes Lucifer's fall back to earth. The dinosaur age contained a bio-system which was not conducive to man. This was all mysteriously destroyed 65 million years ago. Jesus remarks that he saw Satan fall like lightning to the earth. Isaiah 14 describes Lucifer, now Satan trying to ascend to heaven to throw God off his throne and being thrown back to earth. Revelation 12:3-4 describes Satan drawing a third of all the angels into his rebellion. It then describes a second war in heaven, yet to come, in verses 7-9. This second war must be very similar to the first, where we see Lucifer being cast down to earth in Isaiah 14:12-14.) So we see that Genesis 1:2-31 describes the re-creation of earth with a bio-system adapted to man, and then the creation of man.

In Mark 1:1 we see another beginning, "the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Mark starts with the ministry of Jesus Christ. The main thrust of the book of Mark is that Jesus is the servant of God. There is more action in the book of Mark, more about Jesus' actions than his words. The theme for the book: Jesus came to serve. He came to push the plow and lay on the altar. Mark 10:45. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." The book of Mark is a fast moving gospel of miracles, power and service. John Mark was a young boy when Jesus was around. It is thought that he may have been writing from the knowledge of Peter. Peter's words in Acts 10:34-43 correspond with the account in Mark. As we read through the account in Mark, look back from time to time and read Peter's account here in Acts 10:34-43, which states, "Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached--how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'"

It is strongly suspected that John Mark made reference to himself in Mark 14:51-52, which states, "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind." This was when the Romans and temple guard had seized Jesus at night and were taking him to the high priest.

In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter calls Mark his son, obviously in a spiritual sense. 1 Peter 5:13. "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark." Mark most likely wrote the book in Rome around 50-70 A.D., his main audience being Gentile. If you lost the book of Mark, all the information in the book can be found in Matthew and Luke, so this is probably the first gospel account written. Acts 12:5-12. "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. Then the angel said to him, 'Put on your clothes and sandals.' And Peter did so. 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,' the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, 'Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.'

When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying."

So we see, John Mark's mother was a believer, and that many had gathered to pray for Peter's release.

John Mark is a cousin of Barnabas, who was another apostle (but not of the twelve). In Acts 12:25 we see John Mark was part of a missionary team made up of Paul and Barnabas. "When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from [or to in some manuscripts] Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark." (Read Acts 13:2-5. John Mark was their helper, as verse 5 states. This is Paul's first missionary journey, and Barnabas and John Mark were part of it. John Mark was invited to go along as an assistant. For some reason John Mark turned around and deserted them (verse 13). This created a split between John Mark and Paul that wasn't healed for some time. For years Paul would not trust him to accompany him, so Mark would accompany Barnabas. But in 2 Timothy 4:11 we see there was a healing between Paul and John Mark. "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry."

Mark 1:1. "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (NIV) "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (New King James Version). Most Americans don't agree with the Christian perspective anymore. We now are outnumbered. The situation is changing very quickly. With the changing of a very few laws in our land our freedoms as Christians could be gone, and we could become a persecuted group. Our world no longer thinks the gospel is Good News. Persecution is coming to the church. As real Christians we are a very small minority now, even in America. [Nominal Christians may abound Matthew 7:21-23.]

But this must be our attitude: Romans 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." The gospel is indeed Good News to those who receive it. Simplistically the gospel of Christ is 'You are a sinner, you need a savior and Jesus is your savior.'

Psalm 33:12. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance." We are no longer going to be a great nation. But if you want to become like God, stare at Jesus. You want to know what Jesus would do? Read the book of Mark. Ephesians 6:19-20. "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." We mustn't be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which leads people to salvation. There is power in the gospel, "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:17).

The gospel in action was good news to this man we're going to read about. This man had all these demons in him, keeping him a prisoner. Mark 5:1-20. "They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes [Gadarenes]. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil [Greek: unclean] spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!' For Jesus had said to him, 'Come out of this man, you evil spirit!'

Then Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?'

'My name is Legion,' he replied, 'for we are many.' And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, 'Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them. He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man--and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, 'Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed."

How do you serve God, with joy, or grudgingly? Your heart is important. Mark focuses on Jesus the Servant. Mark 10:45. "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Malachi 3:14-15. "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape." God through Malachi was trying to deal with this problem. There is no blessing in heartless service. A true servant serves because he or she loves God. It is out of love. Psalm 100:2. "Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing." It is our duty to serve God--serving with gladness.

Jesus gets into this subject when his disciples got into a dispute about which would be the greatest. Mark 10:42-45. "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark starts out with the ministry of John the Baptist. Mark 1:1-8, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way' --[Mal. 3:1], 'a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him'' [Isaiah 40:3]. And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: 'After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with [or in] water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'" John was submissive, humbly obedient to God, exhibiting the quality of a servant of God. Mark quoted Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 here to describe John's ministry. John is a radical in the eyes of the Jews. He lives isolated, alone, separated from society. He wore clothes that were different from what those in society wore. He was wearing the type clothes Elijah the Tishbite wore. He was called to be separate. He came with a very bold message--calling people to repentance in preparation for the gospel. Repentance meant not just sorrow for your sins, but coming out of them. It was a very radical thing John was doing, calling people to repentance and baptism. He drew them to the Jordan, a wilderness area--a symbol of separating themselves from the world and it's society.

In verse 4 it states, "for the remission of sin." The Greek word used for for = with reference to. i.e. with reference to the remission of sins. This is because the baptism of Jesus, his death, burial and resurrection hadn't taken place yet. This baptism was forward looking, to the sacrifice that would pay for the sins of the world. Some scholars say John baptized as many as 300,000 people. In John 3:30 John the Baptist states, "He must become greater; I must become less." John wasn't offended when signs of the end of his ministry started to appear. That's the true heart of a servant--that Jesus would increase and that John would decrease. We should want Jesus to increase in our lives and that our own selves should decrease. This is a very deep thing that will end up going deeper and deeper into our wills. This always involves some dying of our own wills and desires in our own lives. "He must become greater; I must become less." There is an infinite God who desires to become greater in us. "May I decrease, may you increase (in me)" should be in our prayers daily.

Verse 8, "I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Mark was talking of the baptism of the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. Jesus came and the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ. There is a specific baptism or filling of us in the Holy Spirit to ministry that goes far beyond the initial receiving of God's Holy Spirit in our lives at conversion or being born-again. The book They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edman [available from ] details this baptism of the Holy Spirit for ministry. Jesus refers to this ministry work the Holy Spirit will do in Christians in Acts 1:5-8, "So when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on [NKJs: upon] you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'" [Some believe the apostles had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them before Acts 2, and that Acts 2 describes a further empowerment of the Holy Spirit for ministry. This could be true. There are indications in Scripture that indicate it could have been so.] A true servant of God is empowered by the Holy Spirit. [Refer to the section about D.L. Moody in the Ephesians link.]

Verses 9-11, "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" This baptism of Jesus, although he was sinless, was placing himself amongst sinners as a symbol of his coming to save sinners, covering their sins in his own death, burial and resurrection--which baptism symbolizes. Jesus said in Luke 11:11-13, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Seek God for a greater work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Between verses 13 and 14 of Mark 1 is a time omission of about a year. The events which are missing are depicted in John chapters 2-3. The territory of Galilee was Herod's territory. Jesus started preaching boldly, moving into the danger zone. In verses 16-20 Jesus called his disciples. We see that a true servant of God abandons all to serve God. Luke 9:23-24. "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."

Verses 14-20, "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God [New King James Version: preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God ]. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near.' Repent and believe the good news!' As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him."

The Book of Mark

Mark 1:21-45

What is our definition of a servant of God?

A servant of God is submissive to God.

A servant of God is empowered by the Holy Spirit,

A servant of God is resistant to evil, sin.

A servant of God is voracious for the Truth, God's Word.

A servant of God is one who abandons all for God.

A servant of God is one who is noticed, especially by the demon world. A servant is also noticed by the needy.

A servant of God is taught by God.

Add all the letters up that start these words, submissive, empowered, resistant, voracious, abandons, noticed and taught, and that spells servant.

Verses 21-28, "They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit [demon] cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!' 'Be quiet!' said Jesus sternly. 'Come out of him!' The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.' News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee." [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: ]

The ruins of a 4th Century synagogue has been found in Capernaum. The foundation stones date to Christ's time! Probably was this synagogue. Synagogues didn't have any set Rabbi. Rabbi's who preached at synagogues were usually just passing through town. Most Rabbi's would only teach what they had heard other higher ranking Rabbi's teach. So they taught without much conviction. Then Jesus came in and taught with the authority of very God. He taught with such great authority and power that it struck like a bolt of lightning. The presence of Jesus caused this demon to cringe in abject fear. This demon literally freaked out! After Jesus cast this demon out, everyone really started to question and notice. But a servant of God, as we see here, is especially noticed by the demonic world. The more Jesus is in your life, the more the demonic world takes notice. If everything is going smoothly, think about it. Are you on the path of light? The more Jesus is in you, the more the enemy will attack you. But God is doing a good work in those who find themselves in this boat.

Verses 29-31, "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them." We see here that the apostle Peter was married. His mother-in-law was healed by Jesus and then she started to serve in gratitude. The response of Jesus' healing is to serve Him. As Jesus heals us our desire should be to serve. Husbands and wives, give Jesus more room to serve in your family. Verses 32-34, "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." After sundown, Jesus was still serving, still giving, tirelessly. The needy had come, the demon-possessed--the real down and outers around Capernaum. Jesus had been going all day long. These were people no one wanted to be around. His fame had gone all around town. Now as they showed up he rolled up his sleeves and started healing all these people. You see here the depth of his compassion. Now it's late at night, and he's still serving and ministering to others. No one will ever come to Jesus or the Father and see he's too distracted or tired to deal with you. A true servant of God is compassionate, not trying to avoid others in need. Pray God just open your heart with love and compassion for others. Here's another point, a servant of God is noticed by the needy. When Jesus is there, the needy will notice and come.

Verses 35-39, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!' Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.' So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons." After this late night, the Greek implies Jesus got up around the last watch, which starts at 3 a.m. in the morning, to pray to the Father. Peter came looking for him saying that many had been stirred up in Capernaum and were looking for him, but Jesus said that he had to go to the other nearby villages so he could preach there also. Verses 40-45, "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in the lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." Here is a man with such a great need. And Jesus heals him. Jesus pointedly tells him not to tell anyone about what he had done. But this man couldn't keep his mouth shut about how he was healed. But because this guy didn't do what Jesus said, Jesus was hindered in his intentions of going into any of the area towns to preach the gospel. Jesus reached out and touched this leper in great compassion. But as a result he was forced to go out into the wilderness to preach, areas that would contain the crowds, allowing him the space to preach to them in an orderly manner. God is not a God of confusion, but of order. He wants a degree of control of what's done in his name.

Mark 1:40-45 and Mark 2:1-12

This is a transcription of two sermons given by Pastor Al Ebeling, pastor of the Waltham congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, given on 12 & 19 February 2000.

Mark 1:40-45. "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in the lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." This is quite a powerful story here in the pages of Mark, one that catches our sensitivity and emotions. This Scripture is talking about a couple different things. Leprosy and healing. This account brings to mind a story that is somewhat parallel to this in the book of 2 Kings 5:1-15. This is the story and account of Naaman. He was the commanding general of the Syrian army, and he had leprosy. One of his wife's servants was a Hebrew and Naaman's wife through talking with this servant came to the realization that God could intervene for Naaman and heal him of his leprosy. This account goes well beyond what we're going to talk about in the book of Mark, but it is similar in many ways. Naaman, at first, didn't believe Elijah's instructions about going into the Jordan 7 times would bring about his healing. He thought it was a bunch of bunk, so he stormed off. [Eventually he followed Elijah's instructions and was healed by God, right after he did.] Now there's a description of the type of leprosy in this magazine I'd like to read to you, the type of leprosy that Naaman had. "Naaman suffered from a disease traditionally designated leprosy. The range of the Hebrew word, which includes conditions of effecting clothing (which is from Leviticus 13) and buildings (from Leviticus 14). You know the clothing couldn't come in contact with anyone else. If a leper went into a certain building, no one else could go into that building. So the range of the Hebrew word makes it clear that the word denotes more than Hansen's disease, which is Hansen's disease, which is the modern terminology for leprosy, which is caused by the micro-bacterium lepri-baccilus and effects humans exclusively. So this particular disease is only known to humans. Naaman may have been suffering from, in addition to Hansen's disease, lupus, scoriasis, small pox, skin cancer, vertigo or a nutritional deficiency such as polagra, etc. And so here Naaman is a hurting guy. No matter how you look at his particular health situation, he was hurting. Finally, probably in utter fatigue he goes and dips himself seven times in the river and comes out clean. He doubted initially that he could be healed. Especially, he doubted that it could be that simple. He would rather have seen some waving arms, some chants, maybe a few sacrifices here and there, maybe some gold or silver offered to idols, anything but what was required, and that was faith, of simply going into the river 7 times. It is curious how this leper in Mark 1:40-45 approaches Christ, and he simply says to Jesus, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus didn't wave his arms, he didn't chant, he didn't offer sacrifices, he didn't do any of those things. What Jesus did was he just tenderly and lovingly reached down and he touched the leper. Jesus did the unthinkable thing. He touched something unclean, only to make it clean. Jesus put himself at risk by touching something so unclean that it was anathema to society. And his loving care and his grace extended healing.

You know, ironically enough, the verse here, verse 41, that says, "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand", that particular phrase among scholars today is argued. There are some who say that rather, that translation should be "Filled with anger" instead of "filled with compassion"--"with anger" Jesus reaches out and touches that individual. And the reasoning is, they believe this, because the tone Jesus uses when he's sending the leper off. When he says, "Now don't go and tell anyone what I've told you--don't tell anyone who you see what I did for you." And their thinking is that Jesus is so upset with the way humanity has to live, that his anger came to the surface rather than his compassion. But nonetheless, his strong warning, because of what he did to the leper, Jesus had to alter his ministry, and wasn't able to just walk into a community from that point forward. Without, it says, throngs, multitudes of people waiting for him to enter that city so that they could be healed. And I'll tell you what, brethren, today if there was one person, two, three or more people, that could walk anywhere and all they had to do is touch you and you would be healed, you couldn't keep people away. People would come to that individual by the scores. Jesus knew that. And he asked the man not to tell anyone. But, for whatever reason, the leper didn't heed that advice, but rather went and told everyone.

Now I want to change gears. When Jesus came here to earth, he did so because he had something to tell us. He came with a purpose. He came with authority. And as a result of the authority that was given him to come here, he spoke with authority. He lived with authority. He was God. But more than that he was God in the flesh. And when Jesus walked this earth during his earthly ministry he effected people's lives. Their lives were never the same as a result of an encounter with him. And I want to ask us that same question. Are our lives any different because we know Jesus Christ than if we didn't know Jesus Christ? Are our lives different? Many people listened to what Jesus had to say. They even sensed his power. They even sensed his authority in everything that he said. But even though they did, they did not necessarily believe what he said. They liked what he said. They appreciated what he said. They reaped the benefit in some instances of what he said and did for them. But did they believe him? You know, the point is, Jesus' word produces results. All he has to do is say something and there are results. There's never not a result. You and I have the responsibility to bear, or as bearers of his Word to make sure that this Word is heard among a society that doesn't want to listen. Now, what society do we live in? Many people today suffer from something called loneliness. And I know you can relate to it. I know without a doubt you can relate to it. I can relate to it. You don't have to be a certain type of person to relate to loneliness. If I were to ask for a show of hands of people in this room, right now, in this room who are or who have experienced loneliness I venture to say that we would all raise our hands. I venture to say that, that we have either experienced it or are involved with it. But more than that, some of us live in loneliness. Some of us live in loneliness. And we can sight various reasons as to why we do. The society that we live in today, the mechanized society by many instances lives by computers, where we're isolated at work from any other human beings because we're on our computer. We're isolated at home for the same reason at times. We have beepers in our possession to be in touch with people, we have pagers to find where someone is. There's a certain degree of loneliness that can be involved in that. There's also the lonely feeling of being abandoned by a mother, by a father, by a spouse [ouch!], and that in turn creates an empty spot in our hearts. Human situations like divorce, disease, or deformity also separate us from society. Some of us experience isolation and rejection from others, as though we're not accepted--we don't fit in--and so we withdraw. And we also can experience death, the death of a spouse, death of a child, death of a parent. Either of those can catapult us into loneliness that almost seems inescapable. This past week I talked to my sister who is just a few years older than me. And she just found out that she has a blockage to her heart. She's going to have to have some surgery. And in talking with her, she said, "You know, I've come to a realization." I said, "What is that?" And she said, "Life is too short." And I said, "Well, I agree with you there. Is there anything I can do for you?" And she said, "Just something that you're already doing." And I said, "What's that?" And she said, "Keep praying for me." Loneliness is a painful existence. Any one of us can find ourselves in it for awhile. As we examine the life of this leper, we find that loneliness is a way of life with lepers. It's a way of life. This passage includes a lot of information. But between the lines of this man with leprosy coming to him and begging on his knees and saying "If you're willing you can heal me", between the lines there we can realize that this leper lived a lonely life. He didn't wake up in the morning and go to work and get that simple pat on the back from someone. He couldn't look forward to a handshake by someone who is able to touch. He couldn't look forward to the warm embrace of a friend or even family, emotions that you see were missing from his life as a leper. He was excluded from society, from all corners. He couldn't wake up or look forward to a hug from his wife, or his child, or his family. You see, we touch one another every day, not physically sometimes, but just by being around people we're touched by people. You know that studies have shown that newborn babies who even if they're provided food and drink, but are minus human touch will die. That's sad. When we experience an event that isolates us, there is no doubt that we go through many, many emotions. Some of them being anger, denial, hatred, bitterness. They're all emotions that you and I go through when we experience loneliness. Can you imagine what it would have been like five or ten years before we were introduced to this leper? What was it like in his life before he came to Jesus? Can you imagine the very first days when he began to get those little signs that leprosy was within his own frame, where he began to realize that these sores that were appearing on his skin weren't going away? And that there was definitely something wrong with him, something wrong that he didn't want to face. Eventually these sores would break open and bleed and cause all kinds of difficulty for him healthwise. You can imagine living with his fear, the torment that he was going through, and the apprehension as he looked at what the future was going to hold for him. Imagine what it must have been like for him the first time his own child must have said, "I can't touch you, Dad. You're unclean." That was the law. What was to follow was a life of banishment, a life of banishment, of isolation, a life without that familiar touch from someone like a wife, a child, a brother or sister, a friend, a neighbor--a life of others constantly staying away from you. Mothers, as he walked down the street, would grab their children, to keep them away from him. People would suddenly turn around and walk the other way. Each day this man would have to cover his skin to keep the sores isolated. And then finally the day came when he would have to go to the High Priest. And he knew what the High Priest was going to say. The High Priest was going to declare him unclean, and banish him from living within society. And his life of isolation and loneliness would be heightened. Now while we don't have leper colonies today, we still do build walls around us, and often times we are stuck behind them. If you are not the run-of-the-mill, the normal, the traditional, you often wear a label. You might be a drunk, or your parents might be divorced, or you are divorced. You may be handicapped, and often if you're deaf you're labeled as dumb, stupid. You may be crippled, you may have cancer. Sadly our attitudes sometimes say "We have places that we can put people that are in this condition. And we don't have to deal with them." "There are others that will deal with them." Many of these type of individuals live in voluntary exile, knowing that they are going to be isolated from society and certainly often are. And they don't term themselves normal anymore. Then there are those who are marginalized by society--those considered the outcasts of the world. It seems as though these are the people that Jesus was drawn to, those outcasts, those people who were kind of pushed to the side by society. That's who Jesus came to. That's who Jesus said "I am here for you." And yet those considered normal are repulsed by these outcasts, repulsed by this type of person. If we honestly examine the message of Jesus we come to realize that he came specifically to the marginalized people of society. If you'll turn with me to Luke chapter 4 I'm going to read verses 17 through 19 where Jesus says:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has annointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Jesus said that he came to those people--all the outcasts, all the misfits, all the geeks that came to him. There is not one person that would want to associate themselves with a group like this. People with money often don't want to be around people who are poor. Those that are criminals we want as far away from us as possible. Don't we have institutions for the blind? Most of society can't be bothered, at least until it happens to you or somebody you know. And then perhaps your interest may be peaked. When we begin to think in physical terms we make a serious mistake. I want to say that again. When we begin to think in physical terms we make a serious mistake, and we prevent the full understanding of grace and it's effects on our minds and hearts. Most of us grow up with the "be good and you'll be rewarded" mentality. I can't tell you how many times I heard my parents say that one over the years. You know "If you're good, good things will happen to you." "Pick up your room and you won't get in trouble." "Do this and that will happen." And I find myself sometimes saying the same things. And I'm misrepresenting something that God so much wants to demonstrate to us as human beings. "Be good and you go to heaven." How often have we heard that? We relate this concept to the idea that if we receive physical blessings, then God must be happy with us. And if we don't receive physical blessings, then God must be upset with us. How many times have we thought or felt that way? How many times did this leper look up into the sky and say "Why me?!?" How many times have you and I shouted the very same words, because we're looking at our physical predicament, and we just can't figure it out. This is not a New Testament teaching. Christians make a mistake when they equate their physical stature in life with God's grace. Jesus pronounced very boldly, as he often did because he had authority, that the age of grace was upon human-kind. That's what he said, that's what he pronounced. In fact, he said, "The year of the Lord's favor is here." That's what he said, referring to the age in which would be known as the Messianic Age. Jesus Christ came and demonstrated by his power, by his healing, physically to show what the eye cannot typically see, that humanity itself needs the spiritual healing touch of Jesus Christ--the touch that heals more than the body, more than the limbs--that reaches inside and it touches our hearts and our souls. When we look at this particular account of the leper, or the woman who was taken in adultery [John 8], Jesus' grace was not limited to "good people." Jesus reached out to the "bad people" and extended them grace [unmerited pardon] without any hesitation. In fact, when the young man came to him and said "Jesus, what good things must I do to receive eternal life?", the response that Jesus gave him was the keeping of the commandments was not sufficient for eternal life. He pointed out that a complete abandonment of what this life offers, and that an intimate relationship with him--that is Jesus--was what was necessary for eternal life. He said, "Unless you are willing to leave everything and come and follow me," the very same thing he said to the fishermen, the very same thing he says to you and me. Can you give up physical for spiritual? That's a very hard thing to give up, isn't it? That's a very hard thing to look at, that's a very hard reality to come to. And it's a mistake for Christians to view the physical condition of people, or their financial status as having anything to do with blessings or cursings. I know so many times someone will say to me "I can't understand why that person is blessed." "They don't go to church, they don't do this"--and what they're saying is--"I go to church, I pay my tithes or my offerings, I do all these things. Why is it not happening to me?" What are they looking at? What am I looking at? What can I say to someone like that? You know, I know the success of life is upon Jesus Christ. That person doesn't. Will they have to be taught it? Yeah. I know that Jesus Christ is my personal savior. I know that I have been saved as a result of his extending to me unmerited grace. I know that. And so many times we forget it. We do no live under the old covenant, a covenant that was done so long ago that people forgot that Christ came. That was "the age of blessings and cursings." But we now live in the time of grace, the time of grace, where we have received every spiritual blessing. Let's turn to Ephesians chapter 1. Ephesians 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Every blessing we have is in Christ. Being in Christ has nothing to do with our behavior but with the finished work of Christ on the cross, and his gracious extension of eternal life to all of us, to all of us.

This leper represents the ultimate outcast. The person in society that no one wants. In your mind's eye conjure up a person that no one wants, and it's represented by this account of the leper. He's an outcast, who didn't accept his condition, but believed that there was to be a restoration and redemption. He believed, as an outcast, someone put down by society, that he could be healed. That's the dichotomy of this little story. Christ is what every jot and tittle of the Old Testament pointed to, every one. He is the fulfillment, and is more than sufficient to save us, to heal us, and to touch us. God touches us. His sufficiency extends beyond salvation to being righteousness for us. You know it's funny because we are called God's workmanship. Every law of the old covenant, every Holy Day, every prophecy pointed to the Messiah, and the age of grace that only he could bring, and only he could fulfill.

In preparation for his encounter with Jesus Christ this leper had to go on a specific route. He had to go on the route that would prepare him to be an outcast so he could be accepted by Christ. It's not an easy route, is it? It's a route though that we all walk if we want to be accepted by Christ, because we have to realize that society is without him. When Christ came over the hill that day the leper jumped out. Let's turn back to Mark 1. The leper jumped out, and begged him on his knees. He could not walk along as normal people do and talk to Christ. He could not be counted among those that easily blend in with the crowd. You know, this leper had to strategically position himself so that he could have an encounter with Christ. And so he waited. And when Christ came over the hill the leper jumped out. You see, if you're an outcast, you don't have to worry about much do you? [tape reversal missed some]...

...[To] my sister-in-law that I would be praying for, I said, "I'll get on my knees and pray for you." And she said, "You don't have to pray on your knees!" I said, "You're right. I could pray standing up, lying down, sideways, anyway." And maybe you pray a lot of different ways too. There's probably some pretty extreme ways that we found ourselves praying but whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that you pray each week, I want you to open your heart and ask him to show you how you can reach out and touch someone else, even if it is only one person, that's a person who needed to be touched. And as we drive away and as we drive home this afternoon, I want you to look at people you pass along the road and ask yourself, "Do I want to be that person, or am I glad that God is using me?" Because God is glad he is using you. There is no one else that God will use in your situation than you.

Let's pray. "Eternal God, we thank you so much for opening our eyes and our hearts. We ask Father that as we look at ourselves this coming week that we are able to see you in more dramatic ways than ever before. We ask that you help us to see those who are hurting and lonely, those who, Father, need your assurance and need your touch. It's not easy to overcome loneliness, but Father we know that you can make it happen. We have to come to you when we're lonely. We have to come to you when we're hurting. We have to come to you when we're isolated. We have to come to you and ask you Father to help us. And you said that you would, and we thank you. And we ask for your will to be done in our lives. And so Father we here collectively thank you for all that you do for us. And we ask for your inspiration and guidance, for your blessings, and Father for your will to be done. Help us to be able to touch those who are out in this world, Father, needing to be given that hope that we have, that's a part of us because your Son lives in us. We thank you Father for your Son Jesus Christ. Amen."

"Friends and Faith"

Mark 2:1-12

Mark 2:1-12. "A few days later when Jesus again entered Capernaum the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...."He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"

Quite an interesting account here in the pages of Mark. Many times people want to know by whose authority am I preaching. Someone said to me recently, "What authority do you have to say those things to me?" Now, while I'm not taken aback by some questions, because I realize that sometimes people just want to know the truth. Sometimes people like to put you on the spot as they did with Jesus, so it's nothing new. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I don't like the way the church is organized now. In fact, I don't trust anything that any man does under the name of religion." Well, brethren, let me tell you something. It's God the Father who is our authority, period. No matter what we do in this life, no matter what line of work we're in, no matter what type of background we have, no matter what race or culture we are or come from, it is God the Father who is our authority--God the Father. Now while that may sound simple enough, it's not understood readily, is it? In today's gospel message we focus on that very same principle, the principle of authority. It is only God who has authority. And he extends that authority to Jesus Christ. Jesus seemed to provoke, almost deliberately, the teachers of the law, by saying to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." And as a result this required them to look at the issue of authority from which Jesus spoke. Now this particular lesson in Mark 2 focuses on a number of things. It focuses on the divinity and authority of Jesus Christ. Mark quotes Jesus as saying "Your sins are forgiven." And we just sang a hymn--what was that hymn we sang this morning? It dawned on me when we were singing this, I read the subtitle where the Scripture it says under "Cleanse me" "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And here Jesus said "Your sins are forgiven" to this paralytic man. In the time of Christ, and all of the time before Jesus Christ, and all of the time after Jesus Christ, it is agreed that only God can forgive sin. Only God can do that. One would have to wonder then if Jesus was almost baiting those teachers of the law who were within earshot, because the Scripture does tell us they were nearby and were listening to what Jesus was saying. We wonder if Jesus was saying something by his statement to address this very subject. And we know that the Jews of his day were struck by that fact that Jesus spoke with authority--with authority. Jesus didn't have to wonder what he was going to say or say it and hope that they wouldn't be offended by it. In fact, his authority allowed him to say things that people would be offended by--religious people. It's not like a lot of the lessons that other teachers of Jesus' day were saying. This particular text is but a selection, one selection of an account of Jesus that demonstrates the controversy with which Jesus spoke and his words created in an already established area of religion. And so what we find is that Jesus speaking delivered controversy. He claimed, Jesus did, to have the authority to forgive sins. That claim in and of itself was one to ruffle the feathers of those that were listening. He also claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath. He also claimed that he was the one who could heal, and he also proclaimed that it was only by his authority over disease could this example of healing take place. And he even healed on the Sabbath day. I think by seeing how Jesus handles himself, and the devotion that he had to his Father, we can understand the piety that was associated with him and as a result us. In order for us to receive the new wine that Jesus was bringing we had to become new containers. We had to become new wineskins. And so he proclaimed freedom to those whom he wanted to associate with. We also see by this short account here in Mark 2 that this particular text focuses on the authority that Jesus had over sin and over disease. Jesus had authority over those two elements. To the local people who were witnessing this, this was a new thing. It was more than a new thing, it was a shocking thing. Before their very eyes a paralytic man, his sins were forgiven, and he was healed by someone of authority--someone willing to take on the educated religious leaders that were standing there nearby. What made it even more complicated was that Jesus was just a regular man to them. Walking in the flesh, yet claiming to have the authority of God--so much so that he said he was able to forgive sin. He was able to forgive sin. (We're going to talk about that in just a moment.) And he was able to heal diseases. This isn't what the vision that the Jews had of the Messiah was all about. You see they envisioned the Messiah coming to overturn a political system. They pictured the Messiah as bringing in, ushering in an era of peace. They didn't envision the Messiah coming to forgive sins, or to heal the sick, or to reach out to the lonely. Rather, they looked at the restoration of Israel and their national greatness. To complicate matters, Jesus happened to be the son of unwed parents, the son of a carpenter walking and claiming authority given to him by his Father to forgive sins. This to many, was preposterous, especially to the society, to the people and culture that saw Jesus. They thought he was blaspheming because he was proclaiming to possess authority. Jesus never stood behind anything else other than his Father. And he boasted his Father's authority in his ministry. Yet their judgment about Jesus Christ was incorrect. Because he was God in the flesh. He is God in the flesh [cf. John 1:1-11].

The title that I have for this sermon today is "Friends & Faith", and I want to go through this account again with that little bit of a background and look at what we have going on in this particular account, because I think it's quite fascinating. Mark chapter 2, "A few days later" verse 1, "Jesus again enters Capernaum." Now we read last week where the man with leprosy had fallen on his knees before Jesus and was healed and Jesus asked him not to go and tell anyone. And so the man, listening to Jesus, goes and tells everyone. And from that point forward wherever Jesus went, the cities he entered into, large throngs of people surrounded Jesus because they wanted to be healed. And so a few days later when Jesus enters Capernaum the people heard that he had come to them, or come home. So many people gathered that there was no room left. Now Capernaum was a small town. And yet it appears by these simple words that were given here, that word of Jesus return to Capernaum spread rapidly through the city, so rapidly, that when Jesus finally entered Capernaum there were so many people waiting there for him that there was no room left, it said, not even outside the door. And Jesus began to preach to them. That's what he did. He preached to them. Some men came. And this is where we're going to have to start identifying some characteristics. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four of them. Now this paralytic in this account is well known to us. We never learned this paralytic's name. We never will. In fact, in this whole little section here, the paralytic man never says one word to Jesus Christ. We don't know what he's thinking. We don't know why he became paralytic. Was it as a result of an accident? Was it a result of birth? We don't know, really, anything about the man other than the fact that he's paralyzed. We don't know how he feels about these men bringing him there. Did they bring him against his will? We don't know that. We would like to think that this man came to Jesus for healing, because he heard of the great powers that Jesus held. But what we find is that some men came bringing to Christ this paralytic, four of them. Four because we could think there is one on each side [corner] of the stretcher as they carried this man to Jesus. These four men bring this paralytic to Jesus. Next verse, "Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd they made an opening in the roof above Jesus." And so here we find that Jesus was surrounded by people. A lot of times, you and I, when we try to go to Jesus we think that there's just too many people for Jesus to see us right now, or for me to pray to him. But his friends here saw that there were way too many people in front of them for Jesus to even notice this paralytic man. So his friends pick him up and they carry him outside of the building to, it appears to be the side of the house, and up a back staircase. Now these are his friends. And then what they do, is says they begin to dig a hole in the roof. Now if you know anything about adobe construction, which is this type of housing materials, it's brick and mud and straw and wood. And they're digging at it and they don't have their dust-busters with them, so they're not siphoning up the lose gravel as it's being unearthed here. Jesus inside the house and those who were around Jesus, immediately wherever this hole appeared, no doubt, look up and they see the ceiling beginning to crumble above them. Debris is now falling on a lot of folks. I don't know which one of them stuck their head through the opening first, but someone sticks their head through and says "It's only us. We'll be right there." They make the hole wide enough so they can lower this paralytic man through the hole. Jesus, I'm sure, is watching this with an incredible amount of empathy towards their scenario. Others are probably wondering "What in the world are they doing? The roof is going to cave in. They're going to fall. What are these guys doing?" O.K. They made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man way lying on. Now at this point the man is before Jesus Christ. He still hasn't said anything. He's before the healer. Jesus, it says here, saw their faith. He doesn't tell us he saw the faith of the paralytic man. He saw the faith of those men who brought this paralytic to Jesus and left him in front of Jesus. Jesus looks at the man, seeing their faith, he looks at the man and says, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Their immediate reaction to what's taken place is problematic. This man has just said 'Sin's are forgiven' to this man on the mat. Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what is what they are thinking in their hearts. And he says to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" and then he kind of throws a riddle to them. "Which is easier to say to this paralytic man? 'Your sins are forgiven' or to say 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" Which was easier to say? There have been times when someone has hurt me deeply, and there are times when I have hurt people deeply. And people have come to me or I've gone to someone and I've said to them "I'm sorry. I apologize." And they've said to me "I forgive you." And I said, "Thank you." And we go on. You see, it's possible, it is quite possible for humans to forgive one another's sins, as they effect us, isn't it? There are times when someone has sinned against another person. Case in point, a man and woman are married, and one of the two makes a grave mistake and sins. The partner is crushed, devastated. But when that individual comes and is truly repentant, and recognizes the error of their sin and sees how it has hurt the other individual, and apologizes probably a thousand times and that other person is able to say to them and mean it, "I forgive you", that is an overwhelming human ability to forgive sin. Now, before you say "Whoa, what is he saying?", only God can forgive the ramification of sin. Only God can remove the sin as though it never existed. Only God in his divine authority has the right to forgive sin. We as human beings have the ability to forgive one another. We as human beings have the ability to forgive one another's sins as they effect us. We nowhere can provide authority or salvation to an individual. You know that's through Jesus Christ. Jesus says your sins are forgiven. Which is easier to say? "Your sins are forgiven" or to say "Get up, take your mat and walk"? "But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." This is the first time Jesus uses the phrase "Son of man", and he refers to himself as that. And he says "to show you that I have authority to forgive sins and to heal on this earth, he says to paralytic 'I tell you, get up and take your mat and go home.'" He got up and he took his mat and he walked out of the place. Now, let's draw some analogies here. The paralytic man was frozen by his sins into a state of helplessness, whatever those sins may have been. His friends realize his helplessness and they carried him to Jesus Christ. We don't know if this man wanted to go to Jesus, but his friends took him before Christ. And that's where we intervene and we bring our friends before Christ. Those who are hurting, those who need forgiveness of sins, those who need Jesus Christ in their life. Jesus freed this man by declaring that he was forgiven. And as a result Jesus was stating that he has the power to relay God's forgiveness on earth. And therefore we in the church have been entrusted with the power and authority through Jesus Christ to tell others that they don't have to be paralyzed by sin anymore. That it is through Christ's forgiveness and grace that their sins can be removed. And so we bring our friends to Christ. The paralytic man could not reach Jesus because the door was jammed with people. But his friends were not willing to let this deter them. They didn't see it as an obstacle, they just saw it, "It's going to take a little more effort to help our friend out." So in their zeal they were willing to do something that took a lot of energy and strength, and it took a lot of courage to do--that is to break through the roof of a home to help this man out [and this home was fiery Peter's house!]. What are some obstacles that you and I face when we try to help one another out? When we try to help those people out that can't help themselves there are a lot of obstacles that we will face. There may be relatives, family or friends who will stand in the doorway and not allow you to bring that friend to Jesus Christ. That's when we have to take the back staircase. That's when we have to punch a hole through the roof. That's when we have to not give up, as this paralytic's friends didn't. You know, people shouldn't have to commit acts of desperation to have access to Jesus Christ. They shouldn't have to do this. Christians, you and I, are commissioned to make it easy for others to have access to Jesus Christ, by how we live, and how we include others in what we do for them. We need a faith that won't quit. The faith of these friends of the paralyzed man tell us a compelling story. We don't know any of their names. Yet the thing that we remember about them is the moment that they carried their friendship through, because of Jesus Christ. Many times people are remembered for all the wrong reasons. There was one mistake that we could make that people will remember us by forever, no matter how much we apologize or overcome that mistake. That's unfortunate. That really is unfortunate. But these particular men, their faithfulness, has been preserved for 2000 years because of this act of kindness that they extended to someone who needed it. They wouldn't take "No" for an answer, or let any obstacles stand in their way--because they had passion and determination. They also must have really believed without any hesitation at all that Jesus Christ could heal the man. Now I know there will be times when we stumble across people that are our friends who are hurting, or maybe strangers that will come up to us and begin a conversation, and it's hard to keep that conversation going. It's hard, sometimes, even if the conversation is "Christian" oriented, to sometimes even bring up the name of Jesus Christ. I know. And I know that we all feel this and go through these things. But you know what? That's when we need to have the faith of a friend, and bring up Jesus' name because we believe in his name. We believe in his authority. And to show us how much this means to us, Jesus, not knowing anything necessarily about this paralytic man's faith (or I shouldn't say that--I should say) we don't read about the paralytic man's faith, Jesus sees their faith. I can't tell you how many times in my life, when I thought to myself concerning my own mother, that things were going to work out for me, because I knew my mother was praying about it. I trusted in her faith. I knew she had faith. And I knew she was praying for me. And I knew, I had no hesitation, to feeling that whatever the situation was, was going to work out because my mother was praying about it. I can't describe that, but I can tell you that I've felt it a million times. So Jesus responded to the faith of those men. And thus we realize that faith can move mountains. I have no hesitation in realizing that our prayer for a piano player is going to be answered. I know it is, partly because I've asked my Mom to pray for it. I know she is, I know God's going to answer that prayer.

The stretcher bearers had a faith that wouldn't quit. And there wasn't an obstacle that they allowed to get in their way to derail them. And then we realize that we can bring about examples of moving mountains by having faith. And that's what it's all about. And Jesus gives us faith, but we have to exercise it. Again I tell you about my stories in gym, and working out for this past month has been eye-opening in so many ways. It's made me realize that the more I put into practice, and it's only the three times a week that I go there for an hour or an hour and a half, those three times a week are yielding results physically for me, and mentally, and emotionally, and even spiritually, because I'm feeling better. And while I'm working out I think, you know, this is exactly how the Christian life is. We have to exercise it, we have to put it into practice, we have to strain sometimes to take it to the next level. We have to endure the pain sometimes because we know it's going to be beneficial. And the whole time we're exercising we have to drink lots of water to stay refreshed. We need a lot of the Holy Spirit to stay refreshed, otherwise our exercise is going to fatigue us more than it should.

Jesus Christ is our redeemer. Only he can forgive our sins. Only he can do that, because he's purchased them by is own blood, satisfying the penalty of death with his life on the cross once and for all. And as a result he guarantees us eternal life, salvation. Isaiah said, "I am doing a new thing." Consequently it's important for us to forget the former things. Our salvation will be, (in Isaiah 43)'our salvation will be unlike what the Lord did for Israel. The Lord saved them from Egypt and became their king. Now the Lord says that it is He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more. This is the new thing that I the Lord will do.' Paul teaches that believers are given the Lord's of ownership, to show that he is our Master and that God, who is our gift of comfort and strength, guarantees that we belong to him. And it's only as a result through these gifts that our salvation is achieved.

And so we take another look at this passage because it's so unique that the faith of this paralytic man is just never discussed, it's never expressed, and he is healed with an incredible healing. You know, Jesus usually says when he heals, "Your faith has healed you." And in this account he doesn't say that. He says "Take up your mat and go home." We don't even know if this man ever followed Jesus again. We don't know if this man ever became a Christian. But what we do know is that the faith of his friends was something that Jesus saw and responded to.

"A few days later when Jesus entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them..." Jesus, surrounded by throngs of people, always preached the truth, the gospel message of salvation, the message of healing, the message of forgiveness of sins. "And while he was preaching, since they could not get to him because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" Now you and I would recognize this as a miracle. The teachers of the law sitting there thought to themselves, 'This doesn't mix with our religion. Why does he talk like this? He's blaspheming God.' "Jesus, immediately discerning what they are thinking"--because he knew what their religion was. He knew that their religion was not centered on faith. He knew that their religion was centered on something different. He knew that their religion had become a matter of laws, and that their religion had become a matter of routine, and that their religion had become a matter of legality. "Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their hearts, says to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? What is easier to say to this paralytic man you've just seen lowered from the roof of this building before me, 'You sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" he looks again to the man and he answers the question by saying, "Pick up your mat, and walk out of here" indicating that it was much easier to say to the man "You are healed"--much easier to say that, than to recognize the forgiveness of sins--easier to say that. And as a result, this man gets up and he leaves. But the undenying emotion that we leave this particular passage with is that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, your sins and my sins. That's the hardest thing it seems to do. And as a result, he in order to be able to do that, will sacrifice his life so that your sins and my sins are forgiven. And the healing is easy from that point on.

Well, we're going to talk more about this next time. So please join me in prayer: "Eternal God we thank you for allowing us to share this particular passage of Scripture with one another--your teaching us of your authority over not only our lives, but your authority to forgive sins, and your authority Father over healing. And we petition you many days for healing. We know that your authority to do so is there. Father, we have learned today that our faith can be of benefit to others, just as it was for this paralytic man who by his friends faith was healed. Help us to demonstrate that faithfulness Father, by coming to you and building our faith stronger every day, our faith in you...the faith that can move mountains. We ask that you continue to demonstrate that faith in this congregation. We ask for your presence always in our lives. We ask for your protection as we travel home this afternoon, and for all those Father, especially the elderly, whom we know will have difficulty with this weather, we ask that you be with them, and protect them. And Father, we thank you for all you do for us, through the name of your Son Jesus the Christ. Amen." [This is a transcription of a sermon given by Pastor Al Ebeling of the Waltham Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, meeting in the First Congregational Church of Waltham, Massachusetts]


Four Principles of Ministry

  1. Healthy sheep produce sheep. This is a chief part of what Jesus did for three and a half years. Thus we see that a dynamic ministry is focused on the Word of God, preaching the Word of God.

  2. A dynamic church and/or ministry is composed of those full of faith, those who are always stepping out in faith, even radically. God is great and God can do the impossible is their motto. A ministry can start as a dream, a desire in your heart. Then you've got to be willing to step out in faith. Then the dream turns into a vision. You've got to be willing to step out in faith. Some times when you step out in faith, God really is leading you. Not every time, but some times. Don't be afraid to take chances for the Lord.

  3. A dynamic ministry and church is friendly.

  4. A dynamic ministry and church is not a rigid one but a dynamic one. Don't become institutionalized. It's a danger to avoid. We have to be flexible, focused on the Spirit and where he's leading us. [The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a very good example of a dynamic ministry and Christian church. Be sure to read about this church in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, available on ]

Mark 2:1-12. "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....' He said to the paralytic, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"

A ministry needs to be focused on the Word of God--not healing, not drama, not music--but it must be a feeding ministry, feeding God's sheep with the Word of God. Healthy sheep beget more sheep. 2 Timothy 3:14-18. "Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." Beware of false teachers and prophets who are not into the Word of God, but into fables. Today's New Age movement is our present-day version of these fables. 2 Timothy 3:1-9. "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone."

In the midst of this house (Peter's house) full of people listening to Jesus giving this Bible study are some Pharisees and Scribes, religious leaders of the day. As the story unfolds, remember they're sitting there.

If you really want something spiritual, you go for it in faith, and you've got it. These four guys bringing a paralytic couldn't get in because of the crowd. So they went up on Peter's roof and start disassembling it, making a hole so they could lower this man on a stretcher down into the room below. They had just made a hole in Peter's roof--fiery Peter's roof, to lower this man into Jesus' presence! They took the risk of being embarrassed, chased away or being beat up for vandalizing Peter's house. Verse 5 says, "When Jesus saw their faith..." You have to have faith, step out in faith, be willing to risk failure and embarrassment. Understanding the difficulty of doing a work is measured by the one doing the work. If God is doing the work in you, great things will result--if you step out and continue to step out in faith. Faith is real when it takes risks, takes steps.

A ministry starts out as a desire in the heart that then turns into a vision. The vision then turns into a ministry.

Now something happens as a result of this healing. Some churches get distracted on healings or financial prosperity--on the physical--and not on the spiritual. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Jesus knew the heart of these Pharisees and Scribes. Their attitude must have really bothered Jesus. Psalm 139 says God can read thoughts. Jesus' prime message was that he came to forgive sin. He has the authority to and came so that all of us could have our sins forgiven. It wasn't the healing alone that was important here, but the point Jesus was making, verses 6-12. "Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sin....' He said to the paralytic, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"

Mark 2:13-22

Four key points. A Christian Church and/or Christian is focused on:

  1. The Word of God,
  2. Being full of faith,
  3. Being friendly,
  4. Being flexible in the Lord's hands.

Verses 13-17, "Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the 'sinners' and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'? On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

Jesus leaves the packed house of Peter's and walked along the lake, and these people, this large crowd of people, follows him. As he's walking, he passes this tax collector's booth and says to it's occupant, "Follow me." Tax collectors were known for making their wallets fat. They were a despised element in Hebrew society. The Jewish tax collectors were really despised by the Jews. They were excommunicated from the Temple, and couldn't serve in any official capacity in Jewish society. Matthew (Levi) had a feast to honor Jesus. He's a wealthy guy. He gave up his job and wealth to follow Jesus. Jesus probably changed Levi's name to Matthew, which means "a gift of the Lord to the people."

So Jesus is sitting down with these outcasts of Jewish society, "breaking bread" with them. Now to the Jews, the breaking of bread, eating with someone, was a very symbolic thing. When you "broke bread" with another person, because you and that other person were eating of the same "bread," that food became a part of the two of you, part of your bodies. You were symbolically linked in that manner. That is why the Jews were so against eating with those they looked down upon or despised. It was symbolic of a sort of spiritually linking with another person. The Jew would never want to be linked in a spiritual union with a Roman or pagan. The tax collectors and sinners, to them, the dregs of society, fell into this despised lot the Jews wouldn't eat with or spiritually associate with. The Jews got downright unfriendly about this. The Christian Church, on the other hand, both corporately and individually, should be friendly. Jesus embraced all kinds, but especially the down and out--the outcasts of society. He was and is not accepting of sin, but he accepts sinners so he can embrace them and work a work in their lives. The church often gets isolated from those Jesus wants to reach out to and save. That is the attitude of the Pharisees. Calvary Chapel is a sinner's hospital. A good book to get and read is Larry Taylor's "Doing Ministry Right." [See if it's available online at: ] Matthew 9:12-13. "On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' [Hosea 6:6] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" Jesus embraces you right where you're at.

Point four says that Christians and Christian churches must be flexible in the hands of God. Jesus says we're to go out to those in need and reach them with the gospel. Don't expect them to come to you. A prime example of a church doing this is pastor Jim Cymbala's Brooklyn Tabernacle, where someone would feel moved by God to go into a real bad section of New York City, or Brooklyn, and minister directly with the people, providing food and blankets, and then busing them to services on Sunday for a church service. The living active gospel of Jesus Christ was effectively brought to these people, right to their doorstep, which in many cases was an alleyway or a cardboard box they were living in. To read of this dynamic ministry and Christian church congregation be sure to order pastor Cymbala's book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. [Available online from: http:/// ].

Verses 18-22, "Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.'"

This is the symbolic Monday or Thursday fasting that had been set up and observed regularly by the Pharisees, to make a religious show. The Jewish custom was, that after a wedding, the guests stayed around for a week of celebrating with the bride and bridegroom, and that everyone attending was exempt from this religious fasting requirement or custom the Pharisees had set up. Jesus was making reference to this when he spoke of the bridegroom's guest's not fasting, and that he was the bridegroom. He was also making direct reference to the coming putting away of the old covenant for the new. God was about to do a new work, and Jesus was saying that it wouldn't mesh with their old religious system, the old covenant. The wine represents the gospel, the old wineskin represents the old religious system, and the old covenant itself. The Jews weren't flexible. Jesus' point was that the new system, composed of Christians and Christian churches must be flexible in the hands of God! As I brought out before, Jesus says we should be going out to those in need and reaching them with the gospel. Don't expect them to come to you.

The Sabbath

Mark 2:23-27; 3:1-5

"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?' He answered, 'Have you never read of what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.' Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:23-27.) [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: ]

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Then he asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mark 3:1-5).

In Exodus 20:8-11 God instituted the Sabbath into the old covenant he was establishing with the Israelites through Moses. As earlier chapters in Exodus show, the Sabbath was in existence before the old covenant and was being re-introduced to the Israelites well before they came to Mount Sinai (Exodus 16). This is a sticking point between old covenant Christians and new covenant Christians, the former saying that if the Sabbath were before the establishment of the old covenant, it couldn't be abolished when the old covenant ceased to be. True, but wait and see what happened with the Sabbath (and consequently the Holy Day requirements). They weren't done away with as so many sincere but misinformed Christians supposed. Something far more interesting happened to the Sabbath/Holy Day commands. But first let's understand the intent of the Sabbath command. To do this, let's read it. Exodus 20:8-11. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day." God instituted the Sabbath. The heart of the Sabbath was to rest and seek God. The doctor's of the law, the Pharisees went banana's detailing just what work was. 24 chapters were written in the Jewish Talmud defining what was work. They went to such an extreme in interpreting the Sabbath command that they made the Sabbath itself a "works" trip. The Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23 and the Sabbath were shadows for the works of the Holy Spirit in us. The physical Sabbath pictured the spiritual rest we now have in Christ--through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--and it pictures the coming future rest we'll all have in God's kingdom when Jesus returns.

Let's look at what Paul says about this Sabbath rest we have in Christ. Hebrews 4:1-13. "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did, but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, 'So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' And yet his work has been finished since creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: 'And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.' And again in the passage above he says, 'They shall never enter my rest.' It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

The kingdom of God is here within us right now. Jesus in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit quiets our souls. The kingdom in its fullness will arrive when Jesus returns. Zephaniah 3:16-17. "On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." What quiets us but the love of God in us by His Spirit. Isn't this true? The Pharisees were misrepresenting God and what he required of them through the commandments.

Isaiah 11:10. "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious."

Some Christians chose to look at it this way. The Sabbath command under the new covenant has been TRANSFORMED. By the rest we have in Jesus Christ dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit we are in the Sabbath rest Paul spoke of in Hebrews chapter four 365 days of the year. The literal physical observance of the Sabbath was only a picture, a shadow, of the spiritual "Sabbath rest" we have in Christ.

The rejection of the Holy Spirit amounts to breaking the new covenant Sabbath command, because we cease to rest in Christ without God's Holy Spirit in us. In Old Testament Israel Sabbath breaking was punishable by physical death. Paul warns us that rejection of the Holy Spirit results in spiritual death. You can see here that the old covenant Sabbath command is a shadow of the new, a type, a picture of the reality we have dwelling within us. The shadow was physical and temporary, the spiritual is eternal and will not fade away. Colossians 2:16-17. "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however is found in Christ." How much clearer can you get?

Because of unbelief the Israelites that were with Moses never got into their rest in the Promised Land of Israel. But even the Israelites (everyone 20 year old and under with Joshua and Caleb) that did make it into the Promised Land did not experience a perfect rest. The Sabbath rest talked about in Hebrews 4 that we experience in Jesus Christ is something they never experienced. As we just read in Colossians 2:16-17, the literal Sabbath (and also the Holy Day commands) were given as shadows of the great things we would experience in Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Deuteronomy we find a description of not dwelling in God's Sabbath rest talked of by Paul in Hebrews 4. In Deuteronomy 28:65 God is describing the frame of mind the Israelites would have as he scattered them all over the world for disobeying him. It perfectly expresses the frame of mind of people without Jesus Christ dwelling in them. They are without rest and peace of mind. Deuteronomy 28:65. "Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening, 'If only it were morning!'--because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see." With the world around us the way it is, without Jesus in us, haven't many of us experienced this attitude of mind. Hasn't this be been our mindset? But this doesn't have to be, with Jesus in us there is that peace that passeth all understanding, even in the midst of heavy trial.

In Deuteronomy 23 we also see that the Law of God allowed you to pluck the standing grain by hand to satisfy your immediate hunger. The disciples weren't wrong in what they did, but the Pharisaic law was running against a higher law of mercy God had given. There was no mercy in their extra Sabbath restrictions. Look at the next few verses.

Mark 3:1-5. "Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent. [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: ]

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."

The heart of Jesus is to heal and meet our needs. This rest that comes from Jesus brings spiritual rest and healing. Jesus Christ was and is the spiritual fulfillment of the Sabbath in us--for we rest in Christ. He says, 'Cast all your cares on me and I will give you rest.' In verse 5 we see that Jesus was first angry and then grieved by the hardness of their hearts. Man's traditions are blind to the wounds of others. The needs of man go beyond the importance of the ordinances man tacks onto the law. The ordinances that the Pharisees laid on people added burdens on them, whereas the ordinances of God tended to unburden people. Jeremiah 17:5-8 shows we enter Christ's rest through faith. Let's read it and see what it says. "This is what the Lord says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

[ The Holy Days were shadows of wonderful things to come, both prophetic and spiritual. To see what the Holy Day shadows represented CLICK HERE.]

Mark 4:1-20

"Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 'Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.'

Then Jesus said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, 'The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.'[taken from Isaiah 6:9-10]' Then Jesus said to them, 'Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.'"

An entire nation could be fed from one seed. The Word of God is like a physical orange seed or apple seed. Think of the seed that grew the apple tree that produced the fruit, many apples, from which Johnny Appleseed obtained his seeds to fill a sack full of them, and then trek across the United States planting apple trees wherever he went. He is credited with seeding the entire United States from coast to coast with apple trees! Think of it. And it started right here in Leominster, Massachusetts! More and more churches are turning to man's method's of Pop psychology. Mike McIntosh had virtually blown his mind on drugs as a young man. [Get the book about him "For The Love of Mike"] As a young Christian (new convert), people got him into the Word of God, and as he did that, over a period of time, his mind began to be healed. There's power in the Word of God. We don't understand it, but there's power, a power that goes beyond any Pop psychology of man. The Word of God interacting with God's Spirit in a human mind can heal that mind. It's like that little seed and the power of what it can do, if we plant it and allow it to work in our lives.

In Mark 4:1 Jesus began to teach by the sea. He started to teach them by parables. This was an even larger crowd than he had encountered before. He got into a boat and pushed out away into the water. The shores of the Sea of Galilee often form natural amphitheaters. More and more as Jesus addresses these crowds he uses parables. There's a reason. The parable of the Sower gave an instant visual picture to these people who were from an agrarian society. In this parable four types of soil were mentioned. 1) The soil where the seed fell on the wayside, 2) the soil where the seed fell on the rocky ground, and 3) the good soil, but filled with thorns and weeds in it, and 4) finally, the good soil without thorns and seeds. Then Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." I.e. He who has spiritual ears, let him hear. Many who have hard hearts can't understand the gospel when it's being preached.

Those already inside the kingdom of God (spiritually speaking,[Colossians 1:13]) have this ability to hear and understand the gospel message. The parable is used to illustrate the truth. But many who were listening were already spiritually tuned out to what Jesus was saying. Many were there just for the miracles, free food, and healing. Also many Pharisees and scribes were in the audience, hostile to Jesus and what he was saying. Isaiah describes those with this attitude. The crowd in general wanted healing and free food, but they were indifferent to his teaching. Some feel these parables were given to try to catch their attention in spite of the hard heartedness of many in the crowd--talking with word pictures the crowd could easily understand. [Some other Christians feel the parables, much like Isaiah 28:8-13 says, were given to hide the truth--but no matter, the hard heartedness in many people's minds hides the truth of the gospel from their ever understanding, regardless of which interpretation you go along with.] The word parable in the Greek is parabalo. Para means alongside, and balo means to cast, to throw. You put the two together and you get casting alongside, or teaching stories alongside a truth or principle. That's the purpose of a parable, to illustrate the truth. So Jesus is doing that and he knows the type of people he has before him, listening. Mark quotes Isaiah here to show that many had hearts that had grown dull, hard hearted, so they wouldn't even understand these parables. For those who wanted to hear, the Holy Spirit would illuminate what they heard. In verse 13 Jesus now explains the parable to his disciples. The seed sown on the wayside is about people who, when they hear, Satan (represented by the birds in the parable) comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts. Likewise, the seed sown on the stony ground is about people who when they hear the Word, immediately they receive it with gladness, but they have no root in themselves, so they endure only for a time, and then afterward when persecution or tribulation arises for the Word's sake, immediately they stumble.

The seed sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the Word, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke the Word and so they become unfruitful.

The seed sown on good ground are the ones who accept the Word and bear fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some hundredfold.

Jesus explains that the seed is the Word of God--the Gospel. Most likely the sower is Jesus, the Son of Man himself. But no doubt the sower can also be anyone who preaches and teaches the Word of God. Then he goes on to explain about the different soils, representing the different hearts of people who'll hear the Word being preached and what their reception of hearing God's Word would be like. When you teach the Word you can see by what Jesus taught here that it would be received differently depending on the state of mind of whoever is listening. Some will be receptive for awhile until the going gets rough, then quit. Some will start to receive it, but Satan and his world will take their understanding away. Some won't accept at all, and some will grab onto what's said and not let go. That's just a fact of life about the heart of man. All these various mindsets could be in an audience listening to someone preaching the Word of God. It's just a spiritual fact of life Jesus was bringing out.

The seeds sown by the wayside, the birds that come and eat the seed up, represent Satan himself and his demon world. That's true with some. The seed of the Word comes in, and Satan comes and removes it before it can have any impact on their lives. Satan comes and seeks to keep the Word of God from people's hearts, and in some cases he has 100 percent success. Certain hearts are really hard, and when they hear the Word of God, Satan comes in and takes that Word, that seed, before it can really have an impact on them. Paul described this very fact in 2 Corinthians when he says, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." Paul makes the same point. If the gospel is veiled, it is only veiled to those who have hard hearts. [Satan and the evil broadcast of his attitudes harden the hearts of those in this evil world and its societies so they can't receive the gospel. Many Christians and theologians alike don't fully understand this fact, nor the purpose for which God has allowed this to be since Adam's time in Genesis 3. Some think they understand why God has allowed this while others don't seem to have a clue. In Job 1 we see that the Lord uses Satan like a pawn for his own good purposes. Never forget that God is more powerful than Satan, and all his demon cohorts! Much will be revealed to us by the Lord in the kingdom age to come that we don't comprehend now, I'm sure.] Paul says, "...whose minds the god of this age have blinded." So there's folks, people, many people who Satan and his demons have blinded. You can share the gospel, the Truth with them and they're blinded to it. It just doesn't do anything. Paul says again in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." He says the natural man cannot receive the things of God. The natural man, without the Holy Spirit just doesn't tune in. They're just not able to receive the Word of God.

The fact that Satan is actually allowed to take the Word of God from people's hearts ought to show us something. There's a spiritual battle going on. That should tell us that we need to pray for the preaching of the Word, that it go out with power and that Satan is restrained where and when the gospel is being preached (Ephesians 6:11-20). You know when the minister comes and ministers, preaches the Word, he is only one person ministering to a whole group, preaching. But you can minister also. And that is through prayer! You can be praying that Satan be restrained, because the enemy wants to hinder the preaching of the Word and its reception in the minds of people. He wants to distract people. You can pray that this not happen, every Sunday morning--before the service, during the service, you can battle in prayer, and it will have a great effect. And if two or more are gathered together doing this the effect will be even greater. The pastor's preaching will bring forth fruit, and changed lives, both in the already saved, and those that need saving, sitting in your midst. Remember Daniel Nash and his companions laboring in prayer before and during Charles Finney's revival meetings.

Jesus goes on and explains the next type of soil. It's the soil where the seed lands on stony ground. At once they hear the Word and receive it with a lot of joy, but then due to a lack of root in themselves, he says, they stumble when the heat is turned on, trials come their way--when persecution and tribulation come. Those who have no depth of root can't handle the heat. And that describes this kind of heart, they receive the Word of God with joy, but when the tough times come, they stumble. The danger is when a person's reaction to the Word of God is only an emotional response. Faith in Christ is an issue of the will and sometimes there's no emotion involved. That's where our roots have to go, beyond mere emotion, down to the level of the will. Jesus was describing people who come to him but only on the emotional level, only because it tickled their ears, but it didn't effect their will. But when the heat of the day comes, when persecution or difficulty comes which comes as being a part of the church, they stumble and leave. Coming to Christ is an issue of the will, really, not an emotional response.

Persecution, in that sense, is good for the church. It separates the real Christians from the want-to-be's. Our prayer ought to be Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3, "...that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith, that we would be rooted and grounded in love and be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width, length, and height to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, that we would be filled with all the fullness of God." He prayed that we would be deeply rooted and grounded in love.

The third category in verse 18, Jesus now deals with those seed sown among the thorns. In verse 19 it shows that these are the ones who hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the desires for other things choke the Word, and then because of that they become unfruitful Christians. The first two categories are definitely not made up of believers, but this third category could very well be made up of believers, who are just barely going to make it into the kingdom of heaven. You see this a lot in church. You see them in church, attending but maybe there isn't a lot of fruit in their lives. The reason, Jesus says, is they're entangled in the world--they've got two masters. They have Jesus, and they have the world. Jesus warned the Church of Laodocia, 'I'm about to spue you out of my mouth...I'm not into this half-hearted devotion.' That's what he's talking about when he talks about these thorns, choking out the life. He labels these things that choke us thorns of this world, deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things." It's not riches in themselves but the world's siren song that you need riches which is deceitful. It will not give you what you want, but it will take from you the good stuff, the fruit of God--what God wants to do in your life. If our focus starts to turn from Christ to the world, it's going to choke out the fruit--the Christian growth in the Spirit. That's what Jesus says here. I think of Paul in 2 Timothy when he says to Timothy, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier, and also if anyone competes in athletics, is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." Paul says, if you're a Marine, you're devoted to your Captain, to try to please him and do well. And also an athlete is focussed on the crown, the prize and goal, and he doesn't get side-tracked. That's what Jesus is saying, if you're running the Christian race and get side-tracked, entangled in the cares of the world again, you're going to miss out on the crown Christ has reserved for you. You're in danger of becoming a fruitless believer. What kind of fruit is he talking about? He is talking about love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, and self-control (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). If these things aren't a part of your life, your spiritual make-up, then maybe this is the reason, you're being choked by the cares of this world, you're distracted. A good way to know you are drifting spiritually is when you start seeing things again in your life that were once removed. This is talking about things that are being re-introduced into your life that the Holy Spirit once removed before, but now are slowly coming back into your life. (This is talking about sins, habitual sins, that were once removed by and under the influence of the Holy Spirit.) If you're not growing, you are not really stationary, you're actually drifting backward. To hedge against drifting you must get anchored in Christ. Hebrews 2:1, "Therefore we must give the most earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Unless you do this you will drift away, seeing things come back into your life that were taken out. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "While we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." The rest of the stuff (which riches bring) are great if you are blessed with them, but they are still temporary. Don't get focussed on them.

The last category Jesus mentioned is the seed that fell on good ground. This is the soil that when seed falls on it, it just bears fruit and fruit and more fruit. People in this category just keep on bearing spiritual fruit and fruit in multiple amounts. Luke says that these are people that hear the Word, those that receive it, and those that keep it--hearing, receiving and keeping the Word, three vital things that make one fruitful. That is the power of the Word of God when applied properly in a person's life. It's amazing, the harvest that can come from the Word of God planted on good soil--a receptive mind that hears, receives and keeps the Word of God.

In conclusion, let's look in John 15. Jesus said in verse 4, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I'm the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit. For without me, you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch, is withered and they gather them and they throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me and my words in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, if you bear much fruit, so you be my disciples. Jesus says here in John, if you abide in Christ, in him, you will grow. In verse 7 he says, 'If you'll abide in me and my words abide in you--as you obey my words and they begin to grow in you, you'll be fruitful, and you're going to grow in Christ.'

That's what David said in Psalm 1. He said, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the way of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on it day and night. He's like a tree planted by springs of water which will yield its fruit in season. Whatever he does prospers..." As the Word of God goes out, if it's properly assimilated, it will cause you to grow. That's what Jesus says in John chapter 15. 'If you want to grow, just abide in will take place very naturally.'

Then John says in 1 John 3, not only will abiding in Christ cause good stuff to grow, but it will also cause the bad stuff to be pushed out of you. 1 John 3:6, "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." John says, if you abide in him, you're not going to sin. If you abide in him it's going to produce fruit in your life, causing these beautiful things to grow. And it's also going to cause the things that you wish weren't there to just go out of you. You may not even be able to understand how this takes place, but it will just take place.

Mark 4:21-34

Mark 4:21-34. "He said to them, 'Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.'

'Consider carefully what you hear,' he continued. 'With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.'

He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up; the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.'

Again he said, 'What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.'

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything."

Think of it this way. The spiritual truth is like we have this spiritual valve on our heart and God has the water pressure of his spiritual truth all the way up. But we control this spiritual water valve. For some of us he's standing there waiting to pour his love into our hearts, but that valve is closed shut. In some cases some people have cracked that valve all the way open. Most of the people God has used greatly started opening up to God at a young age. Charles Spurgeon gave his first sermon at age 16. Greg Lorie started a Calvary Bible study at age 19 which within a year was packing out the Anaheim Convention Center. Billy Graham was in his early 20's when he was president of a college, Joan of Arch was just 14 when God radically used her. Many young don't have a lot of baggage we old people do and just open that heart valve all the way open. Don't forget, Jesus said, "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Mark 4:21, "He said to them, 'Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand?'" John in his gospel said Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man. John 1:1-9. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." John 3:19-21. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Jesus is probably about the mid-point of his ministry, but the hearts of many around him have grown cold. As a result he's changed his teaching style--teaching in parables. The purpose of teaching in parables, as we learned, wasn't to hide the truth, but to draw attention to the truth. It's to draw the attention of his audience because their hearts have grown cold. This point he is making in verse 21 is that although he's sharing in parables, he is the light. He is the light of the world and he's come to give light. A parable does not hide the truth. But to those whose hearts are hard, it seems to hide the truth. To those who have dull hearts the truth seems to be veiled to them. But to those whose hearts are soft, a parable will draw you to the truth. Jesus says that in verse 22, "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought into the open." I.e. If your heart is open, if you'll crack open that valve on your heart, the truth will come to you. The light will come to a willing heart. Solomon says the same thing back in the Old Testament. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search out a matter." Once again Jesus says "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." He says that many times in the Bible. He's talking about having a spiritual ear. Matthew quoted Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." In other words, whatever we've heard we should go out and preach. A healthy church body is a body that is evangelistic. In 1 John it basically says that if you love God, you'll love your brother. He says, 'If you do not love your brother, you do not love God.' Light and love go together. You've got to put your vanity aside, you've got to put your pride to the side when you evangelize--going out to care for people who you've never met before. That is not the normal human response. You will do this only if the light and love of God is in your heart. Then you begin to go out and to share the gospel. John is saying, 'If you love your brother, you're one of my [God's] kids.' God is saying that through John. In verse 20 of Mark 4 Jesus was talking of a fruitful Christian. Then he goes on in verse 21 and talks about light and love and evangelism. I think that's very interesting, just this order because there is no doubt that a fruitful Christian is a witnessing Christian. Every time you see a Christian who is bearing much fruit, one thing is for sure, he or she is doing a lot of evangelizing. The two indeed go together. When it comes to spiritual growth, one thing is for sure, you plateau spiritually if you do not overflow. You'll grow a little bit, but if you're not overflowing, if you're not evangelizing, you're going to plateau. You grow when you overflow. Have you opened your heart to the light of Christ? And are you reflecting that light to others? If you're not, you're effectively a lamp under the bed, and that's silly. Is that valve on your heart open to the light of God at all? There are hearts [in this world] that aren't even open, they're just shut tight.

How do we open that heart valve? Good question. You open that valve by faith and by belief. In John 12 Jesus said, "A little while longer, the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. He who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light. (John 12:35-36)."

Verses 24-25, "'Consider carefully what you hear,' he continued. 'With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has will be given more, whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.'" Consider his words carefully, he's saying. These words are the very words of life (spiritual life). The degree that you open up to the Lord is what you're going to get. If you open a little, you'll get a little, but if you open up wide he will just pour his love into your life. That's the truth that he's talking about. But be careful, the way you judge the Word of God is going to determine how you're going to be judged by it.

Verse 26-29, "He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows; though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.'" The kingdom of God [that spiritually comes into a persons heart by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit] is as if a man scattered seed on the ground, and then he went to bed, and then he woke up in the morning, and he was surprised, he didn't do anything but sleep, but sprouts began to come up, as the seeds had been sown. And eventually it even matured and there was a harvest. And this is about the wonderful truth about the Word of God and the effect it will have on people when it is sown. There is incredible potential and power in the seed, the Word of God. The Word of God is supernatural. As a ministry we don't need gimicks to try to draw people here, we don't have to come up with these great little marketing pezaz things--just preach the Word, teach the Word, and it goes out, and the hearts that receive it will prosper there.

We don't receive when we lack faith. Sometimes we're like "No way man! Can't do it. Reading the Bible, it will not do it." But you're mocking God when you say that, because he will honor his Word above his name. He will bless his Word if we will receive his Word. If we preach his Word, he'll honor his Word. That's the way it works. And God's Word will go into your life, even though you don't comprehend sometimes how it works. And that light that's there will begin to shine, and it will push out the darkness. There are people that like the darkness. You've already read the verse, they like to stay in the darkness. Too bad they do, because there's light that God wants to share with them.

Jesus is sharing in parables with them now because people like the darkness. "I want the miracle, Jesus, I want you to heal my body, I don't necessarily want to hear this sermon" is what they're saying. So Jesus has gone to parables at least to try to grab their attention. Well maybe you're like somebody in the crowd around Jesus, and your heart has become dull to the Lord. That can happen, you can be doing great, then after awhile, you don't know how it's happened, you kind of become dull, dull to the Word of God--dull to his music, his overtures as he plays and tries to speak to you. Well, maybe what you need is some gardening. Jeremiah said, "Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and take away the foreskins of your hearts." He says, 'Break up the fallow ground of your heart.' If your heart is hard, if it has become dull, he says, "Break it up, you have the choice, go in, break up the fallow ground.' The Word of God can be planted there. Remove the thorns, ask God to circumcise your heart. We can get dull to the Word of God so it's not impacting our life. So Jeremiah says in essence, 'Break up that fallow ground, ask God to remove that hardened flesh, so it will be soft and receptive to his Word.' God says in Hosea, "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground, for it's time to seek the Lord, till he comes and reigns righteousness on you." At these times we need to pray and ask God, "Make me sensitive to you again." And then he says he'll come and he'll reign righteousness on you. He just pours it on, pours on the power and love. God uses broken vessels, he uses broken men and women, those are the ones who are receptive. A broken vessel is usable by God because a broken vessel is not attractive on the outside. An unbroken vessel can't be seen on the inside, but a broken vessel's contents flow out of it--God's love shines out to others from it. Breaking is sweet, but it hurts to be broken when God has to take you through that time. But in a most amazing way, a sweetness comes from it in your life.

Verses 30-32, "Again he said, 'What shall we say to the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.'" A mustard seed was very tiny, but a mustard plant would grow to about the height of the head of a horse. You put this tiny seed in the ground and this big plant comes from it. ( Giant sequoias come from a very tiny seed also, and yet they grow to be the largest tree on earth. A company I worked for had the name of Sequoia. On their coffee mugs was a logo, "Sequoias Are Known For Their Size, But They Too Start Small.") The mass of that tiny seed is multiplied millions and billions of times over, and Jesus says that is like the kingdom of God. Just a small seed of the Word of God, what it can do in our lives. It'll just grow and grow. Maybe you're sitting there, looking at your spouse and thinking, "Wow, rough edges." But the seed of God is there, and it will grow and will begin to bring forth growth like you wouldn't believe. It's amazing, that little seed, and what can come from it in your life. When you read a parable, you need to read it and just pray, and the understanding will come to you. Not all the little details are there to have a spiritual truth to them. Some of them are there just to add color to the story, to help illuminate the central truth. Here in this parable you have this large mustard tree or bush, and now you have these birds in the branches. And some people have taught on the birds, but I think in this case when I read it in Mark I think the birds are there just to add color. But when you look in Luke the birds are also there, and Jesus is drawing attention to the birds and wanting to make a note. In Matthew this parable follows the parable of the wheat and tares, where Jesus says this guy goes out and plants this good seed and it starts to grow, but another guy in the middle of the night goes out and plants this bad stuff. They both grow. Now you have the good seed and the bad seed growing together. And right after that Jesus talks about this. Jesus shows the kingdom of God just growing and expanding. But sometimes there's even a natural growth, in a sense, where the birds of the air represent Satan and his buddies, moving in and beginning to nest in the tree in the kingdom. And that can happen, and we see it taught that way in the Scripture, where the kingdom of God is growing, but some bad seeds have gotten in there now, and in the parable of the wheat and tares it is the angels in the end who determine what the tares are. (Or who they are.) So in some cases we're not going to know what or who the tares are and what the birds are until we get to the end (and it is revealed for us). I know I'm not a tare, I know I'm wheat, personally. I hope you all know that. But ultimately God knows somebody else's heart, I don't. But that does happen, the growth comes and there's this great work of God starting in this little mustard seed--Boom!--and then the institution mentality sets it, and now we've got this religious system going, and the birds just come in and light on the branches and begin to move in. And then you have trouble. And that is something I think Jesus is trying to bring out too.

Verses 33-34, "With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything." So he explains to his disciples. They in privacy must have said, 'I don't quite get it.' And so the Lord shares it with them. That is what happens with us. If the light is in us, we want to know the truth. So we just get alone with the Lord, and the Lord will begin to illuminate these truths to us. Turn to John chapter 14. I want to share a thought with you I found in E. Campbell Morgan's commentary. Jesus says in John 14:16, "'I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.' Phillip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long and yet have you not known me Phillip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? These words that I have spoken to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does the works.'" G. Campbell Morgan made the comment that "Jesus is the ultimate parable." Obviously as the Logos [cf. John 1:1-14] he's sharing these parables to draw people to the Word, to the Truth, but Jesus is the Logos, the Word. He is the Life, he is the Truth. And he says here, and has used the imagery here, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." That's kind of like a parable. He's saying, "If you look at me, if you've seen me with those spiritual eyes, then you've connected with the Father."

Mark 4:35-5:43

"No Reason To Be Afraid"

Mark 4:35-43. "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side.' Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?'

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be Still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to the disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him?'"

"A number of years ago it was reported that the newspaper counselor, Ann Landers, receives an average of 10,000 letters each month, and nearly all of them are burdened with problems. She was asked "Is there any one problem that predominates the letters you receive?" And her reply was "The one problem above all others seems to be fear." People are afraid of losing their health, their wealth, their loved ones, people are even terrified of life itself. The dictionary says that "Fear is a feeling of alarm caused by expectation of danger, or a state of dread..." and in some cases, fear is a healthy thing God has created in us. You know when you're on the subway in Boston, you're going through a T stop that isn't that safe, and you think, as you're passing through this T stop, you get this sense of fear which overtakes you. And you sense you need to get off the subway as quickly as possible, and you get off. And you come to find out that God was leading you to get off the subway. There was a danger on the subway, some person that was going to mug you or something. I give that to you as an example because there are times when God puts that sense of fear in our hearts for a reason, to get us to move because of impending danger. That's a healthy fear to have. There's also other healthy fears to have. A fear of God--that's a healthy fear. Look in a concordance. There are hundreds of verses that speak of fearing God. In Psalm 111 we're told that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." This is a fear that is being in awe of the Creator, in awe of God, of his presence and power. It's a healthy fear, a good fear to have, an awe of God. Another fear that is healthy to have is a fear of sin. Paul shares about confronting an elder in sin. He says in 1 Timothy "Those who are sinning" (this is talking about an elder) "rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear." We're exhorted in the Scripture to have a fear of sin, to fear sin and it's consequences.

So there are times where we are to have a healthy fear, but as the letters to Ann Landers show us, reveal to us, there's often fear in our lives that's very unhealthy. And this is what we're going to look at this morning.

Faith and fear, that is, unhealthy fear, cannot co-exist. You either have one or the other.

Either you're walking in faith or you're going to have fear. You can't have the two at the same time. If fear is in your heart, if you're afraid of the future, then you're not walking in faith. The two do not co-exist at the same time. When one is present the other leaves. John writes in his letter, in 1 John he says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us." So John tells us that when you have that perfect love of God, that love casts out fear. And he says God first loved us. So I rest in that. It's a perfect love. And as I accept that in faith, the result of that is to cast out fear. The fear just subsides and goes away as my heart is filled with faith in his love and his power.

Also God says to us in Isaiah, as his children he says that we're not to have fear, and the reason why is because he is with us. He says, 'Don't fear, I am with you.' Isaiah 41, "Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Maybe today you find yourself struggling with fear. There are things in your life causing you to be afraid. God just wants to remind us, as a child of God, we do not need to be afraid. There's no reason to be afraid as the children of God. God desires that we have peace and it's a peace that passes understanding. We'll see today in Mark, you know as we go to this gospel we see Jesus, the more we learn, as Paul says, we can count all things loss compared to knowing Christ. As we go to this gospel we see Jesus. And as we look today, it's clear, you and I have no reason to be afraid, because God, Jesus is with us. We don't need to fear the storms of life. We don't need to fear any bondage's of life, of the world. We don't need to fear suffering. We don't need to fear man, his failures, his rejections. We don't even need to fear death itself, as we look at this text this morning. And if there's no fear of death, then there isn't anything left to fear. We're told in Scriptures that you, as a Christian, don't need to fear death. David worships and says in Psalm 23, "Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." And then he says why, "For you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me." He says, 'I have nothing to fear. You are with me God.'

Let's look at verse 35, chapter four of Mark, "On the same day when evening had come he said to them, 'Let us cross over to the other side.' Now when they had left the multitude they took him along in a boat as he was, and other little boats were also with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that it was already filling. But he was astern asleep on a pillow, and they awoke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' Then he arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And there was a great calm. And he said to them, 'Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?' And they feared exceedingly and said to one another, 'Who can this be that even the wind and the waves obey him?'--Who can this possibly be?" As a child of God you and I don't need to fear the storms of life. It's been a long day here for Jesus and his disciples, as we kind of put all the events together as we've been studying, and it's evening and now he says, "Let's go to the other side of the sea." And it seems most likely that Jesus is very tired, there's a multitude if you remember from last week. He's already in a boat, the multitude was so vast he actually had to step into a boat to effectively communicate and teach this crowd, teaching in parables. And it's been a long day as you put all of the events together and probably he's physically tired. He is a man. He's God, but he is a man. And the disciples probably need some rest too, and so the only place they're going to get rest is away from the multitudes, so he says, 'Let's set sail to the other side of the sea.' And you read there as they do that, some other little boats, some other folks still want to follow, so they jump into their little boats and they follow him. So he doesn't completely get away from the crowd, but at least he got an opportunity here to find rest. But the multitude has taken its toll. And due to the exhaustion, I at least see a lot of exhaustion in Jesus' body, because you see there that he has fallen asleep on a pillow in the stern of this boat. And he sleeps through quite a situation there. As they begin to make this journey across the sea of Galilee--it's just a few miles, it's not a very large body of water--a storm begins, a windstorm suddenly comes down upon the vessel. The geography shows us storms can come quickly upon the sea of Galilee. There are very tall mountains right around the sea, they're very steep, rising up very quickly. Then you have the sea of Galilee 700 feet below sea level and you have the Jordan valley there. Wind storms can come in very quickly due to the thermal gradients in the air and things, and they can really come upon you surprisingly. That's what happens here to the disciples. I know when we were there last December and we were in a boat that set sail across the sea of Galilee, that I took a picture because the water of the sea of Galilee was like glass. It was like a mirror, perfectly still, a you saw the reflections of the mountains and things. But just moments later it began to be very choppy. Very quickly it changed. And that happens, and that's what happens here to these disciples and Jesus and the others as they have set sail across the sea of Galilee. The storm in this case is so intense that waves of water begin to come into the boat. And with that the disciples are now in fear. They begin to really question whether they're going to make it across, because the water is coming into the boat to such a degree. And all along now you see Jesus is so exhausted because he's been giving life, pouring out his life that he's sleeping through this storm as the boat is tossed to and fro as the wind is blowing and all the screaming, he's still sleeping in the stern. Well, in frustration the disciples go to Jesus and they awake him and say, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe you've been there before. "Do you not care that we're perishing here, do you not care?" What a picture here in these verses of what happens to you and I sometimes. Life might be going along just fine and then this wind begins to pick up and then waves begin to increase and this storm is all of a sudden howling, and enters our life, sometimes very unexpectedly. Sometimes it's a ferocious storm. And as the waves come and the wind blows we begin to get afraid, asking, "What is going on here? Am I gonna make it through this storm? This is intense. I didn't expect this." Especially the storms that last awhile can really begin to put a fear in your heart. And in that state what often happens is that you begin to question God. "God, this isn't very fair. Why'd you allow this into my life?" "What is going on here?" "I didn't deserve this." You even question his character and say, "Are you really good? You say you're good, but this doesn't seem like a good thing that this would happen to me in my life." "I don't understand, what did I do to deserve this?" You begin to question even his love. "You say you're a God of love, but well, this doesn't seem like you're a God of love with the things that are going on here." [The Christians in Yugoslavia during World War II could have been saying exactly these same things, but many weren't. You can read there story in Marie Chapian's book "Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy", available online at for $7.99.] That's happened to me in my life. Sometimes those winds when they're blowing and howling can be very difficult. I remember one storm that came into my life awhile back. It was going and going and eventually I couldn't take it. This despair began to set into my heart. I just started to struggle. Each time I weathered the storm and thought the storm was over, the wind would howl again and the waves were bigger than before and would knock me down. That can really get you down, as it continues to happen. I was there once, it just kept getting worse. I'd say, "Hey, this is bad enough Lord." And the next day it got even worse. You know, at one time, I began to question whether I was even going to make it. I began to even be afraid of life. Despair was really deep in my heart...But you know God spoke to me (in my heart) and he spoke to me twice on two different occasions, and I finally had to stand one day and say, "Lord, you've told me twice you love me, you've told me twice that you're with me and you've told me that you're going to bless the future. I need to accept it by faith." And I stood up and walked and I went ahead and I pressed forward in faith. [And this particular pastor now has a congregation of over 100 people, a radio ministry, and they're desperately looking for a bigger building to meet in. It started out with about five people meeting in the tiny radio studio building.] You know, if there is fear in my heart, your heart, there's no faith. And it's hard to live a life of fear. But to walk in faith is to get up, to press forward, be strong and stand strong.

Verse 39, He stands up and he rebukes the wind and says, "Peace, be still!" And as you read, the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Amazingly Jesus quiets the storm. Image being one of the disciples on this boat. Jesus has been able to heal, cast out demons. He's even indicated that he can forgive sin. But there's still a lack of understanding just of who is in the boat with them. They don't understand that the Creator of the universe is laying in the stern of that boat. That hasn't quite sunk in yet. So Jesus stands up, to them a man still, and he says, "Peace, be still!" And this storm stops. I mean, these guys are like stunned, they're in awe. I think then a healthy fear enters their heart, as you read there in verse 41. "They were exceedingly fearful." But I think now a good fear, as they're saying 'God is in our boat!' 'This is God that we've been walking with.' [cf. John 1:1-11.] Because Paul says in Colossians chapter one, "For by him"--that is Jesus--"all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, and all things were created through him and for him." God used this storm to reveal to these disciples again who was in the boat. They needed to learn a little bit more about who he was--that God was with them--in the boat with them. And he was the one--the only one--that was able to stand up and stop the storm. Well now, the disciples were able to see that the Creator was there, the controller of all things. They saw omnipotent power, there, right before them. And that was going to help them later on in life with all the persecution and trials they would face. This experience, this reality wasn't just a head knowledge thing. Now they knew that Jesus could even stop the wind and stop the waves. He's omnipotent, he's God, he's Creator. So when the challenges that would come later arrived they'd be ready and could stand through that, and even extend faith and courage to others as the storms of life pass through. Storms come into our lives so you and I can learn more about the character of Jesus. You know, we can have the Bible study head knowledge, but God has got to bring those storms in so that you and I know it by experience and therefore can grab onto it and walk in it in faith that Jesus can stop the wind, he can stop the waves. Initially, when those storms come we begin to doubt his character. But when the storm is stopped and now we're there in the calm of the aftermath, we begin to just stand in awe of the beauty of his character and of his power. It increases our faith, and the life of faith is a beautiful life to live.

Are you currently in the midst of a storm? Has fear or despair set in? Sometimes that happens. It's happened to me. Is Jesus asking you "Why are you so fearful? Why do you have no faith?" If you don't have faith, the fear just comes right in. Jesus wants to remind you that HE IS WITH YOU. HE IS THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS. His love toward you is a perfect love. He wants to remind you today of that. Receive his Word in faith, and when you do, the fear begins to subside, you get up and you press on. If you believe in his power, if you believe in his love and faith, that is a conquering faith. That's the type of faith God wants to give you. So he takes you through these storms so you can come to believe in his power, and believe in his love. You don't just have this head knowledge but you believe in it. And then you can conquer in faith as things come, you can stand strong and even extend faith and encouragement to others. And with every storm that comes into our lives, every storm will one day pass. And the calm will come. God has allowed storms in your life for a purpose. And in the calm of the passing storm we learn what we're exhorted hundreds of times in the Bible--to fear God, and that's an awe of him.

Let's look at Mark 5:1-20, "And they came to the other side of the sea to the country of the Gadarenes. And when they had come out of the boat immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit who had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one could bind him, not even with chains. Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces. Neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day he was in the mountains and in the tombs crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar he ran and worshipped him, and he cried out with a loud voice and said, 'What have I to do with you Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God that you do not torment me.' For he said to him, 'Come out of the man, unclean spirit.' And he asked him, 'What is your name?' And he answered saying, 'My name is Legion for we are many.' Also he begged him earnestly that he would not send them out of the country. And a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged him saying, 'Send us to the swine that we may enter them.' And at once Jesus gave them permission and the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine. There were about two thousand. And the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drown in the sea. So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the Legion sitting and clothed, and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it had happened to him who had been demon possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with him to depart from their region. And when he got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged with him that he might be with him. However Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how he's had compassion on you.' And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And all marveled." With Jesus, when he's with us, you and I don't need to be afraid. We don't need to be afraid of the storms and we don't need to be afraid of the bondage's that we find in the world.

Sometimes that can be the most fearful thing in life. You have this thing, this grip of evil on your life that you're in bondage to, and you can be afraid of even the next day. This thing consumes you and controls your life. Well, the disciples have been through a storm and then they had quite an experience watching Jesus kick out a legion of demons out of a man they'd possessed for years. It must have been exciting being with Jesus. You go from the storm to deviled ham with all the pigs jumping into the water. This man comes to Jesus as they come to the shore. He comes running, he sees Jesus. And this man is a man that is a picture of great bondage, a tremendous bondage. Nobody could help this man. Many tried to shackle him and to hold him, but nobody could help this man. He was in such bondage. In fact as he says who he is when Jesus asked for the name of the demons, they say, 'My name is Legion for we are many.' A Roman legion of soldiers was over six thousand soldiers, six thousand eight hundred and twenty six men. Is there six thousand demons in this man? It's bad enough having one demon in your life, let alone six thousand dwelling there. I wonder if anyone else has been possessed with so many demons and been in such bondage as this man. We're given this story so we can see somebody in the greatest depth of bondage, yet we see him encounter God. Look at the anguish of soul. Also you see what bondage's do as he's cutting himself with stones. Hating even his flesh and what's going on. But, in this story, he comes and falls at the feet of Jesus. And Jesus does a work. Maybe you feel the grip of evil in your life. Maybe you're afraid, because of that bondage. Sometimes we are, living in some kind of bondage and fear. You can see what we need to do, and that is to go and fall at the feet of Jesus. He is the only one that can deliver us. So we can see somebody in the greatest depth of bondage, yet we see him encounter God. Look at the anguish of soul.

Alcoholics Anonymous points people to seek a higher power, but you can miss by a mile if you don't get Jesus. If you don't get Jesus, you do not have a higher power to rely on. He is the only one who is going to deliver you from the bondage you may find yourself in. Buddha's not going to do it for you, Mohammed's not going to do it for you, the New Age meetings aren't going to do it. You may have a little success on your own, but when it's bondage, the bondage of the world, the grip of evil, there's only one, and that is Jesus. You have drug addiction, alcohol addiction, the mind begins to change and the chemistry that goes on with alcohol addiction. Pornography can work the same way, different things the enemy can bring into our lives that can just be a bondage to us. Jesus Christ is the power that can keep you from stumbling, remove the bondage. In AA, some people find that power, but many don't.

These demons, in other gospels you get the sense they don't want to get sent into the abyss, so these demons ask to be sent into the swine that are there. And then as you read later, this man goes to the Decapolis. If you're in bondage, Jesus can help you from stumbling, he's the power. There's no need to be afraid. Fear is because you don't understand the power and love of God. But he wants to bring power into your life and deliver you.

Verse 17 is a sad thing. The guy who is taking care of these pigs is thinking, 'What is going on here?' as he sees the pigs running into the water. So he goes back to town and tells them about everything that happened. So the whole region came out to see this event. But what a sad verse, they come out and plead that he would depart from their region. They're more concerned about the money and pigs and things of this world than the things of God. [The Roman's would vacation when off duty in the area of the Decapolis. They had recreation areas in this region and the demand for pork products must have been very high making the raising of pigs a very profitable business. And this would explain why this region, a part of the Jewish nation bordering on the cities of the Decapolis, grew whole herds of swine.]

This man was naked, cut up and scarred, a sad picture of a man. And now he's dressed and sitting there in his right mind. Not strange or bizarre, just very healed before them. And that same man said, 'Hey, I want to go with you.' But this time Jesus does something different. Up until this point he always told the people not to say anything. But in this case he says 'Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he's had compassion on you.' And that's what Jesus tells this man to do. [This is an essential key or part of spreading the gospel on a personal level, telling others, your friends and acquaintances what Jesus has done for you.] And this man goes and does what Jesus told him to do, and many people hear and marvel in the cities of the Decapolis.

[As can be seen, one of Jesus' jobs is that of being the healer of our minds. This man's mind must have been virtually fried, considering he had a legion of demons in his mind for who knows how long. The field of modern psychology has tried to usurp one of the things Jesus is best at, healing sick or hurting minds. Who knows the architecture of the mind, both in the hardware and software better than Jesus, who the Bible says "created all things." Now the field of modern Freudian psychology has made dangerous inroads into Christian churches, where pastors and laymembers alike have become trained in psychology steeped in Freudian theory and attempt to bring healing to members of their congregations, all the while forgetting that Jesus can do a perfect job in this area, with no botched jobs. To read more about this danger and understand what's going on within our churches, be sure to order the excellent booklet "The Psychologizing of the Faith." To order online click on , and click on "Product" and then on "Other Materials". Then click on "Books", and then on "Calvary Basics Series." Scroll down until you find "The Psychologizing of the Faith." This is a thorough and clear Biblical treatment of the subject.]

Last couple of points. Verses 21-43, "Now when Jesus had crossed over by the boat to the other side a great multitude gathered to him. And he was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jarius by name. And when he saw him he fell at his feet and begged him earnestly saying, 'My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her that she may be healed and she will live.' So Jesus went with him and a great multitude followed him and thronged him.

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus she came behind him in the crowd and touched his garment, for she said, 'If only I may touch his clothes, I shall be made well.' Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up as she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' But his disciples said to him, 'You see the multitudes thronging you and you say 'Who touched me?' And he looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her came and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.' While he was still speaking some came from the ruler of the synagogue's house who said, 'Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?' As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken he said to the ruler of the synagogue, 'Do not be afraid, only believe.' And he permitted no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. Then he came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue and saw the tumult of those who wept and wailed loudly. When he came in he said to them, 'Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.' And they ridiculed him. But when he had put them all aside he took the father and mother of the child and those who were with him and entered where the child was lying. He took the child by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha Koum!' which is translated 'Little girl, I say to you, arise.' Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age, and they were overcome with great amazement. But he commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat."

What a contrast. You have a 12 year overlap. This young girl is 12 years of age and this lady with an issue of blood has been suffering for 12 years. Initially when it started, she started going to the doctors, saying, 'What's going on in my life?' She tried to get some help and time passed and more time passed, and eventually it turned out to be years of suffering. And when all this started, this girl was born, born to this Jarius, a very significant person in the community, some would say even the chief person in the synagogue, wealthy, influential. So she's had a blessed life, you could say of just being in a prosperous and blessed home. But recently she's had a change of events in her life as well. She was near the point of death. God will allow suffering into people's lives that will last for years. And God has it for a purpose to his glory. But for some of us life is easier. But the day does come when the storm does blow. God has a purpose in it. Sometimes life can be easy and then the phone will ring and a real grave storm will come and you'll drop to the floor when you hear what's being told to you. Something can happen so quickly in some of our lives. And you see the contrast here with these two women. Well, with Jesus you and I do not need to fear suffering. We don't like pain, but we don't have to fear it. We don't have to be afraid of men. We don't even need to fear death. Paul said in 1 Corinthians, 'Death? Where is the sting of death?' We don't fear it as a Christian. We're told in the Psalms that 'precious is the death of saints in the eyes of God.' And that's because we're going to be with him. He's waiting to welcome us into his kingdom. The death of the wicked he looks on in pain as we read in Ezekiel 33, hoping that they would turn.

Jarius comes, he's been a strong man, successful, but God is going to do a work in his life and has brought him to his knees. God works through broken vessels, so he breaks us sometimes to teach us about his character and power and love. If you think you're standing on your own, woe to you, because you are going to fall.

So God keeps us broken. We'll Jarius pleads with Jesus, 'Jesus, come. My little girl.' And this is close to home for a Mom or a Dad when a child is near the point of death. So he is just hurting, you can imagine. That's Jarius, he just burdened. So Jesus goes with him. Jesus has more to teach him. But now he's finding hope as Jesus is walking with him. And then the crowd stops, I would image, much to the frustration of Jarius. But there's this lady and she's quite the picture of suffering, has this blood flow for 12 years. She was ceremonially unclean because of that so she was kept outside away from people because anyone she touched would become ceremonially unclean (for 24 hours). She's a lonely lady who's been seeking answers for 12 years. She's gone to people to get help and they've taken advantage of her, taking all her money for cures that didn't work. The Talmud had all these recipes for healing and none of them worked. They were just goofy if your were to read them, strange and bizarre, and none of them have worked. So she's suffered a long time. And now maybe she's in fear of man, untrusting, because of all that's happened to her. She presses through this crowd understanding that if she touches Jesus, he will heal her. And Jesus does. (Jesus can heal you at this very moment if you have an affliction. If he's not decided to do it, it's because he loves you and he's doing a work in you. But you are right in his loving control.) Well, this lady touches him and she is healed. And you see the situation where he turns around and says 'Who's touched me?' And the disciples are like, 'Hey, there's people all around. What are you talking about?' But this lady comes and says 'I've done it, you've healed me.' And he says to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.' The two go together, faith and peace. You walk in faith and you experience peace. If you walk in fear you miss out on the peace.

Well now Jarius, you can just imagine, he's so frustrated. If I were Jarius I would be throwing Jesus in the back seat of the car and doing 90 down the highway! We wouldn't be wasting time here for red lights or anything, we're going. But they stop. You can just image the struggle going on in his mind. And then the worst things comes, the people come from his house and say, 'Hey, it's too late. You've taken too long. Your daughter has died.' But Jesus has allowed that for a reason because he has something very important to show Jarius, and to show us. He says to Jarius, 'Don't be afraid, only believe.' Well as Jesus continues on, he takes a few of the inner guys and they go into this house. They actually have to go past this group who in that culture have been hired to just weep and wail. And he goes by and says 'Hey guys, why make all the commotion? The child isn't dead. The child's just sleeping. [And Paul calls death a sleep. Many might wonder if Jesus were telling a lie here, but he wasn't. Paul called death a sleep when he spoke of the resurrection, because to God, death is merely a sleep. To the very One who can raise the dead, death is nothing more than sleep. Jesus was speaking of a higher reality which this hired crowd couldn't comprehend.] And if you put the gospels together and in the Greek tense and everything, they ridiculed him and they continued to do it as he goes in the house. But he takes the family and this inner circle of disciples and they go to this bed, and he reaches to this little girl and he says 'Talitha Kuom,' which is 'Little girl, I say to you arise' or 'little lamb, arise.' And he speaks and this little girl who was dead gets up. And they fear, and people just marvel, overcome with amazement as Jesus raised this dead child back to life again.

You know, you and I don't have to fear death as God's kids. God wants to remind you here that there's nothing at all in your life, ever, to be afraid of. There's some healthy fear--fear of God, fear of sin, maybe a little fear for a moment where there's impending danger and he wants you to realize that. But afraid type fear where you don't have faith, you don't have to have that fear anymore. When you walk by faith you don't have to fear the storms, you don't have to fear suffering, you don't have to fear man, his rejections, we don't have to fear bondage's of the world, and we don't even have to fear death itself. And if you don't have to fear death, you and I can walk by faith. And to walk by faith is a life of peace. God wants you to have a peace that passes understanding."