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The Power and Goodness of Christ-Full Sermon Transcript

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PASTOR: FORREST SHORT

SCRIPTURE READING

Jesus Calms a Storm 

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon 

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

—Mark 4:35 - 5:20 ESV

INTRO

Good morning, I’m Forrest, I’m one of the pastors here, and as always, it is good to be with you. Do we have any Chronicles of Narnia fans out there? Alright, a lot. Yeah, at this point it’s kind of become a part of our pop culture with the movies popularizing it, and I think one of the most well known lines from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe encapsulates well what our text is bringing to us this morning.

If you remember in the story, we’ll kind of geek out for a second here, Mr. Beaver tells Susan that Aslan, the ruler of Narnia,is a lion. Do you remember this? And, Susan is surprised because she assumes that Aslan is a man, certainly a ruler is a man. She then tells Mr. Beaver, I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion. She asks Mr. Beaver then, subsequently, if Aslan is safe, to which Mr. Beaver replies … 

“Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”

—The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

This line encapsulates our two narratives this morning. Nothing with unmanageable power is safe. And, at the same time, not everything with unmanageable power is good. I wonder if this morning, we think of Jesus in that way. I wonder, do we believe him to be powerful, and good. See, we must believe him to be both, or we will end up living anemic Christian lives at best. In every season of life, do we believe that he is both powerful and good. And so, I think in our text, in the first narrative, we have a story of Christ’s power laced with his goodness. And, I think in the second story, of the Gerasene demoniac, we have a story of Christ’s goodness, laced with his power. So, this morning, the track we’re going to walk, there’s a lot of ground to cover here, there are many layers.

So, I’d encourage you to try to track with me this morning. We’re actually going to start in apocalyptic literature. That would be the point at which you may feel like hitting the eject button. Don’t do it, track with me, otherwise you may wake up in the middle of the sermon wondering where we are, feeling like maybe I just told you you were possessed with a demon, and I promise you, that’s not the point of the sermon this morning. So, track with me, I think there’s big payoff, a lot of layers. This week in studying God’s word, I was reminded of the richness of it, that it’s so rich, that we can spend our lives plumbing its depths and never exhaust it, yet at the same time it’s so simple that a kid can grasp it and respond to it with faith in Jesus Christ.

So, the task before us this morning, then, is to see, how do we see in our text that Jesus is both good, and powerful? So, let’s pray before we jump in.

Jesus,

we are thankful for this great truth. Lord, it is easy for one of those aspects of who you are to become undermined in our own hearts, and in our own minds. Lord, as we come to your text, we are thankful that it is powerful, and it is sharp as a two-edged sword, and it cuts deeply, and we are grateful for that. Lord, reveal to us our desperate need for you this morning, in whatever season of life we find ourselves. And, we thank you in Jesus’ name, amen. 

So, the book of Daniel is an apocalyptic, hyper-political book. You may actually, what you probably know of Daniel, is - at the very least - you know the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, which tends to be sort of the Sunday school story. But, the reality is, there’s a lot going on in the book of Daniel. It’s very apocalyptic, and it’s very political, and in the midst of it, Daniel sees a vision of four beasts coming up out of the sea, that were - it says later in verse 17 of chapter 7 of Daniel, they are identified as kings. These were kings, these were powers. And, I want to read that in Daniel … 

Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

—Daniel 7:2-7 ESV

So, this vision comes. It’s identified, again, in verse 17, that these are powers, kings, these are nations that Daniel is foreseeing through this vision, that are going to come to power, and devour the world. The first one, most scholars agree, is Babylon, the Babylonian Empire a few hundred years before Jesus. The second would be the Medo Persian Empire, the third would be the Greeks and Alexander the Great, and then the fourth was the Roman Empire, which was the final climax of these world powers. The book of Mark is written some 30 odd years after the life of Jesus. And, it’s written, it’s audience is citizens of Rome, who were facing persecution and death under the brutal rule of Caesar Nero.

Mark wants his readers to make this connection, a connection between these narratives of calming the storm, and the Gerasene demoniac being delivered, he wants them to make a connection between these narratives, and their current persecuted reality under the reign of the powerful Roman empire. He wants them to see his power and goodness in the midst of the powerful evil they find themselves in, and he wants us to see the same thing this morning. No matter where we are in life, he wants us to see his power, and his goodness, and that’s what we see in the first narrative, a great power. 

I. A GREAT POWER 


So, Jesus has been teaching in parables, and on the power of the kingdom of God. I should say, remember that sea motif, that these beasts rose up out of the sea, because that’s going to come up in both narratives. There’s some connections there. Jesus has been teaching in parables. If you remember last week, Max, the last two weeks, Max has walked us through those. He’s been teaching in parables on the power of the kingdom of God, how the kingdom of God continues, that it’s this unstoppable force, it begins as a seed, a small seed, but nothing can stop it.

And, when he’s finished with this teaching, he’s teaching from the boat, kind of using the water and the embankment as an amphitheater, we’re told in verses 35 and 36, that they essentially take up the anchor, and begin to cross the sea of Galilee to the other side. And, it tells us that other boats accompany them, so they’re not by themselves, and as they’re crossing the Sea of Galilee - which was a lake on the north side of the region of Galilee, it was a lake that was seven miles wide, it was 13 miles long, so it was a large lake, it was even on the border of a sea, this lake, this sea, was also 700 feet below sea level, with mountains on both sides - not small mountains, big mountains on both sides. You can see them even today. Particularly, the eastern mountains are exceedingly tall. The tallest one is Mount Hermon, and it’s 9,200 feet above sea level. So, this means that that reality, the lake 700 feet below sea level, the mountains around it max out at around 9,200 feet, so what you get, all of you meteorologists out there like me, is the warm air rises, right, the cold air descends, and when those two meet, crazy stuff can happen. Storms can whip up really quick, and that is exactly what happens as Jesus and the disciples cross the sea of Galilee.

It should be noted, too, that the Jewish people were not seafaring people, naturally. It wasn’t in their history to be seafaring people. Now, we know they’ve adapted to some degree, because as Mark begins, Jesus is calling fishermen, people who are fishing on the sea of Galilee. So, they’ve made some adjustments, but historically, they are not vikings by any stretch of the imagination. They were 12 tribes from the desert that God brought into a home in the mediteranean.

Now, in the ancient near east, the sea had a dark symbolism, and you see this, actually, throughout scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. It had this dark symbolism, it was one of evil and chaos and demonic powers that were raging against  the creator. We see this in a few spots, some scriptures that point this out … 

“And darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”

—Genesis 1:2 ESV

So, you get darkness and waters put together there in that text … 

Psalm 93 says, “The floods were lifted up …” We know floods are not a good thing … “Oh Lord, the Floods had lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their roaring, mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the ways of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty …” 

And, what we just read …

“And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.”

—Daniel 7:3 ESV

And then finally, even at the end, even though this would not have been in view for the readers, then … 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

—Revelation 21:1 ESV

So, we get this picture throughout scripture. There are many, many more scriptures that if you were to just do kind of a biblical study of the word sea, you would see that it is fraught with chaos, and darkness. Suffice it to say, that when the Jewish people thought of the sea, they did not think of vacations, and drinks with umbrellas in them. What came to mind, was a clash of order and chaos, a place where God and evil rage against one another. Additionally, they were going to the other side, it says. They are heading into a Gentile region called Decapolis, which was basically a federation of 10 cities that was under Roman rule, and this means that they were leaving this place of covenant, this land of covenant, and coming into this - in the Jewish mind, what would have been this dark, evil place of Roman rule. 

So, you get the picture that this would have been a journey for the disciples of Jesus. And, as they’re crossing, the scripture there tells us … a  great windstorm arises … Now, we don’t know the exact boat they were in, but one of the most popular boats at the time was a 20 foot long boat, 7 feet wide, may or may not have had a sail, had oars. It could fit about 15 people. Most likely, they were traveling in something similar to that. What we need to get, is that it was not a ship, it was a boat, two very different things, especially when you’re in the midst of a hurricane. 

So, verse 37, we see that the waves begin crashing into the boat, and the boat begins to fill with water. Now, you can imagine at this moment, all of their fears are coming to be realized. The dark, ominous chaos of the water, the trip over not to the land of covenant, but the land of Roman rule, this dark place, and the darkness and the chaos comes to bear on them. And, in that moment, as their boat is filling with water and they are undoubtedly about to sink into the sea, into the chaos, in that moment they look to their teacher. They look for some comfort, for some assurance, because he’s the reason they’re out there.

Remember, they’re not  in the midst of the storm because they were disobedient. There are a lot of, actually, parallels, here, in the opposite direction, though, between Jonah and what’s happening here. A lot of scholars make that connection. But, what’s happening here is that they have followed Jesus. They haven’t run from him, they’ve followed Jesus, yet they find themselves in the midst of the storm. And, as they look to their great leader for comfort and assurance, they find him asleep on a cushion. Can you imagine that moment? Asleep on a cushion, because that’s what you do in the midst of a hurricane, when you’re in the sea. You just catch a little cat nap.

You can imagine that moment. And, often times, when we see the disciples’ interaction with Jesus, it’s easy for us in our arrogance to look at it and simply say, wow, they were really ignorant. Right? Sometimes - like an example - the sons of Zebedee go to Jesus and they’re like, Jesus, who’s going to be greatest in your kingdom? And, you’re reading it going, agh, really? You are such a knucklehead. Yet, we do it all the time, right? We do it in ways that we don’t even recognize. But, this is not one of those moments, where even in our arrogance we can look at it and go, why did they do that? 

I think this a perfectly reasonable question. Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Jesus is asleep in the midst of the storm, he’s gotten them into this trouble, and yet he doesn’t even seem to be concerned. Verse 39 tells us what happens … And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm … Jesus wakes up and he immediately rebukes the wind. He speaks to it as if it were a child, and where there once was a great storm, there is now a great calm. And, the sense is that even the water is calm, which you see Jesus’ power in that reality, if you think about a bunch of kids in a swimming pool, and they’re playing around, and then all of a sudden they get out, the water doesn’t immediately go calm, right? It says chopping. But, Jesus in his power calms the wind and he calms the waves. 

This story, in many ways, is very straight forward. We know the reality of storms, don’t we? It takes one phone call, one e-mail, one text message, one moment, and a sudden storm hits. Life can be like that, right? Evil, chaos, hits us out of nowhere. And, if you’re like the rest of us, or, I should say, if you’re like me, the disciples, the pattern of the disciples here looks very familiar. What’s the first thing we do when the storm hits? We freak out. Right? That’s the only rational thing to do, is freak out when the storm hits. What’s happening? And then, we question whether God really cares for us. I’m following you, how can you put me in the midst of this storm?

But, the story climaxes in a question. And, it climaxes in a question that feels like a cliffhanger, but it’s not because the answer is embedded in the story. It’s what Mark wants us to walk away with. As they continue, verse 40, he said to them … Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” …


The opening line of Mark’s gospel reads … The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God … scholars call this a messianic secret motif. All it means, is you’re in on something from the very beginning, that the rest of the players other than Christ, in the story, are not in on. You know from the get-go that this is the son of God, the one that was prophesied about in the Old Testament, that has, specifically in Isaiah, that has now come in the flesh. And, we know that, but at this point, the disciples were unaware of this reality. See, they think he’s just a rabbi, a really good teacher with an extra measure of God’s power. But, now, this is starting to look a little peculiar. They know that in the Hebrew scriptures, that only God has power over the sea. They know Psalm 107, which says … some went out into the sea in ships, and when the storm hits they cry out to Yahweh, and by his power, and his power alone, the waves are hushed … They know this. 

And, it’s also peculiar that Jesus doesn’t conjure. In other words, Jesus doesn’t call on a higher power. Like every other legend of antiquity, when they’re faced with this unmanageable, uncontrollable power, they conjure a higher power, Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus speaks directly to the storm. See, he’s not calling on a higher power, because Mark wants us to see that he is the higher power. Remember, in the beginning in Genesis when darkness was over the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over it, Jesus is saying, that was me, in the beginning, the creator. So, who then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him. And, the answer is, the creator of all things, with unmatched and unmanageable power, and the chaos of the sea is at my command. 

Point one … the great power. 

II. A GREAT COMPASSION

Next, we see, as we move to the next story - and then we’re going to bring these two together - is great compassion, or it might be said, a great good. Now, this next story, the Gerasene demoniac, takes place in decapolis, on the southeastern side of the sea. Again, it was a federation of 10 cities, first colonized by Alexander the Great, and during this particular time was conquered by the Roman empire. And, Jesus is unleashing the kingdom of God not just in Israel, but throughout the world. And, if you follow the trajectory of scripture, that is always the plan, that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, which means that this gospel, this good news, this kingdom must go outside of Israel, it must go to the world, it must go to the Gentile nations. 

So, Jesus pushes through to bring his kingdom to the world, but there’s an anti-kingdom, there’s a dominion of darkness, and Jesus faces resistance from the moment he starts to go to the other side. First in the sea, and in the storm, and then in the demoniac. And, underneath this there’s a root of evil, a dark power that is at the source of this resistance. As Jesus enters into the Gentile territory, a man with an unclean spirit comes from the graveyard to meet him. Look at verses 2-6 … 

And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” …

It’s a pretty bleak picture of this man’s existence, isn’t it? Now, I feel like we have to take a moment to do a little bit of work, because it would be very easy for us in this western culture, in this particular time, to keep this story at distance, to keep this story at arm’s length, to simply say it’s a superstitious sort of phenomenon that belongs in antiquity, that belongs in another time. When, culturally, we function as if what is real is only what can be tested and poked and prodded in a laboratory. If we say we believe in a supernatural and personal, good God, then it is no leap at all to say we believe in a personal and supernatural evil. In fact, it follows.

In the biblical worldview, the fact is, the universe is teeming with activity that cannot necessarily be tested. Listen to what Paul says here in Ephesians, and I want you to remember, Paul has been talking in this letter about how to walk in love, how wives and husbands are to love one another and lay down their lives. He’s been talking about the new life in Christ, unity in the body, some very practical things here, loving one another. And then, as he gets to the end of this letter, he brings us to what might be a strange place to us. Look here at Ephesians 6:10-16 …

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances … [does that include your circumstance? Yes.] … take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

—Ephesians 6:10-16 ESV

In all circumstances. Do you hear what Paul is saying? In the midst of a letter where he has been very practical, husbands, love your wives, church, you are one body, live into that reality. He’s saying, do not lose sight that there is a world, here, teeming with spiritual forces that have schemes that are seeking to disrupt. See, what scripture tells us is that inbetween the creator God, a being with no equal and the seven billion plus people on the earth, there is an invisible world filled with spiritual beings, with angels, with demons. Some of these are in league with the creator, working to usher in God’s kingdom, but others are at war with the creator, and wreaking havoc wherever they can. 

The biblical understanding of demons, though, is not a simple one or a superstitious one, or a naive one. Rather, it’s complex, and it’s multidimensional. I know we’ve seen Poltergeist and people’s head spinning, and we have things that come to mind when we hear this stuff, but if you look at the totality of scripture and how it reveals to us the reality of sin and our struggle, it is not reductionary at all. Certain worldviews tend to be reductionary, we tend to reduce our problems to one aspect, maybe it’s physical, you’re probably is just physical. I heard the phrase this week, I guess it’s a new thing, I need to do a geographical … and what that means is, like, where I live is not working out for me, so I need to move somewhere, right? So i’m going to do a geographical. The problem is, as one really wise person said, everywhere you go, there you are. So, you can do the geographical, but you’re still there. 

But, we tend to reduce things in that way. Physical, or mental, or moralistic, your problem is just guilt and shame, you need to deal with that, or spiritual, it’s only spiritual, and we see demons everywhere. True story, when my mother first came to Christ, neither one of us were believers, later in life she was trying to find churches, and she was in deep south Louisiana, and she went to a church, and they told her she had a chocolate demon, and they tried to cast it out of her. So, talk about reductionary. I’m like … I think i have one of those, if that’s a thing … I’m going to come see you guys … 

So, we tend to be reductionistic in our worldviews, but scripture is not this way. Scripture gives weight to each one of these realities, mental, moral, physical, spiritual, all of the above, they’re all interlocking. And, therefore, there’s no one template. But, I think in our culture, what we’re the quickest to dismiss, is this particular world, this world of principalities and powers, where Paul says, you’re not wrestling against what you think you’re wrestling against. 

See, if we reject personal spiritual evil, we will be blind to a significant power at work that stirs up our struggle, and stirs up our sin, and creates chaos. See, we see demon possessed, and we go, oh, I’m good. I’m cool. There is none of me in this guy. I mean, he’s … and, when you read the description, it’s easy to put distance between us and him. What’s interesting, is that the Greek words that describe this state never actually use the word possession. It’s essentially the word for demonize, over and over and over again. So, I know there’s been a lot of debate around categories and oppression and possession, but as I dig into the text, into scripture, and there’s definitely a place for those conversations, but what I see is there’s more this influence at work that we need to be awake to.

Don’t forget, though, what Paul is saying. Essentially, he gets to … so, if we’re proud, if we’re self centered, if we’re angry, and these things are taking root in us, and there’s bitterness in us, make no mistake that there is some aspect of influence going on there. See, our struggles - this will really unsettle us - our struggles are not so much different from the demoniac in kind, but in degree. His patterns even are probably familiar. I know they are for me.

When I tend to go in a difficult place, a dark place, what do we see in the demoniac’s life, the way he was living? We see isolation. Don’t we tend to want to be left alone? We don’t want anyone talking to us, I don’t want to hear your Jesus stuff, just leave me alone, let me binge on Netflix, or put my head under the covers, right? Just leave me alone. Or, we’re in bondage, right? Perhaps there’s sin that we’ve been struggling with for years, and we find ourselves not able to see that bondage broken. Even harming himself. Now, there is a very overt way, he’s cutting himself with stones. That happens in different ways today, but there are other ways we tend to do that, right? We tend to harm ourselves through things like binge eating, or things that we run to, that we know are not good for us, but we run to those things for comfort. Make no mistake, Paul is saying in every circumstance, be on guard. There are schemes at work. So, we are not as different from the demoniac as we might like to believe.

Now, how do we see the goodness of Jesus? We said this about compassion, and it is. The goodness of Jesus is demonstrated in that he goes to the worst of the worst. He goes to a man that feels so far gone, compared to perhaps where we are, and he does that with intention, he does that with purpose, he does that because he wants us to see that we have hope, that where we, and our station in life, whatever these schemes are that are at work, that we are not too far gone, that his goodness is not present with us in the midst of it, and that his power is not strong enough to rescue us. He comes to the worst of the worst, the most vile, the most detestable, the most unclean in a graveyard, the place that a Jewish person would never go. Jesus goes to the depth with this man so that you and I might have hope from our depths.

And, there’s another layer here that’s happening. Notice he asks in verse 9 … what is your name? … and the answer is … my name is Legion, for we are many … A legion was the largest Roman military unit. It would have been about 5 or 6,000 people at this time, and they were known for their brutality and their destruction. So, we begin to see allusions and connections that would have been made for those early readers, that perhaps are lost on us. They see, okay, we’re seeing power over Rome, we’re seeing goodness in the midst of it, coming to rescue, and we’re seeing power over it, even the strange reality of the pigs, right? I mean, this is a strange story, there’s no doubt. Look what happens … 

And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea … 

Do you see the connection? Do you see, in Daniel, he says this power is coming, and it is a great power, and it is going to engulf the world, and here we see Jesus coming in the midst of this power, in the midst of this legion, and he brings redemption, and he brings healing, and he brings restoration, and then he demonstrates his power. Even with the pigs, there was a Gerasen that the Roman legion had, where their actual mascot, essentially, was a wild boar, because the Jewish people called the Romans pigs, and so what they did to kind of get back at them, is they said fine, we’ll raise the flag, we’ll be your pigs. So, there’s some real connections here that would have been made that show Christ’s power over what seems to be the most unmanageable power in the world. 

And then, finally, I love towards the end the picture of the healing that happens in verse 15 … 

And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid … 

Could you imagine this man that far gone, no longer able to be subdued, living among the graves, cutting himself, he is sitting - not naked - but clothed, not completely gone mentally, but present in his right mind. This is the holistic, deep healing of Jesus. This is the goodness of God at work, and if there is hope for him, there’s hope for you, there’s hope for me wherever we find ourselves.

And, finally, the man wants to go with Jesus. And, it’s interesting, Jesus doesn’t let him. Isn’t Jesus the one who says, come follow me? Yet, he says, no, actually. Look what he tells him in verse 19 … 

… And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled … 

See, Jesus is not safe, but he is good. Remember, Jesus has been run out of town. 2,000 pigs were killed. That’s no small thing. That had serious economic consequences for the people of Decapolis, and they ran him out of town because of it, and Jesus says, no, you’re not coming with me, you’re going to stay in the midst of that and declare my goodness. He is not safe, but he is good. He says, tell what the Lord - Yahweh - has done for you, and notice in verse 20, he tells how much Jesus has done for him, the creator and Jesus are one and the same. See, we are back to the power and authority of Jesus, which leads us to the last point here … a great fear. 

III. A GREAT FEAR

If you notice, throughout both narratives, there is fear woven throughout it. Notice 4:38, there’s fear of the storm, in chapter 4:41, fear of Jesus’ power to calm the storm. It’s funny, before Jesus calms the storm, they’re scared, but after they’re more scared. Fear of the demoniac is not explicit, but no one had the strength to subdue him, it says, in 4:5. The demon’s fear of Jesus’ power over them, in verse 7 … do not torment me … fear of Jesus’ power to heal the demoniac, in 5:15. They don’t rejoice when they see this man in his right man and clothed, they fear. 

Why? Why is there fear throughout both of these stories when there should be, it seems, rejoicing? Because, fear rises when we find ourselves in the midst of a power we cannot control. The difference between the power of the storm, the power of the demoniac, and the power of Christ, is that only one of those loves you, is that only one of those cares for us. See, the storm, the principalities and powers are not good, and therefore don’t have your good in mind, but the one who has power over them does. He is good, and he has your good in mind. 

Notice in verse 40 of the narrative of calming the storm, Jesus has been questioned. Jesus, don’t you care about us? Don’t you see what’s happening? But, notice that the questioned becomes the questioner, and he asks them in verse 40 … Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? … And, here’s where the power and goodness of God come to bear in our lives. He’s saying, essentially, if you knew I loved you, and if you knew my infinite power, you could have been calm in the storm. He’s saying, I can still care for you and allow you to go through storms. The issue is, your premise is wrong. And, I would submit to you today, that oftentimes our premise is wrong. The premise is wrong. You don’t see me for truly who I am.

Our premise tends to be, if you love us, you wouldn’t let us go through storms. But, that’s a false premise. Jesus says, I’m God, and I know better than you, and I am not safe, but I am good. So, I think part of what comes to bear for us, is when we find ourselves in the middle of the storm, wake him, ask him if he cares for you, but don’t be surprised when the questioned becomes the questioner, when God questions us. See, Mark’s invitation for us is to turn from questioning God, to answering God’s question. In light of such authority and power, and care, why are you so afraid? Why do you still have no faith? Do you see how Jesus is demonstrating both his authority and his goodness?

See, in the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus goes to the worst of the worst, and when he was done, he was clothed and in his right mind. But, Jesus goes one step further, so that we might have an immovable reminder of his power and his goodness. When we get to the end of the book of Mark, we see that Jesus exchanges places with this man. Jesus, as he goes to the cross, is now naked. Jesus, as he goes to the cross, is now crying out and bleeding. Jesus is driven to the tomb. That’s how Jesus dealt with evil, that’s how Jesus deals with evil today, not with the sword, but by taking evil upon himself, so that he could wipe out evil without wiping out us.

In the cross of Christ, we have a fixed and perpetual reminder of his power and his goodness. See, if Jesus were not powerful, the cross would have no efficacy. It would have no effect in our lives. If he were not good, he never would have gone to the cross in the first place. And, here is where it all comes to bear for us, this morning, as God’s people in light of his word. See, if we believe he is powerful, but not good, we are driven away from him. If we believe he is good, but not powerful, we are driven to pity him. But, if we believe he is good and powerful, we are driven to trust him in any and every season of life, and that is the invitation of our text this morning, and that’s the thrust of the invitation as we come to the communion table. Let’s pray. 

Jesus,

We are grateful that in every season of life, we have a fixed and perpetual reminder of your goodness to us, of your power that is unmatched and unmanageable. Lord, I know there are many storms brewing in each of our lives today. Really, there’s never a season where there’s not some kind of storm, whether it’s a great one or a mild one, Lord, in the midst of this fallen world, sudden storms are normal. So, Lord, we ask this morning in the midst of our storms, Lord, we ask that we would see your great power, and your great goodness. Lord, may we never see our circumstances are more powerful than you, and may we never see our circumstances as undermining your goodness. Lord, we are grateful this morning for this beauty, we are grateful this morning for this truth. Lord, as we come to the table, Lord, may we come believing, trusting, renewing our faith by your Spirit, that you are good, and you are all powerful. I pray that every heart in this room would find rest in that truth. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.


Parables of the Kingdom-Full Sermon Transcript

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PASTOR: MAX STERNJACOB

SCRIPTURE READING

“Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.””

—Mark 4:1–20 ES

INTRO

Good morning, Emmaus. My name’s Max, I’m one of the pastors here. I’m the pastor for discipleship and care, and I’m also the newest full time staff person here, and that means that I get, sometimes, in the position of kind of wondering, how did I end up here? Because, I have had many jobs in my life. This is, by far, my favorite one, so you can be rest assured I ain’t going anywhere for awhile. But, when we come to this passage, I’m in a unique position here, because you’ve probably heard this passage before, right? It’s one of the most common passages that the world even quotes. The world, who maybe want nothing to do with Jesus, they like what he teaches, and they will use the parables to Jesus to their own ends. And so, even if you’re not a Christian this morning, you’re probably familiar with this parable. 

But, the reason why this is unique is not just because it’s famous, but it’s also unique because it’s one of the only places where Jesus actually explains the parable. And, that makes my job hard. It makes it hard, because I don’t want to be the fool who gets up here and tries to make my word equal with Jesus’ word, and it also makes it hard because I don’t want to go beyond what Jesus has said here. So, my job this morning, I hope you’ll bear with me, and my job this morning is to hopefully take and make the most of what Jesus has said here, without going beyond it. My hope this morning is to pastorally help you to take this story that is probably very familiar to you, and helps us to apply it as a church, maybe see it fresh again. Because, usually as it is with things we’re familiar with, we tend to go yeah, yeah, I know the point, and so we don’t stop and think about it. So, with that in mind, we need God’s help, yes? I certainly do. Let’s pray and ask for his help this morning. 

Father,

I pray this morning that our familiarity with this story and this parable and your teaching would not cause us to not hear. There is a warning here that we can use our ears, but we can walk out of here not understanding. And, God, I know for myself that there are many things that I have experienced in my life that want to twist, to try to insert into this passage to make myself feel good about myself, or feel better about my past. But, God, would you this morning allow us to actually hear you, not me, not ourselves, but you. And, God, would you this morning do the very thing this parable is talking about. Would you take your word and scatter it among us, that it might bear fruit. By your Spirit, in Jesus’ good name, amen. 

If you were with us three weeks ago, our clerk of the clasis, our denomination, was actually here preaching, and he said something in passing that I thought was very insightful. He said that Mark is like the action movie gospel. It’s like scene after scene after scene of quick action, and Jesus is going from thing to thing, from teaching to teaching, from place to place, and it moves fast. But, just like an action movie, the scenes that come before it, influence the scene in the present, and what we have come from is this rising tension that has happened, here. And, there are three things that I want to take some time to look at when it comes to this parable, cause this is the first time, at least in the gospel of Mark, that parables are used by Jesus. The first one is that there’s a disturbance that this parable causes, we want to look at the details - the facts and figures - of the parable, and we want to look at the depth of the parable, the deep meaning and the application.

First, some context, cause context is king when we are trying to interpret. That rising tension I just mentioned is really surrounding not around the people, per se, but around the religious leaders. The religious leaders have their eyes on Jesus, and they don’t like what he is about. They don’t like what he’s saying, they don’t like what he’s doing. Jesus is going around healing people, freeing people from demonic oppression, forgiving people. But, the ministers of the day, the pastors of their day, the religious leaders, were not too keen on the subversion of their authority by Jesus. They didn’t like their influence being attacked. Because, the people in Mark talked about … we’ve never heard anybody teach like this. We’ve never heard anybody with this kind of authority. And, that cut right to the heart of the religious leaders, saying, well, wait a minute … I’ve been teaching for years, and no one's ever complimented me about my teaching. They’ve never talked about how I have authority, but yet this man from Galilee, this no name from Galilee, the people are following him, so much so that Mark says here that the crowds were so large that Jesus had to get on a boat and get away from land so that everyone could see and hear him when he spoke. 

See, this conflict was not just with the religious leaders, though, but with his own family. If you remember in prior weeks, we talked about that Jesus’ own family thought he was crazy, and they came just prior to this section of Jesus talking in parables here, they came to arrest him, to take him back into custody and say, we’ve got to take this guy home. So, this context we find ourselves in Mark, it’s been action scene after action scene after action scene, yet now we slow down, and Jesus starts telling stories, and Mark takes the time to say, not only am I going to tell you this story, but I’m going to tell you what Jesus said in explaining the story. And, what is going to happen here, is that Mark in his gospel is trying to slow down and tell us something important. He’s trying to show us, how is it that smart, learned, religious people who ought to know and expect a messiah, and how Jesus’ own family who have known him his whole life and have watched him grow and act, can reject him when he’s right in front of them?

Jesus tells this parable about the reality of rejection. How can this be true? How can people, in spite of the evidence that’s right in front of them, in spite of Jesus’ character, in spite of his miracles, in spite of his teaching and authority, in spite of everything he’s demonstrated, how can they reject him outright? See, when I first started interning, I started interning at a church out in Banning when I was 16 years old, and I wanted to pursue working in full time ministry at 16. Had I known then what I know how, I probably would have said … I should find a better job, easier job. But, see, one of the first things that was told to me - advice, if you will - as I started interning at church and working with, like, junior highers and high school students, was, when you’re going to talk or preach, you want to make it easy for people to understand you. You want to share lots of stories, so that people can follow. You want to be relevant. But, if you read with us this morning already, Jesus doesn’t do that. In fact, Jesus makes it harder to understand. 

Why does he do that? This passage seems to fly in the face of all the advice that I got as a young man. So, who’s right? My counselors, or Jesus? Jesus. Good. Someone’s listening, yes. This parable, I would suggest to you, is a parable about parables. Jesus uses this parable to talk about why he speaks in parables. And, the background here - if you notice in your Bibles, verse 12 of chapter 4, Jesus quotes something to them, from Isaiah 6 … 

Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

—Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV


And, in Mark 4, verse 10, right before he quote that passage from Isaiah, it says … And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand” … 

See, this parable is a parable about parables. In fact, later on in the next passage that we’re going to get into next week, Mark 4:34, it says that … from this point on, Jesus did not publicly teach without a parable … so, there is something that is happening in this parable that’s significant, and I think the key to unlocking what Jesus is talking about in his words here is starting at us right here. It’s from Isaiah, and if you go back to the beginning of Mark, what’s the first thing that happens in chapter 1? You can look there, it says … The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “I send my messenger before you, prepare the way, the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight …” See, Mark explicitly, and in Matthew and Luke, implicitly, they are saying something about Jesus. They are saying that Jesus is fulfilling Isaiah’s words. And, if we go back to Isaiah and his commissioning by God, God tells Isaiah … go to your people, and they will hear but not understand, they will see and not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, make their ears heavy and blind their eyes lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed … That’s Isaiah 6. 

See, while all the gospels rendered this command as slightly different ways, it all captures the basic essence of Jesus’ words here in Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord and is charged to go preach to the nation. He spent his life proclaiming the impending judgement and the coming messiah, and the restoration of the remnant. But, God tells them right at the beginning of his ministry, that you’re preaching is not going to be received. In fact, the opposite result is going to take place. More people are going to be unresponsive. See, when Isaiah entered into his ministry, God told him that what you preach is going to stir faith in some, but most are going to be hardened. And, the Lord tells Isaiah in his ministry that is by design. In God’s mysterious plan, he is causing division between the repentant and the unrepentant. And, when Jesus comes onto the scene, especially in the gospel of Mark, Mark is saying that Jesus is taking up the same kind of ministry as Isaiah, it’s going to have the same result. 

So, what is Jesus doing in this parable? First, he’s identifying himself as a prophet, because he’s using Isaiah to talk about his ministry. But, what he is saying is that the culmination of Isaiah is being brought forth, it’s being brought in. The kingdom of God that was talked about in the Old Testament is now in their midst. And, when he does that, when he starts speaking the way he does with authority, and now speaking with parables, it causes hardness of heart, it causes a disturbance. So, let’s dig in here to the disturbance of this parable, yes?

I. THE DISTURBANCE OF THE PARABLE (Mark 4:10-13)

We know the context. What’s causing the disturbance? It’s in Mark 4:10-13, let’s just read it again … 

… And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? …

See, Jesus is trying to weed out true and false disciples here. Now, here’s the question … Jesus often includes elements in his parables and teaching that were shocking. And, by shocking I mean that he speaks in a way that goes against the normal conventions of the day, the way people would expect things to work. Just off the top of my head, you know, the parable of the prodigal son, the reaction of the father and the actions of the son, it flies in the face of the cultural conventions of the day. Noone would go to their father and ask for their inheritance early. And, no father would run out and be quick to forgive someone who did that. The good Samaritan, right? The Samaritan is the one who has mercy, the people who are enemies of Israel, and the Levite and the priest who we would think of as pastors of their day, ignore the needs of the man who’d been robbed. The two debtors, the one who owed much and the one who owed little, and the weeds where Jesus tells the parable of the weeds that are amongst the wheat and the farmer tells his workers, don’t pull out the weeds, just let them grow. All of these things, when Jesus talks in parables - and this parable especially - every single time Jesus talks in parables, there’s always something in the parable that is shocking, that people go, that just doesn't make sense. That doesn’t sound right. That sounds like it’s the wrong thing to do. 

So, what is it in this parable that is shocking? What is it that flies in the face of our conventions, or at least the conventions of that day? What is it? Is there something miraculous going on here? I would submit to you that there is, and it’s the harvest. The fruitful yield, here, is the shocking result. See, the agricultural return here - now, how many of you guys are farmers? Do you count tomatoes as farming? Most of us don’t make our living by farming, and most of us get our food not from our backyard, but we go to the grocery store. So, we’re many years removed from this kind of lifestyle, and we’re many layers removed from this kind of living. And so, we forget how growing things work.

See, I think as modern western readers, we forget the shocking results that are talked about here from the sower and the seed. I have a picture here I just want to remind you of. This is wheat, you may not have seen it not in a loaf of bread, but this is where it comes from. And, I was doing some research on wheat and grains, and I don’t know if you can kind of see, he’s kind of holding two bunches here, but most of the time on a head of wheat like that, you would have 15 to 20 grains of wheat, little seeds. And, that means that when you go out to sow seed, one seed produced one grass, and one grass would produce 15-20 heads like that. Now, I couldn’t find records, but I did find this as I was researching, that in the middle ages, in the year 1250, in Britain, there were some parchment documents that talk about the yield and return on wheat and barley. And, what I found was that in the year 1250, farmers, on average, would get a 17 to 1 return. So, that means if they gathered their harvest and they would set aside some of the seed for the next sowing, they would get 17 back for each 1 bushel of barley, and that was considered good. 

Now, in the ancient near east, you would think that in 1250 years, farming technology had gotten better, and the return was probably a lot less, right? I mean, you have things like locust and mice and people walking by and just … I mean, Jesus just previous walked by and took some of the grains with his disciples, right? We just saw that. So, the return would be somewhere, let’s just say 12-15 to 1. So, when Jesus tells this parable, and he gets to the end of the parable and he says, the seed that fell on the good soil produced a return of 30, 60, and 100 … the original hearers would probably be saying … yeah, right. That is unbelievable. That never happens. See, and we know that Jesus is purposefully saying something shocking cause he’s trying to elicit a response from his readers. And, I think we’re on good ground to think that that is a major point that Jesus is trying to make, because the next parable after this that we’re going to be talking about next week in Mark 4:26, if you want to look at it, it says … the kingdom of God is if a man would scatter seed on the ground. He goes to bed and sleeps and rises night and day and the seed sprouts and grows, and he knows not how … See, in the next parable Jesus is going to highlight something to us about the reality of the fruitfulness of the harvest, and the farmer doesn’t know what causes it. 

See, in that day, everyone believed it was either God or the gods that were in charge of the harvest, right? They knew that. They assumed that there was something miraculous at play. They don’t know how things grow. So, for Jesus to talk about this kind of harvest was something significant, and he’s pointing to God’s providence, here, and he’s pointing to the fact that God is doing something miraculous. In 1 Corinthians 3:3-9, Paul later on reflecting on Jesus’ teaching, says this … 

“for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

—1 Corinthians 3:3–9 ESV

See, Jesus talked about the sowers and the seed and the soils, and Paul, reflecting on this later, uses that same kind of analogy and conflict of the church to say, don’t you recognize that you are God’s field? You are being grown, not by me, not by Paul, but by God. See, for Jesus’ audience, nothing is out of the ordinary of what he said here, until he gets to the end. And, Jesus, who’s making things harder to understand, and who is clearly talking about a miraculous return in yield on the fruit, that at this point, the people listening to Jesus would say, Jesus, you need to stick to your day job. You need to go back to being a carpenter, cause you clearly don’t know how to teach, and you clearly don’t understand how farming works. But, see, Jesus is trying to teach something, and he’s doing a really good job of it, and he’s teaching us about the nature of the kingdom. And, he’s doing it in a way that forces people either to stick around and be near to him, or doing it in such a way that they can write him off and ignore him, or maybe even worse, kill him. 

The parables of Jesus are dynamic stories that should draw us in to reflect. Jesus does not confine his teaching to just systematic propositions. He implicates the listener into the dynamic motion of the story, and just as Nathan in the Old Testament, arouses the moral imagination of David in calling out his adultery with Bathsheba, Jesus arouses the spiritual imagination of his hearers, that they might understand the nature of the kingdom. And, by choosing to speak to the multitudes in parables, Jesus reveals a deeper truth that we all really know about the teaching process, that if the content is made too easily accessible, we won’t actually learn it, because we were never forced to think deeply on it. Have you experienced that?

See, this is why in the age of Wikipedia and Google, and more access to information than we’ve ever had, are we smarter because of that? Are we wiser because of that? We live in an age where we can quickly and easily get access to any information and knowledge. But, why is it we’re not smarter or wiser? Why is it that we’re not more educated? Why are we not more adept at living? Why is it that we’re the dumbest age, right? Have you ever seen those man on the street things where people go out and they ask simple questions of, like, what’s the capital of the United States? And, people are like, I don’t know … Copenhagen, right? We have more access to information, yet we’re dumber than we’ve ever been. See, people don’t remember things if they know they can just go look it up. 

And, the parables of Jesus also remind us that learning does not always have an immediate result. That, acquiring knowledge, sometimes, is very slow. We build upon line upon line, precept upon precept. In fact, this is exactly what being a disciple is, right? Being a disciple is being a learner. And, sometimes the slow, cumbersome, and tedious work that learning is, is actually producing in us a greater return, because through difficulty, we grow. Because, the only thing that will sustain us when things are difficult, is the pure pleasure of the learning, itself, right? See, Jesus knows that it’s okay sometimes to leave someone behind, because he knows it’s not the end of the story.

Wisdom also involves keeping the long view in mind. Beauty takes time, fruitfulness takes time, eventually we know, if we read ahead in Mark, that the disciples did eventually get the aspects of the kingdom that Jesus wanted them to know. But, their knowledge was not immediately demonstrable, was it? We’re going to see here, in the future, that Jesus teaches things. In fact, we’re seeing that God actually divinely gives revelation to some of the disciples about who Jesus is, and in the next moment, they can’t take that knowledge and put it into practice when Jesus tells them, I’m going to die. So, there’s good news for us, yes? If you’re not learned, mature, wise yet, there’s time. As disciples, we make room for this long process that Jesus is about. 

See, I don’t know about you, but I have often gone back and thought about my parents, and teachers in my life who were trying to teach me something in the moment, and I missed it. And, it’s only years later, decades later, that I think back and I look, and I go … I see what they were trying to teach me. I get it, now. Thank you. Right? See, we should see a danger, here, which we’re going to get here in the details. We should see a danger, here, of getting it too quickly. Cause Jesus, in this parable, talks about growth that’s quick, and fast, but eventually dies out. So, let’s dig in to the details here.

II. THE DETAILS OF THE PARABLE (Mark 4:3-9,14-20)

We see that there’s a disturbance, and why does Jesus talk in parables? To cause this kind of disturbance in us, that we should want to stick around, to ask more questions. But, what are the details, here, of this parable? Look at Mark 4:3-9, and 14-20 … 

… Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” …

See, it’s important as we dive into the details of this parable, to try to make the most of what’s here, but not go beyond it. The first thing that popped into my head is what’s not here. Jesus does explain some things about the soil, but what does he not spend time explaining? Where does he not spend his time? He does not spend his time talking about the sower, his character, his heritage, how many years he’s been doing it, who his father was, where he got his land from. He doesn’t spend time talking about the technique, his casting method, his equipment. He doesn’t talk about the time of year, or the weather. He doesn’t talk about how the soil got that way. He just jumps in to talk about the soils. And, I think it’s wise for us to stop and say, how much of our time is spent talking about those things as a church? Our technique, the time of year, the weather, the equipment. He doesn’t spend any time talking about that, he talks about the soil. 

So, what do we see here in the soil? Let’s talk about it. The hard soil, right? Mark 4:14, what does it say in the explanation?

“The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”

—Mark 4:14–15 ESV

It’s the path. It’s the hard soil. And, the idea, here, is that the seed - before it could even go into the soil, it’s on the hard path, and it’s stolen away. And, Jesus actually says it’s stolen away by Satan. And, as I thought about this, I would ask you to reflect with me the reality here that, I don’t know about you, but I have a strong conviction of protection of defending my stuff, and my family against threats that come and would threaten to take that away. But, do I have the same conviction and eagerness and passion when I know that God is sowing seed and that the enemy is taking that away, do I have the same zeal to prevent that from happening as I do with my own stuff? See, if the sower is sowing the word, is sowing the gospel in the lives of people, and there are things that are actively keeping that gospel from penetrating deep into the lives of people, there are things that are obstructing that, do I fight against those things just as much as I fight against the things that are my own? 

See, for us as a church, we have unity with one another, friends. We are all called to defend one another, to preach the gospel to one another, and to remove those obstructions from one another. Do we do that with the same zeal that we would do for our own family, as for others, for our own stuff, as for others? 


The rocky ground, Mark 4:16 …

“And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.”

—Mark 4:16–17 ESV


See, the rocky ground here, the idea is that there’s no root. It springs up, but the roots can’t go deep. It’s shallow. And, Jesus says here in the explanation of the details, that it’s the hardship, it’s the tribulation and persecution not on account of where they’re planted, but on account of the word. So, when they receive it with joy, we would expect that. There should be joy. But, when hardship comes, it leads to apathy and hostility, and they shrivel. See, we all can point to probably ourselves and other people that we know have grown chronologically, but they have not grown spiritually, right? They have no depth. Time ticks on, and we see growth, we see some green poking through, but eventually it fades, yes?

And then, Jesus talks about the thorny ground … 

“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

—Mark 4:18–19 ESV

See, everything else around them in this one has roots already, right? He says it’s thrown among the thorns, and the reason why it can’t go anywhere is because all these other things already have deep roots, so there’s nowhere for it to go. It does try, it grows up, but eventually it’s choked out. And, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus - what does he say is the cause here? - the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches. Woah, Jesus, don’t talk about money. Right? Of all the things that Jesus could point to as why things get choked out, why does he go to money? He says it’s not just money, the deceitfulness of money. It’s the way money lies to you. How does money lie to you? See, money and wealth, more than anything else, can actually functionally prolong your life. It can protect you. It can help you have control. Wealth, more than anything, can effectively replace our need for God, right? See, if you have money, you can actually have access to better health care, and better food, and better medicine. And, you can have a bigger, more safe house, and safer vehicle to drive, right? You can actually extend your life with money, to some extent, right? You know, more people die in the world from just lack of access to fresh water than anything else. So, with money, you can have that. You can have clean water. But, Jesus says it’s deceitful, the riches. Right? Because, we’re deceived about money. Because money actually can do those things, we think that’s enough. 

See, money actually produces two things in us. It can produce significance, and it can produce safety and security. And, people who get significance from their money, spend a lot of money, right? Because, they want to feel important. And, people who get their security from money actually don’t spend any money. They save it, because it’s their security. And, both of those are lies. Both of those are deceitful. You cannot extend your life with money. You cannot have true life with money, and you cannot be safe because of money. They are the ones who get choked out, because money has a deeper root than God. 

Lastly, Jesus gets to the good soil … 

“But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

—Mark 4:20 ESV

See, the good soil that the seed goes in, and it goes in deep, and roots can go deep, and that’s why there’s fruit. Let me ask you this … how many of the seeds grew? Three of them. Three of them actually grew, 75% of them. Want to know something else? 75% of them didn’t have fruit. So, those 75% of them actually grew, only 25% actually bore fruit, and this is the point of the parable, right? We should really read that last sentence before we read the rest of the parable, cause it informs everything else. That 25% of the seed produces a return of 100 fold? Are you kidding? See, if you’re hearing this, and like the listeners that first heard this, you’re immediate thought should be … that’s miraculous. That’s a miracle. How could that few of seed produce that kind of return? Only God could produce that kind of return. 

See, Jesus says here, by what he emphasizes, that it is not about our technique, or trying to change ourselves or the ground. He stops and says, it’s God’s providence that’s on display, here. So, this turns, now, to the depth of this parable, the meaning behind it, the application for us, the depth of the parable.

III. THE DEPTH OF THE PARABLE (Mark 4:14-20)

It’s the depth that is the determining factor. It’s the thing that unifies all of that. The reason why things grow up and die, or go nowhere at all, or actually produce fruit, is because of the depth. And, when we read the beginning of this parable, it says something that you probably would not know unless you’re reading from the Greek, but in verse 3 of chapter 4, it says, before he starts teaching this parable … listen, listen. It’s the world shama from the Old Testament. Do you know the shama? It’s … hear, oh Israel, listen, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one … He’s using the same language from the Old Testament about hearing, and not just hearing. Because, again, the idea of listening or hearing, that shama word, is know, understand, live as if it is true, that God is our Lord, and he is one. 

And, Jesus uses that same language, here, to say, listen and hear this parable. Live as if it were true. All other activities of the church are subservient to the proclamation of the gospel, is it not? Everything we do should be to plant the gospel. This is why if, indeed, everything is subservient to preaching and planting the gospel, why we can celebrate things like Bible Camp. If you were with is for the week, you know. And, if you got to pop in, you know that on the surface it looks silly, what we’re doing, right? We’re playing games and reading stories with kids. Is that really going to go somewhere? Is that really going to produce fruit? Well, in God’s economy, yes. It will. This is why we can be celebratory of what was going on in San Bernardino. It was not a waste. Because, we see that we risk, we go and our job is to plant. Our job is not to determine the outcome. This is why we can be okay with paying for an empty building for a while. Right? Are we wasting money?

See, everything becomes subservient to planting and preaching the gospel. And so, from the outside, it can look silly, it can look wasteful, it can look risky, it can actually look like there’s nothing happening, but we plant on. Because, depth is the most important thing, let’s think about this. Let’s put our farmer hat on for a minute. What grows first? The roots. Do you see that? Do you see roots? You don’t see them. Roots grow first. What is unseen comes before what is seen. And, I would say to you, maybe you are here for the first time, that actually it is a miraculous work of God that you are just sitting here this morning. And, that’s all that we see. It is small, it is unassuming, but it’s something that God is doing, because we know that seeds produce roots, and roots produce shoots, and shoots produce trees, and trees produce forests. And, something small can have a return of 100 fold, because it is God who produces the growth.

Patience, slowness, steadiness, organic growth is slow growth, but it is also the healthiest and the most fruitful. Do we really believe, like Isaiah 55 tells us, and as this parable is teaching us, that all we have to do is scatter it? Do you believe that? See, for others of you, there’s a warning here. There's encouragement, right, that roots grow first. So, sometimes we don’t see growth, but God is at work. But, there’s also a warning here, that some of you might have been growing for a long time. There’s a lot of green, but there’s no fruit. 

See, the theology behind this parable is that the Lord’s sovereignty in salvation is puzzling, but ultimately glorifying. The seed of the gospel is freely and lovingly scattered to any and everyone, and it is a soil that matters. God, alone, is the one who prepares the soil to receive the seed, and this is very freeing, is it not? It is freeing for me. It ought to be freeing to you, because you are not in charge of the yield. Jesus is still the king, even though his kingdom does not grow as fast as we expect, as large as we would expect, or when we expect, or where we expect. We do not need to worry about the percentages, or the numbers, we do not need to worry about waste or risk. We do not need to let our technique trump anything. We are just called to sow.

That should be freeing to you, because for some of you, you think your job is to get all the rocks and the weeds out of the field. You’re unhappy because you have forgotten that you are not the gardener in this story, you are the soil. You’re sitting there with thorns and rocks in your life, and you’re just saying … I need to get better at pulling these out. But, that’s not your job. Your job is to shama, your job is to hear, to live as it if it is true, that the gardener, the ultimate gardener, is the one who produces the growth. And, I am calling you - Jesus is calling you - to recognize that you are not strong enough for that job. That, you need the gardener in your life. You need to go to him and to say, I have rocks and boulders in my life, I have thorns in my life. I have the deceitfulness of riches in my life. I actually believe that I can extend my life and make it secure without you. 

Have you received the gospel? Has God prepared your heart to receive it? The harvest is miraculous because it is only God at work in the life of someone who can urge them to stick around and ask questions about Jesus, right? Jesus is looking for people who not just hear, but understand, not just see and perceive. And, in a moment, we who have received are going to come to the table to remind us that it is all about receiving. Our liturgy from Isaiah 55 reminds us that God has prepared a banquet for us that we can come eat and drink without cost, and without money, without price. That’s the definition of receiving, isn’t it? But, to him, it costs him everything to bring his gospel into our life, and the hard soil of our hearts. Listen to the end of Isaiah 55 with me … 

““For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.””

—Isaiah 55:10–13 ESV

See, friends, why am I getting emotional? I am guilty of putting my own metric on things. And, I am guilty of also assuming that just because I see some green, that I can ignore that. And, I am calling you, and Jesus is calling you, that if you do not have the fruitfulness of the gospel in your life, either because you’ve never received it, or because you’ve received it with joy but you have no depth, and no fruit, that you need to respond. You need to receive, without cost, without price. So, in a moment, we’re going to come to God’s table and we’re going to receive. And, if you have not done that, that table is not for you. But, if you need to receive, then I would encourage you to stick around, like his disciples did, and ask questions. I’m here, Pastor Matt is here, we would love to talk to you more about what that means to receive the gospel. Will you pray with me?

Father,

Help us, by your Spirit, to hear and understand ourselves, where we lack the gospel going deep into our lives and hearts. Would you help those who may never have received your Word and your gospel, to do so now, and would you help us, as a church, to have the long, fruitful view of your kingdom the way Jesus did. Would you help us not to assume that our technique, our stuff, and our experience, and our character is what you’re after, but you are after new hearts, and we can trust and rest in knowing that your Word will go out and be scattered, and it will not return empty, because you are good, and you are producing a miraculous harvest. Help us, God. In Jesus’ name, amen. 


Kingdom Authority-Full Sermon Transcript

Link to Blog

PASTOR: FORREST SHORT

SCRIPTURE READING

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

—Mark 1:21–34 ESV

INTRO (v21)

My name is Forrest, I’m one of the pastors here, and it is great to be with you on this Father’s Day. We are in our third week in a series on the book of Mark that we’ll be journeying in throughout the summer. And, last week we looked at the reality of the kingdom, that this kingdom is at hand, but that this kingdom is now, and not yet. That, it is here, it is within reach, and we get glimpses of it and tastes of it, and the reality of the kingdom breaks into our lives in different ways, but it is not yet. We have not yet experienced it in its fullness.

And so, from there, to this text this morning - starting at verse 21 - we see what that kingdom looks like. We see how that kingdom authority comes to bear in our lives, and how it’s fleshed out. So, we want to look first at the setting. This is a 24 hour period, actually from verse 21 through the end of the chapter. This is a 24 hour period, and we’re going to spend the next two weeks looking at this 24 hours, this day in the life of Jesus. But, there are four words in verse 21 that I think will give us our setting for the day, and our setting for our text this morning.

The first word is Capernaum. So, we see there in verse 21 … And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching … So, Capernaum was on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. All of this is taking place in the book of Mark all the way up to chapter 8, in this region of Galilee. And, Capernaum was a city of, it seems like, about 1500 people on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee. Jesus grew up a few miles southwest of Galilee in a little town called Nazareth. But, Capernaum can be thought of as Jesus’ homebase during his few short years of ministry. In fact, in one point in the book of Mark, it says that Jesus went home there, was most likely the home of Simon Peter. But, it was essentially his base for the few years of public ministry that Jesus was engaged in.

And then, we see sabbath. He comes into Capernaum on the sabbath. Now,  sabbath was the Jewish day for rest and worship, as many of us know, that ran from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. And, this was central to Jewish life, the whole life of the Jewish people, God’s people, revolved around this sabbath day. And, he comes to Cappernaum on the sabbath, and he goes into a synagogue. Synagogue was the hub of Jewish life. During the week, children would be educated in the synagogue and they would learn the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. And, they would study it, and then on the sabbath the village would come together for, essentially, a time of worship and teaching during the first part of Saturday morning.

And, they would do this in four parts. There would be prayer, then there would be the reading of the Torah, then there would be the teaching, and then there would be some kind of blessing of benediction for God’s people. So, Jesus comes into the center of Jewish life, and it says that he comes into it and he is teaching. Now, the synagogue gathering was very teaching-focused. That took up the majority of the time of worship. And, there was a ruler, normally, in towns where there was a synagogue, there was a ruler who oversaw the synagogue, but it was volunteer, he wasn’t paid, and he may or may not be someone who taught in the synagogue. So, he wasn’t necessarily a teacher. So, what would happen, often, is that visiting rabbis would come through, and these visiting rabbis would teach in the synagogue.

So, this is what Jesus is doing. He’s coming to the center of God’s people, the hub of the life of God’s people to begin his public ministry. So, that’s the setting. And, what we’re going to see as it unfolds, as we see what happens in that setting, is authority is the umbrella under which the rest of this chapter unfolds. And, what we’re going to see first, is there is an undeniable authority.

I. AN UNDENIABLE AUTHORITY (vv22-28)

So, it comes into this setting, and in verse 22 it says … And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out … Now, as we look at that, something may pop out to you like it did to me. On one hand, you have teaching that is so powerful, that is so authoritative that they are - it says - astonished at what they’re hearing. They’re astonished at his teaching. On the other hand, we’re not told anything about what he actually teaches. Do you notice that? They don’t unpack the content of his teaching. They don’t tell us anything about how impressive it was, or brilliant, or eloquent, or persuasive. It’s not even mentioned. You would think if the teaching is that authoritative, well tell me what he’s teaching! Cause, I want that content.

Instead, the text moves on immediately to the man with the unclean spirit. Which, is an impressive event - no doubt - but, at first glance, it’s not clear how this has anything to do with his teaching. Please, unpack his teaching for me. But, they’re saying the authority - it’s not that his content was not authoritative - it was - it’s just that the authority was not located in the content itself. Notice it says he … had authority, and not as the scribes … and, this sort of juxtaposition of Christ’s teaching and the scribes, helps bring to the surface a little bit for us what’s going on here.

The scribes were scholars. They were experts in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. I mean, they had the first five books memorized. They had spent decades studying. And, what they would do often, is their form of teaching would be to quote other rabbis as sort of the basis for their authority. So, in other words, they teach this content, and then they would say … Rabbi so-and-so, I learned this from them … or, quote another rabbi, to give their teaching some authority, some power. Which, to be honest, is usually a means of becoming an impressive teacher, right? If we’re going to be an impressive teacher, you teach from your area of expertise. Perhaps you point others to your years of study, your experience and how you came to expertise in this particular area. You might even point to … I studied under this particular person who was greatly influential and mentored me. Those are all good things. But, that’s the authority that the scribes had, and they’re saying … Jesus’ authority is different. This is not the same kind of authority that we usually hear, even from perhaps the best teachers that come through.

And, the difference is found in this word authority

Authority (exousia) = rule, power, dominion

In Greek, it’s the word exousia, and it’s not authority in an academic sense. It means rule, it means power, it means dominion. Notice the breadth of this authority. And, this is why, rather than expanding on these specifics of Jesus’ teaching, the narrative goes immediately to the man with the unclean spirit. Look at what happens starting in verse 23 … And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? … [again] … A new teaching with authority! [exousia] ... He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Mark is demonstrating that this is someone with real power. Notice that commanding the demon wasn’t done with hocus-pocus, or, you know, Harry Potter-type stuff, however we think of exorcisms or someone coming and having power over a demon. None of those things are happening here. All that happens is Jesus simply speaks, be silent, and come out of him. And, the man is delivered. The unclean spirit obeys.

What kind of authority is this? This is authority those in the synagogue have never seen. This isn’t, like, the typical authority of the scribes. This is a different kind of authority. And, I think the idea even underneath this power and dominion is that he teaches out of the original. In other words, as an author teaches. Right? We can talk about - speaking of Harry Potter - we can talk about Harry Potter all day, but if you go to the author, they’re going to be able to speak on it with a kind of authority that you and I cannot. That’s what’s happening here. The author of all creation is speaking out of that kind of authority. There is nothing in this world that is not subjecting him. And, while they cannot articulate it, they’re experiencing that kind of authority.

Now, this is the authority of an author, the one who we go all the way back to creation, Christ is creating. So, what are the implications, then, of this new authority? What are the implications, if this is truly an authority? That’s great, that’s powerful, but how does that come to bear in our life? What does that mean for us on a day to day basis?

So, the first thing we see is an undeniable authority, which leads to a healing authority.

II. A HEALING AUTHORITY (vv29-34)
We see this in verses 29 through 34 … And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John … remember, he’s just called them earlier in the chapter … Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them … The fever left her. He lifted her up. This is healing authority.

So, this is not just a new and different teaching. The authority doesn’t just come because he’s bringing a different aspect of teaching, though he is doing that. This authority expresses itself in healing, and in mending, and in renewing. This is the reality of the kingdom come to bear in our lives, in the lives of those who are his people. It is an authority that brings healing. That is what happens as the kingdom is fleshed out, is that the brokenness, it is the balm for brokenness. And, this is not just spiritual, though it does - a little later, I think it’s in the next chapter where it says he has the same authority, power - exousia - to forgive sins. It also comes to bear in the physical. This is not just spiritual healing, it’s healing that comes into his creation, into what is being created, his good creation. It’s physical, as well.

And, we can find great hope in this. I think one of the ways Christianity distinguishes itself from all other religious systems, is that it says stuff matters. The physical matters, or as people have put it in the past, matter matters. The physical is not just something to be done away with. And, this thinking - which, honestly, the roots of it kind of go back to something called gnosticism, which was really the first real heresy to gain traction in the early church and challenge the doctrine of the early church. It essentially said that material stuff is evil, it’s not good, and so it’s to be done away with. And so, we gain this spiritual sort of gnosis, secret knowledge to overcome and do away with this evil. I’m reducing it quite a bit, but that’s the idea there. It said that physical stuff doesn’t matter.

And, somehow, this has crept its way into the thinking of the church. That, somehow, we believe - I’ve heard it said in the church, I’ve had people tell me - oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s all going to burn in the end. Well, guess what? It’s not. It’s not all going to burn in the end. That’s not what scripture teaches. I mean, the reality is, what we do day to day life in the physical, it matters. That, in some grand, mysterious, beautiful way, that the work we engage in now, to join God, and seeing this healing happen, that as we join him, that there is - in some sense - this carries over, in some way, into the new creation. We don’t have all the lines and boundaries of that, but we do know that God is redeeming all things, and as we join him in his work of doing the physical things, that it matters.

The idea that the world will be done away with, that we’ll somehow, one day, be left floating away into this disembodied spiritual reality, is just not in scripture. It’s just not biblical, which is why Jesus’ authority is not just limited to his teaching, but it comes to bear in the physical realm. It comes to bear in healing.

C.S. Lewis has a good quote on this …

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: …He likes matter. He invented it.”

—C.S. Lewis

That’s great, isn’t it? He likes matter. He invented it. It’s good, it’s creation, and good. Yes, it’s been marred by the Fall and our sinfulness and the result of sin is brokenness that all of us experience. But, this matter matters. This is why there’s physical healing as he begins his ministry. He goes right to the physical. Matter is so important to God that his kingdom is marked, and his authority is marked by healing sick bodies. The death hear, the blind see, the lame walk, other gospels tell us very explicitly. We’re told in scripture to take care of the widow and the orphan, these very physical, broken realities that we’re to engage.

Sin has broken in to this world, though, and it’s left the world broken, right? And, we’re all touched by this. We know that. Author Zach Eswine includes these physical, broken realities that we experience, in something he calls inconsolable things. And, we all live with the measure, in the now and the not yet, or inconsolable things, and here’s what he says …

““Inconsolable things” are the sins and miseries that will not be eradicated until heaven comes home, the things that only Jesus, and no one of us, can overcome. We cannot expect to change what Jesus has left unfixed for the moment. The presence of inconsolable things does not mean the absence of Jesus’ power, however. Rather, it establishes the context for it. There in the midst of what is inconsolable to us, the true unique nature and quality of Jesus’s power shows itself to be unlike any other power we have seen.”

—Zack Eswine

That’s what they see in the synagogue. This authority, this healing authority. Who does this? We’ve never met anyone like him. And, it is true today. We can say the same thing, that Jesus, in the midst of the inconsolable things of life, has healing power that comes to bear in our lives. And, while not everything will be fixed here and now, it is coming one day. And, he is present with us here and now, in the midst of the inconsolable things.

So, is Jesus’ authority demonstrated in the midst of inconsolable things? We all have them, we can all name those things, can’t we? I’m 47, which for some of you, that’s really old. For my children, apparently, who call me an old man now, that’s like … dad has left, and old man has replaced him. I’m feeling my body do things it's never done. I’ve always been active, so I spent a half day, literally 6 months ago on a chain saw, and my shoulder is now just recovering, from four hours of a chain saw. I’ve run since I was in high school, and I’m having some crazy achilles tendonitis, that I’m limping for, like, three days every time I run. So, I’m not running anymore. So, I started riding a bike, but I kept lifting weights, and then last Friday I’m with my daughter lifting weights, and I’m doing deadlifts, and I went to pick it up, and my back went - pop! And, I went down to my knees and my daughter was like … what’s wrong with you!? I’m like, I can’t stand up, honey. Seriously. So, I walked out of the gym visibly injured, and the lady at the front door, she had the audacity to say ... I hope you had a good workout. Do you see me? No, I didn’t have a good workout. I want my $10 a month back.

This is the reality of inconsolable things. You know, I’ve probably played my last game of touch football in the park, because things start snapping and popping at my age when you try to go do that stuff. These things are true, and they’re not changing. I’m not going to go back to the physical way that I was at 25 years old - that’s not happening. That’s kind of a lighthearted thing, some of us have experienced inconsolable things and ways that, at times, feel unbearable.

So, how is Jesus’ authority demonstrated in the midst of inconsolable things? There’s a lot of debate in the church, oftentimes it’s between different camps. Like, if God’s kingdom is to come to bear now, then it’s God’s desire for everyone to be healed, 100% of the time. And so, it’s faith and sin are the only reasons that people aren’t healed. But, that has issues, because what do you do with … precious in the eyes of the Lord are the death of his saints … right? So, what we’re battling around is this reality of the now and the not yet.So, how does this healing authority come to bear in our lives, in the midst of inconsolable things?

First, there is a time coming - which goes back to the now and the not yet - when all sin will be done away with, and brokenness in every form will be healed. Where, everything that is wrong will be made right, and in some sense, all the wrongs of this world will be undone. I don’t know how, but Jesus in his healing authority will do that. So, it comes to bear in the now and not yet, that one day all things will be made right.

Second, his healing authority comes to bear in this … I think we should ask God for healing. And, I don’t just mean physical, bodily healing, though I do include that. We should ask God for healing, we should look for it. We should be grateful for it when he gives it, because I believe at times, in his authority and his wisdom, he gives it. So, let’s ask for it, and let’s be grateful when he gives it, because in doing so, we’re joining with Jesus and his prayer for the kingdom of God to come to earth, for it to be on earth as it is in heaven. And, we trust his wisdom in the midst of inconsolable things, as we ask for what seems best to us in the midst of it, informed by his word.

And, third, in the midst of inconsolable things, his healing power comes to bear in that the broken aspects of our lives are not defeats. Now, how do I turn to that? What do I turn to for the proof of that? Romans 8:35-39, and it’s all throughout scripture, but I think it really focuses on where our hope lines in the midst of things that feel like defeats …

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … [listen to these inconsolable things] … Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

—Romans 8:35-39 ESV

That’s how his healing authority comes to bear. There is no power, no ruler that is greater, that can undermine his authority, and his healing power that comes to bear in your life, his love for you is unshakeable. And so, in the midst of inconsolable things, where we can’t fix them, the physical brokenness of this world is coming to bear, the sinfulness of our own hearts is coming to bear in our lives, and is having ripple effects that we cannot seem to fix. We’re reminded that even in these things, we are more than conquerors. That, his love for us in these things is unshakeable, and it is bringing about our good, whether we can see it, or not. See, there are things in life that we can neither change nor soothe, but Jesus can, and Jesus does. And, we can trust him because of his healing authority.

So, his healing authority comes to bear in our life, but also we see - I think - another aspect. There’s much overlap here, but we also see his resurrecting authority.

III. A RESURRECTING AUTHORITY (vv30-31)

Inverses 30 and 31 …  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them … Now, we don’t know what happens to the demon-oppressed man, but we do know what happens to Simon’s mother-in-law. We see that she had this fever, and that Jesus literally lifted her up. Literally translated, he raised her. It means that he raised her. Everywhere in the book of Mark where someone is healed, this same word is used. In the next chapter, chapter 2, the paralytic is raised. In Mark chapter 5, Jairus’ daughter is raised. A boy with an unclean spirit is raised in Mark 9. Blind Bartimaeus, the beggar, in Mark 10. The same word is used in all of these instances, that they are raised. It’s the idea that they are going from death to life. The same word is used to describe Jesus being raised, his resurrection.

See, when Jesus demonstrates his undeniable authority of the kingdom, it doesn’t subjugate as our kingdoms of this world do. It doesn’t destroy as the kings of this world tend to do. It resurrects, it revives, it brings life. And, that’s what we see in Simon’s mother-in-law. Fever at that time was life threatening. It wasn’t like today, where you pop a couple pills and monitor it a little bit, and put a rag on your head. It was life threatening, it was no small thing. Notice what she does, though, what this resurrection looks like in the life of his people. When she is raised, when she is lifted up, it says at the end of verse 31 … and she began to serve them … Does that strike you?

We don’t know how sick she was, but it was bad enough that they told Jesus about it. She’s in bed, with fever, potentially deathbed. She goes from that, to immediately serving. Do you see the holistic reality of Jesus’ healing and resurrection life? It’s holistic. She didn’t just go about her own business. She didn’t just do what she wanted to do. She didn’t just think like I do when my back is out, about all the things that I could be doing, but I can’t because I can’t stand up straight. She didn’t go do those things. She immediately began to serve. She began to show hospitality, generosity. She began to serve the one with resurrecting authority in her midst, and in a sense, build this life-giving community right where she was.

When Jesus’ authority comes to bear in our lives, it gives us a new set of priorities. We’re drawn to hospitality, generosity, to meeting the needs of others before ourselves. These things are so unnatural to us, right? We, in life, tend to think life is about dominating. I use the example, oftentimes, of pro-sports. Our high school football coach used to say, when you score a touchdown, act like you’ve been there before. I think we’ve kind of lost that, right? Now we score a touchdown, and we’re flexing … I mean, I don’t score any touchdowns. They score a touchdown. They dunk on people - I still do that - not really, I don’t. They dunk on people, and what do they do? They stand over them and flex, right? They dominate. They want you to know that I have subjected you, that this life of Jesus, this rule of the kingdom is very different.

We get a new set of priorities, as Jesus raises us from death to life. We’re drawn to these things, and not because the resurrection has to be paid back. How do you pay back death to life? You can’t, you don’t. It’s not to pay anything back, it’s because it’s what we desire to do, because we have before us what our Savior has done for us. We begin to serve in the midst of inconsolable things because Christ has served us in the midst of our inconsolable things. And, that overflows into the life of one another, and the life of Emmaus church should be overflowing to the life of those that are outside of us. That’s the authority of the kingdom, and the resurrection of the kingdom.

But, here’s what’s crucial: In the midst of the inconsolable things of life, where Jesus has resurrected us, and we turn and we look, and we recognize the unbelievable amount of inconsolable things, we can begin to serve in ways that are less than God-honoring, and perhaps even less than effective. In the midst of the inconsolable things of life, we have to distinguish between busyness, and service. Because, busyness often masquerades as service. We can look like servants, we can look really busy, and actually not be serving the way we’re called to. I think immediately, of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 …

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

—Luke 10:38-42 ESV

So, here is Martha, probably looking to all appearances, a gracious servant. But, Jesus discerned differently, and gives her a gentle rebuke in the midst of it. He saw that Martha’s apparent service was actually anxious busyness. Anyone else ever feel that? Man, how often do I trade true, Christ honoring service for anxious busyness. I’m guilty.

I recently read a description of a busy pastor, but I think it can be applied to busy Christians, in general. It said that, actually, those terms should not go with one another. Because, she said, a busy Christian is a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him. This anxious busyness is a blasphemous desire to do God’s work for him. And, to kind of dig down on this, we go about our busyness rather than service, I think, for a couple reasons.


Now, I have to give a nod, too. Sometimes we look around at the inconsolable things in the world, and we become apathetic, because there’s just so much, we don’t even know what to do. And, that undermines our service. But, to busyness, specifically, which I think - culturally - the more we grow in the ability to office wherever we are, and to have access to anything and everything all the time, I think we’re more prone to anxious busyness, rather than just apathy, though I think both of them come to bear.

We go about busyness rather than service, I think, because of two main reasons. One, we become busy in our vanity. And, it may be hidden from us. Unless we’re asking the Lord to search us, we just begin operating in this way. We live in a culture where overflowing schedules and frantic pacing communicates significance, right? We say, oh look at that person. Man, they’re so busy. They’re just overwhelmed, they just can’t get it done. And, what’s underneath that a lot of times is just a little bit of, kind of, admiration and awe, right? Man, they just work so hard. And, hard work is biblical. Don’t get me wrong, we should be hard workers, and if we’re going to serve well, it’s going to mean hard work. So, busyness and hard work are not synonyms, right? Busyness is this anxious busyness that does not honor the Lord.

So, when we go by a restaurant and we see a line outside, and we see the waiters and waitresses and chefs running around like chickens with their heads cut off, we go, man, that’s probably a good place to eat. Look at the line, right? When you go by Caroline’s Cafe, and everyone’ sitting outside at noon waiting for that gigantic cinnamon bun or whatever it is … coffee cake? Sorry. Man, I can’t be in Redlands and not know that. Coffee cake! Right? That’s, like, twice the size of my head. Everyone’s waiting for that. We assume, immediately, that’s a place of significance, because there’s activity. But, activity - props to the coffee cake - it doesn’t necessarily mean that what’s happening there is significant.


So, what we do if frantic pacing and overflowing schedules communicate importance, in my vanity, I’m tempted to follow suit, because it communicates, somehow, my significance. Our lives should be full, they should not be full of anxious busyness. They should be full of service. Or, secondly, we go about busyness rather than service because of two reasons. We become busy in our laziness. Eugene Peterson says this …

“By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone”

—Eugene Peterson


What he’s saying here, is that if we do not have a focus for our service in the midst of inconsolable things, if we are not planned out, if we do not have a goal and then work back from there on how we are going to hem in our service so that we can reach that, he’s saying, if you don’t plan your life, everyone else will plan it for you, and you will end up being an anxiously busy person rather than a servant-hearted person. See, true service is doing the right things for the right reasons, right? It’s this overflow of heart out of what Christ has done for us, out of his healing and resurrection, out of that we serve, and we work.

So, perhaps this morning, you hear that and you think … man, anxiously busy describes me. I would encourage you to dig down on what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and maybe ask yourself some questions. What do I desire to do? What do I really desire to do in the midst of life’s inconsolable things? What do I desire to do? What am I good at? What do I have an opportunity to do, and what do I have the character to do? That, I go in the midst of it, and it doesn’t destroy me, it doesn’t wreck me. Think about those things, and then we begin to get some banks for the river that is our life of service and response to what the Lord has done.

So, this word here for serve … it’s the word used for deacon. And, it’s used in the New Testament to describe a broad range of acts and service. It’s one of the marks of the family of God, that we are to be deaconing one another, we are to be serving one another, and this is a telltale sign of the authority of God’s kingdom coming to bear in the life of his people. That, each member serves one another cheerfully and sacrificially.

So, it’s a service that is sourced in, and an overflow of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. So, in that sense, we’re all called to be deacons. There’s the office that’s distinguished in scripture, but there is the reality of us being deacons in the midst of a world full of inconsolable things. It’s a service that’s sourced in and an overflow of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served. Man, doesn’t that - the Jesus, the one with this authority, the author, he came to serve. He came to deacon us, to serve, not to be served.

There’s something that comes to the surface, the language of verse 26, as we bring this home … And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him … If you think about where else you’ve heard that, your mind would immediately go to the cross. Mark 15 describes the moment of the death of Jesus in almost the same words. In 15 verse 37, it says … and Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last … Literally means, there, breathed his last means his spirit was expelled. The only way Jesus would ever silence the demons and the inconsolable things of life was to be silenced, himself, for us. The way Jesus’ authority is experienced for us, is that Jesus gave up his authority. And, the authority of Christ means that those who are his can resist adding to the broken list of inconsolable things and resist hastily trying to do what only Jesus can, and instead join God in his work of healing and resurrection.

That’s the invitation for us, from this text this morning. Will we join God in this service, this deaconing of one another, overflowing to Redlands and the surrounding communities? That’s the invitation for us today, and so, we respond at Emmaus every week by coming to the table, to this very physical reality that the Lord has given us in his wisdom and his grace and his goodness, so that we can taste and touch and smell and experience this reality of the kingdom that comes to bear in the midst of matter, in the midst of this physical world.

And so, we come and as we receive it together, we experience grace. God meets us in this meal, and we once again - I would challenge us this morning - let’s come to the table, as we come once again, let’s coming saying, we gladly and willfully submit ourselves to your authority, that brings healing and resurrection. Let’s pray …

Jesus,

We are thankful for the body and blood of Christ. Lord, you came to serve. That is a mind boggling thing, that the one who created all would humble himself and take on flesh, come in the midst of this physical reality to bring healing and resurrection. Lord, to weave redemption throughout our work, God, what a beautiful thing that is. I prayed this morning for all of us who may be in the midst of anxious busyness rather than true service, centered upon you. Lord, would you remind us that there are things in this life that we cannot fix, that we cannot soothe. But, Lord, there is nothing like that in this world that you cannot fix, or you cannot sooth. Lord, I pray this morning we would once again come to you, and willfully and gladly submit ourselves to your authority, that you might raise us, again, to life so that the world may know that Christ has come, as we serve one another and serve the world around us. We thank you, in Jesus’ name, amen.


Gospel Community-Full Sermon Transcript

Link to Blog

PASTOR: MAX STERNJACOB

SCRIPTURE READING

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

—Ephesians 2:11-22, ESV

INTRO

Good morning, Emmaus. I’m Max, I’m one of the pastors here at Emmaus, and it is good to be with you this morning. Just one thing I want to clarify, is that those Mark guides, they’re for everybody. You don’t have to be in a gospel community. Get one, I know Forrest wants everyone to be in a gospel community, I want you to be in a gospel community, but these are for everyone. So, go get one, get yours today, it’s going to be helpful as we jump into Mark next week.

So, we’re in our fifth week of our Vital series, where we’ve been talking about, what are the vital things, the gospel distinctives that make the church unique? We’ve gone through several things already over the last four weeks, and we’ve gone over, basically, the who, the what, the when, the why, the how, and now we’re on week five, the where. So, where we’ve come from is we’ve talked about conversion, the why the gospel is proclaimed - that we should be not just convinced that the gospel is true, but we’re converted into believing the gospel is true. We have come from renewal, what the gospel does, it makes us new, we’re being brought back into God’s intention. We’ve talked about identity, about who the gospel makes us, that our identity is being transformed into the identity that Christ gives us. And, we’ve talked about rhythms of how the gospel transforms us where we put the gospel into practice through the rhythms of study, serve, share, and seeking sabbath, seeking after God and his rest.

And so, now we’re on week five, and the question that comes to us is community. See, when we talk about being a gospel centered church, and the vital distinctives that make the church unique, the thing we have to understand is that all of those things can kind of be done alone, right? Conversion is about you, renewal is about you, identity is about you, rhythms and what you put your hands to. But, God does not leave us alone. When he brings us under his son, he gives us a community, and the community is where the gospel shapes us. It’s the where of the gospel.

This all takes place, here, in many ways. In the book of Ephesians, where we’re going to be camping out this morning, the structure of this book is really primarily concerned with two things. Paul wants to make sure that he understands that the Christians he’s writing to understand that the vertical dimension of who they are has been dealt with. And, therefore we’ve been made right with God, we can be made right with other people, and now he’s basically saying that if God has converted you and renewed you and given you a new identity, and has set you free to practice the healthy rhythms consistent with his character, now in Ephesians here, Paul is going to answer a question of, where does this take place?

Now, I am not a sports guy. I have never really been into competitive sports, following sports, watching sports. But, there is one thing that I have learned in my rigorous study of sports, and that is this … the most important thing about sports is not what happens in the locker room, right? It’s not what happens in the huddle that’s the most important. It’s what happens out on the field or on the court that matters. And, what Paul wants us to remember as we get into where does the gospel shape us, is that it does no good for the church to just be good at doing church. It does no good for the church to just be good at the hour and a half time that we huddle together in here, and to say, you know, I’m really good in the huddle. But, out in the field, out where it matters, I have no idea what I’m doing.

And, Paul is concerned with that, and he wants us to know that this new gospel community that we are called into, is something that, we’re in it whether we realize it or not. You’re in the game whether you realize it or not. The question is, are you going to be prepared to actually do what’s necessary to see success in God’s definition of success? And, I will tell you that that task is all of life. And, because it’s all of life, it’s huge, it’s big, it’s bigger than I can go into in the time this morning. So, we need God’s help to help direct us this morning. So, let’s go to him and ask him for help this morning as we dive in here.

Father,

We do realize that the church is your bride. It belongs to you, and we, out of our gratitude and our faithfulness, and our desire to be obedient, the desire that you’ve given us to be obedient, we want to be a church that’s healthy. But, God, more than that we don’t want to just be a healthy church for an hour a week. We want to be a healthy church out in the world where you’ve placed us. So, would you help us this morning to see your word, to see you, and to see how the gospel shapes us, and how it shapes our community. We ask these things in your Son’s good name, amen.

THE COMMAND TO REMEMBER

So, if the gospel is concerned with where we actually go out and practice it, if you’re like me, you start to think immediately … okay, the gospel matters, I want to know the gospel, I want to live out the gospel, so what do I need to do? Give me a list. Are you like that? Do you like lists? [Congregation member: No.] No? Good. Good. Because, what Paul gives us here is not a cosmic chore list to do. I don’t know if you caught it, but this whole section, there’s not one thing that we’re told to do. Did you catch that?

There kind of is a command to do it, but it’s not something that you can actually just, you know, pick up and manipulate. The command that we’re given, here, is to remember. That’s the only thing we’re told to do in this passage. The whole rest of this paragraph is just talking about Jesus. It’s just talking about who he is, and what he’s done, and who we are. So, the command we’re given is not this chore list of, like, you’ve been brought in by the gospel, now get busy. He says, you’ve been brought in to the gospel, so remember.

So, the gauge by which we should be measuring ourselves is, are we good at remembering? And, I would submit to you that everything we do in this huddle, when we gather as a church on Sunday, the whole thing is about remembering. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what’s behind everything. It’s behind the liturgy, it’s behind the songs, it’s behind our prayers, it’s behind the preaching of the word. We’re called to remember. We’re actually commanded to remember, in Ephesians 2:11-12. Did you catch it? … Therefore remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh … and then in verse 12 … remember that you were at one time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world … He says, you want to know what it means to live out the gospel in community, where he’s placed you? It starts with remembering. Not forgetting.

Now, this passage in chapter 2, verses 11-22 here, it starts with … Therefore. And, it’s always a good rule - you’ve heard it many times here if you’ve been with us at Emmaus, whenever you see the word therefore, what should you do? You’ve got to look at the section that came before, right? And, what came before it? Well, it was actually in our liturgy this morning. Look at Ephesians 2:4-10 the passage right before it. It says …

… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them …

—Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV


So, when he says therefore, he’s saying, I want you to keep in mind what just came before. This reality, that we just read, is the thing that’s supposed to inform what we’re remembering, right? That’s what we need to remember. It is by grace you have been saved. See, often times we think that Christianity is about what we do. And, while there is good things that we should put our hands to, and good practices that we should have, and fruitful things of obedience that we should have parked out in our lives, the mature Christian is someone who is able to quickly and deeply remember who we were, and where we’re going, and who Christ is, and what he’s doing.

When we counsel people in community, when people come to you with their problems, the mature Christian is one that is quick to point them to remembering who Christ is. And, if you do that, many of the things on the peripheral, the things that seem huge or insurmountable, or the fires that seem they are going to consume you in the moment, they get put in their right perspective. It doesn’t look as bad. So, this morning we’re going to talk about three things that Paul here in Ephesians 2:11-22 tells us to remember. And, it’s these … remember that we’re designed for community, remember that there is distortions to community, and remember that we are redeemed to a new community.

I. REMEMBER: We are designed for community (Eph. 2:12,19)

So, I want you to recall and understand here that the way that he starts to illustrate this with us here is that he uses the conflict between Jews and Gentiles to illustrate here what the gospel in community looks like. And, I want you to remember, if you have studied your Bible for a while - and if you haven’t, let me bring you up to speed. The Jews and the Gentiles did not get along. Basically, if you were a Jewish person, you had two categories of people: Jews, and everyone else.

And so, this conflict that existed between the Jewish people and everyone else, is deeper, has gone on longer, and is more acute than any of those conflicts that we frequently see in our world, in our day. It’s bigger than North Korea vs South Korea, it’s bigger than Democrat vs Republican, it’s bigger than Easter vs West, Socialism vs Capitalism, it’s bigger than Black Lives Matter vs KKK. The conflicts that Paul is using to describe what it means when the gospel comes into a people and the community that comes out of the gospel, that conflict that’s been resolved is bigger than anything that we can understand today. It’s hard for us, because we’re not in that day. Most of us here don’t have that Jewish heritage that helps us fuel and understand what Paul is saying when he uses this as an example. But, I want you to see that this conflict is big.

So, how can Paul say that? If that conflict is as big as I’m claiming it is to you, how can he say, as he has earlier in this book of Ephesians, say that the church is a place where family relationships and gender relationships and economic and business, and all of the relationships we have, have actually been reoriented and recreated? How can he say that? How can God possibly bring together people who are that diverse?

Well, I think if I was to ask Paul that question, he would say this … that when we experience Christ, radical grace through repentance and through faith that he gives us, it becomes the foundational event in our lives. Now, all of those categories that I mentioned before about the conflicts we see in our day, they’re all stemming out of events that shape us, right? Conflicts that have existed in the past that shape the communities in the present. But, what happens is, I think Paul would say that when we come to Christ, that becomes the foundational event. Our history, our heritage, our language, our race is no longer the thing that identifies us. Now, when we meet someone from a different culture, a different class, a different race, who’s received that same grace from Jesus, we see someone who has experienced the same life and death event that we have experienced. And, therefore, we’re one. We have immediate commonality with them.

So, let’s get into this. Remember that you were designed for community. Look at verse 12 in chapter 2, and look at verse 19 with me … Remember that you were at one time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world … verse 19 … so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Now, if you just let that wash into your mind for a second, you realize that if he’s saying that you were separated from Christ and you were alienated, and now you longer are strangers, and no longer alienated, but are now members, what he’s implying here is that we’ve been alienated from someone, right? So, he’s implying here that you had a relationship, you were designed for a certain relationship, but something has happened that now you’re alienated. So, what’s happened? Paul has already answered this in the section before, right? That’s why we always to back when see the word therefore, in chapter 2 in the beginning. We did it in our liturgy. Remember that you are dead in your trespasses and sins. That’s what’s happened. You are actually dead.

You were, at one time, all humanity was connected with God, and because of sin, you are now alienated from God. And, it’s not that you’re just separated by distance, you are separated in the kind of category that’s the difference between life and death. See, human beings were created to be in community, specifically in the relationship between God who made them. And, if we go back to Genesis, we recognize that God - who himself is a community - a three in one community, made human beings to be like him and be made for community like he is in a community. And, we were made to be in relationship with him, but when we rebelled, we were alienated from that source of life.

But, the good news of the gospel that we preach is that the gospel we actually preach is God-shaped. To put it another way, the gospel is trinitarian shaped. What I mean by that, is the gospel we preach is shaped like the trinity, because it is all persons of the trinity at work in us, and for us. See, did you catch the trinitarian language in Ephesians 2:11-22? I want to read it again. We’re going to be reading a lot of Ephesians, but I want you to read it with me again, cause it’s just so good. It’s, like, woven in there like an intricate tapestry, and I want you to hear it. Read it again with me and I want you to listen for that trinitarian language. Listen for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit language in here …

… Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit …

—Ephesians 2:11-22, ESV

See, what Paul is getting at in this passage, is that the results of what he’s describing here, results in a human community that’s new, that’s trinitarian shaped. If the gospel comes from God who’s a trinity, and the gospel itself is the trinity at work, then the results of that would be a community that’s trinitarian shaped. It should look, and feel, and operate as the godhead does, that we are united but different, that we defer to one another, but there’s no hierarchy, that we love without fear of being rejected, that we serve people's needs without being motivated to be made sure that our needs our met.

If the gospel is trinitarian shaped, then what happens - just like what we do with the trinity - is we try to kind of reduce it down, to make it understandable. Right? I’ve served with the kids for a while, the tension when you come to things like the Trinity and try to explain that to kids, you’re like, well, I’ve got to make this make sense, so I’ve got to reduce it down. But, inevitably when they start to reduce it down, it gets distorted, right? So, what that means is that if we’re designed for community and the gospel is coming into that community, and he’s making a new community, and it’s coming from the trinitarian God, and it’s shaped like the trinity, and the community it makes is like the trinity, that’s a big idea.

And so, what we do sometimes in church, or in our lives, is we say … that’s too big to bite off. It’s too big to explain, so what I need to do is I need to reduce it down. And, what ends up happening is we end up distorting it.

II. REMEMBER: There are distortions in community (Eph 2:14-16)

So, the second thing we need to remember is that there are distortions to community. See, remember the conflict that Paul uses to illustrate this is the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles. But, what the gospel comes to do in the world is not just to reconcile those two warring factions, the gospel comes into the world, and the cross comes to put away and to get rid of all of the warring factions in the world. Look at verse 14 with me … For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing the law and commands expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body, through the cross, thereby killing hostility …

See, we are designed for community, but the Bible calls that reconciling, that peace that he keeps talking about here in Ephesians 2, the Bible’s category for that is shalom. It’s a peace where all the broken bits are put back together, where alienation no longer exists. But, we all know - if you’re like me, we can say, yeah, that’s the reality, but I still fall back into my sinful habits. Do you? Just Mark, I guess. [Mark from congregation: every day.] Do you? I do. Why does that happen? Why does God’s peace, why does God’s shalom, that the gospel has been proclaimed to actually bring about, why is it not here yet? Why is not all fixed?

See, we continue to vandalize God’s shalom with our sin, and Christians do this. Christians fall right back into their distorted views. And, see, here’s the thing … it’s not always these overt warring factions like Jews and Gentiles that could distort community. It’s subtle things. It’s subtle substitutions, subtle emphases that take over, which is why we need to remember that distortions exist in community. If you remember that that’s a possibility, you can be a little bit on guard against it. So, let me share with you a couple distortions that come up.

And, an example of this from the Bible - just to help you feel a little bit better about yourself - is Peter. Peter’s the good friend of Jesus, right? Peter, in Galatians 2, is called out by Paul for a specific thing that he’s doing. Peter - who was a Jewish Christian himself - began to back away and remove himself from eating and meeting with Gentile Christians. And, Paul calls him out. And, Paul calls it out not just like, hey, that’s a bad idea. He says, it’s sin. And, the way that he describes it is this … He says, Peter was not instep with the gospel. See, Peter had good theology, right? We would all agree with that. He knew this stuff, but it did not prevent him from falling into a distorted community. It did not prevent him from falling back into his old ways. And so, if it happened to Peter, you can be darn sure it’s going to happen to us.

So, we need to be on guard for these things. There’s a great quote in Dietrich Bonhoffer’s book Life Together, which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it. It talks a lot about Christian community. He says this beautifully …

“Christian community is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate…He who loves his dream of community more than the community itself becomes the destroyer of the later, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

—Dietrich Bonhoffer in Life Together

Why is this distinction important? What does it look like when a community of Christ followers fall back into distorted views? See, at Emmaus, we believe gospel community is unique, and it’s important. It is grounded in theology, and it is worked out in our lives. But, we know that just like Peter, we can get our theology right, but we easily can bring in our assumptions about community to it. And, when we do, we distort community because it misses God’s fullest intention for his people. So, let me share with you just a couple things that might help bring this to the forefront for us.

Distortion #1: Christian Community as Connection

One of the distortions is that community is just connection. See, one of the things we can believe is that Christian community is just about connection. And, when we make it about connection, is that basically it becomes about networking, it becomes about social gatherings. It’s about being casual, offering lightweight assistance to one another when it’s appropriate, but it’s really about convenience. But, when things get difficult, what happens? What happens is, the difficulty becomes the sinner of why we’re gathering, why we’re a community. And, we forget, what is it that we’re actually surrounding ourselves around? What do we belong to? What actually unites us?

See, if our goal is just to have connection, that when any conflict comes up, then our whole foundation falls apart. And, the goal of good Christian community is transformation, and therefore we can’t have it if we’re only connected around something that connects us, say, like, a hobby, or homeschooling, or our job, or we’re all retired. Right? As soon as the thing that connects us, that thing that maybe we have in common with one another breaks down or comes under attack, then all the community is fractured.

Distortion #2: Christian Community as Therapy

The other distortion that can happen is community as therapy. Now, what happens here is that groups pursue, you know, being vulnerable and being honest, and actually calling out sin and attempting to help one another with the things we struggle with. And, that’s important, that should be something we pursue in community, but what happens is we become so focused on talking through and helping the issues we’re struggling with, that that becomes the thing that taints and flavors everything that we’re doing. We get together and all we do is talk about our problems, when we should be talking about Jesus.

Remember, what’s the command here? To remember our problems? To remember Christ. Right? Remember, remember, remember.

Distortion #3: Christian Community as Bible Study

One of the other distortions is that Christian community can become just a Bible study. Should we know our Bibles, should we study our Bibles? Obviously, right? But, what happens in these groups is that the distortion comes in when it becomes all about just transferring information, rather than being transformed ourselves. When we get together and all we talk about what the Bible says, or what the pastor says, verses letting the scriptures actually dive in and pierce our lives, and if we fail to connect God’s word to our lives, then what we’ve done is we’ve basically set aside that goal of transformation, the goal of this community that Paul’s talking about, for the sake of just gaining knowledge and facts.

Distortion #4: Christian Community as Clique

The last one I want to share with you is that Christian community can be distorted into community as a clique. And, this one I think is probably the most nefarious. And, I say that because we all desire to have deep relationships with people, do we not? Nobody’s really satisfied with just the casual, cursory pleasantness with one another. So, we desire deep relationships, but what we end up doing is, because we desire deep relationships, we start to exclude people who we don’t know yet. Right? When you’ve known someone for five, 10, 15, 25 years, someone new coming into that dynamic, there’s no place for them, right? Because, ti’s like, how can I catch you up to speed on 25 years of a friendship? So, we don’t do it overtly, we just slowly kind of … you know? We just … it’s not overt, it’s not a punch in the face and, you know, be on your way, it’s just, we turn away. Because, we gravitate towards the people who are like us. We gravitate to the people who we know, who know us.

But, what we just heard in Ephesians 2 here, is that he has removed alienation. He says, we are no longer strangers. So, if we are no longer strangers, what right do we have to make strangers of other people? We don’t. I would go so far to say, like Paul said to Peter, that you are in sin if you do that. You are out of step with the gospel.

See, all of these aspects of gospel community are important, right? We need to be connected, we need to study, we need to work through trauma, we need to work through sin, we need to go deep and be safe, right? You can’t have good Christian community without those things, but when those things overtake and substitute the radical unity that Paul’s talking about here, that comes from true access to the Father via the Son, by the work of the Holy Spirit, we fail to let God transform his people into the new man that he’s talking about here.


See, we are so desperately afraid of being on the outside, of not having access, that we will gladly substitute one of these things because it’s something. Because, it makes us feel good. Because, they seem better, or because it comes naturally to us. But, that is a substitute that God says, no. No. He says, you have been seated in the heavenly places. Why would you substitute a clique for that? Why? Because, it’s in front of us. See, he says, that reality is coming, and it’s hard sometimes to see that as the reality because it’s not right in front of us. That’s why he says, I’m commanding you to remember.

You fall into these distortions and substitutions when you forget. Dietrich Bonhoffer says this in that same book, Life Together …

“without Christ we…would not know our brother, nor could we come to know him. The way is blocked by our own ego.”

—Dietrich Bonhoffer in Life Together

See, apart from Christ, I’m not saying you can’t have relationships. I’m not even saying you can’t have good relationships. But, I think what Paul would say to us is that you can’t have those relationships that you are actually designed for. So, that leads us to the third thing we need to remember.

III. REMEMBER: We are redeemed to a new community (Eph. 2:14-22)

A new one. See, it’s not just a subsection of an old one. It’s a new one. Paul uses the language here of a new man out of the two. See, it’s important to remember that if it’s new, it means it’s not just the best parts of old ones cobbled together in a way that is peaceful. He’s saying, it’s actually a whole brand new thing that God is doing. I don’t know if you heard it, we’ve read it several times now, but Paul uses specific language. He uses specific language of dividing wall of hostility, and far off, and near, and strangers, and aliens, and the dwelling place of God, and, like, why is he using all of this language? He’s using it because he, Paul, as a Jewish Christian himself, has the whole Old Testament in his mind when he’s writing this letter to the Ephesians. And, he has that in mind because he’s using this as an example to bring and illustrate what he’s talking about.

We already mentioned shalom is peace, right? Shalom = peace. But what is this peace that he’s talking about? Well, this idea of dividing wall of hostility, I have a picture I want you to see. It’s a picture of the temple. You see those big walls? That was there to basically cordon of and section off, this is God’s temple, God’s dwelling place, and that was sacred, it was special. And, you had to get access into that space. But, there’s something that was actually inscribed on the outside of that temple and I want to show it to you. They actually found it. It’s the next picture.

How many of you guys read Greek? Let me translate it for you. Basically, it says that if you’re a gentile and you cross this wall, this boundary, you could be killed. It’s basically a warning. It’s an inscription saying that if you’re a Gentile and you cross over that wall into God’s house, God’s dwelling place, you’re putting your life in your own hands. Paul is referring here to the dividing wall of hostility as that wall that separated the Jews and the Gentiles. He’s saying, before Christ, if you tried to get access to him - to God, you would be killed. But, now Gentiles were not allowed in, but now they are. He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. He has brought peace between those factions.

See, but the biggest problem that Paul is getting at here - and it’s subtle, but it’s important. He is highlighting something that he wants us to remember. It is not enough to just be brought near. We need to be brought in. I have another picture I want to just show you to just help illustrate this. You have God, and you have Israel, and you have the nations. And, Israel and the nations are separate, right? And, the language Paul uses here, is he says, he went and preached to those who were near, and those who were far.

Now, let me ask you. Why did he have to go preach to those who were near? Cause, they weren’t in! They were near, but not in. The nations and Israel are both in the same place, ultimately. They’re both not in. He came to preach to those who are near, and those who are far.

See, sin separates us from God, and it doesn’t matter how near you may be to God. If you’re not made right with God, you’re still out. And, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been near to God your whole life. This is especially true if you’ve had kids, right? My kids come with me to church every Sunday. They’re near to God. They’re near his people. Are they in? See, now you see my posture is different with them, isn’t it? The way I relate to my kids, the way I relate to others when I see that we’re all in this predicament changes. I don’t assume anything. I don’t assume that just because you might have been in church for 40 years, that you’re in. You could be near for 40 years and not in.

Do you see the distinction? See, sin separates us, but what we need is we need access. We need access. Where do we get access from? Well, the prophets in the Old Testament talked about this reality, talked about this dividing wall of hostility being torn down, talked about the day that God would bring all things to be made right. And, I want to read this text to you from Isaiah. We’re going to read Isaiah 57:14-21. This is the context that Paul has in his mind, the day that it’s being talked about, the day of Christ. I want to read it to you, listen for it …

… And it shall be said,

“Build up, build up, prepare the way,

   remove every obstruction from my people's way.”

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,

   who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

   and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

   and to revive the heart of the contrite.

For I will not contend forever,

   nor will I always be angry;

for the spirit would grow faint before me,

   and the breath of life that I made.

Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,

   I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,

   but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

   I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,

   creating the fruit of the lips.

Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,

   “and I will heal him.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea;

   for it cannot be quiet,

   and its waters toss up mire and dirt.

There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” …


—Isaiah 57:14-21, ESV

See, there is no peace for those outside. And, Paul has this in his mind when he’s reading Ephesians. Peace, peace to the far and to the near. I want to read a quote to you, it sums it up very artfully, about the vision that the Old Testament prophets in Isaiah had in their mind …

“Isaiah and the other prophets in the Old Testament, “dreamed of a new age which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made smooth. The foolish would be made wise, where the powerful would be made humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run deep with new wine, all weeping and grieving and striving would cease, and people would not go to sleep with weapons under their pillow. They called out and proclaimed to the world that God was bringing about a time where all injustice would be made right, abuses of power corrected, where people could work in peace and be fruitful in their labor. Where lambs lay down with lions. They told of a time when men and women from all nations would come to worship God rightly.”

—Cornelius Plantinga in Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be

See, Isaiah saw this coming time, and what I’m telling you this morning is that time has come. It’s come in Christ. Paul is describing here is that if we are in Christ, we get actual access to God. We are not just brought close, we are brought in. And, when you are brought in, you must be radically and utterly destroyed. However, we have an advocate. We have the one that Paul is telling us to remember, right?

How can we have that access? It says, through him, by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:18-19 … For through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father, so we are no longer strangers and aliens … How do we have access? It has to be through him, through Jesus. He has to introduce us. I will tell you, what would happen if the president came to town, and you decided … I want to meet that guy. And, you decided, I’m going to jump this barricade, and I’m going to run as fast as I can toward him, and I’m going to introduce myself. What would happen? You’d be tackled at best, maybe worse … right?

Paul says we need access. We need to stop and to remember that Jesus is our access into the happy land of the trinity. If we try to go by ourselves, we will be destroyed. Now, one last thing. How does this apply to us? Because, we could stop right now and say, yeah, we did a good job remembering. Now what? And, some of you - maybe one of two of you - might be thinking, we’re starting the book of Mark next week, summer is starting, and actually most of our gospel communities are taking a break. So, where do we put this into practice? How are we supposed to do this, Max?

Well, I will say, as Matt talked about last week. We have rhythms at Emmaus, right? We strive to have rhythms. And, one of those rhythms is sabbath. One of those rhythms is seeking after God. To take this remembering practice and put it into our lives. And, that’s what summer is for. So, I will encourage you, you heard a whole litany of things that are happening at the church. We don’t expect you to be a part of all of those. It would be impossible to do that. But, we do ask you to take this summer, get a Mark journal, start reading the book of Mark. Find people who are in a gospel community and get connected if you’re not. Enjoy your gospel community, have BBQ’s, go to the beach, go bowling, play miniature golf, go to the men’s retreat, go to the marriage conference, right?

Maybe God’s telling you you need to be a catalyst for this kind of gospel community. Maybe you’ve never been in a gospel community, maybe you need to lead a gospel community. Maybe you need to host a gospel community. Maybe God wants you to actually be the catalyst that brings this kind of community that Paul’s talking about, into reality. Whatever it is, whatever it is, use this season that’s coming upon us to engage deeply so that you can commit in the Fall to live out this kind of picture that God has for us in community.

And, I will say this. In the spirit of not being strangers and aliens anymore, I know that as we have grown as a church, you tell me if this is true of you, you see people you don’t recognize, and you’re afraid because you’re like, if I go introduce myself to them, and they’ve been a member for 8 years, I’m going to look like an idiot. But, if the dividing wall of hostility has been torn down, then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. There is no offense there. If you don’t know somebody, walk across the room and introduce yourself. If we, through Christ, have been introduced to the actual life of the trinity, then you can walk across the room because we have the same experience, and start this pattern, start this reality of gospel community, where there is nothing that divides us. There is no stranger here. There is no alienation here. Engage deeply this summer, so that we might see a new fresh season of this gospel community this fall. Let’s pray.

Father,

We recognize that this community that you talk about is so big and so vast and so deep. We would do well to spend a majority of our time remembering and reflecting on it. But, we recognize that as finite human beings, we forget. We’re quick to forget, and we’re quick to substitute. So, would you help us today? Would you help us as a church. Would you help Emmaus be the kind of place that actually recognizes the access we have to you, and because of that can be radically hospitable, and radically connected and unified, not in a way that diminishes or distorts the differences between us, but that celebrates them and sees them all used for your glory, and for the preaching of the gospel of your son. We need your help. We cannot do this without you. Amen.


Gospel Identity-Full Sermon Transcript

Link to Blog

PASTOR: FORREST SHORT

SCRIPTURE READING

“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

—2 Corinthians 3:12–4:6 ESV

INTRO

Well, good morning! My name is Forrest, I’m one of the pastors here. And, it’s fitting on Mother’s Day, that we should talk about identity. Because, certainly, it is a temptation to make motherhood - and a myriad of things - our primary identity. We’ve been in the midst of a series called Vital, and what we’re exploring in this series, after we’ve come out of the book of Philippians, is the aspects that are crucial to our mission as a church. We’ve come through a season where we’ve experienced much grace, that God has given us much grace to merge two congregations together, and now we find ourselves doing life together and on mission together. And so, we thought it would be good to come back to what is central to Emmaus, what is central to the church, the biblical church, the people of God.

And so, we’ve looked at gospel conversion, we’ve looked at gospel renewal, and this morning we will look at our gospel identity. Many of you may remember this quote, Matt shared it about a month ago in one of his sermons. This is from Count Zinzendorf, he is not a vampire.

“Preach the gospel, die, be forgotten.”

—Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760)

Now, if you’re like me, you probably have mixed feelings about that quote, right? Preach the gospel … amen. Yes. This is the good news. I’m all about that. Die … I’m a little less excited about that one, but I do realize it’s a reality that’s coming. Be forgotten … that’s terrible. Like, really? Preach the gospel, die, be forgotten … is that what this is all about? That one stings a little bit, right? To be forgotten. Why does it sting? Let’s see if we can unpack it a little bit.

Here we are on Sunday morning, again, after one more week. We made it. We’ve made it through one more week. One more week of work, one more week of caring for the kids, one more week of marriage, and laundry, perhaps singleness, a paycheck, bills, maybe a little bit of downtime. And, perhaps, one more week of wondering if we’re really accomplishing what we hope to accomplish, if we’re really making a difference in anyone’s life, if the 50+ hours we put in at work really matters in the grand scheme of things, if all our effort to make our house a home, is worth it … if my life is really going to matter when it’s all said and done.

I mentioned on Easter Sunday, my grandmother used to love the soap opera, Days of our Lives, and I still remember the intro to that soap opera … Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives … That’s how it can feel, right? One day after the next, another day, another week, another month, another year, the kids are growing up … or, the kids have already grown up, moved out the house, I’m finding more wrinkles and more grey hair, and people I know and love are starting to pass on. It all feels like it’s fading quickly, and our accomplishments with it. And, to hear that we will just be forgotten feels like too much. It feels like too much to bear for all the work we put in.

And, I think the issue, here, the reason being forgotten stings, is an issue of identity. Now, when we say identity, what do we mean by that? It’s answering the question, who am I? But, I think even more specifically, our identity is where we locate our significance. It’s where we locate in our lives what we feel matters the most about us, what is most important about us. If our identity is rightly located, being forgotten loses its sting. But, often, our identity is misplaced.

In fact, what we’re going to see, is that before Christ, all of our identities are misplaced. And, here’s four areas we tend to place our identity, naturally, without even thinking about it, this is where we go.First, our performance, I am what I do. So, this could be our work, this could be sports, this could be some craft that we’re a part of, this is could be a business we’re building. That’s my identity, that’s where my significance is. I am what I do. Secondly, possessions, I am what I have. So, what I drive, what I wear, what I live in. Third, pleasure, I am what I want … foodie. Any foodies in here? We just went to Nashville last week, and my clothes are fitting a little bit tighter. It was so worth it, though, right? Our desires. I am what I want. Or, we’re travelers, we love to travel, or perhaps we’re gamers, we’re waiting for the next version of our game to come out. Fourth is popularity, I am what others think of me. So, I want to be intelligent, I want to be stylish, I want to be ironic. Right? Whatever we want to project, that’s what’s most significant about me.

And, the danger here, is that our self worth and our security, and our satisfaction, become tied to things that can be and will be taken away at some point. But, notice the language Paul uses in the text. In verse 12, he uses this language of hope. He says … we are very bold … or, a little bit later down in chapter 4 … we do not lose heart … So, Paul obviously is saying that we as believers do not have to live with this sting of being forgotten, that that somehow devistates us. And, I think the missiologist, Leslie Newbigin, he has a good quote that reorients us, I think, to the biblical reality of where we should actually find our identity. He says this …

“I am suggesting that the gospel is to be understood as the clue to history, to universal history and therefore to the history of each person, and therefore the answer that every person must give to the question, ‘Who am I?’ In distinction from a great deal of Christian writing which takes the individual person as its starting point for the understanding of salvation and then extrapolates from that to the wider issues of social, political, and economic life, I am suggesting that, with the Bible as our guide, we should proceed in the opposite direction, that we begin with the Bible as the unique interpretation of human and cosmic history and move from that starting point to an understanding of what the Bible shows us of the meaning of personal life.”

—Leslie Newbigin

You see how he flips that on its head, biblically. In a sense, you’re starting, when you start with self, you’re starting with the wrong thing. Our identity, our significance, the truest thing about us does not come from within. It comes from without. It is not a story we write for ourselves, but a cosmic story that is being written by the Creator, that we are drawn into by his grace. This is the beginning of what is most significant about us. This is the foundation. If we miss this, we are off completely as we begin the journey of life.

So we see, I think, three basic points here in Paul’s text. They’re really like 9,000. This text is so rich. I was just telling Raymond, we had to leave a lot on the cutting room floor of this one, it’s such a beautiful text. But, we’re going to go through it in this way. First, we’re going to look at living blind - that reality - seeing the light, and then becoming who we are.

I. Living Blind (3:12-15; 4:3-5)

So, let’s look at living blind. In chapter 3, Paul begins contrasting the old and the new covenants. And, in verses 12-16, he uses this veil imagery. Let’s look at it … Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts … So, what Paul is doing here, is he is drawing from the story that we read about in Exodus 34:29-35, where Moses has gone up to the mountain, and he’s received the law for the second time. And, when he comes back down from the mountain, he is glowing from the presence of the Lord. And, what we see as you continue to read in those few verses, is that he goes in to be with the Lord, and then when he comes out to speak with the people, he covers his face, he veils the glow that’s there.

In verse 14, Paul says that the veil on Moses’ face is metaphorically to have been over the minds of the people of the old covenant. Continue to track with me, I promise there’s payoff here. So, he’s using this metaphor for being veiled, essentially, to Christ. And then, he brings it to the new covenant in chapter 4:3-4. Let’s read that … And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God … Oh man, this is so good. I’m not there yet, I’m just remembering everything I’ve looked at. It’s rich. What he’s saying is - essentially - and, this is somewhat reductionistic, but I think it gets across the heart of what Paul is saying. So, we are living blind when we do not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. We are blind when we do not live all of our lives before Christ first and foremost. In everything that we do, right? Paul says later, whether we eat or whether we drink, do all to the glory of God. He’s saying, everything you’ve been given - your taste buds, even down to that minutia, is meant to be for the glory of God.

And so, if we’re not doing even the most foundational things in life before Christ, we’re living blind. And so, he goes on to say, verse 5 of chapter 4 … For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants … See, when we live blind, we proclaim ourselves. When we live blind - not before Christ - the story starts with us, rather than with Jesus. This is a good understanding of man’s first sin in the garden. If you remember the temptation that Eve succums to, Genesis 3:5 …

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God”

—Genesis 3:5 ESV

And, what first humanity was saying there, is I can live for myself rather than for God. I can live for my own name, rather than his. I can live to build my own legacy, rather than his. You see, the fall reversed God’s intended order. And, this had serious consequences. Later in Chapter 3, in verse 19, we see that rather than the abundant productivity that was enjoyed before the fall, and walking in perfect fellowship with the Lord, now you’re going to work in the midst of thorns and thistles. Chapter 3 verse 19 …

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

—Genesis 3:19 ESV


So, God says now, we struggle to make a name for ourselves by toiling in the dust until we return to dust. Are you depressed yet? Let me put it this way … if we live for our own name, the dust wins. Being forgotten stings. If we live for our own name, the dust wins. This is the reality of life apart from Christ, where self is the most important thing. Struggling, fighting, laboring for significance in the midst of brokenness, and all the while feeling like we’re losing the battle because we are.


In a few generations, the truth is, we will be forgotten, even by our own family, and the dust will win. I can’t tell you about my great, great, great grandparents. I don’t know anything about them. See, when we come to Christ, we’ve been formed by life in this fallen, broken world. In this world where self is center, and we’re toiling away in the dust, what we know, then, before Christ, without living before Christ, in our blindness, what we know is toiling and fighting for our significance day after day. And, it’s the only way we know how to live. In short, our identity apart from Christ is always, 100% of the time, misplaced. It is not what is most significant about us.

So, here’s the reality … the reality is, even as believers, even when we come into the light, and we come to faith in Christ, the truth is, we still struggle with this, right? I mean, we know about Paul when he talks about indwelling sin, and the things i want to do I don’t do, and the things I don’t want to do I end up doing. We all know that battle, we know that wrestle. We know the struggle of, at times, living blind, living for self rather than for Christ. And so, as I was studying this week, I came across this little article by Paul Tripp - Paul Tripp’s an author and a pastor - and, he basically had a self glory diagnostic. How do we know when we are living for ourselves? And so, here are for things he said, and this morning, let’s do it. Let’s dig into our own hearts to see, are we living blind, or are we living before Christ?

Self-Glory Diagnostic (from Paul Tripp)

We parade in public what should be kept private

We are way too self-referencing

We talk when we should be quiet

We care too much about what people think of us

The Self-Glory Diagnostic. First off, when we’re living for ourselves, we parade in public what should be kept in private. So, we cannot stand for the things that we do that we feel are good, we cannot stand for them not to be on display. We have to let other people know about it. It’s a sign of living for self. Secondly, we are too self-referencing. We insert ourselves into every conversation. We insert ourselves as the heroes of the story. We talk about self. Self just overflows from us in our conversations. We don’t listen well, which is actually number three … Number three, we talk when we should be quiet. So, what that says, is, we are posturing our self as better, or greater, or more important than the one that is before us. Are we a people who listen well to others? Fourth, we care too much about what people think of us. Criticism destroys us and praise leads to a gigantic head.

See, these are good indicators, that if we see ourselves - and listen, check, check, check, check … all four. Right? We struggle with these things. We wrestle with these things. But, they are a dashboard for us, to help us see whether we’re living before Christ, or whether we’re living for self. So, that is the blindness.

II. Seeing the Light (4:5-6)

But, we see that the light comes, in verse 5 and 6, seeing the light. That’s our second point here, verses 5 and 6 …  For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ … This is creation language, in verse 6 … Let light shine out of darkness … Creation language, the language that’s used in Genesis. And, it gives us the picture that we are being, post-fall, recreated in Christ. And, it also brings to light the miraculous nature of our salvation. God has spoken it. That is the only way, that is the only way we can come into the light, is that God has spoken it. It’s through his word.

So, what we see, then, is from creation, fall, to new creation. That’s what Paul says in the next chapter, if you remember it. 2 Corinthians 5:17 … therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a … new creation - you didn’t say that with conviction, but it’s alright. By the time we’re done, you’ll have conviction about it. New creation. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation.

Here’s what I think the heart of this is, and how it plays out for our identity. To find out who you are, you must start with whose you are. To find out who you are, you must start with whose you are. See, this is the core of our identity. This is the core. This is what is most significant about us … not what we do, but who we belong to. Everything that we do should flow out of that. And, if our identity starts with whose we are, it changes everything.

My wife said I could share this story this morning. She actually helped me come up with it. Sometimes I brainstorm with my wife on how to illustrate things. My wife is adopted, and over the years of marriage, we’ve talked at different times and asked the question, do you want to find your birth parents? Is that something you want to do? And, we have some discussion around it, and then we kind of move on, and then we’ll revisit it a while later. But, she’s pretty much arrived at, you know, I don’t think I’m going to seek them out at this point in my life. There’s, by God’s grace, a lot of life ahead. But, what she says about that, is because I have a mother and a father who raised me. She says, I know whose I am, and that has shaped my life.

It’s the same thing with us. When we know whose we are, it shapes everything we do. Being in Christ shapes our life. The light coming in the midst of darkness, of living for self, and shining a light on the glory of Jesus Christ, wakes us up to whose we are. And, notice specifically the place of self in the light. This is big … For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake … Did we see that? Did we see the contrast of how we tend to proclaim self, how we tend to live orbiting ourselves, and now we see in the light of Christ, self serves one another so that we might honor Christ.

It’s a completely different way of living, isn’t it? I mean, how many of you as kids dreamed of just one day … serving a bunch of people. Probably didn’t take up your dreams. I mean, I had guitars and mirrors, and I was waving my mullet in the mirror with a guitar around my neck. I mean, I was the center of my dreams. I was the star of every dream that I had. See, this is not naturally the stuff of dreams, but this is the stuff you and I were made for. And, as we come to Christ, it begins to become the stuff of our dreams.

So, the place of self is service. It’s service to one another, for the sake of Christ, which brings us to our final point, becoming who we are.

III. Becoming Who We Are (3:16-18)

Look at verses 16-18. So, there’s this veil that Paul has spoken of, and then in verse 16 … But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit … Paul, here, is contrasting unbelieving Jews who still have a veil over their face, and are not able to see the glory of the Lord, with believers who are beholding the glory of the Lord. Now, what is glory? That’s an important question, because actually our hope here is connected to that, and our identity absolutely culminates in that.

So, what is glory? I believe it was a pastor named John Piper - who a lot of you know - that said, glory is God’s holiness gone public. So, God’s holiness is all that he is. Holiness means set apart, it means “other than”, so God’s holiness is everything that he is. His attributes, his character, all that he is, so his glory is all of that going public for us to see. Glory would be like the rays of the sun that hit us every day. Glory is not the ball of gas that - forget the clumsy description there - but the ball of gas that is the sun, the rays are the glory of God, the ball of gas, the substance would be the holiness of God. And, the rays point us back to the sun, and so it is with God’s glory. God’s glory that is on display, that we experience in many, many ways, points us back to substance, points us back to the Lord, points us back to the work of Christ.

So, what we see here, is we are being transformed from glory to glory into the image of the Lord. This is the work of growth in Christ, as we behold the goodness of God, the grace of God, the worth of God, the might of God as we make him the primary aim of our lives, as we walk in the light as he is in the light, we will be transformed into the image of God by the Spirit of God, powerfully at work within us. That’s what Paul is saying. That’s why we’re here this morning. So, this means in the darkness, with the veil, we are greedy people, because we are centered on self. But, as we behold the Lord with unveiled face, we are transformed from glory to glory, and greedy people are formed into generous people. And, arrogant people are transformed into humble people, and covetous people are formed into satisfied people. This is the work that the Lord is doing in his people. What was lost in the Fall is being restored in those who worship the Creator, and walk in the light.

See, we are all created in God’s image, and there’s a lot that can be said about what it means to be created in God’s image, but at its foundation, what that means - is really deep - is that we were created to image. We were created to image, to reflect God. This is what is most significant about me, and about you, that we are image bearers, the only aspect of creation that carries the image of God. And, what happened at the fall is that image was marred. Not done away with - we’re still image bearers - but it was marred, so that we are not naturally like the one we were made to image. We are not naturally generous, or forgiving, or humble, or gracious, but we are self-consumed. But, here we see that as new creations in Christ, that image is being restored from one degree of glory to the next, so that we are becoming what we were created to be. This is our identity.

So, what is happening? Paul says … For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit … this is a work of the Spirit. The only way self centered people are transformed into people who serve one another for the sake of Jesus, is the Spirit has to do that work through his Word. There is no amount of musicianship or eloquent preaching or anything else, or certainly gifts to the body, or anything else that could do that work. The Lord has to be at work in the midst of it for this to happen. I mean, think about Galatians 5 and what the fruit of the spirit is, the overflow, what should be present in us is love, joy, peace, patience, long suffering, gentleness … this is what it means to be restored into the image of God, when those fruits begin to define us, when people begin to see that in us. And, the church, the people of God, is absolutely crucial to this.

Now, I know church life is not easy. I get it. We’ve been pastoring for 20 plus years, and it at times is absolutely exhausting. But, it’s not exhausting because we all just display the fruits of the Spirit. It’s exhausting because we all live about half the time blind, because we’re telling stories that begin and end with us. And, I’ve got to tell you … well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We tell stories that begin and end with us, and that’s what makes this so incredibly difficult. That’s also what makes it so incredibly glorious. He is using this body, he is at work in the midst of this body. No man can take credit for it. He is at work in the midst of the body, bringing about, restoring the image of God in us. He’s doing it through one another. And so, if you’re weary in the midst of the body, be encouraged. Be encouraged in the hopeful language that Paul uses here. God is doing this work.

Colossians 3:10 says …

“[We] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator”

—Colossians 3:10 ESV

Which is being renewed. None of us are there yet. It’s being renewed. This is the struggle of the life of the body, but it’s the beauty of the life of the body, because we are being renewed in the midst of God’s people, right? Paul is writing ot the church in Corinth, who was - a lot of us know - they were a complete mess. I mean, if he can write with hopeful language to the Corinthian, I feel like we have a little hope here, Emmaus. I feel like, yes, we can say that God is doing it. What it means, is we are getting back our identity as God’s image bearers.

There’s a great, I think, illustration of this from a movie, the movie Hook. It’s an old movie. I don’t know if any of you guys saw it. But, there’s this one scene, and it’s - I watched it on YouTube again this morning, twice - I almost cried, both times. There’s this scene. If you remember it - super quick set up - So, Robin Williams is Peter Pan. This is a fictional story, by the way. Robin Williams is Peter Pan, and it starts with him, like, he’s just doing family life. He’s left Neverland, he’s beginning to age, and so he’s in the midst of raising this family, and he’s married, and he’s just … all of the realities of life are just coming to bear on him. He’s a tired dude. He has definitely left Neverland. And, he is in the midst of the wrestle of day to day life, and Tinkerbell comes back - also known as Julia Roberts - she comes back and she says, we need you in Neverland, we need you to fix this problem. We have an issue, and Peter Pan is the only one that can do this.

So, Robin Williams, through a series of events, ends up going back to Neverland, and he tells the kids, I’m back, I’m Peter Pan! But, he’s, now, wrinkled, a little beat up from life, and so this cute little kid comes up to him. And, he kneels down, and the kid’s looking at his face, like, he goes right up to him, he’s looking really hard at his face, and he pulls his glasses off and, like, sets them aside, and then he grabs Robin Williams’ face and he starts trying to smooth out the wrinkles, and he’s smooshing his face backwards and trying to get the bags out from under his eyes, and he’s not making the connection. And then, finally, he grabs his face right at the cheeks and he kind of pushes his face back and up a little but so that he has a smile, and he says … there you are, Peter. There you are. Right? That’s the Peter I was looking for.

See, what see here is that when we behold Christ and we are changed into his image, we know it in one another, don’t we? We can look at the other one and go, there you are. That’s what you were created to be. That’s who you are in Christ. That’s the love that you were created for, the joy, the peace, the patience, the gentleness, that’s you. And, that serves me and points me to Christ. See, that is what is most significant about me, and about you, that we are God’s image bearers.

See, when Paul speaks of this idea of glory to glory, there’s a huge narrative that’s in mind here. There’s this huge narrative of the glory, certainly the fading glory as Paul kind of talks about it, of the old covenant. And then, there’s this beautiful, transformative glory of the new covenant, where we are being renewed in the midst of it, through the work of Jesus Christ. And then, there’s is the ultimate one day, where we will see Jesus face to face, and we will be glorified. We will be like the one that we’ve longed for. We will be like the one that we were created for. See, the truth is, when we start with self and we tell stories, our own stories that center around us, what we don’t realize, is they may feel grand, but in reality they’re puny. They are so small in comparison to the reality of what you and I are made for.

See, what God is doing is global. Habakkuk says, the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the water covers the sea. How does that happen? It happens by his image bearers in the midst of the world, with unveiled faces, beholding Christ, and saying, that’s what I was created for. That’s what i was made for. And, as we’re drawn up into that story, we serve one another for Jesus’ sake, so that the world made know he set his son. That is what’s most significant about you, and me.

Listen, it may be true that we will be forgotten by our great, great grandchildren. But, the truth is, you are not forgotten by the one who matters the most, the creator and redeemer of all things. And, we have the cross of Christ that proves it, the resurrection of Christ that proves it, the ascension of Christ, now at the right hand of the Father, ruling and reigning over all things. Him? That one? The Creator of all? Has not forgotten you. We read it from Psalm 115 in our liturgy. I will remember my people. And, this morning, know this. If you’ve been living for yourself and your own story, there’s a beautiful grand narrative that your eyes can be opened to this morning. The veil can be lifted, and you can see the One you were created for, and you can begin to behold him and image him so that we go … there. That’s the person you were created to be, through Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

Jesus, we are thankful this morning for this truth. Lord, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in ourselves, to get caught up with our small stories that feel so grand. Lord, I pray that you would give us grace to see. Give us grace to behold the goodness of Christ. Lord, would you speak this morning. Would you speak and let light shine in the darkness, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. There is no more beautiful picture, there is no more beautiful reality, that we were made for that. Lord, as we do the work of the church at Emmaus, Lord we confess and recognize, we do it imperfectly. And, Lord, we are hopeful people, because this is the work of the Spirit, who is renewing us and transforming us into the image of Christ. Lord, may we be a church that finds our identity there. May all of life and all we do flow out of that reality. And, Lord, as we come to the table again this morning, Lord, may we be reminded of whose we are, that we are yours, and nothing can snatch us from your hand. We ask this, Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.