Last week at the end of the message we rushed over what is one of the most precious gems in the prophecy of Isaiah – 40:31. So this week we are going to slow down and catch our breath and just meditate for a short time on the encouraging truth in that closing verse. Especially in this Christmas season which is so often characterized by activity and hustle and bustle and busyness … we need to slow down and learn what it means to “Wait for the Lord.”
Last week: (:12-31)
WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT FOR THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
2 Presuppositions already addressed:
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly”
[I don’t fall into either of these 2 categories where someone might imagine that they don’t need strength from the Lord – you are in denial if you think you can handle all that life throws at you by yourself]
- We all need strength — We all face hard times and need persevering strength which we do not have in ourselves
- Only the Lord can provide that strength — The Lord is awake and active and reigns supreme; He cares about the difficulties His children are facing; He has the power that is sufficient to grant us persevering strength
Waiting for the First Coming of the Messiah
Waiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah
THE KEY TO PERSEVERING STRENGTH IS WAITING FOR THE LORD
Often people like to downplay the relevance of studying theology. They prefer more of a step-by-step manual on how to deal with the practical problems they are facing in everyday life. Doctrine about the attributes of God and His sovereign decrees is viewed as too heavy and not directly relevant to help me live my life today. They couldn’t be more wrong. Their focus is more on what can man do to fix his problems rather than reliance on the grace of God.
We live in a God-centered universe (not a man-centered universe where the Trinity consists of Me, Myself and I) because God has created everything and only God sustains everything. Our passage today could not be clearer about the connection between basic theology about God’s Supremacy and His Significance and our practical pathway to strength and perseverance in the hardships and trials we face.
Motyer: No sooner the message of disaster (39:5-7) than the message of comfort (40:1-2)!
You can’t appreciate the message of comfort unless you can identify with the depths of darkness of the misery and bondage of the Babylonian Captivity – 2 Chron. 36:15-21
God’s message of comfort comes to a people who had not yet experienced the hardship of the Babylonian Slaughter and Captivity – all of this blessed revelation given in anticipation of the upcoming events
Oswalt: Chapters 40-48 particularly address the questions concerning God’s ability and desire to deliver that the exile would pose. This focus is evident immediately in ch.40. Would not the exile prove that God had either forsaken his people or was not the Lord of history? Would it not mean that he had been unable to defend his people from the pagan nations or that he had been defeated by his people’s pernicious sinfulness? Isaiah’s answer to both questions is a resounding no! . . . The exile would give God an even greater opportunity to show his sovereignty and his trustworthiness.
COMFORT FOR ZION DERIVES FROM THE SALVATION AND GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROMISED COMING OF MESSIAH
4 MESSAGES OF COMFORT:
We all know what a litmus test is. That is where one particular criteria serves as a watershed to place people into two opposing camps. The expression is a metaphor based on the litmus test in chemistry — Blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions and red litmus paper turns blue under basic (i.e. alkaline) conditions. When someone is trying to be appointed to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, they argue against the tendency to elevate one particular issue to such a litmus test status – preferring that their entire body of work be evaluated. But when it comes to our relationship to God and our eternal destiny, it all comes down to one central issue:
THE TRUE IDENTITY OF JESUS CONSTITUTES THE ULTIMATE LITMUS TEST
1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” – case closed
Rom. 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”
We have observed many key threads as we have studied through the first half of the gospel of Mark — 4 most prominent threads:
- The most important = the identity of Jesus as the true Messiah, the son of God
- Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”
- Mark 8:29 confession of Peter: “You are the Christ”
What do people say about Who Jesus is?
- Two halves to the book – First half is all about the:
1. THE AUTHORITY AND MIGHTY WORKS OF THE SON OF GOD
- Authority in His Teaching
- Authority in His miracles of healing
- Authority in His power over demons and even over death itself
2. THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT
- Increasing opposition from the Jewish religious leaders who remain spiritually blinded and hard-hearted
- Training of the Twelve for their leadership as Jesus hands off the baton to them for the fulfillment of the Great Commission – involved in that is the transition of taking the gospel now to the Gentiles – especially important is the development of their faith – they fail many tests but the Master Teacher patiently continues to build them up and prepare them
Today we are tackling a big chunk of Chap. 8 – 26 verses – looking more at the big picture than all of the details; Why this approach? Because it hangs together thematically as a unit of thought – preparing us for the great watershed that divides this gospel in half – the confession of Peter at the end of the chapter
We like to pat ourselves on the back for our spiritual discernment. We can easily be puffed up with pride because of an imbalance between knowledge about Jesus Christ and vibrant faith in Jesus. How can we tell we have maturity issues? Trials and difficulties reveal to us how far short we fall of mature faith. We easily sink into worry and fear and doubts and insecurities. Our physical vision is easy to measure. We take a simple eye chart test and we know where we stand. I see a lot differently with my glasses on as opposed to off. It is more subtle with our eyes of faith.
Have you ever experienced being an outsider – not being part of the accepted group with all of its privileges and standing? Maybe at school, you were an outsider of the various cliques of popularity. Maybe racially, you have experienced something of prejudice and isolation; maybe now at work you are regarded as something of an outsider because of your stand for Jesus Christ. In God’s OT kingdom program, the Jews were definitely the insiders and the uncircumcised Gentiles were definitely the outsiders. As we have been studying the ministry of Jesus, it has been concentrated in the Jewish regions around Nazareth and Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee and various cities throughout Judea. Today we see Jesus venturing out to Gentile areas – to the regions of Tyre and Sidon and Decapolis.
It should not be surprising to see the gracious delivering power of Jesus extended to the Gentiles. Many OT prophecies spoke to this promised worldwide blessing:
- 12:3 Call of Abraham — “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
- 26:4 “by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”
- 9:1-2 Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles — “Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light”
- 42:6 “I will appoint you [Israel] as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison”
If the Pharisees and scribes were put off by Jesus eliminating the distinction between clean and unclean foods with all of their detailed ceremonial rites and regulations, imagine their disdain at seeing Jesus reach out to the unclean Gentiles and include them in the sphere of Messianic blessing.
Many people today are not at all concerned with the issue of moral and spiritual defilement. They have chosen to bury their head in the sand of existential pleasures for the moment –ignoring the inner voice of conscience which speaks to their guilt and futility. But people who are religious – like the scribes and Pharisees of Christ’s day – have taken great pains to try to cover over their sins with some form of external self righteousness or system of works to appease God. They have a desire to appear clean before God and before others. They are experts in jumping through the hoops of their legalistic system that deceives them into thinking they are more righteous than the people around them.
Psychologists today who like to study human behavior would have us to believe that man is basically good. They make excuses for our sins and point to all sorts of external influences that could have made Johnny do the bad things that he did.
Jesus strips aside all excuses and exposes the hypocrisy of legalism – as we saw last week. Now He gets to the heart of the problem – and it is not a pretty picture. Many people like “feel-good” messages. I have to warn you up front — this is not a “feel-good” message.
Some passages the Lord makes so simple that you can’t possibly miss the main point. Here Jesus just repeats His Big Idea statement several times in the space of a couple of paragraphs.
RELIGIOUS TRADITION CREATES HYPOCRITES IN THE SIGHT OF GOD BY UNDERMINING THE AUTHORITY OF GOD’S WORD
This has always been the case. The most severe opposition that Jesus faced during His earthly ministry didn’t come from Gentile pagans. It was the Jewish religious leaders of the establishment, based out of their headquarters in Jerusalem, that felt threatened by the presentation of the truth and violently attacked Jesus and His ministry. These were the so-called experts in the OT, in the law given to Moses. When religious tradition collides with God’s authoritative revealed truth in His inspired Word, the confrontation is always intense.
Remember the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century – the establishment church reacted violently to its authority being questioned by the Sola Scriptura approach of the Reformers. Should faith and practice be based on the simple interpretation of the Word of God or should the authority of centuries of church tradition be elevated over the Scriptures? When I think of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the best modern day parallel I can find would be the self righteous and hypocritical leadership of Roman Catholic priests. They continue to undermine the authority of God’s Word by the legalistic rules and regulations imposed by the extra-biblical authority of the popes and the church fathers – it is their interpretation and application of the scriptures that take precedence in the Roman Catholic Church. Yet you find the ecumenical movement of today trying to minimize the differences between Protestants and Catholics. What has fundamentally changed since the days of the Reformation? Don’t be fooled into thinking the differences are minor.
Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than to continue to present lessons that the students just don’t get. Karen, as you know, teaches some of the lower level math classes over at the community college.
There can be many reasons why students don’t get it
- Some associated with the teacher
- Doesn’t have a good grasp on the material himself
- Problems in communication – language barriers
- Problems with methodology – just doesn’t know how to teach
- Some associated with the student
- Doesn’t show up for class – just not present
- Poor listening skills
- Just slow – they will never get it – don’t have the mental capability
- No application – doesn’t do the homework
Why do Christians sit every week under sound biblical instruction … and yet you see no positive change in their lives?
REMEDIAL CHRISTIANITY — FOR THOSE WHO JUST DON’T GET IT
Here is a very familiar story to all of us – the feeding of the 5,000. But sometimes as we learned in the beginning verses of chapter 6, familiarity can breed contempt.
Parunak: Out of 35 miracles performed by the Lord in the gospels, this is the only one that is mentioned in all four. So it merits special attention. (Mt. 14:13-21; Lk. 9:11-17; Jn 6:1-14)
We think we understand the meaning of this simple miracle … but do we really?
How we usually picture this simple story is the disciples being dispatched by Jesus to search through the crowd and come up with the resources at hand = a meager 5 loaves and 2 fishes held by one young lad (John 6:9). Jesus then demonstrates His power to provide physical bread (that which nourishes physical life) for the entire crowd – that physical bread being symbolic of the spiritual life He can both provide and sustain. Thus we have Jesus revealed as the Bread of Heaven — broken for us in His redemptive sacrifice on the cross– who has come down to give life to those who will receive Him. That lesson is definitely being taught. We need to partake of Jesus Christ by faith. We will reflect on insights focused on that central application at the end of our message as we look at the teaching of Jesus in John 6 about this miracle. That will serve as our transition into our time of communion this morning.
But first walk with me through the passage from the standpoint of the Master Shepherd training His intern shepherds and I think you will see a far expanded emphasis.