GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 14
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Three deadly sins to avoid: rejecting the words of Christ; rejecting the person of Christ; and remaining in unbelief.|
Wrong Response to Right Message
The title of the message this morning: The Wrong Response to the Right Message. The proposition this morning for the message is simple. I want to identify for our church three deadly sins that these men and women made in order for you and I to avoid the judgment of God. Three deadly sins. Here they are. First of all, they rejected the words of Christ; secondly, they rejected the person of Christ; and thirdly, they remained in their unbelief of Christ. And then, because of that, we’ll see they were judged.
Mark 6:1. We’re going to pick up as we systematically, expositionally, walk through the book of Mark. “He went away from there and came to his hometown [there it is] and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter [son, is not this] the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”
Let me give you the three deadly sins. Here’s the first one: the crowd rejected the words of Christ. Now, at first glance you’re probably saying, “Well, Pastor, where do you get that from?” At first glance, verses 2 and 3 almost look like a compliment. I mean, at first glance, I mean, they were astounded or astonished at what Jesus was saying. “Where did this man get these things or what is the wisdom given to him. How are such might works done by his hands?” But then we see verse 3. It almost is a turn in the text, but I would submit to you it’s not a turn in the text for the good. It’s a turn for the bad. In order for us to understand exactly what happens between the lines, we have to go to the account of Luke. Luke gives us the same story from a different perspective.
Go to Luke 4:16. This is Jesus going to Nazareth and his home town. Verse 16. Watch this: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”
Write down, first of all, Jesus goes into the synagogue and he reads the word. Jesus made his way to the synagogue on a number of occasions. I want to submit to you that, throughout the gospels, we find 10 instances of Jesus going to the synagogue. Now in the synagogue, there was a man named Hazzan. Hazzan was a custodian. This was a man who was the attendant for the synagogue. He performed the normal duties to keep the synagogue up. And one of the main duties for him was this: on the Sabbath day, when he would see three stars in the sky—when it was turning night on Friday night into Saturday—he would stand out in the community and he would blow the shofar horn. And that would symbolize the beginning of the Sabbath.
And as Jesus Christ makes his way to his hometown, imagine the excitement of his disciples. I mean, these guys—don’t miss this—are strutting into the service this day like peacocks walking around. Why? Because their rabbi is about to speak today in their hometown. It’s Jesus’ big day. And as he walks into the synagogue, before he makes his way in, he goes into what’s called mikveh. Now what is a mikveh? It’s a baptistery. Jesus would have ceremonially cleansed himself, his hands, his heart, his head and his feet as he prepared himself to enter into the synagogue.
As he walked into the synagogue, if you were following him on that day, you would have looked around the walls of the synagogue and there would have been three or four steps. These steps were seats. In fact, they were called the chief seats, right? Not the cheap seats, the chief seats. This is where the special people sat. The normal people sat where? On the floor, right? On mats. Remember when Jesus said when you go into the synagogue, don’t take the what? Chief seats. Sit on the floor.
Then the Hazzan would go to the Torah closet, he would walk here to the Torah closet. He would take the word out of the closet and guess what the people would do as soon as he pulls the word out of the Torah closet and he holds it in the air. Guess what the people would do. They would cheer! They’d begin to clap. I mean, this is the word of God here. God has spoken to us. God has not left us on our own to figure things out. This is the very word of God and they would dance. We know they’re not Baptists. But they would dance! They’d get excited. People would even shed a tear sometimes because the very words of God were about to be read. Why have we lost that? When was the last time you were overjoyed when you read the word of God? When was the last time you shed a tear when you read through the word of God? When was the last time you were filled with emotion as you read the very words of God? The sad reality is many of us can become so calloused that we read the word and it really doesn’t mean anything to us anymore.
Now many people try to suggest that there was a liturgical calendar back then. And what I mean by that is this: is that because the community gathered together, they read the same scripture as every synagogue in the town. I don’t know if that’s the case. I think it’s too early for us to suppose that. We don’t know if Jesus read the Torah that day. We don’t know if he read the writings that day. But we do know he read the prophets. And as the attendant gave him the scroll, Jesus rolls it out and finds his way to what passage? Keep in mind he doesn’t have a New Testament, he has the Old Testament. He finds his way to what? Isaiah 61.
Turn there. Let me who you what he’s reading at this point. Verse 1: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor [to preach to the poor], to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,” – or as some translations say, “to set the captives free.”
Now, the Jewish mind would have remembered the bondage of Egypt as Moses led them from the bondage into the Promised Land. They were to remember the Babylonian captivity, how they were in bondage and they were set free. But Jesus is not talking about that. Jesus was talking about bondage to sin, an even greater issue of bondage.
He goes on, “to give sight to the blind,” which is pretty amazing. You might think right away that this is a physical healing. Now many people believe he picked this up from Isaiah 58. But it’s not the blind as a physical blindness. It’s the spiritually blind. What Jesus is saying is simply this: unbelievers are darkened in their spiritual blindness from seeing the light of the gospel, which is the glory of Christ, which is the image of God. And that’s what he’s saying. They’re spiritually blind.
And then he ends with “to [give] liberty those who are oppressed.” The deliverer will come and set free the oppressed. And then he gives this thing at the end, just tacks it on. This is “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Wow. What is Jesus saying there? He’s saying that the Messiah will come and there will be a time of celebration. There will be a time of jubilee. There will be a time of festivals and of feasts and excitement. Notice where he stops short. Look at the next verse. It really connects to the verse preceding, “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
Now Jesus purposely leaves this statement off. The hearers would have been waiting for Jesus to say this next thing: “And the day of vengeance of the Lord,” the day of destruction of the Lord. But Jesus leaves it off. And he leaves it off purposely to show the hearers that that is not this day. Right here in your hearing, I have come to proclaim jubilee, the time of excitement, the time of celebration. At that moment, the Hazzan would have taken the Torah scroll back from Jesus or the prophets scroll back from Jesus. He would have rolled the scroll up. He would have walked back to the Torah closet. He would have put the scroll back into the closet. Jesus would have made his way to the Moses seat, which would have been a seat against the wall. He would have sat down and all eyes in the synagogue would have been on him. What is Jesus about to say about this passage?
Now, the sermon part of the synagogue was called the derishah. The sermon lasted normally two to three minutes. Don’t get any hopes on that. Two to three minutes was the sermon. The reading of the word was anywhere from 20-25 minutes and the people stood through all of it. They raised their hands. They stood 20, 25 minutes of the reading and then the sermon was delivered two to three minutes. All eyes are on Jesus as he’s about to deliver a message to his people. Imagine the intensity in the room. Imagine the anxiety in the room. Imagine the expectancy. Can you sense that this morning?
And secondly, I want you to notice what happened. Jesus reads the word. Secondly, he reveals the meaning of the word. Notice what it says in the text. Look what Luke says: “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.” Verse 20, “And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Do you feel the intensity? Verse 21, “And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” One of the shortest sermons in all of history: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
What is he saying? The day of the Lord is now. Salvation is available to you today. Wow! Imagine if you’re in the crowd. I mean, could this be the guy? Could this be the Messiah that we’ve waited for for hundreds and thousands of years? Could this be him? You would think the people would be overjoyed. You’d think the people would be excited. They’ve been waiting over in time and time again.
But notice, write this down. The crowd didn’t accept Jesus. The crowd rejected the person of Christ. Mark 6:2 tells us, “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took [here it is] offense at him.”
Why did they take offense? See, the townspeople knew Jesus. They knew him as a baby. They knew him as a teenager. They saw him grow up among them. They witnessed him walk through those narrow streets. They watched this perfect life unfold before their eyes. But instead of believing that he could be the Messiah, they missed his identity.
There are three things I want you to see from the response of the people. Don’t overlook these things. First of all, they say, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Why did they say that? See, in the first century you always referred to a son by the father’s name, always. I’d be Bob’s son. You’d be your father’s son. I’d never be referred to as my father’s occupation. Some commentators believe the reason they say “this is the carpenter’s son” is because Joseph, at this point, has already died. We know Joseph died somewhere along the life of Jesus. Many people believe he was older than Mary, much older, and so he died.
The second thing I want you to see is this: they refer to Jesus as the son of Mary. That was a no-no. They rarely, if ever, referred to someone as the son of his mother. It was a slap in the face. But in this instance, knowing the background of the text, they’re still wondering if Jesus is illegitimate. I mean, who’s the father anyway? We know Mary was pregnant before she got married. So the townspeople are still wondering. The rumor mill is still circulating around town. Now we know that Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit but at that point the people are still speculative.
And thirdly, I want you to notice this: it shows us that Jesus Christ—underline this—had brothers and sisters. And what’s even wilder is they give the names of them. James and Joses. Underline that. Why are they asking these questions? Here’s why. They’re trying to determine the origin of Jesus. They want to know where he came from. I mean, we know his father. He was a carpenter. We know his mother. She’s right here. We know his sisters and we know his brothers. How in the world can the Messiah come from humble beginnings with a meager trade and a human history that we know about? How can the Messiah be a man? That’s in essence what they were saying.
They took offense at him. That word offense—circle that in Mark—the word means a stumbling block. I love this. Paul said that the name of Jesus would be a stumbling block, 1 Corinthians 1:23. “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jew, foolishness to the Gentiles.” How could his name not be stumbling block? Friends, this is what I’ve learned about Jesus. When you say the name of Jesus, it’s like a sword. It divides. You can be as religious as you want to be, you can be as spiritual as you want to be. But the moment you say the name of Jesus it divides, right? Friends, the only way you can be spiritual is to know the true Holy Spirit that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? The only way you can be Christian is to know the author of Christianity, and his name is Jesus Christ. The only way you can have a relationship with God through man is to have a relationship with the one mediator who’s between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. The only way you can know the way to God is to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life which comes through Jesus Christ.
Jesus, on this day, was a stumbling block. I mean, these people looked at Jesus and thought, “Man, this guy is really causing division among us. Now maybe you’re like that this morning. You like Jesus from afar. You even like the testimonies of the healings of God on the lives of people. You even like hearing about God working miraculously. You even like to feel good when you come in on Sunday morning. But where the rubber meets the road for you is when you have to submit to the authority of God through Christ. See, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to make Jesus Lord of our life. We want to call the shots, right? We don’t want to hear about the demands of the gospel, that we need to live for the Lord, deny self, take up the cross and follow him daily. We don’t want to hear that. Friends, has Jesus become a stumbling for you or has he become a stepping stone for your Christian life as you begin to serve him and be empowered by him and be led by him.
Because the crowd did not recognize their spiritual blindness, thirdly, they remained in their unbelief. They rejected the words of Christ; they rejected the authority of the person of Christ; and thirdly, they remained in their unbelief. Go back to Luke 4:23. At this point, Jesus knows the hearts of the people and he gives them—write this down—a proverb and two pictures. He gives them a proverb. Look what he says.
“Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb.” He’s saying, “This is what you’re thinking.” “‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ And [Jesus] said [to them], ‘Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable [underline that] in his [own] hometown.’”
Did you catch the play on words? Jesus, just moments earlier, said, “This is the acceptable year of the Lord.” And then he says, “The prophet is not accepted in his own hometown.” Pretty amazing. Jesus is saying that the crowd wants to see a sign, which is kind of odd because is not known for the signs he can do. A prophet is known for the what? The words he speaks. “Jesus, we want to see a few tricks. We want you to prove it. We’ll believe it when we see it,” right? “You profess, now we want you to perform. We want to see what you can do among us.”
And then Jesus, knowing their hearts, gives them two prophetic words from the prophets. Look at the first one: Elijah and the widow. Verse 25. Here’s a picture of their rejection. “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.”
Now in this time period, 1 Kings 17, the whole land was in a famine. No one was eating. None of the widows were eating at this point. They were in a famine because they had disobeyed the Lord and God was judging the people Israel for their disobedience and their rejection. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah the prophet is walking through town. He sees a widow who’s gathering sticks. She’s about to make her last meal and basically she says, “I’m going to make this meal for myself and my son and then we’re going to die.” And then Elijah tells her something odd. I mean, you have to admit this is really odd. Verse 13. Listen: “And Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “The jar of flour [watch this] shall not be spent [it will never empty] and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.”’”
Now this is odd. Elijah says the flour and the jar will never empty itself. It will miraculously continue to reproduce itself. This is strikingly odd. I mean, the woman doesn’t say, “Okay, I’ve never heard of this before. Prove it to me.” Because that’s what the people of Nazareth would have said. “Okay; that sounds great. Prove it to me.” What does the woman do? She believes and does what? Obeys. That’s how it works in the economy of God. When God speaks, you believe and then you obey.
Now if that doesn’t start a riot, Jesus decides to push the envelope a little further. Verse 27: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” The king of Syria decides to send Naaman to go get healed by the prophet Elisha. Elijah is the senior mentor, Elisha being the disciple of Elijah. He says, “Go get healed by Elisha.” Well, Elisha doesn’t meet with him. He sends a messenger. And the messenger tells him to do something. He says, “I want you to go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Seven times.” Now this is kind of odd as well. Notice what Naaman says in 2 Kings 5:11, “But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?’”
He’s saying, “Why don’t I just wash in this water? I mean, why do I have to make trip over to Israel? Aren’t these waters not the same? Cannot God do the same thing? “Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” Naaman doesn’t obey and believe at first. He turns in disbelief. But then he goes back to his servants and they said, “You’re crazy! You’re a leper. Have you no other shot! Believe, as odd as it sounds, believe and see what happens.” And that’s what he does. He believes on the Lord God, turns around and he’s healed.
And what Jesus just did is mount an attack against the hearer saying this, “Two Gentiles were healed while God overlooked Israel.” That’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “God surpasses the people of Israel to go heal a Phoenician widow and a Syrian leper Gentile. The town was infuriated. I mean, how could God do this? Look what happens. Verse 28: “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.” A church going wild at this point. “And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through [the] midst [of them], he went away.”
See the point here is simply this: these two people trusted the prophets because they realized their dependence for help. That’s the point. They realized that they were poor in spirit. They realized that they were spiritually lost. They realized that they were reliant upon the prophet to save them, unlike the people of Nazareth, who were pious. I mean, these guys thought they had it all. “We don’t need help. We’re synagogue attenders. Don’t you know? We’re faithful to come to church. We have Bibles with our name on it. We wear Christian t-shirts. We teach in classes. We serve in the local church. We’re faithful to God. Don’t you see? We don’t need help.” What Jesus says is simply this: Faith always precedes the work of God. It’s pretty amazing. Friends, when God says to do something, faith precedes the working of God in our life. It’s not the other way around. These people wanted to see a work in order to believe and Jesus said it’s better to believe and to not have seen.
Now this happens all throughout the Bible. Matthew 17. You remember the story of the father who brought his demonic son to the disciples when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration? Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration. There is chaos going on. Everybody’s attacking the disciples. The father who has dealt with this for years, the son throws himself into the fire and into the water. He comes to Jesus and he says, “I’ve brought my son to your disciples but they could to nothing. Can you do anything?” “Is that a joke? What do you mean can I do anything? Let me ask you. Do you believe that I can do something?” Do you see it? Belief first. The man says what? “I believe, but help my unbelief.” Belief always precedes the working of God.
See, the question of God not working in your life is not pointing the finger at your wife or your kids or your parents or your church members or your pastor. The question is when you go before the Lord and say, “God, why are you not working in my life?” God turns the finger back around and says, “How much do you believe that I can do it? How much do you believe?” And that’s the judgment that comes in.
Let me ask you, how much do you believe God can do? Do you believe that Jesus is who he says he is? And do you believe that he can do what he says he can do? See, that’s what they didn’t do. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah and, therefore, write this down, we see the judgment. And the judgment is simply this: the Lord departed. Wow. Can you imagine that? Think about this. How sad is this? The Lord departed. This is his hometown. Jesus, why are you leaving your own people? Because they disbelieve. Look at Mark 6:5. “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he [underline this] marveled because of their unbelief.”
Church, don’t miss this. Jesus did not do miracles, not because he could not do, but because he would not do. Do you see that? He didn’t do them not because he wasn’t able to do them because he would not be able to do them because of their lack of belief. See, God’s working in our life is connected to belief. And when the people of God have an expectation of God through faith, God can do the miraculous among his people. Hebrews 11:6, “For it is impossible to please God [what?] without faith. For the one who believes in God must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.”
What’s interesting is the word marveled. That was Jesus’ response to the people. He marveled over their unbelief. He was struck with amazement over unbelief. Now this word is interesting. It’s used only one more time in the Gospels where Jesus marvels over something. One time. And it’s found in Matthew 8. The only other time in the Gospel that Jesus marvels over something. Matthew 8 is the story of the centurion servant lying paralyzed at the house. Jesus comes up to the man and he says, “Jesus, just say the word,” look what it says, “just say the word and[what?] my servant shall be healed.” You don’t even have to go to the house. Just speak it from here. He’s healed.
Now how is this man getting it and all the Jewish people missed it? Jesus goes to the man and he says this. Look at verse 10, “Jesus heard this, he marveled [circle it] and said to those who followed him, ‘[Truly, I say to you] Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.’”
He marvels at the man’s faith; but in Nazareth he marvels at their unbelief. Which is the greater marvel? Is the great marvel to marvel at faith or is it to marvel at unbelief?
You know, I’m afraid that many believers this morning have lost the wonder of God. We don’t marvel over the things of God anymore, right? You don’t marvel over the resurrection anymore. You don’t marvel over the gospel. You don’t marvel over mercy any more. You don’t marvel over the death of Christ any more. You don’t marvel over the ascension of Christ any more. You don’t marvel over the discipleship of the apostles of Christ any more. You know, many of us become so calloused to the things of God that you walk in here every Sunday routinely and you hear a message from the word of God and you say, “So what? So what?” Friends, it’s important for us to continually be marveled over the things of God. Shame on us for not being marveled over the things of God. I hope this morning that we examine our life to think about this.
Let’s think about these questions: 1. Have we rejected the words of Christ? These are for unbelievers, obviously. But have you rejected the words of Christ? Secondly, have you rejected the person of Christ, his identity as the Messiah? And, thirdly, because of that, you have remained in your unbelief of Christ. I know, in a group this size whether you hear at the Gathering or watching at home, there could be some who have said, “Pastor, I have rejected Christ, his word, his work and I’ve remained in my unbelief.” And because of that, you’ll be judged. At the day of judgment, it says Jesus will say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Will you trust the Lord today? Will you turn from your sin? And will you put your faith in Christ?