Walk away from those you cannot trust.

Walk away from those you cannot trust.

Mark 8: 11-13 “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.”

In Capernaum Jesus drove out an evil spirit and healed many with diseases. It was a sign.

Throughout Galilee Jesus drove out demons and healed a man with leprosy. It was a sign.

Back into Capernaum Jesus healed a paralytic. It was a sign.

The Sea of Galilee had never seen so many miracles in its history. Jesus did all these. It was a sign.

Even the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 were all signs.

But the Pharisees come to Jesus in the region of Dalmanutha. They had seen or at least heard of the many miracles of Jesus. So why ask for a sign?

  • It was a test. They wanted him to fail. They wanted proof of who he was. They wanted him to try and prove himself to them.
  • It was in the middle of questioning. They were the mobile judge and jury. They already had made their mind up.
  • It was to authenticate his preaching here on earth. A sign from heaven to prove what he is doing on earth.

Some still want signs from heaven. Not content with your hard work and ministry and even the results from it they want you to authenticate and to prove yourself again.

If you know you are being trapped by those who are not for you, do what Jesus did? Walk away.

The importance of the 4,000 feeding miracle even though there was already a 5,000 feeding miracle done.

The importance of the 4,000 feeding miracle even though there was already a 5,000 feeding miracle done.

Mark 8: 1-10 “During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.”

 

In case you may question whether there was a 4,000 feeding as well as a 5,000 feeding, then read these words from Matthew 16:9-10, “(Jesus said) Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?” Jesus makes it clear there were 2 miracles, so this was not a mistake by Mark and Matthew who record 2 similar miracles.

So what was similar with the 4,000 and the 5,000 feeding miracles?

  1. Each obviously had a ‘large crowd’ gathering.
  2. Jesus had ‘compassion’ on both crowds.
  3. They were in a ‘remote place’ in both miracles.
  4. Jesus asks the disciples how many loaves they had.
  5. Jesus tells the crowds to sit down.
  6. Jesus takes the loaves, gives thanks, breaks them and gives them to his disciples for distribution.
  7. The crowds ate and were satisfied.
  8. The disciples pick up the left-overs.

So why do 2 miracles that are so similar?

The answer is found in where the miracles occurred and how many baskets of left-overs were gathered.

The 5,000 miracle occurred near Bethsaida, a Jewish region; the 4,000 miracle occurred in the Decapolis, a Gentile region.

The 5,000 Jewish miracle had 12 basketful of broken pieces perhaps referring to the 12 tribes of Israel; the 4,000 Gentile miracle had 7,000 basketfuls where the number seven is known as complete perfection (that the complete gospel is for the Jew and the Gentile). The feedings by Jesus were for both groups of people, the gospel is for all.

 

The sigh of Christ

The sigh of Christ

Mark 7: 31-37 “Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. 36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Lee Ridley aka Lost Voice Guy won the Britain’s Got Talent 2018 show and his life has forever changed for the better in monetary terms.

However the man in this story was not as privileged as Lee Ridley.

We do not know the name of the man.

We do know he was deaf. He could not hear what everyone else could enjoy. His life was smaller. Had he lost his hearing or was he deaf at birth? Coupled with this is that we do know that he ‘could hardly talk’, maybe his close friends understood the grunting sounds that he would make, but he was frustrated in not being able to express himself like his friends. He couldn’t even make a request for help himself, others begged Jesus but he couldn’t.

At that time being mute meant only 2 possible things, punishment for sin or you had demons within. So Jesus being able to heal these sufferings shows he had power over sin and the demonic.

He looked up to heaven as a symbol of prayer (similarly to what he did for the feeding of the 5,000) and as he proclaims ‘be opened’ over the man, Jesus does something that he only does one other time in Mark’s gospel when he is frustrated with the Pharisees asking for signs (Mark 8), he sighs.

In front of this disabled man, he sighs. Why?

Clearly not out of frustration towards him.

Let me suggest …

Jesus sighs out of compassion for the man’s disability. Man was never created to be mute. This is the product of the world gone wrong.

Jesus sighs out of pity because this man has been maligned for the reason of his disability being sin or the demonic. Jesus sighs because he feels sorrow for what this man is experiencing on top of his condition.

Jesus sighs as an expression of prayer. Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”  We should learn to pray more before we use words.

Compassion, pity and prayer: may we all carry with us the sigh of Jesus to a world that is broken.

It is surprising who actually gets more than a crumb from the table of God.

It is surprising who actually gets more than a crumb from the table of God.

Mark 7:24-30 “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. 27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”

God has a place for everyone, no matter who they are.

There is so much judgment in the church. When will it stop? But it has occurred since day one.

The Church falls out over doctrine and practices. The Church despises the Church and the world.

It is difficult to express just exactly how much the Jews hated and despised the people of Tyre.  They were despised outsiders. Jesus had said “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:22.

Why was Jesus so reluctant to drive the demon out of the woman’s daughter?

He wasn’t.

He was testing her faith.

Will she fight back when he indicates that it is not right to take the children’s bread (Israel) and toss it to the dogs (the Tyre and Sidonian people)? Or will she respond according to her knowledge that salvation is for all, Jew and Gentile. That God’s love reaches beyond the barriers that man puts up.

“Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She got it!

She understood even what the disciples would fail to.

That even an outcast, a dog, a second-class citizen of God’s community would get a crumb if she persevered. And one crumb from the master’s table is all she needed.

Jesus gave her more than a crumb. He granted her heart’s desire and he welcomed her to the table.

Hands can be dirty and the heart can be cleansed

Hands can be dirty and the heart can be cleansed

Mark 7: 14-23 “ Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Jesus is defending his disciples having not ceremonially washed their hands before eating.

It is difficult in our culture to grasp how important this teaching actually was.  What needed cleansing and healing wasn’t a person’s hands or mouth but their heart. Jesus lists 13 items that exist within us and which warrants a cleansing of those hearts.

You can have ceremonially clean hands but a defiled heart.  So what good is that?

A person can look great and acceptable on the outside but if the heart is bad then it is all a façade.

So don’t let people burden you with guilt and shame for something you are or are not doing, these are attacks from the outside and are burdensome.

But Jesus cleanses hearts today, the place where sinful practices are born.

 

Corban

Corban

Mark 7: 9-13

9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Hypocrites say one thing and do another.

The Pharisees had a law to honour parents but they designated their money as Corban (devoted to God) so that they didn’t need to give anything. 

Yet what made them hypocrites was their attack on the disciples for having unwashed ceremonial hands at the same time having this stance towards their parents. 

It still happens today. 

We need to be careful on the heaviness of our judgment against the lightness of our own conduct. 

Don’t be fooled, not everyone who appears to be something actually is!

Don’t be fooled, not everyone who appears to be something actually is!

Mark 7: 1-8 “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

The Pharisees are still alive today even in my western culture:

Yesterday a friend told me how he had been lambasted by a Christian man because he had not helped in a way that had been expected (wrongfully so). He was actually shouted at: “You are an abomination to God.” After rolling our eyes I was left with 2 thoughts: I didn’t think people used the word ‘abomination’ anymore and secondly, the Pharisees that slandered Jesus and the disciples are still here.

  1. Just because people gather around Jesus doesn’t make them Jesus followers. They gather around Jesus but they are focused on his followers and not him. They are gathered around him but not for him or with him.
  2. Just because people can quote the Bible and even pray impressive prayers does not prove they are any more nearer to Jesus than those who don’t have a Bible or pray. Their lips were moving but their hearts were not moving towards Jesus.
  3. Just because people sing, clap, raise their hands or whatever they do as ‘worship’ does not mean they are connected with God. It can all be a waste of time but they don’t think so, because these displays can be impressive and it is possible to fall in love with worship instead of worshipping the one you love or should love.
  4. Just because people have rules for living and whose behaviour is apparently ‘cleaner’ than most does not mean they are more acceptable to God than those who have no rules. A human rule will not bring you closer to God. Neither will the rules of God, the law of God, it doesn’t bring you closer it actually reveals how far away from Him you are, it distances you.
  5. Just because people are doing what has always been done, it has been passed down generationally, it has become cultural norms and laws, does not mean they were right in the first place. Traditions of men are often a variant of the commands of God. Variants are burdensome, the commands are light.

Do you have faith for the edge?

Do you have faith for the edge?

Mark 6: 53-56 “When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”

Here is a very brief understanding of “… the edge of his cloak …”

According to the instruction to Moses (Numbers 15) the Israelite men were to wear tunics that would act as prayer shawls. At each corner of the tunic there were tassels tied into 613 knots to symbolise the 613 laws of Moses. Everyone could see them and the man would have to be careful to keep those laws. Every day the man knew he was carrying the Word of God in his life. They also spoke of the man’s authority. In the Old Testament story of David cutting off a piece of Saul’s robe we see the reason why David was so upset for the action was because he felt he had stolen Saul’s authority. This would humiliate Saul and David was annoyed with himself (2 Samuel 24). Finally the edges of the cloak were also seen as what was referred to by Malachi “… the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings.” (Malachi 4) The word ‘wings’ is a translated word for the edges of the wing. The man knew that symbolically the edge of his cloak was a picture of the power of God.

On the side of the lake at Genneserat pandemonium had broken out as people swarmed like bees for the nectar. They begged Jesus for the edge of his cloak, that’s all that they needed but it wasn’t a demonstration of something small and insignificant, far from it. It demonstrated their faith in these 3 truths.

Today whatever need you have can you demonstrate the same faith?

Can you reach out to Jesus even if it is just the edge of his cloak?

Can you reach out in faith to the Word, to His identity, that Jesus is God? Can you simply believe in Him today?

Can you reach out in faith to His authority, that there is no one higher than Him? He is the King of Kings. One day every knee will bow before Him. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. All things are held together by Him.

Can you reach out in faith to His power, that He actually can change your life? There is no need impossible for Him. He can do this for you.

Reach out to His identity, authority and power today. You may feel your faith is nothing, like it is only touching the edge of His cloak. Yet the people in the past will say that is all that is needed, because to touch the edge can unlock everything that you need.

5 differences between the ordinary and the not so.

5 differences between the ordinary and the not so.

Mark 6: 47 – 52 “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Jesus had wanted the disciples to do the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. But they had not grasped the potential of what is possible when Jesus is with you.

He has now sent them across the lake knowing a storm was coming. He wanted the disciples to not just survive the storm but perhaps do what he did which was to calm it. But they had not grasped the potential of what is possible when Jesus has sent you and is watching you.

They failed in both events.

The reason why they failed was their lack of revelation of His divinity.

Here are 5 differences between the ordinary and the not so, between those who lack revelation and the Jesus-people.

  1. Some people at first appear to be advancing forward compared to the Jesus people who prioritise and spend more time in prayer. The disciples had sailed to the middle of the Sea but Jesus was still on a mountainside praying.

 

  1. Some people become strugglers in life because of the winds of pressure against them compared to the Jesus people who choose not to struggle. Knowing which battle to fight is the key.

 

  1. Some people use all their strength in getting through the storms of life compared to the Jesus people who decide on a different path during the storms, the reliance on God’s strength, the miraculous path, the walking on water path.

 

  1. Some people who had a head start and many other privileges don’t necessarily advance at the rate they should have done compared to the Jesus people who not only catch up but are ready to by-pass them because of the speed of the Spirit.

 

  1. Some people who are in survival-mode misinterpret miracles and thus miss the miracle-worker compared to the Jesus people who understand there are times to stop walking on water and get into people’s boats to bring about a different miracle, that of calming the storm.

Lessons from miracles

Lessons from miracles

Mark 6: 42-46 “They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. 45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

Jesus left no waste behind.

There was no evidence left behind of the most amazing miracle that this remote place had ever hosted. The disciples were litter-pickers. There were no book signings, record deals or conference bookings. The miracle would stay in the minds of those who had been there.

Jesus was the one to dismiss the crowd.

There are times that at the point of success that Jesus wants you far away from the satisfaction of the crowds. The church that attracts can easily fall in love with itself.

Jesus went to pray.

The desire to pray was there after the miracle as well as before. When miracles are sandwiched by prayer then it is the communion with God that is more important than the miracle. Miracles are born out of constant connection with the divine not by a request from earth for a divine connection.