Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

What was it you disputed among yourselves?

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
(Mark 9:33-37)

The apostles couldn’t hide anything from Jesus. Along the road on the way to Capernaum, they were arguing over who the greatest was among them. Jesus was not close enough to hear, or at least they thought. Once they get to the city and go into the house, Jesus asks them about it. I wonder if they blushed and really got embarrassed. Probably so. They were found out.

Can you imagine how foolish they felt arguing about this topic when the Lord, the Messiah and the Son of God is standing with them? Jesus humbled them by taking a child and setting him in the middle of the apostles. Look at him, look at this child, this is where greatness is in the kingdom of heaven.

Now we bring this to 2018, and think about the fact that we are no different than the twelve apostles when it comes to bragging and fussing over who is the best, brightest and greatest. We have better ways to do it, too. The Internet, social media, phones, etc. all give us great opportunities to display our “greatness.” Beware, though, and be reminded of what Jesus said, what makes someone great in Jesus’ eyes is 180 degrees in the opposite direction from what the world says is great.

There is a time for self-promotion in the workplace. There is a time to showcase your work, skill and ideas, but keep in mind about what Jesus said in this passage. You can get so caught up in that “one-up-man-ship” that you lose sight of what greatness really is. Many times your work will speak for itself (Proverbs 22:29). As an example, God exalted Joseph in the presence of Potiphar, Joseph’s character and work was his testimony.

Take a good look at a little child today, maybe your son or daughter or grandchild, and remember that’s where the greatness is in Jesus’ eyes.

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.

Doing the “Lord’s Work”

Today’s thought from Scripture is a reminder to be careful about compartmentalizing our work for God. There are times when we say we are doing the Lord’s work in connection to what we do with and for the congregation. Preaching, teaching, leading in other parts of the worship, etc. are called accurately the “Lord’s work.”

But what about my responsibilities at home? Is that not also doing the “Lord’s work”? Think about what Jesus told the Jewish leadership when He condemned them for their hypocrisy.

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:9-13)

Are we doing the Lord’s work by taking care of our parents? Or are the time and money we offer to the church the only part of our work that is “God’s work”? I believe Jesus answered that for us. Yes, we work for God when we donate our time, efforts and money to the congregation, and at the same time we are working for God when we take time, money and effort to help our family in times of need. We are to do both, but don’t ever minimize the importance of taking care of mom and dad.

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
(1 Timothy 5:4)

The reason I say this is because it can get easy to feel guilty about not being able to do more for God because of the pressing obligations of taking care of aging parents or a special needs child. What did God say “pure religion” was anyway?

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:26-27)

Lessons from Herod

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”
(Mark 6:21-23)

A lascivious dance, an aroused king, and a hasty vow.

This section of Scripture is part of the explanation of the death of John the Baptist. Herodias, who was married to Herod, wanted John the Baptist dead. John confronted the couple on their unlawful marriage (Herodias was actually Herod’s brother’s wife), and Herodias wanted to kill him. Now she had her chance.

By prompting and using her daughter (Matthew 14:8), she had her daughter dance in front of all of these men. Whatever the nature of that dance was, it “pleased” Herod and led him to offer half his kingdom to her. I don’t think it takes much imagination to conclude this dance was not a square dance.

To make it even more vile, this was his step-daughter, and if this young lady was the daughter of his brother Philip, then she would be Herod’s niece.

The result of this dance, Herod’s “pleasure” and the hasty vow led to the death of John the Baptist.

We can learn several valuable lessons from Herod:

  • Lust kills. It’s not a laughing matter. Lust kills our souls. Lust kills marriages and families. Lust destroys our influence as God’s men. Lust stirs a person up to make commitments that he will forever regret. “Flee youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Our choice in entertainment matters. Herod allowed himself and all his guests to be pleased by the dancing of his step-daughter. Look where it led.
  • Our choice in spouse matters. Herod stole his brother’s wife, and we can see from the heart and choices of Herodias that she was not a godly woman at all. She used her husband and her daughter to accomplish her sinister schemes.

These things are recorded for us in Scripture so that we can learn from them.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
(1 Corinthians 10:11-14)

Make your struggle with lust known, so that a brother in Christ can help you with it.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3).

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Why trouble the Teacher any further?

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
(Mark 5:35)

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, had a daughter who was dying. He rushed up to Jesus and put in a 911 call. The need was urgent, but everyone else in the crowd thought their need was urgent, too. They all pressed about Him to get access to Him. Jesus then stopped and began talking to a woman that He had just healed. I can only imagine the urgency in this man’s heart. “Come on, Jesus! Let’s go! My daughter is dying! We don’t have a lot of time!!”

And then the worst news possible comes to Jairus. Your daughter is dead. It’s too late. There’s no need to bother Jesus anymore.

Think about the question that they asked of Jairus, and what it means? “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” This is a lot like the family and friends of Lazarus who saw Jesus as the death-stopper and the great healer, but not as one who could raise a dead person to life (see John 11). That’s just impossible, right?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
(Mark 5:36)

We need this reminder from Jesus today just as much as Jairus did on that day. Sometimes we make the same kinds of determinations, that Jesus can help me here, but cannot help me there. This situation we can pray about, but that issue we will have to deal with ourselves.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

Think about this and how it applies to our congregations. What can God do through a group of praying, faith-filled Christians?

  • Through our prayers, God’s spirit will fill us and we will go out and speak the word with boldness (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • Through our prayers with each other, we who are caught up in sin can be healed of our soul-sickness and be restored (James 5:13-20).
  • Through the prayers of a few faithful people, a dead church can come back to life again (Revelation 3:1-6).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, God can raise up and provide godly leaders for our congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, attitudes can change, people can mature and a new mindset can be formed (Col. 4:12).

Don’t limit God. Let’s not have the attitude of the people in the crowd with Jairus, thinking we’ve troubled Jesus enough.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
(2 Corinthians 1:11)

Lessons from a demon

You know, we can learn lessons from just about anywhere. As we continue our study here at home through the book of Mark, we considered what we can learn from the demons.

Demons recognize the Lordship of Jesus.

“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.”
(Mark 1:24)

Demons fearfully tremble in the presence of Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!
(James 2:19)

Demons know they have a limited time.

And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
(Matthew 8:29)

Demons ran to Jesus, fell down before Him and begged Him for mercy.

And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
(Mark 3:11)

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.”
(Mark 5:6-7)

Demons are smarter than a lot of people! The Bible speaks of those in whom the fear of God does not exist (Psalm 36:1), but I believe all of us at a practical level have lived that way. We may not have been professing atheists but we were practicing as if we were atheists (Romans 3:8; Titus 1:16).

What can we learn from a demon?
  • Do we recognize the Lordship of Jesus?
  • Do we have a deep reverence for who Jesus is?
  • Do we keep in mind that we have a limited time?
  • Do we fall before Jesus’ feet begging for His mercy?

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
(Romans 14:9-12)

Spreading the Good News at Home

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 5:19-20)

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

There’s a lot to ponder on when it comes to this text, as there is any time Jesus said anything. What I want to focus on for today is that Jesus asked this man to go home and tell the good news. Talk about how good God is. Speak of His mercy. Jesus charged him to use his formerly demon-possessed tongue to express the things God had done for him.

Go home and do this. He didn’t say go to a strange location, talk about this to people you’ve never met. Instead, He said go home and tell this to your friends.

That leaves me thinking, and I hope you are thinking about it too, what kinds of things are we talking about at home? What kinds of conversations are we having with our wives and kids?

Often we talk about telling the good news to the world and talking to others at work, at school, and in the community about Jesus. But are we spreading the good news at home? Do we talk like thankful people at home?

You see, Peter’s speech betrayed him. He claimed not to be a friend of Jesus, but his thick Galilean accent betrayed him (Luke 22:59; Matthew 26:73). In the same way, we can claim to be followers of Jesus, but the way we talk at home may tell a completely different story.

Is there “faith talk” at home? Are we constantly talking about the problems, the business, and the negativity that we fail to focus our thoughts and speech on all the good things God has done for us? Are we remembering to say good things about God out loud to our wives and kids?

Jesus told this man to go home and do this. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12)

Isn’t Jesus asking us to do the same?

The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.
(Isaiah 38:19)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

Do you have good news to tell at home? Do our wives hear us as God’s men telling the good news? Are we thankful men, grateful for life and God’s blessings? Do our wives see thankfulness on our faces and do they hear God’s praises coming from our tongues?

Go home and tell the good news.