Monday, 12 May 2008

Missing the Signs

Summarized from sermon by Pastor Roger Tooley

Mar 8:10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.
Mar 8:11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
Mar 8:12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
Mar 8:13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

The Setting
Jesus had just finished performing his miracle feeding the four thousands. He had dispersed the crowd and sailed to a different place along the coast of Galilee.

By this time Jesus was already a famous “prophet” in Israel, known for his miracles: healing the sick (Mark 2:12, 3:5, 5:29, 7:35), cleansing the leper (Mark 1:42), casting demons (Mark 1:34, 3:11, 5:15, 7:29), raising the dead (Mark 5:42), calming the storm (Mark 4:39), feeding multitudes (Mark 6:41, Mark 8:7). Indeed the multitudes were astonished and testified that “He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37).

The Discourse
As soon as he arrived, a group of Pharisees disputed with Him, wanting to see a sign confirming His messianic role. The sentence here suggests that they are trying to find faults and to tempt the Lord.

But the Lord would not play their little game. He knew what was in their heart. These people had seen so many miracles, more than any prophets had ever done, yet they still look for another sign. The phrase “a sign from heaven” refers to a spectacular miracle in the sky. After all, many prophets in Israel performed miracles in the heaven: Moses (darkness across Egypt – Exodus 10), Joshua (the sun stood still for a day – Joshua 10), Elijah (no rain for 3 years – 1 King 17, fire from heaven – 1 King 18), etc. The Lord knew that this request for miracle was just a ploy. Even if another miracle were shown, they would not be satisfied and would ask for another one.

Jesus is not in a “sign making” business. His miracles were always done to confirm and substantiate His teachings and authority. He did not perform miracles for the sake of fame or to entertain and satisfy His crowds. Jesus is in the “salvation” business. He came to seek and find the lost and to bring deliverance to the needy.

The Applications
Many today have the same attitude as the Pharisees. There are group of people who do not want to believe in God until they see a miracle. But they have seen miracles, everyday. The Bible says that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1), yet the scoffers say it is the “big bang”. The Bible says that we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” (Psalm 139:14), instead people rather have ape-like creature as their ancestors. And how about the greatest miracle of all, God became man and dwelled among us? There would be no greater miracle than the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, people said that He is “just a great teacher”, that He “was a good man”. Some even claim that Jesus is a fiction.

Well said the story preached by Jesus in Luke chapter 16. Here the rich man in hell begged Abraham that he let the poor but righteous Lazarus to rise from the dead and tell his family about the impending judgment.

Luk 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
Luk 16:28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Luk 16:29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
Luk 16:30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Luk 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

If the clear and plain words of the Scriptures are not sufficient, then the problem is in the heart. Just like the Pharisees, people do not believe not because of lack of evidence, but they do not believe because they do not want to believe.

On the other spectrum, there are people who would readily embrace Christianity, but only to do so to experience the spectaculars. This kind of people flock to stadiums and meeting halls to see the latest and greatest of “Christian” showmanship. The problem with this kind of Christianity is that people would expect more and greater miracles every time. When the spectacular ceases and the message get hard and convicting, they would just leave to find the next “Christian idols.” Even Jesus also experienced this kind of crowd. In John chapter 6, He performed his miracle feeding the five thousands. The day after, He preached a hard message. The hearers murmured and said “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (verse 60) and many left him ever since (verse 66).

Apostle Paul said that God’s work is done through the “foolish preaching of the Gospel. “ (1 Cor 1:17) People are saved through faith by hearing the words of God (Rom 10:17), not through seeing signs and wonders. Judas had seen more miracles than most Christians, yet he died in his unbelief. Who can claim that they have seen more spectacular miracles than Peter? He had seen the Lord transfigured into His glory, yet in his letter (2Peter 1:19) he said that he had “a more sure word of prophecy” even better than his seeing the miracles.

Finally, there are also people who call themselves believers but would not submit to God’s revealed will in the Bible. This is as bad as or perhaps even worse than the two groups before. The definition of a hypocrite is a person who says one thing but do something opposite. If you claim to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, and call Jesus as your Lord, where is the obedience?

Mal 1:6 A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? …

The Sad Departure

Notice in the last verse, “and He left them. “ What a sad situation it would be when God has enough of you and decided to leave you alone. You might deceive yourself by saying, “I would enjoy my life while I am young and perhaps get saved when I am old and about to die.” The Bible states that God’s spirit does not always strive with men (Genesis 6:3). In Hosea 4:17, God said “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.“ It would be the saddest day in your live when you seek for repentance carefully with tears like Esau but are not able to find it (Hebrew 12:16-17).

If you are a Christian, perhaps you know what God want you to do, but you decide to go your own way. God said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal 6:7). There will be pay day someday!

Oh how we should keep watch for that old and worn sign of the Cross that lead us to the true and living way. Do not be side tracked by flashy and glitzy billboards that point you to hell!

Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

This message is by no mean me looking down on other people. This message speaks much to me as well. There are areas in my life that need straightening up, but I am glad that I have that help from Him who is able to make me stand (Rom 14:4). How about you? Where do you put your trust on?

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