By Simon ManchesterSunday 14 May 2023Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
Now we’re turning, if you will in your Bibles to Mark 6. That’s our aim for these next few minutes is to learn from this small section of Mark’s gospel. I can’t think of anything more valuable for us to do. I can’t think of a better message for us to be listening to for these few minutes.
In the book called Kerry Packer – Tall Tales and True – there’s a story of him watching the races one afternoon on television, and the races are being presented by Johnny Tap and Johnny Tap is wearing an open neck shirt. And Kerry Packer rings the television station and says, “tell tap to put a tie on after the next race.” He’s still there with an open neck shirt so Kerry Packer rings again and says, “Tell tap that he’ll be calling Camel races in the Sahara if he doesn’t have a tap tie on”
And after the next ad break. There he is still with an open neck shirt, so he rings one more time and just before he can thunder down the telephone. The dear receptionist lady at the other end says “Mr Packer, Mr Packer, it was recorded six hours ago.”
So I really like that there are some things that even a powerful, wealthy man cannot change. Fixed, immovable, done.
And that’s what we’re doing as we turn to Mark’s Gospel. We’re looking at something which is fixed, immovable and done, and we read in Chapter 13.
Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
So let’s look at these verses together. Very helpful little section If you were listening as it was red because we’ve been looking in mark recently at unstoppable progress, Jesus says my word like a seed will go out and it will produce a harvest and the seed will become a tree. And then he speaks to a storm and a demonised man and a sick lady and a dead girl. Nothing stops his progress. It’s just no resistance.
And now, in Chapter six, there is resistance. There is opposition, and it’s very sad opposition. And the fact of the matter is that the shadow of the cross hangs over Jesus from the birth to the death, and the opposition to Jesus continues in this world until he returns.
So I want to look at these verses in Mark six under two headings. The first is the reality of unbelief versus 1 to 6. This is where he goes to his hometown and his family do does not appreciate him.
And then the second section, versus 7 to 13 is what I’ve called the necessity of gospel mission. And this is where he sends his disciples out in twos to the various villages. So let’s think about the first, the reality of unbelief. Chapter 61 to 6. And we read in verse one that he went to his hometown. And what is his hometown? Well, we assume it’s Nazareth, don’t we? That’s where he spent his 1st 30 years.
Was Nazareth a great place? The Old Testament doesn’t even mention Nazareth. 1st and 2nd century literature does not mention Nazareth except the New Testament.
It is estimated that about 500 people live there. This is just a tiny, tiny little place, and I’m tempted at this point to mention some little town and say it’s like that and then find somebody here comes from that town and is deeply hurt. But this is the chairing gong of the world, you know, it’s just a little place. It’s got nothing much going for it. But Jesus puts it on the map and they don’t appreciate him when he goes home.
He teaches in the hometown, and they are amazed. But it isn’t the amazed of appreciation. It’s the amazed of scepticism and cynicism and criticism. This is not Nazareth listening to their boy come home and saying we hadn’t realised that he is on a level above us. No, this is Nazareth listening to Jesus and saying He’s got to be on our level. This is the ultimate of the tall poppy reaction, and you’ll see this in the language they use. You may not have noticed it, but in verses two and three, they say, Where does this man get all this?
That’s interesting. Then they say, Isn’t he the carpenter like, isn’t he? The builder is neither chippy and then even more negative. Isn’t he Mary’s son?
Well, respectfully, you would say, Isn’t he Joseph’s son?
But Jesus, paternity is in doubt, and this is a fairly negative comment being made, isn’t he? Well, doesn’t he have a mother? And then they say, Isn’t he just one of Mary’s kids? And they mentioned the other four brothers and at least two sisters. And so the plain and obvious lesson is that Mary had other Children, and the final word in Verse three is that they took offence at him.
The word originally is they were scandalised, so they can’t argue with the fact that he’s doing remarkable things and saying remarkable things. That’s just beyond question. His teaching is amazing, his wisdom is unanswerable and his deeds are inexplicable. But to be impressed, I hope you know this doesn’t mean to be converted.
It’s possible to come to this place and be impressed by building congregation music or anything. Moderately impressed, greatly impressed, I don’t know, but not converted. People used to go and listen to George Whitfield, the evangelist preach because they just loved the oratory. People used to go and hear Martin Lloyd Jones because they loved the way he would speak and things would take off. But they weren’t converted. They didn’t believe, And millions of people, as we know today who cannot question the credentials of Jesus, will still not give him any respect or devotion.
So the problem is not lack of evidence. It wasn’t in his day. It isn’t in our day. We need to know this. It is not lack of evidence. I know people would like to say there’s no evidence, those masses of evidence for the Seeker, the problem is resistance in the face of the evidence. And I don’t need to persuade you that our hearts are like this. Human heart is a very resistant thing. We know that we have the propensity. I do and you do to know exactly the right way to speak or live and to choose the wrong way because it appeals to us. How else can we explain the world that we live in, Which would really like to know if there is life outside this planet?
But when there is an excellent case for our maker coming to visit us in the incarnation would prefer to wallpaper over that message with another figure whose message is silly or given that our world would love to know if there is something beyond the grave. When the Son of God rises from the grave wallpapers over that message with a bunny, which is something belonging in preschool, the world that we live in, the hearts that we have are deeply resistant now I hope, in a way you do find this slightly encouraging that Jesus faced this I certainly do.
Many of our most painful hurts involve those who are closest to us. The closer the relationship as we know, the greater the potential for great joy and great heartache
and Jesus own people reject him. The people that he had lived among for 30 years perfectly reject him, people that he might have hoped would support him. People he might have hoped would understand him are against him.
And therefore, when we do pray for those people in our families and our friends whose opposition to Christ grieves us and whose sometimes hostility to us grieves us, we really are talking to somebody who sympathises, aren’t we? Hebrews. Chapter four tells us that he is sympathetic. He has experienced so many of the things that we experience, and he’s certainly experienced this and he’s not like us because he deserves no opposition. He deserves great appreciation. He deserves great devotion, but he doesn’t get it, and therefore he’s able to understand when we bring to him the sadness and the pain of somebody who we are longing for and I hope that Christians here this morning and some parents and some Children and some siblings, and some have got pastoral ministry and a concern for people will remember that Jesus himself, with every reason to be appreciated, got the opposite and is able to understand when we bring our prayers to him and not just understand but in his power and goodness is able to act in his wise time.
And, of course, the opposition to Jesus intensified. And so as his life continued, we know there came a time where the crowds that had received a great deal from him turned against him and the authorities began to attack him. And then the disciples deserted him. And then at the crucifixion, the father, even the father stepped back from him and left him completely alone so that he might experience total rejection with no support in order that he might offer to us total acceptance and fellowship with the father.
You might think that the world would learn to be ashamed of its rejection of Jesus. There is no public apology is there for what the world has done to its maker, but actually the opposite keeps happening, and there is this continued hostility? People are still scandalised by the birth of Jesus, aren’t they? They would like to avoid the subject.
Would the church please be quiet about Christmas and incarnation? Just pesky people are still scandalised by the life of Jesus, aren’t they? They continue to mock him.
People are scandalised by the message of Jesus. It gets domesticated, you know love. People do no harm. People are scandalised by the resurrection of Jesus. It’s avoided.
We live in a very strange world and we’re not critical of the world because we understand what our hearts are like. And we therefore need to factor in what I’m making as this first point that there is the reality of unbelief, like a train track running side by side with the power and the grace of Jesus. There is the power and the grace of Jesus to change anybody.
And there is the unbelief and they both run through the world. And of course, they’re very costly to Jesus that people would turn him down. But they are very costly to people who turn him down. Very costly. Look at verses. 4 to 6, he says. These famous words, the profit is dishonoured in his own town in his own family in his own home.
Because people tend to patronise and they become so familiar that although it’s an external thing, they become contemptuous. You know, external religion is not the same as a relationship with Jesus. Somebody said to me this week, Believe it or not, our family gave Windows to a church, as if to say, Now leave me alone. That’s not a relationship with Jesus, is it?
So it’s a great grief to Jesus that the people of his hometown would treat him like this. But it is an incalculable loss to those who do it, and therefore we read Invest five. He could do no miracles. He could do no miracles. What a shocking sentence he could do. No miracles. Now, when you think about that, it cannot mean that he is unable to do miracles. Suddenly his hands are tied. He’s got no power, he’s got no authority. It cannot mean that what it means is that he is unable to do things that are beneficial. He’s unable to do things that are helpful because the people are un receptive. It would be like bringing food to people who are so disinterested in food that they just throw it and fight with it.
Jesus is unable to bring miracles to his hometown profitably, and so he doesn’t accept in a couple of cases, and he marvels at their unbelief for six. Only twice in the New Testament does Jesus marvel. There’s only two things that cause Jesus to marvel in the New Testament. One in Luke seven is the faith of a soldier.
This complete outsider would say to Jesus, you just have to speak and my servant will be, well that causes Jesus to marvel. And here in his hometown, despite the words and despite the miracles and despite the wisdom and despite the life that they would say, we reject you, that causes him to marvel. So what do we make of this? We need to hold in our two hands to separate hands that first of all, he has the power to change anyone, and he may change anyone anytime.
And unbelief is a reality. And we also need to hold in two hands that he knows everything about our hearts. He knows exactly what we’re like, but he marvels at unbelief that’s the first.
The reality of unbelief now the second is the necessity of gospel mission. You would think, wouldn’t you, given this opposition in his hometown that he would be tempted to turn around and say, This is hopeless? This is a lost cause, complete opposite. What do we find? Investors? 7 to 13, he says. Let’s get mission moving, and I’ve said there’s probably 100 times from the pulpit, but it actually governs so much of my thinking that I want to say it again to you, that the gospel message of Jesus is like a river running down a hill, which, when it meets a rock or a tree, will move around it and keep going or a vine up offence. If it hits a beam or a post, it grows around it. And you and I need to know that the God who we belong to the God who we love the God who loves us causes his gospel to keep moving because he knows exactly who he’s after,
Spurgeon said. You know, the gospel like a magnet going across a rubbish tip, brings up all the iron filings, and we have the great privilege of just passing this magnet or telling the news where we can and seeing that God is not only loving but sovereign. I was reading recently of the German atheist Frederick Nietzsche. You’ll have heard of his name, and his influence in the world has been very sinister. And in 18 83 he wrote a book, a very strange book called Thus Spake Zarathustra.
And this was the book that introduced to the world the concept that God is dead, The little phrase God is dead, and what was lovely was to realise that when he sent this book off to the printer, he waited a very long time for it to be printed. In fact, he waited so long he got angry. And then not only did he get angry, but he got depressed. And so he wrote to the printer and he said, Where’s my book? It’s been with you for a very long time, and the printer wrote back to him and said, I’m very sorry about your book, but I have a previous order for 500,000 him books, and I’m just having trouble getting them all through.
And that was not lost on Nietzsche. The irony that here he was seeking to oppose the gospel and yet being prevented by 500,000 him books, which I dare to say would probably do a lot more good and have a lot more mileage than his funny little book. So Jesus, you see, is unstoppable. And he himself for seven, keeps teaching. He goes around the villages because he said in Chapter one, I’m going to keep going around the villages teaching. And then he calls his disciples and he commissions the 12 of them to go out in twos. And I want you to notice the factors in their mission. First verse seven.
They have authority. They do not go with their own authority. They go with his authority. And you know, when you get to the end of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John there is some commissioning of some kind with authority so that in the spiritual battle, these apostles are not going out with uncertainty. You know, How will this go? Is the battle going to be lost or won? They go out with the authority of the one who runs the world and we who go out as the representatives of Jesus this week. Believe it or not, you go out with the authority of the one who runs the world.
And if there is going to be any good effect on the people that we mix with, it’s going to be because of him. The second thing in verse eight and nine is that they go completely dependent. Lee dependent Lee.
They have nothing, really. But the clothes that they stand in, although they are allowed a staff and a pair of sandals.
And I was trying to think what this must be like to head off with another person and be going out into the villages, knowing that Jesus himself was starting to get hostile treatment. And you’ve got nothing. You’ve got no phone, you’ve got no credit cards, you’ve got no cash. You’ve just gotta stick in your hand.
And they would be learning as they went, complete dependence, this tremendous recognition that they are in his hands and that he is the one who is going to provide for them, and the church needs to have this recognition. We need to know our dependence as soon as we become independent and secure and confident of ourselves. We are in the most dangerous position.
Remember that famous occasion where two men were standing in the Vatican looking at all the opulence and one of them said to the other, You know, no longer do we have to say silver and gold have we none. And after a little pause, the other one said Yes, but no longer do we seem to be saying in the name of Jesus, get up and walk. In other words, yes, we’ve got the opulence. We just don’t seem to have the influence.
And there is a frightening link, I think, between self-sufficiency and ineffectiveness and self-indulgence and ineffectiveness and a church like ours if it ever pretends to be secure because we think to ourselves, G, we’ll look at our building.
Look at our leaders. Look at our people. Look at our whatever. Well, we’ve made a great mistake, haven’t we? And if you believe that we are dependent, you’ll be in prayer and you’ll be at the prayer meeting if you’re able. So there is this dependence as they go, and the third thing is that investors 10 and 11 Jesus warns them that there’ll be a polarising reaction, he says. Some will be very receptive, and they will welcome you into the home, and they will begin to provide for you. And you should stay right where you are, because that’s how you’re being looked after. Don’t go around looking for somewhere better stay right where you are.
And the other possibility, said Jesus, is that there will be those who reject you. They’ll reject you and therefore the message and they’ll be rejecting me, says Jesus, who sent you? And they will, of course, be rejecting the one who has sent me.
And if they do reject you, says Jesus in these verses, we’ll wipe the dust off your feet. Why does he say this? Well, because when the Jews would come back into the promised land from visiting gentile lands, they would sometimes symbolically wipe the dust off their feet as a way of saying, I’m leaving the contaminated world and I’m coming back into the safe world.
And here, Jesus is saying, when the Jewish people turn their back on you show them that they are not safe and they’re not clean. You’re wiping the dust off the feet as if to say you think you’re in a safe place, but you’re in a dangerous place. How wonderful it is that God still has receptive people. On Friday night, I had the great privilege of going to a dinner, which was run by a Sri Lankan couple in straight field. And they invited friends, some of whom were Hindus and Buddhists, to come and hear the gospel and to sit in the living room with about 30 people as they listened so attentively and ask questions and then to sit round afterwards with some of the young people asking intelligent and humble and interested questions. It was a great privilege. God has people seeking, and we mustn’t imagine that just because so many of our Western friends are impossible to communicate with an impossible to get through to that, there’s nobody for the gospel. The Gospel River keeps going. The gospel vine keeps going. We need, of course, great wisdom to know how to deal with our Western hard people, and sometimes we need great courage to give them a warning.
Well, the last effect, investors 12 to 13 is that these disciples going out with the authority of Jesus and dependent on Jesus and knowing that the response could go either way, they still call on people to repent. That is to turn back and many obviously do. And they are delivered from their spiritual in their physical dangers.
So isn’t it interesting? Put the two paragraphs together in your head just for a minute in versus 1 to 6. The hometown who have so much privilege reject him and receive virtually nothing. And the villages where they are receptive received so much infinite blessing. I think we should remember this as we think of these dilemmas in these verses that we need to remember as we leave today that we live in a Christ denying world. Don’t be surprised.
I know some of it shocks us, but we live in a Christ denying world. It has always been a Christ denying world. It will always be a Christ denying world, and we must go on being a Christ offering people.
That’s the first thing we need to remember to that as we do our ministry As we exercise our witness, there may well be a polarising effect. Don’t be surprised if we keep speaking the truth in this place and if we keep speaking the truth outside as we leave, we cannot be surprised if there is a greater hostility and a greater appreciation.
I was thinking at the wedding yesterday as we are listening to the very basic explanation of Christian marriage, how long will it be before this is not able to be spoken in a public place without some hostility or reaction? And if we go on preaching the truth and the standards of God and the freedoms of God, we must expect some people to get up and say I’ve had enough and leave with great grief to us and great cost to them.
So we need to recognise where we are and where we live. And the second thing we need to realise is that when we call people to repent, which seems so costly, I’ve got to give up my greed. I’ve got to give up my fornicating. I’ve got to give up my adultery. I’ve got to give up my power hungry lifestyle. I’ve got to give up my pride such a costly thing to repent And yet what will come in its place? Abundant blessing of a deep and lasting kind.
So this privilege of telling people to repent and receive Christ, which looks to be a costly and a humbling thing, brings in the train abundant, abundant, eternal blessing beyond what we could ever measure or calculate. And that’s our privilege. And that’s our responsibility. That’s our gratitude. And that’s our joy.
Let’s pray for God’s help to do it. Let’s bow our heads.
Our loving Father. We pray that in the steps of the Lord Jesus, you would strengthen us to be faithful to the truth. And we pray that in your great power and goodness, you would speed on the truth and raise up many to believe, to live, to have great blessing and to honour you in great and public and lasting ways. And we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.