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“So He said to them, ‘How is it you do not understand?’ ” Mark 8:21

Jesus had just warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod and not one of them understood the metaphor that he was using. It appears that their minds we’re thinking on quite literal lines that day. They knew that leaven was used in bread making and they new that they had brought no bread to feed themselves that day so they reasoned that he must be making some point regarding their oversight in not bring any bread to eat.

Jesus appears to be a bit stunned by their inability to follow his meaning and he is equally concerned over the direction their minds went in search of a meaning for his words. So he asked them if they remembered how many baskets were left over when he multiplied the loaves for the 5000 and the 4000. And they remember, twelve baskets and then seven baskets. And then Jesus basically asked them, “If you can remember that why don’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread.”

Friends, I believe what Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, is that God isn’t at all concerned about whether or not we have food with us or not. Small things like food, and clothing, and shelter are of little to no concern for him. When the multitudes were fed Jesus took an insufficient quantity of food and made it an abundance. The Old Testament tells us that during the forty years of the exodus from Egypt God provided food from nothing every morning. Additionally, he preserved their sandals and clothing so they didn’t wear out. Matthew records, in chapter six of his gospel, that Jesus’ confidence in his Fathers provision was such that he counseled us to worry about nothing. Not food. Not clothing. Not shelter. Nothing.

When Jesus told his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod he was warning them to guard against self-righteousness. In different forms self-righteousness dominated the lives and teachings of both Herod and the Pharisees and such will never result in producing the transformation necessary to fashion a godly character.

Only the grace of God received by faith can produce such a change. The focus and the concern of the life then ought to be first to receive of the grace heaven provides, the Holy Spirit. And then to cooperate with the Spirit as he restores the fullness of the image of God in us.

“Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Mark 8:11-12

There are literally hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament describing the messiah and what he would do. Conservative scholars would put the number at more than three hundred with others going as high as five hundred.

That’s a huge number of specific events and characteristics that have to be fulfilled. By comparison the beast power of Revelation 13 only has eight or ten characteristics. Yet these comparatively few identifiers are enough for historians and scholars to confidently ascribe the fulfillment to a single historical power.

But the person of the messiah is of such importance that mere confidence is not enough. Supreme confidence in a correct identification is desired. So God, in the centuries preceding Christ’s birth, sent us thirty to fifty times the number of prophecies to identify the messiah as he did to identify the antichrist.

Is it any wonder this Jesus refused to give the scribes and pharisees any additional signs? They didn’t need any more signs. What they needed was to ask questions, of Christ and those that were witnesses to his birth and life and then compare the answers they received to scripture. If that wasn’t enough to convince them then they needed to simply be quiet and watch as additional events either continued to confirm or debunked the assertion that Jesus was the Messiah.

So what was driving their request for additional signs? The same thing that so often drives illogical and unreasonable demands. Impatience combined with laziness. They wanted their questions answered right away and they didn’t want to do the work required to get the answers for themselves from the resources already given.

Do you have questions you want God to answer? Chances are that if you have truly important questions a satisfactory answer’s already been provided. The question that remains is: Are you patient and diligent enough to find the answer God’s already provided in his word?

“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2

Both Matthew and Mark include this second, less commonly known, miraculous feeding of the multitude. The details between the first and second feeding, while different are, in my opinion, comparable with the only major difference being the length of time the people had been with Jesus. With the feeding of the five thousand the people had been with Jesus for a single day. Now, with the feeding of the four thousand the people have been following and listening to Jesus for three days.

I have to ask myself, would I desire to hear Jesus teach so much that I would follow him into the wilderness without definite plans and continue following him when I saw that my food supply was running low and then stick with him even after my food had run out? I can’t see myself doing that.

I know Jesus told Satan when he was being tempted that, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And he told the people, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled.” But I don’t hear Jesus saying that we don’t need physical food at all and I don’t think I’m less than sincere for wanting to make sufficient plans so that my spiritual learning isn’t interrupted by the distraction of bad menu planning.

All that being said, I’m still impressed by the dedication of the people in sticking with Jesus as long as they did. Perhaps Jesus waited so long to feed them to weed out the ones that were following him, in this deserted place, just to see if he would multiply the bread again. No doubt those looking for miraculous entertainment had already gone home. Even those that just liked hanging around spiritual people had gone away in search of food. Now only those that were actually listening to what Jesus had to say, desiring to know more, were left.

How long have you been with Jesus? I’m not asking about a single event. I’m asking about how long he’s been your Savior, your God. Two years? Ten years? Twenty years? What keeps you following after him? Are you simply wanting to maintain what you’ve already been taught or are you wanting more? Physical, practical need is an effective way of testing motivation. Jesus desire isn’t to weed out anyone. But he does like to reveal the truth we like to hide from. Perhaps if we’re going through a patch where things are difficult Jesus is allowing this to show us why we’re where we are with him so that we can become ready to receive more.

“Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it.” Mark 7:36

“Look but don’t touch.” I don’t know how many times I was told that as a boy. But it seems, as I think back over the years, that I probably touched what I was told not to more often than I kept my hands to myself.

What is it about the forbidden that makes it so attractive to us? It doesn’t matter what it is. If we’re not supposed to eat something what do we want more than anything else? If there’s a toy or some other object we’re not supposed to play with why do our fingers just itch to hold, and spin, and juggle that object above any other?

But we haven’t even considered the other side of the coin. Why is it that if we’re given direct instructions as to what we ought to do that so many of us come up with so many ways of avoiding getting the job done? What is it about school work that makes it attract so many distractions so that it takes twice or three times as long to complete as it ought to? And when chores are given why is it that this kind of work attracts so many other tasks to itself that it takes twice the effort to get the job done? Why are we always trying to multitask when it’s been proven that doing so causes us to accomplish less, do sloppier work, and make more actual mistakes than it would have if we’d just focused ourselves and done one thing at a time?

Jesus, in the book of Mark, is repeatedly recorded telling people to not tell others about miracles he’s worked for them. But not once could the people keep a secret. In fact, our focus text observes that “the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it.”

Jesus had good reason to want to not advertise his activities. It seemed that the more good he did the more he was attacked by the jewish leaders. If people could’ve just not broadcast his actions quite so much he just might’ve been able to avoid some of the trouble and done more good for them.

The sin in us drives us to disobey. But Jesus came to set us free from sin’s power. And we’re set free by connecting our lives with Jesus. By letting Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, live in our hearts. It’s true that while we’re learning to cooperate we still make a lot of mistakes but it’s also true that without him we can’t do anything. With Jesus in our lives all things God asks become possible.

“But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ ” Mark 7:27

When Jesus is proving our characters and our faith to whom is he proving them?

I would suggest to you that the person that benefits the most by the demonstrating of the faith is the one that has been tested. There is a determination and a confidence that comes into a person when he or she realizes that they are equal to the challenge and there is a humility and a submittedness present when they realize just how weak and vulnerable they are in the face of the great trials that loom before them. Both the proving of strength and weakness are valuable pieces of knowledge.

In Jesus’ encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman Jesus is simultaneously demonstrating the strength of the woman and the weakness of the disciples. The primary focus of his test was the disciples and in his responses to her entreaties he is parroting the attitudes of disciples toward her class of person, which were in sharp contrast to his own loving and compassionate ones. He knew the depth of the woman’s faith and left openings for her to continue pressing her petition forward. In doing this he clearly demonstrated to both the disciples and the woman that she was not of some group of people worthy only to be ignored and neglect by those possessing the love of God. No. She is, because of her faith, part of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The woman noticed that Jesus had said, “Let the children be filled first…,” and seeing an opening pressed forward her request. The children might be the “first” to be fed but even the dogs hovering about the table get a small share from the food.

Ellen White, in the book The Desire of Ages, tells us that the disciples never forgot the lesson demonstrated in this single miracle performed in the region of Tyre and Sidon. They never forgot that saving faith could be found even in classes and groups of people they might ordinarily be inclined to believe are wholly distant and separated from the influence of God.

Friends, today, there are many who’ve heard whisperings about salvation and they yearn for its touch. They’ve felt the influence of the Holy Spirit leading them, guiding them, wooing them and they want to believe. Jesus may even be leading you to a place where you might see past the first impression they give and find that place, that need, that hope that’s been prepared in their hearts to receive of the grace of Jesus.

”There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.” Mark 7:16

For centuries the people of Israel had had an up and down relationship with God. For a while they would faithfully follow after God. During these times they would experience great blessings and would prosper as a nation. But these times didn’t last. They just couldn’t seem to resist the pull to worship other gods. And when this happened prosperity would end and the blessings would disappear. After several times through this cycle God finally let a powerful, heathen nation carry them away captive for 70 years.

And it seems that they almost learned their lesson. They realized that it was their disobedience that was the cause of their difficulties. But they also concluded that the foundational problem was the temptation and defilement all around them. So they began to eliminate the sources of temptation and the opportunity to contact anything that would defile them. This, of course, spun completely out of control because they failed to account for the greatest sources of the temptation, self and Satan.

Jesus, in our focus text, is attempting to fix this pharisaical misunderstanding when he told them that nothing coming in from the outside could defile a man only something coming out from the inside.

Jesus is not here setting aside the rules about clean and unclean food. Those are God given health laws and he was consistent in teaching that he had not come to change God’s laws. In Mark seven, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees belief that if we avoid contact with unclean things and people we would be able to keep ourselves pure.

Jesus’ teaching tells us that purity is maintained not by keeping defiling things away but by not saying and doing things that are sinful. These words and actions are coming from a sinful heart and this internal source of sinful action is what defiles us.

Mark seven doesn’t reveal how we’re to get clean hearts but other places in scripture do. One of my favorites is in Psalm 51. This passage would have been available to the Pharisees and in it David is asking God to “Create in me a clean heart.” Only God can clean a sin stained heart and in Jesus he shows us that he’s ready and willing to do that if we’ll ask.

”Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.” Mark 7:2-3

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness.” This saying was first recorded in a sermon by the Methodist preacher John Wesley but the theology behind it is far more ancient.

In our focus text we find the Pharisees questioning the piety of Jesus and his disciples because they aren’t washing their hands, prior to eating, according to the traditions of the elders. But here’s the funny part about the requirement, that washing wasn’t because of concern about germs and dirt, it was all about removing defilement that came from contact with gentiles and other unclean people.

In the book of Leviticus, Moses had recorded many instructions God had given him pertaining to the washing of hands, dishes, and clothes. But if you look at the context of these rules you quickly realize that the purpose of the washing is to actually remove physical filth. Scientists hadn’t yet made the discoveries that would lead to the germ theory, but God, who had created everything, knew about bacteria, viruses, paracites and other tiny creatures that are capable of causing great harm to people and he gave commandments to help prevent infections and infestations by them.

But by the time of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees, about the issue of washing, the practical part of the reason for the command had been lost and it had become spiritualized.

Friends, not everything worth doing has a spiritual reason for doing it.

God is the god of every part of your life: the physical, the mental, the social, the psychological, the spiritual. Over the centuries scientists and others have found very good reasons for many of the commands God has given. I say many, because I don’t think we understand the why yet for all of God’s instructions.

The Pharisees came into conflict with Jesus because they thought they understood the why and their erroneous conclusions led them to incorrect applications.

Far better that we take God’s word as it is and not add to it or take away from it.

”And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out;  for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ “ Mark 6:49-50

Jesus had just spent a large portion of the night deep in prayer.

Just hours before thousands of people, led by the disciples, had been ready to force him to become king. In him they had seen the solution to all their troubles. He could remove all the barriers preventing them from defeating Rome. He could heal the sick and wounded, even raise the dead, so they didn’t have to worry about losing soldiers in battle. And when he had multiplied the loaves and fishes he solved the problem of feeding an army. But Jesus hadn’t come to solve all our problems. Jesus had come as our Savior to solve the problem we have with sin and becoming a king leading an army against the Romans was counterproductive to fulfilling that plan so Jesus sent the disciples and the the people away.

After praying, perhaps for the people’s acceptance of the work he was trying to accomplish for them, perhaps for his own resolve to be true to the path the Father was leading him down, Jesus came near to the disciples walking on the water.

But the disciples didn’t recognize him. Perhaps their minds were clouded by the frustrating end to what had looked like a perfect opportunity to crown Jesus king. Perhaps they were frustrated and tired after spending hours attempting to row a boat to shore against a impossible wind. Perhaps the thought of a man walking on water was just too fantastic for them to even consider that this could be Jesus. We don’t know why they didn’t recognize Jesus but they didn’t.

Could it be that at times disappointed expectations, frustrated dreams, and fatigue from all the work life piles on us has caused us to not recognize the presence of Jesus coming close? Could it be that because things are not going as we think they ought to that we’re letting stress blind us to the miraculous things Jesus is doing all around us? Could it be that because we’re afraid that nothing will ever be as we think it should be that we misidentifying the presence of Jesus and believe he’s an enemy?

Perhaps, like Jesus, a night in prayer, humbly seeking God’s plan and his will, is what’s required to tune our hearts and open our eyes so we can see Jesus.

”Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:45-46

Jesus has just fed a multitude with a sack lunch. Understandably, this made the people excited. So much so that the apostle John reports that everyone, including the disciples, wanted to force Jesus to become king. Jesus, realizing what was about to happen, cut the proceedings short by suddenly commanding the disciples to get in their boat and start back across the lake while Jesus sent the crowd away.

I wonder if Jesus has ever had to send me away because I was too excited by my own plans for his work to take the time to listen to his plans for his work? I think he may have.

I began my pastoral ministry in 1996 in the New York Conference. It was in many ways hard at first. We were far from our home state of Michigan an there were many adjustments that had to be made. But after ten years of ministry all that was behind us. We were in a district we loved. I was partnered with a pastor and working for an administration that both challenged and supported me. I would have been willing to work there forever. No district in a different conference could have tempted me away.

But then I became aware of an opportunity to work with the person that had been my best friend for my entire life. My twin brother, Jere. I could talk about the job but that really wouldn’t be telling you why I chose to leave the place of the work I loved. I was leaving to be with my best friend.

Well, the new work didn’t work out. Less than a year after we’d moved half way across North America we were moving again. But there were no positions in New York. Praise God, he had provided a place in New England.

It’s been 11 years now since we decided to leave New York and I’ve come to see that it was God’s plan for us to not remain there with the people we loved, doing the worked we were loving. But we were so focused on fulfilling our plans we weren’t listening to his; so he send us away by the only means that would get our attention. My closest friend and brother.

I’m not sure we’re where we would have been if we’d been listening better way back then. But I do know that I’m trying to listen more closely to God’s plans and not focus so much on mine.

”So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.” Mark 6:42-43

It’s my habit at church fellowship dinners to wait until the last to be served. There’re a few reasons why I wait. The first is that I don’t like standing in line. If I have to wait I’d much rather wander about the room talking to people until the line shortens before I get my food. The second is that If there’s not enough food for everyone to eat, and some people have to go without, I’d rather be one of those that goes hungry.

There’ve been several times over the course of the last twenty years when there was very little food left over by the time I and the others at the end of the line got our turn. I’ll be honest with you, sometimes I’ve had a very hard time being patient about not getting any food. This is especially true when I’ve seen the heavily loaded plates being carried by people that seemingly have no consideration for those waiting to come after them. Sometimes the wait’s been long enough for me to see people throwing food away because they’d taken more than they could eat. One time I even saw a child decide she didn’t like the food she’d chosen the first time throw her food away and return to the front of the line to get a second plate of food.

I think perhaps many of us have become too accustomed to having more than enough to eat and as a result we’re becoming wasteful and thoughtless with the blessings God has given.

There on the lake shore, Jesus and his disciples showed no such inclination. Perhaps they’d all experienced the reality of seasons of not enough food. Perhaps they’d eaten too many meals with hungry people watching them, despairing that they’ll get a meal that day. Perhaps they’d seen too many staving people, reaching out shaking hands to accept what food they had to offer. Whatever their reasons, no food was allowed to go to waste and the gospels record the abundance remaining following a meal that began with so little. Twelve baskets of bread fragments and fish.

We need to practice better care in our relationship with the food we eat, whether at fellowship dinner or at home. When we take our portion we need to make sure that it’s only our share and we also need to make sure that we don’t take more than we’ll eat. While this may not be helping staving children in Africa. It just might develop a habit that’ll ensure that I, and the others at the back of the line, get food come sabbath afternoon.

”But He answered and said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ “ Mark 6:37

When I was in college a group of us piled into a car and attended church a couple of hours distance from Andrews University. On the way back to campus the car we were in picked up a nail in one of its tires and soon there we were, a group of nicely dressed college students, working to change a flat tire on the side of the road. It just so happen that the stretch of road we were on was just outside an Army National Guard training center and within a few minutes of our beginning to change the tire a hummer with four servicemen in it had pulled up along side the fence and asked if we needed any help. While we were pleased that they would offer, adolescent pride prevented us from actually accepting their assistance, so we thanked them and finished the task.

Every once in a while when I see someone changing a tire on the side of the road I remember that Sabbath and the servicemen’s offer of help. I’ve always been impressed that while those soldiers were trained to perform much more important work for the defense of the American people they were not to busy, or important, to take the time to notice and help with the simple jobs either.

In our focus text, it appears that it never occurred to the disciples that they could provide for the needs of the multitude. And when Jesus suggested that they provide the food that afternoon the best they could do was come up with excuses as to why that wasn’t possible. They didn’t even think to ask Jesus, the one who had commissioned them and given them power over demons, disease, and infirmity, if he could provide for this need as well.

Friends, God has already given us so much he’s proven that he’s both willing and able to help us in our time of need. God’s also made it abundantly clear that he wants his people to be just as loving and caring as he is. He wants us to notice the needs of others and he wants us to provide help to meet the needs we see.

I know we’re busy, time is short, and resources are limited but friends God is still calling us to see and help. Jesus only needed a sack lunch to feed that crowd of five thousand plus people he can take whatever limited resources you have and make them be enough. More than enough.

It’s time to face the fact that when we make excuses we’re just trying to find a way to disobey. No more excuses. Let’s help others like Jesus wants us to.

“And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

Jesus and his disciples have decided to sail across the Sea of Galilee and take a much need rest. The disciples had only recently returned from the first of their missionary expeditions and were understandably tired. It appears that while they were gone Jesus had been active as well. So much so that they were surrounded by a multitude pressing in for a chance to see and hear Jesus or perhaps to be healed.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “Life happens when you’re making plans.”

Well, in a middle of their planning to take a bit of time off for a long overdue break the people make plans as well and run ahead, around the lake, and get to their destination ahead of them. They’re desperate to hear what Jesus has to say.

And Jesus heart was filled with compassion for them. Not because he saw how much they loved him. This love was merely popularity and popularity is a fickle friend. Jesus was filled with compassion because he saw their need; “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

It’s easy to become impatient with people when their need motivates them to interrupt the plans we’ve made. In times like this it’s so simple for us, with an excuse and the shake of a head, to dismiss the needy and go on with what we’ve previously decided to do.

We’re tired. We’re hungry. We’re thirsty. We deserve a rest.

Jesus knew that he was here, on earth, to seek and save the lost and here were some lost sleep. He couldn’t just leave them unshepherded. And neither can we when we’re confronted with need we can do something about today. You never know. Your simple act of compassion may be setting up one of the most incredible events of your entire life. One that makes it possible for thousands to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God sees, God cares, and God provides.

It’s time to be content when our plans change.

“Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, ‘John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.’ ” Mark 6:14

Have you ever done something you ought not to have done and believed you would never be held accountable for it? I’m going to let everyone in on a truth. There are always consequences in store when we do the wrong thing. Truth and justice always have a way of rising to the surface and making themselves seen and heard.

It may be that no one else ever knows or recognizes what they’re seeing or perhaps they don’t attribute the misdeed with you. Still you know and you, by your own actions, will in someway alter your behavior to keep your secret hidden and in so doing hold yourself accountable.

The only people who are truly free are the honest and innocent. The innocent don’t need to keep anything secret and the honest don’t have the difficulty of keeping their lies coordinated.

King Herod was neither honest nor innocent. Having stolen his brothers wife he compounded his sins by murdering John the Baptist for the crime of calling his sin what it was. And now Jesus appears, preaching the kingdom of God like John and performing mighty miracles as well. What is the guilty response of Herod? The righteous John must have come back from the dead.

The apostle John, in his first epistle tells us that, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” The apostle then calls those that believe in Jesus to, “walk in the light.”

The only waypoints walk in the light, to live life free from a guilty conscience, is to live a life of truth and righteousness. Without it we are compelled to live lives of secrets and lies. There is no bond more confining than the chains we make with our own secrets and lies. And there is no freedom sweeter than the freedom we find when we come to Jesus without deceit and find forgiveness as we join our lives with his.

“Also He said to them, ‘In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.’ ” Mark 6:10

Yesterday we considered the verses where Jesus instructed his disciples to set out on their missionary journey with less than the bare necessities, trusting that God would supply their needs. Today we pick up that theme by considering how it was that God would sustain them.

The most common means of provision was through the hospitality, and gratitude of those who had been ministered to through the preaching and healing of the disciples.

So now a question begs to be asked. Are we thankful for the Gospel we’ve received from the Lord through the ministry of those he has sent to proclaim it?

It may be that some those God has used to shape our lives have not been professional teachers or preachers. Still our hearts and lives have been shaped by their willingness to obediently, and at times sacrificially, serve where and how God has called. Perhaps these volunteers don’t need us to give to sustain them; yet the burden of gratitude we ought to have demands that we demonstrate our thankfulness in some tangible way. Do we, through our offerings given to support and advance the continued ministry of the Church, truly reflect the spirit of thankfulness our hearts should have?

There are others that serve God, and you, some you see and some you don’t see, that in answer to the call of God, dedicate so much of their time and energy to the work of ministering the Gospel of repentance and restoration that there’s not enough remaining to support themselves and a family. Some of these people we know as pastors, others are teachers, still others are doctors and nurses, and engineers, and technicians, all diligently working so that you and others might be served, in the very best way, the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. Are we in our returning of the tithes and offerings as faithful in ministering our thankfulness for what we have been given as they have been in ministering to our need?

I’ve never had an occasion to regret being generous when God has called me to be. God’s always proven that he’s already supplied me with what I need to both meet the needs of my family and to be generous toward the work of his church. Given this provision the only question left to ask is, “Am I thankful?”

“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.” Mark 6:7-9

Be prepared. It’s the scouting moto and it’s a good habit to develop. In our focus text Jesus seems to be both embracing this moto and abandoning it all at the same time.

He begins by instructing his disciples to go out two by two. It’s a time proven piece of wisdom that we’re always better off when we work with someone else. God’s design that people go through life as husband and wife supports this but it’s also confirmed by many other experiences outside the realm of family. A partner to encourage, exhort, comfort, support and at times supply what individually might be lacking, is an important ingredient when engaging in an ambitious undertaking.

Given the fact that the disciples would be joining Christ in his warfare against Satan it’s also understandable why Christ would add to the disciples arsenal authority over unclean spirits. Many times Christ and his disciples would face off with the devil as they worked to increase Christ’s influence and push back into territory claimed by Satan.

Then Christ tells them that they’re to take nothing to provide for any future lack they might anticipate. This seems counterintuitive in many ways because when you set out on a journey most people do just the opposite. We pack a bag, make sure that necessary food is included, visit the bank to make sure we have the money that’ll be needed and make sure to have an extra change of clothes. This is what we do just so we can be prepared. But Jesus says, “No.”

Instead of preparation for the unforeseeable, what’s needed is an undiluted reliance on the provision of God. Especially for the immature in matters of faith it’s easy to trust in preparation and planning in place of God’s foreknowledge and providence. Even for the veteran on the road of faith it can be tempting to drift toward depending on our own plans which is why we need to continually remind ourselves that there’s far more that we don’t know than there is that we do know. Our only hope, our only help, is the Lord.

“But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.’ Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.” Mark 6:4-6

How easy it is for us to hold on to doubt. Fear or uncertainty rise up to threaten us and we grab onto the first flimsy excuse to we can think of to question, hesitate and hold back. “We’ve never done this before.” “We’ve never done it this way before.” “Do we really have enough money to do this?” “So and so says it can’t be done.” “It’s too far, too close, too big, too small, too simple, too complicated, too hard, too easy.” You get the idea. Sometimes it seems that we’re just looking for an excuse to not believe.

In our focus text, the people of the town of Nazareth chose the fact that they knew Jesus and his family as the reason that they would doubt him. I’m tempted to scratch my head and wonder at their stupidity but then I glance back up at the list of excuses for doubting I just enumerated in the previous paragraph, many of which I’ve encountered on church boards as reasons for inaction, and I realize that I’ve been part of the same kind of doubt brigade.

The result of choosing doubt was that the blessings that other communities had enjoyed because Jesus had visited them were not experienced by the Nazarenes. There was no teaching that would bring people in from miles around and cause them to want to stand for entire days just listening as truth after glorious truth was revealed about God and his kingdom. There was very little healing. In other villages Jesus had literally healed every sick, infirmed, injured, or handicapped person. Every home had been filled with gladness and rejoicing as a direct result of the presence of Jesus in their town. But instead of reaching out to take hold of the blessings Jesus very presence offered, the people of Nazareth chose to take hold of the familiar hand of doubt.

In stead of doubting we need to faithfully, prayerfully, sincerely seek God and his will for our lives. Instead of doubting we need to remind ourselves that God has everything necessary to accomplish his purpose. We need to remind ourselves that God has never failed to demonstrate that he’s able to do what he says he will do. We need to encourage ourselves that we’re not an exception to the rule that God has a place and a purpose for everyone. Friends, we’re all part of Gods plan for success.

Jesus is ready to do a bigger work in his church than he has done so far. Let’s take hold of faith and help him change the world.

“Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, ‘Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.’ ” Mark 5:38-39

There’s nothing more natural than grieving. Anytime we experience loss there’s some degree of grieving involved depending on the relationship we had with what was lost. The closer and deeper the relationship the more profound the grieving can be.

It’s also true that different people experience grief differently. For some the experience of grief is for a brief period of time intense and profound but they’re able to relatively quickly process and move on. Others experience their grief deeply but in outwardly subtle ways that are processed over a much longer period of time. These are just two examples of the variety that can be exhibited as different people express their grief.

It’s important to understand that while we may express our grief differently that, unless a person gets trapped in their cycle of grief or becomes destructive as part of their grieving, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

The depth of our grief is also affected by our understanding of the loss we’ve experienced and this is the aspect of grief Jesus is addressing in our focus text. Sometimes we misapprehend the profoundness of our loss. With regards to death it’s difficult for Christians to relate to their loss according to the realty we know to be true.

Scripture tells us that the loss of the death of a believer is temporary and that it will be followed be a never ending eternity of life together after Jesus returns and rewards the righteous. But even though we know this to be true the loss we experience feels permanent, the separation unending, and when we grieve, we grieve according to what we feel.

We need to nurture everyday the hope that we have in Jesus. We need to remind ourselves of the realities that we have because we have Jesus in our lives. We need to exhort one another and build each other up in accordance to the “exceeding great and precious promises” Christ has given to us. Then, while we will grieve, we will not grieve “as others who have no hope.” Our grief will be in accordance to both the loss we endure and the hope we hold in our hearts.

“While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’ As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe.’ ” Mark 5:35-36

We have so many dreams wrapped up in our children. They start the moment we begin to imagine having children and continue growing and expanding as time passes.

At first the dreams have to do with what we want to do with our children and what we hope to see them accomplish. Those dreams change and grow over the years as our children grow and mature and their gifts and talents reveal themselves.

At some point our imaginations begin to include other hypothetical children that we hope will be added to our families. I’m talking about grandchildren. Even people, like myself, that have a very strong “wait and see” philosophy about life, can’t keep ourselves from dreaming about grandchildren. There’s nothing specific about those dreams, you understand. But I do want grandchildren and I hope to have them early enough in my life so that I can still be active and energetic with them. I also hope to be able to spend large amounts of time with my grandchildren. I want them to know me and I want to really get the chance to know them.

It can be a tremendous blow when all of a sudden all those dreams are swept away.

Jairus had sought out Jesus hoping that he would come and make everything alright. And when Jesus agreed to go to his house and heal his daughter hope had grown wings and begun to soar. Jesus was on his way. He could heal his daughter. He would make sure the dreams didn’t die.

And then the servant came with the news that hey were too late. His daughter had died.

But Jesus voice breaks through the grief. “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

Believe in what? Who?

Believe in Jesus. No matter how life may have rolled right over you and left you bruised, and bleeding, and gasping for breath Jesus has to ability to save you, and heal you, and prosper you. It doesn’t matter what’s happened to your dreams. As long as you have Jesus there’s no need to be afraid.

“And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My clothes?’ ” Mark 5:30

Jesus has once again crossed the Sea of Galilee and when he comes ashore the crowds throng around him. One member of the crowd, Jairus, begs that Jesus come to his house and heal his dying daughter. As Jesus, together with the throng, is making his way to Jairus’ house, a woman quietly and secretly makes her way to Jesus. Believing that all she needs to do is touch his clothing and she will be healed, she reaches out. As her fingers brush the fabric of Jesus’ robe immediately her affliction is removed and she’s made well.

Abruptly, Jesus stops and looking around loudly demands to know who touched his clothes. His disciples with humble incredulity point to the multitude pressing in around them and basically tell him that everyone is touching everybody else and how can he possibly be wondering about being touched. To which Jesus replies, “I felt power go out from me. Someone has touched me and been healed.”

Why was it so important for the woman to acknowledge that she’d been healed? Jesus, in fact, already knew who had touched him. In The Desire of Ages, Ellen White tells us that Jesus had been adjusting his pace to allow her to get close enough for the healing touch to be possible. Additionally, Jesus own humility would have prevented personal pride from being the motivation.

I believe that, as always, Jesus had more that one goal to achieve in his service to the woman and one could be best completed by helping the woman publicly acknowledge her healing.

For twelve years this woman’s malady had consumed her resources and barred her from most of the public life people took for granted. She couldn’t go to church. Her husband, and everyone else, couldn’t even touch her. Long years of sickness and isolation had broken down not only the woman’s body but her heart as well.

Jesus doesn’t just want to make our bodies strong. He wants to heal our hearts as well. Publicly praising God for the grace he’s given us is a strong remedy in the healing of a broken heart.

“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ ” Mark 5:18-19

He’s your new best friend and he’s leaving. You were tormented beyond the capacity for anyone to help you, held captive and no one could set you free, and he rescued you. And now he’s going away.

You know he’s a teacher and he has students that follow him. They sit at his feet and learn from him and you want to be one of them.

Perhaps you’re afraid. Those demons that had held you in misery for so long, they might come back. If Jesus were there you know you’d be safe. You don’t want him to leave but if he has to you’re going with him.

But Jesus says, “No.” Jesus tells you that he has something more important for you to do. He tells you to go home to your friends and tell them “what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.”

Oh how we want to stay in that place of blessing. If we could we’d choose for those times of spiritual retreat, the blessedness of the house of worship, the joy of the companionship of others focused on drawing close to God and we’d never leave them and we’d never let anything else in.

But Jesus says, “No.” And then he points to our friends and he tells us that they need to hear about what we’ve received from the hand of God. Perhaps they too need to be set free from their own place of torment and seeing you will give them the hope and direction they need to find their release. Perhaps they’re just far away from God and they need your witness to assure them that a relationship with God is worth pursuing, that Jesus really does have the ability to make a difference in their lives if they’ll give him the chance.

I know, we’d all like nothing more than for Jesus to come and take us home to be with him but right now he’s pointing to our friends and he’s shaking his head and he’s saying, “Let’s not leave them behind. Go tell them what great things God has done for you.”