Sermon Summary from June 11, 2017
Mark 8:1-21 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
1. A sign from heaven? (v. 11)
After the second feeding miracles among Gentiles, the Pharisees came to test Jesus. They asked him for a sign from heaven (cf. 1 Cor 1:21-23). What is this sign from heaven? In the ancient Judaic worldview, heaven is God’s realm, but it’s not somewhere distantly remote and hopelessly removed from human reality. N.T. Wright notes that the two dimensions intersect and overlap so that the divine bleeds over into this world. So the Pharisees are asking, “show us a sign that God’s reign is coming through you, that you are the Messiah.
2. The sign of Jonah (v. 12)
Jesus was exasperated by the Pharisees. They couldn’t see and recognize all the signs that Jesus had already revealed. They were looking for something specific. I believe they wanted Jesus to focus exclusively on the chosen nation of Israel and to exclude sinners, outcasts, and Gentiles. So in Mark, Jesus refused to give them an answer. In Matthew and Luke’s accounts, however, Jesus says that he would only share “the sign of Jonah” (Matt 12:30, 14:4; Luke 11:29). What does that mean?
In the story about Jonah, we learn that God wanted the hated enemies of Israel, the Ninevites, to repent. So he sent Jonah to warn them. Jonah, however, was reluctant to share this message since he preferred for God to punish the Ninevites. But after the failed attempt to run away from his calling, which included being swallowed by a large fish, Jonah finally relented and obeyed God. To his horror, the people and animals of Ninevah repented and God showed mercy to them.
When Jesus pointed out the sign of Jonah, he was saying that the Pharisees needed to learn from Jonah’s experience. God is merciful to all people, even Israel’s enemies, and wants to give all people the opportunity to repent and enter his kingdom.
3. The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (v 15)
So when Jesus warned his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod he was warning them against (1) their unbelief, i.e., they could not believe Jesus was the Messiah and (2) the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.(Matt 16:12). Their teaching would cause the wrong kind of growth. We read Mark 7:1-23 a couple of weeks ago, where Jesus teaches that the Pharisees misunderstood holiness and purity. To be holy and pure is not about separating oneself from what is dirty outside for “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (7:15) So true holiness and purity comes from cleansing the filth within. In Acts 10, Peter learned this lesson again when God called him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a Gentile.
Indeed, the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod promoted a religious nationalism that sought to make Israel great again at the expense of Gentiles and others who were considered lawfully unclean (lepers, the sick, demon-possessed, sinners). And this was what Jesus was opposed to.
4. Challenge: Be the Yeast of the Kingdom of God.
Instead, Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God was for Gentiles and outcasts as well as for the Jews (Mark 6-8). Jesus restores the daughter of the Syrophoencian woman and the Greek deaf-mute. He performs a second feeding miracle, but this time he included many Gentiles. And Jesus calls us, his disciples, to be yeast of his kingdom – one that grows beyond our comfort and into our Gentile world. So let us be disciple-makers with the heart and character of missionaries!