Sermon Summary from August 6, 2017
Mark 11:1–26 (NIV) • Torence Lu
Sometimes we can be blinded by our own expectations.
In verses 1-7, Jesus instructed his disciples to bring a colt from the next village, but doing so involved the risk of misunderstandings and confrontation. The disciples followed Jesus’ specific instructions and everything happened just as He said — the people let them go along
with the colt. This episode reminds us that we can trust Jesus when He calls us into fearful situations. Just as Jesus
commanded His Creation when he calmed the wind and the waves, He is Lord today of anything that feels overwhelming, risky, and dangerous to us. Sometimes we, too, are blinded by the expectation that God only works in ways we understand. If we obey Jesus only when we understand him or only when it’s comfortable, our faith won’t grow. Consider: How am I resisting God’s risky instruction that He may actually intend to strengthen my faith?
In verses 8-11, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem in a scene that echoed the spectacle of a Roman Triumph, with similarities to parades celebrating sports team championships. The Jews welcomed Jesus as their champion, expecting him to be a political king. Though he was a king, he was not the kind of king they had in mind. His identity was hidden in plain sight. Sometimes we, too, are blinded by our expectations of God and miss who He truly is. What perception or image of Jesus must I reconsider?
Finally, in verses 12-25, the accounts of Jesus cursing a fig tree, clearing the temple, teaching about prayer and forgiveness are told in a single intertwined account. Why? The fig tree represents the Jewish ceremonial temple system of sacrifices/offerings for the forgiveness of sins. The withered fig tree illustrates the impending barrenness of that system. One of the main problems was the potential to seem spiritual to others yet be spiritually unwell within. The disciples were blinded by this expectation: that those who were religiously active were spiritually healthy. In what way is my religious activity blinding me to my poor spiritual condition? Forgiveness for sins only comes through trusting that Jesus’s sacrifice is enough. That’s why we must trust Jesus today! Forgiveness is evidenced in our relationships. When we understand how much we have been forgiven by God, we are able to forgive others. Whom have I been unwilling to forgive? What grudge am I unable to let go? CS Lewis said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Sermon Summary from July 30, 2017
Mark 10:46–52 (NIV) • Tim Tseng
The first 10 chapters of Mark focused on Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus also traveled further north to minister to Greek Gentiles. But in 10:32, Jesus announces that he is heading towards Jerusalem. As “Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city” of Jericho (v. 46), Bartimaeus, a blind man began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Even though the crowd wanted him to be quiet, he shouted out again. And Jesus healed himn. So what can we learn from this rich passage?
First, let’s be clear. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus commended outsiders for their faith (Mark 2:5; 5:34; 7:29; 10:52). In fact, he expresses disappointment in his disciples for their lack of faith (Mark 4:40; 6:6). Perhaps we learn from Mark that real faith is demonstrated by those who are outside the church who come to Jesus acknowledging their need. Perhaps those who appear to be closest to Jesus can no longer see their own need for Him? Maybe Mark is teaching us that real faith is not blind faith (i.e., it doesn’t come by uncritically accepting what we received, it doesn’t come through our parents or friendships). Real faith heals our blindness.
In any case, Bartimaeus’ healing shows us four steps across the bridge of faith.
1. Real faith confesses blindness.
Because Bartimaeus was literally blind, he had no choice but to accept his blindness. But the bible doesn’t always talk about literal blindness. It reveals our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual blind spots, too. Too many people, including Christians, believe and act upon myths (2 Tim 4:3-5). One result today is the echo-chamber effect in political discourse. Unfortunately conservative and progressive Christians both fall prey to the myths of American politics.
There are other forms of blindness Blindness to the gospel – 2 Cor. 4:4; Blindness because of misplaced zeal – Acts 9:8; Blindness to own sin and failures – Matthew 7:3.
Real faith confesses our blindness and trusts in God, who wants to heal us of our blindness. (Isaiah 42:16; Psalm 146:7-9)
2. Real faith cries out to Jesus
Bartimaeus boldly cried out to Jesus, despite those who tried to silence him. He was unafraid to draw attention to his need in front of the whole world – and to draw attention to Jesus as the one who can heal him. Let us also boldly cry out to Jesus!
3. Real faith casts aside what hinders
In verse 50, Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak and presented himself, naked, perhaps before Jesus. Perhaps casting off our “cloaks” is our most difficult step because we must cast aside what we depend on for protection and anomynity – appear before Jesus naked.
4. Real faith follows Jesus to the cross
Bartimaeus chose to follow Jesus to Jerusalem after he was healed (v. 52). He did not return to Jerusalem. He did not attempt to rebuild his life. Rather, he simply followed Jesus and trusted what may come.
May we seek to embody the kind of faith that Jesus commends! Let us take these four steps daily and encourage those we disciple to do likewise! Amen!
Sermon Summary from July 23, 2017
Mark 10:32–45 (NIV) • Tim Tseng
It is well accepted that the core Christian conviction is that believing in Christ will give us eternal life.
But too often we miss another core conviction: following Jesus will kill you!
Today’s scripture begins with Jesus’ third prediction of his death and resurrection. And like the other two times, his disciples did not make the connection that following Jesus meant that they, too, need to willing to deny themselves, carry their crosses, and die to their egos. Many believers have literally died for Christ, but all Christians must learn how to die in other ways. Dying is letting go of anything we trust or worship more than Jesus. It could mean, metaphorically, cutting off what causes us to sin (e.g., our hand, foot, eye in Mark 9:42-49). Last week Daniel shared that we ought to be like children, utterly dependent upon others rather than our own achievements; something that the rich young man was unable to do.
Today, dying means putting down the wrong understanding of what it means to be the greatest. Jesus taught that the greatest in the kingdom must be a servant. All disciples can drink the cup and share baptism of suffering for the sake of Christ!
This is what Paul hoped for when he said: 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippian 3:7-11, NIV).
So can we think of things, attitudes, desires, and addictions that we need to die to in order to follow Jesus all the way?
Remember, the ultimate goal is fulness of life and resurrection from the dead!! But we can’t understand what that means unless we drink Jesus’ cup and participate in his baptism!
Sermon Summary from July 16, 2017
Mark 10:13–31 (NIV) • Daniel Low (Ministry Intern)
As we’ve been learning in the Gospel of Mark, the kingdom of God seems to always be in contrast to who and what the world values. Last week’s message explores Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about what kind of people become citizens of God’s kingdom.
We start off in Mark 10:13 with Jesus rebuking the disciples for telling the children brought to Jesus to go away. Jesus tells his disciples to not only show kindness to children, but BE like a child. He says “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” So that begs to question, what is it about children that grants them entry into God’s kingdom?
Mark answers that question by telling us another story where Jesus encounters a rich young ruler. We find out that the man holds both material wealth, and moral wealth. He is everything that the disciples would want to be a part of the kingdom of God. But instead Jesus confronts the man’s ideas of what the kingdom of God is about by pointing straight to his heart. The rich man thinks that eternal life is achieved. He thinks he’s just missing one more item on his “Spiritual Resume”. Jesus tells him to give everything to the poor and to follow him. And the man walks away in sorrow, unable to do what Jesus told him. And thus Mark answers our question about a child’s citizenship in the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who receive it like a child, having nothing themselves but given everything by the Father.
Oftentimes when we hear this passage we feel like Jesus is making it a big burden to get into His kingdom. But really Jesus is making it easier. Holding on to both material wealth and our own achievements prevents us from receiving the gift of grace he freely gives to us. We also often forget that there’s something much greater than what we give. Jesus promises us a hundredfold what we give up! He doesn’t only just tell us to rely entirely on God’s provision, but he lived it. He lived it to the point that he died on the cross so that we too can know God’s great provision for us!
Sermon Summary from July 9, 2017
Mark 10:1–12 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Yes, yes, for many of us, getting married is the most important thing on our minds. So divorce is way off our radar. Anyway, no one gets married thinking, “Oh boy, I can’t wait till I get divorced!” But today’s scripture is still important because it helps us respond to this question:
What does Jesus’ opposition to divorce teach us about discipleship?
But let me be clear. Divorce is a very sensitive topic because more and more people today are affected by it. So as I attempt to interpret this passage, Jesus’ principles of embracing those who are hurting and loving one another are always in the background.
I. A concession to human frailty: “because your hearts were hard…” Mark 10:5
a. Concession to how the powerful devalue marriage.
When the Pharisees attempted to test Jesus by asking for his opinion of the legitimacy of divorce, I believe they wanted to connect Jesus to John the Baptist. John had criticized King Herod and his sister-in-law Herodias (with whom the Pharisees were in alliance against Jesus) for divorcing their spouses to marry each other (Mark 6:18). Herod is typical of most rulers for whom marriage is little more than an inconvenience for political gain. King Henry VIII of England is the most infamous monarch who married six wives and divorced five of them for the sake of getting a male heir.
b. Concession to patriarchy (Moses’ certificate of divorce, Deut. 24:1-4)
The Pharisees (and Jesus’ disciples) believed that Moses gave men permission to dispose of wives for just about any reason. The Hillel school says that a man may divorce his wife even if she has merely ruined his dinner. Rabbi Aqiba says he may divorce her even if he finds another woman more beautiful than she is. Jewish women were not permitted to divorce their husband.
c. Therefore Jesus rejects divorce because it devalues marriage and women.
Jesus appeals the Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to argue that before Moses, God had already designed marriage to be an eternal bond and not something to be trivialized. That’s why Jesus privately told his disciples that divorce and remarriage are tantamount to adultery.
But this is where it gets tricky. Many Christians treat divorcees like adulterers. In John 8:2-11, Jesus shoes us that it is not appropriate to condemn people who have failed to live up to “moral standards.” All of us have sinned, so none should cast the first stone.
Indeed, there is biblical support for divorce in the case of infidelity, abuse, and when an unbelieving spouses chooses divorce.
II. Marriage and relationship fidelity models God’s love
By rejecting the kind of divorce that trivializes marriage, Jesus wants his disciples to display the importance of relational bonds. In a consumer-dominant society that commodifies relationships, our fidelity to marital and other relationships – through ups and downs – models God’s eternal love for us (see Hosea, Jeremiah 3, Malachi 2).
Sermon Summary from Last Sunday
Mark 9:30–50 (ESV) • Pastor Christ Liu
This past week’s verses didn’t really have one central theme, so I basically broke them down into the four events that occurred and talked/explained each section.
In verses 30-32, Jesus shared with His disciples that He was going to have to die and be resurrected from the dead. This was not the first time He mentioned this. The last time He did, Peter tried to tell Jesus that He didn’t have to die, but Jesus rebuked him. So this time, the disciples were afraid to ask or talk about it even though they didn’t understand. However, if we looked at the book of Acts, after Jesus had died and was resurrected from the dead, we see that the disciples finally did “get it” and their lives were transformed. For us as believers, we know the full story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and we know that He is the Son of God, so we should be like the disciples in Acts who are bold in sharing the Good News with those around us.
In verses 33-37, we have an episode where the disciples were discussing who was going to be the greatest amongst themselves. We see that they still didn’t fully understand what Jesus’ earthly mission was all about. It wasn’t about gaining power and prestige, but it was about loving and serving one another humbly. It was about accepting those on the outside and on the margins. In the same way, we too need to serve one another humbly. We need to look outside our own circle of friends and comfort and reach out to those who are on the “outside.”
In verses 38-41, John raises a concern about another person who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The underlying complaint was that this person wasn’t commissioned by Jesus like the 12 disciples were. They were upset that this person was able to do the same things they were able to do even though he wasn’t one of the 12. Jesus, however, didn’t condemn this other person, but actually supported him. For us today, I think we can sometimes have problems with other believers who might think differently than us or have other viewpoints that we don’t agree with. However, instead of fighting with them, we need to learn to support one another and serve together. As long as the other person is doing God’s work, they don’t have to do things exactly the same way that we do it. God can use anyone, so let’s work together.
Finally, in verses 42-50, Jesus talks about the seriousness of being a disciple. He actually gets a little graphic in his teachings, but basically there are two things that we need take seriously. First, we cannot lead others astray or cause others to sin… especially those who are young in their faith. Secondly, we need to cut off sin at it’s root. We cannot continue to sin and think that it is not a problem. These are two things that a disciple need to take seriously.
Sermon Summary from June 25, 2017
Mark 9:2-29 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Discipleship is a three-step journey to mission.
This week, I invite us to look at Jesus’ transfiguration and the following episode from the perspective of a disciple. From the mountain top experience to the valley below, Mark 9:2-29 shows us that following Jesus is a three-step journey to mission.
I. Step One: Encountering Jesus on the Mountain Top (vv 2-8)
Can you remember the last time you had a mountain top experience? For Peter, James, and John, the transfiguration confirmed their confession that Jesus is the Messiah. There may have been doubts since Jesus did not teach or behave like the vindicating, warrior Messiah that they expected. Instead, Jesus preached against the exclusivity and nationalism of the Pharisees. Instead, Jesus welcomed the marginalized by healing lepers and Gentiles and by casting out demons. Instead, Jesus practiced applied grace.
But on that mountain top, Jesus also revealed that he was indeed a powerful Messiah with divine qualities. At the transfiguration, his robes became whiter than bleached clothing as Moses and Elijah appeared by his side. Their appearance proved that Jesus was rooted in the history of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promise to them.
In verse 7, a voice came from the cloud announced: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” This demonstrated to the disciples that Jesus’ teachings and authority now also superseded that of Moses and Elijah.
For us, our mountain top experience with God ought to confirm our faith in Jesus. For me, attending Urbana 1981 was my mountain top experience that confirmed my calling. For many college students, the exposure to Christian community and more substantive teaching creates a mountain top experience.
II. Step Two: Reflecting on the Encounter (vv. 9-13)
As Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, they talked and talked. Jesus still wanted his disciples to keep quiet about what they saw. The disciples, in turn, wondered about the meaning of the resurrection. And then they got into a discussion about interpreting whether the prophecy of the new Elijah had been fulfilled (see Malachi 4:5). Jesus says that in John the Baptist, the new Elijah had come and, therefore, the day of the Lord was at hand.
To us, these conversations may not feel relevant, but what is significant is that Jesus encouraged theological reflection. He did not expect blind obedience. For example, Jesus understood that the teachers of the law, or scribes, were not completely wrong even though Jesus was opposed to them (v. 12). Not everything is “black and white.”
So, Jesus encourages all his disciples to take time to reflect on their faith and upon Scripture. Unfortunately, one of the biggest scandal today is the scandal of the evangelical mind. According to evangelical historian Mark Noll (who taught at Wheaton College and Notre Dame), “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that the is not much of a mind to begin with.” In too many of our churches, in order to avoid controversy and maintain harmony, church leaders had decided to reject critical thinking and theological reflection. Consequently, evangelical Christians have chosen to “check their brains at the door” in favor of passion and mission. The rise of Christian anti-intellectualism has led to an inability to discern the spirits of the day. And as a result, Christians have been “brain-washed” to follow both right, middle, and left wing ideologies.
I believe that Jesus’ willingness to permit and engage in difficulty conversations around biblical interpretation and theology is exactly the kind of attitude that must be renewed in our Asian American churches. And the best time to do so is now. Perhaps teens have the most time to learn how to think theologically, but I hope and pray that we’ll all invest time in reflection regardless of which life stage we’re in.
In addition to discernment, another compelling reason for reflection is to help lay the foundation for mission.
3. Step Three: Engaging the struggle to Proclaim the Gospel (vv 14-29)
The third step of discipleship is to come down the mountain and into the valley. In the valley, there are so many needs. Disciples must not stay on the mountain top because we all have a mission to do. And as verses 14-29 indicate, the mission is difficult. It is a struggle to see God’s power at work – and sometimes, we fail.
We fail when we don’t reflect carefully about how we do mission. How many times in the history of Christianity has the church failed to effectively share the gospel when (a) the gospel message is confused with the cultural assumptions of the evangelist and (b) imposed without giving the persons evangelized a chance to ask questions? One of the great failures of Christian apologetics today is the creation of and subsequent trashing of straw man arguments in order to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity truth. Good theological reflection and empathetic sensitivity to the people we reach out to makes all the difference!
So does prayer (v 29)! In fact, prayer, in the face of failure, forces us to open our hearts and minds to God’s leading. It forces us not to lean on our own power and wisdom,
4. Mission is at the heart of discipleship
In conclusion, this passage reveals the importance of a three-step process of discipleship and spiritual growth. At the heart is mission. My dream for Canaan’s English Ministry is for a revival of this understanding in all our encounters here. Can our fellowship and small groups make mission the purpose for gathering? Can we always think about reaching out to unchurched people first before thinking about our own needs for community?
And in the end, in order to stay focused on mission – and to sustain ourselves in mission – we must regularly encounter Jesus and do theological reflection. May it be so! Amen.
Addendum: Amy Grant’s “Mountain Top” lyrics for bridge
Still I’d love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I’d love to stand on a mountain top
‘Cause I love to feel my spirit soar!
But I’ve got to come down from that mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they’ll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord!
Go to: https://youtu.be/AqiFNierwQY
Sermon Summary from June 18, 2017
Mark 8:22-9:1 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
I. But what about you? Who do you say I am?
We are at the literal center of the gospel of Mark. From this point on, Jesus prepares to be crucified. But his disciples still didn’t understand.
Jesus’ disciples had a first hand look at Jesus. They saw him confront the Pharisees for building walls to protect the purity and national greatness of Israel and to insulate the Jews from the Gentiles. Instead, Jesus wanted to open the doors of these walls (maybe even tear them down) to welcome Gentiles and sinners. So, after spending all this time with him, who did the disciples themselves think Jesus was?
Impetuous Peter answered for them: “You are the Messiah.” So, the disciples confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), sent by God to save Israel and become its king. But did they really understand what that meant? It’s likely Peter believed, like his Jewish peers, that the Messiah would be a powerful, avenging ruler who would liberate and vindicate the nation of Israel (see Psalm 18:47).
But when Jesus began to talk about the necessity of his own suffering, death, and resurrection (v. 31-32), Peter was upset and rebuked Jesus. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter as one who was an obstacle to God’s plan – so long as he continued to misunderstand the Messiah’s true purpose (v. 33). In Mark, the disciples always misunderstood Jesus. This is why the previous episode (vv. 22-26) where a blind man needed Jesus to touch him twice to see clearly is an encouragement for the disciples and for those of us who fail to fully comprehend Jesus.
After clarifying the necessity of his death and resurrection, Jesus then invites everyone to understand what it means to follow Jesus (vv. 34-28):
II. Discipleship is our answer to Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” It is the way we live, make choices, and practice our faith. Therefore…
— If I’m willing to deny myself and carry my cross, it means I believe and am showing the world that Jesus is the Messiah who was willing to suffer for us.
— If I’m willing to give up my life for the sake of the gospel, I am showing the world that Jesus is the King who gave up his life to save the entire world.
Here are some questions and examples:
—- Suffering inconvenience to build up my church. Ask yourselves:
– Do I study the assigned passage before coming to worship? If I do, then I can be prepared to help young believers or visitors to better understand the sermon.
– Am I willing to be inconvenienced to be a consistent participant in small group?
– When I see a ministry need (e.g., returning college students, young adults who are searching for a spiritual home), am I willing to help them build a community at Canaan?
– Do I care enough about our EM website to want to improve it so that others can get a better idea of what Canaan is all about?
– As parents are we exposing our kids to the needs of the world, the need for justice, for people to know God and to follow Jesus?
—- Example of hard work and sacrifice for the gospel to impact our neighbors, co-workers, and community:
– The Young Adults of Emmanuel Korean Presbyterian Church organized two concerts over the past six months to support International Justice Mission (an anti-trafficking ministry) and Compassion.
– Pastor Brian Leong and Lord’s Grace Chinese Christian Church leads Move Mountain View, a coalition of churches that collaborate with businesses and the City of Mountain View to improve community life there. Brian has also received a multi-million dollar grant to start a community service to the poor. One of the programs is called Lots of Love, a service to homeless people who need a place to park their cars overnight. Lots of Love will start this fall and is looking for churches that will open up their parking lots to these homeless people.
III. The joy of carrying the cross
Now if carrying the cross and denying ourselves sounds like obedience, works, and guilt, I promise you that it is not. Here’s why: We don’t suffer for Christ just because we are told to obey him. Obedience is for beginners. Obedience is for the immature who need a mature person to prod, remind, and nudge.
The joy of carrying the cross is the vision for the better country, a.k.a. Kingdom of God, eternity, heaven (Heb 11:13-16). The people of faith in Hebrews “were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v. 16).
We are willing to suffer, bear our cross, be inconvenienced because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom. We want to see the greatness of God prevail in the world. We want to see the new creation, i.e., heaven on earth. We want to see the end of human misery, injustice and suffering. We are willing to put up with our personal inconveniences and suffering because we are looking forward to the end of suffering for the world!
The joy of carrying the cross is also about a life that well-lived. Psalms shows us a good example of life as discipleship, if we don’t focus on a single chapter, but the whole book.
Psalm 1, if read alone will teach us that Christian life is all about obedience. The danger is to read the entire Psalms through this lens. If so, then carrying our crosses is all about blind obedience.
But note Psalm 150. What is theme of this final chapter? Praise and worship! If we read the entire Psalms (a.k.a. the Psalter), what we discover is that the life of faith starts in obedience, but ends in joy, praise and worship. And the middle Psalms are filled with ups and downs, struggle and victory, anguish and joy, darkness and light, boredom and weariness. The life that carries the cross will be filled with ups and downs, but the ultimate hope is praise, worship, and joy! In Christ, we have a foretaste. If Christ triumphed over the difficulties of life and faced his suffering with hope, we can too! (Heb 12:1-3)
IV. People, Carry that Cross!
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)
Let us be willing to suffer and bear our crosses because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom, not because of obedience alone. Let us be willing to put up inconveniences because we look forward to the end of misery, injustice and suffering for the whole world! Because we want to see the greatness of God prevail. Because we want to worship and praise God in the new creation, the new heaven on earth! May it be so! Amen.
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!
Pastor Tim’s Charge to Promoted and Graduating Students • June 4, 2017
—> To our 6th graders:
You may be physically smaller than everyone else in Everglow and our worship service, but you are growing. That’s awesome and awk-ward. Relish these moments to grow. And as 7th graders, I encourage you to love and encourage the new ones joining us because you walked in their shoes this past year.
—> To our 8th graders
We celebrate this short time when life felt like a crazy, mixed up time of emotional and physical growth. Some of you may have grown six to seven inches! Thanks for being vulnerable and being leaders. You are now entering a new chapter where you’ll once again be the young ones (that’s good)! We promise to pray for and walk with you as you continue to grow in faith, with your families, and with deep friendships with each other.
—> To our High School graduates (Annabelle, Alina, Darrell, Stephanie):
It has been a wonderful time, hasn’t it? We’ve all watched you transform into young adults. As you prepare for college life, make new friends! But we promise to always be available if you want someone to talk to. Most importantly, I encourage you to explore your faith more deeply. Be unafraid to ask the tough questions, but also surround yourselves with faithful and mature Christians throughout your college years.
—> To our College graduates (Monica, Erika, Cindy, Amy, and Kimberly):
Welcome back to our worship service! At last, it is time to move into full-blow adulthood! This will be a time where you’ll face feelings of uncertainty and excitement. You’ll both be very busy, yet have more control of your time than any other time in your lives. You’ll have so much freedom to make choices and discover that too many choices also robs you of real freedom. Which ever church you finally choose to be part of (hopefully Canaan), I pray that you’ll choose to build up others and not just look to receive. In the end – and this is most important – we encourage you to always consider Christ first in all your choices.