Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mark, Week 34 - Being a Dishwasher

Growing up, as far as I remember, I was basically a good kid. Yeah, I got into trouble, like the one time in first grade where I wanted to stay the night at a friend’s house so bad, that I skipped my school bus home and walked to his house. That made my parents a little up set, since we lived about 20 miles away from the school.
But most of my life I didn’t do anything too bad. That’s not until I was a teenager. Now, I don’t know why, but I was a real jerk to my parents when I hit about 13. And that kept going until I was about 17. Those four years or so, I was just rude and disrespectful. I had to clash with my parents over, what seemed like everything. And looking back, my parents were patient and generous, throughout the whole thing. Sure we got into arguments, but where I was coming from a place of disrespect, they were coming from a place that desired me to be better than I was. Of course I couldn’t see that.
It wasn’t until after I accepted Christ that things began to change. I realized that I had been fighting against them, because I didn’t want their authority over me. I didn’t want to submit to them. Instead, I wanted things my way. I wanted to figure things out on my own. I wanted to make my own decisions, and do what I thought was the best for me.
Of course, what I thought was the best for me, was no where near what was best. But my parents saw more clearly than I did. They saw what was best for me, and tried to move me in that direction, even though I would fight back. But once I began to put myself under their authority, things began to change. 
Now, it didn’t happen over night, but I do remember what was the catalyst to my ability to  submit to their authority. It was a decision to start washing dishes. See, my parents worked long hours. My Dad usually worked over 40 hours a week, and from time to time would do side jobs, and take on a second or third job. During the tax season, my mom would leave before I woke up and get home after I went to bed. So I decided to start doing the dishes without being told. This led to doing others things. And after a while my relationship with my parents improved drastically, because I finally started to put myself under their authority.

And this is where we come to the Gospel of Mark this week. A place where the authority of Jesus is questioned. A place where some people are rebelling against the authority of Jesus. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 11 starting in verse 27.

As we jump back into the Gospel of Mark, let’s take a look back and see where we find ourselves.

Two weeks ago we talked about trust, and how the disciples trusted Jesus, only so far as it was within their plans. They were excited about Jesus being the Savior, but were not wanting to hear Jesus’ words about him dying. We talked about how we can have this kind of trust that falters too. Where our trust in God goes only so far, but when he calls us into something hard, our trust can struggle. 
This led us into last week, where we talked about how when trust falters, it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking good on the outside, but not having the fruit, or reverence, or faith on the inside. Yet, when we falter in our trust of God, we can slip into a place where the outside facades become easier to erect, than the dealing with the inner struggles that God calls us into.

But the question is where does this all stem from? That’s what we’re going to examine today. So let’s start reading in Mark chapter 11 verse 27.

27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Now we’re going to stop for a minute, because this interaction sets the stage for everything. Jesus is confronted by some religious leaders. This confrontation is a response to Jesus clearing the temple in the previous passage that we talked about last week.
They have a simple question, where does Jesus get his authority from? In the religious leader’s minds, he has to have some sort of greater power backing him in order to drive people out of the temple. It’s supposed to be a gotcha question. Jesus has no authority from the Romans, and no authority from the High Priest. This question is to make Jesus say that his authority comes from no one but himself.
But Jesus turns the tables on them. Jesus asks them his own question, telling them that they will receive his answer only after they respond. Jesus’ question about John is simple too, where does John’s baptism come from.
But this becomes a problem. If the religious leaders say it’s from heaven, then they have to agree that Jesus is the Christ, because that’s what John preached. Therefore Jesus’ authority comes from heaven.
But if they say it’s from a human, then the people that believe John to be a prophet would revolt against the religious leaders. It’s a catch 22 for them. So they answer simply we don’t know.

Jesus masterfully shows that these religious leaders are not in a position to judge him. He shows that they cannot comprehend John, and therefore are unable to comprehend Jesus as well.
But Jesus doesn’t leave it here. No, instead, Jesus goes after the religious leaders and the real reason they are unable to comprehend either John’s baptism, or Jesus’ authority. Let’s pick this up in verse 1 of chapter 12.  

1Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

The parable is simple and direct enough that the religious leaders pick up on exactly what Jesus is trying to get across.
The man who planted the vineyard is God. The people who rented the vineyard are the religious leaders. The servants are the prophets, like John the Baptist, the son is Jesus, and the new tenants are the ones who will believe in Jesus.
To the religious leaders, Jesus isn’t holding back any punches here. He’s telling them that they are a part of a group that has been around for ages. This group are those who are constantly fighting against God. God sends a messenger like Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, or now John, and the people beat and kill them. Then God sends Jesus the Son of God into the world, yet that same group of people are now about to kill him too.
Now, I’m sure that these religious leaders didn’t think that they would put themselves into the same group who killed the prophets of old. I’m sure that these religious leaders wouldn’t put themselves in the same company of Herod who killed John the Baptist. But sure enough they are. It will be these same group of religious leaders that, in just a few days, will beat and kill the Son himself.

And why would they do this? Jesus reveals the reason in the parable. In verse 7 he says, “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”
The renters wanted the vineyard for themselves. They didn’t want the Owner, nor the Son to come and take what, in their minds, was rightfully theirs. And Jesus is very poignantly pointing out that the religious leaders are the same way. Not really wanting God, nor the Son of God.
And what’s funny about this whole situation is that in the last few words of this passage we see them respond to Jesus, just as he said they would.

When we take all of this together, we can see that Jesus gives us an insight into why he went about this way of speaking to the religious leaders. We can easily ask, why doesn’t Jesus just answer the question? Why doesn’t he just tell the leaders his authority comes from heaven?
The parable gives us the reason why Jesus doesn’t do this. The renters knew for a fact that the son was from the owner, but that didn’t matter. They knew where the authority of the son came from, but that didn’t matter. What mattered to them was their own self-focus. It is the same with Jesus. It wouldn’t matter if Jesus would have revealed where his authority was from, because they didn’t care. All they wanted was to control their own vineyards, their own lives. They didn’t want the authority of Jesus, and consequently the authority of God, over their lives.
They wanted no other authority than their own.
This led to them allowing the temple of God to be used with the irreverence that we saw from the previous chapter, where merchants were swindling people of out of their money. Where people no longer treated the temple with esteem, but walked through it as if it were nothing. And where the non-Jewish worshipers were being pushed out.

And it can happen to us as well. When we duck the authority of God in our own lives, it can lead us to producing fakeness on the outside. We can do the religious walk, we can talk the religious talk, but our lives inside are dead. And when God sends something our way to bring us back, we kill it. 
We kill the words of Scripture, by ignoring them, or outright disbelieving them. We kill the messengers of God, who’s advice we ask for, but never intend to put into practice. And we kill the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, because we turn our backs on him as he seeks to teach us.

But this isn’t want God wants. God wants us to live under his authority. Because only by submitting to his authority, will we begin to experience the deeper things of God. Only when we submit to his way of thinking, will we begin to know the truth from lies. Only when we submit to his word, will we begin to live a fuller life. Only when we act in accordance with his will, will we be able to see our hearts and minds become transformed to God’s way of thinking.
This is where God wants us. This is what Jesus was trying to get these religious leaders to recognize. They were in rebellion against God’s authority, so even if Jesus would have slapped them in the face with the authority of God, they still wouldn’t be able to understand, because they wanted it their way. And God wants us to realize that we can easily slip into a lifestyle where we are standing against his authority. Which in turn keeps us from experiencing all that he has for us.
And in the end, we don’t even get to keep what we fought him for. He simple takes it away, and we are left with nothing. Just like the renters in the vineyard.

Today, I want to challenge you take part in a double action. The first, is the stack of cards here in front. On one side is a person bowing, on the other side is a verse from 1st Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
My challenge is for you come up during our next song, and take a card. Then when you leave today, post it somewhere where you struggle with God’s authority. It might be in finances, so put it in the check book, or where you keep your debit card. It might be with what you watch on TV, so put on the remote. It might be following the rules of the road, so put it in your car. It might be the way you treat a specific person, so put it where you’ll see it before you see them. Today, let us seek God where we are not allowing his authority in our lives, and place the card there. Then every time you see it, go before God, pray, asking that you would be put under his authority.

Let us not be like the renters who kill the things that come from God, but rather place ourselves under the authority of God, so that he will lift us up. 

Now may the Lord, who’s authority is absolute, bring you under his will today. Amen.

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