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Author Topic: The Servant, The Crowds, And The Kingdom
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You said 'If Jesus had yielded to His family, He would have played right into the hands of the opposition. The religious leaders would have said, "See, He agreed with His family—He needs help! Don't take Jesus of Nazareth too seriously."' I wish I could learn wisdom like that. It is easy for me to yield to the demands of those I love. They intend good, but I won't be what GOD wants me to be if I give in. Please our Father in heaven give me wisdom and love to be the person you want me to be. Thank You. Amen.
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Carol Swenson
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Tares! Satan's counterfeits. He has counterfeit Christians (2 Cor. 11:26) who believe a counterfeit Gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). He encourages a counterfeit righteousness (Rom. 10:1-3), and even has a counterfeit church (Rev. 2:9). At the end of the age, he will produce a counterfeit Christ (2 Thes. 2:1-12).
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Don't forget them WEED SEEDERS that are still sowing today.

That is all.....

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Carol Swenson
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 - The Servant, The Crowds, And The Kingdom

No matter where He went, God's Servant was thronged by excited crowds (Mark 3:7-9, 20, 32; 4:1). Had Jesus been a "celebrity" and not a servant, He would have catered to the crowds and tried to please them (see Matt. 11:7-15). Instead, He withdrew from the crowds and began to minister especially to His disciples. Jesus knew that most of the people who pushed to get near Him were shallow and insincere, but His disciples did not know this. Lest they take all of this "success" seriously, Jesus had to teach these men the truth about the crowds and the kingdom. In this section, we see our Lord's three responses to the pressure of the crowd.

He Founded a New Nation (Mark 3:13-19)

The number of the disciples is significant because there were twelve tribes in the nation of Israel. In Genesis, God started with Jacob's twelve sons, and in Exodus, He built them into a mighty nation. Israel was chosen to bring the Messiah into the world so that through Him all the nations of the earth could be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). However, the nation of Israel was now spiritually decayed and ready to reject her own Messiah. God had to establish "a holy nation, a peculiar [purchased] people" (1 Peter 2:9), and the 12 Apostles were the nucleus of this new "spiritual" nation (Matt. 21:43).

He Established a New Family (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35)

Our Lord's friends were sure that Jesus was confused, and possibly deranged! The great crowds they saw following Him, and the amazing reports they heard about Him, convinced them that He desperately needed help. He simply was not living a normal life, so His friends came to Capernaum to "take charge of Him." Then his mother and "brethren" (Mark 6:3) traveled thirty miles from Nazareth to plead with Him to come home and get some rest, but even they were unable to get near Him.

Our Lord was not being rude to His family when He remained in the house and did not try to see them. He knew that their motives were right but their purpose was definitely wrong. If Jesus had yielded to His family, He would have played right into the hands of the opposition. The religious leaders would have said, "See, He agreed with His family—He needs help! Don't take Jesus of Nazareth too seriously." Instead of giving in, He used this crisis as an opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson: His "family" is made up of all those who do the will of God. Our Lord's half brothers were not believers (John 7:1-5) and Jesus felt closer to the believing publicans and sinners than He did to James, Joses, Judah, and Simon, His half-brothers.

Our Lord was not suggesting that believers ignore or abandon their families in order to serve God, but only that they put God's will above everything else in life. Our love for God should be so great that our love for family would seem like hatred in comparison (Luke 14:26). Certainly it is God's will that we care for our families and provide for them (see 1 Tim. 5:8), but we must not permit even our dearest loved ones to influence us away from the will of God. When you consider the importance of the family in the Jewish society, you can imagine how radical Christ's words must have sounded to those who heard them.

How does one enter into the family of God? By means of a new birth, a spiritual birth from above (John 3:1-7; 1 Peter 1:22-25). When the sinner trusts Jesus Christ as Saviour, he experiences this new birth and enters into God's family. He shares God's divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4) and can call God "Father" (Rom. 8:15-16). This spiritual birth is not something that we accomplish for ourselves, nor can others do it for us (John 1:11-13). It is God's work of grace; all we can do is believe and receive (Eph. 2:8-9).

He Announced a New Kingdom (Mark 3:22-30; 4:1-34)

The crowds hoped that Jesus would deliver the nation and defeat Rome. Instead, He called twelve ordinary men and founded a "new nation," a spiritual nation whose citizens had their names written down in heaven (Luke 10:20; Phil. 3:20). The crowds wanted Jesus to behave like a loyal Jew and honor His family, but Jesus established a "new family" made up of all those who trusted Him and did the will of God. The crowds also expected Him to restore the kingdom and bring back Israel's lost glory; but His response was to announce a new kingdom, a spiritual kingdom.

"Kingdom" is a key word in this section (Mark 3:24; 4:11, 26, 30). John the Baptist had announced that the arrival of the King was near and he had warned the people to prepare to meet Him (Mark 1:1-8). Jesus took up John's message and preached the Good News of the kingdom and the necessity for sinners to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15). But what is this kingdom like? If the Lord was not going to restore Israel and set up a political kingdom, what kind of kingdom was He planning to establish?

At this point, Mark introduced a new word—parables (see Mark 3:23; 4:2, 10-11, 13, 33-34). Jesus explained the kingdom, not by giving a lecture on theology, but by painting pictures that captured the attention of the people and forced them to use their imaginations and think. Our English word parable comes from two Greek words that mean "to cast alongside" (para—alongside; ballo—to throw or cast). A parable is a story or figure placed alongside a teaching to help us understand its meaning. It is much more than "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning," and it certainly is not an "illustration" such as a preacher would use in a sermon. A true parable gets the listener deeply involved and compels that listener to make a personal decision about God's truth and his or her life. So penetrating and personal are parables that, after they heard several of them, the religious leaders wanted to kill the Lord Jesus! (see Matt. 21:45-46)

A parable begins innocently as a picture that arrests our attention and arouses our interest. But as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. If we continue to look by faith, the mirror becomes a window through which we see God and His truth. How we respond to that truth will determine what further truth God will teach us.

Why did Jesus teach in parables? His disciples asked Him that very question (Mark 4:10-12; and see Matt. 13:10-17). A careful study of His reply reveals that Jesus used parables both to hide the truth and to reveal it. The crowd did not judge the parables; the parables judged the crowd. The careless listener, who thought he knew everything, would hear only a story that he did not really understand; and the result in his life would be judgment (see Matt. 11:25-30). The sincere listener, with a desire to know God's truth, would ponder the parable, confess his ignorance, submit to the Lord, and then begin to understand the spiritual lesson Jesus wanted to teach.

Jesus placed a great deal of importance on the hearing of the Word of God. In one form or another, the word hear is used thirteen times in Mark 4:1-34. Obviously, our Lord was speaking, not about physical hearing, but about hearing with spiritual discernment. To "hear" the Word of God means to understand it and obey it (see James 1:22-25).

Our Lord gave several parables to help the people (and that included His disciples) understand the nature of His kingdom.

The sower and the soils (vv. 1-20). This parable helped the disciples understand why Jesus was not impressed by the large crowds that followed Him. He knew that most of them would never produce fruit from changed lives, because the Word He was teaching them was like seed falling into poor soil.

The seed represents God's Word (Luke 8:11) and the sower is the servant of God who shares that Word with others (see 1 Cor. 3:5-9). The human heart is like soil: it must be prepared to receive the seed before that seed can take root and produce a harvest. Like seed, the Word is alive and able to produce spiritual fruit, but the seed must be planted and cultivated before that harvest will come.

As in that day, so today, there are four kinds of hearts and they respond to God's message in four different ways.

The hard heart (Mark 4:4, 15) resists the Word of God and makes it easy for Satan (the birds) to snatch it away. Soil becomes hard when too many feet tread on it. Those who recklessly "open their hearts" to all kinds of people and influences are in danger of developing hard hearts (see Prov. 4:23). Hard hearts must be "plowed up" before they can receive the seed, and this can be a painful experience (Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12).

The shallow heart (vv. 5-6, 16-17). This heart is like thin soil on a rock, very typical to Palestine. Since there is no depth, whatever is planted cannot last because it has no roots. This represents the "emotional hearer" who joyfully accepts God's Word but does not really understand the price that must be paid to become a genuine Christian. There may be great enthusiasm for several days or weeks; but when persecution and difficulties begin, the enthusiasm wanes and the joy disappears. It is easy for fallen human nature to counterfeit "religious feelings" and give a professed Christian a feeling of false confidence.

The crowded heart (vv. 7,18-19). This heart pictures the person who receives the Word but does not truly repent and remove the "weeds" out of his or her heart. This hearer has too many different kinds of "seeds" growing in the soil—worldly cares, a desire for riches, a lust for things—and the good seed of the Word has no room in which to grow. To change the image, this person wants to walk the "broad way" and the "narrow way" at the same time (Matt. 7:13-14); and it cannot be done.

The fruitful heart (vv. 8, 20). This heart pictures the true believer, because fruit—a changed life—is the evidence of true salvation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:19-23). The other three hearts produced no fruit, so we conclude that they belong to persons who have never been born again.

Not all true believers are equally as productive; but from every genuine Christian's life, there will be some evidence of spiritual fruit.

Each of the three fruitless hearts is influenced by a different enemy: the hard heart—the devil himself snatches the seed; the shallow heart—the flesh counterfeits religious feelings; the crowded heart—the things of the world smother the growth and prevent a harvest. These are the three great enemies of the Christian: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).

The lamp (vv. 21-25). In this parable, our Lord used a common object (a lamp) in a familiar scene (a home). The lamp was a clay dish filled with oil, with a wick put into the oil. In order to give light, the lamp had to "use itself up"; and the oil had to be replenished. If the lamp was not lit, or if it was covered up, it did the home no good.

The Apostles were like that lamp: they were called to shed God's light and reveal His truth. But they could not "give out" without first "taking in"; hence, the admonition of Mark 4:24-25. The more we hear the Word of God, the better we are able to share it with others. The moment we think that we know it all, what we think we know will be taken from us. We must take heed what we hear (Mark 4:24) as well as take heed how we hear (Luke 8:18). Our spiritual hearing determines how much we have to give to others. There is no sense trying to "cover things up" because God will one day reveal all things.

The seed growing (vv. 26-34). The first parable reminds us that we cannot make the seed grow; in fact, we cannot even explain how it grows. There is a mystery to the growth of the seed and the development of the harvest. It takes a good deal of faith to be a farmer, and also a good deal of patience. In the Parable of the Sower and the Soils, the Lord suggested that much of the seed scattered would fall on unproductive soil. This fact could discourage His workers; so, in this parable, He reassured them "in due season we shall reap if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9).

The parable gave the disciples both warning and encouragement. The encouragement was that, from very small beginnings, the kingdom would eventually grow in size and in influence. While a mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world, it was probably the smallest seed that the Jews sowed in their gardens. It was a traditional symbol of that which is tiny. Our Lord began with 12 Apostles. Later, there were as many as 500 believers (1 Cor. 15:6). Peter won 3,000 at Pentecost; and throughout the Book of Acts, that number steadily increased (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7). In spite of the sins and weaknesses of the church, the message has been carried to other nations; and one day, saints from every nation shall worship before His throne (Rev. 5:9).

But the growth of the seed is only one part of the story; we must also account for the birds in the branches. In the Parable of the Sower and Soils, the birds stood for Satan, who snatches the seed (Mark 4:15). If we are to be consistent in our interpretation, we must take this into consideration, for both parables were taught on the same day. The growth of the kingdom will not result in the conversion of the world. In fact, some of the growth will give opportunity for Satan to get in and go to work! There was Judas in the disciple band, and Ananias and Sapphira were in fellowship with the Jerusalem church (Acts 5:1-11). Simon Magus was part of the church in Samaria (Acts 8:1-24), and Satan's ministers boldly invaded the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 11:13-15). The bigger the net, the greater the possibility of catching both good and bad fish (Matt. 13:47-50).

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become citizens of the heavenly nation, children in God's family, and subjects of the King of kings and Lord of lords. What a privilege it is to know the Lord Jesus Christ!

Bible Exposition Commentary

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