Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Who Is Jesus to You?
Have you ever heard the expression: "they only hear what they want to hear"? Its true - and its also very dangerous. Today Jesus is going to say things that just bounce off the hearers - the crowds, and His disciples. It involves accepting the truth - and in trusting the Lord at His word. I want us to focus on our own hearts - how porous are our hearts to hearing truth from the Lord?
1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
9 Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
And here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10
"'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"
Isn't it interesting that Jesus seems to almost be hiding the truth from people? That's because if someone doesn't want to believe they will not understand - but if their heart is soft towards the Lord then He can reveal the truth to them.
Jeremiah 29:13-14 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD,
Here's how The Message translates this;
Mark 4:12 Whose eyes are open but don't see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don't understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven."
Or another way to say it: "The last thing they want is to repent and be forgiven." Jesus is preaching the truth to a people who have no intention of accepting it.
Next it almost seems as if Jesus is chiding His disciples - but I think He's saying "think!"
13 Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."
I think Jesus is really describing two kinds of people here - the ones that don't take the gospel to heart and truly give their lives to Jesus - and those who do.
He describes what happens when someone hears the gospel -
2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Word of God just kind of bounces off of them. That's evidence of a hard heart. God can soften a hard heart, but if the person refuses to let God's truth affect them, He can also harden them more - like Pharaoh. These people are simply not interested in anything but the sound of their own opinions.
These are people who may latch on to the gospel in a crisis or because it is the "in" thing to do - but they don't really belong to Him, and haven't trusted Jesus with their life - it is association of convenience. With these folks seemingly "bad" things in a worldly sense take priority over God.
Another type seems to have received the Word - but it becomes obvious that their real priorities lie in their former life. There is no evidence of salvation or a changed heart. With these folks seemingly "good" worldly things take precedence over God.
The Good Soil
In order for a garden to grow food it must be: free of weeds, free of rocks, and broken up. If our hearts are open to the Lord working in them then truth can find fertile soil to put down roots and shoot up fruit.
So look what Jesus says next:
21 He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
This is a great to us - especially in this post-Christian society in which we live. Everywhere people are trying to take God and especially Christianity out of everything. It makes us afraid to be Christians- because its not PC. Not that we are undergoing persecution - though it may soon come to that.
Two things here: 1. Don't be afraid to be a Christian to your unsaved friends, co-workers, and relatives. And 2. Being a light doesn't mean you blind them - but that you attract them by the fruit of a life given to Jesus.
Now this next statement is interesting:
24 "Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you-and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
We are responsible for what we hear.
John 12:47-48 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
This goes along with the parable of the talents - the guy who just hid the talent had even that taken away - the point is that the guy wanted nothing to do with Jesus and so his wish was granted. Those that hear the gospel but reject it will have excuse but will have their wish granted of forever being excluded from God's presence.
So now Jesus gives two more parables:
26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
30 Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
I personally thing what Jesus is saying in these two parables is that just because you don't see the kingdom of God visibly - just because the transformation is taking place in men's hearts - doesn't mean it doesn't exist. God's kingdom is growing, right under our noses - and it may have begun small - just one guy from nowhere - but it is growing and producing life because it is the truth.
33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Good point here - it's not going to do a pre-Christian any good to talk about pre or post-tribulation rapture - or whether Mark 16 belongs in the canon of Scripture - or the doctrine of transubstantiation. We need to keep the gospel very simple and easy to digest.
It's like the game where you have to roll a certain number before you can start around the board - people need to understand sin, death, and salvation through Jesus before they can understand the deeper things.
Now here's Jesus' first real test of His disciples:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41 They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Amazing story. These types of wind storms can come up out of nowhere on the Sea of Galilee. The reason is that the Sea is 680 feet below sea level - surrounded by cliffs reaching up to 2,000 feet. The difference in temperatures can send violent winds down to the Sea - which is a relatively shallow lake - only 200 feet deep. A shallow body of water is more susceptible to wind driven waves.
Back in 1984 I visited the Sea of Galilee - even taught out of this section on a boat tossing about on the waves. We stayed at a place called Kibbutz Ginossar. I remember well standing by the shore, looking out on the lake, wondering what it was like in Jesus' day.
Two years later a discovery was made on that very place - beneath the mud under our feet lay a nearly perfectly preserved boat dating from the 1st century. It was 7 feet wide by 24 feet long, made of 7 different species of wood. The boats would have either had a single sail or oars. They worked great for fishing, but it would have been pretty frightening to take them into such a squall.
Jesus took His men into an area they would have felt comfortable in, and wiped out their comfort.
Jesus was sleeping through the storm
The disciples were angry thinking Jesus lack of action meant a lack of concern for them
Jesus did something far beyond what they would have expected
The point was faith over fear
What kind of heart do you have?
Does God's Word bounce off of you?
Do you turn away from trusting Him in times of trouble?
Do you care more for the world than for the Lord?
Or is your heart soft and pliable?
The world and the Lord are opposites
That's really one of the first things you have to realize in order to understand and accept the gospel. In the Lord weakness is strength, and selfish strength is weakness. Trials are times for growth - and worldly desires are really temptations. Most important - sin is real and deadly. If we can upset the status quo a little, get people out of their comfort zone, we have a chance of reaching them in their heart.
It's the heart, stupid
We need to face the fact that we aren't going to reach anyone for Jesus by appealing to their minds or by painting some picture of God as a super-genie who will fulfill all our wishes for health wealth and prosperity. Its in that inside place - the place you see at funerals or at hospital bedsides or in the unemployment line - the place of need - that's where the gospel is most effective.
Is the Kingdom of God producing life in you?
Jesus said that when the kingdom is planted it grows and grows like the mustard seed into a big bush. What kind of growth are you experiencing? I don't mean how many converts have you notched into your evangelism gun belt - but how is Jesus changing you, how is He working through you to bring comfort and life to others? Worth thinking about.
Do you trust the Master, even when He is sleeping in your storm-tossed boat?
You may be all in a panic over some crisis in your life - and it makes you mad that God doesn't seem to care. Just as Jesus was preparing His men for trials they couldn't even imagine, God is growing our faith in Him, not the expectation that everything will always work out the way we want it to when we want it to.
Jesus said: "Let's cross over to the other side." He didn't say: "let's go out on the lake and see what happens."
Jesus also says:
John 14:2-4 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
We are going to cross over into the Father's house - those of us who trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are going to make it - no matter the storms in this life or whether or not God answers our cries in the way we think He should. Trust in Him - he'll get you there.