Sermon Notes – February 19, 2023
I don’t know if you heard or not, but I’ve always heard it said that our forties are the decade of change, or where “everything falls apart.” I’ve personally done pretty good, but I did begin my forties being more active than I am ending them to say the least!
In my early forties, I’d still play basketball with youth from church, run and play every game with them, and even challenge some of them to race me on foot. And I usually won the race.
I worked out 3-4 times a week, on most weeks, and rarely felt tired. In fact I felt like I had more time in my day than I do today.
However, somewhere in my mid-forties I suppose, things began to change. I’ve developed bursitis in one of my knees, making it hard for me, at times, to get down on them without feeling a shock through my legs.
So for my photography I was doing, there was no more dropping to a knee to get that low shot. As for basketball, I’d still play early on, but my knees and legs would indeed be sore for days!
As for working out, I was honestly doing pretty good until the pandemic, but now, time, I just don’t see where I have it.
Time seems to simply fly by. It’s like there’s almost too many things to do and little time to get it done. I’m always having to “fit” something in as best I can. Oh, and I want to rest more often!
This past week has truly been an eye opener for me too! I’ve always prided myself on having great eyesight, being able to read just about anything from a distance, and the smallest of fine print. However, lately I’ve been noticing some changes…the eyes not reacting as easily going from my phone to the TV, or being able to read fine print on packages, nor my old favorite bible.
So, I thought, I’ve got eye-care insurance, and maybe I should go just to get told I’m all good, normal aging, etc.
Well, I’ve not looked at an eye chart in nearly twenty years until Monday. And then when she told me to cover one eye and tell her what I could see! Well, that was for sure an eye opening experience.
It was then I realized I had a problem. I couldn’t see as well as I could for so long, and yep, I need glasses. Not just any glasses mind you, I need progressives…a more modern name, and evolution, of “bifocals.”
So, I’ve had a lot of revelations this week about just how bad my eye sight has become as Allison has had me “trying on” some of her glasses. It has been a tough week facing this reality.
I’ve been using these to help me read easier…now that I know I have a problem!
These were part of the key to helping me see I wasn’t perceiving things correctly.
You see, what I thought I was seeing properly, I in fact, haven’t been seeing clearly for some time now. I wasn’t perceiving how bad my eyesight had gotten. To be honest, I probably didn’t want to see it or perceive it properly.
I believe that’s a truth with many that pick up a bible today, or have someone tell them about Jesus.
Most all of us can read, or we can hear properly, but we’re not perceiving or understanding the message, or as Jesus says in today’s Word, “the secret,” within the message of His parables.
And the problem is, some of us simply don’t want to perceive or understand our own standing before God.
I believe our text in today’s Word has to do with not only hearing, or seeing, but also understanding and perceiving.
What do I mean by this?
What does it mean to us? To you?
What should we learn from these Words of Jesus?
Let’s look at today’s Scripture and then we’ll unpack it some and hopefully learn and be encouraged by it.
Mark 4:10–12 ESV
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
You may ask, “What’s a parable?”
A parable is just a story with a lesson hidden within it. Jesus often used items or experiences His listeners could relate with.
Next week, we’ll be looking at the parable of the Sower that is actually what sparks Him to explain His usage of parables to the disciples and those with them.
Like me using my own story of my failing body to introduce today’s Scriptural lesson, and this lesson will unfold as we continue. My parable might be a longer experience, but could have been simply put into a few lines…but I’ve got a sermon to give right?
But before we jump into the parables of Jesus, it was good to begin here with His “Why?” for using parables.
Jesus explains to His listeners that they have been given the “Secret of the Kingdom of God,” but those outside of His disciples are being given parables.
You see, for every thing in life, and here in each parable, there is both a physical and a spiritual world.
Like I mentioned earlier:
Most all of us can read, or we can hear properly – these are the physical abilities we have.
But Spiritually speaking, or even simply intellectually speaking, we cannot all perceive or understand the same.
As a Leader
I’ve been a leader in my career for years, and that means a lot of training and explaining things so my employees can both perceive and understand what I’m trying to teach them so I receive the output, or behavior, I need from them.
As a Parent
Like trying to teach a child sometimes, you have to use or find ways to help them understand the “secret” or “message” you’re trying to convey.
For most of us, there have been times where we needed someone else to communicate something to us in a way that we too can understand. We may have been the ones to cause someone else difficulty in teaching us something.
Well, the disciples were specifically called by Jesus to follow Him. And they were taught by Him personally, often. And to them, God had helped them to understand, through Jesus, the Spiritual world that exists.
Still we see them wrestle with the parables and Jesus’s teachings often as well. Similar to many of us. We may have grown up hearing and believing about Jesus, but we haven’t always, “gotten it.”
Some of us may still not be saved yet by that knowledge because we haven’t understood belief versus saving faith in Jesus.
Remember James, Jesus’s own brother (who once didn’t believe Jesus was God in the flesh), himself says, “even the demons believe and shudder,” when He is speaking about faith and works telling his hearers that faith without works was dead.
As we taught last week, faith should always be proven by our actions. The same goes for perceiving and understanding.
When we perceive or understand, not just seeing and hearing, we typically change the way we think or act, or believe.
Knowledge without acting on it is worthless knowledge right? Just like faith without actions.
So the disciples and those with them are the believers that have been given the “Secret” as Jesus says, to understanding the Kingdom…God’s reign on earth, through Jesus…and the Spiritual realm…knowledge that there is more than just the physical realm happening.
Jesus says to you has the secret been given to, but parables are for those outside.
Jesus is saying, to His followers, they have received understanding but to those outside…those who do not follow Him and have done nothing but chastise and oppose His works and teaching, everything is in parables.
And He says…so that…
So that…gives us the reason or the purpose, it answers, “Why?”
It’s like answering your child, or your employee, giving them the reason or purpose behind your teaching. So that you may learn to do right, good, etc.
Here Jesus is telling the “purpose” of His use of parables…”so that those outsiders, those that are against me, those that have been teaching the people wrong…so that…”
Mark 4:12 ESV
so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
They may see but not perceive, hear but not understand, lest…a word that is a negative statement…lest they turn and be forgiven…because they don’t see and perceive or hear and understand.
A Harsh Word
This is a troubling statement for many of us. We read it and we think, “why would God teach them in a way that they can’t understand to keep them from being forgiven? Doesn’t He want everyone to be forgiven?”
First off let me point out to you that Jesus is not teaching anything new here. In fact, much of, if not all of His teaching, is based on the Old Testament; the Law and Prophets, that the Jewish people had been taught since birth.
And here, if you have good eyesight and a Bible with footnotes, you may find it tells you that this is quoted from Isaiah 6. One of the major prophets in the Old Testament, that Jewish people would have held in high esteem. He was around 700+ years before Jesus.
Jesus is quoting these words in reference to God’s judgment on Israel…the Jewish people in the Old Testament.
In fact, again, and I can’t make this stuff up, we looked at the Fig tree parable, and we found in Isaiah 5 where God spoke of Israel as a vineyard He was going to judge, and destroy, because of their wickedness and idol worship.
Here we are today and Jesus’ is quoting from Isaiah 6, when Isaiah is given a heavenly vision of God on His throne and he sees the angels around the throne covering themselves for protection for God’s holiness.
Isaiah sees this and He says, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.” He thought he was going to die right then and there.
Then, after this confession of his, an angel flies over to him and touches his lips and tells him, “your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”
So, his eyes are opened to the spiritual realm, he is given the vision to really see, the secret to see, and he confesses to God his sin…and we take from this his desire to repent/change… and then he receives God’s forgiveness.
I could preach on that a lot more, but I wanted to point that out as his own “seeing and perceiving” had to be given spiritually for the next part.
God speaks of sending someone, sending a messenger apparently, and Isaiah speaks some words you and I may have said before:
Here am I Lord, send me.
The Lord then gives him a message to deliver…
Isaiah 6:9–10 ESV
And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
A Message of Judgment
What is the message Isaiah is to give? It is one of judgment on a people that had decided to follow another god, and to turn their back on the one that had been their Creator and Sustainer through centuries prior.
The one that gave them prophets, His own Word, to keep them in line, on the narrow path we’d say today.
Jesus wasn’t giving a new message. He was reiterating an old one. One the people should have known. It was a former example of their wickedness.
The truth is, many, dare I say most of the outsiders were still of the same heart…they couldn’t see God in Jesus. And they didn’t want to.
It’s like me and my eyesight. I couldn’t see how blind I was until it was pointed out to me and I saw the difference using glasses. My eyes had to be opened, accepting the possibility, for me to see the reality.
When Jesus said, “Come and follow me.” The disciples willingly responded. When He preached, hearts were opened to accept and believe Him, because they sought the Messiah.
Like last week when He told the parable of the fig tree not producing fruit, He used the story of the vineyard owner waiting three years for the tree to produce fruit and it hadn’t, so He had said, “cut it down.” His judgment was at hand, and the message was repent now.
So could His teaching of parables, “lest they turn and be forgiven,” be His, God’s judgment on the people? It could indeed.
God is sovereign, righteous, and just in all His decisions. And He knows the heart of man, inside and out, and could pass judgment on any one of us knowing the truth of the evil within our hearts. So, our evil in us can cause our judgment righteously and justly.
“Where’s the encouragement in all this?” you may be asking.
Well, the encouragement is this. You’re listening to these words I am sharing right now.
Are you understanding them?
Are you perceiving your own need of God’s grace and forgiveness?
Do you see why God gave us Jesus, His own Son?
If you can say yes to these things, then you have said yes, or can say yes, to Jesus and receive His forgiveness.
Like glasses, and an optometrist, helped me see my need for glasses.
Jesus is the key that helps us to see our need of Him.
Without the Key, the parables are hard to understand.
The parables are condemnation for the willfully blind and hostile, but a blessing to those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear the Word of God.
So for you believers, take heart, He’s given you the keys to the Kingdom of God.
And to you outsiders still, He’s giving you one more opportunity to receive His forgiveness. You’re here and hearing me now.
But are you perceiving His Word in your heart?
Do you understand that you are a sinner at the hands of a Holy and righteous God, who has the right to condemn you now, but would rather you receive His grace through Christ Jesus His Son?
Do you want to not only see and hear, but also perceive and understand properly?
Don’t put it off any longer, listen and seek to hear Him while you still can.