Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March 12, 2006

Matthew 16:1 – 12
Remembering Jesus II

PREMISE: Remembering is understanding is faith.
The disciple’s lack of spiritual insight was due to their inability to remember and correctly understand their experiences. This story reveals three observations about human nature and Jesus’ prescription for the problem.

I. We tend to walk by SIGHT not FAITH.

A. Human nature demands a "sign."
1. "The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven." (v 1)
a. The reason was to "test" Jesus, not to believe in Jesus.
b. By testing Jesus, they were laying claim to their position as the "gatekeepers" of truth... only the teacher/superior gives the test.
2. This must have affected the disciples... the Pharisees and Sadducees were also trying to plant doubt in Jesus’ followers.
a. The goal of the devil is to separate us from God. The seed of doubt is a very powerful tool. This doubt is like yeast, is slowly grows unseen on the inside. (BTW, yeast is "always" used negatively.)
b. "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (v 6)

B. Human nature doesn’t recognize when God is at work.
1. "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (v 3b)
a. Jesus observed that we can understand the physical world better than the spiritual world.
b. That’s because we live in a physical world and walk by SIGHT not FAITH.
2. "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away." (v 4)
a. They were not going to believe anyway... so why show them a sign. It’s like what it says in Proverbs 26:4 – 5...
PR 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.
PR 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
b. In other words a no win situation at best and a lose – lose situation at worst!

II. We tend to miss the "obvious."

A. Obvious means "easily perceived or understood; clear" [Oxford University Press]
1. Another way to say this is "DUH."
a. What do you do when someone points out an "obvious" mistake? Chances are you get angry at them, like they were the ones who made the mistake.
b. What do you do when someone points out an "obvious" observation? Chances are you get embarrassed, and make an excuse.
2. In the book of Matthew there are 14 recorded miracles (signs) before we get to this point. 9 times were healing (individual or in mass), 2 times were nature was affected, 2 involved the physical laws of the universe, and one demonstrated Jesus power over death!
a. What more could the disciples need? (Or the Pharisees and Sadducees.)
b. FAITH is the lense we use to INTERPRET facts and events. How we interpret says more about us than the fact or event!

B. Why?
1. Why do we need a "sign?"
a. A "sign" reduces God to come at our whistle and perform at our command.
b. A "sign" verifies "faith" that is too weak to believe. If you can see it, you do not have to believe, it is not faith!
2. Why do we miss when God does do something...?

III. We tend to be embarrassed when we don’t understand.

A. They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." (v 7)
1. This is the "human oops" when confronted with the "divine duh." (Jesus said, "How is it you don't understand?" v 11a)
a. They were thinking PHYSICALLY...
b. Yeast is in bread, they forgot the bread... simple, eh?
2. Jesus was dealing with the "spell" that doubt had cast over them.
a. The doctrine/teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (unbelief) had gotten them thinking PHYSICALLY... In other words, they forgot. (e.g. the forgot bread is no a problem for the Creator of the Universe!)
b. Jesus wanted them to think SPIRITUALLY. (Jesus said, "I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." v 11b)

B. It hurts when God points out the "obvious."
1. We defend ourselves.
a. It is easier to NOT believe...
b. In fact a correction of belief may be more painful than physical pain.
2. We have to admit that we are wrong and God is right.
a. That means to change our mind: pattens and desires.
b. That means to change our behavior: (2 Timothy 2:19 states: Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.")

IV. Jesus prescription for these problems:

A. Remember: do something to remember.

Paul Harvey tells this story: "It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.
Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean... For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long."

"But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."

"Now this is still Captian Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it." And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness."

"The Old Man and the Gulls" from Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story by Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.

B. Understand (different than knowing)

Douglas McArther, in Reminiscences, tells this story: "The first section was studying the time-space relationship later formulated by Einstein as his Theory of Relativity. The text was complex and, being unable to comprehend it, I committed the pages to memory. When I was called upon to recite, I solemnly reeled off almost word for word what the book said. Our instructor, Colonel Fieberger, looked at me somewhat quizzically and asked, "Do you understand this theory?"

"It was a bad moment for me, but I did not hesitate in replying, "No, sir." You could have heard a pin drop. I braced myself and waited. And then the slow words of the professor: "Neither do I, Mr. MacArthur. Section dismissed."

C. Believe (not on authority, but personally): belief is a life or death trust...

Ken Davis illustrated it this way: "In college I was asked to prepare a lesson to teach my speech class. We were to be graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The title of my talk was, "The Law of the Pendulum." I spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.

I attached a 3-foot string to a child's toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. I pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where I let it go. Each time it swung back I made a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When I finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved my thesis.

I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room was a large, crude but functional pendulum (250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.). I invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. Then I brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, I once again explained the law of the pendulum he had applauded only moments before, "If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger."

After that final restatement of this law, I looked him in the eye and asked, "Sir, do you believe this law is true?" There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, "Yes." I released the pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. I never saw a man move so fast in my life. He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, I asked the class, "Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?" The students unanimously answered, "NO!" [Ken Davis, How To Speak To Youth, pp 104-106.]

Conclusion:

1. Do you really remember in such a way that it changes what you do? Are you caused to do something in remembrance and gratitude of Jesus?
2. Can you hear God now? Do you understand?
3. When the pendulum of sin and its consequences swing back to you, do you really trust that Jesus has paid the penalty, taken the consequences, and forgiven you?

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