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AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?: How to Hear a Who   Mark 4   Pastor Dan Elliott  (1st)

We are in this series going through the Gospel of Mark.  Today we’re taking chapter 4, which is the longest chapter so far (about 40 some verses).  I’m going to ask you to read the first eleven verses with me.  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.  He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:  “Listen!  A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”  Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.  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.”  

We’re going to take a look at parables today.  I was going to call this “The Perplexing Problem of Parables.”  Instead we’re calling it “How to Hear a Who.”  Let’s bow our heads.  Our dear Heavenly Father, what a great God you are!  Lord, I’ve loved singing these songs that focused in on you.  Jesus, because you’re alive, we’re alive today with hope, with future, with eternity in mind.  How great is that?!   Lord, open our eyes, open our ears.  Join us together, make your word come alive.  Would your Spirit teach us now.  I praise you, in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

When I read through this chapter there were some things about the kingdom of God that seemed to jump out, and that Jesus was illustrating as he told these parables.  But there was one principle that jumped out pretty strong.  It was one of my favorite principles growing up.  When I was a kid, I lived about a quarter mile from the library in our little town of Hancock, New York.  I would come home with three or four books and usually there was at least one that was Dr. Seuss.  One of my favorite characters was Horton the Elephant.  The book was titled “Horton Hears a Who.”   Horton hears some sounds when he’s out.  On the 15th of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, he was splashing, enjoying the jungle’s great joys, when Horton the Elephant heard a small noise. So Horton stopped splashing.  He looked towards the sound.  “That’s  funny,” thought Horton. “There’s no one around.”  Then he heard it again!  Just a very faint yelp, as if some tiny person were calling for help.  “I’ll help you,” said Horton, “but who are you? Where?”  He looked and he looked.  He could see nothing there, but a small speck of dust blowing past through the air.  “I say,” murmured Horton, “I’ve never heard tell of a small speck of dust that is able to yell.  So you know what I think?  I think that there must be someone on top of that small speck of dust.  Some sort of creature of a very small size, too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes.  Some poor little person who’s shaking with fear that he’ll blow in this pool, he has no way to steer.  I’ll just have to save him, because after all, a person’s a person no matter how small.”  So gently, and using the greatest of care, the elephant stretched his great trunk through the air, and he lifted the dust speck and carried it over and placed it down safe on a very soft clover.    The rest of the story is how Horton tries to help these people on that small speck of dust.  He discovered they actually live in a little town called “Who-ville.”  He meets the mayor who says, “My town is called “Who”-ville, for I am a “Who.” and we “Whos” are all thankful and grateful to you.  And Horton called back to the mayor of the town, “You’re safe now, don’t worry, I won’t put you down.”    But of course, there’s challenges that come.  Horton hears the Whos, but nobody else does, and they think Horton’s nuts.  Because he’s walking around holding this little clover very carefully.  Pretty soon the animals around him try to figure out ways to sabotage, figure out ways to make him let it go.  Finally…..“Believe me,” said Horton, “I tell you sincerely, my ears are quite keen and I heard him quite clearly.  I know there’s a person down there.  And what’s more, quite likely there’s two even three, maybe four.” 

Like I said, I’d go to the library every week and get two or three books and there was always a Dr. Seuss book.  Dr. Seuss was one of my heroes.  Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodore Geisel.  I was surprised when I read his life’s story.  During World War II, Theodore Geisel drew about 400 political cartoons.  When I saw some of the cartoons, I was shocked.  They were very racist and hateful towards the Japanese people.   So much so, that some of the newspapers that published the cartoons received angry letters from parents asking them not to publish them because they didn’t want their kids to see them.  After the war was over, in 1953, Theodore Geisel/Dr. Seuss was hired by Life Magazine to go to Japan.  He was asked to write an article on the post-war efforts and how it was helping the Japanese children.  He went to Japan with a Japanese and went from school to school to school.  He asked every child to draw what they wanted to be in the future.  During that trip, Theodore Geisel was changed as he heard what these children were saying, as he saw the dreams that they had for the future.  He realized, “These kids aren’t any different than mine.  And the parents of these children aren’t any different than I am.”   He came home and wrote the article, but he also sat down and wrote “Horton Hears a Who.”  A person’s a person no matter how small.   I love that theme that goes all throughout the book:  “Should I put this speck down?” Horton thought with alarm. “If I do these small persons may come to great harm.  I can’t put it down!  I won’t, after all, a person’s a person no matter how small.” 

That’s a great theme.  And it’s a theme we find throughout the kingdom of God.  Everybody’s made in the image of God.  A person’s a person.  Everyone we are to love and to reach out to.  But that’s not the theme I want you to get from Horton this morning.  I want you to get this theme:  “Believe me,” said Horton, “I tell you sincerely, my ears are quite keen and I heard him quite clearly.  I know there’s a person down there and what’s more, quite likely there’s two even three, maybe four.”    My ears are quite keen and I heard him quite clearly.  My hope today is one of the principles we’re going to hear about the kingdom of God is we’ve got to start listening.  With keen ears.  With Horton-like ears.

I think of the parable we just read. It was book-ended with these words:  He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: Listen!   And the ninth verse, at the end of this parable, said:  Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”    The same word is used three times:  listen/hear.  It’s the Greek word “akouo.”   You can almost hear the word ‘acoustic’ coming through it, which means ‘fine tune’ or even ‘tune in.’  The word akouo means ‘listen, because this needs careful thought.’   What Jesus is saying when he’s telling this parable is listen to this, because I want you to give some practical application, I want you to think about this.  I want you to enter into this.

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.   What exactly were they asking?  Did they want to know what the parable meant?  Did they want to know why he was using parables?  In a parallel passage in Matthew, it said they asked, “Why did you use parables and what did they mean?”  I think they’re asking something more.  If you go back to what Aaron preached last week and you go back to Mark 3, there’s a couple pictures that hit you.  One is there was so many people, such a large crowd, that Jesus said to his disciples, “Hey, let’s get a boat and I’ll get in it and you go out a little way from shore so I can teach from it, so I won’t get pressed by the crowd.”  He’s doing the same thing here… said he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake.  So there were large numbers of people.

Secondly, we see there was opposition rising.  In chapter 3 there were the Pharisees, there were the Herodians, there were others coming.  It tells us in three different places.  One said they were coming to see something they could accuse Jesus of (Mark 3:2).  In verse 6, it said they were coming to kill Jesus.  They were trying to stop his ministry.  Toward the end of the chapter (3:22), they were accusing him of being of Satan.

When I hear the disciples asking him about the parables, I hear them saying, “Jesus, why did you tell a story about a farmer?  Good grief, you’ve got big crowds here.  What a chance to teach them what you’ve been teaching.  Furthermore, now those people are scratching their heads wondering what you meant by that! You’ve got the big-wigs from Jerusalem coming.  What an opportunity to be able to teach your truth and be able to change their minds.  Now all they think is you’re nuts!  You had an opportunity and what do but tell them a story about a farmer throwing out some seed!”  Then Jesus says to them…..and I’ve got to say that this is one of the more puzzling verses—definitely in chapter 4 and maybe even in Mark’s gospel.   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 so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”

There’s a couple of things in those verses that stopped me in my tracks.  One of those is ‘the secret’ thing, and the other thing is the quote from Isaiah 6:9-10.  It’s after Isaiah had been commissioned and had his great vision and the angel put a piece of coal on his lips.  Then he’s given this charge which Jesus repeats here:  ….ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!   It almost sounds like Jesus wants to be cryptic so that he doesn’t have to forgive these people.  That doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know.

I mentioned parallel passages and Matthew’s gospel has a little longer explanation that we’re going to look at.  Some of you may be wondering what I mean by parallel passages.  There’s four gospels in the beginning of the New Testament:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each one of them written by those individuals.  They’re all about the life of Christ and they all give a little bit of flavor from their personality as they’re sharing about the life of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes you read it and it follows together and sometimes you read it and there’s some different slants on how they viewed what was happening.  Matthew shares this parable of the farmer or the parable of the sower, and the disciples asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  Jesus answers in Matthew 13:14-15  —  In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:  ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.   In that I hear a little different tone than what I heard in Mark.  Yes, Mark quotes some of this, but not all of this.

I remember when Larry started us off on this study of Mark and he referred to Mark’s gospel as the ADD gospel, as a gospel that flits from this story to the next story to the next story, then the next story.  And it flies!  So sometimes in Mark’s gospel things are kind of compressed, but in the other gospels things are expanded.  I see Matthew expanding this and giving you more of the feeling.  I feel Jesus saying, “Oh man, if only these people opened their eyes, I’d heal them, but they’ve closed them.  If only they’d open their ears, but they’ve stopped them up.”  Notice what he says at the very end (Matt. 13:16) — But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.   Commentator William Barclay takes this passage and interprets it like this:  “When Jesus said this, he didn’t say it in anger or irritation or bitterness or exasperation, no, he said it with the wistful longing of frustrated love.  The poignant sorrow of the man who had a tremendous gift to give, which people were too blind to take.”  I think that’s what’s going on here when Jesus uses those words that sound a little harsh to us.

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.”   So that brings me to the secret of God.  What is the secret of God?  One of my favorite verses….actually my life verse…..which I took after seminary and said I want this to be the verse that defines my ministry throughout my life.  It’s Colossians 2:2-3  —  My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.   The secret of the kingdom of God is Jesus, is Jesus Christ.   Here’s Jesus, and I can believe is that these disciples have been given a little bit of an insight to realize that Jesus is unique.  He’s the one we’re going to follow when he called us to follow Him.  Jesus has the answer, and so, when Jesus tells some kind of a story about someone spreading seeds, they’re curious and they want to know why.  When those people who are against Jesus, who say they have to stop him any way possible, hear him telling a story about a farmer throwing seeds around, they’re saying, “Well, why do we have to waste our time with him?  He’s lost this crowd if he’s going to talk like that.”  It kind of keeps the opposition away, and it kind of draws the curiosity of a people who have received this inclination that there’s more to Jesus than we see.  Yeah, they had this secret, but they didn’t have all the answers.

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.  This brings us to the first kingdom principle that I see in this passage.  The principle is we need to listen, we need to be curious, we need to ask questions.  We need to listen intently with Horton-like ears that can hear what other people aren’t hearing.  We need to be curious and question.  Kerry and I are going to get flown back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I started my ministry.  I was able to plant a church called Lancaster Evangelical Free Church.  What amazes me is it’s still going today!  We’re going back for their fortieth anniversary.  I’m looking forward to seeing the changes, but it’s caused me to reflect a lot.  Especially as I come to this principle of listening, being curious, and asking questions.  I think of those years I was in Lancaster.  I was totally bent on giving them great answers.  Stop the questions.  Give you satisfactory reasons why this is.  I never taught those people how to question.  In fact, I’m not sure that I knew.  I’m not sure that I was comfortable in questioning what I was taught.  It wasn’t until I started to question that I began to deepen and understand more.

I’ve told you about ‘The Guys Must Be Crazy’ on Friday mornings.  I love it, because we read a passage of Scripture and then the way we start is “Okay, what bugs you?”  It’s terrific to hear the conversation that happens and the teaching that takes place around that circle of men.  Listen.  Be curious.  Ask questions.

We just had Family Promise here.  I had a great experience during a Friday night I was there.  As coordinator, I just make sure nothing goes wrong.  I was sitting in the kitchen and I could hear the commotion of all the kids playing in the room next door.  Everything else seemed to be quiet.  One of the dad’s came in, got a drink, sat down, and said, “Hey, can I ask you a question?”  I said, “Sure, ask me a question.”  He said, “Doesn’t it take a man with a woman to have a kid?”  “Yeah, I pretty much agree with that.  Sure.”  He said, “That’s what throws me off.  I just don’t understand this Mary bit and how she could have Jesus without Joseph.”  “Oh, that’s where you’re going.”   We had a great time for about forty-five minutes.  He had one question after another after another.  What I began to realize is that many of my answers came back as “I can’t fully explain this to you,”  but I know that as I’ve stepped into this circle where I say ‘Yeah, Jesus is unique, Jesus is the Son of God,’ it helps me understand the virgin birth and why we need it.  It helps me understand the crucifixion and why Jesus went through it.  It helps me understand that yes, He conquered death.  All of this centers around Jesus.  I love the fact that he was curious.   I believe that Jesus liked the fact the disciples came to Him and said, “Okay, tell us about this story.  Explain this story to us.”

They’ve been told the secret.  Let me tell you, the secret’s out.  The secret’s out and everyone here knows that secret.  One, I just told you.  But you knew it anyway.  Right after Jesus explains a little bit more about this parable, He says these words (v. 21-25) —  Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed?  Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.   I believe he’s telling his disciples the day’s going to come when this secret that you know is going to be out in the open.  And my goodness, we’ve got it written right in front of us.  It’s out in the open.  That doesn’t mean we keep it to ourselves, not at all.  It means that when we go and share with other people, they might say, “Aaah, you’re talking about that Jesus who was born by virgin birth.”  It gets the conversation going.  Listen.  Listen.

We come to these parables and we’ll just review it because it’s one that we all know.  The parable of the sower and the seed.  We’ve had it taught all different ways, but he basically says the farmer goes out and spreads some seeds.  Some lands on hardened ground.  You picture a sidewalk or a path that’s beaten down.  Seed lands on it and birds come and snatch it away.  Some goes on rocky soil.  It’s shallow.  It starts to germinate quickly and then the sun comes out and scorches it; there’s no root and it dries up and goes away.  Some fall on thorny or weedy ground.  It grows up with the thorns and the weeds and the weeds choke it out and it’s gone.  Some goes on good soil.  In good soil it grows and harvests a crop thirty, sixty, a hundred times.

Then Jesus sits down with his disciples after they say, “Tell us about this parable.”  He gives them some insights.  The seed that the birds came and took away is really Satan coming and snatching it away, because it’s a hard spot, a hard soil that doesn’t take root.  It’s like people who are hardened and Satan snatches them away.  That rocky, shallow soil is like people who receive the truth really quickly and they’re all excited about it, then pressures and challenges come and all of a sudden it dries up and is gone.  Then there’s people in thorny, weedy soil who receive the word, but then all the cares of the world, the desires, the temptations, the question marks .  It’s not fruitful.  Finally, the good soil.

I tried to figure out what the kingdom principle for this was.  I’ve always looked at this in an ‘evangelistic’ way.  Which means how we go about and share the gospel and how the reception is to that gospel.  Evangelastic is those in the evangelical church that kind of like to expand the numbers too big, so we say it’s evangelastic.  The more I thought about it, I realized that’s not really a kingdom principle—how people receive it.  I wrestled with this well-known parable, and you know what jumped out at me?  This farmer’s pretty sloppy.  Here’s the sower or the farmer with a handful of seeds that he just tosses.  Some lands on the sidewalk, some lands on the rocks, some lands in the thorns, and some lands on good soil.  I remember my grandfather (Pa) had a big garden when I was growing up.  He’d take me out there to plant and we never wasted seed.  This farmer seems pretty reckless.  The word ‘reckless’ can be translated as ‘prodigal.’  You think of the parable of the Prodigal Son….well, a lot of people interpret that as a prodigal father who had a reckless love.  You know what I see here?  A prodigal farmer.

It brings out the second kingdom principle:  God is generous with His truth, regardless of how it is received.  He spreads just as much seed on that hardened path, as he does on that good soil, as he does on those thorns, as he does on those rocks.  And the seeds are spread.  There’s a verse in Romans 1:19-20 — Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.   The same truth is shared.  God’s love is generous and he spreads it out.  I know some people wrestle with this parable and we try to come up with all kinds of theological implications.  Like, so if these people are hardened, they get one chance and then Satan snatches away and it’s over.  I don’t know, the farmer probably came out the next day and spread some seed.  I don’t know.  But I don’t think he’s talking about that.  But it really hits me, the generosity of God to spread His truth.

So I look back at those pictures, and when I go through the translation here in Scripture, it basically portrays Jesus as saying, that’s a person who’s got a hardened heart, that’s a person who was shallow and gave into temptation and drifted away.  I started looking at these and started asking the question is this talking about people, or is it talking about the conditions of souls?  Is it different souls?  As I’m thinking about this, I realized that I think I’m listening and I’m curious and I want to know more.  As I look at these soils, as I look at these conditions, as I look at these things in the parable, man, I could tell you everyone of those is in my life right now.  I started to get very convicted, because I like to think I really hand it all over to God, but there’s some areas of my life I’m hardened to.  I’ll say, “God, take anything….but this.”  I put it under lock and key and keep it away from him.  I have some of areas I just won’t let go of, that represent to me that hardened path.  I wondered how many times God has thrown some seed on there and it’s been snatched away because I wouldn’t let it sink into me.  Psalm 23:6 came to mind — Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Recently I was reading about that verse and what came across was surely God’s goodness and God’s unconditional love is going to be more than passively following me, it’s going to be pursuing me, it’s going to be chasing after me, it’s going to be seeking to capture me all the days of my life.  God does not give up on those hard areas in my life.   Am I listening?  Do I have Horton-like ears to hear that?  Do I ponder it?

What about those areas in my life that are kind of shallow?  In the enthusiasm, I’ll receive something and get all excited about it, but then there’s outside pressures that come in and it seems to squelch it.  I’ve shared with you that I’m an anxious person.  I can be intimidated rather quickly.  In fact, just knowing I was going to be preaching is a little intimidating.  Matthew 28:20 came to mind.  When Jesus is meeting with his disciples the last time, he says:  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.    Do I listen to that?  Do I realize, that right now as I’m up here in a rather intimidating situation in front of you all, that Jesus is up here with me?  Jesus is inside of me, and Jesus is speaking through me, and Jesus is giving you ears to hear.  Do I realize that?  Wow! What a concept!  What a thought!

I receive the truth and I know the truth, but I live kind of in fear.  One of the thoughts that came to mind as I was wrestling with this “thorny” soil—about areas that tempt me—I always wonder….I’m suppose to be the provider in our family.  I wonder, “Have I provided enough to get us through?”  I know I shouldn’t be like that, but I do.  We had a great Christmas trip.  While I was there, I was talking to my brother-in-law.  He was sharing how his company was bought out.  The company that bought them gave him a tremendous stock option.  In fact, they gave him fifty percent more to buy him out.  He said, “Dan, I could retire today and we’d have no worries.”  I was smiling on the outside, but on the inside I was thinking I’d better go home and figure things out!  Do I hear Matthew 6:33?  Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Don’t worry about tomorrow.  I know that verse, but am I listening?  Am I curious?  Am I asking God questions?

Then you come to the good soil, producing thirty, sixty, a hundred times.  We’ll get to that.  But the kingdom principle that comes out is we can cultivate our hearts to receive more and more of His truth.  Just because we may have a hardened place in our life, I don’t want you to write yourself off saying, “Well, that will never change.”  Oh no, just know God’s pursuing you and He’ll never give up.  Just because you may have a weakness and you’re living in fear because of something else, realize God is with you and He can give you the strength to keep on going.  We can cultivate our hearts to receive more and more of His truth and allow it to penetrate deep into our hearts.

The soil that produced thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold, that’s where I think Jesus went with the next parable.  (Verses 26-29)  He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”    I want to assure each and everyone of you here today who has entered into that wonderful mystery of God, that Jesus is the one who has the wisdom and knowledge.  Your life is producing something.  I want to encourage you to look for it.  Look for it!  It’s tempting to always say, “I see it in this person, but I’m still wrestling, I’m still struggling.  I don’t know if it’s here.”  I was talking to someone this past week.  We got into one of those political conversations.  This individual looked at me and said, “You know, Dan, three years ago that would have just yanked my chain!  But today?  So what, God’s in charge.”  Hey, that’s crops growing, that’s fruit being produced.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)   I want to assure you, we can do things to try to cultivate the fruit a little bit, but it grows by the work of the Spirit within us.

I’m amazed as I look at my driving skills today, compared to what it used to be.  I’m amazed how I can drive and somebody can cut me off and now I see the patience.  I’ve never prayed for patience!  But it’s interesting to see that grow as the Spirit lives inside of us.  It’s interesting to see the love of God for other people grow as the Spirit lives inside of us.  I want to tell you, there are places in your life where those seeds that God has planted are producing a crop of thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold.  Look for it.  Be encouraged.  Walk in that joy.  So the next kingdom principle is:  When we receive His truth, it produces results.

We can cultivate our lives to receive His truth more, but when His truth gets in there, it produces results and changes in our life.  Isn’t the kingdom of God great?  He’s generous with His truth and He scatters it all over.  We can cultivate our lives to receive more.  And we can receive His truth and it will produce results.  Boy, do we have ears to hear that?  Horton-like ears?

It finally brings us to the last parable in this passage, the parable of the mustard seed.  (Verses 30-32)  Again he said  “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”   When I think of the smallest of all seeds….diminutive….tiny.  Boy, not impressive at all.  But out of that grows something that can provide shelter for the rest of the world.

The last principle is His truth is unassuming, but it packs a wallop!  I think of Isaiah 53:1-2.  We’ve heard the secret is Jesus Christ.  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.   And yet He’s the Savior of the world.  He’s the mystery of God.  He’s the transformer.  Wow!  I think of Ephesians 2:8-9  —  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  It’s not us…’s Him filling us with His truth and using us as his instruments in this world.

As I was thinking about the fact that His truth is unassuming, but it bring changes within  our world and within our society.  I was trying to think….when you think of hospitals, most hospitals have some kind of faith-based organization behind it that started it. (I couldn’t find many details on that.)  But I was interested to find this…when you think of universities, colleges, places of higher learner, I was interested to find that in colonial America there were 123 universities that were started then.  One hundred twenty-two of them were church-related.  They had wonderful statements of purpose.  I’m going to read this one and you tell me which school you think it is:  Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.  {Harvard University}  I’m not sure where it is now, but isn’t that a great start?  Boy, starting from something so small, something that looked like it was almost blown out on the cross.  But look what’s happened today!

I think, right here in our church, is something that illustrates this principle very well.  It’s the Food Bank.  Let me show you what it looks like today.  On Tuesday night, we had the opportunity as Elders to have the team from the renovation come and share how it’s grown, how it’s changed and been transformed.  I remember when the Food Bank started in someone’s garage.  It eventually got moved over here and got moved from corner to corner to corner.  It was stuck back in that corner.  People would come on a Saturday morning, but, yeah, it was in the back of the church.  And you people gave a year ago, and that corner’s been transformed.   And I don’t mean just transformed so that it looks nice, it’s been transformed so that the people who are working in the Food Bank are working there to recognize the image of God in every person that comes in.  To encourage people that God has a plan for them and a purpose and they love on them.  And to be able to meet physical needs like food.  I love what’s going on there!  It’s like that little tiny mustard seed that has blossomed into this today!

Those are just some of the principles of the kingdom.  Do we hear those?  Do we allow ourselves to listen?  Are we inquisitive and curious and digging in deeper and deeper?

The chapter doesn’t end with a parable.  It ends with a story.  And it’s a real story.  But I think it’s kind of a good parable for us today too.  It ends with Jesus, after a long day of teaching and a long day of explaining, saying to his disciples, “Come on.  Let’s get into the boat and go over to the other side of the lake.  Let’s get away from the crowds.  Let’s have some quiet.”  They get in the boat and start making their way across.  Jesus falls asleep.  He had to be exhausted, because while they’re on the lake, a storm rises and beats and batters the boat.  It says water was washing into the boat.  Finally, the disciples go and wake Jesus and say, “Aren’t you worried that we’re going to drown?”  I kind of think Jesus rubbed the sleep from his eyes, looked around, then stood up.  It says in Scripture he said these words:  Quiet!  Be still!  I don’t know if the water all of sudden went ‘boink,’ or gradually got quiet and then went still.  I can’t help but think that Jesus wants us to listen and to hear those words.  I know that all of us here today have storms.  We have things we’re anxious about, things that are eating away at us.  Maybe it’s a marriage going in a direction we didn’t want it to go.  Maybe it’s a kid that’s just not following what we want them to follow.  Maybe it’s thinking about taxes or politics.  Jesus says, “Quiet!  Be still!”  Do we hear that?  Do we take it seriously?  Do we listen to that?  The disciples in the boat said, “What manner of man is this?”  That’s a great question to ask!   What manner of man is this?

We have the opportunity to come to His table.  We do this every month, and sometimes maybe that just becomes a tradition or a pattern.  But I want to encourage you today, as you would come to take these elements, as you would come to take the bread and the wine, that you would listen.  When He was meeting with his disciples that night before he was crucified, he said, “This is my body broken for you.”  I’m sure they were thinking, “What in the world is He talking about?!”  I want you to ask questions as you take this piece of bread. His body broken for me….what does that mean?  As you take this cup, the cup of the new covenant….what does the new covenant mean?  {Leads into communion instructions.}