Jesus engages in ministry among both Jews and Gentiles. The Gospel story reaches a climax in Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ.
Mark 08.pdf (Mark Radke)
Mark 08.mp3 (Mark Radke)
Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee.
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Matthew 16:12 provides an explanation that Mark neglects.
Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
(By the way, there was a lot of overlap in the views of Herod or the Herodians as some manuscripts have it, and the Sadducees. Rather than conflicting, these passages help explain one another.)
Jesus’s point is that the teaching of these groups was riddled with error, a problem that is common enough today. Let’s ask for help in the face of that:
Both the world and the church are filled with false teaching. This is nothing new. In the past there were many false prophets. The church has continuously dealt with false teaching. Then there are the views of the surrounding culture, which are very popular and very hard for us not to absorb.
Help us to keep our belief and doctrine pure. Help us to not go astray as we seek to follow you. Help us not to buy into the teaching of “another Jesus” as Paul so accurately puts it. We want to keep ourselves from idols as John warns.
We need your Holy Spirit to teach us as we seek to learn from you. As we open the Scriptures with a desire to obey, we need you to open the eyes of our understanding. Help us not to seek teaching that scratches our itching ears. Help us to desire the purest of spiritual milk. Help us to long for the truth and keep us safe from the lies of the devil.
Finally, help us to be faithful when we know full well that we are often lacking in faith.
As was often the case, Jesus found himself in another argument with some Pharisees.
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
The interesting thing is that Jesus did in fact give a number of signs pointing to his being the Messiah. The Gospel of John is perhaps the clearest on this point.
The first was his changing the water into wine, after which John 2:11 says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
After healing an official’s son, John 4:54 informs us, “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” Later we read, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,” in John 12:37.
And of course, near the end of his Gospel (John 20:30-31) John writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The best way to understand Christ’s point in refusing the Pharisees the sign that they seek may simply be that he’ll be the one to decide what sign(s) he is willing to perform. Their job and ours is merely to accept the signs that he gives. His ultimate sign was his resurrection, but of course they didn’t accept that one either. We must do so if we are truly to be his followers.
When we deal with God, we need to maintain a healthy attitude of submission. Making demands on him reverses the relationship. He may do what we ask if he so chooses, but he is not obligated. On the other hand we need to always be at his service. If he makes a demand on us, it is only right. The only right response is to do what he says. This becomes easier the more we accept the fact that he knows and wants what is best for us and teaches us through this process.
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus is still eating with sinners. The church is full of them. On any given Sunday, in the midst of any given Christian congregation, you will find them. Jesus is comfortable there and intends to make these people his friends.
One reason I say this has to do with our perception of hypocrisy. The true hypocrites in this story were the scribes of the Pharisees who thought eating with certain people was beneath them. Who were they to feel so self-righteous? In reality they needed Jesus too.
The church that we see is often a lot like the crowd here at Levi’s banquet. Jesus is surely present and so are his disciples. The disciples, as we know from the Gospels and Acts, were themselves in a state of continuous spiritual growth. They were imperfect on their very best days. And then there are those who are generic followers. They may not even be believers just yet. Or maybe they are very new to the faith and each day brings them a major lesson. Or they may just be friends of Levi who came to the banquet, who just heard of Jesus that day, and have no desire to repent of anything at this time.
Let’s expect a lot of ourselves as far as holiness and spiritual growth. Let’s also be gracious with others. You’re going to find yourself sitting next to some sinner, tax collector or present day equivalent next time you attend any church gathering. This isn’t the wrong crowd, but the right one, if you are looking for Jesus.