A SUBSTITUTE

Several years ago I needed to find a coffee “substitute.” Caffeine was causing me various issues and I needed to reduce my intake of it. So, I started looking for something that could “take it’s place.”

I found Postum! I enjoyed that drink sooo much, well, that is until it disappeared off the shelves. In every way Postum made me feel like I was having a good cup of coffee. Its texture, taste, and aroma all made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything by not actually drinking coffee. It was great while it lasted!

Part of the salvific work of Jesus in being our sin-bearer, was that of being our substitute. A SUBSTITUTE is one that takes the place of another. That is what Jesus became for us!

Unlike Postum which only satisfies temporarily, The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ brings results that satisfy eternally.

Because of Jesus believer’s have “become dead to sin and alive to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24). God is NOW for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). These are only two of many benefits believers receive when they trust Him as their substitute!

No one else can be such a substitute for us. God had placed that work on Christ alone. Jesus, in all ways, met and settled, for all time, the charges God had against sinners. Because Of Jesus we can have peace with God!

Friend, you don’t have to pay the debt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid it for you! Turn to Him in repentant faith and you will find His forgiveness.

JUST NOT GETTING IT!

Mark 8:14-21

BRIEF INTRO: On the heels of the Pharisees testing Jesus and asking for a sign, we find an incident recorded by Mark regarding the disciple’s slowness in understanding spiritual truths that Jesus wanted them to grasp. This is not anything new. We saw this before when Jesus walked on water to their boat after feeding the five thousand (6:45-52). We witnessed it again in (4:13) when they did not understand Christ’s teaching about the seeds being sown. 

In our following study, we will face this issue again, and maybe we might be challenged to examine ourselves to see if we are more like the disciples than we’d like to think when it comes to our understanding of spiritual things.

14 And the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the [a]leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet comprehend or understand? Do you still have your heart [b]hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

FOCUS ONE: Where’s the bread?

14 And the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the [a]leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.”

This statement by Jesus is the catalyst for the conversation if you can call it that, that ensues after leaving the district of Dalmanutha. In a rush to leave, they forget to bring some bread for their journey. Only one loaf is found in the boat with them, and you have to wonder if it has become time to point fingers at one another!

It appears odd to us as we think of Jesus, sitting in the boat with them, hearing the conversation evolve over who’s fault it is that they have no bread, and then for Him to say, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” We can sympathize with them, can’t we? After all, we would be just as mystified as they were at such a statement. 

Take notice of the exclamation point after the “watch out!” Such a punctuation mark is used to indicate strong feelings or emphasize. It helps us grasp a sense of Christ’s tone and demeanor as He engaged these men in what really can be considered a ridiculous conversation to be having at the moment.

Jesus fed five thousand plus with only five loaves and two fish (6:34-44). A bit later, He repeats the same miracle with four thousand people (8:1-9). The latter most likely only being a few weeks ago. And yet, they worry about eating!

What is leaven? Why does Jesus mention Herod with the Pharisees?

“A small amount of yeast can affect a large amount of bread dough when they are mixed. Yeast was a common Jewish metaphor for an invisible, persuasive influence. It often, as here, connoted a corrupting influence. In this context the yeast referred to a gradual increase of unbelief. This lay behind the Pharisees request for a sign even though their minds were already made up (8:11-12; 3:6). So it was with Herod (6:14-16;Luke 13:3133). This attitude had affected the whole nation of Israel, and He warned His disciple against it.”

Jesus’ rebuke will be our next focus point. We see it expressed in five penetrating questions that showed their continual lack of understanding.

16 And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet comprehend or understand? Do you still have your heart [b]hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 21

FOCUS TWO: Penetrating questions

Christ’s rebuke is not spoken in anger but compassionately because He understands that they are slow to grasp the spiritual realities He seeks to teach them. Over and over again, these men are stuck in the physical and can’t comprehend the spiritual aspects of Christ’s teachings. “Leaven” leads them to think of bread when Jesus wants them to understand the pervasive influence of misunderstanding and dull insensitive hearts!

Jesus doesn’t repeat His previous teachings. Instead, He asks several penetrating questions. Why would He do that? It appears He does it to get them to think critically and come to the correct answer by applying the truths learned. 

The questions are penetrating and direct their minds toward recent events in which Jesus revealed in various ways, very clearly, who He was. 

 “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?” 

“Do you not yet comprehend or understand?”

 “Do you still have your heart [b]hardened?”

Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” 

“And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up? They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 

Jesus exhibits excellent patience with these men. His example is one from which we can learn if we have “ears to hear and eyes to see.” 

  1. People don’t always “get it” the first time they hear or experience something, so repetition is essential.
  2. Patience is essential and will be the catalyst for healthy learning.
  3. Asking insightful questions rather than “feeding” the answers will produce in the students critical thinking skills that will help them prosper.
  4. We are just like them! Let’s be thankful for His patience towards us.

Did you notice that Jesus Reminds them of the two incidents of feeding many people with bread? Why does he do that? Because in both instances, He revealed His deity and authority over all things. He had shown He was the promised Messiah, and they didn’t understand the importance ad significance of those miracles!

Interestingly, They only answered the question of how many baskets they picked up! Maybe that’s because Jesus just fired them off, one after another. Perhaps they were to ashamed to reply? Maybe they were still trying to figure out what he was talking about! In any case, they only answer regarding the number of baskets they picked up; they got that down pat.

21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

FOCUS THREE: The sound of silence

This last question is a piercing one, and no answer is recorded! After all, I taught you and explained to you; after all of the miracles I have done in your presence, do you still not understand who I am? Rather than experiencing overflowing faith, they seem to be swimming in a sea of doubts? I can only imagine how grievous this must have been to the heart of Jesus. The text moves on to Bethsaida, leaving the reader to ponder what happened after that question was asked.

In Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man. Another miracle. Another revelation of His deity. Jesus does not let the issue go. As we will see, all of this leads to a critical discussion with His disciples.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

Matthew 16:13–16 :”Now when* Jesus came to the region of Caesarea ⌊Philippi⌋, he began asking* his disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, ⌊Some⌋ say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

As we read through these verses we notice that there are two questions that Jesus asks the disciples. First, who do the people say I am? And second, who do you say that I am? Both are serious questions, but ONLY one truly matters!

It can be helpful to “guage” the crowd or take a survey to find out what the most popular opinion is at any given time, but that’s just it: times change and so do our opinions. The “survey says,” (that’s a popular line from the old Family Feud show) that Jesus was everything other than who He was!

“There was a wide range of opinions on who Jesus was. Some of them were very clearly ill-informed. Which one of these answers is obviously false? Why? Jesus clearly could not have been John the Baptist since their lives overlapped and they were born just a few months apart and had actually seen each other face to face on at least one occasion. But all of the opinions had one thing in common. Everyone believed Jesus was somebody special and not just an ordinary man.”

That may seem to be an encouraging answer, “He’s special, certainly not ordinary,” but it really isn’t. Many people believe Jesus was a great man, good teacher, and wonderful example, but such beliefs will not find them enjoying peace with God and life everlasting!

The answer to Jesus’second question is the one that counts. “Who do YOU say That I am?  This question is personal and direct. Opinion polls do not matter. Surveys have no place here.  Who do you say Jesus is dear friend?

Matthew 16:16–18 :”16 And Simon Peter answered and* said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” 17 And Jesus answered and* said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this* to you, but my Father who is in heaven. “

Simon got it right! Do you notice how different his answer is compared to the majority opinion? Simon understood Jesus to be the Messiah: the rescuer; the redeemer! BUT, Simon could never of came to that truth claim without the help of God the Father.

Neither can we. Neither can YOU! Friends, you will be truly blessed when God reveals who Christ is to you. When you finally come to that place where you know absolutely who Jesus is (as Peter did), and receive Him by faith, your life, your destiny will be forever changed!

You will become a “new creation in Christ Jesus.” His just condemnation will be removed from you. And you will become an heir of the grace of God in Christ!

And, you will truly understand just how “special” He really is! Please, look unto Him and llive.GOSPEL

Near misses add up

In all of my years driving professionally the one safety training topic that still resonates in my mind is that of “near misses.’

OSHA defines near misses as episodes where no property was damaged and no personal injury occurred in spite of the fact that, given a slight shift of time or location, damage or injury would most likely have occurred. Near misses can also be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free occurrences or potential collisions.

“Most people think of “near misses” as harrowing close calls that could have been a lot worse—when a firefighter escapes a burning building moments before it collapses, or when a tornado miraculously veers away from a town in its path. Events like these are rare narrow escapes that leave us shaken and looking for lessons.”

“But there’s another class of near misses, ones that are much more common and pernicious. These are the often unremarked small failures that permeate day-to-day business but cause no immediate harm. People are hardwired to misinterpret or ignore the warnings embedded in these failures, and so they often go unexamined or, perversely, are seen as signs that systems are resilient and things are going well.

Yet these seemingly innocuous events are often harbingers; if conditions shift slightly, or if luck does not intervene, a crisis erupts.”

Our lives are filled with “seemingly innocuous events” on another level as well. The radio program that comes on talking about a savior when we thought we set the channel for a comedy show. The new hire at work that enjoys talking about some guy named Jesus! The car accident that sends you to the hospital where the local chaplain visits and reads to you from the Bible.

I can go on but I think you get the point. These supposed innocuous events are harbingers on a spiritual level to those without Christ. They might possibly be the catalyst for bringing them, as they did us, to repentant faith in Jesus!

These things are near misses only in the sense of how close a person comes to the “light of the glorious gospel” and then moves on ignoring the truth it contains as if they have no significance. They go unexamined and are incorrectly seen as weird abnormalities.

Be careful, near misses add up and the inevitable consequences for ignoring them can prove fatal.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3)

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:5).

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

Isn’t it time to pay attention to those near misses?