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Mark 1-5 Continued...

The Sabbath

Mark 2:23-27; 3:1-5

"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?' He answered, 'Have you never read of what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.' Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:23-27.)
[The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God use this as one of their proof texts for believing the Sabbath command has not been abrogated or transferred to Sunday.  To learn why, log onto: ]

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Then he asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mark 3:1-5).

In Exodus 20:8-11 God instituted the Sabbath into the old covenant he was establishing with the Israelites through Moses. As earlier chapters in Exodus show, the Sabbath was in existence before the old covenant and was being re-introduced to the Israelites well before they came to Mount Sinai (Exodus 16). This is a sticking point between old covenant Christians and new covenant Christians, the former saying that if the Sabbath were before the establishment of the old covenant, it couldn't be abolished when the old covenant ceased to be. True, but wait and see what happened with the Sabbath (and consequently the Holy Day requirements). They weren't done away with as so many sincere but misinformed Christians supposed. Something far more interesting happened to the Sabbath/Holy Day commands. But first let's understand the intent of the Sabbath command. To do this, let's read it. Exodus 20:8-11. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day." God instituted the Sabbath. The heart of the Sabbath was to rest and seek God. The doctor's of the law, the Pharisees went banana's detailing just what work was. 24 chapters were written in the Jewish Talmud defining what was work. They went to such an extreme in interpreting the Sabbath command that they made the Sabbath itself a "works" trip. The Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23 and the Sabbath were shadows for the works of the Holy Spirit in us. The physical Sabbath pictured the spiritual rest we now have in Christ--through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--and it pictures the coming future rest we'll all have in God's kingdom when Jesus returns.

Let's look at what Paul says about this Sabbath rest we have in Christ. Hebrews 4:1-13. "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did, but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, 'So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' And yet his work has been finished since creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: 'And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.' And again in the passage above he says, 'They shall never enter my rest.' It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

The kingdom of God is here within us right now. Jesus in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit quiets our souls. The kingdom in its fullness will arrive when Jesus returns. Zephaniah 3:16-17. "On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." What quiets us but the love of God in us by His Spirit. Isn't this true? The Pharisees were misrepresenting God and what he required of them through the commandments.

Isaiah 11:10. "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious."

Some Christians chose to look at it this way. The Sabbath command under the new covenant has been TRANSFORMED. By the rest we have in Jesus Christ dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit we are in the Sabbath rest Paul spoke of in Hebrews chapter four 365 days of the year. The literal physical observance of the Sabbath was only a picture, a shadow, of the spiritual "Sabbath rest" we have in Christ.

The rejection of the Holy Spirit amounts to breaking the new covenant Sabbath command, because we cease to rest in Christ without God's Holy Spirit in us. In Old Testament Israel Sabbath breaking was punishable by physical death. Paul warns us that rejection of the Holy Spirit results in spiritual death. You can see here that the old covenant Sabbath command is a shadow of the new, a type, a picture of the reality we have dwelling within us. The shadow was physical and temporary, the spiritual is eternal and will not fade away. Colossians 2:16-17. "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however is found in Christ." How much clearer can you get?

Because of unbelief the Israelites that were with Moses never got into their rest in the Promised Land of Israel. But even the Israelites (everyone 20 year old and under with Joshua and Caleb) that did make it into the Promised Land did not experience a perfect rest. The Sabbath rest talked about in Hebrews 4 that we experience in Jesus Christ is something they never experienced. As we just read in Colossians 2:16-17, the literal Sabbath (and also the Holy Day commands) were given as shadows of the great things we would experience in Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Deuteronomy we find a description of not dwelling in God's Sabbath rest talked of by Paul in Hebrews 4. In Deuteronomy 28:65 God is describing the frame of mind the Israelites would have as he scattered them all over the world for disobeying him. It perfectly expresses the frame of mind of people without Jesus Christ dwelling in them. They are without rest and peace of mind. Deuteronomy 28:65. "Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening, 'If only it were morning!'--because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see." With the world around us the way it is, without Jesus in us, haven't many of us experienced this attitude of mind. Hasn't this be been our mindset? But this doesn't have to be, with Jesus in us there is that peace that passeth all understanding, even in the midst of heavy trial.

In Deuteronomy 23 we also see that the Law of God allowed you to pluck the standing grain by hand to satisfy your immediate hunger. The disciples weren't wrong in what they did, but the Pharisaic law was running against a higher law of mercy God had given. There was no mercy in their extra Sabbath restrictions. Look at the next few verses.

Mark 3:1-5. "Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.

[The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God use this as one of their proof texts for believing the Sabbath command has not been abrogated or transferred to Sunday.  To learn why, log onto: ]

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."

The heart of Jesus is to heal and meet our needs. This rest that comes from Jesus brings spiritual rest and healing. Jesus Christ was and is the spiritual fulfillment of the Sabbath in us--for we rest in Christ. He says, 'Cast all your cares on me and I will give you rest.' In verse 5 we see that Jesus was first angry and then grieved by the hardness of their hearts. Man's traditions are blind to the wounds of others. The needs of man go beyond the importance of the ordinances man tacks onto the law. The ordinances that the Pharisees laid on people added burdens on them, whereas the ordinances of God tended to unburden people. Jeremiah 17:5-8 shows we enter Christ's rest through faith. Let's read it and see what it says. "This is what the Lord says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

[ The Holy Days were shadows of wonderful things to come, both prophetic and spiritual. To see what the Holy Day shadows represented CLICK HERE.]

Mark 4:1-20

"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, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.'

Then Jesus said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him 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 so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.'[taken from Isaiah 6:9-10]' Then Jesus said to them, 'Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.'"

An entire nation could be fed from one seed. The Word of God is like a physical orange seed or apple seed. Think of the seed that grew the apple tree that produced the fruit, many apples, from which Johnny Appleseed obtained his seeds to fill a sack full of them, and then trek across the United States planting apple trees wherever he went. He is credited with seeding the entire United States from coast to coast with apple trees! Think of it. And it started right here in Leominster, Massachusetts! More and more churches are turning to man's method's of Pop psychology. Mike McIntosh had virtually blown his mind on drugs as a young man. [Get the book about him "For The Love of Mike"] As a young Christian (new convert), people got him into the Word of God, and as he did that, over a period of time, his mind began to be healed. There's power in the Word of God. We don't understand it, but there's power, a power that goes beyond any Pop psychology of man. The Word of God interacting with God's Spirit in a human mind can heal that mind. It's like that little seed and the power of what it can do, if we plant it and allow it to work in our lives.

In Mark 4:1 Jesus began to teach by the sea. He started to teach them by parables. This was an even larger crowd than he had encountered before. He got into a boat and pushed out away into the water. The shores of the Sea of Galilee often form natural amphitheaters. More and more as Jesus addresses these crowds he uses parables. There's a reason. The parable of the Sower gave an instant visual picture to these people who were from an agrarian society. In this parable four types of soil were mentioned. 1) The soil where the seed fell on the wayside, 2) the soil where the seed fell on the rocky ground, and 3) the good soil, but filled with thorns and weeds in it, and 4) finally, the good soil without thorns and seeds. Then Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." I.e. He who has spiritual ears, let him hear. Many who have hard hearts can't understand the gospel when it's being preached.

Those already inside the kingdom of God (spiritually speaking,[Colossians 1:13]) have this ability to hear and understand the gospel message. The parable is used to illustrate the truth. But many who were listening were already spiritually tuned out to what Jesus was saying. Many were there just for the miracles, free food, and healing. Also many Pharisees and scribes were in the audience, hostile to Jesus and what he was saying. Isaiah describes those with this attitude. The crowd in general wanted healing and free food, but they were indifferent to his teaching. Some feel these parables were given to try to catch their attention in spite of the hard heartedness of many in the crowd--talking with word pictures the crowd could easily understand. [Some other Christians feel the parables, much like Isaiah 28:8-13 says, were given to hide the truth--but no matter, the hard heartedness in many people's minds hides the truth of the gospel from their ever understanding, regardless of which interpretation you go along with.] The word parable in the Greek is parabalo. Para means alongside, and balo means to cast, to throw. You put the two together and you get casting alongside, or teaching stories alongside a truth or principle. That's the purpose of a parable, to illustrate the truth. So Jesus is doing that and he knows the type of people he has before him, listening. Mark quotes Isaiah here to show that many had hearts that had grown dull, hard hearted, so they wouldn't even understand these parables. For those who wanted to hear, the Holy Spirit would illuminate what they heard. In verse 13 Jesus now explains the parable to his disciples. The seed sown on the wayside is about people who, when they hear, Satan (represented by the birds in the parable) comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts. Likewise, the seed sown on the stony ground is about people who when they hear the Word, immediately they receive it with gladness, but they have no root in themselves, so they endure only for a time, and then afterward when persecution or tribulation arises for the Word's sake, immediately they stumble.

The seed sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the Word, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke the Word and so they become unfruitful.

The seed sown on good ground are the ones who accept the Word and bear fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some hundredfold.

Jesus explains that the seed is the Word of God--the Gospel. Most likely the sower is Jesus, the Son of Man himself. But no doubt the sower can also be anyone who preaches and teaches the Word of God. Then he goes on to explain about the different soils, representing the different hearts of people who'll hear the Word being preached and what their reception of hearing God's Word would be like. When you teach the Word you can see by what Jesus taught here that it would be received differently depending on the state of mind of whoever is listening. Some will be receptive for awhile until the going gets rough, then quit. Some will start to receive it, but Satan and his world will take their understanding away. Some won't accept at all, and some will grab onto what's said and not let go. That's just a fact of life about the heart of man. All these various mindsets could be in an audience listening to someone preaching the Word of God. It's just a spiritual fact of life Jesus was bringing out.

The seeds sown by the wayside, the birds that come and eat the seed up, represent Satan himself and his demon world. That's true with some. The seed of the Word comes in, and Satan comes and removes it before it can have any impact on their lives. Satan comes and seeks to keep the Word of God from people's hearts, and in some cases he has 100 percent success. Certain hearts are really hard, and when they hear the Word of God, Satan comes in and takes that Word, that seed, before it can really have an impact on them. Paul described this very fact in 2 Corinthians when he says, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." Paul makes the same point. If the gospel is veiled, it is only veiled to those who have hard hearts. [Satan and the evil broadcast of his attitudes harden the hearts of those in this evil world and its societies so they can't receive the gospel. Many Christians and theologians alike don't fully understand this fact, nor the purpose for which God has allowed this to be since Adam's time in Genesis 3. Some think they understand why God has allowed this while others don't seem to have a clue. In Job 1 we see that the Lord uses Satan like a pawn for his own good purposes. Never forget that God is more powerful than Satan, and all his demon cohorts! Much will be revealed to us by the Lord in the kingdom age to come that we don't comprehend now, I'm sure.] Paul says, "...whose minds the god of this age have blinded." So there's folks, people, many people who Satan and his demons have blinded. You can share the gospel, the Truth with them and they're blinded to it. It just doesn't do anything. Paul says again in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." He says the natural man cannot receive the things of God. The natural man, without the Holy Spirit just doesn't tune in. They're just not able to receive the Word of God.

The fact that Satan is actually allowed to take the Word of God from people's hearts ought to show us something. There's a spiritual battle going on. That should tell us that we need to pray for the preaching of the Word, that it go out with power and that Satan is restrained where and when the gospel is being preached (Ephesians 6:11-20). You know when the minister comes and ministers, preaches the Word, he is only one person ministering to a whole group, preaching. But you can minister also. And that is through prayer! You can be praying that Satan be restrained, because the enemy wants to hinder the preaching of the Word and its reception in the minds of people. He wants to distract people. You can pray that this not happen, every Sunday morning--before the service, during the service, you can battle in prayer, and it will have a great effect. And if two or more are gathered together doing this the effect will be even greater. The pastor's preaching will bring forth fruit, and changed lives, both in the already saved, and those that need saving, sitting in your midst. Remember Daniel Nash and his companions laboring in prayer before and during Charles Finney's revival meetings.

Jesus goes on and explains the next type of soil. It's the soil where the seed lands on stony ground. At once they hear the Word and receive it with a lot of joy, but then due to a lack of root in themselves, he says, they stumble when the heat is turned on, trials come their way--when persecution and tribulation come. Those who have no depth of root can't handle the heat. And that describes this kind of heart, they receive the Word of God with joy, but when the tough times come, they stumble. The danger is when a person's reaction to the Word of God is only an emotional response. Faith in Christ is an issue of the will and sometimes there's no emotion involved. That's where our roots have to go, beyond mere emotion, down to the level of the will. Jesus was describing people who come to him but only on the emotional level, only because it tickled their ears, but it didn't effect their will. But when the heat of the day comes, when persecution or difficulty comes which comes as being a part of the church, they stumble and leave. Coming to Christ is an issue of the will, really, not an emotional response.

Persecution, in that sense, is good for the church. It separates the real Christians from the want-to-be's. Our prayer ought to be Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3, "...that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith, that we would be rooted and grounded in love and be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width, length, and height to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, that we would be filled with all the fullness of God." He prayed that we would be deeply rooted and grounded in love.

The third category in verse 18, Jesus now deals with those seed sown among the thorns. In verse 19 it shows that these are the ones who hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the desires for other things choke the Word, and then because of that they become unfruitful Christians. The first two categories are definitely not made up of believers, but this third category could very well be made up of believers, who are just barely going to make it into the kingdom of heaven. You see this a lot in church. You see them in church, attending but maybe there isn't a lot of fruit in their lives. The reason, Jesus says, is they're entangled in the world--they've got two masters. They have Jesus, and they have the world. Jesus warned the Church of Laodocia, 'I'm about to spue you out of my mouth...I'm not into this half-hearted devotion.' That's what he's talking about when he talks about these thorns, choking out the life. He labels these things that choke us thorns of this world, deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things." It's not riches in themselves but the world's siren song that you need riches which is deceitful. It will not give you what you want, but it will take from you the good stuff, the fruit of God--what God wants to do in your life. If our focus starts to turn from Christ to the world, it's going to choke out the fruit--the Christian growth in the Spirit. That's what Jesus says here. I think of Paul in 2 Timothy when he says to Timothy, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier, and also if anyone competes in athletics, is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." Paul says, if you're a Marine, you're devoted to your Captain, to try to please him and do well. And also an athlete is focussed on the crown, the prize and goal, and he doesn't get side-tracked. That's what Jesus is saying, if you're running the Christian race and get side-tracked, entangled in the cares of the world again, you're going to miss out on the crown Christ has reserved for you. You're in danger of becoming a fruitless believer. What kind of fruit is he talking about? He is talking about love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, and self-control (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). If these things aren't a part of your life, your spiritual make-up, then maybe this is the reason, you're being choked by the cares of this world, you're distracted. A good way to know you are drifting spiritually is when you start seeing things again in your life that were once removed. This is talking about things that are being re-introduced into your life that the Holy Spirit once removed before, but now are slowly coming back into your life. (This is talking about sins, habitual sins, that were once removed by and under the influence of the Holy Spirit.) If you're not growing, you are not really stationary, you're actually drifting backward. To hedge against drifting you must get anchored in Christ. Hebrews 2:1, "Therefore we must give the most earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Unless you do this you will drift away, seeing things come back into your life that were taken out. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "While we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." The rest of the stuff (which riches bring) are great if you are blessed with them, but they are still temporary. Don't get focussed on them.

The last category Jesus mentioned is the seed that fell on good ground. This is the soil that when seed falls on it, it just bears fruit and fruit and more fruit. People in this category just keep on bearing spiritual fruit and fruit in multiple amounts. Luke says that these are people that hear the Word, those that receive it, and those that keep it--hearing, receiving and keeping the Word, three vital things that make one fruitful. That is the power of the Word of God when applied properly in a person's life. It's amazing, the harvest that can come from the Word of God planted on good soil--a receptive mind that hears, receives and keeps the Word of God.

In conclusion, let's look in John 15. Jesus said in verse 4, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I'm the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit. For without me, you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch, is withered and they gather them and they throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me and my words in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, if you bear much fruit, so you be my disciples. Jesus says here in John, if you abide in Christ, in him, you will grow. In verse 7 he says, 'If you'll abide in me and my words abide in you--as you obey my words and they begin to grow in you, you'll be fruitful, and you're going to grow in Christ.'

That's what David said in Psalm 1. He said, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the way of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on it day and night. He's like a tree planted by springs of water which will yield its fruit in season. Whatever he does prospers..." As the Word of God goes out, if it's properly assimilated, it will cause you to grow. That's what Jesus says in John chapter 15. 'If you want to grow, just abide in will take place very naturally.'

Then John says in 1 John 3, not only will abiding in Christ cause good stuff to grow, but it will also cause the bad stuff to be pushed out of you. 1 John 3:6, "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." John says, if you abide in him, you're not going to sin. If you abide in him it's going to produce fruit in your life, causing these beautiful things to grow. And it's also going to cause the things that you wish weren't there to just go out of you. You may not even be able to understand how this takes place, but it will just take place.

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