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Do You Still Not Understand?

Do You Still Not Understand?

From Series: The Gospel According to Mark, Volume 4

Mark 8:1-16 (ID: 2737)

Jesus used the feeding of the 5,000 to reveal His divine nature, but rather than focusing on the spiritual significance of this miracle, the witnesses focused on the physical event. Because we, too, are prone to miss important spiritual truths, Alistair Begg reminds us that we are dependent on God’s illumination to properly understand His Word.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn to the Gospel of Mark and to chapter 8—page 713 in the church Bibles, which I encourage you to turn to if you would like to make use of a Bible. And we’re going to begin reading at the first verse and read through to the end of verse 26.

Mark 8:1: “During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’

“His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’

“‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

“‘Seven’ they replied.

“He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward[s] the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.’ Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’

“They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It is because we have no bread.’

“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’

“‘Twelve,’ they replied.

“‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’

“They answered, ‘Seven.’

“He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had [spat] on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’

“He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t go into the village.’”

Amen. Let’s pray:

And now, gracious God, help us as we turn to the Bible. We believe that when your Word is truly taught, that your voice is really heard, and so this is our humble and sincere expectation. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we have almost reached the pivotal point, if we might refer to it in that way, of the Gospel of Mark, that pivotal point being the declaration of Peter, to which we will come later, as it is recorded for us in the section beginning verse 27. We won’t cross that bridge today, but it is important to keep it in mind as we take what is going to be a bird’s-eye view of the twenty-six verses that we have just read together.

If you have never come to trust in Christ, you are deaf and you are blind. You are in need of the intervention of God.

If you have any sense of déjà vu in the reading of this passage, then that is quite understandable. If you feel that somehow you have heard this before or you’ve been here before in our study in Mark, then there is a sense in which that is entirely true. Because—and you can verify this with just simply a turn of a page—Mark has already taken us down a very similar pathway; he has described for us circumstances which are actually being repeated for us here in chapter 8. He has given us the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand. That was then followed by a sea voyage. During the sea voyage, it became apparent that the disciples really didn’t get the point at all. And that, in turn, was followed by conflict with the Pharisees, a discussion about bread, a dramatic healing—the healing of the man who had been deaf—and then a declaration of faith. That declaration of faith you can see in verse 37 at the end of chapter 7: “People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He[’s] done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”

And now, as you come to chapter 8, you will discover, if you’re alert, that there is a symmetry here. And I think that it is there in order that we might understand that the Lord Jesus was taking his disciples, if you like, through the material again, giving them the same lessons in preparation for the declaration which Peter was about to make. The disciples’ ears needed to be unstopped, just as the deaf man needed Christ’s power in order to hear. The disciples’ eyes needed to be opened, just as this blind man in our reading needed also Christ’s power in order to see.

And the point that Mark is making is an obvious one: the readers of the gospel are deaf to the truth of the good news, and the readers of the gospel are blind to the truth of the good news. And you, this morning, if you have never come to trust in Christ, you are deaf and you are blind. It doesn’t sound very nice, but it does explain—and it ought to be helpful to you—why it is that people around you seem to be very intrigued and interested in the Bible and want to obey it, and you’re prepared to pay attention to it, but it means very little to you at all; that you just don’t seem to get out of it what other people are saying; that you just don’t seem to see what other people are describing. Well, the answer is here in the text before us: we are in need of the intervention of God.

We’ll see that as we proceed, with a bird’s-eye view, as I say. I think it’s helpful for us to fly over at about thirty thousand feet. It’s possible for us to work through the detail, but I’m not sure that that’s the way to go, at least not on this occasion. We have, if we thought of it differently, a kind of collage here; if we think in painting terms, we have the picture of Jesus and the crowd, and then Jesus and the Pharisees, and then Jesus and the disciples, and then Jesus and the blind man. It was helpful for me to look at the passage in that way, and so I’m going to use that as the framework for our study now.

The People Were Satisfied

First of all, in verses 1–10, looking at it under the heading “The People Were Satisfied.” I haven’t invented that; you would see that in verse 8 where Mark tells us that “the people ate and were satisfied.”

Once again, it is the compassion of Jesus that is brought to the fore. In the feeding of the five thousand—and you can see this if you turn back one page to 6:35—on that occasion, the initiative lay with the disciples. They came to Jesus, and they described the circumstances, and they said, “It’s probably time for the people to push off, because there’s nothing to eat around here.” And Jesus, in compassion, takes action. In 8:[3], you will notice that it is Jesus who takes action: “I have compassion for these people,” he says to the disciples, and he describes their circumstances and suggests that we’re going to do something about it.

Back in 6:34, we noted—and I want to reinforce this this morning, because it’s very important—that “when Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and then we tried to pay attention to the closing sentence of verse 34, “so he began teaching them many things.” He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and so he began to teach them. Why? Because they needed to be taught. What was he teaching them? Well, Mark has told us that from the very beginning his proclamation was absolutely clear and pretty succinct: “The kingdom of God is near,” he said. “Repent and believe the good news.”[1] And he sees the crowd in their lostness and in their need, and he assembles them, and he begins to teach them.

It’s not a really contemporary notion that the predicament of humanity is addressed by the teaching of the Bible. But that’s actually what we believe. Because in the teaching of the Bible, we discover the word and the works of Christ, who is the only Savior, because he’s the only one qualified to save. And so, people come to church, and they think perhaps as a result of some insight or something, or some cozy fellowship, things may begin to be put right. But in actual fact, you need the Bible. You need to be taught. That’s why we teach the Bible at Parkside, incidentally. It’s not so that I and my colleagues can continue to have job security. We actually teach the Bible because we believe that when the Bible is truly taught, that God’s voice is truly heard, that something miraculous happens when the Spirit of God takes the Word of God home to one of the creatures that God has made. That’s our confidence. Without that, it’s a futile task.

We teach the Bible because we believe that when the Bible is truly taught, God’s voice is truly heard.

And so, your marriage is a wreck? You need to be taught the Bible. You’ve got a bad attitude in relationship to your boss? You need to be taught the Bible. You don’t like being a teenager at the moment, or you don’t like singleness? You need to be taught the Bible. You’re frustrated with life and you can’t make sense of the big picture? You need to be taught the Bible. What a remarkable notion! What a strange idea! And he saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and he said, “Come here. I want to teach you the Bible.” “No, no, we don’t need the Bible. We need these things fixed! We need this put right, and that put right, and the next thing put right. Why would we be having a discussion about the Bible?” “Well,” he said, “just trust me. You need the Bible.”

And so it is that out of compassion that he then gives instruction. And you see the same thing not only in chapter 6, but also once again here. His instruction has been going on, it would appear, for three days, according to 8:2: “I have compassion for these people,” he said. “They’ve already been with me three days, and they’ve got nothing to eat. I don’t want them to go home on an empty tummy.” You see the intense practicality of Jesus. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? He’s not some guru, some mystic, somebody with his head in the clouds. No, he realizes that the people have real needs, and in this instance what they need is some food. He doesn’t want to hear of people fainting on the way home.

And the disciples’ response in verse 4 provokes Jesus’ question in verse 5. And I find this vaguely humorous, actually: “His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’” I imagine one of the disciples looking at the person who asked this question and saying, “I’m not sure you should’ve said that. Remember when you said that the last time, what happened? We were picking up breadcrumbs forever—baskets of the stuff! When the evening shadows fell, we were crumb-pickers! But, we’re into it now.” “How many loaves do you have?” “See? See? He’s doing it again. Here we go again. It’s the exact same thing as before!” I would imagine that later in life—this is pure conjecture on my part—the way phrases enter into the consciousness of groups, I bet there were occasions when the disciples were just sitting down for a sandwich, and they would look across at one another and go, “How many loaves do you have?” Because it was etched so firmly in their minds. “We should’ve got this the first time. Here we go again!”

Now, you need to keep in mind what Mark is doing here. In the first half, if you like, or the first section of Mark, he is essentially answering the question that was posed by the disciples after Jesus had calmed the sea. And at the end of chapter 4, remember, they were terrified at the prospect of drowning, they were more terrified on account of the fact that Jesus had so dramatically calmed the sea with a word. And they said to one another, “Who is this? Who is this? Even winds and waves obey him.”[2] Now, as Jewish people, they knew from the Psalms that the only person who could control the winds and the waves was the Creator. And so they were terrified. They looked at one another and said, “Are we really in the presence of the Creator?” And here, in this dramatic provision of food, as has happened before, they ought to have been able to recognize what Mary recognized when she sang in what we refer to as the Magnificat—Luke chapter 1, you know, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior,”[3] and so on—and in the course of that, one of the things she says concerning the Messiah is, “He has filled the hungry with good things.”[4] “He’s filled the hungry with good things.” And here the disciples have for the second time this dramatic display of the messianic power of Jesus. But they don’t get it. They clearly don’t get it—despite the fact that the people went home satisfied, at least on this one level.

The Pharisees Were Rejected

Now, in verse 11 and following, we move on to this brief encounter with Jesus and the Pharisees, and here we can say that the Pharisees were rejected. They were rejected. I say that because of the phrase at the beginning of verse 13 which simply reads, “Then he left them.” “Then he left them.” This is different from the phrase in verse [9] concerning the crowd, “And having sent them away….” The distinction is not simply a distinction in terminology, but it is a distinction in terms of attitude and response. He has been compassionate towards the crowd, he has fed them; his disciples have been engaged in that, taking small amounts and seeing it miraculously reproduced for the well-being of the needy folks. And then Jesus said, “Okay, it’s okay, you can go home now. I’m pretty confident that you’ll make it home. You’ve had something to eat.”

But what he says here, what he’s doing here to the Pharisees, is much more along the lines of what he tells his disciples to do when they’ve gone out to a place that rejects his testimony. Remember what he said they should do? He said, “You should take your sandals off, and you should shake your sandals—shake the dust off your sandals.”[5] In other words, “You should symbolically tell these people, ‘You’re on your own. If you will not listen to the news that we have conveyed, we’ve no other news for you. Therefore, we must move on and leave you behind.’” So, the Pharisees are rejected.

Many of you this morning, or a number of you this morning, are school teachers or college professors. And you know, as I know, that there is a way to ask a question which is an indication of humility of heart and genuine inquiry. The person comes, and they are clearly perturbed, and they don’t understand, and they want to know. But we also have these people who come all the time under the disguise of asking questions, and really what they’re doing is not coming in search of a solution, but they are coming to challenge. They are coming to advance an agenda, or to reinforce their own opinion, or to rearrange their prejudices. Every teacher understands that. There are those children always in a class who think they’re smarter than the teacher; they’re always out letting it be known.

Well, the approach of the Pharisees is the smart-aleck approach. This is not the approach of genuine inquiry. You will notice in the second sentence in verse 11, “To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.” The word that is used there, [peirazontes], is translated “test” or “tempt.” Jesus had been tempted in the wilderness; he had overcome that. But since then, he had been in an onslaught with evil in demonic possession and in the antagonism of the religious leaders. And so, they’re back at the same thing.

And the approach of the Pharisees, as we’ve seen from chapter 3 on, is one that bears out my assertion. In chapter 3, they found him in the synagogue—there was “a man [there] with a shriveled hand”—they were in the synagogue “looking for a reason to accuse Jesus”[6]—“looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.” They weren’t there to listen to Jesus, to see his wonderful works, to consider whether he was actually the person that he was claiming to be. They were there to find some reason not to believe in him. And there’s all the difference in the world. If you’ve come to Parkside today to find reasons not to believe in Jesus, I’m sure that you’ve tripped over half a dozen already, and there will be more before I finish talking. But if you’ve come to Parkside today on a genuine search because your heart is troubled and you long to find out if Jesus is the person he claimed to be, then there will be an entirely different experience open up to you.

No, they sought to accuse him. Verse 6: they plotted “with the Herodians”—this is in chapter 3—“how they might kill Jesus.” And even when they were prepared to acknowledge that what he had done was miraculous, they were not prepared to ascribe that to divinity, but instead to demonic possession: “He casts out demons,” they said, “by the power of demons.”[7] And so, now they show up, and they ask him for his ID. They ask him for his credentials. “Is there something that you’re going to do?” “No,” Jesus says, “no, I’m not. I’m not gonna play your game. I don’t do big, fancy miracles in order to try and convince folks like you. No, if you don’t see in my compassion God at work, if you don’t see in the provision that I have made that which embodies the messianic claim, if you don’t see in my deeds and hear in my words all that I have already conveyed, then frankly, you’re on your own.”

“Well,” you say, “I don’t like the sound of that.” Well, you’re sensible; read your Bible. Don’t you see a distinction? His response to the needy folks in the crowd is compassion. His response to the antagonistic religious leaders is frustration. It is, if you like, divine compassion for those who come in humility of heart, recognizing their need, and it is divine impatience for those who come seeking to channel his assertions. And what he’s going to make clear as the gospel unfolds is that when people have Moses and the Prophets and they won’t listen to them, then they’re not going to listen even if someone was to rise from the dead. (You can find that in Luke chapter 16, incidentally, and you can use that as some of your homework—verses 19–31.)

Now, I say to you again, he closed the door on these folks because he knew what they were on about. His sigh must have been memorable: “He sighed deeply.” That’s clearly eyewitness material, isn’t it? Nobody writes that down. It’s not an invention. You don’t have that in legend—people who tell you you’re reading a legend when you read the New Testament. They don’t write stuff like that in legend! No, this is eyewitness material. “I was there,” Peter must have told Mark, “and I tell you, when they confronted him with that, he just sighed. It just… it went to the core of his being. And I remember, he said, ‘Why is it that this generation always asks for a sign? Verily, verily, I say to you,’” in the King James Version translation, “‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, no sign will be given it.’”

Christ is more than willing to cater to our intellectual integrity, but he is entirely unwilling to pander to our intellectual arrogance.

Why? Because Jesus is not compassionate? No, because Jesus knows the difference. I mean, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t he? The teacher knows the difference. She knows whether Jimmy Smith is out there trying to waste her time for ten minutes or whether he’s out there because he has a genuine problem with calculus. Jesus knows, too. Whoever will come to Jesus, he’d never turn them away. Whoever will come to Jesus, acknowledging who he is and what he’s done, and who I am and what I need, he’ll never turn you away. But don’t be surprised, if you’re an arrogant rascal, that you get nothing at all out of the teaching of the Bible. He hasn’t pledged himself to that.

I remember as a teenager, somebody told me that if you have a big brain, then the Bible is sufficient for your big brain, but if you have a big head, you’ll find it means very little to you at all—in other words, that Christ is more than willing to cater to our intellectual integrity, but he is entirely unwilling to pander to our intellectual arrogance. And there’s all the difference. Hence, the Pharisees are rejected.

The Disciples Were Challenged

Thirdly, the disciples were challenged. The disciples were challenged. Jesus had been off the boat; now he’s back on the boat, back with the disciples—and we’ve seen this before—back in the boat, and he’s there with the clueless boys, the clueless gang, the people who have seen everything and got nothing. It’s really quite remarkable.

I don’t know whether Jesus had a favorite spot on the boat. I think he ought to have done. In the previous scenario, remember, he’d been asleep on a cushion in the stern.[8] Seems entirely legitimate, doesn’t it? He’s the leader. Maybe he’d like to get on the boat, go back, let the fellows have a little time to themselves, and see if he couldn’t catch a little time to himself. And I imagine that he may well have done the same thing. It’s purely conjecture; it’s nothing of significance, but I wouldn’t be surprised. But any respite that he might have imagined getting on this occasion was going to be short-lived if he ever got it at all, because the boys were at it. They were having a big discussion. And we see them, I imagine, at the other end of the boat, huddled in conference, and the subject under discussion is bread.

Now, I find this humorous here, as well. It’s a great irony that here they are, and what are they talking about? Bread. I mean, bread has really been featuring for them in the last little while—they’ve been drowning in bread, if you could say that—and now, here they are on the boat, and someone has forgotten the picnic, someone has forgotten the lunch. And that would not please them, and ironically, they are on the boat and they only have one loaf. Well… So Jesus does not chide them concerning what is a matter of little import. But instead, he apparently seizes on the fact that they’re on about bread, and he issues a warning to them. They are preoccupied with lunch, and he has something else to tell them.

This, of course, is not unique, because on the occasion as recorded in John 4 of Jesus and the woman at the well, you remember, the disciples had gone into Sychar to get some lunch, they’d come back, they found him talking with a woman, he apparently wasn’t interested in lunch anymore, and they said, “Well, who brought him his lunch?” Because he had said, “I have food to eat that you know not of.” And they said, “Oh! So someone else got the lunch.” “No, cloth-ears, they didn’t. No! Are you listening to what I’m saying? You are constantly down here, and I’m trying to bring you up here. You are constantly thinking in the trivial, in the material, in the now, and I am instructing you in things that are of significance. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”[9] In other words, “You take care of my things,” says Jesus, “and I will take care of your things.” He’s been doing this again and again throughout all of the stories so far. And yet, here they are.

He says, “Listen, I want to warn you about something: I want to warn you about the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” Well, that is an enigmatic statement. I’m sure you feel, as I do, that you’re wondering just exactly why he said it and what he meant by saying it.

Well, what do we know? We know that the Pharisees were marked by hypocrisy and that Herod was marked by hostility. And that hostility and that hypocrisy was an expression of a blindness of heart to truth. It was the approach which refused to believe, the approach which refused to understand. It was not the approach that said, “I’m so eager to find out what this is about and what it really means,” but it was the approach which says, “I don’t really want to find out what it means, and I don’t care, and frankly, I don’t want to know.” And so he warns them, “You better be careful that you don’t end up taking on board some of this leaven, some of this yeast, because even a small amount of unbelief can have a significant impact.”

Let me just pause there for a moment and say that again even, as I hear my own voice saying it: even a small amount of unbelief can have a significant impact. I have friends with whom I studied theology who are a long, long way away today from the gospel that they professed in their early twenties. And the reason is because they did not pay attention to the warning that is here in the fifteenth verse of Mark chapter 8: “Watch out—be careful—for the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.” For when pride—academic pride—rears its ugly head, and we tend to exercise jurisdiction over the Scriptures rather than being under the tutelage and jurisdiction of the Scriptures, then what we might regard as a trivial and insignificant tampering with truth may actually be the yeast which finally invades the entire bread of our conviction.

Well, the warning is clear, albeit enigmatic. We understand warnings. But in verse 16—and this reveals why the warning was so necessary—they go right back to the same discussion: “They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It[’s] because we have no bread.’” How dull are these people? How phenomenally stupid! I mean, I don’t want to be unkind to them, but… Oh, but I see my face! Do you see yours? Oh, I hear my voice! Do you hear yours? Jesus has reason to look me in the eye and say, “Do you still not get it, Begg? Do you still not understand?”

For in a series of questions Jesus challenges them in a way that sets them, at least points them, in the right direction. His core group are astonishingly blind and dull. And there is, I think, a prophetic tone to his voice, the tone of the prophet Jeremiah: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.”[10] Nobody likes to be told they’re foolish and senseless. But that’s what God says: “You’ve got eyes? Apparently you don’t use them. You have ears? You’re apparently not listening.”

You can read the Bible and see nothing. You can listen to the story and hear nothing. You can concern yourself with the affairs of religion, and it just is like rain on a tin roof until the eyes of your understanding are opened and your ears are unplugged.

It’s not only prophetic, it is parental. Every parent uses this terminology, at least at some point in the journey of parenting. You know, “I can’t find my homework.” “You’ve got two eyes. You’ve got two ears.” Parents have to say this all the time. “Use your ears, use your eyes.” And Jesus says, “Don’t you have ears and eyes? Don’t you remember?” It’s parental, isn’t it? Have you forgotten what I told you? I must have told you this twenty times!” That’s what parents say in frustration. “I told you, put your keys in the same place every time. Don’t you remember I told you that?” “Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t… I can’t find ’em.”

“Don’t you remember?” he says. “How many people did I feed?”

“About nine thousand plus.”

“Yeah. And how many baskets did you pick up on the two occasions?”

“Nineteen.”

“Okay. Are you getting anything from this?”

“No.”

What is Mark making clear? He’s making clear—and this is what is gonna take us to the pivotal point next time—he’s making clear that it is gonna take divine intervention for these disciples to get the point. It’s gonna take divine illumination for them to get the point. It always takes divine intervention for a man or woman to get the point. That is why you can read the Bible and see nothing. You can listen to the story and hear nothing. You can concern yourself with the affairs of religion, and it just is like rain on a tin roof until the eyes of your understanding are opened and your ears are unplugged.

The Blind Man Was Cured

That, I think, is the significance of the final piece of the collage, and that is in verse 22 and following: the blind man is cured. The blind man is cured. I don’t want to steal my thunder from next time, but I do need at least to point us forward, because in this incident we have not only a wonderful healing and a transformation in the man, but we have an illustration of what needed to happen to these disciples. This is what the disciples needed. Remember, he touches the man and he says, “Do you see?” He says, “Well, I cannot see. It’s foggy.” He touches him again, he says, “Do you see?” He said, “I got it clearly.” The disciples: healings, miracles, dramatic intervention, “Do you see?” “Ehhh.” “Who do people say I am? What’s the word on the street?” How is anybody ever going to get it right?

You see, this is the great frustration, and the great liberation, of being a Bible teacher, or being a Sunday school teacher. Think about your Sunday school class, whatever age they are— little wrigglers, little things that sit in there like “Nehhh. I need to go again,” you know. And you go, you say, “Oh, Lord in heaven, nobody understands a thing that I’m saying. I don’t know what I’m ever gonna do. I did the drawings, I did the googly things that hang from the light fittings, I’ve done it all.”

No, you see, without divine illumination, you can be van Gogh as a painter, you can be Robert Frost as a poet, you can be a genius as a speaker, and without divine illumination, nothing happens. The hymn writer gets it:

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

But “I know Whom I have believed.”[11]

That is what the disciples are going to be left with.

Paul puts it in this way—and with this I stop. He says, “The man or the woman without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they’re foolishness to him.”[12] It’s not that they say, “Oh, this sounds really super to me, and I’ll take it on cognizance.” No! They’re gonna sit down at breakfast table and say, “You know what, I appreciate what you’re telling me, and I’m trying my best to listen, but frankly, it’s a load of… it’s a load of tosh, that’s what it is!”

Well, how does a person get from “It’s a load of foolishness” to “I know whom I have believed”? It’s not as a result of someone who has the gift of the gab. It’s a result of divine intervention. Hence, “Nicodemus, you’re a good guy, but you gotta be born again.”[13] Hence Peter to the believers of his day: “You have been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”[14] and by the end of the chapter he explains to them how it is that this new birth has taken place, and he says at the end of chapter 1, he said, “it is through the living and abiding word of God”[15]—“through the living and abiding word of God.” What does that mean? Well, it means that somehow or another God’s truth in this book is able so to penetrate our minds and our hearts and our lives as to show us the wonder of who God is: the nature of his kindness that would lead us to repentance; his patience with us, despite the fact that we are so dull and we are so stupid, bringing us to the day where, with countless others around the world, we’re able to take as our testimony of faith the words of what will be our closing hymn.

But before we sing that, let us pause in prayer:

O gracious God, we began by asking that we might listen as you speak to us through your Word. We pray that all that is of yourself may find a resting place in our minds; anything that is untrue, that it may be banished from our recollection. But we pray that we will not allow our stubborn wills to stand in the way of our admitting, and our investigating, and our genuine seeking.

So now, we either testify in this song, or this song testifies against us. But we’ll sing it anyway. Amen.


[1] Mark 1:15 (NIV 1984).

[2] Mark 4:41 (paraphrased).

[3] Luke 1:47 (NIV 1984).

[4] Luke 1:53 (NIV 1984).

[5] Mark 6:11 (paraphrased).

[6] Mark 3:1–2 (NIV 1984).

[7] Mark 3:22 (paraphrased).

[8] See Mark 4:38.

[9] Matthew 6:33 (paraphrased).

[10] Jeremiah 5:21 (NIV 1984).

[11] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Whom I Have Believed” (1883).

[12] 1 Corinthians 2:14 (paraphrased).

[13] John 3:3 (paraphrased).

[14] 1 Peter 1:3 (paraphrased).

[15] 1 Peter 1:23 (paraphrased).

Thankfulness: A Mark of Grace
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