AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/17/2002
#3 (The "Countdown To Calvary" Series)
"DAY OF CONFLICT"
TEXT: Mark 12:1-34
INTRO: The closer the cross, the more the conflict with this world! This is still true! The cross represents conflict, the struggle between life and death, between self preservation and self sacrifice, a sign of being powerless. No wonder the world is uncomfortable with Christianity! No wonder we too are sometimes uncomfortable with being a Christian, it is never easy being willing to die to self.
Jesus said clearly, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matt. 10:34. What He meant was that His very presence, His very person, His very plan causes conflict with the people, powers, and plans of this world. We are always at conflict with the mindset of this world. The sinner does not want to see the real Christ, for if it they did this would mean altering their lives, no wonder the world has conflict with Christianity, it contradicts their ways of thinking and living! And yet, the world often fails to see its own contradictions!
ILLUS:One day a 6 year old girl was sitting in a classroom. The teacher was going to explain evolution to the children. The teacher asked a little boy:
TEACHER: Tommy do you see the tree outside? TOMMY: Yes.
TEACHER: Tommy, do you see the grass outside? TOMMY: Yes.
TEACHER: Go outside and look up and see if you Can see the sky?
TOMMY: Okay. (He returned a few minutes later) Yes, I saw the sky.
TEACHER: Did you see God? TOMMY: No.
TEACHER: That's my point. We can't see God because he isn't there. He doesn't exist!
A little girl spoke up and wanted to ask the boy some questions. The teacher agreed and the little girl asked the boy:
LITTLE GIRL: Tommy, do you see the tree outside? TOMMY: Yes.
LITTLE GIRL: Tommy do you see the grass outside? TOMMY: Yessssss (getting tired of the questions by this time).
LITTLE GIRL: Did you see the sky? TOMMY: Yessssss!
LITTLE GIRL: Tommy, do you see the teacher? TOMMY: Yes.
LITTLE GIRL: Do you see her brain? TOMMY: No.
LITTLE GIRL: Then according to what we were taught today in school, she must not have one. -- "FOR WE WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT Have a Great Day! Catherine DeFeliceGod Bless America
It is no wonder that Jesus found Himself at odds with different groups in this world, and it is quite likely that we will still find ourselves at conflict with these same groups today. There is however one group of people that Jesus did make an impact on, and so can we … the honest seeker will encounter Christ. It is only the hard hearted that will have conflict with Christ and Christians.
PROP. SENT: The Scriptures teach us to not be surprised by the conflict this world has with our faith in Christ, the servant is not above the master and if Christ faced such conflict so will we. But just as Jesus has overcome the world, so will we!
I. CONFLICT WITH THE SINNERS 12:1-12
A. Guilty 12:1-8
1. Jesus begins this Monday before the cross in conflict with several groups or types of people.
a. If we are to do God's will we will discover quickly that the world is uncomfortable with us, as they were with Jesus.
b. The truth about God can be penetrating and painful to the rebellious.
2. Jesus tells a parable, which in many ways was more an allegory since each detail had a significant meaning.
3. The Vineyard was Israel, the tenants or farmers were the rulers and leaders of the people of God.
a. It is noteworthy to see God's love in His plan for Israel:
(1. He planted the vineyard … they came into existence by Him.
(2. He put a wall around it … He separated them from the world.
(3. He dug a pit for a winepress … He expected fruit from them.
(4. He built a watchtower … they were protected by Him.
b. Those who were suppose to take care of this vineyard however wanted it all for themselves … they beat or killed the servants sent to gather some of the fruit for the owner.
c. The servants sent represented the prophets who were sent time and time again … and were often beaten and killed by God's people.
d. Finally, the owner sends His only Son, hoping this will make a difference, but it does not, the wicked farmers or tenants kill the son so they can keep everything for themselves!
e. Clearly Jesus meant this for the leaders of Israel … and clearly He was telling them about His upcoming death, and warning them of their judgment to come.
4. These evil leaders had corrupted God's people and plan, they were guilty before God, yet they failed to see that they were fighting God and instead thought they were doing God a favor!
ILLUS:I once read the following definition of a fanatic: "A fanatic is a person who, having lost sight of his goal, redoubles his effort to get there." The fanatic runs around frantically getting nowhere. -- R.C. Sproul, Pleasing God. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 9.
5. The leaders had lost their way, and in turn were leading the rest of God's people down the same path to nowhere!
a. Sin and self righteousness takes you nowhere, except to Hell!
b. It is bad enough to go to Hell yourself, but to lead others there is an even greater tragedy!
B. Godless! 12:9-12
1. The owner when He comes will have no choice but to deal severely with these evil leaders!
a. While they may think they have gained the vineyard for themselves it is only temporary.
b. They will lose everything in the end.
2. The great tragedy here is that the very ones who should have recognized God's love and plan in Jesus were cold toward Jesus and jealous for their own needs to be met instead.
3. These leaders reveal a hardened heart that no longer feels the pull of God's presence or love … a very sad state to be in, yet some today are in the same place!
ILLUS:The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less. -- Vaclav Havel, in a letter found by Robert Royal; quoted by Martin Marty in Context (June 1, 1990). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 13.
4. We live in a day when many no longer feel the pain of guilt or sin, and when we are in this place we will be in conflict with God instead of confessing God.
II. CONFLICT WITH THE SECULAR 12:13-17
A. Government 12:13-15
1. The first group Jesus finds conflict with on this day was an odd marriage of religious conservatives (Pharisees) and political liberals (Herodians)!
a. These two groups normally hated each other … but they found an uneasy marriage when it was necessary to preserve their own existence which was threatened by Jesus! (this is an uneasy marriage in our day!)
b. They agree together to confront Jesus with a question that no matter how Jesus answered it would have either made the religious conservatives angry or the liberal political group angry.
2. The dilemma: "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?" 12:14b-15a
a. If Jesus said "yes," then the Pharisees would come unglued because they saw doing so as a way of bowing to Rome instead of God, Jesus would be seen as a traitor to God's people and God's ways.
b. If Jesus said "no," then the Herodians would see Jesus as an insurrectionist, possibly bringing down the wrath of Rome on them all.
3. The problem: They didn't like Jesus' teaching about a pure life before God, it meant they would have to change everything. They liked serving their own needs first because it was less demanding!
ILLUS:A little girl said she liked Santa Claus better than Jesus because "you have to be good for Santa only at Christmas but for Jesus you have to be good all the time." Much of the Christmas observance at church is not far removed from that attitude. -- Vance Harrier in The Vance Havner Quotebook. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 14.
4. They had hoped to trap Jesus by their question, were they in for a surprise!
B. God 12:16-17
1. Jesus asks for a coin, a denarius is brought to Him by them.
a. Holding it up He asks, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
b. They respond correctly with "Caesar's"
c. The Solution: Jesus' response shocks them, and amazes them: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
2. With dual citizenship they should honor both … it doesn't have to be a conflict! After all, they were already doing this, they had a Roman currency they used for normal stuff, and a temple currency they used for God … so this was in keeping with what they already were doing, paying both! So, if His answer is wrong then they are wrong too!
a. Jesus tells them to pay taxes to the government … He isn't anti government!
b. Jesus tells them to pay tithes to God … this is right for followers!
3. Both sides got the "right" answer, they are trapped and stumped!!!
4. You can't outsmart God!
III. CONFLICT WITH THE SARCASTIC 12:18-27
A. Glib 12:18-23
1. The next group He finds Himself conflicting with is the Sadducees.
a. They were the religious liberals, they did not believe in the supernatural, no heaven, no hell, no resurrection, and no angels.
b. While small in number they controlled much of the temple and religious life in Israel, probably because secular Rome was more comfortable with a branch of religion that has no supernatural elements to it.
2. They were intellectuals, well educated, smug and self righteous. The only part of the Bible they saw as God's Word were the 5 books of Moses. (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
a. They had explained away everything supernatural, even most of the Bible (Old Testament) was thought to be nothing more than words of men and not the Word of God.
b. They mocked those who appeared to believe in spiritual things like miracles, life after death, heaven or hell. They felt too sophisticated for this foolishness and so are glib about Jesus' teachings.
ILLUS:A farmer was paid a visit by one of his city relatives. Before dinner the farmer bowed his head and said grace. His sophisticated relative jeered, "This is old-fashioned; nobody with an education prays at the table anymore."
The farmer admitted that the practice was old and even allowed that there were some on his farm who did not pray before their meals. Justified, the relative remarked, "So enlightenment is finally reaching the farm. Who are these wise ones?"
The farmer replied, "My pigs." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 423.
3. They ask Jesus a ridiculous question, it didn't even matter to them and it even contradicted what they believed, they wanted to know whose wife this woman would be in the resurrection … which they didn't believe in!
a. They aren't serious about God or salvation, their very question indicated this.
b. They were only interested in putting Jesus down like all the others they didn't consider as their intellectual equal.
4. It is certain that we will find conflict in this world with this mindset still!
a. There are those who think it incompatible to believe in the Bible and science too, but it is not a conflict as long as we are willing to see REAL science, truth is truth.
b. God is not afraid of the truth, it is the theories that can be the trouble.
B. Groundless 12:24-27
1. Jesus responds to them ON THEIR LEVEL … He uses the writings of Moses to show them their own contradiction!
a. He says to them, "Now about the dead rising -- have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!" Mark 12:26-27
b. Their own belief system condemns them and their way of thinking!!
c. Moses uses the present tense when God says to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … therefore they must still be living in Moses' day, though they had died much earlier! The only conclusion is that they are still alive in heaven! - which of course the Sadducees didn't believe in, though they did believe in Moses' words! They are caught in their own inconsistency!
2. Their beliefs are groundless for they are contradictory!
a. Often people who mock Christians for their beliefs themselves believe in lucky charms, astrology, and other mystical things … hardly a consistent attitude!
b. You can joke about spiritual realities, but you can't escape them in the end!
c. Jesus' final words to those who would dismiss the supernatural realm as being real: "You are badly mistaken!"
ILLUS:The meaning of earthly existence lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul. -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
IV. COMMENDATION OF THE SEEKER 12:28-34
A. Godward 12:28-31
1. Now Jesus meets a man who represents a different group, the seeker.
a. This teacher of the law knew what the scripture said, but he wondered which one of the commandments was the most important.
b. In Judaism there were 613 commandments, broken up into sub groups such as "heavy" - "light" - etc., meaning some were greater than others.
c. In his struggle to know the truth he sincerely asks, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
2. The question, unlike the other ones Jesus had been given, was not intended to trap Jesus but to help him find the right answer and way to God.
a. God never turns away from someone with honest questions that is looking to find their way to God.
b. Jesus quickly and correctly tells him that loving God with every part of our existence is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nothing is greater than this!
3. Jesus had started out his response to this man with the "Shema" - "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." - so named after the first word in Deut. 6:4 that is translated, "Hear." God is the ONE priority of man's need and focus.
a. The idea of priority is that God is first and foremost!
b. This man agreed with Jesus, unlike the other groups that had tried to trip Him up.
c. Obviously this man's heart was in the right place, Jesus had a seeker on His hands.
B. Genuine 12:32-34
1. Jesus knew this man was genuine when he responded with "To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
a. This man had a true understanding of God and what was expected.
b. He was close to the kingdom of God … indeed Jesus tells him this.
2. All the others had heard the same words from Jesus but completely missed the real point Jesus was making, when we are not really seeking God His Word is not comprehended correctly, we will usually hear the wrong thing!
ILLUS:My sermon focused on how God knows which of us grows best in the sunlight and which of us needs shade. "For example," I said, "roses must be planted in the sun, but fuchsias thrive in the shade." After the service, a woman--face beaming--approached me. "Your sermon did me so much good," she said. Before I had time to gloat too much, however, she added: "I always wondered what was wrong with my fuchsias." -- Perry Comer, Camden, South Carolina. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
3. The heart tuned into Jesus will be tuned into Jesus' words as well.
a. Only days before He dies on the cross he encounters several groups of people, all but one is in conflict with Him, only the seeker is on the right path.
b. Which path are you on?
c. Is Christ just a joke to you, is He a fantasy or myth, or don't you even care who He is? If you fall into any of these categories it is not likely you will take Him seriously, nor find His peace and forgiveness.
d. If you are looking however for truth you will find it in Jesus, and you will find a savior who can cleanse all yours sins, your guilt, and give you peace now and life in eternity! Which would you prefer?
CONCLUSION: The closer Jesus came to the cross the greater the conflict with this world! To the world the cross represents conflict, it means death to self, powerlessness, laying down your life. To the believer however the cross is the end of conflict with God, our sins are gone, the power of sin no longer destroys us or controls us. As long as we are people of the cross we will have conflict with this world, but we will overcome the world in the end - the cross is not the end, resurrection and eternal life is!