The 9.24.06 Sermons

This week sees us progressing through a series of events leading up to the Transfiguration with a few events following. There is a real progression in what the Lord is teaching the Twelve also, which is interesting to watch unfold and has much application to our own development as disciples. There is a lot of repetition in the events that we covered this week. Several commentators notice a cycle in Mark which I think is relevant here:

1. First cycle:

  • Mk 6.31-44, Feeding of the multitude [5,000]
  • Mk 6.45-56, Crossing of the sea and landing
  • Mk 7.1-23, Conflict with the Pharisees
  • Mk 7.24-30, Conversation about bread [syro-phoenician woman and crumbs]
  • Mk 7.31-36, Healing [deaf man]
  • Mk 7.37, Confession of faith [he has done all things well]

2. Second cycle:

  • Mk 8.1-9, Feeding of the multitude [4,000]
  • Mk 8.10, Crossing of the sea and landing
  • Mk 8.11-13, Conflict with the Pharisees
  • Mk 8.14-21, Conversation about bread [beware leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees]
  • Mk 8.22-26, Healing [blind man (two stages)]
  • Mk 8.27-30, Confession of faith [thou art the Christ]

Why are there two feedings of crowds? The Lord is teaching the disciples the same lesson: faith and trust in him.

The first message picked up on the theme from Wednesday night with some alteration, but still generally the same basic theme. The title was ‘Messiah Under Attack‘ covering these passages: Mk 6.53-8.13; Mt 14.34-16.4, with a subtitle this time: ‘training the twelve in the midst of crisis‘. The proposition: The essential spiritual quality to sustain ministry under pressure is absolute faith and dependence on God. In this message we moved from the first conflict with the Pharisees (and scribes from Jerusalem) and the second conflict with the Pharisees (and Sadducees from Jerusalem – first mention of Sadducee opposition, which means the chief priests are getting involved and are closing ranks with the Pharisees, normally their opponents). Most of these events occur outside of Galilee, partly in response to the interest of Herod and partly in response to the growing Pharisaic opposition. The Lord isn’t afraid, but he is in control of events and will be heading for Jerusalem in short order. His interest at this point is developing the faith of his disciples in the midst of increasing opposition.

The second message was entitled ‘Slow to Understand‘ from these passages: Mk 8.14-9.13; Mt 16.5-17.13; Lk 9.18-36. As the faith of the disciples is growing, wavering, taking shape, I preached on the theme of spiritual growth. The proposition was: The process of spiritual growth is often slow and painstaking, but if you keep looking to Christ, the process leads to full revelation. Picking up on the cycle of events noted above, we moved from the second conflict with the Pharisees to the confession of faith and subsequent rebuke of Peter for his rash argument about the Lord’s new teaching of crucifixion, to the Transfiguration. The message covered these points:

I. The miracle of spiritual growth occurs in stages
(In this point, I noted that the two stage healing of the blind man was a parable for spiritual growth – the disciples had been blind spiritually, but were now seeing truth “as trees walking”, and would see clearly if they looked to the Lord in faith and obedience.)

II. The maturity of spiritual growth is not always entire
(In this point, Peter’s Great Confession and then the Lord’s rebuke were highlighted.)

III. The heights of spiritual growth are not easily discerned
(In this point, the disciples are confused after having seen the glory of Christ at the Transfiguration, they don’t quite get it all and are puzzling over the meaning of the Lord’s statement about resurrection.)

The point of this message is to encourage believers who struggle with their own spiritual failures. At times we seem to have insight and maturity, accompanied with all too apparent weakness and immaturity. If we keep looking to Christ, we will see clearly in the end.

The third message dealt with “The King of kings and Taxes” as we trace the Lord’s steps down Mt. Hermon from the Transfiguration to Capernaum and the payment of the voluntary temple-tax. Our passages were: Mk 9.2-32; Mt 17.1-27; Lk 9.28-45, although we primarily stayed in Mt 17. In these passages, we proceed from the glorious to the mundane. (What could be less glorious and more mundane than paying taxes?) The proposition then: Without divine condescension, there could be no redemption. The subject was the nature of Christ: at once the glorious divine God-man and the obedient, devout Israelite, paying his temple taxes. Our object in the message was to highlight once again the glory of God becoming man for our sake.

All in all, we had a great day in the Lord this Sunday.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Jerry Bouey says:

    Bro. Don, in your message, “The King of Kings and Taxes,” you made this statement:

    “I wonder what Moses thought as he conversed with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration – by this time, he has been in the presence of God for 1500 years. I don’t think he was tired of seeing the glory!”

    The Bible teaches that no one could dwell in the presence of God (ie. the third Heaven, Hebrews 9:24) before the death of Christ, before the veil of His body was torn – how could Moses and Elijah have done so?

    I believe that Moses and Elijah simply went where EVERY other OT saint went upon dying: Abraham’s Bosom (except Enoch and Elijah went there without dying).

  2. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Jerry

    That is one point of dispensational teaching that I don’t agree with. I believe that Abraham’s bosom is heaven, that the OT saints were in the presence of God as are NT saints after death. I find the teaching of Abraham’s bosom as a separate place pre-heaven, etc, is a case built only on inferences from Scripture. A doctrine built on inferences cannot be held dogmatically since the inferences can be interpreted in an alternate way.

    Thus, I hold my point of view on these passages with respect for the many good brethren with whom I disagree. I could easily be wrong, but have not yet been convinced on this point.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Jerry Bouey says:

    What about Luke 16? There is nothing in the context to indicate it was a parable.

    How could people have lived in the presence of God (after death) before Jesus died on the cross? The whole tabernacle system was a picture of spiritual realities, and the veil was not torn until Jesus was on the cross.

  4. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Jerry

    I agree that Luke 16 is not presented as a parable, and I agree that the tabernacle, etc., represent heavenly realities.

    However, the Bible is not explicit on these points. The doctrine of Abraham’s bosom and other ideas connected with it are derived by implication. They are certainly a possible interpretation, but I don’t believe they are the only legitimate interpretation.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. Jerry Bouey says:

    I am not trying to be argumentative, but I am trying to see where you are coming from.

    If you do believe Luke 16 represents reality (not a parable), do you believe that Abraham and Lazarus were actually in Heaven (where the presence of God dwells), yet were enabled to see and contact the rich man? And the great gulf, instead of being a literal gulf under the earth, is the gulf between Heaven and Hell?

    One thing that comes to mind is that the Bible teaches all the OT sacrifices were for an atonement – ie. a covering of their sins. Their sins were not put away (borne away, taken away – John 1:29; Leviticus 16:21-22) until Jesus died upon the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice did two things: fulfilled the atonement (see Romans 5:11 – covered their sins forever, not just temporarily) and also took them away, we can see this pictured by the two goats on the Day of Atonement, and the two birds used in the rituals for healing of leprosy.

    In an sense, they were saved on lay away, but the actual payment wasn’t until Calvary – therefore though saved, they were not perfect yet so could not dwell in the presence of God in Heaven. Hebrews 12 refers to what is now in Heaven – which includes the spirits of just men made perfect, but that was after the cross.

    If there are flaws in some of what I have presented here, please show me. Thank you. I do appreciate your time spent on this – this is one of those areas where it just seems no one wants to help sort it out.

  6. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Jerry

    I don’t think you are being argumentative!

    If you read the Lk 16 acct carefully, there is no indication that Lazarus is able to see the rich man, only that the rich man is able to see Lazarus. The question remains whether Abraham is literally Abraham or God, although I would think that he is literally Abraham. In my view Abraham and Lazarus are in the presence of God. This is only an interpretation, of course.

    In the OT, I think that the best understanding of ‘atonement’ is as a substitution rather than a covering. There is a rather technical debate on the meaning of the word, several suggestions of alternate roots from various ancient languages, but it seems the OT usage should dominate, not root meaning, so substitute is best.

    Remember that the salvation of OT saints is real, not something secondary. Paul makes the point about Abraham being justified by faith in Rm 4, and James does the same in Jas 2.

    There is a sense in which OT saints were saved on “layaway” as you say, but the fact is that they were saved. Abraham was justified, not when Christ died, but when he believed. That is the whole point of justification by faith that Paul makes in Romans.

    That is not to say there are no distinctions between OT saints and NT saints, but they are the one people of God in heaven.

    more later…

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3