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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Matt's Messages - Don't Be Afraid

“Don’t Be Afraid”
February 5, 2006
Mark 6:7-56

Last week, as we saw Jesus in action, responding to people in desperate situations, we heard him tell a man named Jairus whose daughter had just died, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

And I think that word from Jesus struck a chord in our church family that we needed to hear. “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” “Don’t Be Afraid.”

I heard from a number of you last week that that message was just what you needed to hear. And I’ve noticed over the last several years that our church family (and your pastor) struggle with various fears. We have a tendency to struggle with various fears.

For some it is mild anxieties. For others it is real phobias. Most of us are somewhere in between. We live in fear.

Now, if I were to ask you if you were a fearful person, you’d probably say, “No.”

But if I were to hit your “Fear Button”–the thing or things that you are fearful of–then it would be a different story.

Maybe it’s a fear of evangelism, a fear of witnessing, and sharing your faith.
Maybe it’s a fear of angering a family member or a co-worker, so you just let things go.
Maybe it’s a fear of stepping out in ministry or obedience to God’s will.
Maybe it’s a fear of your life “not working.” A fear of having a problem.
Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown.

What is your “Fear Button?” Press it and you are stopped in your tracks.

Well, as I was studying Mark chapter 6 this week, I was struck by how Mark 6 speaks to our fears, as well.

And what I want to bring out as we go through this chapter together today is Jesus’ call upon us to be fear-less. Don’t Be Afraid.

Let’s pray, and then we’ll jump into Mark 6 together.

[prayer]

Don’t Be Afraid. #1. TO DO MINISTRY FOR JESUS.

In chapter 6, verse 7, the disciples become apostles–that is, they are sent out on a ministry mission. V.7

“Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.’ They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Stop there.

Jesus sends out six 2 person ministry teams, and He delegates enough of His own authority that they can drive out demons (like we saw last week), heal the sick (using some oil), and preach His message of repentance to life (a radical change of heart that leads to a radical change of life).

Now, here are a couple of Fear Button issues:

1. These disciples are not yet fully-trained. They don’t even know yet Who Jesus really is. We’re going to see that in our last story this morning. They don’t “get it” yet!

One of them, doesn’t ever get it! Judas Iscariot is sent out on this mission by Jesus! Do you feel like you aren’t ready to do ministry? These guys were not ready!

But they were sent.

I’ll bet you understand more than they did at this point about Who Jesus is.

What are you afraid of? He’ll provide on-the-job training!

Don’t Be Afraid to Do Ministry in Jesus’ Name.

Here’s the second Fear Button issue.

2. Jesus sends them without provisions.

They are allowed a staff, sandals, and one tunic. No bread, no bag, no money.

What’s up with that? Going on a trip with no food and no money?

That would hit my Fear Button!

It’s about faith, isn’t it?

These guys are going to have trust God for their lodging (and not move up whenever they find a better deal (v.10)), and trust God for their food, and trust God for their warmth. These guys are going to learn to trust God.

Are you afraid to do ministry because you don’t think that God has fully provided for you?

Can you trust Him to provide as you do it?

Here’s another Fear Button: Not only are they not fully trained and are not fully provided for as they are sent out, (3) but they are to expect opposition. V.11

“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

Jesus says, some people aren’t going to like what you have to say.
Send the message back that God doesn’t like how they are responding. Treat them like we treat the foreigners when we come back home, we shake the dust of their unbelieving nations off so as to not sully ourselves, as a testimony of God’s opposition to their opposition.

Are you ready to take a little heat for God? And boldly send a message back?

Now, I don’t believe that this passage is supposed to give us a list of how to do ministry now, either in how we prepare or in what exactly our ministry is supposed to be about this side of the Cross.

But I do think it says this: If you have been sent by Jesus to do ministry, don’t worry.

He knows what He’s doing.

Don’t Be Afraid.

Now, there was someone who got word of this apostolic mission, and was a little fearful himself. His name was Herod Antipas. He wasn’t really a King. His father, King Herod “The Great” (who tried to kill baby Jesus) was King over all of Israel under the Romans. But Herod’s kingdom had been divided into 4 parts, and Herod Antipas was tetrarch (ruler of a fourth) of the Galilean area.

And Antipas is beginning to be afraid of Jesus. V.14

“King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. [Remember, he’s becoming a big-time celebrity.] Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’ Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’ But when Herod heard this, he said, ‘John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!’”

Now, notice two things. First, everybody is trying to figure out Who Jesus is. That’s the big question in this Gospel: “Who Is Jesus?” And it’s the most important question for any of us to answer for our lives.

Second, notice who Herod Antipas thinks Jesus is: a resurrected John.

Why?

Because Antipas has a guilty conscience. He had put John to death for no good reason.

Now, up to this point, we haven’t been told [in Mark] that John has died. We knew he was put in prison in chapter 1 when Jesus began His public ministry. But now, we find out that John has been executed. And we hear the rest of the story. V.17

“For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.’”

Stop there for a second. Yes, Herod Antipas had stolen his brother’s wife. He had gone to visit his brother Philip, fell into lust with Philips’s wife and talked her into divorcing his brother and marrying him (so long as he would also divorce his own first wife, which he promptly did). What a soap opera! It gets worse. To top it off, Herodias was also the daughter of one of Herod the Great’s other sons. So, she was not only Antipas’ sister-in-law, but also his niece!

And John the Baptizer had told Antipas that he needed to repent of this.

So, Antipas had put him in prison. Got it? V.18

“So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man [best thing Herod ever did]. When Herod heard John [preaching], he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. [This is one confused man.]”

“Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. [The top brass. A big banquet for powerful men. What do you think the entertainment was like? Herodias seizes the moment in a most disgraceful way. V.22]

“When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. [Yuck.] The king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you.’ [That’s what lust does to a man.] And he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’”

This is his grand-niece and step-daughter that has enflamed his lust to the point of making this stupid promise. Everyone in this story [except John!] is shameful. What do you think she asks for as a present on his birthday? V.24

“She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ ‘The head of John the Baptist,’ she answered. At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: ‘I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ [Serve it up, Big Guy!] The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. [Yuck!] On hearing of this, John's disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”

Now, I want to draw two lessons from this part of the story. One from Herod Antipas, and the other from John the Baptist.

#2. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE CROWD.

Herod Antipas a had chance to do what was right, didn’t he?

He could have taken back his rash oath and reigned himself and his appetites in and refused to execute John.

But he didn’t. Antipas was a slave of his desires. And a slave of his fear of the crowd. V.26 again.

“The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.”

That’s what the Bible calls “the Fear of Man,” and so often it cripples us from doing what is right.

The world calls it “peer pressure.” But it doesn’t have to be a peer that tempts me to do what is wrong because I’m afraid of what “they” will do or say or think about me.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Crowd. This is where it leads.

The Fear of Man is the biggest barrier to evangelism.

What if I said that this next Saturday, we’re going to have an outreach on the plaza in Philipsburg? And we’re going to hand out tracts and try to start gospel conversations with people as they come and go with their shopping?

Does that hit your Fear Button?

How about doing it not with strangers but with family members or co-workers?

You know that you should say something, but you are afraid of the crowd.

It’s not just evangelism.

It’s all kinds of righteous living that gets stymied by our fear of the crowd. It’s a trap.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

Don’t be like Herod Antipas. Trust in God, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Crowd.

Normally, I wouldn’t moralize on a story like this, but it’s obviously here to show us what went so terribly wrong. And it’s contrasted with what went right with John.

John did not fear. He stood for what was right. And he died for it.

#3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO DIE FOR GOD.

Probably, John could have renounced his opposition to Herod and Herodias and walked out of that prison.

But he would have done wrong to do it.

And he had the courage to stand up for God and to die for His message of repentance and faith in the coming King and His Kingdom.

These two men are put side by side for us to see the contrast.

One fears the crowd and great evil comes from it.

The other dies in courage and great blessing comes from it, even to us today.

In the movie we watched last month, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, it came out (I never knew this before) that Jim Elliot and his 4 friends, even though they had weapons with them had decided in advance to not use them on the Waodoni (or Auca Indians). Why?

Because they said, “We are ready to die. They are not.” These men were prepared to die for the gospel to reach that tribe.

Are you and I ready to die for God’s gospel, for God’s glory, for God?

He’s worth it! Don’t Be Afraid.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

David said, “[I]n God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

Don’t be afraid to die for God and His glorious Gospel. He’s worth it.

Notice that here is where we get the report of how the apostles had made out in their mission.

This little flashback sequence about Herod and John was sandwiched in there to make a point about what it takes to follow God. It takes faith. Faith to follow into ministry and faith to stand up to unrighteousness even if it costs us our life. And faith is always rewarded. V.30

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat [There’s that crowd again!], he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. [On retreat with Jesus.]”

Funny how those retreats with Jesus seem to always be interrupted by more ministry! V.33

“But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Here again, we see the compassion, the care, the concern of Jesus. Notice, his first concern for them: shepherding, teaching, spiritual feeding. But not just spiritual food, either. V.35

“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it's already very late. [Ah. Somebody’s Fear Button is getting pushed again.] Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘Five–and two fish.’ Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” Five thousand. Stop there.

Now, this story appears in all four gospels. It’s the only miracle aside from the resurrection that shows up in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

And there is a lot going on here.

For one thing, there is a lot of Old Testament language here that’s being picked up in this story. The remote place is like a desert. They sit down into grouping like the Israelites in Exodus 18. The bread reminds us of the manna from Heaven. There is twelve baskets to remind us of the twelve tribes.

I think that Jesus is intentionally doing this miracle in this way to draw parallels between Him and Moses. That’s more clear in John’s account of this in John 6.

Jesus is the new Moses to bring the Real Rescue to His people. And he provides for them in the desert.

But Moses didn’t do it this way, did he? Moses couldn’t multiply the bread and the fish all by himself.

But Jesus does. Jesus exercises Creation Power to make dinner for these 5,000 men and who knows how many others.

Jesus is the Creator.

Jesus is God.

But the disciples can’t see it yet.

It’s right there in front of their faces, but they can’t see it yet.

The gospel of John tells us that the crowd, full of men, wants to make Jesus into a military messiah to run off the Romans.

But Jesus won’t have that, and He won’t have his disciples thinking it either, so v.45...

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake[!]. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost [You would too!]. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

#4. [And last] DON’T BE AFRAID, BECAUSE JESUS IS GOD.

That’s what He’s showing them by walking on the water.

Who can walk on the water by Himself? Only God alone.

I’ve always wondered why Jesus was “about to pass them” (there in v.48). It never made sense to me before. Why pass them if He had been concerned for them and that’s why He had come.

But a couple of the scholars that I read to prepare for these messages drew my attention to Exodus 34 again.

Where God “passes by” Moses and shows him His glory.

Remember that? Moses’ was in the cleft of the rock.

And God passes by and lets him only see a glimpse of the trail of His glory which is more than anyone had ever seen.

I’m beginning to think that Jesus was pulling up next to them so that they could see that Jesus was God.

Here was God’s glory passing by!

“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being...” [Hebrews 1:3]

Listen to Job chapter 9, as well. This is Job himself speaking:

“Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars.

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.

[Listen.] When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him. If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, 'What are you doing?'”

Now, I don’t know if Job 9 was in Mark’s mind when he wrote out his account of this miracle in Mark 6, but the possibilities are interesting. God passing by. Unperceived.

Jesus says (in v.50), “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

The Greek behind, “It is I.” is “Ego eimi.” Which means, “I am.”

It’s the same Greek phrase that Jesus uses in the Gospel of John when He says, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Don’t Be Afraid, Because Jesus Is God.

If you belong to Jesus, you belong to God.

What do you have to fear?

I believe that this is a message that our church family needs desperately to hear right now.

Don’t Be Afraid.

Because Jesus Is God.

The disciples couldn’t see it yet. V.51

“They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” Like Pharisees, and tetrarches, and other unbelievers! They couldn’t see it yet.

Can you see it?

Don’t Be Afraid! Jesus is God.

And it showed. Even if they couldn’t see it. It was busting out all over the place. V.53

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went–into villages, towns or countryside–they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

Jesus is God.

What do you and I have to fear?

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