Mark 8:11-21English Standard Version (ESV)
The Pharisees Demand a Sign
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heavento test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: Spiritual Blindness Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Blindness by Degrees
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Slowly But Surely
Every single person is born spiritually blind due to our sin nature. Our own sinfulness compounds that blindness. The work of Satan compounds it even further. This darkness can become sovereignly fixed if it goes past the point of no return, and that, in turn, leads to eternal darkness in the judgment of hell.
But thanks be to God, spiritual blindness does not have to be permanent. It can, by the grace of God, be temporary.
Those who are spiritually blind are comfortable in the darkness. Legalistic blind people are devoted to their delusion of self-righteousness.
MacArthur makes an interesting point:
An ignorant heart can’t hardened itself against the truth. To harden oneself against the truth, one self has to be exposed to be exposed to the truth. Only a knowing heart can hardened itself. That’s why those closest to Jesus, namely the leaders of Israel and the people who followed them, and the disciples, stood in the greatest danger of heart hardening. And so does anybody who sits under the truth.
The disciples chose the light, but it wasn't an instant process. Jesus continually drew them into the light. In this passage He warns them that they will be susceptible to legalism (Pharisees), liberalism (Sadducees), and secularism (Herodians). At first, they're so dense they think He's talking about actually bread, but eventually they catch on as Jesus leads them into greater light.
Rayburn had some encouraging words about the, at times, painfully slow process of sanctification:
How slowly, ponderously even, how ploddingly does the Spirit seem to make his changes in you and sanctify you to himself....
To be sure there are crises in our lives, compacted moments in which the Lord brings to pass a great deal of change. Conversion, the beginning of the Christian life is the greatest of these, but there are others, in which the Lord accomplishes in a moment or a day what would otherwise have taken much longer – when he grants a burst of insight, or when powerful conviction pulls down some sin in your heart or life, or when the Lord draws near and shows you his glory..... But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Some Christians think that they ought to be the rule and not the exception, but the united witness of the Christian ages reminds them that it is not to be.
When we think about the Bible’s teaching concerning time and the passing of time, we are accustomed to think of how rapidly time is passing and how carefully, therefore, we need to redeem the time that is given to us. And this is right, of course. Moses and many other biblical writers encourage us to pray to the Lord to teach us to “number our days and so apply our hearts to wisdom.”
But we are also taught to ponder how much time God takes to achieve his purposes – how even omnipotence works gradually. He kept Moses waiting 40 years in Midian before giving him his great calling. Many years passed between David’s anointing as king and his assuming the throne. Paul waited some 14 years between his conversion and his entrance upon his apostolic ministry. And times without number Holy Scripture reminds us that, as Rome was not built in a day, so faith and Christlikeness are not built in a Christian life in a day, a week, a year, or a decade...
Daniel Rowland, one of the greatest preachers of the Great Awakening and the greatest preacher of the Awakening in Wales, a contemporary of George Whitefield and the Wesleys, figured that he would have reached full maturity in the Christian life when he was able to do four things consistently:
Repent without despairing;
Believe without presuming;
Rejoice without levity;
And be angry without sinning.
That is, 1) truly to repent of your sins, to sorrow for them and turn away from them without discouragement, without forgetting the greatness of God love and forgiveness; 2) to believe, really believe all that God has promised and Christ has done for us and will do for us, without in any way relaxing my determination to serve the Lord, lest he say to me “depart from me, I never knew you”; 3) Deeply to rejoice and be glad in my salvation and the salvation of my loved ones and others, without losing sight for a moment of the terrible seriousness of life; and, 4) finally, to be properly angry at all that is evil and stands opposed to the kingdom of God, without that anger diminishing in the least the love I have in my heart for my neighbor and, especially, for my enemies.
Are you there yet? I’m not, by a long shot, I’m not. And I’ve been a Christian all my life. Who am I, who are you to say “tsk tsk” to the disciples for not having caught on quickly enough? Why, it often seems to me that I have hardly begun to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I read the lives of eminent saints and realize that there is so much more that ought to be true of me as a Christian, so much more in my heart and so much more in my relationship to others. And I know that the wisest of you and the godliest of you are the most conscious of the chasm that separates what you are from what you know by now you ought to be. Oh, yes, the wheels of salvation and of sanctification turn slowly indeed.
It is a slow process, but let us not be discouraged! We are in the light and He will continue to draw us into ever greater light. He who promised is faithful.
Everybody’s blind, either forever or only temporarily. The gospel offers light to the blind, light...the light of truth, the light of holiness and virtue through Christ. He alone is the light. Whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 8:22-26
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