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Mark 6:1-29: Evidence of the "Not Yet" - Unbelief Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 August 2007

Surely after looking at Mark 5 together, as we did last week, we can all conclude that the Kingdom has come.  In fact, we may be tempted to conclude that the Kingdom has already come in all its fullness.  I mean, after all, the sea was calmed, the demons were defeated, the sick were healed, and the dead were raised.  So then, surely the Kingdom has come in all its fullness, right?  Well, the problem with this conclusion is that there is more to the book of Mark than just Mark 5.  As we said last week, we must believe in Mark 4 and 5, and as we will see this week, we must believe in Mark 6 as well.  And I think we are given some clear evidence in Mark 6 that the Kingdom has not yet come in all its fullness.  What is this evidence?

Simply stated, the evidence that the Kingdom has not yet come in all its fullness is the rampant unbelief identified in Mark 6.  If the Kingdom has been consummated, then unbelief would have no place.  Yet, in the first three sections of chapter 6, we see three different examples of unbelief.  Thus, again, the Scriptures are teaching us that the Kingdom has already come and not yet come.  In Mark 4, Jesus taught about the Kingdom coming like a mustard seed, small at first, but producing something great.  In Mark 5, we see evidence that indeed the Kingdom has come through the coming of Christ and His ministry.  In Mark 6, we see evidence that the Kingdom has not yet come in all its fullness through glaring unbelief.  Although I do not necessarily think that Mark was using this outline, I think it is helpful for us to see and recognize in our attempt to understand the Kingdom of God.

This morning, as we consider these first three episodes in Mark 6, I want to identify a lesson concerning unbelief from each.  Thus, letís begin with Markís telling of Jesusí visit to his hometown of Nazareth.  What lesson can we learn here?

First, Unbelief prohibits the mighty works of God (v. 1-6).

After ministering around the Sea of Galilee for a time, Mark tells us that Jesus made the trip to Nazareth.  Even though they had heard of His ministry, He is not received like we might expect.  Look at verses 1-6 with me.  They do not understand the ministry of Jesus.  ĎWhere is He getting all of this wisdom and by what authority is He doing all these miracles,í they wonder.  ĎAfter all, He is one of us.  We know His family.  He is just Maryís son, a common carpenter.  He has no training, no upbringing, that lends itself to such a ministry.í  Mark concludes his summary of their response to Jesus by telling us that they took offense at him.  In short, they refuse to believe that one of their own could be this great prophet, or powerful healer, or even worse to them, the very Son of God.

Their response comes as no shock to Jesus, even though He will marvel because of their unbelief.  Jesus recognizes that a prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.  It is hard for those who know of Him most, who know of His history and family, to believe that He is a prophet, much less the Son of God.  Thus, they will not believe.

The lesson in all this comes in verse 5.  Now, I have struggled with exactly how to understand and communicate what Mark is teaching us here.  In fact, I struggle with my main point that unbelief can Ďprohibití the mighty works of God.  Does this mean that God is somehow contingent upon man and manís belief?  No, I cannot conclude that in an ultimate sense.  God is sovereign and His plans cannot be thwarted (see Job 42:2).  Yet, as we have said before, Godís sovereignty does not eliminate manís responsibility.  I think what we are seeing in this text is an emphasis on manís responsibility to believe.  Granted, we cannot believe apart from Godís grace (see Ephesians 2:1-10), but this fact does not minimize Godís command for us to believe.  The people in Nazareth will be held accountable for their unbelief.  We will be held accountable for our unbelief.  Thus, our only hope is to throw ourselves at the feet of God begging Him for mercy and grace to believe, which I believe He will faithfully grant.

Thus, before we move to the next episode, let me just pause and drive this point home.  The call of this text (along with the rest of the Bible) is to believe.  You might be able to come up with a thousand reasons why you should not believe, but let me give you one reason to believe this morning: the mighty work of God of saving you from eternal separation from Him is promised only to those who believe.  In other words, you will only be reconciled to God through faith, you will only have your sins forgiven through faith, you will only escape the wrath to come through faith.  So, do not hesitate, do not be distracted, only repent and believe in Christ.  Do not make the mistake that they made in Nazareth and thereby forego the mighty works of God.  Likewise, for the Christian, fight against unbelief with all that you are.  Do not let your familiarity with the things of Christ lead you down a path towards unbelief.  No, believe and follow hard after Jesus.

Second, Unbelief should not discourage missions (v. 7-13).

When Mark gave us the account of Jesusí calling of His disciples in 3:13-19, he gave us two reasons for this calling: so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.  We have seen the first reason fulfilled and will continue to see this throughout Markís Gospel.  Yet, the first sending out of the disciples takes place in Mark 6.  Look at verses 7-13 with me.  Now many comments could be made concerning this commission, but for our purposes this morning, I want to point out the fact that Jesus is well aware of the fact that not everyone will receive the message of the Kingdom with joy.  He knows that the disciplesí call to repent will be rejected by many.  Thus, He gives them clear instruction for what to do when that happens, namely go to the next place and shake off the dust when you leave, seemingly a sign of judgment for their unbelief.

So, what can we learn from this?  In our mission efforts, in our struggle to preach repentance and belief to a lost world, we need to be prepared for unbelief.  Many will reject our message, just as the message has been rejected throughout the history of the Church.  Does this rejection mean that we should be overly discouraged and discontinue the work?  By no means!!  Rather, as Jesus commands the disciples, we simply move forward and continue in our labors.  Granted, we may not shake off dust and move to the next town, but we do not let unbelief hinder our mission.  No, even in the face of horrible rejection and unbelief, our call is to continue.  May the Lord grant us grace to do just that as we labor to take the gospel to a lost world.

Third, Unbelief will lead to persecution (v. 14-29).

The disciples will return from this original sending out in verse 30.  Yet, in between their sending and return, Mark tells us about how others are responding to the message of the Kingdom, including the story of Johnís execution by Herod.  Herod had divorced his wife and had remarried another woman by the name of Herodias.  The great scandal in this was the Herodias had been the wife of Herodís brother Philip.  Mark tells us that John had been telling Herod that what he had done was unlawful.  Of course, Herod did not appreciate Johnís rebuke, so he had him arrested and put in prison.  However, Mark goes on to tell us that it was Herodias, Herodís new wife, who wanted John to be executed.  According to Markís account, it was actually Herod himself who prevented this because Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.  There is no indication that Herod believed Johnís message, but he did fear him and enjoyed listening to him enough to keep him alive.  Then Mark tells us about the events surrounding Herodís birthday party.  On this occasion, Herodiasí daughter came and danced for Herod and his gathered male guests.  Herod was so pleased by this that he rashly promised to give her whatever she wanted.  By her motherís advice, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter, a wish that Herod would reluctantly grant.  Thus, we are told of Johnís execution by Herod.

I think this story really illustrates the difficulty of the Ďnot yet.í  On the one hand, I wish I could tell you this morning that the Kingdom has come in all its fullness.  I wish I could tell you that everyone is going to believe.  I wish I could tell you that life will be easy and great.  But this is not the case.  Not everyone is going to believe, which is one of the most difficult realities of the Kingdom.  Not only do people refuse to believe, they are going to persecute all those who do believe.  They, like Herod, will be led away by their foolish passions and arrogance and will persecute the followers of Christ.  This is the difficulty of the not yet.  Yet, there is another side to the story, another side to the not yet.  It is the side that recognizes that this world is not our home.  This is not as good as gets.  The goal of existence is not some sappy American dream life, complete with nice homes and good retirements.  No, everything on this side of heaven is war.  It is a battle against a real enemy who will lead his followers to cut off our heads if he can.  Yet, in recognizing that this world is not our home, we are at the same time recognizing that there is a world to come that is our home.  Unbelief will have no place there.  Rebellion against the King will no longer exist.  As difficult as the Ďnot yetí can be, it holds within it the promise of the glory to come.

Thus, I challenge you this morning to listen to what these stories are teaching us about unbelief.  We know that the Kingdom has not yet come in all its fullness and we see the evidence of this all around us.  Yet, this reality should motivate us all the more to fight against unbelief in our own hearts, to continue the mission of preaching the gospel to all the nations, and to expect and be prepared for the persecution that is promised.  May we be numbered among those who believe that Jesus has come, and through His life and ministry, including His death and resurrection, has ushered in the Kingdom of God.  And may we be found among the faithful saints, who have given their lives to serving Him, to completing the mission that He gave to His first disciples, until He comes again or calls us home.  May your Kingdom come.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 September 2007 )

User Comments

I really enjoyed this message, this is the first time I have been on this web site. I live in Wentzville Mo. but grew up in Poplar Bluff, My dad was pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in PB, I was wondering if Don and Jerrie Self go to your church?
May God Richly Bless Your Work
Barbara Kendrick

Posted by barbara, on 09/05/2007 at 17:08

Thanks for stopping by the website and reading the sermon. Don and Jerrie do not attend our church, although they may have before I came, which was a couple of years ago. Again thanks for checking out the site. The Lord's blessings,


Posted by William Marshall, on 09/07/2007 at 15:45

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