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How Unbelief Hindered Christ
We wish to take up two questions of Mark 6:2 .
1. The first question: "From whence hath this Man these things?"
(1) We have back of the question an under-estimate of the Lord Jesus Christ. They called Him "This Man."
(2) We have in the question an unmistakable quandary. They said in effect, He is a man, yet He works like God.
2. The second question: "What wisdom is this which is given unto Him?"
He not only wrought as none other ever wrought, but He spoke as none other ever spoke.
He spoke the truth as none other ever spoke. His Words were the Truth. He Himself was Truth . He never made a false statement nor presented a false claim.
He spoke the truth theologically . Of course He did, for He was God, and knew God. He did not theorize or guess He knew .
He spoke the truth historically for He spoke in knowledge of all things, for He was before all things.
The people said, "Never man spake like this Man," yet they would not acclaim Him God.
What wisdom was His? He, Himself, was Wisdom. Wisdom came from above, because He came from above.
I. HIS MIGHTY WORKS (Mark 6:2 , l.c.)
Here are the works which we would consider for a moment: "Such mighty works are wrought by His hands."
1. Consider His first miracle: turning the water into wine.
2. Consider His second miracle.
3. Consider the miracle that immediately preceded this study in Mark 5:1-43 .
4. Consider the feeding of the multitudes and the necessary multiplying of the loaves and fishes.
5. Consider the storm on Galilee and the Master walking on the waves.
6. Consider the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and of the widow's son, and of Lazarus, who had been four days dead.
Even so, Christ still lives and He still works.
II. HOLDING JESUS OF NAZARETH DOWN TO A HUMAN GENEALOGY (Mark 6:3 )
Here is the way our Scripture reads: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?"
The people of that day, however, were no more prone to humanize the Lord than are the people of our day. There are multitudes who defame Him by denying that He is Son of God, and God the Son. They are quite as willing to put Him, in His birth, along with Mary's other sons and daughters. They are quite as willing to make Mary an impure woman, with a son begotten out of wedlock.
1. To rob Christ of His Deity, begotten, by the Spirit, robs us of the Lord. The Book of Mark opens with those memorable words, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." It must ever be true that if Jesus Christ were the Son of Joseph, He was not the Son of God; or if Jesus Christ was the Son of God, He was not the Son of Joseph.
Stated in another way, If Jesus Christ were the Son of Mary by Joseph, He was a sinner, as well as all other men are sinners; and He could not, then, be the Saviour, nor Lord.
2. To rob Jesus Christ of His Deity, begotten by the Spirit, therefore robs us of the Saviour. Had Christ been Joseph's Son, He would have had sins of His own, and could not save others, for Himself He could not have saved.
As son of Joseph and Mary Christ could not have been holy, or undefiled, or separate from sinners; and without these attributes He would have had no value with which He could have redeemed the unholy, the defiled, the sinner.
III. MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR CHRIST TO DO MIGHTY WORKS (Mark 6:4-5 )
1. Unbelief steels the heart against the Word of God. "He could there do no mighty work." He could do, and did do, many mighty works in many places; but He could do none there. And why not? For this simple reason: God's mighty works are dependent upon our faith. These townsmen denied Christ as God, made Him a mere man, and thus they gave the Lord no soil in which the seed of truth might grow. They gave Him no basis on which they could be recipients of His mercy.
2. Belief is ever the pivot on which God works. Have you not read, "According to your faith be it unto you"? Again have you not read, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them"? If unbelief shuts out the blessing, faith brings the blessing. Unbelief is black with the frown of God: belief is bright with His smiles.
3. Instead of increasing our works of unbelief, let us increase our work of faith. The church is ofttimes doing much, and believing little. The church is too frequently denying the miraculous, and emphasizing the vigor of an untrusting service.
How much the rather should we work in faith. After all, it is much better to believe than to work. Best of all is to work the works of faith.
May we pause to observe the mighty victories of faith that have marked the pathway of saints during the ages. The Holy Spirit has given us, in Hebrews 11:1-40 , a partial statement of these. They lived and wrought and God was glorified.
IV. MARVELING AT THEIR UNBELIEF (Mark 6:6 )
The Lord Jesus did not marvel at their wisdom, their might, their buildings, their herds, nor at their squalor or their sin. He marveled at their unbelief.
1. He marveled at their unbelief, because He was the fulfillment of the very Prophets they read daily in their synagogues. This significant passage of Scripture magnifies this truth: "For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath Day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him." "And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the Tree."
2. He marveled at their unbelief because He was the One they needed to meet their every need. He had come to them as a Prince and a Saviour. He had come to save them from every power of the wicked one, and to set them free. He had come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly; yet they believed Him not.
He went about doing them good, yet they loved Him not. He healed their sick, raised their dead, fed their hungry mouths, yet they believed not on Him. The truth was, they loved darkness rather than light, Satan rather than Christ.
3. He marveled at their unbelief because they had every chance of knowing the truth, yet knew it not. Before their very eyes He stood as the One who had come forth from the Father. They were familiar with the facts of His birth and life; the message of the angels and their glorious magnificat; they knew of the visit of the shepherds, of the coming of the Magi, and the worship they accorded the Infant Christ. None of these things had been done in a corner.
They knew about Christ's visit to the Temple at the twelfth year, of how the Lord had reasoned with the Masters of Israel.
V. HE WENT ABOUT TEACHING (Mark 6:6 , l.c.)
"Never man spake like this Man." When we think of Christ as a Teacher, we cannot but weigh the Words said of Him by some of the leaders of His day. We use them as our heading, because they place Christ above every other Teacher no man ever spoke as He. He stood in a class by Himself. Would you not like to have slipped in to hear Him speaking? for instance, when He went up into the mount, and sat down, as His disciples gathered around Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven"? Then, sentence after sentence, what matchless words of wisdom and beauty fell from His lips. We call it "The Sermon on the Mount," and it is known and loved the world around, even after twenty centuries. His Word still holds an undimmed beauty.
Perhaps you would, the rather, join with the people who heard Him in Nazareth. We read of that day: "And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth."
Perhaps you would, the rather, have joined the resurrection group to "whom also He shewed Himself alive * * by many infallible proofs, * * speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
It does not matter when or where He spoke, His words were ever the Truth and the Life. When He spoke the winds and the waves obeyed. When He spoke the dead came forth, the sick were healed, the demons departed.
His very words were Spirit, and they were life.
VI. HE GAVE THEM POWER (Mark 6:7 )
1. He sent them forth. In our key verse, the Twelve were sent forth. But, if we will listen deeply, we too may hear Him saying to us, "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."
It was the days on which He went up that He gathered His followers around Him, and said, "Go ye.." Beloved, let us be obedient to His commission. Let us go.
2. He gave them power. This was His portion. He never asked us to do a task for Him without first providing us with the needed strength for our task. He said, "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." He also said, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
Unto this day, every ambassador of God is sent under the power of the One who said, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go."
3. How great is the power of the true witness of Christ. of the minister and His Word is a place of power such as no man else on earth possesses.
He gave them power over demons. Do we have less power than they?
Hear the once vacillating Peter at Pentecost as he thundered out the words of condemnation with one breath, and then the words of saving grace and redemption with his next breath.
Hell itself must move when a minister, backed with power from on high, speaks the words of truth.
VII. PREACHING REPENTANCE (Mark 6:12 )
1. Repentance is a vital message for saint and sinner alike. We do not mean that a sinner may be saved by repentance alone. We do mean that a sinner comes to the Saviour who saves him from his sins, and therefore he must turn away from them.
Christians should always repent of any sin or wickedness that may overtake them. Here is a Scripture we do well to weigh. "God * * now commandeth all men every where to repent." Here is another, "Repent, * * every one of you." Here is still another: "And that repentance * * should be preached." If we leave the message of repentance out of our preaching, we do not well. Hear John the Baptist as he preached, saying, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Christ also began to preach and to say, "Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Shall we excuse ourselves by saying that we are living in another age? Impossible! Paul said, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."
2. The message of the Church, like that of John the Baptist, and Jesus, and the Apostles, should be a call to all men to repent of this their wickedness and to return to God. As we see it, repentance is indissolubly linked with saving faith. Could any man seek to be saved from sins which he was wholly unwilling to leave and renounce?
3. The call of God to the saint is a call to the negation of sin. In the Old Testament it reads this way, "Let the wicked forsake his way." In the New Testament it reads this way, "Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
It is all-important to have a Saviour whom we can fully trust.
Jesus Christ is the only Hope of sinners. There is none other name whereby we must be saved.
Look to your passport if you wish to enter in to Glory.
Travelers to foreign lands will be familiar with the above demand, and will know how essential it is to possess a passport properly made out to meet the requirements of the authorities. If otherwise, serious difficulties may be encountered at ports and frontier stations.
While on a journey in the Near East in 1928, four of us were stopped at the frontier between Syria and Palestine, During examination of our passports and baggage, an official saw about half a dozen oranges in our car, and said to us, "You are not allowed to take oranges into Palestine." We began to eat them, and so were allowed to enter "The Holy Land."
If you desire entrance into any country you must comply with the regulations in force, or be refused admission. Yet some people think that they can enter Heaven, the land of pure delight, without a proper passport, and without paying due regard to God's conditions of entry.
Concerning the Holy City, God has said, " There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Revelation 21:27 ).
What is the passport for Heaven? "The Blood of the Lamb." John Newton.
The Beheading of John the Baptist
1. John was great in his separation unto Christ. He lived apart from the people In a vow of separation unto God. Here is a part of the annunciation of the angel Gabriel of John's birth. "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink." This was a part of his separation from the world.
Does not our God call us all to a similar separation? Here is His call, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." Here it is again, "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
2. John was great in His Spirit-filling. He was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb. Let us never think of John as some eccentric person, given to either fads or fancies. He was a man filled with the Spirit. Are we so filled?
God, the Holy Ghost, was both in him and upon him. How else could he be great? Are we not great in the sight of the Lord only to the extent that we are so filled? It is written, "Be filled with the Spirit"; therefore we thus judge that not all saints are so filled. It is, however, the privilege of all.
3. John was great in His testimony. Christ said of him, "There is another that heareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of Me is true." There was no half-heartedness or half-truth in what John said of Christ. He sounded forth statement after statement that crowned Christ with Deity, with saving power, and with glory. To John, Christ was "The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." To John, Christ was "He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me."
John bore witness of Christ, saying, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
John bore record of Christ, saying, "I indeed baptize you with water; but * * He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." John also said, "Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."
Perhaps the greatest thing John ever said of Christ was, "I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."
4. John was great in his humility. He not only said he was unworthy to loosen the latchet of Christ's shoes; he also said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord."
It is strange, is it not, that the man whom Christ said was the greatest born of women, should say, "I am not Elijah; I am not that Prophet; I am but a voice crying"? It is still true that the great are not self-centered, boastful men. They are not the men who seek great things for themselves.
John said "He must increase, but I must decrease." Here again he proved his true humility, because he spoke without bewailing his own lot.
5. John was great in his fidelity to the faith. He never wavered when the truth cut to the heart. He preached what God laid upon him, without fear or seeking for favor. He was thoroughly sincere. He demanded of the people that they bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.
He told Herod of his sins, but never courted his plaudits. There was something about John so genuine, so true, so faithful to the last, that we all admire him both as preacher and as man.
6. John, in prison, perhaps, at the first, wavered somewhat. Why should Christ be doing so many wonders, while he, John, languished in prison? He sent some of his followers to inquire of Him if He was indeed the One who should come, or, "do we look for another?" The Lord sent back: "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me."
From that hour John no doubt was satisfied, and waited the hour of his deliverance.
I. SIN, AND A TROUBLED CONSCIENCE (Mark 6:14-16 )
1. The mighty works of Christ. The things which Christ wrought were not done in a corner. The whole country knew of His miracles and of His teachings. His power was discussed in the Sanhedrin by priests, and scribes and Pharisees. He was also discussed in the palace of Herod, and among the Roman authorities.
2. What men said of Him. Some said He was Elias; others said He was a Prophet, or one of the Prophets. We are reminded of the time when Christ said to His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" They well knew the public chatter, and they replied, "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the Prophets." Such words did not satisfy the Lord, and He said, "But whom say ye that I am?" Quickly Simon Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
3. What Herod said of Him. The discussions reached the ears of Herod. He was sure that Christ was John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded. Herod even went so far as to say that John had risen from the dead, therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.
Do you wonder that Herod said these things? He said them in all seriousness, and in all inner fear. He felt that his sins were finding him out.
It is said that Louis XIV, the slaughterer of the Huguenots, when on his deathbed, cried out: "I see the bodies of the Huguenots! They drip with blood! Would that I had spared at least the infants on their mother's breasts!"
Herod he must have lived and died with the sight of John's head, which Salome displayed at the feast, ever before him.
II. DOING EVIL UNDER CONSTRAINT (Mark 6:17 )
The Scripture looks behind all actions and discovers the cause for them. Here is the way this Scripture reads: "For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her."
1. John had reproved Herod for marrying his brother Philip's wife. For this, Herodias was furious. To be sure John was right, but that bore no weight with Herodias. Herod was the supposed head of his family, but that made no difference to Herodias. Herod, as king, was supposed to be a leader in law enforcement; and the fact that he had broken the law he was imposed to enforce, made no difference to Herodias. She was intent on the undoing of John.
John was the greatest of those born of women, but that mattered nothing to Herodias. John was the heralder of truth and righteousness, but that made no difference unto Herodias. John was a man sent from God, but Herodias did not care who sent him, nor why he was sent. John had done Herod a world of good, but that only angered Herodias the more.
2. Herod had yielded to his sense of unjustice and had imprisoned John. He knew that John was right, and he was wrong; yet he imprisoned John. He knew that John was worthy of all respect and protection, and that his words were worthy of obedience; yet he imprisoned John. He did the wrong knowing that it was wrong; he shut his eyes and stopped his ears to every appear of his own heart, and doggedly imprisoned John.
3. Herod yielded for Herodias' sake. He was influenced from without himself, and he knew it; yet he bowed the head. He knew his own mind, yet he yielded to the mind of Herodias. He was a puppet of another's will. He was king, but a king without force of character to do the right. He was ruler, yet was ruled.
Before we condemn him, however, let us be sure that we are not doing wrong because we are begged. Many a man knows he should receive Christ, and yet He crucifies Him, for fear of others.
III. A QUARREL AGAINST A PREACHER (Mark 6:19 )
1. If any man live godly he shall suffer. The fact that Herodias had a quarrel against John did not mean that John was wrong. We have a deep feeling that to be popular with the wicked does not speak well of a saint, or of a minister.
Some would have all the preachers preach a smooth, ineffective message. To the contrary, God tells us to reprove, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. Certainly we should not be vindictive or impatient in reproof of sin, but we should be plain and positive.
2. The venom of an unregenerate heart. She "would have killed him; but she could not." This is the story of the ages. Ever since Cain rose up and slew his brother, there has been the spilling of the blood of men and women who stand true to God.
"The world hateth you," was the word of the Master. How can we, then, expect anything less than that? For Christ also said, "Me it hateth."
If Satan goeth about seeking whom he may devour, will not Satan-energized men do the same? If it had not been for two things, the day of persecution would not be passed, even in America. Here are the two things:
(1) The devil has learned that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. History has proved that where one martyr dies, two stalwart converts to Christ seem to arise.
(2) The saints of this age have been inveigled into a namby-pamby, milk and water way of preaching, that calms the storms of disapproval.
Nevertheless we still have many Johns, and we still have many Herodiases.
IV. ALMOST CANNOT AVAIL (Mark 6:20 )
1. Herod was near the door, and the door stood wide. There is no doubt of this: Here are the things stated concerning John:
1. Herod feared John.
2. Herod observed John.
3. Herod heard John gladly.
4. Herod did many things.
Look over the four things above, and examine them deeply. Was Herod not one of the many who have been almost saved, and lost? Was Herod not near the door? Was the door not open wide? God was willing and ready, and Herod came near the door. Alas, that men should know the way of life, and then, having known it, turn away from it.
2. We wonder why Herod turned back from the truth. For our part we are sure that John saw perfectly well the "why." Here it is: "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." That was it. Both Herod and Herodias knew John was right: that made it hurt them the more.
Herod did many things; he was willing to straighten out along some lines. There was one thing that he would not do. He would not give up Herodias.
Is this not often the case? Christ died to save us from our sins. If we are not willing to give them up, He cannot save us. Giving up sins and not accepting Christ does not, cannot, save. Neither can a faith that does not leave sin at the Cross save us.
Stop and consider, O lost soul. Perhaps there is something some cherished sin which stands between you and God. If so, forsake it now and take Christ as your Saviour from sin.
V. THE BIG FEAST (Mark 6:21-22 )
1. The danger of wild and luxurious parties.
We have never attended a big social affair. We have been guests at hotels where we were forced to be under the same roof where pleasures ran riot. The dancing and feasting were on different floors from ours. However, late in the night, with the lights out in the parlors, the rooms were swarming with dissolute youths of both sexes, drunken, debauched, noisily reveling in even deeper sins.
In such a concourse, Herod found himself celebrating his birthday. He himself was the center of attraction. Every eye was on the king. To what extent he had drunken we know not; we do know that he was, beyond doubt, intoxicated with the gayety and brilliance of the hour.
Herodias' chance had come. The whole affair had been planned by the hand of a wicked, shrewd woman in order to wreak out her wrath on a holy man of God.
The lords of the kingdom, with the chief captains and high estates were all there.
2. The evil die is cast. At the appropriate moment, the climactic moment, Salome, being before instructed of her mother, came in. This was an unprecedented event. Who ever heard of the king's daughter, even though a foster daughter, dancing the light fantastic before so many lustful eyes? The effect was just what Herodias anticipated. The lords and the ladies, the chief captains, and the high estates broke loose with tumultuous applause.
Salome swiftly made her way to the king's presence, and with curtsy paused before his august presence. Herod must do something, and something big. Were not all eyes now centered on him and his next move? Graciously he sold himself out, and staked half his kingdom as his response to such a popular idol as his own foster daughter.
Here are his words: "Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. * * Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom."
And hers were, "The head of John the Baptist."
VI. A GRUESOME SIGHT (Mark 6:24-28 )
1. The wavering daughter. Wicked as she was; instructed by her mother as she had been; even Salome could not at once muster up her courage. The sin seemed so great, the justice of it all, so warped, the details of her request so revolting, that Salome hesitated long enough to dance forth to her mother. The woman was ready for her daughter's hesitancy, and pressed her on. Thus, straightway she hurried back to the king. The eyes of all were centered upon her: every nerve was taut, as Salome said her fatal word: "I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist."
2. Herod saw himself entrapped. He paled, perhaps, for a moment; and then for his oath's sake, and for the sake of them who sat with him at the feast, he sent for his executioner and commanded that John's head should be brought.
We do not care to even attempt a description of that awful sight. We do want to show what sin will do. Satan is an adept at laying snares. The beheading of John had only its climax at the birthday feast of King Herod. The foundation of such a deed was laid in Herod's first refusal to go all the way with God.
The boy, the youth, slowly drifting into the ways of pleasure and of sin, surely will not go too far. He cannot become the murderer at the bar at least none of his friends so think.
Yet, step by step, on and on he goes, until all is gone, and he is a derelict lost on the shores of sinful lusts. Even so it was with Herod.
VII. THE BURIAL OF THE GREATEST MAN BORN OF WOMAN (Mark 6:29 )
1. John the Baptist's funeral failed to attract the men of high estate. To those who had been at Herod's feast, the death of John meant nothing worthy of note. No action was taken against the king for his ferocious act. No one thought of impeaching him.
Oh, the injustices of the world of sin against the saints of God! Here in India we see it. A poor man who had been struck down, and was bleeding, came two days past to our door. He had been attacked in the night for his harvest of grain. In the darkness, as he lay, he saw the approaching figure, the shadow of one coming to steal. However, or ever he was aware, the blow was struck and he lay unconscious while the robber took his goods.
He was a Christian and naturally came to our compound. We took him to the hospital. The police were informed. The head police told him, "We can do nothing. You have no proof." No effort on their part was made to locate his assailant. He, like many a Christian in India, and many another "low caste," or, "unapproachable," as they are called, is left unpitied and unaided to battle on.
Even so God's great man died, as afterward died his Lord died as one despised, forsaken, forlorn.
2. The disciples of John took his body and buried it. They stood by the side of the bier of a true, brave man who knew God and preached a glorious Gospel. It was an hour of sadness, no doubt; however, they did not weep as those who have no hope.
John the Baptist was not dead. He passed the bounds of mortal life only to live the more. The forerunner of Christ had done his duty well; he had served his day. God allowed his martyrdom only to increase His eternal glory.
A glorious hour awaits the time when John shall reign with Christ in His Kingdom. Beloved, let us serve on, even to death, if need be.
"Bernard Palissy lived in the latter part of the 15th century, and in his experiments to recover the lost art of porcelain enamel he and his family were reduced to the greatest distress. He was convinced, although the world laughed at his efforts, that he had found the right quantities at last of a combination, and wanted only a piece of gold to mix with the other ingredients. Gold, however, he had none, and could procure none. It was at this moment that his wife came forward and by a beautiful act of love and loyalty showed that she believed in him. Taking off her wedding ring, we see her drop it into the crucible. This act of faith, it is good to know, was not in vain. The gold which the ring possessed was all that was needed to reach a perfect success. There are many women like Madame Palissy in the world, and they are its true aristocracy." B.
The illustration can also be used to show how the gold of sacrifice is that which is needed to perfect life. Christ asks us to sacrifice if need be our very lives for Him, as did John the Baptist.
Herod, or, Almost But Lost
The record of Herod shall ever remain as a warning to those who are almost saved. Let us suggest a few others who came close to the door of entrance unto eternal life, and yet were lost.
1. There was Felix as described in Acts 24:24-27 .
(1) Felix sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Observe, then, that Felix had a notable preacher to unfold to him the Gospel. Paul led his thousands to Christ. He turned the world of his day upside down with his evangelistic message.
Great preachers, however, cannot suffice to save men. Many of the godless of today have had noble ministers of the Word, They have heard enough Gospel to save a thousand sinners, yea, all sinners who believed; yet they went away still in their sins.
Observe also that Paul had a great text he preached on the faith in Christ. Nothing more than faith, and nothing less than faith. He preached of the righteousness which is by faith, the self-control which is by faith, and the judgment which is upon them that reject the faith.
Nevertheless Felix turned away unsaved.
(2) Felix trembled. When a sinner trembles under the conviction of his evil ways, he is not far from being saved. Trembling, however, is not enough. One may be ever so deeply stirred by the depth of his sin, and ever so deeply burdened and yet be lost.
(3) Felix said, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." In other words Felix said: "Not now by and by." Truly this man was almost saved.
2. There was Agrippa as described in. Acts 26:27-32 . This man plainly acknowledged that, with a little more persuasion, Paul might have made him a Christian. Agrip-pa may have spoken with more or less of sarcasm and yet he was, beyond doubt, strangely stirred by Paul's message of life.
The Apostle Paul took it that way, for he said, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds."
3. There were the ten cleansed of leprosy, of whom only one returned to give thanks unto God. You may not agree with me, but my thought is that only the one who returned was truly saved; the nine were satisfied with a physical healing, and cared not to follow Jesus in the way.
4. Last, there was Herod. He, too, was almost saved. Mark the words of Mark 6:20 of our study. Here are its positive statements:
1. Herod heard John.
2. Herod heard John gladly.
3. Herod feared John.
4. Herod knew that he was a just man and holy.
5. Herod observed John.
6. Herod did many things.
Remember, all these things are good, but anything short of receiving Christ as personal Saviour and believing on His Name is not salvation. Near salvation is not being saved.
"'Almost persuaded,' now to believe;
'Almost persuaded,' Christ to receive;
"'Almost' cannot avail,
'Almost' is but to fail,
Sad, sad that bitter wail,
'Almost' but lost."
I. JOHN THE BAPTIST'S STRONG CHALLENGE (Mark 6:18 )
1. Hear John's challenge to the Pharisees (Matthew 3:7 ). He said unto them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" John the Baptist knew the hearts of these men who posed as Israel's spiritual leaders. He knew that they acknowledged no need of fleeing from the wrath to come, for they thought themselves the acme of sainthood.
John was plain and positive in his challenge to them. Of one thing we are certain John never compromised the message which God gave to him, and he never lowered the standard of discipleship.
2. Hear John's challenge to the multitude (Luke 3:7-9 ). To the multitudes John said: "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father." Then John added, "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Would that churches of today would be as faithful to God and the truth in accepting members into their fellowship.
3. Hear John's challenge to the soldiers (Luke 3:14 ). To these men who fought the battles of the State, John said, "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."
Thus it did not matter to whom John spoke he held high the standard of God, and made it mean something to follow the Lord.
4. Hear John's challenge to Herod (Luke 3:19-20 ). To Herod the tetrarch, John gave the same vital challenge to purity and fidelity to God and man. John reproved Herod for Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done.
Some one may say, Why be so hard on so great a man? We reply, Why make it easy for one man more than for another? With God there is no respect of persons. All stand or fall alike in His presence.
II. THE PART OF A WOMAN IN HEROD'S FATEFUL DECISION AGAINST CHRIST (Mark 6:19 )
1. The quarrel of Herodias. "Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not." Herodias had stiffened her neck and hardened her heart in her sin. She was determined to have her own way, at all costs.
2. The strategy of Herodias. A wicked woman will bide her time. Vengeance was in her heart, and what she could not do at once by sheer force, she would do by strategy and underhanded scheming. God had evidently given her up to the folly of her own sinful self.
When the ungodly sin against light, and press on to do evil, the Lord will send upon them strong delusions that they may believe a lie and be damned. They move on their way like a mute beast doomed to slaughter.
3. The dancing of Salome. This was the plan of Herodias. She would give a birthday party for Herod. She would congregate the highest estates of the land at her party. She would do the unusual and never-heard-of thing, and send forth her own daughter to dance before the assembled guests. She would make Herod dizzy with pride and glory; and then, when he, according to the custom of kings, should present in a royal way his pledge, "I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom," she would ask the head of John the Baptist in a charger. It all worked out as she had planned.
III. THE WEAKNESS OF A GREAT CHARACTER (Mark 6:26 )
1. No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Herod was, indeed, very near to receiving Christ in those days when he heard John, and heard him gladly, and did many things, and observed John. He was almost, but not altogether, persuaded. He came near, but did not enter in.
Is Herodias to be blamed altogether for Herod's placing John in prison? Is she alone to be blamed for Herod's order for John's beheading? She certainly was a party to it all. However, Herod himself was to blame for all that Herod did. He lacked that decisiveness of character which takes a stand against every wind that blows. He was too easily moved by others.
Yes, he did many things; but what were all his good things worth, when in the one vital thing he was a vacillating coward, and a worker of evil?
2. Are there others who have sold out to the devil? Let us not, nevertheless, be too harsh in our judgment of Herod. Many besides Herod have sold out to the devil. The truth is that thousands are fast nearing "eternal damnation" for the simple reason that there was one dominant sin in their lives that they would not give up.
An old gentleman told us that his prayers seemed to strike a stone wall. God would not hear him, nor answer his cry. At once we knew that there was some sin in his heart and life which he was unwilling to yield.
With Herod the sin was a woman; with you it may be something else. You say, "I want to be a Christian, but I cannot." The fact is you are unwilling to turn from some sin that grips you like a vise.
God says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord." It is then that the Lord will have mercy on him. Christ came to save us from our sins, not in or into them. When we come to the Cross, like "Christian" in The Pilgrim's Progress, we must leave our sins at its foot, and follow Jesus.
IV. A MARTYR TO THE WHIMS OF A WOMAN AND THE LUSTS OF A MAN (Mark 6:26-28 )
1. Should we keep an evil promise? There are some that would say that Herod, without knowing what would happen, promised Salome anything she wanted to the half of his kingdom, therefore had to keep his word. Thus you may argue, but you are wrong.
Herod should at once have faced the subtlety of Herodias and Salome with a positive, "Nay!" He should have faced the audience and said, "I have been tricked. I am unwilling to sacrifice the head of John the Baptist upon the intrigue and underhanded strategy of my wife."
2. Should we yield to the pressure of a crowd? It was for the sake of the ones at the feast that Herod kept an evil oath. Let us never do anything because of the crowd.
3. The head in a charger. We would not try to picture the gruesome scene. It is too filled with horror and shame. Think only of a great preacher and fearless defender of the truth, a martyr to the whims of an evil woman and a vacillating man.
There is a God in Heaven who will bring all such to judgment. He will avenge His elect on the one hand, and punish the wicked on the other.
There is a great contrast between Herod and John. Herod yielded his convictions and honor at the behest of a woman; John stood fearlessly for the right, and died rather than recant. Thank the Lord for men and for women who, with their blood, have been happy to pay the price of their devotion to truth, and to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
V. AN AWAKENED CONSCIENCE (Mark 6:14-16 )
1. "Be sure your sin will find you out." Did Herod get off easy in this life? We might, perhaps, have thought so, if it were not for the statement in Mark 6:14-16 .
Jesus Christ was working many mighty miracles. His words, too, were giving Him great fame. His words and deeds were the talk of the land. Some said that Elijah had come; some said that it was some prophet. In Herod's mansion the matter was discussed. Herod said, without hesitancy, that John the Baptist was risen from the dead. His court tried to dissuade him, saying the miracle worker was another; but Herod was firm; he said, "It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead." He knew he had slain innocent blood.
Yes, sin always finds us out. One may try to cover it, but one cannot.
2. "Son, remember." Our minds go to the rich man who died, and in hell lifted up his eyes being in torments. When he appealed to Abraham, across the great gulf, Abraham pronounced those vibrant words, that have rung down through the ages: "Son, remember." To a man, in the old days of Southern history, who had in a fit of anger slain his son, the judge said, "Your sentence is the memory of your deed." Whether his sentence was sufficient, you may decide. However, his conscience never had a moment's rest. He never forgot that last cry of his dying lad.
The only hope of relief is a present coming to the Blood of Christ which takes away our sin, and washes us and makes us whiter than snow.
VI. ASKING THE WICKED FOR GUIDANCE (Mark 6:24 )
There is a remarkable statement in this Mark 6:24 . It reads: "And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? and she said, The head of John the Baptist."
1. Let us observe the evil effect of a wicked mother. The mother works the weal or the woe of her children. If the mother is evil, how difficult it is for the children to be good.
It is for this reason that someone said, We should begin to train a child with its parents and grandparents, just so.
Here is a mother whose highest ambition is for her son or daughter to shine in a godless and world-centered society. She leads the way, the child follows on. God pity such a child in such a home.
2. Let us ask, Should anyone go to an evil person for advice in moral or spiritual crises? Certainly not. Can the unjust guide the pathway of the just? Can the sinner tell the saint how to act and how to choose? Can a Christian who is carnal, safely guide a Christian who desires to be spiritual?
We might go a bit deeper in this discussion. Can deacons who are worldly themselves, fitly lead a church of God in the ways of righteousness? Can a Sunday School teacher who dances and plays cards or smokes cigarettes, properly teach young boys or girls in the ways of the Lord?
We may even go deeper still. What about a preacher who loves the world, and bows to the worldly whims of his church leaders can such a man stand in the pulpit and tell the lost the way to life, or the saved the way to holiness?
3. Let us note how a girl followed her mother and became a joint murderer with her. What Salome a murderer! Certainly she was a murderer, and a murderer of the greatest man who had been born of woman. She gave the word that cut off his head. In that great assize shall she be guiltless?
Salome, her mother, and Herod shall stand forever with the blood of John the Baptist on their hands.
VII. TELLING THE LORD JESUS ALL ABOUT IT (Mark 6:30-31 )
1. The disciples came and told Jesus. That was just what they should have done. He is the One to whom we may take, and to whom we should take, our every care. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."
Let us practice telling Him all. Let the children at school, who are saved, early learn to go to the Lord Jesus with every problem. Tell it all to Him.
It is far best to go and ask the Saviour to help you, and to guide you, than to ask some Herodias her will.
Let the middle-aged, facing the issues of life and of business, take it all to the feet of the Master. Tell Him your home problems, your social problems, your business problems tell Him everything.
Let the aged, as they near the sun-setting of life, go to the One who says, "E'en down to old age will I carry you." Let them bring their burdens, fears, their loneliness, and their heart longings all to Him.
2. Jesus took them apart into a desert place, to rest awhile. He took them away from the crowds that thronged the streets, apart from contact with men, and hid them away in the desert with Himself.
When we are away from the commotion of the city, and out in the deserts, God has some chance of getting into our lives.
It was in the wilderness that God spoke to Israel.
It was in the wilderness that God spoke to Paul, and revealed Himself to Paul in the revelation concerning the Church.
It was in the wilderness, at the backside of the desert, God spoke first of all to Moses, as he turned aside to see the burning bush.
It was in the wilderness, as David fed the sheep that God first came to him with visions of God.
It was in the wilderness, shut up to God, that God appeared unto Jacob as he lay with his head pillowed on a stone.
Yet, not shut in alone,
The Lord is with you there,
He shows to you His face,
And carries all your care.
Shut in your lonely place,
His glories you explore,
You roam in realms of grace
With Him, whom you adore.
Herod's memory quickened his conscience and filled his heart with fear.
Man looks before and after, and has the terrible gift that by anticipation and memory he can prolong * * sadness. The proportion of solid matter needed to color the Irwell is very little in comparison with the whole of the stream. But the current carries it, and half an ounce will stain miles of the turbid stream. Memory and anticipation beat the metal thin, and make it cover an enormous space. And the misery is that, somehow, we have better memories for sad hours than for joyful ones; and it is easier to get accustomed to "blessings," as we call them, and to lose the poignancy of their sweetness because they become familiar, than it is to apply the same process to our sorrows, and thus to take the edge off them. The rose's prickles are left in the flesh longer than its fragrance lives in the nostrils, or its hue in the eye.* * So it comes to be a piece of very homely, well-worn, and yet always needful, practical counsel to try not to magnify and prolong grief, nor to minimize and abbreviate gladness. We can make our lives, to our own thinking, very much what we will. We cannot directly regulate our emotions, but we can regulate them, because it is in our own power to determine which aspect of our life we shall by preference contemplate. Alexander Maclaren.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Mark 6". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17