3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
It was Jesus who first declared that spiritual rebirth was an absolute necessity for entering the kingdom of God. He declared to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” The word “unless”, in Jesus teaching signals a necessary condition for seeing and entering the kingdom of God. “A New Birth”, is an essential part of Christianity. Without it, entrance into God’s kingdom is impossible.
What would you say if I were to ask you this afternoon, “Give one good reason why you should go to Heaven?” There would be a variety of answers. Some would say “I hope so.” Some would say, “I am trying,” or “I am doing the best I can!” Some would say, “Yes, because I have been baptized.” Others would say, “Yes, because I am a church member.” Or, I am not that bad, the good things I’ve done outweighs the bad. But according to what we have read, none of them would be right.
Now…if you are one of those people who doesn’t believe in God, or a place called heaven or hell, then you would have nothing to worry about in the here and now. You will just be surprised when you do stand before God one day, and He sends you to hell.
Since we are in church, and we all know each other, we are called believers/Christians, correct. So, how did we become believers/Christians? Is it by our choosing? Or, my whole family are Christians, therefore I am one. I do recall Jesus saying, “you did not choose Me, I chose you” (John 15:16) So… from our text, lets let Jesus explain, in His own words, how can we get to heaven?
The question, “Are you going to Heaven? And, if so, why?” It is without a doubt “the” most important question your mind can ever entertain. The reason that this is such an important question is obvious, there is only one alternative to heaven. That is hell, the place the Bible calls outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, where "the smoke of their torment ascends up forever, and they have no rest day or night." And there is nothing in between. It is Heaven or it is Hell. God says in His Word that all men and women must appear before Him. Then they shall be divided as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats, one into everlasting punishment, and the other into everlasting glory.
In this text, a man approaches Jesus late one night. His name is Nicodemus and he comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness to ask that question. In verse we read, “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council”.
In order to understand this story, we need to notice three things about this man named Nicodemus.
First… besides his name, the text reveals that he was a “Pharisee.” If you know anything about the Scriptures you probably have a negative view of the Pharisees. You may think that all Pharisees were legalistic hypocrites, but that is not true at all. In the days of Jesus the Pharisees were a very much respected group, known for their knowledge of the Old Testament and their keeping of the law. The Pharisees were the theological conservatives of their day, compared to our time, they would be seminarians/ with a doctorate degree. This was such a demanding life that only a few thousand were ever willing to make the commitment.
Secondly, note also that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but he was also one of the most important religious teachers of his day. He is also called a “ruler of the Jews.” As mentioned in chapter 7 of the book of John. We can also conclude with some confidence that Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish legal court in the land. This was a select group of seventy men who served as the highest Jewish court in the land, much like our present day Supreme Court Justices. So…Nicodemus was no ordinary man.
Third, it is also important to note that in verse 10, that Jesus refers to him as “the teacher of Israel.” 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? The meaning seems to be that Nicodemus was probably the most popular religious teacher of Judaism at the time.
This man was a very important- well educated man. One thing that I like about this story is that,
As smart, and as religious Nicodemus was, he still did not have all the answers when it comes to spiritual matters. If you want one word that would describe Nicodemus, it would be this, He was good! He was very good! But he still had this nagging question that his religion could not seem to answer. So, he comes to Jesus to ask his question. I can imagine Nicodemus watching from the shadows as Jesus did His work - preaching and teaching and healing. And as he watched, Nicodemus saw something in Jesus that all his religious rule keeping hadn’t been able to provide. He saw LIFE! It was as if God was pouring out life through Jesus. So, he comes to Jesus to ask his questions, because he senses that Jesus has the truth from God.
Not to add anything in this story, but sometimes I wonder if Nicodemus wanted to know…with all the good works he has done, as obedient as he was in his standards, if he really wanted to know, if he could go to heaven?
Basically asking… “Jesus, is my goodness, good enough to get me into Heaven? Is my goodness good enough to make me acceptable to a Holy God? Is my goodness good enough to get me in?” Let’s be honest here, we all, at one point, maybe even now, still have that question in mind. Am I really saved? Am I really going to heaven?
When it comes to getting into Heaven, it doesn’t matter how many good works we are able to perform. It doesn’t matter how much money we give to Christian causes, how many church services we attend, how many quiet times we have, how many underprivileged kids we support who are in need.
No one gets to Heaven by being a “good person”! Nicodemus had devoted his life to being good, trying to live up to the standards his religion said he had to meet in order to please God and to win a place in Heaven. And he did it relatively well, better than most. He was a very good person. And he comes to Jesus pointing at his goodness asking, “Is it good enough?” And Jesus says, with compassion: “NO... No one can get to heaven by being good because no one can ever be good enough!
10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Ok, lets go Old Testament since Nicodemus is an Old testament teacher.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.2 God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
With that being said, we all really, need “A New Birth”. But…is that something that we can do on our own? Do we have that power to be “born again”. Can we, in our strength, by our choosing, go to heaven? Lets continue, and seek the answer from the Lord.
Three things About Being Born Again: Lets imagine, we’re Nicodemus, and we’re asking Jesus this question. Let’s basically put ourselves in Nicodemus shoes.
First, Jesus Tells Nicodemus the Necessity of Being Born Again (3:3)
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
We would have to say that Nicodemus is the “cream of the Jewish crop.” He is a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a highly respected teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures. Can you imagine being Nicodemus and being told by Jesus that all of this is not enough to get you into Heaven? Yet that is precisely what Jesus tells him! With one sentence Jesus sweeps away everything that Nicodemus stood for, and demands that he be re-made by the power of God. Jesus is turning this man’s world upside down.
Nicodemus has never heard such a thing before, all his life he has understood that one gets to Heaven by keeping God’s law. This means that everything that Nicodemus has done in his life to this point means absolutely nothing. Jesus tells this remarkably good man, "If you want to get to Heaven, if you want a relationship with God that begins now and lasts forever then you must go about it in a totally different way, you will have to be born again...” In other words, Jesus is saying, “You can’t do it, Nicodemus, but God can! He can transform you from the inside out and make you good enough! And he wants to do that for you.
To understand we need to focus first, on the key phrase “born again.” The Greek adverb (anothen) translated here as “again” has a double meaning, it can either mean “again” or “above.”
(ANOTHEN) Greek adverb, translated as “again” or “above”. ( POWERPOINT )
In this case, both meanings apply, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that the only way to find what he is looking for is to be born again from above. Not only does Jesus tell Nicodemus About the Necessity of Being Born Again but ….
Secondly, Jesus Tells Nicodemus the Non-Negotiables of Being Born Again (3:4-7)
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Nicodemus’ Response is given in verse four. “Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Nicodemus’ response is a little surprising, in that Jesus quite obviously was not referring to a second physical birth. After all, if we have no control or power over our physical birth, on how we were born, how can we possibly get, be born again?
Nicodemus is plainly asking, “is it possible to enter a second time into my mother’s womb to be born again?” or is Nicodemus now starting to understand…wistful thinking, “Is it really possible for a man to begin again?” Another chance, starting over, a chance for a new life, if it were only possible! Yet that is exactly what Jesus is saying!
In our day and age the term “born again” has been nearly stripped of its true meaning, the words have been tossed about, so but that they can mean anything or nothing. In our day, being born again is mans decision, and not Gods. That’s why its good to go straight to Jesus and get the answer that we need.
Verse five which says, “5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit”. has often been misinterpreted. To quote one of the old commentaries on this subject, “Certainly Jesus was not saying that baptism was necessary to salvation. Baptism is an outward thing and conversion is an inner thing of the heart. A man … can be baptized many times but that water will not wash away a single sin nor admit him to heaven. If baptism is necessary to salvation, no one was saved before John the Baptist because baptism was not mentioned in the Old Testament….
Please don’t get me wrong, am I minimizing the importance of baptism? Not at all, I am simply saying that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. But baptism has everything to do with your obedience.
So what did Jesus mean by being “born of water and of the Spirit?” Throughout the New Testament, the term “water” is used to indicate the Word of God. For example…
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
How is anyone saved? Understand this if you are saved, review your salvation. How did you get saved? Was it not because the word of God got a hold of you?
1 Peter 1:23-25
23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
In verse seven Jesus says to Nicodemus…
7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Being Born Again Is Not An Option!!!
We need to also note the use of the strong word “must.” Jesus is not saying that being born again is just a good idea for some people. It is not just something Jesus is recommending, it is an imperative. Jesus Not Only Tells Nicodemus the Non-Negotiables of Being Born Again but …..
Thirdly, Jesus tells Nicodemus the nature of being born again, is a mystery (3:8-13)
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
In verse eight Jesus gives Nicodemus an example of the mystery of the new birth by comparing it to the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We accept all kinds of earthly mysteries by faith, and we believe it, If we are able to believe things we don’t completely understand on earth, why are we not willing to accept heavenly truths by faith? Especially when it comes from the words of God.
Nicodemus asks once again in verse nine, “How can these things be?” Jesus counters by saying it is not a question of understanding but a question of belief. In verse ten Jesus said to Nicodemus, 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that He (that is Jesus) alone can convey what Heaven is like, for He alone has been to Heaven and returned. Jesus, is “The Way, The Truth, And The Life, no comes to the Father except through Me.” Believe Me Nicodemus, I’ve been there! Believe Me church, that is Jesus, I’ve been there!
It ultimately becomes a matter of belief, Jesus is asking, “Nicodemus are you ready to place your faith and trust in Me!” Did Nicodemus ever get saved? I think he did! Why?
Nicodemus stood up for Jesus before the Sanhedrin, its like their Supreme Court.
45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” 46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
And Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathaea, bury the body of Jesus after the crucifixion…
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
You see, anyone who has been called by God, chosen by God as gift to His Son, been born again…a new creation, that new life in Jesus will never be the same again. That is why Jesus explicitly commands, “you must be born again”. If you are not, then you are still dead in your sins, and are in need of the Savior! Cry out for Jesus if you’re not sure. Cry out to God to save through His Son. If you are here today, then you have heard Him speak, you have seen the words of God in our powerpoint. Cry out to your Savior!!!
Let me close with one final thought, “Wouldn’t be terrible to wake up one morning, to find yourself standing before Jesus and find out that you had missed heaven by eighteen inches?” Perhaps you can say, “How is it possible to miss Heaven by eighteen inches?” Well it is possible to miss Heaven by eighteen inches because that is the approximate distance from the head to the heart. What does it mean to have a ‘heart” knowledge rather just a “head” knowledge of Jesus? To have a heart knowledge is to have a saving relationship, a heart of gratitude, rather than simply having religion. Having a head knowledge about Jesus will not save you. You can know all facts and still not be saved. You can know all there is to know about Jesus and still not know the real Him at all. It would a sad time for a claiming Christian to stand before Jesus and instead of a welcome Jesus says those scary words, “away from Me, I never knew you”.
Just with those scary words from Jesus, is enough to convince me that being saved, being born again, is all of Gods work. Man has no claim in the matter outside of being obedient.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Well…it is 2018, a new year, a new beginning. 2017 has been a good year…for the Fil-am Church, and also as an individual. Sure, we all had our share of good times…and not so good times. We’ve all gone through some sins that we wished we never did. Went through some trials that tried our faith. Let’s face it, we have faced challenges, trials, made some mistakes along the way, but they all came with a fruitful lesson. We learn from all of them. Which will make us stronger, and wiser to face any future events.
It would be good to evaluate what our desires are for the year. What are the priorities that we have or will establish for ourselves in this new year?
Priority has as its root the word, prior. It is that which comes before anything else, or is ahead of anything else. It takes precedence. As John MacArthur says, “It is then what is supreme, what is essential, what is foundational, what is preeminent, what is antecedent to everything that follows. So, when you talk about priority, you're really saying what in my life comes before anything else? What is before anything else and everything else?
Therefore, the question remains what am I going to make as the focus or priority of my life? Christ told us in Matthew 6:33 to “... seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...” Will our priorities be eternal or based on the temporary things of this world?
At times, we tend to focus on the wrong things. Especially when thing are going well in life. We tend to push God aside, and turn only to Him when we need to.
Jesus tells us that we cannot have a divided allegiance. This just doesn’t work. Christ points this out saying in scripture… “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer Live, but Christ lives in me”. Which brings us to the topic of this message, “The Lord Jesus Is My Master”.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
After saying this, Christ, then, addresses the result of placing the material as the priority of one’s life instead of Christ. And not just material stuff, sin can also be your master.
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
So… it is clear, that we can be slaves to whatever holds us captive. Material things, money, hobbies, lifestyle, sin, all of these can be our master. Distraction is the nemesis of focus. We are constantly tempted to pull away from a consistent focus on Christ. As a result, we often find ourselves being tossed to and fro by the concerns of life.
When our focus is taken off Christ, we move Christ off the throne of our hearts and make idols of things we desire and ultimately make idols of ourselves. We need to realize that the heart is bent on keeping the focus on self and what we want or desire rather than Christ or His will. We find ourselves placing our trust in self and what we want rather than in Christ and what He wants. Remember what Jesus said, “if you love Me, keep my commands”. (John 14:15)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other...”
The world has a single eye with only one focus. They give it everything they got. They run after it. The focus of most people is, make as much money as you can, enjoy life as much as you can. Keep as much as you can for yourself. Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with saving money for a rainy day, as they say. But that cannot be the main focus in life.
For example, I read this from a devotional, a testimony from Frank Sinatra’s daughter…
Tina, recalls her father’s unceasing drive to succeed and make money even when his health was at risk. He refused to stop giving concerts. ‘I’ve just got to earn more money’ he said. His performances sad to say were becoming more and more uneven. At one show he forgot the lyrics to “Second-Time Around”, a ballad he had sung a thousand times. His adoring audience finished it for him. He wanted to retire at the top of his game and I always thought he would know when this time came but pushing eighty, he lost track of when it was time to quit. After seeing one too many of these fiascos, I told him ‘Pa you can stop now, you don’t have to stay on the road.’ With a stricken expression on his face he said ‘no, I’ve got to earn more money.’
These are lusts of the flesh, and are all sin! Anything that takes the focus foo Christ is sin. These things are your master! So…who should it be? The lusts of the flesh, which can only bring a temporary fulfillment. Or, Jesus…Whom will be with you now and forever?
The believer is to have a single eye; but the focus is to be a heavenly focus not an earthly…
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Remember the do not worry verses? “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, drink, clothes, where you will live”. God has already promised to provide all these things, and His only command is to seek His kingdom first!!! Put Jesus First. He will take care of the rest. We can only find contentment and the “peace that passes understanding” when we turn from our own desires, denying self, to seeking that which God desires in our lives. That means to trust God with everything in our lives. PUT JESUS FIRST!!!
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Remember what I said earlier? At times we tend to push Jesus aside when things are going well, and turn only to Him when we need to. “Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ No matter what your need is, God knows. And He will answer in His own way and in His own time. Therefore, focus on Him. “The Lord Jesus Is My Master”.
We just really need to tune our head, clear our mindset that our God is knows all things. He is in control of all things. There may be times in this coming year, when faced with difficulties or struggles, you and I might be tempted to focus our thoughts too much on our circumstances. When that happens, there is a tendency to become bitter or to begin questioning God.
Keep in mind 2017 is done. We had a whole year of life lessons learned from the Lord that we can use to be equipped for 2018. Eyes fixed on Jesus last year, we made it this far. Eyes fixed on Jesus still, from this day on to eternity.
There are no accidents with God. Tony Evans tells this story. (Pastor/writer) “Our God is sovereign”. That means there’s no such thing as luck. Anything that happens to you, good or bad, must pass through His fingers first. There are no accidents with God. I like the story of the cowboy who applied for health insurance. The agent routinely asked him, ‘Have you ever had any accidents?’ The cowboy replied, ‘Well no, I’ve not had any accidents. I was bitten by a rattlesnake once, and a horse did kick me in the ribs. That laid me up for a while, but I haven’t had any accidents.’ The agent said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m confused. A rattlesnake bit you, and a horse kicked you, Weren’t those accidents?’ ‘No, they did that on purpose.”
We do not expect to understand fully the purpose for our trials until our Lord calls us home to be with Him. But we do know that He loves us too much to harm us, and that He is far more concerned with our welfare than we are. God's choices are always right.
“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.” - John MacArthur
There are practical steps on how we can keep our fixed on Jesus.
One…Know that He is your Master, your Lord, Your Savior. If you have come to that reality, if you have accepted that in your heart, then you will never focus on anything else.
Two…Commit to reading Gods words daily. Having a good prayer life is a good way to talk to God. But that will only be you speaking. By reading Gods words, you will actually hear Him speak.
2 Peter 1:3-4
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
In the Bible alone, God has given us all things that are necessary for the proper understanding of who God is, who we are, how God has acted in the past, and what God expects from us, here and now.
Third…know the power of sin, and the temptations around you and keep yourselves from falling into that trap. It’s a hard battle, I know. But one that can be defeated.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul encourages us to imagine that we actually bring our bodies to God each day. Lay them on the altar before His presence, and ask Him to use this “sacrifice” for His glory. You see…God does not ask us to sin less, but to depend on His Spirit to be transformed into the people who loves to please God through willing obedience.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Commit your life to Jesus and allow Him to rearrange your priorities. “God is a jealous God, Who’s name is jealous”. Jesus…CANNOT, be second in the believers life.
24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
As we come to this passage on Mark, we see a mother with a desperate need. Just like any mother, when it comes to your children/child, you always want to be there for them. When they are sick or going through some circumstance in life, you would want to help your child as much as you can. As we can see from our story, how does this… Syro-Phonician woman, (Canaanite/Gentile) help her daughter with an unclean spirit living inside her? Basically, being possessed by a demon.
She faced a tremendous need and was determined to get to Jesus to receive the help she desperately needed. She was content to receive the crumbs that fell from the Lord’s table.
While our circumstances may be much different today, no doubt we have all faced a great need at some point in our lives. We have been confronted by a situation that was beyond our ability to resolve.
During these situations, we need to come in faith as the woman in our text. When we lack the ability, and are unsure of what to do, Jesus can provide for our need. Jesus possesses great power, and cares for those that are His. He is more than able to provide for you and I. With these thoughts in mind, I want us to examine the challenges this woman faced. Many think, that her problem was only for her daughter. Let us examine…shall we.
This mother from our story, had a request. Jesus departed into the area around Tyre and Sidon, apparently seeking some rest and solitude, V.24. Although Jesus desired to remain hidden, it didn’t take long for word to spread that He was in the area. He is quickly approached by a mother in desperate need.
For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Jesus, and came and fell at His feet. The text doesn’t reveal how long she had been in this desperate situation, but the mother recognized the great need. Clearly… she had no control over this unclean spirit… after all, how could she? She has heard of Jesus, and knew that He alone can help.
Often these spirits were difficult to cast out. While Jesus had no problem with them, the disciples faced difficulty at times with unclean spirits. Following an encounter when they were unable to cast a spirit out of a young boy, they questioned Jesus about the difficulty, and He revealed the solution. Mark 9:29 – And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. We all face situations in our lives that require the Lord’s power and provision. This mother knew in heart, that Jesus was the only one that can help her, & her daughter.
This is an important aspect of faith that is often overlooked and neglected. Some view the Lord as their personal “genie in a bottle.” They assume that He is waiting for them to rub the bottle, so He can appear and meet whatever request they have. While I am thankful for the Lord’s care and provision in our lives, I am also aware of His deity and my need to worship Him. Every prayer, and every request we make of Him, should be approached by a time of worship and adoration!
Now… is where her difficulty lies. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation. We are not given the woman’s name, but she is identified by her race and nationality. She was a Greek. She was not a Jew, but of a Canaanite descent. While the Jews may have tolerated her existence within the city, she would not have been welcomed or wanted among the Synagogues or within their fellowship, she was an outcast to the Jews. The Canaanites had rejected Jehovah in the Old Testament, and continued to live in rebellion and idolatry. She was not welcomed among the Jews because of her identity.
So…if you think about it, how is she going to approach Jesus with her problem, when the Jews would have nothing to do with her? As I thought of her difficulty, I was reminded that each of us were in a similar situation at one point. We were all born into a condemned race through Adam. We were born in sin, separated from God, and without hope. We lived according to the lusts of the flesh, having no desire for the Lord. Apart from Him we were hopeless and alone.
There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
So, at one point, you and I, could not approach God either. No different than the mother in our story. But she was desperate, we were desperate. She did not care that she was a Greek woman, she needs help. You and I, we need that same desperate feeling… that same desperate need of Jesus everyday.
Although she was a Canaanite, she came to Jesus in faith, desiring for Jesus to cast the unclean spirit out of her daughter. She needed a miracle and believed that Jesus had the power to provide for her need. If you notice her desperation…she did not just asked Jesus once…
The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
She kept on begging and begging Jesus to heal her daughter…to deliver her daughter. If we are all being honest, I am sure that at one point or another, we too were in a desperate need for Jesus to do the impossible.
This passage is a beautiful picture of grace. One deemed unworthy came before the Lord, passionately seeking His touch. Like this woman, we must be people of faith, willing to continually bring our needs before the Lord. Often, we face situations that require prolonged, persistent prayer. We cannot give up on our loved ones or the different needs we face. We must be willing to continue… seeking the Lord to meet our need.
Initially the mother did not receive the response she would have liked, but she persisted in her petition and faith. Notice if you will…
27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
“Let the children be filled first”, Meaning the children of Israel. Although in Gentile territory, Jesus remains His priority towards the children of Israel. On the surface this response seems harsh and somewhat out of character for our Lord. However, as we study Scripture and seek to understand this statement, we discover that Jesus was never harsh with those who came to Him in genuine faith. This was not a statement of rejection, but rather of conviction and revelation. The woman recognized Jesus as a man of great power, being willing to humble herself before Him.
She may have even believed that He was the promised Messiah. It appears that Jesus is seeking to lead her forward in faith, not only recognizing that He was the Christ, but that He was the Savior for all, including her. Clearly Jesus had come to the house of Israel, but He would not reject those of genuine faith. He sought to increase her faith, and for her to embrace Him as Lord. If she was to receive her request, she had to believe.
The second part of His response seems even harsher, “for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” But again, that was never Jesus’ intention. He is seeking to bring her to faith in Him. It would not be right to take the bread of the Gospel and carelessly cast it out to those who had no desire to serve the Lord or embrace Him as the Christ. Salvation is a work of grace through faith. All would not receive Him as the Christ, and He had no desire to carelessly deal with those, much like the Pharisees, who lacked faith and rejected His deity.
Let’s look at her response… “And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
This desperate mother had come in faith, and she was committed to receiving her petition. As Jesus spoke of giving the children’s bread unto the dogs, (Israel’s salvation) she declared that even the dogs are allowed to have the crumbs that fell from the table. She was desperate with just receiving little crumbs, if she could. She knew the Lord had the ability to meet her need, and she desired to receive even the smallest portion of His grace. Her faith in the Lord realized that even the smallest touch from the Him would be sufficient.
While this woman was a Canaanite, her faith stands as a model for all. She knew the problem she faced was not beyond the Lord’s ability to handle. We need that type of faith today. We must trust the Lord to meet every need we have. Like her, we must recognize His power. He is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond anything we could ask or think. His power is beyond our ability to comprehend, and even the smallest touch in our lives is more than enough.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Was her request granted by our Lord? After bringing her request to Jesus, and remaining persistent in faith, Jesus provided for her need….
29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
Her commitment to the Lord by faith compelled Jesus to grant her request. In the same story written in the book of Matthew…
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
A Canaanite woman came with great faith and Jesus granted her request. Her faith was essential, and it brought the result she desired.
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of faith in our lives. Faith is essential for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is essential to maintain our fellowship with the Lord. We will never be able to continue in our Christian journey apart from faith. Faith is also essential as we come before the Lord in prayer. As we pray, we must believe that Jesus can and will meet our needs.
This Canaanite woman had come to Jesus in faith, and He did not disappoint her. She returned home with the promise that her daughter would be delivered, and when she got there the unclean spirit had departed from her. Faith brought her to Jesus, faith sustained her through the trial, and faith brought deliverance.
Passages such as these offer great encouragement as we are reminded of the power and ability of our Lord. We all face varied difficulties in life. Maybe you have prayed many prayers of faith and have yet to receive the answer you desired. We must remember that the woman had to remain persistent in the faith. The initial response from Jesus did not promise healing, but she persisted. While Our Lord Jesus, doesn’t always answer in the time or manner we hoped, we too must remain committed to the Lord and depend on Him to meet our need in His time and according to His will. He knows what we need, and He has the ability to provide!
I don’t know what you are facing today, but I am certain that Jesus is aware of your need. If you are struggling in life, desperate for His touch, come to Him in a prayer of faith. Trust Him to meet your need according to His divine will.
If you are unsaved, or unsure of your salvation, there is hope for you in this passage as well. A Canaanite woman came in faith and was received by Christ. He will do the same for you if you will come to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus can save you from sin, can save you from whatever situation you’re in, but you have to believe solely in Him. Only He can do the impossible in your life.
John 6:37-39 (NIV)
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
One Christmas afternoon, a little 5 year old girl named Ruth visited a church. The Pastor went over to say hello, and to welcome her. The Pastor asked the little girl, “so…did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, "No… but then it’s not my birthday!"
Isn’t it easy to get so wrapped up in the celebration that we forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating? The world does that. It has become politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas- they want is to say Happy Holidays or Merry X-mas. We have the Jewish day of Hannakuh, or the African celebration of Kwanzza to compete for the place that belongs to the Son of God. But even without buying into the world’s ways, one can easily forget what Christmas is all about by forgetting Jesus.
This is one of the most wonderful time of the year…today it’s Christmas Eve and many are waiting with anticipation to see what gifts we will get. Many are wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper, decorated with bows, and pretty ribbons.
One very special night, the world received to most precious Gift. A Gift that we can unwrap everyday for all eternity. “The Gift Of A Lifetime”.
I want us all to see that on that day…when baby Jesus came…He gave us all…an instant Gift.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Because of the birth of this baby…because of the life that now existed in Him…we all can received the gift of life, the gift of hope, the gift of forgiveness, most of all, the gift of eternity.
21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Having received the most precious gift…and that is our Lord Jesus, we have received the gift that will take a lifetime to unwrap. When Jesus was born that day in Bethlehem, it was just the beginning of the gift unwrapping.
You see…Jesus came wrapped in swaddling clothes…a gift for us all to know, to receive and to unwrap, and not just once, but everyday for the rest of our lives.
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Just when we think we have unwrapped all we can…like the last present on Christmas…God allows you and I, to unwrap a little more of His wonderful Gift everyday, like…
The gifts like peace, joy, love, faith, kindness, gentleness, meekness, understanding, application, revelation, tribulation, and on and on. Having the Gift that was wrapped in swaddling clothes, comes with an enormous value…
2 Corinthians 9:15
15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Who can begin to put a price on the gift that God has given us through His Son Jesus? The Shepherds realized what an enormous gift they had been given.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
The wise men understood as they tried to bring gifts to present to a King, but they knew that His life was worth much more than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But this is all they could come up with, this was that they could give to the King.
What gift can compare to never dying, never suffering, crying, feeling pain, but to live eternally in a place called paradise? This is indescribable at best, and it is of enormous value…it was the greatest Gift ever given. It was given to each and everyone of us FREELY…it costs us nothing. The Gift was from God…and the life of His One and Only Son.
Many time’s when we get things that are precious to us…that are of enormous value, we want to keep it for ourselves. But... that’s not what Jesus wants us to do…He doesn’t want us to keep it, He wants us to give it away. I know its wrong to brag about the gifts that we receive, but believe me when I say this, brag about…tell everyone about “The Gift Of A Lifetime”.
This gift that we have been given that takes a lifetime to unwrap was meant for us to give to others. It is not just our gift, but a gift for all to receive. The Shepherds in the field realized that…look at vs. 17-18…
Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
This time of Christmas is a time to give the most precious, indescribable gift ever given…to spread the word of what you have been given, and been told about this Child. Let everyone around you see Jesus in you.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
They realized that they’re life would never be the same again from that day forward. Such is the same response to all who embrace the gift of the Christ-child.
Before I received this precious Gift…I walked this earth alone…forsaken…without hope, and without life. But after receiving this Gift…Jesus walks with me everyday…I will never be alone.
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Because a Baby named Jesus was born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, born to do the will of God…to be the perfect Gift for all who believe. We have received “The Gift Of A Lifetime”. Yes…this gift that takes a lifetime to unwrap, enriches every life that receives it.
I know many of us can’t wait to unwrap those gifts that await us when we get home. But I want to remind us all that the unwrapping of the most precious gift of all is not just to be unwrapped once on Christmas day. It is a gift that is meant to be unwrapped everyday…for the rest of our lives.
Church…As we unwrap that Gift we all can see that it is…A Gift that is instantly ours when we receive it. A Gift that takes a lifetime of unwrapping. A Gift that’s of Enormous value. A Gift that is to be given away. A Gift that enriches every life that receives it.
My family and I, greet all of you a very Merry Christmas….
Pastor Richard Santos
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