GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 10
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Three truths about the kingdom of God, revealed in four parables.|
Uncovering the Kingdom
The title of the message this morning is this: Uncovering the Kingdom. And this morning we’re going to discuss three aspects from the kingdom in the Word of God and I’m going to show you three characteristics. First of all, we’re going to study how believers respond to the gospel; secondly, we’re going to show how the word works in the life of believers; and, thirdly, we’re going to see how the kingdom advances so that you and I will be encouraged this morning to faithfully serve the Lord—get this—in any and every circumstance in life. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 4.
There are four parables in the fourth chapter of Mark. Let’s go to the end and then we’ll pick back up with verse 21. But let’s start in verse 33 and I want to show you why Jesus spoke in parables. “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear.”
Now, if you haven’t figured it out by now, the key word in this whole chapter is what? Hear. You’ll see that. Verse 34, “He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” So this is the major shift in Jesus’ ministry. From this point on, he has separated the insiders from the outsiders. He speaks in parables and this is what he does. He rallies the troupes and he says, “Okay, this is what the parables mean.”
Go back to verse 21. Let’s study the three. “And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?’” And the answer is no. “For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’”
Three characteristics. Write the first one down. I want you to see in the text this: The messenger of the kingdom. And this is basically how believers will respond to the gospel, how believers will respond to the kingdom. Remember the parable of the sower: three unbelievers, one believer. Then Jesus says now that you are a believer, this is what you will do in the kingdom, and he talks about a lamp. Now the lamp’s interesting. In the first century there was a big clay bowl that they would use to light houses. The purpose of lighting a lamp is for the lamp to be seen by the house. Now, Mark shows us something amazing in the Greek. You miss it in the English. But in the ESV it says “a lamp is light.” But that’s not what Mark is saying. That’s not what Jesus is saying in the Greek. In the Greek, there’s the definite article “the.” And what Mark’s trying to show us is this. It’s “the lamp” not “a lamp” but “the lamp.”
Now in the Old Testament it’s pretty interesting. A lamp could be three things. First of all, it can be used to describe God. A lamp was used to describe the Torah. And a lamp was used to describe the Messiah. Is it any wonder to you that Jesus is actually saying it’s not just a lamp that’s going to shine, it’s what? The Lamp. Who’s the lamp of God? It’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus shows us this all throughout scripture. John 1, the Apostle John showed us this in verse 5 when he said these words: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.” Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world.” Right? “Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” This is what Jesus is saying. Even though the kingdom of God is concealed right now, disciples, it’s going to grow and manifest itself where everyone will the kingdom of God, namely because they will understand me and they will see God’s kingdom growing.
Now the question is this: how is that going to happen? Look in the text. He says it. “For nothing is hidden,” verse 22, “except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him [what?] hear.” In case you missed it, he says it again. “Pay attention to what you hear.”
Three times in two verses Jesus uses the word “hear.” Circle that. Hear. Let him have ears to hear. Circle that. Let him have ears to hear. Pay attention to what you hear. See, in the Bible hearing leads to doing, right? You don’t just hear, you heed. You don’t just listen, you do.
Let me show it to you in the Old Testament. Go to Deuteronomy 4:1. God’s speaking to the people. Listen to what he says here. “Hear now, O Israel,” circle it. “Hear now, O Israel the decrees and laws I am about to teach you.” Okay, God. What do you want me to do with the laws? Look at it. “Follow them so that you may live.” What’s he’s saying is hear and do. Go to chapter 5 verse 1. “Moses summoned all Israel and said [to them]: Hear, O Israel [circle it again] the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to [what?] follow them.
Do you see it? There’s always a connection in the Bible to hearing and to doing. Now, here’s an encouraging note for us. Jesus promises that if you hear and do, he will bless you. Not with monetary blessings or financial blessings, He will bless you with more understanding. Go back to Mark 4. This is a great promise. Many people have tried to misinterpret this text to talk about money but that’s not what Jesus is talking about. Look what he says here. “Pay attention to what you hear [that’s the key word]: with the measure you use [to hear], it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
This is what Jesus is saying. It means it’s not something you do, it’s something done to you. And so what God’s saying is this. When you listen and hear and understand the things of God, God will divinely give you more understanding. God will measure it out to you. That word “measured” is the idea to take a calculated amount and credit to your account. How cool is that? So God says when you hear and understand, I’m going to give you more. So for the person in here this morning that is faithfully pursing God, God said be encouraged today. I’m going to give you more and I’m going to give you more and I’m going to teach you more and you’re going to understand more and the doctrines of the faith are going to come to light and the scales off your eyes are going to be opened and you’re going to understand more.
But for the one who’s casual in their understanding, the one who’s flippant in their learning, guess what God says. Not only are you not going to learn more, but I’m going to take away. You’re not going to get anything. Many people try to misapply and misinterpret this verse to talk about money. Just give God more money and he’ll give you more back. Just sow a seed into our ministry, right? Just give money to me. You see, this misuse. Now, God does bless when we give to him. That’s the truth. Every time I’ve ever given anything to the Lord, whether it be time, talents, or treasure, God’s always given it back to me. But that’s not what this verse is saying. Jesus is saying, “Listen, your job as a believer is to hear, understand, and reflect.”
But notice this. Not only do we become messengers of the kingdom, Jesus teaches us about the message of the kingdom, how the word works. Look at the next parable. Verse 26. “And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and [he] rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; [but] he knows not how.’”
And that’s what Jesus says. It’s the gospel, it’s the kingdom of God that will grow not by man’s own merit, man’s own favor, man’s own ability. The gospel and the kingdom will expand because of who? God. God is the one who expands it. See, the growth of a seed is unexplainable. I mean, within 10 hours the seed will begin to decompose. The moisture will be sucked into that seed and the husk will break open. Within 24 hours, that seed will start to grow a little root and the sprout will begin to grow up and many people don’t understand how it works. But God is showing us in this text. Jesus is saying the kingdom of God is the same way. Jesus said, “Listen, you’re not called to save people. You’re called to…” what? Sow seed.
Now this is odd. I mean, think about it. You’re Jesus Christ, just imagine, and you’re trying to explain the kingdom to the disciples. I mean, imagine if you were in the audience that day. I mean, Jesus is about to explain the greatest kingdom in the world. You would think he would talk about a king reigning on a throne. Maybe he’d choose a mighty warrior to talk about the kingdom of God. Think about it. I mean, “Jesus, why didn’t you choose the stars in the universe? ‘Disciples, look at those stars. That’s what the kingdom’s like.’” Or maybe Jesus would bring them up to one of the highest mountains and say, “Look at the landscape. That’s the kingdom.” “Jesus, why are you talking about a seed?” I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would Jesus, of all the illustrations in the world, choose a seed?
Because Jesus is teaching us something interesting. Although the seed is inconspicuous, although the seed is small, the kingdom starts small but—get this—it’s going to grow. And the kingdom’s going to grow not because of what you’re going to do, the kingdom is going to grow because of what God will do through you. This is the paradox of the incarnation. Think about it. I mean, think about it. The king of the universe, the heir to the throne of God, Jesus Christ, leaves the ivory palaces of heaven, wraps himself in human flesh, comes down to the earth to be born in a crude cattle shed as a baby. Think about it. He leaves rulership for servanthood. That’s the paradox of the kingdom. Jesus says it’s inconspicuous, it’s small but one day—don’t miss this—it will be great.
Now this is encouraging to us. Because the farmer basically does this. He goes into the field, he sows the seed, and then he sleeps, right? He knows that he can’t do anything to make that seed grow.
When I was home this week on vacation, I was sick for a couple of days and I was forced to watch TV. I don’t watch a lot of TV but when you’re on vacation sick, you do what? Watch a lot of TV. So I was watching and I happened to catch a History Channel special on the history of the infomercial. Suzanne Somers with the thigh-o-matic. Remember that thing? Any ladies bought that before? Don’t raise your hand. But you remember Suzanne Somers. The late Billy Mays. You remember Billy Mays. And they even found a guy named Ronald Popiel. Does anybody remember Ronald Popiel? He invented and sold the Veg-O-Matic. He invented and sold the Chop-O-Matic. And my personal favorite, the Mr. Microphone. You remember that? Where you had this microphone that would connect to a radio station that wasn’t used and you could sing through the mic. But he didn’t become famous and he didn’t gain notoriety until he invented the Showtime Rotisserie. You remember that thing? Now you don’t remember the Showtime Rotisserie but I’ll be you remember the saying. He’d say, “You take this chicken, you put it into the machine, and you set it and forget it.” You remember that? Set it and forget it.
I think if the Lord Jesus Christ was teaching, he would say, “Sow it and forget it.” Right? That’s what he would say. He would say you can’t do anything in and of yourself to advance the kingdom. It’s all the work of God. Now that’s encouraging for us. I mean, think about it. You don’t have to be discouraged when people don’t come to the Lord because it’s not based on you.
Now this was encouraging to me. It was eye-opening to men. When I was a new believer, I got influenced by the teachings of Charles Finney, the great revivalist. And while Finney did a lot of good, he had a fatal flaw in his foundation of doctrine. And this is what Finney’s fatal flaw was. Finney believed that man had to save himself by choosing God, and he believed that the preacher, it was his responsibility to save man. Now, when I studied that as an itinerant preacher, you can imagine on the road, I would get discouraged when people wouldn’t respond. And so I would preach these events and when people would respond and choose Christ, guess what I would do at the end of the day? Boy, you preached a great sermon today pastor. Right? And then the flipside is when nobody responded and nobody came, guess what I would do? I’d be down. Play it again! We’re going to play it again until somebody comes. We’re going to play it again until somebody comes. And when nobody would come, I would be burdened. Imagine the weight of the burden I carried when people wouldn’t respond to the gospel.
And then I started reading the Bible, right? I mean, think about it. And I realized I’m not the one who does the saving. I’m supposed to do the sowing. It’s God who does the saving, right? People come up to me on Sunday morning sometime and they say, “Pastor, we just don’t understand why nobody responded to that message. It was a great message. And don’t feel bad that…” Listen, I don’t feel bad when people don’t respond. It’s God who does the saving and it’s encouraging to you and I to know that, even if we’ve been witnessing to people and encouraging people and begging people. Listen, Paul says still beg people to come, still persuade people to come, still tell people to repent and believe in the gospel but at the end of the day, you can hang your hat knowing that when you’ve don’t all you have done, it’s not up to you to save. Now that’s encouraging. That’s freeing for you and I to know that it’s God who does the saving.
Let me show you Paul. He shows us this, the difference between preaching and God’s working. Go to Colossians 1. This is Paul saying it himself. Colossians 1:27. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [It’s] Him we proclaim….” You see what he says? He says we preach Christ. It’s our doing. We preach Christ, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Here’s the key word. “For this I toil;” Paul said this is my purpose. This is what I’m running for. This is what I’m striving for, “struggling with all my energy.” Is that what it says? Look at it. Struggling…it’s kind of odd: “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Go back to Mark 4. This is the secret to the passage. He said the farmer plants, and sleeps night and day and the seed sprouts and grows. The earth produces—watch this, underline this—by itself. Those two words in the English make up one word in the Greek, which is the Greek word automate, which is the English word what? Automatic. What he’s showing us is this. When you sow, the seed automatically works based on God and the heart and the soil of the soul of an individual.
Now, don’t get too excited. This is not a license to and a liberty to be lazy. There’s somebody saying, “Well, Pastor, if it’s nothing I do then I shouldn’t do anything.” No, this is a call to diligence. Because what Jesus is saying is this. We know we can’t fail; and if we can’t fail by preaching the word, then we proclaim the word. Listen, the word is powerful when you let the word work. You know, the Bible promises the word will not come back void. It will always accomplish what it intends to accomplish. The world of God is living and active. It’s “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, joint and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our heart.” The word is powerful. It was the word that led my family away from a religion they were raised in.
You now, my family was raised Catholic. Real strong Roman Catholic. My father, he’s half Italian. His grandmother came from Italy. So you can imagine how strong Roman Catholic they were. When I became a believer, I realized and I left the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was not preaching and explaining the word. And this is what I realized. When I started studying the word, I realized it was the word that changed lives. It wasn’t the service, it wasn’t communion, it wasn’t a ritual. It was the word. And I got that from Romans 10:17. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” And so I left the church.
You can imagine what that was like. And I tried to persuade my family to find a church preaching the word. It just so happened that the churches they were going to were not preaching the word. And so they weren’t learning the word. And so I began to attack my family, as many of you probably have. When you leave and you go to a different denomination, you attack. That doesn’t work, right. It was like a tennis match, right? I would lob over theology. My dad would hit me back with one. I’d lob for another thing, he’d hit me back. And we’d just keep going back and forth and it went nowhere. My poor wife. When we were dating, we got together for Thanksgiving that first year. You can imagine that. I’m not going to tell you what we talked about, but you can imagine when everyone got up, my mom said, “No more! I couldn’t talk about this anymore.” And so I realized my explaining to them theology was not going to work.
So the Lord gave me another angle. And this is what I told my dad. I said, “Dad, is it safe to say that the word is something we need to know?” He said, “Absolutely.” I said, “Why don’t you do this. You go to church on Sunday. I’ll go to church on Sunday”—I wasn’t a pastor. I was traveling so I’d go to church. And I said, “When I go to church and you go to church, let’s come home on Sunday night and let’s begin to explain to each other what we learned. Fair enough?” He said, “Fair enough.” First Sunday, I’ll never forget. I came home from the service and I said, “Dad, what’d you learn?” He said, “Robby, today’s not a good day.” He said, “I was tired from the night before. I wasn’t paying attention.” I said, “Don’t worry about it, Dad. Let me tell you what I learned. I learned that Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and when Peter stepped out of the boat, he walked on water. And Jesus showed that he had authority over nature.”
Next week my dad goes to church. Come back home. I said, “Dad, what’d you learn?” He said, “Today was not a good day.” He said, “We had a foreign priest and the mic system was blown out. One of the speakers was blown out.” He said, “I couldn’t really,…” I said, “Don’t worry about it Dad. Let me tell you what I learned.” I said, “I learned that Jesus broke the bread, he fed the 5,000 and he showed that he had authority over the world.”
Next week we came back. I said, “Dad, what’d you learn?” He said, “I got it! I paid attention this week.” He said, “I heard a joke about a chicken and an egg.” True story. I said, “What?” He said, “I heard a joke about a chicken and an…” I said, “Dad, let me tell you what I learned.” So I went into it. The following week, he came back home. I said, “Dad, what did you learn?” He said, “Robby, I haven’t learned anything.” He said, “In fact, I’ve been going to church 61 years and I don’t know the Bible.” I said, “Dad, how does that make you feel?” He said, “It bothers me.” I said, “What do you want to do about it?” He said, “You tell me.” I said, “Dad, okay. I’m going to tell you.” I said, “I’m going to disciple you over the phone.”
My first disciple was my own father, if you can imagine that. I said, “We’re going to read the Bible. You’ll read the Bible at home at night. I’ll read the Bible. We’ll get on the phone every night and we’ll discuss what we’re learning.” My dad said, “I’d love to.” And for the first time at the age of 62, my dad started to read the Bible. He’d call me up on the phone, “Can you believe David and Goliath!” I said, “Yea, it’s powerful, huh?” “Samson, man. He fought these lions.” And he didn’t know. It was the first time he’d ever read anything. I’ll never forget it. It took him a year and a half. He called me on the phone and he said, “Son, I’ve read through the Bible in one year;” 63 years old, 64 years old. I said, “How do you know, Dad?” He said, “Because every time read, I’d put a line in the margin, I’d put the date. He said, “I’ve made it all the way back to the line.” Sixty three year old man read through the Bible.
Friends, listen to me. The word works when you let the word work, right? We need to be men and women who know the word, who are saturated with the word, who meditate on the word, who preach the word, who proclaim the word and let God do the saving, right? Let me ask you. How well are you doing with that? I mean, it’s good to amen at that point but let’s be honest. How many are doing that? Take away Sunday morning. How often do you read the word? How committed are you to the word of God? Does the word excite you anymore? Are you calloused? That’s just for kids to read! Friends, we’ve got to be men and women of the word. That’s the message of the kingdom.
But don’t miss the last thing. Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging. He says here’s the maturation of the kingdom. Here’s how the kingdom grows. Here’s how the kingdom expands. Look at the last parable. Verse 30, “And he said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests [and] shade.”
Now, it looks like these parables are similar. But Jesus is making one interesting different point. Watch this. Jesus is saying in the first parable of the seed, it’s about growth. In the mustard seed parable, it’s about contrast. A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds in the world. I would submit to you it’s not the smallest seed. Some people have said—and it’s a good preacher illustration—that the mustard see is the smallest seed in all the world. It’s not. But it is small. In fact, you need a magnifying glass to see it; 750 seeds make up one single gram. I did a little research. 750 mustard seeds make up 1 gram. There are 28 grams in an ounce. It takes 21,000 mustard seeds to make up 1 ounce. Is that crazy? 21,000 mustard seeds. These seeds are small. You have to look in a magnifying glass.
But Jesus is not giving a botany lesson here. He’s not teaching on biology here. What he’s show the disciples is something interesting. He’s not saying you need to have small faith like people have said, “You just need to have faith like a mustard seed. Just small faith.” That’s not what he’s saying. This is what he’s saying. He’s saying mustard seed faith must grow to move mountains. Underneath the surface of casual looking at this passage, there is a secret to the kingdom that many people have overlooked. I’ve looked in commentaries. Many people missed it. Look what Jesus says as the last phrase in this passage. Look what he says, “larger than all the garden plants and puts out [here’s the key word] large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Now remember that. Jesus is not talking about just birds flying in the air. What Jesus is saying is this. He’s disclosing something about the kingdom. In the Old Testament, whenever Israel would see a tree growing, they always knew the tree was about them. It was always the idea. As the tree would grow, it would be Israel and they would spread their branches out and they would be this huge tree. But there is an illusion in the New Testament to the Old Testament about birds. I’m not going to get crazy on pets but watch this on birds. The birds in the Old Testament always symbolize the Gentiles. It’s found in three different books, the book of Psalms, the book of Daniel, and the book of Ezekiel. Turn to Ezekiel 17. Let me show you this interesting discovery. Pretty amazing. Ezekiel 17:22. Pretty amazing. God’s speaking to Ezekiel, talks about the future of Israel. This is the Old Testament. “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.”
This is what God says. I’m going to take a plant, I’m going to plant it on the mountain and the plant’s going to grow. Now watch what happens. “On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches [do you see it? Watch this] and produce fruit and become a noble cedar [the whole world will see this]. And under it will dwell every kind of bird…”
You’re starting to see the idea here. What are the birds? The Gentiles. Every knee, every tongue, every nation, every tribe, every country, every people group will dwell under it: “…in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.”
Jesus is saying this. He’s not saying, “Israel, you’re going to be this great tree that everybody’s going to look at and adore and respect.” He’s saying, “You’re going to be a tree fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy that Israel will be a people that reaches out to all the nations of the world and all the Gentiles will come in. the Kingdom of heaven is not going to be a kingdom just to Israel. The kingdom of heaven is a worldwide kingdom. It’s a going to spread all over the world.
Now, is that true? Because when these guys heard that, they saw persecution all over the place and they thought, “Is Jesus really going to do this? I mean, is this real?” When Jesus died, he didn’t have a mega church. In fact, he only had 120 following him. By church growth standards, Jesus would have been a failure today. Think about it: three and a half years, the son of God builds a church. He’s got 120 people. He’s doing miracles. He’s walking on water. He’s feeding 5,000. He didn’t grow a mega church.
Jesus was about the business of something different. He was building disciples. And as those 120 followers huddled around scared from the persecution of the world, all of a sudden Peter, in Acts 2, gets to preach on the day of Pentecost and he preaches and 3,000 people come to know the Lord the first day he preaches. Hey, this thing might work, right? And then all of a sudden they get up on Acts 4 and they preach again and 5,000 people come to know the Lord in just a short period of time. In the city of Jerusalem, 50,000 people were following the Lord Jesus Christ and it went on. It infiltrated Asia Minor, where they started to follow the Lord. They turned from pagan gods and served the one true God. Then it went to Greece. It spread to Italy. Spread to Spain. And even came to the United States of America as they fled the persecution in Europe and they came for religious freedom in this country. And people began to understand and worship the Lord Jesus Christ and it’s spreads even to today.
Do you realize it’s from those original 11 guys that you and I are here today? The kingdom of God has expanded all through the years. If you think about it, one third of the population of 7 billion people profess allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. But, friends, we haven’t seen the end of the kingdom. The kingdom is still growing. We haven’t seen the expansion of the kingdom in the way that God wants it to. It’s still expanding, it’s still growing because one day every knee from every tongue and every tribe and every nation, you and I will be gathered around that great marriage supper as the Lord Jesus Christ will come out and we will see him face to face for the first time. And everyone will bow the knee and confess him as Lord.
The kingdom of God is expanding and the question you need to ask yourself this morning is this: what am I doing to expand the kingdom? John F. Kennedy had it right. He was talking about the wrong thing. “It’s not what the country can do for us. It’s what we can do for the country.” He had it wrong. We should be asking it’s not what the kingdom of God can do for us. It’s what am I doing to expand the kingdom? Let me ask you. What are you doing to expand the kingdom?
Friends, God is going to use somebody to make an impact on this world. The question is, is he using you? Is he using you? If you’re anything like me, I want to make a difference in this world, not just in our neighborhood in Chattanooga. I want to make a difference in the world, to the nation. God has gifted you with talents and abilities and resources and desires and giftedness to be used for the kingdom and, sadly, many of us have not used that for his glory. Our motto here at Brainerd Baptist Church is this: every person has a purpose. What’s yours?