Sermon Reading by Elder Dennis Dawal (Prepared by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo)
Literature on history is always divisive. History is not just about conveying information about people and events. It’s also about interpreting information to finding meaning on why those things happened. So, when the historian is aligned with those who came to power during a political event, the text he produces will be mostly in favor of those in power. But if the historian is not in favor of the ones who came to power, the interpretation of information will be mostly negative.
Actually, we are all historians. We write and post our thoughts, either in paper or on social media, on how we understand people and events.
For the past several months, I’ve seen groups divided as to whom they should vote and most recently if they should watch a specific and controversial film. I won’t be mentioning specifics. But if you’re updated on current events, you should know what I’m talking about. If not, you can ask your seatmate.
On one side of the political spectrum, they claim that anyone bearing this particular family name has no right to get elected to national office and that the controversial film is just propaganda. On the other side of the political spectrum, they claim that whatever was written in history books published in the late-80s about this particular family name is propaganda as well and that we should treat the controversial film as merely a work of art.
I’m sure that not everyone here agrees on political issues. Even your office bearers have different views on current events. But regardless of how you interpret the events that transpired for the past 30 years of Philippine history, I want you, first of all, not to make it an issue that will destroy your ability to share the gospel to your friends and family. Do not be too attached to partisan politics because at the end of the day, the politicians you defend don’t even know you and will not come to your aid when you need their help. More importantly, I pray that we will all see these events as part of a much bigger history happening right before us. The history that God is bringing to completion.
For this vesper sermon, we will also talk about division. It is the division between two kingdoms – The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan – and why through the gospel is gathering His elect people into Kingdom that has been and will be for eternity. I will use three headings: The Crowds and the Disciples; The Apostles and Judas; and the Household of God and the Household of Satan.
Before we proceed, I want to clarify that when I say that Satan is opposing God’s kingdom, I do mean that the power of God is equal to the power of Satan. Hindus and Buddhists, for example, believe in the balance of good and evil in the universe. The Yin and Yang means that is good has an equal amount of evil balancing it.
That is not what the Bible says. From Genesis to Revelation, there is only one ruling kingdom – the Kingdom of God. In Isaiah 66:1, God says, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool.” In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Satan is not equal to God. He is not God’s antithesis. God is the one and only, Supreme Ruler of the Universe and everything else beyond it.
Of course, the kingdom of Satan exists in this earth because of the presence of sin and evil. In Matthew 4:8-9, [the devil] took Jesus to a “very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And [the devil] said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
In this passage, it is clear that Satan is able to rule in this world for institutions and systems, and the standards and norms that drive the behavior of men and women away from acknowledging God as their Creator. This kingdom will give you glory, comfort, and riches, but it will ask you to reject the King of kings.
Satan’s hold over this earth cannot hinder God’s plan and purpose in history. But he will lure people away from the truth so they will remain in darkness and in opposition to the kingdom of God. However, even these efforts by the devil are under the providence of God. From the beginning of time until its consummation, God already decided who belongs to His kingdom and who are not.
In the OT text we read, Isaiah 53:12, we see that God promised the Messiah a portion. The entire passage is about the Messiah offering himself as a ransom for the sins of God’s people. Take note, it says, God’s people, not all the people who ever lived. We understand this clearer in the NT as not just the Israelites, but the elect – those from the beginning of history were chosen to belong to God.
Now, the punishment for the wickedness of the elect was laid on the Messiah.
“…he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Isaiah the prophet was speaking of God’s redemptive plan through the future atoning work of the
Messiah. And in the NT, it is clear that its fulfillment was in the life, person, and work of Jesus Christ.
That’s why for the past Lord’s Days, we learned that Jesus was Prepared by a Messenger, he was Prepared by Baptism, and was Prepared by Temptation. He came preaching “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.” He came healing people and driving away evil spirits to demonstrate that he is the Holy One of God. He was the Messiah whom the prophets proclaimed. But this gospel is meant to separate those who belong to the Kingdom of Light from those who belong to the Kingdom of Darkness.
DIVISION 1: DISCIPLES AND CROWDS
The first division in our text is between the disciples and the crowds.
Although Jesus did wonderful miracles, not everyone embraced what he taught. In the previous sermons on Mark, we learned that the Pharisees asked why Jesus is forgiving sins, why he is befriending sinners and calling them to salvation. They questioned why his disciples are not fasting, and why Jesus is violating
the Sabbath. These questions were really not meant for them to know God and His will. The Pharisees wanted to discredit Jesus because they do not belong to His kingdom.
Now, in our text, Mark 3:7-12, we read that are great crowd from Galilee and Judea followed Jesus. It was so great that the disciples had to prepare a boat so they can get to the water and distance themselves from the crowd on land. Now, where did this crowd come from? In verse 10, Mark explains that Jesus healed many, “so that all who had diseased pressed around him to touch him.” Then in verses 11 and 12, Jesus also healed those with unclean spirits. His demonstration of power over sicknesses and disease must have made Jesus very popular among the people.
But should they get away? Wasn’t that event a good opportunity for them to strengthen their numbers and make Jesus more popular?
As humans, we are always excited by numbers. We love it when our posts get lots of likes, hearts, cares, and shares. We love it when we get more customers and page followers. Success in this world is driven by numbers: more customers, more voters, more awards, more accomplishments, etc.
But the kingdom of God is different brethren. 2,000 years ago, Jesus did not come to heal all the sick and cast out all the demons. He did not even come to increase the number of his followers so they can build a massive army and eventually topple the rule of Rome. Yes, in the future – when He comes back, He will do away with sin, death, all forms of evil. But in our text, He came doing signs and wonders to show the people He is calling out of darkness that He is the Messiah. That’s why the response of the crowd and the disciples are different. The crowd followed Jesus because the benefitted from Him. They wanted physical healing, so they followed him. They wanted him to free them from Rome, so they followed him. But in John 6, Jesus rebuked the crowd for following him because they are benefitting from its physically:
Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
Now, does Jesus here sound very rude, apathetic, and unloving? Didn’t Jesus understand the poverty of
the people under the oppression of Rome?
He knew that, of course. But He came to preach about solution much better than food, healing, or deliverance from a political enemy because the real problem of humankind is sin and death. So, when Jesus began to teach them about doctrine, the crowd went away. John 6:66 says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They were not following Christ because he was the Messiah. They were following him because of what they think He is, not because of who He says He is. However, unlike the crowd, the disciples stayed. Now, I like to point out that what Jesus taught in John 6 is difficult to understand. What does He meant by eating his flesh and drinking his blood? For dure the disciples did not understand it as well. But they stayed. Why? As Simon Peter uttered in John 6: 68-69, after Jesus asked if they too plan to leave, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Was this blind faith? No. Peter said that, not because, he and the other disciples are better than the crowd in terms of understanding God’s will. No. It was because of the work of the Spirit in them.
In John 6:63-65, Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
DIVISION 2: THE ELEVEN APOSTLES AND JUDAS
What’s interesting in our text is not all the twelve apostles belonged to God’s kingdom. In Mark 3:13, Jesus “called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” He sent them out to preach and gave them authority to cast our demons. These men were named as:
Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In John 6: 70-71, Jesus answered Peter, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil. He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.”
Why in the world would Jesus choose a betrayer to be in a close circle of his followers?
I’m sure you’ve watch movies of plays where you as the viewer already knows who the antagonist. But the hero is still unaware. In fact, he still trusts the antagonist and even defends their innocence. It’s called dramatic irony. It’s designed to create tension in the story.
But the case of Judas is not dramatic irony. It’s not as if Jesus still wants to trust Judas and keep giving him a chance to change his ways. No, God chose Judas so His purposes will be achieved, just like what He did to Pharaoh in Egypt whom God raised to oppress the people of Israel. Through the Pharaoh’s wickedness, God manifested His glory to the people of Israel.
It is hard to fathom the ways of God. But God never makes mistakes. The choice of Judas was intended to fulfill the Scriptures.
- Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me”
- Psalm 69:25: “May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.”
- Psalm 109:8: “May his days be few; may another take his office!”
Only the eleven disciples were chosen to be part of the kingdom of God. Judas was chosen so that the prophecy that a close companion would betray the Messiah will be fulfilled.
Now, some would say that Jesus was unfair for he chose Judas but did not bring him all the way to salvation. The eleven disciples were not perfect either. Peter betrayed Jesus. Thomas doubted him. The rest of the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested by Roman soldiers in the garden.
But this is exactly why salvation is not about human performance. It is monergistic. It is planned by God, caused by God, sustained by God, completed by God, so that throughout eternity He alone with get the praise.
Therefore, we should also not think of Judas as if he was a victim, as if he also wanted to believe in Christ but he was not allowed to because he was chosen to be the betrayer. No. We have to go back to what Scripture says that because of sin, every human being is an enemy of God.
Romans 3:11-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
In the case of Judas, there was nothing in him that wanted to believe in the Messiah. In John 12, Judas did not like what Mary did when she anointed the feet of Jesus with her hair. For him, it was better to sell the ointment for three hundred denarii and give the proceeds to the poor. But in 12:6, John said that Judas “said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
In other words, anyone can get close enough to hear the word of God but remain in an unbelieving heart. Just like the crowds who followed Jesus because they ate bread. Judas followed Jesus because he benefitted from being the group’s treasurer. He was not part of the kingdom of God. He is an example of a hypocrite. He just agrees with what Jesus was teaching but did not possess the saving faith to believe it.
DIVISION 3: THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD AND THE HOUSEHOLD OF SATAN
There is also this division between the household of God and the household of Satan. Not everyone who saw his miracles believed he is the Messiah. In Mark 3:22 to 30, the scribes from Jerusalem even blasphemed the Holy Spirit, saying that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebub and that he is casting out demons in the name of the prince of demons. To this Jesus said it is illogical for Satan to cast out himself, for a house cannot be divided against itself. Hence, he said: “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”
So, when Jesus casted out the demons, he was invading the house of Satan and plundering his goods. Therefore, Jesus declared that these scribes were guilty of unpardonable sin for saying that he has an unclean spirit.
Being close to Jesus does not translate to salvation. Salvation is granted by God and not due to any social or biological connections. In Mark 3:21, even his own family thought he was out of his mind. They were concerned about his welfare. In Mark 3:31-35, Jesus’ mother and his brother were calling him, perhaps with worry that he is becoming too popular and is getting the ire of the Jewish leaders. But Jesus made it clear that the members of his family are those who do the will of God.
And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
This does not mean Jesus disregarded his earthly family. He was a responsible son and took care of his earthly mother. But in the kingdom of God, biological or familial connections are less important that the spiritual connection created by the Spirit of God among those chosen to salvation. Those called to the kingdom of God are His real family. Stated positively, your spiritual or heavenly family takes priority over all your connections be it biological and even earthly family.
There can be a lot to said about this passage, but what we’ve discussed is enough for us to see our condition before God and apply what we have heard.
- For Unbelievers – These passages are calling you to repentance and faith. You may be like those in the crowd who are agreeing with Jesus because you are benefitting from it in one way or another. In my experience I know people who attend church because it helps widen their circle of influence and their list of potential customers.
- Whatever benefits you are experiencing right now, take note that what matters at the end of the day is whether or not you belong to the kingdom of life. You can even be a member of a Christian local church like this that preaches the whole counsel of God. But if your motives are like the crowd, which follow Christ because of some benefits, then the gospel is calling you to repent.
- There are only two roads in this life. The wide road leads to the kingdom of darkness which Satan rules through sin, evil, and the systems of this world that drive men and women away from the gospel. The other road is narrow and only a few find it. But this road leads to the kingdom of light which is ruled by the King of kings and Lords of lords whose dominion is everlasting.
- You might want to argue that the Bible says you cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws you to Him. That is correct. But it does not take away your responsibility to seek Him. Because you are here, and you are hearing the gospel, the LORD could be calling you to faith in Him. Do not harden your heart. Repent and believe.
- You might say you want to repent but you’re delaying it because you’re having a hard time understanding the gospel or you feel that sin still has a stronghold over you. Then call out to God for help. If you want to be saved from sin and its consequences, cry out to him.
- Are you tired of living a life of sin and you see your need for salvation, then come to him in prayer and be like the boy’s father in Mark 9:24 who said: “Lord, help me with my unbelief.” Tell Him “Lord, only you can grant saving faith! Only you can deliver me from sin.” Do not give your soul rest until you find salvation in Christ. Repent and believe.
2. For Believers – For those who are believers already, this passage calls us to live for Him. Yes, it is an eternal blessing to be made part of the Kingdom of God. None of us earned the right to become His children because we too were enemies of God. Therefore, in Romans 12, after all the deep theological discussions about the Law and the Righteousness that comes through Christ; after talking about the doctrine of Election, and how God chose the Gentiles to be saved as well, Paul writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Brothers and sisters, correct doctrine should translate to a correct lifestyle. Our intellectual understanding of the gospel amounts to nothing if it does not transform our lives. So, since God sent his one and only Son Jesus Christ to suffer for our sakes and bring us to salvation, why should we keep living in sin? Since we know there is life in the kingdom of light, we should no longer seek pleasure in sin. It does not matter if you are old already or still young. A believer who continues in a life of sin is preparing himself for punishment.
Galatians 6:7-8: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Hebrews 12:16: See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could find no ground for repentance, though he sought the blessing with tears.
If you believe in the gospel, but you see yourself still enjoying sin, this is a good time to ask yourself if you are already converted. I’m not talking about perfection. Believers still sin. But to enjoy a life of sin is a different story. True believers grieve at their sins and seek to mortify sin every day. False believers grieve only when they are caught doing sin or when they are already suffering its consequences. God sees everything we do, even if we do our best to hide it from others. God sees and will not leave the sins of the hardheaded unpunished.
3. For those living for Christ. This passage calls us to persevere and trust that God will sustain you.This world will make it difficult for you and me to live for Christ. They will persecute us and seekto do us harm just to discourage us from following the LORD. Many of you here have been through difficult trials but you are still here trusting and living for God. That is because of the work of the Holy Spirit. You could also be going through a deep trial right now because of your faith. It could be related to your career, your health, you family, or your ministry in this church. You could be discouraged and hurt, or confused But you keep holding on to God’s word. That is because of the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 15:56-58, we are encouraged. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
ZCRC Imus. Brothers and sisters in Christ. What are you living for? Who are you living for? Let us live for the kingdom of God. Let us press on. Let us persevere. One day, this kingdom will fully take its place. On that day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).
Rev. Nollie Malabuyo is currently pastor of Big Springs Community Church (URCNA) in Montague, California. He is the founding pastor of Zion Cornerstone Reformed Churches in Pasig (Metro Mania) and Imus, Cavite.