Sermon by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo | Sermon Reading by Elder Ronald Fernando
Dear Congregation of Christ: This last week has been a turbulent time for our nation. An unarmed and helpless man died at the hands of four police officers. Protests, riots and looting followed. Accusations, true and untrue, are being endlessly hurled back and forth. The president walked from the White House to a historic church that was set on fire by rioters and brandished a Bible, though he didn’t cite anything from the book. The Speaker of the House, also holding a Bible, promptly quoted partially from Ecclesiastes 3, “The time for every event under heaven. He talks about a time to heal — talks about embrace and time to shun embracing, how about that. … A time for peace. Let’s focus on the time to heal.”
I’m 100 percent sure, by her words and deeds and support of policies that are totally ungodly, that the Speaker is an unbeliever. And I don’t know about the president. But the Speaker, like most unbelievers, read the Bible out of context, for Ecclesiastes 3 also says, “a time to kill, a time to heal” (3), a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” (5), and “a time for war, and a time for peace” (8). And at the end of the book, King Solomon says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). Are the protesters, rioters and looters and their supporters keeping God’s commandments? The Bible convicts them in many places, especially in Romans 1:29–32,
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Maybe God will not punish them in this life, but he is always true to his word, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc 12:14). Some of these crowds of protesters would even quote the Bible—misusing it—but most, if not all, of them are unbelievers who do not belong to the kingdom of God, but to the kingdom of Satan.
Jesus finished his teaching, preaching and healing work in Capernaum, where the scribes and Pharisees always argued against him. Our text today begins with his withdrawal back to the shores of the Sea of Galilee where great crowds still followed him. So he went up on a mountain and called his twelve apostles. But when he went home, his own family thought of him as insane. Then he taught the crowd that his family is not merely his blood relatives, but all who do his Father’s will.
In our study today, we will see that within the crowds, the twelve apostles and in his own home, there are people belonging to two opposed kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. So our theme this morning is, Two Opposed Kingdoms, under three headings; first, In the Great Crowds; second, In the Twelve Apostles; and third, In Two Houses.
In the Great Crowds
The great crowds came from all over Palestine: Galilee, Judea, Idumea, Tyre and Sidon. Jews were the majority in these places because they settled there from the time of Joshua. Why did his fame spread so fast? Mainly, it was his healing power. All of human history is littered with false healers, shamans, witch doctors, and today, Benny Hinn and all televangelists. One of them, Kenneth Copeland, claims to have healed people of Covid-19 through their TV screens! When people are desperate, they would cling even to straws and snake oil.
There were so many of them pushing everyone else just to get close to him to touch him so they would be healed. Even two thousand years ago, huge crowds thought Jesus was Kenneth Copeland. So he asked his disciples to get a boat because he was about to be crushed by the crowd.
But Jesus often rebuked the crowd for their unbelief. Yes, they followed him, but for the wrong reasons. Jesus preached, “Repent and believe in the gospel,” but the crowds followed him, not to be healed of their sins, but to be healed only of their diseases. After he fed many thousands, they followed him, not to be fed by the Bread of life, but by bread and fish (John 6:26). And after he revealed to them that he is the Bread from heaven, and that they have to partake of his body and blood to enter eternal life, many of his followers were offended and left him (John 6:66).
Later, in Mark 6, we read that when Jesus went back to his hometown Nazareth, he began to teach and the people were in disbelief and offended. Why? Because they perceived him as a lowly, uneducated carpenter from a common peasant family. So he healed only a few because of their unbelief (Mark 6:1-6).
Jesus did not come to establish a megachurch. In fact, he was the foremost Church Shrinkage Seminar speaker. He offended them so much that after 3-1/2 years of preaching, teaching and healing, only 120 disciples were left of his church. Those thousands who followed him all left after he was arrested and crucified. Only 120 really belonged to his kingdom. The rest belonged to the kingdom of Satan.
What does this text tell us? Being a tiny church compared even to the small churches in our area, we are no different than the 120-member of Christ’s church in Jerusalem. There were thousands who followed the Pharisees and Jewish revolutionaries called zealots. But the little Jerusalem church was faithful to their Savior and Master and spread the gospel to a multitude of true believers all over the world. Our little church here in Big Springs is not glitzy and entertaining to attract many, but we are here to preach and teach the true gospel of Christ and to be his faithful and obedient followers. That is all that he wants us to do in our community.
In the Twelve Apostles
Out of the great crowd of followers, Jesus appointed his twelve apostles. In Chapter 1, he called Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John. Here, he calls the other eight. All of them were common people. There were three of dubious character: Matthew, a tax collector; Simon who was a zealot or a revolutionary; and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him for money. However, except for Judas Iscariot, all of them were faithful to Jesus, many of them martyred for their faith in Christ.
The twelve were disciples or students, but later, Jesus called them his “apostles.” An “apostle”
is literally “one who is sent,” so they were sent out by Jesus (14). To be sent out into all Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the whole world to preach the gospel is one of the tasks of the apostles (Matt 28:19; Acts 1:8). A second task appointed for them is that “they might be with him” (14). They were with Jesus for 3-1/2 years, learning, witnessing his signs and wonders, even performing the same signs and wonders that Jesus did. But up to his death, they did not understand who he was. They confessed him as the Christ, the Son of God, but it was only head knowledge. Judas Iscariot betrayed him. At his crucifixion, they all scattered in fear like sheep without a shepherd, except for John. Peter denied knowing him three times. Thomas could not believe that he really rose from the grave.
However, except for Judas, all of them repented and returned to him after his resurrection. They preached the gospel to the whole Roman world. They became martyrs for his sake. They were all members of his kingdom. Not so with Judas. Jesus knew even when he called him that he was the “son of destruction” (John 17:12). Being the Son of God, Jesus knew his own prophetic words in the Psalms: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psa 41:9); “May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents” (Psa 69:25). Acts 1:16-20 quotes this verse in the account of Judas’ gory death in a field bought by his own ill-gotten money which became known as the “Field of Blood.” The apostles also replaced him with Matthias (Acts 1:26), fulfilling Psalm 109:8, “May his days be few; may another take his office!” (Psa 109:8)
While the eleven other apostles were faithful to their Lord to the end, Judas was not. The eleven were true members of the kingdom of God and Judas turned out to be a member of the kingdom of Satan.
In Two Houses
When Jesus went back to his hometown, his family, including his mother Mary and his brothers. We know that Mary and his brothers were believers they were in the company of the 120 disciples gathered in Jerusalem when God poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 1:14). However, at this early point in his ministry, Jesus’ family thought that he was insane, “out of his mind,” so they went out to him to remove him from the crowd, probably for his own protection (21). In John 7:3-5, we read that his brothers, probably even James and Jude, were not believers then.
In Mark 6:3, the names of Jesus’ four brothers are listed as James, Joses, Judas and Simon. James and Judas (also known as Jude) wrote two of the New Testament books. James also served as the chairman of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13; also Acts 12:17; 21:18). Jesus also had at least two “sisters” (Matt 13:56). So these four brothers and at least two sisters were children of Mary and Joseph, contrary to Roman Catholic belief that Mary was a perpetual virgin. This is clear from these texts.
But Roman Catholics argue that Jesus himself denied that these four men and at least two women were his brothers and sisters. In verses 31-35, after the crowd told him that his mother and brothers were looking for him, he said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then, he pointed to those who were around him, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” But then he adds, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Clearly, with these words, he is being theological. He is calling all believers children of his Father (John 1:14). Jesus himself calls us his brothers and sisters. He says in a prophetic psalm, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psa 22:22; also Heb 2:12). Those whom God has saved are gathered in the congregation. After his resurrection, Jesus instructed his disciples, “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee” (Matt 28:10). Paul calls those whom God predestined to be saved as “many brothers” of the Son of God (Rom 8:29). All the New Testament writers often call believers “brothers”—and they also mean “sisters”—in Christ, because we strive to do the will of his Father.
Finally, in verses 22-30, Jesus also taught about another household: the household of Satan. Because the scribes witnessed Jesus healing many demon-possessed people, they had no argument except to say that he also is demon-possessed. But Jesus had a word for their illogical argument, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a house is divided in itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.” This has become a common idiom.
Jesus then adds, “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.” He is referring to the household of Satan, whom he calls “the strong man.” His house is full of unbelievers, and they will not be freed from Satan’s captivity until Satan is bound. We know that Satan has been defeated since Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor 15:54-57; Heb 2:14; Rev 20:2-3). How is Satan bound? It is through the preaching of the gospel, just as Jesus did during his earthly ministry, that many people are freed from slavery to sin and Satan. No one is freed from Satan’s grip unless he repents and believes in Christ as his Savior. Then, Jesus warns in verses 28-30 that the scribes and all others who attribute Jesus’ work of casting out demons to the power of Satan are committing the “unforgivable sin,” the “eternal sin.” Saying that Jesus has an “unclean” or “evil” spirit is unforgivable, a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But be assured that it is impossible for a true Christian to commit such sin.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, be assured in your heart and mind that you belong to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, because you believe and trust in him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You are not part of the crowd that quotes and twists the Bible for your own evil purposes. Rather, you are one of those few who have entered the narrow gate and narrow road to eternal life. You are Jesus’ brothers and sisters because you are the Father’s children. You have been brought from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to Christ’s kingdom of light, and no one can snatch you out of that eternal kingdom.