Sermon title: HOW MUCH MORE ‘PROOF’ DO PEOPLE WANT?
Matthew 15:36-38; 16:1-12
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 26, 2018
As we continue to go through the Gospels chronologically,
our Reading began at Matthew 15:36,
but I’d like to back up a bit
to begin with Matthew 15:21.
Jesus had been preaching
and performing miraculous healings
on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee,
but now, here in Matthew 15:21,
he is changing location.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew
to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Tyre & Sidon were coastal cities along the eastern Mediterranean,
in the land that we call Lebanon today,
not far from the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Tyre and Sidon lay a few miles to the north
of the border between Lebanon and
the modern State of Israel.
When Jesus visited, there were Jews living there,
and also non-Jewish people.
So, Verse 22 says,
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!
My daughter is suffering terribly
23 Jesus did not answer a word.
So his disciples came to him and urged him,
"Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
24 He answered,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
Yes, Jesus confined his earthly ministry
to the people of Israel,
and it was only later
that he would command his disciples
to take the Gospel to the whole world.
But, at this point in time,
Jesus was reaching out
only to the children of Israel.
25 The woman came and knelt before him.
"Lord, help me!" she said.
26 He replied, "It is not right
to take the children's bread
and toss it to their dogs."
Many people would have taken offense at that,
and would have walked away.
But this woman persisted.
27 "Yes, Lord," she said,
"but even the dogs eat the crumbs
that fall from their masters' table."
28 Then Jesus answered,
"Woman, you have great faith!
Your request is granted."
And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
This showed our Lord’s compassion.
He was willing to help
even those who weren’t part of his initial outreach.
29 Jesus left there
and went along the Sea of Galilee.
Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame,
the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others,
and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.
31 The people were amazed
when they saw the mute speaking,
the crippled made well,
the lame walking and the blind seeing.
And they praised the God of Israel.
All of this showed Jesus’ great power.
He miraculously cast out demons
and healed people of all sorts of afflictions.
His healing the blind, the lame and the mute—
these were all signs
that Jesus was who he was:
the Messiah, the Son of God.
We’ve already seen how Jesus miraculously
used a handful of fish and a few loaves of bread
to feed 5,000 people.
And now he is about to do another, very similar miracle.
Let’s read what happened:
32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said,
"I have compassion for these people;
they have already been with me three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
or they may collapse on the way."
33 His disciples answered,
"Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?"
34 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied, "and a few small fish."
35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.
36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke them and gave them to the disciples,
and they in turn to the people.
37 They all ate and were satisfied.
Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls
of broken pieces that were left over.
38 The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children.
So, Jesus fed 5,000 on one occasion,
and then a short time later,
on another occasion, he miraculously fed 4,000.
Along with his miracles of giving sight to the blind,
giving speech to the mute,
and enabling the lame and crippled to walk—
what further proof could anyone want
that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God?
But, there were those who were not satisfied
and who wanted more proof.
Finishing Matthew Chapter 15,
and then moving into Chapter 16, we read,
39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away,
he got into the boat
and went to the vicinity of Magadan.
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus
and tested him
by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
Can you imagine that?
The Pharisees and Sadducees weren’t satisfied
that Jesus gave sight to the blind,
speech to the mute,
and ability to walk to lame cripples,
and repeatedly fed thousands of people
They wanted him “to show them a sign from heaven.”
Just imagine, if all the stars in the night sky
would change position,
so that all the stars lined up to form letters
spelling out the message “JESUS IS LORD”?
Is that what the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted?
That would be a “sign from heaven,” wouldn’t it?
Jesus could have done that.
He created the stars.
The opening words of the Gospel of John tell us that,
1 In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made
that has been made.
Colossians 1:15 tells us
15 He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth
So, since Jesus created
everything in heaven and on earth,
he could certainly make the stars of the sky
line up to spell his name.
Or, he could make any other sign appear in heaven.
But Matthew 16:2 tells us
how he answered the Scribes and Pharisees.:
2 He replied, "When evening comes, you say,
'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,'
3 and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy,
for the sky is red and overcast.'
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
In other words, Jesus was telling them,
‘You’re not stupid.
You know how to interpret the clouds in the sky.
When you look at the clouds,
you know what sort of weather is coming.
Why don’t you use the same logic
to know that your Messiah has come?
Why don’t you understand the significance
of everything I’ve been doing and preaching?
Jesus knew it was willful ignorance.
They knew who Jesus was,
but they refused to admit it.
They kept asking for a sign from heaven
because they didn’t WANT to believe.
And they didn’t want to believe,
because then they would have to obey.
They would have to shape up
and repent of their sins.
And they didn’t want to quit sinning.
So, in Verse 4, Jesus goes on to say,
4 A wicked and adulterous generation
looks for a miraculous sign,
but none will be given it
except the sign of Jonah."
Jesus then left them and went away.
That might seem like deja vu—
like we’ve already seen this.
And that’s because we have.
Earlier in Matthew Chapter 12, the religious leaders [ OPEN ]
made the same demand,
asking Jesus for a sign.
And Jesus gave them the same answer.
But in Matthew 12, beginning with Verse 39,
he gave them a more detailed answer.
39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!
But none will be given it
except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights
in the belly of a huge fish,
so the Son of Man
will be three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth.
So, the only sign Jesus was going to give them
was the sign of Jonah.
Jesus was going to be in the grave for three days,
and then he was going to rise from the grave.
But, he knew that most of them
would still refuse to believe,
because believing would require them
to repent of their sins,
and he knew they wanted to keep on sinning.
So, Jesus simply answered them the way he did,
and then left them,
and took off with his disciples in a boat.
Returning to Matthew 16:5,
we’ll find encouragement
in his discussion with his disciples.
It takes us a long time to learn,
and it took them a long time to learn, too.
5 When they went across the lake,
the disciples forgot to take bread.
6 "Be careful," Jesus said to them.
"Be on your guard
against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
7 They discussed this among themselves and said,
"It is because we didn't bring any bread."
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked,
"You of little faith,
why are you talking among yourselves
about having no bread?
9 Do you still not understand?
Don't you remember
the five loaves for the five thousand,
and how many basketfuls you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand,
and how many basketfuls you gathered?
11 How is it you don't understand
that I was not talking to you about bread?
Jesus knew how slow they were
to grasp what he was teaching them.
He scolded them for it,
but he also patiently explained it to them.
He went on,
But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
12 Then they understood
that he was not telling them
to guard against the yeast used in bread,
but against the teaching
of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were teachers of false religion.
They taught man-made doctrines and practices
that were contrary to the Word of God.
And Jesus knew that their false teachings and wicked practices
would be like yeast
if they got into the Church
he started through his disciples.
Just as yeast infiltrates bread dough
and ends up leavening the entire batch of dough,
false teachings and sin would spread in the Church
and end up corrupting the whole Church.
So, Jesus gave his disciples that strong warning
to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees—
to guard against their bad ways infecting the Church.
However, history tells us that this is what actually happened.
During the lifetime of the Apostles
they were able to hold back
the spread of false teachings in the churches—
but only with great difficulty.
The Apostle John was very young
when he sat under Jesus’ teaching,
and he lived to a very old age,
as the last of the Twelve Apostles.
And in his old age John wrote letters
about false teachers and antichrists
who were already leading churches into false beliefs.
So, today, we have churches
that no longer believe
that Christ really rose from the dead,
and churches that no longer believe the Bible.
And we also have many religious leaders
who hypocritically pretend to believe,
but whose actions show otherwise.
In Luke 12:1, Jesus told his disciples,
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees
which is hypocrisy.”
Hypocrites preach biblical morality from the pulpit
and then go off to visit prostitutes
or to molest little boys and girls.
And many unbelievers use and point to those hypocrites
as a reason to reject the Gospel of Christ.
Or, unbelievers may act like the Pharisees and Sadducees
and say we want a sign before we will believe.
But that sign has already been given.
Just as Jonah was in the whale’s belly 3 days,
so Christ died and rose again.
And there is plenty of evidence
proving that this really happened.
The Apostle Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15, beginning in Verse 4,
“that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Peter,
and then to the Twelve.
6 After that, he appeared
to more than five hundred of the brothers
at the same time,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all he appeared to me also.”
So, there were more than 500 eyewitnesses
that Jesus was alive again
after being crucified, dead and buried for 3 days.
There was so much evidence and proof
that thousands of people joined the Apostles,
then tens of thousands,
and hundreds of thousands—
even though Christians were being
persecuted and killed for their faith.
There are people today
who believe what they read
about the ancient Greeks Homer, Plato and Socrates
and who believe what they read
about an Englishman like Shakespeare,
but who refuse to believe in Jesus.
Yet we have mountains more evidence about Jesus
than we do about
Homer, Plato, Socrates and Shakespeare.
Could it be that they don’t really want to believe?
2nd Peter Chapter 3 says that is the problem with many: [ OPEN ]
Like the Pharisees and Sadducees,
they don’t want to believe.
2nd Peter 3:3 says,
3 First of all, you must understand
that in the last days
scoffers will come,
scoffing and following their own evil desires.
4 They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised?
Ever since our fathers died,
everything goes on as it has
since the beginning of creation."
5 But they deliberately forget
that long ago by God's word
the heavens existed
and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
6 By these waters also
the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
7 By the same word the present heavens and earth
are reserved for fire,
being kept for the day of judgment
and destruction of ungodly men.
So, it says “they deliberately forget”
what the Bible says.
The King James Version renders that,
“they are willingly ignorant of”
what the Bible says.
Today’s English Version says,
“They purposely ignore”
what the Bible says.
I have some insight into that
because when I was a teenager
I rejected belief in God, and became an atheist.
And a big motivating factor
was that I wanted to sin,
and I didn’t want to believe in a God
who called me to repent.
I read all sorts of books on philosophy and evolution,
looking for alternative explanations of life.
But a big motivating factor
was that I didn’t want to believe in God.
I thank God that he humbled me,
softened my hard heart,
and opened my eyes.
So, when we share Christ with people today,
and they ask for more proof,
it may not be a legitimate request.
They could be like the Pharisees and Sadducees,
demanding a sign from heaven.
Would they believe
if the stars in the sky
would all line up to spell “JESUS”?
Romans Chapter 1 shows that
it was really the same back then
as it is today,
when it comes to people refusing to believe.
The stars in the sky ALREADY provide all the proof we need.
In Romans Chapter 1 the Apostle Paul
wrote about all sorts of sinful behavior
on the part of people who don’t believe in God,
and then at Romans 1:19 he said
that the wonder of creation
in heaven and on earth—
which would include the stars in the sky—
really left people without excuse.
“What may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world
God's invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that men are without excuse.”
God knows the human heart and the human mind.
After all, he created us,
and he knows how our minds work.
So, if God says that he has provided
sufficient evidence for people to believe—without excuse—
then they have enough evidence—enough proof.
Jesus’ enemies demanded more proof,
but he replied,
“A wicked and adulterous generation
looks for a miraculous sign,
but none will be given it
except the sign of Jonah.”
People today ask for more ‘proof’
before they will believe the Gospel of Christ.
But God has already given them
all the proof anyone needs:
in the wonders of His Creation
and in the words of the Holy Bible.