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

from demon-possession."

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.

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Verse 29:

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.

 

(Matthew 16)

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

miraculously.

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.

He says,

 

 “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.