Scriptural Text: Mark 4:33-35, 5:1
"And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes."
I want to introduce this message by teaching a little bit about bread in Biblical times. Bread was the principal food item in Jewish homes. Some families had meat and fish, but usually meat was a special occasion thing. I know you remember the story of the Prodigal Son. His family probably had meat, but when the prodigal son returned home, his father had the servants kill the fatted calf because it was a special occasion. His son who was lost was now found. But for the most part, having meat was very rare. So unlike our western culture, unless you're a vegetarian, you wouldn't consider having a meal without a piece of meat. The Jewish people were that way concerning bread. And unlike us today, they didn't go to the store and drop three dollars on the counter and buy a loaf of bread, they sowed a seed. And they patiently waited until that seed became a harvest, then they reaped the harvest.
Most of us couldn't have made it back then. We're too impatient, we want everything right now. We sow a seed one day and expect a harvest the next day. But just as there's a time to plant, there's a time to harvest. And in between seedtime and harvest time, that's God's time. But we don't want to let God have His own time. But the Prophet Isaiah said, "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." In other words, they shall reap their harvest.
After the harvest, the people went through the arduous task of preparing the grain. They threshed, winnowed, milled, beat, and sifted the grain until it became fine flour, then they added oil and salt, and put it through the fire. (I wish I had time to tell you how all that fit in with the True Bread). After that was done the result of God's blessing and the fruit of the Israelites labor became the golden loaves that they placed on their dinner tables. The loaves were of two types, wheat for the upper class and barley for the lower class.
To show gratitude for God's blessings, most of the Levitical offerings to the Lord consisted of some form of bread offering. And one of the main offerings for the yearly Feast of Pentecost was two loaves of leavened bread.
But before the Children of Israel got to the point of sowing and reaping their own grain, they endured Egyptian bondage where all the fruit of their labor went to the Pharaoh for over four hundred years. But God heard their cries and delivered them out of Egypt. And as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, God's protection and provisions were upon them. During those forty years, God miraculously provided bread from heaven called manna. This bread became synonymous with the blessing from God. Although the manna was only a foreshadow of a greater thing to come, it was the Israelites source of life until they reached Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Upon reaching Canaan, the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua had to possess the land. They encountered obstacles in the form of seven mighty Gentile nations: The Hittites, the Hivites, the Gergashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites. But they were able to drive out those nations because God's hand was upon them and because Canaan was their promised land. And the promises of God are yea and amen. (So many times we miss our blessings because we focus more on our problems rather than God's promises.)
One of God's earliest promises recorded in the Book of Genesis was that of a Saviour, the Messiah, who would restore sinful mankind back unto God. That promise became the main focus of the Children of Israel because as God's chosen people, they were to play a special part in His plans and purposes. God told Moses that the Messiah would be a Prophet like him, raised up from among His own brethren, so the Israelites expectantly awaited their Messiah. And fifteen hundred years later Jesus walked right into their midst. And He came in the exact way, doing the exact things that the prophets foretold He would do. He came in the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. He preached the gospel to the poor, healed the brokenhearted, opened blind eyes, made lame legs walk and He set captives free. But the Children of Israel didn't recognize Him as Messiah. They saw Him as a great teacher who just happened to be able to perform miracles. And sad, but true, He gathered a following for that reason. (The same is true today, everybody who follow you or like you may not like you for who you are, but for what you do, especially for them.)
And that can go on and on until you reach that perfect teaching moment, when you can tell them exactly who you are and what you're all about. One day after miraculously feeding a great multitude, Jesus professed to them that He was that greater thing to come in which the manna in the wilderness had foreshadowed. He told them although the manna had sustained their forefathers for forty years, they eventually died. Then He began to teach them that He was the True Bread sent from heaven to give eternal life to them and to the whole world, to whomever would eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. But sadly, all teaching moments are not revelational moments. The crowd had no spiritual idea of what Jesus was saying. Jesus wasn't yet speaking of the Lord's Supper and the only other thing their carnal minds could think of was cannibalism and they knew that was forbidden. So Jesus' teaching became a hard saying to them, something that they just couldn't handle, and from that day on many of His disciples turned away and followed Him no more. But the original twelve disciples understood Jesus' saying as we would understand it today. We've all heard a man say something like, "I love that woman so much, I could just eat her up, and vice versa." Jesus, in a sense, was saying the same thing, "Get so much into Me, love on Me so much that you want to eat me up." And truly, once you taste and see that He is good, you will want to feast on Him all the days of your life.
But because Jesus said He came from Heaven, the religious leaders, the ones who should have recognized Him, opposed Him. Often when their opposition became so open, Jesus and the twelve would withdraw from the area. On one particular occasion they withdrew to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, a region of the Gentiles. There they encountered a woman of Syro-Phoenician birth, a Gentile. Matthew called her a Canaanite. This woman cried out to Jesus, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." She used Jesus' Messianic name, His covenant name. But Jesus quickly let her know that she had no covenant claim. He totally ignored her. The Bible says, "He answered her not a word." What does a mother do when she has a sick daughter or a wayward son and the Living Word has no spoken Word for her situation? What does a mother do when the One who came to heal the broken hearted breaks her heart? She knows her child's life and soul are at stake so a mother keeps on pleading and she cries out louder!
She pleaded so much that the disciples asked Jesus to just give her what she wanted, anything to get her away from them. The Jews looked at the Gentiles as unclean dogs so her very presence offended the disciples. But Jesus told them, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel." But the lost sheep had just rejected their Shepherd, but His mission remained the same - "Salvation unto the Jew first." Then Jesus said to the woman, "It's not fair to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs." The woman said, in so many words, "That's true Lord, but I'm not asking for a claim; I'm asking for a crumb, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table." This woman was saying she knew that Jesus sets the table of Blessings so abundantly for His own that crumbs from that table would be more than enough to bless her and her daughter. Jesus said, "O woman, great is thy faith," and her daughter was healed that very hour.
Then Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee where a great crowd had gathered and He taught them many parables about the Kingdom of God. Later when He and His disciples were alone, He gave them a private teaching, He expounded those parables to them, (which now brings us up to the text). No doubt, Jesus explained to them that others would be included in the Kingdom of God. So it really should'nt have been a shock to them when Jesus said later, "Let us pass over unto the other side."
But you got to understand that the disciples were devout, observant Jews, so to them, going to the other side was going into enemy territory. And surely Peter, who was always the spokesman for the group, expressed their concern. It's not recorded exactly what was said. But I can imagine Peter saying, "Jesus, you can't be serious about going to the other side; that's satan's realm over there. We don't need to be over there. Do you know who's over there? Why, it's the Hittites, the Hivites, the Gergashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perrizites, and the Jebusites, that's where they went when they were driven out of Canaan. Do you know what they have over there? They have the bath complexes and the theatres, they have temples for idol gods, and they even eat pork over there. We don't need to go over there!" They were trying to rationalize the Word of God. We do the same thing today. God speaks a Word into our lives and if it doesn't fit well with us, we want to argue back and forth. We don't want to let God have His own time or His own way. We forget Who's the Creator and and who's the creation. God is the Omniscient One. He and He alone knows the end from the beginning.
Jesus had just explained to the disciples that the Kingdom of God would include others. And obviously they had missed the significance of the two loaves of bread offered at the Feast of Pentecost for 1,500 years. Those two loaves didn't represent wheat and barley; they represented Jew and Gentile. The Bread had to go to the other side. And Jesus was about to lead them by example, because after His death, they would be the ones to take the Bread to the uttermost parts of the earth.
So they sailed off to the other side. Jesus, in His humanity was tired so He went to sleep in the back of the boat. Not long after, a fierce windstorm came out of nowhere. The wind was hitting the water so fiercely that waves would rise five to six feet high then fall into the boat. The disciples had been in storms before but never one quite like this. And of course not, this storm was directly from Satan, the Prince of the Air. And we know that because, first of all, Jesus would never do anything contrary to the will of God. And secondly, Satan was the only one who had something to lose. He knew that if Jesus made it to the other side, then somebody's life would never be the same. Although the storm was from Satan, it was allowed by God. The disciples had just heard the Word of God. And the Word of God produces faith. For faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. But an untested faith is an unproven faith. So God allowed the storm to test their faith, and they failed miserably.
Many of the disciples on the boat were experienced fisherman but they all were afraid. Peter was on that boat. You're familiar with Peter, impetuous Peter, Peter who would often shoot off at the mouth before thinking. It was Peter who told the Lord, "Lord, though others may forsake you, I will never forsake you. I will go to death with you." And a few hours later, a servant girl's words had Peter denying he even knew the Lord. Peter, impulsive Peter, who would often act before thinking. It was Peter who pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest's right hand man, without even thinking about the attempted murder charges he would've faced if Jesus had not put that man's ear back on. That Peter was on the boat. And although nothing is recorded, I will not believe that Peter kept his mouth shut. He couldn't do it.
And fear will make people say some crazy things. I can imagine Peter telling the other disciples, "See, we tried to tell Jesus but He just wouldn't listen. This is proof that we shouldn't be going to the other side. And Jesus got the nerve to be asleep in the back of the boat. He should be out here helping us bail out this water, because if we drown, He's drowning too." They didn't know Who was with them. I don't know if Jesus had already spoken the words, but His words were, "If I be lifted up; I'll draw all men unto me." Jesus knew His mode of death, and it wasn't about to be on a stormy sea. He had to go to Calvary. He wasn't going to die on the sea and neither were they, but they didn't have that Blessed Assurance. They should have known that no matter what the situation was, if Jesus was asleep in it, they could get their pillows and blankets and go to sleep too.
It's that way with us today, except Jesus is now glorified so He never slumbers nor sleeps. And if He abides in you and you abide in Him, no matter what situation arises, "Go to sleep!" For He is awake and He's ever interceding on your behalf.
Not only will fear make you say some crazy things, it will make you do some crazy things. It made the disciples wake Jesus up with a rebuke, "Master, don't you even care that we perish?" They really didn't know who they were talking to. It's a good thing they are not living in these days and times, because many times that's what people will let you know before they punch your lights out, "You don't know who you're talking to!" But they were talking to Jesus, that fine flour with no coarseness or roughness in Him. He just rebuked the wind and the sea, and gently rebuked them for their little faith.
As Jesus' words were sure to come to pass, they made it to the other side. And immediately after getting out of the boat, a demon-possessed man came and fell at Jesus' feet. Matthew says there were two men, but Mark and Luke only record the one because he had the more serious case and the demons spoke through him. This man was possessed by so many demons that they referred to themselves as Legion. A legion was 6,000 Roman soldiers. We don't really know if he had that many demons, but even one demon is one too many.
The demons had turned this man into a mad-man. He lived in a graveyard, ran around naked, screaming and hollering like a wild animal, and he was always bloody because he constantly cut himself. But this man was the reason Satan didn't want Jesus to get to the other side. He was one of Satan's greatest weapons. Satan had used that man to terrorize a whole countryside.
Time will not permit me to go into all the details of this event, so I'll give you the short version. Jesus came through a storm to bring Bread, the blessing from God, to this demon-possessed man because He not only knew what the man was, He knew what he would become. So in love and mercy, He set a captive free. He cast the demons out of the man and allowed them to go into a herd of pigs. The pigs were so tormented that they ran over a cliff and drowned. And when the pig owners heard the news, they came out to investigate. When they got to the scene, they saw the man who had terrorized the people for so long sitting at Jesus' feet, clothed and in his right mind. But instead of the them rejoicing about a soul saved from torment and eternal damnation, they were upset over the loss of the pigs. And to ensure that there would be no more losses, they asked Jesus to leave. The healed man asked Jesus to let him become a disciple. He had tasted the Bread, and he wanted to feast on Him for evermore.
But Jesus told him to go home to his family and friends and tell them about the great things done unto him. Jesus came to the other side and changed a menace to society into a Minister to Decapolis. That man preached the good news throughout the ten cities of Decapolis and the Bible says, "and all men did marvel."
As I said earlier, going to the other side was an example for the original twelve disciples. They wrote or related the story for us, for we are disciples of Christ. So we should let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. And that means we can't look at others for what they are, but for what they can become. Because we weren't always what we are now. We may not have been like the demoniac, but we were surely like Mephibosheth. We were crippled and in hiding. We were crippled by the sin that so easily beset us. But thank God the Servant of the King, the Holy Spirit, sought us out and brought us to the King's palace, that place of blessing. He put our crippled legs under the table and brought us into the knowledge that we were in a covenant relationship through Jesus, whereby we became sons and daughters of the Most High God. Now we sit daily at the King's table of abundant blessings.
But how long Church, can you sit comfortably at that table knowing that there's no Bread for the other side? Sometimes you got to leave your comfort zone. Sometimes you got to leave Suzek, Sis. Jackson, and go to Sycamore, there's a prostitute over there. She's hungry, naked and in a graveyard, society wants her to just die, but you can take her that Life-giving Bread and His robe of righteousness. It won't always be easy, in fact, sometimes you may have to go through a storm to get to the other side. But you got to leave Landmark and go to Levin or Laccassine, there's a drug dealer over there, society wants to lock him up and throw away the key; but all he needs is Bread. He needs Bread, the drug addict needs Bread, the homeless, the homosexual, all God's creation need the Bread. And we who already have the Bread need to get the mindset of The Rev. Charles Spurgeon. Rev. Spurgeon said, "If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over your body. If they will perish, let them perish with your arms around their knees, begging them to stay, begging them to eat the Bread." For every time one sinner eats of the Bread, heaven rejoices and God is glorified. Are you willing to let God use you to take the Bread to the other side?
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