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Sermon 5-3-09
Matthew 13:15-16 - Understanding

Audio Sermon

Understanding

For the heart of this people has become dull. With their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:15-16)

Many years ago, before I returned to the Lord, I visited a church with a person who sat next to me during the service. At some point, the minister invited us to bow our heads in prayer, and I did, not because I trusted in the Lord at that point, but out of respect for the minister’s request. I noticed that the person who had come to the church with me was tapping me on the arm. I opened one eye and observed that the person was smiling and beckoning me to lean closer. I did and they whispered, “What if there’s nobody there?” I whispered back, “What do you mean?” They responded, “Look at the minister.” I looked up at the man behind the pulpit, whose eyes were closed and he was waving his arms as he prayed, and I also glanced around to see if anyone was watching my disrespectful action of whispering during the prayer. Apparently no one saw us because everyone else had their eyes closed, and I turned again to the person next to me who was still smiling. They said, “He’s talking to God, but what if God doesn’t exist? What if nobody’s there?” And the smile grew even wider. Because my spiritual condition was poor to non-existent at the time, I smiled a small smile, too, and nodded before closing my eyes once more.

The person next to me and I did not know that God was in that place, that church, and in the minister’s prayer, because we had not placed our faith in the Lord. The two of us were like most of the people in this world, for “the heart of this people has become dull. With their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart...” (our Scripture for today). It’s a tragedy that so many do not believe. The person next to me and I did not believe at the time of that church service and therefore we did not understand. St. Augustine, nearly 2000 years ago, said this: “Unless you believe, you will not understand.

Interesting! Many in the world are troubled by the idea of simple “faith” and would prefer to be convinced intellectually about the existence of God before they will believe. But as the old saying goes, they’re “putting the cart before the horse,” which means they are looking at things the wrong way, just as I did before trusting in the Lord. Faith is infinitely more than just shutting your eyes and willing yourself to believe. It is actually opening ourselves to God in Christ and allowing Him to plant a seed of faith deep within the center of your very being. Those who do are given a genuine faith, even though small at first, and it’s only then that we finally begin to understand. But most try to please God through effort; not through faith.

There was an interesting article in the “Long Beach Press Telegram,” a newspaper I delivered from my bicycle when I was a boy. The article was dated April 11, 2009, and it was called, “Non-Jews take temporary custody of food during Passover.” Here’s a portion of the article: “…Jose Mendez, a non-Jew, a 29-year old Catholic immigrant from the Dominican Republic who works at the East Brunswick Jewish Center in New Jersey (USA), became owner of a huge amount of food he’ll never eat. For the entire length of Passover, Mendez will legally possess hundreds of bags and boxes of bread, pasta and other leavened foodsfrom Jewish homes. Once Passover ends, ownership will uneventfully revert back to the original owners. Similar deals are struck – usually for $1 or no money at all – between Jews and non-Jews around the world each Passover, and it’s been that way for centuries. The switch in legal possession is seen as helping Jews fulfill the Biblical commandment in Exodus 12:15-20 and its context, against eating or owning leavened foods during the holiday, without actually having to dispose of large quantities of forbidden foods…”

“Leaven” is often a parable for “sin” in Scripture, but the direct reference in Passover is a reminder of how the Hebrew slaves were suddenly rescued from Egypt, and in their haste, the bread they needed for food did not have time to rise through the action of a leavening agent like yeast. The article continued that Jose Mendez legally can eat the leavened food, but he and others like him “around the world never see the food, which typically stays in the Jews’ homes in basements or plastic bags.” How interesting. Those who celebrate the Passover Seder, as we have done, are supposed to get rid of something out of gratitude for rescuing their ancestors from slavery, but instead many just pretend that something is gone, when in fact it isn’t, not unlike a religious magic trick.

This very common practice in Judaism is not the focus of this sermon. It is merely an example of behavior that is common to people everywhere. Like the alcoholic who pretends to himself and others that his drinking is under control when it’s not, those in the church tend to be one thing to satisfy a religious requirement, but the reality is something else. Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 13:6), and some of that “leaven” exists in every one who walks this earth. One of the followers of Jesus, John the Apostle, said in his later years, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We are sinners and the best we can do is become honest with God about who we are. John continued, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We do not become acceptable in the sight of God by pretending to be something we’re not. Self-imposed holiness is not what our walk with the Lord is all about.

The reason that most people do not utterly abandon themselves to the love of God which is in Christ Jesus is because of what He might want FROM us in return. He might lead you to leave your job, your present life, and go to some other country. A big concern is that He might direct you to give your money to someone or to some organization. You might be martyred for your faith. You might lose friends and your family members might turn against you. Those are some of the concerns people have and some of it occasionally does happen. When you trust in the Lord, you and your life will change, but as you understand you'll be glad it did.

Our Scripture, Matthew 13:15-16, describes the journey that begins about when we trust in the Lord: “For the heart of this people has become dull. With their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:15-16). Before trusting in the Lord, we are blind and deaf to the things of God, as the disciples had been 2000 years ago, before Jesus said to each of them, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). To respond to Him, is to begin to “see” and “hear” in ways never understood or even thought about. It’s a journey in which you will begin to conclude that your eyes are blessed “because they see; and your ears because they hear.” The Holy Spirit of God will reveal much and you will understand.

Dear Lord, I entrust myself, my life to You. I confess my sins, my need of You, and in Your strength, I will follow You. Please give me understanding. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

www.FirstChurchOnTheNet.org
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Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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