Summary: The phony Pharisees are settled in their unbelief and the forgetful followers are unsettled in their belief.

Beware of Unbelief

Mark 8:11-21

Rev. Brian Bill

August 27-28, 2016

Do you pay attention to signs when you see them? It depends, right? I like seeing signs that make me laugh [show funny signs].

It’s easy to ignore signs, especially when they’ve been there for a while. This has happened repeatedly when trucks have traveled down Harrison Street or up Brady Street in Davenport and hit immovable bridges. So far the bridges have won every one of these encounters [check out some pictures of these stuck trucks].

These truck-eating bridges even have their own Facebook page.

One article I found online begins like this: “Scenes of stunned drivers staring at the crushed hulks of their trailers, their cargo littering the roadway, were common over the years until the Iowa Department of Transportation installed a height detection system with electric warning signs on Harrison Street in 2001.”

Even with all the new signs and warning systems, crashes continue to happen. I counted three sets of flashing yellow lights and lots of signs on Harrison Street.

But the bridge still gets hit. Why is that? Because signs are often disregarded. Signs alone don’t help if you don’t pay attention to them.

There was another crash into the bridge on Brady Street on Wednesday.

We’re going to see that the enemies of Jesus wanted some additional signs but they end up slamming into the Savior anyway. The disciples of Jesus want to believe but often ignore the signs as well. In our passage for this weekend we see two groups of people.

The phony Pharisees are settled in their unbelief and the forgetful followers are unsettled in their belief. Let’s look first at those who are settled in their unbelief.

Settled Unbelief

Let’s set the context by going back to Mark 8:10. Jesus has just fed the 4,000 and is ending his 6-8 month journey in which he took the good news to the unreached Gentiles: “And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.”

As He arrives back on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, we read in verse 11 that the religious Gestapo come out of hiding and slam into Him: “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” The word “came” indicates that they “came out” as if in hiding, marching toward Him with purpose and determination. The word “began” is in the present infinitive, meaning “they began at once and kept it up.” Jesus has already given these religious leaders many signs but they don’t pay attention to them. All they wanted to do was argue with Him as they sought a way to trap Him.

There were plenty of signs for the Pharisees to see but they had ignored all of them. One of the biggest ones is found in Mark 1:11: “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” Jesus had healed diseases, cast out demons, controlled the deep, made a miraculous dinner twice, healed the deaf, and raised the dead. What other signs did they need?

In response to the demands of the phony Pharisees who are settled in their unbelief, Jesus does two things.

1. He denounces them. Their attitude affects Jesus emotionally in verse 12: “And He sighed deeply in His spirit…” We saw in 7:34 that Jesus sighed when seeing and sensing the situation the deaf man was in. When face-to-face with the Pharisees He sighed because of the hardness of their hearts. The idea is that He “snorted with anger.” This sighing was done “deeply” in His soul, which means that it was emphatic and very strong. This is similar to His reaction in Mark 3:5 where “He looked around at them in anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.”

With a hint of exasperation, Jesus then asks them a probing question, “Why does this generation seek a sign?” In Matthew 16:4, Jesus describes this generation as “evil and adulterous.” In Mark 9:19, Jesus cries out, “O faithless generation…” As we come back to our passage, Jesus definitively states with an oath, “Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

2. He departs from them. Verse 13 is one of the saddest verses in the Bible: “And He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.” This is an abrupt departure because Jesus knows these men have become settled in their unbelief. They want to fight, not grow in faith. They want to argue, not accept what is true. Jesus no doubt knew Proverbs 23:9: “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.” Proverbs 18:2 says: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Do you know people like that? Jesus is practicing what He taught in Matthew 7:6: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

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