The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ

BLCF: making-disciples-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ’

© August 30, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 30, 2015

Based on Messages shared with BLCF on December 30, 2012 and September 22, 2013

Christ is the foundation

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 664: About Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12); Prayer

Opening Hymn: #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayer Requests

Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 13:10-16; Mark 6:30-44; John 10:37-38

Matthew 13:10-16 The Purpose of the Parables:

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10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Mark 6:30-44 (ESV): Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand:

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30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Footnote: a. Mark 6:37 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

John 10:37-38 (ESV):

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37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Let us pray…

As a church, composed of a body of believers in the resurrected Christ, we are gifted with salvation from God’s judgment of sin, the promise of a resurrection from death, and gifts through the Holy Spirit. These gifts empower us to demonstrate as one unified body, the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit as a witness to the Gospel of Lord, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 (ESV) :

Spiritual Gifts:

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12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. . One Body with Many Members 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

BLCF_Cafe_LOGO_Sign

Every Wednesday since January 2008, at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, we have been challenged to prepare for, serve to, minister upon, and clean-up after a gathering of to as many as 150 to 200 guests. Many of our volunteers, though attending post-secondary schools are ESL students. That is to say that they grew up speaking another language and have volunteered at the cafe to hone their English skills as well as to serve a compassionate cause. I have observed some of the tricks used by Sophie to communicate how to run the dinner a complex set of activities in a short period of time. To help develop the ESL student’s English skills, Sophie will have an experienced volunteer brief the new volunteers regarding the operating and safety procedures at the café.

Sophie will demonstrate to the volunteers how to prepare; serve each guest, in what order; how to demonstrate friendship and respect; how to deal with unacceptable behavior from guests; when to take breaks; what to do or not do during the message portion of the dinner; when we serve dessert; how to avoid serving a guest twice, before all guests have been served; and even the manner by which the dinner is served. To avoid misunderstanding, Sophie will demonstrate the process by example and often will pair experienced volunteers with new ones so that the new volunteers may observed and learn by following the example of their respective assigned partner. Sophie uses a simple, but effective approach to both acquainting new volunteers with the processes involved with the running the dinner, while forging a team bond among the volunteers.

For our lesson today, we will compare how the actions of the volunteers at the BLCF Café relate to Jesus’ miracles and parables as a living testimony to Christ’s Gospel.

Prior to his crucifixion on the cross for our sins, Jesus ministered for some three and a half years. Jesus was challenged with teaching matters of a spiritual nature to people who have yet to experience Pentecost and before they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s expectations and plans for His people.

To meet this challenge, Christ’s performed a number of miracles and parables to help them understand God’s expectations, promises and plans for His children. To emphasize God ‘compassion for our needs and teach how He can overcome the seemingly impossible, He would perform a miracle.

The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels. A miracle, being supernatural by definition, is action which defies the laws and rules of nature and is beyond the abilities of the common person. The miracle demonstrates the fact that the power of the Lord exceeds the laws and rules of science and of the world. However, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus refuses to give a miraculous sign to prove his authority. That is to say, the Lord refused to perform a miracle as a stunt or to entertain those incapable or unwilling to appreciate the Spiritual Power of God.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is said to have performed seven miraculous signs that characterize his ministry, from changing water into wine at the start of his ministry to raising Lazarus from the dead at the end. We find a good example in the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude in the Gospel of Mark 6:30-44.

Over the centuries Christian scholars have reviewed, discussed and analyzed the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. In most cases, authors associate each miracle with specific teachings that reflect the message of Jesus. These scholars view the miracles of Jesus, not merely as acts of power and omnipotence, but as works of love and mercy that are performed not with a view to awe witnesses with a sense of the Lord’s omnipotence, but as a sign of Christ’s compassion for a sinful and suffering humanity. Each miracle involves a specific teaching or lesson.

According to the Gospel of John, it was impossible to narrate all of the miracles performed by Jesus, the miracles presented in the Gospels were selected for a twofold reason: first as a manifestation of God’s glory, and then for their evidential value to the faith of a witness. Jesus referred to his “works” as evidences of his mission and his divinity, and in John 5:36 (ESV), he declared that his miracles have greater evidential value than the testimony of John the Baptist:

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36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

And our Lord challenges those who witnessed his miracles as a validation of the presence of God in Christ, as part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity in the Gospel of John 10:37-38(ESV):

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37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

We see the miracles of the Lord helped teach us Jesus’ plan and the supernatural manner by which it would be achieved. While the miracles were self- evident, the Lord made use of the parable as an aid to teach his purpose and plan.

The parables of Jesus can be found in all the Canonical Gospels as well as in some of the non-Canonical Gospels, but are located mainly within the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). They represent a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings. Jesus’ parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and each conveys a message.

Scholars have commented that although these parables may seem simple, the messages that they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus. Christian scholars view them not as mere similitude’s which serve the purpose of illustration, but as internal analogies where nature becomes a witness for the spiritual world. In other words the miracle gives the world a glimpse of the supernatural aspects of God’s Spiritual realm.

Many of Jesus’ parables refer to simple everyday things, such as a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan); yet they deal with major religious themes, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, the importance of prayer, and the meaning of love.

Still, the disciples had a problem understanding the purpose of the Lord’s use of the parable, which Jesus explains the Gospel of Matthew 13:10-16 (ESV):

The Purpose of the Parables

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10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,     

and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,     

and with their ears they can barely hear,     

and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes     

and hear with their ears and understand with their heart     

and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

 BLCF: actions_louder_than_words

The parable helped the non-believer to understand the Lord’s spiritual purpose to his miracles. A full understanding only comes by way of the faith of the witness, with help from the Holy Spirit. Belief in the supernatural aspect of a miracle, can lead the observer to supernatural character of the Lord, and in turn to faith in the Lord and belief in the truth of his Gospel.

BLCF: Community-Dinner

Let us now return to our outreach ministry at Wednesday’s BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. To non-believing guests and volunteers, our actions of serving and fellowship are a living parable of the love and sacrifice of Christ. And by the miracle of the power of God’s Holy Spirit, those who accept action of love that are given without any expectation in return, can relate to the gift of God’s unconditional love for His children. This understanding, through the power of the Holy Spirit, helps non-believers understand and accept by faith, God’s unconditional gift of grace, salvation and love, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. It is by conviction of the Holy Spirit that believers may preach and teach others the Gospel love of God through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. It is by acts of unconditional compassion and love, we become a living parable and testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

In that regard, Wednesday’s Community Dinner is viewed, by many of our guests and volunteers, as their church. After all, is the Church, God’s holy temple, not a building composed of mortar, wood and bricks located at 1307 Bloor Street West, but the people who gather here to study His word, sing and praise His name, and to glorify their God, as a body of believers’. It is the people who are God’s Holy Temple or Arcs of His New Covenant: Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV):

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19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

The church or temple of God is not a building that contains a body of worshipers, but rather it is the body of believers that contain the Holy Spirit with Christ as the foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:11 (ESV):

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11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

By sharing the gospel of Jesus in word, thought and deeds to others, we invite them to join His church and share grace of his gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit through faith, and thus becoming a part of His Church.

I would like to conclude today’s lesson by reciting, as our closing prayer, the following poem, Moments, by author Violet Turner:

Let us pray…

In moments of my deepest sorrow

When I’m tempted to despair

You remind me that you love me

Proving that You’re always there.

And,

In moments when life feels empty

As I’m drowning in the rain,

You reach out to save me

Healing my deepest pain.

And,

In moments when I feel lost

As the waves crash over me,

You cling to me with all Your might

Protecting me in the raging sea.

 

And,

In moments when I want to quit

You help me to believe,

You open my blind eyes

That I may truly see …

 

That,

In a moment of great love

You sacrificed Your perfect Son,

Redeeming me from sin’s grasp

 

So,

In moments of pain and sorrow

I will not give up, nor despair,

Because in Your might love

You’ve proven You’re always there.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/membersubmittedprayers/qt/Moments-Poem.htm

Amen…

Closing Hymn is #12: Praise the Lord, His Glories Show

Benediction – (Romans 15:5-7):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

– Go in Peace of the Lord!

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