What Stops us from Understanding God? – Mark 12:18-27

Goodmorning church! As a church we have been studying through the gospel of Mark& right now we find ourselves in Mark chapter 12 verses 18.

As you are turning to it, let me remind us of the context of our passage. These are the final parts of Jesus’ journey toward the cross. Jesus met with more and more hostility as we’ve been seeing in the last few chapters.

The Jewish religious leaders almost in every chapter are planning and plotting to kill Jesus from this point. The only thing that restrains them is their fear of man.

Last week we were read of how the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to trap Jesus with a question and today we find another group called the Sadducee’s who are trying to argue with Jesus. Let’s look at the text Mark 12:18-27 Read:

Have you ever shared a similar experience where you get onto a rickshaw and even before you say word, the rickshaw driver starts a full-blown conversation in his local language? I’ve had this experience a few times where the rickshaw driver assumes I know Marathi and starts speaking.

Probably 2 minutes into the conversation I usually interject and say “I’m sorry I don’t speak Marathi. Can we switch to Hindi?” Now I’m sure the rickshaw driver is saying some great stuff but my inability to understand his language makes it difficult to understand him.

I believe sometimes in our Christian walk we can similarly have issues understanding God due to our inability.

However, in this case God has made His Word plain to us – we have the Bible available in our own local languages but we still don’t understand him because there are some things that stop us from doing that?

What stops us from understanding God?

I think it means at least two things from this passage:

  1. Failure to receive the truth of God
  2. Failure to believe in the power of God

Failure to receive the truth of God

24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

Let’s understand a little bit more about the Sadducee’s. The Sadducee’s were a group religious Jews during Jesus’ time.

The word “Sadducee’s” literally means “the righteous”! Unlike the Pharisees they rejected the extra oral tradition and only considered the written law to be from God. They denied these doctrines as well:

  • Theresurrection of the body which we also see in v18
  • Theimmortality of the soul
  • Evidenceof spirits and angels
  • Divinepre-destination (God would pre-determine and elect people those who wouldbelieve in Him). So basically they would have a lot of issues with Calvinists! ?

And they come to Jesus asking Jesus trying to confuse or trap him with some questions because it’s obvious that they don’t believe in the resurrection.

Now the law that Moses gave them required the deceased husband’s brother to marry the widow in a case if she didn’t have a child. This was done in order to protect the widow & provide descendants for the deceased man. 

So they tell Jesus a scenario where there were 7 brothers – the first one died and his widow was left without the child. The second brother married her but he also died without a child. 

And finally all 7 died without a child and the widow herself died. So in the afterlife whose wife is she going to be? And Jesus’ answer to them is that they don’t know the Scriptures! Why did Jesus say that?

It’s because the OT has been quite clear on the topic of resurrection. Sometimes we think that only the NT talks about resurrection when in fact the OT has some very clear verses on the same.

Isa 26:19 : Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light, 
   and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Psalm 71:20 : You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
       will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
        you will bring me up again.

These passages were available and present in their written law but still you find them be more interested in using Scripture to argue with Jesus rather than know God.

Scripture is merely being used as a tool for selfish gain rather than a means to know God! And that’s what I think Jesus was referring to. Okay, then what does it actually mean to receive the truth of God? How can I know if I’m actually using Scripture to know God?

a.Accept the whole counsel of God

God’s Word is God’s clear revelation to us. We need to be prepared to accept it completely. Not in parts. Not by cherry picking the favorite verses that we like. The ones that makes us feel sweet and loved.

Which means that we don’t just read and meditate on Psalms like May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us (Psalm 67:1) but we also meditate on passages like

Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

So we accept the whole counsel of God even when it hits directly at the sin of our hearts, we accept the whole counsel of God even when it makes us feel uncomfortable,we accept the whole counsel of God even when talks about suffering for the sake of Christ.

That’s why as a church we preach expository messages. It’s not because we have an issue with topical sermons but we believe that the whole counsel of God essential to us becoming the people that God has called us to be.

We would not be serving you well if we only preached about marriage or finances or worship. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).  I’d encourage us to read the Bible from end to end…especially those that we find unfamiliar.

One of things that we are trying to incorporate in our discipleship groups is to cover an epistle like Colossians, an OT prophet like Malachi and a gospel book like John. Not because it’s cool and different but because we really believe that every verse, every passage, every book is an essential part of understanding the whole counsel of God.

b.Check our motivation for studying Scripture

Sometimes I think that’s one aspect that we tend to ignore when we think about studying Scripture. Even though this is absolutely important to the heart of God. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7).

And that’s true when we tithe, sing songs of praise, disciple people, obey God commands and also study Scripture. If we are doing it reluctantly or out of pride – it doesn’t bring glory to God. Let’s ask ourselves: what’s our motivation to study Scripture?

Is to know God or Is it to show off your biblical knowledge? Is it to understand God or find affirmations from the people in church? Is it to love God or check the good Christian box? Is it to obey God or is it to somehow hope that you’ll appease God and get something from Him?

These questions I’ve found to be extremely helpful for me to analyze the condition of my heart as I’ve read the Word. And because this deals with the deep-rooted sin in my heart, I’ve perpetually needed to repent of the wrong motivations in my heart and trust in what Christ has done for me.

Both of these things – accepting the whole counsel of God and checking our motivation for studying Scripture will determine if we are in posture to receive the truth of God.

But it’snot just a failure to receive the truth of God that stops us from understanding God but it also is

Failure to believe in the power of God

24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? – v26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Jesus goes back to the passage about the burning bush. Remember this is Moses’ first encounter with God and God introduces himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.

Now for all the ones who love grammar – which tense is being used here? Present tense. It means that Abraham is still living in the presence of God and enjoying the covenant blessing and will one day be raised when Christ returns.

The Sadducee’s failed to believe that God was able to raise people from the dead. The issue wasn’t just about lack of knowledge but a lack of belief that the God of the Bible can actually do what He said he’ll do!

It’s one thing to know Romans 10:9 & it’s another thing to believe that God will save you!

They weren’t ready to believe that God is much bigger & powerful than they could ever imagine! All the issues they struggled with – immortality of souls, the resurrection of bodies, the existence of angels and spirits, God predestining His people – all of that was too much to grapple with.

Because it would mean that they would need to reckon with the reality of God. If God Is who He says He is in the Bible, then there’s no playing around. They will need to change their ways. And that’s what often stops people from knowing Him.

And it’snot just with the Sadducee’s, the truth is that if we honestly looked at Scripture with fresh eyes and open hearts, the God of the Bible will humble us.We will understand how small we are in comparison to God. We too are required to change our ways. We too are required to repent.

Brothers and sisters, that’s the goal of our time with Scripture. It’s an interaction with God where He speaks to us, humbles us and changes us.

If we aren’t experiencing that in our morning devotions, there might be some sin that we’ll need to repent of today and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts so that we can experience the humility and the change that God wants to bring about.

As we read today, it’s the failure to receive the truth of God and the failure to believe the power of God that stops us from understanding God. But I don’t want to leave us with a “Ok, I’ll try better next time” message.

Some of these things like checking the motivations of our hearts and believing in the power of God cannot be automatically manufactured. Rather I wanted these things to help us identify our areas of repentance & then look to the Lord of the living to help us, forgive us and change us.

Let’s remember that the reason why the resurrection is possible is because our Lord Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third Day. His resurrection makes ours possible! He commands dead people to come back to life and they do! He can do the very same thing in our hearts today.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *