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Pictures That Tell a Story (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 19, 2022 4:00 am

Pictures That Tell a Story (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 19, 2022 4:00 am

Most of us enjoy a good story with an intriguing message. Jesus, however, often told stories that made his listeners increasingly uncomfortable. Hear three of those stories when you study along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Music playing... Most of us like hearing a good story with a relevant message, but today on Truth for Life we'll hear about three stories Jesus told that probably made his listeners squirm a bit.

Here's Alistair Begg with part one of a message titled Pictures That Tell a Story. Music playing... Jesus in this sermon is describing, amongst other things, the characteristics of Christian discipleship. Answering for us the question, what should a follower of Jesus look like, sound like, be like? How will a follower of Jesus treat those who are not like him or her?

How will a follower of Jesus respond to those who frankly despise them and say unkind things about them? And the instruction of Jesus is simply this, that we are to adopt an approach which is gracious and loving and forgiving. This, says Jesus in his opening statement, is the way of blessedness. Blessed is this individual, and blessed is the other, and so on, reminding us that Christian discipleship is marked by a reversal of values. And in verses 20 to 26, the follower of Jesus is described as being one who prizes what the world thinks pitiable and suspects what the world thinks is desirable. So the follower of Jesus is going to be identified by the way in which he or she responds to where the mainstream of a culture is going. And when it endorses that, which is counter to what Jesus teaches, then the follower of Jesus will suspect that kind of emphasis and will be prepared to be regarded as something of a loser because he embraces that which the world thinks is pitiable. So Mark 1 of Christian discipleship is a reversal then of values. Mark 2 in verses 27 to 38 is this dimension of love, which is actually an exceptional kind of love. It's not the kind of love that you find in the sports club. It's not the kind of love you ultimately would find going amongst people in the ebb and flow of life because he says in verse 32, If that's the kind of love, what kind of credit is that to you?

If you simply have a love that's like the love that is found in the local bar, then don't make a fuss about it because pagans are able to do that. If your friendship is simply the kind of friendship that is found on sports teams, if your hospitality is the kind of hospitality that simply invites your kind of people around because you like those kind of people, then he says, I don't want you to be boasting and talking about it because it's no different from what happens in the pagan world. Instead, says Jesus, if you're going to be my disciple, then I want you to be merciful as your father is merciful, and God shows his mercy by being kind to those who are ungrateful and who are wicked. So he says, I want my followers not to be those who stand up, as it were, on the spires of their churches and fire down at the people below saying, you know, you really are a dreadful group of people in this country, in this society, in this culture, in this political process, is going into the dumper, and it's because of the likes of people like you. Jesus says, I don't want to hear that kind of censoriousness coming from you.

I don't want you to be guilty of judgmentalism and condemnation, the kind that seeks to exalt oneself by disparaging other people. Instead, he says, I want you to be the embodiment of forgiveness and the embodiment of kindness. Christian discipleship marked by a reversal of societal values, marked by an exceptional kind of love, and marked in the end of the chapter, to which we'll come next time, by the kind of zealous and true obedience which Jesus demands. That leaves us then just one section of the sermon to which we now come in verses 39 to 45, in which Jesus says that Christian discipleship is going to be displayed in a life of integrity. And in order to drive this home, Jesus employs a series of pictures, each of which tells a story.

Every picture tells a story. It's really quite impossible to read this without understanding that it is in some measure an invitation to introspection. That Christ is calling for us to look inside of ourselves.

I pondered that this week. I could hear numerous school teachers saying to the class, and often I think probably directly to me, after a piece of work had been assigned, or after they said you can turn your papers over now, you know when you have to begin your test and so on, and you turn the paper over and you immediately look around to see if everybody feels as bad as you feel about what the first question is, especially in essay questions. And you're immediately looking around and seeing if anyone has started or whatever is going on. And the teacher says, Now, my suggestion is this. Never mind looking around.

Just concentrate on yourself. And that's exactly what Jesus is saying here. The call of the sermon is that one should not be preoccupied primarily and initially with the spiritual condition of others, but should instead be diligent in examining ourselves in light of the standard that Jesus sets. Now, that is, if we're honest, immediately a challenge, because most of us regarded our prerogative to be immediately involved in the spiritual condition of others, not least of us who have been entrusted with opportunities and responsibilities in leadership. Jesus says, No, I don't want you to begin there. I want you to begin with yourself.

I want you to make sure that the searchlight of my word and my standards is very, very clearly seen to be gazing and looking beneath the surface of your own circumstances. Now there are then five pictures, essentially, that take us through to the end of the chapter. The fifth we will leave.

Until next time, we will make an attempt at the first four. Picture number one is there in verse 39. And he told them this parable, Can a blind man lead a blind man?

Now think about that for just a moment. It has a sort of pathetic humor to it. A blind man being led by a blind guide. Such a picture has disaster written all over it. It's not uncommon for some of us to see a blind man wanting to cross a very busy street, and in our sightedness we go in order to enable them to cross. But if you imagine a very large highway with traffic going both directions, and a blind man trying to get across, and another blind man comes to the help of the blind man trying to get across, and the one blind man helps the other blind man try and avoid four lanes of traffic going in every direction, it has disaster written all over it.

And that is just the point that Jesus is making. You see, Jesus' listeners were well aware of the rugged terrain which was full of pits and potholes. The New Testament has quite a lot to say about falling into pits and being pulled out of pits.

Why is that? Well, because presumably the roads in Palestine were fairly similar to the roads in northeast Ohio. Sometimes you fell into a hole that was actually expressly dug for you by the authorities, and other times you fell into a hole that was being disregarded by the authorities.

But you couldn't go 15 yards without the potential of falling into a pit. And so his listeners would understand that the answer to Jesus' first question was clearly to be a no. Can a blind man lead a blind man? Answer, no. And the answer to his second question was clearly to be a yes. Will they not both fall into a pit?

Yes. Now, by means of this one metaphor, this mental picture, Jesus is pointing out the folly and the futility of a blind man acting as a guide, and also of the disastrous consequences of following a guide who is himself blind. Now, here's the question. How does this tie into the preceding portion of Jesus' discourse, and how does it fit with all that follows? Well, I have thought a great deal about this this week, and my best attempt at it is to say this. That since the context is very much in relationship to an instruction that is taking place within the framework of the Pharisees, who themselves were all eyes, Jesus then, in addressing this issue of blindness, is pointing out that these individuals who regarded themselves as those who really had their eyes wide open, were in point of fact the very blind guides that he warns those who are listening to him against following.

Why do I say that? Well, look at verse 7 of chapter 6. It says that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking, looking, in reference to sight, looking for a way, for a reason to accuse Jesus, and then notice the phrase, so they watched him very closely. So you have this picture of these guys going around with their eyes wide open. And Jesus says, now listen, I want to just ask you a question. Can a blind man lead a blind man? Despite the fact that these folks are walking around with their eyes wide open, they're actually blind. Jesus has already stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth, and he has read from the portion of Isaiah which contains the phrase, the recovery of sight for the blind. And having given up on the scroll, he sat down and he said, now is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing? And the Pharisees who prised themselves in being able to see everything so clearly, were in point of fact blind guides. Now in Matthew's gospel in chapter 15 and 14, Jesus is actually recorded as referring to the Pharisees as blind guides. And the reason that he speaks so clearly concerning it, is because disaster attaches to following a blind guide. It is not that these individuals were purporting information that was simply benign.

It was dreadfully dangerous. And people who speak falsehood, especially as it relates to God and to the Bible, should not be regarded as a benign presence in society, but they should be regarded with gravity, and they should be avoided at all costs. Every so often people will come and say, well, you know, I go to a church where the Bible isn't taught, but the gentleman is a very nice man.

He may be a very nice man, but he's a very dangerous man. If he is not teaching the Bible, if he is not propounding the truth of God's word, he is a blind guide, and you yourself will be blinded by him if you stay there and you will both fall into a pit. Now that kind of phraseology is regarded as dogmatic, assertive, proud, arrogant, and abusive. If it is true, none of the adjectives apply.

If, of course, Christianity is not true, then none of the adjectives are relevant. When Paul is addressing Timothy concerning the false teachers, the blind guides of his day, he says to Timothy, their teaching will spread like gangrene. That's a graphic picture of a putrefying condition which makes a very fast advance through the body. So Jesus, in asking this question, in employing this first picture, is distinguishing between these blind teachers who thought they can see and warning his followers, lest they're tempted to become like them. Now that brings us to the second picture, the teacher and the pupil, or the teacher and the student. Now in the days in which Jesus is addressing this matter, the pupil was virtually totally dependent upon his teacher for guidance and for instruction. In the absence of literature, much literature, they would walk with their teacher, they would eat with their teacher, they would often live with their teacher in order that in the walking and in the talking, they may be clearly a student of that teacher. But in the same way that a son, no matter how advanced he may become in life, is always a son to his father, in the same way a student, no matter how he may excel or she may excel and go beyond the instruction and the academic qualifications of the initial teacher, that individual, you will find if they're worth their salt and honest at all, will always, when they're acknowledging their academic accolades, pay testimony to their teacher. It may be a high school teacher, it may be a principal in an elementary school, but they will say, you know, in accepting this PhD today, I want to acknowledge that I am still the student of Mrs. X or whatever it is, because they recognize their dependence upon that instruction.

Now, Jesus makes that point. And in making the point, there is an inherent warning—namely, make sure that you don't choose the wrong teacher, because the student won't get beyond the teacher. And if you choose these blind guides as your teacher, then you will end up in the pit. Therefore, it is imperative that you leave behind these teachers and that you come and follow he who is the great teacher, namely Jesus himself. The warning, I think, is also matched by an implied exhortation.

And it's simply this. If his followers are going to be teachers, and they are, then they need to be on their guard against the blindness which marked the Pharisees. And what was the blindness that marked the Pharisees? It was the blindness of unbelief.

But what contributed, it would seem, largest of all to their condition? The answer is that they were self-deceived. That they thought they could see when, in point of fact, they were blind.

That they thought they understood who was in and who was out. And Jesus says, no, that's not the case at all. Before judging others, Jesus is essentially saying, we better first judge ourselves, lest we too become blind leaders of the blind.

Now, it is a very sobering statement. Says Calvin, nothing is worse than men who think that they see when they are, in reality, blind. And when, in their delusion, they make bold to act as leaders and guides for others. In other words, that's the worst possible teacher to have. The teacher who is completely self-deceived.

The individual who does not understand what they actually look like. Every so often, in a humorous way, we've had the dreadful experience of being in a party or something where there's a group of people walking around, and they're all doing that small talk and everything. You come up and talk to somebody, and they've got some dreadful smudge or something on their face, or they've got a piece hanging from somewhere that shouldn't be hanging there, or one of their glasses is out, or whatever it is.

And you don't really know the person, and you want to say whatever it is, and you can't bring yourself to do it, and yet you should because they're going around going, hey, and how are you? And everywhere they go, you know that everybody can see what they can't see. And eventually they go to the restroom, and they must just burst into tears because they realize they've looked like this for ages now. They're completely self-deceived. They think they look great.

They look funny. Now, it is this notion that Jesus then employs in his third picture, which is the picture, if you like, of the twig and the plank. Well, let's miss the wood for the trees here. Let's try and say these things as clearly as we can. In order to avoid being a blind teacher, we must first place our lives under the divine searchlight. That's what he's saying. Before we start in on other people, let's make sure that we are undergoing the x-ray.

Before we start running around with a mobile CAT scan for everybody, let's make sure that we ourselves have been through the tube. Because a knowledge of oneself and a preparedness to take oneself in hand is, says Jesus, a prerequisite for the individual who is going to become something of a reformer. Indeed, without self-examination and without self-reparation, our actions will be the product of presumption rather than the product of love. Do you understand what I mean by that? That if I am unprepared to face the dreadfulness of my own heart, if I am unprepared to acknowledge with Murray McShane, who died at the age of twenty-nine as a Presbyterian minister in Dundee, that the seeds of every sin known to man dwell in my own heart, that in a moment I could erupt like a volcano, I could explode, I could be a disaster in an instant. Unless I truly understand that and believe that, then when I go to deal with others, the temptation will be that I go to take the high ground of presumption rather than I come along the low ground of genuine love. And there's all the difference in the world, and we know it. We feel it.

It's palpable when somebody comes along like this and somebody comes along like this. And Jesus is saying, if you're going to be kind to the ungrateful and the merciful, you're going to have to be able to come along like this, and if you're going to learn to come along like this, then you're going to have to put yourself under the CAT scan of my word, and you're going to have to realize that you've got things hanging off you and bits in your face and all kinds of nonsense which actually are known to other people, and you yourself are blind to them. Now, he says, I want you to fix this up before you start on anybody else. See what an amazing, purifying thing discipline is within the body of Christ. People, when they think about church discipline, tend to think immediately about communion tables and disfranchising and disfellowshipping people, but the real church discipline is a discipline that starts with our own hearts. Church discipline starts with me. It's not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. It's not really my wife that needs fixed. It's me. It's not really my kids that are the problem.

It's me. But everything in me militates against that, and I would far rather come and tell some other people about some of their dreadful conditions than face my own. Now, let me trivialize it. You go to the zoo, and you see there's chimpanzees and there's monkeys and baboons. Weird creatures, I think, that God has given to us as a joke, quite frankly. I do not believe for one single solitary second that there is any progression between them and us, and there is no need for that. God gave us monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans to show us how blooming stupid we actually look a lot of the time. And if we did not have a soul and we did not have the same kind of brain, that's basically what we would look like.

But it's not what we came from to this. He says, I give you these guys so you can see. Now, what do they do? Pick each other.

What is it with these things? Picking each other. Always doing this.

Parting each other's hair, doing it, picking things. And you're standing watching this. You go, why does that thing think it has a right to do that to his brother or whoever it is that's in there with him?

To his sister? I mean, if that thing could see what it looks like, it would cut that picking out. It would go get a shower, it would go and never come back.

Because this gets stuff coming from everywhere, but it doesn't matter. It's like, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Picking it up, looking at it, showing it to the person. Do you see that? Look at that. They do that stuff, don't they? Now, were we doing that seven billion years ago?

No, we're doing it this week. Just doing it differently. Doing it with different stuff. Rooting around in each other's business to pick it up and show it to each other. Jesus says, now listen, there's a place for dealing with the twigs, but let me tell you what the process is.

First the two by four, then the twig. Don't get it out of sync. Because if you do, you're a Pharisee, you're a blind guy, and you'll never be better than your teacher. There is grave danger in judging others before we first examine our own spiritual condition.

We're listening to Alistair Begg. This is Truth for Life Weekend. We just learned how dangerous false teachers can be. As Alistair explained, false teaching can spread quickly, like gangrene through an entire congregation. That's why it's important for us to understand the Bible, so that when God's word is taught, we can discern truth and confidently confront false teaching. That's why we're excited about the book we're featuring today. It's entitled Know the Truth, a Handbook of Christian Belief. The word doctrine is a pretty common term, and as it relates to Christianity, doctrine means beliefs that we as followers of Jesus affirm to be absolutely true. The book Know the Truth presents these core beliefs one by one. It gives in-depth explanation of biblical truth that forms the foundation of our faith.

The author of the book is Bruce Milne, and he covers topics like the Trinity, God as creator, God's providence. You can find out more about the book Know the Truth when you visit our website, And while you're with us online, you can download any message from Alistair's teaching library for free.

Use the search feature in the top blue bar to find a sermon by topic or by series or by scripture reference. Thousands of messages are available to download or to share with others at no cost. Once again, go to

You can also easily download and share messages using the free Truth for Life mobile app. I'm Bob Lapine. There are false teachers all around us. No church is exempt from their invasion. Next weekend, we'll learn three ways to distinguish genuine Christian disciples from those who would seek to lead us astray. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-20 18:20:15 / 2023-05-20 18:29:24 / 9

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