I Didn’t Do It!

Butter, dish, and knifeGood or Evil

What do you think? Are humans inherently good or evil?

How many here believe humans are inherently good?

How many here believe humans are inherently evil?

I suspect the best answer to the question, “Are humans inherently good or evil?” is…

Yes.

🙂

But, if there is one thing that I think argues for the latter…that we are inherently evil…at least in part…is our propensity to lie.

It seems to me that, even at an early age, when you are going to get into trouble for doing something, human nature automatically wants to say…

“I didn’t do it!”

Pretty much as soon as we can feel guilt and/or understand we might get in trouble, we want to (and to often do) lie. Say we didn’t do it. Blame someone else. Claim ignorance about it. Anything but just fess up and admit we are the guilty party.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

The reason I think that it shows an “inherently evil” side of human nature is because it doesn’t seem a learned trait with really young children. They also, in one form or another, exclaim, “I didn’t do it!”…but nobody taught it to them. Thus, it seems intrinsic in their (and our) being versus a trained habit.

“I didn’t do it!”

God-Given Ignorance

Now, put that thought on hold for a bit, and let’s return to something we discussed last week in the sermon, “Do You Understand?” During that talk we learned that Jesus, multiple times, told the disciples He was going to be killed and rise again. One of those references we read was Mark 9:30-32. Let’s read it again…

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him (Mark 9:30-32).

Compared to the other two times, last week, that we read in Mark Jesus telling his disciples He was going to die and be resurrected, that one had that interesting additions of “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

What we didn’t do, however, was review a similar quote by another Gospel writer, Luke. Let’s do that now:

And all were astonished at the majesty of God.

But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Luke 9:43-45).

Here we have Jesus again saying he was “going to be delivered into the hands of men,” that “they did not understand the [this] saying,” and that they “were afraid to ask him,” but what new bit of information does Luke add?

Why didn’t the disciples understand?

Because “it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceived it.”

Well, that’s kind of odd, isn’t it?

Before we try to figure out how we should interpret that, let’s turn 9 chapters later in Luke:

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (Luke 18:31-34).

Okay. Now it’s pretty clear something is up.

Why didn’t the disciples “grasp what was said”?

Because “this saying was hidden from them.”

If Jesus…or the Father…wanted to conceal or hide the meaning…why even bring it up?

Don’t get me wrong…I do see great benefit in that they could remember Jesus’ words after the resurrection and it would strengthen their faith. John 2:18-22 alludes to that:

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

So…even when they didn’t understand the meaning as Jesus spoke the words, it did ultimately help their faith…their belief…afterward.

But you still have to admit that it seems odd that God would…apparently purposefully…hide or conceal understanding from the Twelve.

How do we explain that?

War

First, I’ll be up front and say this is another case where I won’t be able to tell you 100% how you should interpret those verses. However, I will give you a couple of what I would consider entirely reasonable explanations. As those who have faith in…belief in…trust in…our Lord Jesus Christ we don’t have to understand everything in order to continue to follow Him, do we? We can wait until we get to heaven to have complete clarity, right? I hope so, because…

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Firstly, I would suggest that even if the verses mean exactly what they seem to say…that God purposefully hid or concealed understanding from the disciples…

So what?

As soldiers in God’s army we are willing participants in His strategy to win the spiritual war, and if our Lord willingly blinds us to something because it helps that cause, we should accept it without complaint.

When I was considering this portion of this sermon, what came to mind was the first wave of soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy. Each man had to know his statistical chance of dying that day was high…yet each one still pushed forward…understanding that the battle and the war depended on it. And, in military conflict, sometimes you even have to be willing to lose a battle to win the war.

The disciples’ ignorance was less a sacrifice than the lives of the World War II Allied soldiers storming the Normandy beaches…but in both cases, understanding the greater war each was a battle in…

There had to be a willingness to sacrifice.

Pharaoh

However, the “that’s just the way it was” and “God knows best” explanation for God concealing or hiding understanding isn’t the explanation I find most satisfying. I am perfectly okay with it, and it may be true…but let me offer an alternative.

I don’t have many sermons I would suggest people specifically listen to, but I do with “Clay or Butter.” You can find it on my Traditores.org site under the secondary menu item “Key Sermons.” We won’t spend too much time now reviewing it, but I thought you might find a discussion of the Pharaoh in Moses’ day interesting.

In it I noted that nine times in Exodus it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Nine times.

And in in Romans 9:17-18 it states:

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

But then I shared two verses that said Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:8-15 and Exodus 8:31-32). After that I quoted John MacArthur, who listed 10 times that the Bible said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and 10 times that it indicate Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Although I would lop off one from each of MacArthur’s lists…we still end up exclaiming…

Wait?! Which is it?! Did God harden Pharaoah’s heart, or did Pharaoh harden his own heart?!

And I would answer that the same way I told you I would answer the question of whether humans are inherently good or inherently easy…

Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, or did Pharaoh harden his own heart?!

Yes.

🙂

Clay or Butter

I then provided two possible explanations for the apparent contradiction in Scripture…but I am only going to share the second one here. Rick and Diane’s is a pizzeria like The Pizza Shop we meet in every Sunday, so just replace “Rick and Diane’s” with “The Pizza Shop” as you listen to this quote. 🙂

Now…this is an analogy that I’ve mentioned before. Before you I have Play Doh and butter. If I borrowed a heat lamp from Rick and Diane’s…hooked it to the communion table…and then put the Play Doh and butter under it…

What would happen to the Play Doh? [ It would harden. ]

The butter? [ It would melt. ]

But, it’s the same thing being applied to both, isn’t it?!

So, why the difference?

Because the reaction is dependent on the recipient…

Does that make sense?

That “the reaction is dependent on the recipient”?

I mean, look at Jesus…same exact evidence to thousands upon thousands of people…same visible miracles…same divine words and actions…and some fell to His feet, while others screamed, “Crucify him!”

But, how does the “Clay or Butter” explanation fit the disciples?

Let’s read the same verses we first did in Luke today, but then continue on to the next section:

And all were astonished at the majesty of God.

But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:43-48).

I tend to believe that Luke’s juxtaposition of these two sections is purposeful.

Why didn’t the disciples understand?

Because they were fixated on their place in the worldly kingdom they, and the rest of the Jews, expected the Messiah to bring.

They couldn’t understand it because it conflicted with their misperceptions…misperceptions that appealed to their selfish natures.

At that point they were not like children with teachable hearts.

Like Pharaoh, they had hard hearts that needed softening. Unlike Pharaoh, the light of Jesus ultimately melted their hearts instead of completely hardening them.

Accepting Responsibility

“But Alan,” you can rightly ask, “then why does it say God concealed or hid it from them if it was their own fault?’

Great question! 🙂

At least in America we live in an age where we have guilty politicians and bureaucrats who often first deny or avoid discussing responsibility, but finally step up to the microphone and say, “The buck stops with me.”

After which they and their supporters say it is time to move on…that there shouldn’t be any ramifications to their mistake or crime. That, by admitting fault, they shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

However…

  • God does not deny responsibility.
  • God does not avoid responsibility.
  • God accepts responsibility and its ramifications.
  • God suffered the consequences.

When God created beings with free will, He knew what that meant.

He knew the devil and his demons would rebel.

He knew, starting with Adam and Eve, every human except the Son of God would, to varying degrees, also rebel.

But, out of love, He still created.

And every step of the way since, God has more than understood…He has known…how every action He takes…every word He says…would take hold in every individual.

Whether it be a plague hardening Pharaoh’s heart…

Or a prophesy of Jesus’ death and resurrection confusing the Twelve.

And He accepts responsibility for that.

Now, that does not let the Pharaoh, the Twelve, or us off the hook. God may know we’ll sin because of something He’s done or allowed…but the Lord does not force us to sin:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God accepts overall responsibility…but we are responsible for our own sin. Yet…in those situations…

We immediately are tempted to say, “I didn’t do it.”

God confidently says, “I did it.”

Why?

Because, unlike us, He has nothing to be ashamed of. It was to His Glory He created beings with free will….and it’s been to His Glory He’s made perfect use of imperfect situations and imperfect humans.

Or would it have been better for God to have never created?

We avoid responsibility, because we are guilty.

God does not avoid responsibility, because He is not guilty.

  • God does not deny responsibility.
  • God does not avoid responsibility.
  • God accepts responsibility and its ramifications.
  • God suffered the consequences.

God knew what was going to happen before the first angel or human was created.

God also knew how he was going to solve the horrible problem it would lead to.

God knew how He was going to solve sin.

God accepts responsibility and its ramifications.

God suffered the consequences…on the cross.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).

God suffered the consequences on the cross of our sins so we humans wouldn’t have to.

Now, you have a choice:

Will you have a teachable heart?

Will God’s light melt or harden your heart?


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