The Boggy Creek Monster ~ August 18, 2019 ~ Mark 8:11-13
Alright, we are in Mark 8 this morning. Let me set the scene a little bit. Jesus was making quite a name for Himself, as only Jesus can. At the end of chapter 7, a deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to Jesus in hopes of being healed, and in verses 34 and 35 we read:
Looking up to heaven, he
sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could
hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!
This is followed, at the beginning of chapter 8, by Jesus’ second miraculous feeding of thousands of people. This is different than the one described in chapter 6, where 5,000 men plus women and children were fed. Those people who were fed that time were mostly Jews. Here, Jesus was ministering to a non-Jewish audience, and He was beginning to have quite an impact on a large number of Gentiles – non-Jews – which was reassuring to Mark’s audience, because Mark’s audience was primarily Roman, primarily Gentile. This time, Jesus feeds 4,000 plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. So, He heals a man of deafness and a speech impediment, and He feeds thousands of people. Then, in verse 10, immediately after this He got into a boat with His disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha. Here we begin our reading this morning. Would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God? Let us pray.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
When he heard this, he
sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a
miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such
sign.” So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other
side of the lake.
Now, the Pharisees did not deny that some pretty unusual things had happened that people were attributing to Jesus. They couldn’t. He just fed thousands of people and healed a deaf man. They did do their best to explain it away, to rationalize that it was done – oh, some of these things happened because of luck, or because of coincidence, or even under evil power. Here, they are demanding a sign from heaven. Not all these other parlor tricks, they thought, that Jesus was pulling off.
I mean, truth is, we have been entertained by magicians for centuries. A magician, in fact, by the name of Dedi, supposedly performed before the Pharaoh Khufu (the guy who built the great pyramid of Giza) in 2500 BC. So, we have been being entertained by magicians for 4500 years. I mean, everybody knows Harry Houdini. I grew up with David Copperfield and Doug Henning. Today there’s David Blaine and Chris Angel – even the guy who won America’s Got Talent last year was a magician, Shin Lim. We love magicians.
But everything those guys do, even though it’s pretty amazing, can be explained naturally. They’re all tricks – sleight of hand. Entertaining? Sure. But their magic can all be explained naturally. That’s what the Pharisees were basically accusing Jesus of – being a magician, a performer who was trying to deceive people into thinking He had some sort of real power. It was a hoax, they said! That’s why they are demanding a sign from heaven. They wanted Jesus to do something supernatural, something only God could do. That’s what they needed to see to prove who He was.
I thought about that. What would that look like? Have you ever thought about that? What evidence would you like to see that would prove to you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is Lord? That God exists? Is there anything? Maybe an astrological event, something that happens in the sky at night, or in the heavens. I don’t know. I mean, how many times has something strange happened in the skies only to be explained away by a weather balloon, or other natural phenomena like “It was a satellite that dropped out of orbit and went through the atmosphere and burned up on its way to go into the ocean.” There’s always some sort of explanation. And nowadays, anything and everything that happens on this planet that is unusual is obviously caused by climate change.
So, is there anything that would convince you that Jesus is who He says He is? What could He do? What would a sign from heaven look like? Maybe bringing somebody back from the dead. I don’t know. If He pulled a Lazarus today, I can just hear it now. “Well, he was only mostly dead!” or “He was in a coma!” or “You know, there’s a plant in South America that causes your heart to beat so slowly that even a doctor can’t hear it!” and on, and on it would go. It’s never enough.
The truth is, there are a lot of good scientific reasons for faith. There really are. That is the curriculum we are studying right now in Bible study. We’re talking about the Big Bang Theory, and the State Theory, and quantum cosmology, and naturalism, and atheism, and theism, and deism, it’s awesome! Wednesday nights, 6:30, you’ve got to join us. There’s a lot of great evidence to support the existence of God. It’s called “Does God Exist?” However, we will never find videotape. We will never find incontrovertible evidence. God designed it that way. In the end, the Bible says:
God, in his wisdom, saw to it that we would never know him through human wisdom.
(1 Corinthians 1:21)
So, you’ll never find something beyond a shadow of a doubt.
It’s not that there isn’t evidence. There is. Come to Bible study, you will not be disappointed! But just like the Pharisees, some people choose not to see it. Always look for a reason to explain it away.
What is incredible to me is what we do choose to believe. When I was nine years old, a movie came out that rattled me. It was called, “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” Now, I bet you remember a movie from your childhood that scared the pants off you, right? There must have been one. Did you have one Tony? Which one? “The Exorcist!” Absolutely, that’s on my list too. But honestly, I couldn’t watch “The Wizard of Oz” – those flying monkeys just scared the crap out of me! Something about being scared and small when you’re young. I don’t know. And then of course, in 1975 I’m living in a seaside community, Salisbury, we’re on the ocean, you’re nearby, and “JAWS” comes out. I was never a go-in-the-ocean-and-swim kind of guy to begin with, but I definitely wasn’t going now! And I know all the statistics – you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than you do of being attacked by a shark! Okay. Fine. I’ll take the lightning any day. Lightning hits you, you’re done. It’s over. Verses getting mauled slowly by a great white. I’ll take the lightning! And then of course, I’m with Tony, “The Exorcist.” When I was a teenager, a friend of mine, Steve McKegg – the two of us went to the drive-in. That’s how long ago it was, we went to the drive-in! It was a double feature. The first movie was the first “Alien.” Hated it! When the thing pops out of the stomach and looks around, it’s horrible! I don’t even like scary movies. I really don’t. But one of your peers challenges you to go see a movie – I’m not going to stand down! Of course, I’m going to go! First movie is “Alien.” The second movie? “The Exorcist.” Sweet Lord in heaven. I was fifteen years old, and I slept with the light on in my bedroom clutching my glow-in-the-dark rosary for three weeks. I kid you not! (Which really doesn’t make sense, because a glows-in-the-dark rosary isn’t any good if the light’s on, but that’s okay. Because if the light is on, something can’t get you. I don’t know. It’s like if you’re under the covers, you’re safe, right?)
So, this movie, “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” just scared the Bejesus out of me. It tells the story of a Bigfoot-type creature that has reportedly been seen in and around Folke, Arkansas since the 1940s. It is described as being covered in reddish-brown hair, leaves three-toed tracks, and has a foul smell. Several locals claim that the creature has killed many large animals over the years. One farmer said that the beast carried off two of his 200-pound hogs with little effort, leaping over a fence with the hogs tucked safely under his arm. You’re interviewing this farmer because it was done in a documentary kind of style. It had to be true! There were all kinds of eyewitness testimony about this Boggy Creek Monster.
Bigfoot still captures the imagination, does it not? There have been hundreds of films, and television shows, and books about Bigfoot, or a Sasquatch, roaming the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Animal Planet just concluded a television series last year called, “Finding Bigfoot.” They never found him, but it was called “Finding Bigfoot.” It’s been on for eight years, eight seasons! I’ll tell you what though. To a nine-year-old boy, I believed in the Boggy Creek Monster. I was convinced. Same with the Yeti, which is like an abominable snowman, like Bigfoot in the Alps. And how about this girl? Everybody knows Nessie! This is the famous “Surgeon’s photograph” from 1934. But it’s interesting to note that the first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was recorded in 600 AD. Wow, an ancient plesiosaur from the Jurassic period swimming in a deep fresh-water lake in the Scottish Highlands. A Bigfoot, roaming the Pacific Northwest! Really! I mean, remember the Patterson film footage of 1967? Check this out!
Some say that was a guy in a monkey suit. Others – I don’t know, is that all you need to believe in the Sasquatch? For many it is. With very little evidence, it’s amazing what people will believe. In fact, there are 400,000 people now preparing – well, that’s back from July 11, where the original headline was 300,000. It’s now up to 395,000 people who are ready to storm Area 51 in Nevada this year on September 20, to finally find out what they’re hiding there. To see the alien bodies. They are committed. It’s true! They just figure, if you have almost half a million people storming the gates, the government’s not going to mow us down. It’s not like a Tiananmen Square or anything. We’re finally going to see alien bodies! Four hundred thousand people ready to put their lives on the line. They believe in aliens so much.
Bigfoot. Nessie. El Chupacabra, if you’re from Puerto Rico. Aliens. Yes! But Jesus? “I need to see a sign from heaven!”
I mean, there is eyewitness testimony to the Boggy Creek Monster – I saw the guys on film! That’s what the New Testament is, do you realize that? The New Testament is a collection of eyewitness testimony! Every single one of the 27 New Testament books was written by someone who saw and heard Jesus; who saw Jesus heal this man of deafness and a speech impediment; who saw Jesus feed 4,000 people. They were eyewitnesses, or someone who interviewed those eyewitnesses. That’s as far away from the original source as all 27 books of the New Testament gets. It’s all eyewitness testimony. But for so many people, it’s still not enough.
Bigfoot. Loch Ness Monster. Aliens. Yes! But God?
You know these folks; I know you do. They are among your friends, your co-workers, your family, perhaps. In fact, Karl shared a story with me. For anybody here who was born – Sam and Maria, this is called a newspaper. People used to get all our information from this back when there was 48 stars on the flag. Anyway, in the Hartford Courant, just the other day, July 24, there’s a story. Front page of the section. “A Spiritual Shift.” A growing number of young people, largely millennials, though the trend extends to younger Gen-Xers, now cresting forty, and down to Gen-Z have turned away from traditional organized religion, and are ambracing more spiritual practices – I love that, “more spiritual practices” – such as tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing, and crystals.
It’s amazing to me what people will believe! Bigfoot, Nessie, El Chupacabra, Tarot cards, astrology, meditation, crystals! God? “I need to see a sign from heaven!”
I mean, these people – you know who they are – they’ll go on for hours about how there just has to be alien life out there somewhere. To date, there has been no evidence found of alien life anywhere in the universe. And when they do visit us, did you ever notice that the spaceships never land in the parking lot at MIT, right? It’s always two yokels who are out in the woods somewhere, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, poaching deer illegally at night! That’s where the spaceships always land! To this point, there is no evidence of alien life anywhere. Still, in the face of zero verifiable evidence, what I hear – and I’m guessing what you probably hear too – it’s a math problem. “Just look at all those stars, look at all those planets, look at all those solar systems out there! There’s got to be life somewhere else. Just the probability and statistics of life being somewhere else, not just here. It just has to be!” First of all, it could be. If God made life here, and He wanted to make alien life someplace else, He can do that if He wants! That doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist at all! But to date, nothing has been found. Nothing. And think about that – that means that in this whole, vast universe, it’s just you. You are the only things God felt worthy to create. That’s how unique and special you are.
So, why are so many people willing to fight for the existence of aliens, but just as powerfully, strongly, argue against the existence of God? Our Wednesday night Experiencing God people know the answer to that question. I don’t want to put anybody on the spot, but Mee-Maw! Why don’t people want to know God exists? They don’t want God to be true! Accountability, that’s right! Accountability! If God is real, if God’s Word is true – and that means there is a heaven, and there is a hell, and there is such a thing as right and wrong, and moral and immoral – there are standards to which we are all held. Ten big ones, the Ten Commandments we all know about, right? I mean, think about it logically. You do not let your children do whatever they want to, do you? Did you? Allie, come on! Yesterday at youth group, I was telling the kids, “You know, you might think that your parents are super strict,” and I had a bunch of kids go, yes!!! “Believe me, you’ll thank them when you’re thirty years old!” And they all said, “That’s what my mom and dad say.”
We don’t let our kids do whatever they want to do! We have rules, we have boundaries, right? Well, if we have them for our kids, why do we think God wouldn’t have them for His children? He has them too. He has rules. He has boundaries. He has standards. It’s what we teach your children in Sunday School. In their language, “Put God first. Worship God only. Use God’s name with respect. Remember God’s day of rest. Respect your parents. Don’t hurt others. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not be jealous.” Jesus went even further. Remember in chapter 5 of Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus says:
“You have heard that our
ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are
subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject
to judgment. If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought
before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of
That raises the bar a little bit! He says:
“You have heard the law that
says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!
Pray for those who persecute you!”
Most people are like, “Whoa! Hold on! That does not work for me! I don’t want to be accountable to anyone! I want to live like I want to live! I want to do what I want to do; not what God wants me to do. And if there is no God, then I can do just that. Therefore, I say He does not exist. There is a Boggy Creek Monster, though, because – well, because I say so.”
The Pharisees were demanding a sign from heaven, but the fact is, it does not matter. They were not going to accept anything. Jesus had just healed a deaf man with a speech impediment. He had just fed thousands of people… again! The truth is, there was nothing Jesus could do that would convince them to believe. Because we don’t believe with our eyes either. We believe with our hearts. We walk by faith, not by sight. That’s why Jesus refused the demand. He knew that they had already chosen not to believe. Their hearts had become hard; and when hearts become so hard, sometimes even the most convincing facts and demonstrations will not change them. For some people, it really is easier to believe in a Yeti than it is in God.
So, what do we do? Pray for them. Pray for them. Call on the power of the Holy Spirit to do what you cannot do. Pray for them. Give them some evidence. There is evidence standing right in front of them – you! Tell them your story.
See, a lot of people who are arguing against the existence of God will argue against this Book. “Well, it’s not accurate, it hasn’t been transmitted properly through the ages, times are different, things have changed. You interpreted it wrongly.” They’ll go around the barn, all picking on this Book, calling it lies. Set that aside. Tell them your story. Tell them how Jesus changed your life. The impact that Christ had on you and your family. They are less likely to stand there and tell you to your face, “You’re lying!” And then show them someone transformed by Christ. Live out that transformation. That’s evidence they can’t deny. It’s right in front of their eyes.
Let your life be an example. Over time, the evidence of you can be overwhelming, too much to ignore. You have the power to change minds and open hearts to the truth, the way, and the life that is Jesus Christ. If there are people convinced by some grainy footage of a hairy beast, or an ancient dinosaur, surely, your transformed life will speak powerfully. It will! It does! Show them the difference Christ has made. You are the evidence that can convince someone God does exist. Let us stand and give Him glory and praise.