May 01, 2006

Study of Mark: Mark 9:1-13

And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
(Mark 9:1-8 ESV)

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February 24, 2006

Study of Mark: Mark 8:31-38

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
(Mark 8:31-38 ESV)
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February 07, 2006

Study of Mark: Mark 8:27-31

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(Mark 8:27-31 ESV)
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September 29, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 8:22-26

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."
(Mark 8:22-26 ESV)
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August 21, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 8:14-21

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" They said to him, "Twelve." "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And they said to him, "Seven." And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)
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July 19, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
(Mark 8:11-13 ESV)
Short passage today, but one that has a lot of meaning for us today.
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June 25, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 8:1-10

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away." And his disciples answered him, "How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?" And he asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven." And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
(Mark 8:1-10 ESV)

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June 19, 2005

Mark Study: Mark 7:31-37

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
(Mark 7:31-37 ESV)
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May 21, 2005

Mark Study: Mark 7:24-30

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
(Mark 7:24-30 ESV)
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March 22, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 7:14-23

And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand:There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." He who has ears to hear, let him hear. And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him.For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
(Mar 7:14-23 ESV)
{NOTE: Verse 16 is omitted in most modern translations. I have added it in italics so that those who use other translations can follow along more easilly.}

The Jews at the time of Christ were very concerned with appearances. What you ate especially was important to them, because of the dietary laws that God had given Moses on Sinai. Jesus points out in the first thirteen verses that the rules and regulations that had been added to the Law had become more important to the Jews than the Law itself. Jesus wants them to understand that the things they say are more important than the things they eat, and that our actions, thought, and statements are what really defile or corrupt us. And these things many times are not evident to those around us -- but God can see them. Our actions may even seem pure and good, but when they are done for the wrong reasons, they really defile us.

Verse 19 is interesting. Mark, who most scholars believe wrote his gospel based on Peter's rememberences of his time with Jesus, shows that Jesus taught them that all foods were clean -- the disciples just missed the application (especially Peter, if you remember his experience in Acts). Christ's obvious purpose in this passage is to put the emphasis on attitude, rather than blind obedience to a bunch of rules and regulations. This was taught even as far back as the days of Samuel -- And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.(1Sa 15:22 ESV). So this should have been nothing new to the Jews.

Why was it so new? Because the established priests didn't want people to thing that they could do it without them. Because there was a huge industry involved in the preparation of proper sacrifices. The people were doing all the right things, and the establishment was getting rich off of it. Unfortunately, the sacrifices were, in many cases, lip service. The people had learned nothing from their history -- Jeremiah could have told them the dangers in paying simple lip service to God.

Do people today pay lip service? Check out the stats at the Barna group website. The majority of people in the US say that they are Christians. But their beliefs don't line up with that claim. Our attitudes don't match what we claim to believe. Even when we do things that are good, and right, we tend to do them for the wrong reasons -- for our own recognition, rather than for the glory of God. Jesus reminds us that our religious ceremonies and lip service don't matter if we don't obey God, and follow His word in all things.

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January 23, 2005

Study of Mark: Mark 7:1-13


Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
" 'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.'But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."
(Mark 7:1-13 ESV)

Confrontation by the Pharisees. They've been out to get Jesus for some time (since Mark 3:6, when He challenged their Sabbath laws in a way that they could not refute) and now they've decided the disciples were unclean because they didn't wash their hands before they ate. Verse 3 tells us whose law that was -- and it wasn't God's. There was a LOT of washing going on -- ritual cleansing was a rule of the day.

And Jesus points out the hypocracy of the Pharisees. They follow their own laws and regulations, but in doing so break the Law of God. People were to honor their parents. But when someone's parents were old, and needed help, the money they should have received from their children was already promised to the priests for "God's use." He also says that this is only one of many ways they honor themselves over God.

I see a lot of parallels with today. We work so hard, trying to make sure that God is happy with us, that we forget what our priorities should be. We spend so much time running our ministries that we don't help the needy. We spend so much time in study that we ignore our families. We get so wrapped up in what we're doing for God that we forget to worship and praise Him.

We also tend to exult our own rules and legalities over what God says to do. We've decided women shouldn't wear pants, that men should have short hair, that music with a beat is sinful, that movies are evil, etc., and we forget that God is no repector of persons -- He wants us to talk to people who aren't our idea of "good Christian folks" so that we can be a witness to them; but our legalism gets in the way. We can't walk up to a group of skater punks and share the Gospel with them, because they are different. They need to get a haircut and buy some decent clothes before they can get saved. And that's just wrong. We need to get over ourselves and our legalities, and be faithful witnesses for Christ.

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January 11, 2005

Study of Mark -- Mark 6:53-56

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
(Mark 6:53-56 ESV)

Conclusion to the chapter, illustrating the rise in Jesus' popularity. This is pretty important to what comes next -- the Pharisees begin to take an active interest in Him, and His disciples. Their influence is being threatened -- they want to make sure that this new guy conforms to their view of the Law, so that they aren't threatened more.

The first six chapters of Mark detail the good that Jesus did throughout the land. He healed people, he ministered to people, he taught them about the Kingdom that was to come. I think it's important that we notice the order that these events are told in Mark -- He ministers while He is teaching. People come to Hm to be ministered to physically, and He does that, but He also is ministering to them spiritually, and is teaching them. He's also teaching the disciples. He knows that no matter what He teaches them, it will not make any sense until after His death and resurrection. He is simply trying to prepare everyone for the message of the Gospel.

We can learn a LOT from this. First, we can learn to minister to people -- meet their needs where they are. It's almost become a cliche, but it's true -- people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. We tend to forget this. I think some of the greatest outreach opportunities that we have are lost because we don't meet people's needs. We focus primarilly on the spiritual need -- which IS the most important, ultimately, but it's not the most important TO THEM. Meet physical needs, show people that you care about them -- and all the while, preach the Word to them, letting them know that God cares about them.

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November 23, 2004

Study of Mark -- Mark 6:45-52


Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
(Mark 6:45-52 ESV)

Jesus goes back on retreat. After this miracle, they all head back to where they came from, and He goes into the mountain to pray. I won't make the obvious application to personal quiet time/devotion here -- it's too obvious that if Jesus needed it, so do we. I think what happens afterwards is much more interesting.

While Jesus is off praying, the disciples apparently decide to do some fishing. This is sometime between 3 and 6 in the morning, but they're fishermen, so they know the best time to fish is in the early morning. They head out, and immediately get into trouble. They run into a headwind, and can't get back to shore, and they are panicking. I can just see Jesus sigh right now, and head out across the water to them.

This passage sounds like Jesus was just going to head right by them, but the parallel passage in Luke makes it clear that Jesus only seemed to be heading past them (Luke 24:2 . The disciples have no clue who He is.

Sounds like us, doesn't it? We're in trouble, cry out to God for help, and don't recognize it when it comes. Reminds me of a joke I used to tell when I was younger:

A man living in Florida decided to ride out the hurricane that was coming. Sure enough, the floodwaters started to rise, and soon he had to run to the top floor to stay above the water. A police officer came by and told him he needed to evacuate, and offered him a spot in the boat he was in. "No," said the man, "I'm trusting God to save me, and I know He will." A half hour later, another boat comes by, and makes the same offer. Same response. Finally, the waters are so high that the man takes refuge on his roof. A police helicopter flies by, and once again the police offer the man a ride to safety. Same response.

Finally, the waters rise too high, and the man soon drowns. He arrives in Heaven, and is rather upset. "I trusted You!" he sayd to God. "I trusted You, and You left me to die!"

God said, "What are you talking about? I sent two boats and a helicopter, what do you want?"

Even though the disciples had seen what Jesus could do, in the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people, they still didn't know who He was, and really hadn't understood what they miracle meant. They lacked the faith to see that Jesus could provide them safety, and assurance, and security. They missed the point, and they didn't see Him as their shepherd. They were so fixed on their one idea of a conquering Messiah that they missed the servant Messiah that was prophecied as well.

The theme of this section seems to be that Christ supplies all our needs. Our problem comes in when our expectations are different from God's. He knows better than we do what we really need, and what we simply want. We need to recognize what God is providing for us, and be grateful.

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November 13, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 6:33-44

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 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. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?" 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." Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 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. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
(Mark 6:33-44 ESV)

This is probably the most familiar parable of them all. Five thousand men (and who knows how many women and children) fed with a few loaves of bread, and a few fish. It's parallels are in Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14 -- one of the few miracles that are mentioned in all four Gospels. I think that should show us the importance of what happened here.

Something bigger happened than just a bunch of people pooling their lunches so that everyone could have enough to eat. This is Jesus making sure that the people who had followed Him had enough to meet their needs.

Most of the people hadn't left their houses planning on following Christ that day. They saw Him, and decided they wanted to hear what He had to say. He could have easilly decided that the crowd was too big to deal with, and gone back to where He and the disciples had been for their retreat. But He was moved with compassion on them, because they were "like sheep without a shepherd." They had no real leadership, no instruction, nobody to take care of their real needs, and they didn't even realize it. They were just wandering around, and they saw in Jesus someone who might be able to meet their needs, and take care of them. They didn't realize who He realy was, but they knew that they could count on Him to meet their needs.

And then the test came. After listening to this guy teach all day long, they got a little hungry. They hadn't planned on sitting in on his teaching -- they were out running errands, maybe shopping. It was late, and they had to get some food. Jesus could have turned them loose, sent them out to buy their dinner, but He was their shepherd. He was taking responsibility to meet their needs. And He did it in a way that helped show them all the kind of power He had.

How often do we have needs, and panic? How often does the car break down right when funds are at their lowest, and we have no clue how we're going to pay for it? And how often do we sit calmly back and say "God will handle it. He's in charge, not me."

As familiar as this passage is, I think we often forget the message. My God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

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November 07, 2004

Study of Mark -- Mark 6:30-32

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
(Mark 6:30-32 ESV)


Short passage today -- I hope to have the rest of the chapter up by the end of the week. The priority this week has to be the theology paper -- 12-15 pages due Friday, about the theological method of Philip Melanchthon.

And a more ironic passage I could not have used. After teh interlude where Mark tells us about what happened to John the Baptist, the disciples return from their teaching trip (verses 7-12). They tell Jesus about the things they did -- but we don't get to know. This is one of those places in teh Bible where I really wish we got more information -- what happened? Were they able to cast out demons? Were people receptive of them? Did anyone come back with them, to learn at the feet of Jesus? We don't know.

I figure that's for a good reason. The teaching that the disciples were doing didn't have the power of the resurrection behind it. They taught that the Kingdom of God was coming -- that Christ had arrived, and that He was going to establish His kingdom. Without the truth of the resurrection, though, that could have been misunderstood. We've seen examples already, and we see a great example in Acts, of people who expect Jesus to be the political Messiah they were expecting. That wasn't His goal -- He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. Without redemption, without the reconciliation between God and fallen man, the Kingdom of God cannot be established. Fallen mankind has no part of the Kingdom -- that is for the redeemed of the Lord.

I expect that there were people who became interested in Jesus, probably started paying more attention to His teachings. I wonder how many were still there after He was killed. That's probably the other reason we don't know about the results of this trip -- many were not true conversions. You've seen those if you've ever gone door-to-door on a Saturday morning.

The part of this passage that gets me the most is the last part. They've just finished some hard work -- their first, really, since they started following Christ. They're tired. They may be frustrated. So Jesus suggests a retreat.

If you've spent any time in Baptist churches, you know what a retreat is. You take a bunch of people, in the middle of summer (or fall, sometimes. I always went to the summer ones), go out to the middle of nowhere -- usually the middle of the woods, near a lake, on some property that the church owns. Bunch of cabins, a kitchen building, a chapel, and nature. Time to recharge -- physically and spiritually.

This is something that I think we tend to ignore. We're so busy doing God's work, we burn ourselves out. We end up being no good to anyone, and our other responsibilities (family, friends, etc.) tend to get ignored. We make the sacrifice -- and never even think that our loved ones never got a choice in the matter. They sacrifice, too. And sometimes, they don't like it.

We don't have to go out in the woods. All we need to do is take a time out, to take care of the other things God has given us.

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October 21, 2004

Study of Mark -- Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him." 15 But others said, "He is Elijah." And others said, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you." 23 And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." 24 And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

I've always thought it was interesting that people believed that Christ was John the Baptist reincarnated. Maybe because when Jesus' ministry hit it's stride, John's was declining. Maybe because they had some in common -- preaching and teaching repentence, the Kingdom of God, etc.

I tend to think that it was because they didn't want to face the implications of who Jesus was claiming to be. Jesus claimed the authority to forgive sins. Nobody but God can forgive sins -- Jesus didn't argue with that assertion. That's one of the clear passages where Jesus claims to be God.

So people would rather believe that Jesus was John reincarnated (even though they had been seen together, in public, by a rather large crowd, in Mark 1), than entertain the notion that He might really be God.

People do this all the time today. They go in search of the historic Jesus, and find out that he looks a lot like they do -- their own personal Jesus, to quote a line from an old song. This image of Jesus as a nice guy, someone who taught some great stuff, someone who forgave people when they messed up -- this Jesus is the kind of guy we want to hang out with.

They ignore the Jesus who commanded the woman to "Go, and sin no more." We forget that He told her she was wrong, and not to do it anymore. We forget about Jesus condemning the moneychangers (some believe that He did it twice), clearing them out of the temple. That wasn't too forgiving.

We forget that Jesus knows out hearts, and He knows who is looking for forgiveness. He knows if we want a way out, or if we're happy in our sins. And he reminds us that we are to go, and sin no more.

People don't like that Jesus very much. It doesn't fit in with their lifestyle choice. It doesn't let them do the things that they want to do -- things that their flesh enjoys. They don't see that it also gives them the opportunity to live life the way that humans were meant to live life -- in a manner that is pleasing to God. Because without Christ covering our sin, we can't make God happy.

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October 08, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 6:7-13



And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff -- no bread, no bag, no money in their belts -- but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
(Mark 6:7-13 ESV)
The disciples go out on their own for the first time. The first "missionary trip", so to speak.

Notice that they are supposed to live in the communities that they are trying to reach. 'Don't go from house to house, and make everyone in the town wait on you. Stay with one family, who will have you.' They were also not to take any supplies with them -- they were to trust God to supply all their needs.

I think it's interesting that we know so little about the results of the outreach. We know they cast out demons in Christ's name, and by His authority. They healed people. They preached repentance. They came home. We find out in the next section some of the results of the outreach, but we don't know how many people they attracted.

I think this may be because it wasn't the Gospel they were preaching. They preached repentance, just as John the Baptist did. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ -- and all that was still three years away. They had no risen Savior to proclaim.

So why did Jesus send them out? To establish the way that missions work was to be done. Faith in God for your financial support. Not taking advantage of the people you are witnessing to (as Paul would point out to the Corinthian church later on). Going out in pairs -- with someone to support you. I'm sure that there were times that the disciples got discouraged -- but they always had someone with them to lift them up in prayer to God. They were faithful to the calling of God. They went out in the authority of Christ. And they did have an impact on people.

I think that this experience helped them later on, when they went out into the world. And I think they noticed a big difference, once they had the full story to tell people.

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September 25, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 6:1-6a


He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household."And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
(Mark 6:1-6 ESV)

Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Nazareth. As usual, people are amazed at His teaching, and wonder at the authority He is showing that He has. But their reaction is different. "Who does he think he is? He's from around here! We saw him grow up!" Some of the older women were probably thinking the ancient Hebrew equivalent of "I changed his diapers, and now HE thinks he's going to teach ME this new stuff?"

And they weren't proud of Him. In fact, they were mad. "Who do you think you are, to tell us this stuff? What do you think you are, God or something?" They wouldn't hear Him.

I think it's interesting that He didn't do any miracles there. Nazareth would have been a perfect place to pull off a water-into-wine, or a feeding of 5,000. But the people there had no faith. They wouldn't have been persuaded even if He had done those things. Their hearts had already been hardened, because they couldn't get past who they thought Jesus was -- the dirty-faced kid who they saw playing in the street. The teenager helping his dad build houses. The young adult, doing his own construction work. They couldn't get past Jesus' humanity, to see the divinity that was there.

People have this problem all the time. The Jesus Seminar has sold a LOT of books catering to people who cannot see the divine Christ because they are too focused on the human Jesus. Of course, the other extreme is just as bad -- sometimes we look at the divine Christ so much that we miss the very human Jesus. The man who grew up with these people in Nazareth. The man who had probably built some of their homes. Who had grown up playing with some of them. These are the people Jesus the man cares about the most, and they totally reject Him and His message. It had to have broken His heart, to see these people reject Him.

Often, the hardest thing for us to do is to witness to unsaved relatives. They know us too well, and they know our faults and shortcomings. They remember the temper tantrums we used to throw when we didn't get our own way. They remember the time we pulled the tablecloth off the picnic table full of food -- and dumped hamburger all over everyone. They see our imperfections -- and they can't get past that to see the message we bring them. And when they don't accept Christ, we feel like we are the ones they are rejecting.

But we cannot stop planting seeds. Some plant, some water, some harvest, and God grants the increase. Never stop planting seeds. Never stop watering other people's seeds. Rejoice when you can harvest what someone else has planted, and rejoice when someone else harvests something that you planted. Because there's no tote-board in heaven, to see who scores the most souls. There's only one who brings people to Christ -- God, who draws all men unto Christ. All we can do is be available for Him to use, and be faithful when we are called.

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September 19, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 5

(I figured it had been so long, I'd go ahead and do tha whole chapter today).

I'm also not going to cut and paste the whole chapter. Go here and read it.

Jesus starts off the chapter by showing His sovereignty over demons by casting them out. The demoniac has been afflicted for some time, and has either left or been run out of the city. He lives among the tombs -- caves, in other words. The Bible also makes sure we know just how strong this guy was -- his shackles and chains had been broken many times before. Nobody wanted to mess with the guy.

The demons know exactly who Jesus is. Verse 7 -- "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." The demons are begging for their survival -- they are afraid that Christ has come to finally condemn Satan and his followers to the pit or all eternity. Christ knows that that time has not yet come. But He delivers the man from the demons.

I don't know why He sent the demons into the swine. I DO know that this caused the people who owned the swine to be VERY upset at Him. Maybe these people were Jews who weren't supposed to be tending pigs (unclean animals), and Christ was rebuking their rebellion. In any case, when word got around about what had happened, people came to check things out. I think their reaction is interesting. "... they were afraid. ... And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region." They didn't know who this guy was, but they knew they didn't want Him around. He was causing problems. He was making them re-evaluate the way things were.

That's what Jesus does when He enters our lives. We have to re-evaluate things. Our priorities change. Our goals change. Even our speach may change. Our attitudes and outlook change. Christ challenges us to think the way He thinks. And many people don't like that. They are afraid of changing the way they think. They don't want to view the world the way Christ does -- as sinful people in need of a Savior. They don't want to feel what He felt as He looked over Jerusalem. They want to continue to pursue their own goals and dreams, and not subordinate them to Christ's will. And they know that Christ requires them to do exactly that.

Unfortunately, many Christians don't recognize that. We pray the prayer, walk the aisle. We get dunked. We sign a membership card. We go to Sunday School. And Christ never makes an impact on our lives at all. We are living with the form of Godliness, but we deny it's power. Power over our world, but also it's power over us. Our challenge is to live each day, more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and to see everything the way He sees it.

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August 28, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

After having taught the multitudes in parables, and having explained the parables to His disciples, Christ is ready for a time of rest, so He commands the disciples to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After He fell asleep, a storm comes up, and the disciples are upset, thinking He doesn't care about them.

Don't we tend to do that? Isn't our first reaction when something goes wrong, or something bad happens, to get mad at God? "God, I'm TRYING to do this for You. Why aren't you making it EASY FOR ME!!!??? Don't You want this to get done? What's up with all these problems? Don't You love me anymore?" Instead of thinking about what God has in mind for us, we're quick to get mad, and give up.

Jesus took care of the problem. He calmed the storm and the sea, just to show them that He could. God sometimes lets these things happen to us to show us that it is HIM, and not us, that is in control. He is trying to teach the disciples that they need to rely on Him. So He takes care of the problem, then rebukes their unbelief.

Waitaminuite. Unbelief? They ran to Him to fix things, didn't they? Yes, but they ran to Him NOT to ask for His help, but to complain that they were in the situation to begin with. Several of the disciples were fishermen -- they knew when a storm was possible, because their lives depended on it. They went out into the sea in obedience to Him, trusting that He'd not let something like this happen, and when it did, their faith was tested -- and they failed the test. They didn't believe that He was in control anymore. "Don't you care that we're GOING TO DIE??" is what they asked. They knew that they were going to die, and were mad that He put them in that situation. The storm came, and they lost faith.

Happens to us all the time. Sometimes the storm is big, sometimes it doesn't take much. I was upset last week that I couldn't find a place to stay in Louisville. I got mad at God -- wondering why He'd led me that far from home, only to abandon me once I got there. Finally, I got on my face in my hotel room and asked Him for guidance, and admitted I had been wrong. Next day, I run into someone in my Theology class who lives not far from home (right across the river, in fact), who told me that there was commuter housing available for $10 a night. I had thought that they didn't do that anymore at Southern. God had a plan for me -- all I had to do was recognize that He was in control. Now I have a place to live. Little storm -- but it sure seemed big on Wednesday night last week, when I was trying to figure out how we were going to pay for an apartment AND gas AND food AND everything else. This passage reminds me that God has everything under control.

Even after this storm on the sea, the disciples wondered who Jesus was, exactly. "What kind of man is this, that the very forces of nature obey Him?" They were starting to learn, though, that this wasn't just an ordinary religious leader that they were following.

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