April 29, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:29-34


Mark 1:29-34 ESV
(29) And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
(30) Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.
(31) And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
(32) That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
(33) And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
(34) And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark starts detailing Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the account of Christ healing Peter's mother-in-law. Partially because Mark is telling Peter's story of Christ, partly because it shows Christ's ministry starting close to home, the story is fascinating to me. As soon as Jesus heals her, she starts ministering to the disciples. She sees the work that God has for her, and does it gladly.

Our position is a lot like Peter's mother-in-law's position. We need healing -- healing that can only be provided by Christ. He comes to us, and heals us. What do we do then? Are we like the ten lepers, nine of whom never bothered giving thanks to the one who healed them? Or are we like Peter's mother-in-law, knowing what we are called to do, and doing it gladly? Or do we sit somewhere in between -- knowing what God wants us to do, and yet not quite ready to do it. Wanting to do something else. Like the ear saying "I want to be an eye. If I can't see, I'm not doing anything". God has something for each of us to do for His kingdom -- but we are responsible for doing it.

Christ has more trouble with demons in this passage. He casts them out, commanding them to be silent. He doesn't want people to hear about Him from demons -- that is the job He has for His followers. He also doesn't want there to be any question about the source of His power -- if demons are testifying to His true identity, there may be some confusion about who He realy is. And, as we will see later, there was.

As Christians, we need to make sure that we are the ones who are telling the world about Christ. Otherwise, we end up with the John Dominick Crossans and John Shelby Spongs telling people about a Christ that they aren't sure even existed, based on a Bible that is completely flawed and unreliable. We have Peter Jennings assembling a group of scholars who don't believe in the topic of their search. We have The Last Temptation of Christ and other Hollywood blasphemies. The Church needs to speak out, and not worry that we will be mocked (as we have been for the reaction to The DaVinci Code).

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April 25, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:21-28


Mark 1:21-28 ESV
(21) And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
(22) And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
(23) And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
(24) "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."
(25) But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
(26) And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.
(27) And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
(2 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark starts right in on the teaching and preaching ministry of Christ. Note that Mark does not follow any chronological order -- he records events more in a thematic order. The ministry in Galilee is recorded first.

The first thing I noticed is that the people were all astounded by his authority. They were used to being taught by the scribes, whose teachings were largely based on the teachings of others. Their authority resided in their education. Jesus' authority was different. He relied on nobody (see verse 27 -- 'A new teaching with authority!').

The people weren't the only ones who noticed. Verses 23 and 24 tell us of a man who had an unclean spirit -- a demon. The demon knows exactly who Christ is. It knows why Christ is there, and it knows it's in trouble. Hoping to buy a pardon, it bears public witness to Christ's identity. Jesus doesn't want that kind of witness.

The demons of Hell know Jesus is the Christ. They oppose Him for that reason. This attempt by a demon to escape judgement shows that Christ knows the motivations behind everything that we do -- he knew the demon was being self-serving, hoping to avoid punishment. He rebuked the demon, and cast it out of the man.

This brought about more amazement and speculation about Christ's authority. The people in the synagogue knew of only two entities who had that kind of power over demons -- God and Satan. Christ had to be one of the two. Unfortunately, as we will see later, many people chose the wrong option, and attributed Chrits's miracles to the power of Satan, rather than God. People are always trying to find other sources for God's blessings on us, rather than giving praise to God. We need to be careful that we are not giving Satan credit for more than he is capable of accomplishing, and that we give God proper honor and glory.

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April 23, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:12-20

Mark 1:12-20 ESV
(12) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
(13) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
(14) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
(15) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(16) Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
(17) And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
(1 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(19) And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
(20) And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Verses 12 and 13 contain all that Mark has to say about Christ's temptation in the wilderness. I'm not sure why Mark doesn't go into the detail Matthew does in Matt. 4 -- I'd speculate that it was because he had read Matthew and didn't want to repeat information, but that theory really doesn't hold water -- there are other things that Matthew and Mark treat almost identically. Mark mentions this early stage of Christ's ministry simply to set the stage -- he spends a lot more time talking about Jesus' actual ministry.

Verse 14 kicks off the opening stage of Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the calling of the disciples. Simon, Andrew, James, and John are the first four. Andrew (according to John 1:35-40) was a follower of John the Baptist, and was prepared for the coming of the Messiah.

Andrew is one of the more underrated disciples. We don't read much about him in the Bible, he wasn't one of the "big three" (Peter, James, and John). But we read in John 1 that after he met Christ, he ran to tell Simon (Peter) about Him. The very first evangelist -- and his convert became one of the leaders of the early Church.

James and John are interesting case. They are aparantly wealthy, because their father has servants to help on the boat. Not just fishermen -- these two owned their own business, and so were probably highly educated. That will come back to haunt them later on, when they start competing for the position of Christ's "right-hand man" when His kingdom is established.

The thing to notice is that all four of these men had important jobs that they were doing. They were responsible for feeding not only their families, but the families living around them. They provided food each day for the community. And when Christ called them, they dropped what they were doing to follow Him. How often do we put off doing what Christ wants us to do because we can't afford it, or we're too busy, or something like that. I've used those excuses before -- God has a way of making us unbusy when He needs us.

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April 21, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:6-11

Mark 1:6-11 ESV
(6) Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(7) And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
( I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
(9) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
(10) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
(11) And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Today, we're reading about the baptism of Christ. We first see a continuation of John's description -- more emphasis on how poorly he was clothed, and how poorly he ate. The emphasis is on how God sustained John -- and how He will sustain us all, as well.

John is very popular at this time -- he is attracting crowds that the megachurches in the US can only dream of -- and NONE of these people are following John because its a status symbol. They follow him because he is authentic. Sometimes, we try too hard to get people to listen to us. We want them to hear the Gospel so badly that we'll do just about anything to get them there -- gimmick Sundays (how often did I sit through 'Wild West Sunday,' 'Pack a Pew Sunday,' etc. when I was growing up?), "seeker-friendly" services, contemporary worship, you name it. I am not saying these things are bad things. I am saying that if we really want people to pay attention to us, we need to show that we are real. Our faith needs to be a faith that is authentic. As I read
this response to my post (and others' posts as well) about truth claims and Christianity, one of the things I noticed was the characterization of Christians. Our faith says that we should be a people of love, compassion. Our practice often contradicts this.

I don't believe for even a half-second that Christians should be tolerant toward sin. All you have to do is read the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple to realize that He wasn't all that tolerant. He did, however, love people. He went to Zaccheus in the tree. He went to the Samaritan woman at the well at a time when Jews wouldn't have anything to do with Samaritans. He went to people, and showed He cared, without sacrificing His message. He never watered down His message, and doesn't expect us to, either. When we live our faith, and show that it's real, people are attracted. That is what John the Baptist did.

Even at the height of his popularity, John was pointing people to Jesus. Later on, many people thought that Jesus was competition for John -- that they were preaching a different message. John makes it clear that this isn't true. John makes it clear that Jesus' ministry is far superior to his and, as I mentioned yesterday, that Christ would increase, while John would have to decrease.

Why did Jesus go to John to be baptized?

Matthew 3:13-15 ESV
(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
(14) John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
(15) But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.

Albert Barnes has this to say about the phrase "fulfill all righteousness":


"There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase “all righteousness,” here, is the same as a righteous institution or appointment. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. He submitted to the ordinance of baptism, also, in order that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah."

This is NOT Jesus becoming God's Son, or becoming the Messiah. He was born both of those. This is God declaring to the world who Jesus was, and what role He came to fill.

Then the Heavens opened up -- literally. As Hyppolytus would later say, creation was reconciled with its Creator through the Redeemer. Christ made it possible for us to get into Heaven. The entire Trinity were there at this baptism -- the Father bearing witness, the Son receiving witness, and the Holy Spirit giving confirmation. This is the mark of the beginning of Christ's work on Earth, which ties directly to verse 1 -- the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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April 20, 2004

Study of Mark -- Mark 1:1-5

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' " John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(Mark 1:1-6 ESV)

The first two verses point directly to the Old Testament. Mark illustrates the relationship between the Old and New Testament, which the church fathers were VERY interested in. Irenaeus especially used these verses to show that the OT God and the NT God were the same -- the prophets, after all, didn't foretell the coming of a new and improved deity. This conflicted with Marcion's teaching that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, angry God, but the God of the New Testament was a loving and merciful God of grace.

It is interesting that Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, when it's actually two prophecies in two books.
Malachi 3:1 is the prophecy of the messenger, while Isaiah 40:3 mentions the voice crying in the wilderness. I've heard a lot of different things about this -- that Malachi and Isaiah were on the same scroll, but the scrolls were referred to by the name of the major prophet, that many writers conflate (merge together) prophecies and only credit the major prophet. Of course, some manuscripts attribut the prophecy to "the Prophets", rather than to any specific one. There's a great treatment of this issue here.

The thing I got the most out of this passage comes from the description of John. I wondered why he had to look this way, why he had to be a "voice crying in the wilderness". When the Jews saw someone looking like him, who ate very little, had poor clothing, and no "hometown" (he had lived in the wilderness for most of his life). He had no reputation, nobody knew who had taught him. Yet he spoke with the authority of someone who had been with God. They knew there was only one way that John could have survived living the way he did -- God was with him, supplying him with everything he needed. THAT is what gave John his credibility with the people.

I was fascinated at the way the church fathers dealt with John. They saw him as a type of the Law -- clad in filthy rags, just as our righteousness is as filthy rags, sustained by God, meant to point us all toward the Saviour. They pointed especially to John's statement that "He must increase, and I must decrease" to show not only Johns feeling about his ministry after Christ's appearing, but that the Law must diminish while Grace abounded. I think this view, more than any other, shows the true relationship between Grace and Law. The Law shows us how good we really need to be to merit heaven, and shows us that we cannot do it ourselves. That's when Grace comes in, and gives us a Way.

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Study of Mark -- Introduction

The best way to introduce Mark is to take a look at an outline. This shows the dating, the authorship, etc. I've found bible.org to be a great reference source, btw, so it would make a great bookmark.

I'm doing this study following closely the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures. I especially like the way the text is broken into pericopes, so I'm going to blog each day based on the pericope, or section of Scripture, that is next. The first section is Mark 1:1-5, so that will be in the next entry.

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