May 31, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 2:18-22

18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins."


A little bit about the fasting: Jews in Christ's time were expected to fast twice each week. Old Testament law only established one fast day each year -- the Day of Atonement. Jesus didn't expect his disciples to follow the extra-biblical rules and regulations of the Pharisees. Fasting was commonly associated with mourning -- Jesus made the point that there was no reason to fast, since He was still with his disciples. There would come a time when He wasn't with them, and that would be the appropriate time to fast and mourn.

Jesus then teaches in two parables -- the cloth and the wineskins. The point of both parables is the same -- the Gospel cannot be associated with or tied to the self-righteousness and man-made traditions of the Pharisees. God's grace made any man-made attempts at pleasing God irrelevant, and in fact showed that any such attempts always fell short.

Old wineskins didn't have the elasticity to hold new wine as it fermented. In the same way, the traditions of men often hampered the spread of the Gospel, as Judaizers tried to keep believers bound to the letter of the law. as Christians, we must be careful that, while teaching believers that there is a lifestyle of holiness that we are called to, we do not make holiness a condition of salvation -- as many tend to do. Christ forgives us of our sins, and His righteousness is imputed to us -- it's nothing that we can do ourselves.

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May 29, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 2:13-17

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Jesus takes on a controversial disciple in this passage. Tax collectors were NOT looked on with high regard; in fact, most of them were known to augment their salaries with extra taxes charged to people. And He catches some heat for it.

This happens a lot in the Church today. Hang out with fellow Christians and nobody has a problem. Start hanging around with "those people" and there will be trouble. Whether it's a bus route with underpriviledged kids, or simply people from a lower economic or social class, befriending people who are "below" us can result in a lot of complaints from the people of God.

We forget that none of us are righteous on our own. Our righteousness only comes from Christ -- and His righteousness can be imputed to anyone, even the worst of people in the worst of circumstances. Too often, in our zeal to show how good we are, we cause people who need Christ in their lives to ignore the message of Christ.

Christ reminds us why He came. NOT to call the righteous -- they should know their sins, and know that they need to confess. He has come to call the sinners -- the people who need Him the most. The people who we meet every day. It is our calling to reach out to these people, but we may lose our chance simply because they aren't "our kind" of people.

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May 17, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 2:1-12


Mark 2:1-12 ESV And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. (2) And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. (3) And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. (4) And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (5) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." (6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, (7) "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" ( And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? (9) Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? (10) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- (11) "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." (12) And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

People are still bringing the sick to see Jesus -- he's nothing more than a healer to many. I love the story of the paralytic whose friends brought him to see Jesus -- they knew that Jesus could help their friend, and they got him to Jesus however they could!

They got something rather unexpected. Instead of healing, Jesus forgave the man's sins. People were in shock. They knew what Jesus was claiming, even then! It amazes me that people claim Jesus never said He was God -- right here, He is claiming a power that God alone has -- the power to forgive sins. He doesn't say "God has forgiven you". He doesn't say "Be good and you'll be OK". He actually, right then and there, forgives the man's sin. And then confronts the people around Him with their own thoughts!

Which is easier to say? Neither one is particularly difficult to pronounce, so that isn't Jesus' point. I can walk around all day and say to people "Your sins are forgiven", and it means nothing. I can still say it, though. Nobody will know I'm lying until they stand before God and He informs them that they were deceived. How do you show authority? How do you show people that you are the One who can forgive sin? Jesus shows them. He has power over illness and disability.

He also shows us why He did the healing miracles. It wasn't just to make people well -- I'm sure there were many people in Israel at that time who never received healing. He wasn't doing it because people aren't supposed to be sick, or that believers aren't supposed to be sick. He did it so that the people would know that He had the authority from God to forgive sins. It was a calling card, so to speak. To emphasize His point, He heals the paralytic, who walks out of the house praising God.

I've noticed that repeatedly, the people who Christ heals leave Him praising God. They knew Who had healed them. These Jews, who had never worshipped anyone but God, left praising the God who had healed them. Maybe they thought that Jesus was merely His instrument. That all changed that day in Capernaum. Jesus laid claim to the authority to forgive sins, and His ministry was never the same. People had to decide to follow Him NOT based on His healing, but based on who He said He was.

We have to make the same choice today. Do we simply follow Christ because we wnat to have the 'Get Out of Hell Free' card? Because Jesus is "the Good Guy"? Or do we follow Him because we believe His claims to be God. We accept Who He is, and we have faith in what He did for us, and trust only in that for our eternal salvation. Following a God that is simply a cosmic gumball machine is not an option. That god is not the God of the Bible, or of Christianity. I'm not really sure that god is worth worshipping at all. Thankfully, my God is much more than that.

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May 10, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:40-44



Mark 1:40-45 ESV
(40) And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."
(41) Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean."
(42) And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
(43) And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,
(44) and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them."
(45) But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Look at the faith of this leper! He knows that Jesus can make him clean. He has heard of the miracles that Jesus has been doing, and he knows that the same can happen to him. On the other hand, we usually have faith that something isn't going to happen. We follow a Saviour who defeated death -- we should expect Him to perform miracles. But we should expect them to be for His glory -- not ours.

Jesus touches the man. This doesn't seem like much to us, but to the people of Christ's time, it was a major deal. By touching the leper, Jesus made Himself ritually unclean, by the standards of the Pharisees. This is a great picture of what He did for us at Calvary -- "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)".

And still, Jesus doesn't want to draw attention to Himself because of the healing. He commands the man to tell nobody what happened, but to present himself to the priests, so that he could be declared clean. He doesn't want a horde of people following Him trying to see what new trick He's going to do -- He wants people to follow Him because they believe in His teachings, and know Him for who He is. He wants them to understand the mission of the Messiah.

As before, when the news gets out, Jesus doesn't capitalize on it. Instead, he goes out alone, to wait for the buzz to die down so that He can get on with the business that His Father has planned for Him.

We spend a lot of time trying to put on a show. We want people to notice us, to pay attention to us. We even write blogs thinking that people all over the world want to read what we have to say. We need to remember our mission -- to go into all the world, to preach the Gospel, to baptise, to disciple. Some of us are better at certain parts of that than others, but we all need to remember that it's not only the Great Commission. It is (if I can go all Star Trek nerdy on you for a minute) the Christian's Prime Directive. Our continuing mission. And we don't do it for our own glory -- we do it to give honor and glory to God, who has chosen to allow us to take part in His plan.

That finishes up Chapter 1 of Mark. Next Monday, we go on to Chapter 2, and I'll start using bigger sections of Scripture than I have been so far. Otherwise, this study will take a LOOOONG time to finish.

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May 09, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:35-39


Mark 1:35-39 ESV
(35) And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
(36) And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,
(37) and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."
(3 And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."
(39) And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

In verse 35, Jesus is setting the example we are all to follow -- pray. Things are going GREAT for Him right now -- His popularity is increasing, He's making an impact on people, He's healing and casting out demons -- and He stops to pray.

Not like us. We don't pray until we hit a speed bump. People often wonder why bad things happen to Christians -- I think that many times, they happen because God wants us to talk to Him, and He knows the only time we'll pray is when something bad happens. I DON'T think that only good things happen to us when we're doing what God wants us to do -- the Bible teaches that Satan will be against us when we are doing what we're supposed to do -- but I DO think that we open ourselves up for more abuse, more bad things, when we don't pray.

The second thing I notice is Jesus' reaction to His popularity. Peter comes running to Him, saying "What are you DOING out here all alone?? Don't you realize there are people LOOKING for you? You are in demand!! We need to take advantage of this -- we can have this whole town behind us! Nothing could stop us!!".

Jesus looks up at him and says, "We're leaving. We've got more towns to preach in -- that's what I'm here for."

It would have been easy to just stay there. Jesus knew what was ahead; He knew what people were going to do to Him. He knew that the arguements with the Pharisees were coming. He knew that people would be calling for His death. He could have stuck around where people liked Him, and taken His time. But He didn't.

He knew God's timetable. He knew that the Father knew best. And maybe He knew that some of the people who were looking for him, who thought He was the best thing ever to happen to their town, were some of the people who would, in just three years, be calling for His death. He got back to business, no matter what.

How often are we content to stay where we are, rather than go where God wants us? I was pretty content three or four years ago -- decent job, decent benefits, teaching in a school district that was building new schools every day, so there was always a chance to get a better position, the works. Then God started telling me that I wasn't quite where He wanted me, and that I'd need to step out on faith and head off to school again. I didn't want to do it. I argued. He won. I start seminary this summer.

We like to have things our own way. We want God to work on our terms, rather than being willing to work on His. God's way isn't the easy way -- ask Christ. God's way isn't the popular way. But it IS the right way. We need to follow it.

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