July 24, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 4:1-20


4:1Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 Â“Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,and may indeed hear but not understand,lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”


This is a BIG passage to study, but I've included Christ's explanation of the parable, so I don't have to comment there.  What I want to do is talk a little about Christ's use of parables.

Sometimes we think that the purpose was to make things easier to understand.  But it's clear from this passage that his parables were NOT easily understood by those who heard them.  In fact, it seems that Jesus is using parables so that people CAN'T understand Him.

The people who followed Him to see the miracles and to be healed couldn't handle the implications of His being the Messiah.  They had an idea of the Messiah as a political hero, who was going to free Israel from the oppression of the Romans.  Christ didn't want them to think He was going to do that -- he wanted to make clear that His kingdom was not of this earth, and He was here for a totally different purpose.  The twelve He had chosen had been given understanding by God, so that they could see His role (and as we read in Acts, they STILL didn't get it), so He taught them in a way that only they would be able to understand, or so that they would receive the explanation later on. 

The Holy Spirit has been given so that everyone might be able to believe -- one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to help people to understand God's message.  The religious leaders of Christ's time couldn't understand that message fully because they had closed their minds off to Him.  They had decided what Messiah was going to be, and they weren't going to be persuaded otherwise.  This is what Jesus was talking about when He talked about new wine in old wineskins -- the new message of the Gospel wouldn't fit into the Jews' existing religious program.  A new wineskin had to be made, and that is what Jesus was training His disciples to do.  Our mission now is to take that new wine to the world -- and give them the new wineskins to hold it as well.

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July 14, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 3:31-35

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
(Mark 3:31-35 ESV)

I'm not going to jump into the "They were his brothers/they were his cousins" debate here -- I believe they were his brothers, and I don't think it's inconsistant to say Mary and Joseph had kids after Jesus. So there.

So Mary and Jesus' brothers (some versions also add "and sisters" to that) came looking for Him. Mary probably heard that His siblings thought He was nuts, and was going to try to prove differently. Jesus' reaction always used to bother me -- it is almost a "Who? This is my family right here, not them!" And though it might have been appropriate for His brothers, I never thought that was fair for Mary. But I don't think that was Christ's point.

He was trying to show the importance of following Him. He wanted to say that as close as people are to their own families, that is how close He is to those who believe and follow Him.

We are the family of Christ. We who follow Him are His brothers and sisters, adopted by God, and joint heirs with Christ Himself (Romans 8:15, 17, 23, among others).

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 10:23 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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July 10, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 3:22-30

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

This is a tough passage. We don't WANT there to be a sin that God won't forgive. We don't want to think that there is a line that cannot be crossed. Giving Satan credit for the work of God is over that line.

We tend to focus on the negative in this passage. Look at the positive -- all sins will be forgiven, except that one. And to be honest, if anyone is giving Satan credit for the finished work of Christ, they aren't even looking for a way out. They aren't repentant.

No matter what you have done, no matter what sins you have committed, if you are searching for the forgiveness of Christ, you will find it. He has promised that.

This passage is another example of people wiling to believe anything about Jesus except the truth. He has been defeating demons, and they claim He is one. He points out that he has been damaging Satan's work -- why would He do that, if He was in league with the devil? He also points out the purpose of His early work -- he is weakening Satan's hold, so that He can deliver the crushing blow at Calvary. He is showing that He has the power to "bind the strong man".

It's easy to forget that Satan is defeated. He lost at Calvary, but he continues to deceive, convincing people that Christ wasn't who He claimed to be. Our job is to show and tell -- show the world that Christ lives within us, and tell them that He can live within them as well.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 07:57 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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