Mark: The Heart of the Gospel

Frans Hals, St. Mark [II]

Frans Hals, St. Mark [II]

Mark—The Heart of the Gospel!

Extend Grace, Serve the One

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

When you and I believed in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit made us a part of His body—the church (1 Corinthians 12:13). The body of Christ is our new community of faith, a community of the redeemed. Paul says very clearly that “now you are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

This picture of the church as Christ’s body is so much more than a theological truth—it is a living reality. We are the physical manifestation of the life of Christ on earth, His body left behind to do the greater works He planned for us to accomplish (John 14:12) under His headship (Ephesians 4:15).

The best place to turn to answer the question, “If the Lord Jesus has called us to be His body, then what should the world see when it looks at us?” is the Bible itself. The most accurate portrayals of Christ aren’t the pictures painted on canvas by great artists but the pictures the Spirit brings to mind as we read the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

You’ll be hearing that question a lot this year, “What should people see in us, the local expression of the body of Christ we call Church of the Open Door?” And it’s corollary, “What is the Lord asking us to do or change so that this body looks more like its glorious Head—Jesus Christ?”

I’m convinced that a verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of Mark will challenge believers in good ways as we determine together to become Jesus hands and feet.

May our willingness to extend grace in the name of the One we serve to the ones He called us to serve—the least deserving and most ignored—open unprecedented doors for the Gospel:

To make disciples to the Loving, Suffering Servant, you must be willing to love, suffer and serve!⇦Tweet that!

On the first Sunday of every year, we remind ourselves of our number one priority—to make disciples of all the nations by sharing the Gospel. This year, that reminder comes with Mark’s caution that the words of the Gospel are best expressed by those whose hearts break for the ones who need the message most.

OUR MANDATE: MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS! (Matthew 28:18-20)

A. Famous Last Words of the Lord Jesus Christ: The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

  1. The Context: These are the Lord Jesus’ final words to His doubting disciples assuring them of His authority from the Father (28:16-17; see also Acts 1:8).
  2.  The Command: On the basis of His absolute authority, His followers are to make disciples of all nations (28:18-20a). One Command: Make disciples (obedient, maturing followers of Jesus Christ, constantive aorist imperative, do this!)… Worldwide Scope: Of all the nations (from every people group) MAKE DISCIPLES! Three Modifiers (circumstantial participles): 1) Having gone or as you go (CF 10:7)…MAKE DISCIPLES! 2) by baptizing (New Believers)…MAKE DISCIPLES! 3) by teaching (believers) to observe (fulfill, fully grasp, adhere to, incorporate) all that I commanded (all Scripture).
  3. The Close: The Lord Jesus assures disciple-makers that He will be with them to the end (28:20b).

B. An expanded translation: As you go (through your daily life) make disciples (produce obedient followers of Jesus Christ) of all the nations (send disciple-makers to every culture) by baptizing new believers (saving the lost) and then teaching them so that they fully grasp—adhering to everything— God has said (building the saved to maturity). The Great Commission: As you go through real life, save the lost; build the saved; and send your best to do the same.

C. Undeniable Realities

  1. The number one priority of the church is to make disciples of all the nations.
  2. The number one priority for every Christian is to make disciples of all the nations.
  3. Everything else is secondary to making disciples of all the nations.
  4. Mark’s Gospel to the mighty and dominating Roman mindset presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant.

Mark’s Gospel to the mighty and dominating Roman mindset presents Jesus as the Loving, Suffering Servant.

A. Jesus’ teaching occurs in the context of His actions—He never gets to rest as His compassion moves Him to meet the needs of the hurting people who pressed in upon Him.

  1. The tone of Mark: Jesus and His disciples move through Galilee at exhausting speed. “Immediately” they shift from one demanding scene to the next, crisscrossing the Sea of Galilee. Huge crowds press in on them as He heals the hurting and feeds the hungry. And everywhere they go, their enemies follow to harass and discourage them.
  2. The climax of Mark: When Peter tries to tell Jesus that the Cross is not necessary, Jesus rebukes him severely. (8:27-33)
  3. The theme of Mark: Jesus came to suffer and serve. (10:43-45)

B.Undeniable Realities

  1. The church is the body of Christ—representing Him by both our words and our actions.
  2. The message of the Gospel is for everyone, including the hurting and the hungry.
  3.  Effective churches and disciplemakers know that meeting physical needs softens hearts for the Gospel.
  4.   If I’m following the Suffering Servant and reaching out to others in His name, I should expect to serve and suffer.

Mark—His Heart!

Extending Grace, Serve the One

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Those who follow Him on the path of serving and suffering are often confused and exhausted, but always marveling at the wonder of being close to Him. Amazed at His words and works, His compassion and strength, they come to understand what all of us realize as we read on:

Following Jesus is hard but rewarding!⇦Tweet that!

Jesus serves the needs of others to the point of death. Mark’s message on discipleship is sobering. Those who follow Him should expect nothing less.

Mark presents Jesus Christ as the Son of Man: The Suffering Servant calling His disciples to a life of service and suffering.

A. Writer: John Mark, companion of Paul and interpreter of Peter’s sermons, wrote the Gospel of Mark.

  1. 1.John Mark, son of Mary and cousin to Barnabas, grew up in a home of privilege that was the meeting place of the early church (Acts 12:12-13). He was probably the young man who fled naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-52)
  2. He assisted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but deserted them when they traveled into the dangerous land beyond Perga (Acts 13:13).
  3. Initially, Paul would have nothing more to do with him (Acts 15:37-38), but within ten years Mark was a valued member of Paul’s ministry team (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11).
  4. Mark was especially close to Peter, who came to Mary’s house during his time of need (Acts 12:12) and Peter considered him a son (1 Peter 5:13).

B. Date and Origin: Mark probably wrote his gospel from Rome before Peter and Paul were martyred as persecution began to intensify (AD 50-60, Dan Wallace, bible.org, Introduction, Argument and Outline of Mark).

  1.  Two first century church leaders, Papias and Clement of Alexandria, record that Mark wrote down Peter’s sermons, wrote his gospel during Peter’s lifetime, and wrote it for the Roman church.
  2. Nero began threatening the church during the first years of his reign (54-59), and Peter was martyred between AD 64-67.

C. Recipients: Mark’s gospel is written to a Gentile audience in general and Romans in particular who were threatened by persecution that would bring intense suffering under Nero.

  1.  He explains Jewish customs to his audience (7:2-4) and uses Latinisms.
  2. He emphasizes persecution and martyrdom (8:34-38; 13:9-13).
  3. He emphasizes the need for servanthood, which would have been difficult for the dominating and proud Roman mindset.

D. Purpose and Distinctives: Mark’s gospel is written to prepare the young church at Rome for Paul’s visita

  1.  Mark emphasizes Jesus actions—18 miracles but only 4 parables.
  2. Mark emphasizes Christ’s concern for “all the nations (5:18-20; 7:24-8:10; 11:17; 13:10; 14:9).
  3.  Mark writes in a vivid, eyewitness style from Peter’s insider viewpoint.
  4. Mark portrays the disciples, especially Peter, with unusual openness.
  5. Mark’s pace is scorching as Jesus moves to the cross.
  6. Mark emphasizes Jesus’ marvelous works and onlookers’ amazement, but also that Jesus always tried to suppress the news of His power spreading.

When reading Mark, remember he’s challenging his readers to follow Christ.

A. Remember that Mark is stressing sacrifice and service from a heart that grew up in privilege and to a people who dominated the world.

B. Remember that Mark is stressing suffering from a heart that tried to avoid it and to a people who were facing persecution

C. Remember that Mark doesn’t try to hide the faults and weaknesses of Jesus’ followers.

D. Remember that Mark learned his lessons on suffering and servanthood the hard way—through disappointing those he admired in Christ when he decided that following Christ was too costly.

The Son of God Begins to Serve

Mark 1:1-13

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1)

 Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark’s dramatic introduction of Jesus of Nazareth sets the tone for the rest of the book. Prophecies from Malachi and Isaiah identifying John the Baptizer as Messiah’s forerunner, established Jesus’ credentials as the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Mark then proceeded to record three events the reader needs to grasp to appreciate Jesus’ ministry as the Suffering Servant:

Two marks of the Suffering Servant: Humility and Faithfulness!⇦Tweet that!

God had not spoken to His people Israel since the days of Malachi. And then, just as Isaiah had prophesied, the voice of one crying in the wilderness breaks the 400-year silence.

Mark introduces Jesus Christ as the Son of God who serves the Father humbly and faithfully (1:1-13).

A. Title: This is a book telling the good news of Jesus Christ—Messiah of Israel and Son of God (1:1)

  1. “The beginning” parallels the opening verses of Genesis. The good news about Jesus Christ heralds a new beginning for a universe hopelessly mired in sin and its consequences.
  2. “of the gospel” recalls the Isaiah’s promise of good news that would change everything (Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 60:1). The word gospel literally means good news, but in the context it means a type of literature—history and biography that is presented selectively to persuade the reader that the story of God’s deliverance of the universe through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is true.
  3. “of Jesus Christ” identifies the subject of this good news: Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus—the Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua” (Yahweh is salvation), Christ—the Greek word meaning “anointed” (Messiah in Hebrew).
  4. “the Son of God” ensures that this gospel emphasizing Jesus’ role as Suffering Servant does not cause anyone to conclude that He is not God in the flesh.

B. Dramatic Event in History: John the Baptizer was the predicted forerunner to Messiah. Mark’s literal words in verse 2 are “it stands perfectly and forever written” as he quotes his own blend of Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40:3. (1:2-8)

  1. John’s message to Israel as the forerunner of Messiah: Turn back to the God you’ve turned away from, Israel. Identify with my message that you need to turn back to God as a Jew by being baptized and God will forgive your sin and rebellion. Note: This is not the same as Christian baptism. The baptism of John was a public identification with His message that Jews needed to turn back to God if they wanted to be a part of what He was going to do through Messiah. Christian baptism is identifying with Christ and His church.
  2. When Paul met disciples of John in Ephesus, he explained the difference between being baptized by John and believing in the Lord Jesus. John’s baptism was for Jews who turned to God looking for their Messiah they should believe, or trust in: “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (Acts 19:4).
  3. Jews enthusiastically responded to John’s message as he pointed them to their coming Messiah.

C. Jesus’ baptism by John demonstrates His humility as He submits to the Father’s will. His baptism was His public acceptance of His assignment as the Suffering Servant who would die on the cross in a few short years (Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50). (1:9-11)

  1.  Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee! This obscure little town is never mentioned in the Old Testament, Josephus, or the Talmud. That Messiah would suddenly show up from such an unexpected place deepens the drama and the expectation of humility.
  2.  Jesus did not need to repent of His sins. But Jesus did need to identify with the people of Israel, the message of John, and accept His role as Suffering Servant “in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
  3. God’s response is awesome. God the Spirit tears the sky open (schizomenous) and anoints the Son in the form of a dove and God the Father audibly affirms the Son’s humble obedience.

D. Jesus’ temptation demonstrates His faithfulness to the Father’s will by submitting to the grueling spiritual conflict with Satan (12-13).

  1. Only Mark writes “the Spirit drove (ekballo—impelled, drove out, forced out) Him into the wilderness.
  2. Mark doesn’t elaborate with any details of the trial, only the trial itself and God’s care of His Son.

Real life issues for those who want to follow Jesus, the Suffering Servant.

A.Are you identified with Jesus the Savior? Jesus said that only those who believe in Him will receive a new identity with the capacity to follow Him. If you try to follow before you receive His new life, YOU WILL FAIL!

B.Have you identified with Jesus and His church through Christian baptism? In the same way the Jews could identify with God’s work through the coming Messiah, Christians can identify with God’s work through Christ today. If you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, you should be baptized! Not to “make sure you go to heaven,” when you believed, you received eternal life. But to demonstrate that you are humbly and faithfully submitting to your Savior’s will.

C. Do you understand the connection between humility and faithfulness as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus? Two new words describe the path from humility to faithfulness:

TRUST-HUMILITY-SUBMISSION-FAITHFULNESS

D. What is a humbling assignment Jesus is asking you to take right now? How is your trust factor linked to your humility factor?

E. Where is His Spirit driving you that intimidates you? How is your trust factor linked to your faithfulness factor? What does it tell the Lord Jesus about your submission to Him if you refuse this assignment?

First Followers, First Lessons

Mark 1:14-45

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:14)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). After summarizing the Servant’s mission in Galilee, Mark introduces us to Jesus’ first call to discipleship. Those who follow witness the Servant’s astonishing teaching and authority over demons, disease, and uncleanness. His exhausting commitment to meet the needs of others never distracts from His calling to preach the good news:

Proclaiming the good news compassionately demands personal presence!⇦Tweet that!

Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee from His headquarters in the thriving town of Capernaum.

The Servant compassionately proclaims the good news of the Kingdom with authority in and around Capernaum (1:14-45).

A. Context: “Now after John was put in prison…” (1:14a)

  1. Mark, along with Matthew and Luke, omitted Jesus’ early ministry in Judea that lasted one year (John 1:15-4:42). The Judeans initially accepted Jesus after He was baptized by John and, forty days later, introduced as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Several disciples of John—John, Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael—and others who became His disciples believed in Him after His first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:11). But after He cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem during the Passover, met secretly with Nicodemus, and His disciples began baptizing Jews with the baptism of John (John 2:12-4:1), Jesus withdrew from Judea and traveled to Galilee because of opposition from the Pharisees (John 4:23) and Herod’s imprisonment of John. Neither Herod nor the Pharisees had power in Galilee.
  2. On His way to Galilee, Jesus was accepted in Samaria (John 4:5-42). After two days’ rest in Samaria, Jesus arrived in Nazareth of Galilee, His hometown. He was rejected there (Luke 4:16-30) and moved His headquarters to Capernaum.
  3. As it was in Judea, so it was in Galilee. Initially the Galileans accepted Him because many of them had witnessed his words and works in Judea over the last twelve months. Still there is a foreboding of a coming rejection from His lips, “a prophet has no honor in his own country” (John 4:44-45).

B. Jesus’ message to the Galileans: The gospel of the kingdom of God (1:14-15).

  1. Only here do we find the combination “repent and believe.” The good news to the Galilean Jews was “turn to the God of Israel and believe in His good news: The Kingdom you’ve wanted is near; your Messiah is here, ready to begin His royal rule.”
  2. The presence of the King proved the nearness of the Kingdom—the literal earthly rule the Old Testament promised under Messiah’s reign.

C. Jesus’ call to discipleship in Galilee (1:16-20).

  1. Four fishermen, two sets of brothers who were business partners, who had already met and believed in Jesus, respond to His call to discipleship.
  2. The requirement: “Follow Me.” Literally this means, “come after me,” and the idea is to come behind me as a learner. The cost of discipleship is apparent from the beginning—forsake this life to follow Me.
  3. The promise: “I will make you become fishers of men.” The verb, genesthai, means “I will make you into something you are not now. You will become my assistants in delivering people from the sea of sin and death.” (See Isaiah 57:20-21)

D. Jesus’ demonstration of authority in Galilee (1:21-45).

  1. He taught with astonishing authority from the Scriptures. Not like the scribes who merely cited the authority of other scholars and commentators (21-22).
  2. He demonstrated His amazing authority over demons. All demonic powers (“Did you come to destroy us?) knew Jesus was the Son of God, but He refused to let them testify of Him. Still, His fame spread throughout Galilee (23-28).
  3. He demonstrated His authority over disease by healing Peter’s mother-in-law (29-31). Then, after the sun went down ending the Sabbath so people could travel, Jesus healed and delivered all who came to Peter’s home late into the night (32-34). Parenthetical Insight: Early the next morning, Peter interrupted Jesus’ prayers in a lonely place to tell Him everyone was looking for Him. It seems Peter was excited over Jesus’ popularity and urged the Lord to take advantage of the fervor over His healing ministry. But Jesus refused, restating His purpose to preach the good news of the kingdom throughout Galilee (35-39).
  4. He demonstrated His amazing authority over uncleanness. Mark recorded one incident from the preaching tour of Galilee—Jesus healing a hopeless, leprous outcast. The astounding compassion and amazing power of the Lord increased the demand for Him so that He had to retreat to lonely places (40-45).

Jesus’ Galilean Ministry and Missions: His personal presence in Galilee made the difference!

A. His message required His personal presence. His purpose was clear: To preach the good news (1:14, 38, 39). His ministry of compassion—meeting the needs of the hurting—was a part of fulfilling that purpose. He personally proclaimed the good news with authority. Missions must be about sending people who can proclaim the good news with authority—the authority of the Scriptures. They must personally know the truth and be equipped to teach the truth.

B. His compassion required His personal presence: He didn’t meet every need, but the needs of the hurting moved Him. Missions must be about sending people who share His compassion for the hurting.

C. His compassion for untouchables required His personal presence. Lepers were hopeless outcasts. The rabbis and scribes taught that leprosy was God’s judgment on sin and forbad lepers from even washing because they would make the water unclean. They were required to cover their face crying, “unclean.” This leper’s bold request and Jesus’ scandalous compassion was counterculture and introduces the hostility motif of chapter 2. The scribes suddenly show up! Missions must be about sending people God’s Spirit can move beyond the prejudices and cruelties of the culture.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Mark 1:14-45

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:14)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). After summarizing the Servant’s mission in Galilee, Mark introduces us to Jesus’ first call to discipleship. Those who follow witness the Servant’s astonishing teaching and authority over demons, disease, and uncleanness. But the requirements for following and the expectations of followers must be clear in the mind of would be disciples:

Want to follow Jesus? Believe, grow, count the cost, and expect Him to use you!⇦Tweet that!

Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee from His headquarters in the thriving town of Capernaum.

The Servant compassionately proclaims the good news of the Kingdom with authority in and around Capernaum (1:14-45).

A. Context: “Now after John was put in prison…” (1:14a)

  1. Mark, along with Matthew and Luke, omitted Jesus’ early ministry in Judea that lasted about one year (John 1:15-4:42). The Judeans initially accepted Jesus after He was baptized by John and, forty days later, introduced as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). But after He cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem during the Passover, the authorities began to mistrust Him. He met secretly with Nicodemus at night and refused to allow the Judean believers to follow Him. His Galilean disciples followed Him into the wilderness and began baptizing Jews with the baptism of John (John 2:12-4:1). Jesus withdrew from Judea and traveled to Galilee because of opposition from the Pharisees (John 4:23) and Herod’s imprisonment of John. Neither Herod nor the Pharisees had power in Galilee.
  2. On His way to Galilee, Jesus was accepted in Samaria (John 4:5-42). After two days’ rest in Samaria, Jesus arrived in Nazareth of Galilee, His hometown. He was rejected there (Luke 4:16-30) and moved His headquarters to Capernaum. His initial band of disciples believed in Him when He turned water to wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12).
  3. As it was in Judea, so it was in Galilee. Initially the Galileans accepted Him because many of them had witnessed his words and works in Judea over the last twelve months. Still there is a foreboding of a coming rejection from His lips, “a prophet has no honor in his own country” (John 4:44-45).

B. Jesus’ message to the Galileans: The gospel of the kingdom of God (1:14-15).

  1. Only here do we find the combination “repent and believe.” The good news to the Galilean Jews was “turn to the God of Israel and believe in His good news: The Kingdom you’ve wanted is near; your Messiah is here, ready to begin His royal rule.”
  2. The presence of the King proved the nearness of the Kingdom—the literal earthly rule the Old Testament promised under Messiah’s reign.

C. Jesus’ call to discipleship in Galilee (1:16-20).

  1. Four fishermen, two sets of brothers who were business partners, who had already met and believed in Jesus, respond to His call to discipleship.
  2. The requirement: “Follow Me.” Literally this means, “come after me,” and the idea is to come behind me as a learner. The cost of discipleship is apparent from the beginning—forsake this life to follow Me.
  3. The promise: “I will make you become fishers of men.” The verb, genesthai, means “I will make you into something you are not now. You will become my assistants in delivering people from the sea of sin and death” (See Isaiah 57:20-21).

D. Jesus’ demonstration of authority in Galilee (1:21-45).

  1. He taught with astonishing authority from the Scriptures. Not like the scribes who merely cited the authority of other scholars and commentators (21-22).
  2. He demonstrated His amazing authority over demons. All demonic powers (“Did you come to destroy us?) knew Jesus was the Son of God, but He refused to let them testify of Him. Still, His fame spread throughout Galilee (23-28).
  3. He demonstrated His authority over disease by healing Peter’s mother-in-law (29-31). Then, after the sun went down ending the Sabbath so people could travel, Jesus healed and delivered all who came to Peter’s home late into the night (32-34). Parenthetical Insight: Early the next morning, Peter interrupted Jesus’ prayers in a lonely place to tell Him everyone was looking for Him. It seems Peter was excited over Jesus’ popularity and urged the Lord to take advantage of the fervor over His healing ministry. But Jesus refused, restating His purpose to preach the good news of the kingdom throughout Galilee (35-39).
  4. He demonstrated His amazing authority over uncleanness. Mark recorded one incident from the preaching tour of Galilee—Jesus healing a hopeless, leprous outcast. The astounding compassion and amazing power of the Lord increased the demand for Him so that He had to retreat to lonely places (40-45).

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. Believe in Him! You can’t follow Him if you’re not a new creation in Him. The four brothers had believed in Christ after seeing Him turn the water to wine (John 2:11). Only those who have trusted in Him and have received His life—eternal life—can become true disciples (John 3:16).

B. Grow in Him! You can’t follow Him if you don’t know where you’re going. The four brothers had been interacting with Jesus for a year in Judea. Only those who have been abiding in Him will authentically respond to His call to discipleship (1 John 2:6).

  1. Count the cost! You won’t keep walking behind Him if you think it’s going to be easy. The four brothers forsook all that they held dear to follow Him (Luke 14:33).
  2. Expect Him to use you! There’s no such thing as an insignificant disciple of the Lord Jesus. The four brothers heard amazing teaching, saw amazing things, and searched for Jesus when the crowds pressed in. They found Him in lonely places. After He ascended to the Father, they too were used so mightily that people crushed in on their lives, forcing them to retreat to lonely places. Expect to be poured out (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

The Wineskin Controversies

Mark 2:1-22

New wine must be put into new wineskins (Mark 2:22).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

Jesus used the parable of the wineskins to expose the onerous rigidity of the Pharisees and to force His followers to let go of the old and worn out system so that they could embrace His radically new way of righteousness:

If you’re going to follow Jesus, religious people will oppose you!⇦Tweet that!

Five events prove Israel’s leaders oppose Jesus.

The Servant demonstrates His authority to forgive sin, His compassion for sinners, and His disregard for religious traditions, stirring up controversies that cause the religious authorities to turn against Him (2:1-22).

A. Jesus’ authority to forgive sin astonishes the Jewish people but enrages their leaders (2:1-12).

  1. When Jesus saw the faith of a paralytic’s friends who dropped him through the roof, He was moved with compassion (Son=an affectionate term) and said, “your sins are forgiven you.”
  2. Many religious leaders had crowded into the home (“some of the scribes”). Before they could even accuse Jesus of blasphemy, He proved He could forgive sins by healing the man.

Note: Rabbinical theology taught a one-to-one correspondence between sickness and sin. Physical infirmities were a sign of God’s displeasure and punishment for specific sins. The rabbis also taught that no one but God, not even the coming Messiah could forgive sin. Of course they never anticipated that their Messiah would be God in the flesh!

B. Jesus’ compassion for sinners draws those who are sick of their sin but repels the self-righteous leaders of Israel (2:13-17).

  1. When Jesus called the tax collector Levi to follow Him and then dined with Levi and his unsavory tax-collecting friends, the religious leaders challenged His disciples concerning their lack of separation from “tax collectors and sinners.” Note: Rabbinical theology taught that the common people who failed to follow the Pharisaical interpretations of the law were unclean and unfit for friendship with “righteous Jews.” All Jews especially hated tax collectors because they worked for Rome and collected huge profits at the expense of Jewish society.
  2. Jesus uses irony to expose the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and their inability to turn to God because they were unaware of their need.

C. Jesus’ disregard for the religious traditions of the Pharisees gives Him opportunity to declare the incompatibility of His way with the ways of the religious authorities (2:18-22).

  1. The disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting on the day that Levi threw his party and invited his sinning friends to come to a banquet to meet Jesus. So they asked Jesus why He and His disciples didn’t fast. Note: The law required only one day of fasting every year—the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-30). But the rabbis, in typical “religious overkill” taught that good Jews should fast on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12). The disciples of John may have been fasting because John was in prison.
  2. Jesus responds to their question with two parables that separate Him from every expectation of the religious authorities:

The Parable of the Bridegroom: Like the disciples of John, Jesus’ disciples would have occasion to mourn after He leaves. Until then they would enjoy their intimacy with Messiah. Note: This is Jesus’ first hint at His coming death in Mark.

The Parable of the Wineskins: This is the central passage to the entire section, 2:1-2:6, and the point is clear: Jesus is not reforming religious traditions, He is doing something radical and new.

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. Admit your need for Him! If you’re thinking that you just need a “little religious tune-up” to be good enough for God, you will never trust Him for eternal life. He died to make payment for your sin and to give you new life, not to encourage you a little and to clean up your old one.

B. Be ready to hang out with sinners! If you’re afraid of what your religious friends will think, you’ll never trust Him enough to follow. He goes where the need is because He loves the needy. It’s time for Christians to stop encouraging one another to be good, safe, and antiseptic Pharisees and to start encouraging one another to be good, courageous, and relevant followers of Christ. Take the pledge, “I’m going to affirm Christian friends who hang out with the lost!”

  1. Stop clinging to the false security of religious overkill! If it isn’t forbidden in the Bible, it’s overkill. If you’re trying to measure up to any religious community’s “overkill rules” you will live in shackles and be forced to hide your real sin and your legitimate freedom in Christ. Believe the Bible, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NASB).
  2. Forsake outside-in righteousness that religion offers to pursue the inside-out righteousness that Jesus offers.
  3. Trying to patch the two together never works.
  4. Trying to keep both sides happy always makes both angry.
  5. Trying to force the new into the old always blows up.

 

The Wineskin Conflict

Mark 2:23-3:7

New wine must be put into new wineskins (Mark 2:22).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

Jesus used the parable of the wineskins to expose the onerous rigidity of the Pharisees and to force His followers to let go of the old and worn out system so that they could embrace His radically new way of righteousness:

If you’re going to follow Jesus, religious people will attack you!⇦Tweet that!

Five events prove that Israel’s leaders reject their Messiah.

The Servant demonstrates His authority over the Sabbath, teaching God’s purpose rather than man’s traditions, causing the religious authorities to decide to kill Him (2:23-3:6).

A. Jesus’ disregard for the religious traditions of the Pharisees gives Him opportunity to declare the incompatibility of His way with the ways of the religious authorities (2:18-22).

  1. The disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting on the day that Levi threw his party and invited his sinning friends to come to a banquet to meet Jesus. So they asked Jesus why He and His disciples didn’t fast. Note: The law required only one day of fasting every year—the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-30). But the rabbis, in typical “religious overkill” taught that good Jews should fast on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12). The disciples of John may have been fasting because John was in prison.
  2. Jesus responds to their question with two parables that separate Him from every expectation of the religious authorities:

The Parable of the Bridegroom: Like the disciples of John, Jesus’ disciples would have occasion to mourn after He leaves. Until then they would enjoy their intimacy with Messiah. Note: This is Jesus’ first hint at His coming death in Mark.

The Parable of the Wineskins: This is the central passage to the entire section, 2:1-22, and the point is clear: Jesus is not reforming religious traditions; He is doing something radical and new.

B. Jesus’ authority over the Sabbath relieves the Jewish people of ridiculous religious performance rules but enrages the ones who burdened them with these manmade laws (2:23-3:6).

  1. When Jesus’ disciples break the Pharisees’ interpretation of Sabbath law and they protest, Jesus exposes their ignorance of the Old Testament and teaches the true purpose of the Sabbath (2:23-28).
    • The Law made provision for just such occasions (Deuteronomy 23:24) and David himself had even broken the Law against eating consecrated bread (Leviticus 24:9) to feed his hungry men (1 Samuel 21:1-6). But the Pharisees had decided that this type of activity was really “reaping” in violation of the Law (Exodus 34:21)!
    • The Pharisees’ narrow “religious overkill” interpretation of the Law blurred God’s original purpose for establishing a Sabbath rest: To bless His people rather than burden His people!
  2. When Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath and challenged the religious authorities concerning God’s desire to do good on the Sabbath, they kept silent. Their total insensitivity to the man’s suffering and refusal to rethink their narrow religious categories both angered and grieved the Lord Jesus (3:1-5).

Note: This is the only place in the gospels that explicitly states that Jesus was angry!

C. Conclusion to 2:1-3:6, the first cycle of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee: The religious authorities reject Jesus and plan to kill Him (3:6).

Note: The Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other, but they found common ground in their hatred of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man!

Note: This decision by the religious authorities to kill Jesus is a turning-point in Mark’s account. After this, nothing will be the same. This is the first clear reference to Jesus’ death and a clear transition in the ministry of the Lord Jesus

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. Don’t blur the Word of God with your religious overkill categories and religious culture teachings that heretically burden God’s people.

  1. Your misplaced zeal does violence to the Word of God.
  2. Your misplaced zeal teaches either a false gospel, or a false spirituality, or both.
  3. Your misplaced zeal makes Christianity seem foolish to a watching world.
  4. Your misplaced zeal discourages the sincere and honest and promotes hypocrisy and hiddenness.
  5. Your misplaced zeal actually increases sin by leaving believers vulnerable to the real issues.

B. Don’t let the religious overkill categories and religious culture teachings that heretically burden God’s people blur your understanding of the Word of God.

  1. Their misplaced zeal doesn’t always mean that there isn’t an underlying truth from God’s Word designed to protect or bless you.
  2. Their misplaced zeal doesn’t give you permission to ignore your responsibilities as an ambassador for Christ.
  3. Their misplaced zeal may have left you extremely exposed to a world you know too little about to embrace impetuously.

The Twelve

Mark 3:7-19

Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them (Mark 3:14).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The second cycle of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (3:7-6:6a) begins with a summary of what His followers were seeing and hearing (3:7-12), and continues with His selection of the twelve. This great event in the life of Christ marks an important transition in His ministry and teaches future followers the significance of being on Christ’s team:

If you’re going to follow Jesus, He will ask you to stand with Him and His people!⇦Tweet that!

The expansion of the ministry of the Son of Man requires the selection of His team of leaders.

The Servant’s ministry begins to reach the nations, precipitating the calling of His disciples (3:7-19).

A. As Jesus focuses on His disciples, His fame spreads to other nations, fulfilling Isaiah 42:1-4, but He silences the testimony of demonic forces concerning His Person (3:7-12).

  1. Jesus withdraws to the shores of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples (7a). The Greek text emphasizes that His disciples withdrew with Him, “Jesus and His disciples withdrew.” His growing bands of disciples were sharing in His fame (They had to get a little boat for Jesus to speak from because the masses of people crowded Him into the sea (v 9).) and the hostility against Him.
  2. Just as Isaiah had prophesied (see Matthew 3:17-21), the Gentile nations bordering Israel began to turn to Messiah in faith because of His compassionate ministry (7b-10, Isaiah 42:1-4).
  3. Demoniacs attempted to identify Jesus as the Son of God, but He silenced them because He, and He alone would disclose Himself in His time and on His terms (11-12).

B. As Jesus prepared to teach the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:13), He calls out to His disciples to join Him and chooses twelve to send out to do the work of preaching, healing, and casting out demons (3:13-19).

  1. Jesus calls the disciples He wanted to join Him “up front” and appointed twelve of those to eventually delegate His ministry to by sending them out (13-15).Jesus called them to publicly identify with Him and one another (13).
    • Jesus called them to publicly identify with Him and one another (13).
    • Jesus’ only plan was that they would be with Him first, and then He would send them to do what He had been doing (14-15)
  2. His surprising choices: The unimpressive eleven rough Galileans—including four fishermen, a hated tax-collector, a former anarchist, and a bunch of no-names.
  3. His unsurprising choice with a jarring tag line: The impressive Judean, Judaswho also would betray Him.

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. He will ask you to stand with Him!

  1. Even when it’s unpopular.
  2. Even when your family and friends do not understand and oppose you.
  3. Even when it’s politically incorrect.
  4. Even when it costs.
  5. Even when it’s dangerous.

B. He will ask you to stand with His people.

  1. Even when they embarrass you.
  2. Even when they drive you nuts.
  3. Even when they aren’t like you.
  4. Even when they disagree with you.
  5. Even when they hurt you.

Some of my favorite quotes about The Twelve:

From A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve:

But it was His wish that certain selected men should be with Him at all times and in all places.

His method of procedure in this (choosing these twelve, even the number twelve), as in all things, was to abide by that which in itself was true and right, and then to correct misapprehensions as they arose.

He was to make it His business to tell them in darkness what they should afterwards speak in the daylight, and to whisper in their ear what in after years they should preach upon the housetops.

From Walter W. Wessel, “Mark.” In Matthew-Luke. Vol. 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 643:

“It was a strange group of men our Lord chose to be his disciples. Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Of six of them we know practically nothing. All were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. Yet it was with these men that Jesus established his church and disseminated his Good News to the end of the earth.”

 

Rejecting Jesus, the Unpardonable Sin

Mark 3:20-30

But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness,but is subject to eternal condemnation (Mark 3:29).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The second cycle of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (3:7-6:6a) begins with a summary of what His followers were seeing and hearing (3:7-12), and continues with His selection of the twelve. As His fame increases, the hostility intensifies. As his family hurries to Capernaum to take Him home, a delegation from Jerusalem arrives and charges that His power is from Satan, not God:

If you’re going to follow Jesus, your family may discourage you, 

and Christ’s enemies will defame you !⇦Tweet that!

The expansion of the ministry of the Son of Man results in misunderstanding and rejection.

The Servant warns His enemies that their rejection cannot be forgiven (3:20-30).

A. The increasing rejection of Jesus begins with His well-meaning family’s belief that He’s unstable and ends with a formal charge of Satanic power by the religious authorities (3:20-22).

  1. Jesus’ hectic schedule and unsettling behavior and teaching cause his family to hurry from Nazareth to “lay hold of Him” because He was “out of his mind.” Note: “His own people” (NKJV) is an idiom meaning family, not simply close friends. “Lay hold of” is the Greek term, kratesai—often translated “arrested” (6:17; 12:12). It means to “take custody of” or “take charge of” someone. Since it’s clear that Jesus’ family believed He was “out of His mind,” they were alarmed by His unstable behavior. This would be the same as committing someone to psychological or emotional care for their own good.
  2. Jesus’ amazing words and works cause His enemies to send a delegation from Jerusalem to charge Him with receiving His power from Satan. Note: Beelzebub probably meant “Lord of the Dwelling” meaning that the lord of the dwelling place of evil spirits. This meant that Jesus was charged with acting as Satan’s agent in driving demons from their “dwelling” place in the bodies of demoniacs, or demonized people.

B. Jesus responds to the charge of His enemies with parables and a warning (3:23-30).

  1. Jesus uses parables (stories that compare and make one point) to prove that the charge is illogical and to show that His power is greater than Satan’s (23-27).
  2. Jesus sternly warns these religious authorities against rejecting Him—a sin that cannot be pardoned (28-30).
  • Don’t miss the great promise at the beginning of Jesus’ rebuke: “All sins will be forgiven the sons of men…” (28).
  • The context of this rebuke, following the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ extended tour of Galilee, proves that these accusers are rejecting God’s message about the Son. They are saying that the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus of Nazareth is a lie (29-30).
  • .A careful reading of the text proves that there is nothing here concerning some “unpardonable sin.” Jesus’ sentence is, “but he who blasphemes (lies) against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.” The explanation supplied by Mark is, “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (29-30). When the religious authorities attributed Jesus’ exorcisms to Satan rather than the Holy Spirit, they were rejecting the Spirit’s miraculous authentication of the Son. This is Israel’s official rejection of Messiah. Since they had rejected the Spirit’s convicting evidence through the testimony of the Father and the works and words of the Son, nothing more could be done to persuade them. They had rejected the evidence supplied by the Holy Spirit by resisting His power and persisting in their unbelief.
  • The silly and out-of-context teachings on these verses have caused many Christians great anxiety over the years. Even the NKJV wrongly titles vv 28-30, “The Unpardonable Sin.” Ryrie’s comments are helpful:

“Although people might misunderstand Jesus’ ministry, there is no excuse for misunderstanding the Holy Spirit’s ministry since His power and ministry were known from OT times. Accusing Jesus of getting His power from Satan was not just a sin of the tongue. It was a sin of the heart. They were rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction.” (Charles Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord, p. 67)

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. Your family and friends will/may not understand your radical commitment to Him.

  1. When He decides your career.
  2. When He decides where you live.
  3. When He decides the way you raise your children.
  4. When He decides how you spend your time.
  5. When He decides how you spend our money.

B. Are you committing the so-called unpardonable sin? You are if you’re rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony about Jesus in Scripture—that He is the Christ, the Anointed One from God sent to take away the sin of the world (1 John 5:1, 11-13).

  1. If you have believed in Jesus, you cannot commit the unpardonable sin. All your sin has been pardoned.
  2. Until you believe in Jesus, you are committing the unpardonable sin. Not one of your sins has been pardoned.

 

Who’s Your Family?

Mark 3:20-35

For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother (Mark 3:35).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The second cycle of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (3:7-6:6a) begins with a summary of what His followers were seeing and hearing (3:7-12), and continues with His selection of the twelve. As His fame increases, the hostility intensifies. As his family hurries to Capernaum to take Him home, a delegation from Jerusalem arrives and charges that His power is from Satan, not God. When Jesus’ family shows up, He presents His radical view of relationships.

If you’re going to follow Jesus, your family may discourage you, 

and Christ’s enemies will defame you !⇦Tweet that!

The expansion of the ministry of the Son of Man results in misunderstanding and rejection.

The Servant warns His enemies that their rejection cannot be forgiven and invites all who do God’s will into intimate relationship with Him (3:20-35).

A. The increasing rejection of Jesus begins with His well-meaning family’s belief that He’s unstable and ends with a formal charge of Satanic power by the religious authorities (3:20-22).

  1. Jesus’ hectic schedule and unsettling behavior and teaching cause his family to hurry from Nazareth to “lay hold of Him” because He was “out of his mind.” Note: “His own people” (NKJV) is an idiom meaning family, not simply close friends. “Lay hold of” is the Greek term, kratesai—often translated “arrested” (6:17; 12:12). It means to “take custody of” or “take charge of” someone. Since it’s clear that Jesus’ family believed He was “out of His mind,” they were alarmed by His unstable behavior. This would be the same as committing someone to psychological or emotional care for their own good.
  2. Jesus’ amazing words and works cause His enemies to send a delegation from Jerusalem to charge Him with receiving His power from Satan. Note: Beelzebub probably meant “Lord of the Dwelling” meaning that the lord of the dwelling place of evil spirits. This meant that Jesus was charged with acting as Satan’s agent in driving demons from their “dwelling” place in the bodies of demoniacs, or demonized people.

B. Jesus responds to the charge of His enemies with parables to prove the charge illogical and a stern warning against the unpardonable sin of unbelief in Him (3:23-30).

Note: For an extended analysis of the so-called “unpardonable sin,” see my notes from 29 March 2009, Rejecting Jesus, the Unpardonable Sin. http://www.churchoftheopendoor.com/engine.cfm?i=9&status=1&id=184

C.When His family arrives and attempts to talk to Him privately, Jesus presents His radical rule of relationship: Intimacy with Him is determined by spiritual responsiveness to the will of God rather than physical bloodlines of family or race (3:30-35).

  1. While Jesus was addressing the multitude, His mother and brothers sent word from the fringes of the crowd that they wanted to talk with Him privately (31-32) to restrain His activity (20-22).
  2. Jesus’ jarring rule of relationships: My true family consists of those who do the will of God (33-35).

Note: Jesus is not renouncing family relationships (see 7:10-13)

  1. His rhetorical question emphasizes the quality of a relationship: “What sort of people are my mother and sisters?(33)
  2. Looking around (this time affectionately rather than angrily as in 3:5), He identifies His disciples as the sort of person that belongs to His family (34)
  3. He then presents the principle determining intimacy with Him: Those who do God’s will are my family (35). Note: He purposefully does not use an article in verse 35, emphasizing that this is qualitative.

*Doing God’s will begins with believing in His Son (John 3:16; contrast with Jesus’ brothers’ unbelief in John 7:5).

*Spiritual relationships are more important than physical relationships.

*This is a great encouragement to those who suffer persecution for their faith from the culture or from their family and friends. Intimacy with Jesus is your right-now-here and forever-in-His-Kingdom reward!

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. Your family and friends will/may not understand your radical commitment to Him.

  1. When He decides your career.
  2. When He decides where you live.
  3. When He decides the way you raise your children.
  4. When He decides how you spend your time.
  5. When He decides how you spend your money.

B. You must be willing to put your obedience to God’s will above the expectations of your family and friends.

C. You must be willing to put your loved one’s obedience to God’s will above your personal needs, desires, and expectations.

The Parable of the Soils

Mark 4:1-20

But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, adept it, and bear fruit;

some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred (Mark 4:20).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

When Jesus leaves the house He and His disciples had gathered in and returns to the seashore, He begins teaching in a different way—through parables. A parable is an earthly story from real life that illustrates a heavenly principle through comparison. Israel’s official rejection of her King causes the Son of Man to speak in parables that He would only explain to those who received His teaching. Christ’s teaching on the character of God’s Kingdom begins with the parable of the soils:

If you’re going to follow Jesus:

Your heart must be a fertile place for the Word of God to grow!⇦Tweet that!

A very busy day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth continues as He teaches from a boat to the crowd on shore.

The Servant teaches the parable of the soils to encourage His disciples to receive the Word of God as good soil and to warn them against the “heart-problems” that limit the Word’s power to produce fruit in their lives (4:1-20).

A.  The increasing hostility of His enemies and rejection by official Israel causes Jesus to teach in Parables, beginning with the parable of the soils, in order to reveal truth to His disciples while hiding it from His rejecters (1-11).

  1. Christ withdraws from the house (3:19) to teach the multitudes from a boat in parables (1-2). Note: A parable teaches a truth by comparison. A principle or truth from the known realm (earthly life) is used to illustrate a spiritual truth from the unknown realm.
  2. Beginning and ending with an exhortation to be attentive, Jesus tells a story about a sower whose seed fell on four different types of soil—the wayside, stony ground, and thorny ground, where the crop failed, and then fertile ground which produced abundant an abundant harvest.

B. When His disciples ask Jesus why He is teaching in parables; He explains that only the receptive will grow to understand His message in parables, while the non-receptive will not comprehend, just as in the days of Isaiah (4:11-13; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10).

C. Jesus explains the parable of the soils to His disciples to encourage them to remain receptive to the Word of God (4:13-20).

  1. Jesus’ impatience with His disciples’ lack of understanding of this most basic parable proves that even the receptive do not immediately or “magically” comprehend the Word of God (13). The issue is a receptive heart, not a perceptive mind.
  2. Jesus’ explanation of the parable is simple and obvious as our interpretation and application should be! (14-20)

Note: I disagree with those who interpret the unyielding soils as unbelievers and the fertile soils as believers. I see the soils as representing the climate of the heart that receives the Word of God. When unbelievers welcome the Word of God to them—the Gospel—it produces the fruit of salvation in their life. When believers do not welcome the Word of God in an area of their life, it will not yield its fruit there.

  • The particulars: the sower=Jesus and all who proclaim God’s Word or message; the seed=the Word of God; the soil=the “heart” or the receptor of the Word of God.
  • The point: Regardless of the Sower (Jesus Himself or His disciples), the seed (the Word of God) requires healthy soil (a receptive heart) to bear its fruit.
  • Three enemies to the Word of God influence the fruitless heart so that it  (the seed) does not bear fruit (Compare Ephesians 2:1-3):

*The devil himself snatches the seed from a hard heart (seed that falls on the wayside).

*The flesh grows instantaneous but short lived, naïve, and counterfeit experiences of “fruit” in the shallow heart so that the seed cannot take root (seed that falls on stony ground).

 *The world smothers and chokes the life from the seed in the crowded heart (soil filled with competing roots of thorny bushes).

  • When the Word of God is sown in a receptive heart that hears and accepts the seed (good ground) it never fails to produce abundant fruit.

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. You must remember that the Word of God is the seed you sow, not the fruit you grow. The ones hearing the Word are responsible for receiving it. This will help you “move on” to good ground rather than trying to force fruit from unhealthy soil.

  1. A wayside heart is hard against God and characterized by a disdainful spirit. This person is living in a very dangerous place—extremely exposed to Satan’s power.
  2. A stony ground heart is shallow and impatient with God and characterized by a demanding spirit. This person is lives from experience to experience, newest truth to newest truth—he or she never finds what they’re looking for but always thinks the next-big-spiritual “thing” is the answer. They are extremely vulnerable to false teaching and manipulative leaders.
  3. A thorny ground heart is a crowded heart and characterized by a distracted, dissatisfied spirit. This person’s life is so full of the here and now pursuit of pleasure, power, or prominence that there simply is no room for the pursuit of the Lord Jesus. The tragedy is that they will not realize the emptiness of these pursuits until they achieve their goal. Sadly, most will move on to the next worldly pursuit, believing that this one surely will satisfy their heart.
  4. A good ground heart is soft toward God and characterized by an honest and vulnerable spirit. This person is not self-righteous or self-satisfied, but they are experiencing the joy of intimacy with Christ and the fruit that is eternally significant.

B. You must guard your heart against the enemies of the Word of God—the devil, the flesh, and the world. Where is your heart hard, shallow, or crowded? How can “till the soil” of your heart?

How do I know when my heart is good soil? When you hear or read something in the Word of God that…

 …you don’t understand, and your response isn’t, “Oh, this is just too confusing,” but instead you just have to know what it means…

 …you’ve never heard before, and your response isn’t, “That can’t be true, that’s not what I’ve always heard or always heard,” but you want to know if it’s true.

…that sound really, really hard, and your response isn’t, “That’s just too much to ask,”but you want to do it.

…that requires a change in your thinking, your priorities, or your behavior, and your response isn’t, “Well, this is just the way I am” or “I could do that if my circumstances weren’t so confusing or if God would take better care of me,” but you actually allow the Word of God to transform your life.

The Most Powerful Seed

Mark 4:21-34

It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown…is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when…

it grows up [it] becomes greater than all (Mark 4:31).

 Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

When Jesus leaves the house He and His disciples had gathered in and returns to the seashore, He begins teaching in a different way—through parables. A parable is an earthly story from real life that illustrates a heavenly principle through comparison. Israel’s official rejection of her King causes the Son of Man to speak in parables that He would only explain to those who received His teaching. Christ’s teaching on the character of God’s Kingdom is through parables:

If you’re going to follow Jesus:

You must trust the Word of God to grow in the fertile soil of receptive hearts!

A very busy day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth continues as He teaches from a boat to the crowd on shore.

The Servant teaches in parables to encourage His disciples to receive the Word of God as good soil and to expect the good seed of the Word of God to do it’s work in the lives of His followers and the world (4:21-34).

A. The increasing hostility of His enemies and rejection by official Israel causes Jesus to teach in Parables, beginning with the parable of the soils, in order to reveal truth to His disciples while hiding it from His rejecters (1-11).

  1. Christ withdraws from the house (3:19) to teach the multitudes from a boat in parables (1-2). Note: A parable teaches a truth by comparison. A principle or truth from the known realm (earthly life) is used to illustrate a spiritual truth from the unknown realm.
  2. Beginning and ending with an exhortation to be attentive, Jesus tells a story about a sower whose seed fell on four different types of soil—the wayside, stony ground, and thorny ground, where the crop failed, and then fertile ground which produced an abundant harvest.

B. When His disciples ask Jesus why He is teaching in parables; He explains that only the receptive will grow to understand His message in parables, while the non-receptive will not comprehend, just as in the days of Isaiah (4:11-13; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10). Jesus then explains the parable of the soils to His disciples to encourage them to remain receptive to the Word of God (4:13-20).

C. Two parables teach the power of the good seed of the Word of God in a life that receives and pursues the truth (4:21-25).

  1. The parable of the lamp teaches that Jesus is, through the parable of the soils, revealing truth to those willing to listen (21-23).
  2. The parable of the measure teaches that Jesus is revealing more truth to those who receive it but that He refuses to keep revealing truth to those who resist His teaching (24-25).

D. Two parables teach the power of the good seed of the Word of God in the world as it takes root in receptive hearts (4:26-32).

Note: I believe these “Kingdom Parables” are directly related to the coming, 1,000-year reign of the Lord Jesus in His Millennial Kingdom and will only be fully realized there. But I also believe that the same dynamic power of the Good News of the Kingdom Jesus was preaching to Israel then is in the Good News of the church we preach today. The commonality is the Good News of the Word of God and its power in a life and in the world.

  1. The parable of the seed growing by itself (emphatic in the Greek text) teaches that the power is in the seed (Word of God) and the growth (fruit) is by God’s power. Our responsibility is to plant the seed and harvest, giving all the glory to God (26-29).
  2. The parable of the mustard seed teaches that the impact of the (seed) Word of God is rarely impressive in its beginning, but always impressive in its result (30-32).
  3. The parable of the mustard seed teaches that the impact of the (seed) Word of God is rarely impressive in its beginning, but always impressive in its result (30-32).

E. Mark’s sobering closing comment: From this point forward Jesus did exactly what He said He would. Those rejecting Him only heard His parables; those receiving His truth heard His deepest thoughts (33-34; Cf John 15:15).

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. You must remain receptive to God’s Word.

  1. Jesus is keeping no secrets from you. Everything He wants you to know is in His Word. Are you reading it?
  2. Jesus is always saying something. He is constantly teaching you new insights from His Word. Are you teachable
  3. Jesus never stops working in your life. He is constantly testing your faith in His Word. Are you trusting Him in new ways?

B. You must fulfill your responsibility to “plant” God’s Word in a life and the world and trust Him for the results.

  1. Jesus’ words are the only power that can change a life. Everything depends on depositing the seed of His Word in receptive hearts. Do you know His Word? Are you learning His Word? Are you sharing His Word?
  2. Jesus’ beginnings are never impressive. Are you willing to trust Him for the small beginnings His word brings to a receptive heart?
  3. Jesus’ crops never fail. Are you willing to get out of His way and trust Him to grow His crop of good deeds in the lives of others? Are you willing to give Him all the glory when the harvest comes?
  4. Jesus’ words will change the world. Are you able to “see” the mustard trees He will grow from the seed you plant?

 

The Most Powerful Lord

Mark 4:35-5:43

And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another,

“Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The theme of Jesus’ rejection as Messiah in spite of the evidence intensifies as even His hometown of Nazareth rejects Him (6:6a). His teaching on the seed of the Word (4:1-34) explains this rejection to His disciples as He begins to speak to His rejecters in parables only. Then Jesus backs up His teaching with four miracles demonstrating His awesome power as the Son of God (4:35-5:43):

If you follow Jesus, He will show you His intimidating yet compassionate power!

 A very long day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth forces Him to retreat south, and then He crisscrosses the Sea of Galilee performing miracles.

The Servant demonstrates His power over creation, demons, sickness and death to persuade His followers that He is the Son of God and to expose the absurdity of unbelief in Him (4:34-5:43).

A. An exhausted Jesus sleeps as they sail south to Gadara, but His fearing disciples wake Him, accusing Him of forsaking them in their time of need. Jesus reprimands their unbelief and commands the sea to be still (4:35-41).

  1. Christ withdraws from the crowds and commands His disciples to sail to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee—Gadara of the Gentiles (35).
  2. When a sudden storm threatens to sink their boat, His disciples wake Him from the deep sleep of exhaustion, accusing Him of not caring for them (36-38).
  3. Jesus rebukes creation as a master would a slave and rebukes His disciples’ lack of faith (39-40).
  4. Now the disciples are really afraid as they realize Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of Creation! (41)

B. An even more intimidating power awaits Jesus and His disciples on the southern shore of Galilee—the forces of darkness torturing their victim. Jesus demonstrates His power over Satan and his legions (5:1-20).

  1. A demonized man begs the Son of God not to torment him. Jesus allows the legion of demons to enter a herd of swine and destroy them, demonstrating not only His power over evil but also Satan’s vicious, cruel, and destructive power (1-13)
  2. The report and evidence of His power brings fear to the populace and devotion to the heart of the delivered demoniac (14-20).

Note: Jesus told this Gentile man to spread the news of His delivering power, knowing that the Jewish authorities could not pollute the message among the Gentiles.

C. Returning to the northern shore of Galilee at Capernaum, Jesus prepares to teach, but is interrupted by the desperate needs of a dying girl and a suffering outcast. He responds to both, demonstrating His power over disease and death (5:21-43).

  1. Before Jesus has time to teach the pressing multitudes, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, begs Him to come heal his dying daughter (21-24).
  2. Before Jesus can reach the little girl, an unclean woman with an incurable, 12-year disease, touches Him in faith, causing Him to stop, identify her, and affirm her faith (25-34).
  3. Before Jesus can finish His kind words to the now clean woman, the report arrives that Jairus’s 12-year old daughter has died. Jesus tells believing Jairus to stop fearing and continue believing. Then, he interrupts the hired mourners to raise her from the dead before a small, select group of witnesses (35-43).

If you will follow Jesus…

A. You will see His awesome power.

  1. Only those who followed Jesus saw all four miracles.
  2. Only those who followed Jesus got in the boat with Him.
  3. Only those who followed Jesus knew both the fear of being with Him on the sea and the joy of being delivered by His power

B. And it will scare you!

  1. When it hits you that He is God who does what He wants.
  2. When the storm hits and you wonder if He cares.
  3. When the forces of evil confront Him.
  4. When the bad news comes and you wonder if He is able.

C. And you will hear Him say…

  1. When your faith falters, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (4:40)
  2. When your heart is broken, “Do not be afraid; only believe!” Literally: Stop fearing; continue believing! (5:36)

Rejection and Expansion in Galilee

Mark 6:1-13

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two (Mark 6:7).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The theme of Jesus’ rejection as Messiah in spite of the evidence intensifies as even His hometown of Nazareth rejects Him (6:6a). This is a great transition in the ministry of Jesus as He unveils His strategy for the church age: His disciples will penetrate hearts in the neighborhoods of Galilee, even as the culture is rejecting Him! (6:6b-13)

While the culture is rejecting Jesus in Galilee His disciples are reaching Galilee!

The amazing rejection of Jesus at Nazareth is His opportunity to launch His irresistible strategy on the world: He will empower and send His disciples to penetrate the culture—one life at a time.

The Servant concentrates on the training of the twelve after His rejection in Galilee (6:1-13).

A. Jesus’ ministry to the masses ended when He was rejected in His hometown of Nazareth (1-6a).

  1. Jesus returned to Nazareth with His disciples (1). Note: He brought them with Him so that they could learn from this rejection and to send them out from the point of His rejection to reach the very culture that was rejecting Him!
  2. His astonishing teaching in the synagogue offended the people of Nazareth (2-3).
  • Jesus had already provided irrefutable evidence that He was more than a mere man (4:35-5:43).
  • Now Jesus taught the Scriptures in amazing ways (2).
  • But the people of Nazareth rejected Him because they considered Him ignorant, ignoble, and illegitimate (3).

3. Their unbelief astonished Jesus and He withheld His power (4-6).

B. Jesus’ concentrated ministry to His disciples intensified when He sent them out in His name (6b-13).

  1. He took one last trip around the villages so that His disciples could see and learn from Him one more time (6b).
  2. And then He called them to Him and began sending them out with power to do what they had been watching Him do (7-13).
  • Jesus spent time with them, called them to Himself (very personal), and began sending them out two by two (two-by-two was a Jewish custom) with His power (7).
  • Like priests entering the Temple, their entire being was to be absorbed in serving the Lord, and their entire well-being dependent upon His provision and the hospitality of others (8-9).
  • Like Jews leaving Gentile territory, His disciples should demonstrate the uncleanness of communities that reject Him by shaking off the dust of that place under their feet (10-11).
  • And so, His disciples preached His message and demonstrated His power in the very villages controlled by the forces rejecting Him! (12-13)

If you will follow Jesus…

A. You will be rejected by the powerful and the popular.

  1. Even Jesus couldn’t keep the fickle masses happy!
  2. Jesus never intended to reach the world through big crowds.
  3. When the powerful and popular are with you, you’re doing something wrong. When the powerful and popular are against you, you’re doing everything right.
  4. Even Jesus was rejected by the people who knew Him best!

B. But He will use you to reach the very ones the powerful and popular are trying to keep from believing in Him!

  1. Jesus always planned to reach the world by calling disciples to Himself and sending them out with His power.
  2. Jesus is not into the mega, the big-splash, the buzz, or the “amazing opportunity.”
  3. Jesus is into the one—one hurting life, one hurting family, one hurting community.
  4. Jesus is asking you to go in His name—make disciples of all the nations.

C. Thoughts on Jesus’ simple plan from The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman:

  1. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.
  2. Anyone who is willing to follow Christ can become a mighty influence on the world providing, of course, that person has the proper training.
  3. This will require more concentration of the time and talents on fewer people in the church while not neglecting the passion for the world. It will mean raising up trained disciplers “for the work of the ministry” with the pastor and church staff (Ephesians 4:12). A few people so dedicated in time will shake the world for God. Victory is never won by the multitudes.
  4. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it.
  5. We must decide where we want our ministry to count—in the momentary applause and popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.

 

Expansion and Persecution in Galilee

Mark 6:14-30

When his [John the Baptizer] disciples heard of it,

they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb (Mark 6:29).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

The theme of Jesus’ rejection as Messiah in spite of the evidence intensifies as even His hometown of Nazareth rejects Him (6:6a). This is a great transition in the ministry of Jesus as He unveils His strategy for the church age: His disciples will penetrate hearts in the neighborhoods of Galilee, even as the culture is rejecting Him (6:6b-13). The amazing rejection of Jesus at Nazareth is His opportunity to launch His irresistible strategy on the world: He will empower and send His disciples to penetrate the culture—one life at a time. The strategy was so successful that the news of Jesus went as far as Herod who thought that John the Baptizer had back come to life:

Following Jesus requires courageous faith!

Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptizer, was the tyrant ruler of Galilee as the disciples traveled the country preaching repentance and doing miraculous works.

The Servant sent His disciples to preach His message and do His works in spite of the danger (6:14-30).

A. The sending of the disciples into Galilee coincided with the death of John the Baptizer (14-29).

  1. When Herod Antipas, wicked son of Herod the Great and Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, heard of Jesus, he discovered that people were saying Jesus was Elijah or a prophet (14-15).
  2. Antipas concluded that Jesus was John the Baptizer, raised from the dead (14, 16-29).

 

  • Antipas had imprisoned John in his summer palace for about a year to “protect” him from his wife, Herodias. She had it in for John because he had challenged their incestuous marriage. Antipas feared John for the holy man that he was, and had often sent for him so that they could talk (16-20).
  • After an impetuous, boastful, and lustful promise to Herodias provocative daughter following a lewd dance, she asked for the head of John on a platter (21-25).
  • Antipas, trapped by his prideful promise, cowardly but sorrowfully executed John (26-28).

3. John the Baptizer’s disciples took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb (29).

Note: John’s death foreshadowed and paralleled the coming death of Jesus.

B. Jesus’ disciples returned with stories to tell about the amazing works they had done (30).

C. Mark makes sure we know that all of this was done in “enemy” territory. The civil, military, and economic leaders of Galilee were the ones Antipas knew would hold him to his wicked promise to behead John (v 21, compare with v 26).

If you will follow Jesus…

A. He will use you to do tremendous works in His name.

  1. You will have stories to tell.
  2. There will be times when you cannot contain your excitement.
  3. Others will wonder at the magnitude of your “privilege.”

B. But He will send you into enemy territory!

  1. The risk is real and cannot be avoided.
  2. The forces of evil hate followers of Jesus.
  3. Jesus guarantees every promise He made, but He does not guarantee your safety or comfort.

 

Who Am I? Convincing Miracles

Mark 6:30-56

And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:51-52).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

Three events—the charge by the religious authorities that His powers come from Satan, His rejection at Nazareth, and the murder of John the Baptizer—precipitate a great transition in the ministry of Jesus. His primary focus from this point forward is His twelve disciples. Just one year from His crucifixion, Jesus devotes six months to an intense training of the Twelve as He withdraws away from the hostility of the Jewish authorities, the domain of Herod Antipas, and the fickle masses:

Three miracles, three lessons on following: His strength, not yours;

trials will come, but He is watching; He can meet every need!

After the disciples told their stories of their first ministry journey, Jesus took them away to give them a deeper understanding of who He was.

The Servant begins to reveal Himself to His disciples as the Son of God (6:30-56).

A. The feeding of 5,000: A getaway turns into a messy lesson on dependence (30-44).

  1. Jesus quietly leads His worn-out disciples away from Capernaum by boat to rest (30-32).
  2. But the desperate crowd beat them to their destination creating a logistical crisis (33-36).
  3. Jesus orders His confused and overwhelmed disciples to feed the crowd from their own resources, and they honestly answer that this is impossible (37-44).
  4. Jesus uses their meager resources of five loaves and two fish to feed thousands (29).

Training of the Twelve: It is His strength, not yours that will meet others’ needs.

B. Walking on Water: A simple assignment turns into a frightening lesson on His care (45-52).

  1. Jesus orders them to meet Him on the other side of the lake, a “simple” assignment for seasoned fishermen (45).
  2. While Jesus is praying, He’s watching them from the shore. But they don’t know it as a dangerous storm prevents them from fulfilling their assignment (46-48).
  3. Early the next morning, Jesus walked on water to assure them of His care. But they thought He was a ghost until He identified Himself with an Old Testament term of deity, “It is I!” (49-51) Note: Mark does not include Peter’s experience of “trying” to walk on water.
  4. Only Mark, probably from the input of Peter, records the disciples’ real problem: They had failed to learn from the feeding of 5,000 that their Master was God in the flesh (52).

Training of the Twelve: Trials will come, but Jesus is watching.

C. Healings Near Gennesaret: A miraculous deliverance turns into a lesson on His compassionate deliverance of others (53-56).

  1. The disciples did not get the getaway Jesus spoke of, almost died trying to do what He said, and then, when they anchor outside of a densely populated city, the crowds pressed in again (53).
  2. Summing up His ministry in Galilee and foreshadowing His coming ministry as the Son of God, Jesus meets every need. “As many as touched Him were ‘made well’ (sozo—Greek word for salvation, 56).

Training of the Twelve: Jesus’ delivering power can meet the needs of every life He touches.

If you follow Jesus…

A. You must learn to depend on His strength to use every resource He gives you.

  1. He will ask you to give everything you have to Him so that He can use it bless others.
  2. He will use what little you have to do what you could never do without Him.
  3. You will discover the exhausting reality of Paul’s words: “When I am weak, then He is strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

B. You must learn to obey Him and trust in His care, even when obstacles and trials block your way.

  1. He will give you assignments that you will enthusiastically accept.
  2. But then you will wonder why it’s so hard, and why He doesn’t show up.
  3. You will discover the wondrous reality of His comforting words: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

C. You must believe that He can meet the deepest needs of all who trust Him.

  1. He will surround you with needy, hurting people.
  2. But He will privilege you to see His mighty delivering power in their lives.
  3. You will know what Paul meant when He told Timothy he was “being poured out as a drink offering” to the Lord as he ministered to His people (2 Timothy 4:6).

 

Who Am I? My Righteousness and My Authority

Mark 7:1-23

There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him;

but the things which come out of him those are the things that defile a man (Mark 7:15).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

Three events—the charge by the religious authorities that His powers come from Satan, His rejection at Nazareth, and the murder of John the Baptizer—precipitate a great transition in the ministry of Jesus. His primary focus from this point forward is His twelve disciples. Just one year from His crucifixion, Jesus devotes six months to an intense training of the Twelve as He withdraws away from the hostility of the Jewish authorities, the domain of Herod Antipas, and the fickle masses.

Jesus’ indifference to the religious traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes gives Him the opportunity to teach His disciples lessons on the source of authority and defilement:

If you want to follow Jesus, never forget:

It’s the Word of God over religious traditions, and true righteousness is inside-out!

Following the feeding of 5,000 and the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-31), the religious authorities confront Jesus in Capernaum.

The Servant confronts ceremonial religious traditionalism (7:1-23).

A. The charge by the religious authorities of Israel: You and your disciples disregard the tradition of the elders! (1-5).

  1. A delegation of Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem found fault with Jesus because His disciples disregarded the ceremonial washing of hands to prevent Gentile defilement (1-2).
  2. Mark explains the issue to His Gentile audience in Rome: An oral tradition of the Jews controlled every aspect of their life (“many other things”). The specific offense cited here was the elaborate washing of hands after any possible contamination from Gentiles (marketplace). The rabbis taught that any disregard of these regulations concerning ceremonial cleansing was sin, and good Jews sincerely tried to follow them as their expression of goodness and service to God (3-4). Note: The oral tradition of Jesus’ day was compiled into the Mishna in AD 200 which became the basis of the Talmud in AD 425.
  3. Cloaking their charge in the form of a question, the religious leaders ask Jesus why His disciples do not “walk” (live, order their lives) according to the tradition of the elders. It was obvious at the feeding of the 5,000 that they didn’t wash their hands before eating following all that contact with Gentile riffraff! (5)

B. Jesus’ countercharge: You hypocrites! Your attention to religious traditions encourages disobedience to the Word of God. The Scriptures are My authority, and spiritual defilement comes from the inside. (6-23).

  1. Jesus identifies them as the hypocrites Isaiah spoke of: Their outside religious traditions are futile worship because their heart (the hidden, inner center of a person’s thoughts and decisive choices) is far from God (6-7; Cf. Isaiah 29:13).
  2. Jesus explains that they have replaced the commandments of God with the traditions of men as the source of authority (8-13).
  • The silly religious overkill of rabbinical teaching (“many other things,” v 13—Sabbath keeping, ceremonial purity, separation) was causing people to reject God’s Word. The rabbis openly admitted that this was true. The Talmud taught, “My son, give more heed to the words of the Rabbis than the words of the Law.”
  • The self-serving teaching of the rabbis that anything (money or property) declared “Corban” (designated to God) could only be used for religious purposes actually validated disobedience to the 5th Commandment (10-13).

3.  Jesus explains that defilement comes from the inside of a person, not the outside (14-23)

  • Mark twice and emphatically declares Jesus’ teaching that nothing coming from outside of a person will defile them. Ceremonial purity, Sabbath-controversies, and dietary laws were such a big issue in the early church that Jesus had to “force feed” Peter (Acts 10).
  • The righteousness Jesus offers is an inside-out righteousness because defilement comes from the inside.

If you follow Jesus…

A. Religious people will attack you because you disregard their meaningless, but dangerous traditions.

  1. Legalists are NOT HOLY; legalists are UNHOLY! “Legalism means making laws that God has not made and treating them as equally authoritative as God’s Word.” (Tom Constable)
  2. Legalism does not work; only grace works! “The scrupulous observance of human traditions leads by a sure path to a corresponding negligence and unscrupulousness in reference to the eternal laws of God.” (A B Bruce)

B. Do you have the courage to stand up to the legalists?

  1. You must walk in the teachings of Jesus rather than the traditions of men.
  2. Your fleshly control mechanisms will desire to “produce” righteousness through outside forces. This will cause you to erect your own legalistic traditions.
  3. Your fleshly denial mechanisms will desire to “settle” what the Bible teaches. This will cause you to disregard God’s Word.

C. Do you have the courage to walk with Christ as a constant learner and seeker of His will?

You must concentrate on your own problems, blind spots, and inconsistencies. You can only take responsibility for your own obedience to the teachings of Christ, but you must take that responsibility! What preoccupies you most, the faults, failures, and sins of others? Or, your own?

Special: Mark and the Lord’s Table

Selected Scripture

“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must (it is necessary) suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (8:31-32)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8).

Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, they were confronted with the reality of His words. The lesson is clear:

If you want to follow Jesus, you must accept the necessity of the Cross!

Peter was the first to learn this lesson in his usual hard way.

The Servant confronts Peter’s denial of the necessity of the Cross (8:27-33).

A. Context of the Confrontation: Jesus and the Twelve were “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from the north to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52) following Peter’s confession of Jesus’ true identity (“You are the Christ!” 8:27-30). Jesus told them plainly of His coming death and resurrection (8:31-32).

B. Reason for the Confrontation: Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He must (it is necessary) suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (8:31-32).

  1. Peter only wanted the reigning Messianic King and the Coming Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16-21).
  2. Peter did not want the Suffering Servant who must make payment for his sin (Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10-14).

C. Severity of the Confrontation: When he insisted that there can be a Kingdom without payment for sin, a reigning King without a Suffering Servant, Jesus rebuked Peter by telling him that he is on the side of Satan. (8:33; Cf the temptation of Jesus, Matthew 4:8-11)

D. Lesson of the Confrontation: The Cross is necessary!

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”.

(Mark 10:45)

If you follow Jesus…

A. You must believe and relate to Him as the Suffering Servant who made payment for sin by giving His life as a ransom for many.

  1. Followers of Christ are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17).
  2. Followers of Christ never underestimate their need for Christ or what it cost Him to meet their need (Romans 5:8).
  3. Followers of Christ rejoice in the free gift of eternal life and worship the One who paid the heavy price for their sin (Romans 11:33-36).

B. You must follow Him with an expectation of personal suffering and laying down your life for many.

  1. Followers of Christ have counted the cost of following—everything (Luke 14:25-35).
  2. Followers of Christ are not shocked when following involves suffering (1 Peter 3:14).
  3. Followers of Christ submit to suffering, trusting God for the results (1 Peter 4:19).

Who Am I? Lord of the Gentiles!

Mark 7:24-37

And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well (Mark 7:37).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). After His rejection by the nation Israel, Jesus withdrew from Galilee to train the Twelve as He prepared them for the lessons they would learn “on the way” to Jerusalem and His crucifixion (9:33; 10:32).

Jesus’ third withdrawal from Galilee took Him outside of Palestine for the first time. Mark recorded three events on this extended trip (several weeks to a few months) and one event following His return. The first two events begin to teach the Twelve a hard lesson: Jesus came to serve and ransom both Jews and Gentiles.

If you want to follow Jesus, He will ask you to offer His mercy and grace to outsiders!

In a pattern that would be duplicated in Acts after the birth of the church, Jesus increased His ministry to Gentiles as He experienced increasing rejection from the Jews.

The Servant demonstrates His compassion for outsiders and His divinity in Gentile territory as He trains the Twelve (7:24-37).

A. Jesus healed a Gentile girl in Tyre, displaying His compassion for outsiders, and demonstrating His response to Gentile faith, as well as Jewish faith (24-30; Cf. 10:45).

  1. Jesus led His disciples forty miles north of Capernaum to hide out and concentrate on teaching and equipping them. But the word got out, and sure enough, a hurting Gentile woman begged Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter (24-26).
  • Having explained His rejection of the Pharisees’ teaching on separation, Jesus proved He didn’t observe their teaching in radical ways—a woman, a Gentile (Mark emphatically noted her non-Jewish identity), and in a Gentile home.
  • The woman beseeched Jesus persistently (kept asking).

2. Jesus was in the middle of training the Twelve, so He explained to the woman that He didn’t come to Tyre to minister to Gentiles. He was feeding His children (the lost house of Israel, Matthew 15:24), and couldn’t give their “bread” to the little dogs under the table (27). Note: I believe Jesus is telling the woman and His disciples that the primary purpose of this foray into Gentile territory is to train the Twelve. He simply could not continue meeting needs on the scope He had met them in Galilee.

3. The woman’s desperate, humble, and persistent faith moved Jesus to heal her daughter (28-30).

  • She persisted in faith, calling Jesus Lord and telling Him that she would be happy with the “crumbs” the children of Israel had cast aside.
  • Because of her persistent faith (“For this saying…” “Oh woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:27), Jesus completely and immediately healed her daughter from afar. Note: I believe that the reason Jesus healed her from afar is because He was concentrating on training the Twelve. I also believe that Mark is making sure that the reader knows that Jesus responds to faith, regardless of its source!

B. Jesus healed a deaf-mute in Sidon, displaying His compassion on outsiders, demonstrating His ability to fulfill Mesianic prophecies (Isaiah 35:5-6), and to challenge the Twelve to open their ears (31-37).

  1. Jesus led His disciples twenty miles deeper into Gentile territory and again responded to persistent Gentile faith (kept on begging Him) to heal a deaf-mute “hands-on” (31-35).
  • Jesus’ personal touch and involvement with this healing was to comfort the deaf man, showing him what He intended to do.
  • Jesus sighed, demonstrating once again, His compassion for outsiders.

2. Rather than obeying Jesus to keep this quiet, the “astonished beyond measure” observers described His works with divine-Messianic words. Note: I don’t believe we can know if they understood their words were from Isaiah, but Mark obviously wants the reader to “get it.”

3. Only Mark records this miracle to introduce the lessons Jesus would re-teach the Twelve in 8:1-30.

  • Peter may have understood that this miracle of “opening ears” so that the mute can “speak” had more to do with the Twelve’s inability to “hear and speak” His transcendent, on-the-way-to-the-Cross truths.
  • The second miracle reinforced the fact that Jesus responds to faith, regardless of the source, to Mark’s primarily Gentile readers.

If you follow Jesus…

A. He will ask you to have compassion on “outsiders.”

  1. Have you decided some people are undeserving of His grace and mercy? If you don’t change your mind, He will leave you behind and you will miss some of the greatest experiences of His power.
  2. When was the last time you ventured into “outsider” territory?
  3. Are you willing to be misunderstood by insiders so that you can have a front row seat to His raw power?

B. You must open your ears to all of His truth—not just the truth that is comfortable and safe.

  1. Would Jesus classify you as an open-minded learner who searches the Scriptures hungry for His truth or as a close-minded reactionary who turns to the Scriptures to prove your point?
  2. When was the last time you actually read something in the Bible that changed your mind?
  3. Do you have the courage to ask Jesus to open your ears to His truth for you?

Who Am I? Let’s Review!

Mark 8:1-30

You are the Christ (Mark 8:29).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). After His rejection by the nation Israel, Jesus withdrew from Galilee to train the Twelve as He prepared them for the lessons they would learn “on the way” to Jerusalem and His crucifixion (9:33; 10:32).

Jesus’ third withdrawal from Galilee took Him outside of Palestine for the first time. Mark recorded three events on this extended trip (several weeks to a few months) and one event following His return. The first two events begin to teach the Twelve a hard lesson: Jesus came to serve and ransom both Jews and Gentiles. The last two begin to re-teach the difficult lessons the disciples must learn before they can follow Jesus to Jerusalem:

If you want to follow Jesus, He will teach you hard lessons until you get it!

The great transition in Mark’s narrative follows the re-teaching of the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” until finally Peter answers correctly for the Twelve, “You are the Christ!” (8:30) After Peter’s declaration, the disciples will learn what kind of Messiah He is as they follow Him to Jerusalem, where they will witness His crucifixion and resurrection.

The Servant re-teaches the disciples lessons on His identity until they confess that He is the Christ   (8:1-30).

6:31-44 Feeding thousands 8:1-9
6:45-56 Crossing the sea and landing 8:10
7:1-23 Conflict with the Pharisees 8:11-13
7:24-30 Conversation about bread 8:14-21
7:31-36 Healing 8:22-26
7:37 Confession of faith 8:27-30

Chart from: Lane, William L. The Gospel According to Mark. New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974, p. 269.

A. Jesus fed 4,000 in Decapolis from all the resources of the disciples—seven loaves and a few small fish (1-9; Cf. 6:31-44).

  1. Jesus asked the disciples again how the people were going to eat after three days of listening to His teaching in the middle of nowhere. Again, the disciples did not connect His presence with them with His ability to use all that they had to meet the needs of others.
  2. Review: His strength, not yours!

B. Jesus ignored the attacks of the religious leaders again, this time warning His disciples against the power of teachings that deny His Person and His teachings on true righteousness (11-21; Cf. 7:1-23).

  1. Jesus warned His disciples against false teaching. Again, the disciples did not connect His true identity with the seriousness of the threat.
  2. Review: It’s the Word of God over religious traditions, and true righteousness is inside-out!

C. Jesus healed in fulfillment of Isaiah 35:5-6 again, this time a blind man (22-26; Cf. 7:31-36).

  1. Jesus healed a blind man outside of obstinate and unbelieving Bethsaida with the same type of hands-on behavior He had demonstrated in healing the deaf man in Decapolis. As before, Mark is the only writer to record this miracle. Though they probably missed the significance of Jesus once again having compassion for an outsider-type nobody, but at least they, like the Gentiles in Dacapolis, made the connection between His works and His identity.
  2. Review: Messiah offers His mercy and grace to outsiders!

D. Jesus asked the disciples, “Who am I?” Finally, Peter confesses His true identity (27-30; Cf. 7:37).

  1. Peter spoke for the disciples and confessed that Jesus is the Anointed One sent from God—the Christ. The healing of the blind man threw the switch…finally! The Gentiles had confessed Jesus’ greatness, but His disciples confessed His deity.
  2. Review: Once again, “Who am I?”

If you follow Jesus…

A. He will keep teaching you Who He is and what that means to you.

  1. Most of the lessons will revolve around the undeniable reality that He is God and you are not.
  2. He will teach you to appreciate His presence in your life more than your circumstances in life.
  3. He will teach you that He is all you need.

B. All other lessons flow from this truth, and He will keep teaching you these lessons until you get it!

  1. If you were to ask Jesus, “What lesson about your identity and my need for you am I refusing to learn?”, what do you think He would say?
  2. Aren’t you tired of clinging to your defense mechanisms and denial of why you don’t need this lesson? How sick do you think Jesus is of trying to teach you this lesson you must learn?
  3. What do you feel are the first three steps toward finally learning this lesson and moving on to deeper truths?

The Road to the Cross: Pick up yours!

Mark 8:31-37

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

(Mark 8:34)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8).

Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, they were confronted with the reality of His words.

With eyes only open to Who He was (the Christ), Peter speaks for the disciples, refusing to accept Jesus’ teaching that His impending suffering, death, and resurrection were necessary. They needed the second stage of healing. Jesus opened their eyes to the true cost of following Him “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from Ceasarea Philippi to Jerusalem.

The first lesson had to do with the true nature of discipleship: true discipleship means that suffering is inevitable. It is this way with Christ and it is the way with His followers:

If you want to follow Jesus, you must pick up your cross and follow Him!

The great transition in Mark’s narrative follows the re-teaching of the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” until finally Peter answers correctly for the Twelve, “You are the Christ!” (8:30) After Peter’s declaration, the disciples will learn what kind of Messiah He is as they follow Him to Jerusalem, where they will witness His crucifixion and resurrection.

The Servant confronts Peter’s denial of the necessity of the Cross (8:27-33).

A. Context of the Confrontation: Jesus and the Twelve were “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from the north to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52) following Peter’s confession of Jesus’ true identity (“You are the Christ!” 8:27-30). Jesus told them plainly of His coming death and resurrection (8:31-32).

B. Reason for the Confrontation: Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He must (it is necessary) suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (8:31-32).

  1. Peter only wanted the reigning Messianic King and the Coming Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16-21).
  2. Peter did not want the Suffering Servant who must make payment for his sin (Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10-14).

C. Severity of the Confrontation: When he insisted that there can be a Kingdom without payment for sin, a reigning King without a Suffering Servant, Jesus rebuked Peter by telling him that he is on the side of Satan. (8:33; Cf the temptation of Jesus, Matthew 4:8-11)

D. Lesson of the Confrontation: The Cross is necessary! “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The Servant teaches His followers the necessity of cross-bearing (8:34-37).

A. Context of the Teaching: Jesus and the Twelve were “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from the north to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52) following Peter’s confession of Jesus’ true identity (“You are the Christ!” 8:27-30), and Jesus’ teaching on the necessity of the Cross. This isn’t a lesson exclusively for the Twelve but for all who want to follow Jesus as His disciples (called the people to Himself, 34a). Jesus is explaining to His disciples that suffering would not only be His destiny but theirs too.

B. Content of the Teaching: Follow Me is a present imperative—keep on following Me as a lifestyle. Twofold requirement to following Jesus: Deny yourself, and take up your cross (8:34b).

  1. Deny yourself (aorist imperative, timeless—attitude toward life): “say no to selfish interests and earthly securities” (Grassmick, Bible Knowledge Commentary, p 141).
  2. Take up your cross (aorist imperative again, timeless—attitude toward life): This was not a common phrase in Palestine, but Jesus used it because it was a common experience. Every listener had watched friends and loved ones walking “take up their cross and follow:” Roman soldiers to their death. The moment someone took up their cross, their agenda for life was meaningless—they were publicly submissive to the agenda and authority of Rome. This isn’t speaking of some specific suffering in life as “your cross to bear” but giving up control of our life to the Lord Jesus and living privately and publicly in submission to His revealed will for every follower (the Word of God) and His personal will for you—your unique circumstances of life.

C. Motivation to Obey the Teaching: When you lose everything your selfish heart desires in life to follow the Lord Jesus, you gain everything your redeemed heart desires—in this life and the next. (35-38)

  1. For my sake… Jesus is asking for commitment to Him as the One who deserves our loyalty.
  2. life, soul: This is the same word in the Greek text, psyche. I believe Jesus is using the full range of meaning here—from physical life, to quality of life, to immortal life. If His audience were only the disciples, it would be speaking exclusively of the quality of your experience of eternal life. But the audience is mixed—believers and unbelievers (whoever). This means that those who refuse to receive Jesus’ teaching on eternal life—believe in Me—lose everything God is offering them through Christ—eternal life. Those believers who refuse to receive Jesus’ teaching on discipleship—deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me—lose everything Jesus is offering them through their union with Him—eternal significance.
  3. ashamed: Biblically, ashamed involves denial and shame involves loss. Unbelievers who are “ashamed” or deny Jesus’ teaching on eternal life—believe in Me—will suffer loss. Jesus will deny them entrance into heaven. Believers who are “ashamed” or deny Jesus’ teaching on discipleship—deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me—will suffer loss. Jesus will deny them rewards when they enter His Kingdom.

D. Lesson of the Teaching: Cross-bearing is a necessary requirement of following! “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).

If you follow Jesus…

A. He will ask you to deny yourself—to say no to what you want in life and to say yes to what He wants for your life—in a decisive commitment that becomes a settled attitude.

B. He will ask you to take up your cross—to demonstrate publicly and authentically that you submit to His will for your life—in a decisive commitment that becomes a settled attitude.

C. It will cost you everything, but you will not miss any of it!

Heavenly Encouragement: Jesus’ Transfiguration!

Mark 9:1-13

Jesus…led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves;

and He was transfigured before them (Mark 9:2).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8).

Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, they were confronted with the reality of His words.

With eyes only open to Who He was (the Christ), Peter speaks for the disciples, refusing to accept Jesus’ teaching that His impending suffering, death, and resurrection were necessary. They needed the second stage of healing. Jesus opened their eyes to the true cost of following Him “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from Ceasarea Philippi to Jerusalem. The first lesson had to do with the true nature of discipleship: authentic discipleship means that suffering is inevitable. It is this way with Christ and it is this way with His followers.

Immediately following their introduction to the mystery of suffering for coming glory, Jesus fulfilled His promise that some would see the power and glory of the coming Kingdom, confirmed the confession of Peter, and assured His disciples that it was worth it to follow Him in one wondrous and spectacular event:

If you follow Jesus, you must keep your eyes on His coming glory!

One sentence describes it: Jesus took three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, and brought them into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. But no words of man can do it justice. A B Bruce comments eloquently: “[The Transfiguration] is too high for us, this august spectacle, we cannot attain unto it; its grandeur oppresses and stupefies; its mystery surpasses our comprehension; its glory is ineffable.” (Training of the Twelve, p 190)

The Servant unveils His coming glory to encourage those counting the cost of following (9:1-13).

A. Context of the Transfiguration: Jesus and the Twelve were about to travel “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from the north to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52) following Peter’s confession of Jesus’ true identity (“You are the Christ!” 8:27-30), His prediction of His coming death (8:31-32), and His hard teaching on the cost of following (8:33-38). Jesus ended the discussion on the necessity of cross-bearing with a promise that some present would see His coming glory (9:1).

B. Reason for the Transfiguration: To encourage both the Son and His followers as they count the cost of Messiah’s suffering and death.

  1. Seven days after Jesus’ hard teaching on following the Suffering Servant and prediction that some would see His coming glory, Jesus took Peter, James, and John twelve miles north of Ceasarea Philippi to the slopes of Mount Hermon (9200 ft), and was transfigured before them as He talked with Elijah and Moses concerning His coming death (1-4).
  • Moses waited for the revelation of God’s glory on Mt Sinai for six days (Exodus 24:12-18).
  • The same three disciples would be with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prays with the Father concerning His impending death. Luke tells us that Jesus was praying when He was transfigured (Luke 9:29).
  • Transfigured translates the Greek verb metamorpheo—essentially changed. Jesus wasn’t merely “dressed up” to impress the disciples. He was Who He will be in the Kingdom—the glorious Son of God whose radiant light will light the way for the redeemed for all eternity (Revelation 21:23). Peter, the only eyewitness to describe the Transfigured Christ through Mark, describes His remarkable whiteness in emphatic terms.
  • Elijah, the great prophet and defender of YHWH worship, and Moses, the great deliverer and lawgiver, appear with Jesus in their heavenly glory and discuss His impending death. In Luke 8:31, Luke chooses the word exodus—going out of the way—to describe Jesus’ departure from the world in the salvific deliverance language of the Old Testament Exodus.

2. Peter, speaking for the disciples, again misses the point entirely! He actually addresses Jesus in His transcendent glory as “Rabbi,” and offers to build three equal tabernacles for the three “great” personages! To Peter’s credit, he didn’t know what to say and all three of the disciples were terrified (ekphoboiterrified, used only here and Hebrews 12:21 describing Moses’ fear in the presence of the glory of God, 5-6).

C. Point of the Transfiguration: God spoke from the glory of His Exodus-Tabernacle-Cloud, affirming Jesus as His Son as He had at His baptism by John (Mark 1:11). God Himself commands the three to “Keep on hearing” Jesus—to consider His words on the necessity of the Cross and the necessity of cross-bearing as the very words of the Son of God! And then, suddenly, they are alone with Jesus—their Lord and their God, the only One they need to listen to, the One who supersedes even Elijah and Moses (7-8).

D. Following the Transfiguration: Jesus told the three not to speak of this until after His resurrection which they did (John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16-17). Obviously they still did not “get it,” because they leave the mountain wondering what all this talk of rising from the dead meant and still stuck on Elijah the forerunner leaving the scene (10-13).

If you follow Jesus…

A. You must keep on hearing what He says, even when His words are hard!

B. But He will encourage you with glimpses of His coming glory and promises of your share in it.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31).

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was (John 17:5).

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

 

Authentic Discipleship: Lesson on Prayer!

Mark 9:14-29

This kind comes out by nothing but prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8).

Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, they were confronted with the reality of His words.

With eyes only open to Who He was (the Christ), Peter speaks for the disciples, refusing to accept Jesus’ teaching that His impending suffering, death, and resurrection were necessary. They needed the second stage of healing. Jesus opened their eyes to the true cost of following Him “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from Ceasarea Philippi to Jerusalem. The first lesson had to do with the true nature of discipleship: authentic discipleship means that suffering is inevitable. It is this way with Christ and it is the way with His followers.

Immediately following their introduction to the mystery of suffering for coming glory, Jesus fulfilled His promise that some would see the power and glory of the coming Kingdom, confirmed the confession of Peter, and assured His disciples that it was worth it to follow Him in one wondrous and spectacular event—the Transfiguration. Next comes a lesson on their dependence on the One who will be glorified. If you want to follow Jesus, you must learn to fast and pray!

For the devoted disciple of Christ the mystery of suffering and the mystery of prayer are connected. Both suffering for Him on earth and kneeling before His throne of grace are a privilege. Both are required, and you will not follow Him through the suffering if you’re not bowing and resting before Him along the Way:

If you follow Jesus, you must learn to fast and pray!

When Jesus and His three disciples returned to the others, they found them surrounded by people and confronted by the teachers of the law. The desperation of the situation on the valley floor contrasted dramatically with the glory of the Transfiguration high on the mountain. Jesus used this as His opportunity to teach His disciples to depend on His strength rather than their own.

The Servant teaches His followers the necessity of prayer and fasting by healing a demon-possessed boy (9:14-29).

A. Context of the Healing: While Jesus was being transfigured before three of His disciples, the other nine were being attacked by teachers of the law over their inability to cast out a demon tormenting a little boy. It seems this was as “set-up” by the religious authorities to force Jesus to continue showing signs (8:11-12). Nevertheless, the desperate father speaks from the crowd, appealing to Jesus as a “teacher.” (14-17)

B. Tension of the Healing: Jesus had said He would not do any more miracles that could be interpreted as “signs” to this faithless generation (8:11-12) whose unbelief burdened Him greatly. Some of those very faithless leaders were the ones instigating this situation.

Also, He had given His disciples authority over demons (6:7). The demon had tormented the boy for years and Jesus was moved with compassion (19-22).

C. Request for the Healing: The despairing father pleads with Jesus to have compassion and help them “if you can.” Apparently the inability of the disciples had caused him to doubt in Jesus’ healing powers that He had either witnessed or heard about (22).

D. The Healing: Jesus told the man that the issue was not if He could heal but “if you can believe” because “everything is possible to him who believes.” Jesus responds to the man’s unusually honest faith (“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief”) by healing the boy. Mark’s narrative of the event is rich in death and resurrection word and images, demonstrating what Jesus will do for anyone who has faith (23-27).

E. The Point of the Healing: The conclusion explains why the disciples could not cast out the demon, even though they had been granted authority over the demons. They had failed because they were depending on their own strength rather than God’s through prayer and fasting. The lesson to all followers of Christ is clear: If you follow, never forget your utter dependence on (prayer) God to serve Christ in this desperate world of people whose pain will preoccupy (fasting) you (28-29).

If you follow Jesus…

A. You will be surrounded by desperate and hopeless people who need Him, not you!

B. Their pain will break your heart so deeply you will lose your appetite.

C. You will need all of God’s power and none of yours to meet this need.

D. Therefore, you must learn to fast and pray!

  1. When was the last time you tried to meet a desperate need in your own strength? How did that go for you?
  2. When was the last time your heart broke for a desperate need of someone and you actually quit eating and prayed for them with intense and preoccupying prayer?
  3. What can you tell the Lord today about your prayer and fasting life that He would want to hear from one of His followers?

E. You must allow the Lord Jesus to teach you to fast and pray as a spiritual discipline of dependence! You must learn to pray immediately in your time of need. Remember, it’s a throne of GRACE!

  1. Pray with random boldness: Spontaneous prayer because His throne of grace is your default “go to” place when you are aware of a specific need for mercy and grace.
  2. Pray with disciplined boldness: Persistent and organized prayer because His throne of grace is your lifelong “go to” place when you are aware of a need for mercy and grace.

Authentic Discipleship: Lesson on Greatness!

Mark 9:30-37

If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8).

Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, they were confronted with the reality of His words. With eyes only open to Who He was (the Christ), Peter speaks for the disciples, refusing to accept Jesus’ teaching that His impending suffering, death, and resurrection were necessary. They needed the second stage of healing. Jesus opened their eyes to the true cost of following Him “on the way” (9:33; 10:32) from Ceasarea Philippi to Jerusalem. The first lesson had to do with the true nature of discipleship: authentic discipleship means that suffering is inevitable. It is this way with Christ and it is the way with His followers.

As they passed through Galilee, Jesus taught them again concerning His impending death and resurrection. This time He adds the discouraging news that all of this will happen because someone will betray Him. They didn’t understand; it was just too much for them, and they were afraid to ask Him to explain further.

What they did understand were the prophecies that someday Messiah would rule and reign over His Kingdom on earth. Still clinging to their insistence that Jesus should be that Messiah—the ruling and reigning one, rather than the Messiah He was telling them He was—the One who would first suffer, die, and then rise from the dead, they did what everyone does when they are around someone they think has power and status: They postured for position in His Kingdom. They were about to learn Jesus’ definition of greatness—His radical, counterculture, counter-flesh, measure of greatness in His Kingdom:

If you follow Jesus, He will ask you to serve everyone–especially the weak!

This may be the most difficult truth for Christians who think we want to follow Jesus to receive. Still, it’s mandatory. Non-negotiable. If you’re looking for status, privilege, power, or esteem, you’re not going to find it following Jesus. But if you want to see others lifted up, bless others, feel His transforming power in your lives and see it in others, and be esteemed in His eyes, then follow Him…by serving them in His name.

The Servant teaches His followers that the path to greatness in His eyes is childlike humility that serves others (9:30-37).

A. Context of the Lesson: As they were passing through the familiar countryside of Galilee, Jesus taught His disciples again about His coming death and resurrection. This time He added the discouraging detail that He would be betrayed into the hands of men. They still did not understand, but were afraid to ask Him for further explanation (31-32).

  1. Luke 9:45 says that God withheld understanding from the disciples, but they still didn’t ask. They probably were afraid to protest or ask clarifying questions because of Peter’s experience the last time Jesus had predicted His death.
  2. 1st Century Judaism tried to reconcile the Old Testament prophecies that Messiah would suffer terribly but also rule and reign in His Kingdom by teaching that there would be two Messiahs. Since the disciples had witnessed Jesus’ power and glory, they just couldn’t accept, or didn’t want to accept that He was the suffering Messiah. Matthew adds that they were filled with grief at this news (Matthew 17:23).

B. Tension of the Lesson: When they entered the house in Capernaum, the disciples were embroiled in an argument over who would be the greatest in Jesus’ coming Kingdom that had started on the road south from Caesarea Philippi. This may have been due to Jesus’ taking the three to the mountain of His Transfiguration and the others’ obvious inability to cast out the demon tormenting the lad (33-34). The growing “kingdom fever” as they travelled south to the epicenter of their faith, overwhelmed them.

C. The Lesson: Jesus sat down, the traditional position of a rabbi when teaching disciples, and called them to Himself. This dramatic difference in His conversational and situational teaching style told them that what He was about to say should be viewed as a significant principle. Mark offers the shortest summary of the lesson: “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Jesus illustrated what He meant by “all” by taking a little child in His arms and saying plainly: “This is the type of person I want you to concentrate on serving.”

  1. Note: Jesus did not tell them that they should not seek greatness in His Kingdom! He does tell them that His definition of greatness is the exact opposite of the world’s standards In the world, everyone wants to be first and have others serve them. In following Jesus, great ones try to be last and want to serve others.
  2. Note: Jesus did not use the word doulos (slave), but the word diakonos (servant). A slave serves because he or she has no power and no options. A servant serves willingly.
  3. 1st Century Judaism and Graeco-Roman culture viewed children as the least of all with no significance in the affairs of the world.
  4. Childlike humility is that trusts in the Master is the only way into His Kingdom (Matthew 18:3). Humble servanthood that receives and attends to the needs of those who have no power and no capacity to advance the server is the only way to become great in His Kingdom.

If you follow Jesus…

A. He tells you plainly how to be a great follower: Serve everyone, especially the weak and powerless.

B. You must recalibrate your definition of greatness. It isn’t how many people serve you but how many people you serve.

C. You must be willing to serve those who have no ability to “serve you back” or “get you ahead.”

D. Struggling for greatness. Jesus never would tell you not to desire greatness in His Kingdom. But He does tell you not to measure your greatness by the world’s standards.

  1. Have you let go of our sick evangelical measurements of greatness that will pull you down the path of prideful religious achievements or idolatrous worship of Jesus’ mere servants?
  2. How many people are you serving…right now? How many of those you are serving are truly weak, powerless, and overlooked by all others?
  3. Think of that one person in your life that brings you the most grief, hurts you most, or makes you most angry. How can you serve THAT PERSON?

Authentic Discipleship: Salt and Peace!

Mark 9:38-50

For he who is not against us is on our side (Mark 9:40).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. As they passed through Galilee, Jesus taught them again concerning His impending death and resurrection. This time He adds the discouraging news that all of this will happen because someone will betray Him. They didn’t understand; it was just too much for them, and they were afraid to ask Him to explain further.

What they did understand were the prophecies that someday Messiah would rule and reign over His Kingdom on earth. Still clinging to their insistence that Jesus should be that Messiah—the ruling and reigning one, rather than the Messiah He was telling them He was—the One who would first suffer, die, and then rise from the dead, they did what everyone does when they are around someone they think has power and status: They postured for position in His Kingdom. They were about to learn Jesus’ definition of greatness—His radical, counterculture, counter-flesh, measure of greatness in His Kingdom—those who serve others.

Their rebuke of a faithful disciple who wasn’t in their 12-man-insider-group of approved exorcists further revealed their competitiveness. Jesus taught them a hard lesson on inflexible partisanship:

If you follow Jesus, you must not discourage any disciple from following Him—

even those who do not follow Him in the same way you do!

This may be the most ignored truth of church history. The faith we exhibit in following Him is more important than the style of following. Tolerance of differences among faithful followers focuses their impact on this world and increases their eternal reward. Intolerance of differences among faithful followers dissipates their impact and decreases their eternal reward.

The Servant teaches His followers the importance of allegiance to Him rather than factional groups and warns against discouraging any disciple from following (9:38-50).

A. Context of the Lesson: In a house in Capernaum, Jesus used the occasion of the disciples’ competitive attitude to teach them His measure of greatness—those who serve others, and to sternly warn them against a spirit of sectarianism (9:33-50).

  1. This is the only time in the synoptic gospels that John speaks for the group. John may have been trying to divert Jesus’ attention from their competitive attitude. Still, this is a recurring problem in John’s life—competitive partisanship (Mark 3:17, cf. Luke 9:54; Mark10:35-45).
  2. In the same way the theme of suffering would dominate the writings of Peter who resisted Jesus’ initial teaching on the subject, the theme of love and unity would dominate the writings of John.

B. Tension of the Lesson: When they entered the house in Capernaum, the disciples were embroiled in an argument over who would be the greatest in Jesus’ coming Kingdom that had started on the road south from Caesarea Philippi. This may have been due to Jesus’ taking the three to the mountain of His Transfiguration and the others’ obvious inability to cast out the demon tormenting the lad (33-34). This also may have contributed to the self-protective rebuke of the “unauthorized” exorcisms by this man who was not among the Twelve. Though he had not been commissioned to do this work (6:7, 12-13), he was more successful than the nine!

C. The Lesson: Jesus sat down, the traditional position of a rabbi when teaching disciples, and called them to Himself. This dramatic difference in His conversational and situational teaching style told them that what He was about to say should be viewed as a significant principle. Still holding the child, Jesus rebuked them for discouraging the faithful disciple, warned them against this serious sin, and commanded them to keep offering themselves as a sacrificial offering/keep having influence for Him in this world by pursuing peace with one another

  1. Rebuke: This man may not have followed Me in the same way you do, but He follows me truly (v 41 identifies him as a believer) in My battle against Satan. I will reward even the smallest work that flows from faith in Me (38-41).
  2. Warning: Discouraging one of my disciples (especially “little ones”—immature disciples) from following me brings judgment so severe, everyone (see verse 49, believer and unbeliever alike) should promptly remove any temptation to this sin (42-48).
  3. Command: As a sacrifice of worship and to maximize your influence for me, be loyal to me and to one another (49-50).

Salt: Literally (archeology, 1st Century Literature, Roman understanding)=seasoning for food and fertilizer, and extremely valuable in NT world.

Figuratively (OT, Jewish understanding)=seasoning (Job 6:6), requirement for sacrifice (Lev 2:13), medicinal value (Ez 16:4), preservative and purification (Ex 30:35), judgment (Deut 29:23), virtue of loyalty and covenant of friendship (Num 18:19). Therefore to the disciples=symbol of spiritual qualities of disciples, symbol of sacrificial worship, winsome, attractive.

With fire here=a symbol of the suffering and sacrifice that tests the disciple. Maintaining peace is a test of our worshipful service to the Lord Jesus (Romans 12:1-2).

If you follow Jesus…

A. You must not discourage any of His disciples from doing works in His name by faith, especially the ones who do not follow Him in the same way you do.

B. There are no “camps” in the army of Christ.

C. You must view the difficulties of maintaining peace as a sacrifice of worship.

D. You must view the difficulties of maintaining peace as a necessary component of your impact for Christ.

E. Struggling for peace requires biblical discernment and abandoned trust:

  1. This doesn’t mean that you don’t protect your “vineyard”—those lives the Lord Jesus has given you responsibility for.
  2. But it does mean that you pursue peace in the body of Christ and that you leave other vineyards and the “Big Vineyard” to The Vinedresser, and trust Him for the results!
  3. Think of that one Christian or group of Christians you have the most trouble entrusting to the Vinedresser. What do you think the Lord wants you to do about that?

 

Authentic Discipleship: Marriage and Divorce!

Mark 10:1-12

Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. As they passed through Galilee, Jesus taught them again concerning His impending death and resurrection.

Mark omits most of Jesus’ later Judean and Perean ministries. The three other historians (Matthew, Luke, and John) tell us that Jesus returned to Jerusalem where the religious authorities tried to arrest Him. He sent out 70 disciples to Judea and fled north to Samaria and then to Perea, east of the Jordan. While in Perea He taught about the cost of discipleship in explicit terms (everything!). He made a quick trip to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, and this time the officials decided to put Him to death. He fled again to the north and east. Mark picked up the narrative on Jesus third and final return to Jerusalem as He passed through Perea. The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into controversies that would become the basis for their plot to kill Him. The raging debate on divorce seemed like the perfect opportunity, until Jesus transcended all arguments by presenting God’s view of marriage:

If you follow Jesus, you must embrace His teaching on marriage!

Should Christians divorce? If so, under what conditions?

If you want to start a debate that quickly becomes heated, ask those questions in a crowd of Christians with diverse backgrounds! The Bible has a lot to say about marriage and divorce, and every Christian has a responsibility before God to answer those questions as they allow God’s Spirit to interpret the Scriptures.

The Servant teaches His followers the permanence of marriage (10:1-12).

A. Context of the Lesson: On His last journey to Jerusalem from Perea (old Judea east of the Jordan), Jesus again begins to attract and teach large crowds (10:1). The Pharisees are trying to trap Him with questions that will alienate the masses and become grounds for His execution (Luke 17-18).

  1. The Issue: All Pharisees agreed that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 permitted divorce, but they disagreed on the grounds of divorce. Two schools of Rabbbinic interpretation were debated hotly among them. The more conservative school of Shammai permitted divorce only if the wife were guilty of adultery. The more liberal school of Hillel allowed a husband to divorce his wife for almost any reason.
  2. The Situation in Israel: The school of Hillel dominated the culture leaving women at the mercy of their husbands’ capricious desires and resulting in a moral laxity that destroyed families.

B. Tension of the Lesson: The Pharisees anticipated Jesus siding with Shammai. That would alienate most of the Jews and put Him at risk in Perea because the ruler, Herod Antipas, had murdered John the Baptizer for his “narrow” view of divorce.

C. The Lesson: Jesus transcended the debate and their interpretations by exposing their misinterpretation of the Scriptures. God’s original design for marriage is one man with one woman for life. Any dissolution of the marriage covenant is the result of the hard hearts (sinfulness) of men and women.

  1. The Setup: When they asked Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce testing Him (Matthew adds the Hillel interpretation, for any reason Matthew 19:2), Jesus asked them what Moses said. They answered that Moses permitted divorce (1-4).
  2. The Exposure: Jesus charged them with misinterpreting the Scriptures (Matthew 19:2, “Have you not read?”). Divorce did not originate with God, but with Moses because of the hardheartedness of His people. God’s original design was the one-flesh relationship which should not be separated by man (Genesis 2:24). (5-9)
  3. The Implications: When Jesus explained to His disciples that He meant what He said, so much so that divorce for any reason (except porneia, or sexual immorality) constituted adultery (10-12). Matthew records that the disciples rightly concluded that under these conditions it may be best not to marry (Matthew 19:10). This is the righteous reaction that should give every believer pause before entering into the one-flesh relationship!

D. The Interpretation: These are extremely difficult passages to interpret because of the differences between Matthew and Mark—the so-called exception clause in Matthew is missing in Mark, and Mark includes wives in the warning.

  1. The Differences: Matthew had Jews in mind, and therefore included the porneia exception—siding with Shammai. There are many who believe that this exception didn’t apply to marriage at all, but to the betrothal period (engagement) of a Jewish couple. Neither Mark or Luke (16:18) include the exception. Mark’s reasons are only conjecture—the debate didn’t rage in Rome? Mark was sending a stronger signal to the pagan culture of Rome? Mark included wives in the “legalized adultery” equation because unlike Jewish wives, Roman wives could divorce their husbands. Paul’s teaching on Divorce and Remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40 is also problematic so that there is much debate over its interpretation.
  2. The Similarities: Every biblical passage on marriage, divorce, and remarriage has this in common: God does not want His people to devalue marriage by embracing the world’s view of divorce and remarriage.

The Passages: Genesis 2:24; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Malachi 2:10-17; Matthew 5:27-32, 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:1-40.

If you follow Jesus, you must embrace His teaching on marriage and divorce.

A. Before Marriage! It would be better for you not to marry than to enter into a marriage that will not last a lifetime.

B. During Marriage! Trust Him enough to submit to Him and others in your community of faith so that your marriage will last a lifetime.

C. Before Divorce or Remarriage! Trust Him enough to submit to His Word, being careful to interpret all of the passages under the leadership of His Spirit and loving leaders rather than according to your wishes and desires.

D. Before Offering “Advice”! Be sure that you know what you’re talking about and remember that they, not you, will have to live with their decision before God.

E. Before Arguing! Keep in mind how difficult the passages are to interpret, how messy life is, and how much Jesus values unity (see Mark 9:38-50!).

 

Childlike Faith or Impressive Good Works?

Mark 10:13-31

With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. As they passed through Galilee, Jesus taught them again concerning His impending death and resurrection.

Mark omits most of Jesus’ later Judean and Perean ministries. The three other historians (Matthew, Luke, and John) tell us that Jesus returned to Jerusalem where the religious authorities tried to arrest Him. He sent out 70 disciples to Judea and fled north to Samaria and then to Perea, east of the Jordan. While in Perea He taught about the cost of discipleship in explicit terms (everything!). He made a quick trip to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, and this time the officials decided to put Him to death. He fled again to the north and east. Mark picked up the narrative on Jesus third and final return to Jerusalem as He passed through Perea. When the Pharisees tried to force Him to take a stand on the divorce issue, Jesus used it as His opportunity to teach the sanctity of marriage (10:1-12). When the disciples tried to protect Him from bothersome children, Jesus used it as His opportunity to teach the importance of childlike faith:

Before you can follow Jesus, you must Him in childlike faith!

If the only requirement to receive eternal life is childlike faith, then what do I do with all these impressive good works?

That’s the first question most honest people have when they discover the truth that eternal life is a gift freely given. It’s a great question with a great answer, the same answer the Lord Jesus gave to the rich young ruler and His disciples.

The Servant teaches His followers the absolute necessity for childlike faith and the absolute benefit of good works (10:13-31).

A. Context of the Lesson: On His last journey to Jerusalem from Perea (old Judea east of the Jordan), Jesus again begins to attract and teach large crowds (10:1). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus and allowing them to press in on Him. His disciples viewed this as an unwarranted distraction (14).

B. Tension of the Lesson: With all they were dealing with—animosity from the Pharisees, Jesus teaching on suffering and cross-bearing, the crowds that they had already had to feed twice—the disciples thought the children were unimportant and tried to keep them away from Jesus.

C. The Lesson: Jesus severely rebuked His disciples and used this occasion to teach them four radical truths about entering His Kingdom (10:15-31).

  1. Radical Truth: Only those who receive the kingdom of God with childlike faith will enter the kingdom (14-16). Jesus was greatly displeased with His disciples because their behavior proved that they were still clinging to the popular Jewish view of entering the kingdom—that it depended on personal ability and effort. Therefore children, with no personal ability or effort to commend them, should not bother their “busy Messiah.” But Jesus emphatically (double negative, by no means!) taught the opposite: It’s not personal ability and effort but childlike trust and dependence.
  2. Radical Truth: Only those who turn to Christ from trust in self-attainment, self-righteousness and earthly securities will inherit eternal life (17-22). Jesus exposed the lie that eternal life could be gained by personal ability and effort by applying what He had just taught to a rich young ruler. This zealous young man earnestly tried to keep the law, but of course he couldn’t! He represented everything the Jewish culture believed about those who deserved eternal life. Jesus loved the man, but proved that he had not kept even the first commandment—You shall have no other gods before me! Sadly, this sincere young man knew that his riches were his god. Note: The idol of materialism. Though the rich young ruler’s refusal to sell all that he had exposed his inability to trust in Jesus because the true object of his trust was his financial security, this is a great opportunity to examine our own attitude toward riches. In this affluent and materialistic culture, we’re all tempted to trust in our money rather than our Lord. Desire for material things produces severe spiritual blindness. When our security is in our money rather than our Lord, He knows where our heart is.
  3. Radical Truth: Receiving eternal life is impossible apart from God (23-27). Jesus exposed the difficulty for rich people to turn to God in trust. This astonished His disciples because they had always viewed riches as a sign of God’s blessing. If rich people couldn’t get in, then nobody can! Jesus affirmed their logic, but assured them that God made it possible for people to be saved.
  4. Radical Truth: Jesus will richly reward all who sacrifice for His sake and the gospel’s, but His criteria for earning heavenly rewards is the opposite of the world’s criteria for earning earthly rewards (28-31). When Peter wonders if the disciples’ sacrifice has any meaning in light of the radical truths Jesus just taught about entering His kingdom, Jesus assures him that he will be rewarded with suffering on earth and rewards in heaven. He than warns them against measuring greatness in His kingdom according to this world’s standards.

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. It all begins with childlike faith! Have you believed in Jesus? Are you trusting in Him as the One who made payment for your sin?

B. It cannot begin with impressive works! Have you admitted your absolute inability to earn eternal life?

C. You must admit that apart from God’s grace, you have no chance! Following Jesus is a privilege offered to those God has saved by His grace. It would be impossible apart from His intervention into history—sending His own Son to rescue us.

D. He promises to reward you richly—suffering on earth and rewards in heaven.

 

Authentic Discipleship: Ambitious to Follow?

Mark 10:35-45

For even the Son of Man did to come to be served, but to serve,

and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Once they understood Who He was (“You are the Christ! 8:29), Jesus taught the Twelve what it would cost Him to offer them His life as their Messiah on the way to Jerusalem. As they neared the city, Jesus taught them the third time concerning His impending death and resurrection (10:32-34).

Immediately following Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection, James and John make an incredible request: Please promise us that we will have the positions of highest honor in your coming messianic kingdom. Jesus doesn’t shame them for desiring this, but He does teach them the sobering truth concerning greatness in His kingdom:

Godly ambition is prepared to suffer, submits to the sovereignty of the Father,

and is willing to serve others!

Is there such a thing as godly ambition? If so, what should I be ambitious to do?

The Servant teaches His followers the marks of greatness in His coming kingdom (10:35-45).

A. Greatness in Christ’s kingdom involves suffering (35-39). In interrogatory form, Jesus taught His disciples that advancement in His kingdom involves suffering.

  1. To us this request seems presumptuous, selfish, vain, and ignorant. They actually ask Jesus to become the agent of their ambition and vanity. The context reveals both the overwhelming humanness of this problem (33-34), but also why they might make this request (28-30).
  2. Yet Jesus didn’t utter a word of direct rebuke, and notices only the least culpable fault of their petition—their ignorance (38a).
  3. Jesus began to correct their misguided ambition by teaching them a sobering truth: To ask for a place of honor in His glory was also a request to share in His suffering since one is a requirement of the other (38b). The cup was a common Jewish metaphor for trouble and suffering (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17). Baptism, being underwater, often pictures being overwhelmed with trouble in the Old Testament (Job 22:11; Psalm 18:16).
  4. Though they did not understand the implications of their commitment, Jesus grants them the honor of entering into His sufferings (39, Cf. Acts 12:2, James’ martyrdom and John’s lonely death in exile).

B. Greatness in Christ’s kingdom involves God’s sovereignty (40). Though denying their request, Jesus assured them that His Father will properly assign positions of honor in His Kingdom.

C. Greatness in Christ’s kingdom involves serving (41-45). Christ, by His teaching and example, reversed the focus of ambition from self to others.

  1. The jealous reaction of the ten indicates they also harbored selfish ambition (41).
  2. Jesus countered this competitive controversy and selfish energy by reemphasizing the nature of greatness (42-45, Cf. 9:35). Note: Verse 45 is the climax of Jesus’ training of the twelve and the key verse of Mark’s Gospel. It summarizes Mark’s presentation of Jesus Christ as the Suffering Servant and, for the first time in the book, announces the purpose for His dying.

If you want to follow Jesus…

A. You must be prepared to suffer.

What are you going through right now that may be your path to greatness in His eyes?

What should you be prepared for is you pursue His will for you with godly ambition?

B. You must submit to His Father’s assignment for you.

Would Jesus say that you are satisfied with the position His Father has assigned you?

When does your ambition become ungodly? Who is that person you feel God has misassigned?

C. You must be willing to serve others.

Would people around you consider you a servant for Christ?

When does your ambition become ungodly? When do you feel like it really should be about you?

Authentic Discipleship: Open Your Eyes!

Mark 10:46-11:11

Go your way; your faith has made you well (Mark 10:52).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). As thousands streamed into Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Jesus stayed in the house of Mary and Martha two miles east of the city in Bethany. The next morning, in fulfillment of ancient prophecies, the Son of Man rode into Jerusalem on an unbroken colt as the fickle masses cried “Hosanna” (“save now”), and spread garments on the road before Him as they waved palm branches in blessing.

The sharp contrasts between the faith of blind Bartimaeus and the rejecting nation of Israel, and between what He “saw” without eyes that the disciples still failed to “see” challenges every believer to open his or her eyes to the full majesty of the One worthy of our trust and devotion:

When you open your eyes to the majesty of Jesus Christ,

you will trust Him enough to follow!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “Why should I follow Jesus?” has more to do with Who He is and what He has done than it has to do with what you want Him to do for you!

The Servant teaches His followers the need to open their eyes to His majesty (10:46-11:11).

A. Deep Faith in Jericho: Blind Bartimaeus trusts in Christ as the Messiah/Deliverer, is made completely well—physically and spiritually—and follows Jesus (10:46-52).

  1. Context of the Lesson: Ancient Jericho, eighteen miles northeast of Jerusalem, was the last safe outpost before a dangerous day’s journey into Jerusalem. Crowds are streaming toward the city for the Passover Feast.
  2. Tension of the Lesson: The last miracle of Mark as Jesus transitioned from the training of the twelve to fulfilling the only-now disclosed purpose of His coming—to give His life a ransom for many (10:45)—occurred as He was poised to enter Jerusalem. Jesus ended His lessons on the Cross in the same way He began them—healing a blind man (8:22-26). He is opening the eyes of His disciples, and every reader, to the to the truth of the necessity of the Cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.
  3. Contrasts in the Lesson: The sharp contrasts between the faith of blind Bartimaeus and the rejecting nation of Israel, and between what He “saw” without eyes that the disciples still failed to “see” challenges every believer to open his or her eyes to the full majesty of the One worthy of our trust and devotion
  4. Example of the Lesson: “Bartimaeus pictured discipleship clearly. He recognized his inability, trusted Jesus as the One to give him God’s gracious mercy, and when he could “see” clearly, began to follow Jesus.” (John Grassmick, Bible Knowledge Commentary, p 155)

B. Shallow Faith in Jerusalem: The fickle crowds praise Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah who could save them now while still being blind to the truth that He is coming to them humbly as the Suffering Servant who must die to ransom them from their sin (11:1-11).

  1. Jesus demonstrated His sovereignty over nature by riding an unbroken colt (Genesis 49:8-12) triumphantly into Jerusalem, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 and entering the city as their lowly and just King bringing salvation.
  2. The masses enthusiastically receive Him chanting Psalm 118:25-26, one of the six “ascent” psalms the Jews chanted at the annual Passover festival (Psalm 113-118). They shouted “Hosanna” or “save us now.” Most were caught up in the expectation that Jesus was not their lowly Messiah come to save them from their sin, but the military and political deliverer who would restore the Davidic kingdom now (2 Samuel 7:16). But some were identifying Him correctly, as the events of the next week would demonstrate.
  3. After entering Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple to see if it was being used appropriately, and returned with the twelve to Bethany.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must open your eyes! Following Jesus begins and ends with our appreciation of Who He already is, What He has already done for us, and What He has already said following Him involves.

A. You must open your eyes to the majesty of the Person of Christ.

B. You must open your eyes to the purpose of His coming.

C. You must open your eyes to the realities of following Him.

D. Could today be your “Jericho” experience?

 

Temple Lessons: Authority and Prayer!

Mark 11:12-33

Have faith in God (Mark 11:22).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday these same leaders tried to trap Him into conversations that would give them grounds to accuse Him, but rather than defend His authority, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy!

With the Cross days away, Jesus was preoccupied with the purity of the prayers and worship of His people. His message to Israel then is His message to the church today:

Jesus authorizes prayer and worship that reveals His heart to all nations!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “What should our worship look like” has more to do with God’s heart for the world than it has to do with the preferences of His people!

The Servant judges the religious leaders and demonstrates His authority as the Defender of worship and Authorizer of answered prayer (11:12-33).

A. The Fig Tree Judged (Tuesday Morning on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, 11:12-14): Jesus judged the unproductive fig tree as a sign of His judgment of Israel for the same reason. Israel’s outward display of religious finery (full-leafed fig tree in spring) was impressive, but it had no spiritual fruit (white figs that precede the leaving of a fig tree).

B. Temple Cleansing (Arriving in Jerusalem, 11:15-19): Three years before Jesus had cleansed the temple (John 2:13-16). The corruption of the “religious bazaar” had returned to the Court of the Gentiles, and Jesus, incensed by their insensitivity to the missional purpose of their worship, cleanses the temple and stands guard. This demonstrated His authority as the Defender of pure worship. The people responded to His actions and teaching, but the spiritual leaders conspired to kill Him.

  1. Only Mark remembers that Jesus fully quoted Isaiah 56:7, adding “a house of prayer for all nations.” The Jewish leaders had made it virtually impossible for Gentile worshipers to come to the temple to pray for all nations in the outer court of the Gentiles. The entire context of Isaiah 56 has to do with God’s love for and offer of salvation to the Gentiles.
  2. “They had expelled Gentile worshipers to make room for Jewish robbers.” (Warren Weirsbe)

C. The Fig Tree Withered (Wednesday Morning on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, 11:20-26): When Peter pointed out that the fig tree had died from its roots, Jesus used Peter’s astonishment to teach His disciples that God answers the prayers of those who have faith in His will and have forgiven others.

D. Temple Interrogation (Arriving in Jerusalem, 11:27-33): The self-serving spiritual leaders tried to protect their turf—their privilege, power, importance, and wealth—by challenging Jesus’ authority to cleanse the temple. But Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by claiming the same authority as John the Baptizer, whom the people loved but they had rejected.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must share His missional attitude toward prayer and worship.

A. You must be more concerned with the reality of spiritual fruit than the trappings of religious vitality and esteem.

B. Your worship must share His concern for all nations.

C. Your prayers must believe in His will and accompany your forgiveness of others.

D. And He’s not going to argue with you about it!

Temple Lessons: Leaders Beware!

Mark 12:1-12

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Mark 12:10).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday these same leaders tried to trap Him into conversations that would give them grounds to accuse Him, but rather than defend His authority, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy!

The parable of the wicked tenants exposes the truth about these leaders trying to protect their “greatness.” They have defaulted on their stewardship—the vineyard would be handed over to other tenants:

Jesus doesn’t need religious leaders, but He chooses to work through faithful ones!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “How does God work in spite of wicked leaders?” is simple: He doesn’t, He just goes around them and hands off to faithful leaders!

The Servant reprimands the wicked and irresponsible religious leaders by identifying them in incendiary Old Testament warnings to Israel (12:1-12).

A. The Old Testament Context: The Lord Jesus’ dramatic references to related Old Testament passages weren’t lost on the religious leaders.

  1. Isaiah 5:1-7: Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” likens Judah to a vineyard that has every advantage but fails to produce fruit, incurring God’s judgment.
  2. Psalm 80:8-19: A lament Psalm picturing Israel as the vine of the True Vinedresser sadly coming under judgment.
  3. Psalm 118:22-23: The climax of the Hallel, or Passover Psalms. Jesus quotes the haunting verses preceding the words the crowds chanted just two days ago at His Triumphal Entry.

B. The Dramatic Contrast, the Great and Glorious Prophesied Reversal: The leaders have concluded that the only way to protect their “greatness” is to kill Jesus. God will use the greatness of His Servant Son’s sacrifice at their hands to wrench His vineyard from their stewardship and hand it over to the faithful leaders of the early church.

  1. The stone in Psalm 118 is the capstone for the building God is building. Generations of Israelites viewed this building as Israel and this capstone as her final glorification. Jesus made Himself the stone. This was a jarring recalibration for students of the Old Testament, but the Jewish leaders of the early church identified it clearly (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7)’
  2. “It appears that Israel’s leaders rejected the Stone that was to be the capstone to complete Israel, God’s temple, through which He would work to bring blessing to all mankind (Gen. 12:3). The Stone rejected has become, not the capstone, but the most important Stone in the foundation of a new temple that God is now building, namely, the church (Matt.16:18; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). After God removes the church from the earth (1 Thess. 4:13-18), the Stone will return to the earth (cf. Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45; Rev. 19:11-16), and Israel will accept Him (Zech. 12:10). Then He will complete Israel (Isa. 59:20), and Israel will, during the millennium, function as the temple that God intended her to be (Dan.7:22). He will then bring blessing to the whole earth through Israel.”–Dr . Tom Constable, Notes on Mark, p. 127

C.  The Interaction: Jesus’ scathing warning to Israel’s leaders and His claims to be God’s beloved Son were clear to the religious leaders. He had exposed their sinful plot to murder Him, but His popularity in the city protected Him temporarily. Opposition is intensifying in Jerusalem.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must find leaders who are faithful to His purposes in building the church.

A. You need to grow in your understanding of the New Testament’s teaching on the church so that you can discern a faithful leader from a self-seeking leader.

B. You need to be more committed to Christ, the Great Shepherd, than you are to any of His under-shepherds.

C. You need to keep in mind that He’s the only perfect Shepherd. The standard for an undershepherd is faithfulness, not perfection.

D.You need to remember that the Lord Jesus doesn’t need any leader, but He graciously chooses to work through faithful ones!

E. You need to ask the Lord Jesus about your personal leadership stewardship as a…parent, teacher, small group leader, husband.

Temple Lessons: Political Debate

Mark 12:13-40

Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?

(Mark 12:24)

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday these same leaders tried to trap Him into conversations that would give them grounds to accuse Him, but rather than defend His authority, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy!

The parable of the wicked tenants exposes the truth about these leaders trying to protect their “greatness.” They have defaulted on their stewardship—the vineyard would be handed over to other tenants. They responded by sending delegations with different religious/political views to question Him about current controversies in ways that would undermine His authority. They were about to learn a lesson on the power and the word of God:

Jesus answers religious and political controversies with the Word and power of God!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “I wonder which side Jesus would take in a political or religious controversy?” is simple: He doesn’t, He just reminds everyone of what the Scriptures say and what He can do!

The Servant responds to His enemies by citing the authority of the Scriptures and demonstrating the power of God (12:13-40).

A. The Context: Israel was deeply divided into political/religious camps.

  1. Moderates: The Sanhedrin—the highest Jewish authority dominated by a priestly aristocracy—were embroiled in a controversy over paying taxes to the Romans. The Pharisees among them opposed it; the Herodians among them were for it. The Sanhedrin were all about political power.
  2. Liberals: The Sadducees—small but influential party of mainly urban, wealthy, and educated Jews—were embroiled in a controversy with the Pharisees over the resurrection. The Sadducees claimed to follow only the Pentateuch. They falsely taught that the first five books of the Law did not teach the resurrection. The Sadducees were all about enlightened sophistication, and weren’t sure they believed in anything supernatural—resurrection, angels.
  3. Conservatives: The Pharisees/Scribes—middle class businessmen and devoted teachers of the Law who were passionate about religious separation from the Greek/Roman influences in Palestine—were embroiled in a controversy over how to interpret their 613 precepts (248 commandments and 365 prohibitions) when two would conflict. They were all about cultural control and detailed every aspect ofp life according to “heavy” and “light” commands.

B. The Interrogation: Each faction tried to entrap Jesus into taking a side. But Jesus used the power and the Word of God to expose their hypocritical errors (Mark 12:13-34).

  1. Jesus amazed the moderates when He simply explained Caesar’s right to collect taxes, but only God had the right to receive their allegiance (13-17).
  2. Jesus confronted the liberals by proving that they didn’t know the Scriptures they claimed as authority, neither did they know the power of God. He proved the resurrection from the Pentateuch (18-27).
  3. Jesus appealed to the righteous core of the conservatives by synthesizing the Law under two precepts: Respond to God’s covenant by loving Him and others (28-34).

C. The Challenge: Jesus exposed the religious leaders’ faulty view of a limited Messiah by quoting David’s reverence for Messiah as Lord (Psalm 110:1) and the common people received it. This ended all conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders of Israel. He warned the people against them by citing their exploitation of the common people (35-40).

If you want to follow Jesus, you must live above the petty political and religious controversies of your day by your personal experiences with God’s Word and His power.

A. You need to know how to study the Bible to find God’s truth rather than studying the Bible to defend your opinions.

B. You need to be more interested in displaying God’s power than in preserving your lifestyle.

C. Your allegiance is to Christ, not a country, a culture, a religious camp, or political party.

D .You should not follow leaders who prey on the common people for money, power, or prestige.

 

Temple Lessons: Wholehearted Commitment

Mark 12:41-44

But she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood (Mark 12:44).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday these same leaders tried to trap Him into conversations that would give them grounds to accuse Him, but rather than defend His authority, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy!

Jesus’ last public words before the Cross solemnly denounce the callous greed and flamboyant lifestyle of the religious leaders who clamored for personal attention and fame. As Jesus lingered in the Temple for the last time (Cf the glory of the Lord reluctantly leaving the Temple in Ezekiel 8-11), He moved from the Court of the Gentiles into the court of women. Jewish men and women from all over the world were putting their voluntary contributions into receptacles as part of their celebration of Passover. One poor widow’s total devotion to and trust in the God of Israel moved the Lord Jesus to teach His last temple lesson privately to His disciples. It was a lesson on worshipful giving:

Worshipful giving completely trusts God to provide every need!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “I wonder how much I should voluntarily offer God in response to His grace” is radical: Your giving factor reveals your trust factor, and your trust factor reveals your worship factor!

The Servant contrasts the hypocritical worship of the religious leaders to the authentic worship of a poor widow (12:35-44).

A. The Contrast: The physically rich but spiritually bankrupt religious leaders were trusting in themselves; the spiritually rich but physically impoverished widow was trusting in God completely.

  1. Jesus exposed the religious leaders’ faulty view of a limited Messiah by quoting David’s reverence for Messiah as Lord (Psalm 110:1) and the common people received it. This ended all conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders of Israel. He warned the people against them by citing their exploitation of the common people (35-40).
  • The religious leaders depended on voluntary contributions from the people. This led many to focus on outwardly impressive acts of false piety while maintaining ostentatious lifestyles. To raise these huge amounts of money they preyed on the common people by manipulating their sympathetic heart—even penniless widows!
  • “They will receive greater condemnation” (v 40). They will receive more severe punishment at God’s final judgment (Matthew 11:20-24; James 3:1).

2. Jesus exalted the worshipful giving of a poor widow. Apparently, the religious leaders’ manipulative and hypocritical ways led to demonstrative giving that made sure onlookers knew the amount of the gift. But it was the smallest gift of all that impressed Jesus—1/64 a day’s wages (40-44).

  • Jesus and His disciples observed the giving behaviors of Jews gathered to celebrate Passover. This was a voluntary offering. 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles for receiving these offerings lined the wall of the court of women.
  • Wealthy people were pouring large amounts of valuable coins into the receptacles, apparently in a demonstrative manner to make sure everyone, especially the religious leaders noticed.
  • A poor widow gave two “mites,” or lepta, the smallest Jewish coin. Two would equal a “quadrans” or 1/64 of a Roman denarius—a day’s wages in Palestine. Mark’s Roman readers would be amazed at her poverty and her giving!
  • Jesus turned to His disciples to teach them a lesson on worship. Solemnly Jesus told them that she had given everything she had. Since this revealed her wholehearted trust of God, in God’s eyes, she had given “more” worship to Him than the large donations of the rich.

B. The Worship Principle: Jesus isn’t impressed with the amount of money given to God, but with the amount of trust in God the money represents.

  1. In the days to come the disciples would witness their Lord’s total devotion to God as He gave His life as a ransom for many.
  2. In the days to come the disciples’ own devotion to God would be fiercely probed at the dark events of the Cross.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must entrust yourself to Him completely.

A. Worship is a lifestyle of trust in God in response to His mercy (Romans 12:1-2).

B. The truest measurement of our trust in God is how we steward what is “least to Him”—our money. It is this measure that determines His trust of us to give us true riches—His redemptive, Kingdom-work in this world as His Son builds His church—God’s much (Luke 16:10).

C. The answer to the question, “I wonder how much I should voluntarily offer God in response to His grace” is radical: Your giving factor reveals your trust factor, and your trust factor reveals your worship factor!

  1. What does your giving factor reveal about your trust factor?
  2. What do you want to say to God about your trust factor?

Prophetic Interlude: When Will These Things Be?

Mark 13, Overview

Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is (Mark 13:33).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday these same leaders tried to trap Him into conversations that would give them grounds to accuse Him, but rather than defend His authority, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy!

Jesus’ last public words before the Cross solemnly denounce the callous greed and flamboyant lifestyle of the religious leaders who clamored for personal attention and fame. As Jesus lingered in the Temple for the last time (Cf the glory of the Lord reluctantly leaving the Temple in Ezekiel 8-11), He praised the simple worship of a poor widow, and abruptly left the temple. Upon leaving, He predicted its destruction to provoke a discussion about the end times and encourage His weary followers that His return is certain:

When life hurts or you want to live for yourself, 

think about Jesus’ 2nd Coming.⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “Does prophecy really matter?” is simple: Yes, prophecy is one of Jesus’ provisions for His people during tough times!

The Servant predicts His 2nd Coming to encourage His disciples during times of suffering and persecution (13:1-37).

A. The Questions: When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, His disciples asked Him “When will these things be?” and “What will be the sign when all these things are fulfilled?” (13:1-4)

  1. Jesus had already pronounced judgment on those who misused the Temple (Mark 11:13-17; Cf Jeremiah 7:11-14). But now He predicts its complete destruction, stunning His disciples (1-2).
  • Herod’s Temple had been under construction for 50 years and wouldn’t be completed until 64 AD. Its massive beauty overwhelmed the disciples and they remark at the great stones (wite polished stones decorated with gold stacked 200 feet in the air) and buildings (the Temple covered 1/6th of the city).
  • Jesus used their remark to predict the complete destruction of the Temple.

2. When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, the first four disciples ask Him to clarify His jarring prediction (3-4).

  • Apparently the disciple had discussed this among themselves as they walked to the mount. They immediately presumed that Jesus was speaking of the destruction of the temple just prior to Messiah’s coming and establishing His Kingdom (Zechariah 14).
  • NOTE: The disciples had no idea of God’s plan to provide an interlude of unprecedented grace between the first and second coming of His Son—the church age (Romans 9-11).

B. The Answers: Jesus predicted the general time of His 2nd Coming to encourage His disciples going through difficult times and to exhort them to remain vigilant until then (13:5-37).

  1. When will these things be? Don’t be deceived by false announcements and predictions of My Coming, but do know that persecution doesn’t mean I’m not coming to save my people (5-13).
  2. What will be the sign? When Daniel’s prediction of the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be occurs, get out of Jerusalem, for the Great Tribulation’s time of suffering has begun. But don’t think this will go on forever because I’m coming to stop the whole thing. And when I really do come, you’ll know it, and every one of mine will be delivered! (14-27)
  3. How will you know? Count on it, when you begin to identify these things, it’s near because I said it! (28-31)
  4. What should we do? Don’t worry about the exact time, because no one who says they know really does. Just know I’m coming and keep serving me with all your might until I do! (32-37).

If you want to follow Jesus, you must believe He’s coming again and serve Him with all your might until He does.

A. Prophecy wasn’t given to us so that we would know exactly what God is doing in world history. Prophecy was given to us to assure us that in the end, He wins.

B. When life gets tough, think about Jesus coming again and establishing His Kingdom!

C. Until then, think about all the people you know and are aware of who will not be a part of His Kingdom if He shows up tomorrow!

Jesus Christ came the first time to pay the price for sin, to die in the sinner’s pace, so that men and women, boys and girls might escape the horrors of hell and live eternally in the presence of God. The Lord Jesus is coming again to punish the wicked and to reward the righteous.

Ever wonder why Jesus didn’t go into more detail so that the disciples would have a trusted timeline?

Could it be that the Lord doesn’t really want us to worry and argue over the details? Two dynamics about prophetic interpretation make me think that a focus on these details may be distracting for followers of Christ:

First, it doesn’t seem that prophecy was written so that we could understand God’s plan in advance, but so that we would be able to recognize that history is moving toward God’s ending.

Second, the ones who recognized the prophetic events predicted in the Old Testament concerning Jesus’ first coming weren’t the scholars trying to figure it all out but the simple people yearning for His arrival.

Prophecy isn’t for the ones using it as a scare tactic to solicit money from vulnerable people. Prophecy is for the ones longing for the coming of their Lord—the ones serving and watching, enduring affliction and persecution for lifting up His name in a world set against Him.

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” –Jesus Christ speaking of His Second Advent (Mark 13:33)

 

Final Lessons: Extravagant Worship!

Mark 14:1-10

Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me (Mark 14:6).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday, as the leaders interrogate Him, Jesus exposes their unworthiness as leaders, leaves the temple, and crosses over to the Mount of Olives. There He encourages them with prophetic insight and assurance that He is coming again.

Mark begins his account of the Passion narrative with two remarkable contrasts. While the leaders of Israel are conspiring with Judas to execute Jesus, Mary of Bethany is worshiping Him. The “worshipers” of Jerusalem—including his disciples—are caught up in the religious festivities of the Passover Feast, but Mary is swept up by extravagant worship of Jesus:

When you worship Jesus, follow your heart, not the religious crowds!⇦Tweet that!

The answer to the question, “Can we worship Jesus too much?” is simple: No, any expression of love and devotion to Jesus that comes from your heart is a good thing!

The Servant affirms the sincere worship of His people (14:1-10).

A. The Contrast: The hostility of those plotting Jesus’ death and the insensitivity of the religious crowds of Jerusalem for the Passover Feast—including the disciples, and Mary’s loving devotion to her Master—whom she recognized as the suffering Messiah (1-10)

  1. While Jesus was teaching His disciples on the Mount of Olives, the leaders gathered in a secret session at the home of the chief priest, Caiaphas, and conspired to kill Jesus. They feared the festive Passover crowd, but Judas offered them a deal they could not refuse (1-2, 10-11; Cf. Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16).
  • The Passover, followed by the festival of Unleavened Bread, had to be celebrated in Jerusalem. Pilgrims from all over the world choked the city with worshipers. Many of those had greeted Jesus at His Triumphal Entry, so the leaders hesitated acting during the festive week.
  • When Mary of Bethany had worshiped Jesus extravagantly and Jesus disagreed with Judas’s rebuke, Satan entered him (Luke 22:3). Judas offered to betray Jesus in a manner that would follow Roman law (definite accuser) and secretly. The Sanhedrin accepted his offer and acted quickly.

2. Six days before the Passover (John 12:1-8), Mary of Bethany had worshiped Jesus lavishly—anointing Him with her dowry worth a year’s wages. The disciples, led by Judas, rebuked her, but Jesus emphatically affirmed her (3-9; Matthew 26:6-13).

  • Simon the Leper, whom Jesus had healed (1:40), held a lavish reception for Jesus in his home. Mary of Bethany, who could never suppress her devotion to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:31-32), anointed Jesus with a pint of pure nard. The alabaster jar probably contained her dowry—a year’s wages worth of this costly perfume.
  • Some of the disciples, led by Judas, rebuked Mary’s astonishing act of worship. They calculated that this money could be better used as a gift to the poor. This was a common practice during the Passover Feast.

B. The Affirmation: Jesus rebuked Mary’s critics and defended her worship. He called it a good (beautiful, noble) thing and promised that her worship of Him as the suffering Servant would be a remembered throughout the ages (6-9).

  1. “For you have the poor with you always…” does not mean that Jesus is insensitive to the needs of the poor or that His followers should conclude, “that’s just the way it is.” He’s simply making the point that there will always be poor people with needs His followers can meet.
  2. But Mary, in light of His ominous predictions of His coming death and the foreboding hostility of the Jewish authorities, did what she could right then to worship Jesus while He was with them—an opportunity that was diminishing for all of them.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must do what you can to worship Him, and learn not to fear your extravagantly worshiping heart.

A. When it comes to your resources, are you more like Mary or more like the calculating disciples?

B. If you were in that room with Jesus, would you be the one running to Him like Mary, or would you be more like the disciples—looking around the room to see how everyone else was acting.

C. What do you feel God is telling you about your personal worship from these verses?

Final Lessons: Last Supper

Mark 14:12-26

This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many (Mark 14:24).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday, as the leaders interrogate Him, Jesus exposes their unworthiness as leaders, leaves the temple, and crosses over to the Mount of Olives. There He encourages them with prophetic insight and assurance that He is coming again.

Mark continues his account of the Passion narrative with Jesus’ farewell to His disciples in the upper room. Three stories within the story exhibit Jesus’ love for these men who had walked with Him: His detailed planning for the Passover meal, the announcement of His betrayal, and the institution of the Lord’s Supper:

When you worship Jesus, the only non-negotiable is the Lord’s Table!⇦Tweet that!

The Servant teaches the connection between the Passover meal, His coming death, and His coming Kingdom by instituting the Lord’s Supper (14:12-26).

A. The Passover Meal Becomes the Last Supper: Jesus led His disciples to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast, and chose that evening to reveal His betrayal and institute the Lord’s Supper (12-26)

1. On Thursday morning, Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover Feast (12-16).

  • The Passover, followed by the festival of Unleavened Bread, had to be celebrated in Jerusalem. The first day of Unleavened Bread was Thursday. Jesus had made provision for this, their last meal together in an upper room. A man carrying a pitcher of water would have been easy to spot in a culture where only women performed that task. Tradition teaches that the man Jesus had depended on to provide the upper room was Mark’s father (Acts 1:13, 12:12).
  • Peter and John went ahead of the disciples from Bethany to Jerusalem, since the Passover meal had to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. Peter and John secured the Paschal lamb, went to the Temple, where the lambs were sacrificed by the priests (265,000 lambs were killed during the feast), and made final preparations—roasting the lamb, setting the table with wine, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and sauces according to the Passover traditions.
  • Jesus chose the Passover meal as the context of the Last Supper. The Passover remembered the night God brought an enslaved people into a new life of liberty and rest!

 

2. On Thursday evening Jesus and the Twelve arrived at the upper room to eat the Passover meal. The meal began after sunset. As they took their seats around the table, Jesus ensured Judas had the place of honor to His left, and John was seated on His right. The disciples were deeply grieved when Jesus told them one of them would betray Him (17-21).

  • Jesus announced that the betrayer would be the one who shared this meal—the one dipping bread into the same bowl—to emphasize the depth of the betrayal (Psalm 41:9) and, I believe, to give Judas, the chief guest at the meal, an opportunity to repent.
  • Each disciple asked for assurance that it wasn’t them—“It is not I, is it?” expects a reassuring negative answer.
  • Judas knew he was the one, and Jesus pronounced the Old Testament judgment on the Son of Man’s betrayer (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).

B. The Lord’s Supper: Jesus, as head of the feast, had the responsibility to explain the meaning of the Passover meal before it was eaten. His radical emphasis on the future rather than the past instituted the cornerstone of New Testament worship (22-26).

  1. Jesus took the bread, the Old Testament symbol of God’s provision, broke it, gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples—symbolizing that He was sharing Himself with them.
  2. Jesus took the wine, the Old Testament symbol of the joy of Messiah’s Kingdom, gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples—symbolizing that He was sharing Himself with them. This was probably the third of four prescribed cups of wine at the Passover meal. The Lord Jesus declared that He would not drink wine again until He drinks it “anew” in His Kingdom. Note: The word “anew” speaks of a qualitative difference. On that night the cup anticipated suffering, pain, and death. But Jesus wants His people to also anticipate the joy and glory of sharing that cup again in His Kingdom!
  3. Jesus declared that the wine symbolized His blood of the new covenant, which was shed for many. The details are important. The term “for” many means “instead of.” Jesus’ blood would ratify the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) in the same way the blood of animals made the Old Covenant valid (Exodus 24:8). Note: God’s new way of dealing with people is based on His Son’s death for “many” (all humanity, Calvin, see Hebrews 8:6-13). Note: “The spiritual blessings Israel expected God to grant in the last days are now mediated through Christ’s death to all who believe. The physical blessings promised to Israel, however, are not fulfilled now. They will be fulfilled when Christ returns and establishes His millennial reign with Israel in her land.” John Grassmick, s.v. Mark, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p 178).

If you want to follow Jesus, He asks you to remember His death for you and think about the joy of His coming Kingdom at the Lord’s Supper.

A. What place does the Lord’s Supper play in your life? Is it central to your worship, or a meaningless religious ritual that gets in the way of your Sunday routine?

B. What are some ways you could make the Lord’s Supper more central to your worship of the Lord Jesus?

C. How does it make you feel when you consider that Jesus’ only simple request concerning His death on the Cross is that we wouldn’t forget what He has done for us? How about when you think about the next time He will share this cup with His people in His Kingdom?

 

Final Lessons: Staggering Toward the Cross

Mark 14:27-72

Then they all forsook Him and fled (Mark 14:50).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, surveyed the temple, and returned to Bethany. On Tuesday, He returned to establish His authority as the Messiah of Israel who protected her worship. The leaders conspired to kill Him. On Wednesday, as the leaders interrogate Him, Jesus exposes their unworthiness as leaders, leaves the temple, and crosses over to the Mount of Olives. There He encourages them with prophetic insight and assurance that He is coming again.

Mark rearranges the events of Jesus’ last night with His disciples to contrast the disciples failure and Jesus’ faith in the face of extreme adversity:

If you want to follow Jesus, you must rely upon Him, watch, and pray!⇦Tweet that!

The Servant teaches how to face adversity by depending upon His Father, praying, and focusing on others and His mission (14:27-72).

A. The disciples, led by Peter, relied upon themselves, did not view adversity biblically, and did not pray—a prescription for failure (27-31, 43–72)

  1. Mark inserted Jesus’ prediction that the disciples would desert Him in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7 after the Lord’s Supper to highlight the contrast between Jesus’ faithful behavior and the disciples’ faithless behavior late Thursday evening and early Friday morning (27-31).
  • Jesus made this prediction in the upper room prior to the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38).
  • Jesus viewed Himself as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:4-6. He accepted His fate as prophesied, but the disciples didn’t.
  • Peter emphatically refused to admit his weakness, as did the others. But Jesus told Peter that His desertion would be the worst of all!

2. The disciples failed to follow Jesus’ advice to watch and pray. The result? They failed Him miserably, just as He had predicted (43-72).

  • A large crowd suddenly showed up with weapons. This included the temple police, a contingent of Roman soldiers, and the usual rabble at these types of crises.
  • Judas, emphatically identified as one of the Twelve, kissed Jesus—probably on the hand, a common way disciples greeted rabbis.
  • To Peter’s credit, he tried to make good on his promise not to forsake Jesus, but according to his plan and his power. All of them forsook Jesus and fled, the most noteworthy being Mark himself, who fled away naked.
  • When Jesus faced the Sanhedrin at the compound of Caiaphas, Peter denied Him, just as Jesus had predicted.

B. Jesus depended on His Father, viewed adversity biblically, and focused on others and His mission—the formula for success during life’s most difficult times (27-72).

  1. Jesus knew the Scriptures and therefore knew what this hour meant. Rather than focusing on Himself, He attended to His disciples, teaching them the lessons of faith they would need when He was with the Father (27-31).
  2. Jesus faced His final hour alone, praying honestly and depending on His Father, and teaching His disciples to do the same (32-42).
  3. Jesus faced His adversaries confidently and honestly, depending on the Father, even though it was unfair and painful (43-72).
  • The “High Priest Patriarch,” Annas, owned the rights to the money-changing and sacrificial animal scam that Jesus had challenged. They had it in for Jesus.
  • Everything about the trial was illegal—it was an overnight rush to get Jesus to the Roman civil trial that would begin shortly after sunrise.
  • Jesus told the truth boldly—He was the Messiah who would someday judge the ones judging Him.
  • If you want to follow Jesus, you must face adversity by believing, watching, and praying.

If you want to follow Jesus, you must face adversity by believing, watching, and praying.

A. Peter’s confidence was in his own strength, not Jesus.

B. Peter acted according to his own plan, not the plan Jesus presented.

C. Peter tried to control the situation rather than praying and letting God take care of Him.

D. What trial are you going through right now? Would you say you’re more like Peter or more like the Lord Jesus as you face this trial?

 

The Servant Gives His Life as a Ransom for Many

Mark 15

Truly this Man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday through Thursday Jesus cleared the Temple, exposed the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders, received Mary of Bethany’s worship, predicted His desertion and betrayal, instituted the Lord’s Supper, prayed in the garden, and was arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin.

But only the Roman authority, Pilate, could execute anyone. On Friday morning, Jesus stood trial before Pilate. By 9:00 AM, after being scourged and mocked, the process of His crucifixion began—the Son of God was nailed to a cross between two thieving insurrectionists. He was guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” For six hours, Jesus suffered on the cross, the last three being accompanied by miraculous events. Then, at 3:00 PM, Jesus died, and was buried in a nearby tomb.

In Mark’s account of the death of God’s Servant irony plays a central role—stressing the Sovereignty and Power of the Living God:

If you want to follow Jesus, you must view your circumstances as His will for you,

and confidently hope in His redemptive purpose to be revealed!⇦Tweet that!

The Servant suffers greatly as He dies for humanity and is buried (15:1-47).

A. Civil Trials. The Sanhedrin enthusiastically condemned Jesus for claiming to be Messiah. Pilate reluctantly condemned Him for claiming to be King of the Jews (1-20).

  1. Though Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent five times, the Roman governor finally consented to crucify Christ because he feared the Jews reporting him for not condemning an insurrectionist.
  • At His first trial, Jesus answered the charge of being King of the Jews, but refused to defend Himself before Pilate (2-5).
  • After sending Jesus to Herod who refused to judge Him, Pilate offered to release either Jesus or the rebel Barabbas. When the mob chose Barabbas, Pilate had Jesus flogged to satisfy their bloodthirst. Still, they cried for His crucifixion and Pilate relented (3-15).

2. Pilate turned Jesus over to His soldiers who cruelly mocked Him as they ironically spoke God’s truth, “Hail, King of the Jews” (16-20).

B. His Crucifixion. Five climactic events describe the crucifixion of the Son of God: darkness, two cries from Jesus, the tearing of the temple curtain, and the Centurion’s confession (21-41).

“For the first three of Jesus’ six hours on the cross He suffered in daylight at the hands of humans. In the darkness of the second three hours He suffered at the hands of God.” (Mark L Bailey and Thomas L Constable, Nelson’s New Testament Survey, p 99)

  1. Too weak to carry His cross, Simon the Cyrene was forced to bear His cross. Mark mentions Simon’s sons because they were known to the church in Rome (see Romans 16:13).
  2. During His crucifixion Jesus is continually humiliated and mocked.
  3. .Jesus cried out with a loud voice and died—fully conscious to the end. He died voluntarily and suddenly.
  • God tore the veil to the inner temple signifying that there was now free access to God (Hebrews 6:19-20).
  • Ironically, as the Jewish nation rejected their Messiah and King, a Roman Centurion declared His true identity.

C. His Burial. Mark emphasized details that proved Jesus was buried—His death was a reality (42-47).

If you want to follow Jesus, you must believe that God knows what He is doing, even when it seems the whole world is against you and Him.⇦Tweet that!

A. Irony: Pilate, who represented the most powerful force on earth—Roman might—was powerless to prevent Jesus’ execution to give His life as a ransom for many.

Question: How do you view the powers on earth today? Out of control, or controlled by the God who loves you and gave Himself for you?

B. Irony: Cruel soldiers mock Jesus, unwittingly picturing the curse of humanity (thorns, Genesis 3:17-18) being thrust upon Christ and worshiping Him for who He really was.

Question: How do you view the cruelty of this world against you and others? As just a horrible turn of events, or as a terrible injustice that a Loving and Just God does not overlook?

C. Irony: A sign declaring a King above a man hanging on a cross meant to humiliate the King unwittingly pictures the only way into His coming Kingdom—to believe that He was dying for His subjects.

Question: How do you view the scenes of this world and of your life that are “all wrong”? As mistakes that must be fixed, or as tragedies God will use to demonstrate His glory through His love and care?

D. Irony: A lone Gentile, a centurion, interpreted the events of Good Friday correctly while all the religious people were resisting the truth.

Question: Are you the type of Christian who allows God to keep on teaching you so that you would actually know if He’s doing something special, or are you the type of Christian that has it all figured out?

 

The Crucifixion

Mark 15

Truly this Man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday through Thursday Jesus cleared the Temple, exposed the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders, received Mary of Bethany’s worship, predicted His desertion and betrayal, instituted the Lord’s Supper, prayed in the garden, and was arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin.

But only the Roman authority, Pilate, could execute anyone. On Friday morning, Jesus stood trial before Pilate. By 9:00 AM, after being scourged and mocked, the process of His crucifixion began—the Son of God was nailed to a cross between two thieving insurrectionists. He was guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” For six hours, Jesus suffered on the cross, the last three being accompanied by miraculous events. Then, at 3:00 PM, Jesus died, and was buried in a nearby tomb.

The foundational truth of Christianity is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins and arose. But too many Christians underestimate the mighty work of Jesus on the Cross. He not only paid the penalty for our sin, He made a way for us to overcome the power of sin!

The Good News of Good Friday: All the work to set you free from sin is done!⇦Tweet that!

The Servant suffers greatly as He dies for humanity and is buried (15:1-47).

A. Civil Trials. The Sanhedrin enthusiastically condemned Jesus for claiming to be Messiah. Pilate reluctantly condemned Him for claiming to be King of the Jews (1-20).

  1. Though Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent five times, the Roman governor finally consented to crucify Christ because he feared the Jews reporting him for not condemning an insurrectionist.
  • At His first trial, Jesus answered the charge of being King of the Jews, but refused to defend Himself before Pilate (2-5).
  • After sending Jesus to Herod who refused to judge Him, Pilate offered to release either Jesus or the rebel Barabbas. When the mob chose Barabbas, Pilate had Jesus flogged to satisfy their bloodthirst. Still, they cried for His crucifixion and Pilate relented (3-15).

2. Pilate turned Jesus over to His soldiers who cruelly mocked Him as they ironically spoke God’s truth, “Hail, King of the Jews” (16-20).

B. His Crucifixion. Five climactic events describe the crucifixion of the Son of God: darkness, two cries from Jesus, the tearing of the temple curtain, and the Centurion’s confession (21-41).

“For the first three of Jesus’ six hours on the cross He suffered in daylight at the hands of humans. In the darkness of the second three hours He suffered at the hands of God.” (Mark L Bailey and Thomas L Constable, Nelson’s New Testament Survey, p 99)

  1. Too weak to carry His cross, Simon the Cyrene was forced to bear His cross. Mark mentions Simon’s sons because they were known to the church in Rome (see Romans 16:13).
  2. During His crucifixion Jesus is continually humiliated and mocked.
  3. Jesus cried out with a loud voice and died—fully conscious to the end. He died voluntarily and suddenly.
  • God tore the veil to the inner temple signifying that there was now free access to God (Hebrews 6:19-20).
  • Ironically, as the Jewish nation rejected their Messiah and King, a Roman Centurion declared His true identity.

C. His Burial. Mark emphasized details that proved Jesus was buried—His death was a reality (42-47).

If you want to follow Jesus, you must begin the journey by trusting in His death as payment for your sin. Then, you must continue the journey by believing that His death and burial broke all ties with your former life as a slave to sin.

A. The Death of Jesus Christ reconciled Creation to its Creator! Don’t underestimate the power of Jesus’ mighty work on the Cross. Reconciliation means a change in relationship of hostility to harmony and peace between two parties. Humanity’s sin had set the whole world against its Creator, but Christ’s death thoroughly changed that relationship and adjusted Creation to God (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Question: How does this adjust your thinking about your security in Christ after trusting in His death as payment for your personal sin?

B. The Death of Jesus Christ reconciled believers to God! Don’t overestimate your power to adjust your life to God’s standard of sinlessness. Reconciliation means a change in relationship of hostility to harmony and peace between two parties. Before you believed you were God’s enemy and the object of His wrath. When you transfer your trust from your own works to pay for your sin to Christ’s work to pay for your sin, you are personally reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Question: How does this adjust your thinking about your relationship with God and your need for Jesus’ substitutionary death?

C.The Death of Jesus Christ made believers dead to the power of sin! The grounds for victory over sin is the Christian’s death with Christ to sin. Burial with Christ emphatically emphasizes that believers have ended their preconversion relationship to sin. All believers “died to sin” (Romans 6:2), crucified with Christ when we trusted in Him (Romans 6:3-10; Galatians 2:20).

Question: How does this adjust your thinking about your relationship with sin and your former life?

The world has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for. –Flannery O’Connor⇦Tweet that!

 

The Resurrection Disconnection

Mark 16

You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here (Mark 16:6). 

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark’s careful selection and placing of these events demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday through Thursday Jesus cleared the Temple, exposed the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders, received Mary of Bethany’s worship, predicted His desertion and betrayal, instituted the Lord’s Supper, prayed in the garden, and was arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin.

But only the Roman authority, Pilate, could execute anyone. On Friday morning, Jesus stood trial before Pilate. By 9:00 AM, after being scourged and mocked, the process of His crucifixion began—the Son of God was nailed to a cross between two thieving insurrectionists. He was guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” For six hours, Jesus suffered on the cross, the last three being accompanied by miraculous events. Then, at 3:00 PM, Jesus died, and was buried in a nearby tomb. On Sunday morning, He arose from the grave.

The foundational truth of Christianity is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins and arose. But too many Christians underestimate the mighty work of Jesus on the Cross. He not only paid the penalty for our sin, He made a way for us to overcome the power of sin! He not only rose from the dead to give us new life in heaven, but to give us the power to live His resurrection life during our years on earth!

Jesus rose from the dead to give you power to live a new life!⇦Tweet that!

The Servant’s resurrection. Jesus of Nazareth proved that He was the Son of God, not a simply human messiah, by His resurrection from the dead (16:1-20).

A. The Announcement. In a flurry of activity, witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ report the event and wonder in different stages of belief and unbelief (1-8).

  1. In keeping with the theme of Mark—serving others while serving Jesus—the little people of Jesus’ life are the ones caring for Him and reporting His resurrection to the disciples, who should have been caring for Him and reporting His resurrection.
  • Mark makes sure to report that the same women who witnessed Jesus’ death and burial witnessed His resurrection.
  • Mark makes sure to report the time and supernatural circumstances of the first awareness of Jesus’ resurrection.

2. A tender moment of grace: The angel, under orders from Jesus, makes sure that Peter receives the report of Christ’s resurrection as the leader of the disciples.

3. In keeping with the irony of Mark, the women do not tell what they were supposed to tell because they are overwhelmed.

“For the first three of Jesus’ six hours on the cross He suffered in daylight at the hands of humans. In the darkness of the second three hours He suffered at the hands of God.” (Mark L Bailey and Thomas L Constable, Nelson’s New Testament Survey, p 99)

B. The Appearances and Ascension of Christ (21-41).

Though many New Testament scholars dispute verses 9-20 as a later add-on, the events are reported accurately.

  1. Three post-resurrection appearances of Jesus stress the importance of the disciples believing what Jesus had taught: That He would rise from the dead. These three appearances are collaborated in the other gospels.
  2. The great commission of vv 15-18, if original, is simply a summary statement of the commission with a unique promise that may have been included to encourage the persecuted Roman church. Except for the deadly drink, all of these persecutions occurred in Acts. I do not believe this is in any way speaking of what goes on in the snake-handling and strychnine-drinking churches. This is a promise to those who may be forced by the enemies of Christ to suffer these things.
  3. Jesus’ ascension report would encourage suffering believers to be as faithful as He was.

If you want to follow Jesus, you’re going to need His resurrection power. Easter must become more to you than a day to dress up and show the world what you believe in the safe confines of church. Easter must become the truth you believe in as you put on Christ and show the world what you believe on the mean streets of this sin-stained planet.

A. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ means He is a truth-teller. When the angel reported His resurrection to the women, the angel said, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

Question: What has Jesus said that you are refusing to believe?

B. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ means He is a living Person who indwells and empowers His people (Romans 6:1-10; Galatians 2:20).

Question: What part of your life have you decided to keep Jesus out of because you don’t want His power “tampering” with what you’re trying to control?

Question: What part of your life have you decided Jesus just isn’t powerful enough to heal?

C. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ means that the Gospel is true—Christ died for our sins and arose. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Romans 4:25)

Question: Are you willing to investigate the historicity of the resurrection? If you discovered that it is true, would you trust in Jesus?

God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with Him.–Jurgen Moltmann⇦Tweet that!

Mark: So What?

Extending Grace, Serve the One—Review and Discussion

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10:43-45)

 

Mark is the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels. It gives the reader a vivid, compelling account of the life of Christ. With no editorial comments, Mark lets the narrative tell the story: Jesus is a Servant, constantly on the move and the pace is exhausting. He never rests, never ignores a hurting heart, and never avoids controversy, opposition, or danger. He just keeps moving and serving toward His reason for coming to earth—to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

Those who follow Him on the path of serving and suffering are often confused and exhausted, but always marveling at the wonder of being close to Him. Amazed at His words and works, His compassion and strength, they come to understand what all of us realize as we read on: Following Jesus is extremely difficult, but eternally rewarding.

Mark’s dramatic introduction of Jesus of Nazareth sets the tone for the rest of the book. Prophecies from Malachi and Isaiah identifying John the Baptizer as Messiah’s forerunner, established Jesus’ credentials as the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God.

Mark divides his book geographically: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (1:1-8:21) and Jesus’ departure to and ministry in Judea (8:22-16:8). His work in Galilee stirs up the religious authorities. Two series of confrontations with Jewish leaders reveal their hard hearts (2:1-3:20). The first time around, they decide to kill Him (3:6); the second time, they accuse Him of relying on Satan instead of God (3:22).

Three events—the charge by the religious authorities that His powers come from Satan, His rejection at Nazareth, and the murder of John the Baptizer—precipitate a great transition in the ministry of Jesus. His primary focus from this point forward is His twelve disciples. Just one year from His crucifixion, Jesus devotes six months to an intense training of the Twelve—teaching and demonstrating that He is the Son of God—as He withdraws away from the hostility of the Jewish authorities, the domain of Herod Antipas, and the fickle masses (3:23-8:22).

The great transition in Mark’s narrative follows the re-teaching of the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” until finally Peter answers correctly for the Twelve, “You are the Christ!” (8:30) After Peter’s declaration, the disciples will learn what kind of Messiah He is as they follow Him to Jerusalem, where they will witness His crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus’ movement to the cross dominates the second half of Mark’s Gospel. From the time they leave the north, Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem (9:33; 10:32). Mark bookends this section with two separate healings of a blind man—the first in Bethsaida on the north shore of Galilee (8:22-26), the second in Jericho, just before He enters Jerusalem for the last time (10:46-52). Mark’s careful placing of these miracles demonstrates that Jesus was endeavoring to open His disciples’ eyes to the truth of the necessity of the cross and suffering. All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to lay down their lives and serve others in His name.

Over a third of the book is devoted to the eight days following their arrival in Judea on the Sunday before His resurrection—from His entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to Christ’s resurrection (16:1-8). Monday through Thursday Jesus cleared the Temple, exposed the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders, received Mary of Bethany’s worship, predicted His desertion and betrayal, instituted the Lord’s Supper, prayed in the garden, and was arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin.

But only the Roman authority, Pilate, could execute anyone. On Friday morning, Jesus stood trial before Pilate. By 9:00 AM, after being scourged and mocked, the process of His crucifixion began—the Son of God was nailed to a cross between two thieving insurrectionists. He was guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” For six hours, Jesus suffered on the cross, the last three being accompanied by miraculous events. Then, at 3:00 PM, Jesus died, and was buried in a nearby tomb.

The foundational truth of Christianity is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins and arose. But too many Christians underestimate the mighty work of Jesus on the Cross. He not only paid the penalty for our sin, He made a way for us to overcome the power of sin!

Small Group Discussion on Mark 

THINKING ABOUT THE TRUTH (5 Minutes)

What did our year in Mark teach you about the life of Christ? What are your overall impressions that you feel will last a lifetime?

REVIEWING AND WORKING THE TRUTH INTO LIFE (50 Minutes)

Read Mark 8:31-38 & 10:35-45.

1) Since Mark is all about following Christ as His devoted disciple, in what sense do you have a better grasp on what it means to walk behind Christ in this way?

How is this different from your understanding of being a disciple before our study in Mark?

2) Of the disciples who followed Jesus, whom do you identify with most? Why? 

Ed’s main idea from the Gospel of Mark is….

All who follow the Suffering Servant must be prepared to suffer and serve—

to lay down their lives and serve others in His name!⇦Tweet that!

3) How has this truth helped you as you face the suffering and hardships of your life?

Any specific example you can share with the group? 

4) How would you say you have become more of a servant over the weeks we have been studying Mark? In your marriage? Your family? At work? In your friendships? At church? 

5) How has the emphasis on extending grace to the hurting, the poor, the hungry, the overlooked and left out made a difference in your life? Be specific.