A Pair of Paradoxes

May 16, 2017 at 10:24 am | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. The Pharisees were getting desperate. They had questioned His miracles. They had questioned His background. They couldn’t really question His teaching, but they had tried to refute it with tradition. Now they decided to try to trap Him with controversial questions.

One of the classic ways to make a Bible teacher squirm is to ask him about divorce. No matter what he says, somebody is not going to like it. There is often a temptation for the teacher to think, “I have to be careful with what I say. I don’t want to sound too harsh and alienate the students who have been divorced.” However, the faithful Bible teacher will say, “Jesus talked about divorce, and I should, too.”

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

Mark 10:2

The Pharisees probably also reasoned that John the Baptist had been killed for talking about marriage. However, Jesus knew just what to do when faced with a controversial question: He used the Bible.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:6-9

This is the first paradox in Mark Chapter 10: Two shall be one. A paradox is something that seems contradictory, but is actually logically consistent in reality. Divorce is man tearing apart what God has – in His perfect will and in His supernatural power – joined together.

Examples of other paradoxical teachings in the Bible are:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 2:10

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

II Corinthians 10:6

The second paradox in Mark 10 has to do with adults becoming little children.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16

Our modern society devalues children, as shown by the prevalence of abortion, abuse, neglect, divorce, lack of spiritual instruction, and lack of proper education. Let the LITTLE children come unto Me, said Jesus. He did not appoint the Disciples to go get some crayons and puppets and put on some entertaining children’s activities. Little children tend to respond to the offer of a warm invitation with cheerful acceptance. Unless, they have been seriously hurt in some way by someone they trusted, they do not respond with suspicion, reluctance, or a dread of the responsibility that the invitation might entail. Jesus reached out directly into the lives of others, including children. As His followers, will we get involved with people who are not as equipped to face their circumstances as we are?

Next time, we will see the second “pair” of paradoxes in Mark Chapter 10.

His Glory and His Word

May 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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It is often said that of all the Israelites who were over 20 years old when they left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb survived the wilderness wandering and entered into Canaan. However, we might add Moses to that list, as well, for, although he did not make it there during his earthly lifetime, he does appear there in the New Testament:

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-4

Jesus demonstrated His glory and Deity on the mount of transfiguration. In a common Biblical formula, the demonstration of God’s glory was closely followed by the proclamation of God’s Word.

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Mark 9:7

“Hear Him,” says the Father of the Son. God’s two greatest revelations of Himself are Jesus’s incarnation and His Word.

And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Mark 9:5

Peter and the Disciples could not stay on the mount of transfiguration, reveling in the glory. They needed to go down and get busy, motivated by what they had seen and heard. Have you been motivated by the revelation of God’s glory in your life? Can you give a testimony of your conversion experience and tell people why you believe what you believe? If so, does your manner of living demonstrate your testimony? If you told your acquaintances, “I believe that Jesus is God, and I know that He paid the price for my sins and has given me eternal life,” would they say, “Hmm, I sure couldn’t tell you believed that,” or would they say, “Ohhhh, that explains why you act that way – why you care for others, why you pray, why you carry a Bible, why you go to church…”?

Later on in Mark Chapter 9 we see that Jesus restored a demon-possessed child to his father. This reminds us that we, too, should have a ministry of restoring children to their fathers. The Holy Spirit probably had Mark highlight Jesus’s ministry to children in his Gospel because “child” and “servant” were the same words in Aramaic.

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Mark 9:36-37

The world says it is an honor to have others serving you. Jesus says it is an honor to be serving others.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Mark 9:35

No one can be neutral about Jesus Christ

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.

Mark 9:38-40

As Christians we can be purified by God’s controlled fires in this life, but those who reject
Jesus will be burned by the fire of God’s wrath forever.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Mark 9:47-50

Doubting Disciples Duped by Demonic Distractions

April 25, 2017 at 11:53 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Mark | Leave a comment
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And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Mark 8:27

Most of us are self-conscious enough to think that it would probably sound prideful and arrogant to others if we went around asking, “What are people saying about me?” So we don’t overtly ask it, but the truth is that there are many people who are dying to know what others are saying about them. As parents we tell kids, “It doesn’t matter what people say about you,” and there is some truth to this, but it does matter what we THINK and what we SAY about Jesus.

And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 8:29-31

Jesus had summoned the Disciples to tell them secrets.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

Servants of the King do as they’re told; friends of the King get to know the King’s secrets because they have a PATTERN of doing what they’re told.

And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

Mark 8:30

The Jewish leaders would not have allowed this confession (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”) to go unpunished, and it was not yet the appointed time for the Crucifixion. The common people were showing unbelief and false faith, and most of them just wanted to see more miracles. Now the Disciples were confused. Peter believed Jesus was the Son of God, so how could He allow sinful men to crucify Him?

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

Mark 8:31-32

Jesus responded:

But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

Mark 8:33

Peter knew the Truth, but he thought he could question the Truth just a little and still be dealing in “Truth.” That’s not how it works. The minute we question the Truth, we start speaking for Satan. Peter was not possessed by the devil, but his words were the influence of Satanic-type thinking. They were the seeds of lies dressed as doubt. Satan will often disguise a lie as a question (or an excuse, which is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie).

Jesus did not say, “I bind you, Satan. I cast you out of this city. I issue you a warrant of spiritual eviction…” He did not say, “I hate you, Devil. The blood of Jesus is against you, Devil. You can’t have Peter, you old Devil.” No, Jesus dealt in Truth, not diatribes against Satan. He simply told Satan to get behind Him because Satan was causing Peter to talk about the philosophy of man, not the Truth of God.

The Gospel of Mark stresses Jesus in His role as Servant – staying busy – moving forward – no time for a “side battle” with the devil. Many Christians enjoy fighting devils so much that they don’t know how – or don’t want – to go forward in their Christian lives. They turn around and try to fight some demons. They don’t say “get behind me, Satan” because they don’t have enough faith to turn their back on him. Some don’t say “get behind me, Satan” because if they had a victory over Satan, they would have to look inside their own hearts to deal with the sin there.

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:34-36

Satan promises you glory, but in the end you receive suffering. God promises you suffering, but in the end suffering is transformed into glory.

Okay, Who Forgot to Bring the Food?!

April 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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Jesus had twice fed large groups of people by miraculously multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread. After proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that those who followed Him by faith would have their physical needs met according to His will, the Savior was experiencing grief upon being confronted by persistent disbelief.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Mark 8:12

The skepticism which caused Him to sigh was par for the course for the Pharisees, but Jesus’s concern was that their attitude would infect His disciples.

And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.

Mark 8:13-15

Leaven is a substance which is small and unseen, but which will quickly permeate an entire loaf of bread. Here, Jesus compares it to the false doctrines of the Pharisees and the followers of Herod. But the disciples, who were foolishly worried because somebody had forgotten to bring bread aboard the ship, thought the Lord was making an underhanded comment about their failure to pack food.

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

Mark 8:16

I am not sure I want to describe Jesus’s attitude as that of “frustration” here, because that, in one sense, implies a discouraged surrender to circumstances. When we, as fallen creatures, experience “frustration” because of the failure of others to live up to our expectations, we almost always, if not, in fact, always, commit the sin of unrighteous anger. Jesus never sinned. However, we can surely see His holy grief in His response:

And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

Mark 8:17-18

How quickly we often forget the blessings the Lord has given us, and the miracles He has done in our midst, when we are faced with unexpected inconvenience or the possibility of bearing someone else’s blame! The warning of Christ was right on target, and we must heed it even today. If we are not careful, a little lack of faith will cause the dough of our life to rise into a big loaf of questioning God, and a burnt crusty mess of unbelief. We must beware of a little leavenly bout of heavenly doubt resulting in a satanic rout.

Biblical S.T.O.P. Signs

March 31, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Mark | 3 Comments
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In Mark Chapter 8 we are warned of four main things that might sidetrack us from obeying the Word of God. When you see one of these: STOP… beware… and go back to your Bible.

S.igns and wonders

And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Mark 8:11-12

Why couldn’t the Pharisees who were present while Jesus was on the earth have a sign of their own, signifying Who He really was? One reason is that they already had the Old Testament. They were self-appointed experts in the Law of Moses, and the Law of Moses was one giant sign – the biggest sign ever, prior to the Cross – pointing the way to their need for a Savior. Another reason is that they also had the Old Testament prophets, who described Who Jesus would be. In fact, their forbears, whose traditions they honored, had been killing the prophets, and King Herod had just killed John the Baptist, the last and most specific of all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus knew the hearts of these Pharisees, and He knew that their request for a sign came from a place of unbelief. If you ever find yourself tempted to challenge God to let you see signs and wonders as evidence of His reality or goodness, STOP… beware… go back to the Bible. The desire to see a miraculous show is a sign that you are doubting God’s Word. Do not imagine that God is desperate for your approval. He is not impotently wishing people would believe in Him. He has not simply suggested that people should believe “in” Him – He has sovereignly commanded people to BELIEVE HIM. He’s looking for doers – participants – not gawkers and spectators. He doesn’t care how many people mindlessly chant, “Our God is an awesome God.” If you really think He’s the awesome God, you’ll be serving Him, not waiting for Him to entertain you.

S.igns and wonders
T.emporary needs

If you are antsy about ordinary, day-to-day needs, and feel like you should have to concoct your own schemes to help God meet those needs, or if you are trusting men or the government or a church, instead of God, to meet your needs, then beware: STOP… go back to your Bible.

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and [of] the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, [It is] because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew [it], he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?

Mark 8:14-21

Trust God, and He will supply all your needs according to His (not your) riches in glory. He has the ability to feed and clothe you. If you are truly a Christian, then you know that He has saved you from eternal damnation and given you the very righteousness of Christ. Certainly you must also believe that He knows how to best work out where you’re going to live, what you’re going to eat, and what’s going to happen with your job.

S.igns
T.emporary needs
O.pposing doctrines

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Beware of false teaching and false doctrine. Whenever somebody tries to “add” to the purposes of Jesus – like the Herodians did – or take away from the purposes of Jesus, and say He can’t do what He said He would do – like the Pharisees did – beware… STOP… go back to your Bible. A little false teaching can get in and leaven the whole lump of what you believe. Most heresies didn’t start out with wrong doctrine. Most heresies started when somebody just wanted to add or take away a little bit of what the Bible says.

S.igns
T.emporary needs
O.pposing doctrines
P.recedents

Jesus healed a blind man gradually in Mark 8. The fact that it happened gradually instead of all at once is unusual, at least in recorded Scripture, but it was not unusual for Him to heal in different ways. Sometimes He healed people in front of crowds, and sometimes outside the city. Sometimes He healed with one touch; sometimes with two. Sometimes He did it just by speaking a Word. We must not always expect God to do things the same way. Jesus brought me to saving faith at the front of a church, during an invitation near the end of a service. That was my precedent, but I must not expect everybody to be saved that way. Some people, at the moment of conversion, cry uncontrollably; some shout for joy. My wife was healed instantly and miraculously of a serious physical infirmity, but many others are healed by God through the use of doctors and medicine. Do not try to put a limit on how God operates, EXCEPT when someone tells you that, or you find yourself wondering if, God will act contrary to Scripture. If you say, “That can’t be right; it violates Scripture,” and someone tells you, “Don’t put God in a box,” STOP… beware… stick with the Bible.

In the Book of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as busy. He goes places “straightway.” We are following Him, so we have to move to keep up. But He’s given us stop signs to let us know when we’re following so fast that we didn’t realize He turned right, and we kept going.

The Gross-Out Factor for Kids

March 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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Two of the difficult truths that parents must begin to teach children at a young age are:
1. They are not good kids.
2. Death is real.

A third is:

3. We have to love people who do disgusting things.

Jesus loved the people who didn’t love Him and who did the things He didn’t like. We have to do that, too.

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2:16-17

Given a limited choice we would rather our children be grossed out by sin than attracted to it. However, we do not want them to be grossed out by sinNERS to such an extent that they are unwilling to love them. Jesus went to where the sinners were. He was not friends “with them” in the sense that He disguised what He thought of their sins, but He was a friend “to them” in the sense that He got very hands-on in their environment and lives.

Christian parents want their children to be surrounded by good influences, and that’s great, but a truly “good” influence is someone who encourages them to love people who are deeply mired in sin – even people who hate their Jesus, and who hate His Word. You can’t simultaneously show kindness and love to someone while giving them the impression that you are disgusted by who they are as a person. Lifeguards don’t swim out to a drowning person flailing in the sea, and immediately start telling him what an idiot he is for going swimming after eating a bucket of fried chicken and drinking a two-liter Pepsi.

Disciples, Defilement, and Division

March 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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Chapters 7 and 8 are sections in the Gospel of Mark which highlight the teaching ministry of Jesus and some of the responses to it. The Pharisees wanted to attack Jesus, so it was natural that they went to what they perceived as one of their greatest strengths: tradition. Jesus was not opposed to traditions UNLESS they were traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.

The Pharisees had taken God’s Levitical laws about cleanliness, which God had given to separate the Jewish people from the Canaanites, and to help keep His people healthy, and had completely stripped them of their spiritual meaning. The Pharisees placed all their emphasis on the outward appearance, and none on the inward heart.

They saw some of Jesus’s disciples eating without washing their hands.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:5-6

As a parent, you probably make your children wash their hands before they eat, and that’s a good idea. But would you let your children get away with lying, as long as they washed their hands first? If you caught your child with his hand in the cookie jar after being forbidden from taking a cookie, and the child said, “It’s okay that I’m disobeying you, because I washed my hands first,” would you accept that as a valid excuse?

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

Mark 7:13-15

It’s not that Jesus was interested in stopping people from practicing basic hygiene, or even in changing their diets to more risky fare in terms of “clean” and “unclean” meats. What He was stressing to them was that physical cleanliness and eating healthy foods did not matter if the attitude of their hearts was not right.

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, [it] cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 7:18-23

Now contrast the attitude of the Pharisees, and their pride, with the attitude of the gentile woman who wanted Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

Mark 7:27-30

Remember, Jesus always taught with great authority. He was not a mealy-mouthed teacher. It’s almost as if the crowds who followed Jesus were becoming very divided. There were those who pridefully felt they should have some control over the miracles He was doing, and there were those who very humbly and with great urgency tried to fight through the onlookers and the skeptics and the proud observers because they truly believed Jesus was their only hope. We have this same type of people with us today. Will we block their way? Or will we usher them to Jesus?

Rising Faith

March 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

Mark 5:33-34

Jesus responds to people without worldly hope. He responds to even the smallest measure of faith. He made time to help others even when it seemed to interfere with His schedule. Jesus can “make people whole,” which is a greater blessing than physical, mental, or emotional healing. Are we sensitive to those who are afraid to come to Jesus? Are we remembering our prime objective in ministry? Jesus told the woman to “go in peace.” We have the ministry of reconciliation in His name. That is the greatest need of every person – to be reconciled to God – to be at peace with Him – true salvation.

While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

Mark 5:35-42

Don’t give up on those who haven’t been healed for a long time. Even if “death” is the end, death is not final for a believer. Death is like sleep for believers. That’s one of the reasons the Resurrection is so important. Jesus demonstrated His power and victory over death. Belief keeps fear at bay, and perfect love casts it out completely. Giving up on the so-called terminally addicted, the terminally sinful, the permanently mentally ill, the permanently physically ill, is not really giving up on THEM. It’s really giving up on GOD (unbelief).

Jesus told the damsel to “arise.” Arise is a command to active, moving faith. The faithless are sleep-walking through life, and we are supposed to “wake them up” – to call them to “arise.”

The Direction of True Faith

March 1, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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If you are familiar with modern television or movie tropes, then you might call this passage in Mark 6 a “flashback sequence” where we learn what happened to John the Baptist.

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

Mark 6:20

Herod feared John the Baptist, but not enough to repent and “believe” his message. He had John the Baptist killed for his wife’s sake.

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.

Mark 6:26

Herod feared God a little, but he feared men more. He loved God’s messenger a little, but he loved himself more. This is unbelief, and this was the first step on the way to the unpardonable sin, which the Jewish leaders committed, and into which they led many of their people. They rejected God (John the Baptist, His prophet). They rejected Jesus, God’s Son (consenting to, and helping to instigate, His Crucifixion). And they blasphemed (rejected, always resisting) the Holy Ghost – God’s final witness – when they stoned Stephen.

Even the Disciples – Jesus’s closest followers – had trouble with unbelief.

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

Mark 6:34-36

Jesus was moved with compassion for people. Do we, as followers of Jesus, have genuine compassion? If we do, we will move toward, not away from, people who are suffering. The Disciples saw only the problem. Seeing only the problem is a symptom of unbelief. Jesus saw the potential. Seeing the potential is evidence of faith. False faith sees only problems for God to solve; true faith sees opportunities to minister IN problems. False faith sees only obstacles to be removed, and calls on God only to move us over, past, or around the obstacles without having to deal with them; true faith sees opportunities to stand on the obstacles and get close to God. True faith calls us to stand on the obstacles and proclaim His worth to others.

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

Mark 6:45

Jesus did not send away people who were needy; He sent away people who were greedy. For His Disciples’ sake, He also He sent them away to help them avoid a false “spiritual high.” We often want the excitement of religion. We call it God “moving” or we say we are “experiencing the presence of God” when things tend to get hyped up and emotional during a corporate worship service, but sometimes the best place to experience the presence of God is alone in a quiet place AFTER serving Him publicly, and with the intention of going back to serve Him again.

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

Mark 6:46

Jesus, the Divine Servant, came to serve men – but only as He served God. We must never forget why we’re serving others. It’s because we serve HIM.

Faith in Service

January 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

Mark 6:1

Jesus returned to “His own country,” meaning Nazareth. It had one been one year since He had been there.

And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

Mark 6:2

Jesus, returning to His home synagogue, was now famous. The people must have known about His miracles through word of mouth, since He had not done them in Nazareth.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

Mark 6:3-6

So, here we find the Servant encountering unbelief – a lack of faith. People “stumbled over Him” – they were scandalized by Him. They knew Him, so they should not have feared Him, but they could not explain Him, so they did fear Him. He didn’t fit into their framework. Sometimes we say that people fear the unknown, but what people really fear is the inexplicable.

In this episode from Mark 6 we also see the difference between today’s fictional version of faith as a mystical force which activates God and somehow “enables” Him to work – to do what WE want Him to do, such as heal us or give us money or get us out of trouble – and real faith.

Remember, in the Book of Mark, we are studying Jesus in the role of Servant. We would expect a servant to serve (and He does), but we would also expect a servant to bring us what we want (and He does not always do this). Jesus is a better Servant – the greatest Servant of all time. So, as He serves us, He brings us what we really NEED – what is BEST for us. Since He is the greatest Servant, He brings the greatest service: forgiveness, freedom, and fulfillment.

Faith is not believing for what we want. Faith is believing that Jesus will bring us what we really need, and it is shown by active belief – acting in accord with Him supplying our needs, not our wants.

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

Mark 6:7-9

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