Mark 10:13-31 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 10:13-31

  • Mark 10:13-16
  • 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them.
    • It was natural that Jewish mothers should wish their children to be blessed by a great and distinguished Rabbi. Especially they brought their children to such a person on their first birthday
    • We will fully understand the almost poignant beauty of this passage only if we remember when it happened. Jesus was on the way to the cross, and He knew it
      • Even with such a tension in His mind as that, He had time to take them in His arms and He had the heart to smile into their faces and maybe to play with them for a while
      • The disciples were not necessarily rude and uncivilized. They were simply trying to protect Jesus
        • They knew quite clearly that tragedy lay ahead and they could see the tension under which Jesus labored
        • They didn’t want Him to be bothered
        • They could not conceive that He could want the children around Him at such a time
      • Jesus said to let the children come to Him
        • This tells us that He was the kind of person who cared for children and for whom children cared
        • He could not have been a stern and gloomy and joyless person
        • He must have smiled easily and laughed joyfully 
        • This small story throws a flood of light on the human kind of person Jesus was
      • What is it about children that Jesus liked and valued so much?
        • There is the child’s humility
          • Ordinarily children are embarrassed by prominence and publicity
          • They have not yet learned to think in terms of place and pride and privilege
          • They have not yet learned to discover the importance of themselves
        • There is the child’s obedience
          • Their natural instinct is to obey
          • They have not yet learned the pride and false independence which separate us from one another and from God
        • There is the child’s trust
          • It is seen in the child’s acceptance of authority
            • Children often believe that their parents can do no wrong and know everything
            • Instinctively children realize their own ignorance and their own helplessness and trust the ones they think know
          • It is seen in the child’s confidence in other people
            • Children do not expect people to be bad
            • Children have not yet learned to suspect the world; they still believe the best about others
        • The child has a short memory
          • Children have not yet learned to bear grudges and nourish bitterness
          • Even when they are unjustly treated, they forget, and forget so completely that they do not even need to forgive
  • Mark 10:17-22
  • 17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother. 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
    • We must note how the man came and how Jesus met him
      • He came running and flung himself at Jesus’ feet
      • There is something amazing in the sight of this rich, young ruler falling and the feet of the penniless Jesus, who was on the way to being an outlaw
      • Good Teacher!
        • Jesus answered back basically, “No flattery! Don’t call me good! Keep that word for God!”
        • It looks almost as if Jesus was trying to pour cold water on that young enthusiasm
      • It is clear that this man came to Jesus in a moment of overflowing emotion
        • Jesus basically said, “Stop and think! Don’t get carried away by your excitement. I don’ want you swept to me by a moment of emotion Think calmly about what you are doing.”
        • Jesus wasn’t trying to brush the man off. He was telling hime even at the very outset to count the cost
      • Jesus was saying, “You cannot become a Christian by devotion to me. You must look at God
        • The danger is that the pupil, the scholar, the young person may form a personal attachment to the teacher or preacher and think that it is an attachment to God
          • Teachers and preachers must never point to themselves; they must always point to God
          • Teachers and preachers are in the last analysis only pointers to God (prophet)
    • Never did any story so lay down the essential Christian truth that respectability is enough
      • Jesus quoted the commandments which were the basis of the decent life; and all but one were negative commandments
      • The man answered “I never in my life did anyone any harm.”
      • But the real question is “What good have you done?”
      • Jesus was even more pointed with this individual
        • “ With all your possessions and wealth, what positive good have you done to others? How much have you gone out of your way tot help and comfort and strengthen others as you might have done?”
        • Respectability consists in not doing things; Christianity consists in doing things
        • That was precisely where this man, like so many of us, failed
    • Jesus confronted him with a challenge
      • Get out of the moral respectability trap; stop looking at goodness as consisting in not doing things
      • Take yourself and all that you have, and spend everything on others; Then you will find true happiness in time and in eternity
        • Sadly, the man couldn’t do it
        • True, he had never stolen and he had never defrauded anyone, but neither had he ever been positively and sacrificially generous
        • It may be respectable never to take away from anyone; It is Christian to give to someone
      • Jesus basic and essential question: “How much do you want real Christianity? Do you want it enough to give away your possessions?” Or whatever it is that is keeping you from fully following Jesus
      • We all want goodness, but so few of us want it enough to pay the price
      • Jesus looked at the man with love
        • There was the appeal of love
          • Jesus was not angry with him
          • He loved him too much for that
          • It was not the look of anger but the appeal of love
        • There was the challenge to moral courage
          • It was a look which sought to pul the man out of his comfortable, respectable, settled life into the adventure of being a real Christian
        • It was the look of grief
          • The grief of seeing a man deliberately choose not to be what he might have been and hand it in him to be
  • Mark 10:23-27
  • 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
    • Then Jesus turned the discussion back to His own disciples
      • How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
      • The word used for wealth  is defined by Aristotle as, “All those things of which the value is measured by coinage.”
      • The reason for the amazement of the disciples was that Jesus was turning accepted Jewish standards completely upside down
        • It was believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man
        • If a man was rich, God must have honored and blessed him
        • The disciples would have argued that the more prosperous people were, the more certain they were of entry into the kingdom
        • Jesus’ response was basically “How difficult it is for those who have put their trust in riches to enter the kingdom.”
      • No one ever saw the dangers of prosperity and of material things more clearly than Jesus did. What are these dangers
        • Material possessions tend to fix our hearts to this world
        • If our main interest is in material possessions, it tends to make us think of everything in terms of price
          • If our main interest in in material things, we will think in terms of price and not in terms of value
          • We may well forget there are values in this world far beyond money, that there are things which have no price, and that there are precious things that money cannot buy
          • It is fatal to begin to think that everything worth having has a monetary value
        • Jesus would have said that the possession of material goods is two things
          • It is an acid test of character
            • It takes a really big and good person to bear it worthily
          • It is a responsibility
            • We will always be judged by two standards; how we got our possessions and how we use them
            • Will we use what we have selfishly or generously
            • Will we use it as if we had undisputed possession of it, or remembering that we hold it in stewardship from God
      • The reaction of the disciples was that if what Jesus was saying was true, to be saved at all was basically impossible
        • Jesus then stated the whole doctrine of salvation in a nutshell
          • If salvation depended on a person’s own efforts it would be impossible for anyone. But salvation is the gift of God and all things are possible to Him.
        • Those who trust in themselves and in their possessions can never be saved. Those who trust in the saving power and the redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation
  • Mark 10:28-31
  • 28 Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions —and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
    • Peter couldn’t help drawing the contrast between that man and himself and his friends
    • Just as the man had refused Jesus, he and his friends had accepted the call, and Peter with almost crude honesty of his wanted to know what he and his friends were to get out of it
    • Jesus’s answer falls into three section
      • He said that no one ever gave up anything for the sake of Himself and of His good news without getting it back a hundredfold
        • A person’s Christianity might involve the loss of home and friends and loved ones, but entry into the Christian Church brought with it a family far greater and wider than the one left behind—a new spiritual family
        • Becoming a Christian may mean sacrificing ties that are very dear, but anyone who does so becomes a member of a family as wide as earth and heaven
      • Jesus added two things
        • He added the simple words “and persecutions”
          • He’s removing the whole matter from the world of quid pro quo
          • They take away the idea of a material reward for a material sacrifice
          • He never offered an easy way
          • He made it clear that to be a Christian is a costly thing
        • This tells us that Jesus never used a bribe to make people follow Him
          • He used a challenge
          • Certainly you will get your reward, but you will have to show yourself big enough and brave enough to get it
          • He did not call men and women to win the rewards of time. He called them to earn the blessings of eternity. God has not only this world in which to repay
      • Then Jesus added a warning
        • Many who are first shall be last
        • This was a warning to Peter who may have been estimating his own worth and his own reward and assessing them high
        • The final standard of judgment is with God. Many may stand well in the judgment of the world, but the judgment of God may upset the world’s judgment. Still more; many may stand well in their own judgment, and find that God’s evaluation of them is very different
        • It’s a warning against all pride
        • It’s a warning that the ultimate judgments belong to God who alone knows the motives of human hearts
        • It is a warning that the judgments of heaven may well upset the reputations of earth.

Mark 9:43-10:12 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Mark 9:43-10:12

  • Mark 9:43-48
  • 43 “And if your hand causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
    • This passage lays down in vivid language the basic truth that there is one goal in life worth any sacrifice
      • In physical matters, it may be that someone may have to part with a limb or with some part of the body to preserve the life of the whole body
        • The amputation of a limb or the excision of a part of the body by surgical means is sometimes the only way to preserve the life of the whole body
        • In spiritual life, the same kind of thing can happen
    • The Jewish Rabbis had saying based on the way in which some parts of the body can lend themselves to sin
      • There are certain human instincts, and certain parts of our physical constitution, which minister to sin
      • This saying of Jesus is not to be taken literally, but is a vivid way of saying that there is a goal in life worth any sacrifice to attain it
    • There are repeated references to Gehenna in this passage
      • Gehenna is spoken of in the NT in Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Luke 12:5; James 3:6
      • It is a word with history
        • It’s a form of the word Hinnom
          • The valley of Hinnom was a ravine outside Jerusalem, and it had an evil past
          • It was the valley in which Chaz, in the old days, had instituted fire-worship and the sacrifice of children in the fire
          • That terrible pagan worship was continued by Manasseh
          • The valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, therefore, was the scene of one of Israel’s most terrible lapses in to pagan customs
          • Josiah declared it an unclean place
      • When the valley had been so declared unclean and had been so desecrated, it was set apart as the place where the waste of Jerusalem was burned
        • The consequence was that it was a foul, unclean place, where loathsome worms bred on the waste, and which smoked and smoldered at all times like some vast incinerator
        • Because of all this, Gehenna had become a kind of type or symbol of hell, the place where the souls of the wicked would be tortured and destroyed
        • So Gehenna stands as the place of punishment, and the word roused in the mind of every Israelite the grimmest and most terrible pictures
    • But what was the goal for which everything must be sacrificed? It is described in two ways
      • Twice, it’s called life
      • Once, the Kingdom of God
        • We may take our definition from the Lord’s Prayer
        • Two petitions are set beside each other
          • Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
          • In parallelism, two phrases are set side by side, the one of which either restates the other or amplifies, explains, and develops it
          • In the Lord’s Prayer the one petition is an explanation and amplification of the other
          • The kingdom of heaven is a society upon earth in which God’s will is as perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven
          • We may then go on to say quite simply that perfectly to do God’s will is to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven
          • It is worth any sacrifice and any discipline and any self-denial to do the will of God, and only in doing that will is there real life and ultimate and completely satisfying peace
    • It is meant to be taken very personally
      • It means that it may be necessary to excise some habit, to abandon some pleasure, to give up some friendship, to cut out something which has become very dear to us, in order to be fully obedient to the will of God
        • It is solely a matter of a person’s individual conscience, and it means that if there is anything in our lives which is coming between us and a perfect obedience to the will of God, however much habit and custom may have made it part of our lives, it must be rooted out
        • The rooting out may be as painful as a surgical operations; it may seem like cutting out part of our own body; but if we are to know real life, real happiness, and real peace it must go
        • This may sound bleak and stern, but in reality it is only facing the facts of life
  • Mark 9:49-50
  • 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
    • We will not make sense of these two verses unless we recognize that here we have three separate sayings of Jesus which have really nothing to do with each other
      • They are a collection of sayings of Jesus in which He used salt in various ways as a metaphor or illustration
      • We must take them individually and interpret each as it comes
    • Everyone must be salted by fire
      • According to the Jewish law every sacrifice must be salted with salt before it was offered to God on the altar
      • It was the addition of that salt which made the sacrifice acceptable to God, and which His covenant law laid down as necessary
      • Before a Christian life becomes acceptable to God it must be treated with fire, just as every sacrifice is treated with salt
      • In ordinary NT language fire has two connections
        • It is connected with purification
          • It is the fire which purifies the base metal; the alloy is separated and the metal left pure
          • Fire then will mean everything which purifies life, the discipline by which sin in conquered, the experience of life which purify and strengthen the sinews of the soul
          • The life which is acceptable to God is the life which has been cleansed and purified by the discipline of Christian obedience and Christian acceptance of the guiding hand of God
        • Fire is connected with destruction
          • In that case this saying will have to do with persecution
          • It will mean that the life which has undergone the trials and hardships and perils of persecution is the life which is acceptable to God
          • Anyone who has voluntarily faced the danger of the destruction of possessions and events destruction of life itself because of loyalty to Jesus Christ is dear to God
      • We may take this first saying of Jesus to mean that the life which is purified by discipline and has faced the danger of persecution because of its loyalty is the sacrifice which is precious to God
    • Salt is good, but if the salt has become saltless, with what will you season it
      • Salt has two characteristic virtues
        • It lends flavor to things
          • Anyone knows how unpleasant many dishes are when the salt which should have been included is accidentally omitted in the preparation
        • Salt was the earliest of all preservatives
          • To keep a thing from going rotten, salt was used
          • Dead meat left to itself wen bad, but, pickled with salt, it retained freshness
          • The salt seemed to put a kind of life into it
          • Salt defended against corruption
    • The Christian was sent into a pagan society to do something for it
      • That society had two characteristics
        • It was bored and world-weary
          • Into that bored and weary world Christianity came, and it was the task of the Christian to impart to society an new flavor and a new thrill as salt does to the dish with which it is used
        • The ancient world was corrupt
          • Juvenal likened Rome to a filthy sewer
          • Purity was gone and Chasity was unknown
          • Into that corrupt world Christianity came, and it was the task of the Christian to bring an antiseptic to the poison of life, to bring a cleansing influence into that corruption
          • Just as salt defeated the corruption which inevitably attacked dead meat, so Christianity was to attack the corruption of the world
      • Jesus was challenging the Christian; The world needs the flavor and the purity that only the Christian can bring and if Christians themselves have lost the thrill and the purity of the Christian life, where will the world ever get these things
      • Unless Christians in the power of Christ, defeat world-weariness and world corruption, these things must flourish unchecked
    • Have salt in yourselves and live at peace with each other
      • Here we must take salt in the sense of purity
        • The ancients declared that there was nothing in the world as pure as salt
        • So this will mean, “Have within yourselves the purifying influence of the Spirit of Christ. Be purified from selfishness and self-seeking, from bitterness and anger and grudge bearing. Be cleaned from irritation and moodiness and self-centeredness, and then, and only then, you will be able to live in peace with your neighbors”
        • Jesus is saying that it is only the life that is cleansed of self and filled with Christ which can life in real fellowship with others
  • Mark 10:1-12
  • He set out from there and went to the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Then crowds converged on him again, and as was his custom he taught them again. 2 Some Pharisees came to test him, asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He replied to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.” 5 But Jesus told them, “He wrote this command for you because of the hardness of your hearts. 6 But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother 8 and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples questioned him about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 Also, if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
    • Jesus was making His way south. He had left Galilee and had come to Judea. He had not yet entered Jerusalem, but step by step and stage by stage He was approaching the final scene
    • Certain Pharisees came with a question about divorce, by which they hoped to test Him
      • There may have been more than one motive behind their question
        • Divorce was a burning question, a crux of Rabbinic discussion, and it may well be that they honestly wished for Jesus’ opinion on it
        • They may well have been testing His orthodoxy
        • It may well be that Jesus had already said something on this matter, and they were hoping He might contradict Himself and entangle Himself in His own words
        • They might have known what He would say, and wished to involve Him in an argument with Herod, who had in fact divorces his wife and married another
        • They may have wished to hear Jesus contradict the law of Moses, which He did, and thereby formulate a charge of heresy against Him
        • One thing is certain; the question they asked Jesus was no academic one of interest only to the Rabbinic schools. It was a question which dealt with one of the most acute issues of the time
    • In theory nothing could be higher than the Jewish ideal of marriage
      • The ideal was there but the practice fell very far short
      • The basic fact that impaired the whole situation was in Jewish law a woman was regarded as a thing
        • She had no legal rights whatever but was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family
        • The result was that a man could divorce his wife on almost any grounds, while there were very few on which a woman could seek divorce
          • At best she could only ask her husband to divorce her
            • A woman may be divorced with or without her will, but a man only with his will
          • The only grounds on which a woman could claim a divorce were if her husband became a leper, if he engaged in a disgusting trade such as that of a tanner, if he sexually assaulted a virgin, or if he falsely accused her of pre-nuptial sin
    • The law of Jewish divorce goes back to Deuteronomy 24:1
    • “If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house.
    • The process of divorce remained on the whole exceedingly easy, and at the entire discretion of the man
    • The real crux of the problem was the interpretation of the law as it is in Deuteronomy 24:1
      • A man can divorce his wife if he finds something indecent about her
        • How was that phrase to be interpreted
        • There were two schools of thought
          • The school of Shammai
            • They interpreted the matter with utter strictness
            • Something indecent was adultery and adultery alone
          • The school of Hillel
            • They interpreted that crucial phrase as widely as possible
            • If the wife spoiled a dish of food
            • If she spun in the streets
            • If she talked to a strange man
            • If she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relatives in his hearing
            • If she was an argumentative woman (who was defined as a woman whose voice docile be heard in the next house)
            • Rabbi Akiba we’ve went so far as to say that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was
        • Human nature being as it is, it was the laxer view which prevailed
        • The result was that divorce for the most trivial reasons, or no reason at all, was tragically common
        • Things had come to such a pass that women hesitated to marry at all because marriage was so insecure
    • Jesus quoted the Mosaic regulation, and then He said that Moses laid that down only to meet the hardness of your hearts
      • It may mean that Moses laid it down because it was the best that could be expected from people such as those for whom he was legislating
      • It may mean that Moses laid it down in order to try to control a situation which even then was degenerating, that in fact it was not so much a permission to divorce as it was in the beginning an attempt to control divorce, to reduce it to some kind of law, and to make it more difficult
    • Jesus made it quite clear that He regarded Deuteronomy 24:1 as being laid down for a definite situation and being in no sense permanently binding
      • For His authorities He went back to Creation and quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24
      • It was His belief that in the very constitution of the universe marriage is meant to be an absolute permanency and unity, and no Mosaic regulation dealing with a temporary situations could altar that
        • In Matthew 19:3-9, He is shown as absolutely forbidding remarriage, but as permitting divorce on the grounds of adultery only
          • Once adultery has been committed the unity is in any case destroyed and divorce merely attests the fact
    • The real essence of the passage is that Jesus insisted that the loose sexual morality of His day must be mended
      • This who sought marriage only for pleasure must be reminded that marriage is also for responsibility
      • Those who regarded marriage simply as a means of gratifying their physical passions must be reminded that it was also a spiritual unity
      • Jesus was building a defense around the home

Mark 9:30-42 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 9:30-42

  • Mark 9:30-32
  • 30 Then they left that place and made their way through Galilee, but he did not want anyone to know it. 31 For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
    • This passage marks a milestone. Jesus had now left the north country where He was safe and was taking the first step toward Jerusalem and to the cross which awaited Him there
    • For once He did not want the crowds around. He knew quite clearly that unless He could write His message on the hearts of His chosen disciples, He had failed
    • He had to make sure, before He left this world in the body, that there were some who understood, however dimly, what He had come to say
    • This time the tragedy of His warning is even more poignant
      • The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men
      • He was not only announcing a face and giving a warning, He was also making a last appeal to the man in whose heart was forming the purpose of betrayal 
      • Still the disciples did not understand. The thing they did not understand was the bit about rising again; something they never grasped the certainty of the resurrection until it had actually taken place
        • When they did not understand, they were afraid to ask any further questions. It was as if they knew so much that they were afraid to know more
          • Medical diagnosis that we know is bad, but are afraid to ask more questions because we don’t necessarily want to know more
            • Sometimes we are amazed that they did not grasp what was so plainly spoken, yet we do the same thing
            • The human mind has an amazing faculty for rejecting what it does not want to see
            • People still accept the parts of the Christian message which they like and which suit them, and refuse to understand the rest
  • Mark 9:33-35
  • 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
    • Nothing so well shows how far the disciples were from realizing the real meaning of what the Messiah was going to accomplish than this. Repeatedly He had told them what awaited Him in Jerusalem, and yet they were still thinking of His kingdom in earthly terms and of themselves as His chief ministers of state. There is something heartbreaking in the thought of Jesus going toward a cross and His disciples arguing about who would be greatest
      • Yet in their heart of hearts they knew they were wrong
        • When He asked them what they had been arguing about, they had nothing to say. It was the silence of shame
          • It is strange how a thing takes its proper place and acquires its true character when it is set in the eyes of Jesus
          • So long as they thought that Jesus was not listening and that Jesus had not seen, the argument about who should be greatest seemed fair enough, but when that argument had to be stated in the presence of Jesus it was seen in all its unworthiness
          • How much different would we live if we thought of everything we were doing as being done in the sight of Jesus (my toes hurt)
    • Jesus dealt with this very seriously. It says that He sat down and called the disciples to Him
      • Rabbis sat to teach when the subject was of great importance
      • Jesus deliberately took up the position of a Rabbi teaching his pupils before He spoke
        • Greatness in His kingdom would be found not by being first, but by being last; not by being masters, but by being servants
        • It was not that Jesus abolished ambition
          • He recreated ambition
          • For the ambition to rule, He substituted the ambition to serve
          • For the ambition to have things done for us, He substituted the ambition to do things for others
            • The really great people, those who are remembered as having made a real contribution to life, are the ones who said to themselves, not, “How can I use the state and society to further my own prestige and my own personal ambitions?” But, “How can I use my personal gifts and talents to serve the state?”
            • JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
            • Instead of coming to church to get something, come to see how you can give/serve
    • The divisions and disputes which tear the Church apart would for the most part never occur if the only desire of its leaders  members was to serve it without caring what position they occupied. When Jesus spoke of the supreme greatness and value of the one whose ambition was to be a servant, He laid down one of the greatest practical truths in the world
  • Mark 9:36-37
  • 36 He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.”
    • Jesus is steal dealing with the worthy and unworthy ambition
      • Children have no influence at all; they cannot advance a career nor enhance a person’s prestige; they cannot give us things
      • Children need things; they must have things done for them
      • So Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes the poor, ordinary people, the people who have no influence and no wealth and no power, the people who need things done for them, is welcoming me. More than that, that person is welcoming God.”
        • It is the person who needs things that we must seek
    • There is a warning here
      • It is easy to cultivate the friendship of the person who can do things for us, and whose influence can be useful to us
      • And it is equally easy to avoid the person who inconveniently needs our help
      • It is easy to want favor with the influential and the great, and to neglect the simple, humble, ordinary people
      • In effect, Jesus says here that we should seek out not those who can do things for us, but those for whom we can do things, for in this way we are seeking Jesus
  • Mark 9:38-40
  • 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name who can soon afterward speak evil of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us.
    • There was one very common way to exorcise demons. If you could get to know the name of a still more powerful spirit and command the evil demon in that name to come out of a person, the demon was supposed to be powerless to resist
    • Jesus declared that no one could do a mighty work in His name and be altogether His enemy. Then Jesus laid down the great principle that “Whoever is not agains us is for us.”
    • A lesson we should all learn
      • We all have a right to our own thoughts
      • We all have a right to think things out and to think them through until we come to our own conclusions and our own beliefs
        • We are never going to agree with someone 100% of the time. There are going to be differences of opinion, and that is ok
          • It is necessary to remember that truth is always bigger than any individual’s grasp of it
          • No one can possibly grasp all truth
          • The basis of tolerance is simply the realization of the magnitude of truth itself
            • We should never “tolerate” something that is obviously against Scripture
      • We must concede the right to do our own speaking
        • There are of course limits.
          • If someone is spreading doctrines calculated to destroy morality and to remove the foundations from all civilized and Christian society, they must be combated. But the way to combat them is certainly not to eliminate them by force but to prove them wrong
          • Voltaire~ “I hate what you say, but I would die for your right to say it”
      • We must remember that any doctrine or belief must finally be judged by the kind of people it produces
        • The question must always ultimately be, not, “how is a Church governed?” But, “What kind of people does a Church produce?”
      • We may hate a person’s beliefs, but we must never hate the person
        • We may wish to eliminate the teaching, but we must never wish to eliminate the teacher
  • Mark 9:41-42
  • 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ —truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward. 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away —it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
    • The teaching of this passage is simple and straightforward
      • It declares that any kindness shown, any help give to the people of Christ will not lose its reward
        • When Jesus saw someone in need, He helped that person in the most practical way, and the duty of help has been passed down to us
        • It is to be noted how simple the help is. The gift is a cup of cold water. We are not asked to do great things for others, things beyond our power. We are asked to give the simple things that anyone can give
          • A missionary tells a story about telling a class of African schoolchildren about giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. She was sitting on the veranda of her house. Into the village square came a company of native bearers. They had heavy packs. They were tired and thirsty, and they sat down to rest. Now they were men of another tribe, and had they asked the ordinary non-Christian native for water they would have been told to go find it for themselves, because of the barrier between the tribes. But as the men sat wearily, and the missionary watched, from the school emerged a little line of tiny African girls. On their heads they had pitchers of water. Shyly and fearfully they approached the tired bearers, knelt and offered their pitchers of water. In surprise they bearers took them and drank and handed them back, and the girls took to their heels and ran to the missionary. “We have given a thirsty man a drink”, they said, “in the name of Jesus.” The little children took the story and duty literally.
            • Would that more would do so! It is the simple kindnesses that are needed
      • But the opposite is also true
        • To help is to win the eternal reward
        • To cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble is to win the eternal punishment
          • The millstone here is literally a millstone turned by a donkey
          • To be cast into the sea with that attached was certainly to have no hope of return
          • To sin is terrible but to teach another to sin is infinitely worse
        • God is not hard on the sinner, but He will be stern to the person who makes it easier for another to sin, and whose conduct, either thoughtless or deliberate, puts a stumbling block in the path of a weaker brother or sister

The Night the Sports World Stopped

About a week ago, the sports world stopped here in the United States. I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, I don’t think any of us have. During a Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Bills Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making tackle.

Now sports injuries are not that uncommon. I think most of us that are sports fans are kind of numb to most injuries, because they tend to happen. But this was different. We didn’t know how different at first, but the longer the training and medical staff was on the field, the stranger the whole situation felt. Then cameras started catching the faces of Hamlin’s teammates and competitors, and we knew without a doubt that this was different.

Hamlin ended up in cardiac arrest, receiving life-saving CPR on the field before being transported the to hospital, where it wasn’t certain if he would survive or not. Thankfully, it seems that we are experiencing a happy and encouraging outcome, as Hamlin is slowly recovering. It will be a long process for sure, but he survived and has been in communication with his team and even made public statements through Instagram.

But like I said, the sports world stopped. The situation in Cincinnati that night was unprecedented, and it led to some unprecedented responses as well. First, an NFL game was suspended and eventually cancelled because of the dire nature of the situation. And this was a game that was very important in the playoff picture. The NFL, most definitely, made the right decision in suspending the game. No doubt about that.

The biggest unprecedented response, however, was ESPN announcers, analysts, fans, players, and anyone else you can think of not only bowing in silent prayer, but publicly stating that the best thing any of us could do at the time was to pray for Damar Hamlin. In fact, the most surprising thing to me, was an ESPN analyst, the following day, openly and vocally praying on air. 

And as Hamlin has continued to improve, and started making public statements, he has been very appreciative of the prayers, and in fact, asked that people continue to pray for him. It seems that this unprecedented event in the sports world has led to unlikely people not only turning to God in prayer, but doing so openly. I’m excited about that, actually. That’s a good thing.

But over the years, that has happened at different times. People tend to turn toward God and pray when the unthinkable happens. This country became a praying nation in the days following 9-11-2001. As the days went along though, that open prayer and longing for God in public waned, and people went back to their normal routines. Hopefully, however, there were some people that changed for the better during that time, and kept praying and developed a relationship with God. And that is my prayer right now during this Damar Hamlin injury. That many that have openly turned to God in prayer will continue to pray and come to truly know the One True God.

There has been a negative side, in my opinion, in this situation. And it has been from Christians. A few years back, Tim Tebow would kneel and pray on the field before and even during NFL games. He was absolutely blasted by commentators and analyst for being so open about his faith and praying. And now that some of those same analysts and commentators have been talking about praying for Hamlin, I’ve seen a lot of Christians complaining and saying that they all owe Tebow an apology. Really? I don’t agree. And here’s why.

First, let’s celebrate that attention has been drawn toward our God. That people are actively seeking Him, even though it might just be for a few days. Who knows how many people might be permanently impacting in positive ways in a relationship with Jesus Christ through this. And that is something to celebrate, again in my opinion.

But what about Tebow? Shouldn’t he receive an apology? I don’t know Tebow, but I think I can answer that and say that that is not what he would want. Think about it. Was Tebow kneeling and praying to get approval from other people, or was he doing it because he has a strong relationship with God and wanted to make sure he was keeping things in the right perspective? If his faith is real, then it was keeping things in the right perspective and giving God the glory. And I think that’s what it was. He wasn’t doing it for the approval of man. He was doing it for God. And through his actions, on and off the field, Tebow has introduced the idea of a relationship with Christ to a lot of people.

Plus, there is the fact that Christ warned all of us that the world would neither understand or like our relationship with Him. The world doesn’t like anything that is not like the world. And putting our relationship with Christ first and foremost is definitely not like the world. That’s what Tebow was (and still is) doing, and that is why the sports world hated on him praying so much. 

Jesus warned in John 15 that this would happen to His followers.

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason.

John 15:18-15

And John, Jesus’ disciple that recorded that warning for us to read, had his own warning for us in I John 3.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

I John 3:13

In other words, if we are living for Christ, then we should not be surprised when the world around us hates us or disagrees with what we are doing. For a few days, the world has come together to pray for Damar Hamlin. It is my prayer through this situation that many will continue to pray to God and come to know Christ after all the attention to this event has returned to normal. But at the same time, there are always going to be those that pray when things are bad, and then go right back to the same old, self-reliant lifestyle when things improve. Many times, we that are following Christ do the same thing, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Keep praying. Follow Christ. And when the world hates you for it, keep doing it anyway. Be bold in your faith, no matter what anyone else says about it, and don’t be surprised when attacks come. If attacks aren’t coming, then maybe you need to reevaluate how well you are showing Christ in your daily life. Thank you God, for healing Hamlin. Thank you God, for the faithfulness of Tebow when he had the platform to point others to You. Most of all, thank you God for Christ, who sacrificed Himself for our sins. May will life faithfully, in such a way to honor that sacrifice. In Christ’s name I pray, AMEN!

Mark 9:2-29 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 9:2-29

  • Mark 9:2-8
  • 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transfigured in front of them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let’s set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, since they were terrified. 7 A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
    • We are face to face with an incident in the life of Jesus that is cloaked in mystery. It’s something that really we can only try to understand
    • This took place about a week after the events at the end of Mark 8
      • Both the easter and western Churches hold their remembrance of the transfiguration on August 6 (had never heard of this before)
      • Tradition says that the transfiguration took place on the top of Mount Tabor
        • It may be that the choice is based on the mention of Mount Tabor in Psalm 89:12, but it also mentions Mount Hermon
        • Tabor is in the south of Galilee and Caesarea Philippi is away to the north
        • Tabor is only 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, there was a fortress on top. Not very suitable for solitude
        • Hermon is 9,200 feet high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi, where solitude would be much more complete (Mount Hermon was also almost always snow-capped)
    • Mark tells us that the garments of Jesus became radiant
      • The word he uses is the word used for the glistening gleam of burnished brass or gold or of polished steel or of the golden glare of the sunlight
    • When the incident came to an end, a cloud overshadowed them
      • In Jewish thought, the presence of God is regularly connected with the cloud
      • It was the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the could of God’s presence would return to the Temple
      • The descent of the cloud is a way of saying that the Messiah had come, and any Jew would understand it like that
    • The transfiguration has a double significance
      • It did something very precious for Jesus, who had to make His own decisions
        • On the mountain top, He received a double approval of His decision
          • Moses and Elijah met with Him
            • Moses was the supreme law giver of Israel
            • Elijah was the the first and greatest of the prophets
            • When these two great figures met with Jesus, it meant that the greatest of the law givers and the greatest of the prophets said to Him, “Go on”
            • It meant that they saw in Jesus the consummation of all that they had dreamed of in the past. It meant that they saw in Him all that history had longed for and hoped for and looked forward to. It is as if at that moment Jesus was assured that He was on the right way because all history had been leading up to the cross
          • God spoke with Jesus
            • He put all His plans and intentions before God, and God said to Him, “You are acting as my own beloved Son should act and must act.”
            • Jesus was assured that He had not chosen the wrong way. He saw not only in inevitability but the essential rightness of the cross
      • It did something very precious for the disciples
        • They had been shattered by Jesus’ statement that He was going to Jerusalem to die.
          • That seemed to them the complete negation of all that they understood of the Messiah. They were still bewildered and uncomprehending
          • What they saw on the mountain of transfiguration would give them something to hold on to, even when they could not understand. Cross or no cross, they had heard God’s voice acknowledge Jesus as His Son
        • It made them in a special sense witnesses of the glory of Christ
          • This time on the mountain had shown them the glory of Christ, and now they had the story of this glory to hide in their hearts and to tell to others, not at the moment, but when the time came.
  • Mark 9:9-13
  • 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this word to themselves, questioning what “rising from the dead” meant. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 “Elijah does come first and restores all things,” he replied,“Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did whatever they pleased to him, just as it is written about him.”
    • Naturally the three disciples were thinking hard as they came down the mountain
      • First, Jesus began with an injunction; they must tell no one of what they had seen
        • If they were to tell of what had happened on the mountain, of how the glory of God had appeared, of how Moses and Elijah had appeared, how that could be made to him in with popular expectations! How it could be made to seem a prelude to the burst of God’s avenging power on the nations of the world
        • The disciples still had to learn what Messiahship meant. There was only one thing that could teach them that—the cross and the resurrection to follow
        • When the cross had taught them what Messiahship meant and when the resurrection had convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah, then, and only them, they might tell of the glory of the mountain top, for then, and then only, would they see it as it ought to be seen—as the prelude, no to the unleashing of God’s force, but tot the crucifying of God’s love
      • They could not understand what Jesus’ words about resurrection meant
        • Their whole outlook when the cross came was that of men to whom the end had come
          • It was simply that they had been so schooled in a completely different idea of Messiahship that they could not take in what Jesus had said
      • Jews believed that before the Messiah came Elijah would come to be His herald and forerunner
        • Malachi 4:5-6; 5 Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
        • Rabbinic tradition taught that Elijah would come three days before the Messiah, and proclaim from all the mountaintops of Israel
          • Peace comes to the world. Peace comes to the world
          • Good comes to the world. Good comes to the world
          • Jeshuah (Salvation) comes to the world. Joshua comes to the world
      • If Jesus is the Messiah, what has happened to Elijah?
        • Elijah has come and people treated him as they willed. They took him and they arbitrarily applied their will to him and forgot God’s will
        • Of course, Jesus was referring to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod
        • By implication He demanded, “if they have done that to the forerunner, what will they do to the Messiah?
      • Jesus was overturning all the preconceived notions and ideas of His disciples
        • They looked for the emergence of Elijah, the coming of the Messiah, the eruption of God into time and the shattering viceroy of heaven, which they identified with the triumph of Israel
        • He was trying to compel them to see that in fact the herald had been cruelly killed and the Messiah must end on a cross
        • They still did not understand and their failure to understand was due to the cause which always makes people fail to understand—they clung to their way and refused to see God’s way. They wished things as they desired them and not as God had ordered them. The error of their thoughts had blinded them to the revelation of God’s truth.
  • Mark 9:14-18
  • 14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
    • This was the kind of thing Peter wanted to avoid. Life was so much better, so much nearer God, there on the mountaintop 
    • We must come down from the mountain though
    • It has been said that in religion there must be solitude, but not solitariness
      • The solitude is necessary, for each of us must keep contact with God; but if, in our search for the essential solitude, we shut ourselves off from others, shut our ears to their appeal for help, shut our hearts to the cry of their tears, that is not religion. Solitude is meant to make us better able to meet and cope with the demands of everyday life
    • The disciples had been unable to deal with the demon possessed boy, and that had given the scribes their chance
      • The helplessness of the disciples was an opportunity to belittle not only them but their Master as well
        • Our conduct, our words, our ability or inability to cope with the demands of life, are used as a yardstick, not only to judge us, but to judge Jesus Christ
        • It does not matter how high-sounding our professions may be, it is by our actions that people judge us, and in judging us, judge our Master
    • Here we learn two things about Jesus
      • He was ready to face the cross and He was ready to face the common problem just as either came
        • Human nature often allows us to face the great crisis moments of life with honor and dignity, but to allow the routine demands of everyday life to irritate and annoy us
        • Many of us can face a great disaster or a great loss with calm serenity and yet lose our tempers is a meal is badly cooked or a train late
        • The amazing thing about Jesus was that He could serenely face the cross and just as calmly deal with the day-to-day emergencies of life. The reason was that He did not keep God only for the crisis as so man of us do. He walked the daily paths of life with Him
      • He had come into the world to save the world, and yet He could give Himself in His entirety to the helping of one single person
  • Mark 9:19-24
  • 19 He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father. “From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes. 24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
  • Mark 9:25-29
  • 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 Then it came out, shrieking and throwing him into terrible convulsions. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.n28 After he had gone into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 And he told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.”
    • When they were alone, the disciples asked Jesus the cause of their failure
    • They were no doubt remembering that Jesus had sent them out to preach and heal and cast out demons
    • Why this time, had they failed so badly? Jesus answered quite simply that this kind of cure demanded prayer
      • “You don’t live close enough to God”
      • They had been quipped with power, but it needed prayer to maintain it
        • God may have given us a gift, but unless we maintain close contact with Him it may wither and die
        • Unless we maintain this contact with God, we lose two things, however great our gift may be
          • We lose vitality
            • We lost that living power, that something extra which makes for greatness. The thing becomes a performance instead of an offering to God. What should be a vital, living body becomes a beautiful corpse
          • We lose humility
            • What should be used for God’s glory we begin to use for our own, and the virtue goes out of it. What should have been used to set God before others is used to set ourselves before them, and the breath of loveliness is gone
    • Here is a warning thought. The disciples had been equipped with power direct from Jesus, but they had not nurtured power with prayer, and power had vanished. Whatever gifts God has given us, we lose them when we use them for ourselves. We keep them when we enrich them by continual contact with the God who gave them.

Mark 8:27-9:1 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Mark 8:27-9-1

– Mark 8:27-30

– 27 Jesus went out with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the road he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They answered him, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he strictly warned them to tell no one about him.

• Caesarea Philippi was outside of Galilee altogether, in the territory of Philip

– Originally it was called Balinas, asa a great center of the worship of Baal

– It has been called Banias, which is a form of Panias

• On the hillside there was a caver which was said to be the birthplace of the Greek god Pan, the god of nature

– From a cave in the hillside gushed forth a stream which was thought to be the source of the Jordan River

– Further up the hill rose a gleaming temple of white marble which Philip had built to the godhead of Caesar, the Roman emperor, who was regarded as a god

– The ancient religion of Palestine was in the air, and the memories of Baal clustered around. The gods of classical Greece brooded over the place. The Jordan would bring back to memory the history of Israel and the conquest of th land. And clear in the easter sun gleamed the marble of the holy place which reminded everyone that Caesar was a god

• There of all places, against the background of all religions and all history, Peter discovered that a wandering teacher from Nazareth, who was heading for a cross, was the Son of God

• It comes n the very middle of Mark’s gospel and it does so by design, for it comes at the gospel’s peak moment

– Who do others say that I am?

– Who do you say that I am?

• We have to answer that question for ourselves, sometimes on a daily basis

– No sooner had Peter made his confession than Jesus told him he must not tell anyone. Why? Because, first and foremost, jesus had to teach Peter and the others what the Messiah was truly supposed to be

– Jewish thoughts on the Messiah

• Before the Messiah came, there woudl be a time of terribel tribulation. There woudl be a messianic travail. It would be the birth-pangs of a new age. Every conceivable terror would burst upon the world; every standard of honor and decency would be torn down; the world would become physical and moral chaos

– The time which preceded the coming of the Messiah was o be a time when the world was torn in pieces and every bond relaxed. the physical and moral order would collapse

• Into this chaos there would come Elijah as the forerunner and herald of the Messiah

– He was to heal the breaches and bring order into the chaos to prepare the way for the Messiah

• Then there would enter the Messiah

– The word Messiah and the word Christ mean the same thing. Messiah is the Hebrew and Christ is the Greek for the Anointed One

• The nations would ally themselves and gather themselves together against the champion of God

• The result would be the total destruction of these hostile powers

– The Jewish philosopher Philo said that the Messiah would “take the field and make war and destroy great and populous nations”.

– The Messiah will be the most destructive conqueror in history, smashing his enemies into utter extinction

• There would follow the renovations of Jerusalem

– Sometimes this was thought of as the purification fo the existing city

– More often it was thought of as the coming down of the new Jerusalem from heaven

• The old house was to be folded up and carried away

• The Jews who were dispersed all over the world would be gathered into the city of the new Jerusalem

• Palestine would be the center of the world and the rest of the world subject to it. All the nations woudl be subdued

– Sometimes it was though of as a peaceful subjugation

– More often, the fate of the Gentiles was utter destruction at which Israel would exult and rejoice

– It was a grim picture. Israel would rejoice to see her enemies broken and in hell. Even the dead Israelites were to be raised up to share in the new world

• Finally, there would come the new age of peace and goodness which would last forever

• These are the messianic ideas which were in people’s minds when Jesus came. They were violent, nationalistic, destructive, vengeful.

– True they ended in the perfect reign of God, but they came to it through a blood bath and a career of conquest. Think of Jesus set against a background like that

• No wonder He had to reeducate His disciples in the meaning of what the Messiah was to be, and no wonder He was crucified in the end as a heretic. There was no room for a cross and there was little room for suffering love in a picture like that

– Mark 8:31-33

– 31 Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He spoke openly about this. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning around and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

• It is against the background of what we have just seen of the common conceptions of the Messiah that we must read this

– When Jesus connected the Messiah with suffering and death, He was making statements that were to the disciples both incredible and incomprehensible

– That is why Peter protested so violently; To him the whole thing was impossible

– Peter was putting into words the very temptations which were assailing Jesus

• He didn’t want to die; He knew that He had powers which He could use for conquest; He was refighting the battle of temptations in the wilderness; this was the devil tempting Him again to fall down and worship him, to take his way instead of God’s way

• The tempter can make no more terrible attack than in the voice of those who love us and who think they seek only our good. That is what happened to Jesus that day; that is why He answered so sternly. Not even the pleading voice of love must silencefur us the voice of God

– Mark 8:34-35

– 34 Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it.

• There is the almost startling honesty of Jesus

– No on could ever say that they were induced to follow Jesus by false pretenses

– Jesus never tried to bribe anyone by the offer of an easy way

– He did not offer peace; He offered glory

– To tell the disciples they must be ready to take up a cross was to tell them they must be ready to be regarded as criminals and to die

• There is the fact that Jesus never called on anyone to do or face anything which He was not prepared to do and face Himself

– That is indeed the characteristic of a leader whom people will follow

– Jesus was not the kind of leader who sat remote and played with people’s lives like expendable pawns

– What He demanded they face, He was ready to face

– Jesus had a right to call on us to take up a cross, because He took His up first

• Jesus said of those who would be His disciples, “Let them deny themselves.” We will understand the meaning of this demand best if we take it very simply and literally

– Let them say not to self

– If we would follow Jesus Christ we must say no to ourselves and yes to Christ

– We must unhesitatingly say yes to the voice and command of Christ

– We must be able to say with Paul, “20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

– We no longer live to follow our own will, but to follow the will of Christ, and in that service we find perfect freedom

– Mark 8:36

– 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?

• There are certain things which are lost by being kept and saved by being used. Any individual talent is like that. If it is used it will develop into something still greater. If someone refuses to use it, in the end that talent will be lost. Supremely so, life is like that

• Story of Telemachus (

• God gave us life to spend and not to keep

– If we live carefully, always thinking first of our own profit, ease, comfort and security, if our sole aim is to make life as long and as trouble-free as possible, if we will make no effort except for ourselves we are losing life all the time

– But if we spend life for others, if we forget health and time and wealth and comfort in our desire to do something for Jesus and for those whom Jesus died, we are winning life all the time

– The very essence of life is in risking life and spend life, not in saving it and hoarding it

– Mark 8:37

– 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life?

• The real question Jesus asks is, “where do you put your values in life?” It is possible to put our values on the wron things and to discover it too late

– It is possible to sacrifice honor for profit

• We may desire material things and not be over particular how we get them. The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty

– It is possible to sacrifice principle for popularity

– It is possible to sacrifice lasting things for the cheap things

• It is always easier to have cheap success

• But life has a way of revealing the true values and condemning the false as the years pass on. A cheap thing never lasts

– We may sum it all up by saying that it is possible to sacrifice eternity for the moment

• We would be saved from all kinds of mistakes if we always looked at things in the light of eternity

• Many things are pleasant for the moment but ruinous in the long run

• The test of eternity is of all tests the most real

• Those who see things as God sees them will never spend their lives on the things that are literally soul-destroying

– Mark 8:38-9:1

– 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Then he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come in power.”

• One thing leaps out from this passage; The confidence of Jesus

– He has just been speaking of His death; He has no doubt that the cross stands ahead of Him; but nonetheless He is absolutely sure that in the end there will be triumph

• The first part of the passage states a simple truth. When the king comes into His kingdom, He will be loyal to those who have been loyal to Him

– Jesus is saying, “In a difficult and hostile world, Christianity is up against it these days. If you are ashamed under such conditions to show that you are a Christian, if you are afraid to show what side you are on, you cannot expect to gain a place of honor when the kingdom comes.”

• The last part of this passage has caused much serious thought

– Jesus says that many who are standing there will not die until the see the kingdom come in power

– What bothers some people is that they take this as a reference to the second coming; but if it is, Jesus was mistaken, because He did not return in power and glory in the lifetime of those who were there

– But this is not a reference to the second coming at all

• Scarcely more than 30 years later, Christianity had swept through Asia Minor; Antioch had become a great Christian church. It had penetrated to Egypt; the Christians were strong in Alexandria. It had crossed the sea and come to Rome and swept through Greece

• Christianity had spread like an unstoppable tide throughout the world. It was asonishingly ture that in the lifetime of many there, against all expectations, Christianity had come with power

• More than that, the kingdom of God was ushered in with the Resurrection

– The amazing thing is that Jesus never kenw despair

• in the face of the dullness of human minds, in face of the opposition, in face of crucifixion and of death, He never doubted His final triumph—because He never doubted God. He was always certain that whyat human beings find impossible is completely possible with Him

Mark 8:1-26 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 8:1-26

  • Mark 8:1-10
  • In those days there was again a large crowd, and they had nothing to eat. He called the disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.” 4 His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?” 5 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked them. “Seven,” they said. 6 He commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. 7 They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. 8 They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. 9 About four thousand were there. He dismissed them. 10 And he immediately got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
    • There are two things closely intertwined in this incident
      • There is the compassion of Jesus
        • Over and over again we see Jesus moved with compassion
        • Jesus looked at the crowd; they had been with Him for three days; and He remembered they had a long walk home
          • He whose task it was to bring splendor and the majesty of the truth and love of God to men might have had a mind above thinking of what was going to happen on their walk home, but not Jesus
        • It is all too true that the first instinct of too many people is not to help
          • It is human to want to avoid the trouble of giving help; it is divine to be moved with such compassion and pity that we are compelled to help
      • There is the challenge of Jesus
        • When Jesus had pity on the crowd and wished to give them something to each, the disciples immediately pointed out the practical difficulty that they were in a desert place and that there was nowhere within miles where any food could be bought
          • What have you got with you that might help?
          • Don’t try to push the responsibility for helping onto someone else. Don’t say that you would help if you had only something to give. Don’t say that in these circumstances to help is impossible. Take what you have and give it and see what happens
    • There are two interesting things in the background of this story
      • This incident happened on the far side of the Sea of Galilee in the district called the Decapolis
        • Why did this large crowd of 4,000 men assemble
        • The healing of the deaf man from our previous lesson would help to bring interest and grow a crowd.
        • In Mark 5:1-20, we read the story of Legion, where Jesus healed the demon possessed man, the town ran Him off, but the healed man wanted to follow Jesus. Jesus told the man to stay and tell others what Jesus had done for him.
          • Is it possible that part of this great crowd was due to the missionary activity of the healed man? Have we got a glimpse here of what the witness of one man can do for Christ?
      • It is odd that the word for basket is different in this story than from the story of the 5,000 in Mark 6
        • Mark 6 the word used describes the basket in which Jews carried their food, a basket narrow at the top and wider at the foot, and rather like a water pot.
        • The word here describes a basket like a hamper. It was the type of basket that Paul was let down over the wall of Damascus
        • It is the type of basket which the Gentiles used
        • The Decapolis is an area that had a large gentile population
        • Is it possible that we are to see in the feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6 the coming of the bread of God to the Jews, and in this incident the coming of the bread of God to the Gentiles
        • This together could be the forecast and the symbol that Jesus came to satisfy the hunger of Jew and Gentile alike, that in Him, in truth, was the God who opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing
  • Mark 8:11-13
  • 11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, demanding of him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 Sighing deeply in his spirit, he said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat, and went to the other side.
    • The whole tendency of the age in which Jesus lived was to look for God in the abnormal. It was believed that when the Messiah came the most startling things would happen
      • We may note that when false Messiahs arose, as they frequently did, they lured the people to follow them by promising astonishing signs
      • It was a sign like that that the Pharisees were demanding
        • They wished to see some shattering even blazing across the horizon, defying the laws of nature and astonishing everyone 
        • To Jesus, such a demand was not due to the desire to see the hand of God; it was due to the fact that they were blind to the hand of God.
        • The sign of a truly religious people is not that they come to church to find God but that they find God everywhere, not that they make a great deal of sacred places but that they sanctify common places
    • For anyone who has eyes to see and a heart to understand, the daily miracle of night and day and the daily splendor or all common things are sign enough from God
  • Mark 8:14-21
  • 14 The disciples had forgotten to take bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then he gave them strict orders: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 They were discussing among themselves that they did not have any bread. 17 Aware of this, he said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact you have no bread? Don’t you understand or comprehend? Do you have hardened hearts? 18 Do you have eyes and not see; do you have ears and not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?” “Twelve,” they told him. 20 “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of pieces did you collect?” “Seven,” they said. 21 And he said to them, “Don’t you understand yet?”
    • This passage sheds a very vivid light on the minds of the disciples
      • Jesus was thinking f the demand of the Pharisees for a sign and also thinking of Herod’ terrified reaction to himself
      • To a Jew, leaven was the symbol of evil. Leaven was a piece of dough kept over from a previous baking and fermented. To a Jew, fermentation was identified with putrefaction, and therefore leaven stood for evil
      • It was the taint of human nature, original sin, the corrupting leaven which kept human beings from doing the will of God
      • He was saying, “Be on your guard against the evil influence of the Pharisees and of Herod. Don’t you go the same way that the Pharisees and Herod have already gone.”
    • What was the point? What possible connection is there between the Pharisees and Herod?
      • The Pharisees had just asked for a sign. For a Jew, nothing was easier than to thing of the Messiah I terms of wonders and conquests and miraculous happenings and nationalistic triumphs and political supremacy
      • Herod had tried to build up happiness through the gaining of power and wealth and influence and prestige
      • In one sense, for both the Pharisees and Herod the kingdom of God was an earthly kingdom; it was based on earthly power and greatness, and on the victories that force could win. It was as if Jesus by this detached hint was already preparing the disciples for something very soon to come.
        • “Maybe soon it will dawn on you that I am the Messiah. When that thought comes, don’t think in terms of earthly power and glory as the Pharisees and Herod do.”
        • Of the true meaning, at the moment He said nothing. That grim revelation was still to come
      • The disciples could think of nothing but the fact that they had forgotten to bring bread, and that they would go hungry
        • Jesus responds not with anger, but maybe with a smile, like one who tries to lead someone not getting it to see a self-evident truth.
        • It’s almost as if He said, “Why all the worry? Don’t you remember what happened before? Hasn’t experience tough you that you don’ need to worry about things like that if you’re with Me?”
        • Too often experience fills us with pessimism, teaches us what we cannot do, teaches us to view life with a kind of resigned hopelessness
        • We are blind; if we would only read the lessons of experience correctly, it would teach us not the pessimist of the things that cannot be, but the hope which stands amazed that God has brought us thus far in safety and in certainty, and the confidence that God can bring us through anything that may happen
  • Mark 8:22-26
  • 22 They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and brought him out of the village. Spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people—they look like trees walking.” 25 Again Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. The man looked intently and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”
    • Only Mark tells us this story, and yet there are certain extremely interesting things in it
      • Again we see the unique considerateness of Jesus
        • He took the blind man out of the crowd and out of the village that He might be alone with him. Why?
          • This man had been born blind
          • If he had suddenly been given his sight in the middle of a crowd, there would have flashed upon him hundreds of people and things, and bright colors. He would have been completely bewildered
        • Great teachers enter into the very minds of their students
        • He had the gift of considerateness, because He could think with their thoughts and feel with their feelings.
      • Jesus used methods that the man could understand
        • The ancient world believed in the healing power of spit
        • Jesus used a method of curing him which he could understand
        • He did not begin with words and methods which were far above the heads of ordinary people. He spoke to them and acted on them in a way that their minds could grasp and understand
      • This miracle is unique in one way
        • It is the only miracle that happened gradually
        • Usually Jesus’ miracles happened suddenly and completely. The blind man’s sight came back in stages
          • There is symbolic truth here. No one ever sees all God’s truth all at once
          • One of the dangers of a certain type of evangelism is that it encourages the idea that making a personal decision for Christ makes someone full grown Christian
          • One of the dangers of church membership is that it can be presented in such a way as to imply that when a person becomes a member of the church they have come to the end of the road
          • Baptism is the beginning not the end
            • They are the discovery of the riches of Christ which are inexhaustible, and if any of us lived 100, 1,000, or 1,000,000 years, we would still have to go on growing in grace and learning more and more about the infinite wonder and beauty of Christ
            • It is gloriously true that sudden conversation is a gracious possibility, but it is equally true that every day we should be reconverted. With all God’s grace and glory before us, we can go on learning for a lifetime and still need eternity to know as we are known

Mark 7:14-37 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 7:14-37

  • Mark 7:14-23
  • 14 Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean). 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
    • When it was first spoken, this passage may have been near the most revolutionary passage in the NT
      • Jesus declares that nothing that goes into a person can possibly cause defilement, for it is received only into the body, which rids itself of it in the normal physical way
      • No Jew ever beloved that, and orthodox Jews do not believe it even now
        • Leviticus 11 has a long list of animals that are unclean and may not be used for food
        • During the Maccabean times (Intertestimental period), the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes was determined to root out the Jewish faith
        • One of the things he demanded was that the Jews should eat pork, but they died in their hundreds rather than do so.
          • “But many in Israel were resolved in their hearts  not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.” (I Maccabees 1:62-63)
          • Fourth Maccabees tells the story of a wide and her 7 sons. It was demanded that they should eat pork. They refused. The first had his tongue cut our and the ends of his limbs cut off; he was then roasted alive in a pan. The second had his hair and the skin of his skull torn off. One by one they were tortured to death while their aged mother looked on and cheered them on; they died rather than eat meat which to them was unclean
      • Against this, Jesus made His revolutionary statement that nothing that goes into a person can make that person unclean. He was wiping out at one stroke the laws for which Jews had suffered and died. No wonder the disciples were amazed
      • In effect, Jesus was saying that things cannot be either clean or unclean in any real religious sense of the term. Only people can be really defiled by their own actions, which are the product of their own hearts
      • This was a shatteringly new doctrine
      • With one sweeping pronouncement, Jesus declared the whole Jewish system irrelevant and that uncleanness has nothing to do with what people take into their bodies but everything to do with what comes out of their hearts
        • He begins with evil desires
          • Every outward sin is precede by an inward act of choice
          • Therefore, Jesus begins with the evil thought from which evil actions come
        • Next, sexual immoralities
          • This word means every kind of traffic in sexual vice
        • Theft
          • Judas was a thief when he stole from the money bag
          • A thief in this sense of the word is a mean, deceitful, dishonorable thief
        • Murders
        • Adulteries
        • Greed
          • The accursed love of having
          • I’s not the desire for money and things; it includes the desire for power, the insatiable lust of the flesh
          • The lust for having which is in the heart of the person who sees happiness in things instead of in God
        • Evil actions
          • Describes a person or thing which is actively evil
          • The one in whose heart there is the desire to harm
          • This evil not only corrupts the person who has it; it corrupts others too
          • This same Greek word is the also the title of Satan
          • The worst people of all, those who are doing Satan’s work, are those who, being bad themselves, make others as bad as they are
        • Deceit
          • It is crafty, cunning, deceitful, clever treachery
        • Self-indulgence
          • They are lost to decency and to shame. Evil mean and women may hide their sin, but those who have this, sin without a qualm and never hesitate to shock other people
          • Jezebel was the classic instance of this when she built a pagan shrine in Jerusalem
        • Envy
          • Literally, the evil eye, the eye that looks on the success and happiness of another in such a way that it would cast an evil spell upon it if it could
        • Slander
          • Insulting other people or God
        • Pride
          • Showing oneself above
          • It describes an attitude that may never come public
          • It may be that in their heart of hearts these people are always secretly comparing themselves with others
        • Foolishness
          • Moral folly
          • It describes not those who are brainless fools, but those who choose to play the fool
    • It is a terrible list which Jesus cites of the things that come from the human heart. But it should lead us to an honest self-examination
  • Mark 7:24-30
  • 24 He got up and departed from there to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, but he could not escape notice. 25 Instead, immediately after hearing about him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she was asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she replied to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” 30 When she went back to her home, she found her child lying on the bed, and the demon was gone.
    • When this incident is seen against its background, it becomes one of the most moving and extraordinary in the life of Jesus
    • Tyre and Sidon were cities of Phoenicia, which was a part of Syria
      • It lay between Galilee and the sea coast
      • Tyre was forty miles north-west of Capernaum
        • It’s name means the rock
        • It had two great rocks joined by a 3,000 foot long ridge, that formed a natural breakwater, meaning Tyre was one of the great natural harbors of the ancient world
        • They also formed a great defense; Tyre was not only a great harbor, but also a great fortress
        • It was from Tyre and Sidon that there came the first sailors who navigated by the stars
        • Phoenician sailors circumnavigated the Mediterranean and found their way through the Pillars of Hercules until they came to Britain and the tin mines of Cornwall. It may well be that in their adventuring they had even circumnavigated Africa
      • Sidon was 26 miles north east of Tyre, and 60 miles north of Capernaum
        • It also had a natural harbor and the city was so ancient no one knew who founded it
      • They were part of Syria, but they were all independent, and they were rivals
        • They had their own kings, their own gods, and their own coinage
        • Outwardly they looked to the sea; inland they looked to Damascus, and the ships of the sear and the caravans of many lands flowed into them
    • Jesus is in Gentile territory
      • The previous incident shows Jesus wiping out the distinction between clean and unclean foods
      • In symbol, we have Him wiping out the difference between clean and unclean people
      • It may well be that Jesus is saying by implication that the Gentiles are not unclean but that they also have their place in the Kingdom
      • Jesus must have come north to this region for temporary escape
      • The hour would come when He would face His enemies, but that was not yet. Before it came, He would seek the peace and quiet seclusion, and in that withdrawal from the enmity of the Jews the foundation of the kingdom of the Gentiles was laid
      • It is the forecast of the whole history of Christianity; the Jews’ rejection had become the opportunity of the Gentiles
    • The Phoenician cities were actually a part of the realm of Israel
      • When Joshua portioned the land out, the tribe of Asher was allocated the land as far as Great Sidon, to the fortified city of Tyre. But Asher never did clear the land completely
        • Where the might of arms was helpless, the conquering love of Jesus was victorious 
        • The earthly Israel had failed to gather in the people of Phoenicia; now the true Israel had come upon them
        • It was not into a strange land into which Jesus came; it was a land which long ago God had given Him for His own
    • The story itself must be read with insight
      • The woman came asking Jesus for help for her daughter
      • His answer was that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs
        • The dog was not the well-loved companion that it is today; more commonly it was a symbol of dishonor.
        • To the Greek, the word dog meant a shameless and audacious woman; to a Jew, it was equally a term of contempt
        • No matter how you look at it, the term dog is an insult
      • How, then, are we to explain Jesus’ use of it here?
        • He did not use the usual word; he used a diminutive word which described not the wild dogs of the streets, but the little pet lap dogs of the house
        • His tone of voice made all the difference
          • The same word can be a deadly insult and an affectionate address, according to the tone of voice
        • Jesus did not shut the door
          • The children must be fed, but only first; there is meat left for the household pets
          • Israel had the first offer of the gospel, but only the first; there were others still to come
          • The woman was a Greek, and the Greeks had a gift of repartee; and she saw at once that Jesus was speaking with a smile
          • People did not have knives and forks, or table napkins; They ate with their hands; they wiped the soil hands on chunks of bread and then threw the bread away and the dogs ate it
            • I know the children eat first, but can’t I even get the scraps the children throw away?
            • Here was a sunny faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, and there was still light enough in her heart to reply with a smile. Her faith was tested and her faith was real, and her prayer was answered
            • Symbolically, she stands for the Gentile world which so eagerly seized on the bread of heaven which the Jews rejected and threw away
  • Mark 7:31-37
  • 31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were extremely astonished and  said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
    • Jesus was going from Tyre to the territory around the Sea of Galilee in the south; and He started by going to Sidon; That is to say, He started going due south by going north
      • That would be like going to Jackson by going to Memphis first
      • The journey took no less than eight months
      • It may well be that this long journey is the peace before the storm, a long communion with the disciples before the final tempest breaks
    • When Jesus did arrive back in the region of Galilee, He came to the district of the Decapolis, and there they brought a man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment
    • There is no miracle which so beautifully shows Jesus’ way of treating people
      • He took the man aside from the crowd
        • Jesus showed the most tender consideration for the feelings of a man for whom life was very difficult
      • Throughout the whole miracle, Jesus acted what He was going to do.
        • He put His hands in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spit
          • In those days, people believed that spit had a curative quality
          • Jesus looked up to heaven to show that it was from God that help was to come
          • Then He spoke the word and the man was healed
    • The whole story shows us most vividly that Jesus did not consider the man merely a case; he was an individual
    • The man had a special need and a special problem, and with the most tender considerateness Jesus dealt with him in a way that spared his feelings and in a way that he could understand
    • When it was completed, the people declared that He had done all things well. That is none other than the verdict of God upon His own creations in the very beginning
      • When Jesus came, bringing healing to broken bodies and salvation to human souls, He had begun the work of creation all over again
      • In the beginning, everything had been good; human sin had spoiled it all; and now Jesus was bringing back the beauty of God to the world which human sin had rendered ugly

Mark 7:1-13 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 7:1-13

  • Mark 7:1-4
  • The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. 2 They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.)
    • The difference and the argument between Jesus and the Pharisees here are of tremendous importance, because they sho the very essence and core of the difference between Jesus and the orthodox Jews of His time
    • Why do Jesus and His disciples not observe the tradition of the elders?
      • The law originally meant two things
        • The Ten Commandments
        • The first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch
          • It contains a certain number of detailed regulations and instructions, but in the mater of moral questions, what is laid down is a series of great moral principles which individuals must interpret and apply for themselves
          • For a long time, the Jews were content with that
          • In the fourth and fifth centuries before Christ, there came into being a class of legal experts whom we know as the scribes
            • They were not content with great moral principles; they had what can only be called a passion for definition
            • They wanted these great principles amplified, expanded, and broken down until they issued in thousands and thousands of little rules and regulations governing every possible action and every possible situation in life
            • They are what is called the oral law; these rules make up the tradition of the elders
          • This is not the elders as in officials of the synagogue; It means the ancients, the great legal experts of the old days, like Hillel and Shammai
          • 300 years or so after Christ, a summary of all these rules and regulations was made and written down; The Mishnah
            • One of these rules and regulations is about hand washing
            • It describes something which is ceremonially unclean and unfit for the service and worship of God
              • There were definite and rigid rules for this
              • It was not in the interests of hygienic purity
              • It was for ceremonial cleanness which was at stake
              • Before every mean, and between each of the courses, the hands had to be washed, and they had to be washed in a certain way.
                • They had to first be free of any coating of sand or mortar or gravel or any such substance
                • The water for washing had to be kept in special large stone jars, so that it was clean in the ceremonial sense and so that it might be certain that it had been used for no other purpose, and that nothing had fallen into it or had been mixed with it
                • First, the hands were held with fingertips pointing up; water was poured over them and had to run at least down to the wrist
                  • The minimum amount of water was 1/4 of a log, which is equal to 1 1/2 eggshells full of water
                  • While the hands were still wet, each hand had to be cleansed with the fist of the other
                  • Tis meant that at this stage the hands were wet with water; but that water was now unclean because it had touched unclean hands
                • Next, the hands had to be held with fingertips pointing down and water had to be poured over them in such a way that it began at the wrists and ran off at the fingertips
                • After all this was done, the hands were clean
                • To fail to do this was in Jewish eyes not to be guilty of bad manners, not to be dirty in the health sense, but to be unclean in the sight of God
                • Anyone who at with unclean hands was subject to the attacks of a demon called Shibta
                • To omit so to destruction
                • Bread eaten with unclean hands was not better than excrement
                • A Rabbi who once omitted the ceremony was buried in excommunication
                • Another Rabbi, imprisoned by the Romans, used his drinking water to ceremonially wash his hands instead of quenching his thirst, and almost died of dehydration
          • That, to the Pharisaic Jew was religion
          • It was ritual, ceremonial, and regulations like that which they considered to be the essence of the service of God
          • Ethical religion was buried under a mass of taboos and rules
            • A large number of animals was unclean
            • A woman after childbirth was unclean; a leper; anyone who touched a dead body was unclean
            • And those who had become unclean in this way made unclean anything they in turn touched
            • A Gentile was unclean; food touched by a Gentile; Any vessel touched by a Gentile was unclean
            • So, then, when a strict Jew returned from the market place he immersed his whole body in clean water to take away the taint he might have acquired
            • Vessels could easily become unclean; they might be touched by an unclean person or food
              • In the Mishnah there are no fewer than 12 treatises on this kind of uncleanness
                • A hollow vessel made of pottery could become unclean on the inside, but not the outside; It did not matter what/who touched the outside, but it did matter what touched it inside
                  • If it became unclean it must be broken; and no unbroken piece must remain which was big enough hold enough oil to anoint the little toe
                • A flat plate without a rim could not become unclean at all; but a plate with a rim could
                • Flat vessels made of leather, bone, or glass could not become unclean; if they were hollow they could become unclean outside and inside
                  • If they were unclean they musth be broken; and the break must be a hole at least big enough for a medium-sized pomegranate to pass through
                • To cure uncleanness; earthen vessels must be broken
                  • Other vessels must be immersed, boiled, purged with fire—in the case of metal vessels—and polished
                • A three-legged table could become unclean
                  • If it lost one or two legs it could not
                  • If it lost three legs it could, for then it could be used as a board, and a board could become unclean
                • Things made of metal could become unclean
                  • Except a door, a bot, a lock, a hinge, a knocker, and a gutter
                • Wood used in metal utensils could become unclean
                  • But metal used in wood utensils could not
                  • Thus a wooden key with metal teeth could become unclean; but a metal key with wooden teeth could not
    • We have taken some time over this scribal laws because that is what Jesus was up against
      • To the scribes and Pharisees, these rules and regulations were the essence of religion
      • To observe them was to please God; to break them was to sin
      • It was precisely because Jesus had no use for all these regulations that they considered Him a bad man
      • There is a fundamental split here==that between those who see religion as ritual, ceremonial, rules and regulations, and those who see in religion loving God and loving their fellow man
  • Mark 7:5-8
  • 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands?” 6 He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands. 8 Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.”
    • The scribes and the Pharisees saw that the disciples of Jesus did not observe the tradition and the code of the oral law in regard to the washing of hands before and during meals, and they asked why
    • Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13
      • Isaiah accused the people of his day of honoring God with their lips while their hearts were really far away
      • In principle, Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of two things
        • He accused them of hypocrisy
          • One whose whole life is a piece of acting without any sincerity behind it at all
          • Anyone to whom religion means carrying out certain external rules and regulations, anyone to whom religion is entirely connected with the observation of a certain ritual and the keeping of a certain number of taboos is in the end bound to be a hypocrite
          • Such people believe that they are good if they carry out the correct acts and practices, no mater what their hearts and their thoughts are like
          • He might hate those around him with all his heart, he might be full of envy and jealousy and concealed bitterness and pride
            • That did not matter as long as he carried out the correct hand washings and observed the correct laws about cleanness and uncleanness
          • Legalism takes account of outward actions; but it takes no account at all of people’s inward feelings
            • They may well be meticulously serving God in outward things, and bluntly disobeying God in inward things
            • There is no greater religious peril than that of identifying religion with outward observance
              • Church attendance, Bible reading, tithing, and even prayer do not make us good
              • How are our hearts towards God and towards others?
                • And if in our hearts there are enmity, bitterness, grudges, and pride, no all the outward religious observances in the world will make us anything other than hypocrites
        • He accused them of substituting the efforts fo human ingenuity fo the laws of God
          • For their guidance for life they did not depend on listening to God; they depended on listening to the clever arguments and debates, the ingenious interpretations of the legal experts
          • True religion can never only be the basis of human thought
          • It must always come, not from their ingenious discoveries, but from the simply listening to and accepting the voice of God.
  • Mark 7:9-13
  • 9 He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! 10 For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. 11 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’” (that is, an offering devoted to God), 12 “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”
    • The exact meaning of this passage is very difficult to discover
    • It hinges on the word Corban, which seems to have undergone two stages of meaning in the Jewish usage
      • The word meant gift
        • It was used to describe something which was specially dedicated to God
        • A thing was Corban was as if it had already ben laid upon the altar
          • It was completely set apart from all ordinary purposes and usages and became the property of God
          • If a man wished to dedicate some of his money or his property to God, he declared it Corban, and thereafter it might never again be used for any ordinary or secular purpose
          • A creditor might say, “the debt you owe me is Corban”
            • The debt you owe me is dedicated to God
            • From then the debtor ceased to be in debt to another person and began rather to be in debt to God, which was far more serious
            • The creditor could discharge his part of the matter by making a quite small symbolic payment to the Temple, and then keep the rest for himself
        • To introduce the idea of Corban into this kind of debt was a kind of religious blackmail transforming a debt owed to another person into a debt owed to God
        • A man declaring his property Corban, sacred to God, and then when his father are mother in dire need comes to him for help, “I am sorry that I cannot give you any help because nothing that I have is available for you because it is dedicated to God”
          • The vow was made an excuse to avoid helping a parent in need
          • The vow which the scribal legalist insisted upon involved breaking one of the Ten Commandments which are the very law of God
      • Corban became a much more generalized oath
        • At some time perhaps in a fit of anger or rebellion, a man had said to his parents, “Corban anything by which you may ever be helped by me”
          • Afterwards, even if he repented from his rash vow, the scribal legalists declared that it was unbreakable and that he might never again render his parents any assistance
    • There were cases in which the strict performance of the scribal law made it impossible to carry out the law of the Ten Commandments
      • Jesus was attacking a system which put rules and regulations before the claim of human need
      • The commandment of God was that the claim of human love should come first
      • The commandment of the scribes was that the claim of legal rules and regulations should come first
      • We must take care that we never allow rules to paralyze the claims of love

Mark 6:35-56 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 6:35-56

  • Mark 6:35-44
  • 35 When it grew late, his disciples approached him and said, “This place is deserted, and it is already late. 36 Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages to buy themselves something to eat.”37 “You give them something to eat,” he responded. They said to him, “Should we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” 38 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he instructed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate and was satisfied. 43 They picked up twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and fish. 44 Now those who had eaten the loaves were five thousand men.
    • Feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all 4 gospel accounts
    • To read this story, so simply and yet so dramatically told, s to read something that reads like an eyewitness account
      • They sat down on the green grass
        • The only time when the grass would be green would be in the late springtime, around mid-April
        • At that time the sun set at 6 pm, so this must have happened at some time in the late afternoon
      • They sat down in groups of 100 and of 50
        • The word for group is very pictorial
        • It is the normal Greek word for the rows of vegetables in a garden
        • When you looked at the groups as they sat there in their orderly rows, they looked for all the world like the rows of vegetables in a series of garden plots
      • They had 12 baskets left over
        • No orthodox Jew travelled without his basket
        • Romans made fun of the Jew and his basket
        • Two reasons for the basket, which was a wickerwork affair shaped like a narrow-necked pitcher, broadening out as it went down
          • Orthodox Jews carried his own food supplies in his basket, so that he would be certain of eating food that was ceremonially clean and pure
          • Many a jew was an accomplished beggar, and into his basket went the proceeds of his begging
    • The wonderful thing about this story is that all through it runs an implicit contrast between the attitude of Jesus and the attitude of the disciples
      • It shows two reactions to human need
        • Send them away so that they can find something to eat
          • These people are tired and hungry. Get rid of them and let someone else worry about them
        • You give them something to eat
          • These people are tired and hungry. We must do something about it
        • There are always people who are quite aware that others are in difficulty and trouble, but who wish to push the responsibility for doing something about it on to someone else
        • There are always people who when they see someone up against it feel compelled to do something about it themselves.
        • Let others worry
        • I must worry about my brother’s or sister’s need
      • It shows us two reactions to human resources
        • We could not earn enough in more than six months’ work to give this crowd a meal
          • Anything we have got is no use at all
        • What have you got?
          • Five loaves, more like rolls
            • John tells us they were barley loaves
            • Barley loaves were the food of the poorest of the poor
            • Barley bread was the cheapest and the coarsest of all bread
          • Two fish
            • About the size of sardines
            • Tarichaea, which means the salt-is town, was a well-known place on the lake from which salt-fish went out to all over the world
            • The little salt-fish were eaten as relish with the dry rolls
          • In the hands of Jesus, little is always much.
            • We may think that we have little talent or substance to give to Jesus
              • That is no reason for a hopeless pessimism such as the disciples had
            • The one fatal thing to say is, “For all I could do, it is not worth my while trying to do anything.”
            • If we put ourselves in to the hands of Jesus Christ, there is no telling what He can do with us and through us
            • Boy walking the beach throwing starfish back…
  • Mark 6:45-52
  • 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After he said good-bye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray. 47 Well into the night, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. 49 When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, 52 because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.
    • After the huge crowd had been satisfied, Jesus immediately sent His disciples away before He dismissed the crowd
      • Why? 
      • The original language actually alludes to Jesus physically throwing them into the boat to get them away from the crowd
        • John tells us that after the crowd had been fed there was a move to take Jesus and to make Him king
        • 5,000 men, plus women and children gathered out in the wilderness, you get the feel of a revolution
        • Jesus either did’t want His disciples to get caught up in the crowd mentality, or they already had, and He was determined to get them out of the situation before it got worse
        • Galilee was the hotbed of revolution. Nationalistic outbursts commonly formed from Galilee
        • If this movement was not checked, there might well emerge among the excitable people a rebellion which would wreck everything and lead to disaster for all concerned
    • When He was alone, He went up on a mountain to pray
      • There was the hostility of the orthodox people
      • There was the frightened suspicion of Herod Antipas
      • There were the political hotheads who would make Him a nationalistic Messiah against His will
      • At this particular time there were many problems on Jesus’ mind and many burdens on His heart
    • Jewish night ran from 6 pm to 6 am and it was divided into four watches
      • 6-9; 9-midnight; midnight-3; 3-6
      • Our translation tonight doesn’t include it, but others tell us it was during fourth watch
        • So, about 3 am, Jesus looked from the mountainside across the lake
        • It was only about four miles across at that point, and in the light of the moon He could see the disciples’ boat struggling against the wind and the waves
        • Immediately Jesus saw His friends in trouble 
        • The moment for prayer was past
        • The time for action had come
        • He came to them and their storm became a calm
          • With Him beside them nothing mattered any more
          • St. Augustine
            • “He came treading the waves; and so He puts all the swelling tumults of life under His feet. Christians—why afraid?”
          • When Christ is there the storm becomes a calm, the tumult becomes a peace, what cannot be done is done, the unbearable becomes bearable, and we pass the breaking point and do not break
          • To walk with Christ will be for us also the conquest of the storm
  • Mark 6:53-56
  • 53 When they had crossed over, they came to shore at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As they got out of the boat, people immediately recognized him. 55 They hurried throughout that region and began to carry the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch just the end of his robe. And everyone who touched it was healed.
    • No sooner had Jesus landed on the other side of the lake than once again He was surrounded by crowds
      • They came to get
      • They came with their insistent demands
      • They came—to put in bluntly—to use Him
      • In a way it is natural that we should come to Jesus to get things from Him, for there are so many things that He alone can give
        • But it is always shameful to take everything and to give nothing, and yet it is very characteristic of human nature
          • There are those who simply make use of their friends
            • There are some people from whom we never hear unless they want something from us
            • There are those who regard other people as existing to help them when they need their help, and to be forgotten when they cannot be of use
          • There are those who simply make use of the Church
            • They desire the church to baptize their children, marry their young people, and bury their dead
            • They are seldom seen there unless they wish some service
            • It is their unconscious attitude that the church exists to serve them, but that they have no duty whatever towards it
          • There are this who seek simply to make use of God
            • They never remember Him unless they need Him
            • Their only prayers are requests, or even demands, made of God
            • Vending Machine God
      • If we examine ourselves, we are all, to some extent, guilty of these things
      • It would rejoice the heart of Jesus if more often we came to Him to offer our love, our service, our devotion, and less often to demand from Him the help we need