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“Can You See Anything?”

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Scripture:
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22–26 NRSV)
Observation:
This whole passage is normally interpreted in light of the faith of the disciples. They are the ones who are struggling in their faith. We have seen this in the last few passages and it seems the journey to complete and total faith in Jesus will not be easy. The two stages of healing are thought to be prophetic, emphasizing the work that still needs to be done for the disciples faith to come to complet…

Do You Not Yet Understand?

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Scripture:
Mark 8:14   Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Observation:
The Pharisees had just asked Jesus for a sign from heaven so that they would accept his authority. Now, Jesus i…

He Sighed Deeply

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Scripture:
Mark 8:11   The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
Observation:
Jesus had just finished his second miracle of feeding a huge crowd. For the Pharisees, miracles were not affirmation that Jesus was from God. While they had been watching him and his ministry from the beginning they wanted to push him to reveal the source of his authority.
The call for a sign was a rejection of the authority of Jesus. Throughout his ministry Jesus had been calling his listeners to radical faith which rejected the need for signs. No wonder he sighed deeply. The scripture is very descriptive. He sighed deeply in his spirit. He was wounded by their question.
While we may say that the human side of Jesus is wi…

Have You Learned Yet?

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Scripture:
They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. (Mark 8:7–10 NRSV)
Observation:
This story is just another test for the disciples, and one where they failed miserably. Crowds had been following Jesus and listening to his teaching for three days. Weakened by fasting, prayer and study, the people were in need of nourishment. While Jesus had provided for the people in a similar situation, once again he reached out to the disciples. 
Jesus was showing his compassion, while the disciples were marked by helplessness. How was it that they had once again left Jesus out of their calculations? 
Giving thanks for the food, Jesus modeled a spirit of gratitude. Again, the people were fi…

Opened Eyes and Ears

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Scripture:
Mark 7:31   Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Observation:
Jesus had been ministering around the region of the ten cities of the Decapolis. More than likely he had been trying to spend his time teaching and didn’t want to be too dist…

When We Leave the Marketplace

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Scripture:
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Mark 7:1–8 NRSV)
Observation:
Jesus and the di…

In the Marketplace

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Scripture:
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:53–56 NRSV)
Observation:
News about Jesus’ activity in the world began to spread like wildfire. People now rushed from across the land to come and see this man. Whereas the woman with the issue of blood was the first to have been healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, this now became commonplace. We see a shift from ministry in the synagogue to ministry in the marketplace where the people had been waiting in anticipation of meeting Jesus.
Application:
The marketplace represented the center of the city, the place where humanity ca…

Protection and Care

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Scripture:
Mark 6:45   Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Mark 6:47   When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Observation:
At the conclusion of the feeding of the five thousand a scene is laid out before us. The people had been placed into…

Training by Mission Participation

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Scripture:
Mark 6:30   The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and …

The True Cost of Discipleship

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Scripture:
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John t…

Power Shared

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Scripture:
Mark 6:7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Observation:
Throughout this journey in Mark’s gospel we see the revelation of Christ’s power. Suddenly there is a shift. After his discouraging experience in Nazareth, Jesus disperses his followers, sending them out in his mission. He shares his power with these individuals who travel, unencumbered by extra baggage. As the…

Power Limited

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Scripture:
Mark 6:1   He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Observation:
The pinnacle of Jesus’ power had been revealed by raising the little girl to life. Word of his power had spread throughout the entire region where he lived and traveled. On this sabbath he chose to go to h…

Daughter

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Scripture:
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you w…

Put Your Hands On Her

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Scripture:
Mark 5:21   When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him. 
Observation:
The people on the other side of the sea had wanted to rid themselves of Jesus. On this side, he is welcomed and the crowds are gathering around to hear what he has to say. Not all the religious leaders were against Jesus. In this case, Jairus, was probably a lay leader of the synagogue. He was well-versed in the law and knew the story of creation. Humanity had been created by the very hand of God and by his request, he was affirming the divinity of Jesus. If only he would put his hands on his daughter, she would be able to experience re-creation, or new life. 
Applica…