Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Prayer and Decision Making

Image
Scripture:
Mark 3:13  He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15and to have authority to cast out demons. 16So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 
Observation:
Jesus goes up to “the” mountain to pray. We don’t know which mountain but there is intentionality in the definite article “the.” Could it represent Sinai, the place where Moses went to be near to God and to receive further instruction? We don’t know the exact location but there is great symbolism in Jesus going up to the mountain and spending time in quiet…

Grieved by Hardness of Heart

Image
Scripture:
Mark 3:1   Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Observation:
Jesus had just been asked about his followers eating grain on the sabbath. The thread of conversation regarding the sabbath now continues has he enters the synagogue. The “they” present assumes the Pharisees who stood at a distance to see what Jesus would do. Jesus had just declared that the sabbath was for God’s pe…

Protecting Systems

Image
Scripture:
One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:23–28 NRSV)
Observation:
The language at the opening of this section signals that this is another story which will reveal more of who Jesus is, which at the same time will be juxtaposed by increasing opposition to him and his ministry. It’s as if Mark’s Gospel is an on-going revelation of Christ and resistance of the Phari…

The New Disrupts the Old

Image
Scripture:
Mark 2:18   Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
Mark 2:21   “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
Observation:
Both John the Baptist and the Pharisees were living under the old system of the law. John’s activity was a call for repentance in preparation for something new that would come.…

Who Is At Your Table?

Image
Scripture:
Mark 2:13   Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
Mark 2:15   And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Observation:
Stepping out to the sea is like stepping into the wilderness. Somehow this territory seems to signify a space where the powers of the enemy are at work. This time the religious leaders are not in the inner circle, b…

Jesus, More than We Imagine

Image
Scripture:
Mark 2:1   When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgi…

Moved by Compassion

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:40   A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity [compassion], Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Observation:
When you think about Mark’s gospel account in light of Peter’s personal story, you can see why the theme of compassion is woven throughout. Peter, himself, experienced on numerous occasions the love and compassion of Jesus. That makes this story in th…

Surprised by Solitude

Image
Scripture:
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35–39 NRSV)
Observation:
Jesus got up early in the morning so that he could find a place of solitude where he could pray. Only three times in his gospel does Mark refer to Jesus praying. This is a significant moment at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This was the day after the hearts of the people had been stirred by the miracles that he had performed. Simon Peter must have been energized by witnessing the healing of his mother-in-law and was ready to keep moving and showing the world how powerful Jesus was!
W…

This is Personal

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:29   As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Observation:
So far Jesus has been engaged in the cosmic, big picture revelations of who he is and his ministry. Having just finished his teaching and healing in the synagogue, he went on to Peter’s home. While Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, Peter had probably not invited Jesus to come to have her healed. Instead, the entire group was probably tired from the day, and needed a place to rest.It just happened, that when they arrived home, they learned that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick.
Having a fever in the first century was serious business. The physician Luke, in his gospel, tells us that she had a “high” fever. They did not recognize that a fever was a symptom of an …

Recognizing Jesus’ Authority

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:21   They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Observation:
As this first chapter of Mark continues to unfold we discover that the author wants us to understand who Jesus truly is, and what kind of power and aut…

They Left Everything

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:16   As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Observation:
Belief in Jesus requires a response that results in action. As Jesus calls people to repentance and belief, so we see him calling his first disciples. Through his divine authority, Jesus is calling these men to be his disciples. This is with the same authority that God called the prophets of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the prophets saw God as the fisher of men, and so now, Jesus continues what God had done. In this opening chapter the invitation …

The Time Has Come

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:14  Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Observation:
A critical moment in time has come. John was the one in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus, much like the children of Israel had spent time in wilderness preparation. Now, John is arrested and a new time has come and Jesus is released into ministry. 
Suddenly, it seems, Jesus is in Galilee, in the promised land, and he is proclaiming the good news of God. After his death and resurrection the message would change to the good news of Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, but throughout his entire life, he is ushering in a new time, a new era.
The time had come, and Jesus was proclaiming that all of time had now been fulfilled. The kingdom of God was not far away, it was now immanent — this was the time! It was in this time, in this moment, that the peopl…

Revisiting the Wilderness

Image
Scripture:
Mark 1:12   And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Observation:
Mark’s version of the temptation of Christ is extremely short compared to other gospel writers. The tendency is to try and put Mark into the framework of the others, but instead, it’s good to simply take it for what he says. There is something significant about the immediacy of the event of the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness from the moment of his baptism. It’s in the moment, when Jesus says “yes” to the call of the Father, that he is sent out into the wilderness.
This wilderness can represent several different journeys, from that of Adam, to Moses to Elijah. What if, however, Mark wants us to revisit Genesis 3 in this wilderness scene?Kent Brower puts it this way, “Adam was tempted and yielded; Jesus (it is implied) did not. Thus, the story of Jesus and the con…