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Showing posts from August, 2019

Who Is At Your Table?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

A Private Conversation

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Scripture:
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 NRSV)
Observation:
We are invited into a private conversation between the holy Trinity. We see the dove, the representation of the Spirit where heaven is opened up, and then we hear the voice of Father. The Father is bearing witness to the Son, who is receiving the witness, and the presence of the Holy Spirit provides confirmation. 
Application:
All of this reinforces the purpose of Mark’s gospel, which is to lift up Christ as savior, however, this is not always done in a big way. Sometimes it’s a very private and personal conversation. Too often we are looking for a spectacular visible sign to tell us who God is, or where God is, or whether Jesus really is Lord. 
The reality is that when we listen closely to the private conversation, we will discover that this is often the way in which God works. God comes to us in the quiet moments of our lives and leads us into the place of clean…

Like a Dove

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Scripture:
 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9–11 NRSV)
Observation:
In the moment of Jesus’ baptism the miraculous was on display. Divine reconciliation was revealed as the heavens were torn apart. The divide between heaven and earth was in the process of being healed through the presence of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. 
The presence of the dove provides for interesting thought and commentary. The first is the comparison of the dove in this scene as with the story of Noah. Jesus is now the new Noah, the one who will take the shipwrecked nature of humanity and provide the pathway of reconciliation for all of humanity. 
John Chrysostom’s comments on the presence of the dove are profound: 
But why in the form of a dove? T…

What Baptism Have You Experienced?

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Scripture:
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:4–8 NRSV)
Observation:
There is great significance in John’s baptism in the wilderness. For Israel the wilderness had always been the place of new beginnings, and here, he is ushering in a new beginning for all of humanity. At the same time, the people had always fled to the wilderness (and would continue to do so) when they were fleeing persecution. The cities were the c…