1536.) Mark 10:32-52

March 23, 2015

Mark 10:32-52 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

Jesus speaks of the shame he will face, being handed over to Gentiles and physically and emotionally humiliated.  It took some time, but eventually the disciples understood what it meant for them as well:

Acts 5:39-41 (Contemporary English Version)

The council members agreed with what Gamaliel said, and they called the apostles back in. They had them beaten with a whip and warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they let them go.

The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus.

Jesus Teaches about Serving Others

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What is your request?” he asked.

37 They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

In Mark 9, the disciples were arguing about who is the greatest; James and John, with great self-confidence, wanted to lock in the #1 and #2 spots for themselves.

38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39 “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering.

James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).  Long-standing tradition asserts that John was sent into exile to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.

40 But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier.  Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them.  Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”  The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers.  The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.”  With that George Washington got back on his horse and rode off.
 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key,
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave-notes fall on my ear,
Ev’rything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let it bear
Gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

–Clara H. Scott, 1841-1897 — a music teacher from Lyons, Iowa

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

Psalm 91:14 (English Standard Version)

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

Oh!!  Jesus asks YOU that question!!   

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Just now, give him your specific answer.

“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

PRAYERS JESUS PRAYED

Since about A.D. 400, blessings have always started with the words, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe . . .”  In the first century they were much shorter, simply beginning with the words “Blessed is he . . .”  The first book of the Mishnah lists dozens of blessings and when they were used.  Here is one of them:

When you first open your eyes in the morning, you say
Blessed is he who gives sight to the blind.

(p. 215)

_________________________

Music:

My husband, David, suggested this song.  It works well for Bartimaeus and for the rest of us!  HERE is Casting Crowns and “Who Am I.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Mark 10:45.    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5090/5337876362_79fdfef6c4.jpg
Via Dolorosa.    http://www.wherejesuswalked.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/6a00d8341c563953ef00e5509c5c978834.jpg
We’re #1.    http://media.point2.com/p2a/htmltext/47b6/fc41/4060/5894e06ba15e008797e4/original.jpg
Bartimaeus.     http://freetobefred.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/blind-man-healed.jpg

1535.) Mark 10:1-31

March 20, 2015
One of Jesus’ best metaphors! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I have read where the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a small gate in Jerusalem, or that the word for “camel” is mistranslated and should be “cable.” I don’t buy either. I think Jesus just meant it to be outrageous, to get us thinking how useless riches are when it comes to us trying humbly to seek God.

One of Jesus’ best metaphors! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I have read that the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a small gate in Jerusalem, or that the word for “camel” is mistranslated and should be “cable.” I don’t buy either. I think Jesus just meant it to be outrageous, to get us thinking how useless riches are when it comes to us trying humbly to seek God.

Mark 10:1-31  (New Living Translation)

Discussion about Divorce and Marriage

1 Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.

2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”

Mk10 just-married-car

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”

4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”

5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

Jesus Blesses the Children

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

The Rich Man

Mk10 rich car

17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

NO SALVATION WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP

There is an excuse that many of us use to get around the Law of God as it is given in the Ten Commandments.  We reason that the standard given in the commandments is an ideal one that is really unattainable.  It is a target for which to aim, but a person should not really expect to hit it.  Plus, it is part of the old covenant that is now past.

Jesus apparently did not feel this way.  When the rich ruler wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes portions of the Decalogue and extends their claims on us.  He does not relax them.

We often speak as if keeping the Law would be a heavy burden.  But how would keeping the Law be a burden?  Do we really believe that living with a divided heart is easier than living with a single heart?  Is our life any richer if we look to the creation for what only the Creator can give us?  Must we deal profanely with holy things like the name of the Lord and his Sabbath?  Are we better off having no respect for those who gave us life?  Do we have to live with deadly hate for any of our fellow persons?  Is there no deliverance from the defilement and the destructiveness of lust?  Can we come to the place where we can use language truthfully, even it if means our own hurt?  Can’t God make us content with what we have so we do not have to perpetually covet what is not our own?

Just to frame these questions ought to bring us to the conclusion that the Ten Commandments were not given to be an onerous burden and a structure to bind us.  Rather, the Decalogue is our charter of freedom.  The commandments are not a set of demands to bind us, but a tenfold promise of the freedom into which the Spirit of Christ wants to release us.  If I will let him flood me with his Spirit and with his love, there is not one commandment that I have to break today.  That is good news!

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, 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 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

HOW TO ENTER THE KINGDOM

But the kingdom is not inevitable for everyone.  Because he is a merciful king, Jesus issues an invitation, not a command.  He will never force anyone to join but waits patiently for us to repent and follow him.  When Jesus spoke about receiving the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17), or entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21), he wasn’t talking about how to get into heaven after we die, as many people have thought.  He was speaking about having the greatest life possible.  How?  By living under his reign through the power of his grace. And he was using a Jewish idiom to communicate his message.

One of the earliest and best-known sayings about the “kingdom of heaven” is one that commented on the Shema—the prayer of every faithful Jew, uttered morning and evening.  The Shema beings with Deuteronomy 6:4-5:  “Hear [Shema], O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  The rabbis taught that anyone who prays this prayer with a sincere heart “receives upon himself the kingdom of heaven.”

Why did the rabbis associate the “kingdom of heaven” with this particular prayer?  They understood that people who made this daily commitment were mentally bowing down before God, “enthroning” him as their king.  Such people were proclaiming their faith in God and pledging to live under his reign.  To make this commitment had nothing to do with taking part in a political movement but everything to do with making an individual, spiritual decision.  This understanding fits completely with Jesus’ words that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) . . .

Jesus also declared that “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).  Notice that he didn’t say we are to receive it like teenagers testing the boundaries and pushing the envelope.  Nor are we to receive it like self-reliant adults, people who think they have it together.  No, we are to have the attitude of a small child responding with trust, dependence, delight, and a desire to please.

Remember what Jesus said to the wealthy young man who turned down a chance to become one of his disciples:  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24).  Jesus wasn’t talking about what the man needed to do to get into heaven after he died.  He was saying that the proud young ruler was refusing to accept God’s kingship over his life right then.  How difficult it is to choose God’s will over our own.

(pp. 192-194)

_________________________

Music:

HERE is Steve Green singing “Embrace the Cross.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
camel – eye of a needle.    https://taulantbytyqii.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/camelneedle.jpg
Just married.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/4b54b-just-married-car.jpg
Brink.    http://annecbrink.com/galleries/visiblekingdom/Mark/fullsize/WIB02004_Jesus_Blesses_the_Children_fs.jpg
rich man with car.   https://christfromtheheart.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/very-rich-ryruler.jpg
tablets of the Law.     http://rpmedia.ask.com/ts?u=/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/83/The10Commandments.png/250px-The10Commandments.png

1534.) Mark 9

March 19, 2015
A mural from the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.  The church belongs to the Franciscans.

A mural from the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The church belongs to the Franciscans.

Mark 9 (New Living Translation)

The Transfiguration

2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Moses represents the Law, and Elijah the Prophets.  What are they talking about?  Here is my guess:  Since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, they are discussing what Jesus would do in Jerusalem and what he would accomplish there.  As Jesus says later to the disciples, he has come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”

The Father says ‘Hear him.’ Many voices clamor for our attention: new philosophies, modern theologies, and old heresies revived, all call to us and entreat us to hearken, but the Father says, ‘Hear him.’

–C. H. Spurgeon

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

_________________________

Music:

“Only Jesus” — such a powerful thought!  HERE  is Matt Redman and “Jesus, Only Jesus.”  This song makes me want to bow down.

_________________________

9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”

This event made a strong impression on Peter; he remembered it years later—

2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV)

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.”

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.

16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.

17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

HELP MY UNBELIEF!

Faith does not come from ignorance.  Faith is based on what we know.

Before we will trust others with something precious to us, we first try to find out if they are trustworthy. This father was asking that he might come to know God in such a dimension that he could trust Him to cure his son.

His son had been possessed by an evil spirit since early childhood.  The father did not know Jesus well, but he had heard and seen enough to convince him that if there was any hope for his son, it lay with Jesus.  In desperation he cried out to Jesus for help.  Jesus’ response was to heal his son.  The desperate father had correctly gone to Jesus with his problem even when he was struggling with his faith.

When you are struggling to believe, that is not the time to avoid Christ or to be ashamed of your struggle.  You will never increase your faith by not going to Jesus!  Rather, Jesus wants to help you with your belief.  He can not only meet your need, but He will also give you faith to trust Him to provide for you.

If you are struggling to believe that God can take care of your need, it is because you don’t know Him as He wants you to.  Go to Him and allow Him to convince you of His ability to meet every need you will ever face.

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

“Jesus found disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, and defeated disciples . . . He silenced the scribes, He comforted the father, He healed the boy, He instructed the disciples.”

–George Campbell Morgan

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

The Greatest in the Kingdom

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity.  The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success.  It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds.  Success alone justifies wrongs done . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means . . .

The figure of the crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.

–D. Bonhoeffer, quoted in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Using the Name of Jesus

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

JESUS, THE RABBIS, AND SMALL SINS

The Sermon on the Mount:  Imagine for a moment that you are packed into the hillside along with the rest of the crowd, above the glittering waters of the Sea of Galilee.  The longer you listen, the more uncomfortable you become.  The crowd is hushed, as though everyone is holding their breath, listening as Jesus compares lustful thoughts to adultery and anger to murder.  His examples are hitting a little too close to home.  Then it dawns on you that Jesus is himself employing the rabbinic method of “fencing in” the Torah by telling the crowd that small sins lead to greater sins, advocating that you set up boundaries against great evils by avoiding small ones.

This idea of linking small sins to greater ones was common among the rabbis.  Listen to a rabbinic comment on laws in Leviticus:  “He who violates,’Love you neighbor as yourself,’ will ultimately violate, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,’ and ‘You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge,’ until in the end he will come to shedding blood.”  The rabbis wisely noted that the consequences of sin slope ever downward:   not loving your neighbor deteriorates to hating him in your heart declines further to taking revenge on him and finally falls to taking your neighbor’s life.

Both Jesus and the rabbis were preaching that the time to avoid sin is when it is small, before we slip any further down the slope . . . .

Later rabbis also preached about sin by comparing small sins to greater ones.  Listen to what they had to say about gossip:

“To which is gossip more similar, robbery or murder?”

“Murder, because robbers can always give back what they’ve stolen, but gossips can never repair the damage they’ve done.”

Such comments remind us of Jesus’ striking exhortations to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye should they cause you to sin.  The rabbis knew the great damage that even tiny sins can do.  A little bit of gossip can ruin a reputation.  One sharp retort can ignite a war.  The goal of their exaggerations was to impress upon their listeners the dire consequences of sins.  Jesus, too, was urging his listeners to avoid evil at all costs.  His strong warnings express his anguish at the destruction that ensues when we do not resist temptation at the very beginning.

(pp.169-170)

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

Fire and salt.  What is Jesus talking about? This passage has led to many different interpretations.

The first main interpretation is that fire refers to tribulation and suffering; these things accompany the “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) of the disciple. Since Old Testament sacrifices always included salt (Leviticus 2:13), Jesus is saying “just as every sacrifice under the law required salt, so the living sacrifice My followers bring to Me must be seasoned with suffering and tribulations.”

The other main interpretation is that fire refers to the Holy Spirit. As His presence in our lives “seasons” us, it purifies, preserves, and adds flavor to our lives, and so it makes our “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.

–David Guzik

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Church of Transfiguration.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Mt_Tabor_Church_of_Transfiguration_mural,_tb_n040200.jpg
MAFA.     http://biteintheapple.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Pentecost-5-Healing-the-Possessed-MAFA-1973-Cameroon-e1371441682242.jpg
Have faith.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/faith1.gif
Via Dolorosa.    http://www.wherejesuswalked.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/6a00d8341c563953ef00e5509c5c978834.jpg
success.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/success.jpg

1533.) Mark 8

March 18, 2015

Mark 8 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Feeds Four Thousand

1 About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

4 His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

(Jesus rolls his eyes.  Didn’t we just go through this?)

5 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

(Jesus watches to see if it is dawning on them yet . . . )

8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 9 There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Some hearts are often troubled by the fear of failing those who look to them for help.  They realize their own lack of everything that is required, and sometimes become more than a little discouraged and fearful.  “Sooner or later,” they feel, “someone will come to me for what I cannot give, and go away disappointed.”

There are words in the two stories of the feeding of the two multitudes which can help.  From Mark 6: “Shall we go and buy?”  “How many loaves have ye?  Go and see.” And when He had taken the five loaves and two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to His disciples, and the two fishes He divided. And they did all eat, and were filled.  And they took up twelve baskets full or the fragments, and of the fishes.

Then on the second occasion:  “From whence can a man satisfy these men?”  “How many loaves have ye?” And He took their seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave; and also a few small fishes.  So they did eat, and were filled:  and they took up of . . . that which was left seven baskets.

Five loaves or seven, two fishes or a few, nothing was sufficient to meet the need.  All was as little as this that we have to offer now.  But if only we give all we have, just as it is in its littleness, into His hands to be dealt with as He will, it will be multiplied.  It will be enough for all He wants to do with it, and more than enough.

Let us give all we have to give, to be blessed and broken in His hands.

10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.

Pharisees Demand a Miraculous Sign

11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

(Deep breath.  These religious guys just don’t stop pestering and undermining him.)

12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.

Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod

14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.

(SNAP!  Could these disciples be Any. More. Dense!)

17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

(Jesus lies down in the back of the boat with a pillow over his head.)

Jesus Heals a Blind Man

22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”

24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”

25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

(Between the disciples who do not understand and the religious leaders who do not understand, Jesus doesn’t need more people asking him questions!)

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

(At last!  Somebody understands!)

30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Predicts His Death

31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

(Well, partially understands . . . )

33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

–the opening line of The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?


(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

UTTER COMMITMENT

Jesus knew that his calling was to serve God through the wandering life of a rabbi, walking from village to village to draw people into God’s kingdom.  It was a difficult existence.  Long days spent hiking up and down the hot, dusty hills of Galilee, preaching to whomever would listen, and depending on the hospitality of others for his most basic needs.  Here’s how other rabbis describe this kind of life:  “This is the path of Torah:  a morsel with salt shall you eat, and you shall drink water by the measure, and sleep upon the ground, and live a life of painfulness, and in Torah shall you labor.  If thou do this, happy shall you be and it shall be well with you.”

The disciples would have shared the difficult life of their rabbi.  But they would also have experienced great joy in the midst of it.  After all, they were the students of an extraordinary rabbi, learning from him about the deep things of God.

Modern Christians have sometimes been confused about what discipleship is, equating it with “discipline.”  Of course discipline is vital to the spiritual life.  Jesus himself said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).  But the overall goal of discipleship is not simply to grow in self-discipline, but to be transformed into the likeness of Christ . . .

Sometimes we hear the word “disciple” and conclude that it’s too hard to become one.  But think about the alternative.  To refuse to become Jesus’ disciple is to consign ourselves to perpetual childhood and condemn ourselves to a wasted, frustrating life.  The more we enter into relationship with Rabbi Jesus, the more joy we will experience.  To become more like Christ will deepen our relationships and allow us to live more authentically.  It may not always be easy but it will certainly be good, and, as we follow him, we will find ourselves living with greater passion and purpose, experiencing a life of greater fulfillment.

(pp. 57-58)

_________________________

37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

_________________________

Music:

Gain the whole world and lose my soul?  Oh, may it not be so!  You can have all this world, but “Give Me Jesus.”  Sung  HERE  by Fernando Ortega.

_________________________

1 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”

Jesus may be referring to his resurrection and ascension, or to the coming of the Holy Spirit, or, more immediately, to his transfiguration, which is the next portion of Mark.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
gain the whole world.    http://media.photobucket.com/image/Mark%208:36/godlygrammy/Scripture/mark8_36.jpg
Jesus feeding the multitude.    http://cnx.org/content/m14380/latest/Jesus_gave_the_people_bread.jpg
Colette.     http://www.artbible.net/3JC/-luk-18,35-Healing%20Blindness-Guerissant%20les%20aveugles/20%20COLETTE%20ISABELLA%20JESUS%20GUERIT%20DES%20MALADES.jpg
Via Dolorosa.   http://www.wherejesuswalked.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/6a00d8341c563953ef00e5509c5c978834.jpg

1532.) Mark 7

March 17, 2015
With great fondness I remember my mother tending to her little bed of lilies of the valley. The fragrance was so wonderful! I think of Christ in this chapter, spreading the fragrance of God as he teaches and heals.

With great fondness I remember my mother tending to her little bed of lilies of the valley. The fragrance was so wonderful! I think of Christ in this chapter, spreading the fragrance of God as he teaches and heals.

Mark 7 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Teaches about Inner Purity

1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)

Psalm 24:3-4 (English Standard Version)

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart.

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

For these ceremonial washings, special stone vessels of water were kept, because ordinary water might be unclean. To wash your hands in this special way, you started by taking at least enough of this water to fill one and one-half egg shells. Then, you poured the water over your hands, starting at the fingers and running down towards your wrist. Then you cleansed each palm by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it. Then you poured water over your hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers.

A really strict Jew would do this not only before the meal, but also between each course.

The rabbis were deadly serious about this. They said that bread eaten with unwashed hands was no better than excrement. One rabbi who once failed to perform the ritual washing was excommunicated. Another rabbi said that the sin of eating with unwashed hands was equal to that of lying with a harlot.  Another rabbi was imprisoned by the Romans, and he used his ration of water for ceremonial cleansing instead of drinking, nearly dying of thirst. He was regarded as a great hero for this sacrifice.

–David Guzik

6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

This is called legalism.  You can recognize it by these unfailing characteristics:  1)  They (whoever is promoting this particular brand of legalism) take an opinion and then say it is God’s command.  So they add their own rules to Scripture.  2) Then they reject certain of God’s commands and insert their own.  And so they subtract from Scripture.

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

THE GOAL OF DIETARY LAWS

God set forth a set of dietary laws to distinguish the Israelites from their heathen neighbors.  Though certain of these laws held considerable health benefits, like not eating animals that carried diseases, this was not their main purpose.  Rather, their primary goal was to remind Israel not to mingle with its Gentile neighbors.  Their strict dietary laws prevented them from joining their neighbors’ idolatrous worship feasts and from partaking in the intimacy of their table fellowship.

Clearly, God was training his people by separating them from the cultures around them.  By declaring certain foods clean and other unclean, God was communicating the importance of striving for purity in all things, even those that seemed trivial.  Many of the dietary laws that sound so strange to us were intended to enable Israel to fulfill its destiny as God’s chosen people, to set them apart as distinctive among the nations of their world . . .

Paul tells us in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law.”  Of course as Christians, we believe that Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserve for our inability to keep all of God’s commands.  As such, he brought the law to the end of its ability to separate us from God because of our sin.  And for that we rejoice.

Jesus was also the “end” of the law in another way.  For thousands of years, God’s policy had been to separate Israel from the influence of its pagan neighbors.  But Christ gave a new command that went in the opposite direction.  Now, instead of maintaining their distance from nonbelievers, his followers were to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  No longer would the law keep Gentiles apart from God.

The instant Peter made his first visit to a Gentile house, the old policy of separation collided with the new policy of outreach.  According to Jewish law, Peter could not accept Cornelius’s hospitality because Gentiles were “unclean.”  But God released him from the ancient purity laws by giving him a vision in which unclean animals were declared “clean.”  With the guidance of the Spirit, the church later rules in Acts 15 that Gentile believers did not need to take on the covenant of the Torah given to the Jews on Mount Sinai.  The “dividing wall of hostility” that the ceremonial  and dietary laws put up in order to keep the Gentiles away was suddenly torn down (Ephesians 2:14).

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Galatians 5:22-24 (English Standard Version)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The Faith of a Gentile Woman

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Germain-Jean Drouais, 1784 (The Louvre, Paris)

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Germain-Jean Drouais, 1784 (The Louvre, Paris)

24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre.

Here Jesus is acting on the new belief system he just outlined.  He goes to the Gentiles!  Matters of the old clean/unclean formula are no hindrance to his love and healing power.

He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, 26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.

Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”

29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

Prayer of Humble Access:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

31 Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. 32 A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.

33 Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

Mk7 J and deaf man

Isaiah 35:4-6 (English Standard Version)

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.

36 Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”

_________________________

Music:

This will take you back!  HERE is “He’s the Lily of the Valley.”

  1. I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
    He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
    The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
    All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.

    • Refrain:
      In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;

      He tells me every care on Him to roll.
      He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
      He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
  2. He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
    In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tow’r;
    I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
    From my heart and now He keeps me by His pow’r.
  3. He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
    While I live by faith and do His blessed will;
    A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
    From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
lily of the valley.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/6a00e54ed2a1c38833011168a8a270970c-800wi.jpg
handwashing.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/handwashing.jpg
plus and minus signs.    http://paulmayers.blogs.com/my_weblog/images/2007/10/10/plus_or_minus_by_gin_able_strictly_.jpg
Drouais.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Jean-Germain_Drouais_-_The_Woman_of_Canaan_at_the_Feet_of_Christ_-_WGA06696.jpg
healing a deaf man.    https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/images/gospel-library/magazine/friendlp.nfo:o:15f0.jpg

1531.) Mark 6

March 16, 2015
The city of Nazareth today is dominated by the distinctive roof of the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation.

The city of Nazareth today is dominated by the distinctive roof of the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation.

Mark 6 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

One can understand their incredulity.  Jesus left town only to come back as a rabbi with a group of students.  “Just a carpenter” is a jibe at his lack of scholarly training.  “Son of Mary” is derisive, also, perhaps referring to the illegitimacy of his birth.  They knew just enough about him to think they knew everything about him — a fault that I, too, have displayed at times.

4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Jewish unbelief and Gentile belief — both of them caused Christ to marvel:

Luke 7:9 (New Living Translation)

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples

Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

ANCIENT HOSPITALITY

A visit to Israel will quickly convince you that hospitality in this ancient land must often have been a matter of life and death.  Imagine taking a short hike in the middle of the day in summer.  It’s ninety degrees in the shade—but there is no shade, only an endless rocky landscape dotted by a few scraggly shrubs.  Now imagine that you can’t climb into an air-conditioned car to get out of the searing heat.  Nor can you reach for an ice-cold bottle of water to slake your thirst because grocery stores from which to purchase bottled water haven’t yet been invented.  Not only that, but the road on which you are walking is frequented by robbers who make their living off vulnerable travelers.  But, thank God, there is something in this rugged country that works in your favor.  It is hospitality.  You can approach any of the residents of this ancient land for food, water, and shelter, and they will gladly provide it . . .

Understanding such a custom sheds light on a familiar scene from the Gospels.  When Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach in the surrounding villages, he gave them instructions that sound radical to us:  “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts . . . And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:8, 11).  Taking this passage literally, some Christians have gone with little or no money to places that don’t have the same high regard for hospitality that existed in Jesus’ day.  And even though God can provide for them, it seems clear that Jesus wasn’t asking his disciples to count on daily miracles to sustain them.  Instead, he knew that the disciples of an esteemed rabbi would normally be warmly welcomed.  Any community that failed to treat his disciples with honor deserved to be left behind.

In a land without police, social welfare, or insurance agencies to provide for people, mutual dependence was vital to survival.

(pp. 130-131)

12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

The Death of John the Baptist

“Salome (with the head of John the Baptist)” by Jean Benner, 1899

“Salome (with the head of John the Baptist)” by Jean Benner, 1899

14 Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

21 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. 22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” 23 He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

24 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”

Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”

25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”

26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her.

I have read that the Greek word used here of Herod’s distress is the same word used for the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane.  But Herod’s sorrow wasn’t enough to make him stand up to his wicked wife.  As one Bible commentator has put it, “How many have we known, whose heads have been broken with their own rib?”

27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

“The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

–Soren Kierkegaard

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

A mosaic of fishes and loaves from a church in Tabgha, along the Sea of Galilee.

A mosaic of fishes and loaves from a church in Tabgha, along the Sea of Galilee.

30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

“Sheep without a shepherd . . .”

  • are needy, because they have no Shepherd to fill their wants.
  • are hungry and thirsty, because they have no Shepherd to make them lie down in green pastures or to lead them beside still waters.
  • hurt, because they have no Shepherd to restore their soul.
  • wander, because they have no Shepherd to lead them in paths of righteousness.
  • are vulnerable, because they have no Shepherd to protect them with His rod.

–David Guzik

35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”

37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”

38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”

They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass.

The “sheep without a shepherd” now have Jesus as their Good Shepherd, and he makes them “lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).

40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them.

Jesus may have said what Jewish fathers of the time generally said while breaking the bread at the beginning of the meal:
“Blessed is he who brings forth bread from the earth.”

The blessing we often use at our house goes like this:
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
And may these gifts to us be blessed,
And may our souls by thee be fed,
Christ, our ever-living bread.”

Luke 24:30-31 (English Standard Version)

When Jesus was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!

Jesus Walks on Water

45 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

53 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore 54 and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, 55 and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Brian Doerksen and his “Your Love Is Amazing.”  Hallelujah!

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Nazareth.     http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/nazareth.jpg
Benner.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Salome_Jean_Benner_c1899.jpg
mosaic of fishes and loaves.     http://wiki.faithfutures.org/images/0/07/Tabgha_mosaic_of_fish_and_loaves_tb_n011500_wr.jpg
sheep.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3285/2900894100_9a71bb9f1e.jpg
Frie.    http://fineartamerica.com/images-small/five-loaves-two-fish-original-suzanne-rittenhouse-frie.jpg
Jesus walks on water.    http://jfreakm71.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jesus-walking-on-water.jpg

1530.) Mark 5

March 13, 2015
“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, 1871 (The Museum of the Academy of the Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia)

“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, 1871 (The Museum of the Academy of the Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Mark 5 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man

1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him. 3 This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.

6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”

9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”

And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.

11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.

12 “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”

13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.

14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.

They cared more for their swine than for their souls, more for bacon than for true belief.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him.

“That is a striking name for a man, ‘he that had been possessed with the devil.’ It would stick to him as long as he lived, and it would be a standing sermon wherever he went. He would be asked to tell the story of what he used to be, and how the change came about. What a story for any man to tell!”

–C. H. Spurgeon

19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

John Oxenham wrote a short and poignant poem about this occasion — read it  HERE.

Jesus Heals in Response to Faith

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Mk5 woman touches hem

24 Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. 25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

Matthew 9:20 says she touched the hem of His garment, and that actually means one of the borders of the outer garment that all Jews wore.  Barclay says, “Every devout Jew wore an outer robe with four tassels on it, one at each corner. These tassels were worn in obedience to the command in Numbers 15:38-40, and they were to signify to others, and to remind the man himself, that the wearer was a member of the chosen people of God.”

29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

St. Augustine said of this story, “Flesh presses, faith touches” — and Jesus can tell the difference.

32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

THE MEANING OF TASSELS

Why did God decree that Jewish men were to wear tzitziyot (tassels)?  They seem meaningless—and so odd, such a negative fashion statement.  What earthly purpose could they serve?  But there it is in Scripture:  “Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.  You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord” (Numbers 15:38-39).

By wearing tzitziyot, a Jewish man was signifying that he was trying to become obedient to all the laws of God.  How fitting, I thought—an arbitrary law to symbolize all the arbitrary laws God had given them.  And to think that Jesus wore them too!

My attitude toward the tzitziyot and the rest of the law finally began to change when I realized that Jewish scholars posed a far wiser question than I had, asking, “What good purpose would a loving God have for giving us this command?”  The rabbis agreed that some laws seemed to lack an obvious purpose, and they called them hukim (“decrees”).  Obeying such laws, they believed, displayed one’s love for God because it showed you trusted him regardless of whether you understood his intent . . .

Though the command to wear tzitziyot makes no sense to modern people, it made perfect sense to those who first heard it.  In ancient times, the garments people wore indicated their status in society.  The hem was particularly important because it symbolized the owner’s identity and authority.  Legal contracts written on clay tablets were actually “signed” by pressing the corner of one’s hem into the clay . . .

Tassels were also a sign of nobility; in the ancient world kings and princes decorated their hem with tassels.  Remember how the high priest’s blue robe was decorated?  From it hung an elaborate border of bells and pomegranates (Exodus 28:33).  The blue thread in the tzizit that ordinary Jews wore was dyed with the same expensive royal blue dye as the robe of the high priest.  It signals the entire people of Israel are to become a nation of priests.

By means of the tzizit, God was encouraging his people to be obvious about their commitment.  In a world where other nations prostituted themselves to idols and sacrificed their children to demons, the Jews stood out.  The tassels were a visible reminder that they belonged to God in a special way.  Whatever they did, good or evil, was a witness to the God they served . . .

Now think of the scene with the woman with chronic bleeding in terms of the significance of the hem of a person’s garment.  The hem would have signified Jesus’ authority and identity.  What’s more, the place where the tassels were attached would have been considered the holiest part of his garment.  So it seems that the woman knew exactly what she was reaching for.  Jesus’ purity was so great that instead of becoming defiled by her touch, it healed her impurity.  What a beautiful picture of the power of Christ’s holiness to heal and to bless.

(pp. 148-153)

35 While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying.

“The raising of Jairus’ daughter” by Edwin Long

“The raising of Jairus’ daughter” by Edwin Long

41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

*     *     *     *     *

The account of Jesus raising the little girl is a story with great personal meaning to me.  Twice I have sat at my daughter’s bedside in a hospital, fearing that she would die, thinking of this story, praying to the Lord to “heal her, so she may live.”  The first time Maureen was 11 months old and required open-heart surgery.  The second time she was in first grade and had contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome.  Both times the Lord heard my cry and answered with kindness.  How grateful I am that now my daughter is alive and well, married to a man who loves her and mothering two lovely children!  Here’s a picture of Maureen, my miracle child, husband Will, and Liam (6) and Calli (2).

Arwood in snow 2015_________________________

Music:

God, there is none like You!  Because of You and Your grace, we are alive!  HERE  is “You Alone”  by David Crowder.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Polenov.     http://allart.biz/up/photos/album/P/Polenov_Vasily/raising_jairus_daughter_1871.jpg
pigs.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/piggy.jpg
bacon.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/bacon.jpg
woman touches Jesus’ clothing.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/cc492-woman.jpg
Long.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/jairus-daughter-edwin-long.jpg

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