Tag Archives: Mark

Through the Bible, July 26

Reading: Mark 9-10

Summary: Only two miracles are recorded in these two chapters—healing of the boy with an unclean Spirit and blind Bartimaeus—though the miraculous transfiguration is found here as well.  Much teaching of Jesus is related, touching on familiar themes like greatness in the kingdom, divorce, children, temptation, and wealth.

Devotional Thought:

Faith That is Blind is No Faith

Faith is grossly misunderstood, by believers and unbelievers alike.  The very idea of believing without ample reason is foreign to Scripture.  The very concept of faith is often rejected by men as being baseless and superstitious.  It’s often assumed that examples of faith in the Bible are demonstrations of blind acceptance.  This is not true.

If nothing else, Scripture shows that even Jesus’ apostles often struggled with the things they heard from Him.  They did not merely embrace immediately what He said.  For instance, coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus told Peter, James, and John to tell no one of what they had witnessed on the mountain “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Notice this; “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean” (Mark 9:9-10).

Certainly, the time would come when they would understand.  But it wasn’t until Jesus had shown Himself alive to them.  Reason was provided for them to believe.

Just because we may not know exactly how God will work and what He will do, we do know what He can and has done.  He’s shown Himself—countless times—to be powerful, good, benevolent, and faithful. He’s given us every reason to believe.  He’s fulfilled His promises.  So why would I not have faith that He will continue to do so?

Yes, faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” but that does not mean faith is blind (Heb. 11:1).  Things “hoped for” and things “not seen” may sound like a lot of wishful thinking.  On the contrary, they are a certainty, because the God who has promised them has proven just how reliable He is.

I have every reason to believe!

Through the Bible, July 25

Reading: Mark 7-8

Summary: In these chapters, Jesus continues to teach, perform miracles, and engage in confrontations with religious leaders.

The watershed event for Mark’s gospel comes at the end of chapter 8 (the same event serves the same purpose in Matthew’s Gospel as well) with the confession by Peter of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son.  This is followed by the first public explanation of His suffering and death, coupled with instruction regarding the demands of discipleship.

Devotional Thought:

What Do You Have?

Is God able to take care of the problems in your life?  Resolve your issues?  Overcome your obstacles?  Alleviate your pains? Answer your needs?

Of course He is.  That is not the question.  What is a question is whether or not we’ll participate in what God does?  When Jesus fed the hungry multitude He first asked the apostles how many loaves they had (Mark 8:5).  The seven in their possession were hardly sufficient to feed the twelve, much less 4,000 (v. 9).

It’s not that Jesus needed those loaves to feed the crowd.  No more than God needed Moses’s staff to part the Red Sea or David’s stone to fell Goliath or Israel’s trumpets to topple Jericho’s walls.

He doesn’t need me or what I have to be able to do His great work.  But He does want me to be a part of the process.  He wants me to do what I can and contribute what I am able.  He then uses that and does so much, much more.

So, what do you have?  Whatever it is isn’t sufficient.  And that’s wholly beside the point.  God is more than sufficient and He may just be waiting for what you have to offer.

Through the Bible, July 24

Reading: Mark 5-6

Summary: These two chapters record a series of Jesus’ miracles (actually begun in 4:35).  Interspersed among these miracles are accounts of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth, sending out the twelve (called the “limited” commission), and the death of John the Baptist.

Devotional Thought:

Strange Worship

This has to be considered one of the most bizarre worship events in all of the Bible.  A man, seeing Jesus approaching from a distance, ran to him and “bowed down before Him” (Mark 5:6; NASB).  Some other translations actually say “worshiped.”

It’s not strange that one would do this, as similar actions are seen several times during Jesus’ life.  Rather, the strangeness is the one who did it.  This was the man possessed of many demons—perhaps even thousands? (see v. 9)—at Gerasenes.  Because of this, this poor man lived a horrible, violent, uncontrollable, self-destructive life.  Immediately following his act of obeisance, he fully acknowledged Jesus as “Son of the Most High God” and His complete authority over him (them?).

Here’s a question: who prompted the act of worship, the man or the demons?  Certainly, we know these demons had full knowledge of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son.  But did that knowledge prompt them to worship?  Or was it the man who lived a wrecked, ruined, and desperate life?  Was it this man who fully realized that Jesus was the only one who could rescue him?  If so, has there ever been a more pure and sincere moment of worship?  Has there ever been a more conflicted worshipper—one desperate for Jesus’ help all the while controlled by Satan’s minions?

How many despairing and distraught souls want nothing more than to find the salvation from their anguish and torment that only Jesus could provide?  Who, in the midst of it all, would simply and sincerely bow at His feet?

Am I that person?  Or am I one who could somehow either help or prevent them?

Through the Bible, July 23

Reading: Mark 3-4

Summary: Confrontations with Jesus and opposition to Him intensify in response to some of Jesus’ miracles.  Taking issue with Jesus are not only the religious leaders, but His family as well.

Here, in chapter 4, Mark also relates a series of Jesus’ parables.  The end of the chapter also contains the first of a series of miracles Jesus performs.

Devotional Thought:

Big Deal

It’s an unsettling thing to see so much animosity toward Christianity and Jesus in our world–not surprising, but unsettling.  Jesus Himself said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

Consequently, it’s hard not to be excited when someone professes faith in Jesus Christ.  That really is something.  After all, the acknowledgment of that truth is exactly what Jesus blessed Peter for confessing (Matthew 16:16-17).

But…don’t make too big a deal out of it.

What?  Really?

Yes.

The Bible says that “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’” (Mark 3:11).  Surely that reminds us of James’ statement that “even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).  Yet, their faith, as with ours, is of no value when that understanding of Jesus’ true identity is not coupled with action and obedience.

So, on the one hand, it is a big deal to recognize that Jesus is God’s Son; on the other hand, if it goes no further than that, it’s no big deal at all.

Through the Bible, July 22

Reading: Mark 1-2

Summary: Mark moves very quickly to the ministry of Jesus.  No introduction is given to this Gospel other than the very first verse: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  No record is given here of His birth, much less John the Baptist’s.  He moves immediately and briefly through the ministry of John, the baptism and temptation of Jesus–all in thirteen verses.  He marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the imprisonment of John.

Mark begins with Jesus preaching and healing in the region of Galilee, particularly in and around the city of Capernaum.

Devotional Thought:

I Wonder

The Bible sometimes raises questions for which it provides no answers.

Jesus famously called James and John to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).  They had up to that time been fishers of fish.  Their time had been spent engaged in the gainful employ of commercial fishing. They left that to follow Jesus, which offered no prospect of monetary compensation.

They left their father, Zebedee, in the boat along with the hired servants.  They had been mending nets, but abandoned that task.  I wonder how Zebedee—and we can only imagine how he got his nickname, “Thunder” (Mark 3:17)—responded to his sons walking away from their jobs in the family business.

Later Peter would claim, “We have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28).

That was all quite a commitment, wasn’t it?  It causes me to wonder.  What have I left to follow Jesus?  From what would I walk away to devote myself to service for Him?   Is my following Christ sacrificial or have I adjusted my discipleship to fit my comfortable lifestyle?

I have more questions than answers.

Week Four Bible Reading Introduction

Week 4: Jesus’ Ministry—Mark

July 22-28

         This week’s reading will move from Matthew to Mark.  We will also use two of the Supplemental Reading days (29th & 30th) to complete our reading of this Gospel.

While Matthew’s original audience was Jewish, Mark’s appears to be Gentile.  This is evident as Mark provides interpretations and meanings of Hebrew and Aramaic words (languages familiar to Jews but not to Greek-speaking Gentiles; see 3:17 as one instance).  He also explains Jewish customs (see 7:3-4).

The gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four.  Hence the individual accounts of the events recorded are typically much briefer in Mark as compared to the others (where the same event is recorded).  Additionally, Mark frequently uses the word “immediately”.  It’s found eleven times in chapter one, 29 times in the first 11 chapters, and 39 times overall.  This in itself creates a sense of urgency in reading this Gospel. Thus, Mark has been described as a “fast-paced” account of Jesus life and ministry.

Through the Bible July Bible Reading Introduction

July Bible Reading Introduction

The Story of Jesus

Matthew and Mark

         At the close of Old Testament history, the Medo-Persian empire is in control.  After defeating the Babylonians, who had destroyed Jerusalem and taken Israelites captive, the new regime allowed the Jews to return to their homeland.  Some of them did, but most did not.  Those that did were successful in rebuilding the temple, restoring the practices and teaching prescribed by the Law of Moses, and restoring the walls of the city of Jerusalem.  This was all accomplished through the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

When the New Testament story opens, four hundred years have passed and many things have changed.  Rome is now in control.  Though most of the Jews still live apart from Palestine, the city of Jerusalem is a well-established, thriving city with a refurbished temple (thanks to Herod), and a physical Roman military presence beside that temple (a structure alluded to in Acts 21:34-35).  A substantial population of Jews lives to the north in Galilee and in the south in Judea, with a curious presence of hated Samaritans in between.  Religious life is focused around the temple and synagogue (a new feature since the Old Testament) with numerous well-defined religious/political sects among the Jews: Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots, etc.

The events of the intervening 400 years have gone far to create not only the changed circumstances of God’s people, but also their attitudes, outlooks, aspirations, and faith.   But so also have the words of God’s prophets.  When Jesus comes on the scene there is a sense of great expectation for God’s coming kingdom, the anticipated Messiah, as well as two prophets, one promised by Moses and by Malachi (Elijah, Deut. 18:15; Mal. 4:5).

The accounts of Jesus’ arrival, life and ministry are, of course, recorded in the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Though telling the same story, each of these were written by different men and for different audiences.  This month will be devoted to reading Matthew and Mark and next month we will read Luke and John.

The reading schedule for this year has been an attempt to present the Bible’s message in chronological fashion.   The Gospels pose particular challenges to this approach.  While it is certainly not impossible to arrange the content of the Gospels chronologically, to read the material that way would require an excessive amount of searching out passages from all four books to be read in that order. Instead, our readings for July and August will be taking each of the Gospels and reading them start to finish.  The only exception to this will be the reading for the first week of this month.  In that week, we’ll take the texts from three of the four gospels covering information that leads up to the beginning of both John’s and Jesus’ ministries.

My Delight is the Lord, August 17

When Evil Wins

August 17, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Mark 6:14-29

It is truly disturbing when evil wins. How disheartening when selfish, prideful, arrogant, and depraved people wield influence over the lives of the godly and righteous. Yet, a man like John the Baptist came under the sway of an exhibitionist young woman, her promiscuous and vindictive mother, and the impulsive and spineless king. As a result John died a violent and sudden death. It’s infuriating, isn’t it? But, it’s far from a victory for wrong. Sure, wickedness got its way, it often does. But evil did not, does not, and cannot win. It’s the timing and present circumstances that give us trouble. The upper hand never belongs to Satan. The fact that he is allowed to wield influence and at times to carry the day is no sign of triumph. Dominion always has and always will belong to God.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why did some think Jesus was John raised from the dead? (v. 14)
  • For whose sake did Herod imprison John? (v. 17)
  • What did Herod know about John? (v. 20)
  • What did Herod want to honor? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, July 26

Never Be a Cause for Sin

July 26, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: Mark 9:42-50

Sin is bad. We really don’t understand how bad it is; it separates us from God, it stains our soul, it ruthlessly destroys, and it requires nothing less that Jesus’ own blood to remedy. Jesus brings to our attention concern for sin’s cause. What prompts it? What serves as an influence that results in sin? Jesus’ warning is chilling. Do not, at any cost, be the cause for “one of these little ones” to sin (v. 42). Further, you would be better off to purposefully maim and disfigure your own body if some part of it were the reason for sin (vv. 43-47). That’s strong language. What in your own life serves as an entry point for sin? Think about it; a person, an activity, a habit, an event, a technology device? It could be anything. No measure would be too extreme to eliminate this avenue for sin, especially if it is something much loved and cherished. The price of failure here, is just far too high.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who are “these little ones”? (v. 42)
  • How is hell described? (v. 44)
  • To what does “kingdom of God” refer? (v. 47)
  • What does it mean to be “salted with fire”? (v. 49)

My Delight is the Lord, June 22

Can’t Hide Jesus

June 22, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Mark 7:24-37

Even Jesus sought solitude for Himself. He left His homeland (the only time in His adult life He did so), went into a house “and did not want anyone to know” (v. 24). The pressures and expectations on Him had to have been unimaginable. But alas, “he could not be hidden” (v. 24). Do you remember Jesus taught that as His followers we should not be hidden either (see Matt. 5:14-15). Jesus, just acting like Himself, gave away His identity. So too it should be with us. Just living the way Jesus teaches us to live should betray our identity as His disciples as well. The only way such could be hidden is if we quit doing what He said to do–then we have another, quite serious, problem. No, it should be obvious, as obvious as, well, a light shining in darkness.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What is the significance of this miracle? (vv. 24-30)
  • How might Jesus’ statement be construed as rude or harsh? (v. 27)
  • Why would the translation of Ephphatha be provided? (v. 34)
  • What was the reaction to this miracle? (v. 37)