Archive for category Gospel of Mark
Let’s play fill in the blank. (No cheating or reading ahead for the right answer.) When Jesus chose his twelve disciples, the Bible says:
“He appointed twelve that they might ___________________________ and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14).
In this statement, we find out the task Jesus gives his fresh recruits: they are sent out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, and to liberate people from demonic oppression. But what kind of preparation must they undergo to be fit for such a task? That’s the blank we must fill in.
Here are some good options, but not the correct answer:
“He appointed twelve that they might….
- go to Bible College and/or Seminary
- go to church every Sunday and listen to sermon after sermon
- join a small group or Bible study
- read Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership or every book by Beth Moore
- attend a pastor’s conference
- complete the 40 Days of Purpose study
These are all good options, but not the one, primary essential aspect of discipleship. Read the rest of this entry »
“They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:1-5)
This is the most dramatic of Jesus’ exorcism ministry. He has just landed on shore of the region of the Gerasenes, a pagan land where pig herding is part of the local economy (work Jews considered unclean). He encounters a man driven mad by a many demons living among the tombs, who the people have tried repeatedly to restrain with chains.
I have one questions today: Were the people trying to chain this afflicted man to the tombs to keep him away from the community for their own peace and safety? Or, were they trying to keep him with the community by chaining him, and preventing him from running off alone to the tombs to live in dehumanizing isolation?
I have often read it the first way, picturing the demonized man ostracized from the community, chained like a wild animal in the tombs safely away from the rest of the people so as to prevent him from doing harm to the others.
Upon further reflection, I think (and hope) that it is the other way around.
You see the Enemy’s work always has as one of it’s aims the destruction of relationships and community, and driving people into isolation and loneliness. The work of Jesus and the Kingdom of God has as one of it’s core aims reconciliation, the healing of relationships, and the formation of loving community that sacrifices for the well-being of the “least of these” and moves toward those afflicted. Read the rest of this entry »
Jesus was not seeker sensitive. He was not after the crowds. Obviously, his signs and wonders, and authoritative teaching naturally drew crowds. But in the scene below we find Jesus trying to escape the clamoring crowds and find a moment of solitude. Even more shocking, when his disciples tell him of a crowd of people looking for him, he leaves them in the dust and goes to another village! Mark sets the scene:
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons (Mark 1:35-39).
In contemporary terms, we would say Jesus’ ministry is exploding in numbers, his “church services” are now standing room only, and his leadership team (disciples) are wondering where the “senior pastor” has run off to!
Keri and I are currently planting a new church with a team of adventurous Christians, and when you are attempting to build a community and ministry from the ground up, numbers take on more significance. We are thrilled when five new people show up for one of our gatherings. So, I can sympathize with the disciples in this story who don’t want to let this opportunity slip away. In fact, I giggle when I read this story in light of our own situation. Here’s the crazy scene I imagine in my mind: Read the rest of this entry »
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ”Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41)
How many sermons have I both heard and preached myself on this passage? What is the main message or application made with this story? Answer: What are the storms in your life that you need God to calm? What storms threaten to sink you? Do you faithfully turn to Jesus in your time of need?
Yet…I believe this is NOT the point of the story. This is the not the message Mark is trying to get across to his readers. So, what is the lesson for us? I think we sometimes get it completely wrong, affirming in the disciples what Jesus rebukes. Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. (Mark 4:35-36)
Every phrase counts in Mark. There are powerful lessons in the most minute details of his narrative. Today we are reminded that following Jesus almost always requires that we “leave the crowd.” Remember Jesus said elsewhere that to choose a life on his terms means traveling the “narrow road” and that very few people take it.
Following Jesus often means ditching the mainstream, revolting against the status quo, swimming upstream, taking the lonely path and more. If you’re going with the flow, you’re probably going the opposite way of Jesus.
The crowd chooses self-indulgence, disciples choose self-sacrifice. The crowd chooses sexual promiscuity, disciples choose purity and self-restraint. The crowd chooses a life of maximizing personal comfort, disciples choose to live lives of risky obedience. The crowd chooses wealth and fame, disciples choose humble lives of Kingdom service to the least, the last and the lost.
How has following Jesus led you away from the crowd?
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. (Mark 4:35-36)
When you follow Jesus, he always drags you to the other side. The other side of normal. The other side of comfortable. The other side of safe. The other side of popularity. The other side of the tracks to love and serve other kinds of people different than you.
How has following Jesus taken you to the other side? Have you wandered courageously to the other side of the lunch room to introduce yourself to someone in the other crowd? Has Jesus led you to see the other side of an argument, to give the other person the benefit of the doubt?
Has following Jesus led you to the other side of the globe to serve people on a missions trip? Perhaps, you set out to college to get a degree that could earn you a comfortable job and stable income, and now Jesus has led you to another vocation that pays less but reaps more Kingdom fruit.
Most of us, like the disciples, probably would prefer to stay put on this side, but Jesus words continuously call to the other side of comfortable. So, listen again to his words: “Let us go across to the other side.”
Will you follow?
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ”The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ”Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)
Traditional Christian theology tends to over-spiritualize and individualize both repentance and faith. Here in this passage we see two monumental concepts at work — (1) Jesus announcing the arrival or availability of the “Kingdom of God” and (2) a call to “repent and believe the good news” (v. 14). But how would a first-century Jew have understood these words?
First, many today read “the Kingdom of God is near” to mean “now you can know how to go to heaven when you die;” which it doesn’t mean at all. Jesus is announcing that God is at last breaking into history in his own ministry in order to begin the making things right, and fulfilling all of the great promises of the OT. ”The Kingdom of God” drawing near equates to God’s reigning activity becoming more manifest and decisive at this climactic moment in history.
Second, Jesus’ challenge to “repent” does not only mean being sorry for one’s individual sins. Read the rest of this entry »
Today we begin an ongoing series of reflections on Mark’s gospel. Saddle up for a discipleship adventure!
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:9-13)
The problem at the heart of the biblical narrative could be simply labelled “an identity crisis.” Ever since Adam the human race has been trying to figure out their true identity, and from that their true purpose on earth. The Israelites continually forget who and whose they are. And we follow in their footsteps daily.
Jesus is portrayed as the “second Adam” (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15) and the true, faithful Israelite throughout the New Testament. Here in Mark’s story Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness are meant to evoke both the 40 year period of the Israelites who forgot their identity and fell into temptation, as well as Adam and Eve in the garden surrounded by wild animals who also let temptation overcome them. In this episode, Jesus shows us the necessary pathway to and pattern for spiritual faithfulness.
The pattern is this: We first need to be reminded WHO WE ARE in order to withstand the snares of the evil one and all the temptations of the flesh. Read the rest of this entry »
“…Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:3-8, 13-20)
Parables are not so much designed to inform but to provoke us and prod us into a place of healthy discomfort. This place of discomfort is God’s way of giving us a “reality check”, to see where we’re at in relationship to God and the Kingdom. This parable throws a net over us all, and we’ve no place to run and hide. Each one of us fits somewhere into this story of 4 soils. The big, eye-opening question is: WHO ARE YOU in this parable?
Chances are we all fit into one of the four categories better than the others. Here they are: Read the rest of this entry »