Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meeting An Individual's Needs

Mark 8:22-26

“And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.  And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.” (Mark 8:22-23)

One of the biggest mistakes in Christian society is that everyone should have the same experience.  Since most of the people had been healed just by touching Jesus, the people assumed that that was what the blind man needed.  Instead, Jesus led him out of town and rubbed some spit on the man’s eyes.  Then he did something he never did with the others he healed, asking what he was able to see.   

“And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.  And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” (Mark 8:24-26)

The man could now see, but his vision was still distorted so that while he knew they were people walking around, they looked more like tree,  Jesus had already done more to heal this man than he had done with many others, yet he still had to do more to heal him.  Jesus cared enough to question the man and take additional steps as needed.  If we are going to minister to people effectively, we are going to have to learn to take time enough to be sure we have met the needs of the individuals, and not just settle for what most people seem to need. 

For example, while the Romans Road has been used to win a great many people to Christ, for a great many others, it has only provide a confusing idea of what salvation is, with the result that though they made a profession, they are not saved.  The number of those who make professions but never grow is an indication of how common this problem is.  The test for whether a person is saved or not is not whether they have made a profession or had an experience.  Romans 8:9 tells us, “... Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”   If the Holy Spirit doesn’t begin to work in his life, the person's profession was meaningless..  If we are sincere about helping people or winning them to Christ, we need to take the time to answer their questions. And address their concerns.   Too often, we just focus on our own agenda and overlook the individual's needs.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Forgetting God’s Power

Mark 8:11-21

“And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.  And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.  And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.” (Mark 8:11-13)

When Jesus came into the populous area known as Dalmanutha, the religious leaders came out to meet him asking him for some sign from heaven in an attempt to discredit him, much like the liberal media interviewing a conservative candidate.  Jesus knew they were not going to take what he said seriously, and asked why they kept demanding a sign.  They had had many miraculous signs that other people would have accepted readily.  God was not going to give them some special sign that only they could understand, such as the handwriting on the wall in Daniel.  Rather than waste time arguing with them or trying to convince them, Jesus got into a boat and started for the other side.    

“Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.  And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.” (Mark 8:14-16)

The disciples had had seven baskets of food left after feeding the four thousand,and had brought some of it with them.  They had eaten it on the way to Dalmanutha and while they were there,    As a result, the disciples probably didn’t think about needing more food until they got on another boat to cross the sea.  When Jesus warned them to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees, they remembered they had eaten all they had and assumed he was scolding them for not having thought about getting more food. 

“And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?  Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?  When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?

They say unto him, Twelve.

And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?

And they said, Seven.

And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Matthew 8:17-21)

Jesus realized they thought he was upset with them for not remembering to get food.   He asked how they could not understand that he wasn’t concerned about having enough food.  Didn’t they remember what had happened before, how that when they had just had five pieces of bread and two fishes, there had been twelve baskets of food left over and the next time, just a couple of days earlier, they had only had seven pieces of bread, yet were able to feed four thousand and had seven baskets of food left over?   Both times they had far more left over than they started with. 

How often we as Christians make the same mistake the disciples did, panicking because we don’t have the money  to pay a bill or get something we think we need, and blame ourselves or God for the lack.  It is like we forgot everything he has done for us in the past, or we think he couldn’t do it again.   We need to think about what God has done for us in the past and thank him so we don’t forget.   We don’t need to worry.  He will not run out of power, nor will he forget about us.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Feeding the Four Thousand

Mark 8:1-10

“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.” (Mark 8:1-3)

When Jesus returned from Tyre and Sidon, to the area south of the Sea of Galilee, there were very few towns nearby, but a huge multitude came out to hear him.  For three days he had been teaching and no one had gone to buy food.  Jesus became concerned that some of them might be weakened by their lack of food and find it difficult to make it home if he sent them away because some would need several days to walk home.    

“And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” (Mark 8:4) 

They were in rural area with no major towns, and his disciples asked where they could go that would have enough food to feed such a crowd on short notice.  Most of the nearby stores would have only a few things for the local population.    

“And he asked them, How many loaves have ye?

And they said, Seven.

And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.  And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.” (Mark 8:5-8)

Jesus asked the disciples how much food they had with them, and they told him they had seven loaves of bread.   Jesus then told the people to sit on the ground. He then took the bread, and after praying, began to break it into pieces into baskets for the disciples to serve the people just as he had done a month or so earlier with the little boy’s lunch.  In the process they also discovered a few small fish and he prayed and broke them in to pieces as well.  It must have been somewhat like the oil in the story in II Kings 4:1-7.  As long as Jesus kept breaking the bread they never ran out of bread. 

“So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.  And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” (Mark 8:8-9)

Those seven loaves of bread and the few fishes yielded enough to satiate about four thousand people, leaving seven baskets full  for the disciples.   When they had all been fed, Jesus sent them home to their families. 

“And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.” (Mark 8:10)

As soon as the crowd left, Jesus and the disciples got onto a boat and headed for the area known as Dalmanutha, a somewhat more populous area.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Healing a Deaf and Dumb Man

Mark 7:31-37

“And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.  And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.” (Mark 7:31-32)

Returning from the area around Tyre and Sidon Jesu went to the area around the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee.    When he arrived a man was brought to him who was deaf, and unable to talk.  The two conditions usually go together in those who were deaf from birth, because they are unable to hear and as a result does not develop the muscles to control their speech. 

“And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.” (Mark 7:33-34)

Jesus took the man aside privately, putting his fingers into his ears, and touching his tongue, then commanding they be opened. 

“And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.” (Mark 7:35)

Though he had never learned the language or practiced forming the sounds, the man was instantly able to speak clearly and understood what was said.  If modern doctors were to be able to heal a person’s hearing, it would still take him months to learn the language and learn to form the words.  This man was miraculously able to talk immediately. 

“And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mark 7:36-37)

Jesus told the people not to tell how he had healed the man, but like any secret, there wasn’t much pleasure in knowing it if no one knows you know.  The more he told them not to tell, the harder they found to keep it secret.  The people were impressed , saying Jesus had done the job well, because not only had enabled the man to hear and control his words, he had also given him the ability to talk so that they didn’t have to wait for him to learn how.  The job was complete.

Looking at the other miracles, we find the same thing.  The healing was complete instantly.  There was no prolonged recovery period or physical therapy to regain muscle strength or learn how to act.  The same thing is true today.  When Jesus saves a person, he has all the power of God in him and is freed from the power of sin.  It no longer controls him.  Unfortunately, because no one has told them it is true, many continue to practice their old sins from force of habit, never reckoning themselves dead to it as Romans 6:11 instructs.  As a result many Christians struggle with a certain sin for years.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Syro-Phoenician’s Daughter

Mark 7:24-29

“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.” (Mark 7:24)

From the area west of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus went Northwest into present day Lebanon.  He tried to go secretly, but was unable to hide his identity. 

“For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:25-26)

One of the people who heard Jesus was there was a Greek woman who had been raise in the part of the old Phoenician Empire which had been joined with Syria under the Roman Empire.  She came and worshipped Jesus, asking him to cast a demon out of her daughter. 

“But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.

And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.  And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” (Mark 7:27-29)

Because of the prophecies, it was important that the Jews be given the first opportunity to receive Christ.  Jesus used the illustration of taking care of one’s family before taking care of the pets to illustrate what he was doing.  The woman pointed out that even when the focus was on feeding one’s family, the dogs were allowed to eat the things that fell off the table.  She was not asking him to deprive the Jews, but just to drop a few crumbs for her.   It would require very little on his part to heal her daughter. 

It was obvious she recognized him as having more than enough power to heal her daughter and still accomplish his goal.  Because of her faith, as demonstrated by what she said. Jesus said her daughter was healed.  She accepted his word and went home.    When she got home, she found her daughter sleeping naturally and the demon gone.  Like the Roman centurion, she believed Jesus could do what he promised, even without going to her house.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Attitude Of The Heart

Mark 7:14-23

“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 7:14-16)

Jesus had rebuked the Parisees, telling them that instead of making the law better, their changes made it less valuable and hindered people from pleasing God.  He then gathered the people to gether and made it clear that the thing that made a person unfit for the kingdom of God was not the things he ate or drank.  What made him unfit for the kingdom of god was the way he acted.  It is very important that we understand this. 

“And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:17-23)

Jesus’ disciples wanted to be sure they were understanding what he was teaching correctly.  After al, the Jews were forbidden to eat pork and certain other foods, and they believed it was because those foods made them unfit for the kingdom of God.  Jesus pointed out that if they ate pork, for example, the body digested it, extracting whatever food value was there and eliminating the rest through the bowels.   The things that make a man evil or bad result from the attitude of his heart.  It is that attitude that leads to imagining doing evil things and from there to acting on them, whether it be adultery or theft or murder, or pride and foolish behavior.  Eating the pork did not cause them to commit adultery or murder, or any of those other things.  Those were the result of those attitudes in their heart or mind.  The problem with eating pork was not the pork itself, but that God had asked the Jews not to eat it as a part of their covenant with God.  Eating it indicated an attitude of disrespect toward their agreement with God.   It was this attitude that made a man unfit to receive God’s blessings.   

As Christians it is important to understand those Laws were part of the covenant or contract between God and the Nation of Israel.  Some six hundred years before, god had made a contract with Abraham’s descendants, and according Romans 4, our salvation is based on the promise to Abraham, rather than the contract with the Nation of Israel defined by the law.    When Christians demand that people follow those guidelines as essential for being a Christian, they make the same mistake the Pharisees were making, and have departed from true Christianity, as Paul tells us in I Timothy 4:1-5.  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  Many times the spirit or attitude that motivates certain action is more important than the action itself.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Setting a Higher Standard

Mark 7:1-13

“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” (Mark 7:1-5)

The Pharisees found themselves in quandary similar to the one many Republican found themselves in with the election of Donald Trump.   They were determined to prevent him accomplishing his goals, while fully aware that they could lose all credibility with the people it they openly opposed him.  They scrutinized every statement and action in an effort to find something they could use to discredit him, while pretending to go along with him. 

In Leviticus, god had given some simple rules for washing things to prevent the spread of disease,  By Jesus’ day the Jewish rabbis had developed a tradition of washing similar to surgical cleaning procedures that went far beyond simply preventing the spread of germs.  Though they knew nothing about germs, they were the original germophobes.   They insisted anyone who failed to follow the tradition would be punished  by God.    In many ways, they became like some people have become with the hand sanitizers in modern society, refusing to touch anything until they have wiped it down.   

The Pharisees from Jerusalem were all office workers and hardly ever did anything with their hands.  They could keep their hands constantly clean.  Many of Jesus disciples were fishermen or other kinds of workers whose hands were constantly dirty.  The Pharisees were offended that the disciples weren’t as worried as they were about dirt and blamed Jesus for not enforcing their rules.  They demanded to know why he was allowing it. 

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” (Mark 7:6-8)

Jesus responded by quoting  from Isaiah 29:13, “…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.”  He went on to say that they had replaced God ‘s commands with their own ideas about what God should have said. 

“And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.   For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:9-13)

Because of the emphasis on using hand sanitizer, many people do not realize that ordinary soap kills more germs that the sanitizer does, but the soap contains no harmful chemicals, while the sanitizers contain several chemicals, including alcohol, that are absorbed through the skin and cause other health problems.  Those chemicals cause mutations in the germs and viruses, resulting in some varieties that are far more virulent and harder to kill, leading to worse problems.  It would be far better to simply use soap and water to wash one’s hands after touching than to use the sanitizer on something before touching it, because the germs and viruses are not absorbed through the skin. 

Just as the focus on hand sanitizers encouraged people to think they are safe while exposing them to greater dangers, the Pharisees rules about how to obey god had actually encouraged people to sin, thinking they were save.  They were implying that what God had required was not good enough, when in fact, it was much better.

God is perfect and so is his standard.  When people think they have a higher standard than he does, they need to realize they have gone over the top and are in danger of falling off the other side.  God’s standard is the highest possible.   Anything else is going downhill.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jesus Walks On The Water

Mark 6:45-56

“And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.  And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)

Jesus had taken his disciples to the desert to give them a chance to rest and discuss what had happened when they went out to preach, much like doctors in teaching hospital holding a post mortem.  When they arrived, the crowd had guessed where they were going and out run them, so they were unable to spend the time reviewing what had happened.  Concerned for the people, Jesus insisted on feeding them before sending them home.  Immediately after feeding them, he bundled the disciples into a small boat and told them to go to the other side of the sea.  It was late afternoon, and the crowd would not be able to get clear around the lake before the disciples Got there. 

After teaching for a little longer, Jesus dismissed the multitude to go home and rest for a while.  He then went up on a nearby hill to pray.  One of the most effective tricks Satan uses is to get us so busy we don’t have time to stop and pray or spend time with the Lord, because, as we are so often told, “The king’s business requires haste.”    As a result we end up wasting a lot of our energy, when time spent talking with God and reading his word would give us a more effective approach. 

“And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.  And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.   But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled.” (Mark 6:47-50a)

The disciples were rowing against the wind and about dusk, Jesus could still see them.  He started walking to them and early the next morning, before daylight, he caught up with them.  When they saw him walking on the water in the dark, they thought it must be some kind of ghost or evil spirit and began to try to fend him off, whether by praying or by some superstitious ritual. 

“And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.  And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.  For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:50b-52)

Jesus spoke up and let them know it was him and that they had nothing to be afraid of.  It was at this point Peter went to meet him on the water, although Mark doesn’t mention it.   When he got into the ship with them, the wind stopped and they got to other side in short order.  Because they were not thinking about the miracle of feeding the five thousand the day before, the disciples were amazed again by his power.  They still had a sinful human attitude that made it hard for them to believe. 

“And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.  And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.  And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole. “ (Mark 6:53-56) 

When they landed near Gennesaret, the people recognized him and spread the word throughout the region.  People began to bring the sick to be healed.  Knowing he was coming, they brought the sick into the streets of every community, begging him to heal them, or trying to touch his clothing because everyone who touched him was healed.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Feeding the five Thousand

Mark 6:30-44

“And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.  And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.  And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.” (Mark 6:30-32)

In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus had sent out his disciples to preach.  Now they returned and began to report what had happened when they preached.    Jesus told them to take a short break, because the crowds were huge and they literally didn’t even have time to eat.    He got them onto a ship without telling anyone where they were going, intending to take a short vacation. 

“And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.  And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:33-34)

Because they had followed him before, many of the people were able to guess where he was going and cut across on land, traveling faster than the ships traveled.  When Jesus and the disciples arrived, they found the crowd already there waiting on them.  Jesus recognized them as having no real leadership and began to teach them the things they needed to know. 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

Later that afternoon, the disciples reminded Jesus that there was no food available in that place, and suggested he tell the people to go to the nearby towns and buy something to eat, because they hadn’t brought anything with them. 

“He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat.

And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see.

And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.” (Mark 6:37-38)

Instead, Jesus told the disciples to feed them.  They asked him if he wanted them to go to town and buy food for the whole bunch, because it would probably cost more than they had with them.  Jesus asked how much food they had, and they told him they had one little boy’s lunch, basically a couple of sardines and five tortilla like pieces of bread. 

“And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.  And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.  And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.” (Mark 6:39-41)

Jesus had the people sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred to make it easier to serve them.  Then he took the food, and looked up toward heaven and prayed over it before beginning to break pieces off and put it into baskets for the disciples to serve to the crowd. 

“And they did all eat, and were filled.  And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.  And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” (Mark 6:42-44)

When they finished and everyone had all they wanted, each of the disciples still had a full basket of food left.  Over five thousand men had been fed with the one little boy’s lunch.  They had far more left over than they started with.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

John’s Execution

Mark 6:14-29

“And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.  Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.  But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.” (Mark 6:14-16)

Word of Jesus’ miracles began to spread, and people began to question who he was.  John the Baptist had been killed and Herod thought he must have come back to life and was doing these miracles.  He was especially concerned because he had ordered John’s execution.  Others thought he was Elijah, or one of the other prophets come to life, while still others thought he was a new prophet. 

“For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.  For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”  (Mark 6:17-20)

John had confronted Herod for having an affair with his sister-in-law, reminding him what the law said in Leviticus 20:21 about it being and incestuous relationship.  “And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness…”    Herod had John arrested, but had a respect for the Jewish religion and began to listen to what John had to say.   Having left her own husband for his brother, Herodias was really upset that John said it was wrong and Herod was listening to him.  She was pretty sure Philip would not take her back.  She began to look for a way to have John killed so she didn’t lose her position. 

“And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.  And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.” (Mark 6:21-25)

On his birthday, Herod invited his officers and leaders to a party.  Herodias’ daughter danced for the crowd to provide entertainment, and Herod was so pleased he offered to give her anything she asked for.  Not knowing what to ask for, she asked her mother, who told her to ask for John the Baptists head on a covered platter.  The girl did as her mother demanded. 

“And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.  And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.” (Mark 6:26-28)

Herod didn’t want to kill John, but to keep his reputation, he decided to go ahead and have him killed.  He gave the orders and little later they delivered John’s head to the girl, who took it to her Mom.  When Herod heard about Jesus’ miracles, it is easy to understand why he was worried. 

“And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.” (Mark 6:29)

John’s students took his body and buried it.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sending Out The Twelve

Mark 6:1-13

“And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.  And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” (Mark 6:1-3)

Jesus returned to the area around Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples.  The people were amazed at his teaching in the synagogue, questioning where he had learned these things, because after all they knew his family and he had never been away to school to or other special training.   It is exactly what Matthew 13:54-57a describes.  “And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?  Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?  And they were offended in him…”  They were amazed at his miracles and teaching, but because they knew him, they thought he was just trying to make himself appear better than they were.

“But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.  And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.  And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.” (Mark 6:4-6)

Jesus pointed out that people tend to take those they have known for a long time for granted and overlook their wisdom and experience while readily accepting those who have far less experience or skill simply because they don’t know how much experience they really have.    As a result of their disbelief, he was not given the opportunity to do many mighty works such as he had done in the surrounding towns such a Capernaum or Bethsaida.  He continued to go through the local communities teaching but with little impact.   

Even in the cities where he had done the most miracles, the focus was on the miracles rather than on what he was teaching, as Matthew 11:20-24 tells us.   “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.   But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” 

It is very easy to draw a crowd for a program to help alcoholics or the homeless or for a music program or revival who have no interest in the teaching, but just want to be part of the activity.  As a result even they miss the most important part of God’s word.  Those from his hometown missed even the excitement and miracles.    In order to reach out to others beyond the local area Jesus had to send out his disciples. 

“And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.  And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Mark 6:7-11)

Jesus sent out his disciples, instructing them to make no effort to raise support or supply their needs, but to simply trust him for their everyday needs.  When they went into a town, they were to settle in the first place that showed interest and focus on teaching that area rather than looking for a better place.   If a place did not welcome them they were to go on down the road to the next town, shaking the dust off their shoes as a testimony against that community.  God would punish the people of the community for ignoring his word.    It was not their place to try to make people listen. 

“And they went out, and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Jairus’ Daughter

Mark 5:35-43

“While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?” (Mark 5:35)

Jesus had been on the way to Jairus’ house to heal his daughter when the woman with the issue of blood touched him, resulting in Jesus stopping to talk to her.  Before he finished talking to her, one of Jairus’ servants came to tell them that the girl was already dead and there was no longer any point in Jesus coming to the house.
“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.  And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.” (Mark 5:36-38a)

When Jesus heard what the servant said, he told Jairus not to be concerned that it was too late, but to believe in him.  From there on Jesus forbade any one except Jairus, Peter, James, and John to go with him.  A common mistake is that there is more power if more people are there.  One person with the Holy Spirit has access to all the power of God.  More people will not give God more power.     

”And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.  And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.  And they laughed him to scorn.” (Mark 5:38b-40a)

Jewish custom made for a great deal of drama when someone died, with weeping and wailing, at the top of their lungs to make sure everyone knew how upset they were.   The behavior upsets others so that the emotional response gets bigger and more uncontrolled.    Jesus asked why they were so upset because the girl was not dead, but in a coma.    They had seen many dead people and were sure they she was dead.  They began to make fun of him for thinking they couldn’t tell the difference.
“But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.  And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years.” (Mark 5:40-41)

Jesus chased out everyone except the father and mother and his three disciples, so that the girl would not be upset by the crowd when she recovered.  Then, with no drama or ritual, he took her by the hand and told her to wake up.    When he did she awoke and got out of bed,  She was twelve years old

Though he knew the girl was at the point of death, Jesus had taken time to deal with the woman with the issue of blood.  How many times do we get so caught up in the urgency of one situation we neglect others, considering them less important or urgent.  When we trust God, he will enable us to do everything that needs done.   Too often we forget to trust God completely in our efforts to make things happen. 
“And they were astonished with a great astonishment.  And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.” (Matthew 5:42-43)

Her parents and the disciples were amazed that he healed her so easily.  He instructed them not to make a big deal of it so she wouldn’t be upset, and told them to feed her and treat her as a normal child.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Woman with the Issue of Blood

Mark 5:21-34

“And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.  And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.” (Mark 5:21-23)

When Jesus returned to the area around Capernaum, a multitude flocked to meet him.  One of the people in the crowd was Jairus, one of the leaders of the local synagogue.   He fell at Jesus’ feet begging him to come and touch his daughter and heal her because she was at the point of dying. 

“And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.  And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.  For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” (Mark 5:24-28)

Jesus went with Jairus and the crowd followed around, pushing and shoving to be close to him.  As they went, a woman who had an ongoing menstrual discharge heard he was coming,  she had spent all the money she had trying unsuccessful treatments that seemingly only made things worse.  Embarrassed by her problem, she pushed her way in to touch Jesus in the belief that just touching his clothing would be enough to heal her. 

“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” (Mark 5:29-31)

The woman was healed instantly and could feel the difference in her body.  Jesus was also aware that the healing had happened, and asked who had touched his clothing.  With the crowd pushing and shoving to get close, the disciples couldn’t believe he was concerned about one person touching his clothes. 

“And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.  But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.” (Mark 5:32-33)

Jesus looked for the person who had touched him, and the woman, fearing he would be angry finally confessed to touching him, explaining why she had done so.  She had thought he wouldn’t even notice such a little thing. 

“And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” (Mark 5:34)

Jesus was not angry, he just wanted her to know he cared about even her problem, no matter how small it was.  Unfortunately, we frequently forget that God is concerned about even our smallest problems.  The cure for her problem was the same as that for others with bigger problems, just trusting him to heal them. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Maniac of Gadera

Mark 5:1-20

“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.” (Mark 5:1)

On the eastern side of the sea of Galilee there was a city known as Gadera, which controlled a fairly large area around it.  One of the small towns they controlled was called Gergessa.  Local people such as Matthew were familiar with the smaller towns, while those from other areas such as Mark and Luke were only familiar with the larger town, such as Gadera.    All three passages refer to the same area. 
“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 5:2-5)

Today, the man who met Jesus would be considered insane.  He had allowed Satan to influence his mind to such a point he was not in full control of his thinking, often doing things that injured his body, cuttint himself with stones,  Rage caused such a surge of adrenalin he was not conscious of pain, with the result he was able to break chains and restraints that held other men readily.  Those who work with the insane are aware of how far they may be willing to go to get their way.  Their best efforts to confine  or institutionalize him had failed. 

“But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,  And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.  For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” (Mark 5:6-8)

Even the most insane still retain some capacity to control their own mind and think.  The maniac saw Jesus and the demons controlling him recognized his power. Aware that he could easily cast them out, the demons convinced the man to ask Jesus to go away and leave them alone so they did not hurt him on the way out, because Jesus told them to leave him.  Their leaving would produce symptoms similar to the withdrawal symptoms a drug addict of alcoholic feels.    Many choose to remain under  control rather than endure the pain of withdrawal. 

“And he asked him, What is thy name?

And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.  And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.  Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.” (Mark 5:9-12)

Jesus asked the name of the demons, and they said their name was legion because there were so many different ones.  An important fact about demonic ot spirit control is found in Luke 24:39, when Jesus said, “…a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”  Because they lack a physical body, spirits have very limited power in the physical world.  Satanic spirits seek some living thing which will allow them to control its mind in order to accomplish their evil purposes. 

The Jews were not supposed to eat hogs, but they had begun raising them to sell to the Romans to feed the army.  The demons asked permission to go into a nearby herd of hogs, as they would still have a physical body at their disposal. 

“And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.” (Mark 5:13)

 Jesus gave them permission to go into the pigs if they could.  The hogs chose to drown themselves rather than to allow the demons to control them.  Many people do not understand the demons cannot take over a person’s mind unless he allows them to.  Unfortunately, once they start getting control, it becomes increasingly difficult to force them out. 

“And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” (Mark 5:14-15)

The herders were unable to stop the hogs from drowning themselves in the sea.  They were terrified by their abnormal behavior and went running to the owners to tell them what happened.  When they returned with the owners, they were shocked to find the insane man acting normal, fully clothed and carrying on conversations with Jesus and the disciples. 

“And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.” (Mark 5:16-17)

The owners and political leaders were more concerned with their lost revenue than they were with the impact on the victims, and demanded that Jesus leave the city.  It is a not uncommon attitude.   Rather than arguing with them Jesus simply left, following the advice he gave in Matthew 10:14-15 and Mark 6:11. “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.   Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”  He did not waste his time trying to reach people who made it clear they were not interested.    They had made their choice. 

“And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.  Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” (Mark 5:18-20)

The man who had been healed wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay there and tell the people what God had done for him.  He had a major impact on the area even though the leaders had rejected Christ.   A local man who follows Christ often has a bigger impact than a famous preacher, or in this case, the Lord himself, simply because people can see the change in him.  

Friday, January 6, 2017

Jesus Calms the Sea

Mark 4:35-41

“And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.” (Mark 4:35-36)

Mark was not one of Jesus’ disciples, and wrote about twenty five years after the crucifixion, based on the stories he had heard those who were present tell.   While he got the stories accurate, he did not get them in chronological order.  Matthew places the following stories much earlier in Jesus’ ministry,  in Matthew 8:23-34.

After teaching, Jesus sent the multitudes home to rest and he and the disciples set out across the Sea of Galilee toward the village of Gergesa, on the eastern side of the Sea.   Jesus was exhausted, and the motion of the boat quickly put him to sleep. 

“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish” (Mark 4:37-38)

A few hours after they left, a squall blew up.  The waves were big enough they were coming over the sides of the boat, filling it and threatening to sink it.  Jesus was sleeping soundly in rear of the boar, and unaware of what was happening.  The disciples woke him, asking if he wasn’t concerned about the danger. 

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40)

Jesus simply got up and told the wind to stop and the waves to settle down and be at peace.  When he did, both the wind and the waves stopped, as if there had never been any wind for days.  The sea was dead flat.  Jesus asked why the disciples were afraid.   Why didn’t they believe God’s power?  

Though they had seen him do a number of miracles, they still didn’t understand how complete his power is.  He is the God of the universe, not just the God of an individual disease.  So often we realize God can take care of one problem and forget everything is under his control, not just the little things we have seen him do before.  Why do we, like the disciples think he would let us die over some earthly event, after everything he has invested in us?   As Romans 8:32 asks, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”    For God to let us be destroyed or lose our salvation would be kind of like buying a new car, then refusing to put oil in the engine when it needed some, and allowing the engine to be ruined.  It would be a waste of what had already been invested. 

“And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41)

The disciples began to realize Jesus was more than just a man with special powers if he could control even the waves and the sea in such a fashion.    Even the greatest prophets of the past had not been able to do such things.  It gave them another reason for believing he is in fact God come in the flesh, since he could do things only God can do.   

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Various Parables

Mark 4:21-34

“And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?  For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:21-23)

Jesus had just explained to his disciples that the parables were given to make the gospel available to anyone, but that only those who were interested enough to learn more would be saved.  Now he uses another story to help understand what he means.    When one places a candle on the floor results in only a very small area being lighted, but by raising it up higher, a much larger area is illuminated, and far more is visible, even though the candle gives off the same amount of light.  In a similar way.   The gospel has far more impact and reveals far more when it is publicly declared than when it is kept within the boundaries of the church or home, even though they are not doing any greater activities.   He advises that we need to listen to the message here.  Instead of making bigger efforts to do more, Christians need to serve the Lord publicly just as they do in church.  We need to listen to what Jesus was teaching. 

“And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.  For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” (Mark 4:24-25)

 When we judge others, we need to make sure that the problem is not in fact ours rather than theirs.   Matthew 7:1-5 warns, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”  We need to realize we can’t use other people’s sin as a smokescreen to hide our own. 
God will judge every person according to his own actions,    I Corinthians 3:13-15 tells us, “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

Jesus said the growth of Christianity is like planting seeds.  Though one can water it and apply fertilizer, he has little control whether it grows, but must accept what happens.  The seed sprouts and produces the sprout, then the flowers, and finally the fruit of its own accord, with little input from the farmer.  When the crop is ripe he harvests it as if it was all the result of his labor.  Similarly, while we can plant the seed, and may reap the harvest, the production is the result of God’s work rather than our own,  As John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”  We need to remember it is God who produces the results, not us. 
“And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.” (Mark 4:30-32)

The last parable mentioned here again reiterates the idea tha the results are what God produces.  He can take one of the tiniest seeds and turn it into a huge tree that has an impact on a vast area, but it is up to him what happens. 

“And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.  But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)

Jesus did not hide his teachings from anyone, but he spoke in parables, so that only those who cared enough to think about it or ask for explanations would fully understand.  He was not interested in having a big following, but in reaching those who wanted the truth.  As a result, on the Day of Pentecost, there were only about a hundred and twenty who were present in the upper room, despite  the thousands who had flocked to hear him at different times.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Parable of the Sower

Mark 4:1-20

“And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.  And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:1-9)

The multitudes followed Jesus.  In order to make himself heard better, he went out from shore in a small boat and taught from there.  In the process of teaching he used an illustration they were very familiar with, of a farmer planting seed such as wheat, by broadcasting it in field he had plowed.  Broadcasting is slinging the seed out so that it will be scattered on top of the ground, where it can be raked in.  Unfortunately, as a result one has only limited control of where the seed goes.    Some landed on soil that had not been plowed, some landed on a rocky area where there was only a faint skim of soil.  Some landed among a lot of weeds and weed seed, and some landed on the best prepared ground.  The results varied widely.  He advised the people to pay close attention to the story. 

“And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mark 4:10-12)

Everyone there could understand that different conditions produced different results.  They lived with it every day, but the disciples were concerned that they might not fully understand the meaning.    Jesus explained that the parables were deliberate so that while everyone could enjoy and learn from the stories, only those with a deeper interest, who took the teaching seriously and thought deeply would understand the all the ramifications.   Those who were not interested would not understand enough to be converted and have their sins forgiven. 

“And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?  The sower soweth the word.  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:13-15)

If they didn’t understand such a simple, familiar illustration, how were they to understand his other parables?    The farmer went out to spread the seed, God’s word.  Some of it landed on unplowed ground, and just laid on top, where the birds picked it up before it ever had a chance to grow.  People who have never heard and have no interest soon forget what they have heard of the gospel. 

“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-17)

The soil over a rock is like the people who find the message exciting, and think a way to escape hell is a good idea.  They make professions to please the preacher or because it is the popular thing to do, or will get them attention in the church.  They have no real commitment to God or Christ, and turn away when it a commitment is called for. 

“And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19)

The seed among thorns represents those who sincerely desire God and his blessings, but become so caught up in earning a living, raising their family, and materialistic desires that they don’t grow spiritually like they should.

“And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (Mark 4:20)

The final group represents those who are prepared to receive the Word wholeheartedlyand devote their lives to it.  They produce spiritual fruit in abundance, with some producing more than others for whatever reason.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit

Mark 3:22-35

“And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” (Mark 3:22)

Jesus teaching had challenged several of the things the scribes and Pharisees were teaching as fact,and the vast numbers flocking to hear him instead of coming to hear them was bothering them.  They began to look for some accusation they could make that would discredit him, somewhat like what we saw with the presidential election campaign just past, with accusations being made without concern for whether they were true.    They accused Jesus of casting out demons by satanic power.

“And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?  And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.  No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:23-27)

Jesus responded to their claims, starting with a series of illustrations.  As he pointed out, a nation involved in a civil war is vulnerable to attacks by other countries, and a family that is fighting among themselves is likely to lose their business to outsiders.   In the same way, if Satan were fighting against himself, he would weaken his ability to seize control.  The only way to rob a strong man is to some way prevent him from using his strength effectively, by tying him up or forcing him to focus on more than one enemy.   The only way to defeat Satan is to overcome his power in some way. 

“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:28-30)

By claiming Jesus’s power came from Satan, the scribes were blaspheming the Holy Spirit, claiming what he was doing was satanic.   It is important to understand that either to credit satanic actions to the Holy
Spirit, or to credit the Holy Spirit’s actions to Satan is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that will not be forgiven.  We need to make sure the gifts of the Holy Spirit really came from him, and the things we think are satanic really are.  It is easy to judge wrongly.  I john 4:1-8 gives instructions on how to test whether the spirits are from God or not. 

“There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.  And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?  And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)

Several groups have held that Mary never had other children.  The scripture is clear, that she had several.  The people in the region knew who they were.   Others have put a lot of focus on Mary as having special spiritual importance.  Jesus stresses that everyone who serves God is just as much his family as Mary and his physical siblings.  All Mary did was obey God, and that is all anyone else has to do.