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Mark study 3

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Mark 1:28-45

Where we left the story, Jesus had just performed a miraculous spiritual healing on the back of some incredible teaching. His fame, from this moment on, had really started to spread all around the region of Galilee. Obviously he was going to get noticed a bit for the great wisdom of his teaching and being able to back it up with miracles; but the interesting thing to notice is not that Jesus was getting famous, but where it was happening. Verse 28 explains that his fame was spreading throughout Galilee. This is unremarkable in that it is where he was at the time, but remarkable in that it was where Jesus had grown up, since returning from Egypt as a small boy. This is where Jesus had always been, but had never before been famous. At best guess he was in his early thirties by this point, which means he had spent some twenty five years in Galilee unnoticed up until now. Fame, it seems, was quite different then than it is today. Jesus became famous when he started saying and doing things that set him apart from others – he lived out the Kingdom and that appealed to people. He was becoming famous because what he said and did was important. In society today, we seem to glorify people and then start taking note of what they say and do. This is the opposite way round; what they say and do is important because they are famous. This has led to some very strange ideas in modern culture. We seem to put people up on pedestals and assume that they are positive role models because they are rich and famous; but the reality is that these people sell magazines because they have lives which are often, sadly, far from reputable. If it is your desire to live out the Kingdom life, it’s a hard road and one on which you’ll not get noticed that much – but will you quietly stand, while those around you fall for the lures of the world around them?

 vv29-31

If you read the last study, you’ll remember that Mark is keen on recounting everything happening in quick succession. It’s no surprise then to read of Jesus ‘immediately’ leaving the synagogue. It seems not to indicate that Jesus wanted to get out of there straight after driving out the demon, but that it is just one of the ways that Mark likes to progress the story. This is why the disciples ‘immediately’ tell Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law and her illness. Mark again doesn’t go into much detail about the healing – there are notes in the previous studies about Mark’s lack of intricate detail, so I won’t go over it again! But I ask you to think on two points that Mark does make. The first is that it is Simon’s mother in law. Mark doesn’t tend to name people who aren’t key players in his book (as we will go on to see, if they’re extras; they don’t get speaking parts or name credits). Alright, he doesn’t name this woman either, but he does make it clear who she is. He must find it important to do so, otherwise he wouldn’t bother. So why does he do it?

I’ve gone to a new paragraph so that you will have had time to answer for yourself. I have a theory, but it’s just my theory, so don’t assume it is correct. Remember what we know about Simon so far? All we know is he was a fisherman and he dropped everything to follow Jesus. Now we also know that he’s married and that his wife’s mum is sick. In his preparedness to follow Jesus, Jesus displayed an equal preparedness to honour him by healing his family members. How cool is that? No sooner had Simon given everything to Jesus than Jesus had paid his family back with the healing that they wanted for mum-in-law! It was in Simon’s faithful response to Jesus that the blessing was poured out in return. Making that faith decision paid off for Simon, because he actually entrusted to God his family’s future the day he gave Jesus his everything. For anyone who has been challenged to drop stuff for God; this story is here to encourage you – the blessings can roll in in real and unexpected ways!

Point two is that Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her. Bear that in mind as we go into the third section of the bible study. As she gets up, she serves the others in her house. This may be reflective of the thankful response she has towards Jesus. This is the fitting response – when Jesus saves a life, that life should then be lived out serving him.

 vv32-39

Your bible probably separates this section into two. It probably inserts a new heading before verse 35. When you read the passage through, you probably stopped and moved into a new section, because that is what the bible translators wanted you to do. It is sometimes useful to remember that the original manuscripts of the biblical texts don’t have these little headings. Read it again but ignore the heading. The passage changes when you do this, and we get a better idea of the point Mark is making here. With the heading in place, one day ends, another begins with Jesus praying; you safely assume everyone had a good night’s sleep. Without the heading, Jesus seems to have been up almost all night healing people, and takes a moment out (whilst the disciples are just too shattered to stay awake) to pray to his father. This is a more accurate picture of what Mark was originally writing about. We should note obviously that Jesus went out to a place where he was alone to pray. He built his ministry in prayer. It was the time he spent with his father that charged him for what he needed to do; and also directed him into what he needed to do. A healthy prayer life was essential to Jesus, and is so much more essential to us.

Next we get to the bit where this passage shocks the disciples, and should impact us most. The disciples find Jesus and say “everyone is looking for you.” I used to work in a toy shop, and we got occasional coffee breaks down in the basement. Once the boss thought you’d had long enough to make and drink half a cup of coffee, the next person would come down and say “everyone’s looking for you upstairs.” What they’re saying is “you’ve had your break, now get back to work” and this is what the disciples meant when they were talking to Jesus. Jesus’ response must have knocked the disciples for six – “let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also…” Having just witnessed Jesus pretty much pulling an all-nighter of healing people and casting out demons, they’re jonesing to see what miracles he’s going to perform today. But Jesus responds more like a teenager who’s seen everything on TV and is forced to find some other activity. “Let’s go somewhere (‘anywhere’) else…” They think he’s just warming up and are completely underwhelmed by the response; but hold on, have they horribly misjudged the situation? Jesus explains “… that is what I came for.”

The disciples know that they have let themselves in for a ride, but aren’t even sure what sort of a ride it will be! Like they got to Alton Towers and joined a queue without looking. In the end, it turns out that they were queuing up for ‘Oblivion’ (insert the name of your favourite ride here) so no worries; but they spend the entire time in the queue unaware of just what it was going to be for. The whole way through Mark’s gospel, they just don’t get it! They think they know when Jesus starts casting out demons, then when he starts doing miraculous healings, but they don’t understand Jesus’ clear purpose is to preach the Kingdom. Jesus is focussed on this mission, as he receives his instructions straight from God in prayer. So we reach the debunk which I so dearly love to share with anyone who will listen.

Francis of Assisi said this: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Debunk #1: Francis of Assisi has had this quote attributed to him, it is doubtful that it is actually a quote of him, link here to look at some evidence. Either way, whether he said it or not, it is unimportant as it is a philosophy that people hold very dear. Debunk #2: this statement is useless. Ray Comfort rephrases it this way: “Feed starving children; where necessary, use food.” Preaching the gospel was Jesus’ ministry. He used miracles of healing and cast out demons because it served the afflicted people so to do. So tied up was this act with simply serving people that Jesus, we read in verse 34, would not let the demons acknowledge him as the Son of the Most High God. This is a big part of the Messianic Secret that we started to explore last time. Jesus ministers to people in order to embody the kingdom – to put flesh on the bones of the words that he had preached to them! Please if you only take one thing from this bible study let it be this: “preach the gospel at all times; it is necessary to use words!!!”

vv 40-45

 Nearly there; just a little bit more mental athletics, and some bible surfing left. You’ll notice that verse 40 introduces a ‘leper.’ This is a term used in the New Testament for many different skin afflictions, more information can be seen in Leviticus 13.

You skipped past that bit, didn’t you? You thought about it, and then you went “Leviticus? I can’t be bothered reading that!” I would have done the same. But it is important that you read it, or you won’t understand what happens next. So here’s the link again, you’re welcome!

 So now you understand that this guy was unclean. He was religiously unclean. This meant he was socially unclean. He was shunned by society, unable to come into contact with anybody physically, verbally (except to inform people that he was unclean), mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Your bible probably says Jesus was moved by pity, or filled with compassion; the original Greek manuscripts tell us that Jesus’ emotion was ὀργισθεὶς (orgistheis) which means angry. Jesus was moved by anger to help this man. Was he angry at the man, or at being interrupted? Or is it more likely that anger burned inside of him at the contemptible and shameful way he had been treated because the religious leaders had ensured it, and society followed. So aware of his own ‘uncleanness’ was the man that he even doubted that Jesus would want to heal him. Of course Jesus wanted to heal him, but so much more. Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him,” which is important in so many ways. Firstly, you’ll remember Simon’s mother-in-law received healing with the loving application of touch, and Jesus too does it for this man. Secondly, for the man himself, it is the first contact he has had with anybody for years, in the one touch Jesus heals so much more than just the obvious skin disease. Thirdly, Jesus did not care for the rules that had caused this man to be treated so inhumanely. To him, the rules had been used terribly, and Jesus could see beyond that – and he loved him. That is not to say that Jesus did away with the law; he asks the man after healing to go and make the appropriate sacrifices. But it is clear from Jesus that to love is greater than to keep the rules and regulations.

Some points to ponder:

 What examples do you follow? Think about your role models and why they are important to you.

What can you learn from Simon’s faith experience and God’s provision for his family after he’d committed to Jesus?

Does your prayer life get you the answers you need to be focussed on what God has for you? If not, it’s time to get thinking and talking about how to improve it!

Do you preach the gospel? If you don’t use words, you’re just a nice (but maybe a bit ‘boring’) person…

What can you do to treat those around you, especially the afflicted and downtrodden, better?

laters,

two5two

Written by two5two

August 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Bible Studies

Mark 2

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Where we left off, Jesus has just gone off into the desert. We can see from the other synoptic gospels how that turned out. Mark doesn’t go into too much detail – don’t worry; as we go through Mark’s gospel, you’ll certainly get used to that! There is almost a degree of accepted understanding in the way that Mark writes the gospel. Like when he brings up a story, his readers already know that story. He only dedicates two verses to Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This does not indicate that it is not important; if it weren’t important he wouldn’t mention it at all! We all know how it pans out for Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness because we are familiar with the story from the other gospels. Mark was writing for people similarly in the know, so he doesn’t need to insert any detail; this makes what detail he does go into very important. (I hope you’re following my logic so far! :))

If Mark’s readers know the story, whatever Mark points out in the story to them is done for a good reason. In what he says, he highlights that temptation is from Satan, that he lived with wild animals, and that he was ministered to (and supported by) angels (all from verse 13). I’m not going to insult your intelligence by commenting on Jesus’ temptation being from the devil, or the fact that if Jesus can be ministered to by angels of the spiritual realms then we can so much more expect God to send all the spiritual protection we need if we ask Him for it. I’m simply going to direct you to the amazing Hebrews 2: 5-18 to let you draw your own conclusions. But I’m interested in this: Mark doesn’t give us much detail, but he’s the only gospel writer to mention Jesus with the wild animals. Why? Read this, I dare you to make it to page 22. Or come up with your own reasons and leave a comment on the blog!

Anyway anyway; we’ve got through two verses from the last study so far, so let’s get cracking.

vv14-15

Mark gives reference to John (the Baptist)’s arrest. This gives us a point in time for the following stuff, but also shows us how unpopular his message of repentance was. Jesus was preaching the same message about the Kingdom of God. Much like today, this message was not met favourably by many – and when you understand the story of John the Baptist’s arrest, you’ll understand that it was a dangerous thing to preach this message, and to associate yourself with the ‘Kingdom of God’ teaching. These facts that are laid out here make what follows all the more incredible.

vv16-20 

Mark explains that Simon and Andrew cast a net into the sea as they were fishermen. It escapes me what they would have been doing other than trying to catch fish, but it explains the hilarious pun which comes up. Jokes, in my experience, are never that good if they need explanation. However, this is a very funny joke. “I will make you fishers… of men!” I think ancient Hebrew jokes are a bit lost on us as they are not very funny. But Jesus was having a bit of a laugh with them. I remove the sarcasm from the comment now – it is an important part of the way that Jesus communicates with people that he is natural and at ease with them. Jesus communicates the Kingdom in a very amenable way. That’s not to say he was always joking, or that he was always popular; but I certainly think it challenges the over-spiritual holier-than-thou way with we can approach outreach (and, let’s face it, we’re all guilty of doing that). Communicating the gospel can be simply in the way we laugh with our mates when they’re laughing; cry when they’re crying; and just being ourselves the way God made us, and is shaping us, around them.

Verse 18 has always astounded me. Read it again. Let it impact you. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Is that true of your walk of faith? Meeting Jesus for them had such a profound impact that they dropped everything – their nets being their source of income, their jobs, what they did all day, their investment in the futures of themselves and their families – and followed Jesus. It was an all or nothing choice, and they weighed it up in an instant and gave their all. My question is why do I not give my all? They met the same Jesus that I know, who gives me the same command, but I don’t give my all. If Mark were writing about me as a fisherman called by Jesus, he’d write that I dropped my nets but took along a sneaky fishing rod just in case.

I write this question to me, and invite you to answer it for yourself too: Jesus asks me to drop everything and follow him; what have I kept hold of and why do I not entrust it to God?

I expect that if you have attempted to answer this question seriously, that you may have reached a difficult or even painful conclusion and need a decent amount of prayer. My advice is to seek out the support of someone you trust and spend some time in prayer with them. If this isn’t something you’re into, give it a go and I guarantee you’ll love it pretty much instantly!

The next two lads were mending their nets, and also (presumably) fishermen. But it was probably a bit to soon to use the “fishers of men” joke again. The last thing you want is to tell a joke that most people have already heard! Anyways…

vv21-28

You’ll notice you’ve read the word ‘immediately’ (Greek: εὐθύς euthys) several times already in Mark’s gospel (if you’re using a fairly accurate translation). This word appears in Mark’s gospel some 40 times; almost as many as in the entire rest of the New Testament combined. Mark has a story which unfolds at pace. As soon as one moment in or opportunity for ministry has passed, another reveals itself. Life often feels like it is lived at a hectic pace. What I can take from this gospel is that Jesus lived at just the same pace as us, but he never wasted a single opportunity to minister the Kingdom of God to people.

 Next we come to something a bit tricky. Jesus is speaking in church, and somebody interrupts. The sermon seems to be going down nicely, and people are really learning stuff about God. But the unclean spirits driving this heckler want the people to know that Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Jesus silences the unclean spirit, and casts it out of the man. Firstly I’d like you to picture this as a regular Sunday in church. You’re managing not to nod off because the sermon seems to be really speaking truth to you. You’re well into it. Then the serenity of the atmosphere is shattered by a crazy heckler. He’s shouting and screaming, and you’re thinking, really annoying the preacher. Now you’re starting to interact with the story. You need to do this in order to understand what happens next. You’d think that right from the outset of his ministry, Jesus would want it to be known that He is the Chosen One of God. But Jesus does not want people to know this fact. Mark’s gospel maintains most of the way through that Jesus doesn’t want this fact to be known.

If you’re posh, you call this the Messianic Secret. There could be many reasons for this, and we’ll explore it a bit more as the bible studies progress, but in this circumstance – as with all of the similar incidents – there are good reasons why Jesus silences those in the know. Think about it; the man who has just interrupted the best sermon you’ve heard is clearly possessed by a bad spirit. He has intention to harm and destroy. Does Jesus want his fame to be associated with the proclamations of such a man? Jesus heals the man who is possessed and people are left to marvel not only at the authority of his preaching, but his ability to heal those who are afflicted. The words and actions speak for themselves. Jesus does not want to be left open to misinterpretation. In a world where the Israelites expected all sorts of varying things of a messiah, the proof that Jesus was that man would not come by people saying he was, but by Jesus saying I AM. Jesus’ fame does grow throughout the entire region, but in a way that’s clear and factual rather than based on rumour and interpretation. There is authority in God’s word, and authority in works done in His name. If we are all about spreading Jesus’ fame, we need to be all about doing the work that proves what we have to say about Him.

Cool, let’s call it quits there. A few things to deliberate and pray through:

How can we be encouraged by the fact that Jesus has suffered all that we can suffer?

How can we encourage others in this way? Can we walk in the shoes of those around us too?

If the gospel isn’t popular, is it still worth us living it out?

Have you ‘dropped your nets’?

In today’s hectic world, are we utilising all of the opportunities to minister an authentic gospel to all people at all times?

Give yourselves a pat on the back, and relax with this and this.

 two5two

Written by two5two

June 24, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Bible Studies

Mark 1

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So to kick off the online Bible studies, we’re going to go through one of the gospels.

Mark’s gospel is the shortest, and has some very interesting features. It is widely believed, and backed up, that it was the first gospel (of the ones we have in the Bible today) to be written – and many think it was used as ‘research’ by the other gospel writers.

<In the coming studies, we’re going to look at Bible passages, their applications, and also some different theology and Bible study techniques. I’m going to try and stretch you a bit at points – but only if I think it’s going to be worth it in the end!>

So who was Mark?

Firstly, we need to think about why we should bother to answer the question! As the Bible is a book, we can understand it better by treating it like a book. I remember in school being asked by my English teachers “what was the author’s intention in writing this?” and thinking “who cares?” But when I’m reading the Bible, I care – because I believe it’s powerful. If I know who the author was, I can understand a bit more about what information they are trying to convey to me. By finding this out, you can also learn about what was going on when they wrote, the people they wrote to and how their message was meant to be received by people. With all of this info, it helps you to understand the text a whole lot better – and that’s why we’re doing Bible study, no?!

Mark was a mate of Paul. You can read about how Mark got involved in mission work (with ups and downs) in Acts (start at ch13 if you don’t mind missing some of the cracking stuff that goes before). It is also thought that Mark was later kind of a scribe that wrote the apostle Peter’s memoirs about his time with Jesus – so Mark’s gospel is sort of like what Peter remembered about Jesus, with some extra research too! Mark wasn’t from the same place as Jesus and the apostles; in fact it is believed that he was North African. This is the reason why he decides to explain Jewish customs more than the other gospel writers. It also helps us to understand that he wrote the book to help and encourage Christians from outside of the Jewish religion all over the Roman empire. For a nice simple intro to Mark, clicky. For a more in depth and complicated one, go here.

Anyways; whether or not you think it’s important to get to know the religious and political settings of the book and its author, I hope you’ll agree it’s a good idea to get into it! I’m going to kick off with a bit of a truncated (shortened) study, as I’ll assume you’ve spent hours researching the links above, and also you have exams to study for and world cup matches to watch.

Mark ch1

 This opening chapter has always interested me. It doesn’t hang about scene setting, or mention anything about when Jesus was born or when he was growing up. It starts with Jesus as an adult, about to start his ministry. This has interesting implications for us, but I’m not going into that yet! I’m going to split the passage into a few sections, but it’s quite long, so it’ll probably spill over into next week too. I’ll pick apart the verses and tell you stuff that I think helps make meaning out of the passage, then I’ll give you some things to think and pray about to finish off the study.

 vv1-8

So the book starts with “The beginning…” Just like Genesis does – coincidence? No! It’s cleverly linking the start of the gospel of Jesus with the start of the story of the world. And also, in the same way that Genesis starts a story that’s still unravelling today, so the gospel of Jesus is too. Mark also refers to Jesus as “the Son of God.” This is a phrase used very rarely in Mark’s gospel, but is important. Mark is writing about who Jesus is. The study of the portrayal of Jesus is called Christology. Mark’s gospel generally focuses on the fact that Jesus was fully man, more than it focuses on Jesus being fully God. Posh people say “Mark has a low Christology” when they are trying to explain this! If you want to see the opposite, read John’s gospel, which has a “high Christology.” Mark does two things here that are worthy of note. Firstly he doesn’t mention any of the childhood and more ‘human’ aspects of Jesus’ life. Secondly, he acknowledges that Jesus is divine at the start of the book, before shifting the focus to Jesus’ humanity. Mark, you must remember, is writing to an audience who needed to read about Jesus’ humanity – which makes all that research we’ve just done worth it already! So don’t think that Mark didn’t think that Jesus was both man and God, it’s just he had to make some things more obvious for his readers.

Also note that the gospel (good news) of Jesus starts with John the Baptist. Not the most obvious place to start – with someone who isn’t Jesus. I’ve wondered about the significance of this, and can only conclude that our willingness to do what God asks of us puts us in the same position as John the Baptist. The good news of Jesus in the lives of many around us may begin with us preparing the way and calling out in the wilderness in Jesus’ name. But, like John, we must be willing to acknowledge who Jesus really is, no matter what the cost (and John paid a high price for preaching in Jesus’ name!)

 vv 9-13

If you need to picture it, click. Jesus gives John the privilege of baptising him. John, only through an acknowledgement of who Jesus was is able to do so, and to minister not just to him, but to ‘the whole Judean countryside.’ It is all about giving God His proper place, and that is something we need to do more and more of in our lives. What happens is one of the very few points of the Bible where all three members of the Holy Trinity can be seen together. God’s words give further evidence that Mark wants us to think of Jesus as divine, which we will need to remember as we delve further into Mark’s gospel. We can also see that there is a particular order in these events. The Spirit descends upon Jesus, and guides Him out into the desert. It is only with the guidance of the Spirit that Jesus goes, and he is attended to by angels when He does. When we go off, we must do so filled with, and led by, the Holy Spirit.

After this point, Jesus begins His ministry. So I’m going to leave the study here this week, with these thoughts:

Are you living life led by the Holy Spirit?

Does God have His proper place in your hearts, heads, and deeds?

In what way can we see that discovering Jesus is just the start of the good news?

laters,

two5two

Written by two5two

June 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Bible Studies