Monthly Archives: May 2020

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – “YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD”

“YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD”

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. Mark 3:7-12

From the synagogue to the lake, Jesus was like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn; so much excitement that He was in danger of being trampled. The news of what He was doing had swept through the land like wildfire, even outside the borders of Israel. People came from as far afield as Tyre and Sidon and Trans Jordan, and from every corner of Israel.

It’s understandable that they would have run after Him, especially since sick and disabled people were being miraculously cured. There was no doctor anywhere that could do what He was doing. Hope and expectation flared up in people’s hearts that they could be delivered from their suffering.

There is a twist in this story. The people who mobbed Him lived in, and focused on what affected them in their natural and everyday lives. They were seemingly unaware that another dimension had broken into their world. What had initially attracted them to Jesus? Was it not what He was doing for them? Here was someone around, whom they needed.

But, in the midst of this hubbub were other voices from the other dimension – from the unseen realm of darkness that, up to this point, had had the stage all to themselves. They knew and spoke the truth because they understood who had authority over them. Although they were masters of deception themselves, they were neither ignorant nor deceived. They knew who Jesus was and they could not help but blurt it out because they were afraid. They knew they were illegal occupants of human beings who belonged to God.

Jesus reacted to them promptly, forbidding them to identify Him because He didn’t need demons to speak for Him and because every human being needs to make that decision for himself based on the evidence. We don’t need demons to tell us who Jesus is. We need to look at Him, listen to Him, weigh up the evidence and then decide who He is.

The testimony of a demon has no weight because it is not the witness of one whose life has been changed by faith in the one who is who He claims to be, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – TO DO GOOD OR TO DO EVIL

TO DO GOOD OR TO DO EVIL

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Je,sus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6

“Happy are those who are persecuted for doing right…” The battle lines are drawn. This incident is loaded – with emotion; with anger, frustration and determination. Both camps were adamant that they were right in what they believed to be true and in what they did. Of course, only one side could be right but it depended on their understanding of righteousness.

The crowning proof that Jesus was right was the healing of the man – something supernatural that came through the power of God and to which the Pharisees had no answer. On a previous occasion, when they contested Jesus over His forgiving the paralysed man, He responded, “Which is easier, to forgive sin or to heal the man? Just to show you that I have the right and power to do both…” He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home,” which the man did!

The Pharisees could do nothing to prove that they were right because all they were doing for “righteousness” was nothing!

They killed Jesus because of envy – not so much wanting what He had; far from it. They hated Him for what He was and had murderous intent towards Him. Envy says, “I hate your goodness; I hate your generosity; I hate who you are and I will get rid of you for it.”

This is the nature of the war that rages between God and Satan and between the kingdom of light and the dominion of darkness. There is nothing kind or benevolent in Satan’s realm. It is malevolent, destructive and utterly selfish and bent on sucking as many people as possible into its doom. Jesus is light and represents light. His entire bent is towards “shalom” – promoting the wholeness and well-being of others. He did whatever He could and wherever He could to alleviate suffering and offer the opportunity of life – righteousness, peace, joy and power in the Holy Spirit.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – A MAN WITH A SHRIVELED HAND

CHAPTER 3

A MAN WITH A SHRIVELED HAND

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6

The Pharisees’ dispute with Jesus over His attitude to the Sabbath was turning into a running battle. It was almost as though Jesus was baiting them by purposely healing people on the Sabbath. The rift between their definitions of righteousness and His was becoming more clearly defined and was widening into a chasm.

The Pharisees’ “righteousness” was defined by what they did not do. By contrast, Jesus was showing them both God’s heart and theirs by using the Sabbath as an opportunity to help people who needed help. His attitude was: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

God’s vision is always filled with compassion for people who need help. The greater violation of His law is not doing what is right rather than doing what is wrong. A lot of the time, people engage in sin in order to manage their emotional pain. Jesus had more to say to the Pharisees who engaged in religious rituals to cover up their failure to be merciful than to people who engaged in sinful behaviour to cover up their pain. He redefined sin by modelling mercy. To Him, sin was not doing good rather than doing evil. The most wicked behaviour was to ignore someone in need rather than to commit adultery.

This speaks loudly to us because our most natural behaviour is to look inward and keep taking care of our own needs and our own “reputation”. This is what the Hebrew people called the yetzer harah – the evil eye. The eye of light keeps looking at God and sees other people’s needs. God’s greatest measure is: what do I do when I see another’s need and I have the power to meet it? That is the righteousness which flows out of the righteousness imputed to me by faith. They are two inseparable sides of the same coin.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – THE SABBATH, RULES OR REST?

THE SABBATH, RULES OR REST?

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”ose

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28

Because of the waywardness and hardness of the human heart, God gave them His “ketubah” – His marriage covenant, expressed in the ten commandments, to establish the boundaries of acceptable behaviour so the His people would know how to protect and promote love in their communities… The Sabbath was part of the ketubah, teaching them that they needed a day of rest, including their servants, the aliens who lived among them, and their animals. Their value as humans lay, not in what they could produce, but in who they were, God’s children created in His image.

The Pharisees had become so fanatical about Sabbath observance for its own sake that they had forgotten its purpose, turning law-keeping on its head. Now they were serving the Sabbath; the Sabbath had become a slave-driver. They attacked Jesus every time He expressed God’s compassion on the Sabbath by bringing heaven to earth. Since the gift of the Sabbath was the expression of God’s love for His people, providing them with a regular rest-day so that they could pause every week to re-connect with one another and with God, it was intended to serve them and not the other way around.

But the Pharisees had got it all wrong. The Sabbath was about God loving them, not God regimenting them. God’s case against them in the past was that they ignored the Sabbath to serve themselves, and not because they showed mercy to those who needed it on the Sabbath. They actually insulted God by flinging His gift back in His face.

How did Jesus keep the Sabbath? He attended the synagogue for prayer and instruction in the Word. He had compassion on whoever needed Him, healing individuals who crossed His pathway. He did not deliberately go out to violate the Sabbath but neither did He ignore need nor dodge an opportunity to show mercy. Most of all, He fulfilled the Sabbath through His death and resurrection, inviting anyone who wanted to, to enter His rest by believing in Him. Sabbath is not a slave-driver to beat on us, but a permanent state to experience and enjoy because Jesus had opened the door for us to rest.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – LORD OF THE SABBATH

LORD OF THE SABBATH

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28

Why was their “Sabbath” issue such a big one for the Pharisees? Like a dog with a bone, they relentlessly “gnawed at” Jesus on this one because, although it was never a big deal to Him, it was here that He “failed” in their eyes time and again.

Behind their controversy with Him lay two fundamentally opposite life philosophies: they were trying to protect their “righteousness” which was “you shall not…” while Jesus practised His righteousness which was doing whatever was needed to protect and promote love. Jesus was more concerned about meeting the needs of others than fastidiously “keeping” the law which was a sterile and fruitless way to live.

The law-keeping practices of the Pharisees were both fear and pride-motivated because they did not understand the heart of the Father. Their history had taken them into judgment and suffering, not so much because they had failed to keep the letter of the law, although this was the expression of their failure, but because they had walked over the two great commandments, “Love the Lord your God…and your neighbour…” They had failed to protect and promote love. Now their descendants were trapped in a religious system of their own making, kept in place by fear and pride because their “achievement” in keeping the law protected them from God’s judgment, so they thought.

By contrast, Jesus used every opportunity to promote love. He served, healed, taught, loved, gave and ministered wherever He could to whoever He could just because He could, to reveal the Father’s love and compassion wherever He went. He had no reason to try to “protect” His own righteousness because His righteousness was to do what the Father wanted, not what He wanted. The right thing was to meet the needs of others at His expense.