Mark

Guest Post: Mark Fifteen & Sixteen by Drew Bontrager

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Drew Bontrager has provided his reflections on Mark's fifteenth and sixteenth chapter.

Drew is the husband of the beautiful and driven, love of his life, Courtney. She is a fighter and he loves her for that. He is passionate about his marriage, family, the local church, and basketball. Drew is a staff pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, IN. He also wanted to communicate that he is very honored to have met Jeremy at Bethel Seminary, a friend whom he deeply respects.

What do these chapters tell us about who Jesus is?

I love this question because the way we answer it has everything to do with how we know God and live our everyday lives.

The entire narrative of Mark is driven to the climactic conclusion of chapters 15 & 16. More than any other Gospel, Mark is “passion” driven (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). You find yourself asking the question, where are we going? Jesus is doing all of these great things: miracles, healings, and teaching. But what’s next? Something big is going to happen.

So what happens? Jesus dies a gruesome death, execution on a cross. And then three days later, the miraculous and soul-shaking event happens: Jesus resurrects from the dead.

They say (whoever “they” are, people who are smarter than me) that the most important parts of a story are the beginning and the end. In this case, the ending is the grand finale. Just when you thought the game was over, Jesus pulls it out in OT! In all sincerity though, the resurrection is the essence of Mark’s story, the crux of our faith, and our blessed hope.

Jesus overcoming death means only one thing: Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. Everything Jesus did, said, and is reflects the character of God (Col. 1 & Heb. 1). Jesus is supreme. God looks like Jesus, the Kingdom looks like Jesus, and the Church should look like Jesus. Why? Because His resurrection demands it.

What do these chapters tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).  

One of my former undergrad professors used to say, “Show me the bones of Jesus and I am no longer a Christian.” That thought has always stayed with me because it identifies the grit of our faith; the resurrection changes everything. Without the resurrection, everything else about Christ would be meaningless. Without the resurrection, being a follower of Jesus would be relegated to following a celebrity on Twitter.

As a follower of Jesus, my faith and daily life is challenged when I am confronted with His resurrection. What do I believe? Is Jesus Lord of all? Does the same power that raised Christ from the dead operate within me? And how does that relate to my Monday-Saturday, marriage, job, or finances? This may have been similar to what Paul was describing when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

Here are two thoughts that may answer some of my questions that perhaps you also share…

Our Future is Bright

Jesus’ power over death guarantees our future victory over death through resurrection. In the face of death, the one thing we all assume and fear, the Christian believes that just as Jesus rose we too shall rise. This is our blessed hope, our eternal life.

Our Present Should Reflect Our Future

Sometimes the present is all the more pressing than the future, and the resurrection has just as much to say about the here and now than it does about eternity.

Consider the disciples. They spent their lives with Jesus. Then Jesus gets arrested and executed. On cue, the disciples scatter. Consistent with the theme in Mark, they were despondent, terrified, beaten, hiding for fear of the Jews (Mk. 16:8). I’m sure they had questions like, what do we do now? What next? Who do we trust?

Their future was uncertain and marked by death and defeat, so their present mirrored it. Then a miracle happened, Jesus appeared to them in His resurrected state (Mk. 16:7). Astonished, full of awe, and impassioned the disciples launched the Church, preaching the resurrection.

They were terrified into hiding and paralyzed by fear but all of a sudden they were ready to go to prison or even die for preaching Jesus’ resurrection. What happened? The resurrection changed everything. Hope of a future and life made them bold in their present.

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19). Our hope in Christ is rooted in the resurrection and it transforms our here and now. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives inside of us. Meaning in Christ, we have hope, power to engage in the mission of God, power over sin, and access to an intimate relationship with God.

What in particular stands out to you from these chapters in Mark?

The resurrection promises that Jesus is with us in the here and now, in our everyday lives. I see this message as being central to the final message of Mark…

The angel that spoke to the two ladies in the empty tomb gave them the command to, “Go, tell the disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you’” (16:7).  

…and Peter

The messenger from God singles out Peter because he is a prime candidate for the grace of God. Peter, like most of us, has experienced many failures, most notably his shameful denial of Christ. But here’s the deal, where Peter fulfilled a prophecy (Mk. 14:27), Jesus fulfilled a promise to restore (Mk. 14:28). In full view of Peter’s past, present, and future failures, Jesus hung on a cross for him, sought him out, and appeared to him (Mk. 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:5). It is a beautiful picture. Even though we often fail Jesus, He does not reject us, but pursues us.

Galilee

Not only was Peter forgiven, but he was also restored into the mission of God. Throughout Mark, Galilee was understood in the context of Jesus’ mission (1:14, 28, 39; 3:7; 15:40-41). The promise of Jesus appearing to them in Galilee was a promise of restoration but also mission. Peter was given a second chance and a future.  

Full of fear and wonderment, the ladies that the angel spoke to “fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (16:8). Peter blew it. The ladies were full of fear and did nothing they were told to do. This seems like a weird way to end a story. Looking a little closer we see that the emphasis is on what happens between verses 7 and 8: Jesus appearing to Peter and the disciples. The emphasis is on Jesus.

I love Mark 15 & 16 because it communicates to me that anxiety and failure in this life are real, but Jesus is at all times waiting for us to remove fear and give us a second chance and a purpose.

 

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Fifteen & Sixteen

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

We are in the final two chapters of Mark's gospel. We intentionally timed our series to end with Easter weekend. On Good Friday, we think upon the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. On Easter, we celebrate that Jesus rose again. If you have been following this series in your group, then this will serve as the final Studying the Gospels Together from me. The last two chapters of Mark's gospel continue to communicate one of his primary themes - Jesus as suffering servant. There isn't extensive teaching in this chapter, and it is laser focused on Jesus' death and resurrection. Our primary reflection from these chapters should relate to how incredible Jesus is and how awesome his love is, that he would make such a significant sacrifice on our behalf - and then rise again. As Jesus' followers, we can never stop reflecting upon these great truths, and allowing them to shape who we are becoming.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

 

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

Jesus' last words (Mk 15:34) The last words of Jesus, as recorded in Mark, are also found in Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Other gospel accounts include additional words that Jesus spoke - seven in all. These final sayings are collectively known as the seven last "words" of Jesus. Mark records one of those phrases. Each of the final "words" of Jesus communicate something different about what was happening on the cross, but for us, the words recorded by Mark point to the anguish Jesus experienced upon the cross. At the moment when Jesus exclaims these words, Jesus is experiencing the divine abandonment that was a result of the punishment for sin which he was bearing. With our human limitations, we cannot comprehend the anguish that would cause. The intimate relationship that Jesus had with the Father was being broken. It has been argued by many that this was a far more significant suffering than the physical suffering experienced by the ruthless and grotesque punishment of crucifixion. In order to express the pain he was feeling, Jesus uses the words a passage in the Psalms.

(F) Relates to God the Father

Jesus' last words are spoken to the Father. The commentary I would provide is all included in the previous notes.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

Jesus' death and resurrection: There is no more loving act in all of the gospels than Jesus' death and resurrection. In John's gospel, Jesus says that there is no greater loving act than to lay down your life for a friend (Jn 15:13). Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. The innocent for the guilty. He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). He did what we could not, and became what he was not, so that we could become what we are not. Jesus made a way. He made a way for anyone and everyone who would follow him. This is love.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus is the suffering servant. The words of Isaiah 53 ring true in the crucifixion:

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

You could read on in Isaiah 53, and continue to see imagery that points to the cross. Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy, and he is our suffering servant.

As we continue into chapter sixteen, he is not just our suffering servant, he is also the resurrection and the life. The grave does not keep him. The resurrection is an extremely important part of why we put our hope in Jesus. There is a lot of talk about the cross, but we must remember that Jesus is also victorious over sin, death and Satan because of the resurrection. Paul's most extensive teaching on the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15, and would be great to read in preparation of your group time. In that chapter, Paul notes the historical validity of the resurrection and also the implications of the resurrection for those who follow Jesus.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Jesus came to die on the cross and rise again. The fact that Mark devotes such a significant portion of his gospel narrative to these final events points to the importance of these final events. Jesus came to do many things leading up to the cross and resurrection, but this is the crucible moment of his earthly ministry. It is the crucible moment of all history.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

We need to make a decision about who Jesus is - and respond accordingly. What we believe about Jesus changes everything about our lives. Hopefully throughout this study you have gained a more clear and compelling understanding of Jesus. He is God. He is the Christ. He is majestic. He is the mighty messiah. He is king. He is also humble. He is a servant. He suffers. He dies. He rises again. If this is all true about Jesus, what does that mean for your life? Throughout the gospel, Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves, serve others, proclaim his good news and many other things. Are we being shaped by those commands? The fact that Jesus died for our sins and then rose again should change everything about who we are. We were more sinful than we could imagine. It required the death of God's Son. It required God's wrath to be poured out at the cross. The cost of our sin is more than we could imagine. Yet, we are more loved than we ever thought possible. Jesus did not go to the cross begrudgingly. He went willingly and Hebrews says he went with joy. We are more loved than we ever thought possible. This reality should change everything about our lives.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) Create a new rhythm in your life that will help you to keep your mind upon Jesus. We must always remind ourselves of who Jesus is, and then allow that to shape our lives.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Fourteen by Kendra Dahl

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Kendra Dahl has provided his reflections on Mark's fourteenth chapter.

Kendra is wife to Jordan, mom to Hadley, Adrienne, and Maximus. She have a B.A. in International Studies from the University of North Dakota, and had thought she would take her degree overseas or head to law school, but instead she married a North Dakota boy and settled into life in the Midwest. She is learning what it looks like to live as a recipient of grace and embrace the ordinary. She loves God, loves His Word, and writes to help women experience the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. Kendra blogs at www.KendraDahl.com, and I would highly recommend you venture over and read some of her writing. I am confident it will increase your affections for Jesus and encourage your soul.

Jesus as the Faithful One

Throughout his gospel, Mark strategically places the events of Jesus’ life in a particular order, illustrating for us certain truths about who Jesus is and why he came. In chapter 14, Mark shifts from recalling Jesus’ teaching to a fast-paced narrative of the events leading to the cross, but as he does, he juxtaposes Jesus, the Faithful One, with his unfaithful followers.

Judas is one such follower. As one of the twelve disciples, he traveled with Jesus, ate with him, saw him perform miracles and sat under his teaching, yet he agrees to betray the Lord for money. And as if it is not enough to see that one of Jesus’ closest companions would betray him, the fact remains that the Suffering Servant will be forsaken by all. Jesus predicts, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (14:27).

“But [Peter] said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’” (14:29)

Though Peter’s earlier confession of Jesus as Christ (8:29) indicated he saw the Lord clearly, his subsequent rebuke of Jesus’ mission to the cross (8:32) proved he still was looking at walking trees (8:25). But here in chapter 14, it would seem Peter finally gets it. He finally sees Jesus as the Christ and the Suffering Messiah. He understands his Lord must die. And he is resolved to stand by his side, whatever the cost.

Within hours, however, he is sleeping instead of watching (14:37). And when Jesus is seized by his accusers, Peter, along with the rest of them, “left him and fled.” (14:50) Then it gets worse. This disciple who swore he would die alongside his Lord now swears instead, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” The rooster crows and Peter is keenly aware of his unfaithfulness. Recalling the Lord’s prediction of his denial, he breaks down and weeps (14:72).

Jesus, however, prays while the disciples sleep (14:32-42). He goes willingly with his accusers while the rest flee (14:49-50). And while Peter is out in the courtyard denying him, Jesus is inside silently receiving accusation, insult, and blow after blow (14:61; Isaiah 53:7). His disciples cannot maintain their resolve, but Jesus will stand firm: the Faithful One bearing the sin of the unfaithful.

Seeing ourselves in Peter

This account of Jesus’ faithfulness has incredible implications for us as followers of Christ as we see ourselves in Peter. We are unfaithful, and we stand in stark contrast to the Faithful One. But as the sinless Son of God, Jesus is the perfect substitutionary sacrifice, like a lamb without spot or blemish. He takes our sin upon himself and pays its penalty on the cross. Because of this, it is just as if we have never sinned.

But there is more--Jesus also perfectly obeyed:

He prayed while we slept.

He stayed while we ran.

He held fast to his Father while we pretended like we never knew him.

And in bearing our sin and shame, he also grants us his righteousness. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). We stand fully justified before God--not only is it just as if we have never sinned, it is also just as if we have always obeyed. Jesus’ perfect record of obedience is now ours. He does not require our faithfulness; he only requires faith that receives his faithfulness. Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, “What was our part in this victory? What did we supply? It was won for us while we slept.” (Found in Him, p. 100)

But we are forgetful, and our faith is weak, so in this chapter we also see the institution of the Lord’s Supper. God provided a means for strengthening our faith. As we come before the table, we bring nothing. It is a tangible picture of the way we receive by faith what has been given to us: Christ’s broken body and blood poured out for us. And just as surely as we taste the bread and the wine, we can be sure of his work accomplished for us on the cross. It is finished! As we partake of the Lord’s Supper together we are reminded that the Lord is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

Growing into faithfulness

I imagine it grieved Peter to recall the events of his denial as he gave his account to Mark. Yet, though he was crushed under the weight of his sin, he was not driven to worldly despair absent of faith as Judas was (Matthew 27:5-8). Instead, the weight of his sin would drive him to seek the face of Christ, starting with an empty tomb (Luke 24:12).

Later in his apostolic ministry, Peter writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). He goes on to describe the faithful Christian life, beginning with faith and resulting in love (vs. 5-9). “For whoever lacks these qualities,” he writes, “is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (1:9).

Though faithfulness is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is the fruit of a life lived before the cross. As we remember that we have been cleansed from our former sins, and as we live a life characterized by repentance and faith, we begin to see the fruit of faithfulness growing in our lives. This is not because of anything we do, rather it is because he who called us is faithful; he will complete the work he has started (1 Thes. 5:24; Phil. 1:6).

Jesus predicted that Peter and the disciples would be scattered like sheep. Yet later these are the men he uses to build his church. Perhaps it is their awareness of just how much they've received that makes these Spirit-empowered, disciples-turned-apostles so effective? So we, like Peter, minister to others as recipients of grace. God uses broken, messy, unfaithful people to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Peter knew this all too well; he would not soon forget that he was a sheep who strayed. It is true of us too. Peter reminds us, not so we can remain in despair, but that we might repent of our unfaithfulness and lift our eyes to behold the Faithful One. He writes:

“[Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)

 

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Fourteen

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

Mark's Fourteenth chapter is lengthy. It records multiple important events that occur on the last day leading up to the crucifixion. Jesus being anointed in preparation for his eventual death, the institution of the Lord's Supper during the Passover meal, praying in Gethsemane, the betrayal of Jesus, Jesus before the Sanhedrins and Peter denying Jesus three times.

Throughout the chapter, there are numerous things that can be discussed and reflected upon. The example of Jesus' faithfulness to God in the garden, even though he was "very sorrowful" at the prospect of what was to come, is something to note. Then to contrast it with the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter. Jesus remained faithful, even when his followers did not. Further, Jesus has just exhorted his disciples to figuratively "stay awake" in the previous chapter, and in this chapter they are not able to physically stay awake while Jesus prayed in anguish over the mission he had been given. Praise God that Jesus was faithful, and that his faithfulness covers our own tendency toward a lack of faithfulness. We have a great savior, and this chapter highlights how truly glorious is Jesus.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:32-42): Jesus takes his disciples with him to pray on the eve of his crucifixion. The Passover meal has been eaten and the Lord's Supper has been instituted. Jesus tells his disciples that his "soul is very sorrowful, even to death (14:34)." In anticipation of what was to come, Jesus was feeling the weight of his future suffering. Jesus goes to the Father in prayer. He prays that God would "remove this cup from me." Jesus pleads with the Father that if there is any other way, he would be spared from taking the path of the cross, bearing the weight of the world's sin. He continues, "Yet not what I will, but what you will." Ultimately, Jesus is obedient. He desire is for the Father's will to be done.

It is worth noting that this is an example of someone making a specific request of God in prayer that is not answered in the fashion of the request. And we know that the reason is not because the requester had any fault of their own or lack of faithfulness. Jesus makes his request. God hears his request. More than his own request, Jesus wants God's will to be fulfilled, and so he moves forward with the mission at hand. This is a great pattern for us in prayer. Make our requests known to God, being confident that God hears. In the end, we pursue God's will regardless if our prayer is answered in the exact way we requested. We need not conclude that if our prayers are not answered in the way we asked, that the reason must be the result of our own sin or lack of faithfulness. I supposed it might be for that reason, there is Biblical warrant for that, but it isn't always for that reason. But that discussion is for another post and another passage of Scripture.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

Jesus uses the words of a Psalm (14:34) - When Jesus is talking to this disciples, he uses a phrase reminiscent of Psalm 42:5 - "My soul is cast down within me." In this Psalm, the author is instructing his own soul to hope in God, even though it is in turmoil. We may not know if Jesus used this phrase in order to quote Psalm 42, although we can certainly suggest that is is possible. Sometimes when we are in a moment of crisis, the only words we can speak are the words of God back to Him. It reminds me of why it is important to store up God's Word's within me, so that His Words come to me like breath to a baby. Without thinking, without needing to rack my brain, it is an impulse to recite God's words like a subconscious action of the body trying to remain alive.

(F) Relates to God the Father

Jesus prays to the Father (14:36): Again, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays specifically to the Father. Here, I want to highlight the intimate nature of Jesus' relationship with the Father. He prays, " Abba, Father..." You have possibly heard this before, but Abba was a title of intimacy between a child and their father. Like our contemporary use of the word "daddy" or "papa." Jesus prays to God as one who has a deep, abiding and loving relationship with his Father. We are called to a similar relationship as adopted children of God. We can pray to God, "Abba, Father..." Especially when our souls are in deep need and anguish, as Jesus' was in this passage. We should all pursue a relationship with God that is this intimate.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

Jesus honors the woman at Bethany (14:3-9). As Jesus was reclining at the table of Simon the leper, a woman comes with an alabaster flask of ointment and anointed Jesus' feet. There is a lot that could be said about this passage, including the fact that it is sandwiched between the Jewish leaders plotting Jesus' death (14:1-2) and the comments about Judas seeking an opportunity to betray Jesus (14:10-11). The thing I want to point out is that Jesus honors this woman's actions as one who is preparing Jesus for his approaching death and burial. Mary was not a perfect woman, but she loved Jesus and sought to honor him out of an overflow of her commitment to him. Jesus celebrates this desire, and this action has been "told in memory of her" for centuries as we read the Gospels. When we respond to Jesus as an overflow of our love for him, we also, like Mary, do a beautiful thing.

Institution of the Lord's Supper (14:22-25): As Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, he extends the significance of the meal beyond just celebrating the exodus of God's people from Egypt. Jesus lovingly provides another way for his followers to remember and celebrate what Jesus was about to do on the cross. This ordinance given by Jesus to the Church to celebrate and remember his death, burial and resurrection was a loving and gracious action. When we come together and celebrate the Lord's Supper, we have a unique opportunity to consider Jesus and remind ourselves of what he has done for us and what it means for us to follow him. We must not pass over this celebration flippantly, as some are accustomed to doing, but take the time to genuinely consider Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed (14:61-62): As Jesus was being questioned by the Jewish leaders, they cannot find anything against him. They even have people bearing false witness, but they cannot get the false testimonies to agree. Finally Caiaphas, the high priest, just asks Jesus point blank, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus answers, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." There are other places where Jesus makes it clear that he is the Christ, but none in such a public place or with so much riding upon his proclamation. This statement was the final impetus for his crucifixion. He proclaims it proudly, knowing it would result in great suffering and ultimately his death.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

As Jesus is praying in the garden, he is pleading with God to alter his path. Jesus came to suffer under the weight of the world's sins, die, and three days later, rise again. Jesus' prayer to the Father makes it clear that this mission was not to be diverted. Jesus came, so he could go to the cross. And Jesus obediently fulfills this calling.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Ask God for strength: When the disciples were with Jesus in Gethsemane , they fell asleep multiple times. At one point, Jesus says, "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." I understand this to mean that while we might have the motivation or desire to do something for God, our flesh is a hindrance and is weak. Jesus seems to be acknowledging the disciples' humanity, but still calling them to something more. As a follower of Jesus, I recognize that I am weak and incomplete. While I may desire to do many things that would honor God, I find myself often doing the opposite. Paul describes this battle well in Romans 7:13-25. He ends his reflection with the words, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!." Paul is concerned with his own weak flesh, but he celebrates that God has sent Jesus to deliver us from our weakness. Paul was well acquainted with this dynamic and writes elsewhere that the Lord spoke these words to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul goes on to say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak. then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10 ESV)."

We will also face these times, when we are acutely aware of our own weakness. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We have the desire, but we do not follow-through. In response, we must allow ourselves the opportunity to see our own weakness, to recognize our need for Jesus and celebrate that Jesus came to cover that weakness. Then in response to his goodness, lets pursue those good things, but only after we see our need for Jesus to be our strength..

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

This particular chapter lends itself to numerous practical applications. There is much to be learned about what it means to follow Jesus. Here are a couple suggestions:

(1) Consider Jesus this week. Do something that will help you to think about Jesus in a fresh way this week. Ask yourself what you believe will raise your affections for Jesus, and then do it.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Thirteen by Jeff Curtis

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Jeff Curtis has provided his reflections on Mark's thirteenth chapter.

Jeff is currently a Pastoral Apprentice at Salem Evangelical Free Church in Fargo, ND. He is also currently attending Reformed Theological Seminary through their distance education program and will graduate in the spring of 2017 with an MA in Biblical Studies. Jeff has a variety of ministry responsibilities at Salem and has enjoyed the opportunity to learn and grow as a Pastoral Apprentice. He has a strong desire to see young people truly understand God’s Word and live accordingly. Jeff and his wife Breanna have been married since 2011, and Breanna will graduate from NDSU's pharmacy program in May of 2015.

On a personal note, I met Jeff when he was a freshman at NDSU and have seen him grow into a mature man and disciple of Jesus.. I have loved the friendship we have formed and value Jeff's perspective. His reflections on Mark 13 will be extremely helpful to each of us as we continue to study Mark's Gospel.

Brief Overview of Mark 13

The thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Mark is perhaps one of the most challenging chapters of all the New Testament (Revelation aside).  I have talked with a good number of people ranging from college student to pastor and I think it is safe to say that this passage deserves more than a casual read on an early morning with a cup of coffee.  All in all, there’s a lot going on here. In fact, chapter 13 is the longest continuous sequence of Jesus’ teachings found in the book of Mark.  The second longest speech from Jesus consists of six sentences (Mark 8:34-38).

I believe this is why it is so important for us as readers of the text to be careful not to separate the passage and read it out of the original flow Jesus had taught.  An illustration that comes to mind that helps affirm this belief is actually a painting by the artist Georges Seurat.  The famous work is called, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.  What is most interesting about this piece is that the style of art is pointillism; meaning the painting is actually comprised of millions of tiny little dots.  If you were to travel to the Art Institute of Chicago and stare at this piece with your nose touching the canvas, you would most certainly be overwhelmed by a cluster of green or blue dots that in themselves are hard to distinguish as a final piece.  Instead, as you take a few steps back and the tiny little dots begin to form themselves into a larger picture, you are immediately enthralled at the beauty the painting presents.  Perhaps this is how we are to interact with Mark 13.

When reading Mark 13 it can be easy to get caught up in a bunch of tiny little dots while neglecting to keep in mind the overall context of the chapter.  Specifically, different Christians interpret the first 31 verses of Mark 13 differently.  Some believe that few or all of these verses have to do with the second coming; others believe that few or all of these verses have to do with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.  That said, I trust those who read this will take a moment and listen to the Sermon from this corresponding week, and also study the scriptures for themselves.  As we take a few steps back we see that the central theme of this chapter is Jesus.  Further, we as believers should always be ready and waiting for his return.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

As I considered this question within the context of Mark 13 I noticed he was given two titles.  In the first verse the disciples called out to him and said,

“Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings.”

I believe that this title of Teacher given to Jesus in Mark 13:1 reflects the respect and adoration the disciples had for him.  For example, after finishing the Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29).”  We too can look at Jesus as our teacher.  As we work through Jesus’ teachings in this chapter we can be confident in his authority and believe that the things he has mentioned will come to be, if not already.  

Also, Jesus is mentioned in this chapter as being the Son of Man.  Mark 13:26 states,

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

I am reminded of the salvific purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the Son of Man.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ, becoming human, though also fully God, functioning as our Savior from sin.  In fact, this is not the only mention of Jesus as the Son of Man.  In Matthew 26, when asked by the high priest whether he was the “Son of God”, Jesus replied in verse 64, “You have said so.  But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Jesus was much more than a great teacher, he is our Savior.  Not only can we trust in his authority, but we can also trust in his power.  Jesus will return.

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

While I tend to interpret verses 1-31 to refer to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, I am also inclined to think that they foreshadow what will happen at Jesus’ second coming.  That said, there are great lessons of obedience to be learned through this passage as we follow Jesus.  Verses 5-6 remind us of the importance of reading the Bible to better know who Jesus is and what he has done in order that we do not become deceived by others.  Verses 7-13 prepare us for the eternal perspective that is necessary to stand strong during seasons of hardship.  Whether a natural disaster, war, or persecution of some kind, we are to remember that our challenges are not a surprise to God.  Jesus encourages us with the bigger picture in verse 13, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  We can trust in these words, they will never pass away (13:31).

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter?

It seems like no matter how many hours or amount of attention I place on studying the first 31 verses of this chapter, I am always drawn to verses 32-37.  When it comes to that day, or that hour, when the age will come to an end, when Jesus will return, nobody knows.  Instead, we are called to be prepared.  Verse 36 states, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”  STAY AWAKE.  I believe this to be so critical to our Christian lives.  

Perhaps I’m speaking only of myself, but I know that if there was a date attached to Jesus’ second return, my procrastination would kick in.  Similar to an exam in college, no matter how important the material being studied, I always tended to wait until the last minute to get my stuff in order.  Another way to put it would be a drifting process.  Unless we are constantly being aware of our spiritual awakeness, we risk drifting off into a spiritual slumber.  We need to keep our eyes up and watchful, recognizing that Christ could return.  This realization should draw us to be much more intentional with how we live our lives.  How do we love others?  How often are we reading God’s Word?  What types of movies do we watch?  How are we spending our money?  How are we spending our time?  What worries do we have?  Etc.  

All in all, STAY AWAKE.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is returning with great power and glory.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Thirteen

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

The Thirteenth chapter of Mark's Gospel is an extremely important chapter, and also one of the most difficult chapters to interpret. The chapter begins with a question from the disciples, and what follows is Jesus' answer, which has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse or the Eschatological Discourse. The portion of the chapter with the most clear and direct application is Jesus' exhortation at the end to "stay awake (Mk 13:35)."

I have modified my Studying the Gospels Together post this week, because Mark 13 does not lend itself well to that particular method. Instead, I will provide a somewhat brief interpretative outline of the chapter and also direct you to listen to Matt's sermon from Sunday, if you have not already had a chance. He provides some great teaching on the chapter. Then I will end with a few thoughts on the questions for reflection.

Overview of Mark 13

The question

Jesus' disciples ask him a question at the beginning of this chapter, which launches into Jesus' discourse. Their question is prompted by Jesus' statement regarding the destruction of the temple. They ask, "when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished (13:4)." Jesus gives a two part answer. He first answers when the temple will be destroyed, and he also explains what the sign of the end will be. The disciples may or may not have initially intended it to be a two part question - they may anticipated the answer to both questions would be the same. Jesus' answer does seem to indicate that there were two different and distinct future events that needed to be considered.

 The destruction of the temple and beyond (Mark 13:5-23)

The initial part of Jesus' answer points to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The series of five events listed in Jesus' answer (see 13:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13) all take place between Jesus' crucifixion and the destruction of the temple. These events are: 1) many will come claiming to be Jesus (13:6), 2) wars and rumors of wars (13:7), 3) earthquakes and famines (13:8), 4) persecution (13:9), and 5) proclaimed to all the nations (13:10). Again, each of these events can be seen in the historical accounts between Christ's crucifixion and the destruction of the temple, but also amongst any time period since the destruction of the temple. There are interpretive challenges with limiting these events to just pre-70 AD, so we must be open to an understanding which allows for a double-fulfillment of Jesus' words. What follows in versus 14-23 can generally be seen as the events immediately surrounding the destruction of the temple.

There is so much more that could be said about how we can accurately interpret this passage. Whole books have been written about this chapter alone (Robert Stein's is an excellent one to read if you want more high level discussion). Here is what I would exhort you to consider - the things Jesus lists in 13:5-23 could all be understood to have happened before the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but they could also nearly all be understood to be happening at almost anytime throughout history since 70 AD. We must all see these signs as a reason to "stay awake!"

The signs of the end of the age (Mark 13:24-32)

Jesus transitions his discourse by saying "But in those days, after the tribulation." This transitional phrase suggests that a second event will happen - the return of Jesus and the end of the age. Jesus essentially says that we will not have any conclusive sign that signals the end. Although, when it happens, we will know. We "will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory (13:26)." Regarding the exact time of that event, Jesus says, "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (13:32)." We don't know when Jesus will return, it is impossible to predict his return, and I would argue prideful to claim that anyone might know the exact time or hour. Jesus didn't even know the exact time or hour, how can we claim to know?

The exhortation - stay awake!

In the end, Jesus gives a strong exhortation to stay awake. He uses a parable of servants whose master goes on a journey. The servants do not know exactly when he will return, so they ought to stay awake in order to be prepared for their master's return. In the same way, we must also be prepared at all times for Jesus to return. We must be awake. Are we ready for Jesus' return? Are we staying awake?

 

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus is the Son of God, who will return again. Jesus is coming back again. When Jesus hung on the cross, I can only imagine how his band of disciples felt. They thought they were following the messiah, and then he is crucified. They eventually get to see the risen Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inhabits their bodies empowering them to be witnesses. But at the moment of the crucifixion, it must have been difficult. In this chapter, Jesus is telling his disciples that hard times are yet to come, but that he will return one day, and it will be majestic and powerful. Jesus is the Son of God, who will come again.

 

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

This passage doesn't necessarily address this question. Although, we do get a better understanding of the trajectory of Jesus' mission. Reading only the Old Testament, it isn't always clear that Jesus would come twice. Once to die on the cross and rise again, and a second time at the end of the age. We live in the time between Jesus' first and second coming. We live within an already but not yet existence. It is helpful to remember that Jesus' first coming will not be his last.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

This has a very straight-forward answer. Stay awake. Be ready. We anticipate Jesus' second coming, just like first century Jews anticipated Jesus' first coming. We must always live in light of the reality that Jesus will return, and his return is imminent. Are we ready?

 

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) Are you ready for Jesus to return? Is there something in your life that needs to change in light of Jesus' imminent return? Or said another way, if Jesus returned today, is there something in your life that you may be too embarrassed to share with Jesus? Take steps to make the appropriate changes, so that you are ready for your masters return.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Twelve by Dan Olson

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dan Olson has provided his reflections on Mark's twelfth chapter.

Dan spends his days at a desk for a Minneapolis Health Insurance company.  The path to that desk was circuitous – through Crown  College and Wheaton for degrees in Missions and Intercultural Communications, a year as a nanny in Belgium and a habit of taking missions trips.  His wife Ingrid and oldest son leave in a few weeks to serve orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia. For many years, Dan has also served faithfully in leadership at First Baptist Church (FBC) and currently helps to lead an Adult Community Group at FBC.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus has been here before, with the religious leaders gathered around him, amazed at his wisdom. He stayed behind in the Temple at age 12, listening and asking questions.  Now, however, there is opposition, challenges to his authority as chapter 11 ends.  The questions fly after he describes the coming judgment against the evil tenants; religious leaders craftily working to turn the crowd against him with his responses since they recognize the growing reputation of Jesus.

Jesus understands the traps in the questions, because he understands the people asking.  The Pharisees and Roman sympathizers focus on tipping him onto the Roman sword if He responds with a challenge to the Roman occupation or turning away the crowds with an unpopular pro-Roman message.  The Sadducees offer a question that is meaningless to them – they don’t believe a word of it.

The final man asks a question unbound by power and religion.  Jesus responds with words spoken in every Jewish home by rote and by heart for half a millennium.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Dt 6:4-9

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

The man’s response tells us all we need to know – The burnt offerings and sacrifices were the core activity at the temple, but love of God at an essential level and the extension of that love to others trumps it

This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law. Mk 12:33b

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?

The questions we ask of God are without end. We are little different than the people gathered around Jesus in the Temple then.  Some of us are threatened by losing the power we hold, others hold twisted beliefs so strongly that every path circles back. Some of us just want direction. “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did you take them so soon?” What should I do with my life?”  “Should I marry this person?” “Will you save those I love?”  “Do you exist?”

Go ahead, ask your questions.  He knows the traps you set for Him and he knows when you ask from a quiet heart.  Weigh the answers you hope for against the power of Loving God and Loving others.  Then you too will not be far from the kingdom of God.

Questions for application:

Are you in the middle of desperate schemes that cannot pan out in light of Heaven?

Are you still asking questions of God?

Are you listening at his feet for the response?

When you hear the call, will you walk away or to him?

 

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Twelve

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

Mark's twelfth chapter includes Jesus' teachings in the temple during his final days prior to his death and resurrection. It is a collection of parables and controversy stories that begin in the final verses of chapter eleven. This final cluster of teaching is similar to what we read back in chapters three and four. Here in chapter twelve, the Jewish leaders (chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees and lawyers) are trying to trap Jesus. On each occasion, Jesus teaches them with authority and the people respond with wonder as they "marveled at him (12:17)."

Each of these stories tells us more about Jesus and his own authority. They also give us further insight into the ways of God, and how God's Kingdom operates in the world. Jesus has come to both announce and activate the coming Kingdom. It is important that we listen to his intentional teaching, so that we can live well in light of what it meas to follow him.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

In this chapter, Jesus references God's Word often - the most of any chapter we have read in Mark so far. It is not surprising that in a moment when Jewish leaders are attempting to trap Jesus, he responds by explaining how God's Word does not necessarily teach what they have been espousing. Jesus grounds his arguments in Scripture, and people are amazed at his teaching.

(12:10-11) Here Jesus cites Psalm 118:22-23. In this passage, Jesus is giving a warning to the Jewish leaders that their time is coming to an end. Like the corrupt tenants, they have not done well at leading God's people. And like the corrupt tenants, they will murder God's Son. They will reject the stone that is in fact the cornerstone. The Lord is doing something marvelous, and as God's Kingdom expands to include all nations in a more overt way, Jesus is the cornerstone that is activating this change.

(12:26) It is important to note that in this passage, Jesus is in conflict with the Sadducees. One of the reasons they have rejected the resurrection up to this point is because they do not see any reference to it in the first five books of the Old Testament (The Books of Moses). Jesus intentionally quotes a passage from Exodus, as a way of grounding the resurrection within the Books of Moses. Jesus quotes a passage in which God speaks of keeping a covenant with people who at that point had died in a physical sense. Why would God keep a covenant with people who were dead, unless they were in fact still alive in a resurrected sense. "He is not God of the dead, but of the living (12:27)."

(12:29-31) In this passage, Jesus is very orthodox in his quoting of the Shema, an important Jewish passage. He goes one step further though, and joins the first commandment with a second, to love your neighbor as yourself. In this way, Jesus brings into relationship loving God and loving others as inseparable (read more in 1 John 2:10 & 1 John 4:20). If we claim to love God, then we must also love our neighbor.

(12:36) In this passage, Jesus turns the tables on the Jewish leaders. He asks them a question in reference to one of the widely held Davidic psalms (Ps. 110). More on Jesus' argument below, but essentially Jesus is making the argument that his authority is greater than David's. And no other human would have greater authority than David at this time. Jesus argues for his own divinity here. It is also interesting to note that no other Old Testament passage is quoted more in the New Testament than Psalm 110 - this teaching of Jesus may be the foundation for its wide use in the NT.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

Jesus' willingness to teach and engage is a sign of his love: All throughout this chapter, Jesus is answering questions, teaching and clarifying. While some of his responses may not have been a natural sign of his love for those whom he is in conflict with, ultimately Jesus is trying to correct false assumptions with his followers. Jesus wants people to understand who he is and what it means for the world. Jesus' first words recorded in Mark's gospel, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:15)." point to Jesus' desire to alert people to God's kingdom and their need to repent and believe in the gospel. It is an expression of Jesus' loving kindness to labor so much at bringing a correct understanding to what it means to follow him.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Greater than David (Mk 12:35-37): Jesus turns the tables in this passage. Up to this point, he was mostly being questioned, but here he asks the question. In Psalm 110, David references two different "Lords." You can see this represented in English translations by the way that one is written in lower case (ie. Lord) and the other in all upper case (ie. LORD)." The first LORD is in reference to Yahweh (GOD). Jesus is asking, how can the second Lord be David's son (Son of David is a common title for Christ)? David is calling him Lord, a title of superiority. If the second Lord (Christ) is superior to David, then he cannot be David's son - the assumption is that David would be superior to his own son. At this time, no other human was regarded as superior to David. Therefore, David must be referencing someone greater than himself. The Christ (Jesus) is greater than David. Jesus here is appealing to his own divinity as Christ (the son of David).

Hopefully you were able to follow that line of reasoning - if not, then send me a message and we can talk about it more.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

To Announce and Activate the Kingdom of God: Jesus came to announce the kingdom of God. He also came to die on a cross, becoming the cornerstone whom the builders rejected. In this way, he is not only announcing the kingdom of God, he is also activating the kingdom of God. Its expansion is largely aided and influenced by Jesus' own death and resurrection. Jesus came in order to both announce and activate God's Kingdom.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Render to Caesar (12:13-17): In this passage, Jesus is asked a question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus' response tells us many things. They wanted to trap Jesus into either telling them to pay the tax and be a traitor to the Jewish people. Or they wanted him to tell them not to pay the tax and be labeled a revolutionary and enemy of Rome. Jesus does neither. His answer is also not merely a dodge. Two major principles come. First, God is the primary ruler. Anything Caesar has comes through God granting it to him. We must first be accountable to God with our actions. Paying a tax to Caesar is not necessarily a violation of God's rule when we recognize that Caesar's authority remains secondary to God's authority. At the same time, they were using the coins with Caesar's inscription for other purposes (ie. to buy food, clothing, etc.). If they use his coins for other purposes, it is not wrong to then pay a tax - recognizing that it is all under God's authority anyway. Two different links that might be helpful to further understand the implications of this passage:

John Piper expositing the parallel passage in Matthew

Tim Challies writing about paying taxes

The Great Commandment (12:28-34): As followers of Jesus, we must recognize that this includes both loving God and loving others. Neither one can be removed from the equation. It can sometimes be tempting to want to emphasis one over the other, but we must always remember that they are both connected. We cannot claim to love God, but then not love our brothers. This would be like having a fire without smoke. If loving God is like the fire, and loving others is like the smoke, then it follows that loving others is a natural consequence of loving God. You cannot have one without the other, in the same way that you cannot have a fire without some sort of smoke being produced. Another analogy from Jesus - Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit (Lk 6:43-45). You cannot have one without the other. Following Jesus means loving God and it also means loving others.

Give sacrificially (12:41-44): This passage is not complicated to understand. In fact, it is quite simple. That does not mean it is easy to follow. Jesus is telling us here that what matters more than the actual sum of our giving, is how sacrificial our giving is when we consider our station in life. We can not all give away millions of dollars, and that is okay. God is simply calling us to give sacrificially from the resources we do have. Following Jesus means being willing to give sacrificially.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

This particular chapter lends itself to numerous practical applications. There is much to be learned about what it means to follow Jesus. Here are a couple suggestions:

(1) Ask yourself if your love for God is consistent with your love for others. Take an account this week of how these two things play out practically in your life. If they are not both present in real and practical ways, then ask yourself why? And how can you activate change in this area?

(2) Take an honest look at your finances this week. Do you give sacrificially? Or only from the comfort of your abundance? How can you be a more faithful steward of your resources?

(3) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Eleven by Karissa Long

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Karissa Long has provided her reflections on Mark's eleventh chapter.

Karissa received her Bachelor’s degree in ESL Education and Bible from the University of Northwestern Saint Paul.  She and her husband Matt (along with their 2 year old son Ty) recently completed training with New Tribes Mission.  They are currently raising support in hopes to be tribal church planters in Papua New Guinea among a tribe that has never heard the gospel.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

(v.1-11)  The first thing we see about Jesus is that He is the Messiah, because He fulfills yet another prophecy from the Old Testament.  Zechariah 9:9b says, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Jesus rode in being praised as king, which He is, but he also chose to ride in on a lowly donkey, showing His humility.

(v.15-18- clearing the temple)  The next thing we see about Jesus is that He cared more about what God’s Word said than trying not to offend anyone.  Many people paint Jesus as merely a meek and mild man who taught lots of nice morals.  Many people think that Christians are simply called to be nice.  However, we are called to so much more than being “nice”—we are called to love, and part of love is having the courage to confront our fellow believers on their sin.  Now, this isn’t just a license to speak our minds and offend, rather it is a model of taking Scripture seriously.  Jesus defended His actions with Scripture, quoting Isaiah 56:7, that God’s house is to be a house of prayer for all nations.  Jesus cared more about what God’s Word says than what people would think.

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

 (v.1-11)  How can it be that in just one week, people went from praising Jesus to wanting Him crucified?  I believe that part of the reason is that they came to Jesus with their expectations of what He would do for them (they expected Him to defeat Rome and re-establish the Jewish kingdom on Earth), rather than asking what His will was and what He expected of them, as a follower of Jesus should.

(v.22-26) Jesus tells his disciples that through God, they have the power to move mountains.  As Jesus’ followers, we can expect much affirmatively answered prayer.  I think we often pray not really expecting God to answer.  However, praying and receiving what we have asked should be a normal occurrence in the Christian life.  There are two conditions given here- we have to have faith that God can and will do it, and we need to come to God having forgiven others.  1 John 5:14 adds an additional condition that says that what we ask must be in accordance with His will.  This explains why sometimes we ask with the right heart, but God still chooses to say no, because of His sovereign plan.

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?

(v.12-22) The cursing of the fig tree is to me the most confusing part of this passage, especially because it says, “it was not the season for figs.”  So why would Jesus curse the tree for not having figs?  According to MacArthur’s study Bible, figs and leaves usually appeared on a tree around the same time.  So, the amount of leaves on the tree would lead one to believe that it was full of fruit, but it wasn’t.  This could be a representation of people who have the appearance of godliness on the outside, but they don’t bear any spiritual fruit.

Questions for application:

  • How can you better live like Jesus by serving others humbly today?

  • Is there a close friend of yours who is a believer with sin in their life they are not dealing with?  Can you love them enough to talk with them about it?

  • Are you coming to Jesus merely for what He can give to you?

  • How much time do you spend in prayer?  Do you really believe God answers prayer?

  • Do you spend more time trying to look spiritual to others, or asking God to change you from the inside?

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Eleven

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

This chapter has four primary elements, each informing one another. It begins with the triumphal entry, where Jesus makes an announcement of sorts that he has come and he is the messiah. Following the triumphal entry, two next two stories are sandwiched together. These two stories are the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple. Given their relationship together within the gospel, they are clearly meant to inform one another. Finally, the chapter ends with Jesus in conflict with some of the temple leaders. They are questioning Jesus about what authority he has to clear the temple the way he did the day before.

This chapter teaches us about Jesus' identity and the coming kingdom. It doesn't have as much teaching about what it means to be a disciple. Part of the reason is because by this point Jesus has done most of his disciple-making activity and is now heading toward the cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem with a procession that communicates his Davidic Kinship. He also communicates something about the coming kingdom, and that the time of God's Kingdom is upon them. This requires a reorientation about kingdom priorities and kingdom purposes. No longer can they abuse their privilege. God's Kingdom does not function like that. Jesus has come to communicate that message and also be the means for its implementation and expansion.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

(11:17) In this verse, Jesus references a passage from Isaiah 56. In this chapter of Isiah, it has a strong emphasis upon the importance of the nations and the salvation that is available to them. In Jesus' time, the area that was meant for foreigners is the same area that the money-changers and pigeon sellers had set up shop. Jesus was not pleased by the way that people used God's house to make a profit. It also was extremely unfair to the non-Jews who traveled from far away to seek God. It was dishonorable to God and unloving to the foreigners.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(11:15-19) Jesus Clears the Temple: This chapter doesn't lend itself well to this particular category. Jesus' intention in clearing the temple is multi-layered. He was motivated by the purity of the temple, for the sake of God's name. He also wanted to make a point about the fact that God's Kingdom was going to leave these Jews behind who had made a mockery of God and his commands. Unless people changed their heart's toward God, they were not going to be included in God's coming Kingdom. In this way, Jesus loves them enough to give a warning, a chance to repent and turn toward God. Unfortunately, they have heeded this call for many years, and do not hear it yet again.

It was also an expression of God's desire to include the nations. This is not an ethnic or nationalistic movement. God's Kingdom is for all nations, for all people. Jesus continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be part of God's people. As we learn from other portions of scripture, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 ESV)." God's house was meant to be a "house of prayer for all the nations." Jesus continues to communicate that all are welcome in God's Kingdom - so long as they follow Jesus as Lord.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

The Mighty Messiah King: The Triumphal Entry has many allusions to the Old Testament, to Jewish tradition and Jewish writings. Jesus enters the city on a colt. Two specific OT prophecies would have had resonance here - Genesis 49:8-12 and Zechariah 9:9-10. Both reference a colt and both point to Jesus as the messiah. Further, the colt has not been ridden - it is a pure colt. Animals that had not been used for common tasks were considered pure, and reserved for sacrifices and ritual practices. Jesus commandeers a pure colt to make his entrance upon. As Jesus enters the city, he rides in on the colt. The combination of him riding in on a colt and also the people throwing down garments and leaves would have called to mind Solomon entering the city on a donkey (1 Kings 1:33-35), Jehu being crowned as king (2 Kings 9:12-13) and the intertestimental history of Simon Maccabeus (1 Maccabees 13:51). The people had waited for the return of their Davidic King. They had heard many prophecies over the years (2 Samuel 7; Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-16, Jeremiah 23:5-6, 33:14-16; Micah 5:2), and they would have waited in joyful expectation for their coming king. Jesus rides into the city as though to clearly state that he is the messiah, the christ, the Davidic King who was to come.

The Peaceful Suffering Servant: Jesus is the Mighty Messiah King, but he is also the peaceful suffering servant. Jesus has already explained three times that he would suffer, die and rise again (Mk 8:31, 9:30-32, 10:32-34). Each time, the disciples did not fully understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. On one occasion they responded by arguing about who was greatest among them (9:33-34) and in another, two of them asked for privileged seats when Jesus comes into his glory (10:35-37). In both instances, Jesus explains that being great in the kingdom is about serving one another (9:35 & 10:42-45). All this leads to the point when Jesus enters the city, and he does so on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Entering the city on this humble animal displays Jesus' desire to bring peace, not war or oppression. The Zechariah prophecy (Zech 9:9-10) tells of a king who would come on a colt, and would bring peace to the nations. That is what Jesus is doing, offering peace to the nations. He is bringing peace between people and God through his own suffering, service and sacrifice. Jesus is not only the mighty messiah, he is also the humble and peaceful servant.

Jesus has authority from God: At the end of this chapter, Jesus has a confrontation with the priests, scribes and elders. This begins a series of confrontations, similar to the ones found in Mark 2:1-3:6. In this conflict, Jesus is questioned about the authority with which he cleared the temple the day before. Jesus, recognizing that it is a trap, asks a question in return. His question suggests that his own authority comes from the same place that John the Baptist's authority comes from, which is God. The leaders see the bind they are put in themselves. They cannot in good conscience attribute John's authority to God, but fear the crowds response do not want to deny it either, so they chose not to answer. In kind, Jesus does not answer their question either. The message of the conflict is clear though, Jesus is saying that his authority comes from God Himself.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Point people to God: Jesus came to reorient people's lives. He came to bring peace to the nations, and help people to connect with God in a way they had not done before. Jesus has come to serve humanity, through his humble sacrifice, to bring peace between God and the nations.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Pray with confidence The passage in Mark 11:22-26 can often be generalized in ways that Jesus did not intend. The discussion about the moving of mountains was likely in reference to the geographical location they found themselves. They were on between the Mount of Olives and Zion, the Temple Mount. When Jesus says "this" mountain, it would have most likely referred to one of those two locations. "Given the eschatological symolism of the Mount of Olives being split in two (Zech 14:4) and given the symbolism of the withered fig tree and the related incident in the temple, it is far more likely that Jesus is calling his disciples to trust in his promises that a new world order replacing the temple is imminent (Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, pg. 368)." While these verses may sometimes be taken out of context, it does not preclude us from the lesson that we should pray with confidence. This charge would be consistent with other Biblical content. We must simply remember that our confidence is grounded in Jesus. His command to the disciples is founded upon the face that Jesus was the curator of this new world order. We should pray with confidence, recognizing that Jesus is the one whom we put our trust in. Not the temple, or religious institutions, or anything else. When we pray, we can know that God hears, and will work things for His glory and for our good.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) In my sermon this week, I challenged us all to consider the confidence and humility Jesus displays. Jesus is confident in who he is as the messiah, and humble enough to sacrifice himself in service to the peace he will bring between us and God. I believe that we are also supposed to exhibit confidence and humility as Christ's followers. Confidence in who we are because of Jesus, and humility to recognize our need for Jesus. A great action step this week would be to take account of how your own confidence and humility as a result of your faith in Jesus.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Ten by Dr. Scott Klingsmith

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays.. This week, Dr. Scott Klingsmith has provided his reflections on Mark's tenth chapter.

Scott and his wife Carol have served with WorldVenture since 1985, working for 20+ years in Central and Eastern Europe in the areas of theological education and the encouragement of new missions movements. More recently he’s served on loan to Denver Seminary, where he teaches in the areas of intercultural ministry and missions. Their passion is to see students and future pastors equipped to engage the needs of the world, particularly in a cross-cultural setting. They’ve been a part of 1st Baptist’s missions team for almost 30 years. They have three married kids and two grandchildren.

Mark Ten

Mark 10 gives us a series of episodes in Jesus’ public ministry, which speak to particular issues in the American church today.  He teaches on divorce and remarriage, on the place of children in society, on materialism and wealth, on suffering and sacrifice, on the role and posture of a leader, and he demonstrates his concern for the weakest members of society. As is common in Mark, it’s a busy chapter, filled with confrontations with antagonists and followers alike.  Above all else, Jesus shows that the values of the Kingdom of God are different from those of the society of his day, and this continues to be true for us now.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

The first thing we see is that Jesus is counter-cultural. He calls the normal assumptions about spiritual and social life into question. Society said divorce is a man’s prerogative; Jesus said women should be protected (1-11). Society said children were a bother; Jesus said children were the ones who could best understand God’s kingdom (12-16). Society said following the commandments was the way to eternal life; Jesus said giving to the poor was the path of true discipleship (17-22). Society said riches were a sign of God’s blessing; Jesus said it’s almost impossible for the rich to enter God’s kingdom (23-31). Society said a leader is one who receives honor; Jesus said a leader is one who serves (35-45). Society said the handicapped of society are to be ignored; Jesus heals those who society ignores (46-52).

Secondly, we see that Jesus is fully aware of his calling and what will happen to him, yet he resolutely faces his suffering and death for the sake of his followers (32-34). He knew that difficult times were ahead, but he was also confident that he would rise from the dead. This chapter is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. He moves increasingly from public ministry full of miracles to more private ministry, helping his disciples to understand what his kingdom really entails.

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

Jesus is showing that discipleship will be more costly and more counter-cultural than his disciples had supposed. Don’t get divorced. Pay attention to children. Don’t let wealth get in way of salvation. Be concerned for women and children and handicapped. Hoarded wealth damaged the poor, who were weighted toward women and children.  Concern for salvation had a component of caring for the weak of society.

The demands of the kingdom are higher than people expect (no divorce allowed, give up wealth, serving instead of flaunting authority), but entrance requirements into the kingdom are lower than people expect (receiving like little children, simply trusting God for the impossible). Participating in God’s kingdom is both more difficult and easier than people imagined. It is harder to enter (on one’s own) – in fact, it’s impossible. On the other hand, it’s easier to enter (with God’s help). But once you’re in, there are higher standards to be lived out.

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?

I’m struck again how relevant Jesus’ teaching is.  Although he was responding to situations as he encountered them, he nevertheless hits on topics that are particularly challenging for us today.  Divorce is so common in the American church that we almost don’t notice it any more.  It is so easy for us to be swept up in American materialism that we don’t recognize what a trap it is. And although we speak much about servant leadership, we are not particularly skilled at practicing it. In each of these areas, we find it easier to fit into our culture than to stand against it. Jesus calls his disciples, and us, to live out the values of his kingdom in ways that show we are different. When we do this we will provide a model of life that is attractive to those around us. Faithfulness in marriage, concern for the weak of society, contentment with what we have, humility in how we interact with people and how we lead – these are all traits that will commend our neighbors and even our antagonists to the Lord we serve.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Ten

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

I apologize for how terribly delayed the publishing of this STGT post has been. I hope that it did not create difficulty for any of you ACG leaders who are preparing to lead a discussion about Mark Ten.

Introductory Comments

As the narrative continues to get closer and closer to Jesus entering Jerusalem, and his eventual crucifixion, death and resurrection, there are still a number of things we have to learn. At this point, Jesus ended his Galilean ministry, and he is on the road to Jerusalem. While each of the synoptic gospels expounded differently upon the latter half of Jesus' Galilean ministry, they are more consistent with one another throughout this portion of Jesus' ministry.

In Mark's tenth chapter, Jesus continues to teach his followers about what it means to follow him. It begins with some teaching on divorce. Similar to previous teaching, Jesus is not just concerned with the behavior itself, but the motivations and deeper condition of the heart. He once again explains what it requires to be a disciple of Jesus in his interactions with the children and the rich young ruler. Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection for a third time and in response to the disciples' lack of understanding, continues to articulate the need for humility and the rejection of privilege as a follower of Jesus..

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

There is no specific reference to Jesus reading or referencing God's Word in this chapter.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(10:1-12) Teaching about divorce: The subject of divorce has been widely debated within the church. Much could be said on the matter, but I will try to keep my comments brief. The first thing to note is that Jesus actually teaches something more strict than the current standard among Jewish leaders. In most other cases, Jesus loosens the bonds of the Pharisee's oppressive teachings.. Here, Jesus tightens the bonds. This points to the extremely high value that should be placed upon marriage. Jesus grounds his teaching in the creation story, where God creates male and female and institutes the first marriage. There might be reasons that divorce is pursued (Mt. 5:31-32 & 1 Cor. 7:15), but these should not be pursued lightly. Jesus gives equal weight to both men and women in the marriage (Mk. 10:11-12), and does not want divorce to happen without the weightiest of consideration.

(10:46-52) Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus: This is the last healing story that is recorded in Mark's Gospel. Here is a blind beggar, sitting at the roadside, when he hears that Jesus is approaching. He begins to yell out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Bartimaeus knew where to go for healing. People rebuked him, telling him to be silent. Yet, Bartimaeus persisted. It says that "he cried all the more." Jesus heard his cries, stopped and called Bartimaeus to himself. Oh, what a joy it is, when our savior calls our name! A request is made for healing, and Jesus says, "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Jesus heals both the physical and the spiritual blindness of the Bartimaeus. This blind beggar can see. He has had his sight restored. The spiritual and physical sight that has been restored, contrasts the disciples continued lack of ability to see what Jesus is teaching - seen in the requests of James and John only a few verses earlier. It is also interesting to note that Jesus does not send this man on his way or silence him from telling others, as he has with so many other recipients of healing. It says that the man "followed him [Jesus] on his way." We should all be encouraged and challenged by the persistent faith of Bartimaeus. He knew where to find true healing, and he sought it without fear of being chastised or silenced by the crowds. We should all seek to do the same.

 

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

The suffering servant: Jesus again foretells of his death and resurrection. The disciples still do not fully understand what is happening. This chapter doesn't tell us exactly who Jesus is, and while there is no direct link in this passage to Isaiah 53, it can be helpful to reflect on the fact that Jesus is the suffering servant. The first half of Mark's gospel, Jesus is established as the messiah, the king. Over the last few chapters, Jesus has predicted his death three times, and he will continue to progress toward the cross that is before him. Jesus is the king, but he is also the suffering servant Isaiah spoke of so many years before.

"He was despised and rejected by men;
   a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
   he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
   and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
   smitten by God, and afflicted
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
   and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned - every one - to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all."

- Isaiah 53:3-6

As Jesus continues to move toward the cross, toward his impending suffering and death, it is clear that King Jesus will first fulfill the role of the suffering servant before his eventual return at the end of time. It was hard for his disciples to understand how this future fit into their paradigm of who they thought the messiah would be. Jesus makes it clear though, he would suffer, die and three days later he would rise again.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Jesus came to serve as a ransom: Jesus came, so that many would be set free. Jesus foretells his death and resurrection for a third time. The disciples still fail to grasp what is happening. Immediately following Jesus explaining his impending death and resurrection, Mark records how James and John approach Jesus and ask for the privileged seats beside Jesus. Jesus cautions them, and explains that if they follow Jesus, suffering will very possibly come to them as well. Further, being great is the result of being a servant to all. Jesus himself did not come "to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45)." Jesus came to serve others and offer them freedom from the oppression of their sin.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Jesus must be our priority above all things: In the story of the rich young man, the clear message from Jesus is that he must be our highest priority. Jesus and his ways must be the thing to which we are most committed. The rich young man was doing fairly well as the law was concerned, but he lacked one thing. Jesus commanded him to sell all that he had and give to the poor. The man went away sad.

The man was more concerned about maintaining his wealth than he was with following Jesus. It is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, because their riches have a tendency to become more important to them than Jesus.

We must have humility and service toward one another: In response to Jesus telling his disciples about his perilous future, again they respond in selfish and foolish ways. James and John approach Jesus and request to sit at his right and left hand in his glory. Jesus responds by teaching them that to follow Jesus means to suffer as he will suffer and to serve as Jesus serves. Being great in the kingdom is about serving others. Interestingly, a similar pattern occurs in Mark 9:30-37. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection, and immediately following Jesus' statement,  the disciples are arguing about their own greatness. Jesus once again explains that greatness comes when we humble ourselves and serve one another.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) Like Bartimaeus, are we passionate about seeking Jesus? One possible action step you could take this week, would be to intentionally seek Jesus, even when you fear the possibility of embarrassment or ridicule. How can you more passionately pursue Jesus in your own life?

(2) Seek to serve the people around you. Another possible action step would be to serve others in such a way that you can confidently say you served others more than you were served yourself.

(3) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Nine by Curt Kregness

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Curt Kregness has provided his reflections on Mark's ninth chapter.

Curtis was born and raised in the Twin Cities, but has spent half his life serving in Brazil with WorldVenture, primarily in literature ministries. He is now an editor for the Vida Nova publishing house in Sao Paulo. Curtis is married to Lalia, an authentic Brazilian and a skilled translator. They have a son, Alan, who lives in the Twin Cities and is currently a technical writer for Toro Company. Curtis graduated from Bethel Seminary in 2012 with an M.A. degree in Christian Thought. He did his undergraduate work in journalism at the University of Minnesota.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus is the unlikely Messiah. He does not fulfill Jewish expectations of what a Messiah should be. Jesus tries to tell his disciples about his betrayal, suffering and death, but they do not understand (v. 32). This depressing talk must have been especially confusing for Peter, James and John, who saw Jesus in dazzling glory on the mountain. Isn’t the idea of a suffering Messiah an oxymoron in any language? For Jesus, however, the greatest people are those who become the servant of all (v. 35). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

Being a disciple of Jesus means following him on the mountain and in the valley. On the mountain we see that Jesus is the exalted Son of God—greater than Moses, greater than Elijah. He is to be worshipped, heard and obeyed. In the valley we mingle with (and sometimes we are) the “unbelieving generation” (v. 19). Following Jesus in the valley means losing our life so that others might live, just as Jesus suffered and was rejected (9:12, 31) on our behalf.

Mark has a dry sense of humor. He tells us that Jesus’ disciples had given a poor showing of their ability to deal with demonic opposition, yet soon after that incident they were arguing about who was the greatest (v. 34). What’s more, they then stopped a man from driving out demons—the very thing they failed to do—in the name of Jesus (v. 38). Following Jesus means humbly cooperating with faithful people who are not naturally part of our “in group,” but who are also fruit-bearing disciples of the Messiah. It is no coincidence that this chapter ends with Jesus’ words, “…and be at peace with each other.”

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?

For some time I have been impressed by the plea of the father of the demon-possessed boy, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24). Perhaps Mark resonated with the transparency of the man (Matthew and Luke do not mention the phrase), and seized on it as a reflection of the disciples’ struggle to wrap their minds around what Jesus was telling them about his upcoming suffering and death.

If we are honest, we would have to agree that the father’s cry sums up the ambivalence of our hearts, also. Our faith in Jesus is always diluted with doubt to some degree (that is part of being human). One of the lessons of this chapter is that our doubt should drive us to ever greater dependence on him. Jesus doesn’t require us to have untarnished faith. He only asks that we have childlike trust in his love and care for us. Indeed, Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question of why they were unable to drive out the demon from the boy illustrates that very point (v. 29). Prayer is ultimately an expression of dependence on God’s grace for everything.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Nine

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

This chapter is full of action and includes various stories and elements that help us further understand Jesus and what he is up to in the world. The first verse in chapter nine is a bit challenging to interpret well. Various scholars and theologians have different opinions of how to accurately understand the verse, and I do not have the space to fully explore the multiple options. If you want to engage with this verse more, feel free to read some commentaries in really dig into its meaning. Although, there is a lot of really great stuff to look at in the chapter, so don't distract yourself or your group too much by spending an undue amount of time on this particular verse at the cost of exploring the rest of the chapter. 

Following that initial verse, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and is transfigured before them. Elijah and Moses also appear, and God the Father speaks from heaven. It is a powerful story, reminiscent of the theophanies of Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament. When Jesus, Peter, James and John return from the mountain, they discover the other disciples attempting to cast out an unclean spirit from a boy. However, the other nine were not successful in their attempts. There is a brief, but impactful interaction with the boy's father and Jesus proceeds to heal the boy with the unclean spirit.

Jesus again tells of his coming death and resurrection. The disciples still do not understand what is coming. Jesus is not fulfilling all the expectations they had for the messiah. They were likely expecting a messiah who would come as a mighty king and overthrow the Romans and their oppressive ways. Instead, Jesus has come to die. What follows is a series of stories and teaching that highlight the humble, sacrificial and meek attitude that is required from those who follow Jesus. The series of stories that closes out this chapter are not all together in the other gospels, but it is likely that Mark wanted to highlight the disparity between the disciples current understanding of Jesus and what it truly means to follow him.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

There is no specific reference to Jesus reading or referencing God's Word in this chapter.

(F) Relates to God the Father

(9:7) "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." As Jesus is transfigured on the mountain with Peter, James and John, they are joined by Elijah and Moses as well. We don't learn much about the interaction between Jesus, Elijah and Moses, only that they were talking. Peter, not sure what to do in this overwhelming situation, offers to set-up tents. In the course of all this activity, a voice comes out of heaven, stating that Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. The transfiguration and theophany both speak to Jesus' identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. It also speaks to the close relationship within the Trinity, here between the Father and the Son.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(9:14-29) Jesus heals the demon possessed boy: When Jesus returns from the mountain, he encounters an argument between his disciples and the scribes. Jesus has called his disciples to be representatives of his mission (Mk 6:7-13), and as a result both the father and the scribes talk with the disciples in Jesus' absence. The father came looking for Jesus (9:17), but found the nine remaining disciples instead. They were unsuccessful in casting out the demon, because they lacked faith (9:19). In their inability to cast out the demon, Jesus critiques them along with all the others who are part of this "faithless generation." At the end of this story, Jesus says that prayer was needed to cast out the demon. When we hear "prayer" we may think about the ways we have organized group prayer, or our prayer times in the morning. That does not need to be the case. Prayer can be representative of any sort of dependence upon God. In communion and communication with God, we must humble ourselves and seek his provision for the things we lack. In this case, the disciples lacked faith and dependence, and were therefore unable to cast out the demon. Jesus has compassion upon the father and the son and casts out the demon.

(9:38-41) Jesus acknowledges those who minister in his name: Jesus displays his love for others through his recognition of the legitimacy of those who were casting out demons in his name. The disciples were frustrated because there were people who were casting out demons but were "not following us." The spirit of the disciples may have had more to do with the fact that the people being discussed were not part of their group than their fear that they may be dishonoring Jesus. You may have sensed within yourself at times that you cheer and celebrate more loudly for the success of those within your own personal theological, ideological or denominational groups. And at times you may even celebrate the demise of those who are part of other traditions within Christianity. While there is certainly a call elsewhere in Scripture to guard the contours of our faith and maintain the truths that have been passed onto us through God's Word, in this passage we see that Jesus is not concerned with getting the credit or being territorial with the spread of his Good News. He is more than happy to acknowledge the work that others are doing in his name. He does not fear that they will tarnish his name, because "no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me." Jesus is a compelling and captivating person. When we begin to seek and serve Jesus, truly pursuing to do good in his name, we will be drawn into the most exciting, liberating and all-consuming relationship possible. Along with Jesus, we would do well to celebrate when Jesus' name is honored among others, even if we are not necessarily part of the same "clan."

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

God's Son and Messiah: The transfiguration is particularly illuminating with regard to this question. The event harkens back to numerous Old Testament stories. The theophany, the mountaintop, the cloud that overshadows them, the transfiguration of Jesus, the appearance of Elijah and Moses all have some foreshadowing elements in the Old Testament. Jesus is the newer and better Moses. The new Elijah (John the Baptist) has already come and paved a way for the Messiah. All this, along with The Father's voice from heaven repeating the affirmation given at Jesus' baptism point to the reality that Jesus is the Messiah, and has come to save his people.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

He came to die and after three days rise again. As Mark's Gospel continues on, we will see an increased movement toward the cross. A considerable portion of the gospel has been devoted to establishing Jesus as the Messiah. Now that we have heard Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mk 8:29), we will see fewer miracles recorded and more teaching, activity and progress toward Jesus' eventual death, burial and resurrection. In this chapter, Jesus again foretells of his death and resurrection, and again the disciples do not understand (8:32). We know that eventually the disciples will come to an understanding of this teaching, but at our current location in the narrative, the disciples still have a blurry understanding. It will become increasingly more clear that Jesus has come to die and after three days rise again.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Believe, even when you don't feel like it: In the story of the demon possessed boy and his father, there is an incredible statement in the middle. The father has asked Jesus to have compassion on them and heal his son. Jesus responds by suggesting that belief is necessary. "All things are possible for one who believes (9:23)." With an incredible amount of humility and honesty the father says, "I believe; help my unbelief (9:24)." In response to this statement, Jesus heals the boy. In the fathers statement we see two things about what it means to follow Jesus. First, it requires faith to follow Jesus. We must pursue Jesus. The father has already been seeking Jesus out (9:17). He recognized the place where true healing comes. The father had enough belief and conviction that Jesus was the place where hope is found, because he was seeking after Jesus. The second thing we see in the father's response is that we do not always need to "have it all together." It can sometimes feel like there is not much room in Christian community to have doubts, skepticism, questions, fears, etc. I think that it would be consistent with Scripture to say that we should pursue an increasing holiness and confidence in Christ, so that fear, doubt, etc. are reduced. Although we must also recognize that we are not perfect. We will not be perfect until Christ returns and sets all things right in the world. While we live in the tension between the already and not yet features of God's kingdom, sometimes we need to cry out, "I believe; help my unbelief." Sometimes we need to acknowledge that while we are pursuing Jesus, we also have some areas that lack confidence. The important thing is that we continue to pursue Jesus, the one who is the only source of hope. And while we do, ask him to help us with the areas we are lacking in our faith and trust.

Life of humility and service: It takes humility to follow Jesus. After Jesus again foretells of his death and resurrection, there is a series of stories that point to the need for humility when following Jesus. The first one is probably the most clear. The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them and Jesus responds by teaching them about what is required to be great. Jesus says that, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (9:35)." Greatness in God's economy is not measured in how much money we have, what sort of position we can secure or what sort of respect we can attain. It is measured by who is willing to humble themselves enough to serve those around them. Jesus is the supreme example of this when he humbled himself and served humanity by dying an innocent death on the cross for the sins of the world. Following Jesus is not about making a name for ourselves, It is about making a name for Jesus through our humble service of others.

Fight sin with intensity: Jesus teaches us to fight sin with a ferocity and intensity that matches the severity of sin. Ultimately, sin has the ability to send us to hell. That is quite severe. Jesus calls us to match that severity with a very intentional and sacrificial pursuit of holiness. This goes without saying, but the comments about cutting off our hands, cutting off our feet or plucking out our eyeballs is not meant to be taken literally. Jesus is not calling for self-mutilation, but the extreme nature of those examples is meant to call us toward extreme measures in fighting sin. This looks different for each of us, depending on our own tendencies toward sin and our own context in life. For example, a person struggling with pornography may need to sell their computer, cut off access to the internet or simply purchase an internet monitoring service. Whatever the sin area, Jesus is calling us to be vigilant in our fight against sin.

 

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) Consider what sin area you might be struggling with that requires an increased level of commitment to combat its destructive results in your life. What practical ways can you fight the sin in your life? Even when it requires a great deal of sacrifice, are you willing to make those sacrifices in order to route out the sin?

(2) What ways is God asking you to exhibit more humility and service in your life? What can you do this week to increase your own humility and service to others?

(3) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Eight by Mark Strauss

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dr. Mark Strauss has provided his reflections on Mark's eighth chapter.

Mark L. Strauss (Ph.D., Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, where he has served since 1993. He is the author or coauthor of various books, including commentaries on Mark’s Gospel in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series (2014) and Expositors Bible Commentary (2010); How to Read the Bible in Changing Times (Baker, 2011); Four Portraits, One Jesus (Zondervan, 2007), and The Essential Bible Companion (with John Walton; 2006).  He is New Testament editor of the Expanded Bible (Thomas Nelson) and the Teach the Text Commentary Series (Baker).  He also serves as Vice Chair of the Committee for Bible Translation for the New International Version and as an associate editor for the NIV Study Bible. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Studies and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Mark has a heart for ministry and preaches and teaches regularly at churches, conferences and college campuses. He lives in San Diego with his wonderful wife Roxanne, a marriage and family therapist, and three delightful children, two in college, one in high school.

You are the Messiah

Mark chapter 8 is the center point and key transitional chapter for the whole of Mark’s Gospel. It is the axis upon which the whole Gospel turns.  Throughout chapter 1–8 Jesus reveals his authority as Messiah and Son of God. He heals the sick, casts out demons, calms the sea, raises the dead, and feeds the multitudes.  His actions produce awe and amazement in the crowds, but opposition and hostility from the religious leaders. The crush of the crowds means there’s hardly time to eat or sleep, so in Mark 8 Jesus takes his disciples for some R & R to the beautiful region around Caesarea Philippi, north of Galilee. On the way, he asks them a telling question, “Who do people say that I am?”  They answer with some popular views about Jesus: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  Jesus then asks, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for the Twelve, “You are the Messiah.”  (Mark 8:27–29; all quotes from NIV)

Peter gets it right! Jesus’ remarkable authority has proven that he is the long awaited Savior, promised in Scripture.  He is the One!  

Yet Jesus then shocks his disciples by predicting the suffering role of the Messiah:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:32)

Peter lacks a full understanding

Peter is appalled by this defeatist attitude and rebukes Jesus. But Jesus turns around and rebukes him right back: “Get behind me, Satan!...You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33). In one sense Peter gets it right. He recognizes that Jesus is God’s mighty Messiah, who will bring salvation. But he doesn’t realize that the Messiah’s role will be to suffer and die. Jesus will bring salvation not by conquering the Roman legions, but by sacrificing himself as an atoning sacrifice for sins, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  The whole second half of Mark’s Gospel will describe the “way of the cross,” as Jesus heads to Jerusalem to accomplish this messianic task.

Peter had his own vision of what the Messiah was to be.  He wanted a king who would defeat Israel’s oppressors and bring victory, glory, security, and dominance to Israel.  Jesus had a greater vision. He was here to reverse the results of the fall and defeat Satan, sin and death—humanity’s greatest enemies.

Getting a greater vision for the world

We are often like Peter.  We want a god who will satisfy what we perceive as our needs—happiness, health, prosperity, comfort and security. Yet while God promises us eternal health and happiness, the path to this glory is one of sacrifice and suffering. To be Jesus’ disciple means to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow him (Mark 8:34). The message of Mark’s Gospel is that following Jesus means getting a greater vision for the world than our personal success or happiness. It means submitting to God’s kingdom and seeking his purposes. That purpose is to share the message of reconciliation with a lost world—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19). That is a message worth passing on; and one worth dying for.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Eight

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

Most scholars regard Mark's eighth chapter as the location for a major pivot within the story line of the entire gospel. It centers upon Peter's confession of Jesus as Christ and Jesus' foretelling of his death and resurrection. The chapter also contains multiple overtones of Jesus' message that God's Kingdom is not just for Jews, but also for Gentiles.

Jesus feeds the four thousand, in strikingly similar fashion to the way he fed the five thousand only a couple chapters earlier. Although, it is important to also note the small differences in the story which communicate something as well. The feeding of the four thousand and Jesus' instruction to his disciples about the leaven of the pharisees highlights Jesus' identity as messiah. The confession from Peter is a significant moment. Jesus' disciples recognize him as not just a prophet, but the Christ. While the disciples understanding is growing, they still lack a full understanding of who Jesus is and why he came. This is characterized in Peter's rebuke of Jesus after hearing that Jesus was going to suffer and die. Peter was beginning to understand, but he still lacked a full understanding of what Jesus was doing in the world. This chapter continues to teach us more about who Jesus is, why he came and what it means to follow him.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

There is no specific reference to Jesus reading or referencing God's Word in this chapter.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(8:1-12) The feeding of the four thousand: This story has many parallels to the feeding of the five thousand from Mark 6. You can probably find them quite easily, although I will focus on the small differences which are very important to observe. First, his compassion is not founded upon them being like "sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6:34)." This time his compassion finds its ground in their physical need for food and nourishment. Jesus has compassion, "because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. (8:2)." Jesus expresses concern here for their actual physical needs. Jesus cares for both our spiritual and our physical needs. Similar to the feeding of the five thousand, his ability to provide physical nourishment through food points to his identity as messiah and his ability to provide for our spiritual needs as well. The final difference, which is important to note, is that they end up collecting seven baskets after everyone has eaten to satisfaction. Geographically, Jesus is in Gentile territory. In the previous feeding miracle, they collected twelve baskets - one for each tribe of Israel. In this miracle, they collect seven baskets - a number signifying completeness, standing for all humanity (BlombergJesus and the Gospels, pg. 321). This miracle shows that Jesus is messiah, but not just Jews. Jesus is messiah for all of humanity.

(8:22-26) The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida: This miracles serves two purposes in this context. The miracle itself is an expression of compassion and points to Jesus' identity. Similar to the previous chapter, Jesus uses saliva in this healing. Again, this would have been a contextual way of going about the healing. Jesus may have employed some cultural methods, which would have helped the people recognize his healing. The healing itself is a sign of his compassion for the man, and also a marker of his ability to heal.

The other purpose of this story is likely a living parable of sorts. This is the only two-part healing we see in the gospels. Given the literary context, it may point to the progressive understanding the disciples were coming to about Jesus. They were once blind, and now they are beginning to see in part. As though they are only seeing a shadow of who Jesus is. Soon they will see more fully. Within this chapter, the progressive understanding happens. The disciples first observe the feeding of the four thousand, and are given more instruction by Jesus in the boat. Then Peter confesses Jesus is Christ, but the subsequent rebuke by Jesus at Peter's lack of understanding shows that they do not yet fully see.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Jesus is the messiah: The identity of Jesus as messiah has been developed over the entirety of the gospel so far. This chapter simply continues to clarify who Jesus is. Similar to the feeding of the five thousand, the feeding of the four thousand in this chapter points back to God's provision in the wilderness. The difference here is that Jesus is doing it in a Gentile context. When the disciples misunderstood Jesus' intention with his statement about the Pharisees leaven, he reminds them of both feedings. One to five thousand in a Jewish context, the other to four thousand in a Gentile context. Jesus is messiah. And he is messiah to all humanity.

Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ: The statement by Peter about Jesus being the Christ is a significant moment in the development of Jesus' ministry. His disciples are starting to truly understand who he is. As a reader, the placement of the statement is also important. Mark has been working very hard in his gospel to clarify Jesus' identity as messiah. Here, Mark uses Peter's statement to give us a definitive answer about who Jesus is. The implications of Jesus' identity as the Christ are still lost upon the disciples. When Jesus explains that he would eventually suffer, die and rise again, Peter rebukes him. Peter thought the Christ was going to come and overthrow the Roman Empire and bring restoration to the nation of Israel. Peter still did not fully understand. The rest of Mark's gospel leads toward the climactic point of the Christ hanging on a cross. Not one who would come to raise an army, but rather suffer at the hands of the elders, priests and scribes.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Invite both Jews and Gentiles: Jesus gives us a clear indication in this chapter that the coming Kingdom is not just for Jews, but for Gentiles as well. This would not be fully realized for quite some time, but Jesus is paving the way for Gentile inclusion into the family of God. This is seen in the feeding of the four thousand within a Gentile context. Jesus' explanation to the disciples in the boat, highlighting both feedings at once, is also an indication that the Kingdom would expand to the Gentiles. Finally, the healing of the man from Bethsaida shows Jesus' compassion and willingness to heal even those outside of Jewish territory.

To suffer, die and rise again: Once Peter makes his landmark statement acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, Jesus explains that he came to suffer, die and rise again. It says that Jesus "said this plainly (8:32)." Up until this point, Jesus has not explained his future suffering so clearly to his disciples. He had been still establishing himself as the messiah. Now that Peter has recognized Jesus as the Christ, Jesus could begin to prepare his disciples for what was to come. Jesus teaches about his eventual death two more times in Mark's Gospel. In this particular instance, Peter does not fully understand and he rebukes Jesus. In response, Jesus rebukes Peter back, saying that Peter's intentions are in line with Satan and not the things of God. Jesus maintains his position, knowing that his future would require him to suffer on the cross in order to redeem his people.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus: The chapter ends with Jesus providing some instruction about what it means to follow Jesus. Self-renunciation is imperative to what it means to follow Jesus. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. For some, this may actually mean physical death as a result of following Jesus. For others, it means being selfless for the sake of Jesus, when we would have otherwise wanted to prioritize ourselves. It could mean that we must be willing to maintain our faith and commitment to Jesus and his teachings at the cost of some social, financial or relational standing. Following Jesus must come before all things, including our own comforts, priorities and desires. Are we willing to deny ourselves for the sake of Jesus and his gospel?

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) Pray that God would reveal ways in which you have not died to self. How are you being selfish? How are you holding onto certain idols or desires which are detracting from your ability to fully follow Jesus? Ask God to show you ways that you are not heading Jesus' command to deny ourselves for the sake of Jesus and his gospel message.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Seven by Randy

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Randy has provided his reflections on Mark's seventh chapter.

God captured Randy's (and his wife Debbie's) heart for the nations as a new believer in college at North Dakota State University. They have a deep love and passion to see all peoples, especially Muslims know Jesus as Messiah and Lord. They train and equip laborers to more effectively bring the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom to Muslims hopefully resulting in disciple-making movements among Muslims.

On a personal note, I met Randy while I was a student myself at NDSU. I have always been struck by Randy in two ways. He has a passion for the Scriptures and he has a passion for helping people to meet and know Jesus in a transformational way. I love Randy's passion, and I am thankful for his ministry. I hope you are encouraged by his reflections on Mark Seven.

Overview of Mark's seventh chapter

Mark 7 continues to show the rule and authority of the Messiah. This chapter answers the question: “What makes one clean or unclean in God’s Kingdom?

Jesus corrects the Pharisees and scribes caught in their traditions and points them to the authority of the Scriptures. Jesus makes it very clear that keeping religious rituals does not make one clean. He tells them and all the people to check what’s in their heart. A person is defiled morally by what he thinks in his heart even though he observes the purity rituals.

A wrong focus with emphasis on keeping religious rituals to gain purity will cause one to ignore God’s word.

vs 8 You neglect the commandment of God and hold to the traditions of men

vs 9 You set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition

vs13 You invalidate the word of God by your traditions which you have handed down

The disciples don’t get it. They fail to understand Jesus’ words. They were well versed in the teachings of the Jewish elders but this was something new. But they kept being with Jesus and asked for help in understanding. He describes the evil thoughts on the inside that makes one unclean. Evil thoughts generated in the heart unite with one’s will to produce evil words and evil actions.

Digging deeper into the evil thoughts of the heart – what’s in your heart?

6 plural nouns depicting wicked acts

  1. Fornications or Sexual Immorality (porneiai, illicit sexual activities of various kinds)

  2. Thefts (klopai)

  3. Murders (phonai)

  4. Adulteries (moicheiai, illicit sexual relations by a married person)

  5. Greed, Deeds of Coveting (pleonexial, “covetings”, insatiable cravings for what belongs to another)

  6. Malice, Deeds of Wickedness (poneriai, “wickenesses”, the many ways evil thoughts express themselves

6 singular nouns depicting evil dispositions

  1. Deceit (dolos, cunning maneuvers designed to ensnare someone for one’s personal advantage)

  2. Sensuality or Lewdness (aselgeia, unrestrained and unconcealed immoral behavior)

  3. Envy (opthalmos poneros, lit, “an evil eye”, a Heb expression for stingimess, a begrudging, jealous attitude toward the possessions of others

  4. Slander (blashemia, injurious or defaming speech against God or man)

  5. Pride or Arrogance (huperephania, boastfully exalting oneself above others who are viewed with scornful contempt)

  6. Foolishness or Folly (aphrosyne, moral and spiritual insensitivity)

All of these evils defile a person and have their source from inside, from one’s heart. Jesus takes the focus of attention away from external rituals and places the emphasis on the need for God to cleanse one’s evil heart.

Jesus enters Gentile lands

Jesus then moves to a region considered unclean – Tyre and Sidon still further to the north, a Gentile place. Just associating with a Gentile made one unclean according to the tradition of the elders. That is why they washed after going to the market, there may have been Gentiles there. Here he finds a desperate woman, desperate for her little daughter.

She has been looking for hope and finds the one who cannot remain hidden. She comes to him. She falls at his feet. She keeps on asking him. When he gives an answer that might turn others away, she answers him wisely. Jesus answers the cries of this desperate persistent woman who cares for her child.

One can notice a huge contrast between the traditions of the elders and this gentile woman. The traditions break the commandment of God leading to a breakdown of the family (i.e what might have been used to help one’s parents is ‘dedicated to the Lord’ thus nullifying the 5th commandment to honor father and mother).

The last paragraph of chapter 7 takes us back to the region of Decapolis. We were here before in chapter 5 – this unclean Gentile area. Previously, the people were begging Jesus to leave, but now they bring Jesus one who was deaf and dumb and beg Jesus to heal him. Indeed, Jesus does all things well, He even makes the deaf to hear and mute to speak.

What do we learn about Jesus?

The King of the Kingdom of God is for all people. He is concerned that traditions may keep us from God’s Word. He is patient in helping his disciples understand. Jesus breaks cultural divides – he interacts with a woman Gentile. His authority and power is available to the nations (Gentiles). A little gentile girl is released of a demon. A deaf and dumb gentile man is healed. The King is here for all peoples!

What do we learn about following Jesus?

I love the interaction of Jesus and this Gentile woman. He tries not to be noticed, but she is searching for one who can help. When she finds him she comes to him and falls at his feet. She persists in her request and she learns more of Him in the process. She believes his words. Much like the disciples. They keep being with Jesus. They don’t understand but they keep spending time with this amazing man Jesus and their lives are changed.

How will we follow Him this week?

  1. Do I have any traditions/habits in my life that are hindering me from following Jesus daily, that are keeping me from spending time with Him?
  2. How do I treat others that are different from me? How can I reflect the love of Jesus to them?
  3. Am I burdened enough for hurting people to keep on persistently praying for the rule and reign and power of Jesus to come into their world? How can I grow in my prayer life?
  4. Am I struggling with any impure or wicked thoughts? Confess and ask God to cleanse you (I John 1:9). Focus on the wonder and majesty of Jesus.

Matt's Sermon Supplement: Mark Seven

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, Pastor Matt Clausen (or whomever preaches on Sunday) will provide a brief post that supplements the sermon content from the Sunday before. I will try to post them on Mondays following the sermon. Here is a link to the sermon on Mark Seven, and below is Matt's Sermon Supplement. We have additional content to support the Mark series, and you can read more about it here.

Making and keeping exterior rules

In Mark 7 the Pharisees were upset with Jesus' disciples because they didn’t wash their hands properly before they ate. The Old Testament prescribes this kind of washing just for priests but the Pharisees had spread “proper” washing to all the Jews.

They also were very concerned about proper washing of all of the utensils and dishes used for meals. When their oral traditions about proper dish cleaning were written down in the Mishnah it took up 35 pages.

Why are we prone to make exterior rules?

One of the reasons that we are attracted to the kind of exterior rules that the Pharisees promoted is that we can feel good about keeping them. There was a Rabbi at the time of Jesus who was excommunicated for eating with unwashed hands. However, most of the Rabbi’s and Pharisees did execute proper hand washing. There are times that we are attracted to lists of rules today because keeping them allows us to feel like we are good and clean.

Another reason that these kind of rules are so attractive to us is that it allows us to judge others based on easy to measure standards. The Pharisees could see the disciples didn’t properly wash their hands and so they could quickly judge them as inferior. We may be attracted to rules for the same reason. It is hard to measure your love for God verses my love for God but it is easy to measure many human traditions and standards and judge each other according to them.

In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus reminds all who will listen that what comes out of us proves that we are unclean…that we aren’t good. Our lives are filled with selfishness, pride, hurtful speech, lust, coveting and so much more. These sins of the mind, mouth and deed show the true nature of our sinful hearts.

Our hope is found in Jesus - not our rules

The only hope is not found in keeping enough rules. Real hope can only be found in the grace of God who took the punishment for my bad and filled my account with the goodness of Jesus.

Praise Him for his work of Grace Today!

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Seven

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

We begin to see a shift in Mark's Gospel in this chapter. Mark has spent a large portion of his Gospel so far to establish Jesus as the Messiah. Mark clustered a number of features together for emphasis. Early on we saw a cluster of pronouncement stories in chapter 2. Then a cluster of parables in chapter 4 and a cluster of miracle stories in chapters 4-7. These were interwoven by different events, including confrontations with the pharisees, Jesus interacting with his disciples and the transfiguration. The end of chapter 6 was a general summary of Jesus healing more people, and served as somewhat of a conclusion to that section. Here in chapter 7, Jesus does some teaching on traditions and then leaves for Gentile lands, where he performs more miracles. Chapter 8 will only further emphasize the shift in Mark's gospel, as we see Peter make his confession that Jesus is the Christ and Jesus begins to teach more clearly that he will eventually suffer and die in Jerusalem. Mark as established Jesus as Messiah over the first half of his gospel, and now we see a shift in the content with this foundational identity of Jesus set in place.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

(7:6-7, 10) In these verses, there is a conflict occurring between Jesus and the Pharisees. The overall description of this conflict depicts Jesus "breaking from Jewish theology as dramatically as at any point thus far (Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 318)." The conflict begins with the Pharisees questioning some of the washing rituals associated with eating. Jesus' disciples were not consistently washing according to Jewish tradition.  Jesus respond by explaining that the Pharisees prioritize their own traditions over the commandments of God. He references a passage from Isaiah that was descriptive of these Pharisees. They were turning their own traditions into doctrine. Jesus continues on, explaining one of the ways they were teaching traditions which actually violated the commands of God found in the Scriptures. In particular, it was in reference to the treatment of their father's and mother's. The meaning of the term corban is somewhat debated, but what does seem to be clear from the text and other writings is that it was a way of donating money to the temple that was also somewhat self-serving and did some measure of disservice to parents. The traditions created by the Pharisees were superseding God's command to honor father and mother. We must all be careful to not prioritize our own traditions over obedience to God's Word.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(7:1-23): Correcting the false priority of tradition over Scripture: In the conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus, he corrects the unhelpful practice of prioritizing tradition over God's commands. I cannot imagine the Pharisees were saying to themselves, "this tradition violates God's commands, but who cares, we are going to keep up the tradition anyway." It would seem more realistic that the traditions crept into their religious practices, and eventually crowded out the commands of God.

Jesus relieves the heavy weight of burdensome traditions that don't actually help us get any closer to God. Jesus instead prioritizes the commands of God and the condition of the heart. Jesus says that it is not food that defiles us, or anything else that goes into our bodies, but rather that which comes out of our bodies, which comes from the heart. He goes on to list actions such as murder, adultery, deceit and many other things. These are not just emotional things, but physical actions. Jesus is saying that these sinful behaviors actually point to a condition of the heart. We act in evil ways as a result of our heart condition. In Jesus, we can have our hearts changed. That is good news! When our hearts are changed through Jesus, our behaviors should begin to change as well.

You could argue that Jesus actually raises the standards. It is far more difficult to have a clean heart than it is to follow certain traditions. Fortunately, Jesus doesn't leave us to clean up our own hearts. Further, it is actually more freeing, because Jesus points us in the direction of things that truly matter. All the traditions of the Pharisees were burdensome and did nothing to draw us into deeper intimacy with God - as a result they were very unhelpful. Jesus points us in the direction that matters - the heart.

The final thing that was so liberating about this exchange is that when Jesus declared all foods clean, he opened the door of ministry among non-Jewish people. It would take time for Jesus' followers to fully understand the impact of Jesus declaring foods clean. We see this in the life of Peter, when he needs to be coaxed by God through a vision to meet with Cornelius (Acts 10). Jesus removes a significant barrier for the gospel to advance beyond the Jewish people by declaring all foods clean, and this would eventually take shape in the life of the Jesus' followers.

(7:24-30): Exorcising the Syrophoenician's Daughter: Jesus leaves the Jewish territories and almost immediately is called upon to remove an unclean spirit from a young girl. The mother, a Syrophoenician by birth, begs Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. Jesus' response sounds just as exclusivistic as you might expect from a Pharisee when he calls the women and her daughter "dogs." There are some difficult cultural elements at play here, and it is challenging to fully discern Jesus' meaning and intention. Jesus is very possibly referencing the priority of ministry among the Jewish people. The advancement of Jesus' message among the Gentiles would not really pick up steam until after the resurrection. Additionally, this idiom might be in reference to the Syrian provincial leadership, who often gave only the "crumbs" to the Jewish people under their control. Jesus may have used this phrase to elicit a response from the woman. Regardless of exactly what is happening in the discourse, what is clear from the text is that the woman has tremendous faith in Jesus's ability to remove the unclean spirit. After hearing the woman's response, Jesus decides to exorcise the demon. Jesus honors the woman's faith and also expands his healing ministry beyond the bounds of the Jewish people.

(7:31-37): Healing the Deaf and Mute Man: In this passage, we see another miracle performed outside of Jewish territory. This miracle, like previous ones, continues to reveal Jesus' authority as the messiah. One unique element to this particular healing is the use of spit or saliva in the healing process. This would have had some "parallels in primitive medicine and magic (Blomberg, 321)." It is entirely possible that Jesus uses this practice as a way of contextualizing his healing and message to his Gentile audience.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

He is someone who has authority to declare all foods clean. In the confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus overturns an immense amount of Jewish tradition and history. Further, he even alters some Old Testament teaching in declaring all foods clean. We have seen this before in Mark's Gospel, Jesus has the authority in and of himself to make such definitive statements. Jesus doesn't appeal to another teacher or a particular passage of Scripture, Jesus has the authority to declare all foods clean.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Reframe our understanding of what it means to follow God. Jesus came to reframe the way we relate to God. Jesus teaches us that it is not the foods we put into our mouth that make us unclean, it is what comes out of the heart. Jesus came to change the way we interact with God and his eventual death and resurrection has the most significant impact upon our understanding, but he is also changing our understanding throughout his ministry through these sort of teachings.

Expanding the reach and influence of God's Kingdom: Jesus leaves Jewish territory, and expands his own ministry to the Gentile people. Eventually, Jesus commands his disciples to bring Jesus' message to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:18-20, Acts 1:9), but Jesus begins that work while he is still here on earth. God has always desired to bring the nations to Himself (1 Kgs 8:41-43; Ps 67; Is. 56:7), and Jesus is advancing that mission forward as he expands the reach and influence of God's Kingdom.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Be careful to not prioritize our traditions over the commandments of God. When I consider what it means to follow Jesus, I believe that the confrontation with the Pharisees reveals that we must be careful to not prioritize our own traditions above God's commands. This can creep into our lives very quickly, and often with good intention. Eventually our well intentioned rules and traditions become something that actually hinders our pursuit of God and His commands.

When traditions become hindrances to us, it is often hard to realize, because our traditions are so embedded in the way we practice our faith. We can often see it in previous generations, as we look back and see how certain traditions were given too much authority. Whether it be prohibitions against certain activities, initially designed to keep us pure, but eventually become contorted and unhelpful, or whether it be certain ministries, leadership structures, etc. that are more driven by humans than by God. These can be difficult to discern and discuss, but we must always be asking ourselves if we have begun to prioritize a tradition over the commands of God.

Further, Jesus communicates a clear emphasis upon the heart condition over adherence to these traditions. Jesus wants to see changed hearts. He wants to see people who were once dead made alive. He wants to deliver people from the oppressive structures and sinful patterns of our life and our world. What traditions exist in your life that currently drown out your ability to truly follow Jesus?

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

This week, we are confronted with the reality that our traditions can become more valued to us than the commands of God. I think a great application would be to observe how you might be prioritizing traditions in your own life. Try to come up with at least one tradition that you have given too much authority in your life. They are not easy to see because they are so intertwined into our normal patterns in life, so pray for God's help to reveal these traditions in your own life.

What other applications can you think of from this chapter?

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.

Guest Post: Mark Six by Dr. Jeannine K. Brown

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dr. Jeannine K. Brown has provided his reflections on Mark's Sixth chapter.

Jeannine K. Brown (Ph.D., Luther Seminary, MDiv, Bethel Seminary) is Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, San Diego and St. Paul. She is author of Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Baker, 2007) and Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Baker, 2011, with Dahl and Corbin Reuschling). She was associated editor of the revision of The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity, 2013) and is the author of the forthcoming Matthew volume in the Teach the Text commentary series (Baker, 2015). In addition to her love of studying and teaching the Gospels, Jeannine enjoys collaborative teaching and writing projects. Her forthcoming Matthew commentary in the Two Horizons series (Eerdmans) is being co-written by Dr. Kyle Roberts, a theologian at United Seminary of the Twin Cities. Jeannine and her husband, Tim, live in San Diego and have two adult daughters

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is? 

Mark 6 builds on previous chapters to portray Jesus as Messiah. As in Mark 1-5, in this chapter people in the narrative often misunderstand who Jesus is. For example, his hometown can’t get past his identity as “the carpenter” (6:3), and Herod thinks erroneously that Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead (6:16).

In contrast to these faulty or inadequate perspectives, Mark portrays Jesus as teacher (6:2), prophet (6:4) and miracle worker sent from God (6:30-56; also 6:2). In fact, the miracles Jesus’ performs in this chapter evoke miracles associated with Israel’s exodus from Egypt and God’s provision for them in the wilderness. Jesus feeds the hungry (6:30-44; cf. Exodus 16), demonstrates his authority over the sea (6:45-52; cf. Exodus 14), and heals those who are sick (Mark 6:5, 53-56; cf. Numbers 21); Mark portrays Jesus as bringing about a “new exodus.” Jesus is also portrayed as compassionate: “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:34, also 56).

And lest we think that Mark characterizes Jesus as beyond the pale of human life and experience, we see Jesus withdrawing from the crowds in order to pray to God (6:46). It seems that Jesus is able to do all that he does—by the very power of God, because he draws from the deep well of his relationship with God (see Mark 1:35).

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus? 

Mark 6 focuses on Jesus and the kingdom. In Jesus, God’s power is unleashed in this world for the good of humanity. His teaching, healings, and other miraculous actions are signs of the kingdom’s arrival (Mark 1:14-15).

Yet in characteristically Markan fashion, the people in his story are slow to see and acknowledge who Jesus really is. His hometown can’t get past his familial and occupational identity—they lack faith (6:5). Herod works against the divine purposes in his execution of John the Baptist. Even the disciples, who have been given authority to cast out impure spirits and find some success doing so (6:7, 13), are unable to feed the crowds as Jesus asks (6:37). And Mark indicates that they lack understanding because of their hearts are hard (6:52).

What does this mean for Mark’s reader who desires to follow Jesus? First, while Mark doesn’t offer exemplary discipleship responses in this chapter, he guides the reader by counter-example. Unlike Jesus’ hometown and even the Twelve, we should put our trust in Jesus wholeheartedly. Second, because Mark doesn’t focus on exemplary responses, our eyes are drawn to Jesus, his compassion and power. What better way to engender faith than to put Jesus on display! The object of faith deserves and receives center stage.

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?

I was struck with how the chapter begins and ends with Jesus’ compassionate, healing power. Jesus’ hometown has seen his miraculous powers at work (6:2) yet can’t comprehend Jesus’ messianic identity. At the chapter’s conclusion, people bring their sick friends and relatives to Jesus. “They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed” (6:56). We can trust in this compassionate Messiah who has power to heal and restore. And we can come to this compassionate Messiah for healing and restoration. The accent might be less upon our faith than upon Jesus and what he can do in our lives and our world.