Guest Post

Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Family Man

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Mark Benson, Board Member of First Baptist Church in Minneapolis and Chief Technology Officer at Exocitehas written about how the tendency toward apathy that exists in the modern family man. He also provides a framework for how we can move forward as men. Mark has become a great friend and I am thankful for his investment at First Baptist Church and his leadership within his own family. A more complete bio of Mark is available at the end of the post.

Bystander Apathy in the Modern Family Man

On March 13th, 1964, Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood in Queens, New York City. Reports of the attack described a scene of apathy from nearly 40 bystanders who failed to help or call the police. Why did this happen? Why did no one help? What would I have done in that same situation?

In social psychology, there is a phenomenon called bystander apathy (or sometimes, the bystander effect) where the probability that an individual will help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist hypothesized an interesting explanation to bystander apathy by saying that the bystanders′ callous behavior is caused by the strategies they previously adopted in daily life to cope with information overload.

As I was reading about the case of Kitty Genovese, I couldn’t help but think about how I myself as a husband and father at times am guilty of being a bystander to my own life and actions, and also how this so often is due to self-imposed information overload in my life which distracts me, saturates my senses, eliminates margin, and keeps me from acting with clarity and conviction. Examples:

  • When my marriage is drifting, the voice of apathy reminds me of how tired I am that night.
  • When my children need help sorting their place in the world, the voice of apathy reminds me of things I need to do for work that week.
  • When my alarm clock rings to wake me up to spend quiet time in prayer with the Lord, the voice of apathy tells me I had a late night, and deserve a few more minutes of rest.

A Clear Identity and Purpose for the Modern Family Man

As fathers and husbands, God wants us to act bravely in our daily lives and battle those apathetic tendencies head on. I suggest that the root cause of apathetic versus non-apathetic behaviors in men is rooted in their perceived identity of themselves. A clear identity and purpose in life is the engine that drives a disciplined thought life, principled behavior, and intentional relationships. A model of the relationship between these elements is shown in the following figure.

Figure 1: A Model for Engaging the Battle Against Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Paterfamilias (Family Man)

Figure 1: A Model for Engaging the Battle Against Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Paterfamilias (Family Man)

As fathers, the world tells us confusing messages about who we are. At work, we are lead to believe our worth comes from our title or how much money we make. The media tells us our worth comes from how we look or what our accomplishments are. The truth is very different from that, and it starts with a Christ-centered identity.

God wants us [husbands] to act bravely in our daily lives and battle those apathetic tendencies.

Christ-Centered Identity

If we are to confront apathy, we must first resolve our identity. Only after a clear Christ-centered identity is established (i.e. salvation) can we start seeing anti-apathetic results in other areas of our life. Our salvation in Christ is the core thing here that signals our understanding that we were created in God’s image made for His glory to take care of His creation. It is amazing the kind of relief it brings when we settle into the role and that God envisioned for us from the outset. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God […]” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

Disciplined Thought Life

If our true identities are in Christ, and we really believe it, we need to set our compass on God and do the same for our families. Our thought-life can be held captive to apathy just as much as our actions and relationships. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Principled behavior 

No one is perfect. However, a man with an identity rooted as a child of God following in the footsteps of Jesus will tend to act with his behavior in alignment with the things he knows to be right. Most of the time, we know the right things to do. yet the voice of apathy often confuses the situation and causes us to rationalize our apathetic actions. The Bible reminds us of the truth: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct," (1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV)

Intentional relationships

An identity rooted in Christ, when paired with a disciplined thought life will cause us to create and maintain intentional relationships. Intentionality is what creates space for quality time with our children and spouse, and guides our decisions when it comes to picking friends and acquaintances chosen for the purposes of either growing closer to Christ or helping others do the same. There are many verses in the Bible about the relationships men have, but one of the key ones relates to our children: "In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." (Proverbs 14:26 ESV)

A Call to Fight Against Apathy

Apathy is the absence of choice, which is itself a choice, and is enemy to the life God wants for us. I challenge you to think about how the noise in your life (multimedia, busyness, distraction, work, anger, lust) prevents you from battling apathy on a daily basis. How will you live? What will your legacy be? 

More about Mark

Mark Benson is passionate about seeing men follow Christ in boldness, creativity, discipline, and intentionality in their thought life, behavior, and relationships at work, home, and in their communities. Mark is on the board at First Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis. In addition, he works as Chief Technology Officer at Exosite. Mark holds a BS in Computer Science from Bethel University and an MS in Software Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Mark and his wife Mandy have three beautiful kids and enjoy running, cycling, swimming, photography, and reading.

Loving our Wives with the Cross in Mind

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Drew Bontrager, the Connections Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, IN. Drew has written about how important it is for husbands to remember the example of Jesus on the cross. The humble servant-heart of Jesus is the template for how we should engage with our wives in marriage. Drew became a friend while being a classmate of mine at Bethel Seminary and is a great man who loves Jesus very much. I am excited to share his post with you all. A more complete bio of Drew is available at the end of the post.

Love Sick

Recently, my wife Courtney had been sick. It hasn’t been anything major, just a common cold and fever but it put her in bed for a couple of days. She experienced common symptoms: headaches, sore throat, her temperature went up and down, and she was just exhausted.

Now I know it’s a bit cheesy but my heart breaks to see her in pain even if it is just a common cold, and I felt kind of bad because she probably got it from me. I had gotten sick a few days prior to Court, with the same stuff and was absolutely of no use to humanity, but to make matters worse I started recovering and feeling great while she was still in the thick of it. She never said it but I imagined she was thinking, “You did this to me!”

But here’s the cool part of the story; her sickness afforded me the opportunity to serve her. While she was officially out of commission, I had to step up my game. So I was doing everything. 

I prepared food for her, which was a miracle. Granted, it was food she had already cooked and all I had to do was heat it up, but nonetheless I “cooked” and cleaned up afterwards. I picked up her used tissues and threw them away. I made a run to the drug store to pick up extra meds and remedies. I checked in on her throughout my day. I cleaned the home. I made sure she had everything she needed. I was forced to put her needs and interests before my own.

At first, Court was hesitant about making requests. She started out by saying, “Could you…if it’s not too much trouble…possibly get me some more water?” Of course I obliged and slowly she started realizing, she could pretty much ask for anything. She was eating it up and all of a sudden, her tone changed. What was once a shy and polite request, became a demand as she said, “Where’s my water?!” Which was one of those questions that’s not really a question.

The most fascinating thing about it all is that while I served her, I noticed that it genuinely brought me joy. Albeit, it was a challenge at times and I didn’t always have the best attitude. There were times I almost said, “Get your own water!” Thankfully, I never did but even in the struggle of my own humanity, I found love and fulfillment as I gave myself up for her.

Out of reverence for Christ

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 2:21, 25, 28)

Paul starts this passage in the letter to the Ephesians; in which my NIV Bible calls “Instructions for Christian Households,” with an imperative to both husbands and wives who follow Jesus, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). In other words, if we love Jesus then we should serve our spouse simply out of our love and devotion for Jesus.

He continues in 5:25 and he speaks more specifically to husbands and how they can love their wives, “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” This passage beautifully echoes another one of Paul’s writings in Philippians 2:1-5 when he encourages the Philippian believers to humble themselves, value others above self, and put the interest of others before their own because this is the mindset of Christ. The context of relationships Paul was writing about in Philippians was different than in Ephesians, but the imperative was the same; follow the example of Jesus who humbled Himself all the way to the cross.

The picture God wants in our eyes when husbands see their wives is the cross. The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage relationship. Paul reminds us that when we think about how to love our wives, how to serve our wives, or how to relate to our wives that we must think of the cross.

Dynamic Service

My wife and I have been married for 5 ½ years now but I quickly discovered after we got married that I am naturally a selfish person. Serving Courtney and putting her needs before my own does not come easy. Though, it seems that the more I serve her, the more I enjoy serving her.

Serving isn’t something that only transforms the person receiving the service. Serving is dynamic. Paul said that when we love our wives, we love ourselves. There is something profoundly deep, mysterious, and wonderful that happens in a marriage relationship when a man and a woman love one another the way Jesus loved us. It places us in a humble position to give without the assurance or proposal of receiving anything in return. This type of generosity and vulnerability is the heart of God for a husband. 

The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage.

This Is Hard

I have been challenged lately with this question, how can I serve my wife in my normal day-to-day life the way Christ loved the church? Because if I’m honest, this is hard! It’s one thing to serve my wife when she is sick and incapable of taking care of herself every once and a while, but it’s a whole different ball game when she is healthy, autonomous, and taking care of business! And if I’m brutally honest, most of the time, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like listening to my wife or asking her questions after a long day of work. I don’t feel like going on a walk with her because I’d rather watch sports. Or I don’t feel like cuddling up on the couch because I would rather have my own space.

The reality however is that I’m most likely not alone in my feelings because this is very natural. It’s not natural to want to serve. It’s natural to think of self. It’s natural to want to do things that give me satisfaction. The cross reminds us that God doesn’t want us to live a natural life.

God has something so much deeper and rewarding for us. The Kingdom of God is always counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Jesus said that the first will be last and that if you want to live, then you must die to yourself. The cross shows us that if you want the kind of marriage God intends and to be the best husband you can be, then you have to live it like it’s not about you! 

More about Drew

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Drew grew up in Indianapolis, IN where he met his wife Courtney. They are childhood sweethearts and have now been married for 5+ years. Drew traveled to Minneapolis to study and prepare for the call of God on his life to become a pastor. He studied Pastoral Studies at North Central University and Theological Studies at Bethel Seminary. He has served at two churches as an associate pastor for the past 5+ years and is currently back in Indianapolis serving as a staff pastor with his family at his home church, Lakeview Church. Drew's heart is to reach people for Christ and help them connect to the church family and use their gifts in ministry. 

Teach them Diligently to Your Children: Fatherhood and Reading Scripture

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Caleb Drahosh, a pastorat Buffalo City Church, a new church plant in Jamestown, North Dakota. Caleb has written about reading the Scriptures from the perspective of a Husband and Father. Caleb was the best man at my wedding, and someone whom I deeply respect. He is working as a bi-vocational pastor, planting a church in the growing city of Jamestown and his post this week is a great reminder that we do not read Scripture in isolation. A more complete bio of Caleb is available at the end of the post.

A dry season

Just a few short years ago I couldn’t picture myself driving a minivan. And just this last week I bought one. And I’m cool with it. What changed? My life situation.

We affirm that the truths contained within God’s Word never change. But we humans--in our gross mutability--are always standing in a different spot. It’s like beholding a breathtaking landscape and then moving twenty yards to the right and discovering a whole new facet of beauty.

I found recently that I was struggling to engage Scripture as I had previously, even just a few weeks earlier. I felt lost as I plowed through James, Romans, and Lamentations in my quiet times and I preached some pretty poor sermons. Being a rigidly formulaic and structured person, I dusted off my copy of Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read A Book, convinced that I needed to brush up on my understanding of genre and authorial intent.

Nothing.

A shift in perspective

Even though I’ve been married for over seven years and am a dad to two young boys, I quickly began to realize I had moved twenty yards to the right, but I was engaging Scripture as a guy still standing in a previous position. I was desperately straining to get the view of the landscape that relied upon a significantly different orientation.

If that doesn’t quite make sense, consider the admonition given in the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Do you see that imperative buried in there to “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house?” As a husband and a father to two kids it’s commanded to me, that I make my home a place that bathes in the commands of Scripture.

Solomon gets this. He’s responding directly to the imperatives in the Shema in the Proverbs:

My son, do not forget my teaching,
                        but let your heart keep my commandments,
            for length of days and years of life
                        and peace they will add to you. (Proverbs 3:1-2)

Solomon’s engagement with the law includes an understanding that he needs to be able to reproduce the truths contained therewithin to his son.

And this is where a shift in my own orientation to the text had changed. It is my duty as a husband and dad to consider the implications of Scripture for my family in every instance. I no longer read the Bible as a single dude with little to no responsibility; I read it as a husband and a father.

It is my duty to consider the implications of Scripture for my family.

Reading Scripture for more than ourselves

In a heavily individualistic society and a Christian culture that hasn’t always adequately resisted said individualism, we are trained to approach Scripture and read it with ourselves as the primary beneficiary. But we need to approach a text with a question that removes “me” from the place of prominence. We need to consider our families and be prepared to saturate our homes in gospel imperatives; imperatives that we are free to observe as those who are in Christ.

This is where mission begins. I am fully convinced that one reason Christians are bad at making disciples, is because we fail to note our own situation in life. When we read our Bible, we don’t properly consider our spouse, kids, coworkers, fellow students, the cashier at the grocery store, or the mailman. We don't properly consider our own situation as husband, father, coworker, neighbor or friend. When we begin to engage the text as one who lives in a dynamic world and not a vacuum, we will always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)”

It’s important that we ask questions about authorial intent and genre like “what were minivans intended for?” and “how does a minivan illuminate my understanding of motor vehicles as compared to mid-sized sedans?” But those questions don’t get you into the minivan. We only get there by being a parent. And--like Solomon--we behold the beauty of the landscape that is set before us when we grapple with where our feet are currently fixed; my feet are fixed in the place of fatherhood and my approach to Scripture is as one who seeks to diligently teach the truths of Scripture to my children.

More about Caleb

Caleb grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis before moving to Fargo to study at North Dakota State University. While at NDSU, he met his beautiful wife Rebekah and received his call to ministry. After graduation, Caleb and Bek moved to Louisville, KY to study at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Caleb received his Master of Divinity. They have two sons and are helping to plant Buffalo City Church, a new church in Jamestown, ND. Caleb is striving to see transformed lives engage in Spirit-empowered worship, Christlike service, and gospel-saturated community, resulting in multiplying congregations.

5 Questions Every Husband Should be Asking

During the month of January, four different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Andy O'Rourke, Lead Pastor at Antioch Community Church has written about 5 Questions Every Husband Should be Asking. Andy is a great man, working hard to pastor a vibrant faith community in Northeast Minneapolis. I really appreciate his exhortation to husbands in this post, and I pray you are encouraged by his words as well. A more complete bio of Andy is available at the end of the post.

Asking ourselves the right questions

This year my wife and I celebrated our 16-year anniversary. It’s been an incredible ride. The road has included five moves, two dogs, three academic degrees, four jobs, and two amazing children. When it comes to being a godly husband, I don't claim to be an expert, but my tires definitely have some wear. Over the years I’ve learned a lot, and still have much more to learn! Recently, I was reflecting on the apostle Peter’s instructions to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, where he says,

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (ESV)."

Peter’s admonitions are brief, but powerful and convicting. As I think about growing as a husband in 2016, I’ve been wrestling with five questions I believe every husband should be asking himself. 

1) Am I dwelling with my wife?

Marriage is the beginning of a new life together between a husband and wife. It’s much more significant than simply gaining a permanent roommate. Sure, you share the same space with your spouse, but you can share space without sharing lives. Marriage is a call to share life together, to dwell together. You dwell together physically, emotionally and spiritually. You share hopes, dreams, joys, struggles, disappointments and everything else the journey of life brings. 

In order to dwell with your wife, you have to be present. This means being physically present. If your busyness or personal pursuits are preventing you from investing time in the most important human relationship you have, then something has to go. Dwelling with your wife also includes being mentally present when you’re together. Focus upon her. Listen to her. Turn your phone off, if that’s what it takes. Be available in both body and mind.

2) Am I a student of my wife?

I’ve always valued being a “lifelong learner.” I’m curious about all types of things and I love gaining new knowledge. I love envisioning what the future could look like, and then establishing goals and strategies to get there. But, do I study my wife? Do I really know her deeply? Do you know what your bride is struggling with? What does she need most from you right now? Could you recount to someone how she has grown over the past year? Do you have a vision and strategy for how you want her to flourish as a woman of God? It doesn’t really matter if you like school or not, every husband needs to embrace his calling as a lifelong student of his wife. 

3) Am I adoring my wife?

Peter tells husbands to “show honor” to the most important woman in their life. This involves granting your wife the respect she is rightly due. Honoring her is more than mere appreciation or honorable mention. Your wife doesn’t just want to be thanked. She hungers to be adored by you. Platform her. Lift her up. Take action and show her how much she is valued by you. Work at this with time, energy and creativity. As you create an environment of adoration you will allow your wife to flourish.

Your wife doesn’t just want to be thanked. She hungers to be adored by you.

4) Am I affirming my wife as a fellow heir in the gospel?

Leadership doesn’t mean the person you lead is of lesser worth. Good leaders seek to serve and elevate those around them. They want to do everything in their power to set others up for success. Leaders should never belittle those they lead. Husbands who are followers of Jesus need to lead like Jesus. Part of your sacrificial, servant leadership as a husband includes affirming your wife’s identity in Christ. Though you may have distinct roles as husband and wife, you are heirs together of the abundant riches found in the gospel. This world screams a thousand messages each day about what it means to be a woman. Remind your wife what it means to be a woman of God. Remind her who she is because of Jesus’ work on her behalf. Help her discern the truth from any lies she might believe about her identity. Affirm her in Jesus.

5) Am I praying for my wife?

The end of 1 Peter 3:7 includes a sober warning to husbands. The warning is to husbands who would neglect Peter's preceding instructions. They don’t strive to love their wives well, and maybe they don’t even care. Unrighteousness as a husband will actually cause your prayers before God to be hindered. That’s a terrifying thought. Neglecting my wife will create a barrier between God and I, built by my own hypocrisy. Notice, Peter’s warning assumes something basic. A godly husband is a praying husband. Let’s start there. Husbands need to come before God on behalf of their wives. One simple way I’ve learned to pray for my wife is to ask her, “What are a couple ways you’d like me to pray for you this week?” It’s a great encouragement to know someone is praying for you, especially your own husband.

Becoming the husband God intends

The purpose of the five questions above is not to make husbands feel more defeated or inadequate. They’re intended to help us be more intentional as we take our God-given responsibility seriously. Without the acceptance and security available in the gospel, these questions will crush you. But through the grace and strength of God’s Spirit, we can grow as godly husbands this year. I encourage you to ask yourself these five questions on a regular basis, knowing that in Jesus you’ve been given the ability to become the husband God intends you to be and the husband your wife longs for. 

More about Andy

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Andy grew up in rural Iowa and became a follower of Jesus at age 16 through a local, evangelical church. After sensing God’s call to vocational ministry, he pursued theological training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and recently completed his Master of Divinity at the University of Northwestern St. Paul. Andy has always been passionate about raising up leaders and planting churches to reach the next generation. Antioch Community Church is the second church Andy has planted, and he is excited to continue to start churches locally and globally. Andy has been married to his high school sweetheart Sara since 1999 and they have two amazing children, Ava and Luke.


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.

 

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)

 

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.

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?

 

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.
 

Matt's Sermon Supplement: Mark Six

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 Six, and below is Matt's Sermon Supplement. We have additional content to support the Mark series, and you can read more about it here.

The necessity of living by faith in the Kingdom of God

Mark 6 is filled with big lessons about the absolute necessity of living by faith in the Kingdom of God. In Mark 6 Jesus disciples have great faith as they leave for a journey of healing and proclaiming without any traveling supplies. They have to trust in Jesus to provide for their physical needs and to provide spiritual power to accomplish their mission. Then later in Mark 6 Jesus challenges his disciples to feed thousands even though they don’t have the resources on hand to accomplish a task of this magnitude. The disciples need to have faith in Jesus to see that the impossible is possible because of his presence in their lives.

Mark 6:1-6 is a passage that begins the chapter and draws the reader’s attention to the necessity of faith. In that passage Jesus and His disciples enter His hometown of Nazareth. Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach on the Sabbath. Jesus was very famous in this region by the time of this teaching and was regularly drawing crowds of thousands. His name was well known and the people of his hometown must have been perplexed at the stories they heard about Jesus because thy just knew him as the Carpenter.  

What was the result of the lack of faith?

As he was teaching they couldn't help but express their shock at Jesus and their refusal to except what he said as authoritative. They uttered…

“Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:2-3)

Jesus was just one of them. How dare he assert some sort of authority in their lives? How dare he outgrow his home? They didn’t believe in Him as the Son of God, he was just Jesus the carpenter whose illegitimate birth may be called to attention when he is referred to as the “son of Mary” rather than the usual construction “son of Joseph.”

What was the result of their lack of faith? Mark 6:5 says, “He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Most of us would think of healing a few sick people as pretty significant ministry, but in light of Jesus healing of the bleeding woman and raising Jairus daughter from the dead in chapter 5, these healing seem small. Notice that it is the lack of faith among the people that kept Jesus from working powerfully among them. In the next verse we read that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” God has chosen to tie his power for living to faith. When we don’t have faith God’s power for us is limited.

The call of this section of Mark is for us to be people of great faith. To live our lives focused on the unseen power and provision of God. How can you leap forward in faith today, trusting in the unseen resources of God to accomplish His tasks through you?

 

Guest Post: Mark Five by Brett Moser

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, Brett Moser has provided his reflections on Mark's fifth chapter.

Brett is the Lead/Preaching Pastor/Elder at River City Church in Fargo, ND. River City is a church plant that has now entered its fifth year. Brett leads River City in the area of preaching and teaching.  He is passionate about setting the pace for the mission and vision of River City, keeping River City's attention toward reaching people that are in need of Jesus and the unbelievable grace offered in His gift of salvation. Brett helps give leadership to Porterbrook Fargo, River City’s church-based theological training for leadership development. Brett is married to Shannon and they have 4 girls, Aunika, Alayna, Autumn, and Annabelle.

The Identity of Jesus: All Powerful

Power is an idea that grabs the attention of humanity.  It’s an adjective that shows up more often than we might think.  There is lifting weight that is comparable to lifting a small car (power-lifting), walking with an extra bit of gusto (power-walking), rangers that I watched do some rad stuff as a kid (power rangers), and lottery gaming known as powerball.  Additionally, motor-heads are concerned with horsepower.  New homeowners often are in need of a power tool.  The world of physics defines power scientifically as the rate at which a certain amount of work is done.

We are quick to identify the lack of power when we don’t have it, but fail often to understand the effect it can have when we possess a limited amount of it.  The reality is fallen humanity has a lack of power due to our sin.  In other words, as a result of sin, brokenness, and separation from God, left to ourselves, we are powerless. In our fallen condition, left to ourselves we are unable to heal, unable to change people, unable to make sense of trials, unable to fix situations, unable to calm storms, and unable to find rest and comfort.  We are a powerless people.

Mark chapter 5 communicates Jesus as the all powerful one that we are not, in a pretty potent way.

“Jesus, perceiving that power had gone out from him.......” Mark 5:30a

The greek word used here for power is dynamis which means ‘the exertion of force in performing some function’.  Three narratives comprise this chapter:  The healing of a demon-possessed man; the healing of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years; and the resurrection of a little girl from the dead.  In this chapter we see a wave of force that proceeds from the Lord Jesus that performs the function of healing that leads to transformation. Specifically in one healing (we can make the case), that this healing leads to mission.  The demonstration of power in healing that Jesus displays, is a means to an end.  In other words, Jesus healing people is about more than the actual healing.  There is more that we are to see, hear, know, and respond to.

What does the power of Jesus accomplish?

The power of the Lord Jesus has no limits.  Just observe the diversity of situations of people that are impacted here in Mark chapter 5.  

  1. Men and Women

  2. A woman suffering a chronic 12 year condition, and a 12 year old girl.  One who was an outcast in society and one who grew up with a prestigious, respected man (Jairus) as her father.

  3. Older and younger people

  4. All three making their requests in a different way.  The man with the unclean spirit (identifies Jesus as the Son of the most high God and requests that he not be tormented), the woman makes her request without a word (but just a touch), and Jairus makes a submissive request for help

What the power of Jesus accomplishes is that it reclaims these people.  The power of Jesus:  Brings a man back to his right mind; brings a woman back to community; and brings a little girl back to life.

Propelled to mission

In Mark 5: 1-20 we read of this man with an unclean spirit living in Gentile territory (the country of the Gerasenes).  A man living among the tombs (the dead).  A man unable to be bound, even with chains as he broke the chains apart.  A man that had been cut off from community.  A man that day and night is always crying out and cutting himself.  There is a level of self-inflicted abuse that this man is participating in.  This is hardly a man that you could see any ministry potential in.

Jesus demonstrates His power in declaring the unclean spirit to come out of the man and then tosses these unclean spirits (a legion of them - that’s a lot by the way, 5,600 give or take) into 2,000 pigs, who then run over a steep cliff and drowned in the sea.  A lot of bacon gone.  

What I find most fascinating and instructive here is what happens post healing. “As he (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.” Mark 5:17

The phrase ‘be with him’ is the same phrase that is used of the twelves apostles previously in Mark’s gospel.  “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” Mark 3:14

In other words, what the transformed man  is saying here is “I want to be your disciple Jesus!  I want to be with you”  What happens next is what is so compelling.

 

“And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”  Mark 5:19

This is incredible!  Jesus denies this request, at least the formal request.

Why?

We observe that Jesus has a mission for this man.  What’s the mission, what’s the directive that Jesus gives this man?  Stay here and tell people of what the Lord has done and how you’ve been shown mercy.  Be my witness here, right now!  You have a story to tell.  Tell your story!  Tell what has happened to you!  Go give your testimony

Tell how the Lord has had mercy on you.

Have we forgotten what the Lord’s mercy is to us?

What did this man deserve?  He deserved separation from God as enemies of God had overtaken him.  He is a threat to himself and to others.  He deserves no community.  However, the Lord shows him mercy and with-holds punishment and torment, and says go home, go be with your friends and family.

What is the punishment that we all deserve?  Death, damnation, eternal separation, chained with no freedom from our sin, suffocating under the weight of our sin.  That’s what we deserve. And Jesus demonstrates, in his power, through his work on the cross and by the power of the resurrection that the one of all power will take the punishment, and in turn with-hold punishment, showing us mercy.

Be reminded today of God’s merciful work, by the power of the Lord Jesus on your behalf.  Then tell that story!  Proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  I’m reminded of these words from Gloria Furman:

"Being delivered from Satan, sin, and death is anything but average or boring.  Having your sins forgiven and being redeemed and made alive is mind-boggling.  The idea that anyone’s testimony of blood-bought salvation could be uninteresting or unspectacular is a defamation of the work of Christ (Glimpses of Grace, pg. 61)."

May the powerful work of Jesus propel you to mission, to share the story of what the Lord has done, showing mercy to a powerless one.

 

Matt's Sermon Supplement: Mark Five

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. The supplement post for Mark Five is being posted a bit late, but still helpful as we continue to examine the life of Jesus through Mark's Gospel. I will try to post them on Mondays following the sermon. Here is a link to the sermon on Mark Five, and below is Matt's Sermon Supplement. We have additional content to support the Mark series, and you can read more about it here.

God's compassion toward all kinds of people

The end of Mark 5 is an intertwining of two stories in which a 12 year old girl is raised from the dead and a woman is healed of a bleeding ailment that she had for 12 years. These two stories show us God’s compassion toward all kinds of people.

Jairus was in charge of the local synagogue. He would have been a well-respected and well-to-do man. The woman that grabed Jesus cloak to receive healing in the crowd was on the other end of the social spectrum in Jewish society. Her bleeding meant she wasn’t allowed to enter Jairus’ synagogue, she wasn’t allowed to touch others and her relationships would have been limited. The account reminds us that Jairus had an opportunity to enjoy his daughter for 12 years in his blessed life while the woman had been suffering at the hands of doctors, had gone broke and had been an outcast for those same 12 years.

This account remind us that Jesus doesn’t just show compassion toward those on the upper end of the social spectrum like Jairus and he doesn’t just show compassion to those on the lower end of the spectrum like the bleeding woman. Jesus power is unleashed for the good of both of these people and people everywhere in between.

Jesus responds to faith and humility

While Jesus doesn’t act powerfully based on a person’s social standing he does act based on a person’s faith and humility. He finds both of these qualities in Jairus. Many people would have thought of Jairus as Jesus equal since he was the head of the synagogue. Yet, Jesus finds him bowing before him. When medicine had nothing left to give to his daughter, he believed Jesus could heal her. The woman had such faith in Jesus that she believed just grabbing his garments can lead to her healing. She too finds herself on her face before Jesus in humility.

Jesus loves to respond with power to those who have faith and humility like Jairus and the bleeding woman. We exhibit this kind of faith and humility when we submit our daily lives to Jesus. Submit this day completely to him in faith and humility.  

Matt's Sermon Supplement: Mark Four

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. The supplement post for Mark Four is being posted a bit late, but still helpful as we continue to examine the life o Jesus through Mark's Gospel. I will try to post them on Mondays following the sermon. Here is a link to the sermon on Mark Four, and below is Matt's Sermon Supplement. We have additional content to support the Mark series, and you can read more about it here.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear

In Mark 4, Jesus tells a crowd of thousands a parable about a man who sows seed into four different kinds of soil. Jesus would later explain the parable, but at first hearing there are some confusing elements in the imagery he has chosen. The meaning of each element wasn’t imminently clear to many of his original hearers and it isn’t clear to many of us either.

After the parable we read,

9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:9-13)

Seeing equals having magic cognition?

Mark’s gospel is constantly differentiating between having faith and having a hard heart. Jesus’ crowd is filled with people who have both. There are those who want to kill him (Mark 3:6), those who have accused him of working for Satan (Mark 3:22) and some who are following for healing and an entertaining show (Mark 3:9-10). There are others, who in faith have committed their lives to following him (Mark 1:16-20).

Jesus says he uses parables as a dividing line between those with faith who have “ears to hear” and those with hard hearts who “will not perceive.” The Kingdom of God is revealed to those with faith through these parables while the Kingdom remains veiled to those with hard hearts through the same parables.

When I was a kid this teaching frightened me because I imagined that those with faith received some sort of magic cognition from God to understand all the parables while those without faith didn’t understand them. I knew I didn’t understand all the parables the first time I read them so I wondered if I had faith, since I didn’t have the magic cognition (ears to hear) that allowed you to understand all parables immediately.

Seeing equals seeking more of Jesus

However, the passage is clear that the difference between those who have faith and receive the secrets of the Kingdom and those with hard hearts who do not, isn’t magic cognition to instantly understand all parables. The passage makes it clear that the people with faith to whom the secrets of the Kingdom are being revealed didn’t understand the parable when they heard it either. Jesus has to explain it to them. The difference between those with faith and those with hard hearts is that that those with faith seek more of the Kingdom. The followers of Jesus aren’t separated from those without faith by magic understanding but by their willingness to pursue more of Jesus and seek more about the Kingdom. In faith they seek more while those with hard hearts don’t care enough to seek more.

That is the same thing that separates those with faith from those with hard hearts today. Those with faith seek more of Jesus, greater understanding of the Kingdom, more of God.

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." – Hebrews 11:6

Matt's Sermon Supplement: Mark Three

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. The supplement post for Mark Three is being posted a bit late, but still helpful as we continue to examine the life o Jesus through Mark's Gospel. I will try to post them on Mondays following the sermon. Here is a link to the sermon on Mark Three, and below is Matt's Sermon Supplement. We have additional content to support the Mark series, and you can read more about it here.

Embraced by the unlikely

Mark 3 gives us a clear picture of what it means to follow after Jesus. In the chapter we see unlikely people follow Jesus, while likely followers reject him. In Mark 3:13-19 Jesus calls a group of Galilean fisherman to be his followers. These were not theologically trained individuals, and they came from a section of Israel and from a career that was not highly regarded. They were an unlikely group of people to be chosen as apprentices by a Rabbi and an even more unlikely crew to be chosen by the Son of God to change the world.

Rejected by the likely

This same chapter also shows the rejection of Jesus by those who should have been his most likely followers. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who spent their lives studying and teaching the Old Testament are unable to recognize Jesus as Messiah. Instead of worshipping Jesus they seek to kill him or connect him with Satan. It isn’t just the teachers of the law that reject Jesus in Mark 3, his own family believes he has gone insane and tries to take him away from his ministry (Mark 3:20-21,31-34). Shouldn’t the Messiah’s own family and those who taught people about the coming Savior have been the first to accept Jesus ministry? While the unlikely accept him and become his followers, the likely reject him and don’t.

Following him in pursuit of God

Jesus didn’t care about how likely or unlikely a person was to follow after him. In Mark 3:35 he said “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Background, pedigree, training, even genetics didn’t determine ones closeness to Jesus. That was determined by following him in the pursuit of God. People may see you as an unlikely follower of Jesus. Great, you are in good company. Jesus wants you to accept his call and become a family member that is dedicated following him in obedience to God.