STGT Method

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Fifteen & Sixteen

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

Introductory Comments

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

 

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

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

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

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Fourteen

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Thirteen

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

Overview of Mark 13

The question

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exhortation - stay awake!

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

 

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

 

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

 

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Twelve

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

John Piper expositing the parallel passage in Matthew

Tim Challies writing about paying taxes

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Eleven

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

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

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Ten

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

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

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

 

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

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

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

- Isaiah 53:3-6

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Nine

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

Introductory Comments

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

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

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Questions for Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Seven

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

Introductory Comments

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

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

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

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Application

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

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

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

What other applications can you think of from this chapter?

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

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

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Six

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

Introductory Comments

The sixth chapter in Mark's gospel continues the emphasis upon Jesus' miracles that began in the previous chapter. There are also portions about Jesus sending out his disciples and about John the Baptist. Mark continues to establish Jesus as messiah, seen most clearly in the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water. In these two scenes, the disciples are also still figuring out who this man is that they are following.

In addition to some of the miracle stories we see in this chapter, there is also some great instruction about what it means to follow Jesus. The disciples are sent out as an extension of Jesus' own ministry, and n the death of John the Baptist we see the extreme cost we must be prepared for when following Jesus.

When studying and discussing this chapter in the context of a group, there are many directions the conversation could take. It would be unrealistic to expect that you could fully discuss every single aspect of this chapter in detail with your group. Allow the Spirit to lead your discussion and engage together in the areas that are most appropriate for group.

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

(6:46) After feeding the five-thousand, Jesus sends his disciples across the sea first while he goes "up on the mountain to pray." Jesus' desire to take time to pray reminds us of a few things. First, we seek Jesus' humanity. The incarnation is a mystery. Jesus is fully divine, while also being fully human. Second, Jesus praying is a reminder of his desire to have intimacy with the Father.

(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.

(6:30-44) Feeding the Five Thousand: Jesus takes his disciples away to a desolate place, so they can rest for awhile. They don't actually get the chance to do much resting, because a great crowd finds them, leading to one Jesus' hallmark miracles. It is also the only one of Jesus' miracles (apart from the resurrection) that is recorded in all four of the gospels (parallels in Mt. 14:13-21, Lk 9:10-17, & Jn 6:1-15). In the previous chapter, we noted that each of Jesus' miracles were either the result of people's faith or to increase people's faith. Here, it is the result of Jesus' compassion upon the people, because they were "like sheep without a shepherd." This is an allusion to the imagery used in the OT during Ezekiel's lament over the people's lack of leadership (Ez. 34). Jesus doesn't teach them and feed them because of their faith, or to necessarily increase their faith, but because he had compassion on them as people who were lost. The miracle resonates with messianic overtones, as Jesus has come to fulfill God's promise that a future leader would come to properly shepherd His people. Further, this miracle would very likely remind people of God's provision when he provided mana for His people in the wilderness. This miracle reveals Jesus' compassion for the people, and it also continues to reveal Jesus as the messiah who has come to bring God's kingdom.

(6:45-52) Jesus walks on water: After Jesus spends time praying on the mountain, he sees that his disciples are having a difficult time crossing the sea. Jesus begins walking on the sea, and it says that he "meant to pass by them (6:48)." This is the same verb used in the greek translations of Exodus 33:19 and 34:6 when God is "passing by" Moses and to reveal Himself. Another allusion to Jesus' divinity is he way he chooses to identify himself to his disciples when he says "it is I (6:50)." This again is the same language used for God in the OT when he announces himself as "I AM" Finally, Jesus walking on water is another sign of Jesus' authority over the physical world. What is incredible about this story is that the disciples still don't seem to have a clear understanding of Jesus. Mark notes their confusion, saying that they still didn't understand the miracle of feeding the five thousand.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

I have already explored this at length in my reflections on the miracles of feeding the five thousand and also Jesus walking on the water. Both of these miracles give further indication of Jesus as messiah. Another element that I have already mentioned briefly is that this chapter gives us a picture of Jesus' humanity. Jesus pulls the disciples aside so they can all rest. That was unsuccessful, but after feeding the five thousand, Jesus still makes it a point to find time for prayer. Jesus needed rest and prayer, just like the rest of us. They were priorities for Jesus and point to his humanity.

The question of who Jesus is continues to dominate each chapter. It is important to note that the answer to this question is being considered by nearly everyone. The opening verses to the section on John the Baptist's death, are actually about King Herod attempting to determine who Jesus is. People had speculated different possibilities, and Herod though that it was John the Baptist coming back from the dead. What follows is a description of how John the Baptist ended up in prison, and ultimately executed. People want to know who Jesus is, and the way we answer that question is extremely important.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Similar to last week, this chapter also points to Jesus bringing God's Kingdom to bear upon earth. He is revealing what God's Kingdom will be like when it is fully revealed upon earth. There will be no more hunger, the cruel effects of nature will cease and disease will be healed.

Another element to this chapter is the way he interacts with his disciples. There is more focus on the preparation Jesus wants to provide for his disciples. He sends them out to minister as an extension of his own ministry. Jesus gave them instruction and it says that they proclaimed repentance, cast out demons and healed the sick. These activities were by and large the same activities of Jesus' own ministry. We know that Jesus would eventually end up on the cross, to satisfy the weight of sin, so that people could freely follow God. Jesus came to die on the cross, but he also came to prepare his disciples to carry on his mission after he had departed. This is also seen in the way that he continues to work so hard to help his disciples understand who he truly is.

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

Extension of Jesus' ministry. When we follow Jesus, we are an extension of Jesus' own ministry. As I noted above, Jesus sends out his disciples, and they do the same things we have seen Jesus doing over the first five chapters. They are calling people to repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick. This chapter helps us to see hat what it means to follow Jesus, is to look at his life and seek to carry on his mission of calling people to follow Jesus and also seeking to meet physical needs (ie. casting out demons and healing). 

The cost of discipleship. John the Baptist paid for his own commitment to Jesus with his life. John the Baptist saw that the decisions of King Herod were not appropriate, and he was vocal about his own disapproval. Herodias was not pleased with John the Baptist, and ultimately had him executed through her daughter's request. The death of John the Baptist helps us to see that following Jesus can sometimes cost us our lives. While most people who read this will never lose their life as a result of following Jesus, we must be prepared for that possible end. Further, we must also be ready for any other cost we might endure for following Jesus, no matter how large or small.

Take the time to rest: When we follow Jesus, we must also be prepared to care for ourselves and rest when needed. Jesus saw the need for rest, and called his disciples to step back from their ministry for a short time for some needed refreshment. Know yourself, know your own needs, and don't be too prideful to rest sometimes.

Questions for Application

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

Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives. One application might be to consider how you could strategically and intentionally rest this week. What would that look like for you? What other applications can you think of?

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.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Five

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

Introductory Comments

The fifth chapter in Mark's gospel is comprised of three different miracle stories. The first is the healing of the Garasene demoniac (Mk 5:1-20), the third is actually sandwiches within the second. The women with a discharge of blood is healed (Mk 5:25-34) in the middle of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead (Mk 5:21-24, 35-43). Mark includes a cluster of seven miracle stories in chapters 4-6, and here in chapter five we see a large portion of them.

In chapter two, there was a cluster of pronouncement stories that each told us something about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. In chapter four, there was a cluster of parables, that were also informative about following Jesus and the coming of God's Kingdom. As we look at these miracle stories, the primary message is to communicate something about Jesus. In these stories, we see further evidence of Jesus' divine nature and authority over demons, disease and death.

The seven miracle stories in Mark 4-6 are the largest collection of miracle stories in Mark's Gospel. This is significant because after Mark 8, we see a shift in the gospel material. Mark begins to present Jesus as the suffering messiah who came to die on the cross to save the world. In the first eight chapters, Mark is establishing the miracle-working, authority-owning, God-man known as Jesus. The fifth chapter provides an important contribution to establishing Jesus' clear divinity before he heads toward Jerusalem where he would eventually suffer, die and eventually rise again.

As we study this chapter with our Studying the Gospels Together method, like the previous chapter, we will once again see limited variety in the "things to note." Jesus isn't directly interacting with the Father or the Holy Spirit for example, but each of these three stories are primarily representative of his divinity overflowing into loving relationships with others. Even though the variety of "things to note" is small, there is a lot we can learn about Jesus and how he went about ministry. Further, even though the miracle stories primarily communicate about who Jesus is, we can also learn things about what it means to follow Jesus.

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

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

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

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

(F) Relates to God the Father

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

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

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

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

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

(5:1-20) Jesus heals the Garasene demoniac. In this passage, the man is described as someone who lived alone and who had "often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces (5:4 ESV)." The man lived alone among the tombs, could not be chained and was often hurting himself. When Jesus arrives on the scene, the man ran from afar and fell at Jesus' feet. He adjures Jesus, using his name "Son of the Most High God." The use of someone else's name was a common tactic of spiritual warfare, and the demons within the man may have been attempting to gain some measure of power over Jesus, of course to no avail. Jesus responds with far more authority, asking to know the demon's name. Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs, instead of being cast out entirely. Jesus allowing the demons to take life, although in the more limited form of swine rather than human, is a reflection of Jesus' coming Kingdom that has not yet fully and completely removed all demonic influences from this earth. In the face of such a great miracle, the locals actually begged Jesus to leave their presence. Seeing the miraculous is not enough for someone to trust in Christ, we must have a changed heart, understand his message and truly follow him. Miracles can be affirming of Jesus' divine nature, but the experience of a miracle alone will not save someone and necessarily lead them to trust in Christ. The healed man does trust Jesus, and wants to go with him when he leaves. Jesus doesn't allow it, but tells him to "go home and tell your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (5:19)

(5:21-24, 35-43): Jesus heals Jairus' daughter. This is a two part story, because right in the middle of the story we see the woman with discharge get healed. A synagogue ruler named Jairus has a daughter who is sick. He was a desperate father, and he new who to find. In the middle of the crowd, Jairus implored Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Jesus agrees, and goes with him. But along the way, they are interrupted by the healing of the woman. While Jesus is stopped and talking with this woman, someone from Jairus' household comes to tell them to leave Jesus alone, because his daughter had already died. Jesus responds, "Do no fear, only believe." They press forward and when they arrive at the house, Jesus takes a small group of people into the girl's room and kicks everyone else out. And here, we have what is likely the most significant of Jesus' miracles up to this point in Mark's gospel. Jesus brings back to life that which was dead. The question is not stated in the story, but like the disciples asked after the calming of the sea, this miracle ought to cause us to say, "Who then is this? That even the dead come back to life at his command?" Who can bring back the dead to life? Only God. Jesus is God.

(5:25-35): Jesus heals the woman with discharge. In contrast to Jairus' daughter, this woman would not have had much privilege in her life. She was not a synagogue ruler's daughter (at least that we know of), and she has had a bloody discharge that would make her unclean. She would have been ostracized by others, for fear that she would defile them. Given the fact that she had lived with this disease for 12 years and was still alive, it would not appear to be life threatening. The impact of her relationships and the feelings of constant exclusion would have probably been more damaging to her than even the disease itself. Praise God that Jesus is not defiled by people, but in Jesus we find someone who makes others clean. The woman approaches Jesus, touches his garment, and is made clean. I can not imagine what the experience would have been like for that woman to have this physical malady removed. Jesus, having felt some power go out from him, asks who it was that touched him. She is afraid to tell him, but falls at his feet in fear and trembling, explaining what had happened. Jesus says, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." What a savior we have! Jesus cleans even the people that seem to have no hope. No doctor could heal her. She had spent much time, money and pain trying to be treated by many physicians. Jesus, the great physician, has the authority and ability to make her well.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

I have already explored many of the implications to this question as I reflected on each of the stories above. Although, we can draw out a few particulars.

Jesus has authority over demons, disease and death. The man with the demon named Legion was clearly in a very rough state when Jesus met him. The demons recognized Jesus immediately, and were very quick to beg for mercy. Jesus had clear authority over them. The woman with the discharge was healed by simply touching Jesus' garment. Jesus has authority over disease. Finally, the young girl was brought back to life. Jesus says, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." In response, she immediately got up and began walking. Jesus has authority over death. When we think about these miracles, coupled with other miracles in chapters 4-6, it is clear that Jesus has authority over all aspects of creation.

Jesus makes people clean. When I think about what this communicates about who Jesus is, it reminds me that Jesus cannot be defiled by others. No matter who a person is, no matter their past, no matter their family of origin, no matter the decisions they have made and no matter the things that have been done to them. None of this matters. Jesus can make us clean. The woman with discharge would have been one of the least regarded people in her community. First, she was a woman. Second, she had a discharge of blood that would have made her unclean. Third, she was poor. Whatever amount of money she did have, it had all gone toward trying to heal her ailment. Fourth, she likely didn't have a large network of friends, if any at all. The text does not say this, but it is also very possible that she was thought to be a sinful person, or from a family of sin. Illness like her discharge was often thought to be the result of her sin, or the sin of her family. Based on what we know of her from the text and what we know of her societal context, we can assume that she had a very lowly state of affairs. Jesus changes all of that. Jesus is not daunted by the unclean, the outcasts or the lowly. Jesus loves to save people who are ready to admit their need for him.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

This passage doesn't directly address why Jesus came. In context of the entire book of Mark, this chapter is important in establishing Jesus' divinity. Jesus' identity as the miracle-working messiah is being established. It is seen in his authority over demons, disease and death in this chapter. It is also seen in his authority over creation in the previous chapter as he calms the seas and will also be seen in the next chapter as he feeds the five thousand and performs more miracles.

One other element that is seen clearly in this chapter is that Jesus' life on earth is ushering in God's Kingdom. Jesus has already begun to loose the chains that have held God's creation captive. Jesus frees the Gerasene from demons, although he doesn't fully destroy the demons at that time. God's Kingdom is most fully seen in the miracle of Jesus bringing the girl back to life. Even death will be conquered through Jesus. The eventual fulfillment of God's coming Kingdom will mean the removal of everything that keeps us from fully enjoying our fellowship with God. Jesus came to bring this creation-altering Kingdom.

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

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to recognize that this passage, Mark's Gospel and ultimately all of the Bible is really about God and His story, not about us and our story. This passage says more about Jesus than it does about us. Although, this does not mean that we should not consider what it says about what it means for us to follow Jesus. You may have additional insights, but here are two that I have made about what it means to follow Jesus.

First, we must trust in Jesus' timing, even when we don't understand. We see this in Jairus' experience with Jesus. They were on their way to heal his daughter, and Jesus gets stopped along the way by the woman with discharge. How many times have you been going in the direction you believe Jesus has called you, only to find there is a delay or change of plans? We must always be ready and willing to follow Jesus where he leads. Even when it isn't in our timing or in our way. Even when the results are not always what we have expected or anticipated. We follow Jesus, and this means trusting his leading. No matter where it takes us.

Second, the question regarding the relationship between faith and miracles might arise from this chapter. In the story of the woman, Jesus says "your faith has made you well." In the story of Jairus, Jesus tells him "do not fear, only believe." In these two stories, it would seem that there is a causal relationship between faith and the eventual miracle. On the other hand, in the story of the Garasene demoniac, the miracle is not the result of faith, but actually works to bring about faith in the man. If we go back to Mark 4, and look at the story of Jesus calming the storm, it once again serves as a miracle which increases the faith of the disciples. In all these miracles, we see that faith can sometimes bring about a miracle, and also that miracles can act to bring about faith. We would be in error to assume that there is a prescribed method to see miracles happen, or that the absence of a miracle necessarily means an absence of faith. It is to simplistic to suggest that we don't see miracles happen because we just don't have enough faith. Yet, there does seem to be a positive relationship between the two. In the end, this passage should remind us that following Jesus requires faith. We must not fear, but trust Jesus as he leads, having faith that he can work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. All the while, recognizing that the absence of a miracle does not necessarily mean the absence of faith.

Questions for Application

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

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

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.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Four

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

Parables are a prominent feature in the fourth chapter of Mark's gospel. Nowhere else in Mark's gospel are there this many parables all clustered together. That's not to say that there are no other parables in Mark's gospel, just that Mark does not group this many together anywhere else. As a result, you will not find many things to note Jesus doing like you have in previous chapters. On the other hand, the parables do teach us many things about God's Kingdom, informing us about what it means to follow Jesus.

The correct method of interpreting parables is debated, but let me briefly recommend a few helpful guidelines that Dr. Craig Blomberg suggests in Jesus and the Gospels. When interpreting parables, it is helpful to begin by assessing how many characters there are, or how many character types there are. Each of these characters can represent one point. Therefore, if there are two characters in a parable, that parable likely has two truths to communicate. We are not limited to one point per parable - as some might argue. Further, each point will be derived from the perspective of the character in the parable. A second helpful guideline of interpreting a parable is to ask yourself what message Jesus' audience would have understood. We can sometimes become anachronistic in our interpretations if we are not careful. Ask yourself if a first-century audience could grasp the point, and then move onto asking yourself how that point might apply to following Jesus today.

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.

(4:1-2) The chapter begins with the statement that "Again he [Jesus] began to teach beside the sea." Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, gets into a boat and then begins to teach "many things in parables (4:2)." It is hard to fully grasp the exact setting for each of the parables Jesus tells in Mark 4, but by and large, these first verses provide an introduction to this section. One common method Jesus uses to teach is through parables. This is one expression of Jesus' loving relationships through his teaching ministry.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

First, this passage tells us that Jesus is a wise teacher who can speak authoritatively about God's kingdom. Jesus tells four parables in the chapter, and two in particular begin by referencing God's Kingdom (4:26-29 & 4:30-32). Jesus' authority is not new in Mark's gospel, the first three chapters point to it over and over again. Here we see the way that his authority to teach is expressed through him informing us about God's Kingdom.

Second, Jesus calms the storm in Mark 4:35-41. This portion of the chapter is unique, because it is the only part that is not related to parables. In this passage, Jesus is traveling across the sea with his disciples when a "great windstorm" arose. The disciples are panicking and wake Jesus to help them. Jesus "awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased and there was great calm (4:39 ESV)." Jesus has control over the weather and seas. If I was to witness someone who possessed the ability to calm the waters with just a word, it would give me reason to pause. I would want to know who this man is. Likewise, the disciples respond in similar fashion. "And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (4:41).'" Mark does not provide an answer to the disciples' question. We are left to hang upon that question. Who is this man? What sort of man can command the wind and the sea? What sort of man has the ability to control creation? Mark doesn't give an answer, because I think there can only be one conclusion. Who can this man be? The only answer is that Jesus is God.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

This passage doesn't directly address why Jesus came. Although, when we consider his introductory statement from Mark 1:15, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." I think this chapter is a clear extension of that initial statement. Jesus is teaching his followers about God's Kingdom, and he is calling them to repent and believe in the gospel.

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

The parables give great instruction in this regard. Let's take a look at a couple of them, and see what conclusions we can draw.

The Parable of the Sower (4:1-9, 13-20): The first lesson we learn about what it means to follow Jesus is that his true followers bear fruit. "Those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. (4:20)." If we are true followers of Jesus, the natural outpouring of a person who has received his word and come to Jesus in humility, repentance,  and acceptance will be to bear fruit. We see this all over in the teachings of the New Testament. A person who truly follows Jesus will see fruit borne out in their lives. A quick caution though. If you examine your life, and upon further assessment, you come to the conclusion that you are not bearing fruit, the answer is not to simply work harder. We might be prone to say to ourselves, "I am not bearing fruit. Oh no! I need to bear fruit. Therefore, I am going to work harder at bearing fruit." This would be a foolish response. Fruit is the product of a healthy root system. We cannot walk up to an unhealthy fruit tree and try to manufacture fruit on empty buds. We must start at the root, which for the believer is their relationship with Jesus. If you do not see fruit in your life, don't try to manufacture fruit. Ask yourself where your relationship with Jesus is off, and start there. Then you will bear fruit, because any true follower of Jesus will bear fruit.

The Parable of the Seed Growing (4:26-29): In this parable, let's try to examine it more fully. First, there are two primary "characters." First, the farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Form his vantage point, much of the growth that comes in the seed is the product of the earth, weather, environment, etc. Of course the farmer must do some work, but by and large, the growth of that seed is at the mercy of the weather and soil conditions. The farmer "sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how (4:27)." From the standpoint of the farmer, the growth of the seed is uncertain and outside his control. Like the farmer, we must trust in God to bring about His purposes in this world. We get to be part of the process, but by and large, in the middle of what may feel like uncertain times, we trust in God to bring His Kingdom to fruition.

The other "character" in the parable is the seed. From the seed, we can learn that God's Kingdom is sure. God knows that the seed will grow. He is doing what must be done to bring that certain future into reality. The seed, like the Kingdom of God, may start small and even hidden beneath the earth, but it will grow to maturity and God will bring about his harvest.

As a follower of Jesus, we learn from this parable that what may seem uncertain to us, is certain to God. We get to play our part, and join in the kingdom work, but ultimately, we trust our good God to bring about the Kingdom He has planned. I for one, and glad to know that God is in charge of this ultimate end and not me. I am happy to just join in!

Questions for Application

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

Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I will suggest one, but please consider others that God may lay upon your heart.

One application could be to take the time to honestly examine your life, and see if you are bearing fruit. Ask yourself if you can say that you are bearing fruit that is consistent with what it means to follow Jesus. When we ask that question, we will all inevitably fall short of what it means to fully follow Jesus. But is there change in your life? Are you growing in patience? Are you growing in love? Self-control? Is your faith in Jesus being expressed in tangible ways throughout your life? If you find yourself saying no, please don't just try harder. Repent. Believe in the Gospel. Renew your trust in Jesus. Be captivated by His love. And then bear fruit that is consistent with your renewed faith and trust in Jesus.

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.

Comments?

I was asked recently if I want you to be commenting on these posts. While I do not want you to feel obligated to comment, I would certainly love to get your feedback. As I think about what comments would be most helpful, here are a few:

  1. Comment with any questions you have or things that need clarification. Was something unclear from the post? Did you have a question that wasn't addressed? Please let me know what would be most helpful to you.
  2. Comment with your answers to the questions for application. I would love to know how you are applying this to your life.
  3. Comment on anything you think I might have missed. Was there an insight you had that others might find helpful? Please feel free to share.

Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Three

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

Introductory Comments

The third chapter begins with the final one of the five pronouncement stories that began in Mark 2. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, which causes anger in the Pharisees and gives them reason to “accuse him (3:2).” This story gives further instruction surrounding sabbath laws, extending the lessons from the previous pronouncement story (2:23-28). Their response causes anger in Jesus and grieves him to see their hardness of heart. As the chapter continues, we learn more about who Jesus is and why he came. The STGT method begins with noting certain activities Jesus commonly engages in, but in this chapter we really only see the ways that Jesus interacts in relationship with others. He heals, teaches, spends time with his disciples and clarifies who he is in confrontation with the Pharisees. As we continue to use the STGT method, it is important to note that some chapters will not have the diversity of activity that others will. That does not mean there is not much to learn and observe. There is a lot of rich content that our questions for reflection and application will draw out. This particular chapter has some very challenging passages that will be good to be aware of, and also some extremely informative passages.

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.

(3:7) While this is not a specific reference to prayer, it is helpful to note that Jesus “withdrew with his disciples to the sea.” In the busyness of life and ministry, we should always be intentional to take the time to “withdraw” from the “activity” of ministry to be with God and those who are closest to us.

(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

(3:28) Jesus is not engaging in direct relationship with the Holy Spirit in this passage, but is honoring the Holy Spirit’s role and person hood. The entirety of the conflict between Jesus and the scribes here is one of the more difficult passages to understand.

(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.

(3:1-6) Jesus heals the withered hand of a man on the Sabbath. This passage helps us understand Jesus’ priority upon people. This passage describes some deep emotion in Jesus. It says that “he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart (3:5).” Ultimately, Jesus restores the withered man’s hand. The Sabbath laws that existed were keeping people from loving and caring for one another well.

(3:13-19) Jesus calls and appoints the twelve apostles. These will be the inner twelve that would one day carry Jesus’ mission forward. Jesus invests a significant amount of time with these men. It says that Jesus appointed the twelve so that he could “be with them” and that “he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” Jesus first wants to be with them and then he wants to send them out to mimic his own ministry. The pattern is that disciples of Jesus are first with and then sent.

(3:34-35) Jesus says that “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus makes a statement of inclusion here. So long as we have the humility to follow Jesus and respond in obedience to the will of God, Jesus will count us among his family, his people. It is not a matter of lineage, birth order or past. We are part of the family when we follow Him. That is exciting news!

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Many conclusions could be drawn about who Jesus is from this chapter. Let me talk about two. First, as he is healing and casting out demons in 3:7-12, he comes into contact with unclean spirits. Mark says that “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, you are the Son of God.” The term Son of Man is possibly the most important Christological term within the New Testament. Mark’s Gospel itself does not use the term extensively, although we did see it earlier in chapter one, during Jesus’ baptism. Here a demon is using the term, but Jesus silences him. It is possible that Jesus did not want his divine sonship to be tied to the miracles he was performing at this time, but more with the suffering and death he would endure later. Jesus’ divine sonship gives him clear authority over the unclean spirits. His authority is not coming from something outside himself, and we do not see evidence that Jesus recited some sort of incantation or appealed to another authority as others may have attempted. Jesus’ authority comes from His own person hood as the Son of God.

A second element to who Jesus is also relates to how he engages with the unclean spirits and demons. The scribes began to suggest that Jesus was “‘possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out demons (3:22).’” The mastery Jesus had over the unclean spirits and demons was unprecedented. How is it possible that he could have such authority over them? The scribes, not wanting to attribute Jesus any sort of power that might come from his divine nature, go in the opposite direction. Jesus must have authority over demons because he is the chief of all demons. Jesus responds by telling a parable, pointing out that it goes against all logic for Satan to behave in such a way. Why would Satan rise up against himself? It doesn’t make sense. Jesus goes on to explain that the spirit within him is the Holy Spirit. The divine spirit. He makes this inference through his teaching about the “unforgivable sin.” The scribes were saying that Jesus has “an unclean spirit (3:30).” Jesus responds with a warning against blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. The scribes were teaching false things against the spirit within Jesus, Jesus responds by warning against blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, because the spirit that exists within Jesus is in fact the Holy Spirit.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

In the previous two chapters, there were statements like “I came” or “this is why I came out.” Jesus gives some big purpose statements in those chapters, which help us understand Jesus’ mission. This chapter does not make such explicit statements, but we can still draw some conclusion about why Jesus came. Let me make one, and you can continue thinking about others.

One is that Jesus clearly wants to invest in the apostles that would carry on his message and mission. Jesus calls them “so that” they can be with Jesus and sent by Jesus. Jesus came to shape and mold his followers, so that they will respond by carrying on Jesus’ mission. Jesus wanted to call people to himself. Jesus wanted to invite people to be part of the Kingdom that was breaking into the world.

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

I have two thoughts about what this chapter tells about what it means to follow Jesus. You will likely have more, but here are a couple suggestions:

(3:14-15) The with and sent dynamic is extremely important. As Jesus’ followers, we must be aware of the way this exists for us. As we think about our relationship with Jesus, in the same way the disciples are with Jesus and then sent by Jesus, we must also be with Jesus before we are sent by Jesus. Both are necessary, and the latter comes as an overflow of the former. Additionally, I believe that we engage in similar behavior with others. As we seek to disciple other people, we must also spend time with them and then send them out into the world as part of God’s mission.

(3:5) When I first read this passage, I was struck by the somewhat conflicting emotions of Jesus in this passage. Jesus is both angered at the response of those around him, but he is also grieved at their hardness of heart. As his followers, do we love people enough to balance those emotions? Are we able to have righteous anger with people who are so clearly rejecting God’s ways, while also loving them so deeply that it grieves us? Jesus does not necessarily command us to have the same response, but as we become more like our savior, I think that we should seek to balance these emotions as well. It is likely that we all emphasis one response over the other, either anger toward people or a grieving heart. How can we learn to cultivate a balance in our response like Jesus did?    

Challenging Passage: The unforgivable sin

The discussion of the “unforgivable sin” is difficult to navigate. Your group will likely ask questions regarding its meaning. Please consider reading more about this from commentaries or trusted teachers. I will make a few points that could be helpful.

  1. Taken in context, it is clear that Jesus is making these comments in response to the conflict with the scribes. Jesus wants to clarify what spirit exists within him. It is the Holy Spirit that resides within Jesus and through whom Jesus has command over demons - not an unclean spirit, as the scribes were suggesting.

  2. Jesus is also giving a warning based on the actions and behaviors of the scribes. Jesus does not explicitly say that their behavior is classified as blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, but it is certainly trending in that direction. Hence the warning.

  3. The role of the Holy Spirit in forgiveness is one of conviction (Jn 16:8). If we blaspheme the Holy Spirit, rejecting him and driving him away, we will effectively drive away the conviction of sin. Without conviction, there is no repentance. Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sin. In this way, blaspheming the Holy Spirit will put us in a situation in which we will never have conviction of sin, therefore never having repentance of sin, therefore never having forgiveness of sin, and therefore we will be guilty of an eternal sin.

  4. God’s forgiveness is vast and extensive. Jesus says that all sins will be forgiven, and whatever blasphemies that are uttered (3:20). Jesus makes it clear that God’s forgiveness reaches far to save. Forgiveness necessitates repentance. The Holy Spirit is necessary to the process of genuine repentance.

  5. This is a condition of the heart, not necessarily an event. If someone has done something in the past they fear would be considered blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and now they fear it has made them eternally guilty, I do not believe that is likely the case. The simple fact that they are repentant points to the reality that the Holy Spirit is working on their heart, they are not being rejected by God, but called by God. Their desire to seek God reveals that they are not guilty of the unforgivable sin. People who are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit are either unaware of their condition, or blatantly don’t care. They are not repentant.

As a group leader, I would encourage you to steer your group away from allowing this passage to monopolize your time together, because there are many other really great things to discuss from this chapter that are more clear and less confusing. Because this is a confusing passage, it will therefore garner questions to its meaning. Take the time to answer them and discuss, but be mindful of how much time you spend on this portion of the chapter alone. 

If people fear that they have committed the unforgivable sin, assure them that the fact they are even asking the question points to the reality that the Holy Spirit is working in their life and therefore they are not guilty of the unforgivable sin. Encourage them to repent of any sin they feel conviction for, believe in the gospel, and trust in the truth that God forgives. Further, it is impossible for us to know if someone else has or has not committed “the unforgivable sin,” so we need not give up on someone because they appear to have “blasphemed the Holy Spirit.” We couldn't possibly know that for sure. God’s forgiveness is far reaching, and we should not limit it based on our own perceptions of someone else.

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?

The chapter this week could lead people in many different directions for application. Continue to encourage people to think about practical ways they can follow through on what God is calling them to do this week.

Based on this chapter, it would be a good time to remind people that the pattern is with and then sent. Everything we do as “sent ones” comes as an overflow of being with Jesus. In the same fashion, our action steps come in response to who we already are in Christ. We are not taking action steps because we want to earn something from God. We are responding in obedient action because God has already clarified his love for us in Jesus, and our obedience is an overflow of our relationship with God.

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.

 

Studying the Gospels Together Notes: Mark Two

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

In the second chapter of Mark's gospel, there is a cluster of four stories known as pronouncement stories, or sometimes also known as conflict or controversy stories. There is actually a fifth within this cluster as well, which begins the third chapter. We see Jesus heal the paralytic (2:1-12), call Levi and share a meal with tax collectors and sinners (2:13-17), Jesus teaching on fasting and old vs. new (2:18-22), questions about picking grain on the Sabbath (2:23-28) and healing on the Sabbath (3:1-6). Each of these stories puts Jesus at odds with the pharisees or other religious leaders of the day. Further, each of these stories tells us something about who Jesus is and why he came. In each of these stories, there is typically a climactic point where Jesus makes some sort of pronouncement. For example, when Jesus heals the paralytic, the actual act of healing and statement that accompanies the act are so that "you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (2:10 ESV)." As you study, look for the climactic statements, it will help you understand the primary message of each pronouncement story.

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

(2:2) The setting for the paralytic man being healed is Jesus teaching from God's Word to a packed room of people. It is important to note that Jesus came to teach and preach as well as heal and restore - they are often linked together in Mark's Gospel. Jesus has a message he wants to communicate, we are now ambassadors of that message and God's Word is an integral part of what Jesus wants people to hear.

(F) Relates to God the Father

(2:12) Jesus does not interact directly with God the Father in this chapter, but we do see Jesus' actions bring glory and praise to the Father. Jesus wants to glorify the Father (John 7:17-18, 12:28), and we see it happening here.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

We do not see Jesus directly 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.

(2:1-12) Jesus overflows in loving relationship throughout the entire paralytic story. First, he is teaching people from God's Word. It is a loving thing for Jesus to spread the message we so desperately need to hear. Jesus then forgives the sins of the paralytic (2:5) and then heals him (2:11-12). This story is packed with ways Jesus overflows in loving relationship.

(2:13-17) Here is another story that is packed with ways Jesus loves people. First, he invites Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him. Levi would have been an outcast to the Jewish people, but Jesus looks past his transgressions and calls Levi to Himself. Then we see Jesus sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners. This would have been a significant violation of cultural norms and purity laws. Jesus is not concerned with those things. He is changing the dignity of a person, and inviting people to follow Him. Jesus is not made dirty by spending time with these people, they are made clean by spending time with Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

In chapter two, Jesus' identity is being further clarified. The first chapter was already leading us toward seeing that Jesus is God, and chapter two only furthers that claim. The story of the paralytic is a great example. After Jesus declares the mans sins forgiven, the question comes forward, "Who can forgive sins but God alone? (2:7)" This question preempts the answer. Jesus responds by suggesting that while forgiveness is hard to measure and easier to fake, because it is unseen, physically healing a person is more visible and therefore great evidence that Jesus has authority to both forgive and to heal. Jesus proceeds to heal the paralytic man as evidence that he also has authority to forgive sins. If only God can forgive sins, and we see Jesus forgiving sins, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus is God.

Another claim to Jesus' identity and authority comes in the questions about picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus claims that he is :"lord even of the Sabbath (2:28)." Once again, making a statement about the kind of person he is and authority he has.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

In this chapter, there is one statement that shines forward in regard to why Jesus came. At the end of the story of Jesus calling Levi and then sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (2:17)." Given the context of the statement, and who Jesus is talking with, I take the word "righteous" to mean self-righteous. Those who believe they are righteous enough to attain God's favor on their own. Jesus has come for those in need, and self-righteous people don't think they have any need at all. The incredible part of this story though, is not the confrontation with the pharisees as much as the message that anyone and everyone can come to Jesus. He invites all people to follow him. It doesn't matter if you are a tax collector, sinner, social outcast, scoundrel, down-and-outer, or scum of the earth. Jesus came for them - he came for you! But we do need to follow-him, which will require all of us. Jesus invites all types of people to follow him, but he requires all parts of the people who do.

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

There is a lot in this chapter that can inform our following of Jesus. First, I think we need to recognize our need for Jesus, because he came for sinners and not the self-righteous. Do you recognize your need for him? Second, if we follow Jesus, then we need to be prepared to invite all types of people to follow him. Jesus did not put limits on who could or could not follow him, only that they recognized their need. We should not put limits either. Those are just two ways, can you think of others?

Questions for Application

The questions for application will change with each person. I have given a few comments below about how we should think about answering them, but it will be highly dependent upon each individual person and how God is stirring in their hearts based on their own study and reflection.

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

The answers to these questions are very subjective to the person answering them. Try to consider what it means to follow Jesus, and ask yourself what is one practical way you can respond to what you have read, learned and discussed.

One suggestion might be to be more aware of the way you see other people. Do you put limits on who God might invite to follow Jesus? Take account of your own perception of who can or cannot follow Jesus this week.

Another suggestion might be to consider your own sin and need for Jesus. Do you recognize how good Jesus is, and how much you need him?

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 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.

Studying the Gospels Together Notes: Mark One

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

Introductory Comments

The opening chapter to Mark’s gospel is fast paced and loaded with details and activity. Unlike Matthew or Luke, Mark does not spend time sharing the birth story of Jesus. There are some brief introductory remarks regarding John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism and his subsequent temptation in the wilderness. The brevity of those portions does not minimize their importance in any way, but it does move us quickly into the activity of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus preaches, teaches, heals, casts out demons and calls disciples all within this first chapter. As we will see in future chapters, these five things are the primary way Jesus conducts his ministry, and they will be repeated over and over again. Jesus will continue to preach, teach, heal, cast out demons and interact with his disciples.

Things to Note

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

(P) Prayer

(1:35) Throughout Mark, Jesus will often step away from people and ministry to spend time praying. Here, we see Jesus depart and go to a desolate place to pray. After beginning his ministry, it is important for Jesus to spend time in prayer. This time of prayer also preempts his decision to move onto other towns as his next step of public ministry.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

(1:21) Mark does explicitly mention Jesus reading Gods Word, but when he is teaching in the synagogue, it is likely that Jesus is reading from portions of the Scriptures.

(F) Relates to God the Father

(1:11) At Jesus’ baptism, we hear the voice of God coming from heaven, stating that Jesus is God’s beloved son, and in Jesus he is “well pleased.” This is a declarative statement about Jesus' relationship with God the Father and also about who Jesus is as he begins his ministry.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

(1:10) Also at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit is present, and He descends on Jesus “like a dove.”

(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.

(1:17) Jesus calls his first disciples. Jesus’ invitation for people to follow him is important to note.

(1:21-28) Jesus casts out a demon, and people respond by recognizing his new “teaching with authority.” The clear command Jesus has over these unclean spirits, says something about who has come in their midst.

(1:38) Jesus gives us an indication of why he has come. He says, that he wants to go onto other towns to preach, “for that is why I came out.” Jesus will bring healing and freedom from demons, but Jesus also brings a new teaching that he wants people to hear.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

There are numerous ways we could answer this question. Most importantly, this passage is a clear introduction to the fact that someone unlike anyone else who has walked the earth has come. Jesus has power over demons (1:25), he has a new teaching with authority (1:27), he can declare people clean (1:41), and so on. There is only one conclusion a person can come to when confronted with all the things we read about Jesus in this first chapter. Jesus is God.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

There are two things I would like to mention here. First, Jesus came in order to preach (1:38). The message he is preaching is that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (1:15).” The kingdom of God is breaking into the world in the person of Jesus. He has come to bring a greater fulfillment to God’s kingdom. In response to Jesus’ coming, he is calling people to repent, turn from their former way of life, and believe in the gospel. Jesus has also come to call people to respond to him.

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

First, if we are going to follow Jesus, he is calling us to repent and believe in the gospel. Jesus wants our lives to be shaped by kingdom priorities, not our own priorities. He wants every part of our lives to be impacted by the new reality Jesus has brought about. Further, Jesus also calls us to follow him, and invite more people to follow him as well (1:17).

Questions for Application

The questions for application will change with each person. I have given a few comments below about how we should think about answering them, but it will be highly dependent upon each individual person and how God is stirring in their hearts based on their own study and reflection.

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

The answers to these questions are very subjective to the person answering them. Try to consider what it means to follow Jesus, and ask yourself what is one practical way you can respond to what you have read, learned and discussed.

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.

 

Studying the Gospels Together Method

Jesus is without a doubt, the most important person to have walked this earth.  Not only is he the most important man to have lived, but he is also God. He remains active in the world seeking to bring life and salvation to broken and hurting people.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are the focal point of the Biblical narrative and have been recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s Gospels.  As we seek to know God, it is crucial that we are well acquainted with Jesus Christ.  Exploring the Good News of Jesus Christ through studying the gospels together will help us to experience the Good News of Jesus Christ as we follow God.

The Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) Method

The STGT method is an inductive approach that will provide prompts and questions to help us consider Jesus more fully.  As we study the life of Jesus, we will note important ways he lived.  We will also ask what each passage says about who he is, why he came and what it means to follow him.  Finally, we will seek to bring application to our lives and ask ourselves how we can act upon what we have read.

Things to note:

The first step is to read through the passage and note when Jesus…

  • (P) Prays
  • (W) Reads or references God’s Word
  • (F) Relates to God the Father
    • In loving relationship with the Father, in exaltation of the Father and/or in obedience to the Father
  • (HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit
  • (R) Overflows in loving relationship with people
    • Examples: Healing, casting out demons, calling disciples, showing compassion, teaching, preaching

Tip: One common practice when noting these activities of Jesus is to use five different highlighters (one for each type of action we are looking for) and highlight them as you note them. Another is to simply underline the five different activities you see Jesus doing and write the corresponding letter near what you have underlined. I personally use the second way.

Questions for reflection

Once you have noted Jesus’ actions, read through the passage a couple more times and answer the following questions:

  • What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

  • What does it say about why Jesus came?

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

Questions for Application

As we read, study and consider the life of Jesus, it is important to seek application as well.  “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).”  In the interest of bringing tangible application to our lives, here are two questions we also want to answer:

  • In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?
  • What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else?  Who do you plan to share it with?

Tip: It is helpful to have a notebook or journal to use throughout the study to write down your thoughts, reflections and prayers.

Suggested format for Discussion

We study the gospels together, because we believe that God will bring unique opportunities for growth through community.  In the interest of growing together, here is a suggested format for discussing in a group what you have studied throughout the week on your own.

Reflect on last week

Ask your group to reflect on how they did with their application steps from last week.  Invite people to celebrate their successes or share how it was difficult.  Our weekly application steps will be more effective if we have the chance to reflect and share with others.

Discuss what was noted

Take some time for people to share what they noted from Jesus’ life.  One great question to prompt discussion around this would be: What was one thing you noted that stood out to you?  Why?                 

Discuss the questions for reflection

Simply take time to have people share about how they answered the three questions for reflection.

Additional discussion and questions

Depending on time and tone, you can provide an opportunity to make any comments or ask any questions people may have as a result of their personal study that week.

Questions for Application

Be sure to leave some time for people to discuss their questions for application.  Encourage and affirm one another’s desire to pursue tangible actions steps that come from your personal study and time of discussion.

I initially developed the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) Method for my own Adult Community Group (ACG). I have updated and revised the method, and most of our ACGs will be incorporating it at First Baptist Church during our upcoming series, ReMarkAble: Experiencing the Good News of Jesus. Please feel free to reference the Mark page found on this site, to receive more content to support your group as you study Mark's Gospel.