Several years ago I needed to find a coffee “substitute.” Caffeine was causing me various issues and I needed to reduce my intake of it. So, I started looking for something that could “take it’s place.”
I found Postum! I enjoyed that drink sooo much, well, that is until it disappeared off the shelves. In every way Postum made me feel like I was having a good cup of coffee. Its texture, taste, and aroma all made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything by not actually drinking coffee. It was great while it lasted!
Part of the salvific work of Jesus in being our sin-bearer, was that of being our substitute. A SUBSTITUTE is one that takes the place of another. That is what Jesus became for us!
Unlike Postum which only satisfies temporarily, The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ brings results that satisfy eternally.
Because of Jesus believer’s have “become dead to sin and alive to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24). God is NOW for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). These are only two of many benefits believers receive when they trust Him as their substitute!
No one else can be such a substitute for us. God had placed that work on Christ alone. Jesus, in all ways, met and settled, for all time, the charges God had against sinners. Because Of Jesus we can have peace with God!
Friend, you don’t have to pay the debt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid it for you! Turn to Him in repentant faith and you will find His forgiveness.
The correct application of knowledge in our lives is essential. Our days are filled with many issues, challenges, and temptations that require a certain level of wisdom to work through in a healthy, God-honoring way.
In our study, we have witnessed the disciple’s “lack” of understanding of who Jesus truly was. We observed some “mountain top” moments in their lives, such as their success in ministry when Jesus sent them out to “preach and have authority to cast out demons” (3:14) and when Peter walked on water (Mark 6:45-51; Matthew 14:29).
And we will hear Peter’s amazing confession of Jesus as the Messiah in our next study (Mark 8:29). But along with these moments, we witness many others that are not so positive! We constantly observe their lack of comprehension relating to spiritual truths (Mark 4:13; 6:52; 7:17,18; 8:1-5, 15-21).
These men seem to take one step forward, only to take two steps backward a little later. Can you relate to them? I sure can. Their understanding of spiritual things is gradual, not immediate. Their ability to get past previously held presuppositions is limited, so they desperately need Jesus to come alongside them and patiently teach them about the kingdom and its King, King Jesus! And this is what Jesus does. So far in our study of Mark, we have observed the fantastic patience of Jesus with these men that He called unto Himself. The patience of Jesus! That, dear reader, is something to be thankful about.
22 And they *came to Bethsaida. And some people *brought a man who was blind to [a]Jesus and *begged Him to touch him.23 Taking the man who was blind by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting in his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he [b]looked up and said, “I see people, for I see them like trees, walking around.” 25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
FOCUS ONE: Do you see anything?
The two-step method of healing the blind man seems odd, as Jesus’ healings are usually instantaneous. We must never forget that Jesus, as God in the flesh, still maintains His sovereign choice to heal according to His timing. But along with that, we can also understand that it would be very reasonable for Him to use this miracle of healing as another teaching moment for His disciples. (assuming He took some with Him outside cr. 5:37).
Our previous study ended with Jesus asking the disciples, “Do you not yet understand” (8: 17,21), and in the account that follows what we are discussing in this post, Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is, and Peter expresses boldly that He is the Christ (8:29).
We can see a bit of similarity in Marks writing between the disciples and this blind man. The blind man is like the disciples; at first, he sees only dimly, then when Jesus again puts His hands on the man’s eyes, he sees everything clearly!
“1The disciples still have much to learn about Jesus after the disclosure at Caesarea Philippi. The difference between Jesus’ self-disclosure to His disciples before the healing of the blind man (vv. 15-21) and afterward at Caesarea Philippi (vv. 27-30) is as great as the two seeings of the blind man who is healed in stages.”
The similarities in the account regarding “seeing” or understanding are apparent. From all we read leading up to this point, we notice that the disciple’s spiritual eyesight is gradually being healed. These few verses about this man’s healing seem to serve as a bridge between Jesus’ “Do you not yet understand?” and Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah! Which then is followed by Jesus foretelling His coming death and resurrection!
Outside of the obvious healing of the blind man, there is another object lesson for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus completely transforms people’s lives!
Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
FOCUS TWO: Seeing clearly
The blind man’s life would never be the same again! I can imagine that he would not go through a minute, a day, or even a year, without thinking about the compassion and kindness shown to him on that day from Jesus. But what we don’t want to miss in this object lesson to His disciples is that “transformation” spiritually is also a work done by Jesus: the most critical work.
Do you remember these words from the grand old hymn Amazing grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see?” How did that happen? It happens because of Jesus Christ! Jesus is not only the “way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), but He is also the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Light reveals things previously hidden by darkness. Jesus opens the eyes of sinners to see His truth and experience His wonderful redemption.
Physical transformation is a great gift that we shouldn’t take for granted. How much more so spiritual transformation? The disciples were being transformed in the “renewing of their minds,” but it was not an instantaneous event. It was more like a roller coaster ride at an amusement park! Just as this man received his sight back in stages, so will the disciples grow in understanding and see Jesus for who He truly is!
FOCUS THREE: Go on home
In verse 26, the man was sent home but warned, “Do not even enter the village.” Why such a warning? It appears evident throughout Mark’s writing that the multitudes were not yet ready to “see everything” clearly. This isn’t the only time Jesus gave similar commands to others. He told some not to tell anyone about what He had done for them (Matthew 8:4; Mark 3:12; Luke 5:14).
“2There were certain points in Jesus’ ministry when He purposely tried to keep the crowds following Him from growing to large. Overly large crowds tended to be more disorderly and sometimes hindered Jesus from His more in depth discipleship and teaching ministry.”
After sending the healed man away, Jesus and His disciples head to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way, Jesus questions them about who the people say He is, but more directly, Who do you say I am? This is where I believe all the things we have been meditating on are headed.
Brief intro: Previously, in my last posts, we discussed how Jesus had been prepared for His ministry (baptism and the temptation in the wilderness). We then observed Him gathering followers (2 sets of brothers who were fishermen) to become part of the “12” men that would make up His whole group of disciples. With these four by His side, they travel into Capernaum, “a prosperous fishing village on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee,” and on the Sabbath, enter a synagogue where Jesus begins to teach.
I see two different aspects of this visit within this next portion of scripture that we will be meditating on, but they point to one thing! Mark shares this historical account for a reason; let’s go find out what it is!
21 They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
FOCUS ONE:The first aspect: His teaching
Here is an idea of what the synagogue might have looked like in Jesus day.
We read that Jesus, along with Simon, Andrew, James, and John, travels to Capernaum in these verses. He (Jesus) went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and began teaching as will become His custom. Luke also shares this account in His writing (Luke 4:31-32). What is rather interesting about both reports is that they are very brief. Neither has seen fit to elaborate on what Jesus said in His teaching.
All we can gather from these testimonies is that:
He went into the synagogue
It was the Sabbath
He taught them
His teaching had authority, not like the scribes
And, the results of His teaching: they were amazed (astonished)
So, what is the one central element of this short account that the reader, then and now, ought to observe? HIS AUTHORITY!
We do not know what He said, but it is apparent that He said it far differently than the scribes and Pharisees did. We do not know what facial expressions He made or what His body language might have conveyed. But, we do know all of it personified authority!
Jesus, unlike the scribes and Pharisees, had “authority” over all mankind, and that was given to Him by the father (John 17:2). This authority was not a secret or only perceived by those who heard Him, not at all; He verbalized it at times to those around Him (Matthew 9:6; John 7:16; Matthew 28:19-20). And as we will witness shortly, He manifested it to the people through miracles! His words, those given to Him from His Father, He gave to His disciples and others (John 17:8).
FOCUS TWO: The results
What is apparent is that Jesus and His teaching were noticeably and radically different than the people were accustomed to. The people were “amazed” at His teaching. The verb used here in Greek for “astonished or amazed” has a powerful meaning. It is not used superficially, as we might express amazement today. Instead, Seeing that Jesus did not have to quote other rabbis as His authority to say what He was saying, the people noticed that what He said had behind it real, authentic authority. And why? Because His power came straight from God.
“His authority was inherit within Himself.”
Mark used two different Greek words for “astonished” (v.22) and “amazed” (v.27). This isn’t obvious in our various translations because most translate them both as “amazed.” So, there is no reason to elaborate on them here since there is no significant value in it for our understanding of the text.
BUT, by using them, Mark does emphasize an important reality: what they heard and witnessed was so much better and higher and impactful that the only response to it was utter amazement (great wonder)!
This contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day is expressed elsewhere in scripture. Places such as Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 2:6-17; 7:1-13; 14:1- the ultimate contrast: Christ taught the truth, they rejected it and sought to kill Him.
23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What [a]business do you have with us, Jesus [b]of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are: the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 After throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the unclean spirit came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.
FOCUS THREE: The second aspect, rebuking the evil spirit
We read in these verses that a man appears in the synagogue who had an unclean spirit (morally and sexually impure). Notice how Mark relates it to his reader, “just then.” One commentator observes: “The spirit HAD control of this man. He was in his possession; He led him captive to his will. The man was there but not to be taught or to be healed!” He was there but not causing any disruptions until Jesus was present! His teaching and authority sparked this man, and he cried out.
The unclean spirit recognizes who Jesus is (holy one of God). Sad to say, that many in our day do not. This unclean spirit acknowledged Christ’s name and where He is from (humanly speaking v. 24). He also professes that “I know who you are-the Holy One of God!” Friend’s, not only do demons believe that there is one God and tremble (James 2:19), they also know that their time to do such things in this fallen world is short (Matthew 8:29).
Jesus then rebukes him (personal pronoun), not an “it,” force, or illusion, but a created being with personality.
He commands him to come out of the man, and the spirit obeys, but not without causing distress in his victim (convulsions, loud voice)!
The spirit despairs being saved by Him and dreads being destroyed by him!
And, in this encounter, we have the second aspect of our study. The first related to Christ’s teaching; the second to His ability to cast out demons. We see this in verse 27.
The people in the synagogue were astonished at what had just happened. This “amazement” led to a debate among those in the synagogue regarding a new (not like the scribes) teaching with authority and His casting out unclean spirits. “What is this?,” is the response of many. These folks are stupefied at all that just transpired in the synagogue. “New teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (v.27). They do not know how to react to what they just heard and seen.
So, the question posed at the beginning of our study was: what do the two aspects of the synagogue story point to? What do they teach us about Christ? What is Mark’s purpose in n sharing this?
A signal that warfare on earth with the Son of God present has begun between the Son of God and Satan.
Who are said to be hypocrites by Christ (Matthew 7:5), and add man-made rules to the Law. Jesus speaks from the core of His character and nature as God! As such, He has authority, which is very apparent to all. But, he teaches as “one sent from God,” He displays His deity by revealing His sovereignty over all things, including the spiritual realm! Unlike the scribes and the Pharisees who reference other scribes and the like as their authority.
The things that happened in the synagogue (both aspects) were meant to display the power, authority, and deity of this “Jesus of Nazareth!”
So, what were the results of this complete encounter? People started spreading the news about Jesus EVERYWHERE in the areas surrounding Galilee. Many concluded He was a teacher sent by God. It raised Christ’s reputation!
BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, I focused on the overall context of verses 1-8, where Mark opened his writing with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” and then introduced the “forerunner” for Christ, John the Baptist. In this post, I will place our attention on Christ’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness, not only because they follow our previous verses but because they are instructive in teaching us about how God prepared His Son for the earthly ministry that was before Him.
Mark moves through his gospel with urgency (“and it came to pass;” “and immediately,” and “just then,” are statements made throughout his writing). So we would be wise to discipline ourselves now, at the on-set, to stay focused, or we might miss his point altogether!
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens [a]opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; in You I [b]am well pleased.”
FOCUS ONE: The Baptism of Jesus (1:9-11)
Mark tells us that Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee and submitted Himself to the rite of baptism that John was performing at the river Jordan. Mark lays out Christ’s baptism in straightforward language, unlike Matthew and Luke. He does not explain anything; he quickly states what happened.
The significance of the baptism lies in God’s public approval of His Son, which I will get to in a minute. First, we need to recognize that Jesus’ baptism does have some contrast related to all of those “from the country of Judaea” coming to John and being baptized.
“In contrast with all the others, Jesus made no confession of sins (Mark 1:5), since He was without sin (John 8:45-46). Mark did not state why Jesus submitted to John’s baptism; however, three reasons may be suggested: (1) It was an act of obedience, showing that Jesus was in full agreement with God’s overall plan and the role of John’s baptism in it (Matthew 3:15). (2) It was an act of self-identification with the nation of Israel whose heritage and sinful predicament He shared (Isaiah 53:12). (3) It was an act of self-dedication to His Messianic mission, signifying His official acceptance and entrance into it” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
The Fathers public approval of Jesus (v. 11)
This voice from heaven both qualified and identified Jesus to those around Him. The words “you are my son,” affirm His unique relationship with the Father. “Beloved,” seems to stress the intensity of the love between the Father and Son but can also “be understood in the Old Testament sense of an ‘only son'” (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16). In either case or as a whole, it seems clear that Jesus “preexisted” and did not, at His baptism, become a son!
The whole trinity involved
Don’t miss what Mark reveals in these following verses (v. 10-11). Mark states three things that set Jesus apart from all the others that he baptized:
The heavens were opened or parted! The Greek uses a “forceful verb,” which signifies “being torn open, or split.”
He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. This imagery takes us back to Genesis 1:2, where we read about the Holy Spirits’ part in the creation and His creative activity. In the Old Testament, we find passages telling us that the Spirit came on certain people and empowered them for a particular service (Exodus 31:3; Judges 3:10). It appears that Mark is telling us that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (Acts 10:38).
Jesus heard a voice from heaven (v.11). Words from the Father expressing His heavenly approval of the baptism that had just taken place! To put this simply:
The Son submits to the ordinance
The Spirit rests upon the Son
The Father voices His “good” pleasure
12 And immediately the Spirit *brought Him out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving Him.
FOCUS TWO: The Temptation of Jesus (1:12-13)
Here we feel the “urgency” in Mark’s writing again (v. 10). At once or immediately, Jesus is compelled by the Spirit to “go out into the wilderness.” Mark uses a pretty strong word, from the Greek verb (ekballo), meaning to drive out or send away. Mark used this word in other places to denote the expulsion of demons (vv. 34, 39; 3:15). Here “it reflects Mark’s forceful style. The thought is of a strong moral compulsion by which the Spirit led Jesus to take the offensive against temptation and evil instead of avoiding them.”
So, Jesus is led by the Spirit further into the wilderness region. Some commentators believe that the site of Christ’s temptation was northwest of the Dead Sea immediately west of Jericho.
Mark, in his brevity, states:
The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness
He was there forty days
Satan tempted him
He was with the wild beasts
Angels were ministering to Him
Satan sought to lead Christ into sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Matthew relates just how Satan attempted to do this. The word “tempted” means “put to the test, make trial of” to discover the kind of person someone is.” As I was reminded of by my pastor this past Sunday in his sermon, and then again writing this post, Matthew’s use of such a word can be in either a “good” way or a “bad “way.
In a good sense, God’s testing (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:17). Or in a bad sense of enticement by Satan and his minions to sin. One commentator points out that both meanings are evident here! “God put Jesus to the test (The Spirit led Him), to show that he was qualified for His mission. BUT also Satan tried to draw Jesus away fro His divinely appointed mission” (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).
Only mark makes use of the phrase, “he was with the wild beasts.” Most likely, he is using the words to stress the “hostile” environment where Christ was placed. Desolate, lonely, and full of danger! Pretty descriptive of Satan’s domain!
So, whereas the baptism resulted in the Spirits’ control, here the wilderness tempting, the extent of Christ’s submission to the Father’s will, we see this in the forceful guidance of the Spirit, one element of Christs’ self-humiliation, and also in His dealing with our arch-enemy, “the serpent of old.” Praise God Jesus, the God-man, put the enemy to flight (Luke 4:13) by using scriptures to expose the lies of the evil one (Luke 4: 4, 8, 12)!
Through all of these forty days, the “angels ministered to Jesus.” Whatever they supplied Christ, and to what extent they provided it, is not explicitly mentioned, but whatever it entailed, it was enough! The Fathers protecting care was ever-present in the ministry of the angels attending the Messiah.
27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.
During Christ’s earthly ministry He not only taught the people about God, their creator, sustainer, and savior, He also displayed the power of God in His many miracles and healings that He performed. This scripture displays one such time in the life of Christ when He and His disciples walked into a town known as Capernaum.
His teaching had authority behind it, unlike that of the Scribes and Pharisees. His authority extended into the realm of healing people from various diseases and demon possessions, as is testified to hear by Mark. The audience was amazed at what had just taken place, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit inside the synagogue, was freed from his bondage by Jesus Christ!
God’s power to change lives was on display then and is still active today! If this Jesus has the power to cast out demons, how much more able is He to free us of our bondage, our sins that so easily entangle us?
John”s testimony was : “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Will you look to Him today and have have your sins forgiven?
PRAYER: Father, I pray for anyone reading this devotional that does not know Jesus and has not yet received His saving grace. Please draw them to yourself, grant them repentant faith and new life in Christ. Help them understand that you are able to remove the bondage of sin that they are under and replace it with thy righteousness thru Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Amen
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you [a]fail the test? 6 But I expect that you will realize that we ourselves [b]do not fail the test.
Just the other day I had to “examine” a particular tool that I wanted to use in my next remodeling project. It didn’t have power when I plugged it in and that was odd, I just used it the previous day. One day something works well and is acting as it should, but slowly, subtly, something or things change and what once was taken for granted now became an issue.
It can be like that in our Christianity as well. In these verses above Paul urge the Corinthian believers to engage in serious self-examination. He wanted them to assess the nature of their commitment to God by looking closely at their own lives. You and I need to do the same if we hope to uncover the problems that tear down our relationships with others and our Heavenly Father.
I examined my power tool in every possible way to determine the problem that needed fixed. We need to examine our hearts in much the same way. It might be helpful to write your observations down and compare your notes. Paul warns that there are some who’s faith may not be genuine. Make sure that is not you.
Prayer: Father, we hear these solemn words of Paul and are at first fearful to test ourselves in this way for fear of what we may find. Please grant us the courage, faith, and resolve to make sure that our professed faith is genuine and that we are approved by You. Amen.