An extension of the wider mercy view of salvation. What you need to know!
BRIEF INTRO: Throughout this chapter, we have witnessed a build-up of tension regarding who Jesus is. Actually, that tension began with the disciple’s lack of understanding regarding how the kingdom is built (Mark 4:13) and escalated into what we saw in our last study in chapter 8 -“who do you say that I am” (v. 29)?
With such a bold, honest confession by Peter, we would be led to think that the disciples finally understand fully who Jesus truly is and what He came to do. Their role to play in the immediate future after His ascension.
But, in this study, we will observe that this is not the case. So boldly, Peter’s confession quickly betrays his still-lagging understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise from the dead. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly.
FOCUS ONE: The self-denial of Jesus
After that fantastic confession from Peter (v. 29), Jesus begins to explain what that means. The main avenue of thinking in Christ’s day regarding the messiah was that He would come and overthrow Rome and establish an earthly messianic kingdom. What Jesus teaches these men is contrary to that vain of thought! Instead of a mighty, warrior-like earthly king conquering armies in battle, He declared that the Son of man must suffer many things, be killed, and rise again in victory (Isaiah 52:13). This was a different perspective of Christ’s mission then they were used to, and most likely not prepared for.
“Though Peter identified Him as “the Christ” (8:29), Jesus did not discuss the title or the issue of His identity.Rather, He focused on His mission, and used the designation ‘the Son of Man’.” Mark uses this title to show the importance of an event for his Christian readers (Mark 2:10, 28).
How significant an event is this? Extremely significant! Only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus can anyone be declared forgiven, justified, cleansed, and redeemed (Romans 5:8-10)! The resurrection is our assurance that God the Father was pleased with and accepted the sacrifice of His Son in place of sinners.
Our text reveals that Jesus was not speaking in parables or using some form of illustration. Instead, He “stated the matter plainly” (v. 32). This statement marks (no pun intended) out for us a new shift in Christ’s focus from this point forward. Jesus wants these men who will continue the mission of “proclaiming” such good news, to understand His purpose for coming and what that means for all who believe in Him. He wants them to be encouraged by the fact that His coming death will not be the last word; rather, they will see Him again in Galilee!
And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
FOCUS TWO: The self-centeredness of Peter
Contrary to Christ’s self-lessness, we find Peter again focusing on the physical aspect of things rather than the spiritual. Peter did not fully comprehend who Jesus was; I would imagine he would not have felt bold enough to rebuke Him!
Peter does exhibit some sense of décor in that he takes Jesus aside for a more private chat, away from the others. “Peter clearly understood Jesus’s words but could not reconcile his view of the ‘Messiah’ with the suffering and death Jesus predicted. So, Peter began to rebuke Him for His defeatist approach.”
We will observe something rather uncomfortable in our next focus point. We will witness Peter becoming an unwitting spokesman for Satan.
3 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on [a] God’s purposes, but on man’s.”
FOCUS THREE: The self-denial of true disciples
That first sentence powerfully affects me. In my mind, I envision our Lord, standing beside Peter, who had just pulled Him aside in rebuke, turning His head for a moment and seeing the rest of the twelve close by, confused and wondering what Peter was saying to Him.
Jesus, seeing His disciples, returns the favor and rebukes Peter in their hearing! Why wouldn’t he try to be more discreet about it like Peter was? Because Peter, along with the others, needed to understand that these things must come to pass. They needed to understand what He was telling them because what He was saying was a big part of their preparation for ministry after He ascended to be with the Father. This is the Father’s will for the Son to complete, resulting in salvation for those who are lost.
34 And He summoned the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever wants to save his [a]life will lose it, but whoever loses his [b]life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it benefit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?37 For what could a person give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
FOCUS FOUR: The willing submission of Christ’s followers
Jesus’s previous teaching regarding His death and resurrection in fulfillment of God’s divine plan ought to lead those who benefit from it into a life of self-less-ness or self-denial. The cross and empty tomb should be a GREAT encouragement to those who have been forgiven much. No sacrifice is too great because we know we can NEVER out-sacrifice Jesus!
Faithful followers of Jesus will count the cost of following Him and deem it worth whatever it costs. They will be willing to obey His commands and receive His counsel. They must not be living for this life and its temporary pleasures BUT for the kingdom of their Lord who reigns forever and ever!
Faithful followers of Jesus Christ understand that death is not the end, only the beginning! They need not fear it because “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:3).
Such a life is possible but plausible when a follower of Jesus picks up their cross (the burdens, afflictions, and persecutions that come from following) and follows Him.
These words “relate to a situation in which Christians faced the alternatives of confessing Christ or denying Him. Jesus warns that by denying Him, one’s physical life may be saved; but one’s eschatological life- i.e., his eternal life, will be lost. Conversely, to lose one’s physical life by remaining true to Christ-i.e., by confessing Him under duress-is to be assured of eternal life and salvation.”
Some thoughts to consider:
- 1. Is your understanding of the gospel accurate? Why would God the Father give His ONLY Son as a substitute for sinners?
- 2. How important is the resurrection in God’s salvation plan?
- 3. Is your life one of self-interest or self-denial?
- 4. What picture of Jesus do we get in this text?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary
The Expositors Bible Commentary
CHRIST’S MINISTRY AMONG MEN BEGINS
BRIEF INTRO: In our study of Mark’s gospel so far, we have been introduced to John the Baptist, his message, his purpose, and then his baptism of Jesus (1-11). Mark begins telling his story of Jesus at the beginning of God’s preparatory works for God, the Son, to minister among men, not at the incarnation as Matthew and Luke do. This is only one “obvious” difference from Mark’s message compared to the other gospel writers.
Another striking difference relates to Mark’s lack of any information regarding John the B’s ministry after the baptism of Jesus, so, for that layout, I included this chart to help us with a “timeline” of sorts relating to what we read in v.14 of John being taken into custody.
In these following two verses (14-15), I have a few things that I want to emphasize. The first is Jesus starting to proclaim “the Gospel of God” and what that is. Second, I want to think through what “time” has been fulfilled and what it means that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, lastly, I want to focus on the only response to this preaching of the gospel of God that saves!
Are you ready to jump in with me? Let’s begin!
14 Now after John was [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [c]is at hand; repent and [d]believe in the gospel.”
FOCUS ONE: Jesus came preaching (v.14)!
Mark doesn’t share anything about John’s ministry. He just moves on to his imprisonment. But what he does share with us is the emphasis of Christ’s ministry: the preaching of the gospel of God (Mark 1:38; John 18:37). For that information, look a John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36; Matthew 14:3-5.
That verse above, Mark 1:38, clearly expresses that Jesus intended to proclaim this gospel in Galilee and other places. Yes, He did perform many miracles, but those, as much as they helped people with physical maladies and removed demons from some, were meant to provide validity of His authority, and also His message. One commentator notes as much:
“In spite of all the miracles evidenced in Christ’s life, the predominant characteristic of His ministry is described by the words Jesus came . . .preaching.“
What did He preach? This is probably a more important question to answer than you might currently think. Why? Because it has implications for us today and all succeeding generations if the Lord tarries! Such as:
- Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
- Is the gospel of God the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel of the grace of God, and other “gospel” uses throughout scripture (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24)?
So, let’s begin by addressing these questions in order. Is the gospel only for the Jews or only for the Gentiles? The answer:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is NO distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. . . (Romans 3:21-23; vv. 28-30).
I could cite more references, but I won’t at this time because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and see if these things are so.
The next question could have severe implications for humanity if the references I cited above are different gospels. Romans alone uses the phrase “gospel of God” approximately 60 times, and its definition is good news! It is the message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The next term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used often in connection to the Lord Jesus and His work on the earth. We already know from above that the word gospel means good news and hear; the word kingdom (basileia) implies the realm in which a sovereign king rules. “Throughout the New Testament, the word kingdom consistently refers to the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers, since, for the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
So, to sum this definition up with the help of one commentator who is more precise than I could be: “The gospel of the Kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. It is by grace alone that this offer is available to those who will receive it! Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal Kingdom (John 1:12).”
Our last term to look at (I am aware that I am not citing Paul’s “my gospel” in this section) is the gospel of the grace of God. Excitingly though, we find Paul’s concise definition of that very term my gospel in Acts 20:24.
24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.
This makes me reflect on what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is by His grace that we are saved. He imparts to us the gift of faith to believe in the finished atoning work of the king of the Kingdom, Jesus. And he draws us near the father by His shed blood (v. 13).
All of these terms speak of the same gospel and its effect on those who receive it! I hope you have.
FOCUS TWO: The time is fulfilled
When we read these words, the question that should arise in our minds is: what time has been fulfilled? How exactly is the “kingdom of God at hand?” So, let’s begin by answering the first question.
Mark is emphasizing a point in time of God’s decisive action, in which, in the past, He foretold what would happen and by whom. In this case, the coming of the Messiah, the king of the eternal, heavenly Kingdom! In the gospel of Luke, Luke testifies to an event in Christ’s public ministry, in which He went to Nazareth and into the synagogue, as His custom, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He opened it to where He wanted to read from, and read this: (Luke 4:16-21)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Paul rightly understood what was meant by the statement of Mark “fullness of time,” He used it as well. Take a look at what he says: And then, so as not to be misunderstood, He say’s: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir [d]through God.
There was a God-appointed time in history for the preparation and expectation of a people to be fulfilled. The Old Testament era was that time. When that appointed time, according to His providence, was complete, Christ came into the world, the incarnation! And He would fulfill all things (Ephesians 1:9-10). Don’t. Miss Paul’s usages of “fullness of the times” in those scriptures as you read it!
Hopefully, the above makes sense to you as you read scripture. But along with that question is another; how is the “Kingdom of God at hand? The Kingdom is a big slice of Christ’s message, and this statement is a key feature of that message. Remember that word kingdom (Basileia)? We touched on it early on in this study. It means “kingship” or “royal rule.” This term also involves the sovereign authority of a ruler, the activity of his ruling, and the realm and rule, including its benefits (Theological Dictionary of the NT).
The concept of Kingdom was familiar to the Jews of His day. In light of all the Old Testament prophecies they were aware of, they expected a future messianic (Davidic) Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37). Jesus’ statement in verse 15 informs them that the long-awaited king, the Messiah, has arrived. Jesus, the king of the Kingdom, the one with authority, has come, as John states in John 1:1!
FOCUS THREE: Christ” s imperative: repent and believe the gospel.
Repentance and faith are not as hard to understand as some people make them out to be. Repentance is when we come to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were, which can be very troubling to our hearts. This “acknowledgement” of our sinfulness before God is not merely a cognitive reality but involves the heart and will as well.
The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt, danger, helplessness, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. When a sinner understands and agrees with God regarding their sin and turns to Christ, the only one who can save them, for His mercy and grace, they receive it because God does not lie or change His mind!
8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The word believe in this verse is (Pisteuo), meaning to believe or to put our whole trust in something. In this case, the text directs our belief, our faith, to be in the good news of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They can not be separated. “Both these must go together: we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without he reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder (break apart).”
This is the message Jesus proclaimed. This is the message Peter proclaimed, Paul proclaimed, and preachers, missionaries, and everyday Christians declare today.
This work is a supernatural work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinful creatures. A “new nature” is given by Him a divine nature (John 3:3-8). Genuine salvation is manifested in the lives of those who proclaim faith in Christ. The way they now live their lives, the way they think, talk, and act, will evidence that they genuinely have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit within. And such a walk of faith and obedience will cause the believer to be increasingly like His savior: “conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
But the simple fact remains that sin fallen people cannot respond. In some manner, divine revelation must be made known to us before we can respond to it and agree or reject it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-17 of this very truth. God uses people like you and me to share the gospel that saved us with others. Just like us, they need to hear this divine truth before responding to it. And friends, there is only one thing that God uses to do this work of bringing repentant faith into our lives: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).
CHRIST’S PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY
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.
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A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES
I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”
The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.
Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!
God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).
Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).
The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children
GOD’ S VIEW OF CHRISTMAS
Extended reading: Revelation 12
Devotional reading: Verses 10-12
When you think of the Christmas season and what it means, do you think of it in the terms written out for us in Revelation 12? Probably not. We are so accustomed to thinking about a cute baby in a manger, wise men with gifts, and angels singing out in the fields with shepherds that we most likely miss God’s view of the Christmas story.
“The birth of Christ and Satan’s opposition to the event are graphically depicted in this scene. Jesus, the messiah, was born into this world to implement God’s plan for the world’s restoration. Satan had planted the destructive effects of sin into God’s good creation by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. So as Jesus was born to reverse the effects of that sin, Satan did all he could to destroy the infant savior” (remember what Herod did? Matthew 2:16-18).
“Thankfully, Satan was unsuccessful, and the future Ruler of the world was able to complete His earthly mission. As much as Satan desires to thwart God’s overall plan, he cannot stop God’s plan of salvation for us if we surrender our lives to Him by trusting Christ to pay for our sins.”
Some parts are adapted from “The every mans Bible.”
JEHOVAH RAPHA (pt 2)
My last post concluded with this statement: “The moral and spiritual sickness of mankind is an open, running sore. The heart of man is desperately sick, says Jeremiah 17:9. Herein is the hearts fundamental disease–the sin which alienates it from God–the sin which manifests itself in open and secret evil of every kind. How desperately mankind is in need of a healer, a physician!”
FOCUS ONE: JEHOVAH THE HEALER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
This brings me to my next point that The Lord is the great Healer of men. He alone has the remedy that can heal the spirits of men. He IS the remedy for the healing of man. And the Gospel is concerned primarily with the spiritual sickness and healing of mankind. Behind all the evils out there and all physical sickness– is sin. The importance of Marah in Israel’s experience is attested by the fact that God gave Himself this new name here—Jehovah-who-heals.
This incident is intended chiefly as a lesson and warning against that sin and disobedience at the root of all sorrow, suffering, and sickness in the world. The tree cast into the waters is obviously a figure (type) of the tree on which hung Jesus in the New Testament. Friends, Jesus is the (only) remedy for the cure of mankind’s ills–and He alone can sweeten the bitterness of your human experience through that forgiveness of sin and sanctifying of life which is accomplished.
Certainly, God could and did heal physical maladies in the Old Testament whenever it pleased Him. Moses cried out to Jehovah on behalf of Miriam, smitten with leprosy: “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (Numbers 12:13). There are many others!!
Many references to sickness and wounds in the OT are simply figurative expressions of moral and spiritual ills. It is instead in this sense that God is known as Jehovah-Rapha–Jehovah who heals. This is what Jeremiah means when he says: “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah” (Jeremiah 30:17) and again: “Return, ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:22).
Isaiah speaks of the day when “Jehovah bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26). He predicts the coming of One upon whom the Spirit of Jehovah God will rest in order, among other things, to bind up the brokenhearted ( Isaiah 61:1). The will, and the power, and the longing are present in Jehovah to heal. The only obstacle in the way of this spiritual healing is man himself. The remedy is there–near at hand–as near as the tree at Marah’s waters. “The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart,” says Moses (Deuteronomy 30:14),
There is salvation for every sin, healing for every evil. The remedy only awaits its acknowledgment or application. This, man, has often been unwilling to do.
“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered” (Jeremiah 8:21, 22)?
The remedy was there–in Jehovah Himself–but they went on and on refusing it “till there was no remedy” (or healing) (2Chronicles 36:16). And centuries later, the word of the Lord Jesus to His people was, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
FOCUS TWO: JESUS THE HEALER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The God who heals in the Old Testament is the God who heals in the New.
The ministry of the Lord Jesus began with healing. In the synagogue at Nazareth, having returned in the power of the Spirit from His great temptation, He opened His public ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
“teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). These miracles of healing constantly amazed the people, and He cited them as proofs of His identity and mission.
But as with God of the Old, so with Jesus of the New Testament, physical healing was only incidental to His chief object, which was the healing of the souls of men. His opening words in the synagogue at Nazareth declared His mission to be to preach the Gospel, to preach deliverance, to set at liberty Cf 8:31,32,3 –
His miracles of healing were proof of His identity and mission–His credentials. Yet many of the sicknesses He healed were truly striking symptoms of that dark, dreaded disease which has- its- roots in the soul of men and not in the body – the disease of sin.
The Lord Jesus consummated (perfected or completed in every way) by becoming that tree that made the bitter pools of human existence, waters of life and healing and sweetness. The teaching of Marah is wonderfully fulfilled in Him. They were taught the corruption and the bitterness of the purely natural waters, which are only an aggravation of the soul’s sickness and need.
Only the tree of God’s provision and choice could purify and sweeten and satisfy. To the woman at the well the Lord Jesus said: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall he in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13, 14).
Friends, The Lord Jesus is both the tree and the waters. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” He is the well of salvation (Isaiah 12:3), the water of life, sweet, saving, and satisfying. In Jesus, the tree of life and the river of life in Eden’s garden are free and accessible to Adam’s sons once more.
This is the picture presented to us in the closing scene of the Book of Revelation:
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1, 2).
What Jehovah was to Israel at Marah, so the Lord Jesus is to all who will receive and obey Him, the Great Physician
NEW BOOK REVIEW
WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM FOR KIDS
I recently began going through Spurgeon’s Catechism with my son when my wife, who does most of our homeschooling, told me about this book. There are two books (Workbook One, which covers the first ten questions, and Workbook Two, which covers questions 11-20).
What more significant conversations can we have with our children than those regarding their creator, the entrance of evil into the world, and the suffering and misery that comes from it? The Bible does not shy away from such conversations, and neither should we. It reveals the world as it truly is, and despite the seemingly endless “vanity” of it all, there is hope, and His name is JESUS! These workbooks are easy to read and VERY helpful for parents who struggle with having more in-depth conversations with their children regarding more profound subject matter.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism interestingly introduces the story of redemption. In the first book, questions 1-10, Caroline Weerstra and Thomas Trouwborst, expand the topic of each question posed in the catechism by bringing in two or three “lessons” about the question asked. The workbook helps us expand and penetrate the thinking of our children so they can think through each question logically and biblically. They also help us as parents explain and develop the truth in scripture by using other scriptures that help give us a complete picture of God’s character, nature, and purpose in history.
Each question is asked, and an answer is given, just like in the Shorter catechism itself. Then the authors provide three lessons that go along with the question posed. The lessons are short but helpful, often with a brief review. Your child can write their answers directly in the book – they provide “fill in the blanks” for that purpose. Or, they can write their answers in a notebook, but you can also walk through it together verbally if that suits your style of teaching better!
I enjoyed how they bring in other scriptures to shed greater light on the particular question being answered and sometimes have comparisons, such as what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1 compared with what Isaiah wrote In Isaiah 65.
There is also a “Let’s think” section that get’s your child reflecting on your discussion on a more personal level; LOVE THAT!
I appreciate their motivation for this project: “We believe that our rich Reformed heritage should be carried on to the next generation. However, memorization is NOT enough. Children learn best when they UNDERSTAND. . . This workbook series introduces children to the Westminster Shorter catechism and promotes memorization, while also providing clearand concise explanations of vocabulary and theological concepts.
Workbook one covers (Who is God?) the first ten questions of the Shorter Catechism. “It begins with a basic discussion of the purpose of man and the nature of God and moves on to introduce a biblical view of creation.”The second workbook “teaches primarily about the fall of mankind,” and God’s provision of a redeemer. The marvelous message (good news) of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
I included a picture of these books. I imagine you can find them many places, but just in case, their website is www.commonlifepress.com
EXTENDED READING: 2 Corinthians 13:1-10
DEVOTIONAL READING: Verses 5-6
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.