INSTABILITY VS LOGIC

Mark 3: 22-35

BRIEF INTRO: In our previous study, CALLING THE TWELVE, we were focused on Jesus’ appointing the twelve disciples to apostleship. This occurred after the controversy over Sabbath-healing and the Pharisees plotting with the Herodians to destroy Jesus (3:6). 

Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea, where the multitudes from all parts of Palestine followed Him (3:7). There He healed many and confronted demons (unclean spirits). 

Jesus not only faced opposition from without but also from within. That is where our focus in this study begins. 

20 And He *came [a]home, and the crowd *gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat [b]a meal. 21 And when His own [c]people heard about this, they came out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”

FOCUS ONE: Opposition from within (friends and family)

Jesus returns to Capernaum, His hometown, and it appears that He enters into Peter’s house again (2:1), where He has taken up temporary residence. Once again, many people follow Him looking for a miracle, healing, or just a good show. Mark tells us, “they could not even eat a meal.”

We find an interesting statement in verse 21: “And when His own people heard of this.” Who are His people? Local community, Jews, maybe family? The Greek expression used here describes someone’s friends or close associates. But in its strictest sense, it meant family, which appears to be the best way to understand it in these verses.

Jesus’ family heard that He was back in town, and they went to take Him away from the crowds, using force if necessary (v. 21). What was going on in their minds that they would believe that to be a viable option? They may have thought that He was crazy, a bit off, considering that He was thinking more of others, people He did not know, above Himself and perhaps even them. All His time is spent away, helping all types of people, even people the Pharisees say should not be considered approachable.

The things they heard Him say or that were reported back to them. The wild accounts they hear about most likely became too much for them to reason out, and He needed to be brought back to His senses. We can assume that they did not understand Jesus’ mission or purpose for being there. They had enough and so reacted in kind.

That doesn’t mean that their intentions were evil; most likely, they had good intentions. But, good intentions without proper understanding always leads to poor judgment!

While our intentions may be good and our desire to help another appears noble, is our understanding of the situation and the persons’ motives correct? Have we OR are we in danger of committing the same mistake? Perhaps it would help us consider this truth in light of our daily walk of faith. 

22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He [a]is possessed by [b]Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

FOCUS TWO: Opposition from without

Mark tells us that the Scribes came down from Jerusalem. What does that mean? These men were “*Primarily Pharisees, i.e., authorities on Jewish law. Sometimes they are referred to as ‘lawyers.’ They were professional scholars whose speciality was explaining the application of the law.” Most of the Scspecialtylittle interest in the truth and its application. That is evident throughout the gospel accounts. Even though they witnessed many of the miracles Jesus performed, they were more focused on “destroying” Him so they could get back to the status quo (v.6; John 11:45-53).

In these verses, they give voice to their one accusation. “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (v. 22).

We need to remember that the “multitudes often surround Jesus.” That group would consist of:

1. Disciples

2. The crowds

3. The scribes

4. Jesus’family

Each group has its agenda:

1. To learn from Jesus and serve

2. Motivated by curiosity and desire for physical healing

3. To accuse Him and argue with Him

4. Exert control over Him, perhaps protect Him

Jesus is confronted by one of those groups, the Scribes, and is accused of being possessed by Beelzebul! 

Such rejection of the apparent truth; rejection of such clear revelation and experience by these men or any other person grieves my heart. To think that a person can come so close to Christ, experience His power, compassion, wisdom, and authority, and yet turn away from Him is concerning.

This is precisely what the writer of Hebrews is warning against (Hebrews 2:1-4)! 

2 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to [a]what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved [b]unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just [c]punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? [d]After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

How sad but true that such a thing does happen. There is no other way to receive forgiveness but through Jesus Christ (John 6:68). You can read about The Gospel here.

23 And so He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but [a]he is finished! 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

28 “Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

FOCUS THREE: Jesus’ response

Jesus responds to their accusation by calling them closer to Himself as He speaks in parables. While their unfounded accusation was brief, His response was not! Parables were stories that involved present physical realities that illustrated a spiritual truth.

It seems that His argument proceeds from the lesser to the greater. 

1. How can Satan cast out Satan? (The accusation)

2. Kingdom divided cannot stand

3. House divided against itself cannot stand

4. So, Satan would not be able to stand (The logical conclusion) 

Simple logic! That is related to kingdoms and homes is true of Satan’s realm.

It reminds me of Ray Comforts witnessing videos when He gives proof that God, the creator, exists (building, painting, creation). He argues from the lesser-known truth to the greater using physical realities to teach a spiritual truth. 

31 Then His mother and His brothers *came, and while standing outside they sent word to Him, calling for Him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” 33 Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 And looking around at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, this is My brother, and sister, and mother.”

FOCUS FOUR: The family arrives

Again surrounded by the “multitude,” Jesus is notified that His family is outside “looking for Him” (cr. v.21). We learn from this statement that Jesus DID have half brothers and sisters. I say “half” because Joseph did not have any physical participation in the pregnancy of Mary (Matthew 1:18-25).

In Chapter Six, we learn some of their names! 

1. James

2. Joses

3. Judas

4. Simon

5. “His sisters here with us?”

So, His earthly family is still outside, seeking to get near Him to remove Him from the multitude to a designated “safe space” where they can try to bring Him back to some sense of sanity (in their thinking). 

But, in response to that information, Jesus makes a confusing statement for some (immediate earthly family), BUT an encouraging statement for others (Those who believe in Him)!

This statement is like a bomb that just exploded! What does He mean by this? Isn’t family important? Can we pick out or cast aside family at will? Many questions can arise from His statement. But what is His point?

First, we must understand that Jesus IS NOT disrespecting His family with these words. In John 19:25-27, for example. Dying on the cross, His last breath near, Jesus’ thoughts were on the care of His mother, Mary. He tells John to “behold your mother.” And to His mother, He says, “behold your son.” John took her into his household in obedience to Christ at that moment!

The issue is not that anyone can become a “spiritual mother, brother, or sister to Jesus BUT that through faith in Him and obedience to His will, we become part of the “family of God.” Adopted children, by grace thru faith!

*Macarthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1394

CALLING THE TWELVE

Mark 3:13-19

NOT SO BRIEF AN INTRO: As Jesus continues to heal the sick that are brought to Him, the multitudes continue to follow Him. Many are looking for healing for themselves or someone close to them, others are intrigued at the miracles He performs, yet many are still attracted to His teaching.

Because there are so many people following them, Jesus instructs the disciples to have a boat ready for Him to get into so that He wouldn’t be crowded or crushed by the multitude of people. As the crowds grew, many “pressed about Him” to touch Him. They appear to believe that they only had to make physical contact with Him, and they would be healed. Forget looking Him in the face; forget talking to Him, petitioning Him, or asking Him for mercy and healing! *They appear to “have little interest in Jesus other than as a miracle-worker.”

In verse eleven, we again witness the demons recognizing and confirming who Jesus is! The gospels record where this took place (whenever v. 11). Think about that fact for just a moment. Over and over again, the demons looked at Him, observed Him, and thought about the truth of His character, nature, and identity; BUT always rejected Him. It was not the time for Christ to be made “fully known,” so He warned them not to make Him known.

Our following study will be focused on Jesus calling the disciples to Himself and “appointing” them as Apostles!

13 And He *went up on the mountain and *summoned those whom He wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and have authority to cast out the demons. 16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 [a]James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of [b]James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);18 and Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, [c]James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, and Simon the [d]Zealot;19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

FOCUS ONE: The occasion

Each section of scripture that we study together or that you meditate on yourself has incorporated its own unique set of questions that we need to ask and answer as we study it. In this case, we should ask ourselves:

  1. Why did Jesus go up to the mountain rather than remain by the sea?
  2. What did He appoint these twelve men to accomplish?
  3. What authority did He give to them to fulfill this role?
  4. Why did He change some names?

These are just a sample of the questions we should ask ourselves as we study this portion of Mark’s gospel.

It seems clear that Jesus goes up to the mountain to be away from the people and to spend time in prayer (Luke 6:12) before He calls, perhaps we can say ordains, these men for the ministry. This was an important meeting and a solemn ceremony, to say the least, and having multitudes of people around, with all the noise, activity, and situations, would prevent such an undertaking from happening. 

It shouldn’t seem weird that He goes up to the mountain. Jesus often went into the wilderness or mountaintops to be alone so that He could pray to the Father. It should be apparent by now that Jesus has two areas of ministry before Him. One to the “multitudes,” and the other with the disciples. It is the latter where we often find Jesus taking them somewhere with Him to be alone.

Jesus “summoned those whom He Himself wanted” (v. 13). A significant fact I don’t want you to miss. Jesus called to Himself the men He decreed to be His Apostles! These men graduate, if you will, from discipleship (learners) to Apostles (sent ones) to proclaim to others all that they heard, saw, and experienced being with Jesus! Jesus spoke and ministered to many daily, BUT not everyone was chosen to be Apostles. Why? 1″ He could have appointed sixteen or eighteen or some other number. Why twelve? It could be that the number twelve is significant in that it symbolically represents the twelve tribes of Israel.” The number twelve is prominent in Revelation (21:12-14). 

FOCUS TWO: The men

The other gospels list these men as well, and those lists are similar (Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13). Some are fishermen, others tax collectors, a zealot, and some professions are unknown (Thomas, Nathanael, and Judas). Some of these men had their names changed by Jesus at this time. Simon is the most obvious one. We know him better as Peter, the man with the confession that the church is built upon (Matthew 16:13-20)!

Until this time, Peter had been known as “Simon son of Jonah (John 21:15-17; Matthew 16:17). Jesus gives Him a new name “Cephas” (Peter), which means rock. “2 The name is predictive of not only what Peter would be called but also declarative of how Jesus would transform his character and use him in relationship to the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:16-18).”

He also changed the names of James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, to “Boanerges,” which means sons of thunder. However, Jesus does not change all of their names, but that does not diminish their roles in proclaiming the gospel of Christ and building up the His church! What qualities or character traits did He see in them? 3 “Perhaps they were remarkable for a loud commanding voice, they were thundering preachers; or rather it denotes the zeal and fervency of their spirits.”

These men were now summoned to Himself so that: “they should be with Him constantly, to be witnesses of His doctrine, manner of life, and patience, that they might fully know it; they must be with Him, to receive instructions from Him, that they might be qualified to give instructions to others. It would require time to fit them for that which He designed them for.”

FOCUS THREE: Their function

What is their role?

  1. To be with Him
  2. To preach
  3. To cast out demons

These three things are the sole functions of these newly commissioned men. Jesus called them unto Himself so that they would be with Him constantly, as I mentioned above in my last focus point. These twelve were brought into the *”closest association possible with the life of the Son of God. They were to live with Jesus, travel with Him, and learn from Him.” Much of Jesus’ time was occupied with their training. 

The salvation Jesus brings involves the defeat of Satan and his demons! Their training was necessary because, before His ascension, Jesus would send them out to continue the work He had begun “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Acts 1)! Their ministry of casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News is closely associated. How so?

It is a strange group of men, isn’t it? “* Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Of six of them, we know practically nothing. ALL were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. YET it was with these men that Jesus established His church and disseminated His Good News to the end of the earth.”

*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 640

1 Bible study website

2 John MacArthur

3 Matthew Henry Commentary, pg. 1370

THE VALUE OF ONE ON ONE BIBLE READING

I hope that you are involved in a small group bible study. If not, why not? List your valid excuses here:

1.

2.

3. 

(Please use the back of the paper for additional excuses)

Yes, I m being a bit facetious in hopes of helping you see that there is NO excuse for not being a part of a group bible study that is already formed or creating one yourself!

At this point in my post, I know you are feeling some emotions that you probably wish you didn’t—feelings of anger, fear, and perhaps conviction. I am not apologetic for that. However, I am thankful for these feelings because they might help me get my point across in a more meaningful and helpful way.

My purpose in this post, what I hope comes across as you read it, is simply this: There is great value and blessings in our spending time reading the Bible with someone else (I know, that’s the scary part).

Perhaps you have had some bad experiences in bible studies that you never want to repeat; I get it. I had several myself. I will share one of those with you now.

Back in the day (26 years ago, ahem), I began a ministry in my workplace to bring together and encourage other Christians in their walk of faith in the workplace environment. After about a year, I started a small group bible study, once a month, with several men who joined my ministry. It wasn’t long before I became discouraged with the group. 

If I remember correctly, all but one never took the time (throughout the month) to read over the scriptures for that study, much less think about them. The conversations always seemed to turn into “what do you think it means?” One person thought this, another that. Often, what these men brought forth had nothing to do with the text! And what really troubled me was that they did not appreciate an exegetical study of what the verses in their context meant. Eventually, I ended the study, discouraged and a bit bitter. 

Blessings become numerous when we gather together to seek, above all else, what God says about things, and willingly submit to it! So, I understand your reluctance to pursue such a thing again. But I want to lay out several reasons and blessings that come from a small group or one2one bible study when it functions under the premise that God’s word is sufficient.

So, let me begin sharing with you several reasons I think this is true in the hope that you will “circle back” on your current view and pursue, once again, something that our Lord means for our good and desires to bless us and others with.

God’s word is profitable for all things, and ours are limited (training).

Yes, I am stating the obvious here, but it needs repeating. 16 “All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [b]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man or woman of God may be [c]fully capable, equipped for every good work.”

The Book that we have in our possession is a divine wonder, given to us so that we may know our God, ourselves, and How He expects us to live. We can only “Know truth” by being in His word, which is truth (John 17:17). Our desire as “Christ followers” should be to have our “eyes open, that I may behold wonderful things from thy law (Word)” (Psalm 119:18). Not just for ourselves, but others as well!

God’s Holy Word trains and equips us to “walk by faith and not by sight,” and as “iron sharpens iron, so one man to another” (Proverbs 27:17). 

  1. People get to read it for themselves with others (relationships)

Interaction is the breeding ground for conversation! People are more comfortable within a small group in a less formal setting than in broader contexts. Within a small group or one2one, there are opportunities to question and discuss scripture and its meaning honestly. Such an interchange of thoughts on a particular passage within a group can often lead a person to think on it in far more profound ways than they would have otherwise. This helps them grow in Christ OR move one step closer to Him (sanctification)!

  1. An excellent and powerful way to evangelize (salvation)

Small groups or one2one bible reading affords a more incredible opportunity to share the gospel with someone else (evangelism). Rather than witnessing being so dreaded or being the “one thing” so feared by the vast swath of Christians, this setting naturally leads to deeper spiritual conversations without struggling with how to get someone else to talk about spiritual things. 

The conversations happen naturally because you are already in the word of God together! God’s word not only instructs, rebukes, and corrects us along the way; it is the mechanism by which God saves sinners (Romans 10:9-17)! We read it together, discuss what it says, and His Spirit convicts, gives understanding and leads sinners to repentant faith!

So, there it is, my reasons to challenge and encourage you to rethink the value and purpose of a small group or one2one bible study. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can go on Amazon and purchase a small book by David Helm entitled: ONEtoONE Bible reading, a simple guide for every Christian.

JESUS HEALS ON THE SABBATH

Mark 3: 1-6

BRIEF INTRO: In this chapter, we witness a continuation of Christ’s healing power and authority. Christ’s popularity is on the rise, while His ability to have “alone time” is greatly hindered due to the multitude’s continuous presence. This chapter begins with the Pharisees “watching” Him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath so they could accuse Him. It ends with His brethren and family members believing that He is out of His mind, and so they attempt to remove Him from the people to a “safe space!”

Sandwiched in the middle of all that, Mark tells us about Jesus appointing the twelve to apostleship and their purpose OR function.

He entered a synagogue again; and a man was there whose hand was withered. And they were watching Him [a]closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He *said to the man with the withered hand, “[b]Get up and come forward!” And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began [c]conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might put Him to death.

FOCUS ONE: Pharisees are watching

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They sat on “Moses seat,” which means that they had the highest authority to instruct people in the law. But they “*had gone beyond the any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the Word of God” (Matthew 15:3-9) and constantly opposed Him, for that Jesus condemned them.

The Pharisees are often exposed for this very thing elsewhere in scripture (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 19:3-12; John 7:43-49; John 8). These examples must suffice for now, but these few samples prove that they always tested, challenged, and opposed the Lord.

On this particular day, we read that they are watching. They stood aloof of the people in the synagogue, just observing all that was transpiring. They were not innocent bystanders by any means. Instead, they were purposely, thoughtfully, and maliciously waiting for Jesus to do something that they could accuse of before the authorities. In this case, they waited to see if “He would heal on the sabbath” (3:2).

 He *said to the man with the withered hand, “[b]Get up and come forward!” And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus challenges the Pharisees

The tension grows! Jesus sees the man with the withered hand in the synagogue. The man’s deformity was likely a “*form of paralysis or deformity from an accident, a disease, or congenital defect.” He tells the man to “rise and come forward.” Jesus sees the man; He knows the Pharisees are watching and why, and He calls this disabled man forward anyway! Obviously, Jesus has a higher purpose for what He is about to do. A good and righteous purpose, unlike the Pharisees.

The man appears to obey Jesus’ command to come forward. I can picture this man in front of Jesus, perhaps a bit nervous, as Jesus asks the Pharisees this question. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil, to save life or to kill?” this rhetorical question “1destroys their argument by forcing a logical conclusion: Would your interpretation of the law ever demand you to destroy life or do evil? No answer.” Matthew records Jesus using a sheep analogy to help them understand and form a correct conclusion (Matthew 12:11-12).

This question elevates the issue from a legal to a moral problem. “* Jesus was forcing the Pharisees to examine their tradition regarding the Sabbath to see if it  was consistent with God’s Old Testament law.” The clear understanding would be that any failure to do good or save a life was wrong and would not be in obedience to God’s original intention for the sabbath observance. 

The Pharisee’s silence showed their refusal to answer the question, and in not doing so, the implication was that their views of the OT law were false!

Jesus becomes angry, grieved at their hardness of heart. Does that statement trouble you (3:5)? The Greek word for “anger” is (Orge). 2It means to desire eagerly or earnestly; Wrath, anger as a state of mind. It is used in the anarthrous, which means that there is NO definite article in the original, and it is a noun, not a verb in this usage.

Jesus certainly had displeasure at their hardness of heart and unwillingness to repent. BUT His reaction was consistent with His divine nature, not outside it. His anger is ALWAYS consistent with His holiness! Christ’s righteous indignation, expressed at times throughout our bibles, is always in total alignment with His divine character and nature. Unlike our anger.

But don’t miss the “other side of the coin” here. The Pharisees hardened hearts grieved the Lord. It weighed on Him, causing sorrow within Himself at such willful stubbornness. I have grieved myself when I think of how my willful sinfulness, stubbornness at times, or callousness affects my Father, Redeemer, and sustainer. BUT I am thankful that His mercy is new each day (Lamentations 3:22-24).

FOCUS THREE: Jesus heals the man

Jesus took a moment and looked around at these men, allowing them to respond to His question. They don’t, so He tells the man to “stretch out your hand.” He does, and it is healed! 

In some instances, Jesus touches those He heals; in others, He speaks, and they are healed. That is what we read here. This man experienced complete and perfect restoration of his withered hand by the words of Jesus! Everybody in the synagogue witnessed it. They all knew the situation of this man. They knew what his arm was like before that day and what it is like now. 

We are not told how they responded. We can only imagine. BUT we are told how the Pharisees responded (v.6). They immediately leave the synagogue and begin plotting to “destroy” Jesus. With their minds already made up, they join forces with the “Herodians” (v. 6). This group is said to be much smaller than the Pharisees and “tended toward political opportunism.” To them, Jesus would have been a threat to their status quo of the Roman rule, which was a big plus for them.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This ancient proverb is what we see being put into practice by these two groups. “The Herodians opposed the Pharisees on nearly every issue, but were willing to join forces with them because they both wanted desperately to destroy Jesus.” All the gospels record their intent (Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 6:6-10; John 11:53).

After the Pharisees left the synagogue, Jesus moved on to the sea with His disciples. Despite the frequent confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus’ popularity grew so much that we read in verses seven and eight that “multitudes” came from all parts of Palestine to see and hear Him for themselves!

*Macarthur Study Bible pg. 1463

1 Liberty Bible Commentary pg. 1972

2 The complete Word Study NT, pg. 941

EVOLUTION SAYS –

Once I was a tadpole grubbing in the mire,

Till I became ambitious and started to aspire,

I rubbed my tail so hard against a sunken log,

It disappeared completely and I found myself a frog.

I struggled from my puddle and jumped upon dry land,

And the feeling that was in me, was glorious and grand;

It made me kind o’ frisky, so I hopped around a tree

Till I landed in the branches as happy as could be.

And there I spent some aeons, evolutions without fail,

Till I became a monkey and grew another tail;

But still I had ambitions, as the aeons quickly sped,

I climbed down from the tree and walked the earth instead.

My tail got tired with trailing on the hard earth every day,

And twice within my “process” that appendage passed away;

Once again I evolutions, and believe it, if you can,

I awoke one summer morning and found myself – a man!

Now, you tadpoles, in the mire just think what you may be,

If you’ll only in your puddles, start to climb the family tree;

I’m the genus homo, “finished” for all the world to see,

For when I told my story I was given a D.D.

Author unknown

THE PHARISEES QUESTION WHY

Mark 2; 13-28

BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we read about Jesus healing a paralytic man who was brought to Him when He was in His hometown and most likely at Peter’s house. We witnessed great faith by these men and its results: the paralytic not only being healed but his sins being forgiven as well!

In those beginning verses of our chapter, Mark brings to light the very first why question for his readers. One of many that he sheds light upon in this chapter, in his account of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum. In this study, I want to break down the remaining verses of the chapter based on those questions. Let’s get to it! Ready?

14 As He passed by, He saw [b]Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax office, and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

15 And it *happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and [c]sinners were [d]dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the [e]sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating with tax collectors and [f]sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

FOCUS ONE: Why is he eating with tax collectors and sinners?

Here again, we witness Jesus walking by a man He calls to follow Him. He did this same thing with Simon and Andrew as they were casting nets into the sea (1:16-17) and with James and John mending their fishing nets (1: 19-20). And now, in the same manner, he says to Levi (Matthew ) as He passed by the tax office, “follow me.” 

Luke adds, “he left everything behind, got up and began to follow Him (Luke 5:28). Even though the other accounts mentioned above do not have those words, the implications are there! Following Christ requires commitment, a willingness to forsake all else for Him.

It appears that Levi wanted to throw a “going away” party for his friends that he would be leaving behind. Levi certainly knew that the people despised his profession. He witnessed and practiced all sorts of theft and deception, to say the least, in his work each day exacting taxes and his share for the Romans from his people. Levi wants them to meet Jesus! So, he has a party at his home, and Jesus is the guest of honor!

While Levi (Matthew) obediently follows the Lord and commits all to Him, his co-workers are not so disposed but are curious to see this man who would NOT ONLY have contact with them but would enjoy fellowship with them as well. So much so that Mark records that many were present.

Once again, we find the “scribes of the Pharisees,” questioning what Jesus does or says. They ask why He eats with these people and enjoys such close fellowship with them. According to their philosophy, these people were ignorant of the Law and did not follow the strict pharisaic standards. Sinners (v.16) denotes people who refuse to follow the Mosaic Law as they interpreted it. Jesus’ answer to their question is very profound and instructive. “And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

  • Healthy people don’t need a physician; sick people do
  • I came to call sinners, not the self-righteous (to eternal life)

“*Jesus’ call is to salvation; and in order to share in it, there must be a recognition of need. A self-righteous man is incapable of recognizing that need, but a sinner can.”

The Pharisees would see no need for themselves to repent (healthy people, at least in their own eyes), but sinners (sick people) can and would be able to acknowledge their guilt and need for forgiveness.

Which type of person are you? 

18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they *came and *said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “While the groom is with them, [a]the attendants of the groom cannot fast, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the groom is taken away from them, and then they will fast, on that day.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise, [b]the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

FOCUS TWO: Why don’t your disciples fast?

Directly on the heels of the last question and Jesus’ response to it, we read of another issue that concerned the Pharisees and John’s disciples. The problems were that of “fasting” and why Christ’s disciples were not practicing the twice-a-week fast that the Pharisees decreed should be adhered to (Luke 18:9-14).

Twice a week fasting is more than required by any biblical standard. 

“*Jesus did fast on at least one occasion (Matthew 4:2)- but privately, in accordance with His own teaching (Matthew 6:16-18). The Law also prescribed a fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31), but all other fasts were supposed to be voluntary, for specific reasons… The fact that these Pharisees raised this question shows that they thought of fasting as a public exercise to display ones own spirituality.”

Jesus responds to their question with a question! His question “sets up a comparison and a veiled analogy to Himself.” It would be very inappropriate for the guests at a wedding and the bridegrooms’ attendants to fast (a sign of mourning) while the bridegroom is with them and the event is joyful. This situation will one day change (Acts 1:9-10), and then fasting (mourning) would be a proper response.

This allusion by Jesus of His death is the first hint of the cross in Mark’s gospel.

It is interesting, and I think we need to be made aware that John’s disciples are following the Pharisaic rendering of the Law as well! Not only the Pharisees. These disciples of John would appear to be those that DID NOT transfer their allegiance or faith to Christ (Acts 19:1-9). 

So, what does the “parable” of the cloth’s and wineskins have to do with fasting?

One thing that we should keep in the forefront of our minds as we study the gospels is their “transitional nature.” They are the bridge from the Old Testament (Law) to the New Testament (Grace). From laws being written in stone, to God’s Law being written on our hearts! From the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

Jesus is making a critical point that they need to understand moving forward, and that is: “*Any attempt to bind the newness of the gospel to the old religion of Judaism is as futile as trying to patch an old garment with a new unstrung piece of cloth. Equally disastrous to pour new wine into old wine skins… Salvation, available through Jesus, was not to be mixed with the old Judaistic system.”

23 And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And He *said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the [a]time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the [b]consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath [c]was made [d]for man, and not man [e]for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.

FOCUS THREE: Why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?

Yet again, the Pharisees are upset with what Jesus does or doesn’t do, allows, or does not allow. This time their question is regarding the sabbath observance. How much time transpired between Levi’s house and this incident is unknown other than what is stated in our text: it happened on the Sabbath. 

And that is the problem that the Pharisees have with Jesus’ disciples picking the heads of the grain. Not so much that they did it, but they did it on the Sabbath! What the disciples did was not in violation of any known law (Deuteronomy 23:25). “What the Pharisees objected to was doing this (what they regarded as reaping) on the sabbath.” They added many rules to the laws given by Moses and made it so unbearable to comply with the Law faithfully.

So, again, Jesus answers the question with a question that comes from an account in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where David and his companions were hungry and ate the consecrated bread. “Although the actions of David were contrary to the law, he was NOT condemned for it.” Jesus does not claim that the sabbath law was not broken but that such violations under certain circumstances are warranted. In other words: “Human need is a higher law than religious ritualistic.”

 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath [c]was made [d]for man, and not man [e]for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.

In this statement, “Jesus claimed He was greater than the Sabbath, and thus was God. Based on that authority, Jesus could in fact reject the Pharisaic regulations concerning the Sabbath and restore God’s originalintention for sabbath observance to be a blessing not a burden” (MacArthur Study Bible).

This should challenge us. Has our observance of the means of grace, sacraments of the church, etc., become more of a burden than a blessing to us? We need to examine ourselves and humbly confess such things to our Heavenly Father. What God meant for our good, let us not make it a burden.

*The Expositors Bible Commentary 8, pg. 635

* MacArthur Study Bible notes

*The bible knowledge Commentary, pg. 114

A PARALYTIC HEALED

BRIEF RECAP: Mark’s emphasis in his writing is to reveal Jesus, the son of God, as a suffering servant who ultimately gives His life as a sacrifice. The spotless lamb of God in place of filthy (sin) sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)! For his readers to understand who Christ is, God in the flesh, he must reveal Christ’s authority over all things. He does that by sharing particular events in the life of Christ that do just that; shine a light on His divine power and authority in His teaching and over disease, paralysis, fever, demons, and nature.

So far, he has shared the synagogue accounts in Capernaum (1:21-22) that shed light on His authority in His teaching (1:22). Then a man with an unclean spirit (authority over demons or the spirit world) is healed (1:23-28). Simon’s mother-in-law is healed (1:30-33). His power and authority cast out many more with various diseases and demons, clearly revealing to all with “eyes to see and ears to hear,” that He has divine authority over every area of creation!

And this focus continues into our next chapter with Mark sharing the account of Jesus healing a paralytic and forgiving his sins! 

Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus came back to Capernaum a few days later, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer space, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And some people *came, bringing to Him a man who was paralyzed, carried by four men. And when they were unable to [a]get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof [b]above Him; and after digging an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralyzed man was lying. And Jesus, seeing their faith, *said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and thinking it over in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware [c]in His spirit that they were thinking that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you thinking about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet, and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this

FOCUS ONE: He goes BACK to Capernaum, from the Galilean region, and I find it interesting that it took “several days” for the news that He was at home to get around usually the people are “hot on His heels.” This home is considered most likely Peter and Andrew’s house (1:29). Remember, Jesus stated that He has no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:19-20)! Most likely, this was His base of operations in that part of the country. We quickly learn from Mark that even this place He called His home afforded Him no privacy.

Mark tells us this house quickly filled up once the people learned that Jesus was there. So much so, there was no more room inside, “even near the door.” Perhaps these people wanted to see more miracles. Who wouldn’t? BUT Jesus wasn’t doing miracles in the house; He was speaking the word to them (2:2).

For us to understand the actions of these four men who brought a paralytic on a pallet to Jesus, we need to be able to visualize the layout of a typical Palestinian peasant’s house:

“*It was usually a small, one-room structure with a flat roof. Access to the roof was by means of an outside stairway. The roof itself was usually made of wooden beams with thatch and compacted earth in order to shed the rain. Sometimes tiles were laid between the beams and the thatch and earth placed over them.”

These four men carry this paralytic to see Jesus. They quickly observed how over-crowded this house was, and apparently, they were persistent in their endeavor and promptly came up with “plan B.” They carry the man up the stairs and proceed to take Peter and Andrew’s roof off! That is not something you can plan for when contemplating going into ministry.

 I wonder what expression Jesus had on His face as that roof opened up and the man was let down to the floor. Indeed He recognized their “ingenuity and persistent faith” (2:5). But Jesus seeing their faith (especially the four men), tells the man that his sins are forgiven rather than healing him. My guess is that wasn’t what they expected.

But some of the scribes were sitting there and thinking it over in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware [c]in His spirit that they were thinking that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you thinking about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet, and go home.”

FOCUS TWO: CONFLICT WITH SOME SCRIBES

If we read through the gospel accounts, we would quickly observe how hard-hearted the scribes and Pharisees were. They often “reasoned in their hearts” that what Jesus was doing was powered by the devil and what He was speaking to the crowds was blasphemous (Matthew 9:3-4, for example). Jesus, “being aware of their thoughts,” confronts them!

The scribes say that He is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. They are 100% correct that God alone can forgive sins, but their thinking is incorrect is that Emmanuel (God with us) is committing blasphemy when He exerts His divine power to do so! Many of the scribes and Pharisees did not view Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah that was prophesied about in the Old Testament.

The scribes most likely expected healing, but Jesus pronounces that the man’s sins are forgiven. Jesus confronts them with the probing question, “which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven or rise and walk?” Jesus doesn’t give the scribes time to answer. The question He posed is meant to elicit deeper thinking on their part.

Obvious, even to us, is that telling someone that their sins are forgiven is the easiest of the two. Why? Because no one can see that take place. No one can prove that they have or haven’t been forgiven. On the other hand, healing someone entirely of their life-crippling physical condition would be VERY apparent to all!

So, Jesus does both! How cool is that? But His purpose in doing so was much more profound than simply healing one of His creations, as awesome as that is. His greater purpose is expressed in verse 10″ “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man (messianic title) has authority on earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.'”

FOCUS THREE: The whole point of Mark sharing this account – Jesus working this way, IS “So that you will know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

It is about His authority on earth!

Mark, like Matthew, chose to share these miracles and healings of Jesus to help their readers grasp the simple truth that Jesus, the Son of Man, is the long-awaited Messiah! He is the suffering servant that Isaiah prophesied about (Isaiah 53)!

These words to the paralytic would become two things:

  1. * A test of faith
  2. A demand for obedience

The paralytic arose (acted in faith) and walked out of the sight of everyone there (obedience), including the hard-hearted and skeptical scribes! There can only be one correct response to the power of God when it is manifested.

The appropriate response to His authority can only be to glorify Him! The wonder and amazement at what just took place overcame them all, INCLUDING the scribes (v. 12). 

Christ is not physically walking on earth with us, healing people, and casting out demons, BUT He still does such things on a daily basis around our world. Cancerous cells are no longer in the body. People who should no longer walk, talk, or even see again ARE! Sinners living life under the influence of Satan (John 8:44-45) are redeemed, cleansed, and made new! 

Which is easier to believe? That these people were lucky, OR that the Son of Man (Jesus) still exercises His authority over all creation?

But so that you may know that the Son of God has authority over all His creation, He led these gospel writers to write down these accounts so that you and I would be amazed at His compassion, astounded by His power, and would give Him praise to the glory of His name!

He then leaves home and goes to the seashore. All the multitudes were coming to Him!

*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 632; pg. 113

MOVED WITH COMPASSION

A LEPER HEALED

Mark 1:40-45 

BRIEF INTRO: 

As Jesus embarked on His “Galilean tour,” which possibly lasted for several weeks, His main focus was on preaching the gospel of the Kingdom (1:14-15). He did heal those who came to Him, as we read in these following verses, but that was not His primary goal. Those healings and the casting out of demons were miracles designed for a particular purpose. Sure, Jesus had compassion on the suffering and in mercy delivered many from that, but ultimately these miracles were to “dramatically confirm His message.” They were to confirm that He is deity; He is the long-awaited prophesied Messiah! 

There are two main perspectives that I will focus on: The man with leprosy and that of Jesus at his approach. AND, there are two amazing facts regarding this incident that I want to expose: First, that the man would approach Jesus against custom and law, and that Jesus would touch the unclean man!

Ready? I am, so let’s dive in!

40 And a man with [a]leprosy *came to [b]Jesus, imploring Him and kneeling down, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He *said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it [c]freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that [d]Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but [e]stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”

FOCUS ONE: A man with leprosy comes to Jesus 

As you can imagine, this man was an outcast. Leprosy was a physically, mentally, and socially destructive disease. * “The word leprosy was used in biblical times to designate a wide variety of serious skin diseases. It was not limited to what we know as leprosy, or, to use the preferable medical term, Hansen’s disease. Whatever variety of skin disorder the man has, it caused him much suffering. The suffering was social as well as physical. The law required that the person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone, he must live outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46).”

How can we genuinely fathom this man’s sense of despair and hopelessness? Separated from his family, synagogue, and community, how could we possibly be able to comprehend the sense of community disgust and disdain that this man would have to bear while he is unclean? 

BUT, despite the disease and its apparent hopelessness, this man, unclean and ostracized, exercises one of the most incredible displays of humility and faith that we witness in our New Testament! Whether or not this took place inside the synagogue or outside of it, this man displayed great courage in walking into the crowds that would be around Jesus. “He came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him” (v. 40).

In his words to Christ, we hear no sense of doubt or feel an utter weight of hopelessness. Instead, we hear in his words faith, hope, and confidence in this man they call Jesus! 

How fantastic are the first words out of his mouth: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” This man most likely is referring to his physical deliverance from the disease. He has heard, possibly witnessed (from a distance) the miracles Christ performed on others. Based on the testimonies he heard and the things he witnessed for himself, he approaches Christ with great faith that He can do the same for him. Leviticus 13 deals with the various laws of leprosy and its cleansing.

With humility and reverence (falling on his knees), he approaches Jesus. Fear of man laid aside, presumption absent, doubts dismantled. And what does he hear in reply: “I am willing!”

Only twice does the OT record that God cleansed a leper (Miriam in Numbers 12:10-15; and Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-4)! But Jesus, a man (the God-man), heals him! The Rabbis regarded leprosy as “humanly incurable.”

This brings me to what I believe is our first amazing fact to consider: That this man, in the position he is in, would approach Jesus against their customs and the commands outlined in the Mosaic law. With everything against him, when everyone else would tell him that he has no hope, he forsakes all and “looks unto Jesus,” and lives!

 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He *said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

FOCUS TWO: Jesus is moved with compassion

I love reading those words: “moved with compassion.” Our Lord is not a benign being, far removed from us, uncaring, unloving, or unwilling to heal. He is Emmanuel, God in the flesh, and as such, He is not only our shepherd; He is our God who sees us (El Roi). He is our provider, our healer, and as such, He is all-sufficient (EL Shaddai)! So be encouraged, dear Christian, that our God is compassionate, “and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness” (Psalm 103:8).

Here we have a picture of how loving and caring He is. Jesus, moved by compassion because of the pain and anguish socially, physically, and mentally that this man has been going through for some time, stretches out His hand and touches the leprous man.

This is so counter-cultural to His day that it makes it our amazing fact #2: That He would touch the man against the custom and law of the day. His touch revealed that Rabbinic regulations regarding ritual defilement did not bind him. He, according to the law (He instituted), would be unclean!

“I am willing; be cleansed.” This statement and His touch brought healing to this diseased man: perfect, instantaneous, and highly observable cleansing!

So now this man is healed, and Jesus gives Him a stern warning and a command. 

  1. Jesus warns Him to say nothing about it to anyone (how could he do this, everyone would know)?
  2. He was told to go to the priest (Leviticus 13), offer the required sacrifice, and be declared clean by the priest. He used very forceful words that emphasized the man’s need for prompt obedience to His instructions.

I can sympathize with this man regarding proclaiming the amazing healing he just received to anyone who would listen. How couldn’t he? How couldn’t you and I? His body is now clean from this disease. After being declared clean by the priest, he can go back to his family, enter the synagogue and worship, and be a part of community life again. Besides that elation within his soul, all the people in that community knew he had leprosy; many probably ostracized him for it! But now, he stands before them differently, totally clean, absolutely changed!

In Chapter 11 (11:27-28), we read that the Sanhedrin asked Christ two questions: 1) What was the nature of His authority, His credentials, and 2) Who authorized Him to do these things? These questions indicate that Jesus had not yet openly stated that He is the Messiah. This appears to be a BIG part of Mark’s writing (secrecy motif)! The closest that Mark comes to this “unveiling” before chapter 11 is found in 9:27-30. But here it is Peter who states He is the Christ, and Jesus tells him to “tell no one.”

Nonetheless, He was commanded by Jesus to say nothing to anyone. He disobeyed Him, and we read about the repercussions of that disobedience. 

45 But he went out and began to proclaim it [c]freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that [d]Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but [e]stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”

I am not positive of this, but the command could have been temporary until the priest declared clean. But still, the man doesn’t seem to go to the priest, and I am not sure he ever did! So, why the “secrecy?” I think Jesus wanted to avoid misunderstandings that precipitate a premature and erroneous response to Him. There would be a time and place for that disclosure by HIM, and that time was not yet at hand.

The man’s disobedience hinders Christ to the extent that He could no longer publicly enter a city. He had to stay out in unpopulated areas. But even though He had to withdraw to such places, the people came to Him from everywhere. He may now be limited geographically, but not concerning preaching, teaching, and healing those who came to Him!

What an incredible thought to end this study with! Jesus has been glorified; His atoning work completed! Christ is not limited in His ability or willingness to reach us where we are. He is omnipresent (everywhere present), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful)! Oh, and don’t forget compassionate!

*The Expositors Bible Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, pg. 630

GOD OF OPPOSITES

As I sit in my warm home on this cold, snowy day, I have been reflecting, remembering so many things that I have asked God for in prayer. I dare say that I did not receive many of those things, at least in the manner I expected. By reading my title, you may be thinking that I am a bit sarcastic or negative regarding my expectations of my Heavenly Father; I assure you that I am not being so minded.

I often tell people, well, at least those close to me, that in my experience, God has proven to be a “God of opposites.” When I say that to them, I only mean to express how He answered my prayers, most often opposite of what I thought would be best for me! Have you experienced this at all in your prayer life? 

I pray for one direction, and He leads in another. I ask for healing, and He allows me more time in my immobility. I pray for more godly men to rise in the church and serve Him, and He works in such a way that some leave the church. I ask for this or that, and He sees fit to give me something else or nothing at all.

Years ago, this troubled me. I struggled with praying at times because it seemed futile. I often thought and even joked with others that perhaps I should pray for the opposite of what they ask me to pray for on their behalf. Maybe then they will have a better chance at receiving their petitions!

I have learned over the years that God does answer my prayers in far better ways than I could have dreamed of. He knows my frame, my thoughts, my needs, my heart, and with such divine knowledge, He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

He knows when my motives are impure. He knows when what I am asking for is not truly what I need at the time. He knows what purpose He has created me for and is actively working to equip and strengthen me for the road ahead. 

However, there are still times when I pray for things near God’s heart, things He tells us to pray for in His holy Word. Things like unity within the body; souls being saved through the church’s ministry. And yet, these things do not seem to happen, and the months, perhaps years of praying, affect no difference. I may be sounding critical to you again, but honestly, that is not my purpose. I am not alone in this area of prayerfulness. I have talked with and counseled others struggling with the “why” questions. Why does God tell me to pray for this or that but does not seem to answer those prayers? Why wouldn’t He grant these requests? After all, He tells us to pray to Him for them? Why would He allow such adverse outcomes when so many pray for godly ones?

I am older now than I once was and have been graciously redeemed for the vast majority of my adult years, and I still do not have an answer to those questions. I do know that He is sovereign over all things. His character is goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, justice, holiness, forgiveness, and much more. And as such, He is unchangeable! That is where I draw my encouragement to keep on praying, asking, and petitioning. I am not God, and the Bible tells us that He is not like us; His thoughts are far above ours. Whatever He is doing OR not doing (from our perspective) ultimately results in “the praise of His glory.” 

He will receive glory in and through all things, and He is worthy of such praise. I have learned in my short life as a Christian what Charles Spurgeon stated so well:

“When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must trust His heart.”

A LONELY PLACE

Mark 1:35-39

BRIEF INTRO: According to Mark’s account, Jesus has been pretty busy after leaving the wilderness (v.13). He began gathering His disciples, a group of fishermen by the Sea of Galilee (vv. 16-17). He began preaching the gospel of the kingdom (v.15), teaching in the synagogue, healing people, and casting out demons (vv. 21-27, 30-34). It would appear that Jesus was not able to get “alone time” that often, if at all. No matter where He went, He was followed by His disciples and the people from the towns that He was visiting. We found that our Lord needed and desired quiet time to communicate with the Father in these verses.

35 “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time. 36 Simon and his companions eagerly searched for Him; 37 and they found Him and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS ONE: JESUS LEAVES TO BE ALONE TO PRAY

When I read these words in verse 35, I get the sense of how busy Christ was when He came, and we have only begun to read the accounts of His ministry among men! He was so busy that the most important thing, the most desired thing, communication with His Father, was negatively impacted by the multitude of the physical and spiritual needs of the people. 

So many people were suffering in manifold ways that no matter where Christ went, He was followed by the people. People who needed physical healing from various diseases; people who needed demons dispelled and deliverance from their bondage to sin. And with great compassion, he healed them!

Luke records that when the multitudes found Him, they “tried to keep Him from going away from them” (Luke 4:42). But as both Mark and Luke record, He told them that He must leave them and go to other cities as well because His gospel was not only for them but many others as well!

It seems like the only time he could get away and spend time alone with His Father was in the early morning before the sun began to rise. I don’t know about you, but it has become apparent in my own life that the “early morning hours” would be the time to enjoy the most solitude with Him as well.

Seclusion, quiet, and no interruptions sound’s good, doesn’t it? Couple that with one-on-one time with our Heavenly Father put’s the icing on the cake! But we struggle with that, don’t we? Not being alone with our Father, but making the time for it! Maybe you currently wake up at 5 AM to get ready for work; the thought of 4 AM is distressing. After all, you NEED that sleep time; you EARNED that rest. But where else among the busy hours of your day may you be able to spend quality time with the Father? If not, then when? 

We need to give this serious thought; after all, “a servant is not above his master” (Matthew 10:24). We have a tremendous encouragement in this verse to evaluate our own prayer time with God. 

FOCUS TWO: A HUNTED MAN

Others can thwart even the best of efforts! 

The first to locate Jesus was Simon and his companions (Mark 1:36-37). But close behind them were the “multitudes.” Even leaving quietly in the dark of night was not enough to give Jesus His desired time alone in prayer! He was hunted down and found while in the middle of His praying. 

The “tyranny of the urgent” was thrust upon Him, at least in the eyes of the multitude. More people needed healing, needed demons removed, etc., so why did you sneak away? Most likely is what the disciples are thinking (v.37). 

I imagine that His response to that statement, to their interruption, surprised them. 

38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS THREE: WHAT I CAME FOR

This reply reveals a potential lack of understanding on the disciple’s part regarding the purpose of Christ coming. He tells them that he came not just to be a “miracle worker” among men but to preach the gospel of the kingdom to many people in various places, not just Capernaum. 

Jesus was sent by the Father on a divine mission. *”His purpose was to proclaim the “good news of God” (v.14), and confront people with the demand to ‘repent and believe’ it (v.15). Since the Capernaum crowd sought Him as a miracle-worker, He deliberately  departed to preach elsewhere.”

And as verse 39 shows, that is what he did. Throughout ALL Galilee, he went into the synagogues, “preaching and casting out demons.”

*The Bible knowledge Commentary