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

A NARROW GATE AND A DIFFICULT ROAD 

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted (narrow, difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Many Christians in the church had been taught to believe that the “Christian life” would be all blessings and prosperity. That they can “have their best life now” because God is for them and will give them what their hearts desire. Well, there is some truth to all that, but these same Christians move forward in their life only to become confused, discouraged, and depressed that what they were taught, what they expected, hasn’t happened in their experience.

Are there blessings that God graciously bestows on those He saves? Absolutely! Is this life the ultimate best we have to look forward to? Absolutely not! These verses help us to understand this a bit better.

In these verses, we have TWO gates that everyone will enter:

  1. The narrow gate (which speaks of salvation in Christ), OR
  2. The wide gate (which speaks of destruction, eternal damnation)

And we have TWO roads to travel:

  1. The difficult road (which speaks of the Christians path of sanctification), OR
  2. The broad way (which speaks of being wider, more accessible, more pleasing)

Our creator (author of the Bible) encourages each of us to enter, i.e., look for and pursue the narrow gate, not the wide gate. That goes against the grain, doesn’t it? We would much rather take the “path of least resistance,” and if we’re being honest about it, we would admit it, right? After all, we’re pretty good people aren’t we?

The gate or “door” is how a person can get into a home, building, or automobile. So, Jesus is saying, very directly, that there is ONLY ONE entryway into eternal life (which includes forgiveness of sin and peace with God), and that is through this one very exclusive entry point! And, so we wouldn’t be in the dark about what door this is, Jesus, in John 10:7, told those listening, including some Pharisees, that He is the door!

Coming to repentant faith in Jesus grants us entry into what the Bible calls “eternal life.” Positionally regenerated believers live in what Paul called “newness of life,” even now, although not yet to its fullest extent!

Before a person comes to Christ by faith or rejects His kind offer of forgiveness, they have before them two roads. One leads to eternal life, and one leads to eternal destruction (see above verses). But what about after we enter in the narrow gate (Jesus)? Those that will not repent and “look unto Jesus” enter the wide gate and travel the broad way that leads to their eternal condemnation. BUT, those who believe in Christ and His finished work at Calvary enter eternal life through Him and are now walking on the difficult road. The road is also known as experiential sanctification.

This road is the pathway in which God, through His Spirit and His word, conforms us to be more like our savior (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6)! We must be conformed unto Him because we have “been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so that we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). 

This road is not easy. As we walk through this world, we will witness and suffer the consequences of sin, ours, and other people. We will have trials and tribulations in this life (James 1:2; John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12; Romans 8:18). BUT, through them God, through His Spirit and Word and with the intercession of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), in His grace makes even these seemingly bad things work out for good (Romans 8:28), and that includes our “transformation” into the beautiful image of our savior!

WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND 

Extended reading: John 1-44

Devotional verses: 21, 32 _ “ Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 32 So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Many things in life happen that we don’t understand. The loss of a teenager in a car accident in the prime of their life. The loss of a father or mother with a growing family. A baby in the womb not able to make it full term. We are at a loss for understanding in these times. We grieve, we question, and we ask why?

Such is the situation that Mary and Martha find themselves in at the death of their beloved brother, Lazarus. Jesus was notified about Lazarus (11:3), but he stayed two days longer where he was (v.6). Jesus eventually travels to Bethany with the disciples. Lazarus has been dead now, four days!

Mary and Martha were grieved at Christ’s delay in coming. In these verses, both ladies question His timing. Not in an outright manner, but more subtle: “if you would have only been here, my brother would not have died.” If only, Lord. We feel the weight of their grief and, at times, experience it ourselves.

“We question God’s timing, God’s seeming lack of concern, His seeming refusal to answer. But Jesus is never late. Jesus is never unconcerned. Did you notice how gentle He is with them? How gracious He is in reminding them of His deity, sovereignty, and power! He then calls their brother out from from the grave (vv. 43-44), and just as He said: “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23), He came forth bound hand and foot in grave cloths, to live yet again on this earth for a time! Jesus never refuses to answer.”

Are you struggling with a lack of understanding? “Are you asking the why questions? Remember, Jesus is always exactly on time. We may not understand, but maybe that’s the point.We aren’t supposed to understand. Instead, we must have faith. Whatever happens has a reason that can reveal His glory if we let it” (v.40).

PRAYER: Father, we find it hard to understand your working among us at times. We struggle with so many questions that seem to go unanswered. Please help us to trust you more wholly. Aid us in our desire for your glory to be on display, especially in those times we are the most conflicted in our thoughts and emotions. Amen.

Some parts adapted from the Travelers devotional Bible

CHRIST’S MINISTRY AMONG MEN BEGINS

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Mark 1:14-15 

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:

  1. Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
  2. 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. 

2But 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).

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” 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; 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).

EXEGETICAL FALLACIES: BY D.A CARSON 


I have been trying to read this book for some time but have often found myself laying it aside amidst the ever-present pressures of priorities. Finally, I did it! I have finished Carson’s book and have now sat down to type my thoughts about this writing into my IPad.

I assume that many of you know who D.A Carson is, but I insert this brief bio from the back of this book for those of you who don’t.

“D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (book written in 1996, 2nd ed.). He has written or edited a variety of contributions, including commentaries on both Matthew and John and The King James Version Debate.”

This book is well written and easy to read, but I would have to read through it possibly two more times thoughtfully to grasp all the wisdom in it. If you are a pastor or teacher, I strongly recommend reading this 148-page paperback. I say that because correct hermeneutics, including but not limited to word studies, grammatical studies, and correct or incorrect presuppositions, are extremely important in faithfully expositing the Word of God accurately.

Honestly, I know that I have made many mistakes in my approach to exegesis over the years in my attempt to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” D. A.’s book reminded me of several. Sadly, many of those were from trusting some commentator’s conclusions, which may not always be wise, as this book points out. Everybody has a theological structure they work from, and sadly, some have to make sure everything lines up with what they believe, thereby falling into some of the fallacies that D.A Carson is writing about.

D.A includes a small but comprehensive index of subjects, authors, and scriptures cited.

In the introduction, the writer clarifies how vital a study like this is for those who want to understand God’s Word and relate it clearly and accurately to others. “Exegetical fallacies are painfully frequent among us-among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.” He rightly opines: “A critical interpretation of scripture is one, that has adequate justification-lexical, grammatical, cultural, theological, historical, geographical, or other justification” for our interpretation of the text.

The writer states that this book has limits: “this is not a highly technical discussion.” However, it was designated for seminary students who take their responsibility seriously. So, since it is not a “technical” study, the writer has not provided extensive bibliographical information. 

This book studies exegetical fallacies, not historical or theological ones. I did appreciate his attempt at even-handedness when he used examples of other’s fallacies. D.A included his errors as well. One I quickly remember is on page 41 relating to his careless appeal to background material. 

Under the heading “word study fallacies” he includes:

  1. The root fallacy
  2. Semantic anachronism
  3. Semantic obsolescence
  4. Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings
  5. Careless appeal to background material
  6. Verbal parallelomania
  7. Linkage of language and mentality
  8. False assumptions about ethnically meaning
  9. Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis 

10. Selective and prejudicial use of evidence

11. Unwarranted semantic disjunction and restrictions

12. Unwarranted restrictions of the semantic field

13. Problems relating to the Semitic background of the Greek New Testament

14. Unwarranted neglect of distinguishing peculiarities of a corpus

15. Unwarranted linking of sense and reference

Chapter one, by far, is the longest chapter in the book. For example, chapter two is only half as long as chapter one, 22 pages.

Chapter two is a discussion on “grammatical fallacies,” Chapter three “logical fallacies,” and chapter four “presuppositional fallacies.”

The book closes with D.A’s “concluding reflections on what he has just presented. I appreciated his encouragement as he completed his writing. I was encouraged because such writing can lead us to the false conclusion that we are wholly inadequate and may want to sit down and shut up. Perhaps we should if it weren’t for the Lord Jesus Christ and His effectual calling upon our lives; first, in our salvation, second, in our service! Listen to D.A:

“but I do not want to end on so negative a note. There is a danger that readers will conclude their perusal of this little book enslaved to deep fears about their own inadequacies for the task of exegesis. A little self-doubt will do no harm and may do a great deal of good: we will be more open to learn and correct our mistakes. But too much will shackle and stifle us with deep insecurities and make us so much aware of methods that we may overlook truth itself.

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. But we will not go far astray if we approach the Bible with a humble mind and then resolve to focus on central truths. Gradually we will build up our exegetical skills by evenhanded study and a reverent, prayerful determination to become like the workman “who correctly handles the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

With that encouragement in mind, I commend this book for your reading list. I have had this book in my library for several years, but I recently saw it on Amazon, the second edition, for $13.79.

This book has been helpful to me in three ways:

  1. D.A reminded me how important humble discernment is in my attempt to interpret scripture correctly. Sometimes we can fall into the pitfall of “just going through the motions,” which is detrimental to our well-being and others as well. 
  2. No matter how blessed we may be with the many theologians, commentators, and professors available to us today, no one is more important to inquire of than the Holy Spirit. You have heard the quip, “discernment is key;” well, the Holy Spirt is the One who gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Much more time in prayer will allow greater interpretation accuracy than much more time in our inquiry of others.
  3. I am inadequate. Left to myself and my wisdom, I will not be able to divide His Word rightly. I need help, His help, and an abundance of it! Preaching and teaching God’s word to others is holy work. It is a heavenly work; it is a work that we who are called to preach and teach are compelled to do: “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I want to get it right in so far as His Spirit leads me, and I trust you do as well.

This book can help in more ways than just meditating on exegetical fallacies! 

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! 

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:

  1. The heavens were opened or parted! The Greek uses a “forceful verb,” which signifies “being torn open, or split.” 
  2. 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).
  3. 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:
  1. The Son submits to the ordinance
  2. The Spirit rests upon the Son
  3. 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:

  1. The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness
  2. He was there forty days
  3. Satan tempted him
  4. He was with the wild beasts
  5. 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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My reading suggestions

I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:

Relating to the Doctrine of God:

  1. J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
  2. Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).

Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:

  1. Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
  2. Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken

Relating to Divine Providence:

  1. Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole

Relating to the incarnation:

  1. Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.

Relating to Justification:

  1. Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
  2. R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.

Relating to the Gospels:

  1. Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).

Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!