Blown away!

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1John 4:10).

I can remember several moments in my life where I was “blown away” by something completely unexpected happening or being said in a particular situation.

An unexpected gift from a relative that went well beyond what I hoped for. A very complimentary job review and pay raise when the meeting was completely unexpected and the raise exceeding any others previously given. Surviving an accident in my truck when I rolled it over three times. My wonderful wife offering me forgiveness rather than harboring unforgiveness

What I mean when I use the expression “blown away” is that I was thoroughly impressed, overwhelmed, or excited by something. The things I mentioned earlier have done that, but all of them combined come nowhere close to what Jesus did for me!

Nothing blows me away more than God, the creator of everything, sending and giving His Son to be my substitute and there by satisfying His wrath against my sin.

God sending and giving His Son in this way for a vile, wretched sinner like me, while daily sinning against Him, is an amazing act of love that can never be matched.

Are you looking for love? Unbridled, unending, sacrificial love? There is only one place, one person in which you can find such love, His name is Jesus! Perhaps it’s time to stop “looking for love in all the wrong places” and look to Him. There is no greater expression of love than the cross of Christ.

JESUS AND DIVORCE

Mark 10:1-12

BRIEF INTRO:

10 “Setting out from there, Jesus *went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds *gathered to Him again, and, as He was accustomed, He once more began to teach them.”

Mark has reported on Christ’s ministry from the “early days” around Jordan and Jerusalem (1:9), Galilee (1:15-6:29), His withdrawal from Galilee, and subsequent ministry in Capernaum, Phoenicia, and Samaria. Unlike Luke and John, Mark does not record Christ’s ministry in Judea but does share with his readers the ministry He had in Perea (10:1-52), His last in Jerusalem, and then His movement to the cross and ultimately His resurrection!

In the last chapter (9), Jesus was in Capernaum and most likely entered the house of Peter, but there is no certainty on that where He asked the disciples what they were discussing along the way. That conversation led to others dealing with discipleship, temptation, and self-denial. Now Mark records that Jesus left that place and “went to the region of Judea” (v.1). The Judea region encompasses Jerusalem, Hebron, and Emmaus, to name a few towns that might help you gain your “geographical “bearings!

Crowds again flocked to Jesus when they saw Him. This has been testified to throughout Mark’s writing. And just as normal and expected as it was for the crowds to gather around Jesus, so it was for Him to teach them. One characteristic of Jesus that stands out through His ministry is selflessness!

And some (Pharisees) came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began questioning Him whether it was lawful for a man to [a]divorce his wife.

FOCUS ONE: THE BIG TEST

We quickly gather that this topic of divorce (and, secondarily, remarriage) was controversial in Christ’s day. But this wasn’t the only controversy that Jesus contended with. Mark shared in 2:1-12 the dispute over Jesus’ right to forgive sins. In 2:13-17, there were issues with His fellowship with tax collectors and “sinners,” His right to do good on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), as well as the disciples eating with unwashed hands (7:1-5, 14-23). 

In this case, the Pharisees approach Jesus to “test” Him. The Pharisees accepted both the written and oral law but were more liberal in interpreting the law, unlike the Sadducees. The Sadducees practiced a literal interpretation of the law and stressed strict observance of it. So, we can understand that these differences play a “major” part in the testing of Jesus on this issue!

The Pharisees question Jesus: (motivation-to test Him)

  • Their question-Was it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Matthew adds, “for any reason.” (Cr. Deuteronomy 24:1).
  • Jesus countered: “what did Moses command you?
  • They said Moses permitted them to “write a certificate of divorce” and send her away.
  • “Because of the hardness of the offending party (in the cruelty of their unfaithfulness to their spouse). Jesus replied that Moses “permitted” it because of their hardness of heart. It was also permitted because of the hardness of the offended party (being unable to forgive and restore a damaged relationship).
  • They tried to get Jesus to speak against Mose or popular opinion.
  • Note: “Incompatibility, not loving each other anymore, brutality, and misery are NOT grounds for divorce, though they may be proper grounds for a separation and consequent celibacy within marriage.” Forgiveness and reconciliation are prized jewels of the gospel and are to be sought after in any relationship, especially the marital relationship!

Some other questions that need to be addressed are: What is a “certificate of divorce? Was divorce commanded OR permitted? Is the biblical view of marriage and divorce the same in our culture today? The process?

And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a [a]certificate of divorce and [b]send his wife away.” But Jesus said to them, “[c]Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God created them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother[d], and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”

FOCUS TWO: JESUS’ EXPLANATION OF MARRIAGE

There is so much in Jesus’ response that time alludes me of the opportunity of being exhaustive in my comments, so let me highlight the main things:

The main point is that divorce was not God’s plan from the beginning!

  • From the beginning of creation, God made males and females (Genesis 1:27). He created marriage so that male and female (for this cause) would leave their parents and become “one flesh.”
  • God joins males and females in covenant; through “sexual relations,” they become one flesh.
  • No longer viewed as two separate entities within the bonds of marriage (One flesh). “But two souls in one body, with a complete union of interests, and indissoluble partnership of life, fortune, comfort and support, desires and inclinations, joys and sorrows.”
  • No man (District justice, judge, etc.) has the biblical authority to “separate” or make divorce provisions. (Why? Because it’s not merely a social contract, it is a spiritually binding covenant before God).

The debate is centered around Deuteronomy 24:1, a Mosaic law that permitted divorce. The question the rabbis sought to answer was: what constituted uncleanness?

Two schools of thought:

Rabbi Hillel- “Understood uncleanness to mean any sort of discretion.”

Rabbi Shammai- “understood that uncleanness (Deuteronomy) meant sexual immorality and said that was the only valid reason for divorce.”

“William Barclay described the teaching of Rabbi Hillel on divorce and the term uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1. “They said that it could mean if the wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman (who was defined as a woman whose voice could be heard in the next house). Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.”

Some rabbis even went so far as to say that it was a man’s religious duty to divorce a lousy wife. Here we see where Jesus differed and the Pharisees wanted to try and use that against Him.

This is why the “certificate of divorce” was permitted. It provided a degree of protection for the innocent spouse and removed the stigma of her unfaithfulness in the marriage. It provided her with the opportunity to remarry.

It is important to note that Matthew adds “for any cause at all” (v. 3), which reveals the thinking mentioned above. I love how Jesus asks: “Have you not read” (Matthew 19:4). These Pharisees should be well educated in what scriptures teach. They would have known Malachi 2:14 and Genesis 1:27)!

10 And in the house the disciples again began questioning Him about this. 11 And He *said to them, “Whoever [a]divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself [b]divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

FOCUS THREE: WHY IT MATTERS

  • God’s design for marriage

Was and always will be that a man and woman unite together in the covenant of matrimony until death. The word translated as “be joined” literally means “to glue,” reflecting the strength of the marriage bond.

That the marriage union would be a picture of Christ and His love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

That marriage between a man and a woman would constitute the firmest foundation for building a family.

That God-designed sexual expression would help married couples build and express intimacy with one another. Sexual relations outside the marriage covenant is forbidden.

When God designed or created marriage, He pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It is still good in His eyes. Mankind has perverted this sacred union in many ways: sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, trans-sexual, or any other irregular sexual behavior has destroyed families and weakened our society. 

“No fault” divorces have made it much easier to end a marriage “for any reason.” But God does not forget the covenant that was made before Him.

So, with these things in mind, we must remember that God, not the state, established biblical marriage (Genesis 2:21-25). It is between a “male” and a “female” only. It is a sacred institution in His eyes and, therefore, NOT something to be thrown away when the going gets tough. Instead, it is something worth fighting for! 

Marriage is a gospel issue. That is why clarity about its definition matters, and so does its purpose and longevity. “If we depart from, or fail to stand up for, the biblical view of marriage, we are taking a step away from the gospel itself. The whole bible is a story of the marital love of God, our whole lives are that story if we have eyes to see.”

Perhaps that statement is new to you. Think about it. Two sinners living together, always seeking to serve the self, now have to learn how to serve their spouse! We tend to make things more about ourselves; it makes sense, that is our nature. But just like anything else in this universe-IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT HIM. 

“Our earthly marriage as Christian’s paints a vibrant portrait to the watching world of this divine design. God’s blueprint is for Christ and the church to become one (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13).”

“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9).

Enduringword.com bible commentary

Holman Book of Biblical charts, maps, and reconstructions

Life way.com article

THE CALL TO SELF-DENIAL

Mark 9:38-50

BRIEF INTRO: We have just observed the disciples discussing who would be the greatest (9:34), their lack of understanding regarding the Lord’s death and resurrection (9:31), and their impotence regarding the ability to cast out the demon (9: 18), and their confusion over the transfiguration (9:5-6). And now we witness a weakness in their understanding regarding unity in ministry (9:38). They lacked humility, experience, and proper ministry perspective, and yet, time and time again, we see Jesus, the patient “teacher” (v. 38), instructing them.

I am so thankful for the patience of Jesus. Just like these men, I struggle at times with understanding His words. I am “slow” to grasp His will for me and walk in it. I require constant reminders and exhortations regarding His teachings to stay focused on what He would have me be and do. Perhaps you can relate to this as well.

38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For the one who is not against us is [a]for us. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink [b]because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

FOCUS ONE: A snapshot of unity

John calls him teacher, and rightly so because that is one of the roles He is filling now. Jesus has spent and will spend much time teaching these men about the kingdom and their role in it. He has also shifted a bit in what He has been teaching because the time for His death, burial, and resurrection is approaching, and they need to be ready for it (8:27-31). Over and over again, we witnessed the disciple’s lack of understanding of the things Jesus taught them (the previous post catalogs them). Sadly, that reality holds as they move forward into Capernaum.

In Capernaum, in “the house” (probably the one belonging to Peter and Andrew 1:29), Jesus assumes the posture of a Jewish rabbi; he sits down and begins teaching them. You can find our study on the previous verses HERE 

During this private time with Jesus, John speaks about an incident that occurred during their travels. He tells Jesus of a man they encountered casting out demons in Jesus’ name, AND he wasn’t one of the twelve (v.38)!

This person WAS casting out demons successfully

In the name of Jesus 

The disciples (we) tried to stop him!

The disciples thought that anyone that wasn’t in their small group couldn’t be serving Christ in the right way (v. 38). It’s as if to say that if someone is not in our particular church, following our brand of theology, or even doing things just like us, then they must not be “of us.” 

Jesus’ viewed it differently than the disciples

He tells them not to hinder such a person. Do not stop him. It appears evident that by this person using Jesus’ name, he is acknowledging a relationship with Him. He is just not among the called-out 12! He manifested by seeking to serve the Lord that he was “with Jesus” or on the same team by faith, even if he was not in their group. The disciples were quick to dismiss anyone that wasn’t in their “click” or doing things in a way they felt proper.

Application: We should not be too quick to dismiss or rebuke others serving Christ simply because they do not do things the way we do or are not in our church, our ministry team, or our denomination!

But, like Christ, we should appreciate others seeking to live for Christ and save the lost! This is what unity is. The “church” is far more vast than our local congregations. It is worldwide, which means many other people are living for Christ and serving Him in different ways than us due to their geographical situation and different cultural or societal realities. If Jesus recognizes that “he who is not against us is for us,” why can’t we?

41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink [a]because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

FOCUS TWO: Rewards for service and condemnation for leading astray

In verse forty-one, we read about somebody exhibiting “kindness” to those who follow Christ and that they have a reward that will not be lost! This act of kindness seems small and insignificant compared to the previously mentioned exorcism. In our fallen minds giving a cup of water to our pastor who is parched from preaching is nothing compared to performing an exorcism. 

But we see in this verse that Jesus broadens His previous words (vv.39-40) to include activity beside exorcism. Even I would add other acts that we might consider more significant, excellent, and valuable. “Even one who performs the smallest act of hospitality in Jesus’ name, such as giving a cup of water to someone because he belongs to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. He will ultimately be recompensed by participation in God’s kingdom (v.47; Matthew 25:34-40), not on the basis of merit but because of God’s gracious promise to people of faith” (Luke 12:31-32).

42 “Whoever causes one of these [a]little ones who believe in Me to [b]sin, it is better for him if a heavy millstone is hung around his neck and he [c]is thrown into the sea.”

I place this verse in this focus point because it seems to contextually fit here better than it would with what follows. It appears to coincide or go along with the previous verses that spoke of the disciple’s attempt to stop an unknown man from removing a demon in Jesus’ name (v. 38). 

“Little ones” in this context does not appear to be speaking of small children; rather, it bodes well with followers of Jesus. As we read this statement, it quickly becomes evident that this offense is serious in the Lord’s eyes. So severe that “it would be better for one to be drowned than to commit it.” The verb “cause to sin” (skandalise) refers to enticing or provoking a follower of Jesus Christ to turn away from Him resulting in spiritual damage. 

To sum this up, scripture is saying to us: “1.The undeveloped faith of the exorcist (v.38) or anyone else who acts in Jesus’ name (v.41) should be encouraged rather than ruined by harsh criticism or sectarian  bias.” 

43 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed, than, having your two hands, to go into [a]hell, into the unquenchable fire.[b45 And if your foot is causing you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life without a foot, than, having your two feet, to be thrown into [c]hell.[d47 And if your eye is causing you to sin, throw it away; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be thrown into [e]hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not extinguished. 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you [f]make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

FOCUS THREE: Self-denial for the sake of the gospel 

These verses teach that followers of Christ should be diligentvigilant, and radical in their fight against the sinful flesh, denying it all its wickedness instead of continuing to practice sin, satisfying the flesh, and going to hell.

That’s why we take notice of the language of mortification. If your hand—cut it off; if your foot—cut it off; if your eye—cast it out.

Why such harsh, violent language? Because our pathway to eternal life is riddled with our constant battle against our unredeemed flesh. Temptations abound. Our flesh is always hungry and wants to be satisfied, so we need to deny the flesh, which requires radical steps.

These divine words are telling us that self-denial and the “mortification” of our flesh with its enmity against God are worth the temporal cost or perceived and actual loss we suffer in this life for the glories of the next! 

“Self-denial expressed in the mortification of the flesh is evidence of a regenerated heart and such people enter into heaven. The opposite is true of those who do not bear such fruit worthy of or exhibiting a regenerative work within.”

How are we supposed to understand these words in verse fifty?: “salted with fire.”

“1Viewed in three different ways: (1) It could refer to every unbeliever who enters hell. They will be salted with fire in the sense that as salt preserves food, so they will be preserved throughout an eternity of fiery judgment. (2) “Everyone” could refer to every disciple living in this hostile world. They will be salted with fire in the sense that Old Testament sacrifices were seasoned with salt (Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24). Disciples, living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), will be seasoned with purifying trials (1 peter 1:7; 4:12). The trials will purge out what is contrary to God’s will and preserve what is consistent with it. (3) Everyone” could refer to every person in general. All will be “salted with fire” in a time and manner appropriate to their relationship with Jesus— for nonbelievers, the preserving fire of judgment; for disciples, the refining fire of present trials and suffering. This last view seems preferable.”

Salt is a good thing. Who doesn’t enjoy dumping it over corn on the cob, potatoes, and cucumbers? It seasons and preserves. “The main source of salt in Palestine was from the area southwest of the Dead (salt) Sea. The coarse, impure salt from the saline deposits of this area was susceptible to deterioration, leaving savor less, salt like crystals as residue. If it loses its saltiness (savory quality), it cannot be refined so such salt is worthless.”

These scriptures warn the disciples and all who will follow Christ because of them to maintain their allegiance to Jesus at all costs and purge out destructive influences.

Verse 50, “have salt in yourselves.” “2Jesus is warning His disciples not to lose that characteristic in them that brings life to the world and prevents its decay. But what is that characteristic that, if lost, will make the disciples of Jesus worthless? It is the disciples spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice (v. 49) to Jesus Christ and His gospel. It will only be possible for disciples to be at peace with one another where that kind of devotion instead of self-interest prevails (v. 34).”

So, in concluding this part of our study together, I want to point out three warnings that the Lord has given throughout His teaching, while in Capernaum First, there is a warning to humility in verse 35. Then an admonition to good fellowship within the body in verse 39. Lastly, a warning to maintain faithful allegiance to Christ at all costs in verses 43-49. 

How are we doing in these three areas? What can we take away from this teaching to aid us in our prayers in these three areas?

1 The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pages 147-148

2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 709

HUSBANDS AND WIVES need EACH OTHER!

Extended reading: Job 2

Devotional reading: Job 2:9-10

There are many things in this life that can place us in a time of desperation. It is one thing to lose some comforts that this life affords; a job, convenience, or health, but quite another to lose the support of a spouse. In times of our greatest struggles we need our spouses, we need their support, counsel, and presence. We need their “vote of confidence” when everyone else has none. We need their hugs of assurance when everyone else may be cold toward us. We need to feel their presence when no one else is there.

We do not know much about Job’s wife, but what we read in these verses is very telling and extremely heartbreaking. She appears to be a very bitter woman and unable to share in his pain. She seems to have turned away from faith, and the result: a cold callous heart. They needed each other, perhaps now more than ever, but we read that they are separated, isolated in their emotional anguish and Job’s physical pain.

“In all fairness to Job’s wife, her agony was unfathomable, and she undoubtedly spoke out of sheer pain and frustration. After all, she had suffered the same losses as Job. All of her children died in what seemed like a freak accident, and the wealth that Job and his family enjoyed vanished in an instant.” Even so, her agony doesn’t excuse her harsh words.

I wish that scripture recorded Job’s wife relenting and coming by his side, but it doesn’t. The mutual love and encouragement shared would have helped them both during this time of great loss. 

We need to be present for our spouses. Physically, emotionally, and mentally there for them, especially when things get rough. Our tendency is to isolate ourselves when we need to open our hearts with our loved ones. Our tendency is to “act” like we’re ok when we are falling apart. Let’s learn from Job and his wife and resolve to love one another and care for one another while praying with each other as we face the storms of this life together.

Adapted from Every mans Bible

Humility

Mark 9:30-37

BRIEF INTRO: We now find Jesus and His disciples traveling through northeastern Galilee (1:9), heading toward Capernaum (v. 33). Mark reveals that the Lord did not want anyone to know about it. Why? As we move forward in this study, we will again observe the incredible lack of understanding the disciples had regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord, their Messiah. 

We see that the Lord taught them the very same things He had taught them before, i.e., what is about to happen to Him to fulfill prophecy and to be the propitiation for sin. They fail to comprehend His teaching, which leads to the discussion they have together when they arrive in Capernaum and are in “the house.” 

30 And from there, they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be [a]handed over to men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they [b]did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

FOCUS ONE: Time alone

First, we should notice the secrecy that Jesus sought in His travels. He was a prevalent figure, and as we have seen in our study, the multitudes sought Him out (Mark 9:15,25; 6:34,54; 5:21; 4:1; 3:7; 2:1-2). It was not uncommon for Jesus to want secrecy (7:24). Perhaps He wanted some rest before He engaged with the multitudes again. Maybe He sought an opportunity to be alone with the Twelve to prepare them for His coming crucifixion fully. Whether or not it was one or the other or both, it is clear He desired this time alone with them. 

As they traveled through Galilee to Capernaum, Jesus taught them about the coming suffering that He would endure. His teaching is consistent with all His previous teaching regarding His crucifixion (9:9-12; 8:31). Similarly, their lack of understanding (6:52; 7:18; 8:17, 21, 32; 9:10, 32). 

It appears that the disciples are possibly gaining an idea of how woefully ignorant they remain after repeated teaching from Jesus (v.32). This time, they are afraid to ask what He means. We shouldn’t be quick to judge these men because we are like them. How much teaching have we received from the Lord through scripture and His pastors and teachers that He placed in our lives? How often do we scratch our heads in uncertainty and doubt? 

Information overload. I have acted just like this in the workplace as well. Maybe you can relate to me. I am thinking of the new job and the training that begins on day one! Remember how much information is meted out to you in big chunks, more on top of more on top of even more. Some of which are not grasped. And some things are a bit more uncertain, so we ask our trainer the same questions repeatedly until we become self-conscious about it and then become afraid to ask our trainer again for fear of making them angry with us.

A lack of understanding at times is part of our human condition.

33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them: “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.

FOCUS TWO: Who’s the greatest?

If ignorance and fear aren’t enough, now we read that the twelve our discussing which one of them was the greatest. John MacArthur points out that the dispute could have resulted from Peter, James, and John’s privilege in witnessing the Transfiguration. Reading through the New Testament, you will find that matters of rank were essential to the Jews (Luke 14:7-11). So this was possibly a genuine concern for these men in light of the coming messianic kingdom and their part in it.

Whatever the reasoning behind the discussion, one thing is sure: They did not understand the scope of what was about to happen and what it meant. Jesus asks them about their conversation, but they “kept silent.” I would venture to guess because of embarrassment. Think about it; the greatest among them is Jesus, their rabbi, friend, and Messiah! Which one of them could ever come close to Him? So, since they chose to remain silent, Jesus sat down (normal posture for a rabbi) and began to teach them.

35 And sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And He took a child and placed him among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever [a]receives [b]one child like this in My name [c]receives Me; and whoever [d]receives Me does not [e]receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

FOCUS THREE: Humility

In this teaching of Jesus, we find that “the disciples concept of greatness, and leadership, drawn from their culture, needed to be completely reversed. Not those who lord their position over others are great in God’s kingdom, but those who humbly serve others” (10:31, 43-45; Luke 13:30; 14:8-11).

Notice the opposite way of thinking about such things: “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” And then Jesus, to illustrate what “servanthood” is, uses a little child demonstrate.

The meaning of the illustration seems clear. “True greatness entails caring about people-insignificant people like children-because Jesus Himself is concerned about them.” In doing so, we receive Jesus and the One who sent Him, the Heavenly Father (v. 37). 

Followers of Jesus Christ should be known for their selflessness, not selfishness. They should be known for their humility, not pride. They should be known for their fellowship with Christ, not men’s praises! These are three things I know I need to be more prayerful about. How about you?

MacArthur Study Bible

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF SELF-RELIANCE

Extended reading: 1 Chronicles 10:1-10

Devotional reading: v. 4

“Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “take your sword and run me through before these pagan Philistines come and humiliate me.” But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.”

Here is a horrifying account of personal defeat. Saul had started out well. He had so much going for him. He was born into a wealthy family (1 Samuel 9:1). He was tall and handsome (9:2). He was chosen by God to be Israels’ king (9:16), and he had a heart that was changed by God (10:9)! At first, he was humble; he was willing to follow the leadership of the prophet Samuel. But then he began to take matters into his own hands. And that is when the name of Saul was turned into a synonym for “bad king.” 

Once he started on the downward spiral, he added rebellion to rebellion. But what led to his fall from glory? “His fall from glory can be traced to a single problem that many men face even today: fear of what others think.” First, Saul let his fear of a dangerous enemy lead him to disobey a clear instruction from God (1 Samuel 13:8-10). Second, he let his fear of his own people’s disapproval nudge him to disobey yet another clear command from God. He spared the life of a man God commanded him to kill (1 Samuel 15:9).

Fear of others led directly to Saul’s ruin and to this sad Old Testament judgement: “Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul” (16:14). The final outcome was the defeat described in these verses. We need to be careful! The fear of men can be a powerful driving influence in our lives. We are capable of starting down this same pathway toward complete disaster. We must seek God daily. And no matter how we may go astray, He can redirect our courseback to His ways and redeem us.

Adapted from Every man’s Bible NLT

UNBELIEF VERSUS FAITH

Mark 9: 14-29

BRIEF INTRO: You might remember that the several previous chapters in this writing revealed a sense of doubt and unbelief in who Jesus was, not only by the multitudes but, sadly, the disciples as well. In our previous study, the Lord was transfigured before the disciples, an act of tremendous patience and kindness shown by Christ to, once again, help these men (Peter, James, and John) understand more fully who He truly is.

These three men were part of the “inner circle” of disciples and needed to grasp the truth that Jesus, the kingdom’s King was teaching them. They had to comprehend and believe that He would die and rise again, so sinners could be forgiven and enter His kingdom! These men needed to help the other disciples understand that as well. Together they would be sent into the world to proclaim these truths to people who desperately needed to hear them.

“1The transfiguration is a revelation of the glory of the Son of God, a glory now hidden but to be manifested completely and openly at the end of the age, when the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father to render judgement on the world” (Mark 8:38). But, we read how they left the mountain discussing with one another what “rising from the dead might mean” (v. 10), clearly still struggling with doubts, questions, and a lack of faith.

14 And when they came back to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you disputing with them?”

FOCUS ONE: What are you talking about?

As they were coming down from the mountain, they saw a “large crowd” gathered around the other disciples in the distance. They notice some scribes around them as well, arguing with them. What were they arguing about? Mark doesn’t tell us, and neither do the other gospel accounts. I speculate that if we stick to the immediate context, we’ll have our answer. They appear to be arguing with the disciples over the fact that they couldn’t heal the man’s son (v. 17). Notice that Jesus asks them, “what are you discussing with them?” And then a man from the crowd “answered Him.”

The scribes always seem to monitor Jesus. “1If the transfiguration took place on Mount Hermon, the presence of the teachers of the law [scribes] so far north in Palestine indicates their concern in monitoring the teaching and preaching of Jesus.” 

So Jesus’ inquiry about the heated discussion was answered by a man whose son was demon-possessed. “2The boy had a demonically induced inability to speak,” and the nine disciples left behind when they went on the mountain could not heal him. 

So why would the scribes be arguing with them over that? Perhaps they viewed them as fake, impotent, wannabes of their rabbi, Jesus. Maybe they just wanted to “rub-it-in.” Whatever their reason, Jesus’s rebuke of the situation was meant for all. The crowd, the scribes, and even the disciples. “O, unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you” (v. 19)?

We also notice in these verses that the crowd ran up to greet Jesus as He approached. “They were amazed” (v. 15). Amazed at what? He hadn’t said anything. Nor had He done anything. Were they amazed at an afterglow that resulted from the transfiguration that just occurred? Most commentators do not think so. “Was this the afterglow of the transfiguration lingered on His face? This is unlikely, especially in view of His instruction for the disciples to keep the event a secret.”

Most likely, they were amazed because His presence was unexpected, creating a sense of wonder about why He was there.

17 And one person from the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, because he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and [a]whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes stiff. And I told Your disciples so that they would cast it out, but they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and *said, “O (unbelieving) generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 And they brought [b]the boy to Him. When he saw Him, the spirit immediately threw him into convulsions, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to kill him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 But Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible for (the one who believes.”)

FOCUS TWO: Help my unbelief

Jesus is met by this man who describes what his son has been going through. This young child has been suffering from this from childhood. The father realized that what his son was going through was much more than a common sickness; he understood it to be demon possession. How did he come to that conclusion? Is he the appropriate authority to determine what demon possession is? I think so. After all, he states from childhood, “(it) has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.” That certainly is evidence enough to any reasonable mind that something very odd, even evil, is taking place.

This is quite a list of symptoms the child is struggling with:

Speech loss

Seizures

Foaming at mouth

Grinding teeth

Rigid body

All of which points to demon possession (v. 17).

The man explains to Jesus how he brought his son to the disciples, in his absence, for them to heal him, but they couldn’t (v. 18). This man exhibits faith by bringing his son to these men. His appeal to the disciples was legitimate because Jesus had given them such authority (6:7). 

The disciples, the nine that did not go up to the mountain, could not heal the boy. They tried, probably several times (v.28), but to no avail. As I previously mentioned, they had been commissioned and empowered to do this (6:7), and they were successful at it (6:13)!

But this time, they failed. Why? Why was this time any different? According to Jesus, they failed to cast it out because of their lack of faith and prayer (vv. 19, 29). “Apparently they had taken for granted the power given them or had come to believe that it was inherent in themselves. So, they no longer depended prayerfully on God for it, and their failure showed their lack of prayer.”

So the boy is brought to Jesus, and instantly the evil spirit throws him into convulsions, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. This must have been a scary sight for the other parents in the crowd. The father, helpless and struggling to maintain some sense of hope, says to Jesus,” if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v. 22)!

Jesus responds, “If you can, all things are possible to him who believes.” The point is not about Jesus being able to heal (v. 22) BUT about the boys’ fathers’ ability to trust in God to heal (10:27).

And that is where the “rubber meets the road,” isn’t it? How do we respond when someone we love is seriously ill? When hope seems lost and the worst outcome inevitable? We need to be reminded from this event that the issue IS NEVER about whether or not God can heal; we certainly have enough evidence that shows He can. But it IS ALWAYS about our ability to trust Him, even if He chooses not to heal in His providence.

What was the father’s response? “I do believe” (v. 24). Now, take notice of the rest of his declaration: “help my unbelief.” I think he said this loudly (cried out) and honestly. Some may surmise that this man contradicts himself, but I think that would be a poor interpretation of what’s going on in his heart. Jesus elicited faith in this man, but at the same time, he recognized that his faith was far from perfect. Have you ever experienced that in your own heart? If we are honest with ourselves, we know that there isn’t one of us that has not experienced this in our own lives.

I love the honesty and simplicity of his cries. He has been facing terrible, heat-wrenching things in the life of his family and his child. He is growing weary, but as we see here, he has not given up what little bit of hope he still clings to. His faith is small, but it is still alive!

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was [a]rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I [b]command you, come out of him and do not enter him [c]again!” 26 And after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him, and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began asking Him privately, “Why is it that we could not cast it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything except prayer.”

FOCUS THREE: The authority of Christ

With the crowds rapidly increasing, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit. It appears that the crowd mentioned in verse twenty-five would be in addition to what has been mentioned in verse fifteen when they came down off the mountain. A more literal reading of “rapidly gathering” would be “running together.” So we have many people quickly encircling Jesus and this man. It doesn’t take much wisdom to understand how forceful and energetic the crowds probably were.

Some people may credit this boy’s sickness to some disease, not demon possession. Epilepsy is one such disease that is noted in some commentaries. That might be helpful to us if it wasn’t for the fact that Christ Himself understands the child’s problem to be demon possession (v. 17 He does not refute it; In v. 25 He rebukes the unclean spirit, and in vv. 28-29, in His discussion with the disciples, He continues to affirm the demonic cause).

The demon that appears to have always wanted to destroy the child (vv. 21-22) is cast out. But not without a last, horrific display of his evil motivations. Why didn’t the demon kill him at some point over the years? He couldn’t. God is sovereign over all and everything; therefore, the demons can only do what God allows them to do (read the book of Job for clarity on this topic). 

The effect of the demon being cast out is such that the boy’s body lay lifeless on the ground in front of all the watching eyes (v. 26). But who has the ultimate authority over life and death? Jesus! He takes him by the hand, and the boy “got up.”

Now you can speculate how all of this has been working on the disciples’ minds. Notice how short yet direct Jesus replies to them: “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” It is paramount in their thinking (v. 28). Why couldn’t we do that? 

These men cast demons out before under the authority of Christ, but not this time. Why? What was different? The context suggests that they failed this time because they didn’t prayerfully depend on God for His power. Perhaps they trusted in previous successes. Maybe they figured that the power was given to them and is just innate within them now to use as necessary. It is easy to see how quickly they would fall into a place of not seeking God’s power for His work when they believe it is already a constant within themselves.

Jesus, with direct brevity, and great patience, reminds and reinforces the seemingly simple truth that they need God to do His work. So do we. How often do we move forward in our Christian walk living off of our past victories, bible reading, and church service, assuming they will be effective for our present experience? How often do we move forward without praying and seeking God? How much do we need direct patient reminders and rebukes from the Lord?

Nothing else is said about the conversation after Jesus’ reply. We are left to surmise how His words affected their hearts and minds. But we know by reading through Acts and the Epistles that it had a lasting impact!

  1. The Expositors Bible Commentary
  2. Macarthur Study Bible

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

27 “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).

Have you ever thought about how what we hear affects us? So many things these days gain our ear’s attention. From radios blaring music to anything and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on our phones. Listening is an activity that we are actively engaged in daily. So, what are you listening to?

According to one article, I found in my studies; sound affects us in four ways:

  1. 1. Physiologically (It affects our bodies)

For example, Our hearing is an immediate warning sense; sudden sounds start the warning process.

  1. 2. Psychologically (It changes our emotions and moods)

For example, the sounds of music, nature, and heavy equipment affect our emotional state, sometimes very intensely.

  1. 3. Cognitively (It affects our thought processes)

For example, when we try to listen to loud music or television while doing homework). 

  1. 4. Behaviorally (Sound causes stress and make us behave differently, positively or negatively).

For example, those gentle, soothing sounds contrasted with loud, piercing ones.

We know these things are true. It makes sense to consider the types of things we give our ears to.

Sometimes hearing God gets complicated with the plethora of other things that fill our ears. These things affect us and often move us away from opportunities to listen to Him.

Listening to the “right” things will affect us in all those ways previously mentioned-But in a much healthier way! How often do we listen to sound, biblical preaching? God-honoring music? Other godly people, and especially the Word of the living God? I expect our answers to these questions will determine how affected we are by His truth.

4 ways sound affects you, Julian Treasure (web)

QUESTIONS

Mark 9:9-13

BRIEF INTRO: Peter, James, and John were taken up to a high mountain with Jesus, where He was transfigured before them. These three men, out of the twelve that Christ called unto Himself, were the closest to Him, the “inner circle” that witnessed many things that the others did not. This was one of those times. 

To these three disciples, Jesus gave a special privilege of previewing His kingdom. But in this case, it wasn’t a repeat of the view presented in Matthew thirteen (“the kingdom of heaven is like). Rather, “it was a glimpse of the kingdom as it will be when it has been completely established, and Jesus is revealed to all as its King.”

These men were the key disciples that Jesus would use to motivate and encourage others. To these men, all twelve, the gospel would be entrusted. The gospel was to move forward and be proclaimed throughout the world. I think this goal, at least in part, was to encourage and motivate these three men. We have witnessed their doubts along the way, so something as grand as this would increase their faith and understanding of who Jesus is and why He came, lived among them, and would ultimately die and rise again!

As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, [a]until the Son of Man rose from the dead.”

FOCUS ONE: What happens on the mountain. . .

The central theme of this vision is Jesus, the king! He is the whole point. These men have just been given a glimpse of the divine nature of Jesus. Some of His glory radiated externally (that was within shined through) for them to see who He truly was and in such a powerful and memorable way so that they would understand more wholly why He would have to suffer and die. 

Can you imagine yourself witnessing such an event and then being told to keep it to yourself? Would you be able to? Jesus instructs them “not to relate to anyone what they had seen.” But this instruction or exhortation was limited in time. It was not to be kept a secret forever, only until “the Son of Man should rise from the dead” (v. 9). 

“Only from the perspective of the resurrection would they understand the transfiguration and thus be able to proclaim its meaning correctly.” It appears that they believed in a future resurrection (John 11:24), but their misunderstanding of His messianic kingdom’s nature was evident. And so…

10 “They [a]seized upon [b]that statement, discussing with one another [c]what rising from the dead meant.”

FOCUS TWO: Healthy dialogue 

They “seized upon” or kept those words to themselves. This “keeping” is similar to what Mary did (Luke 2:19) after she heard so many good things about her baby boy. One exception would be that while Mary kept those things to herself (pondered them in her heart), they kept discussing what Christ’s words meant with one another. Especially His statement regarding rising from the dead. What does rising from the dead mean? 

Again, it is clear that they were perplexed by Jesus’ words. What is instructive for us is that they wanted to understand what He was saying to them! They kept on discussing His words together. The dialogue and possibly debates about what He meant continued for some time, most likely even up to the events at Gethsemane, the trials, and then the cross.

I love their zeal to understand! I love the discussion, dialogue, and debates that ensued over His words. I am excited that they wanted to know truth, understand theology (although they may not have viewed it that way at the time), and even their willingness to engage in thoughtful debate over the issue. We can learn much from this observation. We are witnessing the demise of such things in our society. Rather than polite, thoughtful discussion to know the truth, we resort to yelling, canceling, and even violence. God help us.

What does rising from the dead mean? One commentator points out: “The disciples did not understand the distinction between “the second coming” (8:38) and “the resurrection” (9:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale.” 

11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does come first and he restores all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has [a]indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written of him.”

FOCUS THREE: The authority of scripture

It is not odd for the scribes to come into the conversation. However, it is a bit unusual that the Pharisees are not mentioned with them. But it is rather insightful, especially when we notice Jesus’ response to the question. The Scribes and the Pharisees sat in “Moses’ seat. That is equivalent to a university’s “chair of philosophy. “The expression here may be translated as “[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”-stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priest and Levites had authority to decide matters of law (Deuteronomy 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the word of God (Matthew 15:3-9). For that Jesus condemned them (Matthew 23:8-36).”

Jesus, in this case, does not invalidate their teaching regarding Elijah. He clarifies it! The word “must” is a verb (dei) that in Greek speaks of the absolute necessity that this must occur. So this is a logical question being asked of Jesus in light of Malachi four and their recent experience on the mountain.

The question seems to be, how does the appearance of Elijah on the mountain relate to the scribe’s teaching? Let me sum up Jesus’ answer in this way:

“The sequence of thought is as follows: (1) Elijah is coming as the restorer (Malachi 4:5); (2) he came, unrecognized, in the person of John the Baptist, and was killed; (3) the Son of Man faces a like fate. The disciples seem to grasp only the first two points.”

We will witness these very words of Jesus coming true as we continue moving forward in our study of Mark. 

One last observation for our consideration. Did you notice the statement “just as it is written of him” in verse thirteen regarding John the Baptist, and again in verse twelve “how is it written” concerning the Son of man? Those statements should encourage our study of scripture and equip us in our daily walk and ministries because they reveal Jesus’ high view of scripture! He believes it to be authoritative, and so should we!

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 143

Preceptaustin commentaries, online

Macarthur Study Bible, pg. 1436

God without passions

Sometimes we shy away from theological terms that we do not understand. We find them “uncomfortable” or even “unimportant” in our daily Christian life. We need to rethink such fallacies. I think that when we take the time to study such terms, we’ll find greater encouragement to walk with God. I also believe that a better understanding of who God is and why He functions or operates the way He does will fill us with a greater sense of joy in our daily walk of faith.

Case in point: The impassibility of God.

To use such a term concerning God is to say that He is impassible or “without passions.” In other words, God is not moved by something that would provoke a change in Him. We are the opposite. You and I are “passible” creatures, susceptible to a constant shifting, up and down, regarding our emotions and choices. All types of outward forces motivate, unmotivated, or cause us to choose one thing over another. God is NOT like us!

“God is never moved by something that would provoke a change in Him. The creature (us) does not exert a force on the creator that changes Him and causes Him to move toward a perceived good or away from a perceived bad” (Dr. Samuel D. Renihan).

This should be fantastic news! It means that God’s love and mercy, for example, are constant, not fluid, in His dealings with us. To say it another way: “God is love” (1 John 4:8); he is not moved to love. “Because God’s love is not a passion, he can no more cease to love than He can cease to be (exist).”

This is why “God relates to His creation and loves His people with an everlasting love precisely because God loves us from His own ‘infinite fullness’ and not based on perceived goodness in us.”

His mercy is similar. God is not moved to compassion by something He perceives in us. “Unlike God, our mercy towards others depends on “feeling our heartstrings being pulled toward someone.” You and I can find great encouragement in this truth, knowing that we can always confidently call out to God, knowing that He is not merciful BUT mercy itself! Praise God; His mercy is not a passion like ours.