WHEN DOUBT ARISES

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Mark 4: 35-41

BRIEF INTRO: After so long a period of teaching, confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, and the multitude’s relentless desire to be near Him, Jesus, say’s to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side,” most likely the east side of the Sea of Galilee. At this time, a “fierce gale of wind arose” (v. 37), which brought with it a challenge to the disciples and an opportunity for Jesus! Jesus, presumably exhausted, falls asleep in the stern (very back) of the boat. 

35 On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” 36 After dismissing the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37 And a fierce gale of wind *developed, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling with water. 38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS ONE: The circumstances

After expressing to the disciples that He desired to cross over the sea, Mark tells us that the disciples began sending away the multitude listening to His teaching, “they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat” (v. 36). In other words, there didn’t have to be any lengthy preparation for the trip. Jesus was already sitting in the boat, and that is how it appears He remained as they set out. 

Mark also tells us that “other boats were with Him” (vs. 36). So, some people had their boats here as well, and rather than leave Jesus as the vast majority of people had to do, they wanted to remain with Him and so followed them in their boats.

A severe storm arises, and the waves overtake the boat; it is “filling up” (v 37). This storm was sudden and dangerous. It shouldn’t be hard for us to understand the disciple’s fear and panic amid such circumstances. Most of us have faced less prevailing circumstances and “freaked out” over them! Like us, these men were human and struggled with fear over the uncertain and ever-changing events of their day. Also, we can add another element to their fear of the waves and subsequent doubt with Jesus’ concern for them. That element would be their (lack of understanding) of exactly who Jesus is.

These men had already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had accomplished. They had listened to and had explained to them many of His teachings (vv.10,34). They should have had a strong faith in Him by now. Worrying shouldn’t be a part of their thinking anymore, considering all they heard and saw. BUT they still feared. Why? 

Simply put: “it’s in our blood.” It’s human nature to fear what we can’t control. But thankfully, for those who are “in Christ,” we don’t have to live any longer as slaves of fear. Even though our un-redeemed flesh is corrupted and seeks to hold us in fear, we have an advocate and Helper, The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 1:13).

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS TWO: The challenge

They doubt he cares for them as the waves rise higher and the boat rocks steeper. They were in a perilous situation, and the only One that could help them was sleeping! Jesus must have been exhausted if the rocking and reeling of the boat did not awaken Him. The “cushion” that He would have been laying on is said to be a sailor’s leather rowing cushion which would have been used to give some comfort to the sailor as he rowed across the sea. 

It seems to be a bit ironic that they would express belief in Him as the One who could save them, but at the same time doubt His concern for them (v. 38)! I guess we’re all like that at times. But that does pose an interesting question for us to muse over: If Jesus is powerful enough to save us from our worst of fears (condemnation and separation from Him forever), why would we doubt His constant love and concern for us from that day forward?

Thankfully, like then, like now, Jesus is in control, and He demonstrates His power over nature by “rebuking the the wind,” AND IT OBEYS! “The wind died down,” and the sea became perfectly calm! Nature is under His control and is instantly placed in subjection to His will. 

40 And He said to them, “Why are you [a]afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

FOCUS THREE: The rebuke

Jesus “ordered” or commanded the wind to “hush and be still,” But He rebukes them for little faith, “How is it that you have no faith” (v. 40)? He asks, “why are you so timid?” He first points out their fearfulness during the crisis and then questions their lack of faith in Him. “It still has not dawned on them that God’s authority and power were present in Jesus.”

They are afraid when His sovereignty and deity are exercised over the events of the storm, showing not only his care for them but His power to protect them. “In stilling, the storm Jesus assumed the authority exercised only by God in the Old Testament” (Ps. 89:8-9; 104:5-9; 106; 8-9). The “who is this” statement in verse 41 indicates that they still did not fully understand its significance.”

Application:

We learn various things about Jesus and the disciples by studying these verses. We learn that:

1. Jesus is patient.

2. In His humanness, He suffered from physical exhaustion and needed rest.

3. Even though it appears that Jesus is not concerned for our well-being, He most certainly is!

4. He is God and exercises divine power and authority.

5. He expects His children to trust in Him always!

6. He expects us cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6).

The disciples:

1. The disciples were slow learners

2. Fearful

3. Lacked consistent faith

4. Doubted the care and concern of Jesus for them

Mark leaves us with the pressing question these men were forced to ask: “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him” (v. 41).

We are more like these men than we care to admit. Let us resolve this day to walk by faith and not by sight, to take God at His word, ALWAYS remembering that He has authority over all things, all circumstances, and is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother!

EASTER

                                       

Sing, soul of mine, this day of days,
The Lord is risen.
Toward the sun rising set thy face,
The Lord is risen.
Behold, He give them strength and grace;
For darkness, lights or morning, praise;
For sin, His holiness; for conflict, peace.

Arise, O soul, this Easter Day!
Forget the tomb of yesterday
For thou from bondage art set free;
Thou sharpest in His victory
And life eternal is for thee
Because the Lord is risen!

Author unknown

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Mark 4:21-34

BRIEF INTRO

The disciples are still included with others following Jesus (v. 10). But these parables appear only to be explained to the disciples (v. 34). Why does Mark place them here? Most likely because they reinforce His message of the kingdom. One parable or teaching builds upon another and then another until His listeners have the whole instruction He aims to give them. 

The first reveals how the kingdom’s message goes forth (sowing) and how people (soils) will receive it. These next few that we will discuss today explain the necessity for a proper response to them. 

21 And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a [a]basket, or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought to be put on the lamp stand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, [b]let him hear.”

FOCUS ONE: Let the light shine

These following parables are still a part of Jesus’ teaching to His disciples and “His followers” (v. 10). But later (v. 34), we find that He only explains them to “his own disciples.” it seems logical that this would be the meaning of verse 23: “If any has ears to hear, let him hear.”

“1In this parable Jesus pointed out the self-evident fact that a lamp, a lighted wick in a shallow clay bowl full of oil, was not meant to be lit and then hidden under a measuring bowl (as was done at bedtime) or a bed (lit. Dining couch). Rather, it was to be placed on its stand where it would give light.”

Then adding another self-evident fact to His teaching, Jesus explains how nothing is hidden that will not be revealed. During the night, whatever is hidden or concealed is meant to be brought out into the open (light) for use during the day. A lamp’s purpose was not to be hidden but to light up the space where it is located. How does that add value to our thinking on how a lamp can be used? 

2 Parables are meant to convey spiritual truth. So what is the truth that He was teaching? “The purpose of a lamp is to be put on a lamp stand and not under a bowl or bed, so the present hiddeness of Jesus will not always be —-hidden things are meant to be brought out into the open (v.22)-and God intends that one day Jesus will be manifested in all His glory. But who Jesus really is, is now hidden.”

His teaching was not intended to be kept secret or for a small circle of followers. After Jesus ascends, it would be the disciple’s responsibility to proclaim these truths to others, continuing the work of Jesus so that others would hear and understand His message so that they might be saved!

It is therefore vital for us to be careful hearers of His word.

24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. [a]By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

FOCUS TWO: Open your ears

Just like the previous teaching began with “and He was saying to them,” so too does this one and the next (v. 26). I am not sure much could be said about that observation other than that statement seems to group them in a trilogy of teaching on the kingdom. 

The “carefulness” in which we listen is now highlighted. This listening involves a level of spiritual perception that, when heeded, will bring a greater understanding of more truth. The more a person listens to and appropriates it, the more truth about Himself will be revealed. 

This warning is as much for us today as it was for them. So LISTEN to what is being said here. 3″ The more one appropriates the truth now, the more one will receive in the future. Whoever does not lay hold of the word now, even the little spiritual perception he has will be taken from him.”

It appears that the “standard of measure we use,” is about the way we value and utilize the truth that has been given!

26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 Now when the crop permits, he immediately [a]puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

FOCUS THREE: The mystery of kingdom growth

Let me briefly summarize what we just read in our text. We have a man acting in faith, casting seed into the soil. His purpose for planting seeds rests in the hope that the seeds will grow and produce a bountiful crop. He doesn’t know how, but eventually, it happens; ultimately, he has a harvest. 

The farmer cannot explain how it happens. Seeds are planted and are dependent on something outside of the farmer who planted it. Winds and rain beat against the soil. Sunshine and clouds pass over the crops, and yet, even though he sleeps, it springs up and grows and eventually produces a crop. What joy he experiences because harvest time has come!

After he sows the seed, he does nothing toward its growth. His focus is now on other things, and slowly, over time, it gradually grows! “First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” 

This parable is about how the kingdom grows! It explains how spiritual growth is accomplished in the seed planted in the “good ground” or soil (v. 20). It grows gradually. God carries on His work after the gospel seed is planted in an individual’s heart. Sometimes it seems more slowly than others, BUT ultimately, only until He decides to reap the harvest of that soul and saves that person!

I like how Matthew Henry sums it up: “From the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest. When those that receive the gospel aright have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God’s barn” (Matthew 13:30).

30 And He was saying, “How shall we [a]picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is the smallest of all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, and forms large branches, with the result that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.”

33 And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to [b]understand it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

FOCUS FOUR: Kingdom growth

This last parable answers the question: “How shall we “picture” the kingdom of God?” In this parable, Jesus again uses something so natural and normal to the listener’s everyday life to explain how God’s kingdom emerges. 

1. Like a mustard seed

The mustard seed may not be the smallest seed known to humanity, but it was the smallest of all the seeds in the fields that day. But, once it had grown, it would become the largest of all garden plants (12-15 feet in height)! The contrast in this particular parable is between the seemingly insignificant beginning of this seed being planted and what it eventually becomes to the seemingly insignificant beginning of the gospel seed planted in humanity’s hearts (soil) and what it ultimately becomes!

The birds of the air nesting in its branches may simply be indicating the surprising size of the results, the incorporation of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom, OR it represents the sphere of salvation, which would grow so large that it would provide shelter, protection, and benefit to the people. These are a few possibilities I gleaned from various commentaries. 

Jesus spoke with many other parables not recorded here. It makes me wonder how many He told that we do not have a record of. Like His signs and wonders that John spoke about, I wonder if “the world itself would not be able to contain them” if they were all written down (John 21:25)!

He explained the parables only to His disciples (privately) we read in verse 34. Don’t just read that statement in passing. It’s important. I believe it marks a shift in Jesus’ teaching method and purpose. This statement stems from a situation that recently happened to Him after He healed the man with the withered hand on the sabbath (v. 1-6). Because of that rejection and the state of the hardened hearts that blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, Jesus would no longer speak openly and clearly to all around Him. 

“3This method of teaching left unbelievers with riddles, and kept them from being forced to believe the or disbelieve Him-they could make no decision to follow Him since they did not understand what He taught.”

MY summation of all the kingdom parables:

Whether it’s Jesus, His disciples, or those that come after them spreading the seeds of the gospel, a large amount of the time it will NOT be heeded as it falls on the hardened, conscience seared hearts of rebellious sinners, who are more interested in this life than the one to come.

But God assures us that there is good soil, hearts He has prepared for His gospel, and they will receive it rightly and be saved. They will slowly but surely produce fruit that is evidence of that fact. 

Our responsibility as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, and spread the seeds so others can hear and believe (Romans 10). We are not prejudiced on where we spread the seeds, but we are to give to all freely. The results are up to God, not us. We can do nothing to affect true salvation growth in the hearer; only God can. So we can sleep easy at night knowing that we were faithful in sowing, and so we trust Him to be faithful in reaping.

His kingdom WILL grow, perhaps not as quickly as we would like to see, but it grows. The result will be fantastic to behold!

1 The NT Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 120

2 The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol 8, pg. 652

2. MacArthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1466

WHEN RIDICULE HURTS

Extended reading: Judges 11:1-11

Devotional reading: vv.1-3

Being ridiculed can be very hurtful, especially if we are ridiculed for things that are completely beyond our control. The idea of being mocked or maliciously taunted illicit thoughts of fear, embarrassment, and anger within our hearts and minds. In these verses we learn that Jephthah faced such sin against himself. Even though he apparently possessed considerable courage and natural leadership ability, he was rejected by his half brothers because his mother was a prostitute.

This was something that Jephthah could not control; he had no say in the matter. This situation was a direct result of his fathers sinful choices. We learn rather quickly, as Jephthah had, that sin is NEVER a solitary issue! Its consequences are far reaching.

Like Jephthah, we may have been taunted by others because of our family background or for other problems beyond our control. We need to forgive those people, release the pain and grudges, and let go so that we can put those events behind us. Then we can move on to the tasks to which God has called us.

Adapter from Every man’s Bible

PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND SOILS

Mark 4: 1-20

BRIEF INTRO: I am not sure how much time has elapsed until Jesus arrives by the sea, but that is where we now find Him as we begin chapter four. Jesus is now teaching by the sea, “and such a very great multitude gathered to Him” (v.1). The crowd was tremendous, so much so that Jesus needed to get into a boat to give Himself some space and, conveniently, a platform to preach from.

I do not think that we need to apply some sort of reason or meaning behind Jesus sitting to teach other than what would be the most obvious. I have learned in my study that sitting was the normal or “typical” rabbinic position when teaching. But we can also understand that the boat was likely moving back and forth in the water.

So, with His disciples by His side and the vast crowd gathered around Him, Jesus, sitting in a boat, begins to “teach them in parables” (v. 2).

4 Again, He began to teach by the sea. Such a huge crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2, And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,

FOCUS ONE: Why parables?

This is not the first time that Jesus spoke in parables (3:23). But in all the instances that He does, He has a particular reason for doing so! We find ourselves with two questions to ask and answer before we dig into the teaching itself:

  1. What is a parable?
  2. Why does Jesus incorporate them into His teaching at times?

A parable is a rhetorical device used to explain the truth. It is a manner of teaching that is meant to stimulate a person’s thinking, make important points, and move the listener toward a rational, reasonable response.

So it should make sense then that Jesus uses parables to draw people to the truth. But why then do we read in verse eleven that there are some people (outsiders) that are NOT meant to understand His teaching?

From other places in scripture, we know that His parables were not always clear; the disciples had trouble at times understanding their meanings, such as we read in Mark 7:17 and our current text. But, we also read (vv.11-12) that there will be those that will not understand them. People who will not have ears to hear or eyes to see (v. 12).

So, before we seek to understand the parable itself, we must first come to grips with their purpose in the teaching of Christ. “*So Jesus taught in parables (at least on some occasions) so that His enemies might not be able to comprehend the full significance of His words and bring false accusations or charges against Him. He knew that in some cases understanding would result in more sin and not in accepting the truth.”

Our context is about Jesus beginning to unfold “the mystery of the Kingdom.” The “mystery” is revealed in greater detail to those who believe but is hidden to those who do not believe, reject Christ, and reject His gospel. A mystery, in this sense, is simply something that was previously hidden but has now been revealed. I believe the sense is that of continual willful rejection, not ignorance.

So, as He begins to teach using this parable, we must recognize these two distinct groups within the crowd. Those who have ears to hear (people who listen, understand, and have faith) and those who do not!

3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.” 9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, [a]let him hear.”

FOCUS TWO: The parable employed


We notice that Jesus emphasized the importance of paying careful attention to what He is saying twice. He says “listen to this” in v. 3 and “He who has ears to hear” in v. 9. It is not wise to take the words of the Lord superficially. In this case, the importance is that all the other parables coming next can only be understood rightly if the people grasp the truth of this first one. “Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables” (v. 13)?

Before we can correctly comprehend and apply this parable, we need to figure out from within the context what the main point is.

The sower and sowing—are not the main point. He only uses one short sentence: “The sower went out to sow” (v.3). That does not mean that the sower is unimportant. Christ Himself sowed the seeds of the gospel of the kingdom, then His disciples, and now those who have come to faith through them!

The seed — is not the main point of the parable either. We read of the seed being scattered, scattered in various places upon different soil. BUT THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE SOILS.

The soils are the main point!

Someone goes out and sows the seeds on various soil types (beside the road, rocky ground, among the thorns, on good soil), and those soils, all but one, prove to be “fruitless.” There is only one soil mentioned in this parable that the seed grew in and produced fruit! And that is the last one that was mentioned.

14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 And in a similar way these are the ones sown with seed on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they [a]fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown with seed among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the [b]world, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter and choke the word, and it [c]becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are the ones sown with seed on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.”

FOCUS THREE: The parable explained

In verses 3-8, Jesus sought to teach the crowds of people by employing imagery that would be relatively normal in their rural life in Palestine. In our following verses, 14-20, Jesus explains the parable to His disciples and others who are around Him (v. 10). It is evident that the twelve did not understand the meaning of the teaching, and so, with much patience, He explained His words to them so they could grasp hold of the truth He shared. Truth relating to the “kingdom.” This parable is about How the kingdom grows, so it is vital to understand this one or the others will make no sense (v. 13)!

The sower is not identified, but the context indicates that He most likely represents Jesus and/or those who will sow (herald) the kingdom’s message (gospel).

The seed is the word (the gospel) as we see in other places: 1:15, 45; 2:2; 6:12).

The soils represent different people’s reception of the word. The parable teaches them and us that in our faithful witnessing for Christ, we will come across various types of “hearers” in whom the seed has been sown. It is also made clear in His explanation that there will be many people who give a negative response to the seed sown.

Those pesky birds (v. 4)! They represent Satan, who actively seeks, at all costs, to “immediately” take away any coherence of the word given. In effect, these people have no response to what was sown. Read verse 15 over again so that you don’t miss the unveiling of what they represent.

Then there are the “rocky ground” hearers. This group is said to have no depth of soil; no firm roots. In other words, they receive the word in a “shallow” manner. There is no real depth to their understanding or profession. Since their “roots” are shallow and not firm, they last only a short while. Like the seeds landing on rocky places would suffer trials (sun scorching them), these types of hearers of the word are only for a short while because when troubles come or persecution, they quickly fall away (v.17).

The third type of soil (hearer) is said to be like the seed among thorns. These people “hear,” BUT are preoccupied with the things of this world. Their desires for other things, things they give priority to, eventually “choke” out the word that was heard. Sadly, Jesus says of them,” and it (word) becomes unfruitful (v. 19).

But lest we despair and lose hope, He gives us the encouragement we need to persevere in spreading the gospel seed! Any farmer rejoices at having “good soil” to plant in. Such soil produces crops! Often many fold more than he could wish for. So it is with the good soil that receives the gospel seed!

Please recognize that this is the only type of hearer that truly benefits from the gospel. The only ones that are genuinely regenerated! The other three soils are representative of those who flat out reject the gospel, those that are shallow-minded and so hear it, understand it, but turn away from it. None of those people were ever adopted into the family of God. The only ones who will be justified in Christ and adopted into the family of God are those that “hear the word” AND “accept it.” Such people WILL bear fruit in keeping with their repentance (v. 20)!

This is how the kingdom grows.

Be encouraged, dear Christian. We have been told, straight out from the Lord, that many people will not listen to what we have to say, or they may express some superficial sense of belief that, in the end, will reveal itself for what it truly is. Even so, our encouragement comes from the fact that there are people out there who will listen, accept it, and be born again by God’s grace!

So don’t lose heart; don’t give up. Keep on sowing!

*The Bible Expositors Commentary on spreading the gospel seed!

WHEN FAITH IS TESTED

Extended reading: James 1:1-8

Devotional reading 1:2-3

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

What? Are you kidding me? We are to find joy in troubles because “our endurance” has a chance to grow? I am not kidding, rather, the Bible is not joking regarding a Christian attitude in the face of severe trials! I get it, these words appear to be a contradiction in terms, but I assure you they are not. Troubles are for complaining, problems are for whining, and heartache is for crying, at least we think so. But God seems to have a radically different view on these things! 

James writes to “Jewish believers scattered abroad” (v.1). He wants them to not only face their trials and tribulations but GROW through them as well. “For many of these early believers, their faith created a whole new series of troubles. Instead of complaining, crying, or giving up, James challenged the believers to have joy because their faith would have a chance to grow and deepen during the difficult times.”

Think about it for a moment. How is your walk of faith when everything is going great! I understand, we prefer it that way, but how does immense blessing help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

Does prosperity and plenty put you on your knees in sincere, deep prayer? Do they drive you into the Bible consistently, or do you become lazy or relaxed in those things? “Most often it’s troubles that bring us back to God. God loves us enough to allow us the opportunity of going through various hardships in order to “conform us more into the image of His Son.” When our faith is tested we have a chance to grow.” 

“He wants us to be fully developed, perfect and complete, needing nothing” (1:4). If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that “everything about the Christian faith turns what we consider to be ‘normal’ upside down.’”

JOY IN OUR TROUBLES? WHY NOT

INSTABILITY VS LOGIC

Mark 3: 22-35

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: Opposition from within (friends and family)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: Opposition from without

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

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

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

1. Disciples

2. The crowds

3. The scribes

4. Jesus’family

Each group has its agenda:

1. To learn from Jesus and serve

2. Motivated by curiosity and desire for physical healing

3. To accuse Him and argue with Him

4. Exert control over Him, perhaps protect Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: Jesus’ response

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

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

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

2. Kingdom divided cannot stand

3. House divided against itself cannot stand

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

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

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

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

FOCUS FOUR: The family arrives

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

In Chapter Six, we learn some of their names! 

1. James

2. Joses

3. Judas

4. Simon

5. “His sisters here with us?”

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

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

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

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

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

*Macarthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1394

CALLING THE TWELVE

Mark 3:13-19

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: The occasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: The men

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: Their function

What is their role?

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

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

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

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

*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 640

1 Bible study website

2 John MacArthur

3 Matthew Henry Commentary, pg. 1370

THE VALUE OF ONE ON ONE BIBLE READING

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

1.

2.

3. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS HEALS ON THE SABBATH

Mark 3: 1-6

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: Pharisees are watching

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: Jesus challenges the Pharisees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: Jesus heals the man

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

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

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

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

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

*Macarthur Study Bible pg. 1463

1 Liberty Bible Commentary pg. 1972

2 The complete Word Study NT, pg. 941