Jesus summons the twelve

Mark 6:7-13

BRIEF INTRO:

I can’t help but think how helpful the kingdom parables (4:1-34) will be to the apostles as they get sent out two by two to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach repentance to the lost.

After Jesus leaves His hometown which suffered a lack of belief in Him (see previous study), He went around the local villages and was teaching (v. 6). We should notice that Mark uses a “sandwich pattern” in his writing. He places the backstory of Herod (14-29) between (the twelve being sent out v. 7, and the twelve returning v. 30) The reason for that will become more obvious as our study unfolds!

There appears to be a methodology in Christ’s preparation of the twelve for ministry that has been unfolding up to this point in Marks writing:

  1. He called (1:16-20; 2:14)
  2. He appoints (3:14)
  3. He teaches (Mark 1-6)
  4. He summoned (6:7)
  5. He sends them out (6:12)

That is a model for effective ministry that wise mentors incorporate in their discipleship program of future gospel ministers (Calling, teaching, ordaining, and sending).

7 And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;

FOCUS ONE: Christ summoned the twelve

“And He summoned the twelve.” With those words Christ ushers in the beginning of a new setting in Marks account!

He sends them out by two’s for various reasons: comfort for one another in strange places, to strengthen and encourage one another in difficult circumstances, and most likely because it would meet the “legal” requirement for an authentic testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15).

He gives them authority over unclean spirits. What type authority? His divine authority OR “right” and “power” to exercise demons (1:26). This power would authenticate their preaching and mission (that it is of God) with those they come into contact with.

Christ actually commissions them to attack the devil in his own territory! To bind the strong man (3:27). Some people believe that this power and authority is given to Christians today, if they just exercise enough faith. I personally do not believe in that vain of thought. I think the words of Jude 9 are instructive here:

“Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, BUT said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”

“Rather than personally cursing such a powerful angel as Satan, Michael deferred to the ultimate, sovereign power of God following the example of the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3:2. This is the supreme illustration of how Christians are to deal with Satan and demons. Believers are not to address them, but rather to seek the Lord’s intervening power against them” (John MacArthur).

8 and He instructed them that they were to take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no [a]bag, no money in their belt— 9 but [b]to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not wear two [c]tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you [d]leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust [e]off the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.”

FOCUS TWO: Christ instructs the twelve

In Christ’s instructions to these men we observe several things:
A. They are to take nothing except a staff (walking stick), sandals, and one tunic (opposite in Luke 22:35-37), Why? Worse times, worse people?
B. Their provisions are so minimal that it highlights the urgency of the task.
C. And these instructions highlight their need for sole dependence upon God’s divine provision!

No bread, no bag, no money? That goes against all of our human instincts. We need these things to survive. The urgency of their mission dictated haste and their need to depend solely on God to provide food and shelter through the hospitality of Jewish households.

This is different in another account in Luke where Jesus prepares His disciples for the “opposition” that will follow His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 22:35-38).

He told them to stay in one house until they would leave that town. He did not want them to be seeking “better” accommodations. “*They were not to impose on the hospitality of many stranger or to peruse more attractive offers, rather they were to stay in one place and make it there “base of operations.”

If in their search for a place to stay, in the territory of Herod Antipas, they are not received, they are told to shake the dust from the soils of their feet as a testimony against them (this symbolizes a decision to discontinue all association with those who have refused God’s message and are headed for His judgment).

They had received what they might give,
Had learned what they might teach,
And are now sent forth (Matthew Henry).

They had to deny themselves 7-9
And fulfill their responsibility. 10-11
Their success v.13

They went out! These three words may not appear on their face to be all that important but I assure you that they are for several reasons:

  1. They went out amid much fear and uncertainty.
  2. They went out with a message that they only previously heard the Lord teach. Now, it is their message to herald!
  3. They went out with previously unknown “authority” and “power.”
  4. They went out in obedience to their Lord!
  5. They went out and Christ showed Himself faithful!

Christ instructed, the disciples obeyed. It seems simple, but we fail at it miserably. We have the responsibility of being “witnesses” for Christ; we’ve been instructed as well (Matthew 28:18-20). How are we doing? How are you doing, dear Christian?

12 And they went out and [a]preached that people are to repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

FOCUS THREE: Their message

“They preached that men should repent.” That is the same message that we are to be heralds’ of today!

20 “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was beneficial, and teaching you publicly and [a]from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

Take notice that it is NOT one without the other, rather they are two sides of the same gospel coin, if you will. Some people argue that repentance is “only” a change of mind, a change in our thinking towards God and sin. Repentance surely does involve a change of mind, but it is just such a change that fosters a change of will and therefore a change of direction as well (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

They not only proclaimed the “good news” but by the power of God cast out demons and anointed the sick and many people were being healed!

In our next study we will observe how the successful ministry of the apostles stands in stark contrast to Herod’s guilty conscience and fearfulness.

• The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 260

It’s just a nickname

Spurgeon quote on Calvinism

“My friends, I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to give people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening, and neglect the truths of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever.

I take it that man does not preach Christ and him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ’s name once; nor does that man preach Christ and him crucified, who leaves out the Holy Spirit’s work, who never says a word about the Holy Ghost, so that indeed the hearers might say, “We do not so much as know whether there be a Holy Ghost.” And I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism.

I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.

I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor.

The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that. We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, “We have not so learned Christ.”
~ Charles. H. Spurgeon

THE GERASENE DEMONIAC

Mark 5:1-20

5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes.

BRIEF INTRO:
The region named in this account of Mark as Gerasene, *” is also known under three other names: Gergesenes, Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28), and Gerasenes. This was a small town located on the lakes eastern shore. Most of its inhabitants were gentiles.”

Here is one instance of Christ “binding the strong man” (3:27).

2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one was able to bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces; and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and cutting himself with stones.

FOCUS ONE: The possessed man

1. This person was in a miserable condition:

2. Possessed by an “unclean spirit.”

3. He was outraged.

4. Led by this spirit to relocate to the “tombs,” among dead people! According to Jewish belief, contact with the dead or graves rendered one “unclean.” (Leviticus 11:24-31; Numbers 9:6-10).

5. The spirit’s (legion) have complete control over him, exhibiting immense strength (chains and shackles broken); no one could bind him humanly speaking, But Christ is not only human; He is also divine!

6. He constantly cut himself with stones.

7. In such a condition, he was a horror to himself and others and very dangerous to those around him.

8. He normally would cast his rage upon others, but not with Jesus! With Him, he or, I should say, the demons possessing him, runs up to Jesus and bows before Him (exhibits a reverence, an understanding of who this man is)!

“The devil is a cruel taskmaster. This wretched creature was night and day in the mountains and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones. What is a man, when reason is dethroned and Satan enthroned” (Matthew Henry)?

6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

FOCUS TWO: The Son of the Most High God

  1. He is the “Lord” (Master), “Jesus” (Savior), “Christ” (Anointed one)! (Cr. Luke 6:46; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 1:9).
  2. He saves from sin (Matthew 1:21), wrath (Romans 5:9), all our enemies, including Satan (Luke 1:69-71), all uncleanness (Ezekiel 37:23), and much, much more!
  3. He came to seek and save the lost, call sinners to repentance, gives life, and do the will of the Father (John 6:38).
  4. His Nature is good, righteous, holy, just, all-powerful, all-wise, and as such, even though He came to earth as a man, through the incarnation (Matthew 1:18-25), He transcends all human limitations. He has all perfection, is without sin, and is divine (Psalm 110:1).

5. Unlike the “unclean spirit,” Christ saves us from death and brings life!

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had already been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged Him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there was a large herd of pigs feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us into the pigs so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

FOCUS THREE: The structure of the narrative

As you can see in the image I posted above, the gospels have a structure to them, 1 “every text has a structure. This structure will reveal an emphasis,” and that emphasis is what we must glean from as we study the Bible and in this case, the gospel of Mark.

The structure of a “narrative,” which we are studying in this post, always has three avenues of approach (Characters, Literary devices, and the plot). The third is what we are focused on in our study, although we witness a contrast and comparison between the unclean spirit in the man and Jesus, as I tried to flesh out in each previous focus.

In these verses, we can establish the “setting” in the country of the Gerasenes, on the east side of the sea where Jesus previously was ministering. There is a mad man possessed by an unclean spirit that has complete control over him. This man dwells among the tombs, unable to be bound by anyone, and upon seeing Jesus, he immediately runs to meet up with him as Jesus gets out of the boat.

The “plot” thickens as the two meet. We now feel the conflict as it begins to unfold! What is the conflict? The demon does not want to be bothered by “Jesus, the Most High God.” He does not want to leave the man, be “tormented,” or be sent “out of the country” (v. 10).

As the conflict elevates, we see Jesus conversing with the unclean spirit (v. 9,13), leading us to the story’s “climax. “There will be a point of no return in the narrative, and in our particular case, that point is when the “legion” entreats Christ to enter the swine (v. 12).

Jesus gives the “legion” permission to go into the swine (v. 13). It is at this juncture that they:

  1. 1. Leave the man.
  2. 2. Enter and kill the swine.

There is no returning from that! Christ allowing it is the “resolution” of the account of Mark about this man. By allowing the spirits to enter the swine He:

  1. 1. Removed the spirits from the man.
  2. 2. Bound the strong man.
  3. 3. Gave a visible testimony to His deity (v.15).
  4. 4. And gave an opportunity for the people to believe in Him.

Sadly, they do not believe in Him but request that He depart from their region. It is sad when people have so much light, evidence, and experience with Jesus and yet reject Him. It is grievous to witness such hardened hearts and calloused minds toward Christ Jesus.

Their rejection in this story leads to a new “setting.”

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis [a]what great things Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.

FOCUS FOUR: The application

  1. We shouldn’t be surprised to face opposition when we follow Christ. We should expect it! Does Satan want us to follow Christ? NO. Does He want us to be victorious in our walk of faith? NO. He will do whatever he can to mislead, confuse, torment, and discredit us. So we have to be alert to the danger, utilizing the whole armor of God consistently, recognizing that our enemy, “the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
  2. We cannot win the battle against Satan and his forces in our own strength. We have to rely on the Lord for strength because He is more potent than Satan. He is strong, much stronger than we are. We must be diligent at seeking the Lord daily for wisdom, faith, and strength to walk through each day, with His help, “avoiding temptation and fleeing evil.”
  3. What other applications can you pull out of these scriptures?

• *The Bible knowledge commentary, pg. 122
• 1 Simeon Trust handout on “principles of exposition.”

GOSPEL AVOIDANCE

Extended reading: Matthew 27:62-28:15

Devotional reading: Verses 12-15

Each of us has friends, family members, and loved ones that seem to do all that they can to avoid the message of the gospel. They want to be “free” of His message for varied reasons that they deem to be legitimate. Some, sadly, will use extreme measures to discredit the gospel message, others, the tactic of avoidance!

“ The religious leaders went to a lot of trouble to be free of Jesus’ message. They spent time and energy trying to discredit Him in front of the crowds. Then they plotted His murder. When they caught Him, they tried to come up with witnesses and then had to convince Rome that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty. Once Jesus was dead, the leaders feared He would come back to life, either in fact or through rumor, so they got permission to seal and guard the tomb.

Finally, they had to come up with a story to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Obviously the easier path would have been to accept Jesus’ message and make the appropriate changes in their lives and beliefs. We must make sure we don’t become so hardened that we, like the Jewish leaders, go to great lengths to avoid accepting the life saving message of the gospel.”

Adapted from the Every-mans Bible

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

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

God’s power to change lives

Photo by Daniel Torobekov on Pexels.com

Extended reading: Mark 1:21-28

Devotional verse: Verse 27

“Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. ‘What sort of new teaching is this?’ They asked excitedly. ‘It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey His orders!’”

Many people seem to falsely believe that Jesus would never forgive them of their sins. Others erroneously state that they have “gone to far” this time and have forfeited God’s love. But these verses teach otherwise! They are too vile, too horrible for Him to forgive.

They teach us that Jesus not only has the authority to cleanse, heal, and redeem. He also is willing to reach into our lives and deliver us from these things, to pour out His grace upon us and save us from something far worse than a physical disease; the sickness of our sinful hearts!

*“God’s power to change lives was demonstrated as Jesus cast out an evil spirit. If Jesus has the power to cast out evil spirits, He certainly has enough power to free us from the sins that entangle us. We need to recognize our problems and sins, confess them honestly, and call out to Him for help.”

Delay no longer. Call out to Him, and you will find grace greater than your sin! What is the gospel?

*Some parts adapted from the “Every mans Bible” NLT

MOVED WITH COMPASSION

A LEPER HEALED

Mark 1:40-45 

BRIEF INTRO: 

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

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

Ready? I am, so let’s dive in!

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

FOCUS ONE: A man with leprosy comes to Jesus 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: Jesus is moved with compassion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A LONELY PLACE

Mark 1:35-39

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

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

FOCUS ONE: JESUS LEAVES TO BE ALONE TO PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: A HUNTED MAN

Others can thwart even the best of efforts! 

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: WHAT I CAME FOR

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

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

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

*The Bible knowledge Commentary