THE CALL TO SELF-DENIAL

Mark 9:38-50

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: A snapshot of unity

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

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

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

This person WAS casting out demons successfully

In the name of Jesus 

The disciples (we) tried to stop him!

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

Jesus’ viewed it differently than the disciples

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: Rewards for service and condemnation for leading astray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pages 147-148

2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 709

UNBELIEF VERSUS FAITH

Mark 9: 14-29

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: What are you talking about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: Help my unbelief

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

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

Speech loss

Seizures

Foaming at mouth

Grinding teeth

Rigid body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: The authority of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Expositors Bible Commentary
  2. Macarthur Study Bible

THE COMING KINGDOM

Mark 9:1-8

NOT SO BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we saw Jesus healing the blind man, which was assuredly for his good, but it also served as a very vivid object lesson for the disciples. Remember, they didn’t quite understand who Jesus was (cr. v.17; 6:52), and so after the doubt expressed by them when Jesus spoke about the “leaven of the Pharisees” (v. 15-17) was addressed, He healed a blind man that was brought to Him differently than He usually did (vv. 22-26). It was in the way that Christ healed the man that the “slowness” of the disciples to “see” who Jesus was in truth was portrayed.

Jesus then asked them specifically who they thought He was; at last, we witnessed some progress! “Thou art the Christ” (v. 29)! But quickly after that divine wisdom was imparted to Peter (Matthew 16:17), we saw him rebuke Jesus when He spoke of His suffering, death, and resurrection. “Suffering precedes exaltation.”

Peter appears to hear what Christ said in bits and pieces. He doesn’t seem to hear more than he wanted to hear. He heard that his friend and teacher would die, but the resurrection part was apparently missed! So, what does he do? Like us, Peter acts hastily on the incomplete information he heard and rebuked Jesus. Jesus, never missing a valuable teaching moment, proceeds to instruct the disciples and the multitude with them (vv. 33-34).

Most bible translations link 9:1 with the previous verse (8:38) ending that chapter. My translation is one of them. It makes good sense to do so because it naturally gives a reasonable conclusion to the discourse Jesus began in verse 34.

So, what does Jesus mean when He speaks of some not tasting death until they see the Kingdom of God? What aspect of the domain is He referring to?

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God when it has come with power.”

FOCUS ONE: Kingdom of God (with power)

Some questions seem necessary at this point in our study. When will this Kingdom arrive? What aspect of the Kingdom is in view? What does Jesus mean when He states that some “standing here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power?”

Let’s begin by answering the question regarding what He is referring to; the rest will naturally follow. Many commentators address that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this remarkable promise immediately before the experience of Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration, indicating that they understood the experience to be the fulfillment of the promise. We see the three disciples being translated six days later in a vision (Mt 17:9) to the glory of the future Kingdom.

For example: “Jesus’ words assert that the arrival of the Kingdom of God in power will transpire within the lifetime of the persons addressed (again, the crowd and the disciples in Mark 8:34). So this is a future event. While a number of possibilities have been mentioned, if one lets the context rule in interpretation, it would seem clear that this refers to Jesus’ transfiguration as described in the following passages, the three disciples saw the King of the Kingdom of God in His glory.”

Jesus is very directly making a promise that the power and glory of His Kingdom would become evident soon, and some there would see it! Because Jesus Christ the King is present, the Kingdom of God is at hand. “And when His glory is seen by a few who are present, they will get a glimpse at the glory of the divine, the God-man, Jesus Christ as He will be forever” (Hill). 

And six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter, [a]James, and John, and *brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was [b]transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

FOCUS TWO: The transfiguration (2-8)

If you have been studying this on your own, you most likely have been reading the parallel accounts in Matthew 16:28-17:3; Luke 9:27-36. One of them records the days differently than the others. Luke states in his account that it was “about eight days after these sayings” (Luke 9:28), while Matthew and Mark state that it was “six days later.” What are we to make of this apparent contradiction?

I do not believe that these accounts contradict one another. We must remember that in the Gospel narratives, we hear from several witnesses regarding the events. Each has a different group they are writing to; each has a different perspective that they are writing from, but with one goal: to reveal who Jesus is! And, never forget that they are being divinely led in what they report (2 Timothy 3:16-17)!

So, with all that being said, how do we explain the difference? It seems logical to conclude that while Matthew and Mark only count the days between Peter’s confession and the transfiguration happening, Luke includes both days in his numbering.

So, six days later Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain (v.2). This unnamed location, according to many bible scholars, was probably a southern ridge of Mount Hermon about 12 miles northeast of Caesarea Philippi (8:27; 9:30). These three men are part of the “inner circle” of disciples that Jesus allowed to witness things the others did not (Mark 5:37; 14:33). MacArthur points out that “Jesus took them with Him in accord with the Law’s requirement that two or three witnesses confirm truth (Deut. 17:6; cf. Matt. 18:162 Cor. 13:11 Tim. 5:19Heb. 10:28).

“And He was transfigured before them.” What does that ten-dollar word mean? Transfigured in the original Greek is (μεταμορφόω, metamorphoó). It means “to be changed into another form, not merely a change in outward appearance. For a brief time Jesus’ human body was transformed (glorified), and the disciple’s saw Him as He will be when He returns visibly to establish His Kingdom on earth (Acts 15:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).”

 The word “Before” is essential to defining what took place on the mountain. It is “ἔμπροσθεν-emprosthen,” which means in front of them. Luke 9:29 indicates the transfiguration took place “while He was praying,” “In the transfiguration, Jesus exhibited a change on the outside which came from His inside, His true nature, His divinity. Christ’s nature, of course, could not change; only His appearance. Jesus’ glory shone through His humanity and His garments demonstrating to the disciples what Jesus really was on the inside. The glory which was Jesus’ essential and eternal divine nature, shone outward, for a brief time and to a limited degree.”

This HAD to be a fantastic event to behold! His garments were becoming so white that they could never be whiter, purer. His facial appearance changed! 

David Garland – “The Transfiguration, therefore, serves to confirm that (what)the suffering Jesus will endure is not incompatible with his glory. The scene functions like a hologram. For a brief moment, the disciples glimpse the truth as divine glory shines through the veil of suffering. It foreshadows the time when God will gloriously enthrone Jesus after the degradation on the cross. This white flash of the splendor to come brightens the dark cloud of tribulation that presently hangs over Mark’s first readers and confirms Jesus’ promise that those who follow and suffer for him will not have done so in vain.”

Elijah and Moses appear, and they are both walking with Jesus. In the role of Israel’s deliverer and law-giver, Moses represented the Law. Elijah represented the prophets. But why are they here? What’s the significance of their appearing on the mountain? One commentator writes: “If what the disciples saw was a glimpse of Jesus’ final state of glory, then Moses and Elijah’s function is to announce the end.”

Even more interesting is that both of these men had ended their lives on earth in mysterious ways (Deuteronomy 34:6; 2 Kings 2:11). “It adds to the appropriateness of their mysterious reappearance in this preview of the glorious climax of Jesus’ ministry.”

Peter responded and *said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here; let’s make three [a]tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know how to reply; for they became terrified. Then a cloud [b]formed, overshadowing them, and a voice [c]came out of the cloud: “This is My beloved Son; [d]listen to Him!” And suddenly they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.

FOCUS THREE: THE FATHER SPEAKS (7-8)

Here again, we witness impetuous Peter speaking when he doesn’t know what to say! His response is impulsive and based on fear, “for he didn’t know what to answer; for they became terrified.” This experience deeply moved Peter, but he was unsure how to react. It seems like he wanted to prolong the event, so he asks to make three tabernacles (tents of meeting, booths- Leviticus 23:33-43), one for each of them- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.”

On the surface, it seems like Peter regarded all three as being equal (v. 5). “Unwittingly or not, Peter was again resisting the suffering which Jesus had said would precede the glory” (8:31).

 But, God’s response from the cloud would make clear the true meaning of the event (v.7)! This cloud formed almost out of nowhere. It dominated the mountain! It “overshadowed them” or, in other words. The cloud appears to have cast a dark shadow over them.

And then God’s voice Emanates from the darkness with unmistakable clarity “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Like at Jesus’ baptism, the Father places His “unqualified” endorsement on His beloved Son. God tells them to “listen to Him,” but it is written in the present imperative in the original language and means to “be obedient to Him.”

“The uniqueness of Christ is highlighted by the fact that suddenly-as suddenly as they had appeared-Moses and Elijah were gone.” And the three disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus.

Some food for thought:

  1. 1. Apparent contradictions are only that. Further study allowing scripture to interpret itself reveals the answers.
  2. 2. Jesus, the god-man, never ceased to be God but veiled His glory for a time. Imagine how limited this revealing of His glory must have been to them. No human being on this side of heaven could handle the complete revelation of His glory! Imagine your response if you were there.
  3. 3. Like Peter, we often “don’t get it.” We are slow to hear and even slower to comprehend. Often we speak when we should remain quiet. What have you learned from Peter that might help you in your struggle to walk by faith?

Bible Knowledge Commentary

Preceptaustin (verse by verse)

Moule, Gospel of Mark, pg. 70

A SIGN FROM HEAVEN

Mark 8:10-13. Cr. Matthew 16:1-4

BRIEF INTRO: It should appear odd that the Pharisees would be asking for a sign, an “attesting miracle,” to validate who Jesus says He is. When we survey the gospel accounts up to this point, we are quickly inundated with many situations in which Jesus performed miracles. He cast out demons (1:23-27), healed Simon’s mother-in-law from fever (1:29-31), and healed many who were sick from various illnesses (1:34). He healed lepers, paralytics, and a man with withered hands, a woman with a bleeding issue (5:25-34), and many others. He even fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish! Who else but God the Messiah can do such wonders?

And yet, as often as we see the Pharisees in the gospel accounts, gathering together to test Him, observe Him, and even debate Him, with full knowledge of what He has done for the people, we still find them “seeking a sign.”

Do you need some sign before you trust in Jesus?

11 And the Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding from Him a [a]sign from heaven, [b]to test Him.

FOCUS ONE: The problem with the Pharisees

Who were they anyway?

“After the Babylonian exile, the Pharisees organized with the express purpose of ensuring that the people of God would no longer stray away from the divine precepts. In an effort to do so, they became expert exegetes and interpreters of scripture. They painstakingly studied the law of God and created a sort of oral commentary on the law, which evolved over time and later was produced in a written form known today as the Mishnah. The parts of the Mishnah directly related to commandments or legal requirements of the law were known as halacha, which means walking through the law.”

“By New Testament times, the Pharisees had reached the height of their influence. They were well-respected by the common people because of their commitment to piety and dogged loyalty to the nation of Israel. They were bitter rivals of the Sadducees, a similar group that was made of mostly upper-class Jews, though with more liberal political views. The Pharisees, whose name in the original language signifies a literal separation from that which would defile, were the opposite of the Sadducees, who were highly motivated by any relationship or arrangement which would advance their political or economic aims. The Pharisees were deeply committed to doctrinal and personal purity. While the Pharisees did consider Sadducees to be compromising backsliders, we do see them leaguing together to entrap Jesus (see Mt. 22:15-16,22-23,34).”

So, they didn’t start badly, but over the years, the motivations of many of them changed. Their influence over the people was of paramount importance to them. Jesus called them out over this very thing in Matthew 23:6-7. “It seemed as though their primary qualm with Jesus was that He was detracting from their influence and thus diminishing the ability to maintain control of the hearts and minds of the people.” 

Some problems we notice regarding the Pharisees:

  1. They had an incorrect view of authority (7:6)
  2. They failed to acknowledge the inconsistencies in their hearts
  3. They were self-consumed and self-absorbed (Matthew 23:1-36)
  4. They were hypocrites (Matthew 23)

In our text, we find Jesus and His disciples had just entered the district of Dalmanutha and were immediately harassed by the Pharisees from that region. Where is Dalmanutha?

“(1) A place on the west of the Sea of Galilee, mentioned only in  Mark 8:10 . In the parallel passage, it is said that Christ came “into the borders of Magdala” ( Matthew 15:39 ). It is plain, then, that Dalmanutha was near Magdala, which was probably the Greek name of one of the many Migdols (i.e., watch-towers) on the western side of the lake of Gennesaret. It has been identified in the ruins of a village about a mile from Magdala, in the little open valley of ‘Ain-el-Barideh, “the cold fountain,” called el-Mejdel, possibly the “Migdal-el” of Joshua 19:

In this place, we read Christ’s response to them regarding their request for a sign.

12 Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, “Why does this generation demand a [a]sign? Truly I say to you, [b]no [c]sign will be given to this generation!”

FOCUS TWO: Why a sign?

The Pharisees already had many attesting miracles (signs) that revealed the deity of Jesus. It wasn’t that they needed clarification of anything. No, it is evident in these few recorded words of Mark that they were there to “test” Him and did so while “arguing” with Him (8:12).

Those words: “sighed deeply in His spirit,” reveal the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ! They express how deeply affected He was by their “wickedness” and “hypocrisy.” It appears that their “obstinate unbelief” is the issue underlying His refusal to give them a sign of their asking. So, no sign at their request, in such unbelief, will be given to them, BUT Jesus will provide “one” sign of His choosing! Matthew 16:1-4 records Christ’s words regarding the sign He will provide: the sign of Jonah! It was NOT what they asked for and would NOT be given because they asked for it.

Now the question should arise: Is it always wrong to seek a sign? I guess the answer to that would be yes AND no! Confusing? Let’s focus on that answer for just a bit.

In our day and age, the definition of terms is very critical. While one person may understand a word to mean one thing, others may define it differently. So, we need to be careful here. There seem to be three different possible meanings being used when the word “signs” is used.

“2The first category for “signs” is biblical but should NOT be sought after by Christians. The second category for “signs” is biblical and should be sought after by Christian’s. And the third category for “signs” is not biblical and thus should not be sought after by Christians.”

The first category of “signs” is what I would label as “signs and wonders.”

In the Bible, there is clear evidence that at certain times in history, God has chosen to create “signs and wonders” to send a message, warnings, or to mark the fulfillment of a promise. 

An example of this would be in Luke 2:8-15, when an angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the supernatural birth of Jesus. Luke 2:12 states, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

“While these types of “signs” are clearly biblical, these are not the type of signs a Christian should look for to hear from God on a daily basis. Signs and wonders are rare and will not be performed by God whenever we want him to do them. God chooses to use these types of signs for special purposes and reasons. We should not ask God to speak to us through signs like this whenever we want to know his will for our lives. These types of signs and wonders are something God will choose to do when he wants to, but this is not something we should seek after.”

The second category of “signs” is what I would label as “evidence for what God wants you to do in your life.

“Unlike “signs and wonders,” this second type of “sign” is the kind I believe Christians should always be looking for so that they can fulfill God’s specific will for their life. The process of seeing these signs is less about asking God to send them to us and more about properly interpreting the signs God is already sending to us. God is always telling us what he wants us to do in life, and we need to properly interpret these “signs” so we are doing what God wants.”

“When certain things are happening in your heart and in your life, we need to interpret these things through a biblical lens. When I use the word “signs” in my videos and articles, I’m referring to this process of interpreting events through applying the Bible. If “________” happens, this is a sign you should apply “_________” biblical principle. Just like a doctor who looks at the patient and examines what symptoms are present before giving medicine, we need to look at the “signs” in life that would lead us to apply the correct biblical wisdom.”

For example, if you are a man and asked God, “Lord, do you want me to ask Ashley out on a date?”, it would not be biblical to ask God to give you a vision to tell you what to do. But, it would be biblical to look for evidence in your life and interactions with Ashley to help you rightly apply the word of God. So if you are talking with Ashley and it comes out that she is not a Christian like you thought she was, this would be a “sign” that God does not want you to date her because 2 Corinthians 6:14 states that God does not want his people unequally yoked.

Because our goal here is to apply biblical wisdom rightly, this is why we can use the language, “God wants you to do this” or “God wants you to do that.” The Bible is God’s word; therefore, when we rightly apply the Bible to our lives, we know we are doing what God wants us to do in our lives.

The third category of “signs” is what I refer to as “horoscopes and superstitions.” 

“When someone is using the word “sign” in this sense, they are attaching unrelated meaning to random events and situations in life.”

“For example, if a man was asking, “Lord, do you want me to date Ashely?” and then he instantly saw five grey cats walk in front of him, and he then interpreted this as a sign that God does want him to date Ashley, this would be unbiblical. Why? Because those five grey cats have nothing to do with healthy relationship principles found in the Bible. 

If this man prayed that prayer and then at church that night, he and Ashly have a great conversation together, and they get time to serve with one another, and it seems like they both are prepared to start a godly relationship – then that could be interpreted as a sign that God is telling him to move forward with her. But when we try to attach our meanings to random things in life, we are playing God and just making things up in our heads. This is not what God wants for us.”

“Or if a woman was asking God if she should breakup with her boyfriend and then on her way to work she literally got stopped at every red traffic light possible, and then she interpreted this as a sign that God was telling her to breakup with him, this would not be biblical because red traffic lights don’t mean anything biblically or relationally. However, if on her way to work she sees her boyfriend kissing another woman, clearly that would be a sign she needs to breakup with him because this man is not showing the character of a faithful man that the Bible requires for husbands.”

God speaks clearly through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit’s impressions on our hearts, and through the circumstances in our lives. God will help us rightly interpret the “signs” in our lives by showing us how to rightly apply biblical wisdom to the situations and relationships we experience in our lives.”

I trust these examples from a website on applying God’s word will help us better understand the importance of correctly defining terms and biblically applying scripture.

13 And leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.

FOCUS THREE: Approaching Jesus

One other thing that stands out in this portion of scripture, at least to me, is the question of how we approach Jesus? To simply state it, there are only two ways to approach Jesus:

  1. Incorrectly (irreverent, argumentative, hypocritically) 10:2; 11:18
  2. Correctly (humbly, repentant, sincerely) 7:27-30; 5:21-24; 35-43

I encourage you to read the scriptures cited above for yourself because in them, you will see a stark contrast in the heart and behavior of each person represented. 

Once again, we read that Jesus leaves to go “to the other side” with His disciples. We see this many times leading up to our text today:

Mark 4:35

5:21

6:32

6:45

8:10

8:13 seems to be the last time

In verse twenty-two we find their destination: Bethsaida!

  1. (1) The Growth network (internet site)
  2. (2) Applying God’s word (internet site).

THE COMPASSION OF JESUS

Mark 7:24-37

BRIEF INTRO: Upon leaving Gennesaret Jesus went into the region of Tyre (7:24), and had an amazing interaction with a gentile woman, a Syrophenician. Mark 5:1-20 records the first encounter that Jesus had with a gentile (non-Jewish person). Both of these interactions were very significant because they revealed that God’s kingdom was/is NOT only for Jews!

Tyre is a Phoenician port on the Mediterranean Sea, it sits northwest of Galilee. I learned in my studies for this post that “a Syrophoenician” is a phrase that Roman authors used to distinguish the Phoenicians of Syria from those of North Africa.

As we enter into this text we find Jesus, in the region of Tyre, entering into a house privately because he did not want anyone to know that He was there. Jesus needed rest like we do. He needed some “alone time” to talk with His Father. Perhaps He wanted time alone with the residents for some reason we are not privy to. Whatever the reason for the intended privacy we can be sure that it was sought after for Good and godly reasons, not deceptive or mischievous. Anyway, it didn’t work “He could not escape notice” (v. 24).

25 But after hearing about Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a [a]Gentile, of Syrophoenician descent. And she repeatedly asked Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not [b]good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the [c]dogs.” 28 But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this [d]answer, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And after going back to her home, she found the child [e]lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

FOCUS ONE: The miracle of casting out a demon

In this focus point we get to observe the first of two healings that Jesus performs in two separate regions; both for gentiles! The first is in the region of Tyre with a gentile woman, a Syrophoenician. She kept asking Jesus to cast out a demon from her daughter. Verse 30 calls her a child, so we can assume that she was a pretty young girl.


In this particular account between Jesus and the woman we notice the language being used (children, dogs, and bread). Mark tells us that the woman “kept asking Jesus to cast this demon out of her daughter.” She was persistent, and we can say she was exhibiting faith in Jesus to do it! BUT take notice to the dialogue that ensues between them. Jesus tells her that the “children” should be satisfied with the bread first. The woman boldly replies that dogs do get to eat the crumbs that fall under the table.

“1Her point was that the dogs get some food at the same time as the children and thus do not have to wait. There need be no interruption in His instructing the disciples for all she humbly requested was a crumb, a small benefit of His grace for her desperate need.”

So what is at play here? Jesus is making the point that Israel was chosen above all others to benefit from God’s righteous rule. That puts them before people from the rest of the world. He is also signifying that His mission is first to the Jewish people, although we do see the inclusion of non-Jewish people as His ministry unfolds (these two healings are one example of that).

So what happens? Her persistence and faith affect Jesus! He tells her, “because of your answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter” (v. 29). That is very cool! Her answer demonstrated her humility and faith. Jesus does not go with her to speak to OR even touch her daughter. He simply tells her its done! She returns to her home and finds her healed, just as Jesus said.

31 Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 And they *brought to Him one who was deaf and had difficulty speaking, and they *begged Him to lay His hand on him. 33 And Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers in his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He *said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the [a]impediment of his tongue was [b]removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even those who are deaf hear, and those who are unable to talk, speak.”

FOCUS TWO: The miracle of healing the deaf and dumb man

Jesus came through Sidon within the region of Decapolis. Sidon is a Phoenician port on the Mediterranean Sea, about twenty miles north of Tyre. So some travel was involved. We often think as we read through our bibles that these things happened quicker than they did and that these geographical places were much closer than they were. This is a good reminder for us that that is often not the case.

Jesus is brought a deaf man who spoke with difficulty. They, whoever they are, (family, friends) entreat Jesus to “lay His hand upon Him” (v. 31). So, Jesus takes the man aside but rather than lay hands on him, He does something very peculiar, He puts His fingers into the mans ears, spits, and touches the mans tongues with the saliva! Mark is the only one of the gospel writers who records this miracle.

Unlike other healings, Jesus uses what can only be called “sign language” and “symbolic acts” to accomplish this miracle. It is interesting, the difference I mean, in how Jesus heals people. Mark does not give any explanation why Jesus did so, so we must be very careful NOT to add to scripture any of our own ideas!

“1By touching the ears and the tongue, spitting on the ground, and looking up to heaven (to God the Father), Jesus conveyed what He was going to do.” Remember, this man was deaf and mute, so it reasonable to conclude that this was what, perhaps in part, Jesus’ purpose was in acting this way.

Jesus, looking up to heaven, with a deep sigh (possibly reflecting compassion for the man) said, “Ephphatha,” which means be opened! Immediately the man is healed of both of his issues.

Unlike the last healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, Jesus here gave orders NOT to tell anyone. Yet again, we witness in this account the peoples disobedience to His command. The more He ordered them (commanded) to keep quiet, the more they “continued to proclaim it” (v. 36).

It would make sense that He wanted to minister within the region and not be looked at as only a “miracle-worker.” Sure, He, being God in the flesh, can heal anyone of anything. BUT, that is not the main reason He came: “for the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The people were “utterly astonished” at what Jesus had just done. The crowds confession, if you will, reveals their understanding of Jesus based on previous reports brought to them and now by what He has just accomplished in their sight!

FOCUS THREE: Contrasts and similarities

CONTRASTS:

  1. One a little girl, one a man.
  2. One could speak, one could not.
  3. One persisted and exercised faith, the other brought to Jesus and seemingly did nothing.
  4. One came for someone else, the other was brought by someone else.
  5. Two different places.
  6. The people in the region of Decapolis told NOT to tell anyone, not so with the woman.

SIMILARITIES:

  1. Both carried a burden and had a need
  2. Both expressed humility
  3. Both came into the presence of Jesus
  4. Both were healed
  5. Both received mercy
  6. Christ was magnified

By looking at the contrasts and similarities in this account, we should be encouraged.

ENCOURAGED BY:

  1. The facts that gender is NOT an issue with the Lord
  2. Age is NOT an issue with the Lord
  3. Our location is NOT an issue for the Lord
  4. Our background or “backstory “ is no issue with the Lord
  5. Humility and faith ARE precious in His sight!

Dear reader, if you come to Jesus in humility and faith He WILL hear you; He will forgive you, and He will perform the greatest miracle ever for you-the salvation of your soul!

1 The Bible knowledge commentary, pg. 135

PRESUMPTION

Indiana Truck Driver Injured After Collision with Bull

I saw this report in our local news and found it to be very interesting in a few ways.

Indiana Truck Driver Injured After Collision with BullSCDN Photo Archive

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3MGoW9_0gA5i43i00

Indiana State News By Evan Green

“A semi truck driver in Indiana was reportedly injured after his vehicle collided with a bull in the road.

The incident occured in Wayne County, and deputies were called to respond after the semi was reported to be overturned.

The driver of the vehicle reportedly did not see the bull that was in the road until he collided with it, which resulted in the vehicle overturning into a ditch.

The bull was killed during the incident, and while it was reported that the driver was injured, his current condition has not been made public.”

While I am sorry for the bull, I am thankful that the driver survived and is on his way to recovery. So here are some things that stood out to me in this story.

First of all, I bet he never in a million years would have thought that he was going to run into a bull and overturn his tractor trailer that day. When you think about it, we often begin our days presuming they will go according to our plans.

13 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).

Second, how could something much smaller than his rig do so much damage? We really shouldn’t be surprised at this. We have all experienced the major train wreck of sin in our lives, and yet, we walked into it thinking it was no big deal!

” The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12).

“O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you” (Psalm 65:9).

A story like this one reminds me to be looking to Christ daily, thankful for His kindness in providing me another day to participate in. It also reminds me to be diligent in using the means of grace that He provided (prayer, Bible reading, communion, and baptism), so that I will be encouraged and strengthened for tomorrow, even if I have an unexpected run in with a bull!

Near misses add up

In all of my years driving professionally the one safety training topic that still resonates in my mind is that of “near misses.’

OSHA defines near misses as episodes where no property was damaged and no personal injury occurred in spite of the fact that, given a slight shift of time or location, damage or injury would most likely have occurred. Near misses can also be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free occurrences or potential collisions.

“Most people think of “near misses” as harrowing close calls that could have been a lot worse—when a firefighter escapes a burning building moments before it collapses, or when a tornado miraculously veers away from a town in its path. Events like these are rare narrow escapes that leave us shaken and looking for lessons.”

“But there’s another class of near misses, ones that are much more common and pernicious. These are the often unremarked small failures that permeate day-to-day business but cause no immediate harm. People are hardwired to misinterpret or ignore the warnings embedded in these failures, and so they often go unexamined or, perversely, are seen as signs that systems are resilient and things are going well.

Yet these seemingly innocuous events are often harbingers; if conditions shift slightly, or if luck does not intervene, a crisis erupts.”

Our lives are filled with “seemingly innocuous events” on another level as well. The radio program that comes on talking about a savior when we thought we set the channel for a comedy show. The new hire at work that enjoys talking about some guy named Jesus! The car accident that sends you to the hospital where the local chaplain visits and reads to you from the Bible.

I can go on but I think you get the point. These supposed innocuous events are harbingers on a spiritual level to those without Christ. They might possibly be the catalyst for bringing them, as they did us, to repentant faith in Jesus!

These things are near misses only in the sense of how close a person comes to the “light of the glorious gospel” and then moves on ignoring the truth it contains as if they have no significance. They go unexamined and are incorrectly seen as weird abnormalities.

Be careful, near misses add up and the inevitable consequences for ignoring them can prove fatal.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3)

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:5).

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

Isn’t it time to pay attention to those near misses?

GHOST ON THE SEA

Mark 6: 45-52

BRIEF INTRO: As the crowds are disbursed and the disciples are sent off in the boat, the twelve still did not get the rest they needed (v.31)! Ironically, these men are tired and hungry from their mission, in much need of rest, but the multitudes kept encroaching; kept invading their space if you will, and so rather than rest and food for themselves, they are kept busy feeding well over 15-20 thousand people (when you add the women and children).

Verse 45 is the 16th “immediately” that I counted in Mark’s writing. This reminds us of how “fast paced” his account is.

Why does Jesus make the disciples get into a boat and leave (immediately)? Why does Jesus go into the mountain to pray rather than joining them? Why do these people keep following after Jesus? Do the disciples comprehend who Jesus truly is? Let’s jump into it and see if we can find the answers.

45 And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself *dismissed the crowd. 46 And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray.

FOCUS ONE: Crowds disbursed

In Mark’s fast paced accounting of events, he gives us little explanation, actually he gives none, as to why Jesus sends His disciples away so quickly. Some assume that it is because He is compassionate and understands that they still have not received ANY rest since He sent them out. Others, lookin over the other gospels think a bit differently: “But John says that after He had done the miracle, the people wanted to take Him and make Him a king, John 6 verses 14 and 15. They were ready to start a revolt, a revolution.You have to understand that the Kingdom at this point, as we look at it here, the Kingdom at this point is all in one little boat. This is not very impressive. This Kingdom is not at all impressive. It is a poor Kingdom by any human estimate. A wooden boat in the middle of a storm, and the vice regents and future rulers and proclaimers of this King and His Kingdom can’t control the boat.


This is a very dangerous moment for the Kingdom. Nazareth has rejected Him. Galilee has rejected Him. Herod wants to kill Him. The Pharisees and scribes want to kill Him. The leaders in Jerusalem want to kill Him.

And now, even those who are His apostles, first generation of gospel preachers, the ones who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, these men are in a dire situation. Their rescue is essential and so is their complete devotion to Him. Future hope for gospel preaching depends on their survival and it depends on their faith.” Sure, Jesus is compassionate, BUT there is more at stake here than these men eating and resting, as important as that is.

MacArthur writes: “They (the multitudes) were sure of His amazing, miraculous power. They knew now that He would not only heal their bodies, deliver them from disease, raise their dead, but He would be the source of permanent food supply. And so, they were ready to make Him a king. They were certainly ready to have Him overthrow Herod and all the other petty Herodians who had pieces of Israel over which they ruled under the allowances of Rome. They were ready to take on Rome itself with Jesus as their leader. This was the crowd’s response to the massive nature of this miracle and what it demonstrated about His power to provide for them.”

Jesus, knowing that these men could easily be influenced by the crowds and perhaps get swept away with the excitement that filled the air, quickly sends them away from the multitudes to the other side of the sea.

Jesus then goes to the mountain to pray (often goes here). Jesus is very busy and normally does not get alone time; but he makes time! Jesus knows the will of the people and He knows the susceptibility of the twelve men He chose to the electricity in the air of a long awaited “messiah,” king. He knows the future kingdom work rests organically in these men, so He prays!

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them [a]straining at the oars—for the wind was against them—at about the [b]fourth watch of the night, He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

FOCUS TWO: Disciples in fear
The twelve are in the boat for several hours, many of them spent straining at the oars in rough waters. Mark says that it was evening when they were in the boat and about “the fourth watch” Jesus came to them. How long is it between “evening” and the 4th watch? Approximately six hours!

Imagine that. Jesus sees them “straining at the oars” (v. 48) and yet does not go to them for several hours? And then we read that He walks on the water to them “intending to pass by.” Those two facts together tell me that these men, especially Peter, were about to have their faith in Christ tested!

Why pass by?

  1. 1. God does not always deliver from trials but uses them to produce (endurance, humility, dependence, how to ask for help).
  2. 2. Test of faith (how do we act when God does not answer immediately (bitterness, anger, impatient)?

These men were terrorized at what they saw. You would think that after all they had seen being accomplished by Jesus, and all they had done recently by His power, they would instantly recognize and appreciate Jesus walking on the water to get to them. Instead, they were in great fear thinking it was a ghost and they were astonished that He stopped the wind!

That statement makes sense only in light of what we read later in verse 52, which we’ll talk about in our next focus!

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought that it was a ghost, and they cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were [a]terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they [b]had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but [c]their hearts were hardened.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus is divine

Can I say it? These men are slow to gain wisdom or insight as to who Jesus is and what He can do! BUT, I am too and so are you. We most likely would have reacted the same way if we were in that boat.

Mark reveals that these men were:

  1. Afraid (terrorized in the greek)
  2. And ignorant
  3. And tired

“So when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost and screamed.” These are grown men who probably have been doing a lot of yelling up to now anyway. But this is the shrieking scream of someone who is just in panic. They thought He was a ghost. The Greek word is phantasma, phantom, fantasy. Popular belief at the time was that spirits of the night brought disaster. That was hanging around in the superstitions of that time and that place. Maybe all of a sudden it was true in their experience.”

“For they all saw Him and were terrified,” tarassō that word means to throw into panic. They were literally thrown into panic. There was no – there was no way to process what they saw, a person walking on water. Well, the Lord didn’t let their shaking terror last very long – I love this. ‘He spoke with them and said ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Easy for you to say, right” (Macarthur).

So we see Jesus as:

  1. Encouraging
  2. He did not rebuke them
  3. And He gave them hope

This was a miracle that again reveals His deity:

  1. Power
  2. Authority
  3. Sovereignty

And all that He did was get into the boat and it stopped!

“The OT provides an important background for understanding Jesus’ action of walking on the water. Jesus is acting with divine power (2:7), because it is God alone who walks on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8), who makes His way through the sea and His path through mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16). The OT also makes sense of the otherwise puzzling note that Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples. The language is similar to that used of God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Exodus 33:17-34:8). . . For Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples, therefore, means that He desired to reveal His glory to them” (Exegetical guide to the Greek New Testament, pg. 116).

But they missed it. Their hearts were hardened (v. 52).

The Synoptics show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements must not be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come around to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

That night they went from fear to faith. That night they went from confusion to confession. That night they went from wondering to worshiping!

FEEDING 5000

Mark 6:30-44

BRIEF INTRO: Imagine for a moment, if you can, being apart of the multitude the day that Jesus fed them with only five loafs of bread and two fish! See yourself sitting on the green grass with fifty or one hundred other people anticipating what was going to happen. Maybe you could see Jesus, maybe not, in either case you hear the murmuring of the crowds and it is getting increasingly louder.

It’s not a sound of fear, but one of joy! Soon, in the near surroundings, you can see the disciples going from group to group with something in their hands. You are not sure what it is but you sure are hoping it’s something to eat, after all, you’ve spent part of the day tracking down Jesus and His disciples after you saw them leave in a boat.

You have been with Jesus all day, listening to His teaching, it’s now late and too dangerous to try to go back home. Your belly rumbles with hunger. What could they be doing going from group to group?

That is where these people are at in Mark’s account. And we are about to jump into it and learn just how significant this story was for them and us today!

30 “The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

FOCUS ONE: The concern of Christ vs. the presumptions of the crowds

Here we find the disciples returning from a very successful mission (6:13; Luke 9:6). The backstory about Herod and John the Baptist was “sandwiched “ between their being sent out and their return. Now they are back and report all that had happened to Jesus. They had healed many, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom repeatedly, and traveled many miles. They needed rest and Jesus recognized they that. So, he directs them to go away on a retreat, so to speak, to get some much needed rest. Jesus sends them to an unnamed place most likely near Bethsaida.

But, unlike Jesus and the concern that He showed for these faithful servants, the people chased after them, unconcerned, most likely not even entertaining the thought that they needed a rest, and caught up with, in fact, got to the other side ahead of them!

“While Jesus was showing concern for the disciples, the common people were not. They did not care how tired Jesus or the disciples were. Their minds were filled with what they wanted to get or see rather than what they could do for others. What should they have done at this point? Instead of just presuming that Jesus and the disciples were always ready for serving them, they could have asked. Even better, they could have used their eyes and seen the weary expressions and came up to Jesus and said, “I have noticed that you and your disciples are busy from before dawn until after dusk every day preaching to us, healing us, and serving us. You must all be very tired.” How can we serve you?

I am challenged with this aspect of the story. I shutter at the thought of how many times I have and most likely still do, presume upon the humble, obedient, and compassionate service of my church Elders and Deacons.

Another aspect of the story that needs to be highlighted is the evidence of how Christ discipled these men and why. Please take notice that when the apostles met with Jesus they were not talking about what Jesus had been doing or teaching, but what “they” had “done and taught.” “This is yet another passage that gives us a lot of insight into how Jesus trained the disciples. They were not just bystanders observing Jesus’ ministry. They were part of it. They participated in it.”

Participation comes in many forms: “Sometimes their participation was in deeper small group discussion after Jesus’ miracles/teachings. Sometimes their participation was in preparing something like the place for the Last Supper or later in this passage finding some food. Sometimes it was asking Jesus more questions. And here we see they were also going around teaching the Word. As effective as Jesus was, He was still just one person. He could teach big crowds, but He was still limited to one place at a time. To make a bigger impact that would stretch to the ends of the earth Jesus had to train others.”

12 “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father”. (John 14:12).

Ironically they have no time to eat, but are used by Christ in feeding 5000 plus other people!

34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it was already late, His disciples came up to Him and said, “[b]This place is secluded and it is already late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves [c]something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred [d]denarii on bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 But He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”

FOCUS TWO: The confusion of the disciples vs. the plan of Christ

Can you see the irony in this? After all they had just done and witnessed, they could not grasp the scope of Christ’s divine power to provide for these people!

“The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could eat. Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat. Why? It was certainly an interesting request and the disciples responded like you might expect them too, which was to ask if they should buy food for everyone.” Could it be that Jesus was giving them an opportunity to show their faith by making a suggestion such as, “Jesus, we can’t feed all of these people…but you can. In fact, we learn from John 6:5-7 that Jesus was doing it to test them. He often tried to get them to think beyond the physical realities of what they could see and touch. Most of the time, however, this was a struggle for them.

They scan the landscape at come up with only five loafs and two fish, which should be no surprise to us that in Christ’s hands it abundantly supplied the need! Where did they get the loafs and fish from? John 6:1-14 – A parallel account mentions the boy who gave the loaves and fish. I often wonder if he was the only one that brought a snack with him that day. Were others being selfish and deceptive by keeping what they had to themselves? These accounts do not speak to that question, but I wonder how I, how we, would have acted in that situation!

39 “And He ordered them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied; 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. 44 There were five thousand [a]men who ate the loaves.”

FOCUS THREE: The compassion of Jesus satisfies a compelling need

Why separate into hundreds and fifties? “Jesus commanded them to sit down all in groups. As we see in 1 Corinthians 14:40, God is a God of order. Nothing generates chaos like free food. Jesus didn’t want a stampede or trampled people so He wisely made people sit down. If they wanted to receive the benefit from His miracle they had to do it on His terms. This is just like salvation. He offers it freely, but we have to accept it on His terms, not on our own.”

Jesus takes the food into His hands, looks up toward heaven, not towards the crowds, which expresses where are needs are met, and blesses the food. I am amazed at this next sentence: “He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples.”

I wonder how this actually transpired. Did the food keep on appearing in His hands? Did He keep producing it in His hands and incessantly pass it out or fill up the returning baskets? It is interesting and exciting o think about!

In this we should see an example of prayer for blessing the meals He so graciously supplies us. I believe 1 Timothy 4:5 helps us understand this better. By means of the word of God and prayer “nothing” that God created and has given to us for good should be rejected or taken for granted, but are supposed to be received with gratitude! Such gratitude is expressed in our following the example of Jesus and acknowledging God’s goodness in meeting our needs.


Many ponder why 12 baskets were left over? It is observed that those twelve baskets equal one for each disciple. It doesn’t appear rational to create or surmise some other reason for the left overs. Jesus did not forget about these men, these servants. He knows they were tired and hungry before this situation unfolded and He knows they are even more so now. He meets their needs!

Friends, we can always trust Jesus to meet our needs, temporal and eternal! GOSPEL

TRUTH FROM THE PAST

“ Prayer that affects one’s ministry must give tone to ones life. The praying which gives color and bent to character is no pleasant, hurried pastime. It must enter as strongly into the heart and life as Christ’s ’strong crying and tears’ did; must draw out of the soul into an agony of desire as Paul’s did; must be of an in-wrought fire and force like the ’effectual fervent prayer’ of James; must be of that quality which, when put into the golden censer and incensed before God, works mighty spiritual throes and revolutions.

Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mother’s apron strings; neither is it a little decent quarter of a minute’s grace said over an hour’s dinner, But it is a most serious work of our most serious years.

E.M Bounds