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

ONLY BELIEVE

Mark 5: 21-43

BRIEF INTRO: We have noticed beginning in chapter four (4:1) that Jesus was teaching by the sea. After He finished His teaching using parables, He wanted to cross over the sea to go to the other side, into the region of the Gerasenes (4:35; 5:1). There He was met by a man “with an unclean spirit” who lived in the tombs (5:2). Jesus commanded the spirits to leave the man and gave His permission for them to enter the swine. The herd, about two thousand, ran into the sea and drowned!

We witness Jesus getting into the boat and “crossing over again “to the other side (5:21). It is there where one of the synagogue officials approaches Jesus. In the events leading up to this meeting, we find two fascinating and seemingly “hopeless” situations that Jesus proved His Lordship over! First is the deadly storm (4:35-41). Second, the man possessed by the “Legion” (many unclean spirits). He now moves into what I will term another set of seemingly hopeless situations: a diseased woman and a dead girl! We will witness in each of these situations, yet, again, the complete authority and power Jesus has over all the things and all the scenarios of our daily and temporary lives!

21 When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and He [a]stayed by the seashore. 22 And one of the synagogue [b]officials, named Jairus, *came, and upon seeing Him, *fell at His feet 23 and *pleaded with Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will [c]get well and live.” 24 And He went off with him, and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

FOCUS ONE: Jairus boldly approaches Jesus

Directly after Jesus touches the shore, a man breaks through the crowds that have gathered and falls at Jesus’ feet. His name is Jairus, and he is a “synagogue official” (v. 22). As a synagogue official, Jairus would be some form of an attendant in the synagogue. That role entailed bringing out the Torah scrolls for the service, leading the synagogue in prayers, and returning the scrolls afterward. Historically speaking, “after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70, worship could no longer take place in the temple, making the synagogue the central place of worship.”

He approaches Jesus in reverence and humility, NOT demanding or proclaiming entitlement, evidenced by his tone and demeanor (fell at His feet, pleading earnestly). This man exhibits great faith in Jesus to heal his daughter in what, humanly speaking, is a hopeless scenario to find himself in. She is only twelve years old and is at “deaths door” (v. 23). His faith in Jesus to heal her is impressive and instructive for us, even today. “Come and lay your hands on her so she can get well and live.”

Jairus is a bold man of faith. He was not afraid to approach Jesus, the only one that could help him in his hour of need. He must have heard of what Jesus was doing on the other side of the sea and so had no doubts that He was able to heal his daughter.

“So, Jesus went with him.” Everybody in that crowd wanted to witness a miracle. To see with their own eyes the Undoing of the impossible! With that many people pressing against Him as they walked, it must have been burdensome to move. At that moment, a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years reached through the compacted crowd and touched Jesus’ robe.

I will focus on her story in my next focus point. But for now, I want you to put yourself in Jairus’ place. His daughter is close to death, and time is quickly running out. Jesus, his only hope, is now “side-tracked” by this woman who has an issue. Time is of the essence and Jesus, rather than continuing to his house, turns around inquiring as to who touched Him, which then leads to more precious time being lost as Jesus engages the woman.

Jesus, with great compassion, always seems to be ready to inconvenience Himself to help people in need. Are we prepared to do the same?

Jairus, like us, must have felt great apprehension in his soul when Jesus stopped to engage this woman. The fear of losing his daughter must have escalated as time appeared to be quickly passing by and hopes of healing were diminishing. And then, to have people come and tell you that your daughter has died while you were en route must have been deeply grievous to his soul.

BUT, Jesus knowing what was said, tells Jairus, “don’t be afraid, only believe” (v. 36).

We must remember, and this is VERY important to the story, that Jesus, by touching a dead person and being associated with blood, in their view, would Himself take on the uncleanness related to both of them (Leviticus 15:19-27; Numbers 19:11). BUT, rather than making Jesus unclean, the woman was instantly healed, and Jairus’s daughter was brought back to life!

25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but instead had become worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His [a]cloak. 28 For she had been saying to herself, “If I just touch His garments, I will [b]get well.” 29 And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power from Him had gone out, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” 32 And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has [c]made you well; go in peace and be cured of your disease.”

FOCUS TWO: The woman sneaks up in the crowd and touches Jesus’ garments

As I meditated on this text, seeking to understand why Mark would include this story sandwiched between Jairus approaching Jesus and then going to Jairus’s home, I tried to put myself in his position. Sometimes it is helpful to do that when we are trying to figure out the plotline within our text. Now we have, most likely in Jairus’s view, an unwanted delay in Jesus healing his daughter by this woman that sneaks up to Jesus in the crowd.

Jairus, now with Jesus, is walking home to his beloved dying daughter. This woman “interferes” with his expectations, and that subsequent time lost results in the death of his little twelve-year-old daughter. When they began walking, there was hope; she was only in the process of dying. Now, after this woman engages Jesus, his daughter is dead! He is weighed down with grief.
This woman has been dealing with her ever-growing hopeless situation for twelve years. She tried every new thing she could. New doctors with new treatments and spent all her wealth but found no healing. Luke, the physician, tells us that nothing helped because her condition was incurable (Luke 8:43). It sounds like God had a plan in allowing her to suffer for so long. He would manifest His authority and power through her, under such circumstances for His all-wise and holy purposes! That’s how old Jairus’ daughter is (vv. 25,42).

Her faith was so great that she believed that she only needed to touch His garment and that she would be healed. Such faith was exhibited with Paul (Acts 19:12), the difference being Paul was not God; the Lord granted any power in Him to magnify His name and His gospel!

Jesus, wanting to draw the woman out of the crowd, asks, “who touched me?” He wanted her to have faith, not fear; praise, not trembling. She does come forward and tells Jesus everything (v.33). Jesus then makes this statement crucial for us to hear: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed from your affliction” (v. 34).

From his sentence, we draw out three statements

  1. Your faith has made you well
  2. Go in peace
  3. Be healed of your affliction

First, notice that her faith made her well, not touching His clothes. Second, Jesus was not angry at her for touching Him, and He granted her peace. And third, He heals her of her affliction.

*”The verb save (s’oz’o) in verse 28 can refer to deliverance from physical danger and affliction or deliverance from eternal judgment. It’s used in 10:26, where ‘being saved’ is par to inheriting eternal life and 10:17,30 “entering the kingdom of God (10:23-25). The primary meaning in this passage (5:23,28,34), however, relates to deliverance from physical difficulty since ‘being saved’ is par to ‘being healed from affliction’ (5:34). YET, even in his passage, (save) seems to point beyond mere physical healing from a particular affliction to a greater sense of wholeness and well-being, since the woman’s deliverance allows her to ‘live in peace.”
So there seems to be a strong suggestion that her faith also led to spiritual salvation!

We now begin to see the bottom piece of bread in this sandwich! Mark began with Jairus (bread), then entered the woman (meat), and now we have our next piece of bread (Jairus’ home) to complete the sandwich.

35 While He was still speaking, people *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why bother the Teacher further?” 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, *said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid, only [a]believe.” 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him except Peter, [b]James, and John the brother of [c]James. 38 They *came to the house of the synagogue official, and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And after entering, He *said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child has not died, but is asleep.” 40 And they began laughing at Him. But putting them all outside, He *took along the child’s father and mother and His companions, and *entered the room where the child was in bed. 41 And taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, “Talitha, kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were utterly astonished. 43 And He gave them strict orders that no one was to know about this, and He told them to have something given her to eat.

FOCUS THREE: The little girl arises

While Jesus was speaking to the woman, news came of Jairus’s daughter’s death. How distressing for him to hear, how discouraging for him as he may have counted in his mind the precious minutes being lost as Jesus engaged the woman. BUT, Jesus encourages him to continue having faith in Him, even though his situation appears pointless now that his daughter has died.

Imagine the scene as they walk up to his house, hearing the mourners’ loud lament. They saw so many people weeping and wailing at the girl’s death. Imagine standing there as Jesus tells them all not to cry. The child did not die but is sleeping! Would you have laughed at Him too!

Jesus takes Peter, James, John, and the child’s parents into the room where the twelve-year-old girl lies. He speaks while holding her hand, and she arises!

What similarities and differences do these accounts share?

Common:

  1. Both are in a hopeless situation (vv. 23, 25-26)
  2. Both seek Jesus for healing (vv. 22, 27)
  3. Both expressed fear (vv. 36,33)
  4. Both exhibit faith (vv. 23, 28)
  5. Both receive what they sought (vv. 34, 42)

Not in common:

  1. Jairus is a male; the woman is, well, a woman (vv. 22, 25)
  2. He is a synagogue official, she is a woman with a hemorrhage (vv. 22, 25)
  3. Jairus boldly approaches Jesus, the woman sneaks up in a crowd (vv. 22, 27)
  4. He exhibits fear and concern, she exhibits embarrassment and shame (23,36,27,33)
  5. She endured much at the hands of others; Jairus is pleading for someone else (vv. 26, 23)
  6. Jairus’s daughter dies and then is brought back to life; the woman remains alive (vv. 35, 34)

What do we learn from these things? We realize that they both needed Jesus, the king of the kingdom, the promised Messiah, Emmanuel, to heal their hopeless situation. And in so doing, Christ put on display His deity, authority, and power over all things natural or unnatural!

Jairus had many “why” questions, just like us, and he was able to get the answers, at least to some degree” through this experience. I think the story of the woman with the blood issue was placed in the middle because Jesus wanted Jairus to grow in his faith in Him. His circumstances did just that?

“But we may never know the answers to our why questions this side of heaven. Will you be willing to trust God during that most difficult moment?”

This account of Mark should encourage us to trust Jesus even when we have to wait longer than we would like.

*Exegetical guide to the Greek NT, Joel f. Williams, pg. 96

Half way obedience is not obedience

Extended reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-23

Devotional reading: vv. 10-15

Samuel told Saul the instructions that the Lord gave him to. He was very clear in his communication of the the message. BUT Saul did not obey the commands given him. God was grieved because Saul had followed his own inclinations rather than God’s clear instructions.

If we’re honest we can relate to this. We know what the Lord requires of us, we do our best to obey, and sometimes we even adjust things a bit because we somehow believe that it will be ok, even better than we were instructed (vv. 13-15)!

“But God’s principles for holy living call us to obey His instructions, to make a clean break with the past, and to refuse to compromise. Saul exhibited none of these qualities. He chose to spare king Agag and the finest animals instead of destroying everything as God had commanded (15:8-9). He even built a monument to himself rather than pay tribute to God for the miraculous victory (vv. 1-2). When confronted by Samuel, Saul tried to justify his actions (v.15), but making excuses has never paved the way to a new life.”

We must accept responsibility for our actions if we desire to grow. If we obey God’s principles for our lives we won’t be placed in the position of trying to justify ourselves for our disobedience.

Adapted from the Every Mans Bible

WHEN RIDICULE HURTS

Extended reading: Judges 11:1-11

Devotional reading: vv.1-3

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

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

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

Adapter from Every man’s Bible

PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND SOILS

Mark 4: 1-20

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: Why parables?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: The parable employed


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

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

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

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

The soils are the main point!

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

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

FOCUS THREE: The parable explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how the kingdom grows.

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

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

*The Bible Expositors Commentary on spreading the gospel seed!

WHEN FAITH IS TESTED

Extended reading: James 1:1-8

Devotional reading 1:2-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOY IN OUR TROUBLES? WHY NOT

CALLING THE TWELVE

Mark 3:13-19

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ONE: The occasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO: The men

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE: Their function

What is their role?

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

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

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

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

*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 640

1 Bible study website

2 John MacArthur

3 Matthew Henry Commentary, pg. 1370

THE VALUE OF ONE ON ONE BIBLE READING

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

1.

2.

3. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD OF OPPOSITES

As I sit in my warm home on this cold, snowy day, I have been reflecting, remembering so many things that I have asked God for in prayer. I dare say that I did not receive many of those things, at least in the manner I expected. By reading my title, you may be thinking that I am a bit sarcastic or negative regarding my expectations of my Heavenly Father; I assure you that I am not being so minded.

I often tell people, well, at least those close to me, that in my experience, God has proven to be a “God of opposites.” When I say that to them, I only mean to express how He answered my prayers, most often opposite of what I thought would be best for me! Have you experienced this at all in your prayer life? 

I pray for one direction, and He leads in another. I ask for healing, and He allows me more time in my immobility. I pray for more godly men to rise in the church and serve Him, and He works in such a way that some leave the church. I ask for this or that, and He sees fit to give me something else or nothing at all.

Years ago, this troubled me. I struggled with praying at times because it seemed futile. I often thought and even joked with others that perhaps I should pray for the opposite of what they ask me to pray for on their behalf. Maybe then they will have a better chance at receiving their petitions!

I have learned over the years that God does answer my prayers in far better ways than I could have dreamed of. He knows my frame, my thoughts, my needs, my heart, and with such divine knowledge, He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

He knows when my motives are impure. He knows when what I am asking for is not truly what I need at the time. He knows what purpose He has created me for and is actively working to equip and strengthen me for the road ahead. 

However, there are still times when I pray for things near God’s heart, things He tells us to pray for in His holy Word. Things like unity within the body; souls being saved through the church’s ministry. And yet, these things do not seem to happen, and the months, perhaps years of praying, affect no difference. I may be sounding critical to you again, but honestly, that is not my purpose. I am not alone in this area of prayerfulness. I have talked with and counseled others struggling with the “why” questions. Why does God tell me to pray for this or that but does not seem to answer those prayers? Why wouldn’t He grant these requests? After all, He tells us to pray to Him for them? Why would He allow such adverse outcomes when so many pray for godly ones?

I am older now than I once was and have been graciously redeemed for the vast majority of my adult years, and I still do not have an answer to those questions. I do know that He is sovereign over all things. His character is goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, justice, holiness, forgiveness, and much more. And as such, He is unchangeable! That is where I draw my encouragement to keep on praying, asking, and petitioning. I am not God, and the Bible tells us that He is not like us; His thoughts are far above ours. Whatever He is doing OR not doing (from our perspective) ultimately results in “the praise of His glory.” 

He will receive glory in and through all things, and He is worthy of such praise. I have learned in my short life as a Christian what Charles Spurgeon stated so well:

“When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must trust His heart.”