News Too Good to Keep Silent

Mark 10 52a

As we continue to work our way through Mark, we approach the end of one of Mark’s most intriguing themes: Jesus’ emphasis on keeping his identity secret.  So far in the gospel, whenever Jesus has acted in a way that would point out that he is the messiah, he has quickly followed his action with a command for those in-the-know to be silent.

Biblical scholars call this the “Messianic Secret” of Mark.  And honestly, it’s still largely a mystery as to why Jesus does this and why Mark records it as a prevalent theme throughout his gospel.  In fact, Luke was so uncomfortable with this idea that it was explained as an attempt by Jesus to not be overwhelmed by large crowds (Luke 5:15-16).  Remember, Luke and Matthew based their gospels off of Mark’s framework.  So the healing of the leper in Mark 1 shows up in Luke 5 and Matthew 8 from their perspective.

I say all of this to point out that Mark 10 marks (ha!) the end of the Messianic Secret.  In verses 46-52 we have the story of the healing of Bartimaeus.  In the final verse, Jesus says, “Go; your faith has made you well.”  That’s it!  Before this, we would have expected Jesus to say something like “Be healed, but shush!”  No, instead Jesus heals him and that’s it.  The missing admonition is emphasized even more because in the opening of the scene, it is all of Jesus’s followers who were telling him to be quiet…very interesting… But, Jesus himself says nothing.  While Jesus may be the first example of being emo (‘I liked being quiet before it was a thing.  Now that it’s a thing, don’t.’), I don’t think that’s what Jesus or Mark had in mind.

If we look back at chapter 1 of Mark, Jesus’ first miracle happens in the synagogue (church).  He casts an unclean spirit from a man (Mark 1:23-28) telling the spirit to “Be quiet, and come out of him!”  Whoa!  The first thing Jesus says is shut it!  Now, in Mark 10, Jesus’ final miracle is the healing of Bartimaeus and he doesn’t say anything about silence.  And, it’s a miracle where a man’s sight is restored!  If Jesus is trying to hide his messiah-ship, then the restoration of sight (seeing that Jesus is the messiah) is the perfect way to emphasize it’s end.

So, what happens next?  The triumphant entry into Jerusalem where EVERYONE sees and claims the messianic nature of Jesus.  Whoa!  Mark is doing some crazy, mind-blowing stuff here that would work on even the best dramatic television shows today.

As we continue to explore Mark, we’ll get to see how this theme becomes a critical foundation for what is to come and for Mark’s final message to his reader.  So, stick around and we’ll keep digging through this amazing text together.

-Graysen Pack

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What to Do with Doubt

Mark 9:14-32 (Monday)

Mark 9 24

None of Scripture was intended to be read.  Although that may seem strange to us today, the ability to read was incredibly rare.  For today, it’d be like having a doctorate.  There are a number of professor’s out there, but you don’t run into them every day.  Reading just wasn’t something most people needed to be able to do to get through their day.  The agricultural and craftsman lifestyles didn’t need to keep many notes themselves.  As a result, the writings, when they were used, were usually read aloud in a collective setting – and this is key.  Because Scripture is meant to be heard – not read!  All those with EARS, let them HEAR.

Because of this, there weren’t any of the nifty little headings that we find in our Bibles today.  It was just one long story without breaks or chapters.  So, the nice breaks that we often get around stories didn’t exist except for the past few hundred years.  For today’s reading, both of these things are really important.

These two vignettes in Mark 9:14-32 (the healing of the child and the misunderstanding of the disciples) come back to back and would have been heard that way by Mark’s original audience.  So, what I’d like you to do is try it.  Take just a second to read these verses out loud. If you’re somewhere public, just try whispering if you want.  But read it out loud and see what sticks out to you.  I’ll wait here and I’ll do it too…

[waiting]

So, how was it?  Awkward? Weird?  Probably a little.  But when I did it something new really stood out to me about this passage.  In the first story, a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus responds ‘oh you faithless people…how much longer do I have to put up with you.  Bring me the boy.’  The father, distraught over Jesus’ seemingly kinda cruel response, cries out – ‘I want to believe! Please help my unbelief!’  He wants to save his son and will do whatever it takes to save him.

The next story is between Jesus and his disciples.  He’s teaching them about what’s going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem.  But they don’t get it.  They don’t have belief/faith, just like the dad in the previous story.  However, instead of putting aside their pride and asking for Jesus to help their unbelief (lack of understanding), they stay silent.

Here, in these few verses, a man from “this faithless generation” reaches out, pleads, and finds Jesus meeting him in his unbelief while the ones who are part of Jesus’ own inner-circle remain unmoved in their faithlessness.  And this at a time when Jesus’s time with them was literally drawing short.

The problem with this is never unbelief.  The problem is how we respond to it.  We won’t have all the answers.  We will doubt and question.  Jesus doesn’t lament our struggle – it is one that he himself walked through (for he shared in all things but without sin).  Embrace the places where you are unsure.  Lean into the spots where the struggle is the most real and you are shaken like the son in the story.  Push forward and call out for a help, a grace that will fill us in our uncertainty and bring healing.

-Graysen Pack

Desperate to Meet Jesus: At His Feet

Mark 5

Mark 5 22b

Have you ever had the opportunity to go see, and possibly meet, a celebrity (actor, musician, athlete) in person? Ten years ago, the New York Giants and the New England Patriots were in Arizona to play in Super Bowl XLII. You may be thinking that I tried to get to see either Eli Manning (the Giants quarterback) or Tom Brady (the Patriots quarterback). But my interest wasn’t in either of them. No, I knew that Eli’s brother, Peyton, would be in town to attend some parties before the game. I had a friend of a friend of a friend who had tickets to one of those parties and I daydreamed hard about getting to meet the future NFL Hall of Famer.

 

A few years before that I was in Monaco and my tour guide had heard that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damen were supposed to be filming a scene in the movie Ocean’s 12 at the famous Monte Carlo Casino. The group of students that I was traveling with and I stood with a crowd of people for almost an hour hoping to get a glimpse of the three actors. Well that never happened. But we did get to witness two extras walk down the steps of the casino and that scene is in the movie, so it wasn’t a complete waste of our time. Kinda.

 

When I read Mark chapter 5 I imagine that the crowds that followed Jesus around were a bit like the superfans of a celebrity. Wherever He went, masses of people would go and seek Him out. Not because He was rich and famous, but because they had heard He could perform some pretty crazy healing miracles. In this chapter we read about three people who were not just highly interested in meeting Jesus, they were desperate to meet Jesus. And so they did what they had to do, to get near Him. The demon-possessed man saw Jesus at a distance and ran and fell on his knees at Jesus’ feet (verse 6). The father of a dying young girl worked his way through the crowd and fell at Jesus’ feet (verse 22). The sick woman reached through the swarm of people to touch his cloak and then fell at His feet (verses 28, 33).

 

Desperation brings you to a place of complete abandonment of pride and social decorum and a complete surrender to experience an ounce of relief. Imagine being so in need of healing that you fight your way through a crowd of strangers to fall onto your knees at the feet of Jesus. The wonderful thing is that Jesus had compassion on each and every one of those people and He will have compassion on you too.

 

But Jesus doesn’t want you to humble yourself just when you’re desperate for healing. He wants you to be desperate to spend time with Him every day, even when things are going well for you. His desire is for us to sit at His feet and enjoy His presence no matter what is going on in our lives. Remember Mary, Martha’s sister, who sat at her Lord’s feet and she was praised for doing what was right (Luke 10:38-42)? Mary had the right idea. It’s during these times that we learn how to follow Him and to love Him. It’s during these times that we understand what it means to love others and become a fisher of men.

 

Psalm 16:11 says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” When we find ourselves at the feet of Jesus, life, in all of its complexities, will begin to make a little bit of sense because we no longer view things at face value, but we get glimpses of how our life experiences fit into God’s eternal plan. Yes, we will still know sorrow and grief, but we will also have an eternal hope, a peace that surpasses understanding, and overflowing joy.

 

So let’s take a few minutes to fall on our knees at the feet of our Savior and Lord.   

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

 

The Strength of Christian Friends

Mark 2

paralytic top

Many years ago, a precious lady in our church was coming to the end of her battle with cancer. One of her closest friends, also from our church, was sharing that she had been to her bedside to visit. While she was there our friend said that she could no longer pray for herself. The visiting friend reassured her that she had fought the good fight, she had finished the race and she had kept the faith, but it was time for her to rest and others would be praying on her behalf.

 

I’m not sure why this has stuck with me for probably longer than 20 years. Maybe it’s because I know that the bond of friendship between these two Godly women had endured a great many of life’s other trials as well as celebrations.

 

In Mark chapter 2 we see another wonderful example of friendship. Four friends going to extreme measures to bring another man to the Great Physician. Because of their faith, the man with the physical disability was healed and the five of them walked out of the room together. Can you imagine the celebration that took place among them and their families?

 

I realize that many lessons from Mark 2:1-5 have been taught about faith and the healing powers that Jesus demonstrated on that day. But to me, my attention always gets drawn to the message of how important friendships are.

 

We are not meant to walk our faith out in isolation. Faith is meant to be experienced in community. I know I said this in yesterday’s post, but we need others of like-minded faith, by our sides. This is so, so important. Our friends in the faith are who keep us on track, who support us when life gets tough, and who help us cheer when life is spectacular. And just as importantly, we do the same for them.

 

My prayer for you is that you have a network of people with whom you can do life together.  

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

Coming to Jesus for Healing

Luke 19-20

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Monday, May 22

The ending of chapter 18 and the beginning of chapter 19 have an interesting parallel. Whereas the end of chapter 18 includes the story of Jesus curing a man of his literal blindness, in chapter 19 Jesus cures another individual, Zacchaeus, of his figurative blindness. However, there’s a reason why Zacchaeus is so memorable, and it’s probably obvious to those of you who’ve ever gone to Sunday school as a kid.

Zacchaeus is remembered as “the guy who climbed the tree”, and that’s not an insignificant detail of the story. In fact, (in my translation, at least), there’s nothing in the beginning of chapter 19 that necessarily states that the events of the two chapters happened in linear order. In fact, it could have been that Luke himself placed the story of Zacchaeus directly after the story of Jesus curing a blind man on purpose, and perhaps to indicate something to the reader.

My interpretation of why these two stories correlate together goes like this; Luke shows that Jesus was capable of curing people of their blindness. He shows us Jesus curing a man of his literal “blindness” to show Jesus’ ability to purify us. After this, he tells the story of Zacchaeus who not only received redemption from Jesus, but he had to exert a clear effort, (so much so that he had to physically and figuratively rise above the crowd), and from there Jesus was able to find him and make his way to him. What Luke seems to be relaying to us here is that Jesus has the capacity to redeem us, but that it’s not enough to know this. Having this knowledge is only the first part, and the second part for us is pursuing him ourselves. Whatever qualities Jesus has to purify us and turn our lives around, it is something that we must actively pursue before we’ll really be able to experience it.

-Dillon Driskill

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.daily-bible-verse.net/Luke19-10.html)

What Was Jesus About?

Mark 1-3

mark-1-15

Monday, May 8

When you think of Jesus what do you think of? The cross? The suffering? The Resurrection? Feeding 5000? There are a great many things that Jesus accomplished while He walked this planet 2000+ years ago. Whatever Jesus choose to spend His time doing we should also spend our time doing.

 

As we begin to read from the Gospel of Mark we see that Jesus did a great deal of healing, and this resulted in crowds coming to Him. When people gathered to Jesus, he made teaching a priority. In chapter 1 verses 14, 15 it says, “Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  Later in verse 38 He says, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” Jesus clearly states that the reason He came was to preach and teach to bring people to repentance, “for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

Sometimes Jesus shared the word verbally and other times he shared it in action. Regardless of where Jesus was or who was around He was always focused on sharing the gospel of the Kingdom of God, in whatever way He could. We need to take after Him, after all we call ourselves CHRISTians. Not only that but also in chapter 3 verse 14 it says that, “He appointed twelve, so that … He could send them out to preach.” The twelve were the first disciples, we are the disciples today. Take the time to preach the gospel message in everything you do!

-Bill Dunn

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/mark/1/15)

The Authority to Forgive

Matthew 8-9

matt 9

Saturday, April 29

In Matthew 8 and 9 I notice two themes:

  1. Healing of the sick
  2. Jesus’ authority established

In these two chapters he healed one person after another, a woman bleeding, a dead girl, blind men, a paralyzed man, the list goes on and on. His healing did two things:

  1. Helped establish and recognize his God given authority
  2. Show that he can heal our physical human needs but also our spiritual needs, the forgiveness of sin

In Matthew 9:2-8 we read about a paralyzed man who had both physical and spiritual healing given to him by Jesus.

2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

 

Jesus’ authority was God given and proven through his ability to heal. He makes it clear though, he isn’t here just to heal the physical needs of the people but the spiritual ones as well.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: http://crosstownfamily.org/sermons/the-authority-to-forgive/)