Tag Archives: Mark

28. The 12 Apostles

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Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve written and I’m sorry about that. We had some family stuff going on that distracted me from writing. But I’m back and my goal is to post at least once if not twice a week.

Enough of that stuff, let’s get into God’s word!

This time we will be looking at the first time the 12 apostles are listed all together. Today’s reading can also be found in Mark 3:13-19 but I am going to focus on Luke’s version of events:

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6:12-16 NIV)

I was thinking of all the ways we could approach this reading: we could look at name origins, we could look at what it means to be an apostle… but there is one thing that keeps drawing my attention, “and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor,” (verse 16). It really makes me stop and think because Jesus is God, right? And God knows everything, right? So it follows that Jesus would have known what Judas was going to do so why call him to be a close companion? I mean these are his most intimate friends- his cohorts in crime, if you will. Yet, Jesus purposely called Judas to be one of his closest allies knowing he was going to betray him to the enemy. Not only that but he put him in charge of their money knowing that Judas would steal from them (John 12:1-6). I’m not saying that Jesus should have tried to thwart God’s plan of him being turned over to be crucified but did it have to come from a “friend”? But yet isn’t this what God does for us? Doesn’t he call us to be his close friend knowing we will betray him through our sin? Yes, he does. He invites us into his inner circle knowing we will turn our backs on him. He gives us control of the money bags knowing our propensity to steal. This is the heart of grace. Speaking from personal experience, I am the biggest of sinners. I have turned my back on God more times than I care to tell you about. I am Judas Iscariot. I have taken God’s trust and broken it. Even still, God forgives me. He accepts my sincere apology each and every time and removes my sin. I don’t claim to understand it- I just know it happens even though I don’t deserve it.

My question is this- do we realize how pitiful our situation is? Do we realize how closely we relate to Judas? And because of that do we realize the extent of God’s forgiveness? Do we realize the depths of his love for us despite our poor choices and blatant betrayal? Or do we think that we are doing God a favor by loving him? Do we forget the height from which we have fallen? The danger of forgetting the miserable state from which we came is we become judgmental people who think we are not nearly as bad as others. Yes, God has cleaned me up inside and out but there was a time I was like a rotting corpse. The stench permeated my soul. Then God graciously brought me to new life through Christ. How am I to look down at someone else? Yet this is the danger that faces us. Once saved it is easy to forget the old, embrace the new, and forget how terrible our position was; we forget that we were all Judases at one point. And instead of wanting to share our new found love, we point fingers at others who have “worse sins” than ours.

I know, you never expected all of this from a list of names but it is important to remember that from which we have been saved. Judas always gets a bad wrap for being a bad guy and we tend to forget that we are no better. Never forget that you have God’s grace because you were first a sinner- first class.

The End.

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25. The Lord of the Sabbath

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Those pesky Pharisees are at it again- trailing Jesus and causing problems. Once again, we see Jesus confront them:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)

This account is found in the three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. You can read the other versions by clicking on the links but today we will be read from Matthew. Once again we find Jesus on the Sabbath doing things that the Pharisees think he shouldn’t be doing. What was going on this time? Well, the disciples were hungry and as they passed through a grain field, they picked some heads of grain. Upon first glance it may appear that the disciples are stealing grain and that is why the Pharisees are mad… again. But according to Deuteronomy 23:25, hungry people could hand pick grain from their neighbor’s fields. They were just not allowed to use a sickle to harvest. The Pharisees were not angry because they were picking someone else’s grain… They were angry because they were doing on the Sabbath day. Remember, God said not to do any work on the Sabbath but the Pharisees had made so many rules about what “work” was that it was difficult to keep their Sabbath laws. And what were some of these ridiculous laws? The oral tradition, called The Talmud, states that any journey over 2000 steps was considered work and was not permitted. You also could not carry anything over a prescribed number of steps or that was considered work. Modern Jews who wish to keep strict Sabbath laws may squeeze lemon on fish but may not squeeze lemon into tea. For some reason one is considered work and the other is not. The Talmud also said that there was to be no harvesting, threshing, winnowing or processing of grain on the Sabbath. But this is exactly what the disciples were doing by picking the grain and separating the kernel from the chaff. So, naturally, when the Pharisees saw this they were quick to point it out.

Jesus, in classic Jesus fashion, uses Scripture to answer his critics. He reminds them of the time when David was on the run from King Saul. He and his men were hungry from fleeing the King and came to Nob and met with Ahimelech, the priest. There he asked if Ahimelech if he had any bread he could spare. Unfortunately, all the priest had was the Bread of the Presence. The Bread of the Presence were twelve loaves of unleavened bread that were consecrated and placed on a table in the tabernacle before God. There was one loaf to represent each of the tribes of Israel. Each loaf weighed between six and twelve pounds. This bread was placed on the table on the Sabbath and was left there for a week. At the end of the week, the loaves would be removed and fresh loaves would be presented. The old loaves were given to the priests as part of their benefits package but because the bread was holy, only priests were supposed to eat it. But David was famished! So the priest, showing mercy to David, gave the holy bread to him and overlooked the letter of the law.

The other example Jesus gives is that the priests who serve in the Temple to work on the Sabbath and God is pleased with them. God shows mercy on them because they are doing God’s work.  The Pharisees are so caught up with memorizing Scripture and keeping rules and keeping the Temple in tip top shape that they forget that God’s heart beats with mercy! For the second time we see Jesus quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In other words it would have been a different story if the disciples had been in the field with sickles and bags for reaping but because they were simply hungry and picking just enough to satisfy their hunger, God finds them innocent of wrong doing. His mercy toward their hunger is greater than the law itself.

Then Jesus drops a doozy into the laps of the Pharisees: “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” (verse 8). This would have pushed the them over the edge. By calling himself, “Lord over the Sabbath,” Jesus overrides any man-made laws, especially those made by the law-stickler Pharisees. He is also declaring himself greater than David, greater than the priests, and greater than the law. He of course can make those claims but it would’ve angered the Pharisees immensely. Mark adds this line in his account, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” (2:27). The Pharisees had made so many laws about keeping Sabbath that keeping Sabbath became impossible. But God’s purpose for Sabbath was for physical, emotional, and spiritual restoration. The people were not resting if they had to worry all day about not breaking laws! One scholar puts it like this- man became the servant of the Sabbath instead of the served.

All this makes me wonder… Am I like the Pharisees in any way in my life? Is there anything in my life that I am so concerned about rules and regulations with that I am unwilling to surrender it to God. Or in other words, is there something in my life that I hold higher than God and am willing to protect at all cost, like the Pharisees did with the Sabbath? If I am honest, I would have to say my children are the thing I have to be most concerned about becoming idols in my life. Yet, God asks me to surrender even them to him to do as he wills. If I love them so much that I am unwilling to turn them over to God, then I am no better than the Pharisees. What are you holding on to? What is your idol?

The End.

21. The Woman Who Touched His Coat

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There is no delicate way to talk about this one… There was a lady who had a bleeding problem for twelve years. Twelve Years! Let’s read about her:

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:25-34)

The placement of this account is interesting. If you remember from the last study, it occurs in the middle of another story. A man named Jairus had come to ask Jesus to heal his dying daughter. Jesus was on the way to his house when he notices someone touched his clothing. This is where we pick up our study today. What was so special about this woman that three Gospel writers included her in their accounts? We are reading from Mark this time because he provides the most details.

Let’s take a look at the woman and her condition… She had some kind of continual hemorrhage, although scholars are unsure, it was most likely uterine related. This had some serious implications… 1- The woman would have been very weak and tired most, if not all, of the time. 2- She would have been considered unclean according to Levitical laws for twelve years (Read Leviticus 15:25-33). That’s a long time to be separated from family and loved ones. We learn from the text that she tried to get better by seeking doctors. In fact, she “had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse,” (verse 26). What were some of these treatments she sought? I’m glad you asked… They were far from the scientifically sound treatments of today. One cure said to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg. Another involved carrying barley corn obtained from the dung of a white female donkey around the neck. Yummy. The point is that she was desperate for a cure and nothing she tried helped. Then she heard about Jesus, perhaps she heard about him from other formerly unclean people who had been cured by Jesus. We don’t know but somehow this woman heard about the Healer. She had a problem though… no self respecting rabbi would knowingly touch a woman let alone an unclean woman. So she says to herself, “Self, if I just touch his clothes, I will be healed,” (verse 28). Now, many Bible Scholars say that this showed she thought there was something magical about Jesus; that she was a bit superstitious about Jesus’ power and had a very weak faith. I don’t think this is the case at all. I think she had great faith to think that just touching Jesus’ clothes would provide healing. Again, I think the reason she doesn’t confront Jesus and ask him for help is because a normal rabbi would have turned her away. I think it took great faith to think that Jesus was so powerful that all she had to do was touch him. Also, Jesus himself says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,” (verse 34). Her faith healed her. Not her lack of faith. All I’m sayin’ is who am I to argue with Jesus. If he says her faith healed her, then it was probably her faith that healed her, lol.

So she touched Jesus’ clothes and immediately her bleeding stopped and her whole body felt healed- in other words, there was no recovery time. She was instantly restored to complete health. Jesus then asks an question, “Who touched my clothes?” There were crowds pressing in on all sides. The disciples thought it was ridiculous of Jesus to ask, “Who touched me?” because everyone was touching him. Jesus knew, however, that one person in particular had received healing by touching him. Now, this brings a couple of questions to mind and I don’t know that I have the answers to them but they are worth asking any way…

  1. Did the woman really take Jesus’ power without his authority and in a sense steal his power?
  2. Did he really not know who touched him?

As to the first question, I don’t think that the woman took power from Jesus without his authority. I think he probably knew about what was going on and granted the healing. Which brings me to the second question- He also knew who touched him but was giving the woman the chance to publicly announce her complete restoration. I don’t know why he didn’t just point her out unless he was trying to be gracious in allowing her to ‘fess up. But I don’t think he was ignorant of the facts.

Oh, to have the faith of this woman! How often do we talk about having faith in Jesus but then don’t take our problems, no matter how small or big, to him. We try to fix things on our own, we ask others for help, but we fail to go to the one who can help us. I think this is a problem more with the little things in life. I almost always remember to ask God for help with the big stuff but God is in the details too. I think I mentioned this before, but one way I’ve started stretching my faith is when I lose something. I ask God to help me find whatever I’m looking for and within moments, I have found it. God has yet to leave me floundering for something. In how many more ways could we trust God yet we overlook them? My challenge to you this week is to pick one time to trust God in a way you have never done before. Running late for an appointment? Trust God to make it work out somehow. Lose your keys? Ask God to find them for you. Low on cash? Ask God to give you your daily needs. But here’s the kicker… you have to actually believe that God will come through for you and be ready to pray like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego- Lord, I know you can do this but even if you don’t I will still praise you!

The End.

20. Jesus & Jairus

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In this Bible Study we will read about the first recorded time that Jesus raised anyone from the dead. This time it happens to be a twelve year old daughter of a synagogue ruler. It’s a longer passage because there is a story within a story. Don’t worry though, I will break these stories into two studies so don’t get overwhelmed:

Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands onher so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:22-43)

Alright lets back up a moment. Jesus is still at Matthew’s house having dinner. John the Baptizer’s disciples have just asked Jesus why he doesn’t fast. You can read about it here. While he was finishing his discussion with John’s disciples, a man named Jairus comes in. Jairus was synagogue leader or literally synagogue “ruler”. He is a man with a problem- his daughter is sick. In fact, she is dying. This brings me to my first observation- In general synagogue rulers, Pharisees, etc didn’t care for Jesus. It makes me wonder what Jairus’ opinion of Jesus was before his daughter became sick. Was he a hard nosed, anti-Jesus critic or was he more like our friend, Nicodemus- genuinely curious about this God-man? We don’t know but it makes me wonder none the less. Either way, we see a desperate Jairus coming to Jesus… falling at his feet, begging him to come and heal his daughter. If Jairus was your typical religious ruler, imagine what it meant for him to fall at Jesus’ feet. How bad must his situation have been for him to humiliate himself like that? He was a very prominent man, after all, and now we see him at the feet of someone who was controversial to say the least. It easily could’ve been a first century scandal.

So to recap the story… Jairus has a dying daughter (about twelve years old), he asks Jesus to, “come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live,” (Mark 5:23). Jesus goes with Jairus. On the way, Jesus has an encounter with another sick female. I don’t want to spend too much time on her right now because I plan on studying her next time with more detail. But it is important to mention that while Jesus was still talking to her, word comes that Jairus’ daughter had died. If only Jesus had been faster in getting to her! If only he hadn’t stopped to speak with the other woman! Didn’t Jesus know how seriously ill she was? Can you imagine Jairus? He just completely humiliated himself in front of an audience of his peers (remember the Pharisees were at Matthew’s house) for nothing. His daughter is dead. His reputation is potentially ruined. But then… (You gotta watch out for the big buts in the Bible, lol). But then Jesus leans over to Jairus and tells him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” I love this line and I have clung to it often throughout the years when I have faced trouble and and strife. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” It seems so simple doesn’t it? Yet when you have nothing left… when all else gone… all you have is faith and if you don’t have faith in anything then you have nothing. It’s sad really. And how many people have nothing? I think that’s why we see people who don’t normally believe in God and/or Jesus asking for prayer or talking to God directly. They realize they have nothing else so they fall on God.

Jesus takes only Peter, James, John and Jairus with him as they get closer to the house. As they approach, “Jesus saw a commotion.” Jewish mourning customs back then were different then our current American customs. Professional mourners were hired to “grieve” the departed. Even the poorest family was required to hire at least “one wailing woman and two flute players”. Jairus being of a respectable profession could have afforded more than the bare minimum. I love Jesus and his ways. I imagine Jesus just looking around with a slight smile on his face when he asks, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep,” (verse 39). He knows the child is dead, he knows everyone else knows the child is dead. What they don’t know is that Jesus isn’t just a healer… he is life itself. It’s as if the little girl is merely sleeping because Jesus is about to “wake her up”. Jesus is going to completely restore her. Of course the people thought Jesus was nuts and even laughed at him. Even if they knew about his healing powers, it didn’t matter to them because to them the girl was beyond healing. But nothing is impossible with God!

Jesus kicks everyone out except for Jairus and his wife, Peter, James, and John. Once again, you’ve got to love Jesus’ style- he takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (verse 41). He is so gentle and caring!  Oh, to be that little girl- to have held Jesus’ hand and be brought to life! The text says she immediately got up and started walking. Then Jesus tells them to feed her. I guess it’s hungry work being dead, lol! To say everyone present was amazed would be an understatement. Can you imagine? I’ve been to several funerals where I have thought about this passage and how crazy it would be to have the dead person just stand up and start talking and walking as if nothing had happened. Freaky right? Yet this is exactly what happens here. Jesus, with just a touch and a command, conquers death.

All this made me think about a couple of life application points:

  1. How often do people approach God like Jairus? They go through life as if they have it all together on their own and then something terrible happens… then all of a sudden, when there is no where else to turn, they come begging to Jesus. Now there is nothing wrong with coming to Jesus this way if you leave a different person. What I find interesting about Jairus is that we never know how this healing of his daughter affects him. Does he go back to his typical synagogue ruler ways or does he allow the miracle to change his life? I hurts my heart to see people in desperate situations cry out to God for a miracle, get the miracle and then continue to live their life as if nothing ever happened. Like I said, we don’t know whatever happened to Jairus, it just makes me go hmmmm. The next time you ask God for anything- healing, finding lost keys, new job… whatever it is, and he pulls through 1. Don’t forget to thank God for the miracle. 2. Come out on the other side of the miracle a different person! Allow it to change your life and then tell others so it can change their lives, too! We don’t know what happened to Jairus, but we can write our own endings to our stories. How will yours end? Will you go back to your regular life or will you live a life changed by God?
  2. Sometimes bad things happen so that God can get greater glory. It’s not an accident that the girl died. Whether it was because Jesus was waylaid by the bleeding woman or whether something else would’ve happened, the girl was going to die anyway so that Jesus could be glorified greater than ever before. If she hadn’t died then Jesus would have just been a healer. Now people knew a deeper facet of his glory… his power over death itself! The next time life doesn’t go your way, instead of pouting about it, ask God to use the situation to bring himself the greatest glory and watch what happens! For example, my step-mom was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. While I pray that God would heal her with a miracle, I also pray, earnestly, that whatever he chooses to do, that his glory will be made known. Do I have to like what he does? Nope. But I pray it anyway. Already I have seen family members hearts soften towards God and that, my friends, is a miracle.
  3. Only Jesus has the power over death! This is why believing in him is necessary if you want to live eternally. What does it matter if we live eternally or just die? I’m glad you asked 😀 Life after death and death isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. When you die you don’t just cease to exist. You will either live eternally or die eternally. It’s not a once and done thing. Eternal death is the process of being eternally separated from God. The absence of God is Satan or Evil. So eternal separation from God means an eternal presence of Evil and Satan. Sadly, this is what awaits those who don’t choose God. Fortunately, Jesus overcame death by overcoming Hell so that we don’t have to go there. This is the Good News of the Bible! Jesus has overcome sin by overcoming death itself and we who believe in him have also overcome death through Christ. This is why we can have hope when things are going bad. Jesus has overcome and we are going to spend eternity in heaven with him. It doesn’t get any better than that even if we have to muddle through the muck of this world to get there.

The End.

0. The Life of Christ, A Bible Study – Intro

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I’ve been feeling a need to switch gears from looking at praise songs to looking at the Bible itself, and what better place to start than with Jesus. I plan on taking a comprehensive look at all 4 Gospels to get a fuller picture of his life and teachings and sharing what I learn with y’all. I hope by doing this, we will begin to earnestly seek not only what Jesus taught and did (head knowledge) but also to apply his life to our own so that we may become more like him (heart knowledge)! Do you want to know what God’s will for your life is? Study the Scriptures and let it tell you. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We must change and renew our minds to focus on the things of God and the things of God are found in the Bible. This is why I feel a need to teach from the Bible itself.

I want to give you a quick overview of the Gospels. First off, the word Gospel means “good news”. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are called the Gospels because they tell us about the good news of Christ. Matthew, Mark and Luke are often called the Synoptic Gospels. That just means that many of their stories overlap although they may be told in slightly different ways depending upon how the author told the story. John also tells about Jesus’ life but it is the most different of the four books. Which leads to something I’d like to address. Some critics of the Gospels say they are not reliable because they are not identical in their storytelling. Well, think about a time when you and some friends were present for the same event. Each of you will have the same story but each of you will have your own versions of the story. The stories aren’t wrong, they are just different- each one shaded by the story teller’s background. For example, Matthew was a Jew and tells his version of events with a Jewish mindset and a Jewish audience in mind. Luke, however, was a not a Jew and was educated as a doctor. His version of the story is flavored with references of Jesus as the great physician and healer while keeping a Gentile audience in mind. They do not compete, they compliment each other.

There is so much that I hope we will discover together. This study means that you must do your part and read the Bible with me. I will try to keep the passages we study each day manageable but please spend time reading the actual Bible verses and not just skip ahead to the commentary, which I will confess I tend to do when I am in a hurry. After all it is the Word of God that brings life not what I have to say about it. Having said that I am excited to see what we learn together. I will try to post every 3 days to give you time to actually study and meditate on the verses we are reading. Feel free to ask questions or comment below. I may not know the answer to your question but I will try to find the answer and if I can’t I promise not to make one up. And if you disagree with me that’s ok too. I could be wrong. Feel free to share your thoughts even if they are different than mine as long as you are respectful about it.

Thanks for starting this journey with me and I look forward to “seeing” you tomorrow!

The End.