Gospel of Mark

Gospel of Mark

Mark 08v27-38, “Who do you say that I am?”

Detail of  Mosaic in Hagia Sophia

2001 — Detail of Mosaic in Hagia Sophia — Image by © Hanan Isachar/CORBIS

1456053183_thumb.pngThe most important question that you can ever answer is the one that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

What you believe about a person determines your relationship to that person. What you believe about Jesus determines your relationship with him. It determines your relationship with God, and it determines your eternal destiny.

This passage begins with a question: Who do you say that I am?

1. Some Already Know Who Jesus Is.

1.1. The Reader of Mark’s Gospel Knows Who Jesus Is.

This passage is a crucial turning point in Mark’s Gospel. The question of Jesus’ identity was raised from the first chapter of this gospel. The reader of Mark’s Gospel already knows what he is to understand about Jesus because Mark has told us in the very first verse, what we are to understand about Jesus. This is…

Mark 1:1 ESV The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark begins by telling us that Jesus is the Christ, and that he is the Son of God. Those are two different things. Jesus is at one and the same time both the Christ and the Son of God.

The next verses introduce John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Christ. John’s ministry as the forerunner of Christ was announced by Isaiah the prophet, more than 700 years before Christ’s birth:

Mark 1:2-3 ESV As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

This is how we read it in Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:3 ESV A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

When Isaiah writes, “…prepare the way of the LORD,” he uses the very name of God: Yahweh. Translated into English, it is written capital L O R D. Isaiah says that the messenger who is John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the coming of Yahweh. Then he says the same thing another way: “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” So when Mark quotes Isaiah, he is telling his readers that they are to understand that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is Yahweh, God in the flesh.

Then just a few verses later in Mark 1, Jesus is baptized,

Mark 1:11 ESV And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

So the readers of Mark’s Gospel already know who Jesus is.

1.2. The Demons Know Who He Is.

Mark 1:23-24 ESV …there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.”

When Jesus rebuked the demon and cast him out simply by commanding him, the people

Mark 1:27 ESV …were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Again in,

Mark 1:34 ESV And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 3:11 ESV And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

Again in chapter 5, the man with a legion of demons cried out

Mark 5:7 ESV …with a loud voice…, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?…”

1.3. The People Do Not Yet Know Who Jesus Is.

The demons know who Jesus is, but the people do not seem to have understood the scream of the demons; they do they know who Jesus is.

Mark keeps bringing us back to this question through this Gospel. Who is this Jesus?

1.3.1. The Scribes Do Not Know Who Jesus Is.

When Jesus tells the lame man that his sins are forgiven, the scribes complained,

Mark 2:7 ESV “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Yes, who but God can forgive sins? And since Jesus claims the right to forgive sins, Mark is showing the reader who Jesus is, but the people have not yet understood that.

Mark 6:14 ESV King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”

1.3.2. King Herod Does Not Know Who Jesus Is.

In chapter 6, King Herod Antipas is trying to figure who Jesus is and where he gets his power to heal.

It is one thing for the scribes and the Pharisees and King Herod and others to be confused about the identity of Jesus, but what about his disciples?

Up to this point, Jesus has not said that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one that the prophets had promised. He has claimed to be the Son of Man who has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10. And he has claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath with the right to interpret its meaning (2:28), but after the very first verse where Mark tells us that Jesus is the Christ until we get to the end of chapter 8, the word Christ has not been used again.

1.3.3. What about the disciples?

We have seen that up to this point, the disciples did not get it. They are with the Lord. They have heard his teaching but do not understand it.

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

At the end of chapter 4, the disciples are in danger of perishing in a storm tossed sea, but Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, saying, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:41 ESV And [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Who is this, indeed?

They failed to understand his teaching and the failed to comprehend his miracles. They were astounded to see him walking on the sea,

Mark 6:52 ESV for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Over and over again, they just do not get it. They have have failed to understand his teaching. They have seen his miracles but have not been able to discern the meaning of the signs they have witnessed.[1] Jesus asks them,

Mark 8:18 NLT ‘You have eyes– can’t you see? You have ears– can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?

Yet, Jesus does not give up on them. Even as he opened the ears of the deaf mute, he will open the ears of his disciples. Just as he opened the eyes of the blind man who at first saw men as trees walking, before receiving a second healing touch, so the disciples will yet see, though at first not so clearly, as we will see!

2. Some Think They Know Who Jesus Is.

2.1. Public Opinion: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mark 8:27 ESV And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi…

This is pagan territory. Caesarea Philippi was

famous for its sanctuary to [the god] Pan… Half man and half goat, [the god] Pan was revered as the guardian of flocks and nature…[2] It is here in the outer regions of paganism and even hostility to Judaism that Jesus is first proclaimed Messiah!

Mark 8:27-28 ESV…And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

Jesus, the Master Teacher, is beginning to open the eyes of the disciples. Up to this point, they have failed to look beyond the signs. He wants them to think about what the signs signify, what they mean. But before asking who they think he is, Jesus asks them who others say that he is. He is provoking them to think about his identity.

Just like today, people had different opinions about Jesus. Some, like King Herod, thought that he was John the Baptist returned to life. Others thought that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. The idea was not that Jesus was simply a prophet, but that he was one of the prophets of the Old Covenant.

Moses had foretold that God would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). The Jews were waiting for that prophet. When they compared Jesus to John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the famous prophets of the Old Covenant, they believed that Jesus was a prophet of great rank.

And yet, these comparisons showed that the people had also completely failed to understand who Jesus was. Jesus was not a recycled prophet. He was not another prophet of the Old Order, the Old Covenant. Just like today, people will say that Jesus was “the greatest teacher or moral example who ever lived.” That “may seem like an honor and compliment,” but it is a case of mistaken identity. It robs Jesus of his absolute uniqueness as the Christ, the Son of God. Mark is showing us that Jesus can only be defined in terms of “himself and his relationship with the Father.”[3] He cannot be compared to anyone else. He is the incomparable Christ.

2.2. Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus is the Christ

Jesus is not really interested in opinion polls. His primary concern is not what others say about him. His primary concern is about his disciples, those to whom he will entrust his mission. The others—the outsiders—have their various opinions about Jesus. But the disciples—the insiders—to them “has been given the secret of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). It is essential that these men who will carry on the work, it is essential that they know who he is.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” …

That is the ultimate question. It is the question that Jesus asks his disciples. It is the question that he asks you and me: “But who do you say that I am?”

Mark 8:29 BSN …”?Be yufala, yufala i stap tokbaot mi, se mi hu?”

Your answer is crucial. Who do you say that Jesus is?

This is a question that you must get right. Your answer will not change who he is. He does not change and adapt himself to your opinion of him. But your answer to that question will determine your relationship to him which will determine your eternal destiny. Your relationship to Jesus impacts not only your life now in the present; your understanding of who Jesus is and your relationship to him determines your eternity. This is a question that matters. This is one that you must get right or all is lost.

If I call you by the wrong name, you will be quick to correct because no one likes to be called by someone else’s name. If I mistake the head of state for someone else and address him with the wrong title, that will show that I do not really know him. How much more is that true of the One of the Highest possible rank? If we do not know who Jesus is, we will not be able to worship him in spirit and truth.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

 

This is the first time since the very first verse of this Gospel that the word Christ has been used. People had wondered and guessed at who Jesus was, but no one had gotten it right. At no time in this Gospel does Jesus state that he is the Christ or accept that title, until now.

This had been a long time coming. The disciples had not understood his teaching or his miracles. They had been blind to the fact that Jesus was the Christ. But now, ever so slowly, their eyes are being opened. Their vision is not yet clear as the following verses will show, but this is a beginning and it is the promise that they will yet see clearly.

Mark 8:29-30 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

2.3. The Order of Silence

We may wonder why Jesus so strongly charged the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. The answer lies in the misunderstanding of what the Christ would do.

The Jews had gone through difficult times. For nearly 600 years they have been under the Babylonians, then under the Persians, then under the Greeks, and finally under the Romans. There was a period when they threw off the bonds of oppression under the Greeks, notably the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, but that period of self-rule had not gone well either.

The Jews were waiting for the promised Messiah, the Christ. The one who would be the Son of David the king. The one who would set up his throne and restore the kingdom to Israel. The Jews were looking for a Christ who would overthrow the Romans, but they had failed to see that the Messiah, the Christ, would first be the Suffering Servant, the one who would take our sins upon himself, bearing the iniquities of many, as Isaiah had prophesied. Jesus did come to bring liberation and peace, but not with military power and rule.

Jesus will don the servant’s towel rather than the warrior’s sword; he will practice sacrifice above vengeance. He will not inflict suffering, but suffer himself as a “ransom for many” (10:45). As God’s servant, Jesus must remain hidden if he is to complete God’s appointment (Isa 49:1-6).[4]

In declaring Jesus as the Christ, Peter has supplied the proper title, but he has the wrong understanding.[5]

Jesus orders the disciples to tell no one that he is the Christ because the Jewish people had misunderstood their own Scriptures and failed to see that the Christ would fulfill the Old Covenant of the Law and enact the New Covenant in his own blood.

This now, Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly.

Mark 8:31-32 ESV And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly…

This is the first of three times when Jesus will tell the disciples of his death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). From this point on, Jesus tells his disciples “plainly” that this is his mission. He is going to suffer many things, and be rejected, and be killed, and after three days, rise again.

This is absolutely shocking! This is not what the Jews believed that the Messiah would do. This is not what the disciples thought they were getting into!

The meaning of his life and mission is not about victory and success, but about rejection, suffering, and death. When Jesus finally speaks to the issue of his identity and mission it is summed up in [this phrase:] “The Son of Man must suffer many things.”[6]

The word must means that his sufferings are necessary to fulfill the will of God. James Edwards remarks in his excellent commentary:

The prediction of Jesus’ passion conceals a great irony, for the suffering and death of the Son of Man will not come, as we would expect, at the hands of godless and wicked people. The suffering of the Son of Man comes rather at the hands of “the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.” It is not humanity at its worst that will crucify the Son of God but humanity at its absolute best. The death of Jesus will not be the result of a momentary lapse or aberration of human nature, but rather the result of careful deliberations from respected religious leaders who will justify their actions by the highest standards of law and morality, even believing them to render service to God (John 16: 2). Jesus will not be lynched by an enraged mob or beaten to death in a criminal act. He will be arrested with official warrants, and tried and executed by the world’s envy of jurisprudence — the Jewish Sanhedrin and the principia iuris Romanorum [the principles of Roman law].[7]

3. “You are the Christ” — Right Title, Wrong Idea

3.1. Peter Rebukes Jesus

Mark 8:32 ESV And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us,

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is not Peter’s understanding of what the Messiah would come to do! He is expecting a triumphant Messiah, one who will conquer, one who will sit upon the throne of his father David, one who will restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). So Peter pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him: Do not say such a thing! That’s never going to happen! How can you say that? You are the Christ!

This word for “rebuke” is the same word that is used when Jesus rebuked demons (1:25; 3:12). Peter rebukes Jesus strongly, believing that this talk of suffering and rejection and death must be silenced.

Peter had used the correct title, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, but he has misunderstood it. He is beginning to see, but does not yet see clearly.

3.2. Jesus Rebukes Peter

Peter has expressed not only his own misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding of all the disciples.

Mark 8:33 ESV But turning and seeing his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus turns and sees his disciples. They had the same thoughts as Peter. They must hear him as he rebukes Peter.

Just as Satan had tried to turn Jesus away from the cross by offering him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow down and worship him, Peter has attempted to turn Jesus aside from suffering. In Peter’s mind, Jesus must not choose the path of suffering, but the path of glory. In ways that he cannot understand, Peter has opposed “a deep mystery of God, for suffering is the only way to destroy the stronghold of Satan…”[8]

Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil (Mark 1:24; 3:27; 1 John 3:8). This was the purpose of the Incarnation.

Peter is thinking in human terms. He is thinking as men think and not as God thinks. To think as men think is to “no longer be [a] disciple of Jesus but a disciple of Satan.” Jesus turns the rebuke on Peter and says exactly what he had said to Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness: “Get behind me, Satan!”

It is not Jesus’ concept of the Messiah that is satanic. Rather, Peter’s attempt to turn Jesus aside from the cross was satanic. Jesus rebukes him strongly. This rebuke is stronger than the series of questions Jesus had asked in 8:14-21,

  • Don’t you know or understand even yet?
  • Are your hearts too hard to take it in?
  • You have eyes– can’t you see?
  • You have ears– can’t you hear?
  • Don’t you remember anything at all?
  • Don’t you understand yet?

3.3. Non-Understanding and Misunderstanding

Failing to understand is not as bad as misunderstanding. Peter has the right word, but the wrong idea. He has the right title, but he has not understood it. This stronger rebuke “suggests that a near-truth is more dangerous than an obvious error, since a partial truth is more believable.”[9]

Liberal Theology and the Cults

This is the grave error and danger of both liberal theology and the cults. Both liberal theology and the cults use biblical terms, but they twist them to mean something else. They redefine the biblical terms. They give them a meaning that is different from what the authors meant. Liberal theologians will talk about faith and the divinity of Christ, but they mean something quite different from what the Bible means.

The cults that we have here in Vanuatu will use biblical terms. They will say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they do not mean that Jesus is of the same nature as God. Or they will say that they believe in God the Father, but they may actually believe in many gods while saying that they only worship one of them. Or they will say that Jesus was only a man who was anointed by the Spirit. They will use terms like faith, and salvation, and Savior, but they have their own special definitions and special teachings and perhaps even their own special translation of the Bible that says things that no other translation says. These cults are most dangerous because they appear to be Christian but they preach a different Jesus. There is one thing that all cults and false religions and liberal theology have in common: they diminish Jesus. They make him smaller than he really is.

Is there any hope for them? Yes there is. Just as there was hope for the disciples. If they will put away their other books and carefully read the Word of God to discern the intention of the authors of the Bible, they too can have their eyes opened and come to the knowledge of the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

Peter had said that Jesus was the Christ, but he meant something very different from what Jesus meant. Now Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship.

4. The Way of the Discipleship

Mark 8:34 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“A wrong view of Messiahship leads to a wrong view of discipleship.”[10] Jesus will take the way of the cross and so must his disciples. But this word is not just for the Twelve. Jesus called the crowd to him with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Jesus said that if we are to come after him,

  1. we must deny ourselves. This does not mean the denial of things, but the denial of ourselves. We surrender the right to determine our own goals, aspirations, and desires.[11]
  2. We must take up our cross. The cross is an instrument of death. It means putting to death the old way, the old habits, the old customs.

Romans 8:13 ESV For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

  1. We must follow Christ. It means that Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives.

Luke 6:46 ESV “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Jesus asks you, “Who do you say that I am?” He calls you to understand that he is the Christ, the one that was promised from the first book to the last book of the Old Testament. He calls to you understand that he is the Son of God, the one who by his very nature is God in the flesh. He calls you to understand that he became a man so that he might take your sins upon himself and pay the price for your sins. He calls you to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and to follow him in living a life of obedience to his commands. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 414.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4610-4613). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4646-4649). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4716-4717). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4714-4715). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4737-4739). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4747-4754). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4774-4775). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[11] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 08v22-26, “Men As Trees, Walking”

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Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngHave you ever felt like you could see something, but you could not see it clearly? If you have had good eyesight and are in your mid-forties, you may have noticed that things are not as clear as they once were. You probably need glasses.

When I was about 40 years old, my father told me that I would soon need glasses because at about that age, eyesight begins to change and it becomes harder to read. I somehow thought that I would beat the odds and would not need glasses, but by the time I was 45, I was having a hard time reading. I wanted to pretend that the words on the page were clear, but I could not see them very clearly. My arms did not quite seem long enough to hold the book in a place where I could see the text. Reading increasingly gave me a headache. I finally gave in and got a pair of glasses. Once again, I could see clearly.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, we find a man who went from being blind, to seeing but not seeing clearly, and finally to seeing everything clearly. It is one of the most remarkable miracles ever performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and it has great lessons for all of us.

Mark 8:22-26 NLT When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

1. The Miracle

The healing of this blind man is quite unlike any other healing that took place during the earthly ministry of Jesus. It seems that this healing of the blind man took place in stages. At first he could not see at all. Then he saw men that looked like trees. And finally, he saw clearly.

1.1. The Healing in Two Parts

We have to ask ourselves what is going on here. This is not the way that Jesus normally healed people. When Jesus healed people, the healings were normally instantaneous.

For example, when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law,

Mark 1:31 ESV And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Mark 1:40-42 ESV And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

In chapter 2, we read that four men lowered a paralytic down through the roof because they could not get through the door because of the crowd of people. Jesus said to the paralytic,

Mark 2:11-12 ESV “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

In chapter 3, Jesus said to a man with a withered hand,

Mark 3:5 ESV … “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

In chapter 5, a woman who had suffered with a discharge of blood for twelve years pushed her way to Jesus through a great crowd of people,

Mark 5:28-29 ESV For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Now, in chapter 8, we have a blind man that some people brought to Jesus. They begged Jesus to touch the man. But this time, the healing was not instantaneous. He did not recover his sight immediately. Jesus touched the man, but when he looked up he said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Mark 8:25 ESV Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Since this healing took place in two stages, so unlike any of the other healings of Jesus, we have to ask ourselves why the man was not completely healed the first time. Why was his vision so unclear after the first touch? Why did he need Jesus to touch him a second time?

Was the healing of a blind man that much more difficult than

  • the cleansing of a leper,
  • or the healing of a paralyzed man,
  • or the restoration of a withered hand?

We will find later in Mark 10, that Jesus said to blind Bartimaeus,

Mark 10:52 ESV …”Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Why was this blind man of Bethsaida not healed immediately? Did Jesus fail the first time and have to try again?

1.2. Reading the Bible

This story shows the importance of reading the Bible in context, and of reading entire books of the Bible. We cannot understand this story in the Gospel of Mark if we are not reading the entire Gospel of Mark. When we look at our Bibles we see them divided into chapters and verses, but we need to understand that none of the books of the Bible were written that way. All 66 books of the Bible — 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament — all 66 books were written as books or letters and were meant to be read from the beginning to the end. Everything must be understood in its context.

The Bible is not a magic dipping well that we dip a bucket into to pull out a verse or two.

  • Every verse has to be read in the context of its chapter.
  • And every chapter has to be read in the context of the book.
  • And every book has to be read in the context of the entire Bible.

The divisions that we find in the Bible were not part of the original text. The 40 authors of the Bible did not write verses and chapters; they wrote books and letters. The chapter divisions were added to the Bible by Professor Stephen Langton of the University of Paris in A.D. 1227. The verse divisions were by the French printer Robert Estienne (Stephanus) in 1551. The chapter and verse divisions help us to find the same passage, but they were not part of the original text.

So the Bible is not to be read by picking verses here and there. It is to be read as any other book. Everything has to be read in context. The big difference between reading the Bible and other books is that the Bible is the Word of God. We read it to know how to obey God. How much more we should be careful to read God’s Word in its context so that we do not misinterpret what God is saying to us through His Word.

This is where we have to be very careful not to be fooled by false cults and false religions that take verses out of context and try to prove their false teachings. The one thing that all the false teachers have in common is that they take verses out of context to try to make the Lord Jesus Christ smaller than he really is.

The Bible warns us in…

Colossians 2:8-9 NLT Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

So if all the fullness of God lives in Christ, then the healing of this blind man in two stages was not because Jesus had to try again to get it right! Something else is going on here.

1.3. Understanding the Context: The Context of Understanding

Remember that some of the people of Bethsaida brought this blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.

Jesus never made a show of his miracles. He never put up posters about holding a miracle meeting somewhere. The focus of his ministry was teaching and preaching the Word of God.

And yet in his compassion, he did the works of the Messiah, healing the sick, opening blinded eyes, and preaching the good news to the poor.

Jesus has compassion for this blind man and wants to deal with him privately.

Mark 8:23-24 ESV And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

He saw, but he could not see clearly.

One of the important themes in the Gospel of Mark is that of seeing clearly, the importance of understanding.

In Mark 4, Jesus told the parable of the man who went forth sowing the seed. Some of it fell on the pathway, some on stony ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil. But even the disciples of Jesus failed to understand the parable:

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

Jesus then explained to them that the seed was the Word of God. The good soil represents those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit.

In Mark 6, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and fed a multitude of 5,000. But the disciples completely failed to understand what the miracle indicated about Jesus himself. So when Jesus came walking on the Sea of Galilee that night, they were, as we say, “blown away.”

Mark 6:51-52 NLT Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

In chapter 7, Jesus had told the Pharisees that people are not made unclean by what they eat; they are made unclean by what is in their heart. When the disciples asked him about this,

Mark 7:18-19 ESV And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

Now we come to chapter 8. It is here in chapter 8 that we find the story of the progressive healing of the blind man. Just immediately before this story, we read that Jesus and the disciples had just left the Pharisees who

Mark 8:11 NLT …demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

Jesus and his disciples are now in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when Jesus warns them to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

But the disciples completely missed the point.

Mark 8:17-18 NIVO Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? … 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see…?

Mark 8:21 NIVO He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

In the very next verse, they arrive at Bethsaida and the blind man is brought to Jesus. Jesus could have healed the blind man instantly by simply saying, “Receive your sight.” Our Lord had that power. Nothing is impossible for him.

But Jesus did not heal the man that way. It was no accident that Jesus healed this blind man in two stages. He is quite deliberate in what he does. He spits in the eyes of the blind man and lays his hands on him. Then he does something that he never does at any other time. He asks the man a question: “Do you see anything?”

Jesus never asks the deaf if they can hear, or the lame if they can walk. But he asks this man, “Do you see anything” (v. 23).

Mark 8:24 ESV And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Jesus had asked the man, “Do you see anything?” Just a few verses before, in verses 17 and 18, as Jesus and his disciples were arriving in the boat, Jesus had asked his disciples,

Mark 8:17-18 NET …Do you still not see…? … 18 Though you have eyes, don’t you see? …

Jesus now performs a parable. Yes, it is a miracle, but he heals this man in a way to demonstrate a parable to his own disciples. Just as Jesus begins a process of enabling this blind man to see, he will begin the process of moving his own disciples from blindness to sight.[1]

The disciples have not understood who Jesus is or what he came to do. ***In the verses following this story, Peter will make his confession that Jesus is the Christ of God, but he does not understand what that means. He has moved from non-understanding to misunderstanding. Only after the cross and resurrection will Peter and the disciples arrive at complete understanding, seeing “everything clearly” (8:25).[2]

2. The Message

2.1. Not As Things Should Be

So many people are at this first stage. It is hard to describe their spiritual condition. Jesus asked the man, “Do you see anything?” He responded, “Yes, I do see, but I see men as trees, walking.”

Do you understand the position? It is difficult to describe this man. You cannot say that he is blind any longer. You cannot say that he can see because he sees men as trees, walking. What then—is he or is he not blind? You feel that you have to say at one and the same time that he is blind and that he is not blind. He is neither one thing nor the other.[3]

Now there are people like that. You may meet them and think, “Yes, that person is a Christian.” But the next time you are with them, they say something or do something, and you wonder how a Christian could do such a thing.

These people are rather unhappy with themselves. On Sunday they will believe the preaching of the Word and believe themselves to be Christians, but then something happens and everything is put in doubt.

There is a positive element to their condition: just as the blind man recognized that he should not see men as trees, walking, they realize that things are not as they should be. They see something. They see that something is not quite right. They are on the path to seeing clearly, but they have not yet arrived. Things are not yet clear for them.

These people have come to recognize the truth of the Scriptures. They see that if everyone lived according to the principles in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this world would truly be a paradise.

They may have come to see that Jesus is the only hope for the world. They may have seen that he is somehow the Savior, though they do not understand exactly how he is the Savior or why they need a Savior. But they are interested in him and believe that somehow they need him.

These people have not clearly seen the biblical teaching about justification by faith. They are trying to put themselves right with God. They are trying to be good enough to be accepted by God. But they see that it is not working. They have set a standard, but they cannot live up to that standard. They are trying to save themselves but they see that they cannot.

These people see, but they do not see clearly. They see as this blind man saw: they see men as trees, walking.

Let’s look at a few areas where these people do not see clearly.

2.1.1.  First, they do not clearly see their need for a Savior.

They do not understand that Jesus had to take our sins upon himself and to die in our place. They do not see that he had to take the punishment of our sin for us in order for us to be declared just before God. They do not understand that the cross is the demonstration of the love, the grace, and the righteousness of God.

They are not clear about the biblical teaching about the new birth. They say that they do not see it, and they are right! They do not see it! They are in a state of confusion and they are quite unsatisfied with their own lives. They “are troubled and unhappy and miserable.”[4] They see, but they do not see.

2.1.2.  Second, their heart is divided.

They are not fully committed to Christ. They are somewhere between complete darkness and the light. They are in the grey area. Their heart is not fully engaged. They do not find their joy in Jesus; they are continually trying to find joy, but it is always elusive, just beyond their reach.

2.1.3.  Third, their will is divided.

They do not understand the biblical teaching of repentance. They want to hold on to the pleasures of this world. They do not understand why they should do certain things and stop doing other things. They will argue about what they think a Christian should or should not do. They always want to know if it is okay for a Christian to engage in this or that activity. When it comes down to it, they are rebellious. While acknowledge in general that the old life needs to go and the new should come, they do not want to let go of the old and they are not ready to embrace the new. They do not see clearly.

2.2. Diagnosing the Cause

In the verses leading up to this miracle, Jesus had asked his disciples a series of eight questions such as:

  • Do you still not see or understand?
  • Have your hearts been hardened?
  • Though you have eyes, don’t you see?
  • And though you have ears, can’t you hear?
  • Don’t you remember?

2.2.1.  These questions require clear-cut answers.

But many people today do not like clarity. They do not like black and white answers. They want the “50 shades of grey.” But there is not grey with God. We live in a world today where we see men as trees walking and want to pretend that we see clearly. They want to believe that that is how things ought to be.

As someone said, “When Moses came down from the mountain, he did not give us the Ten Suggestions.” But today we do not even want suggestions. In the name of tolerance, anything goes. You need not worry too much about terrorists destroying civilization. We are doing a very good job of destroying it without their help.

2.2.2.  The real trouble with people who do not see clearly, is that “they never fully accept the teaching and the authority of the Scriptures.”[5]

There are churches in the world today that give lip service to the Word of God but believe that it has to be modified and adapted to the modern world. The Bible may be a guide, but the principles have to be updated to keep up with the changing pace of our world today. “The world is changing,” they say, so they modify and reinterpret the Scriptures here and there to suit their own desires.

But God is not out of date, no matter what the world says. God’s Word is timeless and we must submit to it, or bear the consequences of our disobedience.

2.2.3.  Another cause of this lack of clarity is that people do not want clarity.

They do not want the clear teaching of the Word of God. They want an experience, a warm fuzzy feeling, but not teaching. You see, the teaching of the Word of God is clear. As the psalmist said,

Psalm 19:8 ESV the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

2.3. What Is the Cure?

2.3.1.  First, when we see men as trees walking,

we must not say that we see clearly. This blind man had enough wisdom to realize that though he saw, he did not yet see as he should see.

When God begins to open our eyes and to give us understanding, we must not think that we have arrived. We are tempted to announce that we can see, and often we encourage others to announce that they see when they do not yet see clearly. Let us not stop the Savior’s healing work before we see clearly.

2.3.2.  Second, we must never lose hope. 

While we must not prematurely claim to see clearly, neither should we give up hope when we realize that we do not see clearly. Recognizing that things are not yet clear, we must not despair. We must not stop reading the Bible. We must not stop praying and seeking the face of God. The devil would want to stop you in your progress, but you must not listen to him.

2.3.3.  So what do we do? We must be honest

and answer the Lord truthfully. “Do you see anything?” “Yes, Lord, but I do not yet see as I ought to see.” The man did not make some kind of false faith claim: “Yes, I see by faith.” No, he was completely honest with the Lord.

Where do you stand? What is your condition with God? Do you see clearly or are you still confused about things? Are you full of joy, or still bothered with doubts and fears? Do you know God? Not simply believe in him, but do you know him? Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

2.3.4.  Finally, submit yourself to Christ

just as this man did. Jesus touched him once and he touched him again. The man did not object to the second touch but rather rejoiced in it. And had Jesus not touched this man a second time, I believe that this man would have asked him to.

You can do the same. You can ask the Lord to touch you again, to continue his work in you. Tell him, “I want the truth, whatever it costs me.” Submit yourself fully to him. Let him be the Lord of your life, all your life. Plead with him to give you clear sight, perfect vision. He will do it.

Ask him in the words of the hymn:

Holy Spirit, Truth Divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine,
Word of God, and inward Light,
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.

If you will do that, then as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:6,

Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4576-4577). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4594).

[3] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 39.

[4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 43.

[5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 44.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

Mark 08:01-21, “Do you not yet understand?”

Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes

Christians of the early Byzantine period built monasteries, churches and shrines in Galilee and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to commemorate the ministry of Jesus and the miracles ascribed to him. Mosaics that is preserved from the Byzantine period at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes July 23, 2009. Photo by Rishwanth Jayapaul/FLASH90

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat does remembering have to do with understanding and faith? Today we want to consider an event in the life of Christ and his encouragement to remember and consider the things that he has done, and how that impacts our faith.

Quick quiz:

  1. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, how many loaves were there? Five or seven?
  2. How many fish were there? Two or a few?
  3. How many people were fed? Five thousand or four thousand?

A number of years ago, one of my students suggested that there was a contradiction in the Gospels. In one place we read that Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand men, not including the women and children. In another place, we read that he fed four thousand. One passage said five thousand while another passage said four thousand. So the student concluded that there was a contradiction.

Was he right? Well, some scholars would think so. Some scholars tell us that within just a few pages of the Gospel of Mark, the author has repeated the same story using different details. Now this would be amazing because there are only 49 verses with separate the two stories. The feeding of the five thousand takes place in Mark 6 and the feeding of the four thousand is told in Mark 8. Only one chapter out of 16 chapters stands between the two stories. For Mark to accidentally tell the same story twice so close to each other would be an amazing lapse of memory.

So what are we to say about these stories?

One of my purposes is to encourage your confidence and trust in the Bible as the error-free Word of God. That is a big claim to make today when skeptics abound. But most people who claim that the Bible contains errors have never read it themselves. They simply parrot what they’ve heard someone else say. They dismiss the Bible without any serious consideration of what they are dismissing: the very Word of God.

The Bible is trustworthy. The questions that liberal scholars ask have repeatedly been answered by conservative scholars. There is abundant evidence pointing to the truthfulness of the Bible.

So when we come to the question of Jesus feeding the multitude in Mark 6 and again in Mark 8, we need to look carefully at the details. We need to understand that Mark, the author, is writing with intention. He has a purpose. And we need to read at a deeper level to understand that purpose.

That means that we are not simply reading isolated stories. The Bible is not a book of short stories. The Bible is what scholars call a “meta-narrative.” It is THE BIG STORY from the creation of the heavens and the earth in the Book of Genesis to the new creation of the new heavens and the new earth in the final pages of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. Everything else fits in that big story. It is the story of God. It is God’s story. It is HiStory.

1.        The Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-10)

Let’s look at the text:

Mark 8:1-10 ESV In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

1.1.     Two Stories Compared

Mark starts this story of the feeding of the four thousand with the words “In those days.” This tells us immediately that this miracle took place in the region of the Decapolis where we find Jesus at the end of chapter 7 (see 7:31).

CHAPTER 6 CHAPTER 8
Feeding of the 5,000 Feeding of the 4,000
Mark 6:44 ESV And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

The term for “men” (ἄνδρες, andres) is gender specific. It means men or husbands. That means that there were 5,000 men plus women and children. Most commentators estimate that there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people who were fed.

Mark 8:9 ESV And there were about four thousand people.

The text simply says that there were about 4,000 people. This crowd was much smaller.

The people in chapter 6 had been in the wilderness for only one day. In chapter 8, the people had been in the wilderness for three days.
Jesus began with five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied seven loaves and a few small fish.
Jesus blessed the food one time. Jesus blessed the bread and distributed it, then he blessed the fish.
There were 12 basketfulls of leftovers. There were 7 basketfulls of leftovers.
In the first feeding, the multitude was mostly Jews. In the second feeding, the multitude was mostly Gentiles.[1]

The main objection against the feeding of the 4,000 is the argument that since the disciples had already seen Jesus feed more than 5,000, they should not have asked, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” But that is to misunderstand the disciples.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had told them to give the multitude something to eat. They wonder how they are to do it.

In the feeding of the 4,000, they simply confess that they are powerless to meet the need and left the solution to Jesus.

William Lane says: “It would have been presumptuous for the disciples to have assumed that Jesus would, as a matter of course, multiple a few loaves as he had done on an earlier occasion.”[2]

Most importantly, Jesus refers to both miracles when probing the understanding of his disciples.

1.2.     Mark’s Purpose: Gentiles Are Included!

We need to consider Mark’s purpose in including this story. Remember that the authors of the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not tell us everything that Jesus ever did. John tells us that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that he does not include in his Gospel. He tells us that he chose certain signs so that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that through believing, we would have life in his name.

Each of the authors of the Gospels write to a particular group of readers and they chose from an abundance of events in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to accomplish their purpose.

Mark is writing for Romans. He is writing for non Jewish people. That means that he is writing for most of us. Mark is showing us that Jesus came not only for the Jews; he also came for Gentiles like you and me.

In the previous chapter (chapter 7), Jesus leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentiles territory. There the Syrophoenician woman asks him to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that the Jews have priority because the promises were made to Abraham that through his descendant — that is through Jesus Christ, the many times great grandson of Abraham — all the families of the earth would be blessed. The bread, Jesus said, must first be given to the Jews. But this Gentile woman has faith. She asks for the crumb of bread that fall from the table. Jesus marveled at her faith and healed her daughter.

Then we read that Jesus went to the Decapolis, again, Gentile territory. The Gentiles bring to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Once again, Jesus heals this man so that he hears and speaks plainly. The Gentiles declare that Jesus “has done all things well, He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37).

Jesus is still in Gentile territory when he feeds the 4,000. He has already fed the multitude of Jews. The children of Abraham were served first, but the rest of the world is waiting. In this eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus feeds the Gentiles and points to the time with the gospel will be taken to Gentiles all around the world. “They will not have to scrounge for crumbs that might fall from the table, but they will receive food in abundance and also will be satisfied.”[3]

Jesus and his disciples are freely moving among the Gentiles. Jesus has already “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:31). It does not matter what you eat, and it does not even matter who you eat with under normal circumstances (but compare 1 Corinthians 5:11; 10:21).

Here Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by Gentiles. For three days they have been with Jesus and they have nothing to eat. Jesus has compassion on them and tells his disciples,

Mark 8:3 ESV And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

The disciples do not ask, “How can we eat with these people?” Instead, they ask, “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (8:4).[4]

Jesus himself is the answer. Jesus is able to meet the great need. He is moved with compassion and that compassion is not limited by ethnic boundaries. He is not only the Savior of the Jews. He is also the Savior of the World, even as the Samaritans declare in John 4:42.

Later in Mark 14, when Mary anoints Jesus for his burial, Jesus says,

Mark 14:9 ESV And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus tells his disciples,

Mark 16:15 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

The feeding of the 4,000 is not the same as the feeding of the 5,000, and it is good news for us. Jesus is the bread of life, not only for the Jews, but also for us Gentiles.

Here are three reasons why Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish on two separate occasions:[5]

  1. Jesus wants everyone to understand that he is the bread of life, the “bread from heaven” (Exodus 16:4). John tells us that following the first miracle, Jesus gave his great discourse on the bread of life.

John 6:48-51 ESV I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

  1. Christ wants us to understand that he is not just Bread for the Jews. He is the bread of life for us Gentiles as well. We are tempted to think the life is having things: a new phone or a new truck. But “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  2. Jesus wants us to understand that “the supply always meets and exceeds the demand.” There is always more than enough.

Mark 8:8 ESV And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Christ is more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the world.

2.        The Blindness of Those Who Will Not See (8:11-13)

In the following verses, Jesus and his disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee back into Jewish territory. There he is accosted by the Pharisees.

Mark 8:11 ESV The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.

There is a certain combative attitude that will receive nothing from God. The Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus. They question him. They test him. But their minds are already made up.

  • They no doubt knew of the leper that he had cleansed (1:42).
  • They knew about the paralyzed man who had been let down through the roof. Jesus forgave his sins and restored his health so that he rose up and carried his bed home (2:11-12).
  • They had seen him heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). It was then that they made up their minds to destroy him (3:6).
  • They attributed his power to Satan and said that he cast out demons by the power of Satan (3:22).

They had heard of many of his miracles, but they found ways to explain them away. They are asking him here for a sign from heaven. A sign from above that would leave no room for any possible doubt about the source of his power.

What kind of sign are you waiting for? There are people who are always looking for one more sign. One more piece of evidence. They say they would follow Jesus if they could only believe.

The great atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’”[6]

Not enough for what? To force you to believe? That God will not do. He will not force you into a relationship with him. But there is plenty of evidence for those who are willing to see.

When it comes to the biggest truth of all, people who are normally reasonable and rational become totally unreasonable and irrational. Ask them, “Why is there something rather than nothing at all? Why does the universe exist?”

“Well, it just happened,” they say. “There was a big bang and it happened.”

Really? What caused the big bang?

“Nothing. It just happened.”

So there was nothing, and everything came out of nothing, and nothing caused everything to come out of nothing, it just did it by itself even though it did not exist to do anything by itself. And now we have this orderly universe with the one place in the entire universe that supports life, and everything is perfectly balanced with all its amazing complexity and beauty, and it just happened?! And it all came from nothing and was caused by nothing? If you believe that, you believe in magic. Do not pretend that it’s science or scientific. It is not. It is a worldview that refuses to see the evidence.

Mark 8:12 ESV And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

No gat! Jesus says. He is grieved and angry at the hardness of heart. Matthew tells us that Jesus said,

Matthew 16:4 ESV An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The only sign they would get was that signified by Jonah — the Resurrection![7]

Mark 8:13 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

What a terrible thing it is to have Christ turn his back on you and sail away. But that is ultimately what he does to those who continually refuse his revelation. There comes a time when he gives no more signs, no more help in understanding.[8]

The Pharisees turn and walk away; the disciples follow Jesus into the boat. Eduard Schweizer draws an insightful conclusion from this closing description: “faith comes when one steps into the boat with Jesus and does not prefer to remain in safety on the shore.”[9]

3.        The Danger of Being an Unbelieving Believer (8:14-21)

Mark 8:13-15 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Jesus is in the boat with his disciples. They have left the unbelieving Pharisees behind. But how much better off are the disciples? They have seen the miracles, but have the understood? Have they understood the signs? Have they understood the miracles and the message of Jesus? The conversation in the boat indicates that unbelief is in the boat with them.

Jesus gives them a strong warning: “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Leaven or yeast is almost always understood in a negative sense in the Bible. It has to do with corruption, unholiness, and danger. It infiltrates, penetrates, and infects everything that it touches. The Pharisees are seeking to find any explanation for the miracles that Jesus performs — any explanation except the truth. They refuse to believe that he is the Son of God.

What have the disciples understood? They’ve seen the miracles, but they have been slow to understand. They had not understood his parable about the sower:

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

When Jesus came walking on the water…

Mark 6:51-52 ESV And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

They had not understood what Jesus taught about food not being a source of defilement:

Mark 7:18-19 ESV And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

He is warning them not to allow the hardness of heart of the Pharisees to influence them.

But they have missed the point.

Mark 8:14 ESV Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.

Mark 8:16 ESV And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.

Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and they think that he is rebuking them for not bringing enough bread with them!

Jesus was aware that once again, they had missed the point! He hits them with a series of questions:

Mark 8:17-21 ESV And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,

  • “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?
  • Do you not yet perceive or understand?
  • Are your hearts hardened?
  • 18 Having eyes do you not see,
  • and having ears do you not hear?
  • And do you not remember?
  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”
  • 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

That is a powerful rebuke, but in the midst of that correction, Jesus gives us instruction: Remember. “Do you not remember?” (8:18). And now he mentions both occasions when he fed the multitudes, the 5,000 and the 4,000.

  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”

Remembering what God has done is the best defense against spiritual weakness and unbelief. That is why we are to break bread and drink the cup together at the Lord’s Table:

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 ESV and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus is telling the disciples to remember what he has done. He multiplied the loaves and fish and fed 5,000 plus women and children. Again, he multiplied the loaves and a few fish and fed 4,000 Gentiles.

We are prone to forget. The psalmist David tells us not to forget:

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

He forgives, he heals, he redeems, he satisfies, he renews!

We are to remember what Christ has done and we are to consider what that means. The Israelites in the desert did not remember or consider:

Psalm 106:7 ESV Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

The Pharisees in the Gospels did not consider the works of Christ. The disciples who were with Christ had not adequately considered who they were following.

Who is this man?

From the beginning of this Gospel, Mark has told us what he wants us to understand. This is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Jesus rebukes his disciples because they have not yet understood. Who is this man who

  • Casts out demons with a simple command (1:25)?
  • Cleanses lepers (1:42)?
  • Forgives sins (2:7)?
  • Heals the sick (1:34)?
  • Raises the dead (5:42)?
  • Commands the wind and the sea (4:41)?
  • Walks on the sea (6:48)?

Who is this Jesus of Nazareth who like God can abundantly feed the multitudes miraculously in the wilderness? Truly, he must be the Christ, the Son of God![10]

That is why you need to find a Bible-believing church where Christ is exalted and worshiped, and the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107 and listening to the Joyful News Broadcast. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.


 

[1] Akin, Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[2] Quoted by Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 185.

[3] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[5] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 186-188.

[6] http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity

[7] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[8] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4472-4474). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[10] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). (Kindle Locations 10024-10026). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.


 

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 07v31-37 “He does all things well!”

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.23.34 PMIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngSome studies have found that men speak an average of 7,000 words a day. They may seem like a lot, but this radio broadcast averages about 4,000 words each week. So 7,000 words would be like a man talking nonstop for close to an hour. Those same studies say that women speak on average 20,000 words a day. There you go! Nearly three times as much as men. But you always knew that, didn’t you?

One cartoon pictures a man holding a newspaper with the headline “Females Speak 13,000 More Words a Day.” The man exclaims, “Good grief! Is that all?!”

Sorry ladies! But that might be more of a compliment than you think. It would be hard to overestimate the importance of communication, and we must not forget that it is the very nature of God to communicate, as John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word…”

Those statistics that women speak 13,000 more per day than men… those statistics have been contested. With many words, no doubt, they have been contested! And we have all met men who talk a lot and women who are rather economical with their words.

But what if we could not communicate through the spoken word? What if we could not hear one another? Imagine being in the deaf world. Hearing nothing… Radio stations do not like dead air time. You probably wondered what happened just then. Did the station go off the air? Was there an electrical power outage? That’s the way it is for deaf people. The only sound they hear is “the sound of silence.” No noise. No sound of wind, or music, or babies crying, or people laughing, or birds singing, or waves splashing. Our world is made up of sounds, but for the deaf, it is a silent world.

It is through sounds, vibrations formed in larynx — the voice box — sounds shaped and produced by the entire vocal apparatus including the tongue, teeth, palate, lips — the entire mouth — it is through these sounds that we communicate to one another.

But that is only one side of the process. That is the transmission side by which words are transmitted. The science of communication involves both transmission and reception. The words are transmitted by mouth, but they are received by the ear. The ear includes not only the external ear that we see, but a whole complex of funnels and bones and fluid-filled semicircular canals and the auditory nerve that make it possible to hear the world around us.

As the Scripture says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But what if you could not hear the words that others were speaking to you? What if you saw the movement of someone’s mouth but could hear nothing?

Have you ever tried to read someone’s lips? Your wife is across a crowded room and she wants to tell you something. She mouths her message to you. If you are like I am, you don’t have a clue what she wants to say. You might as well be deaf.

Enter the world of the deaf. A driver honks his horn, but the deaf person hears nothing. Thunder claps and the deaf person may feel the change in atmospheric pressure, but he hears nothing.

The man in our story today was not only deaf; he had a speaking impairment. He had a speech difficulty and could not communicate properly.

We find our story in Mark 7:31-37.

Mark 7:31-37 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus (still) among the Gentiles

We find in the previous verses of Mark that it was there in the region of Tyre and Sidon, that Jesus cast the demon out of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.

In Mark 7, Jesus is facing increasingly hostile opposition from the Pharisees and from Herod Antipas, so he leaves Jewish territory and enters Gentile territory in the region of Tyre and Sidon, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But there is another reason why Jesus has gone into Gentile territory: he purposefully includes the non-Jewish world in his ministry.

Jesus shows that while the Jews have priority in terms of receiving the gospel, the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. There is more than enough grace for everyone. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

In this story of the healing of the deaf man, we see that Jesus continues to avoid the Jewish territory and returns to the region of the Decapolis, the region of ten Gentiles:

Mark 7:31 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus had been in the region of the Decapolis in Mark 5. There he had been met by the demon-possessed man of the tombs. That man had many demons that Jesus cast out and allowed to enter a herd of pigs. Some two thousand pigs “rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13 ESV).

But the people of the region cared more about their pigs than they did about the man, so they begged Jesus to leave. The man who had been set free wanted to come with Jesus, but

Mark 5:19 ESV …[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

This man became the first Gentile missionary.

Mark 5:20 ESV And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Now Jesus has returned to the Decapolis, and it seems that the witness of this first Gentile missionary had been fruitful. Jesus returns to the Decapolis, the region that had asked him to leave before, but this time he is warmly welcomed.

Mark 7:32 ESV And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

Doing What the Man Could Not Do For Himself

Here is a deaf man who had difficulty speaking. He could not hear, and he could hardly talk.

Now right away, we understand that this “man’s malady made it impossible for him to have heard about Jesus or to ask him for healing had he learned about him. Others must intervene on his behalf.”[1] So he is deaf and cannot have “heard” about Jesus. If he has somehow learned about Jesus, he cannot even ask him for help because he cannot talk. This man is totally dependent on others for the help that he needs.

There is no mention that this man had any faith. It seems that he did not even know why he was being brought to Jesus. What could he have heard about Jesus? Nothing. He was deaf. What did he know? He does not seem to know much.

Romans 10:17 ESV So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The deaf man had heard nothing. What he might have learned we do not know.

But notice that the people are bringing this man to Jesus. These Gentiles are begging Jesus to lay his hand on the deaf man. Immediately, two things seem clear:

  1. These Gentiles are doing a loving act of kindness toward the deaf man. No doubt they sometimes felt frustrated at their inability to communicate with him, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: They are showing compassion on him. They want to help him, but they are limited. They cannot restore the man’s hearing and they cannot loosen his tongue to enable him to talk.
  2. Second, in their limited ability, they turn to Jesus. While they can do nothing to heal this man, they believe that Jesus can do something for their deaf friend. They have a certain level of faith in Jesus. They have seen or heard of what Jesus can do. Perhaps they knew the man of the tombs that Jesus had delivered or had heard his testimony. Perhaps they had heard of other miracles that Jesus had done in Galilee. We can only guess, but two things are clear: (1) they knew that they could not help the deaf man, and (2) they believed that Jesus could.

We frequently come to the end of our resources. We are stopped by our limitations. We come to an end of ourselves and must turn to God. Perhaps we may be concerned for our own children but we realize that while we may have done our best, our best was not good enough. Our best cannot bring about the best results. And so we must turn to Jesus and ask him to do what we cannot do. We beg him to lay his hand on their lives, to change their hearts, to do what he alone can do.

These Gentiles demonstrated compassion toward the deaf man and faith toward Jesus.

The Act of Healing

Mark 7:33-34 ESV And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

A Private Encounter with Jesus

Jesus led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone. Why does Jesus do that? Wouldn’t he want everyone to see what he was going to do?

Well, imagine this man as he grew up. He’s always been a spectacle. He’s deaf, and therefore he can’t produce proper speech. Just imagine the way people made fun of him all his life. Jesus knows this, and refuses to make a spectacle of him now. He is identifying with him emotionally.[2]

Jesus shows that this man is not simply one of the crowd. He is not simply a problem. He is a unique individual.

But now we find something quite unusual in Jesus’ method of healing:

  • Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears.
  • He spit.
  • He touched the man’s tongue.
  • He looked up to heaven.
  • He sighed.
  • He said, “Ephphata.”

What’s this all about? Is Jesus doing some kind of a ritual to bring about the healing?

No, Jesus does not need to perform any rituals to summon his power. This is different from every other miracle that we have seen so far.

  • Jesus calmed the storm by a simple command: “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39).
  • He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by telling her to get up (Mark 5:41).
  • He healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter simply by willing it to be so (Mark 7:29-30).

[T]here was no arm-waving, no incantation, no mumbo-jumbo. Jesus obviously does not need to perform a ritual in order to summon his power. Which means Jesus is doing all this not because he needs it but because the man needs it.[3]

This healing is different because this man’s need is different. This man is deaf. This deaf man had been shut out of the world of sound. He had certainly not heard anything about Jesus with his ears. He may not have even known why the people had brought him to Jesus. Jesus cannot speak to him as he would speak to someone else, so he identifies with the man by entering his world of silence and speaking to him in a language that the deaf man can understand. Jesus speaks to him in a kind of sign language.

Jesus placed his fingers in the man’s ears and removed them. He was telling the man, “I am going to remove the blockage in your hearing.” He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He was telling him, “I am going to remove the blockage in your mouth.” He looked up toward heaven to tell the man, “It is God alone who is able to do this for you.” “Jesus wanted the man to understand that it was not magic but God’s grace that healed him.”[4]

Then Jesus sighed. This could be translated that Jesus groaned. He groaned because of the pain. He identifies with us and feels our pain.

Hebrews 4:15 NIVO For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

This man had suffered the pain of silence, the pain of trying to communicate, yet being unable to talk. Jesus felt the pain. He felt the pain of our sin and the terrible consequences that sin has brought upon the world. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Jesus would go to the cross to bear the pain of our sin. Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

As he looked up to heaven to let the man know that it was God alone who was doing this for him, Jesus spoke the first words that this man heard: “Ephphatha.”

Mark 7:34 ESV And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

“Ephphatha” was not a magic word. This was simply the Aramaic that Jesus was speaking. In chapter four, he had said in Aramaic to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” Now he says to the ears of this deaf man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.”

Mark 7:35 ESV And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Immediately, the silence ceased. Sounds filled the void. The auditory nerves suddenly experienced intense activity. The man could hear!

Not only could he hear, he could also speak. The impairment was gone. Literally, the text says that the shackle (chain) on his tongue was broken. Not only could he speak, but he spoke plainly.

We can only imagine the first words that came from this man’s mouth. His tongue is loosed and for the first time he speaks clearly. “No doubt he was praising and glorifying God.”[5]

Perhaps it was this miracle that inspired Charles Wesley to write the hymn

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Text: Charles Wesley

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
    my great Redeemer’s praise,
    the glories of my God and King,
    the triumphs of his grace!
  2. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
    your loosened tongues employ;
    ye blind, behold your savior come,
    and leap, ye lame, for joy.
  3. My gracious Master and my God,
    assist me to proclaim,
    to spread through all the earth abroad
    the honors of thy name.

The Command to Be Silent

Mark 7:36 ESV And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

Jesus tells the people to tell no one! You will remember that when he healed the man of the tombs, he told him,

Mark 5:19 ESV …”Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Now he tells the people to keep quiet. What’s going on here?

The first time that Jesus went to the Decapolis, the people rejected him. They asked him to leave. So he left, but he left the man who had been set free to be a witness to the people.

Now he is strictly charging the people to tell no one. Why?

This is not the first time that Jesus ordered people to be quiet.

  • Jesus told the leper that he had cleansed to “say nothing to any man” (Mark 1:44).
  • When he raised the little girl from the dead, “he strictly charged them that no one should know this” (Mark 5:43).

Now among the Gentiles, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.

“The command to silence to both Jew and Gentile is a reminder that knowledge of Jesus by his wonders alone is inadequate knowledge… The great differences between Jews and Gentiles on points of law, purity, and [ethnic identity] fade before the truly human question and most significant issue of all, which is the question of faith in Jesus.”[6]

It is not enough to know that Jesus works miracles. It is not enough to believe in his miracle working power. We must come to an understanding of who he is and why he came. We must understand the truly human problem of sin and our need of a Savior. It is not until we come face to face with Christ on the cross bearing our sin and shame — it is not until then that we arrive at saving faith.

Earlier in chapter 7, Jesus had called on the people to “Hear me, all of you, and understand” (7:14). His own disciples are slow to understand. Again and again, Jesus asks them why they do not yet understand:

  • “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (4:13).
  • “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (6:52).
  • He will yet ask them again, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (8:17, 21).

James Edwards comments that…

The hearing and understanding commanded by Jesus are made possible only by Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a difficult matter; indeed, it is the most difficult matter in all the world. Some, like the disciples, are in close and constant contact with Jesus but still cannot see. Others like the Syrophoenician woman and this speech- and hearing-impaired man are in dark and distant lands… What does it mean for all these to hear and understand (7: 14)? It means that whether Jew or Gentile, near or far, knowledgeable or [new disciple], only the touch of Jesus can enable true hearing, seeing, understanding, and witness.[7]

The One Who Does All Things Well

Mark 7:37 ESV And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus does all things well. The Bible tells us that Christ was the agent of creation.

Colossians 1:16 ESV For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

When God created the world, day by day through the six days of creation, he saw that “it was good.” He does all things well.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the region of the Gentiles and of the time when God will come:

Isaiah 35:4-6 ESV Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

The word for mute (μογιλάλων) in this passage is only used one more time in the Bible and that is here in Mark 7:32, “a speech impediment.” The people are declaring that Jesus “has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” But Isaiah says that this is what God will do: “the ears of the deaf are unstopped… the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

“Salvation thus comes to the Gentile world in Jesus… the only categories adequate for Mark to describe the person and work of Jesus are ultimately the categories of God.”[8]

Has Jesus done all things well for you?

a.         Given you rest for your soul?

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

b.         Saved you from you sins? – Mk 16:15-16

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

c.         Given you the peace the world cannot give?

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Come to Jesus. Let him open your ears that you may hear and understand what he has done for you. Your tongue will be loosed to give praise to God. You, too, will be…

Mark 7:37 ESV …astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


 

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 464.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] Ferguson, Mark, 116 in Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (pp. 161-162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4297-4298). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4308-4312). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4267). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 07v24-30 “Jesus among the Gentiles”

canaanitewoman_drouais cropped.jpg

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are we to think about stories about Jesus among the Gentiles? People have always been fascinated with Jesus. People have tried to explain him. Some cultures have claimed him. Some have told stories about him growing up in Great Britain or India, trekking across Tibet, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Egypt. According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in the early 20th century, Jesus went to India and Kashmir after his crucifixion.[1] Some even believe that Jesus visited native Americans after his resurrection. What are we to think of these stories?

Simply this: these stories are pure fiction — nothing but fantasy. They have no historical or archaeological foundation at all. No world class historian takes these stories seriously.

Then we have to ask, What makes the New Testament accounts of Jesus any different from these other stories about Jesus going to India or America? The answer in one word is “eyewitnesses.” The Gospels were not written 18 or 19 centuries later — not 1,800 or 1,900 years after the life of Christ by people who had visions or imagined that Jesus did the things that they claim he did.

No, the Gospels were not written hundreds or thousands of years after the life of Christ; they were written by eyewitnesses like Matthew and John, disciples of Jesus Christ who lived and walked and talked with him for three years. The Gospels were written by people like Mark and Luke who knew the eyewitnesses and who as careful historians documented the facts of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Paula F. Fredriksen who “earned a Ph.D in the history of religion from Princeton University and diploma in theology from Oxford University”[2] “states that no serious scholarly work places Jesus outside the backdrop of 1st century Palestinian Judaism.”[3] In other words, serious historians know that all the earthly ministry of Jesus took place in the Middle East, not in India, or Great Britain, or America.

That is one of the reason why our passage in Mark 7 today is so interesting. Besides the healing of the man of the tombs in Mark 5, this is the only passage in the ministry of Jesus when he leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentile territory. Here in Mark 7, we read about Jesus among the Gentiles.

Mark 7:24 ESV And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

1.    Jesus Among the Gentiles

1.1. The Place

Jesus has gone into the region of Tyre and Sidon. This is far north of Israel. This is the region of modern day Lebanon. This was Gentile territory! This is not the first time that he has gone into Gentile territory, for we saw in Mark 5 that he went to the region of the Gerasenes, east of the Sea of Galilee, where he was greeted by a naked man with an unclean spirit.

But once again, Jesus has left Jewish territory and is among the Gentiles.

Tyre was a seat of ungodly paganism. Centuries before, Jezebel had come from Tyre and had corrupted the “Northern Kingdom with her pagan prophets and practices (1 Kgs 16:31-32).” More recently, Tyre had fought against the Jews, siding with the Syrian oppressors. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, claimed that the inhabitants of Tyre were “notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Ag. Ap. 1.13).[4]

1.2. The Motive

So why in the world would Jesus go to the region of Tyre and Sidon? Why would he leave his home territory to go into Gentile territory?

1.2.1.        Opposition

The first reason is opposition. We have seen over and over again how the Jewish religious authorities are increasingly hostile to Jesus. They are opposed to

  • his authoritative teaching,
  • his claim to forgive sins (2:7),
  • his healing on the Sabbath (3:2),
  • his refusal to submit to their traditions (7:5) to name just a few items on their list!

The first 23 verses of this chapter 7 show the most intense conflict with the scribes and Pharisees up to this point.

The point of contention had been the tradition of the elders. The Jews maintained that there could be no salvation apart from the Law. They had put the emphasis on external appearances, on external cleanliness, on clean and “unclean” foods. But Jesus declared that all foods were clean (Mark 7:19), that we are not defiled by the food that we eat but by what is in our hearts. Jesus shows by going among the Gentiles not only that there are no unclean foods, but that there are no unclean people. We were all created in the image of God. We were all created to know him and love him. He also shows that the Law is not our Savior; Jesus Christ himself is our only Lord and Savior.

1.2.2.        Rest and relaxation

Secondly, Jesus needed to rest. Already in chapter 6, Jesus had tried to get away with his disciples to “rest a while” (6:31). But they had been unsuccessful. The people followed Jesus into the wilderness where he taught them and feed the five thousand.

In Tyre, Jesus “entered a house and did not want anyone to know” (Mark 7:24). Jesus and his disciples have been going 24/7, so to speak, and it was time for a rest, so they go to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and enter a house, not wanting anyone to know that they were there. But the plan did not work. “He could not be hidden.”

1.2.3.        Teaching of his disciples

Another reason why Jesus was trying to get away, was so that he could have some private teaching time with his disciples. Up to the point, the disciples have failed to understand who he is and what he came to do.

  • They had not understood the parable about the sower (4:13).

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

  • The disciples had been astounded when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee because they had failed to understand the significance of the feeding of the five thousand (6:52).
  • The disciples had not understood that food entering the body does not make us unclean, but that it is the evil that comes from the heart that makes us unclean (7:17-23).

Jesus probably wanted time with his disciples to teach them things that they were slow to learn.

1.3. No Place to Hide

Jesus had “entered a house and did not want anyone to know,” but there was no place to hide. Mark tells us, “yet he could not be hidden” (7:24). Back in chapter 3:8, people from Tyre and Sidon had already come as far as the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus. They had no doubt taken back reports of his teaching and his miracles. It was not only in Judea and Galilee that people were talking about Jesus. The news of his wonderful works had preceded him to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now Jesus has come and though he is in a house, he cannot be hidden.

1.3.1.        Enter the Woman

Mark 7:25-26 ESV But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

This woman hears that Jesus has come and boldly makes her way to him. This woman is not a Jew; she is a Canaanite (Matthew 15:22). She exemplifies what Paul said of the Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:12 NIVO remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

Yet she comes. She is a woman who knows better. She knows all about Jewish customs. As Tim Keller explains,

She knows that she has none of the religious, moral, and cultural credentials necessary to approach a Jewish rabbi—she is a Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. She knows that in every way, according to the standards of the day, she is unclean and therefore disqualified to approach any devout Jew, let alone a rabbi. But she doesn’t care. She enters the house without an invitation, falls down and begins begging Jesus to exorcise a demon from her daughter.[5]

Matthew tells us in his Gospel,

Matthew 15:22-23 NIVO A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

She knows that Jesus is Lord, that he is the Son of David, and she begs for mercy. Jesus does not answer her, so she keeps begging so much so that the disciples want Jesus to send her away.

But she will not be sent away. Nothing can stop her. This woman will not take no for an answer. She knows what she needs and she intends to get it.

Again Tim Keller says,

You know why she has this burst of boldness, don’t you? There are cowards, there are regular people, there are heroes, and then there are parents. Parents are not really on the spectrum from cowardice to courage, because if your child is in jeopardy, you simply do what it takes to save her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re normally timid or brazen—your personality is irrelevant. You don’t think twice; you do what it takes. So it’s not all that surprising that this desperate mother is willing to push past all the barriers.[6]

She will not be denied.

1.3.2.        A Glimmer of Hope

Mark 7:27 ESV And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus’ response is startling to us. It is “one of the most shocking and controversial statements He ever made.”[7]

The Jews referred to the Gentiles as dogs. It was not a term of endearment. In another place, Jesus tells us not to give that which is holy to dogs (Matthew 7:6). The Apostle Paul turned the term back on the Judaizers, those who insisted that Christians must follow the Law to be saved: “Look out for the dogs,” he said, “look out for the evil doers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).

But Jesus is not using the ordinary term for dogs (κύνας, kunas). He is using κυναρίοις (kunariois) which means “little dogs.” It refers to small dogs that were permitted in the house. It is the word that was used for puppies.

Jesus is giving a parable here:

Mark 7:27 NIV “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Jesus is speaking to a mother, and mothers know that the children must be fed first. Notice the word “first.” In the word “first” is a glimmer of hope. First, let the children eat all they want.

The children of Abraham, the Jews, were the first ones to receive the gospel.

Romans 1:16 ESV For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Why should the Jews be the first to receive the gospel? The Apostle Paul explains,

Romans 9:4-5 ESV They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The Word would become flesh. God would take upon himself humanity. The Eternal Word would be born of the virgin and that means that he would be born as a babe.

Galatians 4:4 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Christ was not only the son of Adam (Luke 3:38), he was also the son of Abraham and the son of David to whom the promises had been made (Matthew 1:1).

Throughout the Book of Acts, as the Apostle Paul spreads the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ, Paul always goes to the Jews first to let them know that the promises have been fulfilled in Jesus who is the Messiah.

Jesus concentrated his ministry on Israel, for all sorts of reasons. He was sent to show Israel that he was the fulfillment of all Scripture’s promises, the fulfillment of all the prophets, priests, and kings, the fulfillment of the temple. But after he was resurrected, he immediately said to the disciples, “Go to all the nations.” His words, then, are not the insult they appear to be. What he’s saying to the Syrophoenician woman is, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I’m going to Israel first, then the Gentiles (the other nations) later.”[8]

While Jesus does mighty works of exorcism (5:1-20; 7:24-30), healing (7:31-37) and feeding the hungry (8:1-10), …he does not teach and evangelize.”[9]

The priority of the Jews in Jesus’ mission does not mean that the Gentiles will be excluded. Jesus responded that the bread must first be given to the children of Abraham. The word “first” gave the woman hope that there would be enough bread to go around.

1.3.3.        An Audacious Argument

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

This woman understands Israel’s priority. “I’m okay with that,” she says. “I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that.”[10]

She is not offended. She does not accuse Jesus of unfairness. She does not say that Jesus owed her anything. She does not demand equal rights with the Jews. She does not claim to deserve anything. In the most respectful way, she wrestles with Jesus while refusing to take no for an answer.

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

She’s not saying, “Lord, give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness.” She’s saying, “Give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of your goodness— and I need it now.”[11]

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, there were 12 basketfuls left over. There was more than enough. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” This woman is arguing her case that with Jesus, there is more than enough.

Is not this what Jesus was suggesting she do by telling her that the children must be fed first? We read that Jacob wrestled with God, but first we read that God wrestled with Jacob. God wrestles with us. He wants us to be moved with compassion as he is moved with compassion, but far too often we are passive. We do not really want what we are asking for. We pray for the lost to be saved, but there is no strong desire, no passion, no power. We pray prayers that cost us nothing.

This Syrophoenician woman was put to the test. She continued to intercede for her daughter.

1.3.4.        Faith Comes by Understanding

Mark 7:29 CSB Then He told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”

This woman understood the parable. She is the first person in this gospel to really understand.

“For such a reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

James Edwards has a beautiful comment on this verse:

This believing woman submits her cause entirely to Jesus, and she is not disappointed. “’ For such a reply, you may go,’” says Jesus, “’ the demon has left your daughter.’” What an irony! Jesus seeks desperately to teach his chosen disciples — yet they are dull and uncomprehending; Jesus is reluctant even to speak to a walk-on pagan woman — and after one sentence she understands his mission and receives his unambiguous commendation (loftier yet in Matt 15:28: “ ‘Woman, you have great faith!’”). How is this possible? The answer is that the woman is the first person in Mark to hear and understand a parable of Jesus. The brief parable of the children and dogs at the table has disclosed to her the mystery of the kingdom of God. She is not distant and aloof, attempting to maintain her position and control. She does what Jesus commands of those who would receive the kingdom and experience the word of God: she enters the parable and allows herself to be claimed by it. That she answers Jesus from “within” the parable, that is, in the terms by which Jesus addressed her, indicates that she is the first person in the Gospel to hear the word of Jesus to her.[12]

Did you know that Jesus wants to walk into your town? He wants to walk into your home. He wants to walk into your life.

2.    Theological Insights

This story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman is packed with biblical truth.

2.1. The Authority of the Son of God

This story reveals the amazing authority and power of the Son of God.

Mark 7:29-30 ESV And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Jesus was not present when the healing took place. He did not lay his hands on the child to heal her. He spoke no words to cast out the demon. He simply willed the child’s healing and it took place. The Son of God possesses such complete power and authority over demons that he does not need to be present or to even speak a word. From a distance, he wills, and it happens.[13]

2.2. One Plan of Salvation for All

Why did Jesus go to the Gentiles? We considered several reasons why Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory. But there is another reason that I did not mention. Jesus put an end to the distinction between clean and unclean (Mark 7:1-23). He then went to the Gentiles to show that the Church, as the Body of Christ in the world, the Church would also take the gospel to all nations. At the end of Mark’s Gospel, we read the final command of Christ:

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

God does not have different plans of salvation for different peoples. There is only one God and only one plan of salvation for all men. There is only one Son of God and he is the one and only Savior. The Samaritans also recognized that Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). The Syrophoenician woman recognized the priority of Israel in the plan of God and the sufficiency of God’s salvation for all.

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:14 ESV And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 17:30-31 NLT “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

1 Timothy 2:5 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

2.3. How about you? Has Christ walked into your life?

By all standards of Jewish culture and reason, this woman was unclean. A Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. But Jesus came to town. Christ walked into her life. Has Christ walked into your life?

I know a man in this town who says that he is too unclean to come to Jesus. He claims that he is too much of a pagan. There is a lot of pride and arrogance in such a statement. You degrade the work of Christ by saying that he is not powerful enough to clean an unclean sinner like you. You think that you are the greatest pagan of all time? Jesus Christ came into the world to save pagans like you and me.

Old man John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound,” said this, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Jesus came into the world to save great sinners like you and me.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Fredriksen

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 84). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 84-85). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[7] Akin, Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[8] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 85-86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 86-87). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4208-4216). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[13] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 07v01-23 “How Can I Be Clean?”

 

How is a man to be clean before God? What puts a man right before God? What are the marks of true and false religion?

Introduction

How can a man be clean before God? This is a question of great concern, not only of religious people, but of everyone who will someday stand before God to give an account of how he has spent his life.

Job asked,

Job 15:14 ESV What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

Job 9:2-3 ESV “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? 3 If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.

The psalmist, King David, prayed,

Psalm 143:2 ESV Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

Psalm 130:3 ESV If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

Religion is man’s attempt to make himself right with God. But what can we do to undo the wrong that we have done? What can we do to make the wrongs right? What can we do to wash ourselves of clean from the filth of our sin?

The world’s religions have attempted to answer that question in various ways.

1.        Religion’s Attempt to Clean Us Up

1.1.     Islam’s Concern with Clean

In Islam, for example, there is a great concern about being clean before praying to Allah so there are washings called “wudhu” that are observed before prayer.[1]

  1. The hands are washed three times, the right hand then the left.
  2. The mouth is rinsed three times using the right hand.
  3. The nostrils are washed by sniffing water up into them three times, followed by blowing it out.
  4. The face is washed three times.
  5. The arms are washed three times up to the elbows.
  6. The head is wiped once.
  7. The ears are cleaned inside and out once.
  8. Finally, the feet are washed up to the ankles three times.

So there is a concern that one be clean before approaching Allah.

1.2.     Clean and Unclean in Judaism

The Jews of Jesus’ day, especially the Pharisees, were very concerned about cleanliness. This is what we find in Mark’s Gospel chapter 7.

Mark 7:1-5 NIVO The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

We have seen growing opposition to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

  • Mark 2:7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming!”
  • Mark 2:16 “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
  • Mark 2:24 “Why are [his disciples] doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
  • Mark 7:5 “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

Here in chapter 7 of Mark, we have a head-on collision between Jesus and the Pharisees over what makes one clean. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this passage is more about what defiles a person. In Judaism, there was a long list of things that defiled a person:

  • Human excretion of any kind, such as spittle or urine
  • Corpses
  • Decaying flesh of dead animals
  • Creeping things
  • Idols The list would also include certain classes of people:
  • Lepers, like the one that Jesus touched and healed (1:40)
  • Tax collectors like Levi (2:13)
  • Gentiles, like the Gentile territory of the Gerasenes (5:1)
  • Menstruating women, like the woman who had the issue of blood for 12 years and who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (5:25)
  • The dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus raised from the dead (5:35)

But this passage is not simply about personal hygiene. It is not about germs, though there were Old Testament regulations that certainly helped to prevent disease and the spread of germs. No, this passage is all about being defiled and what one must do to be clean.

Mark describes in detail the traditions of the Pharisees.

Mark 7:3-4 NIVO (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees could watch people to know if they were holding to the traditions of the elders. They saw that the disciples of Jesus ate without washing their hands.

Mark 7:5 NIVO So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

One of the marks of false religion is the emphasis that it puts on the external. It stresses appearance. False religion says that what really counts is what one sees. “Here are the rules. Follow them and you’ll be all right. You’ll be in the group. Follow the rules and God will have a place for you in His kingdom. So…”

  • Do you go to church?
  • Okay, what day do you go to church on? Do you go to church on the Sabbath or on Sunday?
  • Do you fast?
  • Do you pray five times a day?
  • Have you gone on a mission?
  • Are you wearing the right clothes?

These traditions make it very convenient. With these traditions, we can think ourselves very righteous before God. We can see ourselves as better than others. We can look down on people who do not live according to our traditions. It gives us such a wonderful feeling of superiority!

This enables us to determine whether others are right with God. We can watch them to see if they are following the rules.

And to that, the God said to Samuel,

1 Samuel 16:7 ESV …the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

MUSIC: Kathryn Scott – Search Me, Know Me

2.        Worthless Religion

The Pharisees want to know why the disciples of Jesus do not live according to the traditions of the elders. This is an indirect attack on Jesus himself. The reason that his disciples did not live according to the traditions of the elders is that Jesus himself did not live according to those traditions as we will see. The disciples were simply following the example of Jesus himself.

But Jesus has very strong words for these religious leaders who see themselves as righteous because everything looks so good on the outside.

2.1.     First, Jesus calls them hypocrites.

Mark 7:6 ESV And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites…

The word hypocrite first simply meant an actor. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because their whole lives were “a piece of acting without any sincerity behind it at all.”[2] So what is religion for you?

  • A list of rules and regulations?
  • Certain rituals or practices that you have to observe?
  • Certain tabus that you must avoid?

Then you, my friend, are a hypocrite. You are acting a part. You believe that you are good if you do certain things and avoid other things — and here’s the key — no matter what your heart and thoughts are like.[3]

Legalism puts the accent on outward appearance, outward conformity to a code or list of rules. It does not take into account what is in the heart.

William Barclay tells the story of a Muslim — it could have been a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew or anyone — but it’s the story of a Muslim…

Who was pursuing a man with upraised knife to murder him. Just then the call to prayer rang out. Immediately he stopped, spread out his prayer mat, knelt, said his prayer as fast as he could; then rose and continued his murderous pursuit. The prayer was simply a form and a ritual, an outward observance, merely the correct interlude in the career of murder.[4]

Going to church, reading your Bible, singing in the choir, giving in the offering — these things will not make you right with God. The question is, What is in your heart toward God and toward your neighbor?

Jesus said that the Pharisees were hypocrites. They were simply acting a part. Next, he said that…

2.2.     Their worship is worthless.

Mark 7:6 ESV …as it is written, “’This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

These religious people honor God with their lips. They say the right things. They’ve got the vocabulary. They can talk about spiritual things. They can quote Bible verses. They sound very spiritual.

But…

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

They do not love God. They do not delight in God. Going to church is a chore. They pray because it is their duty. If they read their Bibles, it is because they are supposed to. But they know nothing of rejoicing in the Lord. They know nothing of hunger for God:

Psalm 73:25-26 NIVO Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Their worship, Jesus says, is all external. It does not come from the heart, so it is worthless.

Mark 7:7 ESV in vain do they worship me…

It is a waste of time.

Then Jesus said that…

 

2.3.     Their teaching has no divine authority.

Mark 7:7 ESV in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

That is part of the quotation from the prophet Isaiah. The New Living Translation puts it,

Mark 7:7 NLT Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

This controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees was all about the traditions of the elders. Six times this passage refers to the tradition of the elders which prescribed how they were to prepare to eat, what they were to do when going to market, even how to wash their dishes! These were teachings that were added to the Word of God.

Today churches are replacing the Word of God with the words of men. Oh, they may still have the Bible. They give it lip-service. But when they explain it, they explain it away. They wrestle against the plain reading of the Word. They have their own ideas and have elevated them above the Word of God.

We have our churches, our denominations, our committees, our councils and conferences, and it is so easy to just vote and do what we want to do. We make our decisions and ask God to agree with us and bless us.

Jesus gives a strong rebuke to these Jewish authorities:

Mark 7:8-13 NIVO You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” 9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Jesus gives an example of how they overturn the Word of God. One of the ten commandments was to honor our parents. But one could avoid helping a parent financially in need by saying that he had vowed to give the money to God. Jesus sarcastically accuses them of having a fine way of setting aside, making void, nullifying or invalidating the Word of God in order to observe their own traditions.

3.        Jesus Turns Religion Inside Out

This was not a matter to be left to the religious authorities. Jesus called the crowd together.

Mark 7:14-15 NIVO Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.

Wow! Jesus wants us to understand this!

15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “

The Pharisees had criticized the disciples for not washing before eating. Jesus calls into question the whole religious order. Outward appearance is not what is important. What is in the heart?

3.1.     Jesus and His Disciples

This is revolutionary! Even the disciples have not grasped it.

Mark 7:17-19 ESV And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

A right standing with God is not based on what we eat. You are not defiled or made unclean by what you eat. What you eat goes into your digestive tract and is expelled; it never enters the heart. What you eat has no effect on your heart or on your relationship with God. Notice carefully what Mark tells us in verse 19:

Thus he declared all foods clean.

Jesus is Lord. In Mark 2, he is Lord of the Sabbath and can declare his intention for the Sabbath: “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (2:28).

As Lord, he here declares that from that point on, all foods are clean. This truth is repeated later in the experience of Peter when in a vision, he sees a sheet coming down from heaven, containing all kinds of beasts. The Lord tells him to “Kill and eat.”

Acts 10:14-15 NIVO “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans,

Romans 14:14 NIVO As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself…

Romans 14:20 NIVO … All food is clean…

False religions put the emphasis on the external, but they have nothing to do with true spiritual life.

Colossians 2:16 NIVO Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Colossians 2:20-22 NIVO Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

1 Timothy 4:1-5 NIVO The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Romans 14:17 NIVO For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

3.2.     Dirty on the Inside

The problem is not dirt on the outside. The problem is dirt on the inside. False religions are trying to clean up the outside but they have no way of cleaning the inside. We read in Luke 11 of another time…

Luke 11:37-39 ESV While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

The problem is not dirt on the outside but filth on the inside. Dirt under your fingernails will not make you unclean. Mud on your feet does not defile you.

Mark 7:20-23 NIVO He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

This is what makes what defiles us: impure hearts.

  1. Evil thoughts and plans
  2. Sexual immorality: a broad term including all sexual activity outside of marriage.
  3. Theft: Stealing, taking from another what is not yours (the eighth commandment, Exodus 20:15).
  4. Murder: Taking an innocent life (Exodus 20:13).
  5. Adultery: More specific: violating the marriage covenant — your own or someone else’s, either physically or mentally (Matthew 5:28; the seventh commandment, Exodus 20:14).
  6. Greed: coveting, desiring more at the expense of others (the tenth commandment, Exodus 20:17).
  7. Evil actions: wicked behavior, behavior with harmful intent.
  8. Deceit: deception, dishonesty
  9. Lewdness: Promiscuity — lack of moral discernment or restraint
  10. Envy: jealousy. Belief that God is withholding His best.
  11. Slander: speaking evil of man or God.
  12. Arrogance: Pride.
  13. Folly: senselessness, spiritual insensitivity.[5]

Mark 7:23 NIVO All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

Did we leave anyone out?

Romans 3:10 NIVO As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;

Isaiah 53:6 ESV All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…

“Internal impurity… cannot be washed away by external rituals.” These impurities cannot be washed away with soap and water.[6]

What are we to do?

4.        Jesus Touches the Unclean to Make Us Clean.

In the Old Testament, people would become unclean by simply touching someone or something that was unclean. Lepers warned people not to get near because they were unclean. Jesus was never afraid to touch the unclean. Instead of being defiled by our uncleanness, his holiness overcomes our filth.

  • The unclean leper came to Jesus. Jesus touched him and the leper was made clean.
  • The woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was instantly made whole and clean.
  • The dead daughter of Jairus did not render Jesus unclean when he touched her. Instead, his touch raised her from the dead.

All of us have thought and done things that have defiled us and made us unclean. There are no religious rites or actions that can make us clean. The religions of this world say, “Do this. Do that. Do it again and again and again.”

Jesus says, “Done.” “It is finished.” On the cross he did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He wiped the slate clean.

Colossians 2:13-14 NIVO When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

If you will come to him, he will make you clean. And he will begin his work in you to make you a new creation in Christ so that the old way of living is gone and the new has come.

***And you can say, “I am clean!”

MUSIC: Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: “I’m Clean”

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/galleries/wudhu/

[2] William Barclay, Mark, p. 168.

[3] William Barclay, Mark, p. 168.

[4] William Barclay, Mark, p. 168.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 156). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 133.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 06v45-52 “The One Who Walks on Water”

1-2015-10-02_16-20-45 Vanuatu Havannah Harbor

Introduction

What are we to believe about Jesus Christ? When we talk about faith, we are talking about believing. But exactly what are we to believe about Jesus?

In Mark 6, we find the story of Jesus walking on the sea. Jesus had just multiplied the five loaves and two fish, performing the miracle of feeding the 5,000. He makes his disciples get into the boat, dismisses the crowd, and goes up into the mountain to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples are struggling against the wind as they try to row across the Sea of Galilee. In the midst of their struggle, Jesus comes walking on the sea. The disciples are terrified, thinking that he was a ghost. Jesus calls out to them, gets into the boat with them, the wind stops, and the disciples are astounded. Then Mark tells us why they were completely and utterly surprised: they had not understood the meaning of the miracle of the loaves.

There you have it: the disciples had not understood because, Mark explains, their hearts were hardened. Let’s read the story in Mark 6:45-52.

Mark 6:45-52 NIVO Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. 47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

1.        Separation: By Land Or By Sea

1.1.     The Misunderstood Miracle

This miracle takes place immediately after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.You remember the story: Jesus and his disciples had been overwhelmed by the crowds. Wanting some time to rest and relax, they got into a boat and went looking for an isolated, quiet place. But the people had seen Jesus and the disciples get into the boat. They followed Jesus around the edge of the Sea of Galilee so that when Jesus and the disciples arrived, there was a great crowd waiting for them. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them for, Mark tells us, they were like sheep without a shepherd. The Good Shepherd taught them through the day, but when it was getting late, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away to find something to eat.

Instead of sending them away, Jesus took five small loaves of bread and two fish, blessed them, multiplied them, and fed the multitude. When everyone had eaten their fill, there were 12 baskets full of the leftovers.

The people were amazed! John’s Gospel tells us that the people wanted to come make him king by force (John 6:15). What kind of a king did they want? They wanted a king to overthrow the Roman Empire. But Jesus had not come to be a freedom fighter.

The understanding the people had of Jesus and of his mission was incompatible with the real reason why he came. Jesus did not come to overthrow political powers and governments. He came to set up his kingdom in the hearts of men. Jesus could not allow his mission to be defined by the masses or by his disciples.

The people wanted to force him to be king. The disciples also wanted him to be king. They had all completely misunderstood his mission as the Messiah. Jesus had to separated the would-be king-makers. The disciples would go one way and the crowds the other way:

Mark 6:45-46 NIVO Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

1.2.     Jesus on the Mountain, Praying

Mark only records Jesus praying three times in his Gospel. That is not to say that Jesus only prayed three times, but that Mark only mentions three times when Jesus prayed. In each case, Jesus was praying at night and in a lonely place. In each case, his disciples had failed to understand his mission. And each time, Jesus was facing a major decision or crisis.

In the first case in Mark 1:35, the disciples found Jesus alone praying early in the morning. “Everyone is looking for you!” they told Jesus.

Mark 1:38 NIVO Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

The last time was the night before his crucifixion. As Jesus submits fully to the will of his Father and determines lay down his life as a sacrifice for our sins, his disciples are sleeping, unable to watch and pray with him for one hour.

Here in Mark 6, Jesus has separated his disciples from the crowds who all want to make him king. Jesus has gone up on the mountain, away from the people, to be alone with his Father.

1.3.     The Disciples at Sea

Now the disciples are separated from Jesus.

Mark 6:47 ESV And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.

“Whenever the disciples are separated from Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, they fall into distress.”[1]

Normally it would take six to eight hours to cross the Sea of Galilee in poor weather conditions, but the disciples are helpless against the wind.

Mark 6:48 NIVO He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.

They were straining at the oars, rowing hard, being battered as they rowed, because the wind was against them.

Can you imagine their thoughts?

First, they must have been troubled by the response of Jesus. Everyone wanted to make him king, but he calls a halt to the whole thing. He makes them get into the boat and sends the crowds away. Why not strike while the iron is hot? Why would he not accept to be their king? A storm is brewing in their thoughts about Jesus.

And then, here they are in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, at the orders of Jesus, doing what Jesus has told them to do, and everything is against them. “The wind was against them.”

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever done what you knew was right, you did what you knew God wanted you to do, and then everything went wrong? That’s what happened to the disciples.

Before, in Mark 4, the disciples were in the midst of a terrible storm, but Jesus was in the boat with them. Jesus rebuked the storm and calmed the sea simply by speaking the word.

But now in chapter 6, the disciples are alone. Jesus is not with them. They are facing the storm along. I can imagine Peter saying to John, “The last time we were in a situation like this, Jesus was with us!” Then Thomas speaks up, “Yeah, where is Jesus when you need him?”

Ever felt that way? You are going through a crisis, one of the great storms of your life, and you don’t see Jesus anywhere around? Where is Jesus when you need him?

I will tell you where he is. He is at right hand of the Father, interceding for you! (Romans 8:34).

Notice what the Bible says, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars…”

He saw. Jesus is on a mountain top, and in the middle of the night, he sees the disciples three or four miles away in the middle of the Sea of Galilee straining at the oars. What kind of eyesight is that? “One must assume that Jesus had supernatural powers to see them so far away in the darkness (6:48).”[2]

As you are straining at the oars of life, dear friend, Jesus sees. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. And Jesus is praying for you.

  • Jesus prayed.
  • Jesus saw.
  • And Jesus came.

2.        Reunion: Jesus to the Rescue

Mark 6:48 ESV …And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

2.1.     Jesus Walks Where God Alone Can Walk

The fourth watch began at 3:00 in the morning. Here in the darkest part of the night, Jesus comes walking on the sea.

In the darkest part of your night, look for Jesus!

Here he comes, walking on the sea!

What is this all about? Why is Jesus walking on water? Is Jesus simply going for a walk? Jesus, hem i go wokbaot nomo? Does Jesus simply want to be on the other shore when they get there? What’s going on here?

This the centerpiece of this story: Jesus is walking on the sea. He is walking on water. Who walks on water? Who is this one who comes walking on the sea?

Mark keeps bringing us back to this question, “Who is Jesus?” Who is this one who does what only God can do?

  • Who is this man who forgives sins? Only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:10).

The disciples had already asked,

  • “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).

He forgives sins (2:10) and demonstrates his power of nature (4:39). He feeds 5,000 people with five small loaves of bread and two small fish (6:31-44). Now in walking on the sea, Jesus is unmistakably identified with God.[3]

In the Old Testament, only God can walk on water. In walking on the water, Jesus walks where only God can walk.

In Job 38:16, God asks Job,

Job 38:16 NIVO “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?

The psalmist says of God in…

Psalm 77:19 NIVO Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

Again we read in…

Isaiah 43:16 NIVO This is what the LORD says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

Only God walks on water.

2.2.     He meant to pass by them…

And then we read that strange phrase:

Mark 6:48 ESV …He meant to pass by them,

What does that mean? “He meant to pass by them…”

Years ago my father asked me about this verse. My father was up early every morning to read his Bible before going to work. He had read through his well-marked Bible many many times, but he was puzzled by this verse. Jesus is walking on the water and Mark tells us, “He meant to pass by them.”

These little phrases that sometimes seem to be out of place are sometimes the key to understanding the passage. In the previous story, Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them because, Mark tells us, they were like sheep without a shepherd. That’s a strange phrase in the middle of a miracle story about feeding five thousand people. But then Jesus showed that he was the Lord who is the Good Shepherd. He made the sheep to recline in green pastures in groups of 50 and 100 before multiplying the loaves and fish to feed the multitude. These phrases give us a key to understand the meaning of the miracle.

Now we read that Jesus came to them, walking on the sea, and, “He meant to pass by them…” (Mark 6:48).

In the Old Testament, when God “passes by,” he passes by to reveal himself and to manifest his glory. At Mt. Sinai, the LORD “passed by” Moses:

Exodus 33:19-22 ESV And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

Again in the next chapter we read,

Exodus 34:6-8 ESV The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, “for the LORD is about to pass by.” In Genesis 32:31-33 (LXX), “the face of God ‘passed by’ Jacob when he was wrestling with the angel.”[4]

Job makes the connection between God’s walking on water and passing by. In fact, Mark uses the same Greek words that are used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament:

Job 9:8 NIVO He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

Job 9:11 NIVO When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.

God had told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Job said, “When he passes me, I cannot see him…” (Job 9:11). But when Jesus “passes by” the disciples in the midst of the sea, he fully intends to make the “God of Job visible…”[5]

The God of Israel, majestic and awesome but unknowable face to face, is now “passing by” believers in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ walking on the water to his disciples is a revelation of the glory that he shares with the Father and the compassion that he extends to his followers. It is a divine [manifestation] in answer to their earlier [astonishment] when he calmed the storm, “’ Who is this?’” (4:41).[6]

John, in his Gospel, declares that Jesus is God. Mark shows that Jesus is God.[7]

Jesus “meant to pass by them.” He fully meant to demonstrate his glory. And why this manifestation of his glory? The disciples are in the boat, in the midst of the sea, struggling against the wind. More than that, they are rowing hard against what the Spirit of God is trying to show them. Their minds are full of questions. Jesus was not following their agenda. Jesus performed many miracles. Was he not the Messiah? Why would he not let the people make him king?

In the midst of their struggle, Jesus comes walking on the waves. He says in effect, “I have not come to follow your agenda. But make no mistake about it. I am the King. I walk on water. I rule the waves. The winds obey my commands. I rule the universe for I am the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

2.3.     Jesus Says What God Would Say

The disciples were terrified at this display of the glory of God.

Mark 6:48-50 ESV …He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified…

These men were professionals. They knew the sea. The lived on the sea. They made their living on the sea. They were rowing hard against the wind, but then they saw something that they had never seen before. Something was approaching them. Something walking through the storm, walking on the water and getting nearer. They were terrified for they thought that a ghost.

Mark 6:50 ESV …But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I,” Jesus says. “egō eimi” That phrase is identical to the phrase that God used to reveal himself to Moses. It means, “I am.”

“Who shall I say sent me?” Moses asked. “Tell them that ‘I am’ sent you, for I am that I am.” The Greek translation of that is exactly what we have here: ἐγώ εἰμι (Mark 6:50 BGT). “Jesus not only walks in God’s stead, but he also takes his name.”[8]

Jesus says what God says in the Old Testament: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50).

This passage needs to be interpreted in light of what the prophet Isaiah had said in chapter 43. God says to Israel:

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:10-11 NIV “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

Isaiah 43:15-16 NIV I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the LORD says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

Garland comments,

The disciples who have been called by Jesus pass through the waters, and Jesus is with them and is the one who need only say, “I am.” “The Holy One of God” (1:24), the “Son of the Most High God” (5:7), really is in the midst. For now, however, the answer sails by the disciples.[9]

2.4.     Jesus’ Presence Calms the Storm

It was not until Jesus joined the disciples in the boat that the storm stopped.

Mark 6:51 ESV And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.

Separation from Jesus brought distress. Jesus’ presence with them overcame the storms in their lives.[10]

You will pass through storms. But with Christ, you will pass through them. As we read in Isaiah 43,

  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
  • When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
  • When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Deep waters, rushing rivers, fiery blazes — these you may experience in your Christian life, but with Christ you will pass through them victorious.

3.        Hard Hearts, Slow to Understand

Jesus steps into the boat, the wind ceased, and the disciples were utterly astounded (6:51).

They were amazed, but they should not have been. They were completely astonished at Jesus walking on the water and the calming of the sea when he got into the boat. They were astounded because they had not believed.

By now they should have understood, but Mark says,

Mark 6:51-52 ESV …And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

What did they not understand? Mark says specifically that they had not understood about the loaves. Jesus had multiplied the loaves and the fish, but they have not understood what that meant.

3.1.     Meaning in the Miracles

When we consider the miracles of Jesus, whether it be feeding the five thousand or walking on water, we need to understand that Jesus is not doing tricks to amuse us or amaze us. There is meaning in the miracles.

In these two miracles, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and in the walking on the sea, Mark has given us the key to their meaning. Miracles are like signs that point beyond themselves. There are road signs along the road that goes around the island of Efate. You will see a sign that tells you how far it is to Paonangisu or Saama or Epau. When you see a sign that says that it is 13km to Saama, you do not stop at the sign and think that you have arrived at Saama. The sign points to a reality beyond itself. The signs are not put up so people would admire the signs. They are put up to point people in the right direction.

Jesus did not perform miracles so that people would admire his miracles. The miracles were signs that pointed beyond themselves. They pointed to the person of Jesus Christ. They should raise questions that ask, “Who is this that calms the storm with a word? Who is this that multiplies the loaves? Who is this who walks on the sea?”

3.2.     Failure to Understand

The disciples had not understood who it was who had multiplied the loaves and the fish. They had not understood that he was the bread of life that had come down from heaven. They had not understood that he was the Good Shepherd who made his sheep to recline in green pastures. They had not understood that he was himself the very source of life.

The disciples had not yet come to believe that Jesus was God in the flesh. They had failed to understand who he was. Had they believed that he was the Son of God, they would not have been surprised that he could walk on water. They would not have been astonished that the wind suddenly stopped. Had they understood the great might and unlimited power of the Son of God, they would not have feared.[11]

3.3.     Hearts that Were Hard

The disciples had not understood, but they were nonetheless without excuse. Mark says that they had not understood because their hearts were hardened. We have seen the hard hearts of the Pharisees and the Herodians when Jesus healed the man with the deformed hand (3:5). But these are his own disciples. And they have hard hearts.

What does that mean? That means that they have their own idea about who Jesus is supposed to be. They know what kind of a Messiah they want him to be. Like the rest of the multitude that wanted to make Jesus king, the disciples wanted a Messiah that would get rid of the Roman government and give them all the social welfare benefits that comes with multiplied loaves and fish.

Maybe you want a Jesus who will always make you happy, or well, or rich, or who will get you a wife or a husband. That’s the Jesus that you want and not another. You want a Savior on your own terms. The disciples were not the only ones to have hard hearts.

The disciples knew Jesus and had spent time with him, but they had hard hearts that kept them from knowing Jesus for who he really was and is. Their ideas about who he was kept them from truly knowing him. These men

  • had a unique calling (1:16-20; 3:13-19).
  • They had had privileged instruction (3:31-35; 4:13-20, 34).
  • They had been commissioned, and
  • Given miracle-working power, and
  • Had participated in Jesus’s ministry (6:7-13, 30, 35-44).

Still they do not understand.[12] Because they have hard hearts. They think they know how things ought to be. They know what they want in a Messiah.

Faith is not automatic; it is the result of a choice to let go of who we want Jesus to be and to accept what the Word of God reveals about him.[13]

The cults today promote a different Jesus. They have a smaller Jesus. A created Jesus. A Jesus who was simply an angel. A Jesus who was not equal with God (John 5:18). A Jesus who had some of God in him, but not one who was filled with all the fulness of God (Colossians 2:9).

They have not understood the infinite greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not want the Jesus that is revealed in the pages of the Bible. They have hard hearts.

That’s why they have their own books that they add to the Bible, or why they have their own translation of the Bible, or why they have their own prophets or prophetesses who change the meaning of the Bible.

3.4.     Hope for Hard Hearts

The disciples had failed to understand who Jesus is. But there was hope for them, and there is hope for us. Just as they came to understand who Jesus was and put their full faith in him, as we open and read the pages of the Bible and accept what the Scriptures tell us about Jesus, we can grow in faith. God will forgive us for our unbelief as we embrace what he has revealed.[14]

There is nothing more astounding than the fact that Jesus was actually God in the flesh. “The Word was God… The Word became flesh, and we beheld his glory…” (John 1:1, 14).

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

When you understand and accept the fact that Jesus Christ was God manifested in the flesh, then it is no longer a mystery how he could forgive sins, or heal the sick, or raise the dead, or how his death on the cross could atone for our sins.

Our God is an astounding God! Why would you want anything less than an astounding, amazing God? This is the God that evokes worship from us. This is the God who is truly awesome and worthy of our praise.

[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3800-3801). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 294.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3816-3820). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 297.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3816-3820). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 298.

[10] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3855-3857). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[11] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8508-8511). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8533-8545). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[13] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 3863). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[14] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8533-8545). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 06v06-13 The Global Mission of the Church

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The world is a dangerous place. This past Thursday there was an Islamic State attack on a Starbuck’s café in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing seven people and wounding 26 others.[1] On Friday night, on the other side of the world, 23 people were killed in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa) when a group of attackers raided the Splendid Hotel. An al Qaeda-linked terrorist group claimed responsibility.[2]

Many worldviews and religions are competing for the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Christians are also to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ. How are we to respond to those who reject him?

Introduction

Christ has commissioned all believers to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. How are we to respond when people reject the message of the gospel?

Today I want to consider a passage in Mark 6 where Jesus sends out his disciples and tells them how to respond to those who accept and to those who reject the gospel. I want to consider the global mission of the Church, the foundations of that mission, and Jesus’ specific instructions about the message and how people respond to it.

First, let’s read from Mark 6:6-13.

Mark 6:6-13 NLT …Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7  And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick– no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes. 10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” 12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

When we think of Jesus’ ministry, we tend to think of his compassion, and how he healed the sick, healing — for example, in Mark 5 we read how Jesus healed the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years, and how he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Healing was an important part of Jesus’ ministry, but the defining element of his ministry was his teaching.

In the Gospel of Mark alone, Jesus is called the Teacher twelve times.

  • We read that he taught in the synagogues (1:21; 6:2).
  • He taught beside the sea (4:1).
  • He taught in the temple (12:35).
  • He taught many things in parables (4:2).
  • He taught with authority (1:27).

The first 14 chapters of Mark refer to Jesus’s ministry of teaching more than 30 times. Everywhere Jesus went, he was teaching.

It is one thing to see a miracle. It is another thing to understand what the miracle teaches us about the miracle worker. It was through his teaching that Jesus opened the window so we could see who he was and what he came to do. Jesus tells us exactly why he came in Mark 10:45.

Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

A Global Mission

The reason that Jesus chose disciples and sent them out was that he had and has a global mission. Jesus did not come just for the nation of Israel. The Bible says that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Jesus was training disciples to take the Good News to the ends of the earth.

It became apparent early on in his ministry, that Jesus had a global mission. This goes all the way back to the call of Abraham. God had told Abraham that through his offspring, that is through Jesus Christ, all the peoples of the world would be blessed.

Genesis 22:18 ESV and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Who is Abraham’s offspring? The Apostle Paul explains that Jesus Christ is Abraham’s offspring. All the nations of the earth would be blessed in Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3:16 ESV Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read that the nations and the peoples of the world would bless the Lord and be blessed in him (Psalm 72:17-19; etc.).

God intended that Vanuatu would be blessed through his Son Jesus Christ.

Now in the Gospel of Mark, the Lord has come. He begins his ministry in Capernaum, but his ministry would not be limited to one town or region or country. Although everyone in Capernaum was looking for him, Jesus told his disciples,

Mark 1:38 ESV … “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Already in Mark 3,

Mark 3:14-15 ESV And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

Now in Mark 6,

Mark 6:7 ESV And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

This was just the beginning. Jesus did not come simply to bring the Good News of salvation to Israel; he was making fishers of men, disciples who would make disciples of people of all nations. The last chapter of this Gospel of Mark has this Great Commission:

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

This is the global, worldwide mission of the Church: to proclaim to the entire world salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Listen to it again:

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

There you have the scandal of Christianity. Jesus comes into the world, sent by God the Father, sent to save sinners. This is scandalous to some because they want to make their own way to heaven. They want there to be many ways to heaven. They want to believe that any religion or any god will do just fine, but that is not what the Bible teaches.

The teaching of the Bible is consistent throughout. There is only one true God, and there is only one way to the one true God, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how Jesus prayed the night before he gave his life as a ransom for many:

John 17:3 ESV And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

There is only one true God and there is only one way to that God.

1 Timothy 2:5 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Foundation One: One True God

So foundational to the global mission of the church is first of all the fact that there is only one true God.

This fact is established over and over again in the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

But the Israelites abandoned the one true God. They began to believe that there were other gods. They worshipped the gods of the peoples around them.

One of the so-called Christian cults from America working in Vanuatu today teaches that there are other gods in different universes. That is why you need to find a Bible-believing church that uses no other book but the Bible.

This is what the God of the Bible says,

Deuteronomy 4:39 ESV know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

Deuteronomy 32:39 ESV “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Isaiah 43:10 ESV …Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

Isaiah 43:11 ESV I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

Isaiah 44:6 ESV Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

Isaiah 44:8 ESV … Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Isaiah 45:5 ESV I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…

Isaiah 45:6 ESV …from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:18 ESV For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:21 ESV …And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

Isaiah 45:22 ESV “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

***Isaiah 46:9 ESV remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

Foundation Two: One Mediator Between God and Man

The Bible, the Word of God, is very clear. There is only one true God and there is only one way to the one true God. Again, Jesus prayed,

John 17:3 ESV And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

There is one true God and he has provided one way of salvation, and that way of salvation is through his Son Jesus Christ.

The two million gods of Hinduism cannot save you, but the one true God who sent his Son to die on the cross — he alone can make you right with God.

John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

No one. The only way to be reconciled to God is through his Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter said it like this:

Acts 4:12 NLT There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Why do you need salvation?

At the end of month you get paid. You get your salary. You are paid what you have earned.

At the end of your life, you get your payoff, your salary, your wages. But here’s the bad news:

Romans 6:23 ESV For the wages of sin is death,

That’s not just death in the grave; that’s eternal separation from God, being cast into outer darkness. Hell.

That is why we need salvation. All of us.

Romans 3:23 ESV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23 ESV For the wages of sin is death, [but here’s the Good News] but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eternal life in Christ Jesus is a free gift from God. It’s free but someone paid for it. Who paid for your free gift? Jesus Christ paid for your eternal life. No one else could take away our sins.

Romans 5:6-9 ESV  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

So Jesus commanded

Luke 24:47 ESV … that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

This Good News of what God has done in his Son Jesus Christ is to be preached in all nations:

  • America and Australia
  • Belgium and Bhutan
  • Canada and China
  • Fiji and France
  • Syria and the Solomon Islands
  • Vietnam and Vanuatu

Specific Instructions

Jesus Gives Authority

It all begins right here in Mark 6.

Mark 6:7 NLT  And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits.

This section closes with the report:

Mark 6:13 NLT And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

The Twelve were “not sent to do a new work but to continue and extend the work begun by Jesus (1:34; 3:11-12; 5:8).”[3]

The disciples are sent to do what Jesus has been doing. Jesus has given them authority to do what he was doing. He does not have to pray for God to give them this authority. He simply shares his authority with the Twelve and they go and preach and heal the sick and cast out evil spirits in his name.

Jesus Gives Instructions Concerning Travel – What to Take

Mark 6:8-9 NLT He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick– no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

Jesus sends them out with basically nothing but his authority. They are to trust in God to provide for their needs. They are not traveling first class! They are not prosperity preachers! They go with a walking stick, the sandals on their feet, and the clothes on their back. The ministry is not a means for getting more stuff. “They are to stay mean and lean.”[4]

According to James Edwards, “True service of Jesus is characterized by dependence on Jesus, and dependence on Jesus is signified by going where Jesus sends despite material shortfalls and unanswered questions. . . .They must trust him alone who sends them” (Edwards, Mark, 181). Little provisions require big faith in God to meet your needs (cf. Phil 4: 19)![5]

Jesus Gives Instructions Concerning Staying in Homes — How to Act

Mark 6:10-11 NLT “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

Now this is most interesting in the world in which we live today. Jesus has given the church the responsibility of taking the Good News to all peoples everywhere. We are to proclaim Jesus. His final words before returning to heaven were these:

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Message

The focus of our preaching and teaching is Jesus Christ himself. He has commissioned us to be his witnesses. We are witnesses of Jesus Christ. We are Jesus’s witnesses.

Throughout the entire New Testament, the message is what God has done in Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Throughout the epistles, the Apostle Paul is constantly exalting Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11 NLT Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We could go through the New Testament, book after book, to see that the focus is on Jesus Christ. He is Lord and he has commissioned us to announce to all people everywhere that there is salvation in Christ alone. And we will preach the Good News of Jesus Christ until he comes. Jesus declared in…

Matthew 24:14 ESV And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The Response

Love came down when God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

But let us note carefully that Jesus did not expect everyone to believe the gospel. Through the Gospel of Mark opposition to Jesus is rising. The scribes and Pharisees oppose him. The following verses of this chapter tells how John the Baptist is beheaded. As Jesus gives instructions to his disciples about their ministry, he prepares them for rejection. In fact, that is probably why he took them to Capernaum where he was rejected by his own hometown.

Jesus instructs his disciples to go and stay with whoever received them, but he told them that some places would not welcome them. Some people would not listen to them. They would experience rejection.

What do we do as ambassadors of Jesus Christ when we are not welcomed, when our message is not received?

This is where Christianity differs radically from some other religions. Christianity is not a religion of intimidation. It is not a religion of fear and oppression. Christianity never forces anyone to become a Christian. Christianity is a religion of the heart. We are saved by grace through faith.

Well-known atheist Richard Dawkins made an interesting comment about Christianity.

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings,” Dawkins said. “I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.”[6]

Christ invites you to come to him. He never forces you. The last verses of the Bible include this invitation:

Revelation 22:17 NLT  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

So we are to share the gospel freely with all who will listen.

But what about those who do not listen? Jesus said that we are to simply “shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

The New Living Translation renders Mark 6:11,

Mark 6:11 NLT But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

We leave those who resist the gospel in the hands of God. Perhaps he will yet grant them repentance.

The Need for Repentance

Mark 6:12 NLT So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God.

John the Baptist preached repentance:

Matthew 3:2 ESV “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus preached repentance:

Matthew 4:17 ESV From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The apostles preached repentance:

Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles preached repentance, it must be important. But what is it?

Repentance has six elements:[7]

  1. Sight of sin. A person sees that he is a sinner and that his lifestyle is sinful. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15:17, he finally comes to his senses and sees that he has sinned against God.
  2. Sorrow for sin. “…I am sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:18 ESV). There is godly grief, “genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself and not just its consequences.” “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV).
  3. Confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself. He confesses his sins, not just generally, but specifically. Confession is a deep work in the heart and it cannot be accomplished simply by admitting that we are sinners. We need to humbly confess how we have sinned against God. In the Scriptures, we find at least seven benefits to confession:
    1.   Confession of sin gives glory to God (Josh 7: 19).
    2. Confession of sin is a means to humble the soul (2 Chr 26: 19).
    3. Confession of sin gives release to a troubled heart (Ps 51: 11-12).
    4. Confession of sin purges out sin (Neh 3: 13). Augustine called it “the expeller of vice.”
    5. Confession of sin endears Christ to the soul that needs atoning (Rom 7: 25).
    6. Confession of sin makes way for forgiveness (2 Sam 12: 13; 1 John 1: 9).
    7. Confession of sin makes way for mercy (Prov 28: 13).
  4. Shame for sin. Ezra prayed, “O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6 NLT). The prodigal son said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son” (Luke 15:21 NLT).
  5. Hatred of sin. The more we love Jesus, the more we will hate sin for our sins nailed Jesus to the cross.
  6. Turning from sin and returning to the Lord.
    Repentance means turning away from our sin. It means getting the sin out of our lives.

Ezekiel 14:6 NLT  “Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins.

Repentance is not only turning from sin, it is turning to the Lord.

Psalm 119:9-11 ESV How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Conclusion

The message of the Bible is that

Acts 17:30-31 NLT “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

No one will force you to follow Christ. We are simply Christ’s ambassadors…

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT …God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

[1] http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/police-warned-about/2430438.html

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/16/africa/burkina-faso-hotel-terrorist-attack/

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3487-3490). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 124). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (pp. 124-125). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/01/12/professional-atheist-dawkins-says-christianity-bulwark-against-something-worse/

[7] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 126). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 04v01-24, The Parable of the Sower

Mark 04:01-24, The Parable of the Sower

Text: Mark 4:1-13

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” 13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

1. The Parable

This is an amazing parable. It is perhaps one of Jesus’ best known parables. It is a parable that many of us have heard many times. It is a favorite parable and it is a foundational parable. And yet, we have heard it so many times, that perhaps we have never heard it as we ought to hear it.

As we read this parable, we are a bit surprised at the reaction of the disciples. They did not understand it. We read the parable and think that it is easy to understand. What’s so hard about this parable? Yet, the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant. In verse 10, they came to Jesus to ask him what it meant. Jesus responds to them in verse 13,

Mark 4:13 NLT … “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?

We read the parable and wonder why they did not understand it. What’s so difficult about understanding this parable? But the very fact that we seem to have no difficulty understanding this parable, while the disciples did not understand it, — that fact indicates that we have missed something that they saw. So we want to look at this parable more closely.

In fact, this story is rather shocking. Anyone who knows anything about farming — and you don’t have to know much — but anyone who knows anything about farming knows that this is no way to run a farm. This is not the way to plant seeds. No farmer worth his salt treats his seed with such little concern. No farmer simply throws his seed in every direction. Seed is too precious, too costly, and the harvest too important to sow seeds in places where they are guaranteed not to produce fruit.

(1) Seed on the Footpath

Mark 4:4 NLT As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.

The sower in this parable throws some of his seeds on the footpath. Now any real farmer would know that you do not throw precious in every direction. You do not throw it on the footpath. This is where people walk. This is hard packed ground. There is no chance that the seeds that fall on the footpath will penetrate the ground and sprout. Even if by some miracle they were to sprout, they would be trampled on by people walking on the path. But there is no chance of these seeds taking root: the birds swoop down and eat the seeds. This is a very good way to feed birds, but it is no way to plant seeds.

(2) Seed on Rocky Ground

Mark 4:5-6 NLT Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.

Again, this sower does not seem to know what he is doing. What kind of farmer sows seed like this? The work of preparing the soil must come first. Rocks and coral must be removed before planting. The seed is wasted when the soil is not prepared. Obstacles to growth must be removed if you want a harvest.

The initial results are most deceptive. Here the seeds sprout quickly. Nice green shoots spring up and the promise of harvest presents itself to the farmer. In this, the farmer no doubt rejoices, but he will soon be disappointed. The sun rises and the plant soon wilts under the hot sun because it has no deep roots and cannot draw enough water to withstand the heat. It withers and dies.

(3) Seed among Thorns

Mark 4:7 NLT Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.

What’s this? The sower does not bother to clear the weeds and thorns?! He just tosses the seed in the middle of the thorns and hopes that it will grow. He might have failed to note that the footpath and the rocky ground would not produce a good crop, but how could he possibly ignore the thorns. He must have known that the thorns would win out and choke out the tender plants so that they would not produce any grain.

(4) Seed on Fertile Soil

Mark 4:8 NLT Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Finally, and it seems to be by chance, some of the seeds fell on good soil. This is not due to the planning and preparation of the farmer. Jesus simply says that the seeds “fell” into good soil. The farmer went out, scattered the seed in all directions. Some fell on the path. Some fell on rocky ground. Some fell among thorns. And some fell into good soil. There was no planning. No preparation of the soil. Just a sower who throws the seed in every direction. Then Jesus says,

Mark 4:9 ESV… “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark 4:9 NET … “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”

2. The Purpose of the Parable

When we realize how foolish this farmer is, wasting precious seed by throwing it in every direction, we have to wonder what this parable is all about. When we begin to understand what Jesus is actually saying, we find ourselves in the same situation as the disciples. We do not understand this parable.

We often think that Jesus told parables to make truths clear or to illustrate important truths, but that does not seem to be the case. That is not what Jesus explains:

Mark 4:10-12 ESV And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Isaiah 6

Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah received the call of God. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah has a vision of the sovereign Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The Lord’s glory filled the temple, and seraphim called out to one another, “Holy, holy holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Next Isaiah had a vision of himself: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah is then cleansed and has a vision of the people, and hears the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Then we find the words of the LORD, quoted by Jesus:

Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

So Jesus says that he speaks in parables so that those outside “may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (4:12).

Mark 4:12 BSN Nao long fasin ya ‘bambae olgeta oli save luk, luk, luk, be oli no save luksave mining long hem, oli save harem, harem, harem, be oli no save haremsave…

Yes, those who were close to him and who followed him with the disciples were “on the inside.” They gathered around him in verse 10 and asked him about the parables.

Mark 4:11 ESV And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,

Those “outside” were those who had opposed him. Hostility toward Jesus was rising.

  • The questioned his ability to forgive sin: “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
  • “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
  • “Why do … your disciples not fast?”
  • “Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
  • In 3:6, the Pharisees and the Herodians joins ranks to destroy Jesus.
  • The scribes accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan.
  • Even his own family tried to stop him, saying that he was out of his mind (3:21).
  • Ten verses later we read that his mother and brothers are “outside” seeking him. Jesus then declares that his true brother and sister and mother — the insiders — are those who do will of God (3:35).

Those who are “in” are given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those “outside” everything is in parables.

  1. The more we read the Bible, the more we should gain a sense of wonder at what God has put together. This Book is not a collection of verses; it is an integrated piece of tapestry from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. We should grow in thanksgiving to God for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and the gospel. Knowing the truth is not a result of our intelligence and our ability to grasp spiritual truths; it is the result of the grace of God in our lives.
  3. We should also understand that we need to be clear yet discreet in witnessing when in a hostile environment. There were times when Jesus pushed the envelope, so to speak, but there were also times when he spoke in parables so that the outsiders would see but not perceive, hear but not understand.

Disciples in the Dark

Yet the disciples seem to be in the dark as much as the outsiders.

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

The disciples did not know what this parable meant. And how could they? On the one hand, the meaning seems so obvious, but how is one to understand a farmer who casts his seed on foot-trodden pathways and stony ground and among the thorns? What kind of a farmer throws his seed all about? It is no wonder they marveled at the parable and wondered exactly what Jesus wanted to teach them.

3. Jesus Interprets His Parable

So Jesus interprets his parable. His first clue is the key to the rest of the parable:

Mark 4:14 ESV The sower sows the word.

So the seed is the word. That is the key to understanding this parable.

Principles of the Parable

If the seed is the word, then it is the word that is heard. The pathway, the rocky ground, the thorns, and the good soil all represent different responses to the word. And therein lies the mystery of the crazy farmer. The farmer has failed to respect the most fundamental principles of farming. Every farmer knows that there are many places where the seed simply cannot grow. Every farmer knows that the field must be plowed, rocks and weeds must be removed. In short, if you want a good harvest, you must start with a good soil. You must prepare the soil.

  1. And yet, that is exactly what the sower of the word cannot do. That brings us to the first principle of the sower:

The sower of the Word never knows what kind of soil he is dealing with. He is absolutely blind to the conditions of the soil. The sower does not know what kind of ground is fertile and what kind is not. We cannot tell by looking at people whether or not there will be a response. We cannot tell whether or not a person will be receptive to the gospel. So the sowers of the Word must be more generous, than strategic, in casting the seed. We must scatter the seed everywhere, tossing it in all directions because we cannot know what kind of soil we are dealing with.

Many commentaries suggest that this would be better called the parable of the soils, but Jesus himself calls it the “parable of the sower” (Matthew 13:18). On the one hand, he tells us to be careful how we hear. On the other hand, he is telling his disciples that they cannot know the kind of soil they are dealing with. They are to be like the sower who sows the seed in all directions.

The people we share the gospel with may or may not be open to Christ. We look on the outward appearance, but the outward appearance is deceptive. God looks on the heart, but that we cannot do. So we cannot be like the farmer who carefully measures out his seed, plots his ground, breaks up the fallow ground, clears the land of rocks and weeds, plows the field, and sows in good soil. No, we are like the sower who scatters his seed in every direction, announcing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to young and old, to the rich and to the poor, to the broken and to the unbroken because we cannot possibly predict the results of sharing the Word.

That is why we are charged to…

2 Timothy 4:2 NET Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

The Apostle Paul sowed the seed of God’s Word in many directions. He preached to Jews and Gentiles, to freemen and slaves, to the weak and to the strong:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NIVO Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

Paul did so that he might save “some.” There are never guarantees as to what kind of harvest there will be in response to sowing the Word.

2. So that brings us to the second principle: There were no guarantees of great success in Jesus’ commands to go. He only told us how we are to respond to positive and negative responses.

Matthew 10:11-14 NIVO “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

Paul faithfully sowed the seed of the Word. He was kicked out of synagogues, whipped, beaten with rods, imprisoned, chased out of town, and stoned and left for dead. But synagogue rulers were sometimes saved, the families of jailers converted, and even people in Caesar’s courts came to Christ.

3. The third principle is this: The effectiveness of the sowing depends more on the soil than on the sower or the seed. That is what Jesus shows in his explanation of the parable.

Responses to the Word

There are three responses to the Word of God that are ultimately unfruitful.

1. First there is the footpath.

Mark 4:15 ESV And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

This is the hardened footpath. People constantly walk on the path so that the soil is packed down and hardened. When the seed lands on it, it just stays on top. It does not penetrate the soil. And no sooner than the seeds land on it, the birds swoop down and devour the seeds.

This is the path that is frequented by the greatest number of people. This is the road that most people take. For most people, the Word of God goes in one ear and out the other. As soon as they hear the Word, Satan comes and takes it away. They give no thought or consideration to what God says. They are too busy. They are in a hurry to get on with life as they see it. They are in a headlong rush toward hell.

Matthew 7:13-14 NLT “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

These people hear the word but Satan immediately comes and removes it so that it is unfruitful in them.

2. There is also the rocky ground.

Mark 4:16-17 ESV And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

These are the short-termers. Jesus says that they hear the word. They receive it, and they rejoice. These hearts are not fully hard, but there is no depth. They are like seeds that spring up quickly. They have beautiful tender green shoots and seem to be full of life, and they endure for a while. From all appearances the word is growing in their lives, but the only growth is up, not down. The word does not take root. It is superficial; it is not deep. Hard times come. When the sun gets hot, they wither. They seem to have had joy in Jesus, but they have no perseverance when persecuted, no endurance in difficult times. They are fair weather people. They are momentary Christians. They are seasonal Christians.

3. Then there is the thorny ground.

Mark 4:18-19 ESV And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Three things happen to the seed sown on thorny ground. These are people who allow other things to choke out the word.

  1. The Word is choked out by the cares of this world. These people are distracted and pre-occupied with concerns about food and clothing. That is the focus of their life. Jesus said that those who do not know God, live for these things. But he told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to us” (Matthew 6:33).
  2. The Word is choked out by the deceitfulness of riches. These people chase money. They are seduced by money. How horrible it is when preachers preach that being a Christian is a way to get rich! The Bible teaches us to be godly and content; that is true wealth.
  3. The Word is choked out by the desire for other things. These people pursue things rather than God. These distractions and desires choke out the word so that it is unfruitful.

4. The seed finally finds good soil.

Mark 4:20 ESV But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

These people are not casual hearers of the Word of God. They continue to hear it and to accept it and to bear fruit. God wants us to be fruitful, but fruitful is not about finances. It is not about money. It is about the life of Christ in us. The Apostle Paul said,

Galatians 4:19 ESV my little children, … I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Each one heard the Word.

Mark 4:23-24 ESV If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.

Jesus is telling us to be careful how we hear.

Mark 4:9 NET And he said, “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!”

Again in verse 23,

Mark 4:23 NET If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!”

Mark 4:24-25 NLT Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given– and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

The command to be careful how we hear shows that each one of us determines what kind of soil we will be. Each of us determine whether or not our lives will be fruitful for Christ

  1. The message for us as hearers is that not all hearing is the same. Not all ears hear in a way that is fruitful. We must be careful how we hear. Jesus addresses the will. He tells us to hear. So how is your hearing? Are you listening? Are you obeying? Are listening to learn and to put God’s word into practice in your life? Be careful how you hear so that the Word of God may prove to be fruitful in your life.
  2. The message for us as sowers is that if we keep sowing the seed, in spite of resistance and disappointments, some of the seed that is sown will prove to be fruitful. For some, the word will produce marvelous results in their lives as they become not only hearers, but doers of the word.

Galatians 6:9 ESV And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 01v01-11, “The Gospel of Mark”

1456053183_thumb.pngAround the world today, Christians will gather together to do what they have done for 2,000 years. They will open their Bibles to see and hear the Word of God. But the big question that many ask, is this: “Is the Bible reliable? Is it really the Word of God?” I want to begin by considering that question and by focusing on the Gospel according to Mark. Stay tuned!

Some have claimed that the Gospels are forgeries, imaginary stories that were the product mostly of legends that had developed about the life of Jesus well into the second century, many decades after the events in the life of Christ. We are told that the earliest witnesses to the New Testament documents got it wrong. Two thousand years have passed and somehow some think that we are in a much better position to determine what actually happened and who wrote the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. We are told that the Gospels which bear the names of Matthew and of John, for example, were not actually written by Matthew and John. They may not even have been written in the first century.

We are told that as time passed, people began to put their faith in this legendary Jesus, one that was the product of vivid imaginations. A Jesus that could walk on water, opened blinded eyes, feed multitudes with a meager lunch, raise the dead, and even die himself and come back to life again. Stories that gullible people of days gone by could swallow, but impossible to believe for intelligent people of the 21st century.

In order to get people to believe such myths, the authors of such works would attribute their works to such people as Thomas, Mary, Philip, and Nicodemus. In fact, we do have documents by those names

  • The Gospel of Thomas (2nd century)
  • The Gospel of Mary (2nd century)
  • The Gospel of Philip (3rd century)
  • The Gospel of Nicodemus (5th century)
  • There is even a Gospel of Judas

We are told that these books have just as much right to be in the New Testament as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But in fact, the so-called Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip, Nicodemus, and Judas have very little to do with the life and ministry of Jesus and were mostly unknown in theological discussions and writings. They never played an important role in the life or teaching of the church.

Some people dismiss the Gospels that we find in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as inventions of the church. They want us to believe that these books were not actually written by their namesakes. They want to believe that the early church invented these Gospels and then attached the names of important people to them. That is certainly the case in the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip, and Nicodemus. On that point, everyone is in agreement.

But if the early church were making up these stories, why would they ever attribute a Gospel to someone like Mark? Mark? Who was Mark? Mark was not one of the twelve apostles. He was not one of the seven chosen deacons of Acts 6. No, Mark was not the illustrious name that you would want to attribute a Gospel to. Besides the fact that such a theory makes no sens, it goes against history and the testimony of over 5,700 Greek manuscripts, some from as early as the first century.

No, the reason that this so-called second Gospel is attributed to Mark is simply because it was written by Mark.

 

1. So Who Was Mark?

Mark was also called John Mark, and he was a cousin of Barnabas. Barnabas and Paul were sent by the church at Antioch to take an offering to the brothers in Judea (Acts 11:29),

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them (Act 12:25 NLT).

Later when Barnabas and Saul are sent by the church at Antioch on their first missionary journey, they take Mark with them, but the story does not end well. Luke describes that first missionary journey in 75 verses, but by the time he gets to the tenth verse of his narration, John Mark has abandoned Paul and Barnabas, returning to Jerusalem. John Mark turns out to be a missionary dropout. On his first missionary journey with the Apostle Paul, Mark went crying home to Mama. Paul was so disappointed with Mark, that he refused to let him go with him on his next missionary journey, so Barnabas took his cousin and they went to Cyprus.

The “Gospel according to Mark the Dropout” doesn’t sound like it will hit the bestseller list.

But of course, the story does not end there. Paul and Mark are eventually reconciled and Paul acknowledges that Mark “will be helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11. See also Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 24.)

1.1. Mark’s Source

But where did Mark get his information? How did he write this gospel?

Some people have a very mysterious idea about Scripture. They think that everything that we read in the Bible came be revelation. The Bible states that all Scripture is given by inspiration, not by revelation. God inspired and directed the writers of the Bible to write what they wrote, but when it comes to history, it was not simply revealed to them; they already knew what had happened. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses to what Jesus did. Luke tells us that he carefully researched everything that he wrote and consulted eyewitnesses, as he says in his introduction,

Luke 1:4 NET so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.

Matthew and John were eyewitnesses. Luke carefully researched and consulted eyewitnesses. So how did Mark know what to write?

Mark may have been a witness to Jesus. Perhaps he had seen Jesus with his own eyes. We know that he lived in Jerusalem. And some New Testament scholars think that he may be that young man who escaped being taken prisoner by the guards the night that Jesus was arrested. Mark alone records these lines that seem to have nothing else to do with the story:

Mark 14:51-52 ESV And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

That may be Mark’s signature. But one thing is certain. He has seen Jesus through the eyes of Peter. Yes, there is huge evidence in the New Testament itself and in the testimony of the early church that Mark travelled with Peter as his interpreter.

The first and last references to John Mark in the New Testament are quite interesting because in both references, Mark is associated with the Apostle Peter. In Acts 12, Peter had been imprisoned. King Herod intended to execute Peter but an angel opened the prison doors and Peter found his way to the house of Mary, the mother of — John Mark where the believers were praying for Peter’s release.

Acts 12:12 ESV When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

That means that John Mark was well known to the believers and to the Apostle Peter.

The final New Testament reference to Mark is in Peter’s letter from Rome:

1 Peter 5:13 NLT Your sister church here in Babylon [Rome] sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.

Peter calls Mark his son. Mark would be his spiritual son. This fits in perfectly with what early and reliable witnesses tell us about Mark. He served as Peter’s interpreter, and the Apostle Peter himself was the chief source of Mark’s Gospel.

It is also interesting to note that Simone Peter is the first and last disciple to be mentioned in the Gospel according to Mark. Simon Peter is the first disciple to be mentioned in the first chapter when Jesus says to him, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Peter is also the last disciple mentioned in this Gospel when the angels tell the women,

Mark 16:7 ESV But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark’s Gospel is not about Peter; it’s about Jesus Christ, but it is through the eyes of Peter, that John Mark has seen him clearly.

1.2. Title: The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

So we come to the title: The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mark begins at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. Unlike John, Mark does not start in eternity past. John starts like this:

John 1:1-3 (ESV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not give us the genealogy of Christ, tracing his earthy parentage back through King David to Abraham or back to Adam like Matthew and Luke. Mark contains no birth narratives, no angelic appearances to Mary and Joseph, no trip to Bethlehem, no flight to Egypt, no return to Israel, no visits to the temple as a young boy.

No, Mark begins at the beginning of the earthly ministry of Christ. This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

1.2.1. Major Theme

Here we come to the major theme of each of the Gospels: the man called Jesus. Mark entitles his Gospel, “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The question is, Who is Jesus Christ? The question of “Who?” comes up again and again in this gospel.

For example, in chapter 4 of Mark, Jesus and the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is sleeping in the bottom of the boat when the disciples find themselves in a terrible storm in the middle of the Sea. Water begins to fill the boat and the disciples fear for their very lives. They wake up Jesus.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mar 4:38 ESV)

Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, and suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:41 NLT The disciples were absolutely terrified. [They are apparently more terrified by Jesus than they had been of the storm.] “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

That is the question: Who is this man?

On another occasion, four men bring a paralytic to Jesus. There is such a crowd in the house that they cannot get close to Jesus, but they have an idea. They go up to the rooftop — roofs were very accessible. They remove part of the roof and lower the man down, right in front of Jesus!

Mark 2:5-7 ESV And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

To show that this is not empty talk and that he did indeed have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the paralytic.

Mark 2:12 NLT And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

The scribes had asked, “Who can forbid sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

Later, at an important turning point in this Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples,

Mark 8:27 NLT …”Who do people say I am?”

After hearing their answer, he asks them a second question,

Mark 8:29 NLT …”But who do you say I am?” …

That is also a question that you will have to answer. What do you think of Jesus Christ? Who is he? Who is this man?

The demons know who he is. As Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum,

Mark 1:23-25 NLT Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are– the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.

A few verses later we read,

Mark 1:34 NLT So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

Over and over again, Mark wants us to see who Jesus is, but already in the title he tells us exactly what he wants us to know:

Mark 1:1 ESV The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark tells us that this is all about Jesus. Immediately he tells us two things about Jesus:

  1. Jesus is the Christ. The word Christ is a title. It comes from the Greek word χριστὸς (christos) and is a translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah which mean anointed. Three classes of people were anointed: priests, prophets, and kings. The anointing meant that they were especially qualified serve by the help — the anointing — of the Holy Spirit. Through the centuries, God had promised to send His Anointed One. Now the time had come. Jesus is that Christ. So Mark gives the title of his book: “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  2. But Jesus is more than anointed with the Holy Spirit. The full title of Mark’s book is, “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus is not only the Anointed One, the one that God had promised through the ages. This Anointed One, born of the virgin Mary, is also the Son of God. Mark tells us in the title what he will show in this Gospel. Jesus demonstrates time and again that he is the Son of God. This speaks of his divine nature. He is not another god. He is, as the New Testament says elsewhere, God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Here you have, then in the title of this Gospel, the message that Mark wants to communicate: This is the Good News that the promised Christ has come, and he is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1.2.2. John the Baptist, Forerunner of Christ

In the next verses, we read about John the Baptist. It may be surprising that John is suddenly introduced since this gospel is all about Jesus Christ. What does John have to do with it?

John the Baptist has a unique role in the Gospel story. His role is so important that even his coming was prophesied in the Old Testament and is highlighted in each of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was sent before Christ to announce his coming. He points not to himself, but to Jesus Christ. Jesus does not suddenly appear on the scene announcing a new message. He is announced ahead of time.

The Old Testament had announced in many ways and with great precision the coming of the Christ so that when he came, we would have proof that he was the one who was promised because he would have the proper credentials. Hundreds of years before his birth, the details of his parentage, his birth, his mission, his life, his death, and his resurrection were announced by the prophets.

But it was also announced that he would have a forerunner, someone who would go before him and prepare the way. Isaiah and Malachi declare that a forerunner would prepare the way for the Messiah. The way we read it in Malachi, God Himself will come but His messenger will come first to prepare the way.

Malachi 3:1 ESV “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me…

Isaiah tells us that the one who comes to prepare the way, John the Baptist, prepares the way of the LORD who is Yahweh.

Isaiah 40:3 ESV A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Mark thus begins his Gospel, rooting it in its Old Testament foundation:

Mark 1:2-3 ESV As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

Jesus is not simply some new prophet that has suddenly appeared; he has a forerunner. The ministry of both Jesus and his forerunner had been prophesied hundreds of years before their coming.

There is nothing like this in any other religion. No other so-called prophet had a forerunner. Mohamed did not. The Bahá’u’lláh did not. Joseph Smith did not. These men claimed to be prophets of God, undoing what had been done, reversing it, overturning it, modifying it, changing it with their own teaching. But none of them were announced and none of them had a forerunner.

By great contrast, Jesus did not come to reverse, overturn, modify or annul what had been revealed; he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. And he alone had a forerunner announcing that he, Jesus, was the one.

New Testament scholar Jakob van Bruggen wrote,

“There are three great religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three recognize the great value of Moses. But Judaism criticizes Christianity for threatening monotheism by confessing Jesus as God’s Son, and Islam makes the same criticism. While the Jews rally around Moses, Islam moves on to the great prophet Mohammed. The two religions [Judaism and Islam] differ over prophets. But between the two of them and Christianity stands the acknowledgment of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, as “more than a prophet,” as true God. Immanuel. [“God with us.”]

“By what right does Jesus elevate himself above Moses and Mohammed? Dare a human being make himself equal to God? Does Jesus not lack a prophet such as Yahweh has in Moses and Allah in Mohammed?

“The answer to this question is John the Baptist. Jesus is great (Luke 1:32) and John is his prophet (Luke 1:76)!”[1]

In fact, John the Baptist was the greatest prophet to be born of woman. Greater than Moses and greater than Mohammed. And John the Baptist is the prophet of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus quotes the same passage that Mark quotes and then says,

Luke 7:28 ESV I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John…”

And who did John announce? He announced Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

2. The Ministry of John the Baptist

2.1. The Ministry of John was a ministry of preparation.

John was called to prepare the Jewish people for the coming of their Messiah. One would have thought that as the people of God, they would have been ready. They were the descendants of Abraham. They had received the Law from Moses. They were the people of the covenant.

But the great shock is that we do not have a personal relationship with God through our heritage. We are not made right with God through what our parents did or through our church or through our nation.

John appears in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance. You will remember that the nation of Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness. They had crossed over the Jordan river on dry ground.

Now John is treating the nation of Israel as a pagan nation and telling them that they need to repent of their sins. Put not your trust in Abraham. Put not your trust in Moses. Put not your trust in the Law. They need to leave the wilderness, as it were, and cross over the Jordan river. They are to cross over not on dry ground, but by being baptized, by drowning their past sinful life. John’s ministry is a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). John is preparing the way for the Christ, the Messiah. The road they walk has to be straight. They must change their way of thinking. They must change their way of living.

Mark 1:3 ESV …’Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

2.2. The Message of John the Baptist

The ministry of John the Baptist was one of preparation. The message of John the Baptist was a message of proclamation. John proclaimed the coming of Jesus Christ. As we have seen, Jesus said of John,

Luke 7:28 NLT I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John…”

But the focus of John’s ministry was Jesus Christ. This greatest of all men pointed to one who was infinitely greater. His message was the superiority of Jesus Christ. John shows Christ’s superiority in three ways:

 

2.2.1. Christ Is Superior in Rank

This is what John said of Jesus:

Mark 1:7 NLT John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am– so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals.

Here the greatest man who ever lived, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, said that Jesus Christ is so greater that John is not even worthy to be the slave of Christ. Untying the straps of Jesus’ sandals would be too great of an honor of the greatest of all men. That is how incomparably greater Jesus Christ is to the greatest man who ever lived.

2.2.2. Christ Is Superior in Ministry

John makes a strong contrast between his ministry and Christ’s ministry:

Mark 1:8 NLT I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

There is a great difference between water and the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to even compare them. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He has all the attributes of a person.

Now, when we talk about the three persons of the Trinity, we are not talking about three people or three human beings. “God is not a man” (Numbers 23:19). But the Holy Spirit has all the qualities of personhood including thought, will, and emotion. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has all these characteristics and is distinct from both the Father and from the Son.

John says that his ministry is one of preparation. Jesus’ ministry is the fulfillment. John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Jesus himself makes the same comparison after his resurrection and shortly before he ascended into heaven:

Acts 1:4-5 NLT …he commanded them [his disciples], “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is for empowering. It is the baptism in the Holy Spirit that gives us the power of God himself to live for him and to serve him. Three verses later, Jesus told the disciples that this baptism in the Holy Spirit would give them the power they needed to be his witnesses.

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth.

2.2.3. Christ Is Superior in Relationship to God

So first, John tells us that Christ is infinitely superior in rank. John, the greatest man to be born of woman, is not even worthy to untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals.

Second, John tells us that Christ is superior in ministry. While John baptizes people only in water, Jesus baptizes people into the Spirit of God Himself.

Finally, Christ is superior to John in relationship to God.

Mark 1:9-11 ESV In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We might wonder why Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus identified with us. He took upon himself our sins. We read in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.

Another version says it like this,

2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Jesus identified with us in his baptism. He took our sins upon himself. He showed us the way of confession and repentance.

But then, an amazing thing happened. When Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit come down on him like a dove. Jesus, as the Word made flesh, as the God-man, was anointed by the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts

Acts 10:38 ESV how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

There was the baptism as Christ fulfilled all righteousness.

Then there was the anointing as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, showing that he was the Anointed One, for that is what the word Christ means.

Then there was the voice.

Mark 1:11 ESV And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

John the Baptist was a prophet, but he was not the Son of God. It is in the voice of God, declaring that Jesus was the Son of God, that we find confirmation that Mark had justly titled his book, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

As the Son, Jesus is of the same nature as God. As the Son, He is infinitely superior in relation to God. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Father loves the Son and the Son does always that which is pleasing in the Father’s sight.

The Son came that we might be forgiven, that we might have eternal life now and for eternity. The Son came to show us the way: we must follow Him. We must confess our sins and turn from them. The Son came to do more than show the way; He is the way. It is through faith in Him alone and His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead that you and I can be restored to a right relationship with God.

Mark says that this book is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is the Good News. It is the Best News. You can be forgiven and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] Jakob van Bruggen, Jesus the Son of God, p. 71-72.

See also “Gospel of Mark”: