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About the book

      T.O.D. taught from the Gospel according to St. Mark at Paran Baptist Church on Highway 341 / Johnsonville Hwy in Lake City, South Carolina. This commentary is based on the notes he wrote in preparation for the lessons.

 

      The author was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. He was an art teacher for over 30 years in Florence School District 3.

 

      Copyright Information:

      Johnston, T.O.D.

      A Layman's Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark/Religious Non-fiction

      1st Edition 2007

      This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

      http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

 

      Feel free to contact us:

      Owen Johnston, Publisher

      E-Mail – email@biblestudylessonspdf.info

 

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      All of the author's Bible study lessons may be downloaded for free. Visit our website and click on the "Free Downloads" link.

      http://www.biblestudylessonspdf.info

 

      Dedication:

      Dedicated for knowledge, understanding, and inspiration as we seek to follow Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

Preface

      After reading many scholarly commentaries on different books of Scripture, it became my mental habit to sift through the minute discussions of individual words and/or phrases, and the quoting of various scholars of the past of many differing opinions, and center on the most logical and inspirational truths that remained. Thus I relied on the studied scholarship of those who had learned the original languages and had read all the previous scholars that had written to get the best possible understanding of Scripture that I, as a non-scholar, could. It seemed that most church members would not attempt to read scholarly works - but would benefit from their knowledge if presented in a plain and straightforward manner, the truths they had perceived. The following commentary is my attempt to do this. May God bless my efforts to the extent that they increase the understanding and faith of the reader.

 

T.O.D. Johnston

2005

Lesson I: Introduction

      What we know about Mark from New Testament references: Peter mentions him as "his son" in the Lord (I Peter 5:13), that he accepted Christ under his teaching.

      He was the natural son of Mary, the sister of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). This Mary was an early believer of Jerusalem, at whose home the apostles and early believers often gathered (Acts 12:12). His Hebrew name was John (Acts 12:12). He also at some point adopted the name Mark as a more familiar name among Gentiles. This was a common practice during that time.

      He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journeys (Acts 12:25; 13:5; 15:37). For reasons not mentioned, he left them in Pamphylia, most likely returning to Jerusalem (Acts 15:38).

      He is next mentioned as the companion of Peter to Babylon (I Peter 6:13). After that he traveled with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). At the special request of Paul, he went to Rome in the company of Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11). He stayed in Rome while Paul was a captive there, but the amount of time is not recorded (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24).

      From the early historians Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome we learn that Mark went from Rome to Alexandria, in Egypt, where he founded a church, and died in the 8th year of Nero's reign, around A.D. 65.

      When the Gospel was written is not known. The common opinion is that it was composed between 56 and 63 A.D. at Rome. In Mark 16:20 it is mentioned that all the apostles had left Judea, and therefore during the later years of his own life.

      Mark, for a considerable time, was the close companion of Peter, and under his tutelage learned all the important facts and teachings in the life of Jesus. According to the universal testimony of the early church fathers, Mark is considered the pupil of Peter, and that he wrote his Gospel under the guidance of Peter and with his approval. Its place among the inspired books of the New Testament has never been questioned.

      The incident recorded in Acts 12:12-17 would have had a strong influence on Mark as a young man. Peter had been put in prison. He was miraculously released by an angel and went straight to the house of "Mary the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying." This would surely have had a deep impression on all present. This also suggests that Mark would have been acquainted with many of the eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry. Whether Mark had any personal acquaintance with Jesus is not known.

      Mark's role was that of follower, helper, a great traveler and a man of action.

 

      Where and to whom was this Gospel written?

      Though no mention of where it was written is within the Gospel record, all the early church fathers confirm that it was written in Rome for the believers there. Evidence includes the translation into Greek of several Semitic terms and expressions, the explanation of Jewish customs, and the use of Latin in some cases.

 

Only Mark mentions (in 15:21) that Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus, evidently well-known in Rome (cf. Romans 16:13).

      Mark pictures Christ as a victorious King, having power over forces of nature, demons, disease, and even death. He is also above all earthly kings, choosing the way of death in order to save His people. This the Romans could begin to understand from the experience as conquerors and rulers over many peoples.

 

      When was it written?

      The early church father, Eusebius, wrote that it was during the reign of Claudius (41-54 A.D.) that "the Providence of the universe guided to Rome...The great and mighty Peter," whose "follower Mark, at the request of the hearers of Peter" composed a record of Peter's teaching. This became known as the Gospel according to Mark. No evidence has yet come to light to more accurately set the date.

 

      Unique characteristics. It is the shortest - only 661 verses compared to Luke's 1147, and Matthew's 1068. Mark records only 4 parables, Luke 27, and Matthew 19.

      Of the 6 great discourses in Matthew, Mark includes only the one on The Last Things (chapter 13) in shorter form.

      Mark records almost as many of Jesus' miracles as Matthew, adding in several cases more detailed description. Two are only recorded by Mark (7:31-37; 8:22-26). This is why this has been termed "the action Gospel".

      Mark also follows a more detailed chronology including many time and place indications than Matthew or Luke. There are similar patterns of chronology, however, with both Luke and Matthew.

 

      Outline - Christ's Mission

      Verses 1-8: Ministry of John the Baptist

      9-11: The Baptism of Jesus

      12-13: The Temptation

 

      Verses 1-6.

"1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2  ¶ As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4  John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5  And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6  And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;"

 

      Verse 1.

      Mark immediately identifies Jesus as the Son of God, the coming King. The Gospel opens with the herald who was sent to prepare the way for the King, announcing His arrival and also emphasizing His importance.

      Note: when Peter told the good news to Cornelius, he also began with John the Baptist (Acts 10:37). In other words, the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, began with the role of John the Baptist - which was prophesied by Isaiah as the one crying in the wilderness, making ready the way of the Lord.

      Even as Mark never mentions himself by name throughout his book, so also John the Baptist continually directs everyone's attention away from himself and toward Jesus.

      The title given Jesus Christ - Jesus the personal name - He will certainly save" plus the official name Christ - Messiah - the Anointed One, to the ordained role of Prophet, Priest, and King - the Savior of His people to the glory of God.

 

      Verses 2,3.

      Mark quotes from Isaiah 40:3. Matthew also quoted this verse. In John 1:23 the Baptist identifies himself with this prophecy, saying, "I am the voice." Jesus also agrees with this in Matthew 11:10. But not until verse 4 does Mark record John the Baptist's name.

 

      Verse 4.

      John was preaching in the wilderness and baptizing after conversion - to show a transformation of mind, heart, and life.

      The rite of baptism was not new to the Jewish faith. But heretofore it was required only of those converted to the Jewish faith (called proselytes). This conversion was called for the forgiveness of sins. What was new here, was that John preached that all the people were considered sinners, and all needed to confess their sins and repent unto God - the baptism symbolized the cleansing unto newness of life, after the burying of the old sinful self.

      To make a straight path through the wilderness, would require removing rock and other obstacles, so that the Lord that is to come will easily arrive at His destination. In this way, John's role was to prepare the way in people's hearts, by admonishing them to remove their sinful inclinations, and habits. This was done to clear a path toward God, so that they would be able to receive the Lamb of God, who through the shedding of His innocent blood would bring forgiveness and Salvation unto life eternal.

      Note: the wilderness of Judea has been described as rolling badlands, barren soil covered with rocks of various sizes, and brushwood. It ran from the hills of Judea in the west, to the lower Jordan and Dead Sea in the east. Matthew indicates that John's activity also included the east bank of the Jordan.

 

      Verse 5.

      Unnumbered crowds of people went out to see and hear John. They came from the region of Judea, and great numbers also from the city of Jerusalem. Use of the word "all" is a hyperbole, or exaggeration, to emphasize the large number of seekers. Apparently he began near the Dead Sea, and later moved north along the Jordan. People from both sides went to hear him, and word spread, drawing more and more people.

 

      Verse 6.

      A description of John's manner of living. His clothing consisted of one garment - a long tunic made of camel's hair, held around the waist by a leather belt. This was considered a very coarse, rough cloth, durable and useful, especially in desert areas. It was also considered as appropriate to a prophet (Zechariah 13:4; also some reference to Elijah's mantle). Matthew 11:8 records Jesus pointing out that John did not wear fine clothes. Nor does it appear that John had any other clothes.

      His diet was also sparing - what he could find in the wilderness. Wild honey was a food staple, found in nearby rocky crevices throughout the area. The stories about Samson and Jonathan also include the use of wild honey (Judges 14:8; and I Samuel 14:25 respectfully).

      Locusts? It was acceptable to eat four varieties of these insects from Leviticus 11:22. The wings and legs would be removed, and the bodies were roasted or baked with a little salt. They are still eaten by some Arabs in our day. We eat some pretty strange creatures ourselves.

      This does not mean that these were the only things he ever ate, but emphasized the simplicity and lack of fancy or sumptuous fare. This showed a way of life that was completely different from the selfish and self-indulgent lifestyles of everyone else - and the amount of time and careful attention they spent on them. John's ways were a protest against theirs - a way of pointing them to what was really the most important focus and activity in life.

Lesson II

      Mark 1:7-13. John's Preaching continued.

 

"7  and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8  I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

9  ¶ And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10  And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11  and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

12  ¶ And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

13  And he was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him."

 

      Verses 7,8.

      John emphasizes that His preaching was to prepare for One mightier than he is. The illustration used was that of the common practice of a servant. When the master of the servant returned home, the servant's job was to stoop down (mentioned only by Mark) and unlace his master's sandals to be cleaned and prepared for the next day's use.

      John describes himself as not worthy to bend down to fulfill the servant's role of even touching the Master's sandals. This is a striking figure of how much greater Jesus was than any other person. This indicates his recognition of the true deity of Christ as the Son of God.

      John goes on to contrast his outward rite of baptism (which has no inherent power to change a person) with the power of Christ to baptize with the Holy Spirit. This was obviously possible only by God the Father's direction and God the Son's authority. This brings the light of salvation to each believer, and newness of life. Jesus was born after John, and also began His ministry after John. However, when Jesus came to John, John forcefully declared the preeminence of Jesus.

 

      Verse 9.

      During the height of John's ministry of baptism, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John. A very brief account. The longest one is found in Matthew 3:13-17. Matthew had also previously recorded Jesus' home as Nazareth - where Joseph, Jesus' legal father, had been a carpenter, where Jesus had grown to manhood and was also known as a carpenter. Luke mentions that at 30 years of age Jesus made his first public appearance at the area of John's ministry at the Jordan River. Mark simply states that taking place. John's objection to baptizing Jesus is mentioned by Matthew.

      The natural question arises - Why was it necessary for Jesus (the Sinless One) to submit to the baptism of repentance? Jesus considered it necessary for the fulfilling of all righteousness. Certainly it was a righteous symbolic act for sinners, but why did Jesus see it as also necessary for Him?

      Jesus had come to take upon Himself the sins of all humanity. So here He was accepting the guilt of sin upon Himself - the same guilt which He would take to the death on the cross. John called Jesus the Lamb of God, the One to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He was taking the part of those He came to die for.

      This same rite has been the outward sign of everyone who accepts the Savior's sacrifice for forgiveness of their sins, who then rise forgiven and begin a new life as a member of the church of Jesus the Christ.

 

      Verses 10,11.

      Jesus rises up from baptism, and is walking out of the water, when something happens very suddenly. With a sound above, the heavens split open, and He looks up to see the Spirit of God in the form of a dove as if floating down upon His head. Then a voice from Heaven: "Thou art my Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased." The three persons of the Trinity are shown together.

      Upon the submission of Jesus to the baptism of John, thus His accepting the burden of sinners at the beginning of His ministry. He shows the Father that the plan for man's salvation has begun. The Father most dramatically assures Jesus of His love and approval of this beginning. The appearance of the dove also is the assurance of the Holy Spirit's closeness and continuing power available to Him.

      The use of the form of a dove (in the Psalms and the Song of Solomon) represented attributes of being pure, gentle, peaceful, and graceful. They were used to describe characteristics of the Holy Spirit. That the dove came to Jesus would also suggest that He also was pure, gentle, peaceful, and full of grace.

      The highest love possible is expressed in the word "beloved" ("agapetos" - adjective form of "agape"). It is as deep, as wide, as great, as intelligent, as purposeful, as vast, as infinite, and as tender as the unimaginable omniscience of the mind of God the Father. What Jesus has just done only confirms this love which Jesus has had eternally.

      This certainly shows us how necessary and important Christ's task as our Saviour was to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This message was to Jesus, but also in public. It was to be heard and seen by John and others present. That it is recorded brings to us also the absolute witness of God Himself from heaven of His love and approval of the ministry here begun by His beloved Son with the close empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

      There was never to be any question as to God's Plan of Salvation. Men are given the facts as recorded by eyewitnesses, and Jesus Himself. They must choose to accept the truth, or reject it. To reject this truth is to choose to believe only lies.

 

      Verses 12,13.

      The Temptation. Having begun His ministry as the Suffering Servant, taking upon Himself humanity and the sins thereof in the submission to the baptism of John, Jesus goes on to the next step: facing temptation - not just any normal temptation, but the temptation directly from satan. The same one that tempted Adam in the Garden. Adam had failed and was put out of the garden, and the earth was cursed. Jesus - the second Adam, the last Adam (I Corinthians 15:45) - must also be tempted - in the wilderness, that if He fails not, paradise might be regained. He would undo all the results of Adam's sin.

      That Jesus could experience temptation directly relates to His human nature. Apparently the Holy Spirit drew Him into the wilderness for the purpose of facing the devil's best lies. After 40 days of prayer and fasting the devil suggests that Jesus turn some stones into bread. Certainly Jesus' flesh was experiencing hunger (Matthew 4:2).

      Hebrews 4:15 states - "He was tempted in all things (or in every respect) as we are, yet without sin." What Jesus did not have that we do is our own inborn evil desire (or lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of self).

      The sense of need - the urging by the Tempter to satisfy the need, and the will to resist, was a struggle even for Christ. For the most detailed account we must look to Matthew 4:1-11.

      We will proceed to follow Mark's very brief account. From the Jordan valley, the Spirit impelled Jesus into a more remote and inhospitable area. Here He would be undisturbed in this part of the wilderness where even wild beasts roamed. Here He fasted prayed - uninterrupted communion with the Father, in preparation for what was to come. It was here that satan tempted Him. It is clear satan tried every trick and enticement to cause Jesus to give in (and sin). Luke calls him the devil - all point to him as slanderer, accuser, adversary, tempter, prince of evil, father of lies, etc.

      Mark includes the detail that wild beasts were in the area. Hyenas, jackals, panthers, and even lions were once common in that area. A place of desolation and peril.

      The closing description includes the ministering to Jesus by angels.

      Matthew 4:11 informs us "Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were rendering service to Him." The devil had lost and left. The angels were sent by the Father to provide for the Son's needs, all inclusive, and not leaving out nourishment for His body's needs.

      Mark does not state Christ's triumph over satan, but the ministry of angels implies reward for resisting all that the devil could tempt Him to do.

      It will be after this victory over satan that Jesus will begin to teach, preach, heal, and also cast out the followers of satan (demons). All this leads to the final triumph over death itself.

 

      Next, Jesus' Public Ministry Begins in Galilee.

Lesson III

      Mark 1:14-15. The Great Galilean Ministry.

 

"14  ¶ Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15  and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

 

      Verses 14,15.

      This begins a new phase. It appears that Jesus remained in the area of Jordan, teaching and preaching about the kingdom of God with His disciples, baptizing many. Just as John prophesied, Jesus' ministry increased as his decreased. Several months passed. Then John the Baptist was arrested and put in prison. Reports were given to the Pharisees in Jerusalem about Jesus' activities. To avoid a premature crisis with the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus left Judea and traveled to Galilee.

      Jesus came preaching "the gospel of God". This was the good news that God has provided a free gift to all men - through Jesus. John puts it well in his Gospel in 3:16.

 

      Verse 15.

      God's promises of salvation are now to be fulfilled, the kingdom of God (or of heaven as in Matthew) has come to earth. Jesus was bringing a way of salvation, reconciliation, and acceptance of men into His kingdom. By their choice they would be forgiven, saved, and be part of the church.

 

      This includes the central concepts:

      1. The kingship of God's rule within the human heart.

      2. Complete salvation - spiritual and material blessings

 when God is King in our hearts - recognized and obeyed.

      3. The community that recognized God as king became the

 church.

      4. The final inheritance of the new heaven and the new earth.

 

      The work of salvation was supernatural in origin, character, and purpose. The sovereignty of God is embodied in the term "kingdom of heaven." All points to God's glory.

      By Jesus saying the time has come and the kingdom is at hand, He is beginning His ministry, and His work would be finished yet in the future at His death.

      Jesus is preaching the same message as John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), "be converted, the kingdom of God is at hand."

      The King James and other translations use the word "Repent," which indicates only the negative change called for. From the original Greek text, the word used includes the negative aspect of sorrow for sin, and earnest desire to change, but also includes looking forward - to undergo a radical change of heart and life for the better. "Be converted" and believe the gospel. First turn to the light (of truth) and accept in faith and confidence the good news of reconciliation with God through Jesus (the Living Truth, the True Light).

      Accept the Light of Truth within your heart and follow it.

 

      Verses 16-20. The Calling of Four Fishermen.

"16  ¶ Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

17  And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

18  And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

19  And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zeb'edee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.

20  And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zeb'edee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him."

 

      As Jesus calls His disciples to Him, He knew of the preparation and training they would go through to be proclaimers and writers of His Gospel as well as their work in the forming of His Church. Most notably Matthew, Peter, and John. This call at the sea of Galilee was not their first encounter with Jesus. About a year earlier, Andrew and one unnamed (most likely John) had followed Jesus to where He was staying and became His followers (John 1:35-41). Andrew had brought his brother, Simion, to Jesus. We assume that John had similarly done the same for his brother, James.

      So here, Jesus calls upon them to become His constant companions, that they were to be part of the greatest of all work: to be fishers of men for God. The impetuous Simon must become Peter, the rock. A similar transformation must also happen to them all to become the Apostles.

      The fact of their choosing to go with Jesus speaks not so much to their courage to leave their regular lives, but much more to the impelling power and force of Jesus, His divine influence over the hearts and minds of those who God had His hand upon. They had answered the call of the Spirit through John the Baptist. They had accepted Jesus. When He now calls them to greater service, they go without hesitation.

      They were uneducated, working class, with many prejudices and superstitions. These Jesus chose to nurture and make into strong leaders and witnesses to the Truth, that would turn the world on its head.

      Four are named: Peter, John who becomes leader of the 12 and is named first in every list of the Apostles - (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13), Andrew (Peter's brother, who brings many to Jesus - John 1:40; Matthew 14:18; John 12:22), James (son of Zebedee, brother of John, the first apostle killed - Acts 12:1,2), John ("the disciple Jesus loved" - John 13:23; 19:26 - meaning a special bond of tenderness and understanding).

 

      On the event itself.

      As Jesus was walking by He acme upon the two brothers throwing out a fish-net. It would strike the water in a circle, with pieces of lead attached around the circle, which would quickly sink, pulling the net over any fish thereby caught beneath it. This was their daily occupation. God chose those who were not wise or powerful, but those who were teachable, to in turn shame those who thought themselves wise or who thought they were truly powerful and righteous.

      By calling them to "Come, follow me," Jesus asserts His authority over them - that He claims them for His service. Now is the time. Jesus calls them to a far greater task than catching fish to eat. They are to be fishers of men. They would be reaching others for the kingdom of God. Daniel 12:3 - "They that turn many to the righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever."

 

      Verses 19,20.

      Walking a little further, Jesus comes upon James and John, also doing fishermen's work. Jesus gives them the same call as Peter and Andrew. They immediately stopped what they were doing and also followed Him.

      It has been noted that their mother, Salome, was a sister of Mary, Jesus' mother. They were therefore cousins. They most likely knew of His whole family and background, that His earthly father was Joseph, a carpenter, and of His brothers. In the Gospel accounts, these facts were used against Jesus on more than one occasion. But no mention is made here by these brothers. They recognized His greatness, all other considerations were therefore irrelevant. So also we need to focus on Who He Is, not on all the incidental details of genealogy, and facts of verifiable history as some choose to do.

 

      Verses 21-28.

"21  ¶ And they went into Caper'na-um; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.

22  And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

23  And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24  saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

25  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.

26  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

27  And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.

28  And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee."

 

      Though Jesus had defeated satan, still his servants, the demons, are in control of many that confront Jesus. Jesus continues to cast them out - limiting the power of satan and at the same time opening many hearts to the power of God in Him, and in believing His Gospel.

      The following incident is similarly recorded in Luke. (4:31-37).

 

      Verse 21.

      Jesus and the four disciples were near Capernaum, and it being the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue - as was His habit - and also to teach (Luke 4:16). Jesus asked and was given permission to speak. Standing, He read from the prophets, then He sat down to explain the read portion to meet the needs of the hearers.

 

      Verse 22.

      He astonished those present. He taught with authority, as one who knew the truth of what He was saying - not as the scribes. They often dwelt on trivialities, often rambling, without touching the peoples' hearts, or meeting their needs in any way. They also often quoted other scribes and fallible sources.

      Jesus spoke the truth in love and concern for the deepest needs of the people. He spoke from what He knew which was revealed in Scripture. The Living Word explaining the Spoken Word.

 

      Verse 23.

      Even in those early days, they knew the differences between normal illnesses and abnormalities, and the possession of a person by a distinct and evil being.

      The demon cries out using the man's voice - "Why do you bother us, Jesus of Nazareth." One demon - speaking for all those he represents realizes what their final end is to be. He calls Jesus the Nazarene, and also the Holy One of God. It was as if asking if He had come from heaven to destroy the demons already, to hurl them into the abyss. The demon claims to know the Holy One and that He had authority over them and their own ultimate end.

 

      Verse 25.

      Jesus doesn't want to accept acknowledgment from such an evil creature - nor should it question Jesus or interrupt. Jesus rebuked him and told him to get out. The demon had no choice but to immediately obey - but with violence against the man - throwing him into convulsions, and with a loud shriek left him.

 

      Verse 27.

      The people were again dumbfounded - formerly at His teaching, now His command over the demon. They questioned each other – they were profoundly impressed, but did not know what to think about these things.

      In very little time, word spread throughout the region. That God was at work among them, for only a prophet from God could have authority over demons.

 

      Next, the Healing of Simon's Mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-34).

Lesson IV

      Mark 1:29-34. Healings.

 

"29  ¶ And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30  But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever; and anon they tell him of her.

31  And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

32  ¶ And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

33  And all the city was gathered together at the door.

34  And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him."

 

      Verse 29.

      Upon leaving the synagogue after the events in the previous verses, they, with Jesus (Simon and Andrew) with James and John wentraight to Peter's house. Evidently both Peter's mother-in-law and Andrew lived with him and his wife. James and John, who had also been present at the synagogue, went there also.

 

      Verse 30.

      When they arrived, the mother-in-law was lying down sick with a fever, Jesus is immediately informed.

 

      Verses 31,32.

      He goes to her, took her by the hand and lifts her up. Luke adds; "and rebuked the fever." (Luke 4:39.) By His divine authority, Jesus commanded the fever to leave. It has no choice but to obey. The same word is used later when He speaks to the wind and waves (Luke 8:24).

      The fever left her and she got up and began waiting on them. The news of what had happened at the synagogue apparently spread quickly throughout the area. Now the victory over the mother-in-law's fever would also quickly be told. The new hope of relief from suffering for all their loved ones, caused a great many people to bring those afflicted to find help in Jesus.

      It was after sunset of the same day - they waited until the Sabbath was over. Those brought either had it badly (were sick) or were demon-possessed. A clear distinction was recognized.

 

      Verse 33. It appeared to anyone who was there that the whole town (Capernaum had come to Peter's house to see Jesus. Matthew (8:16) and Luke (4:40) also stressed the huge numbers.

 

      Verse 34. Mark's account is very short. Jesus patiently and with loving sympathy healed them all, no matter what the illness. He also cast out many demons. Matt adds "with a word", a command (8:16).

      Mark adds, "But he was not allowing the demons to speak, because they knew who He was." It has been suggested that Jesus silenced them to prevent a premature confrontation with the religious leaders.

 

      1:35-39. Christ's Ministry Continued.

 

"35  ¶ And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

36  And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.

37  And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

38  And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.

39  And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils."

 

      Verse 35.

      After a very active and tiring day and evening, Jesus must have been physically exhausted. He also felt the need for communion and strengthening from the Father.

      Even before dawn, Jesus went to an isolated place to pray so he would not be interrupted. The importance of prayer in Jesus' life is continually seen, both before important events and afterwards also. They are mentioned in all four Gospels and obviously are only examples of the full prayer and communion He had with the Father throughout His ministry - on the cross, and after the resurrection He also taught the disciples how to pray and urged them to pray continually (example - the Lord's Prayer).

 

      Verses 36,37.

      We may naturally assume that if they spent the night at Simon's, it therefore follows that when Simon got up the next morning and Jesus wasn't there, he would go looking for Him. It also appears that many others had come to Simon's house seeking Jesus. Simon with others went looking for Him, indeed determined to find Him no matter how far they had to go or how much time it took.

      When they finally found Him, they told Him that a great many people were seeking Him. They thought He would go back to the city and again meet the needs of more and more people. His purpose is not to heal all the people in a place and then move on. His ministry was not so limited - He will carry the message of God's love and forgiveness to as many places as time allows.

 

      Verse 38.

      His response is to say, "Let's go to the next town that I may preach there also..." He asks His disciples to go with Him. Thus begins the journey of Jesus and His disciples through the various towns and villages of Galilee. His emphasis is on the message rather than miracles. They confirmed His message of good tiding as truly from God Himself. His message stressed that men cannot be saved by obeying all the regulations of the Pharisees and rabbis. It all centers upon the work of the Savior, in shedding His blood (Mark 10:45). Summarized by the words, "because for this purpose I came forth." The coming from heaven to the earth.

 

      Verse 39.

      He therefore traveled throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. This most likely also included many healings also. The population of Galilee was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. This tour mostly includes the Jews (in the synagogues) and only secondarily to the Greeks (Romans 1:16).

 

      Note on the Synagogue of that time.

      By New Testament times the synagogue was considered an ancient and widely known institution (Acts 15:21). They seem to have become an essential part of Jewish life during the Babylonian captivity. Both the destruction of the Temple and the great distance to Jerusalem made the establishment of synagogues a religious necessity. A larger city would have many synagogues. The main service was the reading and commentary upon God's Law. This at times deteriorated into hair-splitting ordinances by rabbinical stipulations never demanded by God.

      Besides regular worship services, the synagogue also was open for prayer at all times; it also housed an elementary school, usually starting at age 6 to begin learning to read and write - in Hebrew, and Aramaic. Instruction was continued to the youth. Often the rabbi had his study there. Sometimes there were lodging facilities for the rabbi, and/or for those seeking shelter.

 

      The Order of Worship

      1. Blessings spoken - then the Call upon Israel: "love the

 Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your

 soul, and with all your might."

 This is called the Shema.

      2. Prayer with congregation response of Amen.

      3. Reading from the Pentateuch (in Hebrew - then in Aramaic.)

      4. Reading from the prophets.

      5. Sermon or words of exhortation.

      6. The Benediction pronounced by a priest - the people respond with "Amen".

 

      A tradition called "The freedom of the synagogue" implied that anyone present at the service, considered qualified by the ruler of the synagogue, was allowed, even encouraged to deliver the sermon.

      This made open the way for Jesus, later for Paul and other Christian leaders, to introduce the Gospel to a great many assembled in their local synagogues wherever they were found in the Roman Empire. Many Gentiles also were reached in this way as well.

      Another interesting note. All synagogues were built so that their altars faced Jerusalem. Thus the speaker- facing the audience - would also be facing Jerusalem - as well as when leaving the building. This thought certainly would help keep Jesus focused on His final journey to that city.

 

      1:40-45. A Leper Cleansed.

 

"40  ¶ And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

41  And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

42  And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

43  And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;

44  and saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, Lev. 14.1-32 for a testimony unto them.

45  But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter."

 

      The time and place of this encounter is not mentioned but was on the way from Capernaum. According to Leviticus 13:45, the leper must live outside any camp (town or city). Apparently he was by himself, but had heard enough about Jesus and the healings to boldly approach - he came up to Jesus. He hoped for the mercy and compassion he had also heard about. He has nothing to lose in asking. He "drops to his knees." Luke adds that he lowers his face to the ground (5:12). He begs Jesus, "If you will, you can cleanse me." He has complete confidence in Christ's power, but is uncertain of His willingness. He leaves it up to Jesus to decide.

 

      Verse 41.

      "Having been moved in His heart," is recorded only by Mark. Jesus was continually showing this tenderness and compassion to those in need and a great many are recorded in the 4 Gospels. The sorrows of the people are His sorrows, their afflictions are His. His deep love moves Him to speak and to act.

      Jesus reached forth His hand and touched him. No physical or spiritual condition was below or outside His concern. He said, "I will; be cleansed." Healing power went out from Jesus from the authority and the love of the divine through the flesh of His hand - connecting with the faith and longing of the leper. Jesus answered the leper's statement that He can cleanse him by saying, "Yes, I can, and I will," - and so doing it immediately. The words "Be cleansed" addresses the hideous form of the disease to be gone, no longer to be seen.

 

      Verse 42.

      As Jesus spoke, so did the disease leave him and he was clean.

 

      Verses 43,44.

      Jesus admonishes the man (who he sent away) not to tell anything to anyone (knowing human nature that this would be nearly impossible). He was advised to follow the Mosaic law and show himself to a priest who could pronounce his cleansing with the proper offering for cleansing. He would be then accepted into the temple and among the people.

      Though no reason is recorded for this warning, it seems obvious that Jesus did not want crowds following Him, only seeking physical healings. This was only a sign pointing to His true ministry as the Savior - the Provider of reconciliation with God. As mentioned before, He did not want any questions of inciting the people to cause conflict with the authorities before the appointed time.

      The proper offering (Leviticus 14:1-7) was two birds (commonly doves or pigeons). One was to be killed, the other dipped in its blood, then released. The blood was also sprinkled over the person, seven times. He was then officially pronounced cured, once again clean.

 

      Verse 45.

      The great joy of the cleansed man could not be held in. He went everywhere, telling everyone what had happened to him. (Would we do any different?) Yet he did disobey Christ's command. This made it impossible for Him to go from town to town, bringing His blessings and message to the general population - not just those seeking signs and miracles of healing. He traveled in the open "lonely places". So the manner of His ministry was changed but not interrupted. Now the people came to Him from everywhere, to wherever He was.

 

      Thus Ends Chapter I.

 

      Chapter II - Continuing Ministry of Healing, Calling, and Questions about Fasting and the Sabbath.

Lesson V

      Mark 2:1-12. Continuing Ministry of Healing.

      Calling of Levi, Questions of Fasting & the Sabbath

      The Healing of a Paralytic

      (Also recorded in Matthew 9:28 & Luke 5:17-26.)

 

"1  And again he entered into Caper'na-um after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.

2  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.

3  And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.

4  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

5  When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

6  But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,

7  Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

8  And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?

9  whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?

10  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)

11  I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

12  And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion."

 

      In this chapter we see the beginning of conflict with men.

 

      Verse 1.

      Some days later Jesus went back to Capernaum. The news traveled quickly that He was at home. No definite word has been recorded about who owned this house. If it was Peter's most likely Mark would have mentioned that fact as he had previously. Some have put forth the opinion that Jesus owned the place. Others have suggested that His friends had provided this house for His use while He ministered in and near Capernaum. At any rate, He had stayed there often enough for it to be considered His home. So the report had spread that He was home.

 

      Verse 2.

      This was a very mixed crowd, so many that the house was full and no room was left even near the doorway. No doubt his disciples, followers, and friends were there. Plus those who had heard about Jesus and wanted to see for themselves. In addition we soon find out that there were some rabbis - experts in the Law - and Pharisees. Apparently the large crowds that Jesus was drawing caused enough concern for these important religious leaders to come and check Him out.

      He was speaking the Word of God to them - words of God's mercy and grace, forgiveness and salvation.

 

      Verse 3.

      Then an interruption most dramatic. Noise from the roof. Four men had brought a man, paralyzed to the point that he could not move on his own.

 

      Verse 4.

      They had no chance of getting through the seated and standing crowd to where Jesus was. It was not uncommon for houses to have outside stairways to the flat roofs. At any rate, they were determined to get this man to Jesus in whatever way they could figure out. They figured out exactly where Jesus was within the house, went onto the roof and began "unroofing the roof."

      Generally the roof consisted of rafters, overlaid with brushwood, and branches. On top was a thick covering of mud or clay mixed with straw, beaten and rolled. This kind of roof was not all that difficult to break through an opening just large enough to lower the man, on his pallet or poor man's bed. It is most likely that they attached ropes to the four corners of the pallet, so that the man could be lowered safely right in front of Jesus.

      Apparently no words were spoken by the paralytic or any of his four friends. There were none really needed. They had one mission - to get their friend to Jesus. They had total trust that when they did that, He would take care of their friend's need. They placed him in the hands of the Master.

 

      Verse 5.

      Jesus, when observing the determination of the four, could see their faith in Him and had compassion on their friend. Jesus looked at the paralytic and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." The common opinion among the Jews of that time was that someone who suffered affliction was because of some sin, that God was punishing them. Throughout His ministry, Jesus disproved this idea. This does not mean, however, that some sins did not have consequences, physical and mental.

      In this particular case, Jesus recognized that this man was filled with guilt and shame. It is not clearly stated that his sins caused his sickness. That his sins were forgiven stresses that the healing of the soul is the first and foremost concern. To experience the healing compassion and love from Jesus' words must have brought great joy to the man and his four friends as well. Only Jesus had the power and authority to do this.

      He had come to pay for all men's sins. It was the only solution. Forgiveness is not just a pardon from punishment - but an embrace of acceptance, reconciliation, and adopting love.

 

      Verses 6,7.

      Here comes the rub. Some of the Scribes are thinking to themselves. They were not taking this in as something new that God has brought to man through Jesus - they were not trying to understand the great blessing, and love being shown. They were measuring Jesus' words according to their strict understanding of the Law. Only God can forgive sin. This man is not God This man is guilty of blasphemy. If they had come to find fault with Jesus, now they had it. They did not at this point speak their thoughts aloud.

      Their thoughts reveal their motives and disposition. They add another conclusion - that it is easy to say your sins are forgiven because there is no obvious way to prove such a thing. They are thinking - the hardest thing to do would be to cure this man - to tell him to get up and walk. But if Jesus says this and the man doesn't get up and walk - how embarrassing that would be.

 

      Verses 8-11.

      Jesus perceives their reasonings and proceeds to summarily deal with each one in turn. He asks them why they are reasoning or harboring such thoughts in their hearts. The question about which is easier to say to the paralyzed man, "Your sins are forgiven," or, "Get up and walk"? What Jesus is about to do is show them that He has authority on earth to forgive sins, as the Son of man. He proceeds to tell the paralyzed man to get up, take his pallet and go home.

      Jesus dramatically shows the falseness of their thinking. Jesus decides that if they need to "see" a physical miracle to prove His authority in the spiritual realm, then He will do it. We can be certain that He was going to heal the man anyway. Only God has the right to forgive sin, and only God can heal such a condition. The only conclusion the scribes should have come to is the deity of Jesus.

      The term "Son of man" is first used here in Mark. It is found a total of 14 times. It is what Jesus calls Himself. The term generally refers to the human race (as repeatedly used in Ezekiel). So in using this term, Jesus is emphasizing the fact of His humanity. To be our Savior, He had to take on human flesh and become like us. Only as a man could He do this.

      It is also the term used in Daniel 7:13-14, which describes "The Son of Man" being given an everlasting kingdom - a prophecy of the triumph of the Messiah. Jesus was also pointing to this prophecy when describing His Second Coming in glory (see Matthew 24:30; 25:31). The term is used throughout Luke and John (the references too numerous to mention), and finally in Revelation 1:13 and 14:14, the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13,14.

 

      Verse 12.

      What Jesus told the man to do, he did. He got up, took up his pallet, and made his way through the packed crowd and walked out of the house. Everyone was face to face with this astonishing miracle. They had seen the friends breaking through the roof and lowering the helpless man in front of Jesus. Now they all witnessed that same man get up and walk through their midst and go to his own home. Their response was to glorify God, saying, "Never have we seen anything like this."

      We will later see that apparently the scornful scribes were not convinced enough to change their hostile attitude - but actually became more hostile (2:16,24; 3:2,6,22). It can also be said that many were deeply moved by Christ's deeds and words that a life-changing faith was born in their hearts. We must also say that some remained unchanged which we will also see later (in Mark 7:6).

 

"13  ¶ And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.

14  And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Al'pheus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed Him.

15  ¶ And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many, and they followed him.

16  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

17  When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

 

      Verse 13.

      After the events in the crowded house at Capernaum, it seems only natural for Jesus to return to the seashore, where it is open and breezy. When people found out where He had gone, they started coming to Him. This was to continue for some time. When the people came, Jesus did not send them away, but began to teach them as they walked together.

      Or as some have suggested, He stopped to teach this group, and when He finished, He continued His walk.

 

      Verse 14.

      He passed by a tax-collector's booth. Levi, the son of Al'pheus was seated there. Jesus called to him, "Follow Me." Levi arose and followed Him. Luke also names him Levi, while he calls himself Matthew in his Gospel (Matthew 9:9). Matthew means "gift of Jehovah". There is no record to tell us whether he always had the two names (like John Mark, or Thomas also known as Didymus), or if Jesus renamed him Matthew as He had renamed Simon, Peter.

      That Levi and Matthew are the same person, there is little doubt. Mark and Luke call Levi "a publican". In Matthew 10:3, a list of the Twelve includes "Matthew the publican".

      The location of a tax-collector's booth indicates that this was along the main road that passed through this province of Rome, between Syria and Egypt. The main tax booths in this area were at Caesarea, Capernaum, and Jericho. The tax was on imports and exports passing through.

      Traditionally, Roman generals paid for these offices to the Roman government. They would hire others to run the business. There were district "chief publicans" (such as Zacchaeus) and then lower rank "publicans" to actually collect the taxes in the booths. They became known for collecting whatever the traffic would bear - acquiring a reputation as extortionists.

      Add to that, if a Jew was such a tax collector, he was considered a traitor to his own people and religion. They worked for the pagan Roman emperor and added to the Roman treasury. They also became wealthy themselves by overcharging their fellow countrymen as well as others. There are many references of this attitude toward publicans in the Gospels. At times "publicans" and "sinners" are mentioned together.

      At this time Jesus already had six disciples: Simon and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Nathanael. Then Levi - Matthew was number 7.

      Luke 5:28 tells us that Matthew "forsook all". He gave up his lucrative job, obviously trusting that God would take care of his needs - such was the importance of Christ's call.

 

      Verse 15.

      Levi gives a banquet at his house for Jesus and His followers, as well as other tax-collectors and commoners ("sinners").

      They are described as reclining at table, on divans, around low tables, resting on the left elbow, serving themselves with the right arm. This was customary.

      The term "sinners" refers, in the eyes of the strict Pharisees, anyone that didn't follow the rabbinical interpretation of the Law.

      The way the verse closes indicates that the many publicans and these others had begun to follow Jesus. They were there to be with Jesus, already recognizing in Him One sent by God. From Jesus' point of view, these were the ones who He had come to seek and to save, those in need, in sin, and lost.

 

      Verse 16.

      Enter the critics - scribes by profession, Pharisees by religious choice. This questioning most likely took place outside Matthew's home after the meal had ended and the guests were leaving. They had observed the gathering of the tax-collectors at a tax-collector's house. But Jesus and His disciples being also guests concerned them. They were aware of His ministry, but disturbed by this association with these "publicans and sinners". Not yet brave enough to approach Jesus directly, they ask His disciples why He spends any time, much less eating, with them.

      A rabbinic rule had been stated, "The disciples of the learned shall not recline at the table in the company of the people of the soil." In John 7:49, they are described as "the rabble that does not know the law." These self-righteous men were above any fellowship or mixing with such "sinners".

 

      Verse 17.

      Jesus simply and directly shows their self-righteous blindness to the needs of others.

      Jesus tells them that a doctor gives time and attention to those that are ill, not those that are healthy. He adds that He did not come to call righteous people, but sinners. Could the Pharisees not see Jesus as the great healer and teacher of God's love and forgiveness, to minister to the sick, the downtrodden, those in need? This was clearly recorded in Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea (Isaiah 1:18, 45:22, 55:1,6,7; Jeremiah 35:15; Ezekiel 18:23,33; Hosea 6:1, 11:8).

 

      Next - Fasting Question.

Lesson VI

      Mark 2:18-22. About Fasting.

 

"18  ¶ And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?

19  And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

20  But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

21  No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment; else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.

22  And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles."

 

      Verse 18.

      None of the Gospels give a definite time for this event. The mosaic law only specifies one day of fasting - on the annual day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29-34). As time passed other fasts were added (Judges 20:26; I Samuel 14:24; II Samuel 1:12; I Kings 19:8; Daniel 10:3; Zechariah 7:3-5,8:19). They were of various lengths of time - usually from sunrise to sunset - but also from 7 days to 3 weeks to forty days, once a month in the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 10th month. The extent had reached "twice a week" which Luke 18:12 records - this had become something the Pharisees boasted about.

      The public display of fasting by the Pharisees was condemned by Jesus (Matthew 6:16). They seemed to only want the praise of men for their supreme religious observances. So another fast by this group is not that unusual. But why were the followers of the Baptist fasting. Since no time-line or reason is stated, it has been suggested that they may have been fasting as a result of the Baptist's imprisonment at the end of the year 27. It could also have been at the execution of John about a year later. Whatever the reasons, these two groups were fasting at the same time.

      "And they came" to question Jesus. It seems that a group from both John's disciples and disciples of the Pharisees who were fasting were the ones questioning why the disciples of Jesus were not.

      It must be remembered, that even after the Baptist was imprisoned, a group of his disciples stayed loyal to him and separate from those of Jesus.

      Matthew 9:14 records the observation that the Pharisees fasted "often". It had also been observed that the disciples did not join in any of these fasts. This group did at least approach Jesus directly and may have merely requested information, not in the sense of criticism or accusation. It was though a question of following men's religious traditions, rather than a question of following God's Law concerning the subject (as earlier laid out).

 

      Verse 19.

      The reply of Jesus emphasizes His presence as a bridegroom at a wedding feast. Why would the friends of the groom fast at such a celebration? This gives us a picture of Christ's relationship with His church. This also points back to the Old Testament where this relationship was used to describe the relationship between God and the chosen people of Israel (see Isaiah 50:1, 54:1, 62:5; Jeremiah 2:32, 32:32; Hosea 2:1). It is unthinkable for the disciples of Jesus to mourn while with the Savior, who was healing illness, releasing those oppressed by demons, and bringing words of life, love, and forgiveness.

 

      Verse 20.

      Jesus goes on to say that there will be a day when He will be taken away from them. It is then that it would be proper for them to fast. This clearly predicts Christ's death. This is also mentioned in Matthew 9:15 and Luke 5:35. It also points to Isaiah 53:8 - "By oppression and judgment he was taken away." Jesus often alludes to passages in the Old Testament concerning Himself, especially from Isaiah. We will notice this throughout this Gospel.

      The lesson for all Christians is that Christ's coming into each of our lives is one of joy, both full and continuing forever, for we are never to be separated from the love and care of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

      Verse 21.

      Jesus continues by giving two other illustration. This one concerns the sewing of a patch of new cloth on an old garment. When the new cloth gets wet, or washed, it will shrink and pull the surrounding cloth, making the hole or tear much worse. This was certainly of common knowledge, passed down from generation to generation.

 

      Verse 22.

      The second illustration concerns putting new wine in old wineskins. The new wine will burst the skins, wasting the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is poured into fresh wineskins. The Salvation that Jesus has brought to man, is for those who are ready to accept God's love, forgiveness, and fellowship - ready to respond with gratitude and joy and desire to serve God. Those who already are tightly bound by strict observances of traditional additions to God's law thought they were already righteous and had no room for Jesus and His Gospel.

 

      Mark 2:23-28. Lord of the Sabbath.

 

"23  ¶ And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.

24  And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

25  And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was ahungered, he, and they that were with him?

26  How he went into the house of God in the days of Abi'athar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?

27  And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

28  therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."

 

      The following two sabbath controversies are recorded also in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5, in the same order as here in Mark 2:23-28 and the second in 3:1-6. There is no chronological connection suggested by Mark between this event and the previous one about fasting. It does, however, seem logical. Christ's attitude toward the Sabbath is not on everything forbidden, but that the Sabbath was made for man, instead of the opposite.

      What we are told indicates that as they were traveling, their path led through a field of standing grain. That they picked the heads of the grain means that it must have been near harvest time. Since wheat is harvested in August in the area east of the sea of Galilee. It has been suggested that this took place in Galilee on the way back from Jerusalem.

      That the disciples were hungry and picked the grain to eat seems completely obvious. Luke supplies the greatest detail in 6:1-5 - "His disciples began picking and eating the heads of grain, rubbing them with their hands." This was permitted according to Deuteronomy 23:25. To do more, such as using a sickle to harvest more, was not permitted to a traveler.

      Apparently, some Pharisees were also traveling with the group when this occurred. Their reaction seems to have been immediate shock and disapproval, saying; "See here, why are they doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath?"

      According to the Law, work was not permitted on the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Over time, rabbis had composed a list of 39 major categories of work, which were subdivided into 6 minor categories under each of the 39. According to this, plucking heads of grain came under reaping. Their outrage was that the disciples were doing forbidden work on the Sabbath, and Jesus was doing nothing to stop them.

      Man's foolish traditions bound these men. They could not see nor have the spiritual freedom to understand the truth concerning God's Law. Jesus proceeds to explain it to them. He cites the time recorded in I Samuel 21:1-6 when David, being in need, entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread (which only the priests were supposed to eat), and also gave some to his companions.

      By saying, "Have you never read," Jesus is suggesting that if they presumed to know so much concerning the Old Testament as to teach others, they should also be able to recall this exception where man's need is placed above ceremonial restrictions.

      This showbread included 12 loaves, placed on a special table covered with gold. It was in the Holy Place. The two rows of bread represented the 12 tribes of Israel as well as the constant dependence of the people on the blessings of their God. These loaves were eaten by the priests every Sabbath when fresh loaves were provided. This was the bread given to David which he shared with his companions. If David had a right to do this, how much more did Jesus have the right, under the condition of need, to do the same?

 

      Verse 27.

      This verse is found only in Mark. The Sabbath was created after man. It was to be a blessing for man: a day of rest, to promote good health, to keep him holy by thinking upon the blessings of Jehovah (Isaiah 58:13,14). It was a day to look forward to with joyful anticipation for the people of God (expressed by Paul in Hebrews 4:9).

      The rabbis had added so many petty and senseless restrictions rather than what was permitted on the Sabbath, that it became a day of burden - a day of restriction rather than a day of calm, and recreation, and blessing. Thus the expression that man was made to fulfill the laws of the Sabbath. Jesus clearly says the Sabbath was made for man. It was designated for man's benefit.

 

      Verse 28.

      Jesus asserts His divine authority as the Son of man - He is Lord even of the Sabbath. God had made the Sabbath and designated its purpose. Since all authority had been given to Jesus, the Son (Matthew 11:27), therefore He has authority concerning that day. The Pharisees have no right to question what He has permitted, period!

 

      Mark 3:1-6. The Healing of the Man with a Shriveled Hand on the Sabbath.

 

"1  And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.

2  And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

3  And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.

4  And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

5  And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

6  And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Hero'di-ans against him, how they might destroy him."

 

      This event was also recorded in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11.

      As was His custom on the Sabbath, Jesus went to a synagogue. He also teaches there (Luke 6:6). At the services is a man with a withered and shriveled hand. Scribes and Pharisees are watching Jesus closely, to catch Him doing something they could charge Him for.

 

      Verses 1,2.

      The location of this synagogue is not mentioned. It is possible that it was in or near Capernaum. A man with a withered hand was there. Knowing of Jesus' compassion and numerous healings, some of the stricter Pharisees wanted to see what Jesus would do. According to the most widely held rule of that time, it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath, only if the person's life was in danger if they were not healed. These men waited to see if Jesus dared to violate this Sabbath rule that they considered law.

 

      Verse 3.

      Knowing their thoughts, Jesus calls the man to get up and come to Him. He wants the whole congregation to witness what He is about to do.

 

      Verse 4.

      Jesus poses the question, "Is it right on the Sabbath to do good, or harm, to save life or to kill?"

      The Pharisees claimed that they were the experts when it came to knowing what was permissible or "right". If it is right to do good on every other day, how could it not be right on the Sabbath? The Old Testament clearly taught that the Sabbath was particularly set aside for serving God, and serving man. (Isaiah 56:6, 68:6-14.) Jesus adds, "to do harm or kill." Certainly, it was against God's law to ever do harm or kill - then how much more would it be unlawful to do so on the Sabbath? Yet in their hearts, these men were seeking a way to get rid of Jesus. They made no reply.

 

      Verse 5. Jesus observed that His words had not caused them to change their minds and repent their evil thoughts, but only caused them to harden their hearts. Jesus was angered and deeply grieved at their silent, inward response to His plain teaching about the spirit and intent of God's Law, based on the Old Testament which they claimed to be the most learned about.

      Mark quotes the eyewitness testimony of Peter - the words Jesus spoke to the man: "Stretch out your hand." The man obeyed and stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

      The anger of Jesus was completely justified. These men were more concerned about following rituals and rules devised by men (rabbis) than the plight of this severely handicapped person. Between a rule and a person's welfare, they chose the rule. This would accurately be described as cold-hearted. Apparently, the angry look was brief, the sadness continued.

      Jesus showed the hushed and expectant crowd that his choice would always be to heal, to do good, to give this man the use of his hand.

 

      Verse 6.

      The reaction. The Pharisees got up, and deeply affronted, huffed out immediately. They could not feel any joy at seeing an afflicted man healed. Their reaction was completely selfish. Their self-righteous attitude was attacked. Their rule was questioned and demonstrated to be wrong. They felt humiliated and shown up. Something must be done. This cannot stand, and most certainly it must not be allowed to happen again. This healer must be destroyed. They lost no time in finding help to make plans as to how this might be accomplished.

      They chose to go to the group that was allied to Herod Antipas and his family - called the Herodians. This group was not religious but completely worldly-minded. They were interested in political power and holding on to it. The Pharisees might have put forth to them the idea that Jesus had a huge following, and being a religious leader, might turn the people against the political status quo. He might cause a rebellion which would threaten the Herodians.

      Using this argument it seems logical that it would be advantageous to both groups to get Jesus out of the way, so they should work or plot together for their mutual benefit. In other circumstances the Pharisees reviled and avoided these people. However, this circumstance was extreme - the sanctimonious joined the sacrilegious (see Matthew 22:16).

 

      Next, Teaching by the Seashore.

Lesson VII

      Mark 3:7-12. Teaching by the Seashore.

 

"7  ¶ But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea,

8  and from Jerusalem, and from Idume'a, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.

9  And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.

10  For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.

11  And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.

12  And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known."

 

      Verse 7.

      Together with His disciples, Jesus withdrew to the seashore. After the confrontation with the Pharisees in the Synagogue, where that group has already reached the point that they were plotting His death, Jesus went to the shore. It was not yet time for a head-on confrontation with the religious leaders. The fresh air and open nature of this area was best suited for the ministry that Jesus desired to do - namely to teach the multitudes, to heal and release those oppressed by Satan's demons.

      As far as can be gathered, the disciples at this time included: Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. John mentions in 1:35-51 Philip and Nathaniel. It is not clear if they were present at this event. The Twelve had not yet been appointed. Having done a great many works in this region it is only natural that a large group of Galileans were following Jesus also hoping to experience the blessings He bestowed.

 

      Verse 8.

      The word had obviously spread far and wide - both in Israel, but also neighboring areas. As Jesus' ministry continued, the news also continued to be carried further. This caused people to come from all these areas - from Jerusalem and Judea, Idumea to the southeast, regions across the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast to the west. The numbers continued to increase and this began to become almost impossible to deal with. The size of the crowd and each one's desire to get close to Jesus, many believing that only His touch could heal them, became a danger - their pushing inward toward Him would eventually physically crush Him. A safe distance was needed.

 

      Verses 9,10.

      Because of this possibility, Jesus instructed His disciples to keep a small boat nearby when it would be necessary. That He had healed a great many gave hope and courage and even determination to all those ill and suffering to desperately try to get close enough to touch Him. That His touch could heal them they had heard, but in their desperation they were reaching so they could touch Him and thereby be healed. That healing power went out from Him we have already seen in 1:41 and it will be mentioned later in chapters 5 and 6.

      The plan regarding the small boat was a precaution to be kept in readiness. It would allow Him to be safe from the crushing crowd, and also allow Him to speak to the large crowd gathered on the shore without danger or interruption. This should remind us that Jesus used precautions, plans to avoid physical danger. It was not recorded that the boat was used at this particular time, only that it was there.

 

      Verse 11.

      Now it is added that those demon-possessed that had come to Him were falling at His feet, screaming "You are the Son of God." They are called unclean because they embody only evil, morally and spiritually - they desired to force those they possess to do harmful and destructive things to others and also to themselves. That there is demon possession in our time is not widely recognized or accepted. But a great many completely evil and destructive things are being done that seem way beyond the normal capacity of a normal human being. This could only be explained by forces of a supernatural origin - the influence and possession by demons.

 

      Verse 12.

      Jesus strictly forbade them to speak and reveal who He was.

      Three reasons for this are obvious:

 

      1. Jesus did not want these evil, destructive creatures to proclaim His exalted and Holy Nature. You don't call a well-known liar and criminal to proclaim your innocence or high moral character - especially in public.

 

      2. The title "the Son of God" plainly suggested a connection with the promised Messiah. At that time the widely held belief in the Messiah was as a deliverer from the Roman oppression, that their nation would again be strong and free in a completely nationalistic sense. Jesus throughout His ministry must continue to teach and show the completely different mission He came to bring. As Messiah He had come to suffer and die for the sins of His people. What He brought was spiritual rebirth, not national rebirth. The time to reveal this openly was yet to come.

 

      3. The 3rd reason results from the evil intentions of the scribes spreading the lie that Jesus and the demons were on the same side, to put it nicely. If Jesus allowed these creatures to speak, the appearance would make their accusations more credible.

 

      Though we are not informed of His reasons in scripture, these reasons seem obvious, natural, and logical.

 

      Mark 3:13-19. The 12 Apostles Are Chosen.

 

"13  ¶ And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.

14  And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,

15  and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:

16  and Simon he surnamed Peter;

17  and James the son of Zeb'edee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Bo-aner'ges, which is, The sons of thunder:

18  And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Al'pheus, and Thad'de-us, and Simon the Canaanite,

19  and Judas Iscar'i-ot, which also betrayed him."

 

      It is at this time that Jesus sees the need to set apart a special group of His followers to share in His ministry. He would grant them the power and authority and compassion to reach out to the great numbers in need. The existing religious leaders had no interest or sympathy to cooperate with Jesus' mission. They had become openly hostile and were secretly plotting His death. These twelve would not only share in His ministry but also be eyewitnesses to everything Jesus said and did and that after His Ascension they would be completely grounded and filled with the Spirit of Truth - that they would found and grow the church and also produce records of their experience and knowledge of Our Savior.

      The mountain is not named but seems to have been familiar, being in the general vicinity of Capernaum.

      According to Luke 6:12, Jesus had spent the preceding night on the mountain in prayer.

      Thereupon, He called to Himself those He wanted, and they came to Him.

 

      Verses 14,15.

      Several of His followers had already been called to close fellowship with Him. The rest must have been among others that accompanied Jesus for some time (Luke 6:13).

      He appointed 12 - whom He also named apostles - that they would remain with Him, and then He might send them out to preach and have His authority to expel demons.

      By remaining with Him, He would instruct and train them in the message they were to proclaim, and how to cast out demons with His authority. This work was so serious that Jesus would say in Mark 6:11 that whoever receives those Jesus sent, receives Him, and whoever receives Him, receives The One who sent Him. First to the Lost Sheep of Israel, later to all nations, and finally into all the world.

      Matthew 10:8 also mentions healing and raising the dead.

 

      Verses 16-19.

      The 12 appointed are named. As ancient Israel had 12 patriarchs, 12 tribes, so in like number Jesus chooses 12 men to be patriarchs of the new Israel of those He will save by the completion of His mission. This group would come from Jews and Gentiles from all nations.

      In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, their lists do not have the identical ordering of the names, but the persons named are the same. Matthew mentions them in pairs, there being pairs of brothers. Many of them had two names.

      It has been suggested that Mark lists the names in order to their closeness to Christ - the first three were often called apart by Jesus, and so forth. Judas Iscariot is always last.

 

      What we know about the twelve:

      Simon - son of Jonas or John, a fisherman, first lived with his brother Andrew in Bethsaida (John 1:44, afterward in Capernaum (Mark 1:21,29). Luke also mentions that Jesus renamed him Peter - meaning rock - not what he was, but what he must become. This certainly was not the continued impetuous and changeable nature recorded in the Gospels. Jesus knew the outcome that was possible and brought it to pass.

 

      James  the son of Zebedee, and John his brother. Most likely because of their quickness to anger, Jesus calls them Boanerges. This Aramaic word Mark translates for his non-Jewish audience, "sons of thunder." James was the first to die; John was as far as we know the last. Very little is known about James. A great deal is known about John, supremely from his own writings: his Gospel, three letters, and the Revelation.

 

      Andrew - also a fisherman, and brother of Peter, who he brought to meet Jesus. He is mentioned later in the Gospel.

 

      Philip - originally also from Bethsaida, and had been one of the early followers of Jesus. He also found Nathanael, telling him that the one written about in the Law and the prophets had been found, Jesus from Nazareth. (John 1:45). His actions in the Gospels give a natural and somewhat favorable record of relationship with Jesus and others.

 

      Bartholomew (meaning son of Talmai). John clearly identifies him as Nathanael. Jesus described him before even meeting him as a true Israelite, in whom is no deceit.

 

      Matthew - he has already been described under chapter 2:14-17. He is also called Levi.

 

      Thomas (also Didymus the twin) was to be known as the doubter. Finding it hard to believe, he also responded with extreme devotion when He met the risen Savior.

 

      James the son of Alphaeus (also James the Less). Some have suggested that he was younger or small in height. We don't have any definite further information. It is probable that he is referred to in Mark 16:1 - that his mother, Mary, was one of the women who stood near the cross. Matthew also had a father named Alphaeus. He should not be understand as the father of this James. As we have seen, many important people in the New Testament had very common and popular names. That circumstance was not unique to that time.

 

      Thaddaeus - in all likelihood the Judas not Iscariot of John 14:22. In that passage, he seems to desire Jesus to get into the spotlight and what that entails.

 

      Simon the Cananaean (called the Zealot in Luke 6:15). This group vowed hatred against Rome and desired and plotted against that government.

 

      Judas Iscariot - usually interpreted as from Kerioth, a place in southern Judea. He is also called the son of Simon Iscariot, and the betrayer. That Jesus chose him, the natural man would call a flaw, a mistake, since this man would betray Him, which lead to the crucifixion. Jesus chose him because it was necessary in the perfect plan and will of the Father. The purpose of God was accomplished with satan and this man playing their appointed roles.

 

      If we consider the great variety of the nature, personalities, prejudices, education, and temperaments of the 12 men, it is nothing short of amazing that Jesus chose them. And much more amazing that He loved them, taught them, blessed them spiritually, and brought them through great challenges and tribulations to a maturity never before seen in the world - a unit of believers totally dedicated to their Saviour. He drew them with His tender love and compassion and His words of eternal life, truth, and forgiveness. He empowered them with the Holy Spirit of Promise.

      Jesus said it best - we close with His words from John 17:6-19.

 

"6  ¶ I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

7  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

8  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

9  I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

10  And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

11  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

12  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

13  And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

14  I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

19  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth."

Lesson VIII

      Mark 3:20-30. Whose Power the Miracle?

 

"20  And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.

21  And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

22  And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beel'zebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

23  And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?

24  And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

25  And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

26  And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

27  No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

28  ¶ Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:

29  but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

30  because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."

 

      There is no mention of how much later this took place after the calling of the 12. But it was the next important event.

 

      Verse 20.

      When Jesus returned to His now known dwelling place, a crowd soon gathered demanding attention, so that Jesus and His disciples did not even have time to prepare a meal.

 

      Verse 21.

      Apparently, Jesus had gone outside to minister to the crowd, that being always the most important thing. Also apparently, a group of those who followed Jesus and considered themselves His friends, felt enough concern for His health and well-being to go out and force Him to come in and get some rest and food. They had possibly prepared a meal for the group. How could dealing with this pushy and insistent crowd be more important than eating and resting? Certainly, the crowd would stick around. To them this was foolishness. Some said, "He is out of His mind." They could not conceive of the eternal importance of the compassion of Jesus which He placed above any and all distraction - even eating and resting.

 

      Verse 22.

      This takes up the story more fully recorded in Matthew 12:22 and Luke 11:14 about what happens after Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who had not been able to see or speak. The people were questioning if Jesus could be the prophesied Son of David.

      These scribes had come down from their seat of learning, the religious capital of the nation, Jerusalem. The sea of Galilee was about 3,000 feet lower in elevation (about 600 feet below sea level). Their bias against Jesus had already been expressed. Here they have come to observe Him, looking for evidence against Him. That some in the crowd were remarking in amazement that this may be the Messiah, they could not let stand. Their method is to directly refute that notion by strongly stating the opposite - that only the power of the prince of the demons, "Beelzebul", could cast out demons - therefore Jesus is possessed by this entity. Beelzebul or Beelzebub is the Old Testament name for satan. How it changed to Beelzebul is not known.

      Christ's reply follows in verses 23-30.

 

      Verses 23-26.

      Jesus refutes the charges. It is apparent that these accusations were not spoken directly to Jesus. They were spoken among the crowd to turn the people against Jesus.

      Jesus, being aware of this, called these accusers to Himself to show how absurd their thinking was. He spoke to them in parables - here meaning short comparisons to make a point clear. Since the scribes have described satan as a prince of a domain, that he had sent his servant-demons to possess, torment, and eventually destroy innocent people. Now the scribes are suggesting that satan has come to undo and punish his own servants for doing what he sent them to do, and thereby canceling his own power and influence. The same would be true in a household. If the ruler over a kingdom or the head of a household fights against his own people, neither a kingdom or a household could stand. Jesus adds, "If satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand - he is finished."

      Obviously, the scribes make no attempt to interrupt or argue. It may have surprised them that Jesus knew what they were voicing about and that He had calmly called them to come to Him, and then proceeded to very carefully and reasonably explain the errors in their thinking and rash accusations.

 

      Verse 27.

      Jesus presents them with what is actually taking place. Again with an illustration. If a robber wishes to steal the goods in a strong man's house, he must tie up that man first. The strong man is satan, and his goods - his power over man, especially those possessed by his minions.

      Jesus has already been personally victorious over satan in the wilderness and has authority over his demons. By His death on the cross, Jesus will further bind satan and his influence among men. By His resurrection and ascension and the Gospel of Salvation, Jesus continues to free men from the dominion of satan, the world of sin, into His own kingdom of forgiveness and adoption, and life everlasting.

      The kingdom of satan is doomed and he can do nothing to prevent it. He was bound by the presence and work of Jesus which will continue through the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

      Verses 28-30.

      Jesus expressed a most important warning. It is introduced by the "amen" usually translated as "verily". That a solemn and necessary truth follows.

      All sins and blasphemies will be forgiven to the sons of man including blasphemies against Jesus Himself. Matthew 8:20 records this same event.

      The exception is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In general blasphemy could include insolent language against God or man, defamation, railing or reviling (as Paul explains in Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8) as well as words of irreverence toward God or holy things, or giving the honor and worship to worldly things or men, that truly and only belong to God. That repentance precedes forgiveness goes without being written or said, as accepted fact. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an everlasting sin never forgiven or blotted out.

      The often asked question: "How is this possible?" The correct answer must be in direct connection within the context in which it was said. These scribes were saying that satan was doing what the Holy Spirit through Jesus was doing. All evidence and the witness of Jesus to the contrary causes them to only harden their position.

      For them to reach this point, they had resisted the call of the Spirit, they chose by further plotting against Jesus to quench the Spirit. This is the next step on the path to their own doom. At the beginning they could have stopped and repented. After hardening their hearts deliberately and continuing to disregard the witness and prompting of the Spirit, they have passed the point of no return on the path to death.

      For anyone to question if they have done or could do this unpardonable sin shows that they are still responding to God's Spirit, they still have a conscience and seek not to sin or offend God in any way. The answer then is obviously NO!

      Mark adds this explanatory statement: "He said this because they (the scribes) were saying He has an unclean spirit." They had accused Jesus of being possessed by the foremost unclean spirit - satan. This was the unpardonable sin. This was only possibly done by a hardened heart bent on destruction.

 

      Mark 3:31-35. The Mother and Brothers of Jesus.

 

"31  ¶ There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

32  And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

33  And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

34  And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

35  For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother."

 

      Verses 31,32.

      It is quite understandable that all the commotion that had just transpired had caused various reports to be noised about in the surrounding vicinity. This included some remarking that Jesus had lost His senses, and repeating the evil accusations of the scribes. That Mary, and her other sons would come - not because they would believe any such nonsense - but because of concern for His welfare, coming to see if there was any way they could help Him.

      In all four Gospels and in Acts we are told that Jesus had brothers and sisters. There is no reason to demand that Joseph and Mary must remain celibate after the birth of Jesus. The names of the brothers are mentioned later in Mark 6:3 (and Matthew 13:55).

      Again because of the crowd in and around the house, no one was able to get in. They remained standing outside, and sent someone to get the message to Jesus that they had come to see Him. When the message is delivered, Jesus does what He always does with interruptions to whatever He is doing. He uses it as an opportunity to do a miraculous deed, or as in this case, to teach a new spiritual truth.

 

      Verses 33-35.

      The main point is that physical ties are nowhere near as vital and important as those with God.

      We have evidence in the Gospels of Jesus' tender concern for His mother, but He let no one divert Him from the path to the cross, the perfect will of the Father.

      As Jesus asks the question, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers." He also answers it. We imagine Him in the midst of a circle of people all around Him, and that He would gesture with arm extended to indicate that all these were His mother and His brothers. This included the apostles and other followers as well, both men and women.

      His final statement explains the lesson: "For whoever does the will of God, He is my brother and sister, and mother." Though only Jesus could perfectly perform the will of God, yet He includes all those who by faith try to do God's will. He was well aware of the frailties and imperfections and limited understanding and faith even among His appointed Apostles - still He claimed them as His.

      That these words would have any hurtful effect on Mary is not justified. Her faith in Jesus would allow her to understand the lesson of the words Jesus spoke.

 

      Next, Chapter 4:1-9. Introduction to the Parable of the Sower.

Lesson IX

      Mark 4:1-9. Introduction and the Parable of the Sower.

 

"1  And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

2  And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

3  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

4  and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

5  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

6  but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

7  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

8  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased, and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred.

9  And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

 

      Verse 1.

      Again, as He had done earlier (in chapter 2:13 and 3:7), Jesus was teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This time the crowd was so very large that a small boat (that was mentioned on a previous occasion) was necessary. Jesus stepped into the boat, probably sitting in the stern, and it was rowed a small distance from the shore. Jesus faced the crowd that stood on the shore close enough that He could be heard by those gathered. This is only one example of the variety of times and places where Jesus took advantage of any situation to teach the people.

      Those He spoke to were basically anyone who would listen - whether individuals, small groups, religious leaders, publicans, and sinners, men women, Jews and Gentiles, sick or well, poor or wealthy. His Gospel was offered to all.

 

      Verse 2.

      He was teaching them many things in parables – illustrations from everyday life that immediately connect with each person's experience, and grabs attention. The stories of normal life are used to convey truths of spiritual meaning. Mark records only a small selection of those parables. Matthew's Gospel includes a greater selection in Chapter 13. These should not be considered all the parables used during this time.

      Mark introduces Jesus' words, "and in His teaching He said to them," and then -

 

      Verse 3.

      Listen! Once upon a time the sower went out to sow. The word "Listen" gets the attention of the audience. The second word means "Behold" or "Look" translated "Once upon a time" to arouse interest in the story about to be told.

 

      Verse 4.

      It so happened that, as he was sowing, some seed fell along the path. It was the custom to sow wheat and barley by hand. As he walked along the footpath through the plowed field, the seed could not be sowed without some falling on the path. The soil on the path had been compacted and hardened. The seed that landed there would remain on the surface. The observant birds would quickly come and gobble it up.

 

      Verse 5.

      Some fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil - it sprang up immediately. A large amount of soil that was tilled in Israel is found above layers of stone. Where the layer of soil was shallow, the sprout could only sprout upward, no root could penetrate the rock. The sprout, not firmly rooted "sprang up immediately".

 

      Verse 6.

      But when the sun came up it was scorched and withered away.

 

      Verse 7.

      Some fell among thorns. The thorns shot up and choked it. Where thorns were already firmly rooted there was little room for newly sown seed. The faster growing weeds shot up and choked the newly sprouted plants, leaving them no room to continue to grow. The result: it did not yield any fruit.

 

      Verse 8.

      Some seeds fell on good soil. Coming up and growing, they were bearing fruit, yielding: some 30 (fold), some 60, some a hundred. The good soil allowed the seed to grow to maturity and bear fruit in great variety - some double, some more than triple others.

 

      Verse 9.

      Jesus then advises His listeners, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Those that listen to Him must listen closely and take His sayings to heart, most seriously and think upon them.

      This admonishment was used over and over by Jesus (in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in Revelation). The result of hearing and not heeding led to the hardening of the heart unto condemnation.

 

      Mark 4:10-12. The Explanation.

 

"10  ¶ And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

11  And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

12  that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand;

lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."

 

      Verse 10.

      When the crowd was gone, those who remained, including the 12 apostles, had been listening carefully and desired to know more about the meaning behind the parables.

      Matthew records 4 parables before Jesus dismissed the crowds and "went into the house" in chapter 13. These close followers wanted to know why Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and the deeper meaning of the particular parable of the sower.

 

      Verse 11.

      Jesus tells them that the mystery of the kingdom of God will be opened unto them. The word "mystery" in Revelation refers to the "symbolical meaning" of that which required explanation. According to Paul's usage it included a truth that would have remained unknown if God had not revealed it.

      In this case, the mystery is the reign of God in the hearts and lives of humans. God was doing all these things through the ministry of Jesus through the Spirit, attended by miracles of physical and spiritual power. To all those who have accepted Him in truth faith, this has been "graciously disclosed."

      To outsiders, especially the hardened scribes, Pharisees and their followers, everything comes in parables. This is made clear in the following verse.

 

      Verse 12. That they may look and look but not perceive. And hear and hear but not understand. Lest they should turn again and be forgiven. This was a summary of Isaiah 6:9,10 - quoted by Jesus.

      The best explanation of this seems to be a result of all the words and works of Jesus these people have discounted and rejected as from God, going so far as to have made accusations of satan's activity. Now as punishment they will no longer be given what they had rejected. Now the parables are given that they may see but not perceive, hear and not understand, lest they should turn again and be forgiven. To put it in a few words: those who refused to see the truth and repent, will now not see and not be able to repent.

 

      Mark 4:13-20. The Sower Explained.

"13  And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

14  The sower soweth the word.

15  And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

16  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17  and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.

18  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19  and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

20  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."

 

      Verse 13.

      Jesus asks, "If you don't know what this parable means, how are you going to understand all the other parables." He wants them to very carefully listen to the explanation so what they learn concerning this parable of the sower, will give them insight into understanding the others.

 

      Verse 14.

      This parable emphasizes the different kind of soils, not the identity of the sower. In Matthew 13:37, Jesus identifies Himself as the sower. This could be extended to mean anyone who proclaims the Gospel.

      The sower sows the word. The seed is the Gospel. The ground represents different types of people. The word falls upon a person's heart.

      The four soils could be described as: the path equals the hardened or non-responsive heart. The shallow soil equals the impulsive heart. The soil among thorns equals the preoccupied heart. The good soil equals the responsive, well-prepared heart.

      The character of the listener determines how the word of God will affect them.

 

      Verse 15.

      Those like the path place little or no value upon the word they have heard. Perhaps it is inconvenient to think about it, or they don't like the one who spoke, or they are completely indifferent. By their attitude, satan can easily and immediately take these words from their memory, like the birds take the seed from the hardened path.

 

      Verse 16,17.

      The rocky ground represents those that accept the word readily with joy, but having no root within, last but a short time. When affliction or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly wither and fall away. These people act on impulse - on the spur of the moment - immediate emotion. No root means no deep and permanent commitment - no true faith or loyalty. Outside pressures cause quick reactions. The self-reigned impulsively choosing what seemed best at the time.

 

      Verses 18-19.

      Those sown among thorns are like people who hear the word, then the cares of the world, and deceitful glamour of riches, and other desires enter, all choking the words, and they are unable to bear fruit. The soil suggested is full of roots and runners of thorns. The heart represented is full of worry about daily things, envy over things they see others have, and ambition to have what they desire, or think they deserve. They are so preoccupied over cares of this world, that there is little room for contemplation about the Gospel Message. Even if some attempt was started it would quickly be displaced by some anxiety or desire. Among the desires for other things we should include sinful thoughts and actions for one's personal pleasure. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (I John 2:16.)

 

      Verse 20.

      Responsive hearts. The Good Soil represents people who hear the word, accept it, bear fruit - some yielding 30 fold, some 60, some a hundred. The good soil has been tilled. It is neither hard nor shallow. Rocks and weeds have been removed. It is loose, receptive, and fertile. When the seed is sown, it is allowed to enter. It then germinates, finding a place for sprouting towards the sun, and strong root anchors to the soil. It grows continually until it bears its seed grain.

      The prepared heart, tilled by the Spirit, fertilized by faith in the Sower. The word of seed is welcomed and contemplated upon. Trust and understanding grow. The fruit is produced - faith, peace, joy, love for others, a new relationship with God and man.

      There is a difference in the amount of fruit produced by different people. Some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. Matthew records the order exactly the opposite: 100, 60, 30. The point remains the same. In the lives of the Apostles as recorded in Scripture, we see their fruit bearing as differing from one to another. In our day we also see great difference in the fruit produced by fellow Christians - preachers, pastors, and those that live for the Lord.

      Some responsibility remains with us in the openness of our hearts and minds to being continually receptive to the ministry of the Spirit through the Word. However, we yet must also clearly recognize that whatever the increase, it is the Gift of God, and to His Glory. It is not our work, that we should boast of what we do for Him.

      We should be continually thankful that the natural outworking of what He has done for us, within and without, bears any fruit. And that such fruit may be of benefit in reaching others with a word of faith, a sharing of the peace and joy of forgiveness, and the love the Father for His children through the Sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. This gift is not only for the here and now, but that God also has planned for us to be with Them in a place of perfection forever.

      It is a natural and a spiritual law that the plant and the human heart must burst forth with abundant fruit when the life within overflows. Yet it remains that we must do our best to abide in Jesus and His love, as the branch in the vine, that we bear much fruit.

 

      John 15:5.

"5  I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing."

Lesson X

      Mark 4:21-25. The Lamp, The Measure.

 

"21  ¶ And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

22  For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

23  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

24  And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear shall more be given.

25  For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath."

 

      Verse 21.

      Is the lamp brought in to be put under something, thereby restricting and hiding its light, or is it to be placed high so that all can see and be seen?

      Just as the fruit of the fertile soil is to be shared, so also the light one has through Jesus is also to be beneficial and shared, and bring light to all those around. A lamp stand, a table, a mantle, wherever a person is, their light as a shining lamp should be on view for God's glory. The source is again the Word of God - both the seed and the light.

      It has been observed that the Word of God in Jesus' day was in effect being hidden under a thick cover of human traditions and elaborate regulations. That form of religion was being practiced with no real Spirit. The light was effectively hidden by those who should have brought it forth to the people.

 

      Verse 22.

      The mystery of the kingdom of God will be revealed, just as the seed in the good soil will produce fruit, and the light of the lamp will shine for all to see. Just as sure is the fact that those things men think they have concealed, will be revealed. Whatever was done in darkness will be brought to light. This certainty is mentioned in Scripture many times in the Old Testament as well as the New. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:28, 20:12,13.

 

      Verse 23.

      This saying is essentially identical to verse 9, again emphasizing careful thinking about what one listens to. The following verse adds responsibility.

 

      Verse 24.

      "Be careful what you hear."

      They (Christ's followers) must not be like those who refuse to hear. They should pay careful attention to what they should believe and what they should not believe. Many rumors and malicious gossip were being passed around concerning many people - and specifically about Jesus. To base one's thinking on such spurious information could lead to falsely condemning and repeating the wrong by passing on false information.

      Jesus states a universal law - "In accordance with the measure whereby you measure it shall be measured back to you. If you are quick to judge others harshly and are eager to pass on bad information then you should expect to be treated and judged in the same way."

      On the other hand, if you give everyone the benefit of the doubt, go out of your way to be kind and patient, giving credit where it is due, then you can expect the same in return, and "more besides shall be given to you."

      This is God's way of blessing - what He gives us, He gives abundantly. What He gives us in Christ, goes so far beyond what we can even begin to grasp that it could be called immeasurable. What we can or will do for God and others is tiny. This should encourage us to do our best in gratitude for such loving kindness toward us. The saying "One cannot out give God" comes to mind.

 

      Verse 25.

      Another universal law. "For he who has, to him shall be given." This certainly speaks to spiritual matters. Once born again, one can only grow and mature (not withstanding our temptations, flaws, and missteps). Every blessing leads to more blessing. Even in sharing our blessings, we are blessed. Whatever amount of love we give, God gives us more even to overflowing.

      On the other hand: "he who does not have, from him shall be taken away even what he has."

      A good example is found in the description found in Matthew 25 concerning the man who neglects or refuses to use his one talent, will lose even that. This brings to mind the saying, "What you don't use, you lose."

      In spiritual matters, the illustration of the lamp might be helpful. A person is given a lamp, lit and full of oil. But, the person sees no value in sharing the light and pursues life on their own (leaving others in the dark so to speak). The oil will at one point be used up and the light goes out.

      On the other hand, if we treasure the light we have, use it and share it, God will keep the lamp full of His oil that is abundant to overflowing.

 

      Mark 4:26-29. Parable of the Seed Growing in Secret.

 

"26  ¶ And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

27  and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

28  For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

29  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."

 

      This parable is recorded only by Mark. The parable of the sower emphasized the types of soil and the necessary preparation of the human heart. It also emphasizes the sovereignty of God. Only God truly understands the miracle of physical growth, and also spiritual growth - He is the One Who created both. God's will established the importance and power of His Word to plant spiritual life in man - and how it influences the individual and also society. God also is the Author of its growth.

      In the realm of nature, it is a mystery how a small hard seed has the potential to become a huge plant, bearing great numbers of more seed. One acorn can become a tremendous oak tree and continue to produce unnumbered seed.

      In the realm of the spirit, the seed of God's Word, whether read or spoken, has the potential also to germinate and grow into a life of faith in blessing. Many names of great people down the ages could be mentioned. But that we are here also proves the truth of the power and potential of God's Gospel to take root and grow in our hearts, ever increasing toward maturity, and full stature, and bearing fruit.

      It is greatly encouraging to remember Psalm 147:15: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon the earth: his word runneth very swiftly." Seeds are being spread; lives are being changed; the harvest is coming; all according to the perfect Will of God. Amen.

 

      Verses 26,27.

      Germination and growth are mysteries to man. This is another way of describing "the kingdom of God." First the example of man's experience: a man scatters seed on the earth. As time passes (he sleeps and rises day after day), the seeds sprout and continue to grow.

      The man observes this taking place - but he does not actually know how it takes place. A seed appears hard, dry, and lifeless, without potential. When placed in good soil, moisture, and sunlight are added, what appeared lifeless becomes a new life - sprouting, growing with potential. This produces a large plant with abundant fruit, and seed identical to that original seed planted.

 

      The farmer has no part in this process. He can only prepare the soil, pull out weeds, water, and fertilize, but that is all. The rest is the power in the seed, which is derived from the One Who created it.

      In the spiritual realm, planting and growth are also not understood well by man. The power of the implanted Word comes from God and His reign in the human heart is likewise invisible to the human eye, or understanding.

      Paul summarizes this process well in I Corinthians 3:6 - "I planted, Apollos watered, but God grants the increase." John describes man's ability to take part in or know about the process in 3:8 of His Gospel: "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. Is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

 

      Verse 28.

      By itself means "without visible cause", and "apart from any human help."

      The term "the earth produces crops" means that the secret of growth takes place within the soil where the seed's power is released, and its potential bursts forth into new life. First, the emerging of the blade, which grows into the plant which then produces the ear, then the ear matures into the full grain.

      So also in the kingdom of God. Christians from the beginning spread the seed of the Gospel, shared their faith, and so it also continues today. But to a large extent we don't see any results immediately. What is happening is in secret where the word has taken root. The Spirit as the wind is empowering the Word to grow.

      It is not until later that we may see the result in a person's life and testimony, the production of fruit in confession of faith and praise to God, and reaching out in love to others. Thus God reigns in their hearts and they seek to fulfill His will in their lives and to spread this Good News to all who will listen. Is this not our own experience also?

      Each part in the growth process is imperceptible in transition from stage to stage - and it is just as unstoppable. Growth is continual. Proverbs 4:18 describes a spiritual analogy: "The path of the righteous resembles the light of dawn, that shines more and more brightly until the full-orbed day." Once born again into the light of the Gospel we only seek more light - the truth in love of the Sacrifice of Jesus for us, until our whole hearts and minds grow in grace and produce fruit in peace and joy.

 

      Verse 29.

      The Harvest. When the point of greatest growth and production of fruit comes, the man must reap the fruit (he puts in the sickle). Waiting means suffering a loss. So also in the spiritual realm. Many scriptures speak of this: Hebrews 4; Revelation 14:14-16. The harvest is certain, victory is sealed, the time will be perfect, God's plan will take place. What He has promised, He will carry out. (Revelation 11:15.)

      James explains this most clearly in 5:7,8 - "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the arrival of the Lord. Look, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient over it until he receives the early and the late rain. You also should continue to wait patiently. Strengthen your hearts, for the arrival of the Lord is near."

 

      Mark 4:30-32. The Mustard Seed Parable.

 

"30  ¶ And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

31  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

32  but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it."

 

      Verse 30.

      This parable is also recorded in Matthew 13:31,23 and in Luke 13:18,19. In this parable the tremendous increase in growth is paramount, emphasized by the smallest beginning, continuing until maturity of the largest of the herbs.

      The kingdom of God, though seeming insignificant in its beginning, will continue to grow until it reaches maturity, and becomes a place of shelter.

      Jesus begins with the rhetorical question - used to arouse curiosity in the listener: "With what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?"

 

      Verse 31.

      It is like a mustard seed which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds. It was used to describe anything that began in a very small way. The kingdom of God begun by Jesus included a very small group of true believers, especially if considered in the context of the population of Israel at that time, or the extent of the Roman Empire. Its influence over the government, the religious leaders, and the general population was of little significance.

      In Daniel 2:35, the same growth is described as a stone which would grow into a mountain so large as to fill the whole earth.

 

      Verse 32.

      Once sown, the seed grows to become the largest of all garden herbs, its branches are large enough that birds can perch and enjoy its shade.

      Even now mustard is grown in Israel, reaching ten or fifteen feet in height, looking like a tree. That the kingdom of God has continued to grow has been well-recorded in histories written since its beginning. Within 40 years of Christ's death, the Good News was spread to all the major cultural centers of the Roman Empire, as well as a great many small and / or remote places. It has continued to grow and increase throughout the world.

      Today, many great missionary efforts are seeking to take the Gospel where it has never spread before - to the very ends of the earth. The goal is to reach every race, creed, tribe, nation, color, and climate - whoever, wherever - until that final Gentile accepts the Lord. Then comes the harvest, the Rapture.

      Spoken as a parable to illustrate an idea - it was also a prophecy as certain as the will of the Father - what He promises, He also has the power to carry out. We are part of that kingdom. We can help continue its growth - in our own lives by continuing to grow in grace and knowledge about Jesus Christ, and in sharing our faith and love with those around us. We are blessed to be a part of God's Kingdom; we must be thankful, loyal, and not idle in good works to the glory of God.

      Amen.

 

      Mark 4:33,34. Why Parables.

 

"33  ¶ And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

34  But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."

 

      Verse 33.

      Mark is telling us that the parables he has recorded are examples taken from a larger number that Jesus spoke to the crowds. They had the effect of holding their attention and stimulating some thinking, though without really understanding the spiritual truth within them.

 

      Verse 34.

      This was His habitual way of speaking to the multitudes - using parables. The explanation of the true and spiritual meaning of these stories was reserved for His own disciples.

 

      Both Matthew and Luke record a greater number of parables. Mark, in writing for Romans, centered his narrative on action, showing Jesus as Victor over disease, demons, death, and the forces of nature.

 

      Next, the Stilled Tempest.

Lesson XI

      Mark 4:35-41. The Stilled Tempest.

      He next relates the dramatic event of the Stilling of the Tempest, also recorded in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25.

 

"35  ¶ And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

36  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

37  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

38  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

39  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

41  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

 

      Mark records a few details not included in Matthew and Luke's accounts. Such as "In the evening", "They took him along in the boat just as he was", "He was in the stern on the headrest", "don't you care that we're perishing", and He said to the sea, "Hush! Be still!"

      These could only have been learned from an eyewitness: in this case Peter, who related the whole story that Mark wrote.

 

      Verses 35,36.

      On the day that He had been dealing with a large crowd, toward evening Jesus requested that they cross over the Sea of Galilee to the other, less populated, side. The crowd was left behind, and the disciples were in charge of the boat which Jesus was on, just as He was. Certainly by evening Jesus was exhausted and needed rest. This was only possible if the crowd was left behind. Apparently some tried to follow Him in other boats that were nearby.

 

      Verses 37,38.

      Once some distance from shore, a howling tempest, a violent squall came down upon them. The waves were splashing continually into their boat, beginning to fill it up.

      Notes on the Sea of Galilee. Located in the northern part of the valley of the Jordan River, about 13 miles long, 7 and 1/2 miles wide, and around 680 feet below sea level. It is low, surrounded by mountains, especially high cliffs on the east side. Cool currents of air would blow downward through narrow passages between cliffs - it would crash into the much warmer air above the lake. This was often very sudden and violent, whirling and stirring up high, tumultuous waves. This would put any boat in great danger of being swamped and then sunk. This was the present situation, their relatively small boat already filling up.

      At the same time, Jesus was in the back of the boat, peacefully sleeping. We get the impression that Jesus had gone to sleep soon after getting into the boat - so great was His need for rest. All of the noise, rocking of the boat, crashing of the waves, the howling wind, did not disturb Him. Certainly He had no fear of the forces of nature.

      Finally, the disciples could wait no longer - their fear and desperation forcing them to wake Jesus up. They don't understand how He can so peacefully sleep through this tempest that is about to put their lives in danger.

      We can imagine two or three of them nudging Jesus to wake Him, calling out things like: "Master, don't you care that we are perishing." Even in their fear, they are reaching out to Jesus as if they trust that He can somehow help the situation. They were well-experienced sailors, appealing to this Holy Man for help because of a storm.

      When Jesus awoke, He acted immediately. "He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Hush! Be still!' " Jesus has complete authority over the forces of nature. The wind fell, the sea became calm. Usually when winds die down, it takes an additional amount of time for the waves to calm down. Not so here; both obey Jesus immediately.

 

      Verse 40.

      A gentle rebuke. Jesus shows no anger for their waking Him up or the harsh words they spoke to Him. What He said shows disappointment and a loving concern that they experienced fear when they should have been completely trusting in Him.

      But now that the crisis is over and the wind and waves are calm, they are newly afraid of what Jesus has just done. They had not enough faith to rely on Him before - now He asks them, "Have you still no faith?" What they have just seen and heard should have dramatically deepened and confirmed their faith in Who Jesus was - the Son of God.

 

      Verse 41.

      The effect of this unique and dramatic event left the disciples "awestruck", shocked, amazed, astonished - fear and reverence. Certainly, they had been greatly impressed with Jesus' healings and casting out demons and control over great crowds with His preaching and parables. But this went far beyond all of those experiences. Here He showed control over winds and waves. They began to say to one another, "Who could this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

      Matthew 8:27 records the question: "What kind of person is this?" This implies their joint recognition that Jesus was sent from God and had been given the power and authority of God over even nature. This was unique - never before seen, nor since.

      In the Old Testament, God had controlled nature, and specifically weather, for His own purposes, but man's only part, as recorded in Exodus and the prophets, was to announce what God would do. Here, Jesus had been given this power and authority, which could only come from God. What conclusions the disciples drew at this time were not recorded but without doubt they seriously contemplated what this meant in how close to God Jesus was.

 

      Mark 5:1-20. The Land of the Gerasenes.

 

"1  And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gad'arenes.

2  And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

3  who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

4  because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

5  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

6  But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

7  and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

8  For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

9  And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

10  And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

11  Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.

12  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

13  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand,) and were choked in the sea.

14  ¶ And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.

15  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

16  And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.

17  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.

18  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

19  Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

20  And he departed, and began to publish in Decap'olis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel."

 

      The following event takes place when the boat Jesus and the disciples are traveling in arrives at the desired destination. It was diagonally southeast of Capernaum across the sea of Galilee. The specific area consisted of a steep hill that reached to the shore, and there were many caves that were used as tombs.

      The city nearby, which was also on the coast, was known as Khersa. A few miles southeast of the Sea was the larger city of Gadara whose suburbs extended to the coast - the capital of the entire district. In the Gospels, this area was designated as inhabited by: in Matthew 8:28 - Gadarenes, Mark - Gerasenes, in Luke 8:26 - Gergesenes. The latter two variants of terms naming those who were from Khersa. Gadarenes would be those from Gadara.

 

      Verse 2.

      Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man possessed of an evil spirit came out of the tombs to meet Him. The demons are evil in themselves and work to harm and destroy those they control, and those around them. It appears especially from Luke's parallel account that he rushed toward Jesus in an agitated manner, and that he was naked, dirty, and marked with many self-inflicted cuts and scrapes. The next verses describe his ferocity.

 

      Verses 3-5.

      Over some period of time, local people had attempted to bind this man, to keep him from terrorizing the area with violence and hysterical screaming and attacking anyone who came near. Shackles and chains had repeatedly been put on him but were broken in pieces and torn apart. No one was strong enough to subdue him. At any time day or night, he could be heard, in the area of the hills, and tombs, screaming and gashing himself with stones.

      Not seeing any way to help this man, the locals had repeatedly tried to prevent him from harming anyone - but could not - finally giving up - no one was strong enough to restrain him. Their only solution - stay away.

      Verses 6,7.

      Apparently, the demoniac (not maniac) had seen Jesus in the boat before it reached the shore at some distance. He then ran down from among the tombs and arrived at the shore when Jesus had just stepped from the boat.

      He fell on his knees in front of Jesus and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Why do you bother me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"

      The man's behavior was very confused: first rushing down toward the group as if to attack them - then recognizing Jesus, falling at His feet as if to worship Him, and then yelling at Him - feeling threatened and angry. Realizing Who Jesus was - the Son of God - the demon was awestruck - then also realizing that Jesus was his opponent and had come to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). He feared that Jesus would torture him. Though people continually have no qualms denying that Jesus was and is God, those demons who are part of the spiritual world cannot deny Who Jesus Is.

      The demon knew Jesus was going to command him to come out of the man, and in fear cried out, "Swear to God that you won't torture me." Asking Him not to send them into the abyss.

      Matthew adds "before the appointed time." The demons know that the final judgment will begin their imprisonment and punishment. They would no longer have the freedom to roam about the earth causing mischief and destruction. They were face to face with the Judge.

 

      Verse 8.

      For Jesus had been saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.

 

      Verse 9.

      Then He asked him, What is your name? Why on this singular occasion does Jesus ask the demon what his name is - He knew that He was talking to a large group of them. In no other encounter had the demon been so rebellious and stubborn. It seems that Jesus wanted His disciples to know that this was a unique case. The demon talking replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." This word "Legion" was to represent a very large number, not the exact number of a Roman unit of 6,000 soldiers. The term may suggest the idea of an army occupation, cruel and controlling. Other Scripture also mentions multiple demon possessions. (Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26; Mark 16:9.)

 

      Verse 10.

      He begged Jesus over and over not to send them out of the region. They feel at home there - tombs and caves, barren and deserted.

 

      Verses 11,12.

      A large herd of pigs was grazing on a nearby hillside, and the unclean spirits begged Him to allow them to go into the pigs to possess them. They know they must as soon go. They make this unexpected request. No reason is recorded, though it becomes obvious that the demons had some plans to carry out.

 

      Verse 13.

      When Jesus gave them permission, the unclean spirits left the man and took over the herd of about two thousand pigs, causing them to run headlong down the cliff, into the sea, where they began to drown. This event is an example of the uncountable number of things that do not seem explainable, or understandable according to our limited abilities to perceive the mind and will of God. This is where we are to trust God, His Wisdom, Holiness, and Sovereignty.

 

      Verses 14-17.

      This event did make abundantly clear what the true values of those in charge of the animals were. One man is brought back to his former self: freed from the terrible tormenters which had also terrorized these men. Were they overjoyed at his return to their fellowship? Did they show compassion and hope? Or, were they only concerned about the loss of their material investment in the pigs? When the news was spread in the city, selfishness seems to have been the only response, fear of material loss.

      When the curious people came quickly to see what had happened, there was the formerly possessed man, sitting quietly, clothed and in his right mind. You would think that their reaction would be joy for the man. Their reaction was fear. They had grown accustomed to fear, and avoiding the man. This drastic change was now incomprehensible - therefore frightening. Add to that the violent destruction of the pigs, by themselves, so to speak.

      The herdsmen had observed Jesus with the wild man, that Jesus had released the demons from him, and that these creatures had come upon their herds and forced their destruction. To them this was total destruction of their responsibility and livelihood. It was imperative that they explain that they were not the ones who caused the loss of the animals - that it was Jesus who made all this happen. The eyewitnesses repeated what they had seen, over and over, to those who came to see.

      The best reaction would have been to be happy for the healed man, and the possibility that Jesus could also help others in their families that were afflicted with demon possession, or any illness or disease. The loss of pigs was of small consideration compared with the returned health to one they had so pitied and feared.

      These people reacted in the exact opposite manner. They saw their lives threatened. They were scared of Jesus' power. Had He not destroyed their property - what would He do next - they didn't want to find out so they began to beg Him to leave their district.

      They were forced to choose. They wanted to stay the way they were. They rejected Jesus. People are daily forced to choose. So many are afraid to change and instead choose the status quo. The rule of the self, the rejection of God's forgiveness and salvation and love in Jesus.

 

      Verse 18.

      Jesus accepts their request and again gets in the boat to leave. As He does so, the healed man wishes to go with his Saviour.

 

      Verse 19.

      Jesus tells the man no. He must go home and explain to them what mercy God had on him, and what a great thing the Lord has done for him.

      This is not a rejection of the man, but granting his fervent desire is not the best thing for him. Though Jesus has been rejected, He will not leave the region without the best missionary being left behind to spread the true Gospel of God's love. This man they all knew and what condition he had been in. They could not deny that he was cured - healed - cleansed from that.

      They knew he didn't do it himself, only one from God could. They would have to face the possibility, think it through, what this really means in their own hearts and minds. Without doubt, some would come to feel gratitude and thanksgiving for God's mercy and grace, and accept Jesus.

 

      Verse 20.

      The man obeyed Jesus. He went away and began to proclaim what great things Jesus had done for him, not only in his nearby home, but in the whole area of the ten cities known as the Decapolis. Everyone that heard him was amazed. Again, without doubt, some would have been converted, to the glory of God, to Jesus as Saviour.

      Amen!

Lesson XII

      Mark 5:21-43. Two Miracles.

      Daughter of Jairus Raised; Woman who Touched Jesus' Garment.

 

"21  ¶ And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him; and he was nigh unto the sea.

22  And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jai'rus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

23  and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

24  And Jesus went with him.

¶ And much people followed him, and thronged him.

25  And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

26  and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,

27  when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.

28  For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

29  And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

30  And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

31  And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

32  And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.

33  But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

34  And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

35  ¶ While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead; why troublest thou the Master any further?

36  As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

37  And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

38  And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.

39  And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

40  And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

41  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Tal'itha cu'mi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, (I say unto thee,) arise.

42  And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

43  And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat."

 

      Verses 21-23.

      Now having crossed the sea again, after having been asked to leave, Jesus is greeted by a growing crowd eager to be with Him. This was the Capernaum side. Very soon the ruler of the local synagogue, named Jairus, came to Jesus and fell at His feet, showing great respect and honor to Him. He pleaded earnestly that Jesus would come to his home and place His hands on his little daughter because she was at the point of death.

      He expressed great faith, saying that if Jesus does this, she will get well and live. Since Jesus had done many miracles of healing in this city, certainly Jairus had heard much about Him, and might even have been an eyewitness to some. Whatever the case, he expressed that even close to death, Jesus had the ability to restore his beloved daughter to health.

 

      Verse 24.

      Jesus answers his request by going with him. As might seem obvious, the large crowd followed closely, pressing upon Jesus, making progress difficult. However, this also set the stage for the coming interruption by a woman, who thought to receive healing by merely touching the hem of Christ's garment undetected.

 

      Verses 25-27.

      She had been having hemorrhages of blood for 12 years. No physician had been able to help her, but had only caused her to suffer more, and charged her to the point that she had nothing left. She had gotten progressively worse, not better. We should not take this as denigrating physicians, but rather that her condition was incurable. She now had no money, health, or strength, and would be considered an "unclean" outcast because of the blood issue.

      She has one last hope - the mercy of Jesus. She does not feel worthy to appeal to Him directly, or even interrupt His walking. She was only going to touch His garment from behind, which no one should even notice. Matthew and Luke describe the part of the outer robe as one of the tassels every Israelite wore on the corners of their square robe (a reminder of God's Law in Deuteronomy 22:12).

 

      Verse 28.

      To herself, she said that this touch would heal her, such was her faith. That this touch was necessary as also a limit of her faith. That Jesus would not notice was also wrong.

 

      Verse 29.

      She touched; her bleeding stopped; she felt healed. Literally, it says "And at once dried up was the fountain of her blood." She felt it stop and strength began to increase, evidence of health returning. Jesus had rewarded her faith, though she had thought to conceal herself from Him. He was going to do more for her.

 

      Verse 30.

      Jesus knew what had just taken place, and so He turns around to reveal who this was that had touched his clothes and drawn the healing power from Him. No one else had any idea of what had happened. Jesus sought to bring this woman to a public, and personal, profession of faith. We also must notice that Jesus is in no way upset by this serious interruption. As we see happen very often in His ministry, He is always reaching out and helping, no matter what the circumstance. So here He sees opportunity to show the love and compassion of God and speak to increase faith and gratitude to God's blessings.

 

      Verse 31.

      The disciples are not aware of what Jesus means. They were only aware of the pressing crowd, some of whom were close enough to graze or bump slightly into Him. They replied in a manner as if to say, what a stupid question. This was thoughtless and disrespectful. Jesus does not rebuke them, but ignores their comment.

 

      Verse 32.

      He continues to look around to see who had done it. There have been different assumptions as to whether Jesus knew by His divine nature who the woman was, or that His human nature prevented His recognition of the person who had touched Him. What is indisputable is the fact that whether he already knew who it was or not, He wished the woman to express her faith and witness to her healing. He would pronounce her cure and thus she could be again accepted in society. All was for her benefit - He was in no way wishing to admonish or embarrass her.

 

      Verse 33.

      Trembling with fear, knowing she was the one Jesus sought, she came forward. She fell down in front of Him and told Him the whole truth. At that time, for a woman to speak in public was not proper. To speak of such a bloody illness, and to have secretly touched the Master's garment, were all against her. She was trembling as she talked, most likely expecting to be reprimanded and criticized.

 

      Verse 34.

      Jesus speaks a kind word, like a Father to His child, calling her "Daughter". He goes on to say that her faith has made her well. He tells her to go in peace, and "be healed of your illness." He compliments her faith. No matter how imperfect, it was the channel of healing. He does not mention His own love and power even though it was His response to her faith that cured her.

      There was no mention of the touching of the tassel. There was not to be any possibility of superstitious belief in some power or magic in Christ's clothing. Jesus wishes her peace of body and soul - that her healing would continue. No record of her reaction is found. We can imagine her testifying to her healing and the blessings of faith in Jesus.

 

      Verse 35.

      While Jesus is still speaking, some men came from Jairus' home. Bad news: his daughter has died. They express their thinking that there is no sense in bothering "the Teacher" any more. They think there is no hope, that Jesus cannot help now.

 

      Verse 36.

      Jesus disregards their fatalistic pronouncement. He reassures the ruler of the synagogue, telling him not to be afraid, and to hold on to his faith.

 

      Verse 37.

      Jesus then indicated to Jairus that they were continuing the journey to his home - dismissing the crowd and the disciples, except Peter, James and his brother John. The crowd may not have understood why Jesus was still going.

      The fact that only these three disciples were taken along is not explained. Jesus did this same thing on several occasions. Jesus chose them to be close witnesses at the most intimate occasions - here, at the Transfiguration, at the Agony in the Garden. Certainly it was for their benefit - direct experience of the power, majesty, and humanity of Jesus, as well as their preparation to bear witness to these events as a part of the founding of His Church.

      Why these particular three - Peter we are told elsewhere will be the foundation apostle of spreading the Gospel. John was the disciple Jesus loved, his having possibly deeper spiritual understanding and faith in the True Deity of Christ. His brother James, of a similar temperament, and who would be Christ's first martyr.

 

      Verse 38.

      When they arrived at the home there was a great deal of commotion, people loudly weeping and wailing. At that time, burial necessarily soon followed death. The time between was for public mourning. Since Jairus was an important man, many had come to join - some, most likely professional mourners would also be there. The louder the mourning was supposed to show the depth of emotion. It has been described as moaning, and howling, weeping, and wailing.

 

      Verse 39.

      Once inside, Jesus catches these people completely off guard. He asks them why they are making such a hubbub - all this mourning. Then the real shocker - the child is asleep - not dead! What Jesus meant was that, the child, though dead, He would wake up - by bringing her back to life "as if" she had only been sleeping. He has the power over death.

 

      Verses 40,41.

      Those who had been vigorously mourning stopped and began laughing in Jesus' face as if He had made a cruel and foolish joke. These people's ability to change so quickly from mourning to mirth suggests a lack of depth in sincerity, to put it nicely. There was no faith among them. Jesus quite properly turned them all out.

      He then took the child's parents and His disciples into the room where the girl lay. Jesus proceeds to do exactly what He had promised. He took her by the hand and told her to wake up. The words "Talitha koum", the Jewish term the girl would recognize - quite likely the same words her mother used to wake her each morning. Mark translates this for his non-Jewish readers, "Little girl, I say to you, Get up."

      We can only imagine the power and authority in what Jesus said, but also spoken in a gentle and tender voice, telling the girl to get up.

 

      Verse 42.

      In obedience, the girl at once got up and started to walk around. She was 12 years old. The age may have been mentioned, so that the immediate walking would be understandable. Previously the endearing term "little girl" might have led some to think of a baby or toddler.

      Everyone present reacted the same way. Literally, they were "astonished with great astonishment." She was not only brought back to life, but was so filled with health and energy, that she had to move. We can only imagine the overwhelming excitement and joy of those parents, even more than when the child was born. No doubt there were hugs and kisses, tears of joy, and smiles.

      The disciples would also be joining in. What an experience! What an example of the grace, mercy, compassion, kindness, and deep love Jesus showed here.

      This kind of joy should also be felt when anyone is born again - for this also is a resurrection from sin and death unto everlasting life through the same mercy, grace, and love of Jesus.

 

      Verse 43.

      Jesus strictly charged them that no one should know this. Two reasons come to mind. Jesus is showing concern that this child be allowed to live a normal and quiet life, not become a spectacle for curiosity seekers to see and continually bother.

      Also, Jesus wishes to continue to minister without arousing undue and untimely attention from the local scribes and Pharisees who had already exposed their hostile attitudes, even to plotting against Him, and seeking more evidence to further accuse Him.

      "and He ordered that she be given something to eat." Jesus is aware of the girl's need to eat. She had been so ill for some time that her body needed nourishment to rebuild her strength. In their overwhelming joy, her parents may have overlooked this need. Jesus therefore points this out to them with tender compassion. This is but one more example of the way Jesus always seeks to meet the needs of others, in His ministry, in His death, and in His glory with the Father, both now and forever.

Lesson XIII

      Mark 6:1-6a. The Rejection at Nazareth.

      Parallels in Matthew 13 and Luke 4.

 

"1  And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

2  And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

3  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

4  But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

5  And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.

6  And he marveled because of their unbelief."

 

      Verse 1.

      At some time after leaving Capernaum, Jesus returned to Nazareth, where He had been brought up - His hometown. Only Mark mentions that His disciples were with Him. This suggests that this was a public mission rather than a personal or family visit.

 

      Verse 2.

      On the Sabbath, He began to teach in the synagogue. Luke recorded the details of His teaching in 4:17. The synagogue's attendant handed the scroll of Isaiah to Jesus. The passage selected was Isaiah 61:12. This prophecy concerns the age to come when the Spirit would reside upon God's Anointed One - that He would proclaim good tidings to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, the arrival of the acceptable year of the Lord." Jesus rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, and says, with all eyes fixed on Him, "Today in your very hearing, this passage of Scripture has been fulfilled." He and His ministry was bringing Isaiah's prophecies to pass.

      Mark also records that the immediate reaction of the crowd was astonishment. They were impressed by His voice of authority, conviction, and sincerity. This did not last. They began to question the source. How did "this man" get these things. It was utterly suspicious to them that "this fellow", who they knew as unschooled, was speaking "this kind of wisdom."

      They had also heard, Capernaum being only about 20 miles away, about the many "works of power", or miracles, Jesus had supposedly done. They could neither accept nor understand how this was possible, or if so, what the reason or source could be. That they don't or cannot perceive that God was the source of everything seems remarkable.

      In Luke 4:23, Jesus tells the crowd that He knows they expect Him to perform for them as He had in Capernaum - especially since this was His hometown.

 

      Verse 3.

      Their adverse reaction deepened, as they recounted all the things they knew about Him and His family. Luke mentions the question, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" Joseph the carpenter, who trained his eldest Son as a carpenter. This is that Son. We know His Mother, Mary. We know His younger brothers. James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.

      We also know His sisters, who still live here. It was customary for a man to train his son in the skills of his own trade, and most likely that Joseph had done so with Jesus from an early age, and that Jesus had used His skills up to sometime before He began His ministry at about 30 years of age.

      What these people were thinking - what does a local carpenter, and a son of a carpenter, possibly know about the deep things of religion - much less about Biblical prophecy, and its interpretation, much less its fulfillment?

      What we know about the brothers of Jesus is very little. James, after his conversion, became a leader in the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:13-29, 21:18). Joses is mentioned only in Matthew 13:55, but there called Joseph. Jude also in Matthew 13:55 and in his letter Jude I. Simion who is only mentioned also in Matthew 13:55. The sisters are never mentioned by name. It is assumed that they had married locally and remained in Nazareth.

      What right did this local man have, whose family they were so familiar with, to take on such airs over them? Rather than allowing themselves to think that Jesus was looking down on them (or raising Himself over them), they chose to look down on Him and express contempt. "And they took offense at Him." They chose sin rather than faith.

 

      Verse 4.

      Jesus quotes to them the old proverb that a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own family. That Jesus mentions His family, implies that at that time, His brothers had not arrived at faith in Him, but thankfully they are later mentioned as believers (see John 7:5 and Acts 1:14).

      By using this proverb, Jesus is certainly identifying Himself as a prophet and worthy of honor.

 

      Verse 5.

      Because of this strong prejudice against Jesus, He was unable to do any miracle there, but He did lay hands on a few sick people and healed them.

      His word revealed a prophesy being fulfilled about the Messiah, plainly telling them that He was that Promised Holy One of God. Though these people had heard His word, because He was familiarly known to them, they utterly rejected Him and what He said was considered preposterous. Since they had completely rejected the truth they would also repudiate any sign (such as a miracle) that pointed to that Truth. Jesus chose to allow them to bear the responsibility for their choices and attitudes, and the consequences thereof.

      Even in this hostile situation we do see Jesus having mercy on the few sick that either came or were brought to Him, and that He lay hands on them, and healed them. It would also seem possible that they were or became believers, even in the worst of circumstances. This brings to mind the continual mention in Scripture of a remnant.

 

      Verse 6a.

      Because of the love and mercy of God that Jesus had offered these people, the Truth He had spoken, He was amazed because of their unbelief. Each person's responsibility is measured according to the light he has received (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 12:47,48; Romans 2:12). Faith was here expected because of their religious heritage and the Light He had revealed to them. This degree of hostility and rejection was unexpected.

 

      Mark 6:6b-13. The Charge to the 12.

 

"6b

¶ And he went round about the villages, teaching.

7  ¶ And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

8  and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:

9  but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

10  And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into a house, there abide till ye depart from that place.

11  And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomor'rah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

12  And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

13  And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them."

 

      Verses 6b,7.

      At some point when Jesus was going to the Galilean villages teaching, He decided to send out His 12 disciples on a missionary tour - two by two (mentioned only by Mark). He gave them authority over unclean spirits, and power to heal. This was the mission to Israel - which would later be expanded to the whole world. They were representing the One Who sent them. Just as Israel was founded upon the 12 patriarchs, so these 12 were the foundation of the New Dispensation of the Church.

      Why always two? Two reasons seem obvious. First, to help and encourage each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9), and also to be lawful witnesses - their testimony of the Truth thy proclaimed as well as what they did, and what was done to them. To go alone would leave them open to false and evil accusations and implications, at the mercy of those that sought their harm. This situation has never changed. This also brings to mind the pairs of Peter and John in Acts 3:1, 4:1, 13, 19, as well as Barnabas and Saul, Paul and Silas, Barnabas and Mark.

      That the charge included teaching is not spelled out, in verse 11 and 30 the words "listen to you", and "all that they had done and taught" shows that this was part of their mission. To heal the sick is implied in verse 13b. It has been suggested that because authority to cast out the demons was the most dramatic and powerful sign of their having the Power of God, therefore would be the most surprising sign to the people. It would be essential to record here. Teaching the Gospel and healing were understood as part of their mission.

 

      Verses 8,9.

      Jesus gave clear instructions, to take only the basic necessities of travel with them. They must have faith that God would provide for their other needs on the trip. Those to whom the Gospel was brought had the obligation to support those who brought it. Many Scriptures in both Testaments teach this rule (Deuteronomy 25:4; I Corinthians 9:7,14).

      The things listed in these verses: Take the staff - the rod that gives support, or traveler's staff. Don't take - food (bread), a bag to carry it in, or money to buy it. It is interesting to note that also in that day, money would be concealed in one's belt for security reasons. Jesus told them not to take extra clothing, an extra pair of sandals or walking stick (or staff).

 

      Verse 10.

      Jesus also advised them to remain in the first home where the people invited them in, and not go from house to house in that town. Anyone else in that town who heard they were there, and wanted to see and hear their message, would also be welcome in the home of such accepting and hospitable people. To initially accept such hospitality, and then leaving to seek another, or possibly better, place would be disrespectful. It might also imply a rejection of the facilities, the food, or the people - a sinful seeking of their own comfort and personal likes or desires. Therefore, hospitality is expected and respected.

 

      Verse 11.

      On the other hand, if they go to a town and are not welcomed, or even listened to, they are to leave. After traveling through heathen territory, Jewish travelers customarily shook the dust from their clothing and sandals before they set foot again on their Holy Land. Otherwise they would be bringing unclean soil into their homes, making things, even if not on purpose, ceremonially unclean, according to Levitical law.

      Jesus was suggesting that any place that refused to hear the Gospel of God was to be considered as a heathen and unclean place. Therefore, even their dust was considered as pagan soil. The disciples were to publicly make a demonstration of shaking the dust from them as a testimony against them as having rejected the Message of God. A symbolic gesture that they remain unclean. The town was responsible for their choice to remain in sin and outside the family of God. This might also hopefully awaken a need for some of them to repent.

 

      Verses 12,13.

      After receiving Jesus' careful instructions, they went out and proclaimed the Good News of God's salvation in Jesus that people should be converted, changed from sin to faith.

      The way the next words are written, suggests that while preaching, from time to time there were occasions when they had the opportunity to cast out demons or heal the sick, which would dramatically and physically confirm the power and authority of their Message as coming from God.

      That oil was used was a tradition and symbol of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit brought the healing, not the man. (See Zechariah 4:1-6; Matthew 25:2-4.)

      As time passed, oil seems to have gone out of use and is not mentioned in Scripture as necessary. It was no longer considered as necessary to remind people - for the spiritual knowledge of the Holy Spirit and the understanding of the Spirit's working made it unnecessary.

      Through the Spirit, many sick people that were ill, weak, without hope, were made whole, made strong, and given new hope. This was all because of the mightily blessed mission of these first disciples, by the direction of, in the power and authority of Jesus.

      One cannot imagine a more powerful proof to these disciples of Who Jesus really was - The true Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Lesson XIV

      Mark 6:14-29. Herod Beheads John.

 

"14  ¶ And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad;) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.

15  Others said, That it is Eli'jah. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.

16  But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.

17  For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Hero'di-as' sake, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her.

18  For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

19  Therefore Hero'di-as had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:

20  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

21  And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;

22  and when the daughter of the said Hero'di-as came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

23  And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.

24  And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

25  And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.

26  And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.

27  And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,

28  and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel; and the damsel gave it to her mother.

29  And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb."

 

      Verses 14,15.

      About this time, King Herod was hearing various reports about the activities of Jesus. Some people were speculating that Jesus was really John the Baptist risen from the dead. Their suggested evidence was the miracles He was doing. John had been the only Holy Man seen in Israel for many generations. They knew he was sent from God. That there was another Holy Man in Israel so soon after John's death seemed to be impossible, so this suggestion. Others were making even wilder speculations - some saying Elijah, others that He was like one of the prophets from long ago.

      The only time reference is that this took place at some point after the execution of the Baptist. It has been suggested that this took place near the start of 29 A.D.

      This was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. When his father died in 4 A.D., he was appointed the tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, and ruled until 39 A.D. The title "King" was a more popular term - not the political position allowed by the Roman Emperor.

      It may seem that it took a very long time after Jesus' Galilean ministry had begun for Herod to finally get reports concerning the healings, the demons cast out, the raising of the dead, and the teaching of God's Word. It has been suggested that where Herod was staying, called Machaerus, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea - was too remote from Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee - to be in close communication.

      Though no record of any miracles done by the Baptist are found in Scriptures, some people thought so highly of him, that they considered he had the ability to perform them. These were the ones who were convinced that Jesus was the resurrected John.

      The return of Elijah, before the coming of the Messiah, had been prophesied. (Malachi 4:5; Isaiah 40:3). Some claimed that Jesus was this prophet, come again. The last group went so far as to at least suggest that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets.

 

      Verse 16.

      After all these rumors were voiced about, eventually reaching Herod, he was led to come to some conclusion. He accepted the idea that this must be John the Baptist (whom he had beheaded) now risen. His guilty conscience must have played a major part in this conclusion.

      To explain the unusual circumstance, Mark relates the history of John's imprisonment and execution by Herod.

 

      Verses 17,18.

      Mark alone records the reason for Herodias' hatred and anger against the Baptist.

      Herod had ordered that John be arrested, bound, and put in prison. The reason - his wife drove him to it. Who was she? She was a daughter of Aristobulus, the son of Herod the Great by Marianne I. Herodias had married her father's half-brother, Herod Philip, who was son of Herod the Great by Marianne II. In this marriage, she had a daughter (who Josephus, the Jewish historian, calls Salome).

      During a visit of Antipas to Philip, he became captivated by Herodias. She was readily agreeable, and so they began their affair. They then decided that they must be together, and would leave their respective spouses. She would leave Philip. Antipas would leave his wife, the daughter of Aretas, King of the Nabatean Arabs. They would then marry each other - which they did.

      Upon being made aware of this, John the Baptist began rebuking Antipas, saying, "It is not right for you to have your brother's wife." It was theft, incest, and adultery. (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21; Romans 7:2,3.) Herodias knew that these rebukes included her; her complicity was equal to her husband's. To please her, Antipas had John put in prison. This was not what she really desired - which was John's death.

      That John kept telling Herod about his sin indicates that Herod had John brought to him. Herodias obviously feared that somehow John might affect her husband's thinking, and if convinced of his sin, he might do something unthinkable to her. She had to do away with this threat.

 

      Verses 19,20.

      She could not influence her husband this far. Herod had respect for and fear of John - recognizing him as a holy and righteous man of God. He saw to it that no harm came to him, but kept him imprisoned. He enjoyed listening to the Baptist. However, his conscience would be aroused in one direction, while his wife pulled him in the other. The words "greatly perplexed" well describes this situation. He had had John imprisoned in chains in a dungeon of the castle-palace where he held court.

      His admiration of John may have been partly on account of John always speaking his mind and telling the truth. This would be in complete contrast to most of the people who came to him with flattery, wanting favors from him. He also would certainly have to face his own guilt in marrying his brother's wife, as well as imprisoning John for that very wife's request. Herodias was to have her way.

 

      Verses 21-23.

      The opportunity came on Herod's birthday celebration. A banquet with his highest officials, his military commanders, and the chief men of Galilee. We may assume that it was at Herodias' instruction that her daughter went in and danced in a very enticing way. She fascinated Herod and his guests. To show his appreciation, and his kingly generosity, he boastingly offered - with an oath - to grant her anything, even up to half his kingdom. That a young girl would ask for anything above her station and gender in that day and place was unthinkable.

      This most likely happened near the end of the feasting, when everyone was "merry with wine".

 

      Verses 24,25.

      The girl, not knowing how to reply, goes immediately to her mother, who - we can guess - had hoped for just such an opportunity. When asked what she should request of Herod, her mother, without any hesitation, tells her - the head of John the Baptist. There was to be no chance of putting this off or getting out of it.

      The request is embellished with conditions that made any delay impossible. The girl asked Herod - before the entire audience (and we can imagine, quite excitedly and loudly) - she wants the head of John the Baptist on a platter, right here, right now. No escape for the Baptist. No escape for the king.

 

      Verses 26-28.

      The king was deeply saddened. This he did not want to do. But because of his promise, with an oath, before the most important people in his kingdom, he could not lose face and be shown a fraud and liar. So he was forced to order an executioner to go and do the deed, and return with John's head on a platter. The man followed orders and returned with the head on a platter, gave it to the girl, who in turn gave it to her mother.

      It is most likely that Herod realized that Herodias was behind the whole thing - but it was too late. This did turn many Jews against Herod. Also, Aretas, the father of Herod's former wife, retaliated against him at a later time, and destroyed his entire army. His final end was as an exile in Gaul, after going to Rome to seek a promotion from Emperor Caligula. Because he had plotted against Caligula and this fact was revealed, by Herodias' brother Herod Agrippa I, he was sent off to southern France for the rest of his life. This was also a result of Herodias' insistence that he seek the promotion.

 

      Verse 29.

      When John's death was related and the news reached his disciples, they came to the prison and took his body and respectfully placed it in a tomb. Many of John's followers had previously become disciples of Jesus (I John 1:35,40). That others also did so seems obvious, which john had told them to do as part of his ministry (John 3:22-30). Those that had remained with John, had been permitted to visit him in prison (Matthew 11:2). Now they took care of his burial. They also believed in Jesus. Matthew 14:12 says "And they went and reported it to Jesus."

 

      Mark 6:30-33. Prelude to the 5,000 People Fed.

 

"30  ¶ And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.

31  And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

32  And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

33  And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him."

 

      All four Gospel writers recorded this event. To go into all the differences and similarities is beyond the scope of this study. Therefore, we will major on Mark's account, but noting helpful detail from the others.

      First, the report, the journey by boat, the setting of the miracle, then the miracle itself.

 

      Verse 30.

      When their missionary journey is complete, the apostles returned to Jesus and related all that they had taught and done. They were His official ambassadors, commissioned to take His message with power and authority, to the people. It has been suggested that this was taking place near the coming of Passover, April, in 29 A.D. The Great Galilean Ministry was drawing to its end. We can only imagine the excited voices of these men as they spoke to Jesus of what it was like spreading His Gospel - and the reactions of the people, the demons cast out, the healing, and the reception of their teaching the Good News.

 

      Verses 31,32.

      Ever concerned for their welfare, Jesus calls upon them to get some needed rest. He said, "Come away by yourselves to an uninhabited place and rest awhile." Because of the many people coming and going, they did not even have a meal. They took a boat and set off for "a lonely place". Jesus Himself had to see to the needs of His human nature, periodically seeking time to withdraw, rest, sleep, and pray, away from the crowds. He here knew of these needs in His disciples. Luke mentions the area near Bethsaida Julius, to the northeast side of the sea (Luke 9:10).

 

      Verse 33.

      As they set off in the boat, many now saw them leaving, and also recognized them. They began running along the shore and soon ran ahead of them. They had come from all the neighboring towns. Apparently, other boats were not available at that place and time. They did not want Jesus to leave them behind, so they set off to keep up with His progress. They started running along the northern shore of the lake.

      The distance to the destination of Jesus was about 10 miles by land. By boat the distance was about 4 miles - to the point where the Jordan river, coming from the north, flows into the Sea of Galilee, and a little southeast of that point. Jesus and His disciples arrive there first, and have a little time, up the hill, in seclusion before the multitude began to arrive and increase in number.

 

      Next, Jesus Has Compassion and Feeds 5,000.

Lesson XV

      Mark 6:34-44. 5,000 Fed.

 

"34  And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

35  And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

36  send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

37  He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

38  He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

39  And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.

40  And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.

41  And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

42  And they did all eat, and were filled.

43  And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.

44  And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men."

 

      Verse 34.

      After having a short time for rest with His disciples up the mountain, Jesus came forth from the secluded place on the slope of the hill. When He did so, He saw a large crowd coming toward Him. What was His reaction to this interruption of rest and seclusion? As was His custom, He had compassion on them and He went out to welcome them. Jesus sees their needs, as sheep without a shepherd. Their religious leaders neither feed them with God's truth, nor guide them to the nourishing of their souls. Those leaders are more concerned with legalistic details, man-made restrictions, and outward pretensions.

      Jesus began to teach them many things. These would include the coming kingdom of God, that offered forgiveness, and love, reconciliation and trust, the truth that brought peace. (See Luke 9:11; Matthew 6:24-34; John 14:6, 18:37.)

 

      Verses 35,36.

      The day was nearly over. The disciples show concern for the people's need for sustenance. The people had been there for some time, and it would soon be dark, and where they were was some distance from anyplace where food was available. The disciples suggested sending the multitude on their way to fend for themselves in the surrounding area to get some provisions from farms or villages nearby. These people were not going to leave on their own. They would have to be sent away. Listening to Jesus was more important than mere hunger.

      John records the questioning of Philip and Andrew about feeding this crowd. They had no solution, though Jesus had all along known what He was going to do (John 6:5-9). The disciples had no clue, in spite of all the other miraculous things Jesus had done. At their suggesting that Jesus send the crowd away, Jesus shocks them with His direction.

 

      Verse 37.

      But He answered, "You give them to eat." Part of what Jesus was suggesting was that getting rid of people in need is not a solution. They had responsibilities to have faith in God's ability to supply every need. Also, had Jesus not supplied more wine when needed at Cana? To supply physical bread was also symbolically used to describe the spiritual need supplied by Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35,48). They still are thinking naturally of actual bread and the amount of money they had to go out and buy with. The 200 denarii was not enough to buy bread enough for each one of this crowd to get a few bites. Yet they are willing to do this. So they ask Jesus if this is what He wantsm to do.

      Jesus goes past this question to the plan He has.

 

      Verse 38.

      He asks them how many bread-cakes they have. They should go and find out. When they find out they report 5 bread-cakes and two

 

      John 6:8,9 reports that Andrew told Jesus about the young boy who had five barley-cakes and two fishes, but questions how these few could be of any use for so many.

 

      Verses 39,40.

      Jesus now prepares the people for His miracle by telling them to sit down in groups on the grassy hillside. They did so in groups of hundreds and fifties. Five thousand men were thereby counted. The women and children there were not counted (Matthew 14:21).

 

      Verses 41,42.

      The miracle! Jesus took the loaves and fishes, and looking up to Heaven, gave thanks. Looking up to heaven, toward the throne of the Father. The God of Creation is often mentioned in the Psalms: 25:15; 121:1; 123:1,2; 141:8; 145:15. It was also the custom for Jesus: John 11:41; 17:1.

      Jesus then began breaking off pieces of the bread for the people to eat. It seems that various baskets were used since 12 baskets full were left over (verses 43,44). Jesus kept doing this until everyone had been served. He then did the same with the fish - He divided the two fish among them all.

      The simplicity of the account only makes the supernatural multiplication of the food a more dramatic miracle. How this was done we are not told. In the hands of the Son of God and His infinite compassion, all things seem possible. This continued until, "They all ate and were filled." Everyone ate as much as they wanted and were satisfied.

 

      Verses 43,44.

      Nothing was to go to waste, and to leave such a mess would be littering the place. Therefore they picked up all the fragments (broken pieces) of both bread and fish. There had been 5,000 men who ate. Matthew 14:21 mentions that there were women and children that also ate.

      Jesus has shown Himself as the Perfect Saviour, Who provides for our needs, both physical and spiritual.

      The reaction of the crowd is unfortunately limited to the material realm. John chapter 6 relates how Jesus could sense that this crowd was ready to make Him their king, by force if necessary - having seen the miracle of having been fed.

 

      Mark 45-52. Walking on Water.

 

"45  ¶ And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsai'da, while he sent away the people.

46  And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

47  And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.

48  And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.

49  But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:

50  for they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.

51  And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

52  For they considered not the miracle of the loaves; for their heart was hardened."

 

      Verse 45.

      Jesus orders His disciples to proceed by boat to the western shore of the sea, to Bethsaida. After sending the disciples away, Jesus was dismissing the crowd. They need to go back home. The day was done, they had been fed. Nothing more was to happen at that time. The crowd did not wish to leave, but to stay, make Jesus King, and let Him continue to provide for their needs (at least materially). This was the opposite of what Jesus came to do. He must go alone into seclusion for prayer and communion with the Father. He needed to relax, refresh, and regain strength in the arms of the Father's love and guidance and approval.

 

      Verse 46.

      After taking leave of them, He departed up the hill to pray. His prayer would have also included His disciples on their journey.

 

      Verse 47.

      By the time it was fully dark, the boat had already gotten about halfway to the other shore. The total distance was about 5 miles. We are reminded that they are without Jesus - He was still alone on land. John and Matthew describe the storm, the sea getting rough, a strong wind blowing from the opposite direction. Mark does not describe the storm, but majors on its effect on the disciples.

 

      Verse 48.

      They were straining on the oars, the wind blowing against them. Jesus "sees" their plight - at what time or distance is not mentioned, but at about 3 A.M. He came to them walking on the sea. He walks toward the boat and comes alongside, and was about to pass them by. It has been suggested that He was giving them the opportunity to invite Him on board.

 

      Verse 49.

      The boat was headed southwest, the rowers were facing northeast. As they struggled to row against the wind and waves, there was little light. Possibly some lightning or intermittent degrees of some moonlight. They knew they were about halfway across the distance to their destination - 2 to 3 miles from either shore.

      It was then that they saw Him walking on the sea. It was a humanly impossible sight - never to be expected. Yet there was what they thought the only real possibility - an apparition, a ghost among the waves, and coming toward them. What a normal human reaction - they screamed in fright. Who would have done differently? They were all shaken and terrified.

      Superstitions about ghosts are still current in our culture - always evil omens. Such an appearance in this violent circumstance could only mean the approaching spirit meant them serious harm.

 

      Verse 50.

      Jesus wishing to quell their fears, at once spoke with them and said, "Take courage, it is I; stop being afraid."

      The immediate shock of His speaking quickly turned to complete relief. Though they had seen many mighty supernatural works that showed His divine power and authority - over even nature - they could not have predicted this event. Jesus tells them that they must put their fear behind them and be glad that He has come.

 

      Verse 51.

      He then climbed onto the boat among them: the wind fell - they were in shock, not able to speak.

      The occasion of Peter's attempt to walk also on the water is recorded only in Matthew 14:28:31. It must have taken place while Jesus was still a short distance from the boat, and before He entered it.

 

      Verse 52.

      The disciples had experienced the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. They passed out the food and gathered the leftovers. They knew that Christ had started with five bread cakes and two fish. In spite of this, they had not really understood the supernatural significance of what Jesus had done and what it meant concerning Who He Is. Now they were still unable to perceive Who He Is when He walks on the water and quells the wind.

      The words indicate that hearts were hardened. This suggests that they were preoccupied with their own experience, and dealing with what was happening at the moment. They had not had time, or taken time to allow the supernatural reality of these miracles of Jesus penetrate their deeper thoughts and core beliefs.

      To come to a fuller realization of the deity of Christ would take many more works of a supernatural nature. They seem to be continually surprised and amazed at what Jesus would do. Their hearts were not hardened like those of the unbelieving and hateful scribes and Pharisees. Theirs was habitual focus on the material world where their faith was yet "little," yet it being planted by Jesus - it would continue to grow unto full maturity and the bearing of much fruit - even His Church.

 

      Mark 6:53-56. Healings at Gennesaret.

 

"53  ¶ And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennes'aret, and drew to the shore.

54  And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,

55  and ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.

 

56  And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole."

 

      Verse 53.

      After having continued their journey, they arrived at the shore of Gennesaret and anchored the boat.

 

      Verses 54,55.

      Jesus had become so well-known, that as soon as they got out of the boat, the local people recognized Jesus. They became so excited that they proceeded to go quickly about the entire region telling the good news. Those that cared for the ill would bring their sick to wherever they heard Jesus was.

      Gennesaret was a densely populated plain to the south of Capernaum, 3 miles along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and two miles inland. It was known for its fertile soil, producing walnuts, palms, figs, olives, and grapes.

      His having been known as the Healer led to the people bringing their sick. The pallets were most likely thin straw-filled mattresses.

 

      Verse 56.

      In whatever size place, village, or town, or even in the countryside, they would lay the sick and beg Him to let them merely touch the tassel of His garment; and as many as touched Him were healed.

      Throughout the Gospels, Jesus healed by touching people, or by allowing them to touch Him. So here, some merely touched His garment, some touched Him - all were healed. We can assume that Jesus also was speaking words of faith and compassion among them and to those that brought them. It is taken for granted that Jesus gladly allowed, and even was glad for this blessing to take place.

      Again, this shows us the immeasurable mercy and grace, love and compassion of our Savior to those Who seek Him. End Chapter 6.

Lesson XVI

      Mark 7:1-23. Defilement.

 

"1  Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

2  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault.

3  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

4  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

5  Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

6  He answered and said unto them, Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9  ¶ And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10  For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11  but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12  And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother;

13  making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

14  ¶ And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:

15  there is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

16  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

17  And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19  because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20  And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22  thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23  all these evil things come from within, and defile the man."

 

      It is most likely that Jesus and His disciples, after the healing ministry in Gennesaret, traveled back to Capernaum. There it appears that a group of scribes and Pharisees have come from Jerusalem to wait for Him, and to find fault and accuse Him of wrongdoing. These attacks would continue and would finally lead to the crucifixion, about a year later. The Great Galilean Ministry may be considered over at the end of these verses.

 

      Verses 1,2.

      Some details of the two groups mentioned here might be helpful. The scribes - those that officially copied Scripture also studied, interpreted, and taught the Old Testament writings. By Christ's time, there had been added the interpretation and application of the Law. These traditions had been handed down, from generation to generation, from the original teaching of the most respected rabbis from a great many years ago. These men were the experts, the professionals, who claimed the right to judge others accordingly. The Pharisees were the group who considered themselves as set apart to be the only ones who were even trying to live in line with the strict letter of the law, taught by the scribes. Quite naturally, a great many scribes belonged to this group.

      Both of these groups felt threatened by Jesus. He claimed greater authority concerning the Scriptures than they had - even to the point of divine authority. He also did not honor or follow their various traditions concerning the Sabbath, fasting, and here the various washings, and so on. They also didn't accept His habit of association with publicans and sinners, who they considered below them, vulgar and unclean. They also didn't like His growing influence among the people, which they judged as a bad influence. Everything Jesus taught and did was dramatically their opposite.

      Their lives were spent selfishly puffing themselves up and lording it over everyone else. They were seeking their own benefit, while acting outwardly as the religious experts, the righteous ones. Pompous, cruel hypocrites, all in the name of God.

      Jesus was humble, sincere, always living and speaking the truth, always seeking to help and give to others. He ministered the love, grace, and mercy of God to everyone He came in contact with - the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts. He gave Himself as a Sacrifice for the sins of the world.

      What amount of hatred these men had, trying to stop Jesus from exposing their hypocrisy and willful sins, can only be imagined. Their actions do reveal the resulting plot to destroy Jesus. That they were sent to find grounds for any excuse to arrest Him becomes obvious.

      They soon observed that some of the 12 were eating without having first ceremonially rinsing the hands. They were pronounced unclean - tradition broken. This detail would be of benefit to the non-Jewish readers as well as the following two verses.

 

      Verses 3,4.

      The Pharisees, in fact all of the Jews, unless they rinse their hands thoroughly, do not eat - thus clinging to the tradition of the elders. Especially when they come from the market-place, they ceremonially wash themselves before eating. Add to this other traditional washings of cups, pitchers, and kettles.

      To rinse thoroughly was a strict rule from the rabbis, "Hands become unclean and are made clean as far as the wrist. If he poured the water over the hands as far as the wrist, and secondarily beyond the wrist, and the latter flowed back to the hands, the hands nevertheless become clean." Minute ceremonial stipulations on hundreds of items were handed down and taught as absolutely necessary for pleasing God, and to be acceptable to the religious leaders.

      The marketplace was the gathering place of many common people - possibly even Gentiles. For a Jew to even accidentally rub against such a person, they would feel unclean, defiled. In coming from such a place, the Jew must make certain he was clean by the ceremonial cleansing in order to eat.

      Mark also mentions that the Jews were also taught to observe - even to ceremonial washings (or baptisms) of cups, pitchers, and kettles (of bronze).

 

      Verse 5.

      Thus, the Pharisees and scribes question Jesus about His disciples disregarding this traditional teaching of the elders about cleansing the hands before eating. These men hold Jesus responsible for everything His disciples were doing. They have observed another thing they can accuse Jesus of.

 

      Verses 6,7.

      Jesus said to them, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written:

            This people honor me with their lips

            But their heart is far from me.

            But in vain do they worship me,

            Teaching (as their) doctrines precepts of men.

      What Jesus was emphasizing was that what the prophet said was true about the people of his own day, was also completely relevant now. Men were honoring God with their lips - not their hearts.

      The term "hypocrites" is only found here in Mark's discourse. Though the word is not found in the Old Testament, the idea is. The meaning of the word includes two opposites - a mask of virtue, under which his real intentions are the opposite - their own self-interest. They pretended to teach God's Law, but actually were spreading precepts of men - rules and regulations, by legalistic rabbis over long periods of time. These men pretended to be the ones who upheld the honoring of God in their own concern over following the rules of men.

      Not only are their motives wrong, but what they base their motives on are also false!

 

      Verse 8.

      Jesus states the case plainly: "You let go the commandment of God in order to cling to the tradition of men."

      The hairsplitting rabbis had added many decrees and applications for every aspect of Jewish life: examples - travel, Sabbaths, meals, fasts, cleaning, trade, relations with Gentiles. The original unity and purpose of God's holy Law was completely covered over by this mountain of man-made interpretations and regulations.

      One rabbi's statement had been written - "To be opposed to the word of the scribes is worthy of greater punishment than to be opposed to the word of the Bible."

      Jesus states the obvious. The Law came from God written in stone. It was therefore infallible, permanent. The traditions were from fallible, sinful men. They were therefore fallible - often causing confusion and even harm.

      In verse 9, Jesus states the same thought as in verse 8, but in an ironic way: "How beautifully you are setting aside God's command..." He is criticizing them by describing their great time and effort, the elaborate way they set aside God's Law. And for what: "To establish your own tradition!" Jesus now ascribes the traditions of the rabbis as their own, since they have in fact taken them over and claimed them. Jesus is about to point out their folly in hanging on to men's traditions, instead of the pure Law of God which was given to guide men toward God and righteous living.

 

      Verse 10.

      Jesus speaks of the Law of Moses as the Word of God. There it says, Honor your father and your mother. The word includes much more than simple obedience. It includes love, respect, and consideration. Both parents are regarded as equal. That is the positive side. The other side - He who curses father or mother must certainly be put to death. (Exodus 20:12; 21:17.)

      What the scribes and Pharisees now allow, Jesus points out in verses 11 and 12: If a man tells his parents that whatever he has that would otherwise benefit them, he is now giving to God - called corban, then these religious leaders no longer permit him to do anything for his parents.

      Though these men were generally held in high esteem in the general population, they were at the same time using their rules to benefit themselves materially. Here, for a child to get out of honoring his parents by supporting them when they were old, these leaders had made up a way out: if the person gave what the parents needed as a sacred gift or offering. Also, even if the child declared something as a gift to God, there was nothing to stop him from keeping it, or delay its giving to some future time.

 

      Verse 13.

      The verdict. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down. This was not the only commandment they had distorted to their own use. Jesus adds: "And many such things you do."

      It has been observed that this kind of situation has continued even in Christian churches. The most obvious example is the Roman Catholic emphasis on its pronouncements being held above Scripture in authority.

      Jesus uses this opportunity for teaching the spiritual truth regarding defilement and ceremonial cleansings.

 

      Verses 14,15.

      He called upon the people to gather, listen, and understand. Apparently, the scribes and Pharisees have left. He wants to dispel these misleading things promulgated by these leaders from further burdening the people.

      These critics were in effect saying that, by not cleansing their hands, the disciples were defiling themselves by eating defiled food - from the outside in. Jesus states that what comes from within, out of a man, defiles him.

 

      Verse 16.

      The oft repeated admonition - If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. Basically saying that if anyone has the ability to listen carefully, with a thoughtful attitude, then they should listen to what has just been said, and ponder over its meaning until an understanding is reached.

 

      Verse 17.

      Jesus withdraws from the crowd, enters into the regularly used house with His disciples. The disciples were asking Him about the meaning of this parable. We assume that this is in Capernaum, His home base for His Galilean Ministry.

 

      Verses 18,19.

      Jesus questions their lack of understanding, but proceeds to explain. He stresses that what a man eats cannot defile because it does not enter his heart. It goes to the stomach and passes through the digestive system and out again - eliminated from the body. How then can it make his heart (the core of his being) unclean?

      Mark draws a conclusion, "Thus He pronounced all foods clean."

      That Mark makes this statement here seems logical, since he was Peter's interpreter, and Peter's experience in Acts 10:9-16 of the vision concerning food taught him the lesson later included in his preaching that all foods were now clean for the Christian (Acts 11:9). Now Jesus goes on to explain what does defile a person.

 

      Verses 20-22.

      What comes out, from the inside, from the heart, is the source of defilement, the heart of sin. Jesus then provides a list of the sins common to man: evil schemes, sexual sins, thefts, murders, adulteries, coveting, malicious acts, deceit, lewdness, envy, abusive speech, arrogance, folly.

      Some describe evil actions carried out, some evil thoughts and intentions. The parallel to the second five of the 10 Commandments is obvious.

      Though some time could be spent looking in more detail at each one of the above, and since all of these sins are still common among all men, I see no need to rehearse the details. Unfortunately, however, the idea of "sin" is not common and even the 10 Commandments have been banned from schools and government buildings. Many of the sins also have become so common as to be accepted by the popular culture.

      It is still our responsibility to recognize sin for what it is, guard against it in our own lives, and stand for what is right, and good, and helpful, no matter what forces are against us. Jesus now closes this teaching: "All these evil things proceed from inside and defile a man." As Christians we have been given a transformed heart, and the power to do good and resist evil through Christ who continues to intercede for us. His Spirit strengthens us to stand.

 

      Ephesians 10:6-18.

 

"10  ¶ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13  Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15  and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16  above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;"

 

      Amen.

Lesson XVII

      Mark 7:24-30. Retirement Ministry.

 

"24  ¶ And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into a house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

25  For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

26  the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni'cian by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

27  But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

28  And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs.

29  And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

30  And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed."

 

      What has been named the Great Galilean Ministry is now finished. With these verses begins a new phase, called The Retirement Ministry. This continues to the end of chapter 9. This takes place predominantly in the Gentile territory. Jesus is leaving behind the increased crowds and the scrutiny of scribes and Pharisees. His emphasis is on teaching His disciples - especially concerning His coming sacrifice. For this purpose Jesus avoids large population centers - staying in more remote, even secluded areas. This was not entirely possible, because His works had even been told about in these regions, and people came to Him.

 

      Verse 1.

      After leaving Capernaum, the first place He stopped was in the vicinity of the city of Tyre. It was northwest of Galilee - on the Mediterranean coast. Matthew (4:24) and Luke (6:17) mention that people from this area had gone to Galilee to see Jesus, for healing, and to hear His message.

      In the area, He was most likely invited to stay in the home of a stranger. Here He wished to rest and relax with His disciples, for at least a short time. Unfortunately, He was not able to escape notice. He had been seen and recognized. We also must notice that He did not seek to get away - but allowed Himself to be found. He never turned away anyone that sought Him.

 

      Verses 25,26.

      Here comes a desperate mother. As soon as she heard about Jesus, where He was, she comes to Him and falls at His feet. Her daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit. She was begging Him to cast the demon out. She is described as a Syrophoeni'cian, a Greek. A pagan from the region formerly called Phoenicia - now the Roman province of Syria.

 

      Verse 27.

      Mark's account differs from the same story as related by Matthew (15:21-28). Matthew mentions "That only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel have I been sent." Mark's audience was different from Matthew's.

      He mentions that the children (the Jews) must be allowed to eat all they want, before any left may be given to the house dogs (the Gentiles). To give food to dogs before that was against the prescribed rule. But that all hope not be squelched, Jesus uses the term, "house dogs", room for exception to the rule.

 

      Verse 28.

      This still-desperate woman sees the opening and grabs on. She accepts the designation of "house dog". She takes the comparison and turns it to her advantage. She describes the common occurrence that dogs under the table do eat some of the children's scraps. Neither in the Old Testament and now in the New does God limit His blessings to the Chosen Few - the House of Israel.

      She had come in faith to the Only One Who had such love and compassion, who alone could help her great need. Jesus had not turned her away. Jesus was about to bless her perseverance and demonstrate that her hope was not in vain.

 

      Verse 29.

      He told her, because of her answer, she can go home, the demon now gone from her daughter. Her statement had showed how strong her faith was. Her faith included believing Jesus' word that her daughter was healed. She did not question or hesitate, but got up and went home.

 

      Mark 7:31-37. Deaf and Dumb Healed.

 

"31  ¶ And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decap'olis.

32  And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.

33  And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

34  and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Eph'phatha, that is, Be opened.

35  And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

36  And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;

37  and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."

 

      After leaving Tyre (no indication of the length of stay is recorded) they traveled north near Sidon, then eastward into the area known as Decap'olis (the Ten Cities) and then straight southward, thereby returning to the area east of the Sea of Galilee. The importance here lies in the events that took place on the journey, not on the travel, or when, or where, or naming every stop or change in direction.

      At some point during this journey, a crowd had gathered. Matthew 15:29-31 describes several miracles Jesus did among these people. Mark chooses this particular one (which is not mentioned elsewhere). A group brought Jesus a severe case - a man who was not only deaf, but also stammered when he attempted to speak. They instruct, entreat Jesus to place His hand on the man. That Jesus had done this a great deal, they had seen before. So they expected the same. Jesus chose to do something different, just as He had concerning Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:23). This man's need was to be met personally - by himself. Not as a public spectacle - or just another healing.

 

      Verses 33,34.

      Jesus took the man aside, away from the crowd. This would put the man more at ease, and Jesus would have his undivided attention.

      By putting His fingers into the man's ears, He would be directly communicating to the deaf man that He was going to do something for his hearing.

      Jesus then spat, most likely on His own finger and touched the stammerer's tongue to inform him that He also was going to do something for his speech.

      Jesus looked up to heaven to show that His power came from above, from His heavenly Father. He sighed, as in sympathy with the plight this man had long suffered. He felt the sorrow this man felt. He then said "Ephphatha!" This Aramaic word Mark translates as "be opened," applying to ears and also tongue.

 

      Verse 35.

      At once, the man's ears were opened and his tongue was released, and he started to speak distinctly. These vivid details strongly suggest an eyewitness account. Again, most likely from Peter.

 

      Verse 36.

      Jesus told the man to tell no one. This miracle was for this man alone - not to become a public spectacle. The mission of Jesus as Saviour must from now on be the most important emphasis. The sacrifice He was about to make for the redemption of those that would believe was His mission to teach, especially to those closest to Him. He did not want to be only known as the Miracle Worker, that large crowds would continually throng upon Him to see more miracles. He was the Saviour of the World, not just a healer.

      Human nature works against Christ's charge. The more He told them not to (those who learned of the deaf man's healing - those that had first brought him to Jesus) - the more widely they spread the story.

 

      Verse 37.

      That they were in awe of what Jesus had done goes without question. "The people were astonished beyond all measure, and were saying, 'How excellently He had done all things! Why, he even causes the deaf to hear and the speechless to speak.' " This was one example of the many miracles Jesus did.

      Those that believe in Jesus should follow His commands and not just do what comes naturally. To admire Jesus or become overly emotional is not enough.

      Note: Matthew (15:29-31) records that in this same place and time, Jesus healed many others. Those who saw, "glorified the God of Israel." This showed that they were Gentiles. Thus the miracle near Sidon and now in Decap'olis was the inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God.

 

      Mark 8:1-10. Feeding of 4,000.

 

"1  In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,

2  I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:

3  and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

4  And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

5  And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.

6  And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.

7  And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

8  So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.

9  And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

10  And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanu'tha."

 

      This event is closely paralleled in Matthew 15:32-39. It has been suggested that this took place, still in Decap'olis, near the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It could be near where He had healed the deaf man.

 

      Verses 1-3.

      A huge crowd had gathered and were so strongly drawn by Jesus that they remained a long time. Jesus calls upon His disciples - telling them that His heart went out to these people, that they had nothing to eat. They had been with Him for 3 days, and whatever provisions they had carried with them were now used up. Jesus was concerned that if He merely told them to go home, that they would collapse on the way. Some of them had come from afar, Mark adds.

      Jesus emphasizes these concerns as also what His disciples should be concerned about. They should also be aware of this need and feel responsible to help meet that need. Was their memory so short that they did not remember what Jesus and they had done in a similar situation, with an even larger crowd?

 

      Verse 4.

      Apparently, all they could do was look around at the circumstance - the area was desolate, a wilderness. They were too far from any source of food. Their minds were limited by what they could see. No one could find food anywhere nearby, much less enough for this huge crowd.

 

      Verse 5.

      Jesus does not rebuke them for their answer, or loss of memory of what He had done before. He begins leading them along the path He had previously taken them. He asks, "How many bread-cakes do you have?" They reply, "7." (Later Jesus reminds them of the numbers in both miracles of feeding - 8:19,20.) Seven to feed 4,000 - 7 baskets of leftovers. Before, 5 to feed 5,000 - 12 baskets of leftovers.

 

      Verses 6,7.

      Jesus told the people to sit in groups upon the ground (no grass here). Then He gave thanks to God, and began breaking the flat cakes of bread into edible size pieces and kept giving them to His disciples, who then set them before the people.

      Jesus then did the same with the few small fishes. He again gave thanks for the fishes, then broke them, and under His hands, they were multiplied and supplied to the disciples, who delivered them to the multitude.

 

      Verse 8.

      They ate and were filled. The disciples picked up the leftovers and collected 7 "hampers". The word here differs from the word "baskets" used in connection with the feeding of the 5,000. It indicated a larger type of basket.

 

      Verse 9.

      About 4,000 men were present. Jesus dismissed them. Matthew mentions that there were also women and children. They had been fed spiritually, having stayed with Him 3 days. Now they had been fed physically.

 

      Verse 10.

      Immediately after they were told to go, Jesus got into a boat, and with His disciples, journeyed across the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to a place called Dalmanuth on the southwestern side, south of the Plain of Gennesaret.

      Two points about the two miracles: Jesus could easily repeat such a miracle. It also shows His compassion for first the Jewish people, and second, even Gentiles.

 

      Mark 8:11-13. Demanding Signs Rebuked.

 

"11  ¶ And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.

12  And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

13  And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side."

 

      Once arrived on the mainly Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee, the news of Jesus' presence must have spread quickly. Obviously a group of Pharisees was there and came out, apparently loaded for bear, so to speak. They began arguing with Him. We are not told if they had heard of the feeding of the multitudes - thus only earthly bread. But they demanded a sign from heaven to prove Who Jesus claims to be. Moses had provided manna from heaven. That they demanded this so that they could believe in Him was the opposite of their true intentions. They were tempting Him - hoping that He would try and fail, or in doing some trick - ascribe its origin to Beelzebul. Either way, they wanted to discredit, embarrass, or accuse Him of wrongdoing.

 

      Verse 12.

      Jesus sees right through this. He sighs deeply in His spirit. What these men ask for is more than an insult. It suggests that all the things that He had already done were not enough to firmly and completely prove that He was sent from God. This included His teaching about the kingdom of God, of love and forgiveness, of reconciliation, and eternal life. Also the healing of every kind of illness, disease, and deformity; even raising the dead was included.

      That these men had hearts so hardened that they rejected every evidence was heart-breaking to Jesus.

      Jesus asks why "this generation" still seeks a sign - this group of people among whom Jesus has been living could also more widely include the Jewish nation or people as a whole.

      Jesus solemnly declares that no sign such as they are demanding shall be given. As we shall learn later, this group also refused to believe in Jesus' resurrection and ascension.

 

      Verse 13.

      Jesus would stay there no further, and again got aboard the boat and journeyed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee - to the northeast of Bethsaida.

      The Pharisees are left to their own self-chosen fate. The are people still like them on earth today, still demanding signs and wonders - already having chosen to disbelieve the witness of the New Testament.

 

      Next, the Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.

Lesson XVIII

      Mark 8:14-21. Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.

 

"14  ¶ Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

15  And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.

16  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

17  And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?

18  Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

19  When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.

20  And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.

21  And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?"

 

      On the boat trip from Dalmanutha to Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples again misunderstood what Jesus is saying to them.

 

      Verse 14.

      The disciples had forgotten to take along bread and had only one bread-cake with them in the boat.

 

      Verse 15.

      Jesus was warning them against the "yeast of the Pharisees and Herod - 'Look out,' 'Be on your guard.' "

      No doubt Jesus was still thinking about the recent confrontation by the Pharisees demanding a sign from heaven, and always demanding adherence to their traditions rather than God's Law.

      Here He is warning His disciples to stay alert to the false teachings of these two sources. These disciples had heard Jesus' teaching on this subject in the parable of the leaven (Matthew 13:33). There, leaven had been likened to teaching; both work without being seen (invisibly); it continues to influence until spread out as far as it can go.

      The teaching of Herod was all about power and influence, a total focus on worldly things. To some extent this also affected everyone, even today.

      The Sadducees may be added (mentioned in Matthew 16:1). They were the priestly class ruled by the high priests and leaders of the Sanhedrin. They were the highest Jewish power in Israel. They claimed to be the keepers of God's Law but rejected the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Their interests were similar to Herod's. Keep the status quo - their own worldly power and influence, all for their own benefit - though they would claim it was for the good of the nation.

 

      Verse 16.

      The disciples heard the word "yeast" and focused on that: yeast is used to make bread. We have no bread, so Jesus must be upset with us because we forgot to bring enough. Their minds were stuck on material things. They had not yet become attuned to spiritual matters even though they had continually heard Jesus, and they had seen and experienced His miracles.

 

      Verses 17-21.

      They were discussing their assumed plight when Jesus noticed. He asked them why they were talking among themselves about having no bread. Jesus goes on:

      Do you still lack understanding; do you still fail to grasp? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes, do you not see; and having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five bread-cakes for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?

      They answered, 12.

      When the seven bread cakes for the 4,000, how many hampers full of pieces did you pick up?

      Seven, they replied.

      He said to them, do you still fail to grasp?

      Matthew 16:11,12 records a favorable result, that the disciples realize how they did not correctly interpret what Jesus had said. Mark does not mention this.

      The disciples should have reflected on these things, allowing the spiritual significance to sink into their hearts - to realize the power and deity of Jesus. Considering all their backgrounds, being normal men, they were hearing and seeing things that no one would or ever could dream of happening in their life. In fact, these things had never before been said or done in all of human history.

      Jesus mentions the feeding of the two large groups to remind them of how He had multiplied the bread. He asks them how much was left over, to register this in their memory by them answering. He is trying to wake up their memory to awaking their faith in Him. They must realize that He can provide for their needs, at any time or place. He has never required them to meet His needs.

      The final repeated question: "Do you still fail to grasp?" Ponder these things, dwell on them, take them to heart, realize their significance, the reality of what they mean, the spiritual truth involved. If this is done, faith in Him will be increased and strengthened.

 

      Mark 8:22-26. Healing a Blind Man at Bethsaida.

 

"22  ¶ And he cometh to Bethsai'da; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him.

23  And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught.

24  And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

25  After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

26  And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town."

 

      This is only recorded by Mark.

 

      Verse 22.

      They arrive at Bethsaida. For a long period of time, this had been a village. As recorded in Luke, as a city. Philip the tetrarch (3:1) enlarged it and made it a place of beauty. In honor of Emperor Augustus' daughter Julia, it was renamed Bethsaida Julias.

      A blind man was brought to Jesus. Those who had led him there begged Jesus to touch him. The custom of Jesus touching those He healed was commonly known by this time.

 

      Verse 23.

      It is interesting to note that of the healings of blind men that are described in detail, no two are identical. Jesus treated each person according to what He perceived as to what would be best for that person. A public spectacle was never His choice.

      Here Jesus took the man by the hand and led him outside of town. This would put the poor man more at east, aware of only the presence of Jesus, the only One that could surely help him.

      Jesus spat on his eyes - in a similar way to having touched the stammerer's tongue. This signaled that Jesus was going to heal his eyes. He then placed His hands on the man, a sign of complete concentration and concern. He then asked the man if he could see anything. He wanted the man to participate in his healing - asking for his perception.

 

      Verse 24.

      The man looked up and said he saw people as trees walking around. These may have been Jesus' disciples. It also suggests that he had not been born blind.

 

      Verse 25.

      Jesus again laid His hands on the man's eyes. The man opened his eyes wide, fully restored. He could see everything clearly.

      There is no explanation as to why this healing took place in two stages. It still took place in only a few moments.

 

      Verse 26.

      Jesus adds the warning, "Do not go into the village." He should go directly home. This would be the best thing for this man, not for the crowd, or Jesus' fame as a healer. The man needed to take in the greatness of this blessing from God and share it with his family.

 

      Mark 8:27-30. Peter calls Jesus the Christ.

 

"27  ¶ And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesare'a Phil'ippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

28  And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Eli'jah; and others, One of the prophets.

29  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

30  And he charged them that they should tell no man of him."

 

      As Jesus and His disciples were traveling through the villages in the area around Caesarea Philippi, He asked them who people were saying that He was. The common opinion was that He was a prophet - even to the point that He was an Old Testament prophet risen from the dead. Some said Elijah, others Jeremiah (found only in Matthew). Some expressed the idea that He was the risen John the Baptist, which had even been suggested to Herod (who had the Baptist beheaded).

 

      Verse 29.

      Jesus then asks the disciples "Who do you say that I am." Peter answered Him, "Thou art the Christ." Matthew records the additional words, "The Son of the Living God." This would have reflected the acknowledged consensus of the 12.

 

      Verse 30.

      Jesus warned them to tell no one about Him, to avoid a premature crisis with the religious leaders. The familiar part of Jesus' reply is found only in Matthew 16:17-19, where Jesus tells Peter that the Father has revealed this to him, and so forth.

      An important lesson here relates to the contrast between the various opinions of the general population - speculation and superstitions and unbiblical beliefs - with the truth, which Peter boldly states, simply and yet elegantly. Jesus is the Christ. He is not just a man, as all the prophets had been. He is the Son of God.

 

      Mark 8:31-38. First Mention of Death and Resurrection.

 

"31  ¶ And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32  And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33  But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

34  ¶ And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

35  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

36  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

37  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

38  Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

 

      Paralleled in Matthew 16:21-28, and Luke 9:22-27.

 

      That Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ made it essential that Jesus carefully explain what that truly meant. Jesus assented Peter was correct, but He had to point out that The Messiah had a mission of sacrifice and suffering and death - not a worldly political reestablishment of national Israel, defeat of the Romans and He as King.

      He must show them the truth of prophesy that His first coming was for redemption. It was the promise of God from the beginning. It would satisfy the demands of God's Law. It was His choice. This sacrifice would be accepted by God and Jesus would be raised on the third day.

      He must make His disciples aware that it will be the most important religious people (the elders, scribes, chief priests) who will bring about His death. The leaders who were supposed to be looking out for the very best interests of the people will think they are doing what is necessary for their (the nation's) good.

      Jesus begins giving only a brief outline of the shocking coming events, for their sakes, but He does plainly and clearly state the truth of them.

 

      Verse 32b.

      Peter took Him off the to side and began to rebuke Him. Matthew records Peter's words, "Mercy on thee Lord, this shall never happen to Thee" (Matthew 16.) Again as the disciples' representative, Peter speaks from a totally worldly point of view - which is justly rebuked by Jesus as the very hope of satan himself. If He did not die, no one could be forgiven and reconciled with the Father. Peter should have remembered the words of John the Baptist, that Jesus was the Lamb of God Who came to take away the sins of the world.

 

      Verse 33.

      Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to get behind Him for speaking the words as satan would have. Jesus tells satan and his influence over Peter's thinking to be gone - "Get out of my sight, satan." The cross is the power of God unto salvation.

 

      Verse 34.

      Jesus calls to the nearby crowd to join Him and His disciples. He must explain to all of them the important truth included in His suffering and death. He must explain what is required of anyone who wants to be His follower.

      The first thing one must do is deny one's self - all reliance on their own efforts, and depend on God alone. One cannot work out one's own salvation according to anything man has devised, but only on the finished work of Jesus the Christ.

      To take up Jesus' cross is to accept whatever the cost to remain loyal to Jesus and His salvation. One must trust Jesus, follow His guidance and example, obey His commandments out of thankfulness for the mercy and grace of His salvation. This is neither possible by man's efforts alone, nor expected to be. Once born again by the Holy Spirit, that Spirit gives the power and guidance to overcome selfishness and begin to do the will of God, to continue maturing toward the high calling to become more like our Saviour.

 

      Verse 35.

      Whatever noble aims a person might begin with, a life of sinful and selfish pursuits, trying to build a kingdom here, will be lost when his life is over, he loses everything, including eternal life. On the other hand, anyone who loses his life for Christ's sake, and the gospel's, shall save his soul. To give one's self for Christ's sake and service brings eternal life.

 

      Verses 36,37.

      These verses further make it plain - what good is it to gain the best the world has to offer and then forfeit life - both here, and hereafter. To lose one's life - nothing can compensate. Nothing can be taken from this world. What is left to the soul that spent their entire life trying to gain an earthly kingdom, when their death comes?

      These words are an invitation to find one's life in the offer of Jesus.

 

      Verse 38.

      Pride in one's self always excludes Jesus and His offer of salvation. That sinful and adulterous generation was ashamed of Jesus and His teaching. They were unfaithful to their God and His Law. They rejected His Son and condemned Him to death. At His return He will also reject and condemn them. He will then come in the glory of His Father and His Holy Angels.

 

      Next, 9:1-13. The Transfiguration.

Lesson XIX

      Mark 9:1-13. The Transfiguration.

 

"1  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

2  ¶ And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

3  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

4  And there appeared unto them Eli'jah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

5  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Eli'jah.

6  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

7  And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son:

8  And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

9  ¶ And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.

10  And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.

11  And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Eli'jah must first come?

12  And he answered and told them, Eli'jah verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.

13  But I say unto you, That Eli'jah is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him."

 

      Verse 1.

      This records the last teaching to the crowd where he said whoever is ashamed of Him, of them He shall be ashamed of before His Father when He comes again. In this verse he adds that He solemnly declares that some of those standing there will not die until they see the Kingdom of God come with power. He is most likely referring to His resurrection and the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. His church would be established with great power, even to turn the world upside down. The spread of the Gospel, the conversion of thousands, would begin within the lifetime of some of those who were then listening to Him. History has recorded the fulfillment of this prediction, in addition to the book of Acts, and the letters of Paul and the Apostles.

 

      Verse 2.

      After Jesus reaffirms His dedication to the path to the cross, the Father sends His love in the visit with Moses and Elijah in the glory of the Father on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

      This takes place six days later. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain. Once there, Jesus was changed, transfigured. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than any bleach or launderer on earth could bleach them. There appeared to them Elijah and Moses. They represent the prophets and the Law, both of which Jesus had come to fulfill. They had been sent to talk over the fast approaching events of His passion and resurrection.

      Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Then the explanation - he really didn't' know what to say, so frightened were they. The first thing that came to mind - this appearance was glorious, unique, they recognized Moses and Elijah. Peter wanted to continue this experience, as unrealistic as this really was.

      Then a cloud came covering them. Out of the cloud, a voice: "This is my son, My Beloved; listen to Him." The Father honoring Jesus as His Beloved Son, advising these three men to continue to listen to Him. The teaching of Jesus was such a contrast to the stale, repetitious traditional lists of rules of the scribes and Pharisees. His words spoke about forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, faith, healing, and the love of God, the grace and mercy of God.

      Though many had been converted, also many had rejected and ridiculed, and refused to believe. Others had openly contradicted Jesus and worked to discredit and accuse Him of crimes. Even the disciples had difficulty grasping the supernatural and spiritual truths they observed and heard. The emphasis was to listen to and heed the truth of whatever Jesus said, to listen to and ponder and believe.

 

      Verse 9.

      When they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until after the resurrection. The fact of Christ's death and resurrection would put the transfiguration in its proper perspective. Then as eyewitnesses they were responsible to report this important event and its place on the way to the cross.

 

      Verse 10.

      They agreed to keep this request. They did not yet have the ability to grasp the concept of resurrection from the dead. They may have been questioning the point of His dying, if He was going to rise again. Certainly they did not really understand what was about to happen.

 

      Verses 11,12.

      Another question comes up, the saying of the scribes that Elijah must come before the Messiah. His reply is that Elijah does come first, and restores everything. The disciples can't grasp the Messianic prophecies with Christ's now predicted death. The Messianic prophecies emphasized in the Old Testament centered on triumph and national glory, the Messiah as king over Israel and all His enemies. Jesus here calls the scribes correct about the coming of Elijah. He also adds that Elijah actually did come. This does not completely dispel the disciple's misunderstanding. They still don't get the suffering servant, and the death of sacrifice.

      Jesus continues, most likely thinking about these predictions of the Old Testament (Psalms 22; 69:8,9,11,20; 118:22; Isaiah 53:3). They were plain enough but had been passed over, and only the glorious appearing of Messiah in triumph had been focused upon!

 

      Verse 13.

      Then to the question about Elijah - Jesus says that he has indeed come, and they had treated him as they pleased. Matthew 17:12,13 adds the comment that then the disciples understood that He spoke about John the Baptist. His ministry, of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the path of the Lord. However, that did not turn the nation from its evil ways. He was at last imprisoned and executed. They had done what they pleased with him. As deadly a fate was soon to take the life of Jesus, rejected, hated, condemned to die as a criminal. Yet all was in the plan and perfect will of the Father unto the purpose of salvation for uncounted numbers of people.

 

      Mark 9:14-29. Healing of a Boy Possessed by a Demon.

 

"14  ¶ And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

15  And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

16  And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

17  And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

18  and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

19  He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

20  And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21  And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22  And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

23  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

24  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

25  When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

26  And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27  But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

28  And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

29  And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."

 

      This healing is also found in Matthew 17:14-20 and Luke 9:37-43. Mark's version is the most detailed with 9 more verses than Matthew.

 

      Verse 14.

      This takes place after Jesus and the three disciples come down from the mountain, the day following the transfiguration. As they approach where they had left the other disciples, they see a large crowd around them, and scribes arguing wit them. No doubt the officials were teasing the disciples, because they had been unable to cure the poor possessed boy.

 

      Verses 15,16.

      The sudden return of Jesus was most welcome. The people rushed forward to greet Him warmly. Jesus turns to defend His disciples by directly asking the scribes what they are arguing about with His disciples. Not one of them has the nerve to answer Him.

 

      Verses 17,18.

      At this point, a man from the crowd spoke up: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he is possessed by a spirit that had made him dumb. Also it seizes his body, dashes him to the ground, he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid." Luke mentions this was the man's only child. It seems obvious that his intention was to bring him to Jesus, but He being absent, asked the disciples to help. The disciples had been given the authority to deal with casting out demons and they had attempted to here, but without success. This was not a simple epileptic condition. This boy was deaf (verse 25) and dumb, and thrown violently about by the evil spirit.

 

      Verse 19.

      Jesus addresses the whole group gathered there. His emotion is expressed: "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?"

      What possible amount of time would it take for Jesus to convince these people of the truth, the supernatural and spiritual reality of Who He is. The scribes who were disobedient to the light they had been shown, the crowd who were only interested in themselves, wanting to be entertained, and fed, and excited, and the disciples in their lack of persevering prayer and strong faith in the power and authority of Jesus. His ministry is drawing to a close.

      Jesus again shows His love and compassion by asking that the boy be brought to Him.

 

      Verse 20.

      So they brought the boy to Him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and was rolling around, foaming at the mouth. Clearly the demon completely controlled the poor boy's body.

 

      Verses 21,22.

      Jesus asks the father how long this has been happening - since childhood, the reply. The demon has thrown the boy into fire or water, trying to kill him. The father begs for pity and help - if you can do anything.

      It was important that the father and the crowd think about how long this has been happening - that the coming miracle will be seen in its unique power.

      The father adds details about the violence of the demon's attempts to kill the boy. Obviously the father has had to constantly watch the boy and keep him as safe as possible. The father still has hope that Jesus can help. Note also that the father says "us", meaning that his own welfare is completely wrapped up in that of his son.

 

      Verse 23.

      Jesus tells the man that the question is not "if you can", but rather whether you believe. There is no question that Jesus is able. Jesus calls for faith in Him.

 

      Verse 24.

      Immediately, the father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief." He does believe but is not certain how much is required, and therefore adds the request - that whatever amount of faith he was presently lacking, that Jesus would also help him increase it. His desperate mind and heart reached out, completely depending on the love and compassion and pity of Jesus. Neither he nor anyone else will ever be disappointed in that situation.

 

      Verse 25.

      As a crowd of people were quickly gathering - probably sensing that something was about to happen. Jesus proceeded to rebuke the unclean spirit - telling it to come out of the boy and not to ever enter him again. As before, Jesus was not interested in providing a sensational spectacle. He wished to help the poor child and his desperate father, and that they could go home and make their lives better.

 

      Verses 26,27.

      Only Mark's account has these details. The spirit caused the boy to shriek, throwing him into terrible convulsions, and causing him to be so rigid that after the demon was out, the boy appeared to be like a corpse. Most people were saying that he was dead.

      To show that this was not so, Jesus grasped the boy's hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. The boy now had his own strength as Jesus pulled him up. We can assume that the boy and his father were told to go home, the crowd dispersed and that Jesus and His disciples were invited to stay in a local house. They were not yet in Capernaum.

      At any rate it was the opportunity - that once indoors - the disciples could ask privately why they couldn't cast it out. They had successfully cast them out before. Jesus answers that this kind comes out only as a result of prayer. Matthew records Jesus' answer as because of their little faith. Little prayer also suggests little faith. Persevering prayer shows persevering faith. This also suggests that there were differences in the power of different demons. They should have not given up - but persevered in prayer.

      This is certainly a necessary lesson for us also to completely trust in Jesus, no matter what we face, to continue to pray without ceasing.

      Colossians 1:9; I Thessalonians 5:17; II Thessalonians 1:11.

 

      With the father of the possessed boy, we should say we believe, and help thou our unbelief. Let what we pray for not be limited because of our lack of sufficient faith. Let it depend on the grace and mercy of God. Not what we have or can do but what God can do.

Lesson XX

      Mark 9:30-32. The Second Prediction of the Passion and Resurrection.

 

"30  ¶ And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it.

31  For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

32  But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him."

 

      Verse 30.

      After leaving the place where the demon-possessed boy had been healed, they were traveling through less-populated areas of Galilee. Jesus was seeking time alone to teach His disciples what was soon to come to pass, the lessons of the cross.

 

      Verse 31.

      Jesus calls Himself the Son of man. Here He stresses that He is to be betrayed - handed over - into the hands of men - the scribes, chief priests, the religious leaders - and they shall kill Him. This coming event is certain.

      But on the third day after He has been killed, He shall rise again. Jesus is saying that He is going to rise again by His own power. He is the resurrection and the life. It is also true that the Father was going to raise the Son from the dead. (Acts 2:32; 3:26; 10:40; 13:34; 17:31.) The Holy Spirit was also part of the Resurrection. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit - the three are One.

      Though sometimes their roles are different - yet always the purpose, the plan, and the outcome are One.

 

      Verse 32.

      The reaction of the disciples was again one of confusion, distress, fear, sorrow. No one could have grasped the devastation that would overtake them when Jesus was arrested and executed. They had come to believe Jesus as the Christ. With such power and authority from God - allowing Himself to be taken and killed was completely unthinkable. The part about the resurrection only added to their confusion. Possibly thinking about Peter having been rebuked earlier when this subject had been questioned, they were afraid to ask Jesus about it.

 

      Mark 9:33-37. Who Is Greatest.

 

"33  ¶ And he came to Caper'na-um: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

34  But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

35  And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

36  And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

37  Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me."

 

      Verses 33,34.

      They have arrived back at Capernaum and have gone into the house, or home, Jesus' headquarters during the majority of His ministry. Apparently, Jesus had become aware that they had been discussing something among themselves on the journey, just before their arrival at the house. He asks what they had been discussing. They kept still.

      There has been some conjecture as to what Jesus knew and how He knew it, regarding their conversation. That seems pointless. He knew, and He asks them the question: what was their greatest concern? They must begin to realize how absurdly selfish and worldly their concerns were. They were arguing about which of them would be greatest in Christ's coming kingdom. Now, questioned by Jesus, they were too ashamed to speak.

 

      Verse 35.

      As so often before, Jesus used this disappointing situation as an opportunity to teach about true greatness in His kingdom (as His life was the example).

      Jesus sat down and called His disciples to gather closely around Him, as He had an important lesson to impart to them. Their conception of greatness had mostly to do with being above others, looking down on them and lording it over them. Jesus must completely show this error. He states that the opposite is the true path and mission of greatness. One must consider oneself the servant of all - to place oneself last, not first. One must perceive the needs of others and help in every way to meet those needs.

      The end result of the attitude of the disciples had been warned against many times in the Old Testament, especially in Proverbs 16:18. "Before downfall goes pride; and before stumbling, a haughty spirit." It is no less true today.

      Again Jesus did not scold His disciples, though He had every right to. He was about to give them an example that would impress them in a most positive way and that would ever stay in their memories.

 

      Verse 36.

      And He took a little child and had him stand in the midst of them. Mark adds what the others omit; He took the child in His arms. This showed how important every life is - even that of a little child, to the compassionate and loving Savior. This He showed throughout His ministry. The child stood with Jesus, surrounded by these full-grown, seated men, and was not afraid.

      Then Jesus began to speak...

 

      Verse 37.

      He tells them that to welcome such a little one in His name, welcomes Him. They are to welcome even a little child with the same respect, love, and kindness as if they were welcoming Him. This points to reaching out to those who have nothing to offer in the sense of money, returned favors, or some other worldly advantage. They are to reach out to the dependent, the weak, those in need. In so doing, they also become more Christ-like and thus bring glory to Him. Jesus then adds that whoever welcomes Him also in effect welcomes the Father who sent Him.

      Jesus wanted to completely refocus the thinking of the disciples. They must put behind them the selfish sinful nature, and the tradition, teaching, and temptations of the world. They must learn His ways which are God's ways. They show grace and mercy and love. They must continue to learn from everything Jesus has taught and done throughout His ministry. The lesson is as simple as a little child in the arms of Jesus. We need also to continue to be reminded of this lesson.

 

      Mark 9:38-41. Who is not against us is for us.

 

"38  ¶ And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us; and we forbade him, because he followeth not us.

39  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

40  For he that is not against us is on our part.

41  For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."

 

      It is possible that the previous mention of things done in Christ's name brought this question to John's mind. John addresses Jesus as Teacher which was completely appropriate as the lesson on humility had taught.

 

      Verse 38.

      Apparently John and some of the others had become aware of a man who had been casting out demons in Christ's name. The problem was, as they saw it, that the man was not one of Jesus' known followers - no one close and familiar to them. They had reacted against the man and tried to stop him because they did not recognize him as a disciple.

      That this man was a true believer seems obvious because He was actually casting out demons in Jesus name. He had most likely heard Jesus and learned of His ministry, including casting out evil spirits. He had believed - yet had not become a close follower.

      John's motives are not clear. Was he trying to uphold Christ's mission and reputation, or was he only upset because the man was not a recognized member of their group? The important thing is that he raised the question.

 

      Verse 39.

      Jesus' answer was not to stop the man. The reason - in doing such a good thing in Jesus' name already shows that the person acknowledges that it is only through Jesus that the work is accomplished. To believe that to the extent of facing a demon-possessed person and commanding the demon to leave, shows a strong faith in Jesus and the power of His name. Such a person would never speak ill of Him.

 

      Verse 40.

      Jesus adds - such a person is clearly not against us - therefore is for us. Notice Jesus changes the former 'me' for the 'us' including all those with Him.

 

      Verse 41.

      This completes His answer, further explaining that if a person gives a cup of water to one they know belongs to Christ, shall certainly not lose their reward. Jesus solemnly declares this.

      The result of meeting Jesus, or hearing His Gospel, leaves no one neutral. They will either accept Him or reject Him. What Jesus teaches is that a believer may not belong to a particular group, or may not even belong to a group - but still is part of His church. Though that person works alone - yet in carrying out their own ministry, in His name, in every act of kindness - show their faith in Him, and they shall not lose their reward.

      Church history, unfortunately, shows the continual and misguided concern for those who aren't part of our group (or denomination). Jesus teaches the true measure of those who claim to be His. A little child, a cup of water, anything done in His name. We must continue to pray that we see with the eyes of Jesus as we deal with those around us, especially to those that belong to Christ, and offering the Gospel of Salvation to all others.

 

      Mark 9:42-50. Care for Little Ones and Avoid Temptation.

 

"42  ¶ And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

43  And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

44  where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

45  And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

46  where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

47  And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

48  where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

49  For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

50  Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."

 

      The following sayings are also found in Matthew, Luke, and in Paul's writings. It seems likely that they were spoken on various occasions - therefore recorded in different contexts.

 

      Verse 42.

      This verse shows the other side of the message of verse 37. This is the consequence of leading one of Christ's precious little ones astray. The torment that awaits that person is so extreme that it would be better for that one to be thrown into the sea with a heavy millstone hung around his neck. This violent physical death would be preferable.

 

      In verses 43, 45, and 47, Jesus uses dramatic physical examples to shock His listeners into understanding the everlasting value of avoiding temptation because the penalty of hell is eternal torment.

      If your hand, or your foot, or your eye, caused you to sin, it would be better that it be cut off or plucked out - and enter life everlasting maimed or with one eye, than to enter hell and unquenchable fire. What Jesus is suggesting is how drastic our attitude toward and our dealing with temptation must be. We must be on guard and remove things from our life that tempt us. We know our own weaknesses and must continually with God's help and the strength of the Holy Spirit within us, put off the affections of the flesh, and put on the new life of following the example of Jesus.

 

      Verses 44, 46, and 48.

      "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," comes from Isaiah 66:24. There is the description of the slain enemies of God, their number so great that the worm feeding on their bodies would continue for as long as there were bodies. And the fire used to burn the bodies would also continue until all were consumed.

      Jesus used this figure to give a picture of the hell (Gehenna), the place of unquenchable fire where both body and soul of the wicked shall be after the final judgment. Jesus repeats this to dramatically impress this image on the minds of His listeners. This is how serious each person's choices in life are - because the consequences are certain and eternal.

      The other side is described as entering life and the kingdom of God. Both describe a salvation that begins when a person accepts Jesus as Savior, but which will continue until the new heavens and new earth are completed and God's everlasting kingdom begins. We enter the kingdom of God when we accept Him as ruler over our hearts and lives. Just as surely we will one day be in His presence.

 

      Verses 49,50. Lessons on Salt.

      In the context of the preceding warnings, Jesus now warns of a fiery trial - a serious temptation - was to come upon them all - it will separate believers from unbelievers - but also burn off the dross from within believers, purifying and preserving their strength.

 

      Verse 50.

      Salt is good - a preservative, a flavor enhancer. However, if its saltiness is lost, what good is it? The religion of Jesus' day had indeed lost its flavor - legalistic traditions far from the truth that Jesus proclaimed.

      The potent advice - always have salt within yourselves. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit within, the Gospel of the Word of God, should be lived out in such a way as to show the same qualities that Jesus did - a life of unselfish giving and concern for others that would draw others to want to taste of that saltiness, that flavor enhancer of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. Be the salt of the world (Matthew 5:13).

      And finally, be at peace with each other. By thinking of, and seeking to meet the needs of others, we are at the same time peacemakers.

Lesson XXI

      Mark 10:1-12. About Divorce.

 

"1  And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

2  ¶ And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

3  And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

4  And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

5  And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

6  But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

7  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;

8  and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

9  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

10  ¶ And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.

11  And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

12  And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

 

      Verse 1.

      After the events recorded previously, Jesus left Capernaum in Galilee and traveled southeast of the Jordan, in the region known as Perea - which bordered on Judea. After the ministry in this area, Jesus would go to Jericho and on to Jerusalem.

      Again great multitudes come out to Him. As previously, He heals the sick and teaches at the same time. Mark emphasizes the teaching.

 

      Verse 2.

      Here we find some Pharisees have come up to Jesus to ask a question that will trip Jesus up and thereby discredit Him in the eyes of the people, and that they would turn away from Him.

      This particular question was especially intended to do this, either way that Jesus answered it. It is lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Among the rabbis there was a difference of opinion. Moses had written, "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found something offensive, or some improper behavior in her, and he can write her a bill of divorce..." (Deuteronomy 24:1.) The teacher Shammai said that it meant unchastely or adultery. Hillel on the other hand emphasized the words, "no favor in his eyes," and they would allow a divorce for any small offense. Two examples recorded: 1) serving slightly burned food; 2) if she talked at home so loud that the neighbors could hear her.

      Since Hillel's opinion was naturally very popular and probably even with these Pharisees, if Jesus sided with the stricter Shammai, He would be going against a great many people's opinion, and possibly that of the disciples also. They might also fault Him for this strict opinion - because He consorted with such sinners, even eating with them.

      If, however, Jesus agreed with the other opinion of almost any excuse for divorce - the followers of Shammai and the more serious followers of God's Law would consider Jesus as thus allowing moral laxness. And the female part of the population would almost certainly be against Him also.

      Jesus is going to point out the backwardness of the whole question. When a man was thinking about getting married, he should not also think that if things don't work out as he wishes, he can easily divorce his wife. Jesus goes back to God's original intention as recorded in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24.

 

      Verses 3,4.

      Jesus asks them what Moses had commanded. They replied that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and send his wife away. Many including Pharisees emphasized the particular importance of the certificate - being properly filled out and placed in the wife's hand. The letter of concession of Moses took precedence over the true principle of marriage.

 

      Verses 5-8.

      Jesus points out that Moses had written this rule because of the hardness of the hearts of the people. It had been a concession for the sake of the wife. If a man merely got angry with his wife and threw her out, she would be helpless. No other family (all patriarchal at that time) could take in the woman, because legally she was still married. By this rule, the man was bound to give her a certificate of divorce, thereby making it legal for another man to take her in, in effect preserving her life.

      Jesus goes back to the beginning. God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his mother and father, and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. No longer two, but one.

 

      Verse 9.

      What therefore God has joined together, let not a man put asunder. If a man chooses to marry, he must plan to continue to cling unto his wife - a closeness that grows in every way, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. This was God's plan and intention - the ideal bond between a man and a woman, and within this bond was the command to be fruitful, thus children and the family.

 

      Verses 10-12.

      Later, in the home they were staying in, the disciples were raising the question again about divorce. He replies that if a man divorces his wife and then marries someone else, he is committing adultery. Also this is the case if a woman divorces her husband and marries another man. In each case the person is committing adultery against their original spouse. Though not mentioned in Jewish law, it was a not uncommon custom among Greek and Romans for a woman to divorce her husband. An obvious example was the infamous Herodias who rejected her marriage to Philip and then married Herod Antipas. She was partly Jewish.

      What Jesus teaches is that no man has the right to dissolve his marriage merely by writing some flimsy excuse on a certificate of divorce. That person is actually separating what God has joined. This is a most serious sin. To marry another only makes it worse - he in effect is committing adultery against his wife. Jesus shows the reason divorce, as then practiced, was wrongly interpreted, which made marriage an insecure institution. God planned it as a sacred and life-long bond between a man and a woman. And yet we see Jesus, with love and mercy, forgiving the penitent adulterer, telling her to go and sin no more. (John 8:10,11.)

      Though Paul writes in some detail about marriage - being unequally yoked and the best way to deal with this question, it is beyond the scope of this study.

      This event is also recorded in Matthew 19:13-15, and Luke 18:15-17 with different details in each account, which more than anything else, show the same event from different points of view - without conflict or contradiction.

 

      Mark 10:13-16. With Children.

 

"13  ¶ And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

14  But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.

15  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

16  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them."

 

      Verse 13.

      This may have also taken place in the house where they were staying in Perea. No mention of time or place. Luke 18:15 describes the little children brought to Jesus as infants. They were brought that Jesus might lay His hands upon them and call God's blessings upon them.

      But the disciples rebuked those that brought them. Typically they did not want to be bothered with these people, much less their little children. They also saw no reason for Jesus to take up any of His valuable time with such unimportant and helpless creatures as infants. We can imagine them trying to keep them away. The disciples may have been around the entrance to the house and tried to block them from coming in.

 

      Verse 14.

      As soon as Jesus saw what they were doing, He became indignant with them. They had gone too far. They should have known of His constant and tender love for children, and those that cared for them. And especially here where the parents were coming to Him for His blessing.

      Jesus went on to say, Let them come to Me and stop getting in the way, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. These people, parents and their children, were coming in simple faith and trust in Him: to those of such humble dependence on Jesus do all the blessings of salvation come - including becoming subjects of God's kingdom.

 

      Verse 15.

      Jesus stresses that the picture of a little child truly shows the way anyone and everyone must be to enter God's kingdom. Trustful simplicity, without questions or conditions, with faith and gratitude to accept the pure love of the Giver in the gift. That is the manner of becoming God's child. By accepting the gift of His Son.

 

      Verse 16.

      Jesus then proceeds to take each child, one by one, as they are brought to Him, into His arms. He holds the little one in one arm as He places His other hand upon its head and tenderly blesses each one. So should our care and response be to little children. To call God's blessings upon them; to pray for them is always right.

      It also reminds us of what our attitude should be toward God. We are dependant upon Him for all our earthly and heavenly blessings. We should remain humble and trusting in His love and care for us. We should always want to spend time with Him to show how much we love Him. We should be so grateful that He chose us first, when we were lost in our own selfishness in a world of sin.

      We should never lose this awareness of how truly dependant upon God we are all the time - for life, breath, comfort, security, love, peace, joy, the blessings of brothers and sisters in Christ, our Church family. He constantly cares for us even when we don't realize it. He holds the whole universe together with the word of His power. So what have we got to worry about?

 

 Next, the Peril of Riches

 the Reward of Sacrifice

Lesson XXII

      Mark 10:17-31. Peril of Riches and Reward of Sacrifice.

 

"17  ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.

20  And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21  Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23  ¶ And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

24  And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

25  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

26  And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

27  And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

28  Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29  And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

30  but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31  But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."

 

      This is also in Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30.

 

      Verse 17.

      Jesus has left the house where they had been staying and was now continuing the journey through Perea toward Jerusalem. On the road, a man ran up to Him, fell on his knees before Him and was asking Him, "Good Teacher," what must I do to inherit everlasting life?

      This is the perfect example of the common belief that we must work our way into heaven by doing what we think will please God. How many church goers are depending on church attendance as a work that earns their way - rather than having accepted the free gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ?

      This stranger Matthew calls a young man (19:20). He is called a ruler by Luke (18:18) - all describe him as very rich. Therefore he is known as the rich young ruler.

      That he had rushed up and dropped to his knees indicates that he was in a highly emotional condition. His concern was getting some assurance here and now that he was headed in the right direction toward the everlasting resurrection (mentioned in Daniel 12:2). His expression indicated a willingness to do whatever was necessary to that end, to get peace of mind for the present.

      He addressed Jesus as Good Teacher. "Teacher" was accepted as proper acknowledgment by His opponents. However the addition of "good" is not accepted. The sense in which the man intended this word was not proper.

      Jesus questioned him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except One - God." The goodness the young man had in mind was again of works. Jesus is pointing out that if he wished to truly understand the concept of good, he should look to and contemplate the goodness of God - which is His inherent quality. Everything else proceeds from this: God's commandments point us to and guide us in trying to follow the path - and to fight our sinful nature that pulls us in the opposite direction.

      Jesus indicates that in regarding Him as a normal human teacher and call Him good, shows a rather superficial opinion of what "goodness" is. As we later learn, this young man had an elevated view concerning his own "goodness". For him to be saved, Jesus knew that the man had to perceive the true and perfect Righteousness of God. Only then could he face the fact that he could not attain it by working for it, that he needed forgiveness for thinking he could work it out himself, that he needed a Saviour, Jesus.

 

      Verse 19.

      Jesus continues, stating the commandments, to drive home to the man the high standard God presents. These are the commandments of the second table - implying that only those who believed and accepted those of the first table would attempt to follow those of the second. Why honor your father and mother is mentioned last is not explained. The inclusion of do not defraud seems to take the place of do not covet. This has the direct meaning of not withholding from your neighbor what you owe him, nor trick him out of something you desire of his. The young man, to become and continue to be rich, does indicate a clinging to what was his and the desire for more that would involve taking advantage of others for his own gain.

      Jesus is showing that, "through the law comes the knowledge of sin" as Paul expresses it in Romans 3:20.

 

      Verse 20.

      The man's superficial perception of God's Law is shown in his response: that he has observed all these ever since he was a child. He believes that he has performed his responsibility concerning the law, yet he is aware that something is lacking. He does not have peace of mind. He seems to think that there must be some, yet unknown, good deed that he must also do.

      As Christians, we are free from the curse of the Law unto condemnation, but also free to try to fulfill the Law in thankful obedience to a loving Heavenly Father. "Love God, and your neighbor as yourself," always applies.

 

      Verse 21.

      Jesus looked at him and loved him. Two things are suggested. He admired the young man for consciously avoiding outward sins, and pursuing that which is good. He also felt love and compassion for him since he had come to Him as the One Who could give Him the true answer he sought.

      Jesus was about to do that very thing. What He was going to tell him was not what the rich young ruler expected. He wanted an additional deed to do. What Jesus was going to tell him was a replacement. What the man lacked, to use his own phraseology, was a complete refocus on the values of the man's life.

      Jesus tells him to go and sell whatever he has and give the proceeds to the poor, and that will give him treasure in heaven. This was a test - not an additional work. What Jesus was really asking was that the young man must completely put his trust in Him. If he did so, it would show that he had surrendered himself to the will and guidance and salvation offered by Jesus. Thus as a child of God, his treasure would be in heaven.

      Jesus adds, "and come, follow me." The choice between God and mammon leaves no neutral ground. The response unfortunately for him, show the most important thing in the rich young ruler's life - his position, power, and riches - his own earthly kingdom.

      The young man immediately understood that these words asked him to do what he would not. His countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful, for he possessed much property.

      This is not to be taken as a lesson for everyone who has wealth. This was for this man alone. The question remains, though, as to whether one rules over his wealth, or his wealth rules him.

      Once the rich young man leaves, Jesus looks around, and uses this opportunity to further explain the lesson of the young man to His disciples. He wishes to impress upon their thinking how great a difficulty it always is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. The idea of clinging to earthly wealth makes the possibility of entering the kingdom seem so difficult, to be even impossible.

 

      Verse 24.

      The disciples were startled at these words. The most common opinion was that prosperity and health were a sign of God's favor of that person's virtues. On the other hand, those who were poor or diseased were suffering God's disfavor - mostly from perversity or sin, or someone else's sin. The nation of Israel had been taught that if they would hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord, abundant blessings would follow, both spiritually and materially. This opinion was common from Job's day (15:29) - that the wicked man will not be rich.

      Jesus continued, addressing them as children. A tender term, yet indicating their immaturity and lack of understanding spiritual things. He then goes on to explain that it is not only the wealthy that will find it hard to enter the kingdom of God. What He is explaining and goes on to picture the impossibility of, is that no one can earn or in any way work for entrance, claiming virtue, wealth, or good deeds.

 

      Verse 25.

      The idea of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is the same as a rich man, clinging on to his wealth, trying to pull himself into God's kingdom. This includes the impossible idea that a camel would choose to try to go through a needle's eye. As the rich young ruler had gone away, having realized the impossibility of bringing his wealth with him into God's kingdom. Jesus is stating the case that all is by grace, the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.

 

      Verse 26.

      The disciples still don't get it. They are shocked again, asking each other, who then can be saved?

 

      Verse 27.

      Jesus has truly got their undivided attention. He looks them in the eyes. With seriousness and compassion He gives them the true situation: "With men this is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible."

      Of himself man can do nothing. He must be born again from above, the gift of God, by grace, through faith.

 

      Verse 28.

      Peter, thinking of the experience with the rich young ruler, begins to explain that they have given up everything and followed Him. They have done what Jesus had asked the young man to do. What they have gained, Peter seems uncertain of.

 

      Verses 29,30.

      Christ's answer is reassuring, even encouraging, especially concerning the age to come. But in this life, persecutions will be included.

      Jesus solemnly declares that whatever one has given up for His sake and His Gospel, they shall receive an hundred fold (in great abundance). Whatever blessing a believer receives, whether people or things, will be much more greatly appreciated, than all the relatives and worldly goods a person possesses without Christ. The difference is between being thankful and never being satisfied. Brothers and sisters in Christ are closer than those bound by human blood, for we are bound by the blood of the Lamb.

      The concept of life everlasting begins at the new birth, but is only completely experienced in the hereafter when it will be perfected - lasting forever with Jesus and the Father in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

      Verse 31.

      The final advice. Do not judge according to outward appearance. Do not think highly of people that are wealthy, popular, powerful, or any outward holiness. God sees the heart, what the true value of a person is. Many who, to outward appearance, have no earthly value, will be shown to have had a heart of gold (a true disciple of Christ). Someone who made a great show of their devotion to the church and what they had done for it, will be last, for their heart was puffed up with pride. This does not need to include only those that are lost (as the young ruler) but also those in the church. Both are true.

 

      Mark 10:32-34. The Third Prediction of Passion and Resurrection.

 

"32  ¶ And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,

33  saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:

34  and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him; and the third day he shall rise again."

 

      Verse 32.

      Mark is describing the continuation of the trip through Perea, then through Jericho, and final destination - Jerusalem. Going up describes the actual climb - Jerusalem being on a mountain, but also a going up spiritually to God's Holy Temple. At all the great feasts, pilgrims would go up to offer their sacrifices. As Passover is drawing near, Jesus is going up to offer Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

      It is also mentioned that Jesus was in the lead. The atmosphere must have been tense. Jesus was most serious and determined. Considering what they know about the open hostility of the Jewish leaders, it is no wonder that the disciples were amazed and the other followers were afraid.

      As He had before, here Jesus again takes the 12 aside and privately begins to tell them what was going to happen to Him. He wants them to know each part of the coming events - that they may not be taken by surprise, and to assure them that He chooses this path knowingly, and willingly, because of God's purpose.

      Describing Himself as the Son of Man, He tells them that when they are in Jerusalem, He will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn Him to death, then hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, spit upon Him, scourge Him, and kill Him. Three days later, He shall rise again.

      The first prediction in 8:31 stressed the absolute necessity of His death. The second in 9:31 had stressed the absolute certainty of His death and resurrection. Now Jesus adds the characters who play the major roles. He shall be betrayed and handed over to the Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin). A trial is indicated, where He would be condemned to death.

      Since Roman law did not allow the Jews to carry out the death penalty, He would be handed over to the Romans for the execution. He describes how these men would mistreat Him - then scourge Him, which was prerequisite to crucifixion. The final round was of triumph over everything sinful men could do to Him. He will rise again.

      Some have said that such a detailed description of future events is impossible, and that therefore this must have been written after their occurrence. It is true that no human could do this. Those that reject the prediction also reject the Son of God and His divine nature. Any prediction that is written after an event is no prediction at all.

      It must also be said that as Jesus moved closer to these horrific and brutal events, He must have also more acutely begun to realize the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sorrow, suffering, and anguish that He would have to endure. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His determination does not waver or hesitate. His love for us is to the uttermost. (John 13:1.) Even the death on the cross.

Lesson XXIII

      Mark 10:35-45. The Sons of Zebedee.

 

"35  ¶ And James and John, the sons of Zeb'edee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

36  And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

37  They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

38  But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

39  And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

40  but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

41  And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

42  But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

43  But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

44  and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

 

      The sons of Zebedee come to Jesus and request the two positions of highest importance in Christ's coming kingdom, or glory. Matthew (chapter 20) indicates that the mother comes with her sons - that together they make the request, though Mark only mentions James and John. They were still thinking about selfish, material desires.

 

      Verse 35.

      James and John approached Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." The time or place are not recorded. Most likely this was not long after the 3 predictions of The Passion, also on the way to Jerusalem, but before entering Jericho. Even in the face of Christ's dire predictions of His coming death, the disciples stay with Him.

      They do seem to hang on to the idea that somehow the kingdom that Jesus had repeatedly spoken about would be established by Jesus in the near future. Since they had been promised prominent places (see Matthew 19:28), these two brothers had the presumption to ask their favor. Since they had seen Jesus do many supernatural miracles - calming storms, walking on water, water into wine - they saw nothing to prevent Him from this. Of course, they had not yet fully understood His mission of Redemption.

      The fact that they ask for agreement before they make their request known is a childish trick: not sure that they have a right to the granting of the request. Compare this with the foolish offer of King Herod, that caused John the Baptist's execution.

 

      Verse 36.

      Jesus wants to know exactly what they are thinking about.

 

      Verse 37.

      They explained. They imagined a picture of Jesus sitting upon the royal throne with His retinue all about Him. They also imagined themselves in the two most prominent places - those of honor and authority - at His left hand, and at His right.

      The only thing in their favor was that they had faith about what Jesus had said about His throne of glory and the Apostles' places with Him. Their audacious ambition was selfish and sinful. They considered themselves more important than any of the others.

      Since they had been set apart (with Peter) to be with Jesus on some occasions (the Transfiguration, for example), they began thinking more highly of themselves.

 

      Verse 38.

      Jesus tells them that they have a misconception of what they are asking for. Then the question - are they able to drink the cup that He drinks.

      Jesus is using a figure often used in the Old Testament, meaning to go through a particular experience to its fullest extent - whether good or bad - joy or suffering. (Psalms 16:5; 23:5; Psalms 11:6; 75:8.) Another expression with the same meaning is told to them. While drinking the cup shows a choice by the person to drink, baptism was something one allows to be done to them. Jesus both chose the path to the cross, and He submitted to the death pronounced against Him. Christ obeyed the will of the Father, which no man could ever do. The word baptize means inundated, overwhelmed by water, but here meaning by agony and suffering.

      Jesus is in effect asking these two if they are able, for His sake, to choose to go through the rejection, the condemnation, the pain and suffering and even death that He chooses to.

 

      Verse 39.

      They answered that they are able. Their self-confidence remains. Though loyal to Jesus, we can assume that their minds understood very little of what they had agreed to in the way of their future experiences.

      History records James being put to death in Acts 12:2. John ends up banished on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). What other things they may have suffered are not recorded, but we may assume trials and persecution. Jesus then informs them that to sit at His right or left hand is not His to decide. Matthew 20:23 states that those positions are "prepared by my Father." They had been decided in God's eternal counsel and cannot be changed. See also Luke 12:32; Acts 1:7; Ephesians 1:4,11.

 

      Verse 41.

      When the 10 got the news of this incident concerning James and John, they became angry with them. This reveals that they quite likely had been thinking along the same line themselves: each individual seeking the highest position for themselves. Even in churches, has human nature changed?

      Though Jesus had repeatedly shown by His life and teaching that to be great, one must serve others. These, His closest disciples, had so little grasped the concept, much less started living by it.

      We can only try to imagine the sorrow this brought to Jesus. How long would it be until they understood the way of the cross? Yet we do not see Jesus getting upset and impatient with them. His love and tender care for them is shown.

 

      Verse 42.

      Jesus calls them all together and begins again to carefully explain the difference between the way of the world and the way of God's kingdom. He begins by describing the way worldly people work. They spend all their energy to reach the highest places of wealth and power. Once there, they try to rule those below them whatever way they wish - all to their own advantage, and no one else's benefit.

      Jesus calls them the "so-called rulers of the Gentiles." These people consider themselves benefactors of the people. History continues to show this to be true. Many of the worst called themselves the leader, the liberator, the protector, the great friend.

 

      Verses 43,44.

      They must be opposite to that way of thinking and acting. The one who wants to be great among the brethren, let him be their servant. The one who wants to be first among them, be the humble attendant of all.

      This sounds like a paradox to the natural man. It is opposite to everything a man feels and learns in the world. Being selfish needs not be taught, nor competition to win. The way of Christ's kingdom is based on the denying of self - of putting others first - of giving to and serving others - all to the glory of God, through the love of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

      Verse 45.

      If they want an example to follow, Jesus tells them that indeed He is their only and best example that will ever be on this earth. His whole ministry and sacrifice has been and will continue to be the highest goal. For even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom in the place of many.

      His example must be their motivation. That He came down from heaven, He humbled Himself, not to lord it over men, but to serve them. This would include His substitutionary death, the price that would be paid for others' sins, thereby redeeming them. The idea of serving goes beyond just redemption to adoption into God's family which includes blessing from now through all eternity in heavenly places, with the Son, and the Father.

      This is the greatest service ever offered to mankind. The many includes people of all nationalities, races, classes, and ages. The use of the words "to give" shows that Jesus chose the path of self-sacrifice. It was not forced on Him. He laid down His life. This must be the path chosen by all who follow Him. This also is part of God's plan - that we might serve others in Christ's name, and spread the love offered by the Gospel of Salvation, all to the glory of the Father.

 

      Mark 10:46-52. The Healing of Bartimaeus the Blind Beggar.

 

"46  ¶ And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartime'us, the son of Time'us, sat by the highway side begging.

47  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

48  And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

49  And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

50  And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

51  And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52  And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."

 

      Jericho lies about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem, about 3,300 feet lower than that city.

      Though Jesus had a heavy weight upon His mind and heart, we see Him always having compassion, and willingness to help someone in need.

 

      Verses 46,47.

      By the time Jesus and His disciples had passed through Jericho, a large crowd had gathered and were also going with them. Sitting by the roadside was the blind beggar: Bartimaeus (son of Timeaeus). When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began crying out "Jesus, son of David, take pity on me!"

      As Passover drew near, more people - from Galilee and Perea were also going up to Jerusalem. Beggars were a common sight and still today they can be found in many areas of the world. As he hears the crowd, he inquires and finds out that it is Jesus of Nazareth that is among them. He must have heard enough about Him previously - now calling out "Jesus son of David." This term son of David was used to indicated the Messiah. How much he knew about Jesus' ministry and true mission we don't know, but he had a better understanding than the general population.

      His situation was desperate - being blind and a beggar - he had only the generosity of passers-by to subsist on. He only wanted mercy.

 

      Verse 48.

      The crowd did not want an interruption from their journey. They might also not have wanted Jesus bothered by this insignificant beggar, an unpleasant sight at the side of the road. Whatever their reasons, they were telling him to be quiet. Realizing this was his only chance, he cried out all the more loudly upon the only one who could really help him, this Son of David.

 

      Verse 49.

      Jesus must have heard his cries this time. He stopped and told them to call the man over to where He was. So they told the blind man to take courage, to get up, Jesus is calling you.

      Jesus is still calling, especially when we need Him the most, in trial or tribulation. He calls us to come to Him - for strength, comfort, reassurance, to remind us that He is with us through everything.

 

      Verse 50.

      This man responds immediately. Throwing aside his outer garment, he jumps to his feet and comes to the Savior.

 

      Verse 51.

      In response, Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus knew what the man wanted, but He wanted him to say it. Thus, the man will focus on what he so desperately wants, and begin a personal relationship with Jesus. Just as our Heavenly Father knows all our needs, yet He wishes us to ask Him - to spend time in personal relationship with Him. Is it not also true with us and our children!

      This wasn't going to be just another miracle, but personal mercy shown by Jesus to a new friend - a man of faith and trust in Him. Bartimaeus told Him, Rabboni (teacher), I want to regain my sight.

 

      Verse 52.

      Jesus said that he may go, for his faith has made him well. Faith is the gift of God. The man exercised that faith and Jesus cured him and pronounces Him whole. It has been suggested that this includes the spiritual sense, that the man has gained salvation as well as physical healing. The man's response was to praise God (from Luke 18:43), and the people did also. Now that he could see, the man made a choice. He began to follow Jesus on the road. Jesus has certainly given him more than his sight. He also sees that the best path he can take from there is to continue to be with Jesus.

      Isaiah had prophesied that when Messiah came "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened." (35:5.) This also serves as a prelude to the Triumphal Entry when Jesus is again greeted as "The Son of David." As son of David, David calls Him Lord, the very Son of God, and our Savior. And so we also are called upon to follow Him. Amen.

Lesson XXIV

      Mark 11:1-11. The Triumphal Entry.

 

"1  And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

2  and saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.

3  And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.

4  And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.

5  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?

6  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

7  And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

8  And many spread their garments in the way; and others cut down branches off the trees, and strewed them in the way.

9  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

10  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

11  ¶ And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve."

 

      This chapter begins Mark's record of the Week of the Passion. First the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

 

      Verses 1,2.

      Jesus and the group with Him had continued their journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. Without details of how long this took, or anything else not worth mentioning, Mark goes directly to the next major event. Some have calculated that what now takes place was on Sunday. About 2 miles from Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives and Bethany, is where the Triumphal Entry Begins. Bethany was on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet. Bethphage had traditionally been located northwest of Bethany. On this morning Jesus directs two of His disciples to go to the village opposite (Bethphage) and they will find a colt tied up. It was the colt of a donkey (prophesied in Zechariah 9:9). This was a colt upon which no one ever sat. It was thus prepared and set aside for this moment of sacred use by the Savior. We are not told how Jesus knew this - by natural prearrangement or supernaturally. Luke's account (19:33) could be read as supernatural. The two are instructed to untie the colt and bring it to Jesus.

 

      Verse 3.

      If anyone questions them about it, tell them The Lord needs it, and will return it shortly.

 

      Verses 4-6.

      Everything happens exactly as Jesus had told them. As soon as they entered the village they saw the colt tied up near the door of a house. Some people were standing nearby and questioned the two when they untied the animal. When they said the Lord Jesus needs the colt and will send it back shortly, they agreed.

      This also shows that there were many who supported Jesus from every area of His ministry. To provide lodging, a meal, an upper room, a colt, a tomb, all was available when Jesus needed it.

 

      Verses 7,8.

      When the colt was brought to Jesus, they placed their outer garments on it to make it more comfortable for Jesus as He sat on it and rode into Jerusalem. Many also spread their robes on the road ahead, others adding leafy branches. This became a softening carpet for the colt to walk upon. By this time, a much larger crowd had gathered and were accompanying Jesus from Bethany. Many others had arrived at Jerusalem previously. The news about Jesus having raised Lazarus from the dead had no doubt quickly spread, and now that Jesus was coming to the Holy City - a great many people came out of the eastern gate to greet Him (John 12:1,12,13,18). They have cut fronds from palm trees to welcome Him - when they reach Him they turn and lead Him down the western slope of the Mount of Olives and into the city. Those from Bethany followed. Mark mentions these two groups.

 

      Verses 9,10.

      Those who went ahead and those who followed were calling out:

      Hosanna! Blessed is the One coming in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!

      Hosanna means "save now". The idea is prayer. Blessed is praise of what God is about to do - these ideas coming from Psalms 118, one of those sung at Passover. It clearly speaks of Messiah. These crowds were recognizing Jesus as the Son of David, the Messiah that was going to save the nation.

      That Passover was celebrating the escape from Egyptian bondage would raise the question about when they would be relieved of the Roman domination of Israel. So they looked for a restoration of their nation to a kingdom like David's.

      When Jesus had fed the thousands, many wanted to make Him king.

      They were correct in praising God, Hosanna in the highest, for sending Jesus to them. They were not correct in their understanding of His true mission. At no time in His entire ministry had He done or spoken anything about worldly power or overthrowing the Roman oppression. He has spoken only peace, compassion, about forgiveness of sin, of reconciliation with the Father, about love, giving, sharing, and that He had come to lay down His life, to take it up again. His kingdom was spiritual, not material. When the people finally realized this - they would cry out to crucify Him.

      That He was riding on a colt was truly another sign of peace. These things were clearly laid out in many Old Testament prophecies. These include Isaiah 9:6,7; 35:5,6; 42:1-4; and 53, which dramatically portrays the Messiah as suffering and dying to make atonement for the sins of the people.

      Another result of the Entry - it completely enraged the Jewish leaders. This Jesus also knew ahead of time - and it certainly pushed them further in their desire and plotting to get rid of Him for good.

      We must also remember that among these groups there were true followers who put their faith and trust in Him for their salvation. For their sake, and those that would follow, Jesus chose this path.

 

      Verse 11.

      What happened when Jesus entered the city is passed over by Mark, but may be found in Matthew 21:10,11. Mark's record begins late in the day, Sunday evening, when Jesus briefly visits the temple.

      Jesus looks around at everything. He saw what He would do on His next visit. Then, because it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the 12, where they would spend the night.

 

      Mark 11:12-14. Cursing the Fig Tree.

 

"12  ¶ And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

13  and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

14  And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it."

 

      Verse 12.

      Though this takes place the following day, as they were leaving Bethany, no explanation is mentioned as to why Jesus would be hungry. It does, however, remind us of Jesus' humanity, that He experienced what we experience - in this case, hunger.

      Possibly they had spent the night near the village on the slope rather than in someone's home.

 

      Verse 13.

      Noticing from a distance a fig tree in full leaf, Jesus went to see if any fruit was on it. Sometimes He used His human senses to gain information, while at other times His perception was supernatural. When He reached it, there was no fruit. It was too early for the normal season of figs.

      Fig lore: early and smaller figs grow from the sprouts of the preceding year, beginning at the end of March - being ripe in May or June. The later, much larger figs develop on the new shoots and are gathered from August to October.

      It was presently April, Passover being at hand. It was early even for the smaller figs. Jesus noticed this tree, by the side of the road, a somewhat sheltered place, and now in full foliage. It was possible that it was unique in its growth, and thus could be expected to have some of the early figs also. Upon inspection, there was nothing but leaves.

 

      Verse 14.

      Jesus spoke to the tree - saying "Never again may anyone eat fruit from you!"

      Some may get the idea that Jesus was angry at the tree, and therefore cursed it. Not so. This was an opportunity for Jesus to teach His disciples a very timely and most serious lesson concerning the nation of Israel. This barren tree was an emblem of the condition of the nation. The next day, Jesus would explain the meaning (Tuesday).

      The visit to the temple would also be seen in the same way. It had been turned into a marketplace, and at the same time, the priests were plotting Jesus' death. All this was considered important religious activity, but there was no promise, no truth, no hope, no fruit. This single nation was supposed to be prepared, and welcome God's Messiah. They had been busy, but fruitless. This was the last miracle recorded in Mark and it was destructive. And His disciples were listening.

      Jesus had told the parable of the Barren Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9. The disciples would be here, reminded of its lesson - now so dramatically acted out upon this fig tree in front of them.

 

      Mark 11:15-19. Cleansing the Temple.

 

"15  ¶ And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

16  and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

17  And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

18  And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

19  And when even was come, he went out of the city."

 

      This takes place on Monday of the Passion Week.

 

      Verse 15.

      They came to Jerusalem, and entered the temple. Jesus began to drive out those buying and those selling, turning over the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of those selling doves.

      A detailed understanding of the temple of Jesus' day requires a separate study that is outside the scope of this commentary. A brief description is necessary to set the stage for Jesus' actions.

      It was a vast structure, approximately square, surrounded by a wall of white marble, with various gates on each side. Within the walls were porches that then led into the court of the Gentiles on one side. It was the largest single area where Jews and Gentiles could go. A low series of barriers separated this area, then a terrace led up to - on the right to the Women's Court, where both Jewish men and women could go. To its left - and again up about 15 steps was the Men's court (where women weren't allowed).

      A few more steps led up to the Priest's Court within which 12 more steps led up to the Sanctuary - which included the Holy Place (where only priests could enter) and separated by a curtain the Holy of Holies (where only the high priest could enter on the day of atonement). Built of white marble and decorated richly with gold, it stood above all that surrounded it. Its only purpose was for the worshipping of God: to bring sacrifices and offerings according to the Law of Moses; that God would show them mercy and bless the chosen nation as His witness in the world.

      Contrast all this with what Jesus saw when He entered the Court of the Gentiles, as in the early part of His ministry. Not only what He saw, but also the noise and the smells. It was like a bustling marketplace. Some had oxen and sheep for sale. Passover was near, and crowds of pilgrims came to buy a lamb.

      A very lucrative business was going on. Though a person could bring his own animal to be sacrificed, there remained the danger that the priests could reject it - if they deemed it blemished, or imperfect. So the racket - if an animal was purchased from these sellers, it was automatically approved by the priests. And yes, these merchants paid the priests handsomely for this privilege. They in turn demanded exorbitantly high prices.

      In addition, moneychangers were there because only Jewish coins could be used for the various tithes and offerings in the temple. Pilgrims came from all over the Roman Empire and traded their foreign coins. They were charged a high rate for this convenient service.

      Jesus immediately began driving all these people out - buyers and sellers. The buyers also, because they had come to the temple intending to do business, which they should have done anywhere else but here. Their intentions were just as insulting as those selling. Jesus knocked over the moneychangers' tables, and the seats of those selling doves. We can only try to imagine the anger and indignation that Jesus exhibited as He drove all this crowd out of what was supposed to be a place of reverence and worship.

 

      Verse 16.

      Mark adds that Jesus also would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. It had apparently become a shortcut - from the city to the Mount of Olives for example. This was not acceptable.

 

      Verses 17,18.

      Jesus makes the long needed correction.

      It is written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

      But you have made it a den of robbers. (Isaiah 56:7.)

      The present description echoes the pronouncement of Jeremiah 7:11.

      The reaction of the religious leaders was typical. Jesus had now interrupted their deal with the temple merchants, which was very lucrative for them, even though it cheated the people. Their decision was to find a way to eliminate this threat - killing was their solution. Who does He think He is, interfering in this way?

      At the moment they are afraid of actually publicly trying to arrest Him. He had been greeted on the previous day with great acclaim by a large crowd on His Triumphal Entry. Now people are greatly astonished, and interested in His Godly teaching. It was so new and different from the traditional quotes from the scribes and rabbis, about rules and regulations.

      They were left to their plotting. The day ends.

 

      Verse 19.

      When evening arrived, they went out of the city. Most likely they returned to the area near Bethany, where they had spent the previous night - whether in a friend's home or under the stars, we are not told. Mark does not consider it important enough to mention.

 

      Next, the Fig Tree Part Two.

Lesson XXV

      Mark 11:20-26. The Fig Tree Part Two.

 

"20  ¶ And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

21  And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

22  And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

23  For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

24  Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

25  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

26  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."

 

      Verse 20.

      This takes place on Tuesday morning, as they are returning to Jerusalem, on the same path as the previous day. They came upon the fig tree Jesus had cursed. It was obvious that it withered "from the roots". This was permanent, irreversible.

 

      Verse 21.

      Peter had a vivid memory and brought it up to Jesus: "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" Most likely these words were told directly to Mark, who recorded them here. The astonishment was that such a dramatic change in what had been a vigorous hearty plant, just one day later was shriveled up and dead. This was unnatural, thus the exclamation.

 

      Verses 22,23.

      Jesus responds with a lesson: "Have faith in God!" This was a supernatural work. Jesus continues, "I solemnly declare," emphasizing what He is about to say.

      Here again He uses an illustration of the spiritual meaning. He points to the Mount of Olives and says that whoever says to this mountain, be lifted up and be thrown into the Dead Sea about 4,000 feet down, it will happen. If one has no doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will indeed be done for him.

      Does this suggest that by any individual's concentration power and personal desire such a feat is possible? That such a show of one person's powerful desire would be granted by God is obviously wrong. The key lies in knowing God's will. Then a person, by faith in prayer, can overcome a mountain of difficulties. What is not possible with man is possible with God. The apostles had already experienced a great many "impossible things" done by Jesus. They had also cast out demons, and we find many miraculous works recorded in the book of Acts. The key is in knowing God's will and by faith, praying accordingly.

 

      Verse 24.

      Jesus goes a step further. Here He says that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have already received it, and it shall be yours. This does follow, and includes everything else Jesus taught about prayer. A humble child-like trusting of God's tenderness and love for us. A sincere heart, with an outreaching love for others and a strength of will to persevere. All must also be focused on God's perfect will. The best guide is Jesus. We should pray in His name, because only through Him do we even have the right to call upon God as our Heavenly Father.

      The Father is pleased by the prayers of His children when they seek His counsel and have problems they do not understand or cannot handle by themselves. Sincerity and dependence are the child-like attitudes of a loving heart.

 

      Verse 25.

      The final part of this lesson emphasizes the same thing as the fifth part of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:12 - forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. That Jesus includes this on more than one occasion makes plain that man does not find it easy or natural to forgive. So He reminds us.

      "When you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone, that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

      Standing while praying was a common practice at the time. It indicates reverence. Kneeling is also mentioned, but no particular posture is required. It is the attitude of the mind and heart in sincerity and trust that is essential.

      One must constantly be aware that they only have the right to approach the heavenly Father because their sins have been forgiven through the priceless sacrifice and death on the cross of His Son - by mercy and grace. We have received so all-encompassing a forgiveness for our every sin, past, present, and future. Therefore, what right do we have to hold back forgiveness to someone who we account as having done us some injury? This is the natural and selfish response, but are others not doing the same type of thing we used to do, and tend to still do?

      As a child of God, we must break the circuit of this vicious circle. We should realize that these others also need a Saviour. We have found forgiveness, we should forgive them, and share our experience with our Saviour, that they may also know the love of God through His Son.

      Back to the fig tree. What the lesson was: great pretensions and a show with no fruit is cursed. True faith includes answered prayer. God can move mountains for His children. We can completely trust His will as what is best for us. The forgiveness and love He gives us, we must also share.

 

      Mark 11:27-33. Christ's Authority Questioned.

 

"27  ¶ And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,

28  and say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

29  And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

30  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

31  And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

32  But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

33  And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."

 

      Verses 27,28.

      Now Tuesday morning, Jesus again comes to Jerusalem into the temple. The previous morning, He had cleansed the temple and then taught the people. He may have been again teaching a group, and then walking to another group. At any rate, while He was thus walking, a very upset group of the chief priests, elders, and scribes came to Him, demanding to know by what or whose authority He had done these things.

      The three groups mentioned comprised the Sanhedrin. The chief priests included the present high priest, ex-high priests, and other important Sadducees. They were in charge of the temple. The scribes, mostly Pharisees, studied, interpreted, and taught the Law, both at the temple and synagogues throughout Israel. The elders consisted of heads of local tribes or a tribal division. Every town had its elders that were in charge of its affairs.

      In this instance, it seems most likely that these men had been delegated by the Sanhedrin to question this troublemaker. They don't have the nerve to arrest Him, especially in public. But they would like to put a stop to His activity by embarrassing Him in the temple. They demanded His credentials - if He admitted to not having any, the people would lose respect for Him. If He claimed that God gave Him authority, they could accuse Him of blasphemy, of doing only what God had the right to do.

      For them to say "these things", it seems likely that these men were including everything Jesus had been doing, including the miracles, casting out demons, the Triumphal Entry, the temple cleansing, and His bold teaching of new doctrines to the people there in the temple.

 

      Verses 29,30.

      Jesus replies. Since He had done nothing wrong, He has no need to defend Himself from these accusers. But what He is going to do is force them to face their own motives and values, by asking them a counter-question. This was in fact the seventh time Jesus responds to an attack with a counter-question, as recorded in Mark. This method was also commonly used in rabbinical debates.

      The question: "The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men?" This was in no way evading what they had asked. This squarely placed the burden on these men. The people seriously considered John the Baptist as a true Prophet, sent by God. During his ministry, John had openly and publicly proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Messiah, One greater than himself. For them to say that John's baptism was from God would lead to the obvious next question: why had they not believed him? If they had, they would also have to believe that what he said about Jesus was true, therefore, they would have to believe in Jesus.

      That they didn't accept John's call to repentance and be baptized was common knowledge. However, to here openly reject John could lead to their being stoned by the general population, as well as the religious pilgrims who were, at that time, in the city and the temple. (Luke 20:6.)

 

      Verses 31-33.

      These verses record their reasoning process. If they said from heaven, then why didn't they believe him? If they said from men, then they would face the wrath of the crowd who held John as a true prophet. Rather than being honest and saying that they didn't want to answer the question - they didn't want to publicly make a choice, so they couldn't answer the question either way. That would entail accepting John and therefore Jesus as being from God. They would therefore be obligated to accept His authority, or if they rejected John, they would be considered as rejecting a true prophet of God, and therefore worthy of death.

      Their only way out - the cop-out, "We don't know!" The truth stood before them, and they chose to reject it. They chose to do whatever they could - what they thought necessary - to maintain the status quo, their traditional position of influence and affluence.

      Jesus then told them that they refused to answer His question, so He would also refuse to answer their question about what authority He had to do the things they were questioning Him about. They would have never accepted the truth anyway. Instead of embarrassing Jesus, they were put on the spot, and seen as buffoons since they could only say that they did not know. Why were they questioning Jesus when they could not even decide anything about the complete ministry of John the Baptist? John had also witnessed to the importance of Jesus in God's plan for man's redemption.

 

      Mark 12:1-12. Parable of the Wicked Tenants & Sequel.

 

"1  And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a place for the winevat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

2  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

3  And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.

4  And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.

5  And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

6  Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

7  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.

8  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

9  What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

10  And have ye not read this Scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:

11  this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

12  ¶ And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people; for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way."

 

      Verse 1.

      He began to speak to them in parables. Jesus was still in the temple that Tuesday. Earlier, the Jewish leaders had questioned Him as to what authority He had cleansed the temple. When Jesus had asked them to bear witness to the ministry of John the Baptist, they refused. They would not acknowledge Who Jesus was, and that His authority was from God. The use of parables made it possible for Jesus to paint a picture of their actions without accusing them directly. It was also a special means He had used before, to teach His followers spiritual truths. Mark says "parables" though he records only one here. Matthew records 3 (21:28-22:14).

      The parable of the wicked tenants. A man planted a vineyard. He set a fence around it, dug a trough for the winepress, and built a tower. After the vines were planted, it was essential that a fence or hedge be around it to keep out animals (such as jackals and foxes) and thieves.

      The winepress usually included two parts. An upper pit, shallow and wide, lined with stone, where the grapes were put to be crushed by "grape-treaders". (Isaiah 63:2,3.) Through a pipe the juice would flow into the lower pit, which was narrow and deep. From there, jars would be filled (Haggai 2:16).

      A watchtower would be built to have someone there to warn of any approaching danger. It was often built with the stones gathered from the ground that was cleared for the vineyard. It could also be used for storage. When fully prepared, the owner made a deal with a group of tenants or sharecroppers. They would provide the labor, and he would receive a percentage of the resulting crop. The owner then went on a journey "away from home".

 

      Verse 2.

      At the proper time, he sent a servant to collect his share of the crop from the tenants. This was according to their previous agreement.

 

      Verse 3.

      Rather than honor their responsibility, they seized the servant, beat him, and sent him away with nothing. These wicked people had never intended to honor the deal. They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

      The owner does not respond in what would seem the most natural way against them. He is depicted as having a hopeful and patient heart, for he would continue to give them chances to do the right thing - to honor their agreement.

 

      Verses 4,5.

      Then he sent another servant. This one they hit on the head, and treated shamefully. The next one he sent, they killed. Many others were sent and either beaten or killed.

 

      Verses 6-8.

      This final attempt: the owner had one left to send, his beloved son. Surely they would show respect to his own son. When he arrived these men had a wicked thought. Since this son was the heir to the vineyard, if they killed him they would be able to claim the inheritance. They must have known he was the owner's only son, but how could they forget that the owner himself was very much alive! They carry out their plan, casting the son out of the vineyard and killing him.

      Though this ends the story as Jesus tells it, the moral of the story must be explained. Jesus asks the question: "What then will the owner of the vineyard do?" There can only be one answer, and certainly the crowd could answer the same thing that Jesus spoke: "He will come and kill those sharecroppers and give the vineyard to others."

      That Jesus is teaching that the owner is God, and He is that beloved Son is clear from what follows.

 

      Verses 10,11.

      Jesus quotes Psalms 118:22,23.

      Here the builders reject the very stone that was chosen to be the cornerstone by God - to the amazement of those who followed the Lord. Jesus is clearly suggesting that, in rejecting Him, these Jewish leaders - and later the nation in general - were rejecting the Son. However, He was also suggesting that the death of the son in the parable was not the end. The rejected stone would be the cornerstone, and the killed son would rise in triumph. Those who had been entrusted with the Holy Scriptures and the blessings of God, and had seen and heard the words and works of the Son, would now be taken away. The vineyard would be given to others - who would honor the Son and the Father.

      The many servants that were beaten or killed suggested the prophets God sent to call Israel back to God's ways over their entire history, and would also include John the Baptist. How much of the true meaning of Christ's lesson the Jewish leaders understood, we do not know. But from Verse 12 we see that they understood enough that they knew He meant them as the wicked tenants, and that they didn't want to hear any more - Jesus must be put away.

 

      Verse 12.

      They were trying to arrest Him, for they knew that He had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd. So they left Him and went away.

      At that time, so many regarded Jesus as a prophet, and so many pilgrims had come for Passover, they would have to find another way to get to Jesus.

 

      Next, Another Attempt.

Lesson XXVI

      Mark 12:13-34. Questions to Catch Jesus.

 

"13  ¶ And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Hero'dians, to catch him in his words.

14  And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?

15  Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.

16  And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.

17  And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marveled at him.

18  ¶ Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,

19  Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

20  Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.

21  And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.

22  And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.

23  In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

24  ¶ And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God?

25  For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

26  And as touching the dead, that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?

27  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

28  ¶ And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

29  And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

30  and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

32  And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

33  and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

34  And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question."

 

      Those plotting against Jesus sent a group to ask Him questions. They hoped His answers would give them reason to arrest Him. In this first instance, two groups, normally having no use for each other, now have the common purpose of getting rid of Jesus. His increased popularity, and huge following, they feel threaten their own power and positions. The Pharisees, religiously, and the Hero'di-ans, politically.

 

      Verse 13.

      The leaders of these groups did not go themselves, but they sent subordinates. They approach Jesus with flattery.

 

      Verse 14.

      They call Him Teacher and praise Him for being truthful, not partial to anyone, and for teaching God's Ways. There is no mention of the previous confrontation. It is most unfortunate for these men that they don't believe what they are saying to Jesus, or they would have believed His teaching about God. The method was used to put Jesus off His guard, and think kindly of their motives.

      Then comes their tricky question - they hope that by His answer they would have occasion to arrest Him, and turn Him over to the Roman authority for teaching people to break Roman Law, of sedition, and rebellion.

      "Is it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not? To pay or not to pay?"

      They considered there being only two choices, either of which could and would be used against Jesus. First of all, to most freedom-loving devout Jews, the very idea of paying a tax reminded them that they were under the yoke of Rome, and this made them almost slaves. It was also repulsive because of the image of the Emperor that was on the coins - he claimed political and spiritual authority over his empire, which was close to blasphemy against God.

      So for Jesus to say pay the tax would have disappointed and possibly even angered those devout Jews, turning them against Him. If on the other hand, He said don't pay then they could accuse Him of open rebellion against the government of Rome, arrest Him and turn Him over to the governor for trial. Basically, they would either destroy His credibility with the large crowd following Him, or take Him away as a rebel. Both would be to their advantage.

 

      Verse 15.

      Jesus was aware of their hypocrisy. He recognized their insincere flattery as not what they really believed, and that they were only setting Him up to trick Him. While their question was put as a pious request for advice in answering a difficult question of what was the right thing to do, their real intention was not so innocent. They thought they had Him, but Jesus was not caught.

      Jesus asks them to bring Him a denarious (or denar). It was a small silver coin worth a laborer's wage for one day. It was the fixed amount for the Roman tax. His asking one of them for the coin would make it obvious that they had no problem using the Roman coin themselves. Jesus says He wants to look at it - in front of the whole crowd - so that everyone would clearly agree to what was there.

 

      Verse 16.

      So they brought it. Jesus calls their attention to the likeness and inscription and asks whose it is. They answer, Caesar's. On one side the head of the emperor Tiberius is seen with the inscription: "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus." On the other side, the emperor was depicted on a throne in priestly clothing. The inscription "Highest Priest". At that point, tension must have been very high.

 

      Verse 17.

      Jesus speaks: "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and what is due to God, render to God."

      Jesus was saying that the tax should be paid in essence for the privileges they enjoyed - the relative peace, order, protection, justice system, roads, and all the other things the Romans had brought with them. The nation of Israel had seldom experienced this degree of tranquility either before or after this time. For all these benefits it was just that they be responsible and pay the required tax. He was also implying that the tax was all the emperor was due - no additional honor and certainly not divine reverence.

      The second part stressed that only God deserves the devotion, honor, gratitude, and glory that is His right. God alone is to be worshipped.

      The response of those who questioned Him and the surrounding throng is summed up in the following words: "And they were amazed at Him." The simplicity and brilliance of His answer showed the clear and obvious truth, yet no one else could have put these thoughts together - only Jesus could and did!

      Matthew mentions that the group that was sent, left Jesus at that point and went away. They were soundly defeated in their purpose of provoking Jesus.

 

      Verses 18,19.

      Another group approaches with a question about the resurrection, which they didn't even believe in themselves - Sadducees.

      This group consisted of the priests, from whom the high priest was chosen. Their domain was the temple. They believed in worldly power and influence, and wealth. Their plan was to attempt to make the belief in an afterlife seem ridiculous. This would also shame the Pharisees, who likewise believed in the resurrection from the dead.

      These Sadducees were probably not unhappy when news reached them that the Pharisees had failed to corner Jesus. Now was their chance. They also address Jesus as "Teacher", for the same reason as the other group. This group regarded the Pentateuch - the 5 Books of Moses - as the most important in the Old Testament.

      Their question comes from Deuteronomy 25:5,6. This was the Law to preserve each man's line of descent. If a husband dies before fathering a male child, his wife is obligated to marry, either the husband's brother, or next male kin; then the first born child of that union would be counted as that of the deceased.

      One case recorded in Genesis 38:8-10 ends with the one who refuses to follow this law, being put to death. The story of Ruth also relates to this law. There is no mention in the New Testament as to whether it was in any extent being followed during Christ's day. So these men make up what they put forward as a serious question, yet the likelihood that such a circumstance was an actual case seems totally unlikely. Their point is to make the resurrection of the body appear absurd while maintaining the centrality of the Mosaic Law.

 

      Verses 20-24.

      Start with 7 brothers. The first brother married and died with no child. The wife then marries brother 2 who dies childless, and so on until the 7th brother dies, and then she dies: no child was born. In this life, only one husband is allowed. So the question - in the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since she had married all 7 brothers.

      To follow the law, Jesus was supposed to be stumped. Their ignorance caused them to put up this straw man question. Only on earth do people marry and have children. In heaven, marriage is not continued, being unnecessary - there will be no children born there. Jesus proves these men completely wrong. He goes on to show that the Scriptures they so highly regard speak often about the afterlife and the power of God.

 

      Verse 25.

      The resurrection body will never die - in that way they will be like the angels (which the Sadducees didn't believe in either). Therefore, no need for marriage. Angels are mentioned in Genesis 19:1,15; 28:12; 32:1.

 

      Verses 26,27.

      Jesus proceeds to instruct them from the Scripture that they claim to know and believe, concerning the dead - that they are raised up (Exodus 3:1,6,15,16).

      Moses, at the burning bush that was not consumed: God spoke to him, saying - "I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: He is the God of the living, not the dead."

      Jesus begins with the question: "Have you not read?" If these men attempt to base an argument on Scripture, they should know more than one teaching - which they apply incorrectly.

      That God spoke in the present tense means if though these men had died, He was still their God, individually. This would not be true unless they still existed - their souls residing with God. The promise of the resurrection would unite their glorified physical body with their spirit. This was prefigured in the glorious resurrection of Jesus.

      Jesus closes the argument with the words: "You are badly mistaken," or "You blunder."

      Another question in verses 28-34.

 

      Verse 28.

      One of the scribes who had listened to the previous argument recognized how well Jesus had answered the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, which he also believed in. All the Pharisees would have been pleased with it also, but they did not want Jesus to become influential with increasing numbers of the general populace. They still wanted to be rid of Him.

      Matthew's account suggests that a group of the Pharisees, knowing this scribe's attitude toward Jesus was favorable, used him to put Jesus to another test. This man was an expert in the Law. Their desire was to discredit Jesus, even though the scribe's attitude was not the same as theirs.

      At that time there were two major camps engaged in studying the Law. One was to analyze - getting into hairsplitting detail concerning each law and stipulation, traditions which became a mountain of legalism. They had listed 613 commandments - 248 of which were positive ("thou shall"), and the other 365 were negative ("thou shall not").

      The other camp was devoted to synthesis - to bring together the true meaning of the whole law, to try to summarize its intent in one concise statement. Several famous rabbis before Jesus' time had attempted to do so, with different degrees of success. This line of thought was certainly much better than the hairsplitters'. Jesus had had run-ins with some of them concerning the Sabbath.

 

      Verses 29-31.

      Jesus answers, the foremost is...

      Jesus begins by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4,5: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart," and so forth. The Hebrew word shema meaning "hear" begins this verse, and had led to this complete quote to be called "The Shema". Even today the ancient tradition of beginning the synagogue service with a recitation is still done.

      The total emphasis is that there is one God and He is a God of love and wants His creation to return that love. This is the whole duty of mankind, love to God. That love is to include all human faculties - your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and these to their fullest extents. Notice the repetition of the word "all". God's love toward us is perfect - even to the giving of His Son to die on the Cross for us. Our response should be the best dedication and effort.

      The second follows from the first. Jesus had shown the perfect outworking of both commandments in His ministry. Also, the love of God within us helps us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The stipulation, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This becomes the measure for what we should do for another. The neighbor is anyone who we come in contact with that has a need.

      Jesus closes His answer, "There is no other command greater than these."

 

      Verses 32,33.

      The Scribe reacts excitedly, "Excellent! Teacher, you have truthfully spoken," and then goes on to nearly repeat what Jesus had said - yet not feeling worthy to speak the Sacred Name. He adds that these commands mean more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Obviously this man knew the Scriptures, for this thought had been repeated in several places: I Samuel 15:22; Psalms 40:6,7; Isaiah 1:10-17; Hosiah 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.

 

      Verse 34.

      Jesus was pleased with the man's response, that His was a wise answer. He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." This was an encouraging word - an urging that he could enter that kingdom, that he should accept Jesus as His Savior and Lord. Whatever the Pharisees had hoped for did not happen. Now one of their own seemed to have been won over by the truthful and powerful statement of the Lord.

 

      The verse closes with, "And from then on no one dared to ask Him any more questions." The reason is so obvious that it need not be restated - but it must be said, Jesus is brilliant, truthful, and loving! He is able to read men's hearts.

Lesson XXVII

      Mark 12:35-37. Christ's Question.

 

"35  ¶ And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?

36  For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

37  David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly."

 

      Most likely this happened on the same day (Tuesday) as the previous confrontations, in the afternoon. Jesus, His disciples, some Pharisees, and several scribes, and a large crowd were there.

 

      Verse 35.

      Jesus was teaching in the temple when He asked a question about what the scribes taught - that the Christ is the son of David. The scribe who Jesus told was not far from the kingdom of God was probably still there and this question was raised to direct his attention to Jesus as the Christ. In the Gospel record we learn that some of the Jewish leaders did come to believe in Jesus (Mark 5:42; Matthew 27:57; Luke 23:50; John 19:38).

      This is the last time public conversation takes place with Jesus.

      Though it seems obvious Jesus is referring to Himself as the Christ, He forms the question in the third person. This makes it easy for the scribes to answer without acknowledging Jesus - which they would refuse to do.

      The many Messianic passages in the Old Testament where He is called son of David were well known to these scribes (II Samuel 7:12,13; Psalms 78:66-72; 89:3,4,20,24,28,34-37; Amos 9:11; Micah 5:2, etc.). They had been highly upset at the Triumphal Entry where crowds had called Jesus son of David.

      Jesus was here concerned about bringing their understanding beyond just the earthly aspect of the term. David's son was more than a man - He is David's Lord, therefore the Son of God.

 

      Verses 36,37.

      This was clearly stated in Scripture, but they had never grasped this truth.

      Jesus quotes the words David had written, moved by the Holy Spirit (Psalms 110:1):

      The Lord said to my Lord

      Sit at my right hand

      Until I put your enemies under your feet.

 

      Then the point: David himself calls Him Lord. How then can He be his son?

      Jesus quotes this as a Messianic Psalm. Peter and Paul also regarded it so. That Jesus' humanity came from the line of David makes Him David's son. But His Deity comes from His being the Son of God. Only Jesus had or could have this unique claim. He wants them to realize that He was David's Lord and that if they reject Him they also reject David's Lord. Yet He does not openly tell His enemies that He is the promised Messiah (Christ: the Greek translation).

      It may have also been encouraging to Jesus to be reminded of the triumph promised by the Father, the exaltation after the agony and death on the cross. Verse 37 ends with: "The huge crowd enjoyed listening to Him."

 

      Mark 12:38-40. Jesus Speaks Against the Scribes.

 

"38  ¶ And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the market places,

39  and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:

40  which devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."

 

      Jesus describes the way in which many scribes acted, that others would praise them. They thereby showed their pride, selfishness: seeking for themselves the attention and prominent places wherever they went. But that's not all - they also extorted funds from vulnerable widows.

      Jesus begins by the warning, "Be on guard against the Scribes." He then goes through six examples to pay attention to.

      1. These men enjoy showing off by wearing long, flowing robes, like priests, as if they were going to some important function or other.

      2. They sought demonstrations of respect in the public places. They wanted the "common people" to address them as rabbi.

      3. They wanted to be honored by sitting at the chief seats in the synagogues.

      4. They also wanted the chief seats at banquets.

      5. Devour widows' houses - they would take advantage of their vulnerability.

      6. Again they seek praise of men by offering extremely long public prayers. Jesus condemned vain repetitions in prayer.

 

      Verse 40.

      This verse closes with the pronouncement, "They shall receive a heavier sentence." These students, interpreters, and teachers of the law were the very ones who should not only know, but also live by, what the Holy Scriptures taught about what God required of men: sincerity, humility, compassion, and love toward others. They were correctly revealed by Christ as hypocrites and even wicked in their selfishness, thus deserving a more severe condemnation and punishment. Unfortunately, some religious leaders still puff themselves up and seek honor and acclaim, and also use religion for personal material gain. They also act publicly pious while hiding their true impulses and motives. They also will be held accountable.

 

      Mark 12:41-44. Widow's Offering.

 

"41  ¶ And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44  for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."

 

      It seems reasonable that after the preceding discourse and teaching that Jesus would take a short break.

 

      Verse 41.

      He sat down opposite the treasury where gifts were placed as unto the Lord for the ministries of the Temple. Jesus was watching how the people were dropping their money into the treasury. This would have taken place in the Women's Court where 13 chests were located to put the tithes and gifts in.

      Many rich people were dropping in large amounts. Each chest was marked for a special purpose - for tribute, sacrifices, building maintenance fund, etc...As Jesus looked on, many wealthy people were dropping in large sums of money. This was a good thing. That the amounts were from their excess seems obvious.

 

      Verse 42.

      However, a poor widow came and dropped in two very small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. This was an insignificant amount from men's perspective, hardly worth counting. From God's point of view, Who values the heart, the gift was priceless.

 

      Verses 43,44.

      Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, "I solemnly declare to you that this poor widow dropped more into the treasury than all the others. For they gave out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty dropped in all she had her whole living."

      Jesus judged this event as a necessary lesson the disciples needed to confront. He called them to Him to teach them. He introduces the teaching with, "I solemnly declare to you," so they understood the importance of what is about to be brought to their attention.

      Jesus considered her tiny gift more valuable than that of all the others together. Why? The others had merely given some of their abundance. They certainly had much more left than what they had given.

      The widow, on the other hand, had given all she had, even though it was only a fraction of a penny. This was all the money she had to live on. Obviously she completely trusted that God would take care of her.

      How did Jesus know this? He could see her heart. She gave out of a heart of love for and trust in God. The most obvious lesson is that the amount of the gift is not the important thing - it is attitude, the desire of the heart that God sees.

      There are many Scriptures which speak of God's care for the orphans and widows (Psalms 68:5; Exodus 22:23; Deuteronomy 10:18; Proverbs 15:25; Psalms 146:9.)

      God also blesses and honors those who help them (Isaiah 1:17,18; Jericho 7:6), and rebukes and punishes those who harm them (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19; Psalms 44:6).

      Jesus also had great compassion for them as recorded in the Gospels (Luke 7:11-17; 18:3,5; 20:47; 21:2,3).

      In the early church, the neglect of some of the widows led to the appointment of the first deacons to make certain that they would be taken care of. (Acts 6:1-6.)

      James (1:27) states that a pure and undefiled person or church would visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.

Lesson XXVIII

      Mark 13:1-4. Temple's Destruction Foretold.

 

"1  And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!

2  And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3  ¶ And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,

4  Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?"

 

      Verse 1.

      This apparently took place on the same Tuesday - toward evening, as Jesus and His disciples were leaving the temple on their way to the Mount of Olives. At this point one of His disciples remarked to Jesus to notice how huge the stones were, and how magnificent the buildings were.

 

      Verse 2.

      In reply, Jesus made the prediction of the Temple's complete destruction - He adds the detail that there will not be one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. This is a graphic picture of the fury and determination of those who will carry this out. This came to pass in 70 A.D., when the Roman Army destroyed Jerusalem, and leveled the Temple to the ground - not one stone left upon another.

 

      Verses 3,4.

      Later, when resting on the Mount of Olives, facing the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew were asking privately for more information about the destruction of the temple. They had no doubt it would happen, but wanted to know when - and what sign will precede these violently destructive events. Added to the normal leading three is Andrew, Peter's brother. Only Mark mentions that they sat facing the Temple, looking across the valley - still able to see the white marble of the buildings and the roof covered with gold, as the sun went down.

      When they come to question Jesus, they want to know about the destruction of the temple, but they also ask about "all these things', indicating that Jesus has spoken about other future events. His reply to their question confirms this in the following verses. They may have been under the impression that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple would also be the end of the age, the end of the world. Jesus uses this opportunity to explain the Beginning of Woes, Earth's Birth Pains.

 

      Mark 13:5-13.

 

"5  And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

6  for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

7  And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

8  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

9  ¶ But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.

10  And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

11  But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

12  Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

13  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

 

      Verses 5-8.

      Jesus begins to explain that not everything that they might imagine is really a true sign of the end of the age. Only in a general sense, these signs will take place, but not indicating the time of the end. Jesus warns them to watch out for deceivers. Many would come in His name - claiming they were Christ - and they will mislead many. Over the centuries since that time, many have come claiming to be Jesus - or claiming they were the only savior, or true prophet. No person should call for worship or blind following, but many have, and have misled many more - some to their deaths. Only Jesus is worthy of faith, trust, and worship.

      Next, Jesus warns of wars and rumors of wars. At that time, the Roman empire had brought about a long era of peace (Pax Romana). It would only be about forty years later that dramatic political upheavals would shake the empire from one end to the other. The Jewish revolt in 69 A.D. was only the beginning of what Jesus describes as "nation rising up against nation." These wars and rumors of wars have been erratic but continual through the centuries, only increasing in the 20th Century and up to the present moment.

      We are not to be disturbed - these things must happen. One historian counted 300 wars just in Europe during the last 300 years. No particular cataclysm or upheaval or war gives anyone the excuse to fix a date. Every single person who, through the centuries, fixed a date has been wrong. That lesson is so obvious, no one else should even try.

      Jesus next mentions earthquakes in various places, and famines. These upheavals and natural disasters will also be taking place. They are only the beginning of the earth's birth pains - not a sign of the end. But it is also true that as time comes closer to the end, these birth pains (contractions) will increase in frequency and many will come at the same time (i.e. volcano eruptions, tsunamis, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, floods, droughts, etc...).

      And we can say that we are 2,000 years closer to Christ's coming than when these warnings were spoken. But that is all we can say. We have no better - nor will we have any better - information to predict the future or the time of His appearing. His coming for us is imminent (it could happen at this or the next moment) and then the end. Or it could be months or years.

 

      Verse 9.

      Jesus now warns the disciples personally about what they shall be called upon to endure.

      "But be on your guard. They will hand you over to councils, you will be flogged in synagogues. On my account you will have to appear before governors and kings, as a testimony to them."

      The councils were local Jewish courts which would convict - then they would be turned over to judges who would see the punishment carried out. The attendant of the synagogue would perform the beating. From Acts 22:19, we read that Saul of Tarsus caused this cruel punishment to be given to many Christians. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he was to be treated the same way. In II Corinthians 11:24, Paul reveals that "From the Jews five times I received forty lashes less one."

      The governors would include Roman officials such as Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus. Kings would include Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1). Agrippa II (Acts 25:13, 24, 26) and Herod Antipas. Paul was brought before Agrippa II and procurator Festus, after having witnessed to procurator Felix (Acts 25:13). In each case it will be a testimony to the Jews and to the Gentiles concerning Jesus the Christ of God.

      "On my account" indicates that all these persecutions that would soon begin and continue throughout the time since, Jesus considers that it is He that is being persecuted. Jesus is saying that He is ever with His witnesses, to give love, strength, and comfort, no matter what the circumstances.

 

      Verse 10.

      And to all the nations, the Gospel must first be preached. Matthew 24:14 adds, "and then will come the end." The Gospel is God's good news of salvation from sin by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. This Gospel was to be offered to all nations - the entire world.

      This proclamation "must" take place. This was God's plan and decree from eternity. God has seen to it that we have this Gospel and thereby we also have the responsibility to do our part in helping its spread. However, at this time, communication is easier than it has ever been worldwide. Many doors of opportunity are open.

      However, it will not remain this way. While these opportunities remain, everything that can be done must be done. Signs of coming persecutions against Christians, even in America, are already seen. This will only get worse as the general society turns more and more openly to sin, as well as defying God and morality - calling these actions tolerance and entertainment.

 

      Verse 11.

      Jesus now gives comfort to believers, that they need not be afraid or worry when they are arrested and taken to trial. The Holy Spirit will guide and instruct them as to what they should say. It is normal to be afraid of appearing before judges or rulers, not knowing how and what to say, how to defend oneself. Jesus says to fight that thinking, to not be distracted by circumstances. Luke says that the Holy Spirit will supply "words of wisdom" (Luke 21:14,15).

 

      Verse 12.

      Even within families, becoming a Christian will cause hatred, violence, and death. Brother will deliver up brother to death, the father his child, and children will rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death (in effect the same as killing them themselves).

      In the first centuries, during the Roman Empire, when being a Christian was punishable by death, there were many recorded instances where people were turned in by members of their own family, and became martyrs in Jesus' Name. The Emperor Constantine put a stop to this after his conversion. However, over the intervening time, Christians have been killed in different parts of the world, and such deaths are still being reported in our own day. (Such as India and China, for certain.)

 

      Verse 13.

      Because the world (the general population) hates Jesus, those who represent Him will continue to be hated. This will take place up to the time of His return. In our day the word "sin" seems to have been banned as an out-moded archaic idea. If no one recognizes evil, selfishness, perversity, and arrogance as sin, then they see no need of a Saviour. If pleasure and greed for a season is the highest goal, then death is the end and there is no afterlife. There is no such thing as satan or hell. Again, no need for a Saviour.

      Anyone who does believe in these things is out of step. They are out of touch, deluded, blinded, unrealistic - and intolerant. Life must be lived fast to enjoy, so they see no point in wasting time considering spiritual or eternal values.

      Yet, we will stand for what is right. We will stand for love, compassion, helping others, being honest, truthful, and being a witness of our own sin, and our continuing need of our Saviour, our relationship with Him, and the Father. That relationship will not end with death, but go on into eternity.

      Verse 13 ends with, "But he that endures to the end, he will be saved." No true child of God can ever be lost, or could turn to unbelief. To put it in another way, "he that is saved, will endure to the end." It is not conditional (no if's and's, or but's). It is all a work of God, from beginning to eternity.

      One other point: from that time until now, there have been those that take part in a church for reasons other than acceptance of Christ. Whether for social, economic, or anxiety reasons, they try to play the role. But in time of crisis, turmoil, and especially persecution, they quickly reveal their lack of faith. As persecutions increase, only the true believer will remain standing in their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is we who will endure and be saved. So let us continue to stand together as a witness to our loyalty to each other and Our Lord. Amen.

Lesson XXIX

      Mark 13:14-23. The Great Tribulation.

 

"14  ¶ But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains:

15  and let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:

16  and let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.

17  But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

18  And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.

19  For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.

20  And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

21  And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

22  for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

23  But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things."

 

      Verse 14.

      Jesus warns of the coming desolating sacrilege that will be where he has no right to be - let him who reads the prophecies of Daniel understand what is about to take place. Most Bible scholars agree that Jesus is predicting the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman army, with the image of the emperor on their standards (banners - which they worshipped) in 69-70 A.D.

      They also agree that this event is a foreshadowing of the final event, during the great tribulation when the Anti-Christ will stand in the Holy Place, and the events following which all lead up to Christ's coming the second time to Earth. In connection with the first event, which will take place within the lifetimes of most of the disciples, Jesus is specifically warning them to flee to the hills from Jerusalem when the Roman army begins to arrive.

 

      Verses 15,16.

      The situation will be so dangerous that a person who is on the housetop, should not go down or go into his house to get anything out. He must escape by an outside ladder from the flat roof. If a man is working in the field, he must not go back to his house or the edge of the field to get his coat (or outer garment). Any delay could mean capture or death.

 

      Verse 17.

      Jesus shows His deep concern for women, especially those pregnant, or nursing babies - they will be totally vulnerable.

 

      Verse 18.

      And pray that it may not occur in winter...They are to pray that the weather not be harsh, so their flight would be easier.

 

      Verses 19,20.

      Jesus then continues His thought of the final tribulation - which will be worse than any time since the beginning of creation, or ever again will be. But the Lord will cut short those days or no one would be saved. For the sake of the elect whom He elected for Himself, He shortened the days.

 

      Verses 21,22.

      Jesus again warns about false Christs, and false prophets - those that claim to speak for God, that God speaks to them outside of the Scriptures, new revelations. Beware especially those who claim to know the future - the times and seasons, and the time of the Lord's coming. So if anyone tells you that they have seen or heard such a person, do not believe them. Some may perform signs, miracles, and marvels, trying to lead people astray, even the elect. However, that is not possible. We are in God's hands, and no one can take us out, not even us.

      In our day, charismatic leaders lead many to follow them on whatever mistaken path they have chosen. The leaders always benefit and take advantage, and the followers lose everything - sometimes even their lives. This will continue, and get worse.

 

      Verse 23.

      For the third time, Jesus warns them to be on their guard, especially since He has told them everything ahead of time. That they would experience tribulation was certain. That many would experience the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was certain. That these events prefigured the further-off great tribulation was also certain.

      The Gospel records Jesus making certain that these warnings were included for the generations yet future, and especially the generation that will experience the end times. Though the Rapture will take all believers out of the world before the great tribulation, the Bible will remain. It will still bear witness to those terrible things coming upon the earth. Only God knows how many will be shaken awake to God's call and become believers in Christ during that time.

 

      Mark 13:24-33.

 

"24  ¶ But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

25  and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

26  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

27  And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

28  ¶ Now learn a parable of the fig tree: When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:

29  so ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

30  Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

31  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

32  ¶ But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

33  Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."

 

      Verses 24,25.

      After that tribulation, celestial disturbances - the sun is darkened, the moon gives no light, stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

 

      Verse 26.

      And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

      From the earth and all mankind's point of view, this will signal the return of Jesus to the earth, this time in glory and power. This was predicted in Daniel 7:13, and by Jesus Himself, in Mark 14:62, and by the two angels in Acts 1:11.

 

      Verse 27.

      And then the angels will be sent to gather the elect from all directions - both in earth and the farthest reach in heaven. This indicates that many would believe after the Rapture of the Church. It seems reasonable to assume that since the Church teaches the Rapture, many others are also aware of that teaching. Therefore when it happens, it will be an undeniable witness to those others of the Truth of God's promises.

      Since it will be a worldwide event, its effect will be also. Those who choose not to believe God, will come up with other explanations - alien abduction, terrorist coordinated kidnappings, government conspiracy, etc...Other passages include Matthew 24:31, 25:31-40; John 10:16; Revelation 19:6-8.

 

      Verse 28.

      Now Jesus gives another warning, using the lesson of the fig tree (or any fruit tree). When you notice the changes of spring, the putting forth new growth, the increase of leaves, you know summer is near. In the same way, as you notice the predicted events beginning to happen, and increase in frequency and intensity, then know that tribulation and destruction is near, at the very gates.

      He solemnly declares that that very generation will not pass away until all this takes place. When these same warning signs occur after a longer period of time of unknown duration, that generation will not pass away before the great tribulation - the final Antichrist and then the 2nd Coming of Jesus in glory.

 

      Verse 30.

      A solemn declaration. Some scholars have interpreted this warning as specifically to the Jews. That the Jews as well as the Christians among them would also suffer severe tribulation until Jesus returns. "This generation" meaning the Jewish people (cf. Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalms 12:7; 78:8) will not cease to exist until all these predictions come to pass. The past 2,000 years of recorded history, and especially in the 20th century, we have seen many violent attempts to destroy the Jewish people. And yet in 1948 they again became a nation and continue to struggle to remain so, in spite of persistent opposition.

 

      Verse 31.

      Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

      We live in a world of decay and death - a physically unstable planet: earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, floods, tidal waves, hurricanes, tornadoes. Jesus is not saying that they will be destroyed, but that their present form will be changed into an eternal, renewed heaven and earth (Isaiah 11:6-9; Romans 8:18-22; II Peter 3:10,13; Revelation 21:1-5). What we think of as secure and enduring in our physical lives will not endure, but every word that Jesus spoke will eternally endure (Isaiah 40:8; I Peter 1:24;25), for His words are spirit, and they are life.

 

      Verses 32,33.

      Jesus emphasizes two points: first that only the Father knows the day and hour of Christ's return. Even to the angels in heaven, so close to God, He has not chosen to reveal it. Even Jesus in His human nature did not know. This was an is God's plan. Possibly the most obvious reason was to try to prevent all the evils related to date-setting. Men have not resisted the temptation and have caused great excitement, and then tragic disappointment. For Christians to attempt this is to willfully go against the commandment of God. He said that thou shall not know, period.

      The second point: Be alert, on your guard, because you do not and will not know the appointed time. Knowing human nature intimately, God knows the seemingly irresistible temptation to laziness and selfishness. If you think you know the time - it's an excuse to sit still and wait. If you think the time is unknown, then you also sit and wait or do what you please. Your excuse - that the time is very far off. Jesus is pointing out the necessity of resisting these temptations and meeting their responsibilities. They (and we) are to be busy about the Lord's work, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. To be always ready is the point.

 

      Mark 13:34-37. An Illustration.

 

"34  For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

35  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

36  lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

37  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."

 

      Verse 34.

      It is like a householder who goes on a journey. Before leaving, he assigns each servant a task to be done during his absence. The doorkeeper is told to stay on the alert - to be looking for his return. The greatest stress is placed on the doorkeeper and the absolute necessity of staying alert.

 

      Verses 35-37.

      The explanation: because you do not know when the owner of the house will return - evening, midnight, dawn - stay alert so you will not be found sleeping. His coming will be sudden.

      Jesus is the master of the house. He is going away from the disciples, from everyone, for a period of time. We are to be actively preparing, not sleeping. We are to be prayerfully in communication with the Lord and looking forward to His coming. We are to be bearing witness to Him and loving one another.

      As in the days of Noah, the people were totally occupied with their daily affairs. They would not listen to the witness of Noah, which lasted 120 years. Then the flood came and washed them all away. Alertness should include both joyful anticipation and faithfully going about doing good in Christ's Name.

      In 1990, I found a book titled "Jesus Is Coming In 1988". I didn't bother reading it, but kept it as an example of the sinful futility of date-setting.

      Unfortunately, there are still people doing their calculations and predicting the future. Needless to say, they will all be wrong. Idle speculation is a waste of time, and so are mountains of calculation - according to calendars, counting years, periods of time, and important events in history.

      The words of Jesus will stand. He said man will not know. What He says goes. To try to outsmart God is stupid, and worse: it is sinful, wasteful, and destructive. We are to be faithful - believing that God will carry out His promises absolutely and on time, every time.

Lesson XXX

      Mark 14:1-11. The Plot, The Anointing, and The Agreement.

 

"1  After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.

2  But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

3  ¶ And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

4  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

5  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

6  And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

7  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

8  She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

9  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

10  ¶ And Judas Iscar'i-ot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

11  And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him."

 

      Verses 1,2.

      The Plot: The feast of the Passover and the following 7 day feast of the Unleavened Bread were two days away. The chief priests and scribes were plotting on how to arrest Jesus by some trick and put Him to death. Matthew also includes the elders of the people. Though their desire to get rid of Jesus had existed for quite some time, things were coming to a head. The recent Triumphal Entry, plus the raising of Lazarus from the dead had had tremendous effect on a great many people in and around Jerusalem, including the increased amount of pilgrims who had come to celebrate Passover. Also the cleansing of the Temple – the teaching in the Temple, and Jesus' warnings about the evil intents of these very plotters in His parables - also told in the Temple, directly to them. To get rid of Jesus was necessary, but they must not get in trouble themselves. For this reason, they must find some covert, behind the scenes way to accomplish it. Their reasoning was that it must not be done during the feast, as arresting Jesus in public would likely cause a riot among the great crowd of religious people there who held Jesus in high esteem.

      Apparently, they were thinking that they would have to wait until after the celebration when the crowds would have returned to their homes and they could carry out the plot, when it would be convenient and safe for them. They had no clue that they truly had no power to carry out their plans at their convenience. God only had (and has) the power to bring to pass His will, at His time. His was the plan of Salvation from before the foundation of the world. The Lamb of God must be sacrificed at the Passover, once and for all. Neither men, nor satan could prevent or change that.

 

      Mark 14:3-9. The Anointing at Bethany.

 

"3  ¶ And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

4  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

5  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

6  And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

7  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

8  She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

9  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her."

 

      Verse 3.

      This event took place while Jesus and presumably the 12 disciples were at Bethany participating in a supper given in His honor. The home was that of Simon the leper, who we assume had been healed by Jesus, but he was still identified as Simon the leper. John (in 12:2) has a parallel account where he mentions that Lazarus was there and that Martha his sister was serving, and that their sister Mary was the one who anointed Jesus. They were also residents of Bethany. It was obvious that they all had come together out of love, gratitude, and respect for what Jesus meant to them.

      While the guests were reclining at a table, a woman came (identified as Mary of Bethany in John 12:3) up behind the reclining Jesus. She has an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. Nard was imported and the contents of this jar was pure (not watered down), therefore very expensive. It has been estimated that the jar held about 12 ounces. She breaks the jar (alabaster being a soft stone) and pours the perfume over Jesus. Matthew and Mark record that she poured it over His head, John says she anoints His feet. Considering the amount, it is simply explained that she poured it completely, covering His whole body - head to toe, so to speak. Certainly the whole house would be filled with the fragrance. This was a deeply felt act of devotion on her part. John also mentions that she wipes Jesus' feet with her hair.

 

      Verse 4.

      The reaction of some was completely negative. They were indignant - saying to each other that this was so wasteful. The value of the perfume was more than a year's wages. If it had been sold, the money could have been given to the poor. John 12:4-6 records Judas Iscariot as the one who openly made these statements. It also mentions that his reasons were not because he cared for the poor, but that he held the money bag for the group, and he was a thief. We already know the rest of his story. Obviously, some of the other disciples agreed with his sentiment, but more likely for purer motives. Mark adds that these men were grumbling at her.

 

      Verses 6,7.

      Jesus responded by telling them to leave her alone, and that they had no reason to bother her. They have missed the whole point of what she had done. She had performed a beautiful act of devotion, giving without counting the cost.

      What Jesus then spoke about always having the poor does in no way suggest a lack of concern for the poor on His part - one could list a page of Scripture references of His concern for, and others' responsibility, toward their care. The point was that there was only a small amount of time left before He would be taken away. What she had done for Him was perfectly right, and at the proper and necessary time.

 

      Verse 8.

      "She has done what she could. She has anointed my body in advance for burial." It has been suggested and we cannot rule out the possibility that Mary knew and believed what Jesus had been saying about His coming arrest and execution. We know that she listened at His feet on at least one previous occasion. Her thinking may have been that this was the last opportunity, since after He was killed, His enemies would never give her the privilege of anointing His body for burial. Either way, God's purpose was accomplished.

 

      Verse 9.

      Jesus solemnly assures them that she will be remembered for this loving deed. Wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she had done will also be told in memory of her. This emphatically shows the great appreciation Jesus has toward those that love Him, and seek to express that love. He made no hesitation in coming to her defense - to the point of including her devotion as a part of the proclamation of His Gospel. This calls for a longer and deeper reflection, to contemplate the love of Christ toward her, and toward us.

 

      Mark 14:10,11. The Agreement between Judas and the Chief Priests.

 

"10  ¶ And Judas Iscar'i-ot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

11  And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him."

 

      Verses 10,11.

      We must be reminded that Judas had been with Jesus and the other disciples throughout Jesus' ministry. He has seen and heard and experienced the teaching, the miracles - all of it. Yet at this point, Judas makes a fateful decision to betray Jesus. From what we do know about him, we can surmise several conclusions.

      He was the treasurer of the group, and he took money for himself. He was only interested in his own advantage. Throughout Jesus' ministry, he was looking at Jesus' works as those of the promised Messiah Who had come to be king of Israel, Who would kick out the hated Roman occupation. Therefore, Judas would have a place of high authority in that government.

      Now Jesus had been emphasizing that He was not going to set up His earthly kingdom, but on the contrary. He was going to die. Judas could not understand this - nor see any advantage for himself in continuing to follow Jesus. It would likely put him in danger of also being killed. His decision: try to at least make some money out of the situation.

      He was obviously aware of the hatred and plotting of the religious leaders against Jesus, and that they were afraid of the crowds. He had the solution. He would show them a way they could arrest Him in secret, away from any public notice - after dark, without anyone knowing in advance.

      When Judas went and told them of his plan, "They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money." Matthew records (Matthew 26:14-16) that before he left they did give him 30 pieces of silver. Once the agreement is set, the money given, Judas leaves. He would not dare go back on this agreement - he had already been paid.

      Though money values fluctuate constantly, it has been calculated as far as possible that the payment of 30 pieces of silver would be approximately $20.00. Zechariah 11:12,13: "So they weighed for my price 30 pieces of silver." The Lord told Zechariah to cast the money unto the potter in the house of the Lord.

      The verse closes with: "So he was looking for an opportunity to betray Him." That opportunity would not be very long in showing itself.

Lesson XXXI

      Mark 14:12-21. The Passover.

 

"12  ¶ And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?

13  And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

14  And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

15  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

16  And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

17  ¶ And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.

18  And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

19  And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?

20  And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.

21  The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born."

 

      Verse 12.

      Finally the time arrived, the 14th of Nisan, when the Festival of Unleavened Bread began - in the broadest sense included the celebration of the Passover, on Thursday. The lamb must have been purchased earlier. In the afternoon the lamb must be slain in the forecourt of the temple. Unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and wine and other preparations must be gotten and a place secured for the feast and everything made ready.

      It seems that the disciples were responsible to prepare everything for especially this Passover. This was Jesus' Passover. He was the Host, they are His privileged guests. Here they asked Him where they are to get everything ready for Him.

 

      Verses 13,14.

      Jesus proceeds to tell two of His disciples (Luke mentions their names: Peter and John) to go into the city where they will find a man carrying a jug of water. Since the job of carrying water was a female's, to see a man with a jug of water would certainly stand out. They were to follow this man to the house he entered.

      It has been suggested that Jesus did not mention the man's name, the owner of the house, or the address, so that Judas would not be able to disrupt this most important time with His disciples by telling the chief priests. Some have even speculated as to who the man, and the owner of the house, were. The only certain thing is that the owner was a follower of Jesus.

      The two disciples are to tell the owner that the Teacher asks where the guest room is, where He may eat the Passover with His disciples.

 

      Verse 15.

      Jesus tells them that they will be shown a large upper room, furnished and ready. There they are to get everything else prepared for the whole group.

      As in other similar situations, we are not told whether arrangements had been made privately or that Jesus knew things in advance supernaturally. Since both are possible, there is no need to waste time with the question. That they were in the plan of God makes them certain to take place by whatever means God chose.

 

      Verse 16.

      When the disciples went off and entered the city, they found everything just as Jesus had told them. They then proceeded to carry out the remaining preparations for the Passover.

 

      Verses 17,18.

      When it was evening, He arrived with the twelve. At sundown Thursday ended, and Friday began (the Jews traditionally counted days this way).

      After the meal had been going on for some time, as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus makes a startling announcement. One of those presently eating with Him is going to betray Him. Jesus opens with, "I solemnly declare." This indicates that what He says is the absolute truth. The shock to the disciples was profound.

 

      Verse 19.

      Very upset with even the possibility that such a thing could happen, but even more so that any one of them could even unintentionally do such a thing, is unthinkable. But Jesus only speaks the truth. With personal misgiving, one by one they said to Him, "Surely not I?" This form of the question hopes for a negative answer. John's Gospel gives the further details of John's question of who it is, Jesus' answer, the disciples' reaction, and also the departure of Judas. (John 13:23-30.)

 

      Verse 20.

      Jesus responds by telling them that it is the one of the 12 who dips his hand into the bowl with Him. Jesus is pointing out that His betrayer is sharing the meal with Him. To do any injury to someone whose hospitality they have enjoyed was reprehensible. This was a solemn and direct warning to Judas. Jesus knew of his plotting, but this warning would increase Judas' guilt if he were to still go through with his plan to betray Jesus.

      Also, it certainly caused Jesus much sorrow to be with Judas (one of the faithful 12) while knowing of his betrayal. It also shows that Jesus was in full knowledge of every aspect of the situation. Nothing would take Him by surprise.

      The question also gave the disciples reason to question their own thoughts and feelings and loyalty to Jesus. They were soon to be severely tested. This was a forewarning that forced them to think before that time.

 

      Verse 21.

      Jesus calls Himself the Son of man, to emphasize His taking on human flesh in order to save man. Jesus says that what has been recorded in the Old Testament concerning the suffering servant He will continue to follow and fulfill. His path is certain, and will be followed to the end. That said, there is still human responsibility. People still are given choices. For this man that would betray Him, Jesus says that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. This assumes that he will not repent. We know the rest of the story of Judas - he did not repent and died in his sins. His guilt increased after having this warning from Jesus directly, and not changing his plan of betrayal. Judas left before the following account of the supper (John 13:30).

 

      Mark 14:22-26. The Lord's Supper.

 

"22  ¶ And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

23  And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

24  And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

25  Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

26  ¶ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."

 

      After the ending of the Passover meal, Jesus was to introduce the new sacrament. The old institution of the slaying of the lamb and the blood that included, would be replaced by the final shedding of blood by Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the posts of the cross.

      The new symbol would not include blood - His shedding of blood was once for all. The Passover pointed forward to the coming of Christ, the Lord's Supper must point back to the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the people by Jesus.

      Jesus takes a whole piece of their unleavened bread and "gave thanks," or literally, "having blessed," He broke it. He gave each a piece and said, "Take it; this is my body." Though the figurative lesson is the only possible and obvious way to understand what Jesus meant, yet it has been taken literally by many since. This is especially true in the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

      To do this goes against Christ's many teachings about Himself, using figurative examples, such as - the light of the world, the true vine, the true bread, the lamb of God. Even though many took Christ's word literally when they first heard them, Jesus always explained the true and spiritual message of the figures, or parables, to the disciples.

 

      This bread, broken, represented Jesus' broken body, which He gave for us - thus we remember His love and sacrifice, are thankful, and have communion with Him through the Holy Spirit.

 

      Verses 23,24.

      Then He took a cup and again gave thanks. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He told them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."

      Luke and Paul mention "the cup after supper." This speaks of the final drinking that was offered at the end of the Passover. Whether one cup was passed around, or several cups were used, or what kind of container it was in, is of no importance. The whole focus is on the wine as a symbol of Christ's shed blood.

      Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, and no covenant. Through His blood Jesus paid the price for our sins - reconciling us to God to bring a special relationship of grace, mercy, and good will - the new covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus.

      Jesus is predicting His soon coming death and separation from them. He teaches them these things through this ritual, which they must practice, and pass on to all those that follow their faith until His return. This is all to renew the remembrance of His loving gift of His life for ours.

 

      Verse 25.

      Jesus knew His earthly life would end the following afternoon (Friday). He speaks of the next time He would drink wine (the fruit of the vine). That would be new wine in the kingdom of God - a symbol of the glorious reunion and fellowship. He will also be the Host there. We, and all believers, will be His guests. The Communion points both back and to the future. Back to the sacrifice, forward to the victory in glory.

 

      Verse 26.

      A customary end of the Passover was the singing great songs of praise to God - probably Psalms 115-118. Great praise, thanksgiving, and trust. After that, they went out, crossed the brook of Kidron, to the grove of trees called Gethsemane (near the foot of the Mount of Olives).

 

      Mark 14:27-31. Peter's Denial Foretold.

 

"27  And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

28  But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

29  But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

30  And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

31  But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all."

 

      Verse 27.

      Jesus told them that they will all fall away. Then he quotes Zechariah 13:7 - "I will strike down the shepherd and all the sheep will be scattered." Jesus is telling His disciples that when He is struck down and slain, that they will scatter as sheep when their shepherd is slain. In Zechariah's prophecy, the one who strikes down the shepherd is not named. Jesus says, "I", which indicates that He willingly lays down His life for the sheep. It could also refer to the Father who gave His only-begotten Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

      Subsequent events show the accuracy of this prediction. By telling them this before the time Jesus is showing loving concern, that when these things happen, they would remember that He had told them. They would also be comforted, come back together, and be ready for the resurrection.

 

      Verse 28.

      Jesus gives them the glorious promise: "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." He plainly states the fact of being raised from the dead. He will meet them in the familiar territory where most of them are from, and where He had called them.

 

      Verse 29.

      At this point, Peter shows his conceit - even when all fall away, he won't. He considers himself better than his fellows. He claims to have no fear of persecution or even ultimately, death.

 

      Verse 30.

      Jesus solemnly declares the event that will show Peter's true nature - that very day. Before sun-up, before the rooster crows twice, he will deny Jesus three times. Every detail was known unto Jesus. This must have also grieved Him. This was to take place very soon, within a few hours. Peter will deny his Master. But when the rooster crows the second time - the prediction of Jesus will jolt his memory, and bring him to his senses, and deep repentance.

 

      Verse 31.

      Nevertheless, Peter emphatically continues to insist that even if he has to die with Jesus, he will certainly not deny Him. The other disciples were caught up by Peter's enthusiasm, and made similar boasts. It turns out all these boasts were only that.

      The lesson for us is that we cannot know what we will do in every situation we face, for we still have a sinful nature, which includes fears and weaknesses and selfishness. We must only trust in God and remember His grace and love and mercy. We can have confidence that when we sin (and we will), that He is faithful in forgiving us. As we look to Him, he will give us the strength to go through everything we face and He will also be with us - even unto the end of the age.

Lesson XXXII

      Mark 14:32-42. Gethsemane.

 

"32  ¶ And they came to a place which was named Gethsem'ane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

33  And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

34  and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

35  And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

36  And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt.

37  And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

38  Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

39  And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.

40  And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.

41  And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand."

 

      Verse 32.

      Upon arrival at this garden - its grove of fruit-trees - Jesus tells His disciples to sit near the entrance and rest while He goes further to a more remote and secluded spot to pray.

 

      Verse 33.

      He took Peter, James, and John with Him, as He had on earlier occasions. Once there, Jesus began to be filled with horror and anguish. Jesus knew everything He was about to endure: Peter would deny Him, the others would scatter, Judas was already betraying Him. The trials, the accusations, the condemnation of the religious leaders and the general population crying "crucify Him", the scourging, the crucifixion, God condemning Him to death and hell. This would certainly cause a tidal wave of horror and anguish - emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. To know all this in advance, and that it was necessary for man's redemption - yet it was still His choice to make.

 

      Verse 34.

      He said to them, "I am overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." He wants them to stay nearby and stay awake. They were not able to do this and ended up providing Him little if any comfort.

 

      Verse 35.

      Going further into the grove of trees, Jesus was throwing Himself to the ground, praying with deep emotion, that if it were possible, this hour might pass Him by. Luke mentions that it was about a stone's throw from the tree (22:41). Jesus is expressing what we know as a natural human reaction - but His agony included much more, as already mentioned.

 

      Verse 36.

      The words He spoke: "Abba, Father, all things are possible with Three. Remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt."

      Jesus knows the Father has the power to do anything, and therefore He could let the cup pass from Him, but also knowing this was not part of the Perfect Will of God for man, immediately saying He is ready and willing to follow that plan. He did experience great anguish while praying. Hebrews 5:7 says "with strong crying and tears". Luke 24:43 records that an angel from heaven came and strengthens Him.

 

      Verse 37.

      After this first prayer He returns to find the three men sleeping. To Peter, He said, "Simon, were you not able to stay awake for a single hour?" It was by this time past midnight. After all his boasting, Peter could not even stay awake one hour. Thus Jesus singles out Peter for this gentle reprimand - though He included all three. Jesus had expected them to be praying and thereby remain awake, supporting Him.

 

      Verse 38.

      He advises them to stay alert and keep on praying, that they may not enter into temptation. To be alert and spiritually praying would be essential to overcome temptation. But Jesus knows human nature intimately - "The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak."

 

      Verse 39.

      Again He went and prayed, substantially the same concerns.

 

      Verse 40.

      Jesus came again to the three, and their eyes were weighed down with sleep. He obviously speaks to them; they did not know what to answer Him. He had told them to remain alert and keep on praying. They were not able to do this - what could they say? They were embarrassed at their weakness. Even His closest followers were not able to give Him any companionship or comfort. Jesus again goes from them and continues in communion with His Father.

 

      Verse 41.

      For the third time, He comes to the three - this time telling them to sleep on, and get their rest. It appears that Jesus has finished the communion and prayer with the Father. He has also arrived at complete submission to the Father's will, and perfect peace. They failed Him, but He would never fail them. Jesus now adds, "It is enough." This possibly refers to the time of watching and waiting to be finished - that Jesus already is aware of Judas and those with him are nearby. Jesus says, "the Son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners."

 

      Verse 42.

      Now the group coming to arrest Jesus is very close. Jesus tells them to get up - that they must be going. He tells them to look - the betrayer is near. The more natural reaction would be to go in the other direction. Jesus, on the other hand was going forward to meet those coming to arrest Him, including Judas.

 

      Mark 14:43-50. Betrayal & Arrest.

 

"43  ¶ And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

44  And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.

45  And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, Master; and kissed him.

46  And they laid their hands on him, and took him.

47  And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

48  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?

49  I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.

50  And they all forsook him, and fled."

 

      The longest account of this event is found in John's Gospel (John 18:2-22). Mark's is the briefest - centering on the action. Jesus had awakened the disciples and told them to get up and go toward the group that had come to arrest Him. Jesus had already seen that that group was quite near. As they went forward from the garden - while Jesus was still speaking, Judas and a crowd - some armed with swords - arrived. They had been sent from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.

      When Judas had left Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room, He must have gone directly to the chief priests and their cohorts to suggest that they act quickly - that very night. He knew that Jesus and the disciples habitually spent the night in the garden of Gethsemane. Then by cover of darkness - with no witnesses to protest or spread the news - it would be a perfect situation in which to arrest Jesus. As far as how the group with Judas was organized, it is not described in the Gospels. The main feature was that Judas was in front, the one who would identify Jesus directly - then the soldiers would immediately come forward and lay hands on Him and bind Him - then take Him to the High Priest's Palace.

      It is mentioned that Judas was one of the twelve. This is to remind us that he who was betraying Jesus was the one who had been His close follower and companion. The high priest's servant must have also been in the front (identified by Luke as Malchus), along with the Temple police, with the Roman soldiers not far behind. It is possible that the religious leaders did not completely trust the Temple police - since some had sided with Jesus on at least one previous occasion (John 7:32,45). For this reason, they may have felt it necessary to also have Roman soldiers as backup. The number of these soldiers is not recorded, but certainly enough to arrest one man.

      John 18:3 mentions a cohort - which at full strength, would be 600. It has been suggested that the number was taken from the "cohort" on duty at the tower at Antonia - near the northwest corner of the temple area. That the Roman authorities would allow this points to their concern about public upheaval or rioting - which was much more likely during Passover when great numbers of religious Jews were in Jerusalem. It also has been suggested that some members of the Sanhedrin were also with the group (Luke 22:52).

      Obviously, the soldiers were equipped with swords, and the temple police with clubs. Whether any others were armed is not mentioned - except that Peter also had a sword. John also mentions torches and lanterns - thinking they would have to search for Jesus in the garden. That such a large group of police, soldiers, and others were necessary to arrest the Prince of Peace seems to show great hatred for and fear of Jesus.

 

      Verses 44,45.

      The signal to be given was Judas giving Jesus the kiss of greeting and respect. He was the one to get hold of and lead Him away under guard. Judas addresses Jesus as "Rabbi." Then he kissed Him repeatedly, or fervently. This suggests Judas' emotional excitement - wishing to complete his bargain with the chief priests, with no possibility of confusion as to Who Jesus was in the group.

      Luke 22:48 records Jesus' response at this point: "Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?" It is possible that Jesus was giving him warning that he still has a choice.

 

      Verse 46.

      In John's account, he stresses Jesus' power over these accusers, thus showing that Jesus voluntarily allows these Jewish and Gentile officials and soldiers to take Him under arrest.

 

      Verse 47. Only John mentions the names of both the one who drew the sword and the one whose ear was cut off: Peter and Malchus - the high priest's servant. The rest of this particular event is recorded in Matthew 26:52-54 and Luke 22:51 - what Jesus said to Peter, and the healing of the ear.

 

      Verses 48,49.

      According to Luke 22:52, a group of Sanhedrin were also present. What Jesus now says seems to be addressed specifically to them. He asks why they felt the need to come after Him in the middle of the night - with soldiers and temple guards - well armed. Did they consider Him some kind of dangerous thief or rebel?

      He emphasizes the fact that every day He had been with them in the temple teaching, but during all that time they did not arrest Him. These men really had no business being there - especially during the night. Apparently they wanted to make sure their plot was carried out. Most likely they were lurking at the rear of the crowd.

      What Jesus was pointing out to the whole group was their true nature and motives. He had never done anything to deserve this kind of treatment. He had been peacefully teaching in the temple, day after day, and certainly never advocating any wrong action or rebellion against the Roman government. If these men had any credible evidence of any wrongdoing, they had ample time to arrest Him with minimum commotion. This was also spoken to make all present think about what was actually being done.

      He is forcing them to again make a choice - that if they perceive the truth concerning Him, they could come to saving faith in Him. We can imagine Jesus speaking these words in a calm and serious way, and most likely did affect some positively. However, it is most clear that the majority, especially the religious leaders, were hardened in their sinful hatred for Jesus.

      Jesus finished His words with, "But this happened in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled." Had this not been part of God's plan for man's salvation, none of these men would have any power over Him (cf. Isaiah 53:7,10,12; Jerimiah 23:6; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:12; 13:1).

 

      Verse 50.

      And the disciples all left Him and fled. A little later, Peter and John came back to follow Jesus at a distance. Effectually, Jesus was abandoned by His followers, to go onward to the death on the cross. Jesus knew this would happen, yet He proceeds - all focus was on His coming sacrifice.

 

      Mark 14:51-52.

 

"51  ¶ And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

52  and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked."

 

      Only Mark records this occurrence. The most logical reason that it is included as important would be that Mark himself was the young man. There is no explanation as to why the young man was dressed in this way - but it seems obvious that he was clothed for sleeping. After the others fled - he seems to have come afterward and came close enough to those surrounding Jesus to allow them to grab him. Because they grabbed the cloth only, it allowed him to get away, but leaving the cloth, running away naked.

      There is no other reason this would have been included. It is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. Mark, therefore, included it because it had been a most dramatic and emotional event in his own life - especially in relation to Jesus.

 

      Next, the Trial before the Sanhedrin.

Lesson XXXIII

      Mark 14:53-65. The Trial before the Sanhedrin.

 

"53  ¶ And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.

54  And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.

55  And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.

56  For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

57  And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,

58  We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

59  But neither so did their witness agree together.

60  And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

61  But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

62  And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

63  Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

64  Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

65  And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands."

 

      Jesus was to undergo two trials - first the religious one here recorded, and the later civil trial before the Roman procurator, Pilate. Each had three phases.

      The religious trial: 1.) A preliminary hearing before Annas (only in John 18:12-14, 19-23). 2.) The illegal trial before the group listed here in Mark as including the groups that made up the Sanhedrin. 3.) Finally, the legal trial before the official Sanhedrin meeting which could only be held after sun-up - Mark 15:1.

      The civil trial: 1.) The initial trial before Pilate. 2.) The brief hearing before Herod. 3.) The final trial and judgment by Pilate.

      Mark begins after the preliminary hearing before Annas was ended.

 

      Verse 53.

      Caiaphas was high priest (son-in-law to Annas). The envy and hatred he had for Jesus is quickly seen in his unflinching drive to condemn Jesus to death. He was willing to deceive, manipulate, force, and then demand the outcome he desired. He also cleverly argued that he was doing it for the good of the people, while it was actually for his own selfish motive.

      Chief priests, elders, and scribes had been called to assemble at the High Priest's palace before dawn. It was here that Jesus was brought.

 

      Verse 54.

      Peter followed from a distance and went right into the high priest's courtyard. He ended up sitting around a fire among the officers that had brought Jesus there. Peter's motives to do this were most likely mixed up among - remembering his proud boasting of never leaving Jesus' side, curiosity as to what was going to happen, and deeply felt love and concern for Jesus. John 18:15,16. Mentions how Peter was allowed into the palace grounds by John's intervention.

      The palace servants and temple guards had started a fire to warm themselves. The Roman soldiers had by this time returned to their normal posts - having completed their task. Peter joins them - the setting where the denials will take place at a later time in verses 66-68. The events of the trial of Jesus are continued.

 

      Verses 55,56.

      All the religious leaders had gathered for the single purpose of finding sufficient evidence to have Jesus put to death. As according to Jewish law, two witnesses were required to certify the truth of any event. Apparently, many had come forward with accusations against Jesus, but no two agreed. Their testimony Mark labels as "false" and even so they could not get their stories straight with each other.

      To call this a real trial is of course a misrepresentation of what was taking place. There was never any intention of a fair hearing. There were no prepared formal charges, there were no sworn and agreeing witnesses to back up the charges, and there was no evidence produced. Plus, it was accepted that the judgment that required the death penalty had already been agreed upon even before this assembly.

      According to the Jewish law of that time, this was illegal on several grounds:

      1. No death penalty case could be tried after dark.

      2. No death penalty case could even be started immediately before any major religious festival, especially Passover.

      3. No execution was allowed on feast-days.

      4. The arrest was accomplished through a bribe.

      5. Jesus was asked to incriminate Himself.

      6. A day was to be between a capital conviction and the following execution.

      There are also other details of this situation that further delineate the complete putting aside of normal laws and traditions in order for Jesus to be brought to the cross. The way all this was circumvented was for the high priest to state that it was necessary for the preservation of religion and the good of the nation.

 

      Verses 57-59.

      Then some stood up and were giving false testimony against Jesus concerning what they claim to have heard Him say about the temple. They say that Jesus said He would destroy the temple. This is not true. He said that the temple was to be destroyed by human hands, and would be replaced by another one not made by human hands. Their account was not only incorrect but also obviously confused. This was made more obvious by the fact that they could not even agree with each other. They were trying to prove that Jesus spoke against the Temple and therefore against what it stood for. They tried but failed.

 

      Verse 60.

      The high priest got up and approached Jesus, asking why He had not tried to answer these confused accusations. The high priest acts as if he himself does not clearly understand the testimony of these men. Jesus knows that no explanation will stop the process of His condemnation - only delay it briefly, so He says nothing. The high priest expected Jesus to act like any other accused person - that He would take every opportunity to explain and defend Himself. He obviously got upset to the point of getting up and confronting Jesus. This was not part of his prescribed role.

 

      Verse 61.

      Jesus remained silent, and did not answer. The high priest realized that there were no credible witnesses against Jesus, so he takes the whole matter into his own hands.

      "Again the high priest was questioning Him, saying, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"

      Jesus' ministry had been scrutinized for some time, and many times His enemies had attempted to find fault and occasion to arrest Him. They had failed. At the Triumphal Entry, Jesus had been acclaimed by the multitude as the Son of David. These leaders knew all this, and that Jesus was a righteous and holy Teacher, teaching daily in the Temple.

      They felt envy because of His popularity, and threatened because of their own position, power, greed, and pride. They had to hold on to what they had, so Jesus must go. He was also not anything like the Promised Messiah they believed in. They expected the Messiah to come in great strength to overthrow the Roman yoke and reestablish the throne of David as King, and elevate Israel to the highest national prominence in the world. To them, for this Jesus to claim to be this Messiah was outrageous, an obvious delusion.

      This question the high priest thought would back Jesus into a corner where he finally would have to admit that He was not the Messiah. The point that the high priest and most of the Jewish people had missed was that Jesus was the Promised Messiah who was to first come to earth as the Suffering Servant to save His people from their sins. Jesus had been consistently teaching His disciples concerning His coming death.

 

      Verse 62.

      Jesus said, I am, and you will see the Son sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.

      This was prophesied in Daniel 7:13,14 and Psalms 110:1. Jesus is describing the results of His sacrifice: the resurrection, the ascension, the seating at God's right hand, the glorious return on the clouds of heaven, and in victory and judgment. This was prophecy, promise, and warning to all present - recognize Who He is and repent, accept Him, and be forgiven.

 

      Verses 63,64.

      The high priest immediately reacts most dramatically - as if overwhelmed with agony. He tears his clothes. He acts as if Christ's answer was the greatest and most upsetting crime. In fact, he must have been overjoyed - Jesus has fallen into what he considered his trap. The true fact, however, is that God's plan was being carried out, step by step. Part of that plan was the open statement, before all the great leaders of the Jews, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. They were given the choice - but we see they choose to reject Him.

      Part of the high priest's demonstration included his statement that no more witnesses were needed. They had all heard what Jesus admitted to be. His judgment was what they all must agree to - Jesus blasphemed! This meant that Jesus claims things belonging to God alone. Either Jesus is the divine Son of God - or else He is speaking lies against God.

      Caiaphas had already decided that of blasphemy and then asks the others to choose. They all condemned Him as being worthy of death. The verdict was unanimous. Now the sentencing. To follow the law, a period of at least 24 hours was required. In this case, they must have considered it too dangerous to wait that long. The word would get out and a public outcry could upset their plans. Early in the morning, the Sanhedrin will be convened, and a sentence of death pronounced.

 

      Verse 65.

      At this point, the pent up hatred of many of these leaders turned to cruelty. Some spat at Him. A blindfold was put on Him, and many hit Him with their fists - mocking Him, saying that if He is a prophet, He could tell them who was hitting Him. As the officers came to take Jesus away, they followed the example of their leaders by receiving Jesus with blows.

      The most remarkable part of these events is the whole demeanor, calmness, and majesty of Jesus. Jesus told the truth, and what He said remains true, and the promises will surely also come to pass. Those who condemned Him, and so shamefully treated and rejected Him, died in their sins and remain under condemnation. Jesus, who they put to death, arose from the dead, unto life eternal, ascended unto the right hand of God on high, and awaits the time of His return to earth on the clouds of heaven in great glory. We also believe Him and look forward to His appearing.

 

      Next, Peter's Denials.

Lesson XXXIV

      Mark 14:66-72. Peter's Denial.

 

"66  ¶ And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

67  and when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

68  But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

69  And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

70  And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

71  But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

72  And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept."

 

      Verses 66,67.

      The setting of Peter's first denial has already been mentioned (14:54). John had gotten him into the high priest's palace property. It appears that the servant girls have fulfilled the role of minding the entrance gate. John had spoken to the girl who had kept the gate to get Peter in. Now Peter was warming himself by the fire there in the courtyard. This servant girl comes toward Peter, and stepping even closer, says that he too was with Jesus the Nazarene. This may have been the result of John's interceding to get him in - John being well-known as a close follower of Jesus.

 

      Verse 68.

      Peter denied it. He claims that he doesn't know or understand what she is talking about. He then leaves the people in the courtyard and goes into the covered, more shadowy place. Peter was caught completely by surprise - caught off guard, he reacts by quickly denying having any idea what the girl is talking about. He then goes toward the exit. He may have feared being arrested, possibly even for being the one who cut off the ear of the high priest's servant Malchus.

      And a rooster crowed. Apparently this did not register with Peter.

 

      Verses 69,70.

      Another servant girl still remained at the gate - when she saw Peter there, she proceeded to tell those standing around that this fellow was one of them. Peter denied it - this the second time. Quite possibly the first mentioned servant girl already told this one about Peter.

      Peter then returns to the open courtyard. An hour passes. By this time Jesus has been brought before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin and the first trial is near ending. By this time, the word has spread among those palace servants and officers standing around the fire. Some are talking among themselves, others talk directly to Peter. They are talking about Peter being one of Christ's disciples - that even his accent reveals that he also is from Galilee. Then, a relative of Malchus asks if he did not see Peter in the garden with Jesus (in John).

      Peter loses all control, as all these people were against him. Who knows what they might do to him? He reacts by starting to curse and swear oaths - that he was neither now nor ever was a follower of Jesus, denying even knowing Him. These protests certainly only proved the group's supposition.

 

      Verse 72.

      At once a rooster crowed. This was the second time. Peter remembered the words that Jesus had spoken to him, that before the rooster crowed twice, he would deny Him thrice. As Peter thought about this, he wept.

      Luke (22:61) records that at this moment, Jesus was being taken across the courtyard to a holding cell until the time of His daylight trial before the Sanhedrin. Jesus looked directly into Peter's eyes - this brought Jesus' prediction to a flash before his mind - He is brought to face the enormity of what he has done toward Jesus. He had denied even knowing Jesus. That Jesus had known this would happen, and had warned him, brought feelings of horror to Peter - but yet some comfort. Jesus had known but was still his Saviour.

      His weeping was deep sorrow about his own weakness and gratitude that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God Who knows all things. This was a sorrow unto repentance.

 

      Mark 15:1-5. Day Trial of Sanhedrin - before Pilate.

 

"1  And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.

2  And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

3  And the chief priests accused him of many things; but he answered nothing.

4  And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.

5  But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled."

 

      Until daybreak, Jesus was held in the high priest's palace. Then very early in the morning, the entire Sanhedrin was assembled. The chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. This was to put some form of legality to the proceedings, allowing a time interval between conviction and sentencing. Also, only during daylight hours could a sentence be passed.

      According to Luke 22:66-71, Caiaphas allowed others to question Jesus, and the verdict of the previous trial was repeated. Mark summarizes that they passed a resolution that Jesus was sentenced to death. Since they could not carry out a death sentence according to Roman law, they must take him before the Roman authority to get the sentence carried out. They therefore bound Jesus and led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate, the Roman procurator.

      Though his main residence was in Caesarea, Pilate was in Jerusalem to preserve the peace in this volatile time of the Jewish Passover. It is unlikely that he was quartered at the fortress of Antonia nearby the garrison of Roman soldiers. He was listed as the fifth procurator of Samaria and Judea. He was commonly known as unfriendly to the Jews, sometimes annoying them and also being cruel and merciless.

      From the Gospels we see him as proud and seeking his own welfare, keeping his position. He was also somewhat superstitious.

 

      Verse 2.

      Pilate, as a rule, did not wish to do what the Jews wanted. They were a threat to the security of his position. If they instigated a riot, it would reflect badly on his responsibility to keep the peace. He wants to dismiss this case against Jesus. He saw no just cause for a death sentence, but eventually gave in.

 

      Verse 3.

      Pilate requests the charges. They have judged Him guilty and are seeking the death penalty. The charges - He perverts the nation; He forbids tribute paid to Caesar; He claims to be King of the Jews. All this was to convince Pilate how dangerous Jesus was to Roman authority. Especially the idea of king was the greatest threat.

      Pilate takes Jesus inside the praetorium to question Him privately. Pilate asks Jesus, "You are the king of the Jews?" John records Jesus' explanation of His kingdom not being earthly (John 18:34-37). The other Gospels only mention the answer as yes. Pilate returns outside and reports not finding any crime in Him. (John 18:38; Luke 23:4.) The chief priests instead accuse Jesus of many things.

 

      Verse 4.

      Pilate is amazed that Jesus does not respond to all these accusations. Pilate presumes that an innocent person (or even a guilty one) would protest and try to refute any charges of wrongdoing. This was in complete contrast to those who are usually brought before him. Also, the charges they rail against Jesus - that of Him being a trouble maker and proud boaster - do not fit the dignified, quiet person that now stood before Pilate. In addition, His demeanor was also a contrast to the aggressive, hateful, chief priests calling out all these accusations.

      That Jesus opened not His mouth was fulfillment of prophecy. (Isaiah 42:1-4; 53:7; Zechariah 9:9.)

      Pilate had already declared Jesus innocent - there was no point in responding to the pettiness of these additional accusations. To not answer was a judgment against them. They were not worthy of any response. This was true before Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod.

 

      Mark 15:6-15. The Death Sentence.

 

"6  ¶ Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

7  And there was one named Barab'bas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

8  And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

9  But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

10  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.

11  But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barab'bas unto them.

12  And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

13  And they cried out again, Crucify him.

14  Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

15  And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barab'bas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified."

 

      Verse 6.

      John records that Pilate brings up the custom of releasing a man for the people at the Passover. That he brings it up this time points to his wanting to release Jesus.

 

      Verse 7.

      Among the rebels in prison was a man named Barabbas, who had committed murder in an insurrection. This is about all we know about him. His name was suggested as the one to be released by Pilate. He chose this criminal and murderer to be considered beside Jesus, for the crowd to choose. Though many accusations had been put forth about Jesus - even of His being an insurrectionist - He had not been found guilty, there being no real evidence. For the crowd to not choose Jesus seemed unthinkable. Otherwise, they would be choosing freedom for a convicted murderer.

 

      Verse 8.

      Members of the crowd approached Pilate and asked him to do what he customarily did for them.

 

      Verse 9.

      As already mentioned, Pilate did not want to be forced to make a decision concerning Jesus - and certainly not to please the Jewish leaders. Here he strongly suggests that the crowd ask for Jesus to be released.

      That Pilate would put forth the names of these two men as if both were equally condemned criminals, that the crowd should choose mercy for Barabbas seems way beyond any concept of equal treatment or justice.

 

      Verse 10.

      To Pilate, it seemed most logical that the crowd would choose Jesus. As far as he could understand, Pilate saw behind all the charges and the emotional hatred in most of them. He saw the envy of the chief priests who had brought Jesus to try to force Pilate to pass a death sentence. They saw Jesus as having too much popularity, to big an influence in their religious authority - His ability to perform miracles, and so on. That these men could choose a condemned insurrectionist to be released seemed against all reason. To release a person actually guilty of the same charges falsely laid against Jesus would finally prove the unreasonable and blind hatred of these men against Jesus.

 

      Verse 11.

      In the time after Pilate's question, the chief priests stirred up the mob to get him to release Barabbas instead of Jesus. So the mob called for Barabbas.

 

      Verse 12.

      Then the question - what do they want him to do with the One they call the King of the Jews? In turning the crowd to release Barabbas, these priests also turned them against Jesus. They were most likely shouting accusations against Him and strongly arguing that He deserved death - specifically crucifixion. That Pilate continued to label Jesus as the King of the Jews also would have had a highly negative influence. The crowd now saw Jesus as pitiful and helpless, nothing like a king they would desire.

 

      Verse 13.

      Crucify Him, they shouted back. Again instigated by the chief priests, the highest Jewish religious authorities, the mob reacted as they wished.

 

      Verse 14.

      However, Pilate again having still found no fault in Jesus asks them why - to tell him what wrong He has done. The reaction was louder, screaming over and over, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Matthew records at this point that Pilate saw that a riot was about to break out. He took water and washed his hands, as if to say he is innocent of the shedding of the blood of this man. (Matthew 27:24.)

 

      Verse 15.

      Mark proceeds with Pilate's releasing of Barabbas, anxious to satisfy the crowd. He then had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

      John records the outcry that had finally forced Pilate's hand - when the mob had cried out that they had no king but Caesar. To have the charge that he had released Jesus, a rebel claiming to be a king, brought to Caesar was unthinkable. His position would be in serious jeopardy, possibly even his life. He gave in, in effect to save himself.

      Pilate had first had Jesus flogged, in the hope that such cruel and bloody torture would satisfy the mob (John 19:4-6). When it didn't, the crucifixion was ordered. The flogging was usually carried out by two soldiers - one on each side. They used whips with short wooden handles. Several leather thongs were attached, with the ends holding pieces of lead or brass, and sharply pointed pieces of bone. These caused the stripes across the victim's bared back. The depth of injury often caused excessive bleeding and often cause the person's death.

      We must ever keep in mind that this was taking place by the predetermined purpose and foreknowledge of God. (Isaiah 53:5.) Jesus was then handed over to the soldiers.

 

      Next, the Mockery & Crucifixion.

Lesson XXXV

      Mark 15:16-32. Mockery & Crucifixion.

 

"16  ¶ And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Preto'ri-um; and they call together the whole band.

17  And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

18  and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

19  And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.

20  And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

21  ¶ And they compel one Simon a Cyre'nian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

22  And they bring him unto the place Gol'gotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.

23  And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

24  And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

25  And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

26  And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.

28  And the Scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

29  And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,

30  save thyself, and come down from the cross.

31  Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.

32  Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him."

 

      Verse 16.

      Having been given custody of Jesus, the soldiers decided to have some fun. They led Him inside the governor's headquarters to call together the rest of the soldiers posted there. It is likely these men were recruited from the province  of Syria and would therefore speak Aramaic and have knowledge about Jewish customs. They wished to show this man what they thought of the idea of Him being the Jewish king.

 

      Verses 17-19.

      They dressed Him in a royal purple robe, and having woven a crown of thorns, they set it on His head. They started saluting Him, Hail king of the Jews! They repeatedly struck Him on the head with a stick, spitting on Him, and playfully on bending knees, showing homage.

      It appears that each soldier, in turn, would come in front of Jesus, playfully bow, then take the stick, which had been placed in Jesus' hands as a mock scepter. Then he would hit Jesus over the head, driving the thorny crown deeper, then spit on Him. Also, mocking words were spoken, such as, "Hail, king of Jews," and most likely much worse.

      Jesus bore all in submission and silence, totally conscious of the purpose and necessity of each step to and including the cross.

 

      Verse 20.

      When they had tired of their cruel sport, they took off the purple robe, put His own outer garment back on again, and led Him away for crucifixion. John 19:4 includes Pilate's last attempt to pacify the crowd and get Jesus off. After the whipping, the crown of thorns, and abuse by the soldiers, Pilate brings Jesus out to show the crowd the pitiful sight of the beaten and bleeding Jesus. Pilate says, "Behold, the man!" Then the cry to crucify, and Pilate gives in, and Jesus is lead away for execution.

 

      Verse 21.

      John (19:17-27) records that at first Jesus carried His cross, as was the custom. At some point outside the city (where executions were carried out), Jesus was unable to bear the weight because of His wounds. It was then that the soldiers forced a certain bypasser, who was coming from the country, to carry His cross. He is identified as Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

      Cyrene was a city in Libya about ten miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. A large colony of Jews lived there. It was quite likely that Simon had come to Jerusalem to join in Passover celebrations as well as thousands of other pilgrims. Acts 6:9 mentions a Cyrenian synagogue in Jerusalem. He carries the cross to Calvary and witnessed the following events. He becomes a believer.

      Later he and his family are living in Rome. That Mark mentions his sons, Alexander and Rufus, suggests that they in Rome knew them. Paul (in Romans 16:13) mentions Rufus and his mother as having done him some service. Thus the burden forced on Simon, ended as a great blessing to him and his family.

 

      Verse 22.

      Jesus was brought to the place called Golgotha. The name is Aramaic, originally from the Hebrew "golgoleth", meaning skull. From the Greek Kranion, the Latin version rendered the term as Calvaria - thus Calvary. The actual location is not known, though several places have been named as possibilities. It was an outcropping of rock along the road to Jerusalem from the west, easily seen from the road, and within sight of the gate into the city. The tomb that Jesus would be laid in was also nearby.

 

      Verse 23.

      The soldiers offered Jesus wine flavored with myrrh, but He refused to drink it. This was mixed to dull the senses, reducing the pain. Jesus tasted it, but did not drink. He wanted to remain conscious and alert. He was going to speak from the cross, and clarity was essential. He chose to endure the pain.

 

      Verse 24.

      And they crucified Him. This method of execution was practiced in many nations, including throughout the Roman Empire. It was generally used to execute the worst convicted criminals. Suffering over several days was its intent.

      Large nails were driven through hands and feet. A small piece of wood partly supported the feet. The pain of supporting the body on impaled feet, the tearing pull on the nailed hands, is unimaginable. It would be difficult to breath, and headache and thirst would increase steadily. Jesus chose to endure all this in our place.

      While Jesus suffered, the four soldiers cast lots for His garments, to decide who should take what. This would include headgear, outer garment, belt, sandals. The seamless tunic was the final piece. This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22:18, which is recorded in John 19:23,24. A familiar phrase comes to mind - these soldiers were just doing their job. Mark does mention a little later that the centurion was deeply affected by Jesus.

 

      Verse 25.

      It was the third hour when they crucified Him. John recorded that Jesus was sentenced at about 6:00 A.M. Now mark records the crucifixion at 9:00 A.M.

 

      Verse 26.

      Pilate had caused a superscription to be written and placed on the cross above Jesus' head. It listed the charge against Him. It was written in the three common languages of that time: Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. According to John, the full writing said: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. Mark abbreviates the main charge: The King of the Jews.

      As to why: Pilate hated to have been forced by these Jewish leaders to given in to their demand for putting Jesus to death, for he knew that Jesus was innocent. And since their main accusation was that Jesus "claimed" to be their king, he was effectively mocking them. From John we learn that the chief priests were highly upset about this. They demanded that Pilate change the wording and he refused. The only Jew Who claimed to be their king, they had forced Pilate to execute in the cruelest way.

      From God's point of view, however, this superscription was indeed, true. In addition, by this death, Jesus earns the everlasting titles, King of Creation, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Name that is above every Name.

 

      Verse 27.

      With Him they crucified two robbers, one on His right and one on His left. We are not told of any reason Pilate might have directed these two to be crucified at the same time. Pilate might have thought to further insult the Jews - that their king was crucified between common criminals - as if he also was a common criminal. It did fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12.

 

      Verses 29,30.

      And those who were passing by were blaspheming Him, shaking their heads and saying, Aha! You who destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross.

      These people were on their way somewhere else, but stop long enough to observe what is taking place. The Jesus that they had heard so much about, they now address with arrogant contempt - mocking Him. Whatever Jesus had claimed was now considered cancelled.

      They shake their heads and speak abuse to the Son of God - thus actually speaking blasphemy, in their complete ignorance and spiritual blindness. Their saying "Aha" was like saying "See what happens?" Then they repeat the misquotation that had been voiced by false witnesses against Jesus. Then they add, "Save yourself and come down from the cross." If Jesus was so great, prove it.

      What Jesus was proving was His love for sinners. He had lived a perfect life of giving, helping, healing, and teaching about the love of the Father and that He had come to redeem that which was lost.

 

      Verses 31,32.

      In a similar way, the chief priests and scribes were mocking Jesus amongst themselves. They had come for this purpose. They were saying that He had saved others, but He cannot save Himself. "Let the Christ, the king of Israel now come down from the cross, that we may see and believe." Just like those passersby, they mock Jesus' weakness, His helplessness - where were all His grand claims now?

      They, however, do not speak directly to Jesus, as the others had. They show disrespect and envy and hatred toward Jesus, by turning up their noses at Him, and speaking their insults amongst themselves. They also say that if He would come down from the cross, they would believe.

      This was a complete lie. They had rejected all of the proof and fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus' ministry. They would not change. Indeed, they also rejected the many proofs of His later resurrection!

      And then the two robbers crucified alongside Him were also heaping insults on Him. At first, both were reviling Him. Luke 23:39 reports that one of them said, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us." Luke also mentions that the soldiers joined in (23:36,37).

      Peter describes Jesus' demeanor - "Who, while being reviled, did not revile in return; while suffering, never threatened, but continued to entrust Himself to Him who judges righteously; Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (I Peter 2:23,24.)

      Luke mentions the conversion of one of the robbers in chapter 23:39-43.

 

      Next, The Death of Jesus.

Lesson XXXVI

      Mark 15:33-41. The Death of Jesus.

 

"33  ¶ And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

34  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, E'lo-i, E'lo-i, lama sabach'thani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

35  And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Eli'jah.

36  And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Eli'jah will come to take him down.

37  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

38  And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

39  And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

40  ¶ There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salo'me;

41  who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him; and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem."

 

      Verse 33.

      At noon, darkness came over the whole land. It lasted 3 hours. From all accounts, this must have been a specific miracle of God, as His judgment against sin, that Christ was bearing in our place. The intense pain and agony, the experience of being completely alone by the ninth hour, brought Jesus to crying out.

 

      Verse 34.

      He cried out words from Psalms 22:1 - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" which Mark translates from the Aramaic. It is as if the outer darkness symbolized the inner darkness that Jesus was experiencing. Matthew and Mark only report this saying of Jesus on the cross, shortly before His death.

      During the hours of darkness, Jesus experiences a separation, a break, in the constant communion He always had with His Father. He experiences the agony of the separation. The darkness and the separation from the love of God is also the picture of hell. By quoting Psalms 22, Jesus shows that He knew that what He was going through was absolutely necessary, as our Substitute, to bear our sins, our punishment, our hell, all in order to save us.

 

      Verses 35,36.

      Some who passed by heard Jesus cry out, but misunderstood what He was saying. It has also been suggested that many Jews would have recognized this quotation from Psalms 22 and were therefore further mocking Jesus. They did so by making a joke that Jesus was calling for Elijah, who was supposed to introduce Messiah and help Him.

      According to John 19:28, it was at this moment that Jesus said, "I thirst." Some unidentified person filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave Him a drink. This fulfilled Psalms 22:15. It appears that while this person was holding up the sponge to Jesus' lips, the bystanders continue in their mockery.

      According to Matthew 27:49, they shout to the person giving the drink to stop. Then that person stops and goes along with the crowd, joining them in saying "Let's see if Elijah is coming to His rescue, to take Him down from the cross."

 

      Verse 37.

      Then with a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last. Jesus did not silently or quietly give up - He gave up His Life, He yielded up His Spirit with a cry of strength. "It is finished." (John 19:30.) The work the Father had given Him to do was complete. Finally, having become reunited into the Father's love, He says, "Father, into Thy Hands I commend my very Spirit." (Luke 23:46.)

 

      Verse 38.

      The curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two from - top to bottom. This was the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The veil was woven to form a mass of guardian angels, symbolically barring the way into the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was to enter, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. This tearing, top to bottom, had to be a supernatural act - taking place at the moment Jesus died.

      Hebrews 10:19,20 explained that now (by the Tearing of the curtain of Christ's body) there was a way made into the presence of God in Heaven (represented by the Holy of Holies).

 

      Verse 39.

      The Centurion. Mark relates the deep impression the death of Jesus had on this man. He stood facing Jesus. That Jesus cried out - giving up His Spirit to Him who He calls His Father - was an act of courage and confidence. Certainly, this was unique compared to every other crucifixion that he had observed.

      This Roman officer had also observed all the mockery by the different groups that had come to taunt Him, and the silent dignity Jesus maintained. These included mentioning that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God. He may have also been present during the trial before Pilate. He had observed the unexpected time of darkness, the earthquake.

      All of these things together brought this soldier to reach this conclusion. Luke records this centurion glorifying God and saying that this certainly was a righteous man. Matthew mentions that the other soldiers were also deeply moved. Luke 23:48 says that at the last, even the mixed multitude that had remained were deeply impressed and "returned smiting their breasts."

 

      Verses 40,41.

      The women. Several women had been watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee, they had followed Jesus and ministered to His needs. There were also many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem. In John 19:25, he refers to four women - the fourth being Christ's mother, who he had taken to his home John 19:27. Later, Mark and Matthew record the same three women: Mary Magdalene; Mary, mother of James the Less and Joses; and Salome (Christ's mother's sister), the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John).

      Mary from Magdala Jesus had freed from demon possession (Luke 8:2). We know only what is stated here about the other two. All three will be mentioned again at Christ's burial and the following Sunday morning. Though only John of the disciples was mentioned as being present at the crucifixion, we see these loving and faithful women present. They would also be witnesses of His burial and resurrection and would be a great part of the building of the beginning church.

 

      Mark 15:42-47. The Burial.

 

"42  ¶ And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

43  Joseph of Arimathe'a, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

44  And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

45  And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

46  And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

47  And Mary Mag'dalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid."

 

      Verses 42,43.

      We are reminded that it was Friday, a preparation day before Saturday the Sabbath, which would officially begin at sundown. The sun is already low in the sky as Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, came forward. He also was constantly waiting for the kingdom of God. When he had gotten up the courage, he went to Pilate, and asked permission to take care of the body of Jesus.

      It was not permitted by Jewish law to leave a dead body on a tree overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23), and even more so on a Sabbath. This was the Passover Sabbath. Burial soon after death in that place and time was also necessary, because they had little to preserve from corruption.

      This Joseph had been called on by God for this special mission. At some point the had come to believe in the Kingdom of God among men, brought by Jesus. It has been suggested that he had stayed at home while the Sanhedrin met during the night and early morning (Mark 14:64; 15:1).

      John 19:38 mentions that he had been a secret disciple, for fear of the Jews. We are not told of all the factors that added up to his daring action, but certainly his faith and conscience were foremost. To go to Pilate with such a request took a lot of nerve. Pilate had no love for the Jews and had abruptly said no to the leaders who requested the change of the sign over Jesus' head. For Joseph, it would also make it publicly known that he was a follower of Jesus. Of the other disciples, only John had been there to witness the death of Jesus.

 

      Verses 44,45.

      Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Normally, death from crucifixion would take up to three days of slow painful suffering from exposure. For someone to die within a few hours was nearly unheard of. If death needed to be hastened, the legs would be broken so that the weight of the body would make it impossible to breathe.

      For verification, Pilate summoned the centurion in charge, and asked him if Jesus had already died. When he was so informed, he gave Joseph permission to take care of the body.

 

      Verse 46.

      He brought linen cloth, took down the body, and wrapped it with the linen cloth, and laid Him in his own nearby tomb cut out of rock. A stone was rolled to close the entrance to the tomb.

      Again, prophecy was fulfilled (Isaiah 53:9). A newly hewn tomb, owned by a rich man, was prepared for the body of the Son.

 

      Verse 47.

      Mary Magdalene, and Mary mother of Joses, were watching to see where He was laid. They also wanted to do a service to the body of their Lord, by bringing spices and anointing the body. It was too late on this day and they would have to wait until after the Sabbath - then it would truly be too late, Jesus having been raised from the dead. (Chapter 16.)

 

      Next, Resurrection.

Lesson XXXVII

      Mark 16:1-8. Resurrection.

 

"1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

2  And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

4  And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5  And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

6  And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

7  But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

8  And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid."

 

      Verse 1.

      After the Sabbath was over, after sundown on Saturday, the three women, mentioned before, were able to buy spices. These were to be used to anoint the body of Jesus. The hurried burial by Joseph and Nicodemus only included the linen cloth wound around the body with a mixture of myrrh and aloes thrown in. At first light the following morning (Sunday) they planned to do this loving service.

 

      Verse 2.

      They arose while it was still dark, and by the time they got to the tomb, the sun was risen. They had been at the crucifixion; they had watched the burial; now here they are once more. Though they also had not been able to understand or believe what Jesus had told them about His resurrection - yet they were loyal to Him even after His death. The other disciples had stayed away.

 

      Verses 3,4.

      They had seen the size of the stone rolled in front of the tomb, and on their way, they were questioning each other as to who will roll the stone away for them. They had concern because it was very large. But when they arrived near the tomb and looked up at it, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. Matthew describes the stone being rolled away by an angel sent from heaven. (Matthew 28:2,3.) Only Mark mentions the women's concern about the stone.

 

      Verse 5.

      They went into the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe sitting at the right. They were alarmed. Angels are able to appear in human form and speak human language. This is found many times in Scripture. That this being is an angel is clear, as Matthew directly wrote. The women's reaction was certainly understandable. They were expecting to find a dead body.

 

      Verse 6.

      He said to them. "Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. Look, here is the place where He was laid." There was no rebuke for their lack of faith, only the good news - He is not here - here is where He was - He is Risen. They must have seen the linen cloth, the head cloth folded in a place by itself. (John 20:6,7.)

 

      Verse 7.

      The angel then delivers the promise: they are to meet Him in Galilee as He had previously told them (14:28). They were to go and tell His disciples and especially Peter. They are still called "His" disciples though they had fled, and Peter is mentioned specifically even though he had denied his Master three times. Such is the understanding, compassion, and love Jesus has for His own imperfect ones.

 

      Verse 8.

      They went out and fled from the tomb, trembling with fear and astonishment - not saying anything to anybody they passed on the way. According to most conservative scholars, these are the last words written by Mark. This seems an abrupt ending since the message was to be taken to the disciples, and the meeting was to take place in Galilee. There is no adequate explanation. Several of the earliest Greek manuscripts end with verse 8.

      It has also been generally accepted that verses 9-20 were added by another writer to summarize the events after the resurrection up to and including the ascension to be at God's right hand in heaven. What is recorded in the other Gospels concerning these events that are included in verses 9-20 is the best basis as to their value. Anything added would then be of questionable value.

      There is no historical information about when these verses were added or by whom. Jerome, who lived approximately from 340-420 A.D., wrote that almost all of the Greek copies lack these verses. It is also true that many Greek manuscripts do include them. The differences of wording and style of writing: 9-20 is more formal and summarizing, compared to Mark's descriptive and more colorful writing.

      In verse 7, Mark records the angel saying that the risen Christ will meet the disciples in Galilee. The appearances found mentioned in 9-20 do not mention any location at all - never Galilee. The reintroduction of Mary Magdalene also seems out of place.

      We may accept that Mark did not intend to end his Gospel with verse 8. We may also accept that someone agreed with that idea and was moved to add verses 9-20 to complete the story. Almost the entirety of what these verses include could have been taken from the accounts in the three other Gospels which were widely circulated by the 3rd Century A.D.

 

      Mark 16:9-20.

 

"9  ¶ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Mag'dalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10  And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11  And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12  ¶ After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13  And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14  ¶ Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18  they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19  ¶ So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, Acts 1.9-11 and sat on the right hand of God.

20  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."

 

      Verses 9-11.

      Jesus' Name is not included until verse 19. This appears to be a brief summary of John 20:11-18. Jesus arose on the first day of the week. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. She obeyed His command to tell the disciples, "Jesus is alive, and I have seen Him." She found them in mourning and weeping. Her message was not accepted - too good to be true. (Also see Luke 24:11 & John 20:25.)

 

      Verses 12,13.

      Here, a summary of Luke 24:13-35, is extremely brief - two verses from 22 in Luke. These were the two disciples walking in the country (to Emmaus). It is only mentioned that He appeared to them in a different form - without any explanation. Then the two return to Jerusalem to report the experience, but they weren't believed either. Luke's story, however, mentions that upon arrival, they found that the eleven now believed because of Jesus' appearance to Simon (Luke 24:37-41). A possible explanation would be that they first found a group of followers that did not yet believe, but when they later got through to the 11 they found the situation recorded by Luke.

 

      Mark 16:14-18. The Great Commission and the Signs.

 

"14  ¶ Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18  they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

 

      Verse 14.

      The time mentioned is "later" - no mention of place, but it may be assumed that it was Easter evening at the place where the disciples gathered in Jerusalem. The disciples were still struggling with their belief. Luke 24:36-49. They first thought Jesus was a spirit. Later they are described as disbelieving for joy.

 

      Verse 15.

      The place has changed to Galilee and the source to Matthew 28:16-20 - "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation." Those that believe will be saved; those that won't will be condemned. Baptism is mentioned - not as a condition of salvation, but a public sign and seal of salvation.

 

      Verses 17,18.

      These verses have given rise to misunderstanding and some tragic consequences. As stated, Jesus names five signs that would go with those who believe in Him:

      1.) Power to expel demons.

      2.) Ability to speak in new tongues.

      3.) Ability to pick up serpents without harm.

      4.) Ability to drink poison without harm.

      5.) Power to heal the sick by the laying on of hands.

 

      The first two and the last one have been historically witnessed as part of the gifts exercised by the apostles as agents of God in founding the Church. The Book of Acts records many such examples. It has also been generally accepted that these gifts in effect also passed away with the Apostolic Age. This was observed by the time of Chrysostom and Augustine (3rd century A.D.).

      The other two present difficulty. The third one, concerning picking up serpents, finds some confirmation in Luke's 10:19 mention of treading on serpents, and in Acts 28:3 when Paul accidentally picked up a serpent among a bunch of sticks and is bitten, but unharmed. He did not intentionally pick up a serpent to prove something. This sign has led even up to the present to great abuse and the death of many who are labeled religious fanatics, who deliberately use snakes to prove their fearless faith.

      This was certainly not Jesus' intention. That this writer knew of Paul's experience and therefore included this as a sign seems plausible. The many near-death experiences of Paul show that God's sovereignty over a person's life will bring that person through to their appointed time. This is not a license to test God - which all Scripture forbids.

      The fourth one, about drinking poisons unharmed, is in the same category as the third. However, no connection to any Scripture has been found. Some scholars have suggested that this was a much later superstition. Most have questioned their authenticity and value, and warn against the grave danger inherent in them.

 

      Mark 16:19. The Ascension.

 

"19  ¶ So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, Acts 1.9-11 and sat on the right hand of God."

 

      Verse 19.

      The doctrines of both the ascension and the seating at God's right hand were preached and believed by the apostles (Acts 2:36; 7:55,56; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3,4, 2:9, 8:1, 10:12; Revelation 3:21, 5:5-14.

      The term "Lord Jesus" was used most especially after the resurrection. Here Jesus is described as being taken up into heaven - that it was the Father that drew His Son to Himself, to reward Him for having finished the work of redemption.

      This verse very clearly portrays these central beliefs.

 

      Mark 16:20.

 

"20  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."

 

      Verse 20.

      The eleven departed, meaning from Jerusalem. In obedience to Christ's great commission, they proceeded to preach everywhere. This would include times and places in church history much later than the beginning at Pentecost. No places or dates are mentioned here. Their preaching was effective only because the Lord was constantly working with them, confirming His word by means of signs that went along with it (see Hebrews 2:4).

      Jesus is pictured as intimately observing (watching over) and interceding (working with) His own, His church. He has done this continually, guiding, growing, spreading, energizing, and presiding over His church. We are living proof that He is still the Head of His church, of which we are a part.

      Though verses 9-20 were written later, by an unknown author, they were included in the King James Bible because they summarized the final part of the Gospels: Matthew, Luke, and John, which had not been recorded by Mark. Thus by their contents being supported by other Scripture, we can accept them at least indirectly as divinely inspired.

      Only the mention of signs concerning serpents and poison have been almost universally rejected as to be included as genuine. Given their use by certain fanatical groups, they must be disregarded and warned against for faith and practice in the church.

      The final two verses take us from ascension to Jesus watching over His church. We are thankfully beneficiaries of His Gospel being preached, His church having grown, and spread unto the uttermost parts of the world where it reached us. And we can, with complete confidence, witness to the fact that Jesus is the same today, as He loves us, guides and directs us, and blesses us as we strive to also reach out to others with His gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness, and love. All that we may bring glory to Him, and to the Father, by becoming more like Him.

Bibliography

      The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

      A Commentary and Critical Notes

      The Gospel of Saint Mark (pages 287-350) by Adam Clark, LL.D., F.S.A., & C.

      New Edition 1831. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York.

 

      Notes on the New Testament by Albert Barnes

      Matthew and Mark. Baker Book House 1949-1976 (19th).

      Mark - pages 328-394. First published in 1832 - revised and expanded in 1868.

 

      New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen

      Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark.

      Baker Book House 1975. (693 pages.)