Review and Reflect on Mark 15:16-39 – The King has come and although he was dead now he is alive.

When the soldiers who are responsible to crucify Jesus take him into custody, they reject and abuse him. The Roman soldiers were more than happy to be able to abuse a Jewish man on this day. There was a strained relationship between Jews and Romans, and the soldiers expressed their feelings of racism and disdain for Jews by torturing this supposed criminal. Since he was accused of being the King of the Jews, in Mark 15:16-20, they mock him like a defeated king. They put a purple robe on him and place a crown of thorns on his head. They bow before him. Can you imagine dancing around like an idiot mocking someone who had been sentenced to death, only to find out that they are actually the King and you are going to answer for your actions? Jesus is mocked as King, but that doesn’t make him less of a King and soon we will see him claim his throne. After beating him, they lead him out of the Praetorium, which is kind of like the Barracks, to take him to crucify him in 15:21-39,

In verse 34, Jesus quotes a line from Psalm 22. Mark records it here in Aramaic and then translates it. Some who were standing there must have misunderstood what Jesus was saying, so they think he is crying for help from Elijah. They decide to wait around to see if Elijah would come to help him. But, Jesus’ words were a biblical reaction to bearing the sin of God’s people. The Father turns away from the Son in a moment where the Son must bear the weight of God’s wrath upon sin. God himself takes on human flesh and enters into history in the person of Jesus. God himself suffers, he’s betrayed, he’s abused, and he’s crucified. He experiences what it’s like to feel that God has abandoned you. He does this to show his great compassion for us and to reconcile us to himself. We may experience suffering and struggle in our lives, but one thing our suffering does not mean is that God has forsaken us. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be. So in your moments of darkness and struggle, you can ask all kinds of questions about what your suffering means, but Jesus makes sure we know that it doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. Jesus’ resurrection proves that even when death comes to us, that does not even mean he has abandoned us. The Father raised the Son, and if we believe in the Son, he will not abandon us to death, but we will be raised also.

Then, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple is torn. It’s torn from top to bottom showing that it’s God who has torn it. The veil is torn, and this means no more sacrifice, no more temple, no more holy place. Jesus is the sacrifice, the temple, and the holy place. He fulfills what the Temple was supposed to accomplish but couldn’t. We can now approach God through Jesus, but not anything else. He was forsaken and given over to death so that we would be received. He was the recipient of God’s wrath upon sin so that our sin could be forgiven and we could have eternal life instead of death.

The first part of what Jesus’ death means is the Time has been fulfilled. God has fulfilled his promises to Israel. The Law is satisfied. The Temple is replaced. God’s promises to rescue his people have come true. The Second part of what Jesus’ death means is that God’s Kingdom has begun to come to earth. Compared to the other Gospels, Mark’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion isn’t very gory. He doesn’t emphasize the bloody details of Jesus suffering because he is emphasizing the reason Jesus suffered. Jesus is asked by Pilate if he is the King of the Jews in verse 2. In verse 9, Pilate addresses the crowd and refers to Jesus as the King of the Jews. In verse 12, Pilate asks the crowd what he should do with the “King of the Jews.” In verses 16-20, The soldiers mock and abuse him as the King of the Jews. They even bow to him. Verse 26 says that the notice written above his head on the cross is “King of the Jews”. In verse 31-32 the chief priests and teachers of the law mock him on the cross saying, “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross”. In verse 39, the Roman centurion who was guarding him, confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

Over and over, Mark wants to show us that Jesus was convicted by the Jews and crucified by the Romans because of his claim that he is Messiah and King of Israel. The priests and teachers, the Roman leader Pilate, the soldiers, and the crowd all deny that Jesus is this Messiah and King, and they kill him for claiming to be him. In chapter 11, Jesus is hailed as King by the crowds when he enters Jerusalem. He goes to clean the Temple and teaches in it. In Mark 14:3-9 he is anointed. In Mark 14:61, the High priest identifies him as King. In 15:9 and 12 he is proclaimed to the people by Pilate as King. In 15:17-19, he is saluted as King by the soldiers. In 15:20 he is enthroned on the cross. Throughout the narrative of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, Jesus’ enemies unwittingly proclaim the truth about him.

Jesus is the King. They all recognize that this is who he is claiming to be and that’s why they kill him. This in itself isn’t so shocking, it happened several times in the decades before and after Jesus. What makes it shocking is what happens next. Those other so-called messiah’s and would-be kings were heads of movements. They had lots of followers. And all of the them fizzle and fade. But Christianity doesn’t fizzle; it explodes! In less than 250 years, the entire Roman empire will be declared Christian reaching from India to England. Jesus rises from the dead. In his resurrection, his claim to be Messiah and King and Son of God are all proven to be true. And since this is true, it changes everything. He suffered because of his claim to be messiah and King, and he rose from the dead to prove that in fact he is Messiah and King. He has fulfilled God’s promises and now God’s Kingdom is coming because the King has come. The King came and died, but he rose gain. This means that it is only a matter of time before his Kingdom comes in all of its fullness and completion.

The response that we are told we should have throughout Mark’s Gospel is belief and repentance. The King has come and although he was dead now he is alive. His resurrection proves he is King so we should believe he is our King. If he is our King, everything about our lives changes. We no longer live for the Kingdom of this world, but the Kingdom of the Risen Jesus. It changes our thinking, our actions, our motivation. We live in the in-between time though. So even though we believe this Kingdom will finally come, we still wrestle against the sinfulness in our hearts that fights against his Kingdom. So our belief and repentance isn’t something that happens once and then we live however we want until Jesus Comes. We must remain in this belief and repentance. We continue in this Gospel, practicing it daily. It requires more than mental adherence. It is more than an intellectual agreement. The Gospel demands our lives. Our King has come and will come again and we must prepare ourselves even today.

Is he your king?

 

Sources and acknowledgments

Review and Reflect on Mark 10:17-31

The story of this wealthy man in Mark 10:17-31 is a contrast to the previous few verses about those who enter the Kingdom like children. This story describes again the intensity and seriousness of following Jesus: he tells this man to sell everything he has! Although God may not call me or you to do that, we have to be careful not to temper this message. Jesus does and will call people to forsake everything in a physical and tangible manner. Some have given away wealth, others fame, and still others their physical lives. So, when we approach a passage like this we need to make sure we feel the tension and the weight of what it would mean for us to sell all that we have and give the money to a homeless shelter. For some of us it is inconceivable that we would do this. For others of us, we know that if we had to do it, we would immediately get to work rebuilding what we had. God gives us everything we have to leverage for his Kingdom and his glory. Our temptation is to leverage it for our own comfort and pleasure. God gives us the time we have, the talents we have, and the treasure we have to bring people to him, to build the church body, and to honor him.

You might call these things “The 3 T’s” – Time, Talent, and Treasure. We are all given the same amount of time in our days and weeks, and it’s up to us to make the most of that time for the Kingdom of God and not squander it. Everyone is busy, the question is, are you busy in a way that honors Jesus? Also, we all have some type of talent or gifting that God has given us. People are naturally good at certain things or are naturally inclined to doing other things, and we have opportunities to use those talents for the glory of God. The Bible also talks about spiritual gifts like mercy, giving, leadership, teaching, hospitality, and many others. God equips each of us with gifts to serve the whole body. Although some gifts are in plain view, others are behind the scenes, but if any of us neglects to practice our gifts, the whole body suffers. In the church, our lives in Christ are intertwined; we are not completely separate and autonomous. There needs to be those who teach, those who listen, those who perform acts of service, those who encourage, and those who practice lots of other gifts. Many times, each of us have a combination of talents of differing degrees and it practicing them, we find how we can best serve the body. Practicing our gifts is to build up the church: to build in numerical growth, and to build the body spiritually. We all are given time, we all are given at least one talent or gifting, and then we all have Treasure. Some of us don’t have much and some of us just think we don’t have much. Whatever we have, we have an opportunity to leverage for the Kingdom of God and to see it as a tool rather than a goal, as a means of worshipping God rather than an object of worship itself. In the Gospel of Luke we see this element of our treasure discussed in several places especially in Luke 16:10-13 where Jesus says we cannot love both God and money.

This was the source of the internal struggle of this man in Mark’s Gospel. He had lived his entire life properly and uprightly, but there was a void, a problem in his soul. He followed all the rules and lived morally. But, he was trying to serve both God and money and Jesus knows it. So, this man asks Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, and Jesus responds with theology, with love, and with application. Jesus’ response is deep, authentic, and simple.

First, in verse 18 Jesus responds to this man with theological depth. He responds to the man’s greeting “Good Teacher” by saying “There is none good but God.” Jesus recognizes this man has come to him with sincerity looking for answers, but out of the gate, Jesus reminds him that even with his moral achievement that doesn’t make him good. Only God is good. There are aspects of goodness reflected in humanity because we are made in God’s image, but the only one who is good in essence, who defines goodness, and who is the embodiment of goodness is God himself and God alone. Jesus responds this way because if we properly understand goodness, this man is correct. Jesus is good because he is God. So when Jesus responds to this man’s search for filling that eternal void in his spirit, this isn’t simply moral advice dispensed by some guru. Jesus speaks the word of God. He speaks from authority and he speaks not just advice, but truth. This man has undoubtedly heard of Jesus’ reputation and authority and this is why he comes to this teacher and healer. But Jesus lets this man know a little more about him than most do, although he does it in a cloaked manner. Jesus hints to this man at his divinity. He’s not just a healer and teacher, but God in human flesh. This is a deep theological truth, but it is also immensely important for people who follow Jesus to understand. Jesus is a man, he is a teacher, he is a healer, and he is also God. He is God and man together in one person. So when we speak of God we speak of Jesus and when we speak of Jesus we speak of God. Jesus is our friend and brother, and he is also our King and God. This should give us comfort when we are lonely or discouraged and it should cause us to fear when we are tempted by our sin.

Another theological point of this passage is found in the interaction Jesus has with his disciples about this discussion with the rich man. In verse 17 the man asks about eternal life and in verse 23 Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. Then Jesus mentions eternal life in verse 30 in speaking of the age to come. Our understanding of eternal life should be more shaped by Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God than by popular conceptions of clouds, harps, golden halos, and angels. Living in God’s Kingdom is eternal life and there is not eternal life outside of God’s Kingdom. There are quite a few more references to the Kingdom of God than to eternal life in the New Testament. Eternal life is much bigger than we can conceive it to be. Eternal life exists in the context of God’s Kingdom. He is infinite and so is his rule, so life in and with him will surely be much greater than the popular conceptions of the afterlife. Jesus teaches about the Kingdom that has come and has begun, but it continues eternally and we are invited into eternal life in his Kingdom if we believe and repent. Jesus calls this rich man, and his disciples to a greater depth in understanding who he is.

Secondly, Jesus responds to this man in Verse 21 with authentic love. Before Jesus gave instruction to him, he loved him. He felt compassion for him. Remember that Jesus is the true King who has compassion and love for his people. This man is often referred to as the Rich Young Ruler because Matthew notes his youth and Luke refers to him as a ruler. In Tim Keller’s book “King’s Cross“, he notes that one of the reasons Jesus loves him is because of his status. Like this man, Jesus is young, around 30-33 years old. Like this man, Jesus is a ruler, his Kingdom knows no end. Like this man, Jesus possesses great wealth, he owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. The rich man recognizes Jesus as a good teacher, but has no clue with whom he is speaking. Jesus has authority and wealth in an infinitely greater way than him. And yet, at the prime of his life Jesus in his early 30’s Jesus will forsake it all and go to a cross. He tells this man to give away his wealth because of its stranglehold on his heart. But Jesus can tell him to do so with integrity because he is doing the same thing, but to an infinitely greater degree. Jesus gives up a heavenly throne to rescue people like this man, and when he says, give your wealth to the poor, he knows exactly what that means because he has done no less.

The third ways Jesus responds to this man is with simple application. Jesus says, all you have to do is sell everything and follow me. All you have to do is deny yourself and pursue the cross for your life. The man understands this command because it is simple, but it is so difficult for him that he leaves full of sorrow. It says he’s “disheartened”. Other translations say he is “grieved”. Why? Because he knew he wouldn’t do it. Jesus requires him to forsake what is most dear to him, his wealth. And he loves God, but not quite as much as he loves his money. More than this Jesus doesn’t require him only to give up what he has, but to set a new course for the future as well. Jesus says “follow me”, no longer is he to pursue God and money, but only God. Jesus is calling this man, to give up what he can gain in this life, to gain the next life. He has said this before in other places. He says it in chapter 8 when he says “deny yourself” and he has just said it in verses 13-16 saying that we must receive the Kingdom like a child. For some people, God will remove obstacles that prohibit us from coming to him, but in this case, he asks this man to remove the obstacle himself and give away his wealth. Sometimes we need to pray for God to remove what is holding us back, and other times we need to pray that God would change our hearts to help us love him more than our stuff and ourselves. Jesus’ Disciples sensed the magnitude of this simple command as well. We see Jesus interact with them in verse 23-31. In verses 23 and 24 Jesus tells his disciples twice “How difficult is it for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God”. He says it twice so we should make sure to hear it. In verse 25 Jesus says his famous saying that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for the rich to enter the Kingdom. It’s impossible Jesus says. There’s not a chance it’ll happen.

Verse 24 says the disciples were amazed at this and in verse 26 it says they were exceedingly astonished. They say in verse 26, “Who can then be saved?!?!” Jesus says that God will make a way in verse 27. It is impossible for us to save ourselves. It is impossible for us to squeak by and obtain eternal life in God’s Kingdom. But, what is impossible for us is possible with God. He would make a way for people who continually turn away from him to pursue ourselves and our own desires and pleasures to enter his Kingdom.

Then in verse 28, ol’ Peter chimes in. He calls to attention that these disciples have given up everything to follow Jesus. “But we have given up everything, does that mean at least we will get eternal life.” “Look at us” he says. “Look at me!” – I left everything, I give 10%, I go to church every week, I sacrificed something for God, I, I, I….If you are still looking at what you have done, then you aren’t looking to Jesus for your salvation, but to what you have done. Jesus’ response to the question “Who can be saved?!?!” is crucial. Though we would attempt to gain the Kingdom through wealth, influence, power, or even our own righteousness, it’s insufficient and sub-standard. This is not how eternal life in the Kingdom is gained. Jesus changes everything. This is why he says in verse 31, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Whatever you forsake or lose in this life will be gained in the next.

But the difference between what you can gain in this life and what you can gain in the next is infinite. The more we realize this, the less we will live for the things of this world and live for the one to come. What are you living for? Can you sincerely and truly say you love Jesus more than your financial portfolio? Jesus loved this man and he saw that the greatest obstacle to life with God for this man was his wealth. Jesus loves you and if there are things in your life before him it is dangerous and destructive whether they are matters of wealth, relationships, hidden addictions, or anything else. When we read this story, it should cause us to repent of anything we are pursuing or loving more than Jesus. Do you love God more? More than your wealth? More than your hobby? More than your job? More than yourself? Don’t forget that he loves you so much he went to a cross for you, so anything that hinders us from loving him, is not good for us. Open your heart and life to him today and give him everything.

Acknowledgements and Sources.

Review and Reflect on Mark 9:30-50 (Gospel-Centered Greatness, Part 4)

Jesus points us to the cross to gain proper perspective of greatness. He lays out the path to greatness before us in terms of humility and service. He also teaches that greatness is diverse, being found in different places and in different people. But there is something that hinders us from becoming great. Something that corrupts our desire to be great in God’s eyes and makes us desire to be great in our own eyes. The obstacle to greatness demands a serious response, and Jesus describes this response in Mark 9:42-50.

Here we have strong and confusing words from Jesus. I think it’s best to understand this passage as a parable in the context of Jesus teaching his disciples about greatness. Of course Jesus doesn’t literally mean that we are to maim ourselves. This would go against so much of what he teaches elsewhere about the role of the heart rather than mere external adherence to religious standards. Jesus teaches here that following him means forsaking this world’s understanding of what is great, and also forsaking the things that prevent us from living like people who belong in the Kingdom. In verse 42, Jesus has strong words for someone who would lead children or those who are easily influenced into sin. This passage builds on the previous verses in the overall context of Mark 9:30-50. Those who work in Jesus’ name will have their reward, but if they falsely proclaim Jesus and lead people into sin, their judgment awaits them.

When we consider some of the most horrifying things that we hear about on the news, verses like this give us confidence in the justice of God. But very quickly, Jesus moves to individual application in verses 43 and following. His instruction is that his followers would take serious action regarding our sin. Sin will hinder us from becoming great in the Kingdom of God. Sin hinders us because sin is regarding ourselves not just as important, but as the most important person. So, Jesus gives this parable on how his followers are to purify themselves. Some things must be destroyed so that the more important things can be preserved. This is how salt fits into the context. Salt played an important part in the preservation of food in our world until only recent history. Jesus is saying that purification and preservation are required to enter the Kingdom of God. Drastic measures should be taken to remove the obstacle of sin in our lives so that we might be pure and holy citizens of God’s Kingdom.

Our main obstacle to becoming truly great is our own sinfulness. This applies to those who have already risen to status in life and it applies to those who have very little status in this life. Our own sinfulness twists our desire for greatness and makes it self-centered not others-centered. Our sinfulness causes us to desire wealth, fame, influence for our own pleasure rather than to leverage for the weak, innocent, and downcast. For some, it causes us to avoid becoming great and instead becoming lazy. For others, it causes us to strive for a greatness at all costs leaving chaos in our wake.

The worst part about it is there is nothing we can do to overcome our sinfulness, we need someone to help us out of it. We can’t become great in the Kingdom of God without dealing with our sin and we can’t deal with our sin alone. This is why Jesus has come. His purpose was not to make his followers great in this world, but in the world to come. He subverts the world’s understanding of become great, what someone who is great does, and what hinders greatness. Our sin calls for a serious response. God responded to it by sending his son to pay the penalty for it. God calls us to respond to our sin with repentance. Rather than becoming great, our sin will destroy us, but God makes a way for us to be preserved. Though he is the great King of heaven and earth he humbled himself and went to the cross. He was destroyed for our sin and by our sin, in our place, so that we could be preserved and have life in God’s eternal Kingdom.

God calls us today to believe in this, to embrace what he has done for us, and to align our lives in repentance with him. We will only achieve greatness properly when we understand it in terms of the Gospel: A Gospel-Centered Greatness. We all need to consider who Jesus is and what he has done and how we have responded in our hearts and in our actions. He is the Great King, and he makes a way for us to be great in his Kingdom by believing that he has come and aligning our lives accordingly.

Acknowledgments and Sources.

Review and Reflect on Mark 8:22-26

Read Mark 8:22-26.

Jesus comes to a town called Bethsaida on the shore of the Sea of Galilee with his disciples. In typical fashion, he meets someone who needs him to heal them. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus. He took the blind man away from the village. Similar to the story of the deaf and mute man in chapter 7, Jesus speaks to him in a way that he can comprehend. The man cannot see, so Jesus touches him. He spits in his eyes, as disgusting as that is, and then puts his hands on him. He takes the man away from the crowds and Jesus leads him through a two-stage progression of regaining his site. We should again be reminded of Isaiah 35:4-6, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened…”

Jesus is demonstrating what happens with the Kingdom of God comes. The deaf hear, the mute speaks, and the blind see. This story is certainly illustrative of the disciples’ blindness in a figurative manner. In verse 18 it says their eyes do not see and their ears and do not hear, but this is a sign that soon they are about to begin to regain their sight. It won’t be immediate, but will come progressively. But more importantly, this passage is teaching us who Jesus is. All through Mark’s Gospel we have learned different aspects of Jesus’ character and identity. In chapter 7 and here in 8 we are learning in a new way that Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God with authority because he is the King. Because he has come, the Kingdom has come. Because he has come, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the blind see. But he didn’t just come for this. These physical signs are pointing to the time of redemption and restoration that Jesus is bringing. Very soon in Mark’s Gospel, we are going to learn, that this restoration doesn’t happen through Jesus overthrowing the Pharisees, Herod, and Rome to take their throne. Jesus does not overthrow them, but submits to them, and they kill him. The King dies at the hands of his usurpers. But, Jesus rises from the dead, to take a heavenly throne, higher that Rome or any other Kingdom. In his resurrection he works redemption for all who believe and repent and makes a way for us to be included in his heavenly Kingdom. For those who believe and repent, we wait for him to finish his work, and we pray, your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Review and Reflect: Mark 3:20-35

First, read Mark 3:20-35.

Jesus and his followers go back home. It’s likely that they went back to Simon’s house in the town of Capernaum. They settle in and get ready to eat for what appears to be the first time in quite a while, and again the crowd finds him. His family has heard about what is going on, and they come to get him because he they believe him to be “out of his mind”, it says in verse 21. Remember how Jesus’s reputation has spread all over the region so that, now, even his family back home has heard about all that Jesus is doing and saying. No doubt they have also heard about the problems he is causing with the authorities and how if he’s not careful he’s going to get himself killed. His family comes to get him, to take him back home so he will stop causing such problems. It’s clear that his family didn’t understand his message or what he was doing. The only way they can respond to what Jesus has been saying and doing, and the reputation that he is gaining, seems to be to think that Jesus is delusional. They may have had intentions that were good. It’s likely that they were concerned for Jesus safety or possibly just the reputation of their family. Never mind that his followers, and crowds of people seem to think Jesus is a miracle worker, a healer, or a great teacher, his family thinks he’s nuts. But, there is something worse than being thought of as delusional…

Verse 22 says that some Scribes have come down from Jerusalem. These weren’t the local Scribes who have questioned Jesus before; these were the big wigs from Jerusalem. Apparently news of this Jesus fellow has reached the seat of religious authority in Jerusalem so they send an envoy of their best Scribes to confront him. Because they believe Jesus to be teaching false doctrine, they believe he cannot be a messenger from God. That means the miracles that coincide with his teaching can’t be empowered by God, but they happen from some source of power. What else can they logically conclude than that Jesus is performing these great signs by the power of Satan himself?

So his family thinks he is delusional, and the religious authorities think he is demonic. Jesus responds to these two accusations. First, he responds to being accused of being in league with Beelzebul. Beelzebul was a pagan god and in this context the name is used to refer to Satan. Jesus addresses the Scribes with a question, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” He says in verse 25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. In other words, if he was satanic, Satan would be waging war against his own army, and this is not a military strategy that will bring victory. You don’t win a battle by taking out your own soldiers. Then, as part of his argument, in verse 27, Jesus tells them this odd illustration about a “strong man” being bound. The “strong man” in the parable is Satan (Here is a good example of allegorical interpretation!). Jesus has already overcome Satan’s temptation in the wilderness for 40 days in chapter 1, but soon the time will come when Satan will accomplish his greatest achievement, killing the Son of God. Even then, though, Jesus will overcome and rise from the dead proving again that his authority is superior to even Satan’s. Though evil accomplish its greatest feat, God will still triumph. The “goods” that Jesus will plunder will be the people of God who are bound to death and Satan’s power. No longer will death reign over humanity because those who are in Jesus will not be bound by it. Jesus will overcome Satan and reclaim from him what rightfully belongs to him. Remember how Jesus has been teaching that God’s Kingdom has come? When this happens, Satan’s Kingdom is overwhelmed. As you might expect, Jesus brings this idea from the OT. There is a passage in Isaiah 49:24-25 that talks about God rescuing his children who are the prey of a tyrant. Understanding Isaiah 49 in its context helps us to read Mark 3:27. In Is. 49 God says that he will personally rescue those who have been taken captive by the tyrant of Babylon who relocated God’s people in the early 6th Century BC. God says he will take back the captive and rescue the prey. God says he will personally end their exile. This is a similar story to Mark 3. The “Goods” of the strong man must be God’s people who have remained under Satan’s power, just like the “prey” of Is 49 are children under the tyrant, who Jesus says is Satan. The point of this Parable that Jesus tells is that rather than working for Satan, like the Scribes accuse, he is undermining Satanic authority and robbing him of it. In each interaction with a demon Jesus is “Binding” or opposing Satanic authority. He is casting out demons and setting people free from the demonic oppression. This should be understood in the context of the Scribes accusing Jesus of being empowered by Satan. Some have interpreted this as a way to pray, that when we are asking God for a victory, we should ask him to “Bind Satan”. In this context, what is meant by binding is that Jesus is overcoming Satanic authority. So if we are praying for Jesus to “bind” Satan, we are praying for him to overcome his authority, which he has already done on the cross and through the resurrection. So, if you are feeling like you being oppressed by the demonic, you don’t need to ask God to bind Satan. What you need to do is understand Jesus’ authority over your life, and walk in faith and obedience. Without a doubt there is more to the trials and struggles of our lives than what we see. Demonic activity and influence is at play around us. But we don’t need to fear or worry about this. We need to walk under Jesus’ authority by walking in obedience and repentance. So, I wouldn’t recommend you criticize anyone who prays that God would “Bind Satan”, but I would recommend, you know understand what you are praying, and if you want to pray that way, at least know why. Jesus is arguing with Scribes here, and he tells them a parable which is kind of a mix between a story and a riddle. He tells them with this story about the “strong man” that he is overthrowing Satan in order to establish the Kingdom of God. This is what makes the accusation of the Scribes blasphemous. He is establishing God’s Kingdom, and they accuse him of establishing Satan’s Kingdom.

Then, as if understanding verse 27 wasn’t difficult enough, Jesus speaks of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit being an eternal sin in verses 28-30. We talked about this passage in small group a few weeks ago after it was brought up. Some people believe that this passage means there is a sin that you might commit that God won’t forgive you. This isn’t what the passage says though. I think it helps if you look at verse 30 first – the reason Jesus says this is because they were accusing him of being demon possessed. They were attributing the work of God to Satan. They said Jesus was demon possessed. No one who believes this belongs to the people of God. Remember Jesus says Belief and repentance are the way we are supposed to respond to the Gospel, and these people respond by unbelief and accusation. Verse 28 says every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven except for the sin of believing that Jesus was not empowered by the Holy Spirit, but by demonic spirits. This also doesn’t mean that if at one point in your life you believed this, you cannot be forgiven. It means that if you remain in this belief, you cannot be forgiven. An example of this would be for us to consider the Apostle Paul who persecuted followers of Jesus then ended up following Jesus himself. It’s helpful to understand that Jesus is speaking to the Scribes particularly, who were making this claim. So, you don’t have to worry about unknowingly committing a sin that will cause you to get rejected from heaven. This passage doesn’t mean that, it means that you cannot believe Jesus worked in the power of Satan and be accepted by God. If you used to believe that, but you have repented of that, then you don’t remain under that curse.

After Jesus finishes this discussion with the Scribes, his family comes back into the picture.Verse 31 says that they called for him. Jesus then addresses the crowd saying, “Who are my mother and brothers?” In verse 35 Jesus answers his question before the crowd, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother, brother, and sister”. What is will of God? It’s what we have been saying: believe and repent. To believe the Good news that Jesus fulfills God’s promises and brings God’s kingdom to earth and to repent and align your life with his! This is what the crowd needed to do to move from curiosity to faith, from spectator to belonging. He uses his families’ actions to teach this crowd that has gathered, that they must believe and repent, not simply like Jesus or be enamored with his miraculous signs. This statement Jesus makes in verse 35 is a further description of who the true people of God are. They are those who do God’s will. The Pharisees and Scribes thought they were doing God’s will, but in reality they opposed it. And, they thought their religious observance made them God’s people, but in rejecting Jesus they reject God and show that they are outside of God’s true people and God’s true family. Again there is this division between those who belong to God’s true people and those who do not. The issue that divides them is their response to Jesus’s message: belief and repentance or accusation. Notice, how Jesus’ family stands outside when the call for him in verse 30 while his disciples are inside the house. Later, some of Jesus’ family comes to believe in him, but at this point in the story his family thought he was a lunatic.

The Scribes thought he was a demon possessed liar. There are not too many other options for us to have today in our response to Jesus. Some believe that he is a myth or a legend. But the historical record, the testimony of Christians from that day to this one, and other things argues against this. Like his family at this point in the story, some people think Jesus was simply a lunatic that persuaded many people to follow him. But he didn’t teach like a lunatic. His teaching is among the most profound in history. He engaged in thoughtful debate with some of the great minds in his community. The authorities would not have felt threatened by someone who was insane, but they were very concerned with Jesus’ authority and ability. This is not the sign of a crazy person. The religious leaders believed he was a false teacher, or a liar. He can’t be a great moral teacher and a liar. If his teachings are great, then he can’t be a liar. He opposed them to the point of death and then so did his followers. People don’t allow themselves to be killed for something they know to be a lie, yet Jesus continues in his teaching even though they brought him death.

So what is our response to Jesus? He is not a legend or a lunatic or a liar. We know Jesus to be the Lord. He was everything he said he was. He fulfilled promises and brought God’s Kingly authority to earth. If he is the Lord, we can’t ignore him or pretend like what he did and what he said has no impact or relevance to our lives today. He says his true family, the family of God, are those who do God’s will. Will you follow Jesus with your whole life and do God’s will? Or will you reject him and follow your own will? The choice is yours. Following Jesus isn’t something you need to be convinced of, its something you must decide to do, you must believe that he is everything he says he is. This will leave no part of our life untouched by God. What is your response today? Will you believe and repent, aligning your life with God. Our will you accuse him of being something other than who he says he is?

Review and Reflect – Mark 1:14-20 – What is Mark’s Gospel?

Mark 1:14-20

In verses 14 and 15 Jesus summarizes the nature of his mission, the content of his mission, and the response demanded by his mission.

He comes announcing the Gospel of God, or God’s Good News.

What is this good news? What is meant by “Gospel”? It is not a word that is typically used in modern conversation, so it is crucial to define the term, otherwise we may impose a definition on “Gospel” that is not adequate/intended in this context of Scripture.

In the Gospel of Mark, the “Gospel” is Jesus fulfilling promises and expectations related to Israel and bringing God’s Kingship not only to Israel, but through Israel to the whole world, whereby those who respond in belief and repentance may be reconciled to God. This is Good News!

Perhaps further explanation is necessary:

First, Jesus refers to the “Time” being fulfilled and secondly, “The Kingdom of God” being “at hand.” Jesus announces to all who hear, that all of the promises and expectations of the Old Testament have been pointing to this “Time”. Jesus comes fulfilling God’s promises to Israel to bring justice and salvation, but he doesn’t do this quite like they expected, as we will see. He doesn’t establish a Kingdom of God that overthrows Roman rule. However, he does say that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It might be better to understand this phrase as “God’s Kingship has come near”. In other words, Jesus brings God’s authority not a physical, political kingdom. Because of Jesus, God can be seen, touched, experienced and because this happens, everything is now different. Since this happens, since Jesus fulfills God’s promises, and since Jesus brings God’s Kingly authority close, a response is demanded.

There is a difference between the Gospel and the response Jesus requires. (The response is not the Gospel, rather the response to the Gospel. I have found Scot McKnight’s book “The King Jesus Gospel” helpful regarding this matter.)

This response is only appropriate if it is characterized by repentance and faith. Once a person truthfully understands the Gospel – who Jesus is and what he does – there is a call to repent. This means that we stop pursuing our things in our ways, and that we recognize our sin for what it is: offensive to God as rebellion against his Kingship (I know it sounds harsh, but it’s really not, it’s really quite freeing.). There is also a call to believe in God’s Good News, that Jesus has fulfilled his promises and that he does bring God’s rule to earth. This repentance and belief brings radical change in one’s life in conduct, motivation, and pursuits.

This repentance and belief is exemplified in the first four men that join with Jesus in his ministry: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They leave successful family business to follow Jesus. They don’t even ask, “Where are we going?” Jesus calls them to himself. They turn away from everything they have ever known to follow Jesus and there is no indication that they had much understanding of what that meant. They responded to God’s Kingly authority calling them to follow.

God may not call us to leave family and career to follow him (but he might!), but his call to us still demands the proper response of repentance and belief. We don’t have to understand it all, but we do have to turn from doing our things in our ways and give our full devotion to him.

What one step do you need to take to follow Jesus today? What is he calling you from? He is certainly calling you to himself, and often that requires no change of venue, simply a repentant heart.