Review and Reflect on Mark 15:40-16:8 – Jesus died and rose again.

Mark 15:40-16:2 is the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Compared to the other Gospels, Mark presents a brief account. In this passage, he mentions several people by name. One of the first questions I have when I read this is, Where did these people come from? They are not mentioned anywhere before in the book, and now here they are. Most of the named characters in the story leading up to this, besides Jesus, are the disciples. Jesus did have other followers though. And when Jesus was arrested, the disciples all left him. Jesus has been killed and his disciples are nowhere to be found. So, some of his other followers, have come to take care of his burial. Another reason Mark mentions these names is because his original audience would have known some of these people. In effect he is saying, you can go and ask these people and they will confirm what I have told you. At the time Mark wrote this Gospel account, most, if not all, of the disciples were still living, and he says these other people will tell you the same thing as well. Jesus’ death is confirmed by several women who knew him, by Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, by a Roman centurion who was an expert in capital punishment, and by Pilate the governing authority. Jesus was dead, lots of people saw him die and when the first churches were reading this letter, they could go and ask these people and hear that their stories agreed with Mark’s story.

Joseph of Arimathea is referred to as a disciple in Matthew’s Gospel. He’s described as wealthy, and he must have been in order to have a prepared tomb available in which he could lay Jesus. Verse 43 says he “took courage” to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. The fact that he was able to obtain an audience with Pilate also suggests that he was quite influential. It took courage for him to ask, because Roman law forbade a crucified criminal to be taken down and buried. Local rulers were allowed to make exceptions though, and on this particular day, Pilate obliged and made the exception probably because of Joseph’s influence in the community. 

In Chapters 8, 9, and 10 Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to die, and then rise on the third day. On Friday, Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus in a tomb wrapped in a cloth. They were forbidden to prepare the body for burial on the Sabbath, so on Sunday, three days later, two of the Mary’s and a lady named Salome go to the tomb with burial spices to prepare Jesus’ body. Although Jesus had told his followers on several occasions that he would rise, they never understood what he was talking about. And really, how could they? Resurrection doesn’t exactly happen every day. So, they did what they normally did when someone died; lay him in a tomb and treat the body with embalming spices. They had no idea what was about to happen in Mark 16:3-8.

The three women approach the Tomb and find the stone rolled away. They enter the tomb and there is a man sitting there, and they were “alarmed”. So he says, “don’t be alarmed”. Jesus was crucified and has risen. Then the angel tells them to go tell the disciples and Peter to meet Jesus in Galilee. What is their response? Trembling, astonishment, and fear. Verse 7 refers to the disciples and Peter. There is special attention given to Peter throughout the Gospel of Mark, but the last time we saw Peter, he denied Jesus 3 times complete with curses and oaths. So the angel says, make sure you tell Peter too. Verse 8 describes their reaction in spite of being told not to be alarmed. They run out of the tomb terrified. They don’t say anything to anyone.

Many textual scholars say this is where the text of Mark’s Gospel ends. We have early manuscripts that point to this and some of the early church fathers talk about a longer reading of Mark’s Gospel, but they say the best manuscripts end at verse 8. This ending does seem a bit abrupt and unpolished. In Mark 1:1 he writes that this is the “beginning” of the Gospel. He ends in 16:8 with the resurrection confirming that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and true King and leaves it to the church to determine what this now means. Verses 9-20 give us a good glimpse at how the church at an early stage came to understand the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. The other Gospels apply the resurrection in the context of the early church differently than Mark does. So, since the best manuscripts end with verse 8, the nature of the text seems to be complete here, and the other Gospel writers give instruction where Mark does not. I think it’s ok to say the book ends here. Matthew leaves us with the Great Commission – Go and make disciples in all nations baptizing and teaching them. Mark leaves it hanging out there for us. “Now what?” is the question. Now that Jesus has fulfilled the promised time and the Kingdom of God has begun to come, the same response to Jesus remains: repent and believe and follow me.

Throughout history there have been many that have tried to undermine the historical fact of the resurrection. But the eyewitness accounts and the existence of the church are primary arguments for the resurrection. Why would Mark point to several women as eyewitnesses if he were trying to provide evidence for something that didn’t actually happen? Largely women were not regarded as credible witnesses, so if Mark was making up the story, he most certainly would have made it up with male witnesses. But, he casts the 12 closest follower of Jesus in a very negative light. The witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were initially women, and Mark records it accurately. If it didn’t happen, how does one explain the radical following of disciples? All but one of them stood before their murderers and proclaimed Jesus as the risen Messiah when denying it would have saved their lives. How does one explain the rapid expansion of the church?  Within a generation of Jesus’ resurrection, there were Christians all over the known world. The Jesus-religion didn’t spread through killing either, but under oppression and persecution. If the resurrection isn’t well enough documented, how do you believe anything happened in history? Documents, movements, and eyewitnesses are enough for anyone to believe something happened in history, so why would it not be enough to give evidence of the resurrection?

Now, did you see Jesus rise? No, but you can read about lots of people who did. You can see the church thrive from the moment of the resurrection until even today. There is enough evidence for those who will believe. Also, there is new language for what happens to Jesus. The Resurrection was spoken of much differently before this time. Many or even most didn’t believe in it. Those who did believed in a general resurrection at the end of time. Jesus redefines resurrection making it personal and individual as well. The early Christians invent new language to describe what happened to Jesus. They see Jesus alive again but in a transformed way. There are substantial reasons to believe the resurrection of Jesus actually and truly happened the way the Gospels tell us it did. If you haven’t come to terms with believing the resurrection, don’t blame on a way of thinking that says it couldn’t have happened.

The Apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 that for Christianity to have any truth in it, the Resurrection must be true. If it did happen, then Jesus isn’t just a good moral teacher, he isn’t just an historical figure or a religious prophet. He is the fulfillment of the story of Israel and in the resurrection he shows that he has begun to tell a new story. This new story begins with God fulfilling his promises to Israel, but it will end with him finally establishing his Kingdom and renewing and transforming all of creation. This renewal and transformation begins with those who have come to his Kingdom, those who have believed and repented and are following Jesus. This transformation causes us to live differently. Our conduct should point to Jesus. Our manner of living should be changing so that it’s being transformed into a way of living that resembles how we will live in eternity forever. Jesus lays before us the command to love God and people. He says we are to deny ourselves and take up the cross, we are to lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel.  Love and humility and sacrifice are not just a moral code for us to live by, they are qualities of living that endure from this life into the next life. We can begin to learn how to live this way now by following Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus changes the way we live today and in the final years of our lives we will still be being changed, and when we die he’ll raise us up to complete the work in us. This type of life causes us to treat people around us differently, not because we are supposed to, but because we are being changed to look like Jesus. This type of life causes us to work to establish peace, justice, and prosperity in our lives and the lives of those around us because this is what the Kingdom of the Risen Jesus is like.

Sources and Acknowledgments

Review and Reflect on Mark 10:32-52

At the end of Mark 10, Jesus continues to teach and heal and expand his ministry. The last few posts have looked at how he has dealt with his disciples’ desire to be given positions of prominence and influence in the new Kingdom that Jesus was going to bring. Jesus has placed a child in front of them on two different occasions to contrast their desire for power and authority. The first time he says whoever welcomes those like children welcomes me, and the second time he says we are to receive the Kingdom of God like little children. But the disciples still believed that Jesus was going to launch a rebellion and overthrow the government in order to establish his own Kingdom militarily and politically. They understood Jesus to be the Messiah, but their understanding of Messiah needed fixed. Jesus doesn’t leave them in their ignorance, but he continues to be patient with them and teach them. In last verses of Mark 10 we see yet again, Jesus telling his disciples the kind of Messiah he is.

Jesus tells them what he is going to do for them, but they fail to understand it completely. In Mark 10:32-34, for the third time, Jesus foretells what he will do. This time he says it will happen in Jerusalem and verse 32 says that’s exactly where they are heading. This isn’t some distant someday, Jesus tells them again about his death because it is going to happen very soon. He describes his death more graphically this time as well. He says he will be mocked, and spit upon. He will be beaten and killed. But, it also says he will rise. This goes against everything the average person believed about the Messiah, yet Jesus continues to teach that as the Messiah, he has to die and he has to rise.

The disciples still don’t understand. It’s almost as if they completely ignored what Jesus was saying about what he was going to do. As soon as Jesus tells them this, two of them, James and John, ask Jesus for a favor. Their request is borne out of a misunderstanding of Jesus’ purpose. He wasn’t going to establish an earthly rule, but since they thought he would, The Disciples’ ask Jesus to make them great. Jesus says, I’m going to die and rise, and the disciples respond by asking for positions of prominence and greatness. In Mark 10:35-45they ask Jesus for a favor and he replies, “What do you want me to do for you?” In Verse 37 they say “When you are in your glory” in other words, “when you become our King, let us sit on your right and left”; “Let us hold the highest positions of power and prestige”. He tells them in verse 38 that they don’t even know what they are asking. Even though he has just explained it to them again, they don’t even realize that he is going to die, so what they are asking is to be killed with him. If they realized that, they certainly wouldn’t have asked it.

In verses 39-40, he asks them if they can drink the same cup and have the same baptism as him. This again is a reference to his death. They say they can, and Jesus says they will. Jesus predicts their deaths. Acts 12:2 says that King Herod put James to death by the sword – this means he was beheaded. Peter was arrested right after this but an angel set him free so he escaped death. John and James were part of the inner circle with Peter. John is not heard of in the book of Acts after chapter 8 so it is assumed he was martyred as well since he was one of the prominent 3 disciples. Jesus told them they would drink the same cup that he drank, and in the book of Acts we see they were killed because they proclaimed Jesus as the Risen Messiah.

But this is far away from Mark 10. Jesus is still teaching them what it means for him to be the Messiah. In verses 41-44, the other disciples are furious that James and John are trying to gain such status so Jesus intervenes and brings perspective. He says that the rulers of this world use their authority for their own purposes, but in the Kingdom of God this will not be the case. The greatest will be the servant and the first will be the slave. Once again, Jesus subverts our understanding of authority, power, and influence. Previously, we talked about the Rich Young Ruler who Jesus told to sell everything because he loved his wealth more than God. The Rich Ruler used his wealth for himself, Jesus says in the Kingdom of God, wealth is for serving others.

Here he says power and influence are demonstrated in humility, sacrifice, and service. Like wealth, power and influence are also to be used for others. Sometimes this is twisted into the idea of a Servant Leader. Some will say that in order to have true influence you have to serve. Jesus isn’t saying this. You don’t serve and act humbly to gain power and influence. Jesus says true power and influence are displayed in humility and service. Where is real power found? In pouring yourself out. A man named Oswald Chambers once said, “The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do.” Jesus says, receive the Kingdom of God like a child. He put on a towel and washed feet. He doesn’t call us to do great things for God, he calls us to understand the mercy he extends to us as the Messiah. Any greatness achieved individually or as a church will only come from that.

Do you understand what he has done for us and how it affects every aspect of life? If you cry out for his mercy, he will respond. When we understand that mercy it will be translated into a life of humility and service that is powerful enough to change lives, and families, and communities, and even countries. But all of that is secondary. The place we begin, is rightly understanding our Messiah in the way he reveals himself in the Bible, not in any popular misconceptions or personal preferences.

In verse 45, Jesus says one of the greatest statements in the Gospel: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He expressed his power, authority and influence in sacrifice and service. Jesus leveraged his position to gain eternal life for us. Although he is the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth, when he walked on earth he didn’t demand service or submission even though they were rightly due to him. Instead, he served and submitted even to the point of dying as a ransom for us. We typically think of “ransom” in terms of kidnapping, but its more appropriately understood in the Bible in reference to prisoners or slaves. Jesus paid the price of our slavery so we could be set free. Jesus paid the price of our penalty so we could be released. In his death, he rescues us from the penalty of our sin and the slavery to our sinfulness. So when James and John ask Jesus for a favor in verse 36 and Jesus says, “What do you want me to do?” they reply by saying “Make us great!” And Jesus says, you don’t know what you are asking. Ratherthan doing what you ask me to do, I’ll do what you need me to do. Jesus died for James and John and for us, to pay our ransom. James and John eventually come to understand properly Jesus as Messiah and he makes them great through martyrdom as James is beheaded and John is never heard from again after a trip to visit another disciple who was preaching the Gospel. In asking Jesus to make them great, they showed they didn’t understand what Jesus was going to do.

Our church is small, we don’t have much influence in our town, and we are praying for God to grow the church and make us great. But when we pray for this, let us fully understand what we are asking. We’ll be made great by sacrifice, service, selflessness, and humility, not through power and influence. This has very little to do with the size or span of our ministry and everything to do with knowing Jesus.

As Jesus and his disciples continue on toward Jerusalem where all of this is going to happen, they go through Jericho. Here, Jesus has someone else ask him for a favor in Mark 10:46-52This man asks Jesus for a favor to, but this favor is quite different from the one for which the disciples asked. Rather than asking to be made great, this man is asking to be shown mercy.

When he calls out to Jesus, he says calls him “Son of David”. Whether or not the man fully understood what he was saying, the title certainly has Messianic qualities to it. He recognized Jesus’ authority by equating him with David. Instead of asking to be made great, he confesses Jesus’ greatness and asks for mercy. Hearing his cry for mercy, Jesus stops in verse 49. Remember that Jesus is the True King who shows compassion for his people, so even though many people told this guy to be quiet, Jesus hears him. In verse 52, he replies with the same question as in verse 36, “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John wanted power and authority, Bartimaeus wants Mercy.

What do you want me to do? Display your Mercy and make me whole!

The Rich Ruler from verses 17-31 wanted to keep doing his things his own way and also get eternal life. He had everything this world offers and he refused to give it up. Bartimaeus had nothing and he is given everything. Verse 52 says he recovered his sight and followed Jesus. He was a blind beggar, but now he is a friend of the King. The disciples asked to be made great, and Jesus tells them their greatness won’t come in this life. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus asks for mercy and sight, and Jesus gives it to him out of his great compassion. To both his disciples and this beggar, Jesus replies, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Do you want Jesus to give you the American dream and make you healthy, wealthy, and wise? Do you want everything this world offers and eternal life and a place of authority in the Kingdom? The Rich Ruler, the Disciples, and the blind beggar all wanted different things and Jesus offered them all only one thing: Himself. Are you content with him and the mercy he gives? Do you want Jesus, or only the blessings and prosperity you believe he can give you? Jesus’ compassion is directed toward me and you. His greatest display of his mercy is forgiving people like us and restoring people like us. He is glorified in taking people who have been broken by sin and restoring them. What will Jesus do for you? He will forgive you based on the work he accomplished on the cross. He will make you the person you were created to be and that process will begin now and be completed at the resurrection.

Look at what he has done for you already! Mercy, forgiveness, provision, love, purpose. Who we are and what we have are for his glory and his Kingdom not our own. Be careful of the temptation of thinking of Jesus as existing for our prosperity and pleasure. We exist for his glory and his pleasure. When we live for that end, our lives find their full and true purpose and we experience the peace and joy that comes with it.

Acknowledgements and Sources

Review and Reflect on Mark 9:30-50 (Gospel-Centered Greatness, Part 3)

Jesus uses the cross to frame our perspective of greatness. He teaches that the path to greatness is humility and service. He also teaches that Gospel-Centered Greatness is seen in different places and in different ways. He teaches that there is diversity in greatness. In Mark 9:14-29, the disciples tried to cast a demon out of a boy and they failed because they tried to do it without relying properly upon God through prayer. Well, it seems that since then, they have stumbled upon a guy who was doing this successfully, and believe it or not, this guy wasn’t one of the 12 disciples. There is an “outsider” succeeded where the disciples previously failed, so they naturally reject him. This little story in Mark 9:38-41 continues Jesus’ teaching on greatness from the previous passage. Here he teaches that there is and will be diversity among those he deems great in the Kingdom of God. There will be people we never expected that Jesus will say are great. And, there will be others we knew were great and Jesus will have no place for them in the Kingdom of God. The disciples’ status in the Kingdom is not contingent upon what they do better than other people. Verse 41 does limit this diversity though. The phrase “because you belong to Christ” is very important. This other man was working in Jesus’ name and performing miracles. Jesus says that those who identify with him are on his team, even if they are not one of the 12 disciples. He broadens this understanding in verse 41 to any who receive someone who belongs to Jesus on the basis of that alone.

In other words, he has just told his disciples to receive people of insignificant social status like and including children, and here he says that those who do this will be rewarded accordingly. Those who have believed in Jesus and repented will live this way and will receive the reward of entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God even if they didn’t begin their ministry with the 12 disciples.

To bring this forward to our day, I think we can simply say that there are churches that do things different from we do, and with some of those things we may disagree for good reason. But, if they have believed in Jesus as the King and aligned their lives accordingly, they are not working against God’s purposes. There are those who falsely understand Jesus and they can bring great harm. There is a story in Acts 19 where a man is using Jesus’ name to cast out demons and harm is brought. But, those who truly follow and proclaim the Gospel are included in the Kingdom and it is not our place to qualify their status. We have no biblical grounds to say we are greater than them and in fact, whether or not we are great in God’s eyes, has little to do with them, but only if we are obeying the Gospel. Our duty then, is to be sure that we are practicing the Gospel with humility and this is what he is calling his followers to in this passage as well. We are not called to critique other churches or Christians, but we should continually check our own hearts.

Greatness doesn’t come to us through critiquing others. There are enough obstacles to following Jesus within ourselves, we don’t need to concern ourselves with what others may or may not be saying and doing. Other people who are working in Jesus’ name will not hinder us from becoming great if we understand greatness the way Jesus is teaching it. The greatest obstacle to becoming great isn’t other people, but the sin that resides in our own hearts. We like being viewed a certain way, or living at a certain status, or having certain things and these can be obstacles for us if we are not careful. Pursuing the cross and humbly serving those who are undervalued in our world is what Jesus means when he speaks of greatness.

Acknowledgments and Sources.

Review and Reflect on Mark 8:1-10

This chapter marks a significant turning point in Jesus’ life and ministry as we will see over the next several posts. He has travelled all around the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee teaching about the Time being fulfilled and God’s Kingdom coming. This is the message that goes by the name Gospel or Good News in Mark’s writing (see here). According to Jesus, the proper response to this Gospel is to believe and repent. Jesus has substantiated his teaching by performing incredible miracles and demonstrating his authority over the demonic. He teaches with an authority that the crowds of people find amazing. But his words and actions have put him at odds with the religious and political leadership of his day. At this point in the story we have this feeling that if Jesus doesn’t stop saying and doing these things, he is going to get himself in serious trouble. But, chapter 8 begins in familiar fashion; Jesus is teaching and performing a miracle. In Mark 8:1-26 we learn that in spite of our lack of understanding, our doubting and our continual turning away to lesser things, God is compassionate and has remained faithful to us. This will be seen in the next few blog posts.

Let’s start today by reading Mark 8:1-10.
This is a very similar story to what we read in chapter 6 at the feeding of the 5000. There are some differences in the numbers – here Jesus feeds 4000 people with 7 loaves and a few fish. Verse 2 lets us know that Jesus is moved with compassion because of the needs of these people so he instructs his disciples to meet their needs. We’ve been here before in chapter 6, so you would expect the disciples to remember that. But, in verse 4 we read the disciples’ response “How do you expect us to do that!?!” So Jesus goes through the same thing he did when he fed the 5000. In Verse 5 he asks “how many loaves do you have?” In verse 6 he tells the crowd to sit down and he gives thanks for the bread and gives it to the disciples to distribute. In verse 7 he does the same thing with the fish. The result is seen in verse 8, everyone ate and was satisfied. They even took up 7 baskets of leftovers. Then Jesus sends everyone home, and they get in their boat to sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

Why include this story since it is so similar? I think there are at least two reasons why we have such a similar story retold.

Remember the purpose of the feeding of the 5000 was primarily to show Jesus is Israel’s True King because he has compassion on his people and provides for them unlike the false kings.  So what is the purpose of this story?

One reason this story is included is to show the Gentiles get the “Bread” too. The Decapolis, or area of 10 cities was not Jewish territory so it’s likely that this crowd was made up of non-Jews. This crowd may have gathered because of Jesus healing the deaf and mute man at the end of chapter 7, because even though he told them to be quiet, they spoke about him openly. One reason this story is included to show subtly Jesus’ inclusion of the Gentiles. In addition to being in the Decapolis, the word used for “basket” is different in this story than the word used for “basket” in chapter 6. It would relate more to a Gentile culture than a Jewish one. An additional reason to deduce this, is the overall context of the story includes the story of the Syrophonecian woman and the deaf and mute man of chapter 7.  This is the feeding of the 5000 equivalent for Gentiles. Jesus is the compassionate King who not only has mercy on his own people, but on other people who are far from home. All who comes to him is satisfied – Jew and Gentile alike.

A second reason this story is included is to continue to show the disciples as following Jesus without fully understanding Jesus. When we read this it’s almost laughable when Jesus says to feed the crowd. In verse 4 they say “How are we going to do that?” We almost expect Jesus to say “are you serious, don’t you just remember what I did not so long ago?” But he doesn’t. His response is patient and he explains the directions to them again. We see that the disciples still don’t get it after more miracles and more teaching. We are left with a question in our minds, “What is it going to take for them to understand who Jesus is and what he is doing?” The character development of the disciples is another reason to include this story. Their understanding will require more teaching, more miracles, and more patience on the part of our Lord. This is pointing forward to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Last time when they left the crowd, Jesus sent his disciples across the lake, then met up with them walking on the water. This time, in verse 10, he gets in the boat with them and they go to another region around the Sea of Galilee.

In Jesus, we have a way to be forgiven and accepted by God irrespective to our race or background. There is equality at the foot of the cross. God extends his offer of forgiveness and new life to all of us, no matter how far from him we may be. Even those of us who are close, often misunderstand, disobey, and doubt. But God is patient with us. He calls all of us to repentance and belief in his Son. Through him, we are made clean and we are given citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

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 3:7-19

Mark 3:7-19

In this passage, Jesus continues to teach, cast out demons, and heal. Great crowds of people have come to see what was happening and to benefit from what was happening. People were climbing over one another trying to get to Jesus. And after a while, it was time for Jesus to get away for a bit. Jesus leaves the crowds, and his followers go with him on a mountain. Among his followers, Jesus calls a handful of people close to him while he is on this mountain.

The fact that Jesus goes up on a mountain in verse 13 has tremendous symbolism. This is Exodus language. This is redemption and restoration language. It calls to mind how God met with Moses on the mountain in Exodus to instruct God’s people. This is the language of the prophets who speak of God’s rescue from Exile. It calls to mind the promises of God to return to mount Zion to rescue Israel. This isn’t a casual hiking excursion into the hills, Jesus is saying something by going “up on the mountain”.

Then, Jesus selects 12 men, not for merely functional reasons, but for theological reasons. There were 12 tribes in Israel. If Jesus didn’t want his 12 disciples to be identified with the 12 tribes, he would have chosen a different number. These 12 were all male. We know that there were many women who joined Jesus’ entourage, but possibly because of the social climate of the day women were not part of the closet disciples. More likely however, is that the 12 tribes were representative of 12 sons of Jacob (10 sons and 2 grandsons) so its natural to choose 12 men as representatives of “New Israel”. Jesus is showing that he is restoring Israel, but not in the ways the Pharisees and people like them thought.

Just like he has been teaching about a new Law, he is now beginning to teach about a new people of God. Israel had been waiting for God to rescue and restore them and Jesus is doing this, but not in the way people expected. He says the time is fulfilled and God’s Kingly authority has come, and he is showing how things are different. The Law is changing. The true people of God are different.

Verses 14 and 15 tell us what these 12 will do. First and foremost, they will be with him. This is the most important thing. More important that doing things for Jesus, is knowing Jesus, and this is seen from his first followers. We have to wait several chapters before Jesus sends out his 12 disciples. For the time being, they are simply to be with him. What a privilege! He gives these 12 authority to preach and cast out demons. They are going in his authority as an extension of his ministry. They will preach this good news of God’s Kingdom. But first, they will simply be with the Lord.

In doing this, Jesus begins to draw a distinction between the masses who are coming to him and the disciples who are following him. The masses of people may belong to national Israel, but unless they believe and repent, they are not the people of God. He is going to send his disciples to them so they hear the good news and have opportunity to believe and repent. The crowds are coming for the show and for the miracles. The crowds are coming to Jesus on their terms. But the disciples are different. They are following Jesus. They are with Jesus. Sure, they benefit and there is something great for them in doing this, but it’s different. They want to be part of the Kingdom, not just benefit from it. They want to know their king, not just see what he can do. They want to be loyal subjects to the King, not merely people who benefit from his authority. They have come to Jesus because he calls them by name. Coming from different backgrounds and circumstances, Jesus calls them to himself. And there is one he calls who will betray him. And again, we are given knowledge, that something terrible is going to happen.

The Bridegroom is going to be taken. The Pharisees are plotting his death. And a betrayer is among his closest followers. But he is the King. He is establishing God’s authority restoring Israel and giving a new law. Of course we know that his coming death is part of this great rescue plan as well. His Kingship will be established through resurrection. Restoration will be brought through not just a New Israel and a New Law, but through New Life. These are the benefits for those who are not only among the crowd, but who are the true disciples.This is the good news, this is the Gospel.

We are the new people of God. He gives us a new Law to love. And he promises new Life. The King gives his followers eternal life in the Kingdom. He can do this because he gave his life and took it up again by his superior authority. His followers, his disciples, can partake in this kingdom and in this resurrection because he invites us to do so.

Have you responded to this invitation in belief and repentance? Have you yielded your whole life to Jesus our Messiah and King? Is there any part of your heart or life that you are withholding? Believe in what he has done. Believe that it is good for everything in your life. And repent to align your will with his, your plan with his, your life with his.