Monday, June 8, 2009

Mark 2:23-3:6

1. Read Psalm 8
2. Ask about sermon from Sunday
a. What is the bad news of Ephesians 2:1-10?
b. What is the good news of Ephesians 2:1-10?

Mark 2:23-3:6
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Verses 23-24
1. An accusation is made against Jesus. He is accused of breaking the Sabbath.
2. Sabbath was one of the 10 commandments.
a. Exodus 20:8-11
3. “Work” was left undefined by the Torah.
a. In verse 24, the question being asked is not actually legitimate because there was nothing clearly stating that what they did was wrong.

Verses 25-28
1. Jesus responds by reminding them of a story about David.
a. 1 Samuel 21:1-6
2. Jesus’ point in telling the story is not to state whether or not what they were doing was a violation of the Sabbath. His point is that their actions were justified by reference to a higher obligation. The higher obligation is not the satisfaction of their hunger; rather, the focal point of the story is about David and his role in Israel’s history. The Jews believed that David’s violation of the law is permissible only because of his special place in God’s place for Israel. Jesus is implying that something greater than David is here in their midst.
3. With Jesus alluding to the fact that something greater than David has arrived, the question inevitably follows: If David was justified in his actions of violating the Sabbath, how much more would someone greater than David be justified in his actions?
4. Jesus is also declaring that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of people, not people for the benefit of the Sabbath.

Verses 1-6
1. This section follows out in more detail what Jesus mentions at the end of Chapter 2. Jesus is declaring that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of people and was not meant to be a burdensome command.
2. The overall message of this section is pretty easy to grasp, but there are some very important details in this section that can easily be missed.
3. In verse 2, Jesus is being watched so that people can accuse Him of doing wrong.
4. In verse 5, Jesus has a very strong reaction to the people watching him. Jesus is angered and grieved by their hardness of heart.
5. Jesus heals the man despite the protest of the hard hearts around him. In response to his healing the man, the Pharisees go out and even make alliances with the people they absolutely hate in order to destroy Jesus.
6. This section is the real beginning of the tension that will develop between Jesus and the religious and political establishments. The tension that has begun here will inevitably lead to his death.

Questions for Mark 2:23-3:6
1. How does Jesus’ announcement of Him being greater than David affect the attitude of the Pharisees?
2. Why do the Pharisees respond the way that they do?
3. Why does Jesus respond the way He does in 3:5?
4. How does viewing the Sabbath as a gift from God differ from viewing it as a burdensome command?
5. How does Romans 13:8-10 relate to this section in Mark?
a. 8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Mark 2:18-22

Read Psalm 7

Review from previous Saturday on Mark

Mark 2:18-22
18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Verse 18
A question is given as to why the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Fasting “from food was highly valued among Jews as an expression of religious devotion. Individuals fasted in order to demonstrate repentance for specific sins and thus to win God’s favor” (Douglas R.A. Hare, Mark, p.40).

Verse 19
Jesus responds in a way that shocks his questioners.
“He justifies the non-fasting of his disciples by means of a parable: Would it be proper to fast at a wedding? The celebration must continue as long as the bridegroom is present! Those who heard Jesus proclaim the good news concerning the arrival of God’s rule would get the point. This is not a time to lament God’s absence but to celebrate God’s presence [with them]!” (Douglas R.A. Hare, Mark, p.40)

Verse 20

This verse contains Jesus’ first mention of His death. His disciples need not mourn while He is still with them proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The time for mourning will come quickly enough. The disciples have not yet understood the cost that the Son of God must pay in order for the Kingdom of God to be able to come upon the world. Soon enough, the disciples will be awakened to this reality by watching their leader die an agonizing death as an innocent man. For now, while the time for Jesus to die has not yet come, the disciples need to be focused on staying in the present moment where God is at work.

Verse 21-22
Jesus gives two more parables regarding the reason as to why his disciples do not fast. “Both parables stress the incompatibility of the new with the old and the irresistible power of the new…The good news about God’s active presence is incompatible with the gloomy stance of those who are [still] waiting for God to do something” (Douglas R.A. Hare, Mark, p.41).

Overall Message
The time of waiting for the Messiah to some is over; there is no more need to try to beckon the Messiah’s coming with empty rituals done for the purpose of earning God’s favor. The Messiah has come, He has arrived. It is not that people should not mourn their sin; it is that there is great hope to be found in Jesus because He would be the one to bear the full weight of their sin. In Jesus they have hope because He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is there is the midst of Israel beckoning people to leave behind their self-reliance and activity done for the purpose of trying to earn God’s favor. Jesus is telling people to leave the old things behind and for them to embrace Him and what God is doing through Him in the world.

Questions for Mark 2:18-22
1. In what ways has Jesus relieved us from trying to earn God’s favor?
2. Do Christians experience sorrow in the same way as unbelievers do?
3. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” How does this verse relate to Mark 2:20?
4. In His answer regarding why His disciples do not fast, why does Jesus stress that the old is incompatible with the new?
5. What are some of the implications of Jesus’ stressing that the old is incompatible with the new?
6. What are some practical things to take from this passage? What has stood out to you in this passage?

Mark 2:13-17

Read Psalm 6

Mark 2:13-17
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Read Mark 2:13-17 section from Tom Wright’s book

Questions for Mark 2:13-17
1. Levi works for the people that the Jews view as being the very ones that are preventing the kingdom of God from coming. What might have been some of the people’s perceptions of Jesus’ befriending Levi?
2. Both Jesus and the Jews want to see the kingdom of God manifested, with the result being a radical transformation occurring in the world. However, Jesus and the Jews have very different ideas as to how this radical transformation will be brought about.
a. In what ways do the way of Jesus and the way of the Jews differ in how they believe radical transformation will occur?
b. In what ways are we as Christians much like a lot of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day in how we believe the world will be transformed?
3. What does verse 17 tell us about what the mission of Jesus was when He was here on earth as a human?
4. Is the mission of Jesus the same today as it was while He was still on earth as a human? Why or why not?
5. What are some practical things we can do to be used by God to share Christ with other people in our daily lives?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mark 2:1-12

Read Psalm 5

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

1. Ask about what has been happening so far in Mark.

Verses 1-2
“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.”
1. The leper going about talking openly about Jesus healing him added to the amount of people coming to see Jesus.
2. Despite the large crowd, Jesus is continuing to keep focused on what he was sent to do.
a. “Preached the word”

Verses 3-5
3 “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
1. Despite the difficulty of what it would take to get the man to Jesus, the man and his friend’s do whatever it takes so that the man can get to Jesus.
2. Two characteristics of these men:
a. Resourceful
i. They get to Jesus by a method not used by the rest of the crowd; namely, through the roof.
ii. “An ancient flat-roofed house usually had a stairway to the roof, which would have enabled the [men carrying their friend] up without difficulty.” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p.992)
iii. The roof would have been made of grass, clay, and other materials.
iv. Getting the man down to Jesus would have been easy, but it would have practically destroyed the roof.
b. Bold
i. (Read verse 1 of chapter 2)
1. Jesus was at home!
ii. This is where Jesus is staying. It is his dwelling place with his disciples. To be specific, it is Simon Peter’s house.
3. Jesus’ response has a sense of irony to it.
a. Jesus saying that the man’s sins are forgiven could very well have been referring to the man being the cause of there being a hole in the roof just as much as he could be referring to the man’s actual sins.
4. Verse 5: “Jesus saw their faith”
a. There is a sense that although Jesus could have been referring to the roof being destroyed, he is not talking about the roof.
5. Only two texts in the Old Testament where God Himself is speaking, declaring that He forgives sin.
a. The first Exodus
i. Exodus 34:6-7 (Read 34:1-8)
1. The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.
b. The New Exodus in Isaiah
i. Isaiah 43:25 (Read Isaiah 43:16-25)
1. Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
c. Come back to later in the passage when Jesus declares Himself to be the “Son of Man”

Verses 6-7
6 “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
1. The scribes are unsettled by Jesus’ claim of the man’s sins being forgiven.
a. Their reaction is understandable. No one but God can forgive sins.
b. The scribes did not know or believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Verses 8-11
8 “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
1. Jesus’ response to the scribes is NOT Him stating that one of the phrases was quicker to say or easier to speak than the other phrase.
2. Jesus response to the scribes is in regards to them not recognizing that the Messiah was in their midst.
3. In proclaiming the man to be forgiven, Jesus was declaring, once again, that the New Exodus had arrived.
a. “Jesus invites his opponents to acknowledge that God has been present and active in his ministry. If he heals by the power of God, then surely his authority to forgive comes from the same source.” (Mark, Douglas R.A. Hare, p.37)
4. In verse 10, Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man”.
a. In the Old Testament, the phrase “Son of Man” is used by God to identify His messengers. This phrase is common in many of the prophetic books, especially in Ezekiel. The phrase is only used when God is speaking to His messengers; the phrase was NEVER self-designated.
5. In this passage, Jesus claims to have the power to forgive sins and the power of designating Himself as God’s messenger, something that was not at all common in Judaism. Jesus is claiming that his authority is equal to that of God’s.
6. Jesus moves from His being the Messiah as something that was implicitly stated based on what He did, to openly declaring Himself to be the Messiah.
7. “It is inevitable that Jesus’ lofty claims will meet stern resistance among those responsible for maintaining religious order. In the accusation “It is blasphemy!” we have the first foreshadowing of the passion; it will be on the charge of blasphemy that Jesus will be condemned to death by the high priest’s council (14:64). (Mark, Douglas R.A. Hare, p.37)

Verse 12“And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
1. “The people of Capernaum do not concur with the scribes. Even though they have already witnessed other healings at [Simon] Peter’s house (1:32-34), they now glorify God as a result of the paralytic’s double liberation from sin and paralysis. God’s honor has not been impugned by Jesus’ behavior but exalted.” (Mark, Douglas R.A. Hare, p.37)


1. Why is it important for Jesus to be preaching the word to the people who are coming to see him?
2. What do the actions the paralyzed man and his friends take to get to Jesus show about them? about what they believed about Jesus?
3. How do we respond to people who try to take rights over us in ways that only God can do?
4. What does coming under the lordship of Jesus mean and look like?
5. How do we respond to the lordship of Jesus and His rights over us? How should we respond to Him?
6. The paralytic probably came to Jesus with only the intention of getting his body healed, and nothing else. Yet Jesus heals not only the man’s body, but also his soul. Jesus met a need the man might not have even recognized that he had. In what ways does God meet needs we don’t even know we have?
7. What is the response of the crowd to Jesus’ healing the man?
8. What kind of shift is occurring already in Mark in this passage from Jesus making an explicit claim about His being the Messiah?
9. What from this passage can be applied to our lives? What from this passage stood out to you?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mark 1:40-45

Read Psalm 4

Mark 1:40-45
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

The verse preceding this section speaks of Jesus’ resolve to continue teaching in the synagogues and casting out demons, as He continues to usher in the Kingdom of God in the surrounding areas. Verse 40 starts off by telling us that while Jesus was going about teaching and casting out demons, a leper came to him asking to be made clean. Although there is a very distinct type of leprosy that was common in Biblical days that caused people to lose feelings in their nerves so as to lead them into many difficulties, the leprosy mentioned here is a generic term which includes not only the leprosy typically thought of being mentioned in the Bible, but also a variety of skin diseases which may or may not have been related to what we know today as leprosy.

Nevertheless, having a skin disease that would be classified as being a leprous disease was a very devastating disease to have not only because of the physical condition of a person’s body, but largely because of the social ramifications that were associated with having the disease. Leviticus 13:45-46 gives us some insight into some of the social ramifications of having this disease. The text reads:

45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the
hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out,
‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He
is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

People with leprosy had to wear special clothing that covered their entire body, and had to live in isolation from all that they once knew. When they were pronounced to be unclean, they had to immediately leave their home, their family, their job, their friends, their synagogue, and also were not allowed to go to the Temple to participate in any of the Holy Days or to offer sacrifices. They lived outside of the area where the majority of the people lived, and likely only had much contact with other people who suffered from similar diseases.

A person pronounced unclean because of leprosy also had to make their presence known when they entered into a town or any other area where people were. The lepers were identified not only because of their clothing, but they also had to shout the word “Unclean!” over and over again when they entered into town to get supplies for themselves.

Lepers were NEVER to be touched, and spent their lives not feeling the physical presence of another person. One of the basic human needs that all people need is that they need to be touched. If a baby is not touched or held, the baby will not develop properly and may even die because of lack of touch.

Another aspect of being pronounced unclean was that lepers were, in many ways, at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Lepers could not work, as anything they touched would be considered unclean. Because they could not work, they could not provide for themselves. Family members could help their relative who was now unclean, but doing so was likely not looked upon very favorably, as most of the people of that time viewed the person’s leprosy as a result from a sin that that individual person had committed. If the person was viewed as being in the condition they were in because of their own rebellion against God then supporting that person could have been viewed as enabling them to continue in their own wickedness.

It was indeed a devastating thing to have been pronounced as having leprosy.

In modern times there is a similar, though less profound, example of this type of mentality that many people hold in regards to people who are homeless. Sometimes people assume that if a person is homeless, it is solely because they are lazy or have a drug problem; they automatically rule out any other option that may be a real possibility as to why the person may be in the predicament that they are in. The person may be homeless because they lost their job, because they had some things that happened back to back and caused them to lose their step in life, because they have mental illness and no one to help them stay well; a person may be homeless may be for any number of reasons, none of which we know for each individual person we may encounter.

As it is true today that people often have bad things that happen to them in their lives through no real fault of their own, so it was back then. We live in a world where all people are born enslaved to sin, and though we may not suffer ills because of the actions we ourselves take, we all suffer because of sin entering the world through Adam’s disobedience. Though it is true that there is an obvious, yet general, principle that a person will reap what they sow, sometimes our suffering is because of the general curse of creation and other times it is because of the sinful actions of other people.

Though there were many misinterpretations of the Scripture on the part of the Jews of Jesus’ day, this misinterpretation was one that, although it is easy to see how they could have come to conclude what they did from reading without the Holy Spirit enlightening them, proved to have devastating effects on the members of their community. Being declared unclean had profound implications and thus separated the person from being a part of the life of society, the life of the perceived people of God, and the entrance into temple or synagogue worship.

So in verse 40 when the leper even approaches Jesus, the leper is breaking a huge social norm; not only was the leper breaking a social norm, he might have even been considered as breaking the Law of Moses. There is nothing that I have found that specifically notes the exact punishment for an action of this type, but it would not have been uncommon for someone doing such an outrageous thing to be stoned or put to death.

The leper not only approaches Jesus; he comes to Jesus with a request. The leper approaches Jesus and says, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

The leper is asking Jesus this not because he doubts Jesus’ ability to make him clean, but because he does not know if Jesus is willing to do it. It is likely that the leper’s uncertainty may have been because leprosy was viewed as a punishment for sin. The Law of Moses contains sections where blessings are promised for obedience and curses are promised for disobedience; these sections were viewed by many of the Jews as stating that blessings and curses would happen absolutely based on how a person lived, and that any hardship in a person’s life was solely because of their own sin. There are several passages in the Old Testament that show that God did, in fact, punish some people by giving them leprosy. One of these passages is in 2 Chronicles 26.

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was
unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn
incense on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest went in after him,
with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, 18 and they withstood
King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the
LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn
incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you
no honor from the LORD God.” 19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in
his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy
broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the
LORD, by the altar of incense. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the
priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they
rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had
struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a
leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD.
And Jotham his son was over the king's household, governing the people of the

For the people of the time when the encounter between Jesus and the leper took place, “there was a natural analogy between ritual impurity, which separated a person from the worship of God, and sin, which separated one from God in a profounder sense” (Mark, Douglas R.A. Hare, p.34). In many senses, the leper was implicitly asking Jesus for forgiveness. Whether the need or desire for forgiveness was a part of what the leper was asking for when he inquires of Jesus or not, Jesus nevertheless grants the request to the leper.

One of the amazing things about Jesus granting this request is not only that he makes the leper clean; the amazing part is that Jesus reaches out to touch the man. Imagine never feeling human touch for an extended period of time. It is likely that this man had never received human touch in years; all of that time: never giving a handshake, never being hugged, never having a hand on your shoulder, never being kissed, never being able to be comforted by another person when one of your greatest challenges in life occurs.

Jesus, being moved with pity, touches the man and pronounces him to be clean. Verse 42 then tells us, “And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”
Jesus restoring this man had a number of profound effects.

Question: What would some of the effects of Jesus having cleansed the man be?

There seems to be an odd shift in tone from verses 40-42 to verses 43-45. Jesus moves from being moved with pity to speaking sternly to the man he just made clean. While the shift in tone may seem odd on many levels, it actually serves a very profound and necessary function.

As the ceremonies of the law had not yet been repealed, Christ did not wish that
they should be despised or neglected. Now, God had commanded in the law that, if
any man had been cleansed from leprosy, he should present himself to the priest
with a sacrifice of thanksgiving, (Leviticus 14:2.) The design was that the
priest, by his decision, might attest the benefit received from God; and that
the person who had been healed might give an expression of his gratitude.
Christ, therefore, by sending the leper to the priest, proves that he had no
other object in view than to display the glory of God. The showing to the priest
was for the purpose of examination, and the offering was the expression of
thanksgiving. He wishes that the priests should examine the man, to make the
divine favor manifest and undoubted; and that the leper, on the other hand,
should acknowledge that God had healed him. Meanwhile, he commands them to
observe the ceremonies prescribed by the law, till the time when it should be
repealed.” (John Calvin, Volume 1 on the Gospels)

There are also several things that can be said about Jesus asking the man to “say nothing to anyone”.

“[Jesus] did not intend that the remembrance of the miracle which he had done
should always remain buried. When the leper, at the command of Christ, came into
the presence of the priest, this was a testimony to them, which would render
them inexcusable, if they refused to receive Christ as the [servant] of God; and
would, at the same time, take away occasion for slander, since Christ did not
neglect a single point of the law. In a word, if they were not past cure, they
might be led to Christ; while, on the other hand, so solemn a testimony of God
was sufficiently powerful to condemn them, if they were unbelievers.” (John
Calvin, Volume 1 on the Gospels)

Despite Jesus’ directions, the man nevertheless goes about talking freely about what had happened, thus causing a rather large stir that would in turn cause Jesus to have to change how he went about ministering to people, proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Questions for Mark 1:40-45
1. The book of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1-3,6). In light of these verses, why would anyone who is sinful expect to receive anything from the Lord, especially if the problem we are seeking help for was our own fault?
2. Is there any type of person or group that the Lord finds too sinful to save? On what basis does God save people?
3. What in our life changes when Jesus declares us clean?
4. What are your thoughts about Jesus telling the man to show himself to the priests? What will the man showing himself to the priest accomplish?
5. Why might the man who was cleansed have not gone to the priests for them to declare him to be clean?
6. What kind of effect might this man’s actions have on Jesus’ ministry later on?
7. The more that Jesus is out and about proclaiming the kingdom of God in word and in action, what seems to be occurring? Why might that be?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mark 1:27-39

Read Psalm 3

Verses 27-34
27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. 29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

At this point in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ ministry just began a short time ago. In this time Jesus was baptized, sent out to the wilderness to be tempted, went into Galilee to proclaim the kingdom of God, called His first disciples, is at the synagogue teaching, and then goes to the house of two of His disciples. In this short time Jesus has had, at least from a natural perspective, quite an odd journey so far. One cannot help but wonder how the people who witnessed these scenes interpreted Jesus and what He did.

Jesus is markedly different from other people. He stands out; you cannot help but notice Him. People you have known for a long time, people of sound mind, just up and leave what they were doing to go and follow Him. Talk about strange. And then Jesus goes into the place you worship at every week and begins teaching. He teaches much differently than what you are used to. Jesus actually sounds like He has something you need to hear, He sounds like He even believes what He’s teaching on. And He is just teaching right from the Scripture; He doesn’t even mention the famous debate that took place over this text’s meaning, the debate that is ALWAYS mentioned when this passage comes up. You think this trip to the synagogue is turning out to be different than what you expected, but its okay; in fact, it’s pretty interesting.

So here you are, listening to Jesus, and a man stands up and screams “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” That’s, ummm, not what you were expecting. It’s quite an odd event, actually. I don’t know about you, but I have never been listening to someone give a sermon where somebody from the audience stands up and cries out against what the speaker is saying. The closest thing to this that I have experienced is hearing someone scream the word heretic at a Christian conference when a famous Bible teacher was walking to the podium.

But this guy in the synagogue isn’t just trying to create a scene; he’s actually possessed by a demon. Jesus then goes and exorcises the unclean spirit out of the man. Suffice it to say, this is no ordinary Sunday at Main Street Baptist.

Jesus then leaves the synagogue and goes to the house of two of His disciples. When he arrives there, he heals someone. It’s crazy. There is no one like this Jesus. He teaches with authority, he has authority over evil spirits, he has authority over illness, is there anything Jesus can’t do?

What is interesting is that after Jesus performs some very public acts of ministry, He leaves from there to go to His disciple’s home. Jesus could easily stir up the people and cause the kingdom of God to come by force. But instead, Jesus goes to participate in the personal lives of His followers. Jesus knows that His disciples need a healing touch right in the center of where they live.

In our day and time, a fever is not that big of a deal; we have medicine, and the warmth and coolness of our homes that help us to deal with our illness better. In those days even something as seemingly insignificant as a fever could easily lead to more sickness and eventually lead into death. Having good medicine, cool drinking water, or the comforts of a modern home were not as easily accessible as they are today. Getting sick with something like a fever, if you didn’t die from complications, could damage your body in irreparable ways. Jesus stepping in to heal this lady with the fever was not like Him healing someone’s everyday headache; Jesus was healing someone suffering from something that could have proved devastating to both her and her family.

Jesus not only stepped in to restore something in His disciples’ lives once upon a time, He steps in to our lives even today. Jesus steps into the center of our lives, into the places where all of our mess and all of Jesus need to meet the most.

But Jesus doesn’t step into the life of Simon and Andrew to heal Simon’s mother-in-law as an end in its self. Jesus never comes into our life just to make things look better on the outside; He comes to heal us from the inside outside. When Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, the end result is her being able to serve them. She probably did it out a sense of joy and not out of a sense of duty. She felt the healing from the Lord and got up to graciously serve this miraculous man.

After Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, people start coming by the house later that evening bringing other people who needed healing from the Lord. In fact, verse 33 says that the whole city was gathered there. There is a huge build that has happened in Jesus’ ministry in such a short time so far. Jesus goes from living in obscurity to being relatively famous very quickly.

An odd feature the Gospel of Mark contains is something known as the Messianic Secret. The end of verse 34 tells, “And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” Jesus has this ongoing thing throughout the book of Mark where He does things that show Himself to be the Messiah, but He does it in such a way that He keeps His being the Messiah hidden. Jesus even seems intentional about people not knowing that he is the Messiah.

The Scripture does not give any perspicuous indication as to why Jesus may have done this, but it is clear throughout the book of Mark, and throughout all of Scripture, that the work of God sort of evades us. We can’t quite grasp it or see it clearly; we know God is at work in our lives and in the world, but we can’t quite see it or define what it is He is doing.

As it is true of the Gospel of Mark, so it is also true of our experience with God today. God is present with us, but the work He is doing is steps ahead of us. We can’t figure it out; we shouldn’t try to figure it out. A lot of what we have to learn to do as Christians is to live in the tension of knowing God in the present moment and stepping forward into an unknown future where we know God better but are nevertheless surprised by who He shows Himself to be and where He is leading us.

It’s always a journey where we understand more the longer we walk with Christ, but there is something about God and the work He is doing that always evades us. Living in this tension is not an easy thing, but it is how the Lord works. We may gather more frustration than insight into why this is the way it is, but we must always come back to the promise of God that tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Questions for Mark 1:27-34
1. Have you ever been in the presence of a person who really knows the Lord? What was different about them? How do people respond to that person?
2. When the Lord saved you, what areas of your life did you see the Lord change that surprised you?
3. In what ways has the Lord brought about restoration or wholeness to the central parts of your life?
4. Why does the Lord desire that He be known and experienced in the central most aspects of our lives?
5. What do you do when you cannot sense that the Lord is at work in a situation?
6. Why does God choose to work in mysterious, and sometimes even hidden, ways?

Verses 35-39
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

So far in Mark, Jesus, a man once living in obscurity, began His ministry a short time ago. In this short period of time a lot of things have happened. Jesus’ work has gained a lot of attention; so much so that when he goes to a friend’s house to rest, the crowds follow him there. He cannot seem to get away from the crowds.

This section of Mark begins with Jesus going to have some private time on His own. Verse 35 tells us a lot of things, some of which are easy to miss. One of the first things the verse tells us is that Jesus rose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark”. This is not given to us simply to let us know some sort of declaration about the time of day Jesus set out to do this. One of the things to note is that it seems as though there is intentionality on Jesus’ part as to his going out to do this. He goes out “while it was still dark”, at a time when few people would be awake; there may have been some people moving about taking care of morning chores, but it would have been unlikely that they would have neglected the duties they do when they first get up to go find Jesus.

Verse 35 also tells us that Jesus goes “out to a desolate place”, which helps to show that Jesus not only rose early “to beat the crowd”, He even goes out to a place where it would be unlikely for people to be out and about at that hour of the day. Jesus sets a time aside to go by Himself to a very private place to pray.

What seems odd about this is not that Jesus wakes up early and sets out for a place to be by Himself. What is odd is that Jesus is going to pray. Although Jesus is a man in this section of Mark, Jesus is also at that same time God. We might play it down to explain it so that it seems less odd by saying that it is the Son having fellowship with the Father, which is altogether truth, but in many ways we miss the weirdness that this is in and of itself. In an essence, this verse is telling us that God is praying to God. They are different persons in the Godhead, but what is interesting is that while there is an inseparable connectedness between the three persons of God, there is still a need for them to be in relationship with one another; this is true not only in time, but also in eternity as well. Jesus is wholly God, but He is also wholly man in every aspect. Many people try to minimize these aspects in many ways, shifting from one extreme to the other, not balancing that Jesus is both fully, fully God and fully, fully man.

Even though Jesus has an inseparable connectedness to the Father, why does he need to pray?
What would Jesus’ praying help him to do?

Whether it was a short or long time we do not know, but after some time had passed people began looking for Jesus. The type of group that was with Simon is not mentioned, but it could just as easily have been just the people staying at Simon’s house as it could have been another crowd of people. If you had someone staying at your house and when you woke up they were nowhere to be found, you would likely go out searching for them to see if they were okay. With verse 33 telling us that “the whole city was gathered together at the door” of Simon’s house the night before, it is also likely that there might have been a crowd coming again the next morning to take in the signs and wonders. It is possible that the crowd looking for him was both a combination of concerned friends whom Jesus was staying with as well as people eager to watch the show; this seems to be the most likely explanation, as things in real life tend to not be so cut and dry as they often appear to be in fictitious stories. Any way this is to be viewed, the text is silent in defining who all is contained in this crowd.

Jesus is found and is told that people are looking for him. This doesn’t seem to be much of a surprise to Jesus, and Jesus responds with a statement that underscores his resolve to continue in doing what He knows He is called to do, namely, to preach to people in the neighboring towns.

Mark 1:15 tells us that Jesus was proclaiming that “the kingdom of God is at hand”, commanding people to “repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus is, in many senses, “the kingdom of God”, the rule and reign of God Himself over all things. Jesus is going about teaching, showing that He is the Messiah, the chosen One, the One by whom God was going to move through to establish His kingdom here on earth.

“The problem faced by Jesus involves the ambiguity of miracles. He meant them to
be perceived as signs of the kingdom of God. They were intended to arouse
repentance and faith (see vv.14-15). The grave danger was that people, seeing
his acts of healing merely as spectacular feats of magic, would not alter their
relationship to God in the slightest. From much later in his ministry comes a
saying reflective of Jesus’ great disappointment with the people of Capernaum:
“And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down
to Hades. For if the deeds done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have
remained until this day” (Matthew 11:23).

When Simon and his companions
track Jesus down, bringing further news of his success, Jesus shows that he has
not been swayed from his task of widely proclaiming the kingdom of God. He goes
on to repeat in other synagogues what he has done in Capernaum- preaching the
gospel with authority and providing visible signs of God’s rule by exorcising
Satan’s minions.” (Mark, Douglas R.A. Hare, p.32)

Questions for Mark 1:35-39
1. What are your thoughts on Jesus, who is Himself God, taking time to spend with the Father?
2. What in your life distracts you from listening to what God is actually speaking to you?
3. Think of a time when you spent time with the Lord before you moved forward to go about your life. Think of a time when you did not spend time with the Lord to go about your life. What was different about your life during these two times? How did you respond to the situations in front of you during both times?
4. Why was it important for Jesus to go around to the other towns to preach?
5. The people in Capernaum came to Jesus looking for something other than what Jesus was intending for them to come to him for. Jesus came to proclaim forgiveness for sins, and the people came to see the signs and wonders, losing focus on what Jesus was truly trying to show them. Why did the people miss what Jesus was showing them? In what ways are people the same today as they were in Capernaum?
6. Verse 39 tells us that Jesus continued to do what God had called him to do, despite the people coming to him for the wrong reasons. Even though people may seem to want to come to God for many different reasons, what will the Holy Spirit continue to do to those who come into contact with Him?
7. Even though there are certain things that happen in our lives, almost as a natural consequence, when we receive the Lord, is it more important for Jesus to meet our felt needs or for him to meet our real needs? Why? What are our real needs?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mark 1:16-26

Read Psalm 2

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Although it may not seem so obvious, Simon, Andrew, James, and John being fishermen and the Lord calling them to follow Him is no small thing. As children, all Jewish people were required to go to school when they reached a certain age. The primary reason for sending the children to school was for them to learn and memorize the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; by the time the children finished their schooling, they memorized every word of all five of these books. They knew the books inside and out, and could quote them to you in their sleep. Having memorized the books of Moses is even true of many practicing Jews today.

Along with learning the books of Moses, Jewish girls spent time learning how to help their family around the home, as well as learning what was expected of them as Jewish women in their culture. As the male children continued to go to school, slowly but surely they were sent home after their instructors believed that the student had reached what they had the potential for doing. The longer the students were allowed to stay at the school, the greater the chance they had at becoming a rabbi or a lawyer. The students who desired to be a rabbi not only had to be able to do well and show potential; they also had to be accepted by a rabbi to become his disciple. Ordinarily, rabbis NEVER initiated the process of having someone become their disciple; the student was always the one to do the initiating. Even then the rabbi had the sole choice in the matter, being under no obligation to choose in any direction he should so choose.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John being fishermen tells us that they did not make it to the top of their class; they might have done well, but certainly not well enough to be disciples. Jesus chooses four men who, from a natural standpoint, did not have the potential to be disciples who would eventually teach people the Scripture. Jesus reverses the pattern as to what was required for a person to be in leadership. Jesus chooses these four men, showing us that the people God uses to spread His Name get their authority not from people, but from God Himself. The choosing of these four men also shows that God uses people often overlooked by the world to be His witnesses; people who were not the smartest; people who were not prominent in society, who lived ordinary lives, who worked with their hands.

Although it is possible that Simon, Andrew, James, and John had some knowledge of Jesus because of His baptism and His coming into Galilee proclaiming the kingdom of God, the text is silent about how, or if, they knew Jesus or what they knew about Him, if they knew anything at all. All that we know is that Jesus calls out to these four men in the ordinary day-to-day activities of their lives and they immediately leave to follow Him. Whatever their relationship to Jesus might have been, we can at least deduce that people felt compelled to obey Him; when He spoke, people obeyed Him.

Something worth noting is that when Jesus goes out to the Sea of Galilee to call people to follow Him, He doesn’t make a general call to everyone who is there; He makes a specific call to Simon, Andrew, James, and John but does not call the others that are there, as it shows by mentioning other people there with some of these four men. Jesus never gives His children just a general call; Jesus calls us each individually and when He calls, we respond to it and begin to follow Him.

The four disciples mentioned in this passage are fishermen. They worked with their hands for a living. They probably went fishing almost every day; life was pretty predictable for them. It is very likely that it wasn’t just them that fished for a living; it was likely a family business. There is a good chance that there were generations upon generations of family that had gone before them who did the same thing they are doing now. Life was predictable. Their dad’s were fishermen, they were fishermen, and they probably anticipated that their children and grandchildren would also be fishermen. Being in that type of setting was pretty safe. You had a long line of people who had gone before you who taught you all there is to know about fishing, which made learning how to be the best at what you do relatively easy. You have people who have bought fish from your family for as long as you can remember. You have no concern about where your next meal is coming from; if things get tough, you simply put in more hours or work a little hard to make up for the loss.

Then one day Jesus comes along. Here you are at work, doing what you have always done and known when suddenly Jesus asks you to leave behind all that you know to come and follow Him. Jesus probably isn’t asking for you to think this over for a while; He means now, He means immediately. Jesus calls you to leave everything you know behind. It is a pretty scary thought if you stop to think about it.

But Jesus just didn’t call four men a long time ago to come and follow Him. It wasn’t just them that Jesus intended to call, He is also calling us. Jesus is calling us, even right now, to leave behind the familiar, the comfortable, and the known, to step out into the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, and the unknown. He calls us to leave our old life behind.

He calls us not only to leave behind our old life, but also to receive new life as well. And the thing is, when Jesus told them that they would be fishers of men, they probably had no idea what exactly that meant or what it would be like; they just more or less did it. They stepped out in faith and left their old life behind. Jesus spoke with authority over their lives and they left all that they once knew. Jesus still speaks these same words to all who have ears to hear it: “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

1. Have you ever felt incapable of doing something God called you to do? What was it? Did you act on it?
2. Why does God choose to use people who seem to be unlikely candidates to do His work through?
3. Have you ever heard God speak to you in such a way that what He spoke shook your very soul and you were compelled to do what He told you to do? What was it like?
4. When you received the Lord, what was it like? What did God call you to leave behind when you came to know Him? In what ways did your life change when you put your faith in Him?
5. What is it like for God to call us out into the unknown away from what is familiar and comfortable to us?
6. What is God’s purpose in calling us to follow Him?

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.

After Jesus begins His ministry and calls His first disciples, He goes to the synagogue to teach. The synagogues had a rabbi whose primary job was to teach the congregation, but they heard lots of different teachings. The people who went to the synagogue heard numerous people teaching the Scriptures, much in the same way we do today. Traveling around this area was common for the people who lived there, which made access to multiple teachers rather easy. Also, having your religion tied to all aspects of your daily living made speaking about your faith a normal and regular occurrence. Much like today, there was a wide diversity of interpretation of the Scriptures during that time. Judaism being not only a private religion, but also being the basis for how national and civic affairs meant that the Jewish people had to have somewhat close ties with one another.

A religious official’s interpretation of the Scripture was a big deal. It wasn’t like how it is today; your whole life and country could change based on the Jewish authorities interpretation. In our day and time, if Christians disagree with one another over an issue they aren’t forced to keep close ties. Imagine a Roman Catholic, a Charismatic, and a Fundamentalist being forced to have a conversation about even one topic, say, the Holy Spirit, and for them to live and worship together in relative harmony; now imagine them all having to be in close company dealing with one another’s views on every area of life. Needless to say, it would get pretty intense at times.

Verse 22 tells us that Jesus taught with authority and not as the scribes did. The scribes did a number of things; some of the tasks they performed included dealing with legal matters, serving as record keepers or historians for Israel, and interpreting the Scripture. They were generally diplomatic people, as their job usually required it; with such a wide spectrum of interpretation of the Scripture, they generally had to do some people-pleasing to make their lives easier. Some of their people-pleasing was probably done out of trying to avoid or not create conflict; some of it was probably done to gain favor from the particular groups, possibly even out of personal interest.

The scribes would likely teach in a way that what they said was so vague and general that no one could disagree with what they were saying, or they just taught on what the varying interpretations of the texts were, not telling what interpretation they themselves held to. One of the things the scribes were notorious for was for their making the traditions they made equal, and sometimes even more important, than the Scripture itself; they not only taught the Scripture, they also taught bringing very precise traditions that had come about because of years of endless debate on any given topic in the Scripture.

Jesus, on the other hand, came in and taught as one who had authority. Jesus did not make vague and general statements about the matter at hand; He taught as a person with conviction. He taught from the Scripture, not bringing in tradition that took away from the Scripture itself and completely missed the obvious intention of the Scriptures author.

For Jesus to teach with authority he had to know the Scripture. He not only had to know the Scripture, He had to know the heart of the Scripture and what it meant. Imagine Jesus, the One whom everything in the Scripture is testifying to, speaking about the correct interpretation of what a text means. Jesus knew he was on a mission from God. He was moving forward in bringing about the Kingdom of God. Not only was He moving forward in bringing about the Kingdom of God, He was the Kingdom the God, the rule and reign of Himself over all things. Imagine being in the very presence of the Word of God made flesh, standing so close you could reach out and literally touch Him; the very reality of all of Scripture, of all of how your life as a Jew was set up; it was probably a convicting place to be.

So here is Jesus in the synagogue, teaching from the Scripture that is testifying of Himself, and a man with an unclean spirit cries out against Him. The intensity must have been enormous. Here is the God-man, teaching the very truth of God in the presence of sinful men, one of whom has an unclean spirit. Sinful men hate the truth of God and, unless compelled by the Holy Spirit, will not come into the light because their deeds are evil. Listen to what Jesus tells us in the third chapter of the Gospel of John concerning this:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not
send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world
might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed
in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light
has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light
because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates
the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

The man with the unclean spirit cries out and yells, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

Evil and darkness will always cry out against the truth. Evil hates the truth, and wants nothing to do with it. Evil knows it cannot co-exist with good; it must put up a fight against good or be forced to flee, in the same way that darkness flees when light enters. Jesus responds to the man with the unclean spirit by rebuking him and commanding the unclean spirit to leave the man. The unclean spirit has no choice but to leave.

We don’t talk about it a lot, but the truth is that Jesus has complete authority over evil. When Jesus commands spiritual darkness to leave, it must do so; it has no choice in the matter. Often times, we have a picture of there being a sort of tug-of-war match going on between God and Satan; sort of a back-and-forth battle where, although God will inevitably win, God must take some losses here and there, and He actually has a hard time keeping things together. The Bible, however, presents a much different picture of God’s relationship over evil. The Bible presents a God who is totally sovereign over evil, yet in such a way that He is not responsible for evil and does no evil in all that He does. God has complete control over evil; when He chooses not to restrain evil from happening it is not because He has no control over it. We may never know the why’s of His choice to not restrain evil during certain times; it is not for us to know. As Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

1. Think of a time when you heard two different types of proclamation of the Word, where one person spoke what is from the Scripture and the other person did not stay centered on the Scripture. How were their messages different from one another? How was the way they presented their messages different from one another?
2. Have you ever heard God speak something to you that was hard for you to receive? What was it? What was it like to hear it?
3. Why can’t light and darkness live together?
4. What does it mean for God to be sovereign over evil? Is it hard to accept that God is sovereign over evil?
5. What kind of implications, both good and difficult, does God’s being sovereign over evil have?