My husband, Mike, taught the book of Mark at school last year and has agreed to use portions of his lessons for our daily devotions for the next week or two. I hope you enjoy this brief study of the book of Mark.
1 "The Beginning of the Gospel..."
With those words Mark begins his gospel of Jesus Christ. But wait a minute! Where is the nativity scene? I don't see the shepherds or the wise men, or even the Babe in the manger. For those stories you need Matthew's account, or better yet, Luke's account, since Luke seems to have talked to Mary and gotten the birth account from the best possible source--the mother of the Child. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often referred to as the "synoptic" gospels, because they are similar and have many of the same stories about Jesus. John's gospel is more spiritual--it tells us the stories of Jesus and leads us toward God's plan of salvation.
Look at the first verses of each gospel to get a sense of each book's purpose. Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus, and it begins with Abraham, the father of the Jews. Matthew is a Jewish writer telling the story of a Jewish Messiah who will deliver the Jews. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." (Matthew 4:16) Luke is the only non-Jewish author of a Bible book, so his genealogy begins at Jesus (going backward) and does not stop at Abraham. He traces the family tree all the way back to Adam, and thus to God. (Try that on one of the "ancestry" websites!). Luke views Jesus as the Son of God, and shows that He will save all who come to Him, not just the Jews. John's first few verses are incredibly spiritual: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:1-4) It is hard to wrap our mind around the fact that Jesus created everything in eternity past long before He was laid in a manger.
But the beginning of Mark's gospel jumps straight into Jesus and His ministry. He is thirty years old when we first see Him as He is baptized, and begins His earthly task of bringing salvation to us all. Mark's gospel is the shortest, and it is action packed. Mark uses the words "straightway" and "immediately" over and over, as we see Jesus go from place to place doing the Father's will. Keep in mind that Bible books are not presented in chronological order, and many scholars think that Mark was written before Matthew, making it the first gospel account. Whether that is true or not, join me for the next two weeks as we follow Mark, who is following Jesus.
2 A Journey Through Mark--Day 2: Jesus Submits to the Father
Mark 1:9-11: "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
As we saw yesterday, Mark begins his gospel with the baptism of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist had preached a baptism of repentance to the people, so why would Jesus Christ even need to be baptized? He was the sinless Son of God, so there were no sins for which He should repent. But Jesus is our supreme example, and His act of baptism was an example for us to follow. In Matthew 3:14-15 we have the explanation: "But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." And what is God the Father's immediate reaction? A voice from heaven said, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)
What an example from our Savior! The very first thing He does, the initial act in His ministry, is to submit to the wishes of His Father. And God the Father is always pleased when we submit to Him. Notice also what the Father says. He claims Jesus as His Son. The first half of Mark's gospel will be full of people who really do not understand who Jesus is. And yet right here at the start, God clears up any confusion as to the identity of Jesus. If you are a believer in Christ, you can say with the songwriter, "I'm Glad I Know Who Jesus Is!"
3 A Journey Through Mark--Day 3: The Importance of Prayer
As we continue through Mark 1 we see the first call of disciples. We also see Jesus casting out demons and healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law. The healing of Simon's wife's mother is often overlooked, but it gives us a special glimpse of Peter's dedication to the Lord. We don't know if any of the other disciples were married, but this incident shows us that Peter had to leave his family behind to follow the Lord. It is one thing for a young, unmarried man to take off and follow a spiritual leader, but it is another thing altogether for a man with family responsibilities to step out on faith and leave his home.
But let's examine verses 32-35 closely: "And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him." If anyone ever had a reason to sleep in and rest, it would be Jesus the morning after this incident. He was up most of the night healing "all the city". Yet look what He does in verse 35: "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." Jesus knew the importance of spending time alone with the Father. Again, He is our example here. Martin Luther once said something to the effect that he would be so busy that he would need to spend several hours in prayer before he began his day. Instead, we try to quickly speed read a couple of verses and hit the door running. One great preacher once said, "I am hustled out of my spirituality." It is important to find yourself "a solitary place" and then pray there.
4 A Journey Through Mark--Day 4: "He Touched Me"
Mark 1:40-42: "And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed."
It's hard to imagine the life of a leper in Bible days. The law commanded that you yell, "Unclean!" when anyone got close to you. Because leprosy was so contagious, it was forbidden for anyone to touch a leper. Imagine life without anyone ever touching you: no handshakes, no hugs, no kisses from the ones you love. This leper understands all this, so he simply tells Jesus that if He will simply will it, the leper will be clean. There is faith here, but also there is the understanding that he should not be touched. Then we see the great love of our Saviour. He is "moved with compassion" at this man who has probably not been touched in years. So instead of simply willing it and saying it, He reaches out his hand and touches him.
Leprosy in the Bible is a picture of sin. It spreads quickly, is contagious, and results in death. Thank God for the day that Jesus had compassion on me and my sinful condition, and He reached out and touched me. And like the leper in this story, the moment He touched me, I became clean.
5 A Journey Through Mark--Day 5: "Jesus Versus The Pharisees And Scribes"
Mark 2 gives us the story of the palsied man who is healed, and the call of Levi, or Matthew. Then we see the first of many confrontations between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. Their complaint is in Mark 2:16: "And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?" In Luke's 15:2 these same Pharisees and scribes say, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." I am thankful that they were right--Jesus does receive sinners. He called a despised tax-collector to be one of his twelve disciples. He made friends of lowly fishermen. He started up a conversation with a Samaritan woman whom all other Jews would have shunned. This was something new in Israel--a religious leader who cared more about people than about ritual and ceremony. His answer to the Pharisees was, "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17)
Mark 2:23-28: "And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." Jesus was basically saying that people are more important than religious regulations, a fact that the Pharisees and scribes, along with many of us modern Christians, had forgotten. How many times would the world view Christians in a better light if they saw that we truly cared about others. One preacher said, "We must hate the sin, but love the sinner." How wise that is, but also how difficult it is to do. We must take a strong stand against sin, especially open and public sin, and still have compassion for the sinners who are caught up in the sin. Let us follow the example of Jesus here, and turn away from the example of the Pharisees and scribes.
6 A Journey Through Mark--Day 6: "Who Is Jesus?"
Mark 3 begins with the Pharisees watching Jesus to see if He will heal on the Sabbath. When Jesus does heal the man with a withered hand, they get very angry. "And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him." (Mark 3:6) Jesus then withdraws Himself to the sea, preaches to the multitudes, and calls His twelve disciples. Notice the opinions of different groups as to who Jesus really is. Mark 3:20-21: "And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself." His friends thought He was "beside Himself" or "crazy" because he was so dedicated to preaching and healing the multitudes that He did not have time to eat. In vs. 22, the scribes said, "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." They were accusing Him of being demon possessed. Even his own family did not understand Him. Mark 3:31: "There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him." They seem to be worried that Jesus is not with them, but is instead traveling from place to place with His disciples. Only one group that has encountered Jesus in these first three chapters really understands who Jesus is. See Mark 1:23-24; 1:34; 3:11-12. Tomorrow we will look at Chapter 4 and get a sense of what the disciples believed about Jesus.
7 A Journey Through Mark--Day 7: "What Manner of Man Is This?"
Mark 4 begins with the parable of the sower. Jesus told the parable to the multitudes, but even the disciples did not understand it. Mark 4:10 says, "And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable." So Jesus explains the parable in verses 11-20. This pattern occurs several times in Mark. Jesus tells a parable or preaches, and then when the disciples are alone with Him, He explains what He had said. Mark 4:33-34 says, "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."
Then comes Mark 4:35-41: "And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
We see in Mark 4 that many groups are confused about who Jesus is. We can now count the disciples as another group that is confused. Notice in verse 41 that the disciples "feared exceedingly." The storm is over. The disciples are actually afraid of Jesus. They had followed Him and accepted Him as their spiritual teacher, but now they have witnessed Him simply speaking and stopping a terrible storm. They said, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" The question has an obvious answer: He isn't just a man. Many today accept Jesus Christ as a great teacher and moral role model. But they have never seen Him as the Son of the Living God. They do not understand that He is God Himself. We will see again in Chapter 5 that there is only one group who really knows who Jesus is...
8 A Journey Through Mark--Day 8: "Worship and Scorn"
Mark 5 opens with the amazing story of the maniac of Gadara. "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not." This man who was beyond human help, who could not be bound with chains, who was completely possessed by demons, fell down and worshipped Jesus. He refers to Jesus as "Son of the most high God". Look back over the first five chapters of Mark, and you will see that only one group truly knows who Jesus is--the demons. How could they recognize Him? Demons are the angels who fell with Lucifer's rebellion against God. A third of the angels aligned themselves with Lucifer against God, but these demons still knew the One who had created them. So far in Mark only the demons bowed and worshipped the Lord. Contrast that with what happens later in the chapter. Verse 40 begins with the amazing statement, "And they laughed him to scorn." Many in the world today speak of Christ only in scorn or condemnation. but there will be a day when they will not scorn, but will worship. "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." (Romans 14:11)
9 A Journey Through Mark--Day 9: "What Will the Neighbors Say?"
Mark 6:1-6: "And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching."
The opening chapters of Mark show many groups who do not know who Jesus is. Chapter 6 shows us the reaction of His neighbors, those who lived around Him in Nazareth. They were "offended at him." Their reaction was, "Who does He think He is?!" They had probably watched Him grow up from a distance, and now were shocked at His claims of being God's Son. So they say, "Is not this the carpenter? We know Him!"
The modern application is clear. Many think they know who Jesus is. They observe Him from afar and cannot believe that He is anything more than the "good man" they have heard about, mainly around Christmas time. Question them about their belief and whether or not Jesus is actually God, and they, too, get offended. Tomorrow we see the turning point of Mark, and sum up all these different groups who do not really know who Jesus is.
10 A Journey Through Mark--Day 10: Seeing Jesus Clearly
When we reach Mark 7 and 8, we see more conflict with the Pharisees, more healing, and the miraculous feeding of four thousand. But the turning point in Mark comes in the 8th chapter. Mark has 16 chapters, and the middle of Mark 8 is the crucial incident in this gospel.
"And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly." (Mark 8:22-25)
This is the only two-stage healing in all of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Why does Jesus choose this method to heal this blind man? Obviously, Jesus was not lacking in power. In fact, He did not even have to touch the man to heal him; there are numerous times when Jesus merely said the words and people were healed. The key is in what the man says. After Jesus first touches his eyes, the man says, "I see men as trees, walking." The man had some sight, but he could not see clearly. This is what we have seen over and over in Mark--no one sees Jesus clearly. With the exception of the demons, no one really knows who Jesus is. The same is true today. People think of Jesus as a good teacher, a moral role model, a prophet, a preacher, or a friend to all. But unless you realize that Jesus is God's Son, and accept Him as Lord of your life, you don't reallly see Jesus clearly. Notice what happens in the very next verses: Mark 8:27-29 "And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ." It doesn't matter what any of the groups in Mark thought about Jesus. It doesn't matter what everybody else today thinks about Jesus. The question that will determine your eternity is, "What do you think about Jesus?"
11 A Journey Through Mark--Day 11: "The Transfiguration"
Mark 9:2-7: "And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him."
God the Father for the second time in this gospel audibly speaks to affirm that Jesus is His beloved Son. That should clear up any confusion anyone might have about who Jesus is. Peter's statement in this incident should never have been made. Mark points out that Peter only said it because he didn't know anything else to say. But building three tabernacles for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses does one of two things. One, it brings Jesus down to the level of man. This is what many cults do. They lift up Jesus as a great teacher and man, but they deny His deity. Secondly, it brings man up to the level of God. This is what some other cults do, along with secular humanism. If a person believes there is no God, then man himself becomes the supreme being. Romans 1:25 says "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
Let's be sure that we lift Jesus up above all others. And let's be careful not to follow Peter's example; if we're not sure what to say, let's not say anything.
12 A Journey Through Mark--Day 12: "Coming Down From the Mountain"
After the transfiguration of Jesus at the beginning of Mark 9, I want to focus on one part of Mark 9:9. "And as they came down from the mountain..." Many years ago I read a sermon (unfortunately I don't remember the preacher's name) entitled "Coming Down From the Mountain." The preacher pointed out that Christian churches often go to two extremes. First, there is the group that wants to stay on the mountain. The disciple Peter voiced his desire to stay on the mountain, and many churches long to stay there, too. The mountain in this passage is the place of worship with God. Worship is an important part of the church, but many churches care only about worship. They have a wonderful time in their services, but as we see in Mark 9, there is a world in need waiting for us to come down from the mountain. No matter how wonderful the fellowship, singing, and preaching is during our service, there is a world outside our church walls that needs help. One songwriter put it this way: "How can we reach a world we never touch?"
The other extreme is the group that never goes up to the mountain. Their priority is service and they work so hard and give their all in helping others. In Mark 9 this group is pictured by the disciples who do not go up with Jesus. The sad part of this picture is that these disciples are powerless to cast out the demon in the young man. Mark 9:29 says, "And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." If we do not spend time "on the mountain" with the Lord, our efforts at service will be of little effect. We need the strength of the Holy Spirit to be the power behind our labor.
Let us be sure that our Christian life is one of balance. We must go "up the mountain" to spend time with the Lord. But we must also go "down the mountain" and help others.
13 A Journey Through Mark--Day 13: "Help Us!"
Mark 9:17-24--" And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
Two interesting things strike me about this story. First of all, notice the answer the father gives when asked how long his son had been that way. He said, "Of a child." Satan is no respecter of persons either. He doesn't just attack preachers and missionaries. According to this verse, he also attacks children. What a startling answer that should make us increase our prayer efforts concerning our children. We may not be able to go with them everywhere they go, but we can saturate their lives with our prayers.
Secondly, notice the personal pronoun used in verse 22. The man is desperate in his plea for his son. However, he does not say, "Help him." Instead he says, "...have compassion on us, and help us." His burden is so strong for his son that he asks for help for both of them. Are our prayers simply lists of items we desire for others? Or is our burden so great that we empathize with others in their needs? How much more effective would our prayer life be if we could say like this man, "Help us!"
14 A Journey Through Mark--Day 14: "And Jesus Stood Still"
Mark 10 involves a series of different incidents. Jesus confronts the Pharisees about the issue of divorce, He blesses the little children, and He meets the rich young ruler. After that He foretells his death and resurrection, then confronts James and John about their desire to be first in the kingdom of heaven. I want to look at the last incident in the chapter, the healing of blind Bartimaeus.
Mark 10:46-52: "And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
All through Mark we have seen Jesus constantly on the move. The words "immediately" and "straightway" are used repeatedly to describe His movements. As I said above, this chapter is one event followed quickly by another. So it is unusual to read the first four words of verse 49: "And Jesus stood still." How did this happen? What caused Jesus to suddenly stop? It was the cry of Bartimaeus, begging for mercy. Although Jesus created everything, and He sustains everything, He is still willing to stop what He is doing and help us. Do you need Jesus to do a great work in your life? Do you need His help physically, emotionally, or spiritually? To get God's attention, just ask for mercy!
15 A Journey Through Mark--Day 15: "The Divine Appraiser"
Mark 11 brings us another series of quick incidents: Jesus presenting Himself as King, Jesus scourging the temple, and confrontations with the scribes and chief priests. Mark 12 shows the parable of the householder demanding fruit from his vineyard, Jesus confronting the Sadducees and then the Pharisees, and Jesus discussing the great commandments. But I want to focus on the last incident in chapter 12.
Mark 12: 41-44: "And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
Instead of the modern method of taking an offering, the Jews would walk by and put money in the treasury, announcing the amount as they did so. I do not know if the Pharisees had begun this tradition, but they assuredly enjoyed it. It allowed them to announce their large gifts, thus gaining them attention and praise for their generous offerings. Jesus and His disciples watched them, and when this poor widow put in two mites (less than one cent), Jesus pointed out to His disciples that this woman had given more than all the rest. She had given all that she had. Let us be sure that we do not try to appraise or judge anyone's gifts, talents, or efforts. Leave that up to the Lord--the Divine Appraiser.
16 A Journey Through Mark--Day 16: "She Hath Done What She Could"
Mark 13 contains what is known as "The Olivet Discourse," which is the teaching that Jesus did on the Mount of Olives a few days before He was crucified. He taught about the tribulation that will come in the last days, and how He would return in glory. Mark 14 begins with the plot by the chief priests and the scribes to put Jesus to death.
Mark 14:3-9 contains the wonderful story of the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany. "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her."
This is the third incident recorded about Mary of Bethany, and each time we find her at the feet of Jesus. Luke 10 shows her listening at the feet of Jesus while her sister Martha is busy with serving a meal. John 11 shows her at the feet of Jesus on behalf of her dead brother Lazarus, asking the Lord for help. But here in Mark 14 we see Mary worshipping at the feet of Jesus, giving something of great value to her Saviour. When someone criticizes what she has done, Jesus speaks one of the greatest compliments ever given in the Bible: "She hath done what she could." We may not be able to do great things for the Lord, but as one songwriter said, "Little is much when God is in it." The songwriter Fanny Crosby was blind, yet she composed hundreds of wonderful hymns to help us praise God. What Jesus said of Mary was put on Miss Crosby's tombstone: "She hath done what she could." Let us be so faithful.
17 A Journey Through Mark--Day 17: A Furnished Upper Room
Again in Mark 14, we see one incident closely following on another. We will concentrate today on what happens in Mark 14:12-16. "And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover."
God's Providence is one of the great doctrines of the Bible. How an all-knowing and all-powerful Lord can lead and guide events that seem random to us, and through these events provide for all our needs, is truly amazing. Notice the unusual statements contained in the directions Jesus gives. He says, "...there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water..." Men did not normally carry water. It was usually the job of the women to go and bear water back to the house. A man carrying water would stand out, thus making it easy for the disciples to know which person to follow. They were not directed to say anything to this man, but simply to follow him. When they followed the man to his house, they were then to speak to the "goodman of the house", or the master. They were to use the authority of Jesus, and to quote the exact words of Jesus, "Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?" The next sentence shows God's amazing Providence. The room will be large. It will be an "uppper" or second story room. And it will be furnished. I do not know if Jesus had already made these prepartaions beforehand with the man, or if He simply used His omniscience to lead the disciples to an appropriate room. But I know this: the disciples followed His directions, and everything that they needed was waiting at the end of their journey. How many times have I felt lost and wandering, only to end up in a "large upper room furnished"? God always provides!
18 A Journey Through Mark--Day 18: "Peter's Cursing Denial"
After the Last Supper, Mark 14 shows us Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by the betrayal, the arrest, and the Lord brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. At the end of the chapter, we have the lowest point of Simon Peter's life.
Mark 14:66-72: "And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept."
None of us want to be judged by what we did in our worst moment. I try to also remember Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost, when thousands were saved by his bold sermon. But here in our text, we see Peter at his worst. When he is first accused of being one of the disciples, he tries to simply confuse the issue. He simply says, "I don't understand what you are saying." The second time he is accused, he flatly lies and denies the charge. The third time, he actually swears an oath, and begins cursing. Peter's logic is simple: "No one will think I know Jesus if I use profanity and cursing." And that logic is true. If you want to make sure that no one believes you are a Christian, use plenty of profanity and bad language. However, if you do want people to think you are a Christian, keep your language clean. Even in Peter's worst moment, we can learn a lesson from him.
19 A Journey Through Mark--Day 19: "He Took My Place"
If you could trade places with any Bible character, whom would you choose? Actually, there is no choice to make. There is one Bible character with whom you have already traded places. His name is Barabbas, and we read his story here in Mark 15:7-15: "And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified."
How have you and Barabbas already traded places? Because just like Barabbas, Jesus Christ took your place. Barabbas was guilty. He deserved to die. He was waiting for his execution, when Jesus stepped in and died in his place. A young man named John Carl Lancaster in South Carolina heard a sermon on Barabbas. When he got home from church, he went into his room and wrote a song entitled "He Took My Place."
Many years ago on a hill called Calvary,
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died for you and me.
He went through such shame, through such agony,
And I’m only saved today, ‘cause of what He did for me.
He took my place, on Calvary’s mountain, and I am clean,
‘Cause He washed me in the fountain.
It’s a fountain filled with blood that He shed with such love
And I thank God He showed such mercy,
And He gave me such grace,
That He’d see fit to take my place.
That's the story of Calvary. Jesus loved us enough to take our punishment and the death sentence we deserved for our sin. Thank God that "He Took My Place."
20 A Journey Through Mark--Day 20: "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Mark 15:16-26--"And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS."
The cruelty of the Roman soldiers here is terrible. They spat upon the Son of God, they smote Him with reeds, they put a crown of horrible sharp thorns upon His head, and then they mockingly saluted Him, saying "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they led Him out to Golgotha and crucified Him. They thought their sarcasm was humorous, but one day each and every one of those Roman soldiers will bow on bended knee, and they will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The entire book of Mark centers on the identity of Jesus Christ. How we see Him, and who we think He truly is, determines whether or not we bow and worship Him now. We will all bow one day, but let us recognize Jesus for who He really is, the true and living Son of God, and worship Him now. Whether or not we choose to do that determines our eternal destiny.
21 A Journey Through Mark--Day 21: "He Is Risen!"
Halfway through the book of Mark, we saw an unusual two-stage miracle. When Jesus first touched the man's eyes, he said, "I see men, as trees walking." When Jesus touched the man's eyes a second time, he saw all things clearly. The importance of this miracle was that no one in the first eight chapters of Mark (with the exceptions of the demons) really saw Jesus clearly--no one really understood who Jesus was. As we began the second half of the book, we saw Simon Peter say, "Thou art the Christ," and we have seen proof of that statement over and over. The Roman soldiers called Him "King of the Jews," but they were simply ridiculing our Lord. Finally, at the end of the crucifixion, a Roman centurion has the final word (or so he thinks) over the Lord's life: "And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God."( Mark 15:39) Amen.
But the cross is not the end of Mark's story. Mark 16:1-6-- "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him." The proof that Jesus was the Son of God is that He conquered death, hell, and the grave. We serve a risen Saviour, and that gives us a living faith. In 1st Corinthians 15:14 Paul says, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." The songwriter Bill Gaither wrote: "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives."