Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 16, 2009

Mark 2: 1-12

Along The Way; A Journey Through Mark’s Gospel
Mark 2: 1-12; Healing a Paralytic
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7″Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11″I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Purpose:  To review Mark 1, and begin a journey into Mark 2 and the conflicts we will see therein.  To look at the incredible nature of the healing of the paralytic.
Open:  Recap Mark 1.  What happens in Mark 1?  If we could make a one sentence summary of it, what would that be?  How about the specific events?

We are now moving into the second chapter of Mark and we are going to see the beginnings of the conflicts that Jesus’ ministry brings.  We will see Jesus breaking rules to bring the Kingdom of God and we will see his authority challenged and questioned by his emerging opponents, the religious leaders of the day.

Read the Passage:
Points:
1.    Chapter 2 will highlight the conflict Jesus brings:  We are going to see Jesus as the center of some conflicts here and we need to understand that’s what Jesus did.  He was controversial because the kingdom and message he brought is controversial.

It is controversial to claim to be God and God’s Son, It is controversial to claim that God’s Kingdom is coming here and that you are bringing it/ therefore are the King.  It is controversial to be the Messiah who comes to the sinners, not the righteous.  It is controversial to upend hundreds of years of traditions, even when they are traditions that missed the point.  Jesus is scandalously controversial.  Jesus controversially lived and proved that God cares, that humanity matters, and that God-in-the-flesh wants to take our life and sins and exchange his own life.
2.    Paralytic’s Friends:  The paralytic was a mere step above the leper in the social scheme.  He wasn’t necessarily unclean, though many thought his condition was punishment for sin.  He had no friends, and would beg, laying on the side of the major road.  Imagine how you would feel if you were this leper.  All of a sudden you meet these men who start bringing you clothes and food.  You begin to see them every day and they share meals together with you (something that’s a big deal and that you rarely experience).  They strike up a true, loving friendship with you and one day they rush to you and talk of this great healer, Jesus of Nazareth.

They lift you up on a litter and carry you almost at a run to these fishermen’s house.  When you get to the house people are packed in.  The house is full, the doorway is full and people are crowded outside.  Your friends stop.  How will you ever get to this Jesus.  One of your friends has an idea, and they pick you up and rush again.  This time they head around the side of the house to the ladder, they carry you up the ladder and all of a sudden, you are on top of the roof of the house Jesus is in, with your friends carrying you.  They set you down and begin digging into the roof with their bare hands.  They dig up the straw thatch, dig through the mud and make it all the way into the frame.

Once they get into the frame they pick you up again and lower you don into the house, right at Jesus’ feet.
3.    Faith and Healing Connected We notice again that Jesus chooses to heal.  We can also notice again this recurring theme of the faith healing.  Notice, however, whose faith it is that Jesus attributes.  It is the paralytic’s friends’ faith that heals him here (this is incredible and scandalous and controversial).  We will see this theme continue throughout Mark’s gospel.  Faith in Jesus is so important to his healing ministries.

We also see from Jesus here a divine, presumptuous and scandalous pronouncement.  To you, the crippled man, he says, “your sins are forgiven.”  Remember that this man’s condition is attributed to sins.  He is being punished for sin and that is why he is a crippled beggar.  And Jesus does what only God can do, namely forgive this man’s sin, or at the very least what only a priest could do, pronounce someone forgiven.  Jesus is clearly showing his divinity here.  Not only is he telling people he is God, (forgiving sins as only God can), but he is actually living up to it by healing the guy.  He says to his opponents, “since you think I’m blasphemous, I will prove to you that I can and should forgive sins, (then to the paralytic) take your mat and walk!”  And the incredible thing is that it happens!!!! What an incredible God!!!

I wan t to finish the night by sharing some of the personal connection I have with this story and its power
4.    My Friends’ Faith Story: Sharing the heart of small groups.  When I was in High school I had a group of friends who had all known each other for years and we were all Christians.  We went to middle school together, and we went to high school together and in High school we got involved with this youth group called YoungLife.  Young life would have weekly “club” meeting where we would play games, sing some songs, and here a message from some speaker.  YoungLife also had this program called campaigners where you met together on a different day with all the guys or girls in your grade and had more of an intense bible study and time for prayer and honesty and accountability.

My friends and I had been going campaigners throughout our sophomore and junior years, when I got a job and stopped being able to come to YoungLife club.  After a little while I stopped coming to the campaigners also and those guys kept on doing their thing with it.  Now I had always gone to church with my family and this time was no exception, but the truth is that I began living a life that was not about God and was all about me.  I lived an angry and selfish life and my friends were still my friends, though they would all be spending time doing God things.  Over the summer going into my senior year we hung out all the time.  We  would go camping, we hung out up in the woods at the river, went on hikes, we did everything together.  One weekend, Labor Day weekend 2001, we went camping up in this really isolated spot at the end of a logging road.

So we had spent that day running around the river, jumping off rocks and wearing ourselves out and doing our thing, and we had hit the campsite, made dinner and hung out by a fire.  Finally we are all getting ready for bed and my friends started to read their bibles and to talk about what they had been reading in their bibles prior.  In the midst of this discussion I realized that I had nothing to say and that it was because I was not living a life with Jesus in it at all.  Shortly after this night I decided to make this Jesus thing real in my life and began my journey with Jesus.  But not only that, my friends also started to meet together for our own small group every Friday morning at this breakfast diner.  We would speak honestly, we would talk about the bible and God and ask questions, we would share triumphs and failures, and over the next few months I began walking with Jesus.

I point this out and say these things because I really identify with this paralytic in this story.  I have been the guy who didn’t deserve the friends I had, and who was literally brought to Jesus’ feet by my friends.  Just as the faith of these friends helped to make this man well, my own friends’ faith brought me into a real relationship with the holy God; who shows himself in Jesus.  This is why we are trying to get you all into small groups on Sundays.  We want every one of you to be in a real community of people who can and would bring you to Jesus’ feet when you needed it.  This story again, breaks all the rules, but that is the God we are talking about and that is the King we are worshiping.
5.    Conflict: Where do you get your authority?
In Mark 2 one of the biggest questions that we will see is this question of where does Jesus get his authority?  Jesus opponents want to know who this guy is and who he thinks he is.  They are trying to find out if his authority and power is from heaven and if he is a divine healer and messenger (and maybe even the Messiah), or if his authority and power comes from satan and therefore evil.

When the scribes ask, “Why does this fellow speak in this way?” and “who can forgive sins but God alone?” they are trying to find out where his authority and power comes from.  These guys are all about God’s law, and they are all about figuring out who is in and who is out, and Jesus conflicts with this.
6.    Conflict: Why does he speak this way?
These guys are offended by what Jesus does and says here.  You have to understand that Jesus is calling himself God to everyone here.  Everyone in this room knows that only God can forgiver sins and this man, Jesus, is sitting here doing that very thing.  He is committing blasphemy to these scribes and they are upset about it.

The reason they are so upset is because here Jesus does and says something super volatile and controversial, namely equating himself and his power with God.  Now according to Jewish custom, Jesus should have been stoned, but what happens instead?  He shows them that he has the power and authority to say these things by providing the backing action.  He heals the man, he makes him walk by simply speaking, and he does it so that these guys will know that he is God and he has this authority here on earth.
Who speaks like this? only God does and can and we need to see that part of this is Jesus living out his divine identity.
7.    Conflict: With whom does the Kingdom of God Conflict?
We can see in this passage, and in the rest of chapter 2 to come that The Kingdom of God most often and most deeply conflicts with religious people.  These people are the masters of the Jewish law and they think they know all about God because of their expertise in God’s commands, but they miss God’s heart.  These people are expecting a Messiah who brings God’s shalom through political and military might, and who only brings it to the righteous of Israel.  We will see through the rest of Mark that the religious are the ones who most often miss God’s heart and conflict with God’s Kingdom.

We should see these chapter two episodes as a warning to us:  It is those who think they know God the best that can most easily miss God’s heart.  If we want to know God’s heart, we must look at Jesus.  This is the message Jesus brings to these people throughout chapter 2.  We are so worried about who can forgive sins that we miss that fact that God wants to set people free and bring his shalom.  The fullness of God’s Kingdom means no disease, no paralysis, no leprosy, no fasting, and the fullness of Shabbat, and Jesus is the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

8.    Result: Amazement/ Praising and Adoring God:
The cool thing is that we see an interesting and somewhat appropriate response to Jesus’ incredible workings here in God’s Kingdom.  The first thing is that Jesus brings praise and glory to God.  Mark doesn’t tell us that people glorified Jesus, but that the people indeed Glorified God in heaven.  We see here in a real way, that Jesus’ mission on earth is bringing people back to a right relationship with God, including to whom they praise and adore.
How does this impact us:
1.    Figure out who you are in this story.
2.    Get friends like this guy’s.  We want you to be in a small group sharing your lives and walks with God.  We want your small groups to be places of honesty and growth and accountability and even doubt, but ultimately we want these small groups to be places where you bring one another to Jesus’ feet.
3.    Dive deeper into the scandal of faith in Jesus.  This relationship with Jesus is the most incredible thing in the world.  God-in-the-flesh, the holy, awesome, powerful creator of everything loves you and wants you to know and love him back.  He wants you not to have faith in religion, Christianity, or even the bible, but in Jesus/ Our God Who Saves.  This relationship isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it is good.  It’s also scandalous and controversial.  It is scandalous to believe that we broken and sinful people can relate with a holy and good God, its also scandalous that we don’t have to do anything to relate, we simply understand and believe in who Jesus is and accept the gift he offers (Himself)

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Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 15, 2009

Mark 1:40-45

Along The Way, A Journey Through Mark’s Gospel
Mark 1: 40-45

40A man with leprosy[a] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

43Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44“See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Open
Purpose:

Points:
1.    Shalom/ Clean and Unclean/ More Than A Disease:  Just a brief word on the Jewish society at the time and the implications of leprosy.
•    Shalom: the Jews understand this word to mean peace and completeness, even perfection.  Another way to understand it is the absence of any evil, pain, suffering and so on.   Shalom is God’s intention and the Jews were intently awaiting God’s Kingdom that would usher in God’s everlasting shalom also.
•    Ritual Purity Society:  at this time Jews live in a society that is based on ritual purity.  If you are clean, then you are ‘in’, and if you are unclean, then you are ‘out’.  The torah outlines things that make people clean and unclean (eating pork, touching dead bodies… things like this) and leprosy was one huge impurity.  They literally had to stay 50 paces away from any other Jew and had to present themselves detestably and announce “Unclean!!! Unclean!!!” anywhere they went.
•    More Than a Disease:  Leprosy was, therefore, more than a mere disease to cure.  It was considered a punishment for sin and literally removed its victim from Jewish social life period.  They had no friends but lepers, they were ostracized and downcast, they experienced no physical touch with non lepers
2.    Leper’s Audacity/ Desperation/ Faith:  The biggest thing we can look to from this leper is his unbridled audacity in seeking Jesus.  He knew he would be making the house he entered unclean, and he knew he shouldn’t even come close to clean people, but he was so desperate that he broke these laws anyway.  He blatantly approaches Jesus and comes to Jesus for his shalom.  This man is desperate for human touch, and he is desperate for a normal life and he is desperate to be a part of his society, and all this translates to the fact that he is desperate for Jesus.

We likewise need to approach Jesus as desperately.  We might not have the physical ailment that this leper does, but our souls suffer the malady of uncleanliness.  Our hearts and our lives desperately need Jesus’ touch and we should approach Jesus in the same manner this leper does.
•    Notice the incredible faith the leper shows here.  The question is not if Jesus can heal him, but if Jesus will.  There is no question for this man that Jesus can heal him, the question is whether Jesus will have the mercy to do so.  Also notice again, the request and action is Jesus making him clean and whole, bringing him Shalom, not simply healing him.  This act is an inbreaking of God’s Kingdom.
3.    Jesus’ Audacity/ Compassion/ Anger:  As we look at the leper and his audacity in seeking relief from Jesus, we must not forget Jesus’ own audacity in healing this person.  He unashamedly and fearlessly touched a leper! Even now many people will not touch lepers, even knowing that it is a completely treatable disease.  What Jesus did in his day was unheard of and he even broke very big rules to bring the Kingdom of God into this person’s life.  Jesus did not, as we may think (and as he says) come to ignore the Mosaic laws and do whatever he pleased (he in fact told the leper to present himself to the priest according to the Mosaic laws).  Jesus is, however, bringing God’s Kingdom to this earth and that means that laws about Sabbath, rest, shalom, and cleanliness take on new purpose and meaning in God’s coming Kingdom.
•    Jesus responds to this leper and his pleas in anger or compassion.  We see that Jesus is moved and responds to this man’s condition.  He removes him from his destitution and restores him his humanity.  Jesus brought his touch to this desperate and hurting man and healed/ cleansed him.
•    We also see that Jesus responds out of his compassion/ Anger.  Most versions you read say he was moved with compassion, but the oldest, most reliable source says that he’s moved with anger.  We can’t know why he was angry; maybe because he upset at the affects of this disease on this man, or maybe he is angry because this man still doesn’t get it and just wants the relief without seeing it as the Kingdom of God breaking into his world, maybe he knows that the man will disobey his command to silence and therefore relegate him to the outskirts.
•    Finally lets look at this man’s reaction to Jesus’ cleansing.  Jesus tells him to do things the right way, to present himself and offer his sacrifices and be certified back into his culture and society the right way.  Instead, though, this guy broadcasts and testifies to the whole countryside and he makes it so now Jesus becomes this outsider.  People flock to him as if he is some sort of on-demand divine healer, rather than God-in-the-flesh bringing his Kingdom and shalom onto earth
4.    DCB song Remedy: play the song in closing, listening to the words and thinking on these final application thoughts
5.    What do we do, then?
•    I want you to look at this and ask yourself if you are approaching Jesus in the same way as the leper.  Are you coming to Jesus audaciously and desperately?
•    Then ask yourself if you are coming to Jesus for the same reason?  Are you coming to him so that God’s Kingdom can break more into your life or are you looking for the quick fix that will still point to Jesus but doesn’t recognize his King-ship

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 14, 2009

Mark 1:29-39

Along The Way; A Journey Through Mark’s Gospel
Capernaum, Solitude: Mark 1: 29-39
29As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Points:
1.    Healing at Peter’s
2.    Healing the whole town
3.    Early Morning Solitude
What we need to remember and come back to as we look at today’s passage is that there is an intense focus in Jesus’ ministry about the Kingdom of God.  Remember last week we talked about Jesus advancing God’s Kingdom and in doing so taking over satan’s kingdom and stuff.

This week again we see Jesus divinely advancing God’s kingdom, but so many people don’t understand.  The crowds seem to want a temporary fix and don’t understand Jesus’ healings as inbreaking and furthering of God’s Kingdom; likewise Peter doesn’t really get it too, but Jesus, after connection with God, heads off to further spread God’s Kingdom.

Finally we need to understand that including last weeks passage and this weeks, we are seeing a full day for Jesus.  With that, lets look at our points:

1.    Healing Peter’s MIL. Service as the appropriate response to God’s Kingdom breaking in.  He also heals her on the Sabbath and she responds in service on the Sabbath.  Both of these are no-nos.
One easy thing to look at with the healing of Peter’s MIL is that some might say that this reinforces a picture of female subservience or inferiority but the fact is, that we see Jesus’ ministry and God’s Kingdom as service-oriented.  We see later in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve 10:45.  We see an example of an appropriate response to God’s Kingdom coming into our lives, and that is service.  This Kingdom and community value service and humility and in Peter’s MIL we see this exemplified.
2.    Healing the whole town:  they waited till after the Sabbath, and they misunderstood Jesus’ healing.  They sought temporary relief and Jesus was healing to bring in God’s Kingdom (relates to last week; stealing stuff from the strong man for God).

So these crowds swarm on Jesus and it tells us that many (or a great number) were healed that night, we get this picture that these crowds are clamoring and pressing in on him.  Through all of this we need to remember that Jesus is trying to heal and deliver people so that they may enter in the Kingdom of God, but it appears that they misunderstand this, which is why we see Jesus’ response…
3.    Solitude, Refreshment, Connection with God.  His experience the night before causes Jesus to go into the wilderness to connect with God, and to even get guidance from God.  Remember in Mark and OT, wilderness = unmitigated divine encounter.
We see Jesus leave everyone early in the morning, while it was still dark and go to the wilderness to pray.  He knows he has been spent and probably knows that these crowds are misunderstanding him and his mission, so he goes to a lonely place to pray.  He goes to commune with God and to receive guidance and direction from God.  We definitely need to take the cue from Jesus on this one; if Jesus found it important to spend time alone in the wilderness with God, then we probably should too.

Finally we see that Peter and The Twelve hunt for Jesus because they think he’s supposed to be back there healing people.  Jesus, however, has received divine guidance and confidently sets off to the surrounding regions to bring God’s Kingdom nearer there also.

Our response:  As God’s Kingdom breaks into our world and our life, we must remember that the appropriate response is service to God’s Kingdom and the community.  So where is that for you?  Where will you respond in service to God’s Kingdom breaking in to your life?

So this question begs another question: Has God’s Kingdom broken into your life?

If you are one who doesn’t feel like it has I want you to take this time to ask, Why might that be? And how can you have that happen?
Have leaders pray with students:  pray for the Kingdom to begin coming into these teen’s lives.

Additionally we should see Jesus response to his bombardment and solitude as a divine example to follow.  When we feel overworked or whelmed, when we feel like we are mission out on God’s Kingdom and plan and even if we are just frazzled or stressed, an appropriate response to this is us going off to a lonely place and praying.
Send them off in solitude to seek God’s Kingdom and how they should best serve it.

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 13, 2009

Mark 1:21-28

Along The Way: A Journey Through Mark
A New Teaching; Mark 1:21-28
21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24″What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25″Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Purpose: To examine the significance of Jesus’ first ministry act; teaching and exorcism, and to understand that Jesus’ Kingdom involves plundering the enemy.
Open:
So as we get started this week we need to briefly step back and look at where we’ve been so far in our journey through Mark.
So lay out the journey through Mark thus far:
We started with this sort of prologue that introduced Jesus and John as his foregoer.  We see Jesus baptized and his identity confirmed and we see him empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.  He then begins his ministry preaching a message of repentance and the nearness of God’s Kingdom.   Last week we watched as he called his first disciples and told these fishermen that he would make them into something new in and for God’s Kingdom.

Our passage today shows us what happens as Jesus brings and advances God’s Kingdom.  We see clashes between God’s Kingdom and satan’s opposing realm.  The thing that we must remember and we see here is that while God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of the heavens is advancing, it’s not just moving into neutral space, but God’s Kingdom is advancing into enemy territory. So together let’s read Mark 1:21-28.

So when we look at today’s passage we see Jesus teaching at the synagogue.  He is teaching the scriptures in Capernaum, a city that becomes sort of a home base.  The Two things we can look at when we see this passage is that in this early ministerial event we see that Jesus is noted for his authority, and we see two Kingdoms clashing.
Points:
1.    A New Teaching/Authority
2.    Kingdoms Clash

1. A New Teaching/Authority: An interesting thing to think about in this first instance we see of Jesus teaching is that we aren’t shown the actual sermon.  We don’t know what he taught or even the topic, but what we do know is that people were astounded/amazed and noticed his inherent authority and compared it to the scribes’ lack of authority.

The second part we see about this is that there is a connection with Jesus’ teaching, authority and command over evil spirits.  And then we see that Jesus’ fame spreads.  So since Jesus’ teaching is connected with his authority and control of demons, lets look at that interaction and the second point in our discussion.

2. Kingdoms Clash: something crucial that we need to understand about Jesus, his ministry and his ushering in God’s Kingdom on earth is that this isn’t all happening on unclaimed land.  It is in fact happening in the enemy’s house.  When Jesus brings God’s Kingdom here on earth it is entering into satan’s own dominion here on earth.  To understand what’s going on a little more, I want to point out a descriptive verse that Jesus himself uses later in Mark’s Gospel:  Mark 3:27: But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

So what is Jesus talking about with this strong man and plundering business?

What does it mean to plunder?

Who is being plundered and who is plundering?

Biblical scholars point out Jesus’ description here in this verse as a manifesto for his ministry and the role of The Church and Kingdom of God.  The understanding is that when Jesus went into the wilderness, was tempted by satan, and overcame he (Jesus) tied up the strong man (satan) and now Jesus begins a ministry of plundering the strong man’s property/house.

What I want us to understand here is some of the severity and urgency involved in this interaction and the analogy Jesus uses.  Think about the image we are talking about.  He is going into someone’s house, tying him up (he can still see and protest) and stealing his stuff.  He is taking things of value, he is destroying stuff in the way.  Maybe there is some small dog barking and the dog is kicked.  This is the type of image Jesus uses to describe God’s Kingdom coming and Jesus’ own ministry on earth.

This is why we see this demon say what he says here in this passage.  He is like the dog getting kicked in the scuffle.  He is terrified that Jesus is coming in to his territory and taking things of value.  Think about it, this man is demon possessed.  What does the word ‘possess’ mean?

Likewise this gets passed on to us.  When Jesus trains his disciples, we talked about how they are supposed to become like the rabbi.  We will see in Mark that they (and we) are sent out with Jesus’ message and authority, and are even supposed to exorcise demons also.

Now as wild and far out as this sounds, when we enter God’s Kingdom, when we step into this huge new life following Jesus as his disciples, we are actually called to do the same and are given the same authority.

So what does this look like for you?  How will you, as Jesus’ disciples Begin to enter the strong man’s house and start stealing what’s his?
Make a list of possibilities:

Contrast the idea of plundering with the idea of redemption.

Look at the idea of possession.
pos·sess vt
1.    to have or own something
2.    to have a particular ability, quality, or characteristic
3.    to have or acquire skill or knowledge of something
4.    to take control of or influence somebody, affecting the person’s behavior or thinking

Charge: lets look up how we can go into the strong man’s house and steal his stuff.

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 12, 2009

Mark 1:16-20

Along The Way: A Journey Through Mark
Jesus Calls The Fishermen; Mark 1:16-20
16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17″Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18At once they left their nets and followed him.
19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Purpose:  To examine Jesus’ call to us by looking at his call to the four fishermen, likewise to examine following Jesus by seeing how they followed him.
Open: Show Dare You to Move movie/song as a refresher and jumping in point.
Points:
1. The call: What do you notice about Jesus’ call? Watch Nooma clip
a. Uniqueness of call.
Nowhere else do we see this relationship and initiation.  The rabbi doesn’t call the students and he certainly doesn’t go to where they are.  He also calls them to himself.  Likewise, elsewhere the call was to the torah or a way of life, but here, Jesus calls to him.  This shows the power and authority that Jesus called them to, but also should show us a significant difference in what we are entering into as Christians.

In following him they are also called to become like Jesus.  They will go where he goes, do what does, literally become like him.  Jesus gives them his presence, authority, love and spirit, and this is how they become like him.
b. They weren’t the Prime Candidates/ Youth.  These guys aren’t the best of the best.  They were normal and even unpolished.  They weren’t involved in the religious sphere of the day, but these are whom Jesus came to.  While they were likely good, practicing Jews, they were not the best of the best, but were rather normal workers.

These men were also probably pretty young.  They are teens and that’s whom Jesus comes to and chooses.  This thing he’s doing is for anyone, it’s a movement of normal people, and I think it is important that as we look at his disciples, none of them are too old.  He also  chooses young people, partly because he’s going to make them into something and that’s going to take time, but also because these young people want to be made into the new thing (the fishers of men).
c. He correlates their identity to what He will make them.  They were fishers, and he says that he will make them fish for people.  He takes their current job and identity, and says that he will make them into something new, but like.

We must also remember that Jesus is the one making them into the fishers, they don’t become on their own, or over time, but over time, Jesus makes them into this.  He is the one doing the work and making new things.
2. The response: What do you notice about their response?
a. Immediately they follow.  We aren’t shown hesitation or good-byes.  We see the word “immediately”(NRSV) and they follow. The simple importance of this fact; if we brush by it we forget how huge it is to immediately leave your entire life to follow somewhat of an unknown.  Even as we walk through Mark and see these disciples getting it wrong often, we must remember that they did respond to the call.  They could have easily rejected Jesus’ call, but they followed and were faithful, and much like the rest of what Christ was doing, in time we see that Christ has made them into faithful, world-changing people.
b. They leave things behind. They don’t go home, gather their things and say goodbye, but in fact, they leave their family, some possessions, their livelihoods and identities. As Jesus calls all his disciples they all end up having to leave things they value behind.  It might be their occupation, their families, it definitely will be their prior identity, and it definitely will be any notions of permanence, comfort and safety
c. They step into something HUGE.  They might not know fully what they are getting into at the time.  But they become something new.  They become the church and they are God’s agents spreading The Kingdom and its Gospel throughout the world for the last 2000 years!  These young men become faithful to God and God’s kingdom even to brutal death.

3. Our Call and Response:  So how does this apply to us?
a. Is Jesus calling you to follow him?  Do you really believe it?   I think Jesus is absolutely personally calling you to himself.  He is calling you personally and individually, and he’s calling you where you are.  He calls each of us to himself and he is going to make us into something new, something for his Kingdom.
b. As young people we can be tempted to wait to follow fully.  We might wait to get involved deeply, but what we need to remember is that Jesus is not calling you now, to get involved in ten years or five years.  He is calling you now and expects a response now, not later
c. It will cost us something. We, like Peter, Andrew, James and John will have to leave behind things from our old identity.  We are going to be made into something new, and for that to happen, we must leave behind who we were, what we did, maybe even people we love.  I don’t think that Christ wants you to leave your families all right now, but I know that he wants you to take part in His Kingdom.  He wants you to step into something huge now, and the bulk of that will be following Him to the cross.

So let’s take some time in silence.  Lets close in prayer, and lets look at this call.   Jesus is calling us there is no question about that, the question is, “how will we respond?”  So think over your response.
Finally, I want to leave you with this: Jesus is also calling us into something huge.  There is something that correlates to your identity that Jesus wants to make you into.  What is it?  Does he want you to fish for people?  Cook for his kingdom?  Surf for his Kingdom?  Write for his Kingdom?  I don’t know what it is and how you are wired, but I know that there is something Jesus has created you for that will correspond to what he will make you into for his Kingdom.  And as you leave tonight I want you to think about that, I want you to ask God what that is and seek after it, letting Jesus make you into it

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 11, 2009

Mark 1:14-15

On The Way: A Journey Through Mark’s Gospel
The Kingdom is Near: 1:14-15
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15″The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Purpose: To summarize Jesus early ministry and message, that God’s kingdom is near, and we must turn back to God, and believe God’s good news to receive it.
Open:
Let’s recap from two weeks ago.  What has happened so far in Mark’s Gospel, and where does it bring us?

So we closed last time looking at Jesus’ baptism and temptation, noting the empowerment by God’s spirit, Jesus’ personal testing, and his faithfulness and obedience.  We also look at our own lives and we must understand that we must similarly go through the Baptism of God’s Spirit and we must be tested.  We are not as strong as Jesus, and we are not perfect, so this process will continue through our lives, we will receive more empowerment by God’s Holy Spirit and we will be tested throughout our lives.

So what are these two verses and why are we taking one whole day to discuss them?  These two verses wrap up this sort of prologue and also transition us from John’s ministry to Jesus’.  It is important because in this passage we see a summery of Jesus’ early ministry and message and it also sets us up to dive deeper into the coming ministry and the rest of our Journey through Mark

After Jesus is tested we see his ministry begin in earnest. These verses transition us from John’s ministry to Jesus’ ministry and as we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we can see a few things that are pertinent to our discussion and journey through Mark.
1.    John Paves The Way
2.    Jesus’ Message
3.    God’s Kingdom

1.    Jesus waits till after John is arrested and off the scene before his ministry begins in Galilee.  This underscores the importance that John really is this Elijah figure who paves the way and ushers in the Messiah, God-in-the-Flesh, and the new Eschatological age, the age of God’s Kingdom and divine intervention.  John prepares individual hearts and the whole religious scene through repentance and pointing to Jesus.

It is also significant that Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee.  He doesn’t get things started and raging over in Jerusalem, but rather in the country region surrounding.  I also not coincidental that Jesus’ ministry thrives when we see it in the common sphere, He is bringing about a new way to live, showing that the way people of the time related to God was missing in its heart.
2.    Jesus’ Message in these verses also reinforces the fact that he is The One coming after John.  The message is simple: turn back to God, believe in God’s good news and understand the nearness, the presence of God’s Kingdom.  This is so very similar to John’s Message, because John prepared the way for it.  Jesus brings the similar message of repentance, but he also calls people (and us) to believe God’s Good News.  For Jesus belief is a simple thing, and in Mark’s gospel especially belief manifests in action.  We must hear the Good News and then we must do it, we must live it out.  Then the question becomes, “What is this Good News?”

Well as we look at the term Jesus is the Good News.  He is God incarnate, and he is God’s Anointed One, The Holy Agent of Power and Change in our world.  Jesus brings this Good News that God cares, God is not disinterested, nor has he left everything to evil and destruction.  IN Jesus we see the Good News that God doesn’t wait for or need us to make ourselves holy (like the Pharisees believed) but he enters right into our junk to make us right and turn us back.  And finally, we see the Good News that God’s Kingdom is near or at hand

3.    God’s Kingdom is what Israel has been waiting for years.  God’s Kingdom began in inklings when Israel lived and operated directly under God’s rule.  There were no Kings, and God ruled Israel, with the intention, desire and will that this way of living and Kingdom would spread through all the peoples.  Jesus himself is God’s dominion manifest.  Jesus is the good news of God, Jesus is the Kingdom of God, and his presence literally brings these near.  Jesus is the divine intervention into humanity.

Jesus’ message about the Kingdom here shows us that it is something huge.  It isn’t bound by nations, peoples or military might.  It is the Kingdom where God rules directly, and personally in Jesus.  This Kingdom flies in the face of everything Jews expected then and we expect now.  It is a kingdom that has already come, but is not yet fulfilled, and it’s a Kingdom God calls us to enter into now.  We can receive The Kingdom, we can enter the Kingdom and Jesus calls us to do so.

Finally, We must take Jesus’ message seriously.  We must also enter God’s Kingdom, to fully follow the journey in Mark.  To become Jesus’ disciples, we must stop being under our own rule, and be ruled by God.  God’s Kingdom is one of selflessness, of losing your life to save it and of God’s presence, power and love manifest here on earth.

So let’s enter in.  This is our challenge and invitation today.  God’s Kingdom is not a spectator event, but we dive into it head-first. Again, though, it will cost us.  For us to enter into God’s Kingdom is for us to lose ourselves; we must give up our selfishness and the things that pull us away from God.  We also must turn back to God, to God’s rule, word and love.  So I want to give us a chance to do it.  We are going to take some time to reflect and pray.  I want you to go through these cards and to listen to this song because it is going to be our theme song for entering God’s Kingdom.
Pass out Cards:
Play Switchfoot’s Dare You to Move

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 10, 2009

Mark 1:9-15 Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation

On The Way; Journey Through Mark’s Gospel
Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation: Mark1: 9-15
9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15″The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Driving Point:  Jesus baptism was a moment of divine identity revelation, and his subsequent temptation was where that identity was tested.    We likewise must receive our divinely revealed identity which also must be tested.

Continue from last time: I just wanted to mention something from last week that I forgot to hit on as we discussed The Baptizer and how he paved the way for The Coming One, The Greater One.
John pointed to Jesus the whole time.  Look at what he says.  One greater than I comes! He is so great that I’m not worthy to untie his shoes… He is so great and he’s coming, so get ready for him!
John prepares the way for Jesus by getting people to turn back to God and by pointing to Jesus and his coming Kingdom.  With that, John prepares the way for what we see today, Jesus’ baptism, temptation and the beginning of his ministry

First, a word on the apocalyptic:  Throughout Mark we see particularly apocalyptic imagery. The term ‘apocalyptic’ refers to writings that employ symbolic or figurative language used to describe a future divine intervention; the doctrinal system explicit in this genre of literature; and the movements that produced such writings and doctrines.  Mark is an apocalyptic person and therefore his writing contains pieces of that apocalyptic viewpoint.  When we speak of the kingdom of God being eminent, or near or at hand, we are taking an apocalyptic viewpoint.

Points:
1.Jesus’ Ministry Bracketing: Temptation, Baptism, and Spirit.  One point that we can look at in Mark’s Gospel is this sort of bracketing that we see around Jesus’ ministry.  There is an important instance at the beginning and the end of Jesus ministry of three important things.  We see that Jesus is tempted in the wilderness and at Gethsemane; we see that he is baptized in the Jordan and on the cross, and finally we see that Jesus receives and is empowered by The Spirit at his baptism and in The Resurrection.  Mark creates the picture of Jesus’ life in a specific way and frame and one way we can see this framing is in this divine bracketing.
(whiteboard this out)

2. Baptism/ Revelatory Moment:  Jesus is shown his identity and receives/ is empowered by God’s Spirit.  We see God’s voice is back for the first time in 400 years (previously only in a daughter of a voice – this is a huge moment and signifies the big stuff that surrounds Jesus, his life and ministry).

*We are back at John.  In those, days, during all this, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  We see in the midst of all the crowds from Judea and the Jerusalemites, One comes faithfully, and is baptized.  Jesus does not repent, he’s got nothing to repent of, but in being baptized he is submitting to God’s will and he receives his identity as God’s beloved son.

So Jesus is baptized by John, and we are witness with only Jesus to this apocalyptic moment: the heavens are ripped open and Jesus receives the spirit, and he receives confirmation from God as to who he is and what he is to do.  This picture is supposed to trigger in our minds the idea that a new age is dawning, the age of God’s Kingdom come.  This is a divine revelation, and empowerment.  Jesus receives his confirmation and God’s spirit gently rests on him.  God speaks again.  After 400 years of direct silence, God speaks in a big way.

The way it is written shows us that God’s spirit doesn’t look like a dove, but the way it descends on Jesus is like a dove landing.  We are simply supposed to see it as a simple gentle descent, and the greek translation tells us that The Spirit descended into him.

Jesus’ baptism is supposed to be seen as an apocalyptic moment.  It is earth shaking, and in it we see Jesus being powered up by God’s favor and God’s presence, thus we can see this moment as a marker that God’s kingdom is coming in Jesus’ person.

3. Jesus’ Temptation:  the temptation was real.  He was led there by God, and he overcame.  This gives us hope that our God absolutely identifies with us in our temptations and that God might lead us into temptation; and that God has a reason for it.

We see that immediately after his baptism, The Spirit, the very Spirit that he received at his baptism, drives him into the wilderness to be tempted by satan.  The wilderness is a scary place; we see that he is tempted by satan and that there are wild beasts around.  This isn’t safe or easy, Jesus is being challenged and tested.  At his baptism Jesus’ identity is revealed and immediately after, in the wilderness, it is tested.

We read about Jesus’ tests in Matthew and Luke, but Mark isn’t really concerned about the nature of the tests, but rather that Jesus was really tempted and really had the choice to be God’s beloved son or to do his own thing.  Again what concerns Mark is the type of Son Jesus is.  He is the obedient, suffering, sacrificing redeemer who endures his trial only to more fully become The Christ, the Anointed One.

4. Our Baptism, Our Temptation:
Jesus baptism is a revelatory time, is an identifying time and is am empowering time.  We can also experience this sort of revelation as to who God has made us to be, and also we can experience similar God-given temptations.  God gives us these wilderness temptations for reasons, in Jesus’ case he can now fully identify with anyone in the world.  No one else has endured the temptations that Jesus has, and we can put our hope in him and in his victory.

Likewise, God probably wants to lead us into trials for a reason.  God has created each of us specifically and individually, and has a plan for what we should be.  As we move more towards who God wants us to be, we must endure temptations, trials and tests so that we may be mature and complete (James 1:2-4).

We also can receive revelatory moments and then be driven into a wilderness for temptation.  Maybe God gives a little piece of who we are supposed to be and then we need to be tested to grow into that.

Echo Troy Murphy’s question from last year: “What wilderness does God want to bring you into?” and are you asking for it?  Seek God in this.  Seek God for a divine identity revelation.

Questions:
What might be hindering you from fully receiving God’s Spirit?
Whom has God designed and called you to be?
What wilderness/temptation/trial might God have for you so that you can more full become that person?

Jesus’ Ministry Begins: He waits till John is gone, and his message is like John’s.  Talk about how the word used implies a physical nearness.  The Kingdom of God is pressing in.  It’s here.

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 9, 2009

1: 1-8 John The Baptizer

Gospel Of Mark
John The Baptizer 1:1-8
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3″a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Purpose: To show John the Baptizer as the one preparing the way for Jesus and that preparation is repentance.  To prepare the way in our own hearts.
Open:  Read the Passage
Who is this?  Who is John?  Why is he known as the Baptizer or the Immerser?  What is he doing and where is he doing it?  Why is that significant?  How does he relate to Jesus?

We will answer these Questions by looking at the following four questions:
Who is John?
What does John do?
How does he do it?
How does it look for us?

Who is John?  Many Jews of the time regard John as a prophet like those from the OT (explain OT prophets).  In fact, many understand him to be Elijah returned and paving the way for the coming messiah.  Everyone around understands the significance of John and his ministry, all four gospel writers identify him with this Isaiah quote (actually a tapestry of 3 quotes: Exod 23:20, Mal 3:1, Isa 40:3), and clearly everyone understood him to be a great person who was preparing the way of the Lord.

Elijah:(what do you know about Elijah?) Everyone is awaiting Elijah’s return, and everyone understands that Elijah’s coming will signal God’s coming kingdom.  Malachi even says that Elijah will appear before God, not just the messiah, which everyone already believed.  This is very important because we need to understand that through his OT quotations and  allusions, and through his picture of John (his clothes, ministry, actions, and being in the wilderness) Mark already identifies Jesus as God.

What does John do?  Why is he known as the Baptizer or Immerser?
John was doing something incredible and revolutionary in his ministry.  There is much evidence to ritual washings before this, and even baptism for new converts, but John is the first to baptize those in a forgiveness ritual.  These aren’t new people to Judaism but they are showing a sign of their turning.

What else is significant about John’s baptism?  How does Judaism work right now?  How are sins forgiven right now?  Does John’s baptism fit this?
NO!!!!!!!!!  Already in Mark’s gospel we see that God is doing something fresh in God’s Kingdom.  John offers forgiveness, not as a consecrated priest, not in the temple, and not after a sacrifice, but he signals the coming difference in God’s Kingdom.  Throughout his gospel, Mark shows how God works differently than our expectations and it absolutely begins here.

Where is this happening?  We alluded to this before, but it is significant that this is not happening in Jerusalem and in the temple.  Throughout the OT, the wilderness is a place of meeting and covenant with, of hearing from God and repentance.  It is no coincidence that John is doing this here and that Jesus will burst onto the scene here.  In the city we rely on and look to ourselves rather than God, but in the wilderness we must rely on God, look to God and hear God’s words.

Why is all this important?  Why does Mark spend all this time in his gospel about Jesus telling us about John?  How does John relate to Jesus?
Let’s look at the OT quotation (v2, 3)… He is the messenger going ahead of God; he is preparing God’s way.  He is the voice crying out “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight,”

Show Photos of Judean wilderness

Preparing the way: This passage from the OT represents the large task of preparing the way for the Lord.  It was in an incredible task to the Jews of this time and it also is an incredible task for us as we prepare the way in our hearts.  So John’s job is big, and it certainly isn’t easy: get the whole scene and people’s individual hearts ready for the Messiah and for God’s coming Kingdom, embodied in Jesus.

How did he do this?  With a baptism of repentance.  John didn’t give some program, or plan, he waited out in the wilderness, and people repented and made a sign through water baptism.  The repentance and baptism hopefully signified coming changes in that person’s life, that is, the fruit of repentance is a changed life.

How is it changed?  What is repenting?  What does John mean and what are we talking about when we talk about repentance?  Repenting is an action.  They literally were talking about turning around and changing your direction.  You are walking away from god and repenting means you are turning around back to God.  John knew these people had turned from God and God’s ways, and he knew that those ways were directly opposed to God’s Kingdom, so he prepared the way for Jesus and his message by getting people out into the uncomfortable wilderness, reliant on and turning back to God.

John further prepares the way for the Lord because he points everyone to him.  Look at v 7, 8.  John clearly understands his call and purpose and continually points people to Jesus, so much so that Mark shows us that is his message.  So John immerses people in water in the wilderness and challenges them to turn back to God, while pointing to The Coming Greater One.  That brings us to our final question…

How does this look for us?  We must also prepare the way for the Lord in our hearts.  Even if we have already accepted and believed in Jesus, we still must turn back to God when we turn away.  This needs to be a regular activity, where we examine our lives and find where we’ve turned away from God and then make the conscious decision to turn to God.  So we are going to do it, right here tonight.

So let’s pray.  Talk to God.  Ask God where your life has turned away from God, and ask God where your heart needs to turn back and what that might look like.  Ask God to forgive you where you have wronged, and ask God to give you the strength and courage to move back to God.  Prepare your heart for Jesus

Activity- Get 2 cards: On the first write out what you personally need to repent of.  Where are you walking in your own ways and not in God’s?  Write these out.  On the second, write how you will turn to God and walk in God’s ways.  What will that look like in your life?
Take the first card outside and put it on the pile.  Keep the second one; taking it home with you to remember.

Afterward we will burn the cards together.  This is going to be our sign as we turn away from things other than God and we turn toward God and we do expect the fruit we talked about earlier, transformation, which comes from us being baptized with God’s Holy Spirit.  We are declaring that those things no longer are what we turn to, but rather, we turn to God.

Posted by: jdgroves1 | May 8, 2009

Introduction

Gospel of Mark
Introduction 1.21&28.09
Open:

Why study Mark?
We are jumping into the difficult task of studying a whole gospel for a couple reasons.  There is something seen in the entirety of a book that we cannot see by its parts alone. That is, that as we study the entire book of mark we will of course see the different parts and pieces, but we will also see and track some larger themes, ideas and the larger message that Mark presents.

We chose a gospel because the Gospels focus on Jesus.  As Christians we rarely spend time studying and knowing The One whose name we bear and our hope is that in this we might remedy that a little. One of the great things about following Jesus in the Gospels is that he is so unpredictable, box-shattering, loving, confusing, and wonderful.  If you can read through the gospels and feel like you got a full handle on who Jesus is and what Jesus does, you might not be reading very deeply.  All that to say, we study Gospels to learn about Jesus and by relation, God, but the big goal is not for us to be gospel scholars, but for us to more intimately know God and to follow Jesus as he lives and moves in our lives now.

We chose Mark specifically for a couple reasons.  The first is that Mark’s gospel is shorter and action-packed.  Mark focuses on Jesus’ ministry and specifically focuses about a third of his gospel on Jesus’ final week.  Marks Brevity is also helpful for us, who meet only weekly and who only have 45 minutes at the most to study during those meetings.  Finally, we chose Mark’s Gospel because we are very similar to Mark’s intended audience, as we will see in a bit.  Because of our similarities we can relate more to his points, pictures and arguments.

History, Authorship, Audience, Message:
We will start our discussion off with some nuts and bolts items.  We will look at when this history is written, who wrote it, and to whom was it written and we will look a little at the circumstances surrounding its writing.  We will lastly focus on Mark’s message of what this is, in his own words.

Scholars have recently “discovered” Mark’s gospel as a scholarly work when it was long thought to be a simple version of Matthew.  It’s now generally agreed that Mark’s was actually the first Gospel written before the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple in 70 CE and after the Roman fire in 64 CE.  The thought is that it was written shortly after the anti-Christian persecution following the fire in Rome and so the date is generally assigned to 65 CE.

We have no internal evidence in Mark’s Gospel as to it’s author, but we see early church attribution to Mark, one of Peter’s disciples in Rome, and it is generally accepted that Marks Gospel is Peter’s.  That is, Mark was not an eyewitness to most of what he wrote about, but he writes Peter’s memories and gospel as one of his disciples.  We generally accept and believe this to be true because a very early (Papias, c 120 CE) citation claims it, and also because the strictness with which the collectors of the New Testament eliminated any writing not from an apostle or eye-witness leads us to believe that they also believed this to be Peter’s Gospel told through his disciple Mark.

Mark had a primary audience and a secondary audience in mind when he wrote his account of Jesus the Son of God.  His primary audience was probably Christians in Rome enduring persecution under Nero, and nearly all of these were gentiles, thus Mark’s gospel has a uniquely gentile perspective.  Mark further wrote with the understanding that his Gospel would be passed throughout the Empire to Gentiles and Jews alike.  So knowing these things we can see Mark explaining some of the Jewish customs and phrases, explaining some Aramaic, and writing for those who would not consider themselves Jews, but would identify themselves with Christ and therefore with the Jew’s God.

Finally we will look at Mark’s message in his own words.  Mark tells us what he writes and what he plans to do, so we had better read and accept his Gospel on his own terms.  The actual title of Mark’s work is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus [the] Christ, the Son of God.  He then begins after that.  But by examining this statement we can get a couple main points to Mark’s message.  First that this work is about Jesus and Jesus is the Christ, The Messiah, God’s Anointed and Chosen One, whatever you call it, but we need to know that he is God’s guy.  The second part that we can know is that this is intended to be good news.  It is meant to encourage and uplift those under persecution and it additionally itself is good news because in it we see Jesus.  Finally we see this giant and beautiful proclamation of Jesus’ divinity; he is God’s own Son and this will be evident in the work.  This paragraph and Mark’s sentence in 1.1 are incredibly important to the entire Gospel, because this is what the work intends to be throughout.  If we are confused or if we are lost, we must remember that this is written as a primer to Jesus; his life, teachings, deeds, service and leadership, that it is good news, and that this man really is God’s guy, the Anointed one and God’s Son.

We also see that this is only the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God because it is still unfolding now, 2000 years later.  Jesus’ power and salvation still work in lives of believers throughout the world now and will continue to do so in the future.  This Jesus is not a dead figure in a dead history book, but he is the resurrected, living God who is still healing and saving his own.

Break Point:  Start Second day of intro here!!

Stylistic and literary Notes:  Brevity:  Mark’s gospel is the shortest and Mark’s writing is direct.  Mark achieves his brevity by including much fewer pericopes (a pericope is the scholastic term for the little standalone story-units that gospel writers use.), however, as a rule, those pericopes Mark includes are generally more elaborated than their Matthew and Luke counterparts.

Mark also uses something called sandwich technique, where he inserts one smaller pericope into another longer one.  We will see this technique later and will point it out then, but the purpose of these is that Mark uses the linking story to theologically connect and ground the larger outer story halves.

Mark also uses literary irony throughout his Gospel as a means to let the reader in on something that the subjects were not privy to at the time.  The irony adds to the image created of a Jesus who challenges, confounds and sometimes breaks conventional stereotypes.
Speaking of the Jesus Mark presents, let’s look at him:
Mark’s Jesus:
Jesus’ Authority/ Power: according to Edwards, the characteristic of Jesus that left the most lasting impression on his followers and caused the greatest offense to his opponents was his exousia, his sovereign freedom and his magisterial authority.  This is the theme we will see throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ power.  We see Jesus as on powerful man; he controls the demonic, he controls nature, he miraculously heals and he passes these on to his disciples as well.

Jesus as the servant of the Lord: (Isaiah 53: 5, 10;  42: 1; and 49: 3)  Here we see Jesus identified with Isaiah’s suffering servant of the Lord.  We see the picture presented in Isaiah of the Messiah as a willing sufferer who atones for sins through his suffering, as unique in the OT.  This is precisely what Jesus fulfills as he gives “his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).  This Christ is not the king, military or political figure, but he is the powerful son of God who ushers in God’s Kingdom, one not bound by geography and time.

Jesus the Son of God:  The divine sonship of Jesus is the theological keystone to Mark’s Gospel.  Throughout the gospel at definitive points Mark clues his readers in to this; at the baptism and the transfiguration the readers see God calling Jesus “my son, whom I love”.  The unique aspect to Jesus’ divine sonship in Mark’s gospel is the type of son he is.  Jesus’ power, divinity and holiness shine through the midst of his mundane life and brokenness and sinfulness of humanity around him.

Themes: we will run through a short list of some of Mark’s distinctive themes
Discipleship: A major theme running throughout mark is one of discipleship.  Mark shows us disciples who are with Jesus and sent out with Jesus’ authority and message.  We see Jesus’ twelve disciples echoing Israel’s 12 tribes and further demonstrating Jesus’ fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3).  We see the role of disciple as being more about being apprentices and with Jesus than immediate comprehension.  The disciples explicitly become objects of holy transformation after Jesus’ death and resurrection, as we know the bumbling crew became faithful to death afterward and spreads Christ’s Gospel throughout the world.
Faith: According to Mark faith is not a magical formula, but is dependent on hearing Jesus’ words and participating in his mission.  Faith is shone to be a key element in Jesus’ ministry and power.  We see some of Mark’s irony as most often those who are commended for their faith are outside Jesus’ immediate circle, and even are cultural outsiders, whereas the religious insiders, Jesus’ family and even the disciples are seen to be slow in faith.
Insiders and Outsiders:  Both these previous themes are closely related to the theme of insiders and outsiders that we see in Mark’s Gospel.  The biggest aspect of Mark’s theme here is that Jesus turns these cultural definitions on their heads.  Those who normally would be outsiders are often shown as insiders and those who appear to be insiders are shown as left on the outside.  All this points to the special person that Jesus is and the new Kingdom he is ushering in.
Gentiles:  Mark’s gospel shows an expanded portrait of Jesus ministry to Gentiles.  We see that he ministers to Jews, but that significant ministry happens to Gentiles and within the Gentile realm.  The two major Christological confessions occur within the Gentile realm: Peter declares it in the Gentile city of Caesarea Philippi, and the Gentile centurion at the Cross declares Jesus to be God’s Son.  This is a book written for a gentile audience and one that seeks to show Jesus’ fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant to bless all nations through Israel.
The Command to Silence: In the first half of Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus command those he heals to silence about the healing and who Jesus is.  We even see him silencing demons.  Jesus understood that people had definite expectations of what The Messiah should be and do; they expected a military hero like King David, however, as we see Jesus is the suffering servant Messiah, and did not come as a military figure.  We also see Jesus concealing his identity and power because he states that faith cannot be coerced by spectacle, and does not want to encourage it.  Finally we see that Jesus’ secrecy in Mark works to definitely connect Jesus’ divinity with the cross.  At the cross we see illumination and revelation; not until Jesus willing death and resurrection can we really see what he is about.  Not until the cross and empty tomb do we see the disciples begin to change the world.  Not until the cross and resurrection can we see that Jesus really was who he said he was; God incognito who reveals himself to those who are willing to likewise deny themselves and follow him in costly discipleship.
Journey: Finally we see throughout Mark’s gospel the theme of Journey.  Throughout Jesus seems to be on a journey; Mark’s writing shows him constantly on the move.  He moves throughout the gentile regions, even crossing back and forth the Sea of Galilee.  Finally in Caeserea Philippi we see a destination, the declared Messiah will journey triumphantly to Jerusalem, and undergo suffering as the Servant-Christ.  We see “on the way” throughout the final part of Mark, as the refrain that both Jesus and his disciples are on a “way”.  This “way” fulfills God’s plans, Jesus’ and his disciples’ destiny.

Mark’s Ending:  Some bibles might point out that there have historically been 3 different Endings to Mark’s Gospel.  The first ends abruptly after verse 16:8, the second is a uncharacteristically verbose and wordy extra verse after that, and the third finishes off chapter 16.  We are going to treat the ending of Mark as 16:20.  There are some really important reasons why we are going to do this and we will discuss those when we get toward the ending but the short reason is that the longer ending of Mark completes the message that Mark started in his work.  The other two do not and so we will treat the complete one as the one intended to end Mark.

No Ordinary Bible Study:  This is going to be a unique bible study.  We will work through this gospel, pericope by pericope and we will read through the whole thing.  Our purpose in this is so that we may do what Jesus’ designated his disciples do; be with Jesus and be sent out to proclaim his message.  This Gospel will challenge us all, and I want to encourage you all to join in with us.

What if we, as a youth group all read through Mark’s Gospel for and entire year?  What would happen if we devoted our personal and corporate devotional time this, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?  I want to challenge you all to do this with us.  I want to challenge you guys to teach these passages and I want to challenge you to journey through these pages with Jesus.  I want you to mentally and spiritually join in on the Journey through Mark with Jesus and his disciples.

Any of you students who want to teach a passage, come talk with me and we will work on it together. And let’s get to know this Jesus, God’s Son and The Messiah.

Posted by: jdgroves1 | March 10, 2009

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