Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lent Day 19 – Mark 7:24-37

“He has done all things well.” That is the conclusion of the crowds about Jesus after a healing in Sidon. That story is connected with the prior story of Jesus healing a women’s daughter in the region of Tyre. What is important to note is that these are Gentile cities and therefore not people of Israel. That explains the weird saying in v. 27. Jews would often refer to pagans as dogs. (Jesus is probably making light of this and not actually calling her that). Because this woman has the faith to believe that just a crumb from Jesus is enough to heal her daughter, her daughter is healed without even being present. In the second story Jesus takes a deaf man away from the crowds to heal him. The stories end with a response from the pagan crowd about Jesus (who is Jewish!) – “He has done all things well.”
Both stories are connected by a secrecy motif. In the first story Jesus was hoping to go under the radar (v. 24) and Jesus not only takes the man aside in the second story, he orders the crowd not to tell anyone. Yet the crowd can’t keep their excitement to themselves. “He has done all things well!”
Look back at Genesis 12:1-3. What might this say about the reach of God’s Kingdom?
If pagans were considered dogs, how might these stories be connected to the first half of chapter 7 and the issue of uncleanness?
What does it say that Jesus heals someone who is not near-by? What might that say about intercessory prayer?
Why do you think Jesus doesn’t want people to share openly the Good News of what is happening (the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God signaled by signs of healing)? What would the affect be on Jesus’ ministry when we’ve seen Him trying to be secretive and yet He still cannot escape notice? What would be the result of being too noticed by the authorities?
Traditions can be helpful in maintaining our identity. Sometimes they can get in the way of experiencing a right relationship with God as is seen in chapter 7. How do we do this today (both individually and corporately)?
How might Jesus speak to you in a way that would help you affirm “He has done all things well!”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lent Day 18 – Mark 7:1-23

From within makes one defiled. Mark again combines stories with a common thread. First, the Jews ask Jesus about Jesus’ disciples lack of following traditional rules. Jesus reveals Pharisees and scribes inconsistency in following the traditions which revealed they were inwardly far from God. In the second story, the disciples seem (again!) to misunderstand Jesus’ teaching. So Jesus makes it all the clearer that it is not simply in following outward rules that makes one inwardly clean. Rather, in order to be clean, it within a person that needs to be cleansed.
The routine of washing our hands is a good habit that keeps us healthy. (Thus the signs in restaurant bathrooms.) However, scrubbing our hands all the time with antibacterial soap or obsessing with hand washing can present other problems. Might this also be true in how we relate with tradition and Scripture. Neither are obviously bad, in fact, they are both good. The real problem was the selfish motivations the Pharisees and scribes had and not godly motivations.
How is it possible for us too to keep outward rules even though are hearts are far from God?
If people could see your thoughts, which would surprise them the most?
What do you think Mark is implying can be done to solve this inward problem?
Do you think it is possible for us to take Scripture too seriously?
Is Jesus saying tradition is bad? What role should Christian tradition play in our lives?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lent Day 17 – Mark 6:45-56

Jesus saves? Again we see more allusions to the Exodus story in this passage. Jesus forces the disciples to leave before dismissing the crowd. Late that night as the disciples struggled against the waves in their boat, Jesus (walking on water!) intends to pass them (remember God’s goodness and glory passing by – Exodus 33:19, 22). The disciples think He’s a ghost and cry out in the fear. Jesus encourages them not to be afraid using words that signify the name “I Am” (which is LORD in many Old Testament translations of the Hebrew word Yahweh). Once Jesus is in the boat, the winds cease and the disciples are amazed yet again. Interestingly is Mark’s comment. Mark doesn’t say the disciples failed to comprehend the miracle when Jesus silenced the waves in chapter 4 but that they failed to understand the incident of the loaves. The disciples had failed to comprehend just how near God was to them in Jesus. This is the God who calms the seas and has compassion to get in the boat with them. This is the miracle working God who has compassion to feed the masses even when the people are lost and cry out in fear (v. 50).
Again crossing over to Gennesaret, Jesus’ ministry continues as one of healing. This is one passage where Mark’s theme of urgency is explicit. Notice the repetition of Mark’s use of the word “immediately” and how Jesus’ ministry is characterized in v. 55. It is also interesting that the last word of the chapter is “saved” though many translate it healed.
How does this miracle take on new meaning in light of the Exodus allusions?
What is Mark saying about Jesus’ identity? How might we have a healthy fear of Jesus? What does that look like? How then would you describe what a Jesus follower looks like?
Why do you think the disciples were struggling to comprehend Jesus as God? How can we allow ourselves to better comprehend God’s goodness and compassion?
What do you think it means that the word ‘saved’ can be translated ‘healed?’ What might that say about our understanding of what it means to be saved? What does it mean when we use the phrase "Jesus saves?"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lent Day 16 – Mark 6:30-44

Miracle? Act of Re-creation? Or both? If we extended this a few verses we would see the story of the feeding of the 5,000 is surrounded by Jesus’ attempts to be alone with His disciples. We also see in this passage the disciples who begin by telling Jesus all they had done and taught and then their inability to perceive the needs of the crowd. Success and failure on the disciples part.
Something that seems more apparent in the original Greek version of the New Testament is the repetition of words and allusions in this story that seem to echo Moses and the Exodus. Whereas King Herod and the religious leaders have failed to be shepherds to the people, Jesus has compassion on the people. Moreover, there is a repeated departing or going away and yet a coming together throughout the story. Jesus, with the disciples, departs for a deserted place. Later the people are gathered together to be fed by Jesus. Jesus fed the multitude with scarce resources. Following the feeding there is collected from the remnants 12 baskets much like there were 12 tribes of Israel. Too often the focus of the passage is how Jesus did this miracle or the nature of miracles instead of the larger story that Jesus is presented like Moses and His ministry like a new Exodus event, but even greater. Jesus’ act of feeding the 5,000 is an act of re-creation of the people of God.
Though Jesus desired a time of retreat, it was cut short. How do the disciples respond (v. 36) compared with how Jesus responds? Why the difference? How do you respond to interruptions?
How does Jesus’ compassion lead to His response? What does that say about Kingdom living?
How do the allusions of Moses and the Exodus illumine this story of the feeding of the 5,000? What does that say about Jesus? The Kingdom of God?
How is this miracle an act of recreation? Where do you find hope in this story? Where are you challenged?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent Day 15 - Mark 6:6-29

Jesus’ mission; Church’s mission. This is a longer reading connected by King Herod’s hearing of the ministry of the twelve disciples. Jesus gives them little in the way of physical tools but gives them authority to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach repentance. They obviously do this ministry in Jesus’ name because that’s what is reported to Herod. Herod’s problem is that he has taken care of the provocative John the Baptist and there are rumors that Jesus is John raised from the dead. Herod had John the Baptist decapitated after Herod’s wife’s daughter danced for him at his birthday banquet. Though King Herod feared and even liked to listen to John, Herodias trapped Herod. John’s disciples get his body and lay it in a tomb. Foreshadowing? So surrounding the story of Herod’s killing of John the Baptist are stories about disciples. How might this be further foreshadowing? Questions:
How does the 12 disciples’ ministry relate to the church’s today? What might that say about how we do ministry today? What are some things we might need to let go of in order to do ministry better?
How are the disciples to respond to being unwelcomed? How might that be part of Mark’s the of the urgency of Jesus ministry? What might that say about the church’s ministry today?
Why do you think King Herod liked listening to John? Why does King Herod give in? When have you followed the crowd instead of what your conscious was guiding? Why is it easier to go along with the crowd than follow God?
Why do you think Mark puts these stories together? What might that say about following Christ?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lent Day 14 - Mark 6:1-6

We've seen the people amazed, now we see Jesus amazed, but not in a good way. Jesus returns home and speaks at his home synagogue. You'd think the people would welcome and rejoice at His presence which has grown to such popularity. Recently, I got to go to my home church and teach Sunday School and participate in worship (helping to serve communion). I got to see people I haven't seen in years and learn about others from that church heading into the ministry. It was a great time. Jesus' reception was much less joyous. The people remember Jesus, but something has changed. They ponder where Jesus got His wisdom and power. Jesus has changed, but they haven't. I think this is a bit like the commercial that has the father talking to his child daughter who is in the front seat of a car. He gives her all kind of safety reminders. As she is about to drive off we see that she is really a teenager and it was only in his perception that she was still a child. Perhaps something similar explains the hometown reaction of taking offense at Him. Despite their unbelief, Jesus does still do some acts of healing, but apparently minor compared with His ministry elsewhere. This story ends with Jesus' response - amazement.
Why do you think Jesus' hometown receive Jesus positively? Do we ever do something similar with God today? How so?
What do you think had changed in Jesus?
What is the source of our transformation as followers of Christ?
What is one thing you can do that would allow God to surprise you?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lent Day 13 - Mark 5:21-43

Crowds laugh at Jesus? Jairus, a religious leader comes to Jesus in need of help and acknowledging Jesus' status. That's news since so far religious leaders have been opposed to Jesus. As Mark tells the story, the healing of Jairus' daughter is interrupted by the story of a woman with severe bleeding issues. These stories are linked in several ways. Both the woman and the girl are healed by Jesus. The woman suffering for twelve years and the girl is noted to be twelve years old. Both are referred to as "daughter" (vv. 34-35). Yet, while the woman's healing is public, the girls is a fairly private matter. In fact, Jesus again tells them (actually 'strictly orders') not to spread the news. Which is going to be difficult since the people who were weeping loudly at the report of the girls death, laugh at Jesus when Jesus questions the news that she is dead insisting she is only asleep.
Given how Jesus has been received so negatively, what risks might Jairus be taking in asking for Jesus' help? What sort of risks do we take for Jesus? In asking for help?
How do the two stories of these women go together? How is Jesus approached in each? What are the reactions of the crowd? Do you approach Jesus more like Jairus (directly) or more like the woman (timidly)? What do you need to bring to Jesus to experience His healing touch? How is Lent helping you to do so?
Earlier in this chapter Jesus told the man healed of the demons to tell, yet tells the parents to tell no one. Why do you think that is? What might location have to do with that? If you were them, what would you do?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lent Day 12 - Mark 5:1-20

From calming the chaos outside to calming the chaos within. Yesterday we looked at Jesus calming the chaotic seas (4:35-41). When Jesus makes His way to the other side of the sea, Jesus cures the chaos of a legion of demons within a wild man living among the tombs. He is physically out of sorts, screams wildly, and harms even himself. Yet, he names Jesus as "Son of the Most High" and recognizes His power. Jesus cast the demons into pigs which Jews believed to unclean. The are in affect, coming home by going into the sea (where demons live). Those who owned the pigs went to the town and told all what had happened. Surprisingly, the town doesn't come cheering Jesus for removing the demons and healing the man. Instead, finding the man in his right mind (without the internal chaos), they beg Jesus to leave. Even though the cured man wants to follow Jesus, Jesus refuses telling the man to be a witness right where he was.
How do you think demons manifest themselves today?
What do you think Mark's Gospel is getting at by having demons correctly identify Jesus yet others don't?
Why do you think the town begged Jesus to leave? Do you think they had become comfortable in their pain? Do we become comfortable in our pain and refuse Jesus' help or just help in general?
Why do you think Jesus refuses to take the man with Him? What does it say that the man went to the Decapolis (Roman cities) to testify about Jesus? What might this say about how God can testify through us right where we are?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lent Day 11 - Mark 4:35-41

Peace among the chaos. Upon going to the other side of the sea (the Gentile side), a great storm arose. While the boat is filling with water and the disciples are freaking out, Jesus is a sleep on a pillow. This wasn't a large boat (search the next to last slide show for a boat that dates back to Jesus' time). Even a little water would have been noticeable. How Jesus is sleeping through this is a wonder in and of itself? The disciples are in a fit. They arouse Jesus from sleep who calms this sea with the words: "Peace! Be Still!" The sea that was vicious and having the disciples to believe death was imminent is now eerily calm. You might think the disciple's reaction would be one of being overjoyed or excited since they have escaped death. Instead they were "absolutely terrified" as the NLT translates it. They ask each other (interestingly they don't direct their question to Jesus!) "Who is this who that the winds and sea obey Him?" While the sea is calm, the disciples are more afraid now then when they thought they were going to drown.
What are your greatest fears?
What other biblical story has a character sleeping on a boat when waves are threatening?
For the most part Jews feared the seas (with the exception of fisherman). To the Jews the abyss of demons was deep below the sea surface. How might have this lead to the disciple's initial fears?
Check out Psalm 65:7, 89:9, 107:28-29, and 148:7. How might this shed light on the disciple's increased fear after the sea is calmed?
How might this story enlarge our view of God's power and presence? How might fear of God be a good thing?
How might this God help conquer our greatest fears and bring us peace amidst our chaos?
Where do you need to hear God's word of "Peace! Be Still!" today?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lent Day 10 - Mark 4:21-34

Listen up! Jesus continues to speak in parables. These parables are connected with the Parable of the Sower by the important command of Jesus to listen. Mark uses the word "listen" 13 times in this chapter. Listening is an important attribute for Christians, especially when the Kingdom of God comes in such hidden and secret ways. Unless we are truly listening we might miss it!

Jesus is uses parables, word pictures, to describe the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom, as we've seen, is coming but in unexpected ways. Said differently the long awaited time of God's harvest is coming to fruition but not like was thought it would happen. Jesus' image of a bush or tree that shade birds comes from Old Testament promises (Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:12, 21).
It is easy to read some of these verses from Jesus almost with a tone that suggest His parables were about hiding secrets from the masses. Rather, like the disciples, I think Jesus is inviting us to go deeper, to ask questions, to struggle with His images. Giving us answers merely satisfies our curiosity. Inviting us to a relationship of dependency and maturity however are closer to Jesus' goal of getting us closer to the heart of God.
In such a "noisy" world what steps should we take (are you taking) in order to listen to God? How can we better listen to the needs of those around us?
How might Jesus command to listen connect with the warning and promises we read in vv. 24-25?
What do you think is the significance of Jesus' parable about the farmer sowing seed and yet not knowing how it grows? How does that connect with God's Kingdom?
What about the parable of the mustard seed? What does it say about the growth of God's Kingdom?
How might Jesus' use of parables be helpful for us in evangelism? Or in how we lead others to a deeper faith?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent Day 9 - Mark 4:1-20

Jesus' parable of the gracious sower. I title this parable different than most. Most make this parable of Jesus about soils and the types of soils analogous to our response to Jesus. While that's not wrong, I think it misses the main point. To me this parable is about the reckless way in which the sower spreads his precious seed. As well, in the Old Testament God's people were often imaged as a field or garden and God was the one who harvested it. For example, check out Isaiah 5:1-7.
So far reaction to Jesus from His family and the religious leaders has been less than warm. How might that explain why Jesus doesn't want some to fully understand His message just yet? (vv. 11-12) What were the people's expectation of the coming Kingdom? How was Jesus' inauguration of the Kingdom looking different than their expectations?
In an agricultural time when seeds were precious, what seems odd about where this sower puts his seed? Instead of being purely about us, how might this parable be interpreting the way Israel has responded to God? Should be responding to God now? In the future?
How can our preconceived notions of God get in the way of our discipleship? Of how we evangelize the world?
What distinguishes the one good soil from the man bad types of soil?
What are the causes of the soil not flourishing? What keeps the Kingdom from flourishing today?
What do you think Jesus is implying by the fact that the seed on good soil reproduces, 30, 60, 100 fold?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lent Day 8 - Mark 3:20-35

Jesus out of His mind or just from the devil? His family seems to think the former. When word of Jesus' fame comes to his family they decide to "restrain" with Him like He is a lunatic. Mark then interrupts this story to tell a similar story about scribes who have come from Jerusalem and accuse Jesus of being from the devil. Jesus repeats that that if this were the case Satan's kingdom would not be able to stand. Jesus then shoots back to them a charge of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. That is the scribes have seen the works of God and attribute it to the devil. Ironically, the demons we've encountered in Mark's Gospel have seen and titled Jesus appropriately.
Then Mark goes back to the story of Jesus' family. Interesting they are standing outside while the crowd is sitting with Jesus. Mark is making sure we connect these two stories. Family bonds were extremely tight in Jesus day. Jesus is radical in claiming that what binds those in the Kingdom of God together (doing God's will) is a tighter bond than genetic family. Far from out of His mind or from the devil, in fact Jesus is doing the will of His heavenly Father and is inviting others to do the same.
People often struggle with blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and fear they have committed this sin. Does this understanding bring you some comfort? Might this also give us pause before we declare something is of the devil?
What does Jesus' words to his family say about the bonds within the family of God? What allegiance do we hold dear today? How might they get in the way of our allegiance to Jesus?
Those who are with Jesus do so sitting with Him. How can you better take time to sit at the feet of Jesus?
What might this say about doing God's will?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lent Day 7 – Mark 3:7-19

Following Jesus isn’t easy. Jesus' continues His ministry around the northern end of Israel on the Sea of Galilee. Many from the larger surrounding towns come to be healed by Him and follow Him. So many people crowd in on him that it is hard for Jesus to do simple tasks.
We've seen in early stories that the religious leaders oppose Jesus and even plot His death. Yet when the demons encounter Jesus they fall down before Him and clearly state His identity as “Son of God.” The demons get it even when the religious leaders don't! Yet again Jesus commands them not to proclaim to all what He is doing.
Then Jesus, up on a mountain, calls to himself the 12 disciples. In the Old Testament there were the 12 tribes of Israel. Symbolically, Jesus is calling the exile community around himself in these odd 12 disciples. These 12 apostles (disciples) are those sent out in the power of Jesus. The list begins with Simon Peter and ends with Judas Iscariot. In between we have Sons of Thunder, a Tax Collector, and a Canaanite (foreigner).
Who would you most want to hang out with? Why do you think Jesus attracted so many people?
Why do you think Jesus tells the demons not to reveal His identity?
What does the symbolic nature of the 12 disciples say about Jesus’ ministry?
What might the identity of these 12 say about Jesus? About the nature of His Kingdom? About Discipleship?
How does Jesus’ selection of such a diverse group say about discipleship? About church? How might this serve as a comfort when it comes to the call to discipleship?
How should our discipleship look like theirs?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lent Day 6 – Mark 2:23-3:6

Jesus’ authority and Sabbath’s purpose. Today’s passage has two stories about the Sabbath. Not only was keeping Sabbath one of the big Ten Commandments (#4 for those keeping count), Sabbath also served as a marker of the Jewish people and way to remind them who their real provider was – God.
In the first story, Jesus probably offends the Pharisees by putting Himself on par with the great King David and reminds them of the purpose of the Sabbath. In the second story, Jesus almost goes out of his way to show His authority by healing on the Sabbath – He could have waited another day. Again this shows the purpose of the Sabbath – doing good and brining life. The Spiritual Formation Bible (which I highly recommend) notes, “If we constantly work, or ask others to work constantly on our behalf, then we become enslaved to our economy and our own efforts. We come to believe everything depends on what we can provide for ourselves. To keep a rhythm of Sabbath rest is to remember that God is the maker and giver of all good things; it tempers our everlasting itch to get ahead.”
Interesting, Jesus was angry and grieved with the hard heartedness He observed. The Pharisees and others have had enough. They begin plotting Jesus death.
Why don’t we observe the Sabbath? What keeps us from observing the Sabbath?
How might keeping the Sabbath disconnect us from the rat race? What are some ways you keep the Sabbath? How might life look different if you did keep a Sabbath rest?
How should Christians keep Sabbath rest? (When is the Sabbath?)
What are things you could stop doing to experience rest?
Why do you think Jesus was angry and grieved? What was the source of that anger and grief?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lent Day 5 – Mark 2:13-22

Jesus scandalous? It certainly seems that way from the passage for today. In the first story, Jesus is eating and drinking (feasting!), that is sharing fellowship, with notorious sinners. More than simply uncouth, good pious Jews of the time would not think of eating with such people. To share table fellowship was to identify with your company. Tax collectors were overt traitors to Israel and sinners were unclean. Yet Jesus not only eats with them, but challenges His challengers. In the proverb Jesus shares in v. 17 who are the sick and who are the righteous? Perhaps Jesus is challenging those who think they are not sick to see righteousness in a new light – those who are well aware of their need for a physicians touch!

In the second story, the people question Jesus why His disciples do not fast like the disciples of the Pharisees and John the Baptist. Jesus’ presence among them is a time to celebrate and feast on His word. Jesus notes that in His absence is a time to fast. In Jesus’ next proverb points to the need for things to fit together: unshrunk cloth doesn’t fit on an old cloak (coat) and new wine should go in new wine skits. The Pharisees and others response (condemnation in the first story and lack of awareness of Jesus’ authority) isn’t a fitting response to the Gospel.
How might Lent serve as a time for us to feast with God and with neighbors?
How might/are you taking on a time of fasting during Lent?
Why do you think fasting has become an unpracticed spiritual discipline?
What do you think Jesus is saying about discipleship in verses 21 and 22?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lent Day 4 - Mark 2:1-12

In the first healing story in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man of an unclean spirit within a synagogue and the people respond in amazement. In the second story, Jesus healed Simon's mother in law in a house who then served the men. In the third encounter, Jesus heals a leper that responds against Jesus' wishes (he tells!). In this healing story, Jesus heals a paralytic (with great friends!) yet the healing is not received all positively. This time the religious leaders (scribes) discuss it among themselves or as many translations say "reason in their hearts." The topic of their discussion is where Jesus' authority comes from. Instead of accounting it to God, they believe Jesus' healing and proclamation of forgiveness is tantamount to blasphemy! Instead of seeing God through the healings and proclamations, they are stuck wondering, discussing, doubting. We don't actually get their response to Jesus in this story (we will later) but we do get the response of the crowd. Yet again they were amazed and this time even glorified God! Their amazement led them to God. The religious leaders’ discussions led them to miss the very presence of God right in front of their noses. This lent, as our church is looking at "Fearless: The Courage to Question," I hope that we will be more like the crowd than the religious leaders. Though we will never have all the answers, may our questioning keep us amazed at the presence of God and what God is continuing to do, instead of letting our predetermined "box" of God get in the way.
When have you been paralyzed and had friends bring you to Jesus?
How can we allow our questions to be holy questions and conversations before God that lead to amazement and not simply be asking questions for our own satisfaction?
Why do you think the scribes thought Jesus' actions were blasphemous?
What does this passage say about Jesus authority? How is that challenging to your life?
There are many today in Japan and surrounding areas that are also exclaiming but from a different place, "We have never seen anything like this!" v. 12. How might God's presence be comforting to them? What might Jesus authority have to do with that? How can we be like the friends to the paralytic to the many who are quite literally paralyzed there?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lent Day 3 - Mark 1:29-45

Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry continues. And as it continues so does Jesus’ notoriety grow. Yet as grows Jesus takes time to be alone in prayer. I don’t think that Jesus was overwhelmed by busyness that lead to Jesus’ retreat. Rather I think the needs of the people and Jesus’ compassion drove Him to spend intentional time with the Father pleading on their behalf. I wonder if Jesus’ prayers included questions?
Though Jesus tells otherwise, Jesus’ fame grows such that He has to move about more secretly. That points out how dangerous Jesus’ message really was. When people heard Good News about God’s Kingdom they had preconceived notions of what that would look like. Jesus still need time for them to gain at least a closer understanding to what His Kingdom will look like. So far it looks like healings and casting out demons.
I do like that the NRSV has Simon and the other disciples “hunting” for Jesus in verse 36. When is the last time you ‘hunted’ for Jesus? Certainly that makes for a Lenten attitude!
What drives you to prayer? Crisis? Times of Praise? Relationship?
What “unclean” things should we have compassion for? How can we give a healing touch?
How can you better “hunt” for God?
What dangers do you see in the Good News of the Kingdom?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lent Day 2 - Mark 1:14-28

Today’s reading highlights the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus preaches about the coming Kingdom of God. We see the call of the first disciples to “follow him.” Jesus does so with urgency. The word “immediately” occurs five times in these verses. We also see Jesus healing. Interestingly this healing happens in the middle of a synagogue. There are demons even in the synagogue! Yet Jesus rebukes the demon, who obviously knows Jesus even pronouncing Him as “The Holy One of God.” The people are amazed at His authority. Questions:
How does Jesus characterize the Kingdom of God? Interestingly Jesus preaches the Good News. Typically when we think about the content of Good News, it includes Jesus’ death and resurrection which have not occurred yet. How might that change the way we think about what the Good News actually is?
Based on Jesus’ invitation and the disciples’ response, how would you characterize discipleship to Jesus?
What are some common excuses for not following Christ? Are busyness and other excuses legitimate for not following Jesus? How can you make time today (or throughout Lent) to hear God’s invitation to grow closer to following His ways?
What are some demons which hamper the church today?
How was the man healed relationally as well as physically?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gospel of Mark – Lenten Guide

This Lent I’m going to be reading through the Gospel of Mark, along with the rest of my church. I’m going to try and each day to blog a few thoughts about the readings and ask a few guiding questions. I hope you’ll join me in reading and discussing the Gospel of Mark and that it will enhance our Lenten season as we follow Jesus to the cross.
Day 1 (Mark 1:1-13)
Mark’s Gospel might be the most accommodating Gospel to our time. It is a simple, succinct, yet vivid account of Jesus’ ministry emphasizing more what Jesus did than what He said. Mark moves quickly from one episode in Jesus’ life and ministry to another, often using the adverb ‘immediately’ (watch for it!). The book as a whole may be characterized as ‘The beginning of the Gospel” (1:1). The life, death, and resurrection of Christ comprise the ‘beginning,’ of which the apostolic preaching in Acts in the continuation.
Where does Mark point as the beginning “of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (vv. 2-3)?
How might Jesus’ baptism and temptation prepare for the rest of Jesus’ ministry?
In verse 10 Mark notes at Jesus’ baptism that the heavens were “opened” or split apart. In 15:38 at Jesus’ crucifixion the curtain in the Holy of Holies is also split apart (same Greek word as 1:10). What do you think that says about Jesus’ ministry and where it comes from?
Do you remember your baptism? How has your baptism served as a call or empowerment to ministry for you?
How do you think God affirms us, as the Father did with Jesus in verse 11?
If Jesus faced temptations what might that say about the Christian life?
Where is this Scripture challenging you? Where does this Scripture speak to you?
I invite you to share your thoughts.