For The One

Read: Mark 5:1-5. This man had such unusual strength that he could not be restrained by chains. No one could subdue him any longer. Chains couldn’t hold him. This show us something about evil. You cannot restrain evil by some external force. Evil behaviors come from within. People tried to restrain this man to control his evil behaviors and actions. It was not effective. He needed a different approach. He needed to be changed from the inside out.
 
The man was trying to release the pain and torment of these demons by crying out and cutting himself. But this also shows us something else about evil. Evil is destructive. Sin is always self-destructive. There is no such thing as constructive evil or constructive sin. We must be cautious of the subtle destructive power of evil and sin. It may not seem destructive at first glance. The first experiment may not have been destructive. But don’t kid yourself. Evil and sin are always self-destructive.
 
Read: Mark 5:6–8. The evil within this man quickly discerned a greater power was present in the form of Jesus. Calling Jesus by his name was an attempt of the demon to control Jesus.
 
Then the demon mocks Jesus “What have you to do with me?” (ESV) Evil is always against God. Its goal is to destroy God and anything to do with Him. This has been his strategy from the very beginning.
 
Read: Mark 5:9-10. A legion of soldiers usually numbered 6,000. The man probably didn’t have 6,000 demons in him but a great number (perhaps around 2000). No wonder no one could subdue him. He was like a Legion of Roman Soldiers all wrapped up in one man.
 
But don’t glamorize this. He wasn’t a superhuman. He was a tormented man who had slowly lost his humanity under the harsh dictatorship of these demons. Which is another effect of evil: Evil diminishes the value of humanity.
 
In Luke’s account, the demons beg Jesus to not send them to the abyss. The time for banishing demons has not yet come. But that time will come through the death and resurrection of Christ. See Colossians 2:15. A time is coming, as Revelation shows, that all evil will be vanquished and cast into the eternal lake of fire. Why wait? Evil shows us our need of a Savior.

Read: Mark 5:11–13. They had to ask the Lord of all Creation permission to enter the pigs. Evil does not have authority over Christ, the Lord.
 
Why pigs? Don’t let this part overshadow the key truth behind this passage — Jesus has absolute authority over evil. However, Evil always leads to death.
 
Read: Mark 5:14–17.
 

Jesus’ power and grace to save is available for the one you fear is too far gone.

 
When you feel that someone is too far gone, remember that Jesus’ power and authority is limitless. Do you pray for your loved ones as though Jesus really is the ultimate authority over evil?
 
Read: Mark 5:18–20. In this account we see the power of God’s mercy and love that captures and transforms those who do not even know that it exists and may initially resist it when it invades their lives. Freedom can also come to you when Jesus lands on the shores of your life.
 
Why would Jesus not allow this man to join him? Jesus’ grace for the one needs to be proclaimed freely for the next one to be saved.
 
So this story comes to a close with only one person being saved. Some might have considered this evangelistic outreach a failure. But let’s not forget that Jesus is always interested in the one. There is no such thing as crowd salvation. Jesus still saves one person at a time.
 
Jesus’ power and grace to save is still available for the one you fear is too far gone. Who is the one you know that needs to experience the saving power of Christ today?
 

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Peace, Be Still

Read: Mark 4:35–37. What brought these disciples into this storm? There are plenty of times that I create my own storms/problems through bad decisions, stubborn pride, selfish interests, etc. Those storms are the result of disobedience (Example: Jonah).
 
But this storm wasn’t due to the disobedience of the disciples. They were precisely where they were when the storm came because they obeyed Jesus. They are doing everything right and yet everything wrong is happening.
 
Isn’t it true that storms are a good illustration of the fear and panic that often overtake us when situations beyond our control surround us and overwhelm us?
 
Fear, in general, isn’t a wrong response. It’s what we do with that fear that makes all the difference.
 
Read: Mark 4:38. Chances are pretty high that you have felt something like what these disciples must have felt. “We’re freaking and Jesus is sleeping. We are losing and Jesus is snoozing. The storm’s pouring and Jesus is snoring.”
 
Read: Mark 4:38. How long did they struggle before they went to Jesus? For these seasoned fishermen, their “know how” wasn’t getting them out of this storm. That’s when they shifted from “know how” to “know who”. They know who can help them. When your “know how” is insufficient, you “know who” is sufficient.
 
Their words were more of a criticism than a call for help. How easy it is for us to complain and criticize Christ for not coming to our aid, rather than making our request and then trusting him to answer.
 
What was their expectation of Jesus? “Jesus, do something to help us. Grab a bucket and start bailing!” How many times do we just want Jesus to bail us out of our troubles on our terms? Shouldn’t we instead invite Him to do whatever He sees fit to not only help us but to also teach us something about who He is?
 
We should not be alarmed by surprises in our lives. Surprises are divinely ordained moments where God is working in the everyday circumstances of our lives to reveal who He is, who we are, and who we need!
 
Are you overwhelmed by the troubling storms around you or are you overwhelmed by the peace of Christ within you? The reality of the storm came between them and their assurance of Jesus’ care. But Jesus still cares even when we misunderstand him and accuse him of not caring for us.
 
Read: Mark 4:39. He did something that his disciples never expected. He spoke to the storm. Quiet! Be still! Is also translated “Quiet! Be muzzled!”
 
I find it interesting that Jesus brought peace right where the storm raged. Rather than removing his disciples from the storm, he spoke peace right in the midst of that storm. Do you need Jesus to speak that over the storm in your life? Jesus brought peace to the storm on the lake, He can bring peace to the storm in your life.
 

Jesus still speaks peace over storm-tossed lives and calms anxious hearts.

 
Read: Mark 4:40. When storms come it reveals the integrity of your faith. And apparently, the disciples’ faith was found wanting. Of all people, Jesus’ own disciples should have had faith. Would Jesus put the same question to us? “After all I have done in you and for you, how is it that you have no faith?“
 
Read: Mark 4:41. Storms reveal what we believe about the identity and authority of Jesus. In every storm there is an opportunity for us to wonder and to discover more about Christ and who He is in our life. See Philippians 4:6-7.
 

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Cultivate the Soil of Your Soul

Read: Mark 4:1-12
 
See Isaiah 6:8–10.
 
As in Isaiah’s day, the crowds and leaders are continually seeing and hearing the truths in Jesus, but because of their hardened hearts they can never perceive the reality of the kingdom in him.
 
But the disciples came as open-hearted individuals wanting to hear, see and obey. So they press for clarity.
 
Read: Mark 4:13
 
Parables, in their spiritual function, are more like riddles or puzzles than easy illustrations. They can be understood by those who have the right “key.”
 
If you miss the key, you miss the whole parable. You can only understand it by understanding the key: The sower sows the word.
 
Read: Mark 4:14-20. The seed is the gospel truth, the message about the Word. The soils then describe the ways people respond to these gospel truths. The four soils refer to the groups that Jesus has challenged: the leaders (the hard-packed road), the crowds (the rocky and the thorny soils), and the disciples (the fruitful soil).
 
In both the parable and its interpretation the four kinds of soil are central.
 
Jesus is asking, “Which kind of soil are you?
 

Cultivate the soil of your soul so that the Word of God bears fruit in your life.

 
1) Break up the hardened ground.
 
2) Break through the obstacles.
 
3) Weed out the competition.
 
4) Let the Word take root AND bear fruit.
 

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Opposition Rising

Read: Mark 3:7–12. By the end his first year of public ministry, the influence of his ministry has spread throughout all Palestine. The primary cause of its explosive growth was his ministry of physical healing and demonic deliverance.

People often come to Jesus for what they can get from him, rather than what they should give to him.

 
This is still a problem today. What brought you to Jesus? What do you bring to him?
 

Read: Mark 3:13–19. Jesus did not choose these twelve to be his disciples because of their faith—it often faltered. He didn’t choose them because of their talent and ability—no one stood out with unusual ability. The one characteristic they all shared was their willingness to obey Jesus.

Jesus still qualifies the unqualified to serve His mission.

 
Within the call of Christ is the ability to live up to that call.
 
Their companionship with him is to lead to service that benefits others. They are not merely on the receiving end of this outbreak of power but are to become channels by which it touches others. A byproduct of being with Jesus is ministering to others as Jesus did.
 
Read: Mark 3:20–21. Thinking he had gone “over the edge” as a religious fanatic, his family came to him. They decided he had truly gone out of his mind with this “Messiah stuff” and that they needed to take charge of him. Do you have family misunderstandings? Jesus knows what that feels like! Read:
 
Mark 3:22–27. In an attempt to destroy Jesus’ popularity among the people, the scribes accused him of having power from Satan. In fact, they say that he is possessed by none other than Satan himself.
 
He would debunk their nonsense in parables. Jesus called Satan a strong man in this parable. The only way those possessions could be carried off would be for someone to first tie up the strong man—the only way for the demons to be cast out is for someone to first limit Satan’s power. Jesus’ coming into the world did just that. See 1 John 3:8.
 

The Holy Spirit within us is stronger that the power of Satan around us.

 
Read: Mark 3:28–30. Jesus introduces the concept of the unpardonable sin in this passage. Before we get to the unpardonable sin, the good news that Jesus shares first is that people can be forgiven all their sins. Too often people miss this promise and worry about the warning in the next verse. But the fact is, those who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of all sins and of all blasphemies.

When there is confession and repentance, no sin is beyond God’s forgiveness.

 
So what is the unpardonable sin? Generally speaking, it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit refers not so much to a single action or word as to an attitude. Sometimes believers worry that they have accidentally committed this unforgivable sin. But only those who have turned their back on God and rejected all faith have any need to worry. Jesus said they can’t be forgiven—not because their sin is worse than any other, but because they will never ask for forgiveness.

Worry about committing the unpardonable sin is evidence you haven’t committed it.

 
Read: Mark 3:31–35. Jesus opened this relationship to all people.The types of people who can have a relationship with him are those who listen, learn, believe, and follow. We are not saved into facts or rules or a system of worship or a cult of followers, we are saved into a family.

Jesus’ true family are those who hear and obey his words.


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Lord of the Sabbath

Read Mark 2:18-22.
 
Jesus is the new cloth and the new wine. He is not an attachment, addition, or appendage to the status quo. He cannot be integrated into or contained by preexisting systems of religion.
 

Jesus isn’t offering you a religious patch but a whole new spiritual paradigm.

 
He came to introduce the new, not to patch up the old.
 
Question: What ways have you made Jesus a patch?
 
Read Mark 2:23-27.
 
The Sabbath proclaimed that God is Lord of creation and time. It was instituted upon the completion of the creation of the world. God created over six days and rested on the seventh. It was designed to be a day of rest and worship.
 
Years later, Moses would receive the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai. The fourth commandment had to do with the Sabbath day. See Exodus 20:8-11.
 
As Lord of the Sabbath, He determines what is lawful and unlawful on the Sabbath day. When Jesus says, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus means that he is the Sabbath. See Matthew 11:28-30.
 
On the cross at the end of his great act of redemption Jesus said, “It is finished”—and we can rest. If you rely on Jesus’s finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you.
 

A relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath gives us rest from religion forever.

 
As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus releases us from legalistic pressure and frees us to joyful obedience. The joyful obedience of Jesus to his Father’s plan sets up the context for the next conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.
 
Read Mark 3:1-6.

The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus — he was a threat that needed to be shutdown. Healing, they argued, was practicing medicine, and a person could not practice his or her profession on the Sabbath.
 
So they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. There is a danger in watching Jesus closely without knowing him personally. Knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus.
 
What did these religious leaders have to lose if Jesus healed this man? Jesus’ ministry of compassion and power, grace and truth, exposed the powerlessness of their legalistic system of religion. It also challenged the power play these religious men held over the people.
 

You can believe that you are all about God and yet miss what God is all about.

 
God is a God of people, not of rules. The best time to reach out to someone is when he or she needs help. God’s law for the Sabbath was never meant to keep people in bondage. The Sabbath, while an important day given to God’s people as a day of rest and worship, was also a day to be merciful and kind to those in need.
 

Jesus shows that human need is more important than ritual observance.

 
See Matthew 12:7–8.
 
The gospel of Christ must maintain the central place of your life and faith, otherwise you will substitute it with a shallow, self righteousness.
 

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The Beginning of the Good News

Mark 1:1 — Opening verse is basically a summary statement of the entire Gospel. For Mark, the purpose of writing was to convey a crucial message, the life-changing Good News about Jesus Christ. Paul would later write to the same Roman audience about the power of this Gospel. See Romans 1:16.
 
Both Christ and Messiah referred to One divinely appointed and anointed by God for a special mission. See Mark 10:45. But make no mistake. While he came as a servant, he was also the One True Son of God. He alone was fully man (Jesus), God’s anointed One (Christ), and fully divine (Son of God). Right at the opening we are confronted with Jesus Christ the Son of God. The reader/hearer is going to have to respond in some way. He either is who he says He is and deserves all our lives, or he is not. There is no middle ground.
 
Mark 1:2–3 — These verses are a composite quotation borrowing from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. Pictures the custom of sending servants ahead of a king to level and clear the roads to make them passable for his journey. John’s preaching helped to prepare the people — to clear away the spiritual debris and straighten any “crooked” moral paths.
 
Mark 1:4 — For 400 years, there has not been a prophet in Israel. It was believed that when the anticipated Messiah came he would be preceded by a prophet. See Luke 1:16-17. Mark pictured John the Baptist as a herald proclaiming news of the coming King, the Messiah. Important Roman officials of this day were always preceded by an announcer or herald. See Matthew 3:1-2. Repentance has two sides: turning away from sins; turning toward God. To be truly repentant, people must do both.
 
Mark 1:5 — Many significant events took place around the Jordan. It was by the Jordan River that the Israelites rented their covenant with God before entering the Promised Land (Joshua 1-2). Here John the Baptists calls them to renew their commitment with God again, this time through baptism.
 
Mark 1:6 — He dressed like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).
 
Mark 1:7 — John’s message was all about Christ. John knew his place. See John 3:28–30. In Oriental households, a lowly slave untied the sandals of guests and then washed their feet.

Mark 1:8 — The coming of the Spirit had been prophesied as part of the Messiah’s arrival. See Ezekiel 36:26-27; Joel 2:28-29. This looked ahead to Pentecost (Acts 2), when the Holy Spirit would be sent by Jesus. When Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit, the entire person would be transformed by the Spirit’s power. Jesus would offer both forgiveness of sin and the power to live for him. We need more than repentance to save us; we need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
 

The good news is that Jesus, Son of God, came to forgive our sins and fill us with the Holy Spirit.

 
Mark 1:9 — Why was Jesus baptized by John? To confess sin on behalf of the nation (as prophets had done); to fulfill all righteousness in order to accomplish God’s mission and advance God’s work in the world (Matthew 3:15); to launch his public ministry; to identify with sinful people; and to give us an example to follow.
 
Mark 1:10 — The “splitting” of the heavens presents God’s intervention into humanity in the human presence of God in Jesus Christ. The descending of the Spirit signified God’s workings in the world; the arrival of the Messiah would have been marked by the descending of the Spirit, in this case, in the form of a dove. See Luke 4:18-19.
 
Mark 1:11 — Notice this was even before he started his public ministry – no preaching, no miracles, no ministry yet. We are considered children of God. That same pleasure rests on us.
 

The good news is that God the Father loves you and His favor rests on you.

 
Mark 1:12-13 — The episode began with the Spirit’s guidance. This shows that God’s leading does not always guarantee safe circumstances. God’s Spirit will lead us, as he led Jesus, into the places we need to go, even though they may be difficult. See Hebrews 2:17–18.
 

The good news is that Jesus understands our temptation and will help us when tempted.

 

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