Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #3 (Chapters 7-10)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.In the next section of Mark Jesus begins to teach the disciples about who He really is and what that means for God’s Kingdom plan and what that will require from them. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 7 Jesus begins to break boundaries that others would put on Him. In chapter 6 he multiplied bread for a Jewish audience. In chapter 8 He will do the same for a Gentile audience. In the first section (1-23) Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because His disciples do not keep their washing traditions. Jesus does not answer their accusation, but questions their basis for holiness. Holiness does not come from external actions or traditions, which tend to separate us from one another and become a "who's in, who's out" criteria, but from inner attitudes of submission and love for God and for others that come out in our actions to one another. In the rest of the chapter Jesus extends healing to a Gentile woman (from Tyre the rival city to the Jews) and a deaf Gentile man. In both of these it is emphasized that a humble, faithful approach to Jesus is what brings blessing. Just like the deaf man, even the disciples were deaf to what He was saying and needed to humble themselves and receive what Jesus offered as a "little dog."

One need not protect holiness with a fence of rules. On the contrary, God’s holiness bursts all bounds. It does not suffer contamination but transforms everything it touches. As Augustine said, “Light, even though it passes through pollution, is not polluted.” Mark 7.1-23, 281

God will heal Gentiles, no matter how unclean or how far away from God they may seem. Others might dismiss someone as the wrong race, nationality, or social class, or as from the wrong religious background, but none of these things prevents one from receiving God’s merciful healing. Those who exercise humble faith will receive bread. Mark 7.24-30, 290

Mark’s narrative shows that Jesus seeks to cure his disciples’ blindness and deafness by taking them away from the madding crowd and teaching them. Modern Christians may need to have times when they retreat and allow the miracle of Jesus’ power to penetrate plugged-up ears so that we may hear God’s word afresh and speak it to others more clearly. Mark 7.31-37, 302

Chapter 8 continues Jesus' journey through Gentile territory and his teaching to them about His identity and what that will mean for them. First, he repeats the miracle of the multiplied bread, but this time for a Gentile audience. He is trying to expand the disciple's vision beyond their expectations of what Messiah will be. Sadly, neither the Pharisees nor the disciples get it. The Pharisees demand an apocalyptic "sign from heaven" that Jesus is coming in power to destroy their enemies, but Jesus rejects this with an oath because He has just shown that God's kingdom will bring blessing to the Gentiles. The disciples are like the blind man who Jesus must heal gradually and in stages. Peter gets Jesus' title right, but totally misunderstands what it means and what being part of God's kingdom is all about. Jesus, for the first time in Mark, reveals that the kingdom must go through the cross and resurrection and that His disciples must deny themselves and take up His cross of suffering to follow Him. He promises glory. but the cross and self-denial must come first. To teach anything else is to be a "satan."

Jesus says that false prophets and false christs will give signs and wonders to deceive (13:6, 22). But Jesus will offer this generation no noisy sign from heaven, only the wind whistling through an empty tomb after his crucifixion. Mark 8.1-12, 309

The kingdom of God requires individuals to exercise faith and discernment. The sign the Pharisees request removes any need to risk faith or to discern what God is doing in the present when the evidence is ambiguous...Jesus refuses to do anything to get scoffers to believe. They must discern the truth from the way he gives his life on this cross and from the reports of his resurrection. Mark 8,13-26, 315

One therefore may no longer think of power and glory in the ways that humans usually think. Many imprisoned under the powers will see nothing of what God is doing in the world and will be judged. Others will see in the darkness at noon, the splitting of the temple veil, the empty tomb, and the reunion with the risen Lord the kingdom of God coming in power. Mark 8.27-9.1, 330

Chapter 9 begins with Jesus' glorious transfiguration and ends with the disciples confusion about it and their resulting ineptness. The transfiguration, following Jesus' announcement of His death and resurrection, shows that God's glory is compatible with suffering. The curtain is pulled back and Jesus' Divine glory is seen in the vision, but it is also seen in Jesus' humility, obedience, suffering and sacrifice. This is the part the disciples refuse to accept and Jesus must respond with more teaching. The disciples fail to complete the exorcism of the boy because they think they can do it in their own power and lack "prayer," that sense of daily dependence on God and His grace. Kingdom living is not about status or personal ambition, but it is about service, trust in God, reaching out to the needy, and relinquishing personal pride and agendas. Jesus ends the chapter by exhorting the disciples that living in peace with one another, even with those who are not part of "our group," is one of the key indicators of real kingdom living. 

What the disciples see on the Mount of Transfiguration is the promise of glory in Jesus’ shimmering garments. What they need to hear when they come off the mountain and reenter the everyday realm is the requirement of suffering—the way of the cross and death. The biblical heroes vanish from sight. The splendor fades. The voice of God falls silent except as God speaks through the Son. Visions come and go, but his word remains. Mark 9.1-13, 349

Only when the disciples are caught up short do they learn that they do not possess anything. Those who belong to the faithless generation do not cast out evil; God does. The power belongs entirely to him and must be received anew each time from him through a life of prayer. The prayerful attitude of “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” is therefore necessary for the healer as well as the sufferer. Mark 9.14-29, 359

In the battle against evil, we must recognize that whatever particular group we belong to is not the only group of Christians in the world. We can then learn from others who worship the same Christ as Lord and Savior but who may use different language and emphasize different parts of the Scripture from what we do. Perhaps when we lay aside our labels, we will recognize that together we are all Christ’s servants and will then find ways to cooperate rather than to compete in serving him. Mark 9.30-50, 376

Mark 10 closes this section and summarizes what God's Messiah and Kingdom look like and what that requires from those who would follow Jesus. The reader should contrast the right response from the  unexpected person, blind Bartemaeus (who receives his sight and then gives up everything to follow Jesus) with those who would have been expected to do the right things. The religious leaders try to manipulate God and the torah and trap God's Messiah. The disciples try to restrict access to Jesus and manipulate Him for personal ambition and power. The "good" man tries to reduce Jesus' demands to something he can handle on his own without following Jesus. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation requires a ransom (the life and death of Jesus). We need to meditate on what it means to follow someone who characterizes Himself as a ransom and servant.

Others have brought the paralyzed and the blind to Jesus; now parents bring children for Jesus to touch (10:13). The disciples act like truculent bouncers...These aspiring leaders want to be the gatekeepers, who determine not only who can use Jesus’ name (9:38), but also who can have admission to his presence. He must indignantly intercede on behalf of the children and inform his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mark 10.1-16, 381

We do better if we confess that we are too weak to follow Jesus on his terms than if we try to find loopholes that allow us to continue in our complacency. We also do better to confront congregations with the truth that living a praiseworthy life and always coloring inside the lines do not earn one eternal life, as if salvation were some kind of payoff. Mark 10.17-31, 402

The point is clear to the reader, if not the disciples: To share his kingdom one has to share his Passion (see Rom. 8:17). No one who enthrones the old values of power without ethics and sacrifice can reign with Jesus. Mark 10.32-45, 412

This miracle takes on symbolic significance as it caps the discipleship theme in this section. Jesus has told others he has healed to go and that their faith has saved them. Bartimaeus, however, does not choose to go off his own way. With his eyes now open, he decides to follow Jesus as every disciple is called to do. Like the first disciples Jesus called, he abandons his former way of life and leaves everything. Mark 10.46-52, 421

No comments: