Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mark: God's dogs and our self-satisfaction

Mark 7:24-8;21

Just had another debate with the Pharisees about uncleanness.  Now he encounters a Gentile woman who needs her demon-possessed daughter healed.  The Jewish people considered non-Jewish people to be "dogs".  Dogs were not the beloved pets that they are now.  They were dirty scavengers to be avoided.  That is how the Jews saw non-Jews.

And Jesus himself truly did come to Israel first because that was his first nation called under his name.  Although his message was to all kinds of people, he first wanted his nation to hear it while he walked the earth.  This is why when the woman comes, he essentially calls her a dog.  But either he says it with a warm smile on his face or she is desperate enough to see her daughter healed.  She keeps asking and says that even the dogs are getting the crumbs from the main table.  Jesus is focusing on just the Jews, but the rest of the world is watching and getting some of the message.  Jesus gladly heals her.

He then goes on to heal the deaf and dumb man from the same region near Phoenicia and he feeds 4000 people who are mostly Gentile.  Just like with the 5000, the disciples forgot what Jesus could do, but he still graciously multiplied his bread so that all could eat.   Then, Jesus and his disciples go sailing along and Jesus says do beware the leaven of the Pharisees.  The duh-sciples, as they are called by us (which is unfair because we make the same mistakes), still thought he was talking about them forgetting about the bread.  No, Jesus was warning them not to be so self-satisfied.  God chose Israel as his nation and he chose all believers as his people, but he did not have to do so. His grace is a gift and not earned.  He forgives sin because he wants to.  He is a savior by nature.  We must extend the same grace to all people.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mark: Corban, kosher rules, and luck

Mark 7:5-23
In this passage, Jesus answers the Pharisees who don't get why he doesn't wash his hands before eating.  The Pharisees wonder why he doesn't obey the fences that they created around the rules.   Jesus wonders why they don't obey the actual rules.

He uses the Corban example.  If someone dedicated some property to the temple, then it would pass on to the temple whenever that person died.  While the person lived, however, he could still enjoy and use the property however he wanted.  These people were using the rule as an excuse to not care for their aging parents.  People didn't have retirement funds then, and they depended on their children to care for them in old age.  These self-righteous people were using the Corban rule to not care for their parents when they could very much do so because the property was still theirs while they lived.

People cared more about the appearance of righteousness than actual righteousness.  Jesus used these examples to show how wicked people are in their own power.  "For from within, out of the heart of  man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." People are already wicked.  They cannot get any more wicked by eating something.  God gave Israel those rules to make them see how badly they needed a Savior, not to impose a diet.  Now that Jesus had come, he makes people clean and able to come to God without having to die.  There is no more need for kosher rules and diets.

This reminds me of what I am teaching.  There are three kinds of people.  There are people who trust in luck.  They believe that events and history happen randomly without any plan or meaning.  Then there are people who believe in God.  Events and history are specifically ordained by God who knows and loves us and knows exactly why he's doing what he's doing.  The third group of people try to be both.  They try to use God to get good luck.  It doesn't work that way.  He is not obligated to something just because you did something.  He saves who he will save and has mercy on who he has mercy.  He cleans whoever he will, and you cannot manipulate him to serve your purpose.  If you do, then you are trying to get saved on your own efforts when you are already so defiled by just one sin that you can never come to God.  Thanks be to God that he sent Jesus to be clean for us and that we are clean through him.  If only people would just follow Jesus and his will for their lives and not try to live according to what they think is right.  Life would be so much better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Short musing from Sunday

I taught on God making night and day and recalled one kid from when I ministered in Loganville asking why stars were created. So I included a part in the lesson about God making the moon, sun, and stars for his glory and even the principle from WSC question 1 about why people were created: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. One kid asked if that includes people who murder and kill. I didn't have a complete answer to the question at the time. I have to say that it does but such people are doing what they want and not what God wants. That is what sin is. When we sin, we do not serve our original purpose, but God can even redeem those people who murder from their sin and from death. I hope I got the message across. I know if a kid asked a question, then I did something right.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mark: 5000, walk on water, unclean hands, two reactions and then the right one

Mark 6:35-7:4

In this passage, Jesus feeds the 5000, walks on water, heals people, and then the Pharisees gripe about him and his minions not washing their hands properly before eating.

From what I can see, there are two and a half responses to Jesus in all of these passages.

1). They wanted to force him to be king.  Some people try to say that Jesus didn't really multiply the bread and fish.  They say that when one little boy offered his lunch, the rest suddenly remembered that they had brought their lunchboxes and ate.  No, no, no.  This miracle is the only miracle other than the resurrection of Jesus that is in all four gospels.  This was a huge miracle.  This reminded the people of the manna in the desert and they also expected the Messiah to rescue them from Roman occupation and make Israel great again.  So, they saw Jesus as at least the next Moses to lead them on another exodus and this was his sign.  John 6 talks more about what went down than Mark does.  The only thing is, he was already their king from eternity.  And he didn't come only for them.  And they needed an exodus from an occupation far more serious than the Romans.  They needed salvation from hell and damnation.  They needed to be saved from their sins.  So, they had one extreme reaction where they approved of Jesus but wanted him to fulfill what they thought they needed rather than what he actually came to do.

1.5). Greater fear than any bad storm. After Jesus had graciously ministered to the masses, he still wanted some alone time after just having heard about his cousin, John the Baptist's death.  He needed some grieving time.  He send his minions across the lake without him.  A big storm came and it was night.  The disciples were freaking out.  Then, here is Jesus walking on the water.  This is the main way that Mark proves that Jesus is God.  Only God could master the water and the waves that way and walk on them like it was just normal ground.  When the hungry 5000 wanted to make him king, he showed his disciples that he was better than that, he was God the Son.  And when he got to the boat, Mark uses his favorite word, "immediately," and the storm just stopped again.  Once again, the disciples were more afraid after he calmed the storm than before.

2). The Pharisees completely reject and insult him.  Most of their country sees Jesus as a man who is making changes.  The Pharisees see someone not following the rules that they follow so well that they made rules around the rules.  Apparently when Jesus fed all those people, he did not do the ceremonial washing that they think God the Father wanted because he wanted them to eat clean food.  And if God wants them to eat clean food, then he must want them to wash elaborately, too.  This is far more complicated than washing your hands in warm water for 20 seconds and then turning the faucet off with the paper towel before drying your hands.  No, this is more like a whole bath.

Then again, God wanted clean hearts, not stupid rituals that he didn't actually set.  And just like the first reaction, they went the other extreme where they disapproved of Jesus because he was not fulfilling what they thought they needed rather than what he actually came to do.  Which is the right reaction?  Neither extreme.  We simply need to fear Jesus more than a storm the way the disciples did.  So much will go right if we do so.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mark: rejections, familiarity, martyrdom, and mere harassment. Also, Jesus has time for you.

Mark 6:1-34

Jesus goes to his hometown, but the people there saw him grow up in the home of Mary and Joseph with his brothers and sisters.  To them, there is no way that this young guy could be a prophet.  They remember when he first started walking.  And thus familiarity breeds contempt.  If you grew up knowing Jesus in a Christian home in America or even in a private Christian school, do you kind of roll your eyes whenever Jesus's name comes around?  Do you ever wonder why you need him?  Contrast that with someone raised in public school where Jesus had to remain in the background.  Its like, sometimes, the people who believe in Jesus who went to public school take him for granted a little less.  When I first went to Trevecca, it nearly brought tears to my eyes to have professors pray before class.  I went to Salem High School where you couldn't even really sing specifically about Jesus in chorus because you might offend nonbelievers (though you could get away with God, just not specifically Jesus.)  I hold to my Christian faith quite strongly because although my parents raised me in the faith, I did not take my faith for granted because Jesus was not the center of school (although I had many positive faith experiences there) and I came to him on my own.

Next part: Jesus sends out his disciples, not just the 12, but other trainees as well.  Some towns will accept Christ and his salvation, and others will not.  The disciples simply must shake the dust off their feet and treat the latter towns as unclean for the time being, although they should not treat them as unreachable.  The truth is, all people are born rejecting Jesus.  Unless Christ changes your life, unless the Father draws you to him, you will not believe, thus says John 6:44.  All the disciples where specifically called by Jesus.  They did not initiate their rabbinical relationship with him (although, I think all rabbis called their disciples, not just Jesus.)  Still, Jesus initiates all the relationships that believe and obey him.  He also wants those people to bring other people to him.  If those people reject Jesus, he still wants us to continue to try to reach them until we can't anymore.

Next: King Herod rejects Christ, but it is through John the Baptist.  Herod Antipas is in an incestuous relationship with his brother's wife, Herodias, who is also actually his niece.  Her father was Herod the Great's son, a son that Herod had killed for possibly trying to take his throne.  John the Baptist called own Herod for this.  Herodias wanted him dead, but Herod kept him alive and in prison because although he hated his message, he still thought he was interesting and amusing.  Then, Herodias's daughter danced a very sensual dance for Herod.  He eventually had an affair with her, too.  Her promised her up to half the kingdom in front of his guests, and she wished for John's head on a platter, so he granted that wish.  Thus, John was martyred, not really for speaking the truth, but because a girl danced.

How we Christians today are marginalized for speaking out against perversions to sexuality.  God created the wonderful gift of sex to be within a married couple that is man and woman.  Man wants to do what man wants and so people will have sex outside of marriage, live together without being married, and try to have same-gender relationships.  Christians speak out against this.  At least we aren't put in prison yet.  We can lose businesses, lawsuits, and misguided Christians will say we are judgmental.  But we are not yet incarcerated or killed for our love of the truth yet.  And we are still to love sinners enough to tell them that they are wrong and that they will perish in hell unless they give their lives to Jesus.  Oh, how I have failed the Lord in that respect!  I want to be bolder with the truth.

Finally, after Jesus hears that his cousin John has been killed, he seeks a place to be alone, but thousands come to be healed and to hear him speak.  In his weariness, he still finds time to minister to their bodies and souls.  Sinners, our Lord has time for you.  Please, let go of your own way and go to Jesus who is so much better than your desires and dreams.  He will heal you.  He healed me of my sinful desires and self-righteousness.  He can heal anyone.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mark: Jesus lets a girl die while healing an interrupting woman and then goes and heals the dead girl

Mark 5:21-6:4
In this passage, a synagogue ruler, Jairus, comes and asks Jesus to heal his deathly sick daughter.  In Mark, she is at the point of death.  In other synoptic gospels, she has already died.  Whatever the case, it was serious.  So Jesus responds to this Jewish religious leader who had been given genuine faith from God.

On his way to help Jairus, crowds are swamping out Jesus.  A woman, who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years, comes seeking healing.  She successfully sneaks up to Jesus, believes that if he touches his cloak, that she will be healed, and does so.  Immediately, she is healed.  This woman had a superstitious belief that touching a religious man's clothes might heal her.  That is not what healed her.  God's mercy healed her.  And Jesus, being the gracious lover that he is, takes the time to tell her that it was her faith that healed her.  Not touching Jesus's clothes or beating through a crowd, but faith.

It is also wonderful that he sweetly calls her "daughter."  Since she essentially had her period nonstop for 12 years, she was ritually unclean and had no relationships.  But God never stopped loving her and graciously showed her his amazing Son.

Then, Jairus comes and tells Jesus that his daughter has died and that he will no longer bother him.  All of Jairus's hopes and dreams are gone, but Jesus is not done.  He says, "Do not fear, only believe."  Jesus then goes to the house and tells the people that the girl is only asleep.  They laughed at him, and in no uncertain terms, Mark tells us that Jesus put them all out.  He took them by their shirts and belts and threw them out of the house, much like he will clean the temple later on.  Then he raises the girl.

Disciples like me can learn 1) 12-year long menstruation cycles and death are the most unclean situations to be in, but they are not too much for Jesus.  They don't ruin Jesus, and in fact, he makes them better.  He can heal them all.  So, if you are in a situation, you must not fear but believe.  He was willing to let a girl die to heal another woman.  He can heal you and then go and raise the dead.  And he will raise all the dead on the day he comes back to earth.  Just you wait.

2) All of faith is a gift.  Usually synagogue rulers were the ones most opposed to Jesus.  Not Jairus.  He believed with a faith not his own.  The unclean woman also had faith that was a gift.  She thought her faith was in touching clothes, but it was a gift from God that Jesus clarified the moment he healed her.  Our faith doesn't come by a good church position, any action we could take, or any decision we make.  It is all from God, and it is given in varying degrees to different people.  But the main thing is what Jesus said, "Don't be afraid.  Only believe."  When Jesus tells you that, then you must believe.  And he will help you grow from there.  Just trust in his Holy Spirit.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mark: Jesus's first missionary

Mark 5:6-24a
After describing the demon possessed man in the Gadarene region, Mark shows how Jesus healed the man.  He asked the guy's name.  He said, "Legion," because there were many demons in the man.  They begged Jesus not to send them to hell just yet.  Jesus sent them to a herd of pigs who rushed headlong into the sea and drowned.  The rest of the town told Jesus to leave, but not before Jesus made the newly healed man the missionary to that region.

Then, Jesus and company go back to the Jewish side of town and a synagogue ruler, Jairus, asks Jesus to heal his daughter.  Jesus goes with him.

The presence of pigs shows readers that Jesus had taken his disciples to a place where Gentiles lived.  Pigs were unclean to Jews and no Jewish town would keep them as livestock.

After Jesus had just weirded out his disciples by calming the storm, he made things even more weird by taking them to the uncleanest region he could think of.  A Gentile town, with a herd of pigs, in a graveyard, with a demon-possessed man.

Perhaps Jesus was trying to teach them that without his presence, they are just as unclean if not more.  Jesus came to save sinners.  All kinds of sinners.  He came to clean the unclean.  And all people are hopeless until Jesus shows up and changes them in the inside, making them able to love and follow him.

It would take much longer for the disciples to understand that they were to spread the message to non-Jews, too.  Peter had to be shown a vision of a sheet being lowered with unclean animals and God telling him to not call unclean what God has made clean, before he went to see Cornelius with Jesus's Gospel.  But when that happened, he probably remembered this day in the uncleanest graveyard and told Mark to write about it.

When Jesus heals the man, the town not only shows that they are Gentiles, but also the kind of environmentalists that think pigs are more important than people.  This precious man had been bound by Satan for so long, and the demons just kept growing and growing until nobody could control him.  And all they can think about is that their pigs and income are all dead in the Galilean water.

The newly healed man wished to go with Jesus, but Jesus, having mercy on the town, told the man to share the Gospel with this town.  Jesus's first missionary was this man.  He got to be a missionary before the Apostles.  God can to the same for you and your children too.  If anybody you know it hopeless, he or she is not beyond our Lord's healing touch.