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Day 253 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue Mark.
Mark 7 – Jesus encounters opposition over the proper interpretation of the law of Moses. Jesus arises as the new Moses (the Prophet like Moses; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). According to Jesus, focus on the ceremonial laws of cleanliness at the expense of a renewed heart or mercy distorts the purpose of the law and of God Himself. On account of the profound defilement of the heart, even the Word of God gets reinterpreted or annulled for personal gain. The law cannot be fully or perfectly kept (Romans 7:13). Without renewed hearts, pursuing the law and a pure life is in vain (Mark 7:1–23). Our sinful hearts inevitably twist God’s good law toward selfish, self-excusing, self-justifying, or proud purposes.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Mosaic law (Matthew 5:17). As such, He enables His followers to live out the moral aims of the Mosaic law by purifying their hearts. Such faithful living is the fruit of complete dependence on Jesus.
The ceremonial and judicial aspects of the Mosaic law have been brought to completion in Jesus (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 10:16–23). Matthew 5–7 describes especially the refinement of the moral elements of Mosaic law, which Jesus now brings to fruition in the hearts of His followers.
Jesus’ ministry is one of both word and deed. His authoritative teaching runs parallel to the continuing display of His power to cast out demons, to heal, and to multiply food (7:24–8:10). Initially, His call goes out to the people of Israel, but Jesus already hints at a future work of the disciples among Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6, 10–12 and 49:1, 6, 22).
The follower of Jesus is above all being transformed as a person in fellowship and union with God. Only then does a disciple have the additional call of going to the ends of the earth with a holistic witness of proclaiming and living out the mission of God’s redemption. This redemption includes evangelism, service of mercy, and living as “salt” and “light” in the economic, political, and cultural spheres of our societies.
The healing of the deaf man who is also unable to speak is a messianic deed of mercy (Isaiah 61:1–2). It also serves to confront the disciples with their “deafness” of heart.
When Jesus heals people such as this deaf man, we tend to view these miracles in the Gospels as interruptions of the natural order. Yet given the promises of the Old Testament to restore the world to the way it was at the very beginning, miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain, and death seem natural. In fact, they are the interruption. Jesus’ supernatural miracles are a return to the truly natural.
How does this view of healing change your perspective about this life and the one God is restoring?
Mark 8 – The settled unbelief of the Jewish leaders becomes an object lesson and a serious warning for the disciples by means of the metaphor of “leaven”, which points to malicious self-sufficiency and hypocritical self-righteousness (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:8). But the disciples neither understand nor “see” or “hear” properly. Jesus takes up Old Testament figures of speech (blindness and deafness) to describe the hard heart of the disciples (Isaiah 6:9–10; 42:18–19; 43:8; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2).
Without radical, personal transformation by the gospel of grace, beginning with Jesus’ exposure of our own hearts, followers of Jesus have nothing of substance to convey to others (Ephesians 1:18). God has spoken grace to us; we speak in grace to others. Loved, we love. This is the pattern of gospel life.
Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples in verses 14–21 is reinforced by the contextual echoes of the healing of the deaf and mute man (7:32–35) and the two-stage healing of the blind man in this passage (8:22–26). These healings both represent messianic acts of mercy (Isaiah 61:1–2) and, in combination with Jesus’ direct warnings (Mark 8:15, 17–18, 21), serve as prophetic acts that expose the hard hearts of the disciples.
Even in Jesus’ presence, the disciples’ alertness is at best like that of the half-healed blind man, who “perceives people as trees moving about” (see v. 24). This dull perception of themselves and of Jesus extends to Peter’s divinely inspired confession of Him (Matthew 16:17) as Messiah, since it is mixed with human misconceptions. The deeply ingrained and virtually exclusive focus on the messianic expectation of a political, Davidic king, devoid of the characteristics of the suffering servant/Son of Man (Isaiah 53:1–12), exposes the disciples’ partial blindness. At this point they fail to see who Jesus really is: One whose humility is integral to His divine splendor. Consequently, though the disciples see that Jesus is the coming King, they do not understand that He must be a suffering King.
To grasp reality from God’s perspective, we must recognize that the path for Jesus, and the path for His disciples, does not make sense to our natural, intuitive ways of thinking.
The second half of Mark’s Gospel narrates the divine necessity of Jesus’ atoning suffering as well as the cost of following the Master. Jesus’ path of suffering does not invalidate His authority or His claims. Rather, the impending events of crucifixion and divine vindication by physical resurrection from death constitute the ultimate test and final proof of Jesus’ astonishing claims and authority. Jesus must both suffer and rule because both are necessary for the salvation of His people.
The severe events surrounding Jesus’ passion will mark the disciples in their fundamental self-understanding and in their grasp of the mission of the triune God: protected by Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, they are secure in His love. They too will be tested and opposed by Satan and by human hostility. Yet no one can snatch them out of God’s hand (John 10:28–29). In an ultimate sense, those who are united to Jesus are invincible.
In Mark 8:27–10:52, three times Jesus predicts His death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:32–34). Each time, what He says is followed by instruction on the cost and nature of discipleship (8:34–37; 9:35–50; 10:35–44). Jesus is radically changing the disciples’ perception of Him and of what His fate as Messiah must be if God’s people are to be restored. Jesus expands their narrow political perception of the expected Messiah: Jesus, the true Messiah, will endure suffering and humiliation (Isaiah 53:1–12), will be the atoning Son of Man (Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53:4–6, 8, 10–12), and will also be the exalted, divine Son of Man (Mark 8:38; 14:62; Daniel 7:13–14).
The disciples were right to understand the Messiah to be One who came to restore God’s people. But they failed to see that this restoration would not be as they expected but as they most deeply needed—not political but spiritual. They wanted rescue from the Romans; they needed rescue from their sins.
Jesus calls His disciples to let go of self-interest and self-reliance in order to be at Jesus’ disposal. As was the case in the call of Elisha (1 Kings 19:19–21), letting go of self-sufficiency is necessary in order to follow Jesus and His purposes. This radical call is fueled by the gospel, in which all our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God through Jesus (objectively). And yet our ongoing growth in Jesus continues the process of reversing our profound alienation from God (subjectively), since such a surrendered “walking with God” is the original design for human beings.
The follower of Jesus realizes the enabling love of Him who calls to such radical discipleship, recognizes the impurity in his own heart, and receives the reconciling and purifying work of Jesus on his or her behalf. Thus equipped, the disciple surrenders willingly small and large decisions, wishes, dreams, and so on, about marriage, work, and other aspirations. Such surrender includes the challenge of learning to bear responsibilities while keeping his or her will and thought in a guidable, non-controlling, and prayerful attitude before God.
This type of surrender does not end with self-abasement but requires assumption of the status and duties now assigned by our Lord. A disciple must remember: the One he or she surrenders to is good, trustworthy, wise, and powerful. The Master loves His followers and enables their faithfulness.
As we will see tomorrow, Jesus’ transfiguration (9:2–8) affords a glimpse into His enduring divine nature (Philippians 2:6). Jesus’ radiance exceeds that of Moses (Exodus 34:35), who merely reflected the radiance of God on his face. Jesus Himself radiates in purity and glory. The disciple of Jesus follows and trusts Him who shares divine glory with the Father (Colossians 2:9) and the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 42:1, in contrast to Isaiah 42:8). This facilitates trusting surrender to Him. Unlike any other religious leader, Jesus Christ is divine.
The appearance of Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets) with Jesus as His earthly ministry now turns toward passion and resurrection indicates that this is a culminating moment in redemptive history. The Law and the Prophets have led to this great provision of God’s Son for His people. The passion is preceded by glory that assures Jesus and His disciples of God’s abiding purpose, and the consequence will be an even greater glory.
How is Jesus love for you empowering you today and every day?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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