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Day 254 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue Mark.
Mark 9 – Jesus’ command to silence is necessary, since His disciples still hold to a narrow, political, Davidic-royal expectation of the Messiah. While Peter has confessed Jesus as Messiah (8:29) by divine revelation (Matthew 16:17), He does not yet (Mark 8:32–33) grasp the true nature of Jesus as eternal Son of God (12:6; Psalm 2) and as the Son of Man (Mark 8:38; Daniel 7:13–14) who must suffer to atone for our sins (Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53:1–12).
As followers of Jesus, we grow and mature in our hearts, wills, and minds toward reflecting Jesus to others around us. Through the gospel, we are beckoned into such a life.
Jesus continues to deal with demons and human opposition. The weapons against such things are prayer and faith. While His miracles are less emphasized in the second half of Mark, Jesus still undergirds His teaching by means of exorcism and healing. Even though the divine nature of Jesus has now become apparent to the disciples, the struggle against opposition continues. The nature of the coming of the kingdom rule of God is thereby revealed. It does not arrive suddenly and fully but grows progressively, developing from inconspicuous weakness yet with certainty and determined invincibility.
Believers are not necessarily protected from various effects of the fall, including sickness, oppression, suffering, and the various other difficulties of life. Prayer and even faith are gifts of God, through which we draw near to God in trust and surrender. We depend on our Lord, knowing that the struggle against spiritual and human opposition to His reconciling purposes has by no means ceased in our own day. Our physical well-being may (example, Acts 27:44) or may not (example, Acts 7:59–60) be sustained. But whatever happens to us, we remember that Jesus has died and risen again, and we are eternally united to Him who now sits at God’s right hand. Our final glory and rest are assured.
The crucial kingdom marks of humility and childlike trust are prominently featured throughout Mark 35–50. The disciples are to pursue a style of servant leadership which stands in sharp contrast to the oppressive approach of the political and religious leaders around them that is so natural to every human mind apart from the Gospel.
Jesus does not encourage a follower to be childish; rather, He emphasizes that a follower must be childlike in trust and humble simplicity. The power of humility lies in the fact that it does not boast in or rely on its own strength, but trusts instead in Him who is powerful and infinitely resourceful (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). Humility is not self-seeking; rather, it seeks to pursue God’s purposes in God’s way. Though it feels like weakness, therefore, humility is in fact deeply powerful. Servant leadership is one expression of humility. It is the path Jesus Himself took in suffering and dying for us.
Humility can be tricky, since claiming we have it may reveal that we don’t. Nevertheless, how do you allow Jesus’ humility to lead you to serve those around you?
Mark 10 – The Pharisees brought up an ethical question concerning marriage, in an attempt to brand Jesus as an opponent of the law of Moses. If Jesus’ opponents succeeded, Jesus would be known as a man who spoke against God’s revealed Word. Instead, Jesus once more exposes the hard-heartedness of those who sought to live out the law in only an external way.
The follower of Jesus is, above all, a person whose heart is not self-seeking or self-defensive. Rather, the inner being of a follower has been so softened that the need for a radical change is recognized—which affects his or her attitude (in this context) toward marriage and divorce. While there are many painful circumstances in marriage, the grace of God can manifest itself in the softening of one or both parties toward God and thus toward each other. Jesus’ disciples are empowered to live in such a way, laying down what feels to them to be their rights, because Jesus laid down His rights on their behalf to purchase them as His own bride.
The mercy of God’s purposes extends to all people, including those who are not esteemed in a given society. As a deliberate example of this, Jesus loves and blesses children. He reminds us that it is childlike simplicity and trust that marks those who belong to God’s kingdom. Intellectual sophistication, physical abilities, social popularity, or any of the world’s ways of assessing worth are not the scale by which God measures significance and welcomes people into His presence.
Every human being is made in the image of God and therefore has innate dignity, and thus ought not to be undervalued; and every Believer is still a fallen person and therefore ought not to overvalue himself or herself.
Jesus highlights the serious conflict of interests between the pursuit of material wealth and entry into God’s kingdom. As Jesus puts it in Matthew’s Gospel, no one can serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). Our ultimate allegiance funnels down into one thing only.
Material wealth can give a false and delusionary sense of security whereby trust in and dependence on God seems unnecessary. The young man was strictly obedient to the law of Moses. Yet his great wealth came to blind him to the idolatry that was in his life; while he kept the horizontal commandments (having to do with loving one’s neighbor), he had failed to keep the vertical commandments (having to do with loving God). The fact that he had broken the very first vertical commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me”; Exodus 20:3) becomes evident in two ways. First, the young man gives himself the status of God, claiming to be good, when Jesus has just told him, “No one is good except God alone.” Second, the young man makes it clear, when asking for God’s blessing, that his real god is money. If he would turn his worship and trust from that god to the true God, the way would be open for him to be welcomed into the kingdom of God as a follower of Jesus. While not every Believer is called to give up all of his or her money, we are all called to put God’s priorities above all else.
Mark 10:23–31 The disciples are “exceedingly astonished” by Jesus because, in first-century Judaism, wealth was associated with the blessing of God (Job 1:1–3). If it was impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom, then, what hope could there be for anyone?
Once again Jesus turns upside down the natural assumptions of His disciples about the way the kingdom works. Because it is childlike trust and not outward “blessings” such as wealth that qualifies one for the kingdom, the entrance into God’s favor is effectively inverted from what is naturally expected. As Jesus puts it, “many who are first will be last, and the last first.” All this is true because Jesus—the “first” if ever there was one—made Himself“last” by going to a cross, so that those who simply acknowledge they are “last” can receive the grace of being “first”—forgiven and restored to fellowship with God as part of His kingdom.
Jesus again focuses on humility and servant leadership in verses 32-45, which would be uniquely exemplified in His impending substitutionary atonement. Jesus describes His own death and resurrection by means of the metaphors of the “cup” (Isaiah 51:17–23; Jeremiah 25:15–28) and of “baptism” (Job 22:11). Both describe a severe though temporary judgment of God. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, the judgment of God begins with Jerusalem and then extends to the nations that oppress Judah (Isaiah 51:22–23; Jeremiah 25:29). Surprisingly, Jesus is the first to take the cup of judgment (Luke 12:50), thereby protecting His followers who will drink the cup and receive the baptism after Him. Their judgment is thus converted into a purifying fire (Luke 3:16: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”; see also 1 Peter 4:17). On account of the substitutionary atonement of Him who drank the cup and underwent the baptism first, judgment of His followers has been averted.
A significant mark of discipleship is that of Christlike humility, which arises from purification in and through suffering. Based on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, God works purity into the lives of His followers by means of purifying discipline—as an expression of His love.
Servant leadership grows out of such God-surrendered humility, whereby the disciple intentionally serves those around him or her, seeking to employ his or her gifts for the sake of others. Christlike humility, especially in leadership, is neither oppressive (like the Gentile leaders) nor spineless. The inner strength and power of humility lies in the fact that the Believer relies fully on God: on His power, His purposes, and His resources. Such a humble person will be strong and persistent in God-dependent character and “weak” in self-reliance.
The healing of blind Bartimaeus echoes the two-stage healing of the blind man in 8:22–26. It also continues the theme that Jesus reaches toward the outcast as one who is equally invited to follow Him, receive His saving atonement, and thus enter the kingdom of God. No matter who we are, Jesus’ immense grace is sufficient. A future follower of Jesus must only call out as Bartimaeus did: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
We also see the gospel of grace in the subtle contrast of James and John with blind Bartimaeus. To both parties Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Yet while James and John request glory, Bartimaeus requests mercy. James and John, though physically seeing, were spiritually blind. Bartimaeus, though physically blind, was spiritually seeing. It is on those who know their need, not those who assume their superiority, that God pours out mercy.
We are all leaders in some area of our lives. How do you allow Jesus to creat in you a servants heart?
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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