Sunday, June 04, 2023



Some Will See The Kingdom


This verse causes much discussion and disagreement both as to its placement and its meaning. Some believe the verse should be the last verse in chapter 8. That is because they think the subject matter of 9:1 is the same as 8:38. 

Others believe it is properly placed as the first verse in chapter 9. It begins with Jesus saying a truth to them, which can Mark is indicating a new story.  Mark then tells the story of the transfiguration. 

So, what did Jesus mean when he said some of those there would not die until they saw the coming in the kingdom of God in power? There are several views.

First, some say it refers to the transfiguration, where Jesus’ glory is revealed. The weakness to that theory is that it would seem odd to give such a dramatic prophesy about something that will happen in six days. (2) Also, it is unclear how the revealing of his glory is the coming of the kingdom in power. 

Second, some believe it refers to the second coming of Christ. Since that did not happen within the lifetime of the disciples, it is used to claim Jesus made a mistake. I do not believe Jesus made mistakes. 

Also, Jesus saying when he would return would also conflict with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:36: ““But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

Third, some believe, and I agree, that it refers to Jesus’ resurrection. It would not happen immediately, but it would happen within the lifetime of most of Jesus’ followers. Romans 1:4 says Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 2:9 tells us that God the Father exalted Jesus above everyone so that every knee will bow to him. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us Jesus must reign until all his enemies are defeated, then he will hand the kingdom to the Father. 



 Six days after Peter’s confession, Jesus took his insiders, Peter, James, and John, up on a high mountain. Mark does not usually give us specific time markers. This one might be to point us to the similarity of the Transfiguration to Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 24. 

The traditional site for the high mountain is Mount Tabor. However, Mount Hermon is closer to where Jesus was (Caesarea Philippi) and higher. 

Moses went up onto a mountain to wait for God. He waited six days while the cloud of the glory of God covered the top of the mountain. Then, on the seventh day, the glory of the Lord appeared to Moses like a devouring fire. Moses entered the cloud.

Here, on the seventh day, Jesus was transfigured before the three apostles. His glory shown forth so that even his clothes became radiantly, intensely, white. It was whiter than anything the apostles had seen, unnaturally white and bright. Matthew 17:2 adds that Jesus’ face shone like the sun. Moses’ face also shined after being in God’s presence.

Then Elijah and Moses appeared, taking to Jesus. (4) (Wouldn’t you have liked to hear that conversation?) Moses and Elijah only appear together in one Old Testament passage. Malachi 4:4-6 says:

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Moses and Elijah prepared Israel for the coming of Jesus, the final prophet. Some commentators think Moses represents the law and Elijah the prophets of the old covenant. 

Hebrews 8:6, 13 tells us that the new covenant is much more excellent than the old and that the new covenant makes the old covenant obsolete.  Thus, Moses and Elijah disappear and only Jesus remains.   

At this point, Peter began to babble. He was terrified. (6) He started talking about building three tabernacles so they could stay there. Sometimes, it is better not to speak.

He was interrupted by a cloud overshadowing them on the mountain and a voice speaking from the cloud. This is the same way God spoke to Moses in Exodus 24:15-18. 

God told the apostles: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him”. Thus the Father affirmed Jesus as his son and his love for his son. Then he instructed the apostles to listen to Jesus. The implication is “Jesus is my son and speaks for me”.

Hebrews 1:1 says “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoke to us by his Son…”

This was a particularly needed instruction for them, as shown by Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ teaching about his death and resurrection. The apostles also need to hear Jesus about the nature of discipleship, the taking up of the cross that he had just taught them. 

This command from God echoes that of Deuteronomy 18:18-19:

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” 

 Peter later came to understand. He wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-18 that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ majesty and heard the Father speak from heaven, while they were on the mountain, the words recorded in Mark. 

Likewise, John wrote “we have seen his glory”. (John 1:14) 

The command to listen to Jesus is vital to us today also. We must read his words and obey them if we are to be disciples. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023




Peter’s Confession

Jesus took the disciples north to Cesarea Philippi, a full day’s walk from Bethsaida. This again was a Gentile area. It was in the territory of Philipp the Techrach. He took a small village and built it into a city to honor Caesar. He built a temple to Caesar there. 

It was also a center of pagan worship. Originally, it was a center of Baal worship and was called Balinas. Then the Greeks turned it into a place to worship Pan, a god of nature. 

As they walked, Jesus taught the disciples. He asked them who people said he was. They repeated the speculation. 

Some people thought he was the resurrected John the Baptist, or Elijah returned from heaven. Others thought he was the return of one of the other Old Testament prophets. 

This shows us that, while many people wanted to see Jesus heal or listen to him teach, the did not know or believe who he was. They were spiritually blind, like the Pharisees who came to argue with Jesus. 

After getting them to repeat of the speculation about him, Jesus asked them what they thought. This question intensifies the situation, calling on the disciples to confess their faith in who Jesus is. Amazingly, Peter declares, or confesses, that Jesus is the Christ (messiah). His confession represents the confession of the Twelve. 

Remember that “Christ”, from the Greek, and “Messiah”, from the Hebrew, are both titles. They derive from the Greek and Hebrew words for “anointed one”. 

William Barclay translates this verse as follows:

“You - who do you say that I am”. Peter answered him, “You are God’s Anointed One”. 

In response, Jesus gave the disciples strict instructions to tell no one about him. (30) Why did Jesus say this? Why not tell them to start preaching right then? 

Despite his confession, the fact is that Peter did not understand what type of Messiah\Christ Jesus was. We will see this plainly in the next story. 

The Jewish belief at the time was of a Superman king who would defeat the pagan nations and restore Israel to the greatness it once had. Many Jewish writings between the times of the Old Testament and New Testament taught this.

Peter also did not understand all that being a disciple and apostle would entail. He now had partial sight only, like the blind man after Jesus first touched him. 

Jesus would soon teach him what all this meant. 


Jesus Reveals His Fate

Having received Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus began to teach the disciples what this meant and what would happen in the future. He said it plainly, not couched in parables. (32)

He said “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (31) 

So, Jesus, as Christ, had these things in his future:

  1. Suffering
  2. Rejection
  3. Death
  4. Resurrection.

These things are in complete opposition to the understanding of the Messiah at the time. They are reflective of Old Testament prophesy, however. For example, Isaiah 53:1-2:

“Who has believed what he has heard from us and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not.” 

Peter revealed his lack of understanding and his rejection of God’s will. He actually took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him for saying these things. Peter wanted the victorious warrior king as Messiah, not the suffering servant or sacrificial lamb. He rejected God’s design for salvation. 

Jesus then strongly rebuked Peter, apparently in the hearing of the other disciples. He said “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (31) 

That had to hurt, having Jesus call you Satan. But Jesus realized that Peter was not motivated by serving God at that moment, but seeking an earthly kingdom and power. He was used of Satan in that moment to tempt Jesus. 

Satan had previously tempted Jesus face to face in the wilderness, showing him all the kingdoms of earth and saying “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me”. (Matthew 4:9) The offer was to rule the nations without experiencing suffering and death on the cross for sinners. 

Satan offered the same this time, but speaking through the leader of Jesus’ followers. And, as Jesus told Satan to be gone (Matthew 4:10), he told Peter to get behind him, to get out of the way. Jesus was determined to follow the will of the Father and the plan of redemption. 


Jesus Teaches Discipleship

Jesus then called the whole crowd to him and taught them the meaning of discipleship. It did not mean being privilege, it meant sacrifice. A disciple would deny himself, saying no to himself and yes to Jesus. 

For those looking to be powerful, as when the mother of James and John sought privileged position for her sons in the kingdom, Jesus said no. (Matthew 20:20-28) Rather, discipleship means denying yourself, not seeking power or privilege. 

It also meant sacrifice, taking up your own cross. The cross meant being treated as a criminal for following Jesus. It meant death and suffering. Jesus was saying the disciple must be prepared and willing to give his life for Jesus. These are all things Jesus did and suffered. He does not call us to do what he was unwilling to do. 

Then, denying one’s self and being willing to sacrifice, one follows Jesus wherever he leads. He might lead you to a normal life doing the ordinary things people do, but always living for Jesus and proclaiming him. But it might mean going somewhere away from home to proclaim the gospel, risking opposition and even physical death. 

The alternative, according to Jesus is losing your life when you try to save it. But those who give their lives for Jesus will be saved. Your soul is more important than anything. Gaining the whole world in this life is worth nothing if you lose your soul for eternity. (36)

Judgment is certain. Those who reject Jesus in this life, being ashamed of him, will be rejected by him when he returns in glory and with the holy angels. (38)

So, in this chapter we see how Mark has grouped stories together to make a point. There was a man at Bethsaida who was blind. Jesus’ first action gave him partial sight. Only the second round gave him full sight.

The Pharisees who opposed Jesus were blind. Due to their lack of belief, Jesus walked away and left them blind. 

Peter and the disciples had partial sight. Their exposure to Jesus, their partial understanding, and their belief allowed them to finally see that Jesus is the Christ, but not to understand the kind of Christ he is. They do not understand that he will not fight military battles, but will suffer, die and rise again. But, they will understand later, after receiving the Holy Spirit. 

There are many versions of Jesus presented today. But the only version that matters is the one revealed in the Bible. The real Jesus did not come to make everything good for you in this life. He lived a perfect life for our sake and died a substitutionary death for our sins.

He demands belief, trust, and obedience if we are to enter into his eternal kingdom. He rewards us with eternal life and fellowship with God. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023



Mark 8

In the first four stories in this chapter, we will see two motifs. First, the topic of bread is a common thread that leads to discussions the disciples do not understand. Second, the theme of blindness versus sight is used as a metaphor for the level of understanding and belief of various people. 

A 2nd Miraculous Feeding


Jesus was again faced with a crowd that had nothing to eat. These were people who were committed to hearing his teaching and preaching. They had been following him for 3 days and had nothing to eat. And, again Jesus had compassion on them and was concerned for their ability to have enough strength to walk home. (2)

The disciples again are unbelieving and unthinking. It was a desolate place and they could not find a place to buy bread for 4,000 people. This is despite the fact that Jesus already fed 5,000 or more people from a boy’s sack lunch. 

This time the disciples evidently had 7 loaves of bread and some fish. Jesus multiplied them to feed all of the crowd to satisfaction, and had 7 baskets left over. 

This time he fed Gentiles rather than Jews. This event evidently occurs in the Decapolis. Jesus showed that he is the bread of life for Jews and Gentiles both. And, Mark shows his Roman readers that Jesus personally expresses compassion for the Gentile crowd. 

Pharisees & Signs


After dismissing the crowd, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat and sail to another place. Dalmanutha is another name for Magdala, which is on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, back in territory that is more Jewish. 

These verses are another of Mark’s sandwich insertions. He interrupted the story of the disciples and the bread to relate this story of an encounter with the Pharisees.

Mark makes it clear the Pharisees sought a confrontation. They came and began to argue with him. They are arguing that he is not the Messiah. Then they demand a sign from heaven for him to prove who he is. This means they literally demanded that the Father give a sign that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. 

Jesus sighed deeply. (12) The idea is of an inward groaning, or groaning in his spirit. It is a dismay or despair caused by the Pharisees lack of belief in him despite the miracles he has done and his teaching with authority. Their hearts are hardened against him.

Of course, Jesus did not do tricks for show. His miracles were usually at the request of those who had faith in him and approached him in humility. These Pharisees do neither. So, Jesus refused to give them a sign. He just left them, got in the boat, and went back across to the other side of the lake.


Back To The Bread Motif

The disciples are not looking good or smart in this story. Once they are in the boat, bread came into play again. The disciples realized they had only one loaf of bread. This is despite the fact that there were 7 baskets full of bread and fish left over from the previous miracle.

They were evidently discussing this lack of bread among themselves. Using the topic of bread as a metaphor, and fresh from the confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus broke into the conversation with a warning to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, which would include the Jews who cooperated with Herod. (15) They were called Herodians. 

These two groups have little in common. The Pharisees hated the Roman government and the Herodians cooperated with it. But neither believed in Jesus and both wanted to destroy him. So, they were joined in opposition to Jesus.

Leaven is a type of yeast. If you put it in bread dough, it spreads throughout the whole dough. Leaven is also often a symbol for sin in the New Testament. So, Jesus breaks into this discussion of bread to warn the disciples to avoid the corrupted teachings of these groups. 

The Pharisees were self-righteous and legalistic. The Herodians were pragmatists, doing what worked for their betterment. Jesus wanted the disciples to avoid both. He also wanted them to avoid the hardness of heart exhibited by his opponents. 

In response, the disciples began to discuss their lack of bread, having only one loaf. They seem oblivious to the fact that Jesus is trying to teach them something. They see his statement about leaven as being about bread. 

Possibly more amazing, the disciples are concerned with having only one loaf of bread although Jesus has now twice demonstrated his ability to multiply the loaves. 

Jesus appears exasperated, asking them why they are discussing having no bread. He questions them pointedly:

Do you not perceive or understand

Are you hearts hardened

Having eyes do you not see and having ears do you not understanding?

After his questions, Jesus walked them back through the two miraculous feedings and asks again if they understand. He is God and he can provide anything they need to live.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) 

Their response is not recorded, if they responded. So, we cannot conclude that they did understand. Or, maybe they were too embarrassed to understand. 


The Blind Man: An Object Lesson

Back in Bethsaida, on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus is confronted by people who wanted him to touch and heal a blind man.

Jesus led the man out of the village, indicating he did not want to make a spectacle of the healing. Then he engaged in a little ceremony, putting spit on his eyes. However, this time the man is not healed instantly. He sees better, but only shapes. So, Jesus did it again and he saw everythingclearly. (25)

Note that Jesus asked him if he saw anything. After feeding the 4,000, Jesus asked the disciples “do you not see”? (18) At this point, they only saw, or believed, partially. 

This is the only time in this gospel that a healing takes place in stages. So, that means Mark is trying to convey a message. The next story shows this. 


Peter’s Confession

Jesus took the disciples north to Cesarea Philippi, a full day’s walk from Bethsaida. As they walked, Jesus taught. 

He asked them who people said he was. They repeated the speculation. 

Some people thought he was the resurrected John the Baptist, or Elijah returned from heaven. Others thought he was the return of one of the other Old Testament prophets. 

This shows us that, while many people wanted to see Jesus heal or listen to him teach, the did not know or believe who he was. They were blind. Many today are willing to call Jesus a prophet or great teacher, but reject his true identity. 

After getting them to repeat of the speculation about him, Jesus asked them what they thought. This question intensifies the situation, calling on the disciples to confess their faith in who Jesus is. Amazingly, Peter declares, or confesses, that Jesus is the Christ (messiah). His confession represents the confession of the Twelve. 

Despite his confession, the fact is that Peter did not understand what type of Messiah Jesus was. He also did not understand all that being a disciple and apostle would entail. He now had partial sight only, like the blind man after Jesus first touched him. 

Jesus would soon teach him what all this meant. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

 I drove down to a small town with my wife to attend a kindergarten end of year ceremony. There was a grandson involved.  People in Waxahachie take these seriously. We got there 30 minutes before it was supposed to start and there was already a line of 50 people waiting to get in.

The principal handed out great awards: best P.E. Spirit, Lego Master, Future Engineer, Kindness Award, Friendliness Award, and Most Improved at this or that. My favorite was “most improved”. It was so much nicer than saying you were really bad at this when you first got here.

Each kid got 4 awards with a certificate and a little Oscar statue. Their teachers posed with each one for the parent’s to take pictures.

The kids sang some songs. Actually, the music teacher sang and the kids joined in periodically between jumps, random hand motions, waving to family members, or picking at each other. It was very entertaining. My favorites were the girl in the shiny pink dress and pink cowgirl boots who waved at the crowd with both hands like she was used to being adored and, of course, my grandson.

Lots of grandparents were there, including us. All of the families cheered and clapped when their little one was announced. The kids beamed in return. 

As they all trooped off stage after the last song, my thought was how blessed these kids are. They are loved and cared for. They do not even know anything different. Which is how it should be. 

You should go to one of these, even if you do not have a kid in the school. It was the most wholesome and happy thing I have been to in a while. 

Say what you want about the state of the world, on that night, in that auditorium, there was nothing but love of parents and grandparents for their kids, kids reveling in that love, and educators who worked hard to honor their students and their families. 

Way to go, folks. 

Monday, May 15, 2023


 A Gentile Has Faith

Mark 7:24-30

Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. That is north of Galilee in what is now Lebanon. He may have been avoiding the Pharisees. They were beginning to attack him. He also may have had concerns about Herod, who thought Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist, whom he had murdered. 

It could also be that Jesus wanted more time to teach the Twelve. They clearly did not understand all of his teaching, as previous stories has showed us. The fact that he did not want anyone to know they were there shows he hoped for some privacy. 

This is a Gentile area. The Pharisees believed contact with Gentiles made you unclean, or defiled, requiring ceremonial washing. This continues the theme of 7:1-23 regarding what defilement, which ended with Jesus saying external things did not defile you or make you unclean.

It was also a pagan area. Most worshipped Canaanite gods. This is the area Jezebel was from many years before. She married Ahab, the king of Israel. She led the king and the nation to worship Baal. (1 Kings 16) The disciples must have been puzzled. Surely the Messiah would not go into a pagan country unless it was to destroy it. 

Yet, God sent the prophet Elijah to Zarephath in this very region. (1 Kings 17:8) There he raised a widow’s son from the dead and miraculously provided food for them. 

You can see that Jesus’ fame had spread. Although he tried to stay anonymous, a woman with a problem immediately found him. This woman was a Gentile, being born in this area (“a Syrophenician by birth”). Jesus is in an unclean area and dealing with an unclean woman. 

The woman’s problem was a daughter possessed by an unclean spirit. She did not bring her daughter to Jesus. She might not have been able to. She left her daughter at home. But she came to Jesus in faith, believing he could he could cast out the demon. (26) And she came in humility, falling on her face before him. (25) 

Jesus’ response seems harsh at first glance. He said to let the children be fed first because it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (27) He spoke metaphorically. The children are the Jews, the bread is the gospel, and the dogs are the Gentiles. Some Jews of that time, such as Pharisees, referred to Gentiles as dogs, lesser beings that Jews. It sounds less harsh in the original Greek, as the word used for dogs here is not the word for feral dogs that roam the streets, but small dogs kept as pets (part of the household). 

The principle Jesus mentions here is that it was God’s plan to send the gospel to the Jews first, then to the rest of the world. 

Paul stated that principle this way:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”. (Romans 1:16) Paul also practiced this principle, going to the synagogue first to preach the gospel in every city he visited. 

The Jews were the people to whom God chose to reveal his plan of redemption.  Jesus told the woman at the well that salvation was from the Jews. (John 4:22) The promise of a savior was that he was to be the descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews, and of David, the most revered king of the Jews. 

In Romans 2:9-10, Paul also says judgment for disobedience will come first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. So, the blessing is first offered to the Jews, and they also have the first responsibility to receive Christ. 

Although God’s plan was to give the gospel to the Jews first, Jesus did not turn away Gentiles who came to him in persistent faith as this woman did. In response to Jesus’ statement, she claimed a right to the “crumbs”. She seems to understand the metaphor, or parable, better than the disciples have been understanding parables. She does not attempt to usurp God’s plan or her secondary place in it. So, she asks Jesus, believing he has enough grace to give her, just as the master of the house would have enough to feed the pets.

In response to her persistent faith, Jesus cast the demon from her daughter. Matthew 15:27 makes this clear, recording Jesus as saying “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire”. 

Ironically, this Gentile woman is the first person to understand a parable of Jesus. She understood and accepted his word. She asked for grace according to his word. Jesus brought salvation to Israel, but also intended Gentiles to partake of it. 

Martin Luther put it beautifully: She took Christ at his own words. He then treated her not as a dog but as a child of Israel”. 

The theological significance of this encounter is that the gospel may be first offered to the Jew, but it is offered to the Gentile on the same basis. The Gentile does not have to become a Jew first, or satisfy any other criteria of righteousness. The Gentile must simply have faith in Christ. And that is very good news. 

Healing A Deaf Man


Jesus left the region of Tyre, went north through Sidon, then down to the Decapolis region near the Sea of Galilee. It was a circuitous route through Gentile inhabited country. 

A crowd gathered. They brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and had a speech impediment. They wanted Jesus to heal the man. Jesus did.

In this case, Jesus did not just speak healing words. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and commanded them to be opened. Even more curious, Jesus spit on his fingers and touched the man’s tongue. 

Mark did not explain why Jesus did it this way. Certainly he showed compassion by dealing with the man personally and not remotely. There may have been some belief among the people that the spit of a prophet had healing powers. Regardless, we see these Gentiles coming to Jesus in faith that Jesus can and will heal a man.

The “insider\outsider” motif is here also. The Pharisees, who were religious insiders, rejected Jesus and gained no benefit from him. The Gentiles, who were outsiders, believed in him and received healing. They were “astonished beyond measure” at his healing power.