Sunday, March 26, 2023


 Jesus Calms A Storm


The section of Jesus’ teaching ended with the parable of the mustard seed. Mark returns to the narrative of Jesus’ actions. There are 4 stories in this section. They all show Jesus doing miracles. 

After teaching all day from a boat, Jesus wanted to take the boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So they took him. 

Notice all the detail here. They took him from the boat in which he sat, there were other boats, and Jesus slept on a cushion. These indicate a first hand account, likely from Peter. 

But while they were on the sea, a wind storm came up, which created big waves that were swamping the boat. The boat began to fill with water. The disciples were afraid it would sink. But Jesus slept peacefully on a cushion in the stern, or back, of the boat. His sleeping shows his humanity. He was likely exhausted after teaching all day.

But his sleeping also shows his trust in the Father. He had no fear of harm, knowing the Father controlled the time and manner of his death.

The disciples did not share his faith or trust. They were scared of dying. They actually chide Jesus as they wake him: do you not care that we are perishing? He was their leader and should be helping them, if not saving them. But he was sleeping. 

You have to wonder if Mark’s original audience of Christians in the Roman Empire were not in mind as Mark wrote this. They suffered. Maybe their response was doesn’t God care? 

In response to the disciples waking him, Jesus acts in a way that both meets their need and displays his glory. He calmed the storm. He exercised authority over the weather. Only God can do that. So, Jesus manifested his deity. 

One of Mark’s purposes in this gospel is to reveal the deity of Christ, to show that Jesus is God. 

Compare this story to the story of Jonah and notice the similarities. In both, God’s man is on a boat in the sea and there is a storm. Both Jonah and Jesus slept in the boat during the storm. In both, the others roused the sleeper to save them. Jonah was to pray and Jesus to act. In Jonah, God calmed the sea. In Mark, Jesus calms the sea, showing his deity. Jesus did what only God can do. 

There may also be an allusion to Psalm 107:23-32 where the Lord raised a storm on the sea, then stilled it when men cried out to him.  

The disciples reacted to this display the way people often do when confronted with the divine: they were filled with great fear. 


Jesus Exorcises Demons


After Jesus calmed the sea, the disciples continued with Jesus to the eastern shore. A man came out to see him who was demon possessed. 

The demons had the following effects on the man:

*he lived among the tombs with the dead

*he was so strong no one could bind him & he could break chains

*he cut himself

*he cried out all night.

He was miserable and self destructive. The devil will use receptive people to do what he wants, but he will always leave them broken and miserable. All humans are created in the image of God and the devil always seeks to destroy that image. 

From a Jewish perspective, there is a strong measure of uncleanness. The Decapolis was populated with unclean Gentiles. They raised pigs, which were unclean animals. Then there was the presence of a man possessed by unclean spirits. He lived among the tombs and Jews believed contact with dead bodies made you unclean. 

Yet, Jesus went there. It even appears there may have been demonic opposition in the form of the storm and now the demon possessed man. But Jesus will again bind the strong man. He invaded the kingdom of Satan and expanded the kingdom of God.

This man ran at, or maybe to, Jesus. (6) He was driven by the demons. They called themselves “Legion” there were so many of them. They were afraid of Jesus. They, through the man, fell down before Jesus, recognizing him and his authority. They begged for mercy. They did not want to be sent out of the country.

The demons begged Jesus to send them into the pigs. (12) So he did. But the pigs then rushed into the sea and drowned. 

The result for the man was that he was clothed and in his right mind. (16) He wanted to go and be with Jesus. Jesus told him to stay and tell what the Lord did for him and how he had mercy on him. So he did, and became an evangelist throughout the Decapolis area, telling what Jesus had done for him. (20) 

He is an example for us. God has done much for us in giving us eternal life. He has extended mercy for us through Jesus Christ, not consigning us to spiritual death for our sins, but giving us salvation. 

The result for the herdsmen was that they also went and told people what Jesus did. But they were afraid. They asked Jesus to leave. And he did, crossing the sea back to the western side. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023


 The Lamp & The Basket


The context here is still the appearance of the kingdom of God and its breaking into the kingdom of the world with the appearance of Jesus. It can be confusing since Matthew 5:14-16 uses some of the same language but in a different context with a different meaning. Luke 11:33 uses some of the same language in yet another context. Jesus could use similar statements at various times to convey different points. 

Although the English versions are very similar in the wording about the lamp, in the Greek Mark’s is different. It literally reads “does the lamp come in order that it might be placed under the basket or under the bed?”. The lamp is the subject rather than the object of the sentence. 

For example, Young’s Literal Translation says: “And he said to them, `Doth the lamp come that under the measure it may be put, or under the couch -- not that it may be put on the lamp-stand?”

Given the context and sentence construction, we see that the lamp is Christ. There is Old Testament precedent for this image, as God and the Messiah were referred to as a lamp, as was God’s word. 

Jesus is the lamp of God who has come to bring light to the world. Light is a symbol for revelation or knowledge of God. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

So, while Jesus is at least partially hidden at the time of the story, he will be made manifest. His human form hides his glory. His humble origins hide his role as king. But, for those who hear his message, as emphasized in his instruction about the soils, these things are made manifest. As verse 23 says: “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”. Those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God had ears to hear. 

Plus, at the end of the age, his glory will be fully revealed and recognized by all. 

Jesus ended this teaching with an admonishment: Pay attention to what you hear”. (24) The doorway to the Kingdom of God is through hearing. 

The last part of verse 24 is a Jewish saying that Jesus applies to this situation: “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still ore will be added to you”. The inference is that God will measure it out and add it to you. The Jews did not like to say God’s name out loud for fear of taking his name in vain.

Mark applies the saying to the understanding of Jesus’ parables. Those to whom the mystery of the kingdom is given will receive the ability to understand it and enter it. Those who fail to receive Jesus will not understand and will not enter into the kingdom. The understanding o the kingdom of God is given by Christ. 

Paul understood this truth. He prayed that the Colossians would have the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

Seed and Harvest


This is another parable concerning the sowing of seeds and the harvest. It is much shorter that the parable of the sower. This parable is also about the kingdom, as Jesus says in verse 26. 

The parable of the sower emphasized the process of growth. This parable is about the contrast between the small beginnings and the big result.

The sowing of some seed is a common place and small thing. It parallels the life and ministry of Jesus. He was born of humble parents in a humble setting. He grew up in a small village. The beginnings of his ministry, his bringing in of the kingdom, was small. 

The emphasis here is also on God growing the kingdom. The farmer “knows not how” (27). He goes about his business of sleeping and rising and the seed sprouts and grows. 

The seed grows in an orderly fashion from blade to ear to the full grain. (29) All of this is done in God’s timing. It is the same for the kingdom. 

Then the harvest comes. Harvest is often a symbol of judgment. Here the sickle is the symbol of gathering the saints to the Lord and the unbelievers to judgment. For example, Joel 3:13:

Put in the sickle,

for the harvest is ripe.

Go in, tread,

for the winepress is full.

The vats overflow,

for their evil is great. 

Revelation 14:14-20 also uses the image of sickle harvesting the earth “for the harvest of the earth is ripe”. This is a metaphor for “in the fulness of time”, meaning at the time God designates.

The Pharisees tried to bring in the kingdom by rigid adherence to the law. The Zealots tried to bring in the kingdom by military force. Some today try to bring in the consumption of the kingdom by breeding red heifers. But God decides the time for the return of Jesus and the end times judgment. 

Parable of the Mustard Seed


This parable reinforces the idea that the kingdom starts very small. The mustard seed is a tiny seed. In Palestine it was a symbol of small things. But the small seed will, in contrast, grow into a plant that is large and strong. 

The kingdom of God will also be large, containing many people. 

John saw a great multitude in heaven. (Revelation 7:9)



Jesus continued to speak “the word” to them, but in parables. He explained their meaning privately to the disciples. These verses concluded Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom. 


The Pharisees tried to bring in the kingdom by rigid adherence to the law.

The Zealots tried to bring in the kingdom by military force. 

But God inaugurated the kingdom by sending Jesus “in the fulness of time”. (Galations 4:4)

Jesus is always building his kingdom.

Only by faith in Christ are people able to understand God’s word fully. 

God will determine when the final harvest comes & we do not speed it along.

The harvest will be great - multitudes will be with Christ for eternity. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023



Structure wise, chapter 4 contains another one of Mark’s “sandwich” narratives. In verses 1 through 9, he tells the parable. Then in verses 13-20, he explains the parable. Inserted in between, in verses 10 through 12, is a teaching on the kingdom of God.

Mark 4:1-2

Jesus Teaching With Parables

The crowds continued to follow and press in on Jesus. He used this as an opportunity to teach. So he got into a boat and had the crowd sit on land and listen to him. There is a place called the Bay of Parables or the Sower’s Cove that is a natural amphitheater. It has been proven that a voice will carry from a boat to the land. 

Jesus taught them many things in parables. This was Jesus’ preferred form of public teaching. There are about 60 parables in the gospels.  A parable takes a common subject to illustrate a truth. 

The most common subject of Jesus’ parables is the kingdom of God. He used things from ordinary life to illustrate truths of the kingdom. That does not mean they were easy to understand. In fact, they were not generally understood by any who did not have faith in Jesus.

Parable of the Sower


This parable is often called the Parable of the Sower. Some call it the parable of the soils, but that can lead us to miss the point of the parable. Parables normally have one main point.

Here the sower is a farmer sowing seeds. This was done by hand. There was no plowing. The farmer just scattered seeds on the ground.

Here some of the seeds were eaten by birds. Others sprouted but were burned by the sun and died. The third group sprouted but were choked by thorns. So, three fourths of the farmer’s labor was lost. 

Yet, there was a great harvest. The seeds that produced grain produced a harvest from 30 to 100 times the number of seeds planted. (9) 

The Purpose of Jesus’ Parables


The verses are the insert, the filling of the sandwich. Here Jesus explains the his purpose in teaching through parables.

Verse 9 is a good lead in to this explanation, as Jesus says “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”. He implies that some can hear and some cannot.

Those who get this explanation are his closest followers, the Twelve and some others. (10) He said they were given the secret of the kingdom God. A secret, or mystery, means a knowledge of God that humans cannot attain by natural means. It is “given” to them, not attained by their own devices. 

This is similar to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not understand the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. 

These followers are those on the inside. The others are on the outside. This is another example of Mark’s inside vs. outside contrasts. 

Those on the outside receive parables. Jesus applied Isaiah 6:9 to the situation. Isaiah 6 contains the commissioning of Isaiah as a prophet. In verse 9, God told Isaiah that his message would not be accepted by Israel and would, in fact, harden hearts. The Israelites would hear, but not understand. They had rebelled against God and could not and would not understand his word.

God’s words were a judgment upon the people of Israel who had turned away from God and did not believe him. So, Jesus’s words indicate a judgment on those of that generation who did not believe in him. 

The secret Jesus’ followers were given is that the kingdom of God comes in the person and preaching of Jesus. Remember, the first words of Jesus that Mark records are: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”. (Mark 1:15) 

God chose to reveal this secret of the kingdom in veiled way, understood only by those of faith who recognize Jesus as the Son of God.

The Explanation


The sower is Jesus. The seed is the word of the gospel. The soils are those who hear in various ways. 

Some have the word taken away by Satan immediately upon hearing. (15) Some hear and receive it with joy, but fall away when troubles come because they really have no root. (17) Some hear, but cannot leave the desire for money and things to put Jesus first. This was the case of the rich young man of Mark 10.  

The good soil represents those  those who hear the word and believe and come into the kingdom. They accept it. (20) They bear much fruit. They become a great harvest. 

The point of the story is that the kingdom comes in slowly, one believer at a time, but grows exponentially over time as the word is preached. Many refuse the gospel, but those who believe will become a great multitude. As Paul said:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

Friday, March 10, 2023

 Here is a good word from Kristin Couch on handling disruptions to our lives. 

Thursday, March 09, 2023



Blaspheming the Holy Spirit


This is a difficult passage. 

As a reminder, the context here is the accusation by the scribes that Jesus was possessed by Satan and cast out demons by him. (22) Jesus first answered by showing how illogical that was. Then he issued a warning: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not going to be forgiven. To be sure we got the message, Mark explains that Jesus said that because the Scribes said he had an unclean spirit.

We know that Jesus had the Holy Spirit. Mark records the Spirit descending upon Jesus. (Mark 1:10) Peter preached that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:38)  

How does one blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Blasphemy generally means irreverence, defamation, or reviling. Most Protestant theologians, although they approach from different angles, end up saying this sin is to reject Jesus as the savior. Certainly, it is true that rejecting Christ or failing to believe in him does result in death. Those who do not believe in the name of the only Son of God are condemned. (John 3:17) 

However, Jesus said other blasphemies would be forgiven, which would include blasphemies against himself, but not against the Spirit. Luke’s version is very specific regarding this. Luke quotes Jesus as saying that words spoken against the Son of Man will be forgiven. (Luke 12:10) But not words spoken against the Holy Spirit. 

So, it must be said that reviling or defaming the Holy Spirit is a sin that is not forgiven. However, it should also be said that a believer cannot commit this sin since the Holy Spirit indwells every believer and would restrain us from committing that sin. And it is likely that one who has reached the point of blaspheming the Spirit is one who will never come to repentance and so is condemned. 

Jesus’ Family Opposes Him


Jesus’ teaching regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is inserted in the middle of the story of the appearance of his family and interrupts the story. It resumes in these verses.

The story began in verse 21, when Mark records that his family went to seize him and were saying he was “out of his mind”. It appears they wanted to forcibly take him back to Nazareth and keep him from preaching and healing. 

Since people at the time often believed that a person was “out of his mind” because of demon possession, their attitude, actions, and words are perilously close to those of the Scribes. 

Like the scribes, Jesus’ family does not believe in him. His mother and brothers have showed up at the house in Capernaum. They were attempting to lay a claim on him. They were also attempting to keep him from his mission, as Peter would later.

However, the house was packed with people and they could not get it. So, they called to him from outside. Jesus either did not hear it or ignored it.(31)

Others in the house hear his family and inform Jesus that his mother and brothers are outside. Jesus used the occasion to teach. 

He first asked who were his mother and brothers. Then he looked at those around him, who were listening to him teach. He said his family were the believers who followed him. The crowd was sitting around him in a semi-circle. So, Jesus looked at the ones around him and said here is my family, my mother, my brothers.

But then he added to the wording of the exchange.  Those who do the will of God are his family, and he added the word “sister”. (35) He must have done this intentionally. It emphasized that, although most of the Jewish religion was conducted by men, Jesus’ kingdom would also be composed of women who believed and followed him. Jesus elevated the status of women.

Jesus put the family of faith above the family of flesh. This shows us that sometimes conversion creates a division. Our fleshly families do not come with us into God’s family and may even oppose it. 

In another place, Jesus said:

Do not think that I have come to ring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter are than me is not worthy of me”. (Matthew 10:34-37)

Jesus was committed to do the will of the Father. Nothing deterred him from his mission. He said “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10) 

He also said “…I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love…” (John 15:10) 


Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s will resulted in our salvation!