with Alan Bailey
Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.
Mark’s Gospel is full of action. Yes, the words of Jesus accompany the action but all combines to make clear the uniqueness of the one who is at the centre of it all. We learn more and more about Him as we see Him in all kinds of human situations and see the way He handles everything that comes up. Again, in this study, we see a variety of happenings and the way Jesus deals with them.
Verses 30-32 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because He was teaching His disciples. He said to them “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.
As we have seen earlier, crowds often gathered and took up all the time and attention that Jesus and His disciples could give them. Just now, Jesus wanted a bit of time with His followers to teach them. We learned that the title Son of Man was one which Jesus gave Himself. It had its origin in the Old Testament and has reference to the Anointed One or Messiah.
What He told them about being betrayed and killed and rising again seems plain enough to us as readers, but His disciples just couldn’t fit it into their thinking. Jesus was a young man, around mid- thirties, a promising deliverer for Israel, and it seemed all wrong that He should die a violent death. The idea of rising again was too odd and unusual. They were afraid to ask because it would show their slowness to grasp His meaning.
Verses 33 & 34 They came to Capernaum. When He was in the house He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Here is an amazing thing. Jesus had just told them about His forthcoming sacrifice, which of course involved humiliation and intense suffering, but these followers were trying to establish their individual status and importance. How foolish! But we all behave that way too often. It is a very human thing to want recognition and significance. They had much to learn.
Verse 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ”If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
This is a principle which we are all slow to learn. Leaders are not meant to be dictators. They should instead be servants. They should be prepared to take a lowly place, serving others’ needs. In John’s Gospel we have the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. He said then that they should follow His example.
Verses 36 & 37 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little ones in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
What an effective lesson! The attitude Jesus wanted His men to adopt was one of thoughtful condescension and the acceptance of others. A child has no ambition to be the greatest and most important. Rather, a child accepts the simplicity of being loved and accepted. We must remember that a humble attitude is pleasing to Jesus and His Father.
Verses 38-41 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Another lesson comes up for the disciples to learn. This time it is the activity of another person that rouses their concern for fair play. It doesn’t seem right that a man who is not of the Twelve should practise anything in Jesus’ name. But Jesus has a more generous spirit and is glad for good work to be done. The statement “Whoever is not against us is for us” reminds us of what Jesus said in another place, “He who is not for us is against us.”
We need to note that God knows all about our actions and rewards the thoughtful service of believers.
Verse 42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
We now enter a section where some of the strongest statements in the Bible are found. Jesus returns to the subject of children and our attitude toward them. The deliberate stumbling of children, leading them into wrong paths, is worthy of great punishment. How seriously God sees what older people do to the younger and more innocent. A millstone was a heavy flat stone used in the grinding of grain.
Verses 43-48 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.”
These are solemn words indeed. They are not meant to be taken in a strictly literal way. Jesus is not in favour of self- mutilation. But He is saying that we should do anything rather than carelessly stumbling into hell. Take every measure to ensure that we are not making our way to a lost eternity.
The final words of the above paragraph sound a knell of doom unmatched anywhere in Scripture.
We must heed them.
Verses 49 & 50 “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with each other.
God’s judgement will be thorough. Every life will be tested. From another point of view, salt can be useful for flavouring and preserving food. Christians are meant to have the function of salt in the society in which they live. That is, to preserve and value purity. Saltiness must not be lost or its worth disappears.
Passages like this one call for us to examine ourselves. Are we proud? How do we treat children? Are we stumbling along the wrong road leading to the worst destination possible? Do we need to stop and take stock? Remember, there is mercy, there is grace. It is for us to repent and believe the Gospel.