In today’s Bible reading, Jesus rebukes His Disciples for not being able to connect the dots of trusting Him. (Mark 8:7-21) They had witnessed Jesus feed five thousand men (plus wives and children) with five loaves of bread and collected twelve baskets of leftovers. And they saw Him feed four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and collected seven baskets of leftovers. Here, the Disciples worry they only brought one loaf for their boat ride.
He quotes Jeremiah 5:21 which references having eyes, but not being able to see. He drives home the point that if He could feed thousands of people with a little supply could He not provide for His Disciples as well?
Next, we see Jesus heal a man, but it takes two touches for the man to see clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)
Finally, Jesus tells us that if anyone wants to follow Him, they would be choosing a hard life of self-denial. (Mark 8:34-37)
How often do you find yourself troubled about how you will meet a need? You worry and worry. Finally, turning to God, He comes through — as He always has in the past — either with an answer to the need, or the calming peace of His presence.
Too often, we see, but we don’t see clearly that God will come through for us. And sometimes, it takes another touch to see clearly.
Oftentimes, we need to cry out like father of the demonized child (in tomorrow’s reading), “I believe. Help my unbelief!”
In today’s Bible reading, the religious leaders confront Jesus about His Disciples’ lack of cleanliness. They observed Jesus’ Disciples eating without washing their hands.
Jesus quickly rebukes them by pointing out that they had turned tradition on its head. Instead of the tradition helping to draw people to God, they had actually replaced God with their religious traditions. (Mark 7:6-13)
Doctors will tell you it’s important to cover your cough and frequently wash your hands with soap, especially to avoid colds and flu. Restaurant restrooms remind employees to wash their hands before returning to work.
While personal hygiene is important, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had made a religion out of it. Rather than letting the tradition of washing remind them of their need for personal holiness, the religious leaders thought it was all about the physical act of washing.
How clean are you? Do you focus on keeping your life clean by obsessing on what you do and don’t do so people can see how clean, how holy you are? Or do you focus on cleaning up your insides, keeping short accounts with God, immediately confessing sin to Him as He reveals it to you?
Focusing on external cleanness makes you look good. Religion looks good. But Jesus points out that relationship is more important than religion. Focusing on the inside will affect the way we behave. But focusing on behavior won’t necessarily help you on the inside.
Reading through Mark 6 (today’s Bible reading) one word struck my mind: authority.
In the beginning paragraph, we see Jesus’ townspeople only seeing Jesus as “Joseph and Mary’s son”. They didn’t see Him for Who He was, so they didn’t recognize the authority He had. Neither did people recognize the authority of the prophets. Because of their lack of belief, Jesus is only able to heal a few people. (Mark 6:5)
In the next section, Jesus gave His disciples authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7) They went out in His authority and saw great success in their ministry. (Mark 6:13)
In the next section, we see that Herod misuses his authority and even submits to the wishes of his daughter to deliver John the Baptist’s head on a platter because he wants to save face in the presence of his guests.
In the next section, Jesus exercises His authority over the natural realm by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to the point that over five thousand people (5000 men, plus wives and children!) eat their fill. And after all was said and done, they collected twelve baskets of leftovers!
In the next section, Jesus exercises His authority over the natural realm to walk on water. After the storm calmed, His disciples were astounded.
In the final section of the chapter, Jesus heals everyone who even touches His clothes. Why? Simply because they recognized His authority.
Do you recognize Jesus’ authority? Really?
Is Jesus able to heal and do miraculous things? Really? When was the last time you saw Him do it? Did you give Him credit for it? Or did you deep down inside think it was a coincidence or perhaps the marvels of medical science that brought it about?
I think it’s safe to say from today’s reading that the more we believe and recognize Jesus’ authority in the world around us, the more we will see His authority demonstrated in the world around us.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus encounters a man who has been demonized by a legion of demons. The demons manifested in ways we would describe mental illness today such as self-mutilation and paranoid schizophrenia. Mental illness is real. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it can be debilitating. In many cases, mental illness can be managed with medication. And there should be no more shame for taking antidepressants or antianxiety medications than taking statins for high cholesterol. In other words, there should be no shame in seeking medical attention for medical problems.
But this man didn’t suffer from mental illness. He suffered by being demonized. (Note: The Bible doesn’t differentiate between demonic “possession” and demonic “oppression”; it only describes someone like this man as being “demonized” or “having an unclean spirit” as this man is described. (Mark 5:2b)
We don’t know how many demons there were. The Roman army was divided into several groups of differing sizes; the legion being the largest of these groups. But there wasn’t a hard-and-fast number that comprised a “legion”. However, we do know that the legion of demons was cast into a herd of two thousand pigs. Assuming at least one demon went into each pig, that’s a lot of demons who were terrorizing this poor man!
We can thank Hollywood for portraying demons in violent, dramatic ways. But if you look at how Jesus dealt with demons, nothing like that happens. Demonized people may have violent outbursts before encountering Jesus, but the actual encounter with Jesus is markedly undramatic. Demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Greater is He Who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Now, that’s not to say that we should go looking for them. But if we encounter them, we should simply claim the authority we have because of Whose we are.
Note that after being delivered from the legion of demons, the man tells Jesus he wants to follow Him. It’s a natural response to want to be with Jesus after such a transformation. But Jesus tells the man to go back home. Jesus wants the man to be a living testimony of what Jesus did than to simply sit at His feet and follow Him from town to town.
A big part of following Jesus is living out our deliverance from sin. And who better to live out our freedom in front of than our family and friends who have seen us at our worst as slaves to sin! In fact, separating from our lost friends and family may be the last thing we need to do when we come to faith in Christ, or become more committed to our faith in Christ. Yes, it’s important to protect ourselves from the temptations to fall back into sin, but doing so can prevent us from having the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.
If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard the parable of the soils (Mark 4), part of today’s Bible reading. Jesus pointed out that He spoke in parables to reveal secrets of the Kingdom of God to those who would inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:11) Yet His parables cloaked the secrets of the Kingdom from those who would not inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:12)
So who will inherit God’s Kingdom? Who can understand the secrets hidden in the parables?
It seems obvious that those whose hearts are “good soil” are the heirs to the Kingdom. They are the ones who will receive God’s Word enthusiastically and apply its teachings to their lives. They are the ones who will protect their hearts from being choked by distractions. They are the ones who will prepare their hearts to give His Word even more depth to grow.
So how do you have good soil? How do you make the most of it?
If you’re asking these questions, you’re on the right track! You position your heart to listen. You position your heart to receive all that God would say in His Word. You do everything you can to clean out those things from your heart that would seek to distract you from letting God’s Word grow deeper. You do everything you can to drink in all of the nourishment from God’s Word so it can grow even more.
Here are some practical ways to “do everything you can”: Implement as many Spiritual Disciplines as you can. Prayer, Bible Study, Bible Reading, Bible Memory, Worship, Fasting, Witnessing, Fellowship with other Believers, Giving of your time, talent, and treasures, and Giving thanks.
That will get you started!