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, John records the fall of Babylon the Great. I won’t go into the theories of what Babylon the Great is. But I will point out the command from God for His people: Come out and don’t participate in the sin of the world. (Revelation 18:4-5) While the rest of the world grieves the fall of Babylon, God’s people are to expose Babylon’s sins. (Revelation 18:6)
The world will never accept Believers who take their stand for righteousness. Regardless of what we may say or do, the world will never respect or tolerate those who are serious about their faith. Oh, they may accept, highlight, and celebrate it when a Believer rejects the faith. But unless that happens, the world knows it and the Christian faith are at odds.
Why would a Believer want the endorsement and recognition of the world? Why would a Believer want to “be cool” and try to be accepted? Tolerance will only be afforded to those who capitulate and endorse sin. Look at Paul’s chronicling of the progression of sin in Romans 1. First, sin is tolerated. Next, sin is accepted. Finally, sin is endorsed and celebrated. That is the natural progression of sin. It will always go that way… unless God performs a miracle and rescue a believer from the clutches of sin.
I have said on many occasions, lost people will act like lost people and we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. Only when God intervenes do sinners repent and turn to Jesus. As I stated in Saturday’s devotional, our natural way is to choose anything other than God. Reformer John Calvin rightly pointed out that our heart is an idol factory. We will always choose something, anything over God … unless God does a work in us.
Has God done a miracle in your life? Have you turned your idol-making heart over to Him for Him to do a supernatural work? Self-justification and self-righteousness won’t work. Moralism (working hard to do the good and avoid the bad) won’t work. Only a miraculous work of God which results in your repenting and turning to Jesus, trusting His payment for your sin-debt will work.
If you haven’t turned to Him, don’t delay! Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. Ask Him to do a miraculous work in you to make you more like Him from the inside-out.
If you have turned to Jesus, spend a few minutes today thanking Him for all that He has done (which is everything!) to make you right with His (and your) perfect, holy Father.
Hate will drive people to do hateful things. In today’s Bible reading, we read that the chief priests schemed to kill Lazarus because people were following Jesus after seeing Lazarus raised from the dead. (John 12:10-11) Think about that. The chief priests plotted to kill not just Jesus, but Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.
“Don’t murder” was the Sixth Commandment. (Exodus 20:13) By the First Century, the Jewish leaders heaped on hundreds of additional laws to the Mosaic Law through their commentary on the Law and their commentary on the commentary on the Law. That the chief priests could resort to murder reveals how derranged these men had become.
Meanwhile, Lazarus walks around, telling people about his Friend. Many more people believe Jesus as a result of Lazarus’ testimony. It’s hard to argue about Jesus’ authority as the Messiah when one of His most vocal followers walked out of a tomb the day before.
I’ve said it before, you don’t have to be a trained theologian to tell your story to your friends, family, and neighbors. All you have to do is tell what Jesus has done in your life. You may not have been delivered from a physical tomb, but you can tell people how you have been delivered from a life of sin and death. You can tell people about how you once lived as a child of wrath, as God’s enemy. Tell them what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished for you. And invite them to give their lives to Him as you have.
In today’s Bible reading, John tells us about Jesus’ encounter with a man who was born blind. The Jewish leaders asked Jesus about the source of his blindness. Was it his sin or his parents’ sin?
Evidently, these First Century Jewish leaders believed there was a connection between sin and physical ailments. They were partially right. The fact than anyone has any type of physical or mental ailment is ultimately due to the Fall of mankind. One decision in Genesis 3 affected not only the spiritual condition, but also the physical and mental condition of every descendent of Adam and Eve. But the Jewish leaders went too far in believing there was a direct link between this man’s blindness and someone’s sin. Jesus said neither was the source. Instead, He says this man was blind to show the works of God. (John 9:3)
The First Century Jewish leaders aren’t the only ones who try to draw a direct link between sin and illness. Can there be a link between sin and illness? Absolutely! Is there always a direct link? No. And Scripture does not state or imply otherwise. But James tells us that if someone is not well, he/she should pray for healing and deal with whatever sin(s) that may be related to the illness. (James 5:16) And when Paul and Dr. Luke were shipwrecked on the island of Malta, people brought their sick to these two men. Dr. Luke points out (very clearly in Greek) that at least one of the people was healed and others were cured. (Acts 28:8-9)
So why are some people born with physical or mental disabilities? Again, ultimately, this goes back to the decision made by Adam and Eve in the Garden. How could God cause/allow sickness and disease? If God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-loving, why doesn’t He prevent sickness and disease?
That’s a great question! And to answer it, we must define “all-good”, “all-powerful” and “all-loving” to include “not-always-understandable”. I don’t know why. And the Bible doesn’t tell me why. Nor does it need to. Some things about God are just beyond my comprehension. And God doesn’t owe me explanations for whatever He does. He’s God and I’m not! Sometimes, I just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing and that at some point — on this side, or on the other side of eternity — every Believer will be completely healed.
That trust is called “Faith”. And sometimes, I just have to say, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Acts 28:7)
Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like. Something that doesn’t sound right. Something that doesn’t seem to go with how you always heard it in church. Such is the case with today’s Bible reading.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (CSB)
He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” John 6:65 (CSB)
Many of us who grew up in church find it not just a little strange that Jesus would say — not once, but twice — that not just anyone can come to God. Does that mean that God will turn away people who sincerely want to come to Him? In other words, can someone come to Jesus on their own initiative?
I don’t have the space here to fully answering these questions. Some theologians have dedicated books to answering them. All I have is what Jesus says: only those who have been invited may come. Add to that what Paul says in Romans 3:10–12 and what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:9 and I think it’s clear that no one is capable of sincerely coming to God on their own initiative. And even if they could, they wouldn’t.
Now, Jesus doesn’t say just that only those who are invited may come. But He adds that all those who are invited will come (John 6:37a) and all of those who respond to the invitation can never be turned away. (John 6:37b) And for Jesus to lose a any of those who were invited would be for Him to not do His Father’s will. (John 6:39)
Those are tremendous truths! Think about that!
If a child of God could lose his/her salvation,
it would mean that Jesus failed to do God’s will!
In other words, the security of your salvation isn’t your responsibility! It’s Jesus’ responsibility! Now, that isn’t to say that you can come to Jesus and kick back and never do anything else.
No, if you truly come to Him, you will continue to come to Him and grow closer to Him. But the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is His. And Jesus will always hold to His responsibilities!
So when you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like, something that doesn’t sound right, something that doesn’t go along with what you’ve always heard in church, it might just be that God wants to show you something about His character you’ve never seen before. And it might just be an opportunity for worship.