December 14, 2014
Scripture and Commentary, Week of December 15-20
Ps. 84, Is. 29:1-14, Mk. 5:1-20
Ps. 75, 76, Is.29:15, Rev. 18:11
Commentary, Mark 5:1-120
Jesus leaves the area of Capernaum for the southwest coast of the Sea of Galilee. The stilling of the sea, described in Mark 4:35-41 occurs during this trip. The city of Gaderene is located about thirty miles from the coast, but its economic and political domination of the area causes the Jews to call the whole territory, “the country of the Gadarenes” (Mk. 5:1). It is possible that our Lord travelled there to get away from the crowds. It is also obvious that He went there by Divine Appointment to meet and deliver the man with an unclean spirit (5:2).
The Gaderenes were Gentiles, and, except for a few Jews, their country was thoroughly pagan. When the Messiah is revealed to them in the spiritual deliverance of the demoniac, they reject Him and beg Him to leave. Yet, the man with a legion of demons recognises and worships Christ (5:7).
There is great meaning in this event. The demoniac is a symbol of all who do not know God. They dwell in the deepest darkness and harshest oppression of the devil. In fact, the story gives two examples of the destruction and death caused by demonic oppression.
First is the demoniac himself. His existence is a horrible torrent of self-destruction and pain. He even cuts himself, an expression of despair and an attempt to distract himself from inner turmoil by focusing on outward pain. His cries of agony must have echoed through the hills and over the sea. His suffering is unimaginable to us. Yet he is the very picture of the misery of sin in the life of the un-believer. Mental/spiritual darkness, inner turmoil, living in the tombs as though dead, unable to bear the pain, and unable to deliver himself, are the marks of all apart from the grace of God. And he has no hope of deliverance, unless this Jesus, Son of the Most High God, has mercy on Him.
Note his desperate cry to Christ, “I adjure you by God, that thou torment me not” (5:7). Yes, he recognises who Jesus is, but cannot believe He will have mercy. So he does not beg for deliverance, only that God will not add more suffering to his already unbearable torture.
Second is the herd of swine. Many theologians make much ado about swine’s ceremonial uncleanness according to Old Testament law. But the real point of this story is that the demonic influence placed in them drives them to madness and death. Not knowing what they are doing, they are driven into the sea and drowned. Notice that it is the demons, not Jesus, who killed the hogs. Such is the result of demonic presence in any life.
By contrast, the presence of God brings deliverance and peace. In verse 15 we see the man well. He is clothed outwardly, but also inwardly in the righteousness of Christ. No longer roaming and crying, he is sitting, signifying peace in the inner person. He is in his right mind; no longer tormented, not in darkness or emotional pain. He is restored to his right mind in Christ. Such is the presence of Christ in the soul of the believer.
His countrymen reject the Lord. They beseech Him to depart (5:17). Apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit men love darkness rather than light. Yet a witness remains among them. The man is told, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”
Ps. 90, Is. 30:8-17, Mk. 5:21-43
Ps. 91, Is. 30:18-26, Rev. 18:1-16
Commentary, Mark 5:21-43
Christ returns to Galilee near the city of Capernaum, and much people gathered unto Him (5:21). While most of the Jewish leaders reject Christ, a leader in one to the synagogues seeks Him. Why? His daughter “lieth at the point of death.” Does this man believe Jesus is the Messiah? We do not know. We do know he believes Jesus can heal his daughter, and beseeches Him greatly.
Jesus goes with him, and, on the way, is touched by the woman with an issue of blood. Physicians have been unable to help her, so she turns to the Great Physician and is restored. A woman in her issue of blood was symbolically unclean (Lev. 15:19-33). Some would object that the woman cannot control this, and should not be considered unclean, not even symbolically. But that is the point. All people are unclean by God’s standards, and we cannot make ourselves clean. But God can. If the woman had touched a mere human being, he or she would have also become unclean. But, rather than making Christ unclean from her touch, she becomes clean by touching Him. When Christ’s “virtue,” (righteousness) enters a person, it drives out uncleanness.
While Christ speaks to her, word comes to Jairus that his daughter is dead, but Jesus reassures him, “Be not afraid, only believe.” The people in Jairus’ house do not believe. They laugh Jesus to scorn (5:40). But Jesus raises her up from death as easily as we might rouse a person from sleep. Death is not death for the Christian. It is only sleep for the body until Christ raises it up by His power.
Wednesday, Ember Day
Ps. 1, 15, Jer. 23:9-15, Lk. 12:35-48
Ps. 92, Jer. 23:16-22, Mt. 28:16
Commentary, Matthew 28:16-20
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Third Sunday in Advent have traditionally been times of prayer for, and ordination of clergy. Called, Ember Days, they were often set aside by people for fasting, prayer, and reading passages from Scripture relating to the ministry. Our reading from Matthew 28 is one of the best known of these passages. Here our Lord, having made the great Sacrifice for our sins, and being raised from the dead, commissions His disciples: “Go ye therefore , and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Greek word translated, “nations” is the word from which we derive our English word, “ethnic.” Our Lord refers not so much to political entities as to ethnic groups. His Kingdom transcends the barriers of race or nation. It is for all who will believe.
The message of the Kingdom is “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” It is the faith and practice given to the Apostles by Christ. They are to proclaim that same faith, and practice that same practice. They are also to hand it down to others, who will hand it down to others and keep on handing it down until the Lord returns. It is the faith once for all delivered unto the saints, and it must be passed on pure and unaltered. We are not authorised to add to or delete from it. We teach what we have received; no more, no less.
As we pray for ministers today, let us include those who will be ordained, and those currently serving. The following is from the ordination service in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and expresses well what we desire in our clergy.
“Most merciful Father, we beseech thee to send upon these thy servants thy heavenly blessing; that they may be clothed with righteousness, and that thy Word spoken by their mouths may have such success, that it may never be spoken in vain. Grant also, that we may have grace to hear and receive what they shall deliver out of thy most holy Word, or agreeable to the same, as the means of our salvation; that in all our words and deeds we may seek thy glory, and the increase of thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Ps. 96, Is, 32:1-20, Mk. 6:1-6
Ps. 93, 98, Is 33:1-10, Rev. 20:1-16
Commentary, Mark 6:1-6
Our Lord returns to His own country, Nazareth, about 22 miles southwest of Capernaum. Here, among those who watched Him grow into manhood, and know Mary and James and Joseph, He is received, not as a prophet, but as the carpenter. The people know of His miracles and teaching, but, like His “friends” who thought Him “beside himself,” they reject Him and His message. Thus, when He preaches the sermon in the synagogue, “they were offended at him.” Who does He think He is? He is just the local carpenter. We know His family. We saw Him grow up. Others may think Him great, but we know He is nothing. He should give up trying to be the Messiah, and go back to the carpenter shop. This is the way they thought about Him.
How sad that these people, who knew about His sinless life, His wisdom, and His love, ultimately rejected Him. But even today it is still true that those with the most opportunity to know Christ are the most prone to take Him for granted, and, even to reject Him. Beware of making that mistake. Beware when you think you stand, lest ye fall.
Friday, Ember Day
Ps. 40:1-16, Jer. 23:23-32, 2 Cor. 5:5
Ps. 51, Jer. 26:1-15, 2 Tim. 3:14-4:8
Commentary, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:8
Returning to prayers for ministers, we are reminded in Timothy of the minister’s equipment and the minister’s task. His equipment is the Word of God. This word is the Bible, the “Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:14). They are inspired by God, and are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Profitable does not mean the Bible is profitable along with and equal to other sources of these things. It means the Bible is the profitable source above all others. It is the one Book to rule them all. Our own ideas about God, visions, dreams, feelings, and religious experiences are unprofitable sources. They will lead us astray. Therefore, never evaluate your life and faith by them. Evaluate your life and faith by the Bible.
The minister who allows himself to be instructed by the Bible will find himself “throughly” furnished for the ministry. It is helpful to know history and science, art and philosophy, but these cannot feed the hungry souls of the church. The Apostles, though not as ignorant and unlettered as many believe, and with the exception of Paul, were not Doctors of Philosophy or Doctors of the Law. But they knew the Word given to them by Christ, and by that Word they were furnished for the good work of the ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2 shows the task of the minister. “Preach the word.” He is not to expound the latest self-help theory. His task is not to dazzle with literary references or sparkling wit. His is to preach that Word that is “quick , and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12).
Saturday, Ember Day
Ps. 42, 43, Mal. 2:1-9, Mt. 9:35-10:15
Ps. 103, Mal. 3:1-6, Heb. 4:14-5:10
Today is the last of the Autumn Ember Days. They will return to us again on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the first week of Lent. The readings in Malachi warn the priests that the people should be able to hear knowledge from their lips, and law from their mouths, for they are the messengers of the Lord of Hosts (2:6-7). Sadly, Malachi says the priests of Israel have departed out of the way of God. Rather than giving light and knowledge, the words of the priests have turned away from God and caused the people to stumble (2:8).
In contrast to them, God will send a faithful minister who will prepare the way for Him. This is fulfilled in John the baptizer. The Lord coming to His Temple is Jesus Christ. His lips will give knowledge, and will teach the true meaning of the Law.
As we pray for those called to minister in Christ;s Church, let us also remember to pray for the Church.
“O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, on Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in the holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”