December 7, 2014

Scripture and Comments, Week of December 8-13

Monday

Ps. 33,  Is.8:5-20,  Mk. 2:23-3:6
Ps. 42, 43,  Is. 9:8-17,  Rev. 11:15

Commentary, Mark 2:23-3:6

The disciples are not committing theft, nor are the Pharisees concerned about the property rights of the field’s owner.  Deuteronomy 23:25 allows the poor to pick enough grain to eat from a neighbor’s field.  This privilege is for those who are unable to provide for themselves.  It is not a right, and it is not intended to subsidise those who are able to work, but choose not to.  Of course, Christ is the real owner of the field, and has the right to give its produce to whomever He wills.

The concern of the Pharisees is that this is done on the Sabbath, thus appearing to break the Fourth Commandment that, on the Sabbath Day, “thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates”  (Ex. 20:10).

The words and acts of Christ make three essential points.  First, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a day of rest from the daily round of work.  That rest is found in thanksgiving, family, and “church.”  It is a day of refreshment, not rules.  The reference to David eating the sacred bread makes the point that ministering to the real (not  imagined) needs of God’s people is part of God’s purpose for the Sabbath. 
Second, doing good on the Sabbath is desirable  In Luke 15, our Lord, on this very subject, refers to Exodus 23:4 & 5, which requires helping another by returning an escaped or over-burdened ass or ox.  Christ says this is always to be done, even on the Sabbath.  Christ’s defense of the healing of the man with the withered hand makes the same point.  His rhetorical question in 3:4 demands the answer that doing good on the Sabbath is good and desirable.

Third, and the real point of this passage; Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of the Sabbath.  He, as God the Son, gave the Law.  Therefore, He knows what it means, and He knows how to keep it.  He tells us how to keep it: we do not tell Him.   This is a clear and obvious claim to Divinity by Jesus of Nazareth.  Who is Lord of the Sabbath but God?  If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, then He is God.

Tuesday

Ps. 48,  Is. 9:18-10:4,  Mk. 3:7-19
Ps. 46, 47,  Is. 10:5-21,  Rev. 12:1-12

Commentary, Mark 3:7-19

Our Lord goes back to the shores of Galilee, just outside of Capernaum.  A great multitude of people come to Him.  He heals many, and the demons (unclean spirits) fall before Him and declare His identity.

In verse 13 Jesus goes “up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would.”  Luke adds that Jesus spends the night in prayer (Lk. 6:12).  Our Lord knew well that He would appoint twelve of His followers to be “with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils.”  Some of these men will become the Apostles, to whom Christ will entrust His teaching, and who will be called upon to establish His Church.  Selecting them is an event that will have eternal consequences for every person on earth forever, and our Lord feels constrained to spend much time in prayer about it.

Wednesday

Ps. 50,  Is. 11:1-10,  Mk. 3:20-35
Ps. 49,  Is. 12,  Rev. 13:1-10

Commentary, Mark 3:20-35

Mark is meticulous in reporting the rising opposition to Christ, which will culminate in His betrayal and crucifixion.  Yes, the masses receive Him gladly, as long as He feeds and heals them, but they will eventually turn away from Him. The religious leaders, who should recognise their Master and God, also oppose Him.  In Mk. 2:7, they accuse Him of blasphemy because He claims to have authority to forgive sin. In Mk 3:6, the Pharisees and Herodians conspire to destroy Jesus.  In today’s reading we see their opposition growing bolder and more vindictive.

Notice that they never deny the miracles of Christ.  Many today say the miracles of Christ are legends or fakes.  But the people who saw them, including His enemies, knew they were real. So, instead of trying to refute the miracles, they attack Christ’s motive and power for doing them.  His power, they say, comes from Satan, whom they call Beelzebub and the prince of devils (3:22).  If His power comes from Satan, His motive is to deceive people and lead them to Satan and the pangs of Hell.

Christ’s response is found in verses 23-30.  If Christ were demonic, yet delivered people from demonic possession, Satan’s “house,” or, people, or kingdom, would be divided against itself.  Thus Jesus would be working against Satan.  But Christ is not of Satan.  He is leading the attack on Satan’s kingdom.  He is rescuing people from Satan and Hell.  Christ is storming Satan’s fortress and invading his private quarters. He is taking Satan prisoner, and taking whatever He wants from Satan’s treasure house.
We were the treasures of Satan.  We were prisoners and slaves of Satan.  We were his “goods” and possessions.  But Christ has conquered Satan and claimed us.  He has saved us from Satan.  The healings and exorcisms are vivid portrayals of this, but it is really and fully accomplished by His cross.

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (vs.29) is defined in verse 30 as saying Jesus has an unclean spirit, or, demon (see 3:22).  It is calling the work and revelation of God in Christ demonic.  In short, it is to reject Christ as Lord and Saviour, and to call His work “Satanic.”  This is what the Pharisees say in this passage, and Christ’s words about the sin against the Holy Ghost are said in response to and explanation of them.

Even the friends of Jesus oppose Him in this passage.  They think He is beside Himself.  They think he is crazy (3:21).  Thus Mark includes the three possible answers to the question, who is Jesus?  First, is the answer of the Pharisees, He is demonic.  He is evil.  He works for the Devil, and His intention is to lead people down into the pit of Hell.  Second, is the answer of His “friends,” He is crazy.  He claims to be God.  He claims to have power to heal, to forgive sins, to make people right with God, and to command the devil himself.  He must be crazy.  Third, is the answer of Jesus, He is who and what He says He is.  From the very early days of the Church, people have recognised this, and even today Christian writers continue to state it.  C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, which is widely read today, is one example of this.  Mark is putting this to you as a problem to solve.  Here is the evidence; here are the possible answers.  Which answer is yours?
The chapter closes with Mary and the brethren of Jesus seeking Him.  It is probable that they came to get Jesus after His “friends” failed to take Him home.  Mary probably told people she was His mother, which is why Mark refers to her as such (3:31).  But Jesus never refers to her as His mother.  He always calls her “woman.”  In America, especially in the South, this would be disrespectful, for we always call them, “ladies.”  But in Jesus’ time this is considered respectful and mannerly.  It also serves to emphasise that Mary is not the mother of God, even though He became flesh by being born of her womb.  Nor are her other children His brothers and sisters merely because they were born of the same womb.  It is true and Biblical faith in Christ that makes us His brother and sister and mother (3:35).  Christ means that the only relationship to Him that counts is that relationship of faith.  It alone makes us part of the family of God.

Thursday

Ps. 62, 63,  Is. 13:1-11,  Mk. 4:1-20
Ps. 66,  Is. 13:12-22

Commentary, Mark 4:1-20

Jesus has gone out of Capernaum again, but the crowds follow Him and grow even larger as He teaches by the Sea of Galilee.  We can only imagine the press of the people.  Many hope for healing, others are curious about Him, still others look for things to use in their plan to destroy Him.  Mark records no healings here.  Instead Christ spends His time teaching, but still the crowds increase. When the crowds grow very large, the Lord gets into a boat, which probably belongs to Peter, and is rowed a short way from the shore, where He continues to teach the people.  This time of teaching may have lasted for several days, and includes the parable in today’s reading.
The parable is known as the Parable of the Sower.  Our Lord did not name it: He simply begins, “Harken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow.”  Verses 2-9 record the parable as given.  Verses 10-20 give its meaning.  Since our Lord gives its meaning, this commentary will merely emphasise its four major points. 

First, the Sower is Christ.   He sows the seed by His preaching and teaching.
Second, the “seed” is the word (4:15).  It is the message Christ has been preaching since His baptism: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Third, people are the soils.  Some are soil by the wayside, meaning the path or the road.    The seed falls upon them, but they do not receive it, and the devil is able to take it away from them.  Some people are the stony soil, and the Gospel cannot put deep roots in them.  They appear to be Christians, but give up the faith when they experience the heat (troubles) of life.  Some are  thorny ground, where the cares of this world, material wealth, and physical lust choke the word out of them.  The good ground is those who receive the word and remain in it.  In them the seed flourishes and bears the fruit of the Spirit and of everlasting life.  The parable seems to  pose an unspoken question; what kind of soil are you? 

Fourth, the seed will accomplish its purpose.  Though many reject it, by God’s grace others will receive it.  It will produce fruit abundantly, which means it will grow and increase as people come to Christ.


Friday

Ps. 73,  Is. 24:16,  Mk. 4:21-29
Ps. 77.  Is. 26:11-19,  Rev. 15

Commentary, Mark 4:21-29

The disciples do not understand the parables any better than the other Jews (Mk. 4:10). So Christ assures them that the meaning will soon be apparent to them (4:21 and 22).  The word of God, which includes His teaching and Christ Himself (Jn. 1:14) is like a candle.  To the disciples it seems He is hiding the Light under a basket or bed, so it cannot be “seen.”  In a sense He is (4:11 and 12).  He does this because the conquering hero version of the Messiah, which prevails during the time of Christ, confuses the people.  If Christ openly proclaims Himself as the Messiah, the people will think He has come to lead them in battle against the Romans.  They will arm themselves and attempt to drive the Romans out of Israel.  This will result in a terrible massacre, and will not accomplish the spiritual salvation Christ came to purchase on the cross. So Christ speaks in parables, which both reveal the Messiah, and, at the same time, keep much of His nature and work hidden.  But He has not lit the candle to hide it under a basket or bed.  He will make Himself known (manifest), very soon.  He will accomplish this by the cross, resurrection, advent of the Holy Sprit, and the preaching of the Church.  This will manifest Him to the world, and the meaning of the parables will become clear to those who have ears to hear.

Verses 24 and 25 warn us to be careful what we hear and how we understand the nature of God, and His will for us.  To mete is to measure or evaluate.  Here it is to evaluate truth.  Using a wrong measure results in faulty understanding, and that faulty understanding will be measured back to you.  Only the truth can set you free from the bondage and penalty of sin, and Christ is the way the truth and the life.

Those who have the truth will receive also the forgiveness of sin, and the glory of Heaven (4:24).  Those who  do not receive the truth will lose even what they have (4:25).

The parable of the field in verses 26-29 shows that the Kingdom of God comes and grows in ways that are mysterious to us.  It comes as Christ gives His life on the cross.  It comes by the preaching of the Gospel.  It comes by the Holy Spirit giving life and understanding to people who are dead in sin and ignorant of God.  It comes by preaching the Gospel.  It does not come by military war against Rome, nor does it come by any worldly, human inventions or ideas.  It is a spiritual Kingdom, and the means of its advance are spiritual.

Saturday

Ps. 80,  Is. 28:1-13,  Mk. 4:30
Ps. 65, Is. 28:14-22,  Rev. 18:1-10

Commentary, Mark 4:30-41

The coming and advance of the Kingdom of God begins with a tiny seed, Christ.  Born in obscurity, far way from the centers of worldly power, He seems unlikely to be the One to bring the Kingdom of God to us.  Yet, when He is sown, by His death and burial, He “groweth up,” by His resurrection, and “becometh greater than all herbs.”  His Kingdom will cross mountains and oceans.  It will cross all barriers of race and culture.  It will encompass people in every part of the world.  It will be greater than any other empire has ever been or ever will be.  One day He will personally return to this planet and restore all things to His order and righteousness.  In that Day, the Kingdom of God will be the only Kingdom on planet earth.