Category Archives: Bible

Did God create evil?

There are times when we look at the Bible and read statements that at first seem to paint God in a bad light. Some of those statements almost seem to say that God is the author of evil. How could this be? When faced with hard times, an Old Testament prophet wondered about this. He asked how God could even look at evil (Hab. 1:13). And in the New Testament, we are told that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). How should we look at our sovereign God and His relationship to the evil we see in the world? Did He create it? Is He involved with it somehow? What does the Bible say?

  1. Does John 1:3 teach that God created evil?

    The explicit teaching of this verse is that the Word of God created everything. Some have drawn an inference that since Jesus created everything then He must have created evil as well. But is this what the Bible actually teaches or is it just a logical assumption?

    What does it say? (John 1:1-4).

    In the beginning, the Word existed, was with God, and was God. When everything began, He was with God. Everything was created through Him and nothing was created without Him. He had life within Himself and that light was the light of men. When that light shined in the darkness, it didn’t comprehend what it was.

    What does it mean?

    As you read through the rest of the passage, John makes it clear that he is talking about Jesus who was God, who became flesh, lived among men (John 1:14) and who revealed God to them (John 1:18). At the beginning of the chapter, John is explaining that Jesus was no ordinary man but was and is God. He states clearly that Jesus existed with God in the beginning when everything was created and that He is God. As God He was the agent by which everything was created. Verse 10 continues that thought by explaining that Jesus created the world and those in it. The fact that He made everything proves that He was no ordinary man and that He is God. When we look at the physical world and the people in it, we should recognize who made it. Sadly, the world that was created by Him did not recognize the One who had made them (John 1:10).

    How does it apply?

    We must recognize who Jesus is and respond correctly to Him. The fact that Jesus is our God and Creator is something that we cannot overlook. It is remarkable that God Himself came to earth and became a human to interact with us and to shine a light in the darkness of our sinfulness. Why would God do that? He did that because He loved us and wanted to reveal to His creation what was good and right versus the darkness we had embraced. Thankfully, those who receive Him and believe in His name become children of God through the new birth (John 1:12-13). In this case, God made us and the world but not evil.

  2. Does Proverbs 16:4 teach that God created evil?

    Depending on which translation you use, this proverb may use the word evil to describe God’s making of the wicked. Some would say that since God made the wicked for evil purposes, He must be the author of evil. Does that sound like something the holy God of the Bible would do?

    What does it say?

    “The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.” (NKJV)

    The Interlinear Study Bible translates it as follows:

    “All has made the Lord for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

    What does it mean?

    Without any context, this verse stands alone and its meaning should be considered with special carefulness. While this proverb is inspired by God, it should be recognized as a proverb–a short, pithy statement written to make us think. Let us consider several questions about the proverb.

    What does made mean? The Hebrew word translated as “made” is not the normal word for create. Instead, it is a Hebrew word that refers to someone “performing an action or activity.”1 In other words, it is an action which causes a result. Several definitions include “to do or make (systematically and habitually), especially to practice; commit, (evil-) do(-er), make(-r), ordain, work(-er).” Notice that all of the definitions point to an action with a purpose. Here Solomon tells us that God has a purpose in what He does.

    What does all refer to? Sometimes all means just that. When combined with the verb, it means that God has a purpose for all things. And if contrasted with the second phrase of the proverb, all here would naturally apply to all people. God has a purpose for all people including those spoken about in the next part.

    Who does the wicked refer to? The Hebrew word used here refers to people who are “wicked, criminal 1a) guilty one, one guilty of crime (subst) 1b) wicked (hostile to God) 1c) wicked, guilty of sin (against God or man).”1 They are “morally wrong; concretely, an (actively) bad person; [phrase] condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.”1 The meaning is clear. The wicked are those who have rebelled against God and who have themselves chosen to be ungodly.

    What is the day of doom (or evil)? The Hebrew word used here refers to something that is a “bad … adversity, affliction … calamity.” While the KJV translates this word as “evil,” it does not mean moral evil but something bad that happens. It seems better to go with the NKJV’s “doom,” the ESV’s “trouble,” or the NIV’s “disaster.” With the definition above in mind, the day of doom is a day when bad things happen.

    When you put all of this together, Solomon is telling us that God has a purpose that He accomplishes with all people including using ungodly people during a day when people are afflicted by a calamity. This verse does not teach that God creates evil; it teaches that God has a purpose in His actions including what happens to wicked people.

    How does it apply?

    When bad things happen, it is easy to think that God is not in control. Do you remember how Habakkuk looked at the sinfulness of the society he lived in? He asked the Lord why so much injustice, destruction, and violence was happening? (Hab. 1:2-4) God’s reply was to reveal His plan to use the ruthless Babylonians to administer His judgment on the sinning Hebrew people (Hab. 1:5-11). The prophet understood that God had ordained them for judgment (Hab. 1:12), but couldn’t understand how He could use wicked people who would continue the rampage God had initiated (Hab. 1:15-17).

    This is a good way to apply Solomon’s proverb. God was in control of Habakkuk’s situation and was intentionally doing what was best with the means He had chosen to accomplish His purpose. In this case, He made a wicked nation become His vessel of judgment on another wicked nation. How do we respond to this? God tells us in the next chapter.

    Habakkuk 2:4 – “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”

    When we don’t understand what God is doing and it seems that He is using the wicked as part of His plan, we need to look to Him in faith. God knows what is best and is doing what is best. Will you trust Him?

  3. Does Isaiah 45:7 teach that God creates evil?

    In Isaiah 45, Isaiah records a prophetic statement made by God to a future king. Depending on which translation you are reading from, the verse may seem to say that God actively creates evil. This would be a terrible thing, but is it what the Bible teaches?

    What does it say?

    The Lord said that He is the One who creates light and darkness. He is also the One who causes peace or disaster. He is the One who did all of these things.

    What does it mean?

    If you start at the beginning of the chapter, you will see that Isaiah 45:1-7 is a prophetic address to the future King Cyrus who would eventually conquer Babylon. In context, God was telling the future king that he was being used by God to subdue nations. His victories would be like marching through open gates because God’s plan was to show Him (and the Israelites) who the true God of Israel was. He told Cyrus that there was no other god beside Him. He was the One who created both light and darkness, peace and disaster.

    Here the word translated as “evil” (KJV), “calamity” (NKJV, ESV), and “disaster” (NIV) is from the same Hebrew root word used in Proverbs 16:4. According to the Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Lexicon, this word means “bad, evil … disagreeable … unpleasant, giving pain, unhappiness, misery … hurtful … distress, misery, injury, calamity.”3 It also can be used to describe something that is “ethically bad, evil, wicked” people, thoughts, or actions.3 In this case, the context will determine which definition fits best. In the context of what Cyrus was called to do, God was saying that He was the author of the day of pain brought about by the future king. With this in mind, the Lord was not saying that He creates evil. Instead, He creates the calamitous days as well as the peaceful ones. So this verse does not teach that God creates moral evil.

    How does it apply?

    In God’s perfect plan, He has incorporated peace and pain to accomplish His purposes. When a king like Cyrus was later able to subdue all of the nations around him, God did not want him to become proud as if his might or wisdom caused it all to happen. He was to remind himself that he was merely a tool in the hand of God to accomplish His will. Think about that for a moment. God can use anyone to accomplish His plan. Sometimes His plan includes peace. And how we long for that during today’s turmoil! But there are other times when God is the author of pain which affects the lives of many people. But you can be assured that God has a purpose for that. In fact, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). When we learn to see God’s hand in everything and submit to His purposes, we will have peace even during times of pain because we are trusting in His infinite wisdom to do what He deems best.

Conclusion

After studying through these passages, do you think that God is the author of sin? I do not believe that these verses teach that He is. Instead, God is perfect and sinless and, as the Bible reveals in other places, those who have been in His presence have quickly recognized their own sinfulness (see Isa. 6:1-5). God is also loving and good. But there are times when in His perfect wisdom, He chooses to use people that surprise us. Do you remember the Egyptian Pharaoh during the Exodus? He was a wicked man who refused to yield to God. But God raised him up to do His bidding (Ex. 9:16). Do you remember King Nebuchadnezzar? He was a proud, sinful king whom God used to destroy Jerusalem and take many people captive. While God did use him to judge the people, He later interacted with him and brought him to the place where he realized who the real King was (Dan. 4:34-37). Perhaps that is the biggest lesson here. We need to remember who really is in control.

Footnotes

1 https://www.aionianbible.org/Bibles/English—Berean-Standard/Proverbs/16/4
2 https://www.studylight.org/interlinear-study-bible/hebrew/isaiah/45-7.html
3 רַע in Brown, Driver and Briggs, as viewed at https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7451.htm on 3/24/2024.

Allistair Begg & Transgender Weddings

There are times when you may be unsure what to do in a certain situation. A grandmother was unsure what to do when her grandson decided to marry a transgender person. She had already voiced her displeasure to her grandson. But now that she had decided to go through with the wedding anyway, what was the grandmother to do? Should she go to the wedding or show her opposition by staying home? She eventually asked Pastor Allistair Begg of Parkside Church if she should go to the wedding or not. The following is his response:

“I asked the grandmother, does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus? Yes. Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life? Yes. I said then, okay, as long as he knows that then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony and I suggest that you buy them a gift. Oh, she said, what? She was caught off guard. I said, Well here’s the thing. Your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said these people are what I always thought—judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything. … But I think we’re going to take that risk a lot more if we want to build bridges into the hearts and lives of those who don’t understand Jesus.”1

From what I have read, his advice was given to this grandmother during the summer of 2023 and it has recently been found out and responded to by many Christian leaders. While Allistair Begg does not condone sexual perversion, his advice seems to lead this grandmother to condone the wedding by her presence. Others have this same opinion of his comments. The American Family Radio network has dropped his Truth for Life broadcast on their stations.2 Pastor John MacArthur has disinvited Pastor Begg from his church’s Shepherd’s Conference.3 There are probably more responses that I have not had time to research. But all of this leads us to an important question: What should a Christian do when faced with such a situation? As always, we must look to the Bible for the answers.

  1. What does the Bible say about sexual perversion?

    While there are many other passages that speak about God’s opposition to sexual perversion of any kind, the following are two very clear statements of His opinion.

    It is rebellion against God (Rom. 1:24-32).

    In Romans 1, Paul contrasts the wonderful gospel of Jesus with the rebellion of mankind. Although the gospel is the power of God to salvation, many have rejected it and rebelled against God’s ways. In verses 24-32, Paul shows how rejecting God’s truth led men and women to become involved with vile passions including homosexuality. God judged these people with a debased mind that kept getting worse. And the people involved in these sins know God’s righteous judgment against them but also approve of such sinful lifestyles.

    It brings God’s wrath on those who do it (Eph. 5:3-7).

    In Ephesians 5, Paul lists fornication (sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage) as something that should never be characteristic of Christians. Those who practice such activity will not inherit God’s kingdom and are under God’s wrath. It is clear that such activity is something that God hates. And since God’s wrath will fall on those who practice it, we cannot condone it. Being involved with them would cause us to be partakers with them of God’s wrath.

    In both cases, the Bible tells us that sexual perversion of any kind is something God will judge. Although He lovingly calls people to repent of their sin and be saved through faith in Jesus, He also warns that such sin will result in God’s judgment. There is not way to explain away sexual perversion as something that God approves. These passages are clear evidence that God hates this kind of sin.

  2. What does the Bible say about a Christian’s relationship to sinners?

    We need to remember where we came from (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

    In this passage, Paul reminds us of where we came from. While all of the sins listed here may not apply to you, some of them might. Notice that some of the Corinthians were perverted people before they were saved. But they were washed from their sin, sanctified to God, and justified by Jesus. This is a good reminder to us when we interact with those who are still practicing these sins. We were that way before God saved us from that sinful lifestyle. Remembering our own sinfulness may not be a pleasant memory, but it will keep us from acting as if we are better than others by our own doing. Always remember that Jesus changed you and it wasn’t a result of your own doing.

    We should not have fellowship with the works of darkness (Eph. 5:8-12).

    In this passage, Paul once again reminds us of our dark past but then follows up with our bright new life. Instead of continuing in our past sinfulness, we are to live our lives differently. This should lead us to seek what is acceptable to the Lord. We should also not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. This is another way of saying that sin never accomplishes anything good. It is unfruitful in producing anything that is acceptable to God. But once we know what is right, how should we respond? We should expose the sin for what it is – shameful rebellion against God.

    While we remember where we came from and what God has done in our lives, we mustn’t forget that we are now God’s children. Being part of God’s family involves speaking up for what God says and wants us to do. If we are to be faithful to the Lord, we mustn’t celebrate what God hates. We must speak out against it. Yes, we need to temper this speech with love and humility, but there is no way to sugar coat God’s opinion about sexual perversion.

  3. What results could come from celebrating an unholy marriage?

    Coming back to the current controversy, how do these biblical facts help us to make a decision about whether to attend the wedding ceremony of someone who is clearly rebelling against God’s commands? In particular, should a Christian attend the wedding ceremony of someone marrying a transgender person?

    Some think that attending would show love for the sinful couple.

    Those who want to create a bridge into the lives of the sinful couple, think that attending the ceremony would keep the relationship open. By attending the ceremony, they would be showing love for them and would keep from unnecessarily alienating them. Some would say that this is what Jesus did. If Jesus ate with sinners, shouldn’t we do the same? Remember how Jesus ate at the homes of Levi and Zacchaeus? In both cases, his time at their homes resulted in their lives. Zacchaeus, in particular, repented of his sin and was a changed man. Jesus’ love for these sinners overcame any hesitance to visit them because of his goal to see their lives changed. In both cases, there were good results.

    But was Jesus’ time at these men’s homes just a show of love. Was he there to just show them love or was he seeking to lead them to repentance? I think it was both. His love led him to confront them about their sin (which they left). He was not ignoring their sin but lovingly confronting them about it. Jesus went to his house with the idea of bringing each to repentance but not to affirm him in his sin. It is possible to show love to someone without affirming their sinful lifestyle. And this leads us to the next point.

    Some think that attending would celebrate the sinful couple’s choices.

    Several online comments make this position clear:

    “When we are at a wedding, we are there to give a blessing. The guests are witnesses and give approval. Make no mistake about it. This is why we have the phrase – ‘Does anyone object to this union?’ … As you said, the question is asked whether anyone opposes the marriage. Do you keep your mouth shut? Doesn’t staying quiet indicate approval? If you speak up, isn’t that more ‘offensive’ than simply not attending? Likewise with smiling, clapping, even standing when the ‘bride’ enters.”1

    While it would be difficult to turn down such an invitation, there would also be negative repercussions from affirming a sinful marriage. By attending the wedding, you would be giving tacit approval of the marriage to all that attended. It wouldn’t matter if the couple already knew your position on the matter. The others at the wedding would see your attendance as affirmation of what was taking place. At this point, it would not be loving them toward repentance. Instead, it would be leading them to continue in their sin with your presence showing them it was okay.

Conclusion

Decisions often affect our relationships with other people. And some of these decisions may make it more difficult for us to interact with when they see our opposition to their sin. But there is another relationship that we need to think about at the same time. That is our relationship to the Lord. When Jehoshaphat returned from helping evil King Ahab in a battle, the prophet Jehu, confronted him with a question: Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2). He noted that helping this wicked king was offensive to the Lord and was equal to hating God.

We should have a desire to love and befriend sinners. Jesus did this. And we should note that without love, our gospel message will not be well received. But at the same time, we must remember that God has called us to be His children first. We must love Him and follow His commands even when doing so seems to diminish our opportunities to reach the lost. God’s way is best. And doing things God’s way means that we must be careful to accurately represent both the love of God and His holiness. If we value the one over the other, we will have problems. Instead, we should strive to do both.

Footnotes

1“Should Christians attend…”
2 “Radio ministry drops…”
3 “John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference removes…”

Bibliography

“Alistair Begg clarifies his answer on gay weddings” as viewed at https://www.reddit.com/r/Reformed/comments/1aee0nv/alistair_begg_clarifies_his_answer_on_gay_weddings/?rdt=43811 on 2/11/2024.

“Compassion vs Condemnation” as viewed at https://www.parksidechurch.com/learn/resources/media-center/sermon/compassion-or-condemnation on 2/11/2024.

“John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference removes Alistair Begg from speakers’ lineup” as viewed at https://www.christianpost.com/news/john-macarthurs-shepherds-conference-removes-alistair-begg.html on 2/12/2024.

“Radio ministry drops pastor over same-sex wedding comments” as viewed at https://afn.net/culture/2024/01/24/radio-ministry-drops-pastor-over-same-sex-wedding-comments on 2/09/2024.

“Should Christians attend LGBTQ weddings? | Alistair Begg vs. Voddie Baucham” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiCHcxTQelY&ab_channel=WrathandGrace on 2/11/2024.

Matthew 11:28 – I Will Give You Rest

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

What does it say?

Jesus spoke to people who were laboring and who had heavy loads and told them to come to Him and He would give them rest.

What does it mean?

The hard work and heavy burdens Jesus spoke about were not physical work or heavy packages to carry. He was talking about the false ideas that the religious leaders burdened people with. For example, Jesus stated that the Pharisees “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4). These burdens were in addition to the good Law that God gave to the Israelites in the Bible. God’s laws were designed to keep them from evil and to help them do what was right. Sadly, the Pharisees and other religious people had added to God’s law many extra traditions and rules that had become more than anyone could bear.

The Pharisees, who were the most stringent of the religious groups, required many things of the people. And if someone didn’t follow their rules, they were considered to be sinners. Do a quick search of the word “Pharisee” in the New Testament and you will find these things.

1. You can’t eat with sinful people.
2. You have to fast a lot.
3. You can’t do much on the Sabbath day.
4. You have to wash your hands before eating.
5. You have to tithe everything including spices.
6. You have to be circumcised and obey the Law.

Besides what is mentioned in the Bible, “it has been said … that the Pharisees had added over 600 regulations regarding what qualified as ‘working’ on the Sabbath. That is a heavy burden!”1 With all that the religious leaders required, the people were spiritually burdened with requirements that they would never be able to accomplish.

Jesus told these burdened people to come to Him to find rest. This was much different than what they had been taught. They were under great pressure to perform great acts of righteousness to show how good they were. But Jesus doesn’t say that. He says, come to Me and I will give you rest. Rest is the opposite of working to please God. Someone might ask how God can be pleased if we just rest. Ah… but that is not what Jesus says. He says come to… Me. It is not the lack of work that gives rest; it is the coming to Jesus. He is the One who gives the much-needed rest. And this rest can only come from Him.

How does it apply?

The same problem exists today. Religious groups all over the world teach that you have to do something to gain God’s favor. Those who follow these religions are heavily burdened with the requirements given to them.

1. The Roman Catholic believes that “as long as you remain in a state of grace, you’ll go to heaven.”2

2. The Muslim believes that he must follow the five pillars of Islam.

3. The Sikh believes that he must “serve humanity without expecting reward or recognition.”3

4. The Buddhist believes that he must practice the 5 precepts.4

The common teaching of religion is that you have to do something in order to be right with God. But this is different than what Jesus says here. He says that we must come to Him and that He will give us rest. We don’t need to do good things to become good enough. Instead, He is enough and provides what we need to be made right with God. This is different than most people think. But it makes sense when you read what the rest of the Bible says.

1. We all are sinners who deserve God’s judgment (Rom. 3:10; 6:23).

2. None of us can be good enough to make things right with God (Isa. 64:6).

3. Jesus left heaven and came to earth to die in our place (1 Pet. 3:18).

4. He could die in our place because He is God and is perfectly sinless (2 Cor. 5:21).

5. He died on the cross to pay for our sins (1 John 2:2).

6. God the Father accepted His death for our sins (Matt. 27:51).

7. God the Father requires repentance from sin and faith in Jesus (Acts 20:21).

Notice that instead of telling us what to do, Jesus did it all for us. “Christ is the end of the law to those who believe. He removes the sin and the guilt, he does the saving.”5 If you have been trying to gain God’s favor by doing a bunch of things, you are still under the burden that Jesus was talking about. Instead of trying to do enough good deeds in hope of gaining God’s favor, come to Jesus and find the rest that only He offers.

Romans 4:5 – “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

Footnotes

1 “What does it mean when Jesus says…”
2 “How to Go to Heaven”
3 “Core Beliefs and Practices of Sikhism”
4 “Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained”
5 Lenski 457.

Bibliography

“Core Beliefs and Practices of Sikhism” as viewed at https://dvnetwork.org/…/core-beliefs-and-practices-of… as viewed on 2/8/2024.

“Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained” as viewed at https://tricycle.org/magazine/the-five-precepts on 2/8/2024.

“How to Go to Heaven” as viewed at https://www.catholic.com/…/online…/how-to-go-to-heaven on 2/8/2024.

Lenski, R. C. H., Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1943.

Plummer, Alfred, Matthew, Minneapolis: James Family, n.d.

“What does it mean when Jesus says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30)?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2173 on 2/5/2024.

Mark 6:1-13 – The Key Components of Jesus’ Message

During my lifetime, there have been evangelistic efforts aimed at proclaiming the good news of Jesus. The goal has often been good but the method not so much. For instance, I recently heard Franklin Graham give a quick gospel presentation on the radio which ended with “Pray this prayer with me.” The problem with this is that the Bible doesn’t put the focus on praying a prayer but on faith in Jesus. Sadly, such presentations give the idea that repeating the words of a prayer will somehow make them right with God. Another group has started a television/radio campaign called “He Gets Us” which gives the idea that Jesus was once considered a rebel. In their commercials, they give the idea that because Jesus was considered a rebel, He understands what we are currently going through. Is this what the Bible teaches? Such presentations are trendy ways of presenting a somewhat Christian message but they actually distort who Jesus was and what He did in an effort to get people’s attention. This is not a good thing.

If these popular evangelistic ideas are not good, where can we find the truth? The Bible always has the answers to our questions. And in today’s passage, we will see the two key components to Jesus’ gospel message according to the Bible. The key components are faith and repentance. As we read this portion of the Gospel of Mark, consider what Jesus says about both faith and repentance and then consider how you should respond. And if you are a Christian, consider how you can accurately and biblically present the good news of Jesus the way that the Bible does.

  1. The Need for Faith (Mark 6:1-6)

    What does it say?

    After being with Jairus and his family, Jesus chose to return to Nazareth, the place where He had grown up. This was about “twenty miles southwest”1 of Capernaum. His disciples also went with Him. What must his friends have thought as they saw their former neighbor arriving with twelve disciples? On the Sabbath day, Jewish believers met at the synagogue to be taught. Apparently, “the inhabitants of Nazareth did not flock to Him as soon as He arrived.”3 But Jesus still took the opportunity to teach those who did come. But note that it says he began to teach. He started teaching but “the reaction of the audience did not encourage Him to continue.”3 The people were surprised by His teaching. Some asked where His teaching, wisdom, and power to heal came from. From their perspective, He was just one of them, not a prophet that could preach to them about God. Who did He think He was? Wasn’t He just the carpenter who was Mary’s son? Some think that them calling Him Mary’s son was a subtle jab at Him being an illegitimate child “since a man was not described as his mother’s son in Jewish usage even if she was a widow, except by insult.”1 And wasn’t He just one of the people related to Mary’s sons and daughters? They seemed to be asking these questions because they were offended by something He said while He was teaching.

    You would think that these people would have judged Jesus by the content of His teaching rather than who they remembered Him to be. But their response led Jesus to say that a prophet is usually honored except by those who are closest to him. In other words, people don’t usually respect someone they grew up with even when he is a prophet. As a result of their response, Jesus’ ministry was limited in that area. “He felt it morally impossible to exercise His … power in their behalf in the face of their unbelief.”4 As you may recall, Jesus had just done a great miracle for Jairus’ family. He had resurrected their twelve-year-old daughter who had died. But He was unable to do a great miracle there except for healing a few sick people. Their lack of belief was astonishing to Jesus. It had happened earlier in Gadera but this was on the Jewish side of the country. Why did they not believe? Because of their response it is probable that “He never returned to Nazareth.”2 And these hard-hearted people missed out on what Jesus had to offer. But He still set up a circuit of places to teach in the surrounding villages.

    What does it mean?

    This passage teaches us that without faith, people will not receive Jesus. Jesus taught God’s truth with great wisdom and later verified His message by performing some miracles. But without faith, they were offended at His teaching. They were content to ignore what He said because they were familiar with His family. I wonder if Jesus spoke about their need for repentance. The fact that they were offended by Him indicates that they not only didn’t believe Him but didn’t think He had any standing to tell them what to do.

    All of this would have changed if they had begun with faith. They would have believed Him and listened to what He taught them. They would have believed Him and praised God that one of their own was being used by God so mightily. They would have believed Him and honored Him as God’s Servant. They would have believed Him and seen more evidence of God’s power through miracles. Sadly, none of that happened because they did not believe.

    How does it apply?

    As you consider the unbelieving response of these offended neighbors, there are two applications. The first involves your own unbelief. If you have heard the messages from the first five chapters of Mark, you are well aware of who Jesus is and what He has done. He is God who became a man. He proved that by His words and His miracles. He taught the truth as only God could and He cast out demons, healed the sick, and raised the dead with the power that only God has. But has knowledge caused you to believe Him? Or are you continuing in your unbelief? God wants you to respond to all that Jesus is and has done with faith.

    The second application involves a Christian’s response to the unbelief of others. When we were still unbelievers, we were blind and didn’t understand the truth. But there came a day when God opened our eyes and caused us to see the truth about Jesus. That was a wonderful day. He gave us the faith to believe; otherwise, we never would have responded. Now as believers we must be patient and work with unbelievers. We may be astonished at their unbelief as Jesus was, but we must continue to teach and preach the truth so that unbelievers will become believers. Remember that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). So keep speaking.

    We should follow the example of Jesus who marveled at their unbelief but then kept teaching in the surrounding villages. When one person responds poorly to the truth about Jesus, it is sad. But not all will respond that way. When the person at one door rejects you, go to the next. And keep your faith in the power of God to use the Bible to convince others of the truth. As you preach the gospel to others, have faith in God’s ability to open the eyes of those who are blind and to grant them faith to believe.

  2. The Need for Repentance (Mark 6:7-13)

    What does it say?

    Jesus summoned the twelve disciples and then sent them out in pairs. He gave them power over demons. This “would authenticate their preaching”2 just as the miracles performed in the Book of Acts confirmed the gospel preached by the early Christians. All they were to take with them was a staff and a pair of sandals. They were not to take a bag, bread, money, or extra clothes. Note that “Jesus’ unusual instructions pertained only to that particular mission.”2 But this was a good time to practice trusting in God to provide for their needs. This makes me think of what Jesus said at another time.

    Matthew 6:33-34 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

    As they traveled from place to place, they were to stay in the same house they were offered until they moved on. “It was the accepted duty and practice to offer hospitality to strangers arriving in a village.”5 So it was probable that some kind-hearted person would offer them a place to stay while they were in town. And if someone was unwilling to receive them or listen to their message, they were to shake off the dust from their feet in their presence. This was a way of showing that they wanted nothing to do with even the dirt associated with such ungodly people. Jesus promised that anyone who rejected them or their message would receive more of God’s judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah. Knowing what those cities were like, this was a very serious thing to say. So… when the disciples shook the dust from their sandals, this would give the rejecting people a serious reminder to consider the message they had heard from the disciples.

    What exactly was the message preached by the disciples? After receiving their instructions, the disciples went out in twos and preached repentance to the people they met. It was probably a good thing to have the disciples in pairs for companionship, encouragement, and effectiveness. But they didn’t just preach; they also cast out demons and healed sick people. This must have been an exhilarating time for each of them as God used them to reach more and more people with God’s message.

    What does it mean?

    This paragraph teaches at least two thoughts. First, there was a great need for the preaching of repentance. This is made clear by the fact that this was the message given to the disciples to preach. If we were to rewind to the first chapter of Mark, we would see that this was God’s message through John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-5), through Jesus (Mark 1:14-15), and now through the disciples (Mark 6:12). This message was so important that Jesus gave the disciples the power to verify their message by casting out demons, doing miracles, and healing the sick.

    Second, there was no need to worry about their needs when doing God’s work. Jesus was teaching the disciples to trust God to meet their needs. As they traveled, God would put it in the heart of some kind-hearted person to feed, clothe, and house them. But their first thought should not be how their needs would be met but on the message they had been called to preach.

    How does it apply?

    The application here has to do with repentance. That same message needs to be preached today. God’s initial message is not one of comfort for sinners but of what their response should be toward God. Do you understand that your sin is a terrible offense to God? Your sins are what keeps you from a relationship with God. And if you do not turn from your sin to God, you will never have a restored relationship with Him. Your sin has to be addressed before anything else.

    Have you repented of your sin and turned to God? If not, this is the time to respond correctly to God. Think of your sinfulness and understand that God doesn’t want you to continue in it. Turn from your sin while God is speaking to your heart. Then and only then will you be ready to take the next step of faith.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that the main points of this message were familiar terms: faith and repentance. We first looked at the need for faith. Secondly, we looked at the need for repentance. Perhaps it would be best to look at them in reverse order. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a turning away from sin. When you see yourself as a sinner from God’s perspective, the only right response is to reject your sin and turn away from it. This is what God wants you to do. But this is only half of what God requires.

After repenting of your sin, God wants you to trust in Jesus. This is what the Bible calls faith. It is a complete trust in who Jesus is (He is God who became a man) and what He has done (He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for your sins, and then rose to life on the third day). While much of this is discussed later in the Gospel of Mark, it is good to think about now as well. When you turn from your sins, you have to turn to something else. That something else is Jesus. When you turn to Him and put your faith in Him, God will forgive your sins, make you a new person, and give you eternal life. This is the message that Jesus preached and it is still true today.

But as you may recall, some people didn’t respond with faith and repentance during Jesus’ time on earth. Some of his own friends and neighbors were offended by His message and responded with unbelief. Don’t follow their example. As God works in your heart, repent of your sin and place your trust in Jesus. Then join the many others who gratefully call themselves Christians because of what Christ Jesus did for them.

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 126.
2 Grassmick 127.
3 Hiebert 152.
4 Hiebert 156.
5 Hiebert 160.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ryle, J. C., Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew–Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.

Mark 5:21-43 – Faith, Faith, and Faith

Last week, we looked at Jesus’ experience with the demon-possessed man from Gadera. The Lord traveled across the Sea of Galilee, fell asleep in the boat, endured a terrible windstorm, commanded the sea to be calm, cast out the demons, and then the people of the area asked Him to leave. After all that Jesus had done, the people were still not interested in what Jesus had to offer. But He still went to all of that trouble to rescue the one man. And to Jesus he was well worth the effort.

In this section of Scripture, we will see two different needs which were addressed by Jesus. The first was a twelve-year-old girl who was so sick that she seemed ready to die. The second was a woman with a chronic health issue that nobody had been able to help her with. In both situations, Mark teaches us something about faith in Jesus. Leet’s take a look at what happened.

  1. Jairus’ faith in Jesus when his daughter was sick (Mark 5:21-24)

    What does it say?

    When Jesus came back from His trip to Gadera, there was a great multitude of people waiting for Him by the sea. One of these people was Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue. “As one of the synagogue rulers, he was a lay official responsible for the physical management of the synagogue building and the worship services.”2 It is interesting to note here that “not all the religious leaders were hostile to Jesus.”2 But I wonder about this man. How did Jairus know about Jesus? If you recall from our previous studies, Jesus was very popular but he had also visited several synagogues during his teaching ministry.

    Mark 1:21 – “Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.”

    Mark 1:39 – “And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.”

    Mark 3:1 – “And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.”

    The Bible doesn’t tell us how Jairus heard about Jesus, but it is obvious from his reaction that he knew about Him and His ability to heal people. When Jairus saw the Lord, he fell at his feet and begged him to heal his little daughter. “This very action was a manifestation of high respect for Jesus.”6 His daughter’s situation was dire as she was at the point of death. But Jairus was confident that Jesus could come to his house, lay his hands on her, heal her, and keep her from dying.

    After hearing his request for help, Jesus went with Jairus. But their progress toward the sick girl was hindered by the many people who followed Jesus. So many wanted his attention that the crowd pressed up against Him.1 Perhaps the crowd sensed “an opportunity to see another miracle”7 and wanted to tag along to see it.

    What does it mean?

    In this section, we see the faith demonstrated by Jairus. Having heard about Jesus and perhaps having seen Jesus healing somebody, Jairus was confident that Jesus was able to heal his sick daughter. Note how he spoke to Jesus. “Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” This is an example of pure faith in what Jesus could do. He didn’t know if Jesus would do it. But he knew that Jesus could do it.

    How does it apply?

    In Hebrews 11:6, we are told that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” This is still true today. God wants us to believe Him. And faith is the evidence that we have put our entire confidence in what God can do.

    As you read through the Bible and see the many things that God did for those who trusted Him, your faith in Him will grow. God desires to reward your faith in Him. But it must begin by believing that He is (He exists and is God) and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. As we read the rest of the chapter, we will see that this was definitely true for Jairus and the woman mentioned in the next paragraph.

  2. The woman’s faith in Jesus when she was sick (Mark 5:25-34)

    What does it say?

    In the large group of people pressing against Jesus was a woman with a chronic health issue. She had a bleeding issue that had continued for twelve years. During that time, she had suffered under the care of various physicians, but the only result was that all of her money was gone and hear health had gotten worse. Someone I work with told me that his wife’s recent back surgery was unsuccessful. This Bible event reminds us that things haven’t changed much since then. Doctors are not always able to help and they still cost a lot of money.

    When the woman heard that Jesus was nearby, she made her way closer to Him with the idea that just touching his clothes would heal her of her ailment. Reaching past the person in front of her, she touched Jesus’ clothes. Matthew tells us that it was the hem of His garment. She probably did this “to avoid an embarrassing public disclosure of her malady.”2 Immediately, the bleeding stopped and she could tell that she had been healed! “The cure that many physicians could not effect, was wrought in an instant of time.”10

    But someone else noticed what had happened. Jesus perceived that power had left Him and said something about it. “Who touched my clothes?” With all the people pressing against Jesus, the disciples thought it a ridiculous question. “Master, why would you ask that?” The disciples had not yet learned that when Jesus asked a question, it was never because he didn’t know the answer. Rather, it was for a purpose. Perhaps Jesus wanted “to honor the woman’s faith.”3

    As Jesus looked around the crowd, the woman was trembling with fear. Why was she afraid? Maybe she thought that Jesus was mad at her for touching his clothes. Maybe she thought he would take back the healing she had received because she hadn’t asked him directly. Whatever the case might be, the woman fell at Jesus feet and told Him all that had happened. Jesus addressed her with kindness, telling her that her faith had made her well. He then told her to go in peace and to be healed of her affliction.

    What does it mean?

    As you look at what happened to the woman, it is clear that she was healed when she touched Jesus’ clothing. Was there something magical about his clothing? If we had one of his robes, could it heal people today? The answer is no. There was nothing magical about His clothing. Remember that when she touched His clothing, power went out of Him not out of the clothing.

    But Jesus also brought up the woman’s faith. He told her that her faith had made her well. He “attributed her cure to her faith rather than the touch of His clothing.”3 This brings up another question. Was it her faith itself that healed her? Again, I think the answer is no. “Faith, confident trust, derives its value not from the one who expresses it, but from the object in which it rests.”3 In other words, it is not our faith that heals us but the One Whom we are trusting in. Jesus was the One who healed her. But her healing by Him happened because she believed that Jesus could heal her.

    How does it apply?

    When you think of faith, do you think of how hard you must want something. For instance, do you think that your faith has to be stronger, so you pray harder and then expect God to do what you ask? I don’t think that is what Jesus intended for us to learn here. Instead, we need to remember who Jesus is. He is God Who is able to do anything. And when we trust in Him and seek His help, He is able to do more than we could ever expect. So place your confidence in Him.

  3. Jairus’ faith in Jesus when his daughter was dead (Mark 5:35-43)

    What does it say?

    “The father who had come, when he saw our Lord talking to this woman and dealing with her, I’m sure thought, Oh, why doesn’t He hurry. Doesn’t He know that my little girl is so sick at home that she’ll die unless He moves?” Our Lord purposely did not move.”5 While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house arrived with bad news. He told him that his daughter had died and asked why he should trouble the Teacher anymore. How heartbreaking this must have been to receive this news just when a miracle had been performed for this other woman. If only they hadn’t been delayed! But Jesus didn’t allow Jairus any time to lose faith. He told him not to be afraid but to believe.

    From that point on, Jesus only allowed three of his disciples to accompany Him. They were Peter, James, and John. These three “formed an inner circle… [and] were selected as witnesses.”8 The Old Testament law required two or three witnesses to verify that an event had actually happened (Deut. 17:6). These men were later chosen to witness the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2) and His prayer in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).

    When they arrived at Jairus’ house, many people were weeping and wailing. Though it seems odd today, “the commotion included the activity of hired mourners, weeping, and antiphonal wailing.”4 As Jesus entered the house, he asked them why they were making such noise. He told them that the child wasn’t dead but was sleeping. The people who were crying suddenly stopped and began ridiculing Jesus. Now this brings up a question. What did Jesus mean? Was the girl actually dead or was she sleeping. If she was dead, why would Jesus tell the people that she was sleeping? During a recent phone conversation, my mother reminded me that Jesus used similar words to describe Lazarus when he died.

    John 11:11-13 – “He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.”

    I think that “Jesus was speaking figuratively. He meant that she was not dead in the ordinary sense of the word in that her condition was not final and irreversible.”9 As the people ridiculed Him, Jesus had all of the people go outside. Along with the three disciples, Jesus had Jairus and his wife accompany him into the room where the little girl was lying. Taking her hand, he told the girl to get up. The twelve-year-old girl instantly got up and walked around. Her parents were amazed at what had happened! But Jesus was quick to command them to be silent about it. “Jesus did not want the miracle to attract people to Him for the wrong reasons.”4 Having made that clear, He told them to give her something to eat. This was another proof that this girl was alive as only living people can eat food. (Note that this is what happened when Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was resurrected. He ate some food with them as only a living person could do.)

    What does it mean?

    This part of the chapter teaches us that Jesus is God. The reason I can say that is that He caused a dead person to come back to life. Only God can do that. While it is true that God enabled some of the Old Testament prophets to raise a dead person to life, they did not do it by their own power but had to ask God to do it. Here, Jesus did it by His own power. So Jesus is God because only God has the power of life and death.

    How does it apply?

    This brings up a sobering application. We all know that death will happen to each of us. There will come a time when each of us will die whether by old age, sickness, and accident or something else. But then what? Some years ago, a man wrote a cartoon-based gospel tract called, Then What? In the tract two men meet and talk about the future. One man repeatedly asks what his plans are and then asks the other one, “Then what?” After explaining all of his plans through retirement, the other man finally gets mad and says, “Then what? Then I guess I will die!” But the look on his face shows that the question finally got his attention.

    What will happen after you die? The only One who has the power to raise you from the dead and give you eternal life is Jesus Himself.

    John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    According to this Bible statement, the only way to have that eternal life with God after death is to do what? Does God promise life after death to those who are good, who give money to the church, who help the needy, or who are kind to others? No, God promises to give everlasting life to those who simply believe. This is a full confidence in who God is and in what He has promised through Jesus.

Conclusion

In our study today, we have seen how God rewards our faith in Him. Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter. And when she died, he almost lost hope. But Jesus convinced him to continue believing. What happened? Jesus rewarded his faith and raised the girl back to life. The women with the hemorrhage believed that Jesus could heal her. She was so confident that she believed just touching Him would cause her to be healed. Jesus honored her faith and she was made well.

Do you believe that God will respond to your faith? Some of you already know this to be true. When God convinced you of your sin, you turned from it and placed your entire confidence in the fact that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. When you did that, God responded to your faith and changed your life completely. You then became a child of God. Now you have the confidence in Him that nobody can take away. But if you have not put your faith in Him (and I mean putting your whole confidence in Jesus), then you should do that today.

Footnotes

1 συνέθλιβον as defined at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/synthlibo on 10/21/2023.
2 Grassmick 124.
3 Grassmick 125.
4 Grassmick 126.
5 McGee 182.
6 Hendriksen 202.
7 Hiebert 141.
8 Hiebert 147.
9 Hiebert 149.
10 Ryle 100.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Gospel of Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1969.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ryle, J. C., Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew–Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.

Isaiah 26:3 – God’s Support and Peace

With all that is going on in the world, it is hard to see any prospect for peace. If you lived in Israel or Gaza, Russia or Ukraine, would you see any possibility of peace in the near future? Probably not. But think back to the Old Testament during Isaiah’s time. He was God’s prophet during the reigns of four different kings. Those “years in Israel’s history were a time of great struggle both politically and spiritually. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was deteriorating politically, spiritually, and militarily and finally fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C. The Southern Kingdom of Judah looked as though it too would collapse and fall to Assyria, but it withstood the attack. In this political struggle and spiritual decline Isaish rose to deliver a message to the people in Judah. his message was that they should trust in … God.”1

It was during these times, that God led Isaiah to write a song about the future He had in store for those who trusted in God.

  1. What does it say?

    Isaiah 26 is a song for the people of Judah. It is a song of rejoicing about God’s salvation and protection. The gates of the city would be opened for a nation that kept God’s truth. The people were exhorted to trust in the Lord because He can bring down those who are from the proud, lofty city (presumably an enemy nation that had oppressed Judah). The rest of the song shows the difference between those who refuse to acknowledge God in their lives and those who do. These rejecters of God will eventually be destroyed. While the believers at this time were enduring some difficulties, they were willing to wait for the time that God punishes the wicked and brings peace back to their land. The words of verse 3 are part of this song to the Lord.

    When you look at this verse in several translations, you will notice that the translators have added several words in italics to help it to be better understood in English. If you were to remove the italicized words from the NKJV, it would become something like this:

    You will keep in perfect peace mind stayed because he trusts in You.

    And if we rearrange it to make better sense in English:

    You will keep the stayed mind in perfect peace because he trusts in You.

    If we were to rearrange the verse according to the cause and effect, it would begin with the trusting and end with God’s response.

    Because he trusts in God, God gives him a stayed mind and perfect peace.

    So all of that leads us back to what this verse is saying. When a person is trusting God, he or she will have a stayed mind and perfect peace.

  2. What does it mean?

    We have to first understand what “mind” means in this verse.

    The mind here “denotes anything that is formed by the mind — its thoughts, imaginations, devices.”2 For instance, notice how the word was translated in the following verses.

    Gen. 8:21 – “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.”

    Do you see how the word is used here? The same word for mind is translated “imagination” here. This should remind us of how things were before the Flood. God had said that the intent of their hearts was constantly evil. After the Flood, God promised to be merciful despite the evil “imaginations” they had. So, the mind includes our imaginations or the things that we think we might do at some point.

    Deut. 31:21 – “Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.

    Do you see how the word is used here? The same word for mind is translated “inclination.” Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God noted that they were inclined to bad behavior. So the word mind also includes our disposition toward doing things. A person with evil inclinations will naturally follow that thinking and do evil. But the person who is inclined toward good things will do what is good.

    We have to understand what “stayed” means in this verse.

    My first thought was that this means a focused concentration. With that idea, the person who trusts in God would be focused on God. While that is true, “the Hebrew does not express the idea that the mind is stayed on God, though that is evidently implied. The Hebrew is simply, whose mind is stayed, supported by God.”2 This support makes me think of the guide wires that are attached to mobile phone towers. Those tall towers would easily fall down if they were not “stayed” by so many guide wires. So it is with a supported mind.

    Summary: We all have thoughts, imaginations, and inclinations. Our thoughts lead to attitudes, words, feelings, and eventually actions. Someone who has a stayed mind is someone whose thinking, imaginations, and inclinations are supported by God. His mind doesn’t fall apart when facing troubles. When put together with the rest of the verse, the idea is that someone who chooses to trust God will have the support of God in his thinking and that will result in perfect peace.

  3. How does it apply?

    Peace is something that many people want. At this moment, there are millions of people who are in the middle of a war. They have lost their homes, family members, and the hope that things will ever get back to normal. There are many people who are dealing with a sick relative who are wondering if that person will ever recover, if their hospital bills will ever be paid, and if the hurt will ever go away. There are others who are looking at their finances and wondering how they will be able to meet upcoming expenses. It seems that every week uncovers another unexpected expense and there is no hope that things will change.

    We need to trust in God.

    What this verse teaches us is that we need to trust God. The people who lived during Isaiah’s time faced some serious obstacles. Because the leadership and the majority of the people had rejected God’s warnings, they were facing God’s judgment. They would eventually be overcome by Babylon and taken into captivity. And they could do nothing to stop it. But they could choose to trust in God. No matter what happened, they could trust in God. And that is what some of them did. Do you know any of the captives who were taken to Babylon? I think you may remember Daniel, Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego. They trusted God and found that He was completely trustworthy.

    Will you trust in the Lord for your current difficulties? While you may not be facing war, health issues, or financial upheaval, it may be something else like stress. I have to admit that this is my biggest difficulty right now. There are many things going on at the same time that need my attention. And these things affect my body and mind. How can I get from stress to peace? I need to trust God for help. So do all of us.

    God will support us with peace.

    While we all want God’s peace, it is only given to those who start with trusting Him. When we finally put our complete confidence and trust in Him, He promises to support us with His perfect peace. This is the same peace that Paul mentioned in the New Testament.

    Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

    Peace is not the same as God removing all of your troubles. Peace isn’t necessarily making your life easier. However, it is God’s support during your struggles. As you trust Him, He supports you by holding your thoughts together and causing you to see that He will be with you through the day. Remember what He has promised: ““I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Add to that the promise of future grace when Jesus returns (1 Pet. 1:13) and you have the recipe for thoughts that are supported by God’s presence and His promises.

Footnotes

1 Martin 1029.
2 Barnes Notes

Bibliography

Martin, John A., “Isaiah” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.

Mark 5:1-20 – The Scary Story with a Happy Ending

During the month of October, Americans celebrate Halloween by dressing up as witches, skeletons, goblins, and other scary creatures. In our area, several yards have been decorated with inflatable dragons, giant skeletons, and spider webs. While there is a certain thrill to being scared, I have always wondered why anyone would want to celebrate such things. We should celebrate what is good and not what is evil because of Who God is and what He has done in our lives.

We have heard many stories over the years of how God worked in the lives of people. They were saved out of drunkenness, drug use, immorality, organized crime, and other terrible situations. What a joy it is to hear each person’s story. We enjoy them because they remind us of what God had done in our own lives and what He can do for others. However great each story was, none of them come close in comparison to what we will be reading in today’s account.

  1. The man’s terrible condition (Mark 5:1-5)

    The first thing that you will notice is how Mark describes the man who met Jesus. He was in terrible condition due to being demon-possessed. Notice all that the Bible says about him.

    What does it say?

    You may recall, from our last study, that Jesus and the disciples had just made it through a terrible windstorm on the sea. Now as they come to the other side, they were probably wet and tired. The area they traveled to was “the country of the Gadarenes” on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galillee. After two thousand years, it is difficult to be certain, but some think that modern day Gergasa is the most probably location as “its geography is very steep, it is close to the shore of the lake, and it is … across the lake from Capernaum.”6 At this point, “most of its inhabitants were Gentiles”2 but there were probably a number of Jewish people who lived there as well (as we will see later).

    Jesus and the disciples did not have time to rest upon arrival because a demon-possessed man immediately met them when Jesus got out of the boat. The man came from the tombs where he lived. “These were probably cave-like rooms cut into the rocks of nearby hills which served as tombs and sometimes as haunts for demented people.”2 People had tried to bind him with shackles and chains, but the demon-possessed man had broken all of them. Nobody had been able to tame him. He was too strong. And what made matters worse was that he wandered in the mountains and tombs crying out and cutting himself with stones!

    What does it mean?

    Demon-possession is real and terrible. This is not the first time that Mark has mentioned a demon-possession. In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus cast out a demon who had possessed a man in a Jewish synagogue. In Mark 1:39, Jesus was casting out more demons. In Mark 3:20-30, the jealous religious leaders acknowledged that Jesus was casting our demons but claimed He did it with Satan’s power. In this chapter, we see Jesus dealing with another demon-possessed man. What this tells us is that demon-possession is real. But this passage shows how terrible it can be. The man was estranged from his friends and family. He had to live in the tombs. He cried a lot. He cut himself with stones. It is clear from this and other events that Satan and his demons want to ruin people’s lives.

    How does it apply?

    We must always remember that Satan is the wicked one. Peter reminds us that “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). I would imagine that none of us would like to be in the same vicinity as a roaring lion. And that is Peter’s point. The devil wants to destroy as many people as he can. And that includes Christians and non-Christians. It doesn’t matter to him. So, let’s choose to be sober and vigilant against our terrible foe.

  2. The demons’ response to Jesus (Mark 5:6-13)

    In these verses, Mark refers to the man responding to Jesus. But the closer you look, the easier it is to see that it was the demons who were actually responding to Jesus.

    What does it say?

    It is surprising to read that when the demon-possessed man saw Jesus, he ran to Him and fell down before Him.3 4 “Luke (8:27) notes that the demoniac habitually went naked. … The sight of this naked maniac rushing down upon them must have been a terrifying experience for the disciples.”7 The demons yelled with a loud voice, “What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” This was another way of saying, “What do we have in common?” The answer is quite clear. Jesus has nothing in common with demons. And then they requested that He not torment them. All this was the result of Jesus telling them to come out of the man. Apparently, they didn’t obey immediately. So Jesus asked the demon what his name was. The answer is terrifying. He said that his name was Legion because of how many demons were controlling the man. A Roman legion was made up of 6,000 soldiers5 so it is possible that there were thousands of demons controlling this man.

    The demons must have been afraid that Jesus would immediately banish them to Hell because they begged Him not to send them out of that area of the country. Perhaps this area was filled with people who were primed for demon-possession by their ungodly behavior. I have heard of people being demon-possessed in areas where people have rejected God. Sometimes it happens in jungle communities and we might be surprised that it happens in civilized countries as well.

    The demons were enjoying their “work” in that area and requested to stay there. But then they had another idea. Seeing a large herd of pigs (about 2000), they desperately begged for permission to possess them. With the Creator’s permission, these demons left the man’s body and possessed the herd of pigs. True to their cruel, demonic nature, they stampeded the herd down a hill into the sea where all of them drowned.

    Take a moment to consider what just happened. How was it that Jesus allowed the demons to kill 2,000 innocent pigs? “If the pig’s owners were Gentiles, for whom the business was not illegal, Christ’s permission presents something of a moral problem. But if the owners were indifferent Jews who engaged in this unclean business for the profit in it, the loss would well serve to jar their conscience.”8 Now if you are unfamiliar with the Mosaic Law, this might not make sense. Here is the deal. For an undisclosed reason, God told the Israelites that pigs were unclean animals that they were not allowed to eat.

    Leviticus 11:7-8 – “And the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.”

    God made it clear that Jewish people were not allowed to eat pork. However, some of them may have figured out a way around this. Ironside suggests that these people were “a mixed multitude … many of whom were engaged in … raising swine for the tables of the Gentiles.”10 So, instead of eating them, they would just raise them and make some money. With this in mind, it seems clear that Jesus was sending a message to those who were clearly violating God’s law for the sake of profit.

    What does it mean?

    Jesus is more powerful than demons. One of the reasons this event was recorded is to show that Jesus is the Son of God who has the power to overcome demons. It is not that he is somewhat stronger than demons like the difference between an NFL and a college athlete. Jesus is God and is in complete control. What He says must be done. And there is no one who can stand against Him. So demons are not a problem to Jesus because He is God.

    How does it apply?

    At some point, each of us must come to that same conclusion about Jesus. He is more than just a famous prophet who lived a long time ago. He is God Almighty. In fact, as you read the other gospel accounts, you will see that Jesus showed this not only by His miracles but also by the claims He made. Consider what John, one of the disciples, heard Jesus say.

    John 10:30-33 – “‘I and My Father are one.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’”

    The above passage clearly shows that Jesus claimed to be God. And His many miracles give evidence that Jesus is God. Do you believe that? I do.

  3. The people’s response to Jesus (Mark 5:14-17)

    After all that happened, the people in the area came to see what had happened. What they found was much different than what they had been used to. However, their response to what Jesus had done was also odd.

    What does it say?

    When the herd unexpectedly ran off and drowned, the swineherds ran into the city. They told everyone what had happened and broadcasted the message to those in the city and the surrounding area. The people soon came to see what had transpired. When they arrived, they saw Jesus and also the formerly demon-possessed man fully clothed, completely rational, and sitting calmly with Jesus and the disciples. Having seen how crazy the man had been acting, this change in him made them even more afraid. “They were keenly conscious that they were in the presence of the supernatural.”9 Soon the swineherds were again telling what they had seen happen to both the demon-possessed man and the pigs. The people couldn’t take anymore. They begged Jesus to leave the country.

    What does it mean?

    Jesus can completely change someone’s life. Isn’t it wonderful to see the change Jesus had made in this man’s life. Where he used to be crying, living in tombs, and hurting himself, now he was rational, quiet, and happy. If you ever wanted a poster child for the change that Jesus can make in someone’s life, this is it.

    How does it apply?

    Do you realize that Jesus can make this change in your life as well? I don’t mean to say that you are demon-possessed. But each of us is a sinner that has offended God. Each of us will someday have to answer for our sin before God. How could any of us ever think that God would accept us as we are. He is holy and without sin and we are definitely not. And yet, God sent Jesus to die for our sins and to make it possible that we could be changed by repenting of our sin and placing our faith in what He accomplished on the cross for us. Consider what Paul said about this.

    1 Cor. 6:9-11 – “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Jesus changed the life of this demon-possessed man by casting out the demons who possessed him. But He can also change your life by forgiving your sin and making you a new person on the inside. But please realize that this is not something that you can accomplish on your own. You can’t clean yourself up enough to make God forget your sinful guilt. That’s why Jesus took our place and died instead of us. But if you will turn from your sin and put your trust in Jesus, you will be born again and be changed by God.

  4. The man’s response to Jesus (Mark 5:18-20)

    Despite the fact that the townspeople rejected Jesus, this part of the story always makes me smile. How the formerly demon-possessed man responded to Jesus is simply wonderful. Let’s take a look at it.

    What does it say?

    After being asked to leave the country, Jesus quietly got back into the boat. But not everyone wanted Jesus to leave. The formerly demon-possessed man begged to go with Him. After all Jesus had done for him, he wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went. But Jesus had a different idea. He didn’t allow the man to come with them. Instead, He told the man to go back to his friends to tell them the great things that the Lord had done for him. God had been compassionate toward him. This means that God had seen his pitiful situation and actually cared enough to do something about it. As a result, the grateful man spread the story of what Jesus had done for him throughout Decapolis.1 The people who heard his story were amazed by what they heard.

    What does it mean?

    God’s plan is always better. This must have been a difficult lesson for this newly changed man. He was hoping to go along with Jesus and become one of His disciples. This seemed like a perfect idea. He had been rescued by Jesus but still needed to learn many things from Him. However, Jesus revealed a different plan for His life. It was not one that the man was expecting, but it was a good plan as we saw from what happened afterward. When people saw the scars all over his body and heard the story of how Jesus had changed his life, they listened with great interest.

    How does it apply?

    I think that we often come up with good ideas as Christians. But are they always the best ideas? As we consider how we might serve the Lord at any point in our lives, we can come up with ideas that we think will be most effective. And if we are honest, we often tell God what we think should be done instead of asking Him for His plan. How do we overcome this bad habit? Perhaps we should follow what God says.

    James 1:5 – “ If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

    Instead of telling God how great our ideas are, we should pray and ask God for wisdom. We should also search the Bible for answers. Remember that the Bible is inspired by God and is useful for all kinds of situations. As we pray and read, God will direct us to make not just good decisions but the best decision. And time will show that God’s way is always best.

Conclusion

While I had no intentions of bringing a scary story to church today, aren’t you glad that we studied it? Jesus took a scary story that nobody else could finish and gave it a happy ending. I hope that we never forget this. As you go home and pass the various Halloween decorations, or as you see the witches and goblins knocking on your door during trick-or-treat night, I want you to remember what Jesus did for the demon-possessed man. God can change anybody’s life. He did then and still does today.

Footnotes

1 “…the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The larger area, east and south, was known as ‘Decapolis’ or ‘ten cities.’ To us, the area is the Golan Heights, northwest Jordan, and southwest Syria.” As defined at https://www.bibleref.com/biblepassage/Printer?section=Mark_5:20 on 10/14/2023. See also https://www.britannica.com/place/Decapolis-ancient-cities-Palestine
2 Grassmick 122.
3 προσεκύνησεν – “to worship, pay homage, show reverence; to kneel down (before)” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/proskyneo on 10/14/2023.
4 Grassmick states that “the demon possessing the man was fully aware of Jesus’ divine origin and superior power: he knelt before Him (in homage, not worship)” (p. 123).
5 Grassmick 123.
6 “Gerasa, Gadara, Gergesa – from where did the pigs stampede?” as viewed at https://biblicalhistoricalcontext.com/gospels/gerasa-gadara-gergesa-from-where-did-the-pigs-stampede/#:~:text=Gerasa%2C%20one%20of%20the%20cities,get%20to%20in%20a%20bit). on 10/14/2023.
7 Hiebert 130.
8 Hiebert 134.
9 Hiebert 136.
10 Ironside 77.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Gospel of Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1969.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Mark 4:26-34 – The Parables of the Patient Planter and the Mustard Seed

In Mark 4:26-32, Jesus used two parables to describe what the kingdom of God is like. At the time, the nation of Israel was not ruled by a Jewish king. They had been conquered by Rome. So, what was this about a kingdom of God? The phrase is mentioned many times in the gospels and there is some difference of opinion about what it means. Depending on who you talk to, the kingdom refers to a spiritual kingdom which includes “those who willingly submit to God’s authority,”1 a physical kingdom which will only be fulfilled in the future millennial reign of Christ2, or it could be either spiritual or physical depending on the context.

In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase “kingdom of God” is mentioned 15 times.3 According to Mark, the kingdom of God was something (1) that was good news (Mark 1:14) (2) that was close at hand (Mark 1:15), (3) that could be entered by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), (4) that was a mystery (Mark 4:11), (5) that was like planting seeds and the resulting growth (Mark 4:26, 30), (6) that would be seen by some before they died (Mark 9:1) , (7) that could be missed because of sin (Mark 9:47), (8) that must be received with child-like faith (Mark 10:14-15), (9) that is difficult for a rich person to enter (Mark 10:23-25), (10) that requires biblical discernment (Mark 12:34), (11) that Jesus will be part of in the future (Mark 14:25), and (12) to be waited for (Mark 15:43).

Do these mentions in Mark sound like Jesus was referring to a physical or a spiritual kingdom? My personal belief is that the kingdom of God refers to both the spiritual work in a person’s heart and the future physical kingdom. The spiritual side of the kingdom of God is evidenced by the need for faith and repentance, the planting and growth of seeds, the fact that it could be missed because of sin, the need to receive it with child-like faith, and the need for biblical discernment. The physical side of the kingdom of God is evidenced by it being close at hand, needing to be waited for, and being somewhere that Jesus will drink grape juice in the future.

This may be a bit confusing and more than you want to investigate at the moment. But we need to think about this because Jesus’ next two parables are about the kingdom of God. If we are to understand what the parables mean, we must also understand what the kingdom of God refers to. As we consider both parables, we will see the kingdom of God likened to planting seeds and what happens when the seeds grow. As we study, let’s ask God to open our understanding of what was meant by these parables.

  1. Parable of the Patient Planter (Mark 4:26-29)

    What does it say?

    Jesus told his audience that the kingdom of God could be compared to someone who scattered seed on the ground. As you may recall, this was the way seeds were planted at that time. The farmer grabbed a handful of seeds and scattered them across the ground. After doing this, he went through a period of sleeping and waking. But the seed sprouted and grew without him knowing how it did so. The ground yielded a crop by itself. He then described the growth of the seed in four stages: (1) the blade, (2) the head, (3) the full grain, and (4) the harvest. When the grain was ripe, the farmer finally used a sickle to harvest the grain.

    What does it mean?

    If Jesus was talking about the physical kingdom of God (Jesus’ millennial kingdom), would this illustration support that? I don’t see how it does. When Jesus returns to earth to setup His kingdom, will it be something that takes a while to happen?4 No, the Book of Revelation says that Jesus will arrive and instantly defeat His enemies and establish a world-wide kingdom (Rev. 19:11-20:6). It is not a slow growing kingdom, as in the parable, but a sudden and immediate conquering of the whole earth.

    If Jesus was talking about a spiritual kingdom (people who have submitted to His leadership), would this illustration support that? I think it does. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus used the farmer and the seed to depict someone “planting” God’s truth in the hearts of people. The response to God’s truth depended on the quality of their heart. According to Hiebert, it follows naturally that this parable “supplements the parable of the sower in elaborating the law of spiritual growth as seen in the good soil.”6 If we apply that idea to this parable, it makes good sense. The patient planter is the same farmer from the Parable of the Soils and the seed is still God’s truth.

    The spiritual kingdom of God involves telling people God’s truth (the gospel) and then waiting for that truth to take root in their hearts. We don’t know how quickly the seed of God’s truth will sprout or when it will result in their conversion. But at some point, God’s truth accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s work will produce faith in the one who heard it. With this understanding in mind, the parable is teaching that someone who has heard God’s truth with a believing heart will become a member of God’s kingdom at God’s appointed time.

    How does it apply?

    Do you believe that God’s truth can work without your help?

    In the parable, the seed grows by itself. God has designed seeds to grow by themselves in the right environment. The same is true when we speak God’s truth to people. God has designed it to work in people’s hearts even when we are not there to persuade them. Behind the scenes, God’s Holy Spirit is applying the truth which we have spoken to someone and that truth planted in his heart will eventually lead to a response by itself. We need to speak and sometimes may need to speak several times to the same individual. But we must always remember that it is God who causes the seed to grow in someone’s heart. We mustn’t take God’s place in the process.

    Do you understand your part in planting the seed of the gospel?

    As you may recall, the early Christians heard the gospel from people like Peter, Paul, and Apollos. Later, in the New Testament, their work was also likened to planting seeds and helping them to grow.

    1 Cor. 3:5-7 – “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”

    Paul must have been familiar with Jesus’ parable because he states a similar truth. He and Apollos were preachers who led different people to Christ. God used their efforts at preaching the truth to bring people into God’s kingdom. But I would like you to stop and understand something. Although it is God who causes the seed of the gospel to grow, he still uses each of us to speak biblical truth to others. When we stop planting the seed by not speaking the truth to others, we are not taking our responsibility seriously. God has commanded us to tell others about what Jesus has done. We are not to just wait for a harvest without planting seeds. We must do our part and then leave the rest to God.

  2. Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32)

    What does it say?

    In this parable, Jesus began with a question: How can we illustrate the kingdom of God? He said that the kingdom is like a mustard seed which is planted in the ground. Despite it being a very small garden seed, it grows into a plant that is bigger than all garden herbs. It even grows branches large enough to give shade to nesting birds.

    What does it mean?

    If Jesus was talking about a physical kingdom, this parable would mean that God’s kingdom starts small and eventually becomes large. Grassmer says that this parable “contrasts the insignificant, even enigmatic beginning of God’s kingdom, embodied in the presence of Jesus, with the greatness of the end result to be established at His Second Advent when it will surpass all the earth’s kingdoms in power and glory.”5 Is that what we see in the future, millennial rule of Christ? No, we looked at that in the first parable. The Book of Revelation tells us that Jesus defeats his enemies quickly and establishes his world-wide reign immediately. So, I do not think this parable is describing the future, physical kingdom of God.

    If Jesus was talking about a spiritual kingdom, then this parable makes more sense. It would then mean that God’s gathering of people for His future kingdom is a slow but growing work in the hearts of men. When the seed of God’s truth is planted in the hearts of people, it seems like an insignificant thing. But the truth works in individual hearts and eventually takes root and grows in them. What seemed insignificant at first does a great work in the person’s heart and makes him into a strong, productive part of God’s work.

    How does it apply?

    Consider what God had done in your life.

    Think of your own self. When God convicted you of your sin and brought you to faith in Jesus, did the people around you think you would amount to much? Did you think you would amount to much? The answer is probably no to both questions. You were new to believing in Jesus and still had a number of rough edges. But look what God has done in your life since you first believed. Slowly and surely, God has worked in your life and caused you to become an entirely different person than you were at the beginning. God’s truth certainly does set people free!

    Consider what God had done in the Church.

    If you look at the spiritual work God has done since the beginning of the Church, it is much the same. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He left behind just eleven disciples and a few others. But what started with those few people has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. These followers turned the world upside down. That small group of believers became thousands and later millions of believers world-wide. Look at what God has done. And always remember that it all began when one person planted the seed of the gospel and from that many others were changed.

Conclusion

After sharing these two parables, Mark makes an important comment (Mark 4:33-34). He reminds us that Jesus spoke only in parables to the people who came to hear him. They were never told what the parables meant. How they must have scratched their heads after hearing Jesus speak. But when Jesus was alone with His disciples, He explained the meaning of the parables just to them.

Today, we have looked at the Parables of the Patient Planter and the Mustard Seed. You will notice that the meaning of these parables was not given by Mark. In fact, Mark is the only one who even mentions these parables of the four gospel writers. While it would have been nice to have heard Jesus’ explanation, this was not His plan. Instead, we were given the opportunity to read them, think about them, and to ask God to help us understand them.

Both parables are about God’s kingdom. The Parable of the Patient Planter teaches us that in God’s kingdom, we have the responsibility to plant the seed of God’s truth, but that God is ultimately in charge of that seed’s growth in the person’s heart. The Parable of the Mustard Seed teaches us not to underestimate the power of God’s truth in bringing people into His kingdom. As it is proclaimed, it will have an enormous impact in the lives of those who believe it.

We must be faithful in preaching the gospel to others. But we must always remember that it is God who will cause His truth to germinate in the heart of those who hear it. And when it does, it will make a big impact on their lives. And these are the types of people who will be part of God’s kingdom.

Footnotes

1 “What is the kingdom of God?”
2 Chafer 224.
3 If you would like to do your own study, click here to view a list of times the phrase “kingdom of God” is mentioned in the NKJV New Testament.
4 Grassmer seems to think that “it presents a comprehensive picture of the coming of God’s kingdom” (p. 120). With this idea, the parable would be talking about the chronology of the coming kingdom beginning with Jesus and culminating with the millennial kingdom. “Others see it as a picture of the coming of God’s kingdom by the mysterious, sovereign work of God. Its emphasis is on growth under God’s initiative in the interim phase between the proclamation by Jesus (the lowly Sower) and His disciples and the ultimate manifestation of the kingdom by Jesus (the mighty Harvester)” (p. 121). But this would make Jesus the oblivious farmer who didn’t know how the seed grew. That doesn’t make sense to me.
5 Grassmer 121.
6 Hiebert 117.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

“Kingdom” as described by Lewis Sperry Chafer in Systematic Theology, Vol. VII, Doctrinal Summarization, Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

“What is the kingdom of God?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1654 on 9/30/2023.

Mark 4:21-25 – The lamp that reveals secrets

One of the things that every Christian should be doing is Bible study. This is an important part of spiritual growth. As you study the Bible, you will gain knowledge about God and will learn what you need and what God wants you to be doing. But sometimes, Bible study is difficult. Even the apostle Peter had trouble understanding some Bible truths. He said, “Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand.”

So what do we do when we come to a difficult portion of the Bible. Some might respond by skipping that part. I just can’t understand it. But is this what God wants for us? No, God has told us to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Some of the teaching in the Bible may be difficult, but that should drive us to more diligence. Work hard and try to find what God is teaching. There is a great benefit to studying and understanding what God says in the Bible.

The reason why I mention this is that this passage took some time for me to understand. Jesus spoke these words but didn’t explain His meaning. So, it took some time to figure out what He meant. But after much study, I would like you to consider what I found.

  1. What does it say? (Mark 4:21-25)

    The lamp

    Jesus began by asking two questions and then making several statements. His questions involved the use of a lamp. Both questions had to do with the purpose of a lamp. Is a lamp brought to a room to be hidden under a basket or under a bed? The obvious answer is no. “Who would bring a lighted lamp just in order to set it where its light could do no good?”7 Nobody brings a lamp to a room to hide its light. The second question also expects an answer. Isn’t the purpose for a lamp to set it on a lampstand? The obvious answer is yes.

    Let’s talk about the lamp and lampstand mentioned in this passage. When we think of a lamp, we think of the electrical lamp which sits atop the table next to our armchair or bed. But in biblical times, the lamp was usually made “of clay or metal, with olive oil to fuel its wick (not a candle).”1 You can still buy these types of lamps on the internet.2 They look like a flattened tea kettle with a handle, center hole for filling, and a spout with the lighted wick. The lampstand was a stand on which the lamp could be placed safely and where its light could cover the most area. “It might be a shelf extending from the pillar in the center of the room … or a single stone projecting inward from the wall, or a piece of metal conspicuously placed and used similarly.”5

    After using the lamp as an illustration, Jesus said that nothing was hidden that would be not be revealed. He then repeated the idea by saying that nothing has been kept secret that would not come to light. After saying this, Jesus invited anyone who had ears to hear.

    The listening

    Next, Jesus broadened his thoughts about hearing. He warned his audience to take heed to what they heard. By saying take heed, he meant that they should “pay attention”3 to what they heard. He told them that the amount of information they used would be the amount they would be given. If they heard (and presumably acted on it), they would be given more. Those who had would be given more. But those who didn’t have would have what they had been given taken away from them.

  2. What does it mean?

    You may notice that what Jesus said to the people was not explained. So we are left to interpret what he meant by the context of the rest of the chapter. One thing to remember is that Jesus had previously explained to the disciples that they had been given the privilege of understanding the truth (Mark 4:10-12). But those who were outside (referring to those who had rejected Him) were being judged by God for their sin and would only hear the parables without an explanation.

    Note also what Jesus said to his ignorant disciples. He was surprised that they did not understand the parable of the four soils.

    Mark 4:13 – “And He said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

    This shows us that we who have been born again ought to be able to understand Jesus’ parables. Since the Holy Spirit indwells us and the veil has been removed from our spiritual understanding, we should be able to study Jesus’ sayings and understand the meaning. This does not imply that it will be easy. It may take a while to think about them and may involve prayer and comparison to other things Jesus taught. But with the help given to us by God, we should be able to understand what Jesus is saying in these parables.

    To whom was Jesus speaking?

    At the beginning (Mark 4:2) and the ending (Mark 4:33-34), Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. But in the middle of this section, He explained things to His disciples when they were alone (Mark 4:10). In verses 10-20, Jesus was speaking privately to the disciples. But when we come to the following three parables, to whom was He speaking?

    The disciples

    Perhaps the key is found in how Mark begins each paragraph. In verses 21 and 24, it says that “He said to them.” But in verses 26 and 30, there is no mention of “them.” Then in verses 33-34, it mentions that Jesus only spoke in parables to the crowds but explained them when alone with the disciples. With that in mind, I think that in our passage, Jesus is still speaking to His disciples. Knowing to whom He was speaking will help us to interpret what He said to them.

    What does the lamp represent? (Mark 4:21-23)

    In the parable of the four soils, Jesus defined the seed as God’s truth and the soil as people’s hearts. In this parable, Jesus does not explicitly define the terms. So what does the lamp represent in this part of His teaching?

    Jesus is the lamp.

    If you are familiar with the gospels, you may remember that Jesus called Himself the Light of the world.

    John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

    If Jesus was equating Himself with the lamp here, then He was saying that His voice was not something to keep hidden. As He spoke the truth, hidden things and secrets would be revealed. While Jesus is the Light of the world and His presence was a light to people, I don’t think this is what He meant here. Why would He refer to Himself as the lamp and then talk about hiding Himself under a basket or bed?

    The disciples are the lamp.

    One of the many Bible references to light is found in Matthew 5:16.

    Matt. 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

    In that passage, Jesus told the disciples that they were a light to the dark world. They should not hide their light but should be an influence on all people they met. But does that fit with our current passage? If the disciples are the lamp, then Jesus was telling them to shine, but how does that fit with hidden things being revealed? I don’t think that is what Jesus was saying here.

    God’s truth is the lamp.

    The Bible also talks about God’s truth being a lamp to people.

    Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

    This seems to fit the context best. In the previous parable, the seed represented God’s truth spoken to people. In this parable, the lamp represents God’s truth shining into people’s lives. As it shines, hidden things and secrets are revealed. This is how I will interpret this parable.

    With this in mind, this is the meaning Jesus was trying to get across to His disciples. Gods’ truth is not something to keep hidden from others. Instead, it is something to be proclaimed openly so that men’s sins can be revealed, people can repent, and find forgiveness from God. This only possible when God’s people are proclaiming God’s truth and people are listening.

    What does the hearing and measuring mean? (Mark 4:23-25)

    Note that Jesus calls on people to hear if they are able (4:23). He then tells them to pay attention to what they hear because how they respond will affect the results it produces in their lives (4:24-25). There are two thoughts here.

    Not everyone listens (4:23).

    As Jesus spoke to His disciples and to the crowds, He addressed those who had ears to hear. There were two types of people. As you may recall, there were some people who had rejected Jesus (many of the religious leaders). There were others who were only interested in what Jesus could do for them (healing and miracles). These were spiritually deaf people who were not tuned into what Jesus was saying. But there were some whose hearts had been touched by God. They were listening to what Jesus said because God had opened their hearts to receive Him. The sad truth is that not everyone listens. But the happy truth is that some do listen.

    Everyone will be rewarded for his response (4:24-25).

    The second part of Jesus’ teaching involves the response of those who heard Him. When Jesus told them that they should pay attention to what they heard, He noted that there were only two responses and that each would have its own results.

    For those who hear and pay attention to Jesus’ teaching, there is a promise for more to be given to them. As they hear and respond favorably to it, they will be given more of God’s truth. “Truth received and carefully assimilated enlarges one’s capacity to receive more truth.”4 And as they continue listening and obeying God’s truth, more truth will be revealed.

    But those who hear but do not pay attention to what Jesus says will have nothing. And even the truth they were given will be taken away from them. This reminds me of the seed scattered on the wayside. Before the seed of God’s truth could take root in their hearts, Satan steals it away and they never do believe.

    What Jesus said is true. “It is a universal law that the measure of their diligent attention to the teaching will be the measure of the profit they derive from it.”4 How a person responds to God’s truth will determine the results it will have in his life. A positive response will have good results. A negative response will have bad results. This is how God has designed for it to work.

  3. How does it apply?

    There are two truths here which can be applied to our lives.

    Understand that you can’t hide from God.

    When the light of God’s truth shines on your life, it will reveal the sins hidden in your heart. You can’t hide anything from God. “Men may try to cover up things, but in this they will always be unsuccessful, for God brings everything out into the open. One day whatever is now concealed will be revealed. … Men think they can get away with their evil thoughts, plans, words, and actions. God, however, will expose all this.”6

    While this may appear to be a terrifying thing, it is actually a benefit. Instead of allowing you to continue in your sin, God wants your sin to be revealed so that you can be changed. His goal is for you to recognize your sin against Him, to repent of it, and then to turn to Jesus and be forgiven. If your sin was never uncovered, you would never find God’s forgiveness. So allow the light of God’s truth to penetrate your heart. Only then will you find cleansing and forgiveness.

    Pay attention to what God is saying.

    When the light of God’s truth comes into your life, you have the opportunity to respond. How will you respond today? Will you pay attention to what God has said? Or will you continue in your ignorance? If you hear God’s truth and apply it to your life, God will help you. He wants to give you a relationship with Him that is growing and becoming better every day. But if you hear God’s truth and let it go in one ear and out the other, you will never benefit from it.

    If you are a Christian, you have the unique privilege of hearing and understanding God’s truth. As you read the Bible and search for God’s plan for your life, He will reveal it to you. But it takes effort. You can’t think that a lackadaisical effort will produce good results. It won’t. This week, start putting effort into your own personal Bible study. Take the time to read the Bible and apply it to your life on a daily basis. When you do that, you will benefit greatly.

Footnotes

1 Mounce, Bill, λύχνος as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/lychnos on 9/23/2023.
2 https://www.amazon.com/Herodian-Certificate-Authenticity-Hanukkah-Judaica-Christian/dp/B08NW8WD83?th=1
3 Mounce Bill, βλέπω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/blepo on 9/23/2023.
4 Hiebert 117.
5 Hendriksen 162.
6 Hendriksen 163.
7 Lenski 180.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Lenski, R. C. H., The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, Columbus: Wartburg, 1946.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

“What is the significance of the lampstand in the Bible?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=6134 on 9/23/2023.

Mark 4:1-20 – Parable of the Four Soils

When I was in high school, I played soccer, basketball, and track & field. While we played, the cheer leaders would do their thing along the sidelines. But most of the time I was preoccupied with the competition and didn’t pay attention to what they were doing. One day, we were playing in a soccer tournament at a Christian camp in North Carolina. When I came out of the game for a rest break, my cousin (dressed in a lion mascot outfit) began a pitiful cheer by herself. She almost mumbled the words and acted disinterested. That got my attention and made me mad. What was she doing? She was supposed to be cheering us on. But then she did the cheer again a little bit louder. And a third time, she was yelling at the top of her lungs. What I didn’t understand was that she had planned this cheer to get the crowd’s attention. Once I understood that, it all made sense.

At another time, our cheerleaders gave a Friday afternoon pep rally. Once again my cousin led the school in a cheer. But this one involved clapping with her. She clapped once and then clapped several times and then some more. I was oblivious to how to match the claps, but the crowd seemed to understand and were able to clap at the same time she was. It wasn’t until afterward that I learned that she was clapping 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 times and then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 times. Until I understood the pattern, I was very confused.

Have you had a similar thing happen to you? The people in today’s Scripture passage did. In Mark 4:1-20, we will be reading about Jesus’ use of a parable which at first nobody understood. But when things were explained to the disciples, it all made sense. Let’s take a look at what happened.

  1. The Parable of the Planter (Mark 4:1-9)

    Jesus took another opportunity to teach the people. This time it was near the sea. There were so many people that He got into a boat and taught from the water. This would have kept them from pushing against Him and would also have kept Him visible to everyone. When He began teaching, it was not in straight forward principles. Instead, He taught with parables.

    A parable has been described as “a short discourse that conveys spiritual truth by making a vivid comparison. The truth to be taught is compared to something in nature or a common-life experience. … A parable draws its hearers to take part in a situation, evaluate it, and apply its truth to themselves.”1 With that in mind, can you think of any parables and how this definition fits them? How about the parable of the prodigal son? Jesus told the parable about a wayward son who lived in sin and finally realized his wrong choices. Jesus used this story to show how merciful God is to those who repent of their sin and come back to him.

    In this parable, Jesus spoke about a farmer who went out to plant seeds. “He worked with a leather bag containing the seed, either wheat or barley, tied it to his waist while he scattered the seed by hand.”4 With our modern way of farming, his method seems haphazard. He simply cast the seeds around hoping that some of them would land in a good place and grow. Some of the seeds landed on the wayside. “The wayside was either a road at the edge of the field or a footpath crossing the open field.”5 But the birds ate these seeds before they could take root. Some seed fell on stony ground where there wasn’t very much dirt. The plants grew quickly at first but when the sun scorched them they withered away. Some of the seeds landed among the thorns. But the plants that grew there were unable to grow because the thorns were so thick. But there were some seeds that fell on good ground and later grew into productive plants which produced a good crop.

    “Both before and after Jesus told this parable, He urged the crowd to listen carefully.”1 He started with “Listen!” and ended with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This should cause us to stop and consider what Jesus is saying and how it applies to each of us. Will you do that today?

  2. The Purpose of the Parable (Mark 4:10-12)

    Later, when the multitudes had gone home, Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples. They asked Him about the meaning of the parable. Jesus explained to them that they were being given the ability to understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. But those who were outside would only hear parables. This withholding of information was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He then quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10.

    Isaiah 6:9-10 – “And He said, Go, and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”

    At first it may seem unfair that Jesus only explained the parables to His disciples, but there is more to the story. Much time had passed since He first began teaching the people. And “Jesus’ audiences were not denied the opportunity to believe in Him. But after they persistently closed their minds to His message, they were excluded from further understanding of it by His use of parables.”2 When people rejected His teaching, Jesus allowed them to remain in their unbelief and did not explain the parables to them.

    What does it mean?

    There are two types of people. There are some to whom God reveals the truth and some to whom it will not be revealed. The difference between the two is not their innate goodness but the work of God. Jesus had chosen the twelve to be His disciples and with that privilege had given them this great opportunity to know God’s truth. But the others, including many in the multitude, were not given the opportunity to understand the truth.

    Jesus explained this hiding of the truth from some by quoting Isaiah. The Old Testament prophet was told by God to speak to the people but that they would not understand or perceive what was being said. They had come to a place where they had rejected God’s message so often that they were no longer able to understand or repent.

    How does it apply?

    If you are a believer today, you should thank the Lord for opening your eyes to the truth. If it had not been for Him, you would still be living in sin and walking away from Him. This is the way all of us are born. Isaiah described this well by saying, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” But God, who is rich in mercy, reached down and opened our eyes to the truth and brought us to the place where we would respond to Him. It may have been that God used a friend to share the truth with you. Or you may have been reading the Bible when you finally understood. Or you may have heard a preacher when God’s Spirit opened your eyes to understand the truth. At some point, you understood that you were a sinner who deserved God’s eternal judgment in Hell. But you also learned that Jesus gave His life on the cross to pay the debt for your sins. Then you repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus. That is when God saved you and gave you a new life.

    But there are others who have not responded to the Lord as of yet. If you are one of them who has consistently rejected the Lord, you may find yourself in a bad situation soon. God’s patience with stubborn people lasts only so long. And when these Jewish unbelievers continued to reject Him and His ways, God finally gave them over to their foolish choice and let them become hardened to the point where they no longer could understand God’s truth. The solution to this is to listen and respond positively to what God is saying. Turn from your sin and trust in Jesus before you become too hardened to change.

  3. The Meaning of the Parable (Mark 4:13-20)

    It is interesting that Jesus chided the disciples for not understanding His parable. He seemed surprised that they didn’t understand the parable and was wondering if they would understand future parables. Thankfully, Jesus took the time to explain what His parable meant.

    What it means

    The seeds

    Firstly, Jesus explained what the seeds stood for. The seeds which the farmer planted in the parable stood for “the word” of God. In other words, the seeds were God’s truth which was spoken to various people. This would have included the Bible and also whatever Jesus said since He is the Son of God. God’s truth (the seeds) were being proclaimed to people just as a farmer scatters seed in a field.

    The soils

    The wayside (15) represents people who hear God’s truth but who are influenced by Satan and are convinced not to believe.

    The stony ground (16-17) represents people who “hear the Word with a hasty, enthusiastic, but shallow profession of acceptance.”2 Because of this, they don’t last long. As soon as they face persecution, they stumble. It would appear that “their profession proves not to be genuine.”2

    The thorn-covered ground (18-19) represents people who receive God’s truth but who are kept from being productive for the Lord because of worldly cares, the allure of riches, and covetousness. “These things choke the Word, making it (the Word, not the hearer) unfruitful (cf. 10:22), indicating they are not true believers.”3

    The good ground (20) represents people who receive the truth and then become productive for the Lord. While their productiveness may vary, they are all productive believers for the Lord.

    How it applies

    If you were to apply one of these soils to yourself, which one would fit?

    Are you someone who hears God’s truth but never gets around to responding to it? If so, you may be like the seeds planted by the wayside. Even though you have often heard God’s truth, you never respond to it because Satan is actively turning your mind to other things. Let this be your wakeup call today. Turn to the Lord while He has your attention today.

    Are you someone who at some point was excited about what you heard from the Bible but later fizzled out? If so, you may be like the seeds planted on stony ground. You thought being a Christian would make your life better but as soon as you faced opposition, you couldn’t handle it. Let this be a wakeup call for you today. You need to become grounded in God’s truth so that you can face the difficulties that will eventually come. Start reading the Bible and applying it to your life. Without this, you will stumble.

    Are you someone who has received the truth but who since then has allowed worldly concerns, the love of money, and a desire for things take God’s place? If so, you are like the thorn-covered soil. You have allowed things to take God’s place in your life. Let this be a wakeup call for you today. Are you so worried about temporal things that you can’t do anything for the Lord? Are you so concerned with money that you are distracted from serving the Lord? Are you always thinking about getting more things and have allowed that to take God’s place in your life? Remember what Jesus said.

    Matt. 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

    Repent of your misplaced priorities and seek God’s instead. Only then can you become a productive Christian for the Lord.

    Are you someone who has received the truth and have been a productive person for the Lord? If so, you may be embarrassed to say so. You may think that saying so would be sinful pride. But you needn’t think that way. If you are a productive person for the Lord, then you are like the good ground that produced for the planter. God’s truth has made a difference in your life and it is noticeable. This is not something to be ashamed of and neither is it something to be proud of. Instead, be grateful for what the Lord has done in your life.

Conclusion

At the beginning of this message, I shared how clueless I was to what my cheerleader cousin was doing. But there came a time when I understood what she was doing. Then and only then was I able to appreciate her mysterious cheerleading. I still look back and smile at what happened so many years ago. Do you notice what happened today? At the beginning of our study, you heard a parable that didn’t make sense. But then God gave you the opportunity to understand what it meant. This should be comforting to you in light of what happened to some of the hard-hearted crowd Jesus had spoken to. Now that you understand what Jesus meant by the parable, it is your opportunity to respond. How will you respond today? Will you allow God’s truth to take root in your heart or will you allow the seed of God’s words to have no effect?

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 118.
2 Grassmick 119.
3 Grassmick 120.
4 Hiebert 106-07.
5 Hiebert 107.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.