Gospel of Mark — Week 5

Monday, November 5

Read: Mark 6:30-44

Consider: Jesus and his disciples had just come through a time of great sorrow and stress. Jesus’ friend, John the Baptist, had been imprisoned and now word came that he had been senselessly and brutally executed. The result of a drunken party in the palace was that Herod had John beheaded. John’s followers had the unspeakable task of fetching and burying his desecrated body.

Jesus and his disciples had also been through a time of intense ministry, pouring themselves out to needy and hurting people. So, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (6:31).

But rest didn’t come. As they got in a boat to go to a quiet place “many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (6:33). I’m certain that everything in those disciples wanted to shout out to the crowds, “Go away! We’re depleted! We have nothing left to give!” And while that was true, Jesus saw the crowd and “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:34). So, a grieving and exhausted Jesus began to pour out even more of himself to those who longed for his touch.

What followed was a great miracle of replenishment. We usually call it the “multiplying” of the fish and the loaves. But considering that food was scarce and spiritual strength was in even shorter supply, I think replenishment may be the thing we should focus on today.

I’m guessing that today you and I need to hear Jesus say, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” I’m also guessing that you could use more than a few minutes. You’d love to get in a boat and go to a quiet, undisturbed beach and take a few days to be alone with God. But today is probably not that day. Today you will need to set aside some time to be alone with God and you will have to trust that he will replenish you my “multiplying” the moments so that they translate into spiritual nourishment throughout your day.

Bring your emptiness before him. He is the One who multiplies and replenishes.

Pray: “Lord, would you help me to experience my quiet time with you throughout the day? These moments that we have together are never enough for what I need from you. But I know that you are always with me. Help me to take the awareness of your presence with me as I face the challenges of this day.”

 

Tuesday, November 6

Read: Mark 8:1-10

Consider: Déjà vu. As you read the scripture today, you may have asked, “Didn’t I read this yesterday?” No, yesterday we read about the feeding of the five thousand in Mark 6. Today we read about the feeding of the four thousand in Mark 8.

Which brings up a question. What’s the deal with those disciples? The second time around we find them panicking, asking, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (8:4). You would think they would have learned something from what they had already seen. You would think that their hearts would be pounding for joy as they said to one another, “Oh man, this is going to be great. Watch this!”

But no. In their present need they had already forgotten God’s gracious provision for them.

Throughout the Old Testament, we constantly hear God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There was a reason for this. The nations at that time believed in multiple gods. The Hebrew people were proclaiming who their God was. He was not one of the false, man-created gods.

But I think there was another reason. Every time they spoke about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they were reminding themselves of what God had done. They were remembering his promise to Abraham and how it was fulfilled in Isaac. They were remembering that, with all their sins and failures, God still kept the promise that he gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

They remembered God’s faithfulness of yesterday. And that gave them courage for today.

As you face 4000 challenges today, remember that yesterday he overcame 5000.

Pray: “Lord, your provision is not limited to a one-time event. Your faithfulness is not sporadic. It is constant. Forgive me when I forget all that you have done for me. Thank you that what you have done gives me courage for this day. My gratitude reminds me of your daily grace. Thank you!”

 

Wednesday, November 7

Read: Mark 8:14-21

Consider: How would you feel if you had a child who every day worried about whether or not you would feed him? Let’s say he’s fourteen years old. For fourteen years he has never gone one day without food. In fact, he’s never missed a meal. He was nursed as an infant and taught how to eat as he grew. You have nourished him through childhood and now this young adolescent is eating more than you thought a human being could possibly consume. And what if he always said, “I’m afraid you won’t allow me to eat tomorrow.”

You’d be astonished. You’d probably take him to a therapist and ask what can be done about his obsession with food. You’d ask the counselor how a child who has never been deprived of one meal can worry so much about his next meal.

The disciples had just seen Jesus feed five thousand families with five loaves of bread and two fish. Following that, they witnessed his feeding of four thousand families with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. And now they are in a boat fretting about having one loaf of bread for thirteen people. To which Jesus responded…

“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand?” (8:17)

As adults, we probably aren’t preoccupied with bread. But we certainly can be obsessed with security. Will I have enough if they reduce my hours? Will we be okay if gas prices go up again? Am I putting enough away for my retirement? There is nothing wrong with these questions. There is nothing wrong with planning. In fact, Mark points out that the reason the disciples were fretting was that they didn’t plan ahead—they “had forgotten to bring bread” (8:14). But what bothered Jesus was their confusion about their security. It didn’t lie in bread or fish. He was their security.

My pension, my home equity, my job and my income are not my security. He is. They are resources. But he is my source.

Pray: Consider how the Lord has been your source and your security. Don’t simply think in material terms, but remember the spiritual, emotional and relational blessings he has given you. Ask him to help you embrace and hold the reality of his care for you. Thank him for his steadfast love and faithfulness.

 

Thursday, November 8

Read: Mark 10:35-40

Consider: “Be careful what you ask for.” That’s a common statement we use when we speak about a certain kind of arrogance mixed with ignorance. It’s the arrogance that claims to know what it does not know but is too ignorant to know that it does not know.

James and John were Zebedee’s sons, but Jesus liked to call them the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). They came to Jesus with the request that they be given places of honor in Jesus’ new kingdom. Jesus was straightforward with them — “You don’t know what you are asking” (10:38). And then he asked them a question…

“Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (10:38)

Their naiveté shone through their bold assertion, “We can.”

Oh, if the sons of thunder could only have seen the future. If, at that moment, they could have known that, in intense agony, Jesus would plead to the Father, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (26:39). Perhaps then they would have understood the nature of their selfish and misguided ambitions and would not have been so confident in their ability to drink his cup.

Jesus didn’t chide them. He told them something they could not understand at that time, but they would certainly look back on with wisdom born of experience and tragedy. He said…

“You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with…” (10:39)

This statement was a statement of love and affection. Jesus was telling them that he had called them to be like him—in his suffering, death and resurrection. He was assuring them that they would be true to their calling. Of course, they couldn’t see it then, but Jesus was affirming their faithfulness, even though they had a lot to learn about humility.

Pray: “Lord, I don’t want to copy James’ and John’s self-confidence and self-importance. But I do want to hear you say, ‘You will drink the cup I drink.’ Help me to place my confidence in you, knowing that you will be with me and in me as I face the life to which you called me. Thank you for inviting me to share in your suffering and in your life (Philippians 3:10-11).”

 

Friday, November 9

Read: Mark 10:35-41

Consider: One of the most telling moments of this event is seen in Mark’s statement about the rest of the disciples — “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John” (10:41).

It is easy for us to see the ego problems James and John were exhibiting by trying to secure the best seats—the most honorable positions—in Jesus’ kingdom. But the rest of the disciples exhibited the same outsized ego as they determined that those two were not going to push to the head of the line. Those ten felt justified in their judgement of James and John, not realizing that they were really revealing a great deal about themselves.

We need to see ourselves in those ten disciples. Often the sin that offends us the most is our own sin when we see it in other people. But when we’re looking at it in other people, we don’t see it in ourselves.

How many times have I said that someone was judgmental, not realizing that to name someone in that way was to make a judgment call myself? How many times have I decried the hate speech of someone else and have done it with hateful words?

This is an important spiritual exercise. Look at the sins that cause you the greatest outrage and ask the Holy Spirit to show you if those same sins are present in your life. There is great healing in this kind of nakedness before God. This kind of humility brings freedom.

Pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

 

Saturday, November 10

Read: Mark 10:42-45

Consider: Two of the disciples came to Jesus wanting to be elevated above their peers. Ten of the disciples got wind of it and took personal offense at their brothers, pointing out their sin, but not seeing their own. (See yesterday’s meditation.) And, of course, in all this jockeying for position, they all missed the point.

They missed the point of Christ coming to them. They missed the point of how God would transform our world. They missed the point of their assignment once Jesus placed the work of the kingdom in their hands. They missed the point.

So, Jesus called them together and explained it—again. He had been teaching the good news of the kingdom. He had been living the good news of the kingdom. But now he had to, once again, connect the dots for them. And he did it with a powerful phrase — “Not so with you” (10:43).

The rulers of this world use force — “Not so with you.”

This culture honors strength and intimidation — “Not so with you.”

This world says to watch out for yourself — “Not so with you.”

People think happiness comes from being first and best — “Not so with you.”

Humility and servanthood are seen as weakness — “Not so with you.”

To our culture, it is unthinkable to lay your life down for someone else — “Not so with you.”

He continued…

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)

Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

“…who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with Godsomething to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)