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-The Christmas Story

by Dr. D ~
Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1

                                   (Birth of Jesus: Wikipedia)

The Christmas story is found in Matthew (1:18-2:18) and in Luke (1:26-56, 2:1-40). However, Isaiah should never be ignored:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Is. 7:14)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6)

Matthew gives us the story largely from the perspective of Joseph, including the dreams that he had and his family genealogy. In this gospel the ‘Kingship’ of Jesus is the major topic. Starting with the Davidic Kingly genealogy through Joseph and the coming of the Magi (Wisemen) who are looking for the new king. Also King Herod’s reaction is in Matthew.

The events in Luke are given to us from Mary’s view. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces the coming of the child. Mary’s genealogy is also given in Luke (3:23-38), she was also a descendent of David, but not in the ‘Kingly’ line. Chapter 2 begins with the Christmas story that everyone is familiar with:

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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-GOSPEL OF MARK

by Dr. D ~

Lessons:

LESSON 1: Into.                  LESSON 2: Mark 1

LESSON 3: Mark 2             LESSON 4: Mark 3                LESSON 6: Mark 4

LESSON 7: Mark 5             LESSON 8: Mark 6                LESSON 9: Mark 7

LESSON 10: Mark 8           LESSON 11: Mark 9              LESSON 12: Mark 10

LESSON 13: Mark 11         LESSON 14: Mark 12           LESSON 15: Mark 13

LESSON 16: Mark 14a       LESSON 17: Mark 14b         LESSON 18: Mark 15

LESSON 19: Mark 16:1-8                LESSON 20: Mark 16:9-20

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-A Study and Application of Philippians 4: 4-7:

by Dr. D ~

Rejoice and Praise The Lord Regardless

Lessons:

1. -An Application of Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in The Lord (Verse 4)

2. -An Application of Philippians 4:4-7: Be Reasonable and Considerate (Verse 5a)

3. -An Application of Philippians 4:4-7: The Lord is Always with Us (Verse 5b)

4. -An Application of Philippians 4:4-7: Don’t Worry, Be Thankful and Pray (Verse 6)

5. -An Application of Philippians 4:4-7: God Promises Peace of Mind and Joy in Your Life (Verse 7)

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-LESSON 4: MARK 3

by Dr. D ~

Lesson 4: Mark 3

 

First read Mark 3 all the way through.

The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in Mark 3

Events in Chapter Three That You Don’t See Every Day:

Verse 4:

-Jesus knew what they were thinking 

Verse 5:

-Hand is healed 

Verse 10:

-Many were healed 

Verses 11-12:

-Evil spirits know who he is 

Verse 15:

-Gave the Apostles authority 

Verse 29:

-Prophetic declaration.

Notes and Commentary:

I.  Famous Healing Ministry:  Verses 1-12

     Verse 4 Jesus asks if it is all right to do good on the Sabbath?  Seems like a ridiculous question to us.  But Jesus knew what the religious leaders were thinking. They were looking for ways to accuse Jesus as an ‘evil’ sinner. This was probably a ‘set-up,’ at least that is what it became since I am sure they expected Jesus to heal the guy.

According to their traditions, since Jesus was a ‘healer’ then healing was technically his ‘work’ and to do so on the Sabbath would therefore be a violation of the ‘Law’. 

A convoluted understanding at best, and Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of it.  After all, if you can help someone or heal someone, that should be considered a ‘good’ thing.  If you don’t help when you can wouldn’t that actually be evil?  Jesus healed the man anyway and that was good.

     Verses 7-12 Jesus Becomes Famous:

People literally came from different cities, towns, and regions to observe and/or be healed by Jesus.

Medical science in the first century was nothing like it is today. Nevertheless, can you imagine what would happen if Jesus showed up on main street or in a mall near you and began to heal everyone regardless of the disease or injury? Soon the TV cameras would show up and the crowds would come from all around the world to see Jesus. He would be a ‘superstar’ today just like musical.

First the ‘experts’ on TV would question whether Jesus was a charlatan who was ultimately motivated by fame or fortune. Then some would question whether he was illegally practicing medicine when he declared people healed.

Finally, the interviews of key religious leaders would follow. Some would question his education and credentials while others would confidently explain that all the miracles ceased years ago in Bible times and any today come from demonic sources to lead folks astray.

It would be fun to see them try to explain away all of the miracles and healings. The media ignores almost all of the healings, miracles, and answers to prayer in the Christian community today. But it would be hard to ignore or explain away someone who publically heals everyone and every disease and then even raises the dead. 

Can you imagine the cameras rolling when a guy called Lazarus hops out a crypt after being dead for four days? The subsequent interview with his doctors would be priceless.

II.  Jesus Appoints Apostles & Gives Them Authority:  Verses 13-19

Jesus gave the 12 ‘authority’ (Can’t give what you don’t have–Jesus has authority)

To Do What?

1.  Be with him

2.  Preach

3.  Drive out demons

III.  What Folks Think About Jesus and How He Responds: Verses 20-22, 31-35

     Verses 20-21  His family thinks he’s crazy? At least his brothers had questions about his sanity but I have always wondered if Mary his mother really thought that way also? I find it hard to believe that she did. Nevertheless she went along for the ride.

     Verse 22  Religious leaders think he is possessed by Satan himself. After all he obviously is healing folks and doing miracles. Where did that kind of power and authority come from. They conclude that it must be coming from the Devil himself.

     Verses  23-30  Jesus says that it is The Holy Spirit giving him the authority and power.

     Verses 31-35  Mother & Brothers come again to confront him.

IV.  The Different Responses of the People:

1.  His own family came to take charge of him thinking he’s ‘out of his mind? I wonder what kind of reports they must have heard to cause them to be worried about Jesus and question his sanity?

2.  The religious leaders are threatened by his power and authority & plot against him. 

3.  The Apostles commit themselves to be with Jesus & participate in his ministry. 

4.  The regular folks flock to see Jesus. There was no TVs or Movie theaters so for some this was the best entertainment they had ever seen.

5.  Some believed that he was a prophet from God and wanted to hear what he had to say. Then there were miracles like when he fed thousands. Who wouldn’t want to see that and get a free meal in the process.

6.  The largest group of folks who followed Jesus just wanted to be healed. The sick were desperate to get to Jesus. After all, he actually healed everyone and everything for free. Far better than the best physicians of that day. The numbers were so overwhelming that sometimes Jesus didn’t even get to eat or rest!

V.  The Way Jesus Responds:

1.  He heals the sick. 

2. Preaches to the crowds. 

3. Gives special attention & authority to the 12. 

4.  He challenges the religious ‘leaders’, shows their hypocrisy, & condemns them for calling the work of the Holy Spirit demonic. 

5.  He rejects the way his family is treating him, & includes all who follow him and do God’s will as his ‘real’ family. This could include us today.

VI.  Source of Authority and ‘Unforgiveable’ Blasphemy: Verse 29

Over the years, I have had a surprising number of Christians come to me wondering if they had committed this ‘unforgivable’ sin.  My answer has always been the same-anyone concerned about it definitely hasn’t. One’s concern is the proof of the matter.  It means that the Holy Spirit is still working on you. Fact is, any sin without Jesus is ultimately ‘unforgiveable.’

Here in chapter 3 ‘religious’ leaders and authorities are claiming that Satan is the source for all of the supernatural acts and healings of Jesus. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is the source and that they are actually committing an ‘unforgivable’ blasphemy when they claim that the work of the Spirit of God is demonic.

Think about the context. All of the temple sacrifices and the blood of animals could only temporarily cover sin. In this case the authorities were actually opposing God and there were no provisions for forgiveness for that in the sacrifices of the Mosaic law. Complete eternal forgiveness waited for the ultimate final sacrifice that came later with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Only the blood of Jesus could really wash away their blasphemy forever and they not only did not believe in him but called his work and ministry demonic.

Later, one of their number (a Pharisee) would be struck down on the road to Damascus and become one of the greatest of the early Apostles. Think about this, Saul (Paul) not only rejected Jesus and his ministry and thought it evil like these guys here in Mark 3, but also tried to eliminate everyone who even just believed in Jesus.

He was responsible for the deaths of many early believers including Stephen. The temple sacrifices and the temporary forgiveness through the blood of animals could never even begin to cover his acts, murders, and unbelief. Only the Blood of Jesus could wash it all away for all eternity through faith alone (Rom. 3:23-25). Otherwise it was all unforgiveable. When Paul accepted Jesus it changed his destiny forever.

The ultimate ‘unforgiveable’ sin is to die without committing yourself to Jesus after a lifetime of rejecting every opportunity given to you by the Holy Spirit. Fact is, any sin without Jesus is ultimately ‘unforgiveable.’

How do you respond to Jesus today?

It really does matter. In fact, the way one responds to Jesus is the most important decision anyone can make for now and for all eternity. If you are really concerned that you may have committed an ‘unforgiveable’ sin or any sin for that matter, the best way to take care of it is to ask Jesus for forgiveness.  Just ask him now–he will forgive every mistake and every wrong thing you ever did.  You only need to ask.  He will forgive you now and for all Eternity.

 

-Read Mark 4 in preparation for LESSON #5

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-LESSON 3: MARK 2

by Dr. D ~

Lesson 3-  Mark Chapter 2

First read Mark chapter 2 quickly all the way though noting all of the ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events:

The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in Mark 2

Events in Chapter Two That You Don’t See Every Day:

Verses 3-12

-Healing of the Paralytic

Verse 4

-Sins are forgiven

Verse 8

-Knew what they were thinking

Verse 11

-Healing

Verses 13-14

-Calling of Levi (Matthew) The Tax Collector

Verse 14

-Levi actually got up & followed

Verse 19

-Jesus speaks prophetically

Now read it again in detail along with  the Notes and Commentary below:

Notes and Commentary:

I.  Verses 1-2  Capernaum

Capernaum was the home base of Jesus.  Whose home was he staying at?  Most scholars believe that it was Peter’s home, while there are a few that claim that his mother Mary & his brothers also may have lived in Capernaum at the time.  Answer -we don’t know for sure, but everyone knew where to find him.

II.  Verses 3-12 Healing of The Paralyzed Guy

     Vs. 3-5  The Hole in the Roof Gang

Can you imagine digging a hole in someone’s roof in order to get a sick person before the healer?  The guy had some ‘real’ friends.  I can just see Jesus in the house teaching, when a little dust falls, then a clod or two comes down from the ceiling. Then when everyone looks up, a part of the roof comes crashing in.  Then comes the strangest stage entrance of all time–down comes a pallet with a paralyzed guy on it.  Talk about upstaging everybody–this guy’s friends ‘cut’ & put him at the front of the line right in front of Jesus.  Can you imagine the angry reaction of the home owner?  But Jesus heals the guy anyway–he forgives him not only for ruining the roof, but also for all of his sins.

     Vs. 6  Religious Leaders Vs. Jesus ‘The Son of Man’

The teachers of the Law were indignant–who does this fellow think he is forgiving sins?–only God can do that.  That is the point isn’t it-Jesus was either a crazy person or he really did have divine authority to forgive.

Jesus referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ 81 times in the 4 gospels. Today we use the title ‘Son of God’ most of the time and many wonder why he used the ‘Son of Man designation. Fact is, Jesus was fully God and fully man and the title ‘Son of Man’ actually incorporated both. 

The ‘Son of Man’ title was familiar to the hearers–it originated in Daniel 7:13-14.  The ‘Son of Man’ in Daniel is a Messianic figure with Divine power, authority, & everlasting dominion–his Kingdom will never pass away and every people & nation will worship him:

13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.  –Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

Also, many writings during the intertestamental period (400 BC-0) referred to the coming Messiah as ‘the Son of Man’.

     Vs. 8-11 Jesus Heals the Man

Jesus answers his critics by healing the paralyzed man.  Therefore, he was not guilty of blasphemy.  After all, no man can do either–only God can really heal & forgive.  Lord Jesus, forgive us & heal us also!

Q:  Why did Jesus forgive his sins first?  Just so he could make a point?

A:  When Jesus ministered to people, he did what was necessary to bring complete healing.  Regardless of those around who might be confused. 

We live in a fallen world, all of us have sinned & sometimes our sin can get in the way of receiving complete healing in our lives.  All of us needs a Savior, and we all need Jesus to forgive us.  If you need Jesus to forgive your sins, just ask him now–he will forgive every mistake and every wrong thing you ever did.  You only need to ask.  He will be your Savior for all Eternity if you ask him.  He can be your greatest friend. Just ask him now! 

We don’t know the background of the paralyzed man. Everyone there could see his obvious need for physical healing but Jesus knew that it was more important for the man to first receive deliverance from the bondage of his sins.

When the physical healing did come-everyone rejoiced and glorified God.  Only Jesus knows your real need today–just ask him.

III. Verses 13-17  The Calling of Levi (Matthew)

‘Levi’-his given name, Matthew (Gift of The Lord) was his Apostolic name, and the name of the Gospel he wrote.

‘Tax Collector’ -Probably was collecting road tolls for Herod Antipas.  They were disparaged and looked down upon by most.  They were also notorious for being dishonest and for acting contrary to the Mosaic Law.

     Vs. 17  In any context, all of us humans are sick & in need of Dr. Jesus–and he will fellowship with us also, regardless of our past.

IV. Verses 18-22  Fasting

Fasting had become a perfunctory duty of the religious.  Sometimes they made a show of it in order to appear to be more ‘righteous’ than they actually were. 

Jesus used the symbol of a ‘wedding banquet’ to explain the present context for himself and his disciples.  It is a time of celebration–after all, the King has come!  After the ascension of Jesus, the Apostles & early Christians did indeed fast.  When the King comes again, all Christians will be invited to a great feast–‘The Wedding of the Lamb’ –Rev. 19:7.  Until then, fasting is still in.

     Vs. 21-22  Old and New Cloth & Wineskins

Jesus & his disciples represented the coming of a new era.–‘the new wine’ –the new covenant; while the Mosaic Law & religion represented ‘the old wineskin’–the Older Covenant. Point is, the traditions of the rabbis and their interpretations of the Mosaic Law may not apply to the ‘new covenant’ followers of Jesus. Later the church would struggle with what should still apply. (See Acts 10-11:18, 15:1-29)

V. Verses  23-28  The Sabbath Controversy

Jesus & his disciples buck up against the religious leaders of their day.  The Pharisees see Jesus and his followers picking grain as they walked through a field on the Sabbath.  They charged them with technically harvesting grain, which was work, and work was forbidden on the Sabbath.  Do we have any nitpickers like that, in our Churches today?

     Vs. 25  David & his Followers-see story in I Sam. 21:1-6.

     Vs. 27  Jesus questions-what is the real purpose of the Sabbath?  The day of rest was supposed to be good for the people & a time to worship God.

     Vs. 28  Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus proclaims here that his authority supersedes the Laws of Moses & the Rabbinical traditions concerning the Sabbath.  He is ‘The Son of Man,’ The ‘Son of God,’ and ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ and really Lord of everything. 

Is he your Lord today?  Just commit yourself to him and your life will change for the better not only in this life but also for all eternity:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16

-Read Chapter 3 for the next lesson.

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-LESSON 2: MARK 1

by Dr. D ~

Lesson 2: Mark Chapter One

First read Mark chapter 1 quickly all the way though noting all of the ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events:

The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in Mark 1

The following are things that you don’t see every day (what those of us in the western world would refer to as ‘supernatural’)–in Mark-Chapter One:

Verses 7-8:

-Prophetic declaration

Verses 10-11:

-Open Heaven

-Spirit descending as a dove

-Voice from Heaven

Verses 12-13:

-Spirit sent/inspired

-Personally tempted by Satan himself

-Wild animals didn’t harm him

-Angels attended to him

Verse 15:

-Prophetic statement

Verse 16:

-“Come follow me…”, invitation accepted–they actually leave their work!

Verses 23-25:

-Evil spirit expelled

Verses 29-31:

-Peter’s mother-in-law healed

Verses 32-34:

-Healed many & cast out demons

Verse 39:

-Preaching & driving out demons

Verses 40-45:

-Leper healed

Now read it again in detail along with  the Notes and Commentary below:

Notes and Commentary:

I.  Verse 1  The Gospel of Jesus Christ

-‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ’= The original name of this Gospel= ‘the Good News of Jesus Christ’

-‘The Gospel’= ‘Grk: euangelion

-‘Jesus’= Grk,  ‘Yeshua’-Aramaic,  ‘Yoshua’-Heb.,  ‘Joshua’-English -means=

‘Jehovah is Salvation’

-‘Christ’=Grk., Anointed One, Messiah

-‘The Son of God’- does not appear in some early manuscripts-

Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Beza–have it

Sinaiticus, Koridethi, #28, some Patristic quotes–do not

II.  Verses 2-8  John The Baptist= The Transition Between OT & NT

Vs. 2  Major quote is from Isaiah, but verse 2 is from Malachi 3:1.  Malachi was the last book in the OT, it is fitting that the New era would start where the Old left off.

Vs. 3 Isaiah 40:3  A Messianic text

John The Baptist is a transitional character bridging two eras-Old Testament & New.    John stands as a representative of the OT prophets–introducing the Messiah.  Isaiah quoted here, was the consummate OT prophet, while Malachi (name means: Messenger) was perhaps the last of the recorded prophets, written in 433 BC.  There were over 400 years between the last OT prophet & John.

John The Baptist stood in the long Hebrew tradition of prophets-each one different & unique.  The scene generated by John-a Nazarite dressed in camel’s hair and leather belt–eating locusts & honey-conjures up the image of a strange & unique person.  But John was a prophet given the task to look for the Messiah & prepare the people.  He preached repentance & baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  Later, the NT church would continue this practice & add to it, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

III.  Verses 9-11  The Baptism of Jesus

The Heavens open, The Spirit descends on him, a voice from Heaven=an incredible experience for all who witnessed it, but especially for Jesus.  The voice proclaiming=

You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

The expressed love of the Father comes down upon him, and confirms everything that his mother Mary told him as a child.  He is strengthened & empowered by the literal love of his Father–God The Father.

IV.  Verses 12-13  The Temptation of Jesus In The Desert

Note- The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert. Matthew and Luke say he was sent there to be tempted by the Devil. Some teachers maintain that God would never directly lead us to where we might be tempted. However He sent his own son into the desert for that very reason and the Lord’s prayer indicates that it is a possibility for us also:

“Lead us not into temptation”

Three interesting events here–personally tempted by Satan himself–wild desert animals did not harm him–angels ministered to him.

V.  Verses 14-15  The Beginning of the Ministry of Jesus

Jesus proclaims that the time has come= time for the Messiah, “The Kingdom of God is near“–The Messianic Kingdom is in your midst, in the presence of Jesus.

After all the long years of waiting-one can only imagine what the people hearing Jesus would have thought.  Some would hope, some would doubt, some would make fun.  Nevertheless, he proclaims the ‘Good News’ of the Kingdom.

VI.  Verses 16-20  The Calling of His First Disciples

If someone came to your office on Monday, and called you out to leave your job and follow him in a new ministry, what would you do or think?  First of all, Jesus was prophetically inspired to call upon these particular men.  Secondly, they miraculously accepted.

VII.  Verses 21-45  Demonstrations of The Kingdom

Jesus drives out & commands evil spirits, Jesus heals many–including Peter’s mother-in-law, heals a leper, and many others.

Some early manuscripts say (Beza & some Patristic quotes) that Jesus was angry (rather than having compassion) with the leper for bothering him-but healed him anyway!

These are demonstrations of the kingdom of God being in their midst.  The OT prophets looked forward to a time when there would be no sickness, hunger, or death.  The miracles of Jesus demonstrated the reality of the Kingdom of God in their midst.

Later, when John the Baptist was in jail and wondering what was happening–is Jesus really the One?  He sends his disciples to Jesus in order to inquire.  Jesus answers him:

“Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

The Kingdom that Jesus started is still going and its effects are felt in the World today–demonstrations of the Kingdom continue in the Church-recorded in every generation-they continue today, and will into the future until the Second Coming of our Lord.  Then the Kingdom will be fully established and all the prophets will be completely fulfilled.

-Read Chapter 2 for the next lesson.

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-LESSON 1: INTRODUCTION-THE GOSPEL OF MARK

by Dr. D ~

Lesson 1- Introduction to Mark

The Gospel of Mark is considered by scholars to have been written before the other three gospels, perhaps as early as 55-65 AD. The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are known as the ‘Synoptic’ gospels since all three share a large amount of common material which most believe originated in Mark.

We call it the ‘Gospel of Mark’ but there is actually no internal reference to the author. In fact the writer starts out by calling it “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” However, early Christian writers like Papias (140 AD) have named John Mark as the writer. John Mark is the same man who traveled briefly with Paul & Barnabas, and caused a parting of their ways. Later, Paul would write approvingly of Mark.

According to early Christian historians, John Mark later became an associate of the Apostle Peter, and traveled extensively with him. It was during this time that the gospel was written, probably in Rome. Some also refer to this gospel as being ‘Peter’s Gospel,’ since Peter was the primary source for the work (See: Papias, 140 AD and Irenaeus, 175 AD).

The Gospel of Mark emphasizes the ministry and works of Jesus. It is the supernatural ‘action’ Gospel. While Mark does record Jesus preaching in parables in chapter 4 about the Kingdom of God, and in chapter 13 about the ‘End of the Age.’ There is no extensive teaching component like we find in Matthew or Luke. In this gospel,  Jesus demonstrates that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is near by healing, casting out demons, controlling nature, feeding thousands, & raising people from the dead.

Read the entire Gospel of Mark through at one time if possible, or take two or three days. Note along the way, all of the so-called ‘supernatural’ events that are recorded. The Gospel of Mark keys in on the deeds, actions, & ministry of Jesus Christ & his disciples. In the Gospel of Mark we can get a real idea of what it might have been like being with Jesus experiencing incredible events one after another. Stuff you don’t see everyday.

An Overview of Mark

The ‘Supernatural’ in The Gospel of Mark

Nearly half of the 45 verses in Mark- Chapter One, are connected with some kind of ‘supernatural’ event. 

Why is this important you ask?  Critics of the New Testament have long held that the Gospels were written long after the events, by second generation Christians who embellished the scriptures with ‘supernatural’ events in order to make Jesus look more important.  Yet, the Gospel of Mark is recognized by scholars–conservative, liberal, & secular alike-to be the earliest Gospel, written well within the lifetime of those who were there, and it actually emphasizes those very ‘supernatural’ deeds & actions.

For example, the following are things that you don’t see every day (what those of us in the western world would refer to as ‘supernatural’)–from just chapter one in Mark alone:

Verses 7-8:  -Prophetic declaration

Verses 10-11:  -Open Heaven

-Spirit descending as a dove

-Voice from Heaven

Verses 12-13:  -Spirit sent/inspired

-Personally tempted by Satan himself

-Wild animals didn’t harm him

-Angels attended to him

Verse 15:  Prophetic statement

Verse 16:  "Come follow me…", invitation accepted–they actually leave their work!

Verses 23-25:  Evil spirit expelled

Verses 29-31:  Peter’s mother-in-law healed

Verses 32-34:  Healed many & cast out demons

Verse 39:  Preaching & driving out demons

Verses 40-45:  Leper healed

These are events that those of us, in the secular ‘modern’ world, would consider exceptional.  However, in the life and ministry of Jesus & his Apostles, our exceptions were their norm.  Our world view is markedly different from those in the first century. 

Those of us who have read these verses many times, & heard about them in Sunday School as children, really have a hard time engaging the text.  Stop and think for a second; if you were actually there, how would you react?  Probably far different than you did when you read about it. 

These events were real, and they really did happen to real people!  Think about it.  If a stranger came to your office tomorrow and said to you- "Come follow me…" -would you go?  The fact that Peter, Andrew, James, & John-all left their jobs behind immediately-demonstrates that something extraordinary was going on.  If someone in the local mall started healing every sick or disabled person he saw, what would happen?  Would anybody listen to what he had to say?

Jesus proclaimed everywhere he went (verse 15): 

"The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the Good News!" 

What did that declaration mean to those who heard it in the first century?  The Jewish people at the time were hoping for the Messiah to come & kick out the Romans.  The OT prophets foretold of a time at the end of history, when the Kingdom of God would be established, and there would be no more sickness, hunger, poverty, or death. 

When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, & miraculously fed thousands; he was demonstrating tangibly who he was & is–when you are near Jesus–"The Kingdom of God is near".  Even today, when you are a friend of Jesus, the hope & the reality of the Kingdom, and rule of God is near.

We plan on beginning each lesson with a notation of the ‘supernatural’ events and acts in each chapter followed by the ‘notes and commentary’ on the verses.

-Read Mark chapter One for next week’s lesson.

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