Only believe – Mark 5:36

These words that Jesus spoke to Jairus regarding his daughter can easily apply in any number of situations that we face.  Here is how they appear in context.

35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

The context in this case is vital to understanding what Jesus is saying.  

Jairus came to Jesus as his daughter was dying, asking for help.  Before they got home, however, the daughter had died.  When all was lost, Jesus encouraged Jairus with the words, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”  As it happened, Jesus raised her back to life.

Why does God so often wait until all hope is lost?  Perhaps it is so we are more focused upon hoping in him.  There is something spiritually healthy about being brought to the end of ourselves.  Self-sufficiency can be an enormous obstacle to faith.  Hope in anything or anyone but Jesus can redirect us away from trusting him.

When it is obvious that we cannot do anything to fix our situations, and neither can anyone else, God has the opportunity to intervene without interference.  He must like that, because he puts us in that place of helplessness pretty often.

What hopeless situation are you facing right now?  I am facing a few of them, but I won’t clutter this post with their tedious descriptions.  Christ’s message to us might be the same as his message to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”

Mark 4 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark editedChrist gives us a series of parables which give us insight into the effects of the preached word on those who hear it.  He also calms a storm, prompting his disciples to seriously consider who he is.

Mark 04.pdf

Mark 04.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 4

Heavenly Father,

We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is worthy of our worship and worthy of our most complete loyalty and commitment.

We pray that you would fill us with the confidence we need to be open about our faith.

We pray also for patience and perseverance in the task of sowing the word.

We pray that over time our lives would bear fruit as you intend. Let us be that good soil in which your word produces fruit, thirty, sixty and one hundredfold what we are given.

We look to you as the one who can make that happen in our lives, and we know full well it is not something that we can accomplish in and of ourselves.

In Christ,

Amen.

The other Parable of the Sower – Mark 4:26-29

The primary Parable of the Sower (as Jesus calls it in Matthew 13:18) is recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.  This other one, also called the Parable of the Growing Seed, is only in Mark.  I like to think of it as a further elaboration on the sower’s seed sown on good ground, which “yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:8).

26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The job of sowing and harvesting, of spreading the word of God and eventually seeing the fruit of it, is a wiggly business.  We have to “preach the word,” as Paul says (2 Tim 4:2).  But in doing so, we cannot look for immediate results.  In fact, it is hard to see the relationship between our work and its results at all.  We “sleep by night and rise by day” and in the meantime something happens.  We don’t know how, but growth comes naturally.  As Jesus says, “the earth yields crops ‘by itself.'”  

That last expression “by itself” is interesting.  The dictionary form of the original word is automatos, which is kind of like automatic.  It reminds me of an automat, the old vending machine, restaurant-like thingy, where the food just sat there waiting for someone to buy it.  (Yes, I was a fan, but do not know of one anywhere in Indianapolis where I live.  Not sure if they even exist at all in the USA anymore. Alas.)

Christ’s point, however, is important.  Proclaiming the word of God, whether it is evangelism, teaching, a weekly Sunday service, or a private conversation, will yield results.  Somehow, at some point.  This happens without our looking at it constantly and trying to measure the growth.

Let this be an encouragement for all of us “sowers.”  I want to see immediate results as much as the next guy, I suppose.  Normally I don’t see any.  You may not see quick returns on your word-sharing investment either.  But don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  Quick returns are not what we signed up for.  We signed up for continuous, consistent sowing and eventual reaping, when the time is right.  That might not be when or where we we are looking for it, but it comes.

Mark 3 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark editedJesus begins to attract more attention, both positive and negative.  His family begin to think he is crazy.  Religious leaders accuse him of being under demonic influence.

Mark 03.pdf

Mark 03.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 3

Heavenly Father,

We see Jesus having to endure being misunderstood by his family and accused of being evil by the religious leaders of his day.

We do not want to make those mistakes. We realize that if we reject Jesus, then there is no payment available for our sins against you.

Our relationship with you, through Christ, is and always needs to be the most important relationship in our lives.

It makes us your family and gives us the truest family we will ever have – the family of God.

Help us to be obedient and willing to do your will. Help us to respond well to whatever calling you place upon our lives.

And help us to see Jesus as Lord, the one who truly deserves our worship and complete obedience.

In Christ,

Amen.

Misunderstanding and Lies – Mark 3:20-35

Jesus’ family thought he was losing it.  The scribes were convinced he was evil.  Neither was right.  Jesus understood them far better than they understood him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” … 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we are going to faithfully follow Jesus there are two accusations that we have to expect.  They were leveled at Christ and we will make easy targets for them too.  They are simply:

  1. You are crazy.  If, as Paul says, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18), then we can expect those who believe it to be looked upon as fools.  
  2. You are evil.  This is almost the oldest lie in the book, since it echoes the serpent’s slander of God, calling his motives into question in dealing with Adam and Eve.  It is an easy switch to move from slander against God to slander against Christ to slander against God’s people.  Again, we can expect it.

The beauty of all of this misunderstanding and outright falsehood is that Christ endured it first.  In our case some of the misunderstanding is justified, some of the criticism is true and, let’s face it, our motives are rarely altogether pure.  Yet even when we really are completely in the right, if we expect to be treated like Jesus, there will be those people who fail to grasp that.  Some of them will be important, like the scribes, so their criticism will feel very demeaning.  Some of them will be close, like our family, so their misunderstanding will hurt.  We can only imagine how Christ felt.